Emissions Nuclear

Tom Blees in Australia

As I discussed briefly here, author Tom Blees is visiting Australia in the first two weeks of February,  as reported on our Environment Institute blog.

Tom is the author of “Prescription for the Planet”, which presents a solution to the world’s energy and environmental crises (for reviews of the book on BNC, see here and here [scroll to bottom of the post for the links]). Tom is also the president of the Science Council for Global Initiatives, a new international Non-Governmental Organisation, creating the framework for the global energy revolution proposed in in his book. See here for more details.

For twenty years Tom skippered a seasonal fishing boat on the Bering Sea, and led a diverse and adventurous life. He then founded a charitable organisation with his wife, to provide safe water supplies to villagers in Central America. While fundraising to launch this project, Tom discovered some lesser known technologies that if properly used, could have a profound global impact. After nearly ten years of research and working hand in hand with scientists who helped develop the core concepts, Blees wrote ‘Prescription for the Planet’.

Throughout his stay in Australia, he will speak about his book at functions in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. He is also available for media interviews (television, radio and print) — please inquire here (see contact information).

Tom will speak at two functions in Adelaide, both open to the general public.

The first event, hosted by the Royal Institution of Australia, in association with The Environment Institute, will be a discussion with Tom as he explains his thinking and outlines how a trio of little-known yet profoundly revolutionary technologies (such as the Integral Fast Reactor), coupled with their judicious use in an atmosphere of global cooperation, can solve the power, pollution and resource problems facing the world today. For more information about this event and to register your interest in attending, please click here.

The second event, presented by The Australian Solar Energy Society, Sustainable Populations Australia and The Zero Carbon Network, will see a debate on “Should we consider Nuclear Power as a response to climate change?” with Mark Diesendorf and Helen Caldicott for the negative and Barry Brook and Tom Blees for the affirmitive. For more information about this event and to register your interest in attending, please click here.

For those BNC readers in Adelaide, I’d strongly encourage you to make the time to attend both events. The RiAus event should be a lot of fun, and the nuclear power debate needs your support, as my feeling is that the preponderance of the audience will hold strongly anti-nuclear positions. It’ll be into the lion’s den for Tom and me, I suspect!

Tom will also visit Melbourne (Monday 8 Feb), Sydney (Tue 9 Feb) and Brisbane (Wed 10 Feb), before heading back to the US (via the Great Barrier Reef!). At this stage it’s not clear that there will be any public events in Melbourne or Sydney, unless a BNC reader has the wherewithal to organise something — we’ve only lined up talks to a select audience in Melbourne (via the kind sponsorship of the Australian Uranium Association), and at ANSTO‘s Lucas Heights nuclear facility (his Sydney trip is gratefully supported by them). In Brisbane, however, Tom will deliver a public talk, hosted by the ANAQ and kindly sponsored by Safe Radiation Pty Ltd (Dr Riaz Akber). It will be held from 5:30-7:30pm at a venue TBC. Please email here for more information.

I’ll post here, in the comments, with any updates to the above, and also provide links to any media that Tom does.


Finally, a little thing that amused me. I read this article in COSMOS magazine: “Low-carbon push for new Industrial Revolution“. The focus is on the clean energy revolution that is taking place in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. They conclude with the following statement:

Renewable energy investment

The United Arab Emirates, with the world’s sixth largest oil reserves and one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, is staking its future on renewable energies. The emirate of Abu Dhabi has been investing heavily in renewable energy since 2006, with the goal of making it a global leader in the field within 10 years.

It’s made large investments in renewable energy projects around the world, hired top experts and is building a model city known as Masdar City for 50,000 people on a the outskirts of the capital that will be carbon-neutral, produce zero waste and act as a living laboratory for sustainable cities research.

The United Arab Emirates, with the world’s sixth largest oil reserves and one of the most developed economies in the Middle East, is staking its future on renewable energies. The emirate of Abu Dhabi has been investing heavily in renewable energy since 2006, with the goal of making it a global leader in the field within 10 years.

It’s made large investments in renewable energy projects around the world, hired top experts and is building a model city known as Masdar City for 50,000 people on a the outskirts of the capital that will be carbon-neutral, produce zero waste and act as a living laboratory for sustainable cities research.

Stunningly, that’s all they say. They never once mention the fact that the UAE is actually NOT “staking its future on renewable energies“. The toy city of Masdar aside, the UAE has committed the vast majority of its energy investment (the serious dosh — over $20 billion dollars) on 4 new APR-1400 nuclear power plants — to be built by the Koreans. Dan Yurman reported on this in late December. Uvdiv also has a good piece here.  I made a comment on this development in an earlier thread, which I’ll repeat below, along with some other choice quotes from BNC commenters. My observation first:

$20 billion for 5.5 GW is $3,600/kW which is okay, given that it covers the reactors, turbines, and other balance of plant facilities — the whole kaboodle. Of course the Chinese are doing it for half this as a replicated build of AP1000s, but the risk for Korea going out of country is obviously moderately high, and it’s a first-of-a-kind for the UAE so these extra costs are also understandable. Overall, I think it’s a pretty fair price.

What do I find most interesting about this? Easy. The UAE chose to build 4 x APR-1400 reactors rather than 220+ Andasol-1 solar thermal power plants. If nuclear were so uneconomic, and solar thermal such an obvious choice, I wonder why that would be? It’s not as though the UAE lacks the solar resource — there is a hot desert right on their doorstep, unlike most nations (so long transmissions lines are less of a concern). To me, this speaks volumes about the relative economic uncompetitiveness of unsubsidised renewables. Welcome to the real world.

Peter Lang said:

So now we have a competitive bid for FOAK build of four 1350 MW power stations using AP1400 reactors. The comparison is UAE = A$4115 and Australia (projected) A$5207. Both are FOAK. The the capital cost of the first NPP in Australia should be less than A$4115 for the same design as being built in Korean contractors if all other factors are equal. The reasons it should be lower cost in Australia than in UAE are:

— For UAE all the designs and documentation must be translated from Korean to English and then to Arabic, whereas in Australia the conversion is to English

— Australia has a higher proportion of it workforce educated to the level neded to construct and manage the NPP

— Australia has higher standards of safety accepted by and ingrained in the workforce

David Walters said:

I wanted to respond to Peter’s supposition/question here:

1. Nuclear: Korea has just contracted to build four 1350 GW reactors for UAE for US$20 billion. That is US$3800/kW. But that is for first of a kind in UAE, first of a kind export from Korea, first of a kind power plants (none have been commissioned yet in Korea). It is reasonable to expect a significant cost reduction as experience grows. Could US$2000/kW be achieved within a decade?

First, as Dan Yurman pointed out on his blog, this is a real ‘total’ turn-key price, including all Balance of Plant costs. Everywhere else most of the BOP is not included so this price is VERY cheap. It is actually MORE than what the Koreans expect to build IN Korea but I suspect transportation and training from Korean to English to Arabic is going to be a major cost at every level.

Secondly, and more importantly, to answer the issue of lowering of costs over time: I say absolutely. Most of us only think in terms of inflationary aspect of new builds given US and general world history. But if we pay attention to the actual standardized reactor design and new modular builds for that same standard component manufacturing and assembly, I would BET costs come down for not just the APR-1400 from the ROK but also the AP1000 as the learning curve at every level gets better and better. For once costs CAN come down for nuclear because of Gen III.

I’ve noted on blogs all over the place that the antis are deathly afraid of this. This is why the only time “they” ever talk about the AP1000 or other deisgns is he ONE unit they like to point to: FPL’s proposal for a two unit plant in south Florida which is up to 14 billion or more. Why? Because it’s the most expensive. They don’t look world wide, they dont’ even look to other cheaper US proposals.

The UAE, China, Japan and India are scarring the crap out of NIRS and the Greenpeace types because as the new Chinese units come on line, pro-nuclear advocates will have a new slogan:

“¡Sî Se Puede!”

Conclusion? Reality bats last.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

67 replies on “Tom Blees in Australia”

Re the UAE nuclear contract I was surprised to learn there will be no thermal component of the desalination activity. It will all go via electrical output in reverse osmosis
The reason given is that in winter when grid demand is lower (same as Australia) then electric load can be shifted to desal.

If 3.6 kwh per kilolitre is the benchmark figure for RO desal then even at 8c/kwh nuclear driven RO water works out at less than 30c per KL ex plant. Pt Stanvac (Adelaide) RO desalinated water which is essentially driven by gas fired electricity I believe will be around $2.90 per KL. Existing UAE desals use both thermal and electrical methods powered by gas. I guess they realised that burning gas was not the way to go on desalination.


What I suspect is that although we talk about it a lot, the hot end of the turbine would have to be reconfigured over the condenser. It’s not as easy as one thinks as the design of any reactor, including it’s low-end/hot side of the turbine would have to be part of the design, thus a new ‘version’ of the reactor like a “APR-1400-D” or something. It could be done but it would have to be designed from scratch.


I believe the nuclear powered USS Carl Vinson which is supplying 1.5 ML/d to Port au Prince uses reverse osmosis. However on the big ships series on TV the oil powered cruise liner (Queen Mary II ?) used multistage flash distillation. They showed the crew removing slabs of salt from the end stage. Don’t Japanese NPPs use a combination of electrical RO and flash distillation using waste heat? The link said that nuclear desal in the UAE would be 75% cheaper than gas fired.

All but two Australian cities will need 200-400 ML/d desalination, near term. According to ABC 7.30 Report the Qld Gold Coast may have already maxed out on water use. Hopefully data will come to light that confirms to what extent dedicated windpower genuinely offsets desal caused CO2 from the grid. I suspect it will be well under 50%.


Apparently hybrid desal using RO and flash distillation systems is indicated where there is large fluctuations of electricity consumption between summer and winter, what the ratio of water requirements to energy demand is for mixed plants and fuel costs.

However, as in most things nuclear has the capacity to do both in almost unlimited amounts so the question is moot.


Just enquired at ANSTO and got this response:

Apparently the talk by Tom Blees is on 9th February in the AINSE Theatrette. It has not been advertised as yet because they are still waiting on flight details for Mr Bless but it is expected to be at approximately 1.30pm. Martin Kelly from the Executive area is organising the talk. As the talk will be outside of the ANSTO main security area, yourself and any of your colleages are welcome to attend. As soon as I get confirmation of the time I will forward it onto you. You do not need to register, simply turn up on the day. The AINSE Theatrette is directly beside the ANSTO Café. You will turn off New Illawarra Road and drive up a short entrance road. You need to turn LEFT at the top of the entrance road, the signage will say “Motel/Café turn left”. Once you turn left, there is a carpark directly on your right and the AINSE Theatrette backs onto that car park.


Update on Brisbane event:
Date: Wednesday 10 February 2010
Time: 5:30pm (for a 6:00pm start) – 7:30pm

Venue: Queensland University of Technology, Gibson Room, Z Block, level 10, 2 George Street (next to the City Botanic Gardens), Garden Point, Brisbane.

Parking on campus is limited – alternative transport is recommended.

RSVP: info @
0417 735 163 (Kate Holmes, Hon Secretary, ANAQ)
Seating is strictly limited. Please RSVP by Monday, 8 February 2010.


The issue of which desalination technology is most efficient is a little bit complicated.

Usually we say that reverse osmosis is more efficient than flash distillation in terms of watt-hours consumed per litre of water.

However, that assumes that you’re supplying electricity to drive the pumps for reverse osmosis, and you’re supplying electrical power to heaters for distillation.

Electrical energy is generated from thermal energy in the power plant (nuclear, coal, gas, whatever) using a heat engine, which is always inevitably inefficient – 50% efficiency is very good. (Of course hydro, wind and PV aren’t heat engines, but they comprise a very small portion of electricity supply).

When you generate electricity using a power station’s heat engine, transmit that electricity over the grid with some small degree of loss, and then drive reverse osmosis pumps at the desal plant, how many joules of primary energy do you consume per litre of water? (Of course, if the energy comes from fossils, there is a certain amount of CO2 emission per joule of primary energy).

How does that figure compare to the alternative of a desalination plant using flash distillation with thermal energy used directly from an integrated thermal energy source (preferably, but not necessarily limited to, a fission reactor)?
Perhaps reverse osmosis isn’t always necessarily better?


Looking at the names lined up for the debate… Barry, you’ll demolish them, as far as any kind of debate with any kind of intellectual integrity at all is concerned.
Caldicott is quite predictable… it’s the same old crap over and over and over again.

I must admit I’m a little disappointed by the lack of a (openly accessible) speaking appearance by Tom in Melbourne… if the situation changes or something new is organized, I would like to know about it.


Using nuclear power as the energy source RO is always the best choice. The CANDESAL system, an integrated CANDU reactor and desal plant, uses high pressure steam from the reactor to drive the pumps on the water side, and waste heat to warm the water intake, when required. The system is designed to deliver electricity and water at all times.

As I wrote up-thread, flash distillation’s economics are somewhat complicated, and depend on balancing a number of external factors, most notably fuel costs, and electrical power surpluses.

Combined installations are not unknown. Such configurations encompass straightforward structures with a low degree of coupling between membrane and thermal desal streams, and range up to very complex configurations that can be set up with strong interconnections on both the water side and thermally, as well as allowing several desal streams connected in series or in parallel. Again, economic considerations (mostly fuel costs) prevail determining how the plant will be configured at any given time.


One example of a successful dual nuclear system is the BN-350, a sodium-cooled fast reactor built by the Soviets in the early 1970s. It was diverting about half of its average electrical energy to desal – around 150MW. From this it got 5 GL/y.

Here are some relevant comments on this from previous BNC threads:


cerebus, yes, Tom will have books available for sale at both Adelaide events.

Finrod – agreed, alas there’s only so much you can do on one trip.

Luke, I tried, but found it tough to stir interest among the universities to help organise this, whereas the AUA were able to step in an help. As some consolation, both videos of both Adelaide events will be available.


For the sake of completeness I’ll also say its a shame there isn’t a more accessible Sydney talk.

Is Tom doing any media? He’d seem a natural for, say, Lateline, Science Show, Philip Adams, etc.


It seems to me that desal is one way to answer the criticism of inflexible output by NPPs, namely by switching between supplying the grid and creating a storable product. That product could be desalinated water stored in sea level tanks, pumped hydro in mountain dams or making hydrogen. The latter could use high pressure electrolysis which I understand is not as efficient as thermal methods. Hydrogen storage could be low pressure and low loss, noting that carbon taxes and depletion should make hydrogen via steam reformed NG more expensive.The RO desal and electrolysis plants do not need to be co-located with the NPP. The NPP can produce steady output year round with guaranteed demand for all that output.


With fresh water shaping up to be the petroleum of the 21st century as a geopolitical prime mover, I suspect that desal will be the most important use of ‘surplus’ nuclear energy, hands down.


DV82XL: Water for cities is a “small” problem, solvable in
many ways. The big water problem is water for food, and even nukes
aren’t feasible for this. Consider Barry’s example above … 150 MW delivering
5 GL/yr. At that efficiency, you could deliver 33 GL/yr from a 1GW nuke.
At its peak in 2000/1, the dairy industry was pulling 4200 GL/yr from
the Murray Darling Basin. Does anybody think it’s good sense to
build 127 nukes to power the dairy industry to produce about
10 GL of milk? Ditto rice and cotton. Rice at its peak in the MDB used
less than half the water of dairy to produce a similar number of calories … ie., you
could run rice with a mere 60x1Gw nukes.


Geoff Russell, you are very right that nuclear desal will not support current agricultural practices, however it could support more innovative agratech where it would prove economical.

Frankly, I’m not so sure even today that growing maze as feed for cattle and dairy is the best way to use land and water, and I have written in these pages on more than one occasion that simple arithmetic demands that we pursue meat (and by extension, dairy) substitutes, because animal flesh is going to price itself out of the market.

Nor are we going to run out of natural fresh water altogether, but in some places, like the US West coast, water demand from high-density populated areas, already is having an impact on farming in a radius measured in hundreds of kilometers. Cheap, reliable desal could relive that pressure on distant sources, right now, if it was avalable.

Nevertheless, as I wrote, it is clear that water is going to be a serious matter in more than one area of the world, and will be cause for war and threats of war in this century. While nuclear desal may not solve all of the world’s water issues, it is certainly capable of making a major contribution.


I think urban farming using recycled water under controlled conditions is inevitable. We may need to recycle sewage solids when concentrated phosphate gets more expensive. Not only will we eat less animal protein but even starch may come from local root vegetables (e.g. spuds) not grains grown way out of the city. More food will eventually be grown with hydroponics than with rain watered broadacre farms tended by large machines. That way desalinated water whether it is 50c or $5 per KL gets recycled until it is used up.

I’ve been waiting for the big population shift to arrive here in SW Tas but it doesn’t seem to happen. Advantages include 1500mm rainfall, lack of crowding and pretty scenery. Expensive water and expensive food will now add to the woes of city living but obviously not enough yet to cause an exodus.


caldicott debate:

In going over caldicott’s book, I found a nice contradiction: as most of us know, she adheres to the no safe dose view of radiation. and argues that “many cancers in the past and in the present are caused by background radiation.”

problematic (at best) as this position is, these statements are at least consistent.

She also notes this: “Radiation, which has been fundamental to the evolution of planetary life, is largely responsible for the development of the most extraordinary and wonderful variety of living species over a time frame of billions of years. But humans seem determined to alter this stable balance bequeathed to us by nature,” primarily thru the invention of nuclear power, with all its “diabolical [unnatural] elements.”

It would be one thing here were she talking about radiation balance and global warming. but her point is that man made radiation is disrupting this “stable” balance. so it is man made radiation (npps) that is the problem.

but if background radiation swamps radiation from nuclear power plants and most of this background radiation is natural, then it is nature that is the problem. she should be calling for the immediate evacuation of Denver.

You can’t be a good romantic poet, absolving nature of all blame, and hold to the no safe dose position.

citations are from chap. 3 of “nuclear power is not the answer.”


I am surprised she even said anything good about radiation. She is less contradictory than she is flat out false. If you look at Luke Weston’s blog, he has several essays to show this.

While I think it’s good from the debate stand point of view, to really smash her Tom, you have to show how *factually* wrong she is, to the point of lying and falsification. She also buys the Storm van Leeuwen nonsense (see: and heard her reference this recently on NPR a few months ago on Amy Goodman’s show.

She focuses in her talks on radiation and the LNT, as you note, and that nuclear not only doesn’t not solve the climate problem but *contributes* to it with all the usual points about thermal heating/resource-financial diversions/energy in for energy out nonsense, etc.

She does very little original research herself, I gather, and she really is more like Ralph Nader in that she repeats talking points her research staff digs up for sound bites.

She does, or has, extensive ‘data’ in Chernobyl and focuses everythying on this (as it’s “gonna happen, just you wait, mate”) and TMI, where she repeats the Joy Bussey and Dr. Wang arguments that “people died”.

Good luck.



yes. she’s factually wrong in almost every sentence. it’s pretty funny, actually.

yet, there’s a danger in FOCUSING on her factual errors because then you work on her terrain: which is almost totally irrelevant. TMI, Chernobyl, and her litany of evil isotopes unleashed by nuclear power don’t change the fact that npps produce miniscule amounts of radiation compared to background and that new npps cannot repeat TMI and Chernobyl.

That said, you can have a field day with her errors after pointing out that all her arguments are beside the point.

at one point in her TMI story, she asserts that people showed symptoms consistent with doses of 100,000 millirems. Then, she’ll return to planet earth and scare us with stories of 300 millirem doses to the thyroids of children courtesy of contaminated milk on several farms.

but again: I imagine they would relish a hall of mirrors he said she said projection fest around TMI.

just the worst FUD.


Thoughts on the debate: The death toll from people cooking with
biomass (mainly wood, but also dung) is about 1.4 million per year.
This is one huge human cost of not having cheap power.

Click to access Colfer%20book%20chapter.pdf

These people (about 3 billion on them) need cheap power.
Small nuclear batteries would be a useful technology if they can be
robust, turn-key, and mass produced at the right price and size to
service a small area … the replacement
of biomass use would also help reforestation efforts. Its tough to reforest an
area if people need to use the wood for fuel. There are big climate gains
via black carbon reductions as well as health gains.


Meyerson: The debate won’t be long enough for a blow by blow
rebuttal and, as you say, getting bogged down in detail puts you on the back
foot. Better to be positive and have her trying to counter.

I’d be inclined to simply assert she is wrong … perhaps point to
a detailed written rebuttal … and then focus on the absolutely
certain huge annual death toll here and now from not having
cheap power. Perhaps point to the stupidity of denying the safety of
a technology that has been operating extremely well for decades while
ignoring all kinds of dangerous industries with 100% certain
annual death tolls … my favourite of course is all the deaths
associated with the meat industry … bowel cancer, vascular disease
and food poisoning. These are certainties, whereas the worst she
can offer is risk.


thanks geoff:

folks, Jim Hansen is giving a talk in North Carolina and he’s getting some flack (fairly civil, however) from a group affiliated with A Makhijani. I live in N.C. and might be able to drive down, weather permitting.

The group appears open to Hansen’s advocacy of Generation 4, but are opposed to generation three. what they’re for, they don’t say, but M is for efficiency/renewables and V2G (!!) as basepower if I remember from reading the book.

Kind of a joke if you ask me.

That said, what are some of the best arguments for gen. three? I think Barry gave a PRA number for these reactors. Though I think Geoff’s point about the obvious safety record compared to relevant rivals is a real good one.

Is the PRA number of 1 accident (meltdown severity) in 24 million reactor years for gen three plus?

also: what are the passive safety features of gen three?


oh, one more thing folks:

is there something analogous to the IFR pieces that have been posted here for the Thorium reactors?

something brief, and useable: on efficiency, waste, passive safety, etc. I’ve seen some of the videos but would rather have a “fact sheet” type of thing.

are there any out there that are any good?


Lawrence, that’s not quite the question. The question is, given the trade-off between lower fissile req. in LFTR vs higher breeding rates in IFR, which can best optimise build times? I have a couple of upcoming posts on this very topic. It involves a number of trade-offs (and the answer is quite interesting).


Notwithstanding the falsehood or otherwise of Caldicott’s claims the language used by some BNC contributors is striking. That is, the verbs: destroy, smash, demolish have been used to urge action against her.

Two points seem relevant:

1. it appears tactically unwise for BNC men to cultivate verbal violence against a female pediatrician, both because of gender (female) and prior medical specialism (children). Verbal violence may indeed be born out of frustration at her claims. But if the aim is to refute Caldicott by using rational arguments and thus to to persuade current Antis to become Nukies, verbal aggression may well be counterproductive.

2. If on the other hand Caldicott, Diesendorf, and Renewable-ites are truly the Enemy to be rendered speechless with fear, then aggressive language of this type is naturally expedient. It also makes Nukies feel good and welds them together.

But is the Enemy for BNC thus indeed something defined as the “Green Left” , exemplifed by Caldicott or Greenpeace, and not Big Fossil Fuel (because BNC Nukies have more than a sneaking regard for high-tech power engineering competence of any variety? and Big Fossil Fuel will have to play a role in the nuclear transition anyway)?

If the Enemy is not Big Fossil Fuel but rather, Green Antis and Renewables, the question would then arise: why bother with trying to convert them by rational argument anyway? After all, violent language will not encourage them to be won over.

Concluding: EU energy corporations such as RWE and E.ON (whose joint venture will be deciding shortly on whether to use Areva’s EPR or the Toshiba-Westinghouse competitor for its UK NPP contrac as from 2013) are big Fossil Fuelers as well. Is this why BNC writers seem to avoid any critique of such corporations? For fear of appearing anti-corporate or anti-tech?

Despite DV82XL’s apparent belief that Greens have been bought by Big Coal, I have seen no evidence of this at all. Whereas the personnel and financial links between Climate Denialism and Big Fossil Fuel have been exhaustively documented, eg. in at least 3 US books.


I think, Peter (might think about changing that aggressive first name), you’re projecting a little bit.

I’m a marxist who spends much time on the radical anti capitalist environmental discussion list.

I think the anarchy of (monopoly) capitalist production will prevent there being any kind of global carbon cap on the one hand or any quick enough sharing of the right technologies to prevent our reaching tipping points in climate.

don’t tell anybody.

I also teach critical theory (wrote my dissertation on derrida, foucault and adorno) and spend a little time discussing with students the contradictions involved in french feminists arguing that arguments are phallic acts of domination. I rely on marxist feminists like martha gimenez to do so.

Now: the green left, my homies, are really blind on nuclear power, and in fact have become borderline luddite. I shared their beliefs on low energy (really low energy) socialism etc. until I discovered that I didn’t know what I was talking about concerning nuclear. I had actually believed Helen Caldicott. I cited her, it embarrasses me to admit, in an article I wrote in the journal Socialism and Democracy.

I have shared my anti anti nuke views with my homies and the ones who actually don’t write all that much on energy and environment are very open to nuclear power. The “intelligentsia” is not so open (Foster, Kovel, etc.). perhaps that will change.

and please cut it out (oops: more stabbing metaphors) with the “nukies bonding” business. For my part, I have in fact found myself getting really angry at anti nukies but that’s because they spread so many falsehoods at a time where this nonsense has to stop. Caldicott thinks nuclear power is devilspawn.

David used the word “smash.” “smashing” an argument is not necessarily a sublimated form of hitting a person in the face. We’re speaking a bit informally here. I bet Tom and Barry will avoid all hint of search and destroy language. Recall also that what David wants to smash is the spreading of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. He does not want to silence pediatricians.


Gregory, nice to meet a fellow Marxists here (I started I’m also familiar with Ian Angus and a few others in the GLW/Euro-Left milieu.

Thanks for clearing up my use of adjectives…indeed, we really want to destroy she says: politely, with style, grace and finesse, but in the grave her arguments have to go.

She is, singularly, the most “FUD” person around, no comes close. One argument I put forward against her years ago was to use the same “FUD” about coal and then effusively, like she does, list off a rapid a list of all the “small animals and children” saved by nuclear energy, energy that otherwise would of been generated by coal. It was a “thank GOD” for nuclear saving the lives of at least 30,000 Americans NOT dead because of nuclear being built, that sort of thing.

Another think is uranium mining…the majority of which was used in the US not for energy but for WMD in the US’s massive nuclear weapons program. She will associated the terrible cancer deaths in the 1950s and 1960s with these deaths. She talks about the violation of Indian sovereignty because of this. I always solidarize myself with Native Americans and argue that these rights should be respected…including their right TO mine these materials if this is their choice regardless of what non-Indian NGOs seek to impose ON them.

She needs NOT to get a pass because she is a women and uses pre-meditated emotional arguments.


@ Peter Lalor – The link between several Green organizations and fossil-fuel interests has been discussed by Rod Adams in his ‘Smoking Gun’ posts over at Atomic Insights

While of course this doesn’t apply to all in the Green movement or every antinuclear group, it cannot be discounted as a factor.

As for Helen Caldicott, I believe that her influence has been diminishing (at least internationally) for several years now. Her shrill hectoring and reliance on hyperbole has destroyed her credibility with those communities who are faced with real choices over nuclear energy, and are looking for solid facts.


is this waste nuclear waste?

if it were vitrified and sealed, it couldn’t leak.

Rip Anderson (and Tom B) very seriously suggested deep ocean burying nuclear waste. is this story a comment on that process or are we talking about criminal and careless dumping with no connection to what Rip once suggested?


“but if background radiation swamps radiation from nuclear power plants and most of this background radiation is natural, then it is nature that is the problem. she should be calling for the immediate evacuation of Denver.”

Incidentally, Caldicott has actually called for the evacuation and permanent abandonment of Denver, because of (supposed) trace levels of plutonium pollution from the Rocky Flats (Pu fabrication for weapons) facility. (I can’t remember the exact reference for this, her book “Nuclear Madness”, I think).

Of course, any possible such contamination is absolutely negligible compared to cosmogenic background radiation in Denver… but you’d never find Caldicott mentioning that.


I’ll make a serious effort to get along to ANSTO Sydney by 1.30 on 9/2/10, so if any of the regulars are there, I’ll look out for you


Almost by defin ition anybody depending for their claims on the LNT hypothesis “does no research” since there has never been any evidence to support it. Tehcnically it isn’t even a hypothesis since its supporters don’t acept that the overwhelming evidence against it & for hormesis matters. A hypothesis must, at least in principle, be testable,


Last week I attended both of the Tom Blees public appearances in Adelaide.
I was surprised by the Diesendorf attack during the debate on your scientific credentials.
Science should be the agent for change and progress in society, but often we see the establishment within a discipline pontificate over what is truth and what is fiction; in much the same way as the Catholic Church denied scientific change through out history.
Often the most valid perceptions are made by informed, intelligent and committed outsiders freed from the constraints of the conventional wisdom of a scientific discipline.
I was employed by IBM at the time when individuals in their backyard sheds overturned the conventional wisdom, mind set and ECONOMICS of a large and powerful industry.
Diesendorf tried to cast you and Tom as a Rasputin within the monarchy of carbon free energy; he should be reminded that the revolution did come shortly afterwards.
The value I have found in the Brave New Climate is the open and accessible unveiling of the issues with the Economic and Engineering reality needed to resource the change in carbon consumption required.


Geoffrey, I agree completely with what you say. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I read Bill Kerr’s summary of the event, and the following particularly stuck out:

Mark also made a big issue of his expertise and criticised Barry for pronouncing outside his field of primary expertise.

I find this sort of attitude extremely disturbing. This appeal to authority, both for Mark and against Barry, is completely unprofessional. It is the exact opposite of a scientific way of knowing, or an engineering way of doing. Argument from authority is poisonous in science, and downright dangerous in engineering. When Mark argues along those lines, he is inviting the audience (including myself) to be complicit in using that approach. And I find that morally reprehensible. Its a personal affront, an invitation to corruption which I recoil from.

Its not the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing from Mark, either. He wrote in a comment to a piece in New Matilda last year (referring also to Tim Flannery),

Barry Brook is a climate scientist — I’m unsure if he’s an environmentalist. Neither scientist has expertise in energy technologies.

Not only do we have the same appeal to authority, there is an attempt to discredit Barry’s environmental motivations. This is astonishing, given his public record; its hard to interpret this as anything other than conscious dishonesty.

This sort of argument falls below any standard of academic or scientific integrity.


Ewen, I’ll be attending the talk at AINSE tomorrow. Email me at my gmail account, username john.d.p.morgan, if you’d like to meet up there.


[…] Monckton vs Brook debate – the video Posted on 8 February 2010 by Barry Brook I’m in Melbourne today with Tom Blees, and tomorrow we’re heading to Sydney to visit ANSTO. Whilst there, Tom will give a talk; I’m delighted to see that some of the regular commenters on BNC will be there (look forward to meeting you John D. Morgan, Ewen Laver and perhaps some others). Details here. […]


Ewen, turns out you actually look nothing like your gravatar. Barry on the other hand bears an uncanny resemblance to Dr Manhattan.

Tom made an encouraging point during his talk – whereas in the US registration of a new reactor design could take forever, the russians take the attitude that if they want to build one, they’ll Just Do It.

Afterwards, I asked him just how much pilot scale proofing or development of GE’s PRISM design would be required before the reactor could be commercialized. There is testimony before the US Congress from a GE exec that they would start by building the reactor vessel an doing water experiments for a while (similar fluid properties to liquid sodium). But the Russian approach is, they’d just go ahead and build a working plant to start with. So it really could happen within a few years.

These reactors wouldn’t incorporate the pyroprocessing module. But that work seems planned to be done in the US (under what program I forget).

The other point was that the immediate russian application would be to power pumping stations for pumping natural gas from Siberia to Western Europe. Currently pumping stations consume about half the gas, worth many billions, so if developed for this application the payback time on the deployment would only be a year! So there was lots of good news.

Nice chap, Tom.


Ewen, turns out you actually look nothing like your gravatar.

My partner is also gratified, but she thinks if I visit ANSTO again, I might come to resemble it!

The other point was that the immediate russian application would be to power pumping stations for pumping natural gas from Siberia to Western Europe.

The thing that occurred to me though John was that if the IFR got going, Western (and Eastern) Europe wouldn’t need Russian gas.


JohnDMorgan: The russian(/nike) “Just do it” attitude cuts both ways. It
can lead to cut corners and this project HAS TO SUCCEED. I’d rather
have 2 or 3 countries building the “first” IFR. Success is much more
likely. Big projects can fail in all kinds of ways that have little
to do with the intrinsic worth of the technology, but that technology will
inevitably be tainted by the failure.


Geoff, agreed on all counts. The implicit assumption is that the Russians have no desire or intention to fail, and that the decision to go ahead is a reflection of their engineering judgment that the technology is at the point where building a first working system is the correct next step. That was the impression I got in my brief discussion with Tom.


I was really astonished when Mark Diesendorf (at about halfway through the questions at the end of the debate) said something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing here) “Barry is wrong because he’s averaging over the whole world instead of cherry-picking the most optimal data that supports my argument”.

And I was really delighted when Barry called him on it :)

Also, note how people like Diesendorf keep talking about feed-in tarrifs for solar and wind… elevated feed-in tarrifs are massive subsidies for these energy systems, directly from the taxpayer.

But when nuclear energy is discussed, things like loan guarantees are dismissed as being undesirable taxpayer subsidies…. even though loan guarantees aren’t subsidies.

It’s one set of rules imposed for nuclear energy, and a completely different set of rules for wind or solar.

Oh, by the way, for Diesendorf and anyone else who’s ever tried to tell you that there aren’t any Generation IV reactors in the world today, here’s a list:

* The French Phenix fast reactor, which is operating today, 250 MW.

* The BN-600 sodium-cooled fast reactor in Russia, 600 MW, operating today.

* The Monju fast breeder reactor in Japan, 280 MW, about to be restarted.

* The seven Russian (or Soviet) Alfa-class submarines that successfully operated for decades using fast reactors cooled by a lead-bismuth eutectic… I think they have more such naval reactors coming in new boats, too.

* The Fort St. Vrain HTGR, helium cooled and graphite moderated, 300 MW, operated from 1977 until 1992.

* The Peach Bottom 1 HTGR, operated from 1966 to 1974.

* The German AVR high-temperature, gas-cooled pebble-bed reactor, 17 MWe, operated from 1967 to 1988.

The German THTR high-temperature, gas-cooled thorium-fulled pebble-bed reactor.

The Fast Breeder Test Reactor in India.

EBR-II, which served as the first prototype for the Integral Fast Reactor.

The Fermi I fast breeder reactor.

The Dounreay Fast Reactor

The Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay

The Superphenix fast reactor in France.

The French Rhapsodie fast reactor.

The BN-350 in Kazakhstan (Notable for its use as an integrated desal plant.)

The ORNL Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment

The Aircraft Reactor Experiment(s)

The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in India.

The Clementine mercury-cooled fast reactor at Los Alamos

The Ultra-High Temperature Reactor Experiment (UHTREX) at Los Alamos

The SNR-300 in Germany. (completed power-generating reactor, never operated.)

The High-Temperature Test Reactor (HTTR) in Japan.

The Chinese HTR-10 small, modular pebble-bed reactor.


@Weston, re ///there arent any Gen IV reactors///.

leaving aside e.g. that Superphenix closed in 1996-1997, how does one reconcile this list with the US Dept. Of Energy list of 2002 which states that there are 6 Gen IV designs of which the IFR is one? It is interesting that you claim Gen IV to have existed decades ago, i.e. before Gen III.

You appear to have a different definition of Gen IV to that of DoE.


Right… there are 6 basic groups of Generation IV designs.

The liquid-metal-cooled fast reactor, of which the IFR is one particular example. The liquid metal coolant is usually sodium, it can also be sodium-potassium eutectic.

You also have liquid-metal-cooled fast reactors using lead, lead-bismuth or other metals as coolant, that’s another of the six Generation IV families.

The Molten-Salt Reactor, eg. the MSRE, and LFTR-type reactors is another one of the Generation IV families.

The High-Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors, eg. the Pebble Bed Reactors, and the HTGRs developed by General Atomic. This family includes the power reactors that were deployed at Peach Bottom and Fort St. Vrain.

You also have the gas-cooled fast reactor and the supercritical water reactor, of which no examples exist in the world today that I can think of.

I admit that the above list does contain research and prototype reactors, not just power plants, and reactors that are no longer operating today – but you will note that every example of a reactor listed corresponds to an example of one of the four Generation IV families listed above.


Peter Lalor, on February 11th, 2010 at 20.47 Said:
“It is interesting that you claim Gen IV to have existed decades ago, i.e. before Gen III. ”
I had this argument with a Greenpeacer. ORNL had the idea to do the MSR in the late 40’s. The MSR should have been Gen I or Gen II.
Actually when I look at nuclear history what I see is that the first kinds built were breeder reactors, which is one of the distinguishing features of Gen IV (along with better safety).


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