Nuclear Sceptics

Monckton vs Brook debate – the video

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.

Whilst in Adelaide, Tom Blees gave two talks. His Q&A session at the Royal Institution of Australia was a great success. Head over here to listen to the audio of his chat with Prof. Mike Young, and the subsequent question time. The 2nd event was the ‘nuclear debate’, when Tom and I went head-to-head with Mark Diesendorf (UNSW) and David Noonan (ACF). We (the Environment Institute) recorded this debate in audio format, and Slow TV videoed it (although disappointingly, they missed most of the Q&A, which was where the sparks flew). I’ll post back here when the Slow TV video is up (UPDATE: It’s here).

The nuclear debate was pretty entertaining, although the format really didn’t allow for many important issues to be thrashed out in convincing detail. As others have noted in comments on BNC, Diesendorf took to personally attacking my credentials, which I thought was unprofessional and totally uncalled for. I said as much on the night, but the crowd seemed to be predominantly anti-nuclear, so I guess they were willing to overlook this most dubious of debating ‘tactics’. Still, my opinion of Diesendorf has now hit rock bottom, and I want nothing more to do with him, professionally or otherwise. At least David Noonan stuck to the topic rather than playing the man, even if he basically ignored what Tom and I were saying on the matter of proliferation, availability of weapons-grade plutonium, etc. with IFRs, and instead hammered out his pre-prepared script. Read here for one independent write-up of the debate. If you find others, post links in the comments below.

Then there was the debate I had with Lord Monckton, in Brisbane on Friday 29 January. This was performed in front of 500 suits-and-ties at the Hilton Hotel; needless to say, I was up against a tough crowd! Ian Plimer was a panel member with Monckton, and Graham Readfearn (formerly of the Courier Mail) was my fellow panellist. I took the position of explaining how science deals with uncertainties, and why climate change was a serious risk management challenge (no, I wasn’t arguing for the precautionary principle, despite what Monckton concluded). Readfearn took the line of attacking the credentials of Monckton/Plimer, which was much the same tactic used by Diesendorf in the nuclear debate, and, quite rightly, it didn’t got down well.

You can now judge for yourself how this debate went, because the ABC filmed it and have now posted it on the Big Ideas show, here. You listen to the audio, or watch the full video (which includes the PowerPoint slidecasts of the two main talks by Monckton and Brook [we spoke for 15 minutes each, before the 1 hour Q&A session]). I’d recommend you watch the video, “Lord Monckton On The “Conspiracy” Of Climate Change“. Following the debate, I was interviewed on 4BC radio Brisbane. The interviewer, Greg Cary, was at the debate, and his judgement of the outcome is quite interesting. Listen here for that one (15 minute audio).

Tim Lambert from Deltoid is debating Monckton in Sydney on Friday. I’ll be interested to see how that one goes — Alan Jones is the moderator…

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.

91 replies on “Monckton vs Brook debate – the video”

The Adelaide debate was v disappointing and as you say the crowd biased to anti nuke etc but I was pleased that at last nuclear energy is being discussed after being a total unmentionable for so long.

I am a retired Elec Engineer, (UNSW) with a background in mining, heavy plant, distribution systems, consulting and design. I live near the Uni and would be pleased to help out in any way I could as a volunteer.

I must admit though that I have a gut feeling that the Global Warming debate has been hijacked by the Save the Earth rent a crowd but I suppose I couldbe convinced otherwise.


Thanks for standing up for the science. You present extremely well and are doing a great service for Australians everywhere.



I attended both of the events in Adelaide last week with Tom Blees speaking. I have to say that the debate was not as informative as the earlier session with Mike Young. If David Noonan had been there for the first session he may have understood the background to the section of Blees’ book that he quoted out of context. Noonan was present, however, at The Dunstan Environment Dialogues entitled Power and the People in November 2009. It was made clear at this session the enormous challenges of meeting the world’s energy demands even with nuclear power. The lack of reference to this material is a bit hard to understand. He does seem, at best, to have just ignored what he has heard.

It was a pity that floods stopped Helen Caldicott from getting to the airport and David Noonan, who took her place at short notice, may not have had as much time to prepare his case as he would have liked.

I thought it was rather unfortunate that Mark Diesendorf questioned Barry Brook’s credentials. It was abundantly clear that Diesendorf was not aware of the content and level of discussion on the Brave New Climate website. I hope he apologises for his indiscretion and that dialogue can continue.

I was left unsure if Diesendorf really knew about nuclear power when answering a question from somebody who knew about differences in Plutonium isotope mixtures. He is obviously an expert on the renewable forms of energy, although he seemed extremely optimistic. He did not discuss the capacity of the coastal areas to supply substantial proportions of energy requirements. To collect solar energy substantial areas of either agricultural land or native vegetation would need to be cleared. Every ridge on southern Fleurieu Peninsula (south of Adelaide) could have a row of windmills with access tracks fragmenting habitat and reducing native vegetation. The mining for concrete construction for such projects would cause substantial further loss of natural habitat.

The anti-nuclear speakers are ready with their quotes from ‘authorities.’ It is not surprising at all that they are able to find quotes from those who agree with them, but most of the statements seemed to be merely personal opinions.

Barry is correct in saying that issues were not thrashed out in convincing detail. Bill Kerr’s summary is a reasonable account.

The representative of Sustainable Population Australia Inc, one of the sponsors of the event, raised an important concern in his introduction to the debate. He said something to the effect that new innovations in energy supply during history had resulted in population growth and that further population growth would be unsustainable. Ideally, this should have been the substance of the debate. Following from the session in November, it appears that replacement of coal by nuclear and renewable energy will struggle to keep up with demand and may not of cause sudden increases in energy availability. On the other hand there is the view that reproduction rates are less in developed affluent societies whereas those in or close to poverty have many children in order to try to secure their futures.

A separate session on whether Integrated Fast Breeder reactors can be used in nuclear weapons could be worthwhile, but it is difficult to conceive how it could address issues in enough detail to be really informative. Some links to Internet sites could be a better approach. The piece of paper many received from Friends of the Earth upon entry actually dealt with some of the issues in greater depth than in the debate itself and seemed to list more legitimate concerns.

(This is my first attempt to post a comment on this website. I apologise that I have not worked out how to add relevant links.)



I watched your Monckton video with my wife. ( As she is currently in plaster with a broken leg, I could find nothing more productive for her to do.)

Anyway, I thought I’d report her reactions, which you might find gratifying. As far as I can tell, her judgements were made intuitively and based on what the presentations said about the speakers’ personalities rather than on factual content. She put you out front by a distance. She thought Plimer and Monckton came over as smug and arrogant and she said they made her squirm. She regarded Redfearn as a frustrated, typical angry young man, somewhat out of his depth, but, overall, felt sorry for him. You came over as sincere. She perceived the audience as initially hostile but being progressively won over by your statements


“We (the Environment Institute) recorded this debate in audio format, and Slow TV videoed it”

I followed the link to the Environment Institute website looking for the audio file of this debate but it isn’t there. I would be more interested in the audio than the TV. Perhaps I didn’t look in the right place?

Its a good thing Caldicott didn’t make it – various shows have put her on here in North America. She is so hard to take your recording equipment would probably have been blown out.

She is actually claiming a nuclear bomb of gigantic proportions can be made by simply building an IFR and operating it.

She was fear mongering in Washington DC about how it will be now that peak oil threatens civilization: “how will our descendants transport huge vats of radioactive waste and radioactive fuel rods and the like WITHOUT ANY OIL to transport it? Imagine that.” I tried.

And there is sea level rise. Caldicott on sea level rise:

“many reactors are built at sea level, the seas are rising, the control rooms will be drowned. We’ll have meltdowns”.

“the people who want to build more reactors are insane. They need mental health therapy”

Her line is stupefyingly bad.


I agree that Caldicott would have added nothing to this debate, other than perhaps a bit comic of relief. Her problem is that she is becoming a parody of herself.


Thanks Geoff. I don’t think I want to comment further on that issue.

On another issue, I was sitting near the video camera and was quite surprised to see that the gear was packed up before the discussion had finished. Perhaps he ran out of film or battery power.


Good point Luke Weston. I couldn’t help but think of that exact same thing when he was making personal attacks on Tom and Barry on Friday night.

I was actually relatively impressed by the response from a lot of the audience, considering as the debate was hosted by The Australian Solar Energy Society. There was a significant applause for Barry and Tom’s side of the argument, and a number of people admitted, when asked, to having changed their opinion on nuclear power at the end of the debate (I assume, mostly, towards favouring it).

It was a bit disappointing that almost the entire debate centred around the proliferation issue. It would have been a lot more interesting to hear some debating about scalability/deployment of nuclear and renewables. Then again, I guess Diesendorf and Noonan wouldn’t have had much of a leg to stand on in that respect. And as Barry said, the format really didn’t allow for many important issues to be discussed thoroughly.


Well done Barry in the Monckton debate. You were very informative and, despite your excited and flustered partner your kept cool and focussed. This is no crack at Readfearn, I’d get emotive about the lies Plimer and Monckton make.

I always worry that not much gets achieve in such a short amount of time and that reduces the event to a comedy show. But it was good to see the audience warm to your approach.

Hopefully Tim Lambert can learn from your debate.


Mark’s arguments really made me think about “The Solar Fraud.” Hayden is right, solar really has reached the level of “fraud.” Just saying that they’re “growing rapidly” is fallacious, as Barry noted. Australia only has one small test-reactor. So, even if Australia just built a second small test reactor, nuclear in Australia would grow “100%.” If Australia built a few IFRs, nuclear might grow 10,000%. In China yes they’ve increased wind several fold, but since 2000 they’ve increased coal 150%. And that means going from 1,000,000,000 tons in 2000 to 2.5 billion tons consumption today. In overall amount of energy produced, coal is the fastest growing energy source by far. Just saying they’re “growing rapidly” is a fraud. Even worse, the low hanging fruit has been picked. As more wind and solar are integrated into the grid, it will be more difficult to balance their intermittent nature, and the windiest spots in Europe are already maxed out. In fact, his conspiracy theory about wind and solar not growing rapidly in the U.S. and Australia is false, they are growing rapidly. Percentage wise, faster than in Europe, but if you go from a few hundredths of a percent to a few tenths of a percent the change is very small, just big percentage wise. Mark may not even care at all about the environment. If he does, then he is so fixed in his ways nothing will ever persuade him to change until he’s shivering in the dark.


Thanks Barry and everyone,
Sorry I couldn’t be there for the debates etc but glad that the silly Caldicott woman couldn’t make it. Her replacement isn’t much better. In a recent Womadelaide experience I had with him, he denied that what I had told him about the nuclear power generating industry was true and when I persisted he said “I don’t have to listen to this. You go and listen to the music.” So I went away with a big smile on my face quite certain that most of the anti nukes like him are ignorant of the truth and quite determined to remain so. Caldicott has been totally discredited in the US. What we have to do is to ensure that she, Noonan, Diesendorf, Lowe etc etc become discredited here in Australia. It’ll be tough but we can do it if we keep on talking. Barry, please set up a meeting/forum where I can come and put the case for Australia to go nuclear. I’ve made a dozen speeches to some big groups [RGSSA, Engineers Australia, Adelaide Rotary, Commonwealth Club etc ] over the past 5 years. It’s time those who heard you the other day had a chance to hear a layman on the subject.


Mark Diesendorf, Mark Jacobson, Helen Caldicott, Ian Lowe, Jim Green …

ACF, WWF, Greenpeace, FoE, Green Party, Labor Party …

How do we get just a crack of light through these defences?

I think the humans in the first row are a dead loss. They can never be engaged.

I believe ACF and Labor are our best chance. Labor is desperate fro some way to give their CPRS policy some credibility. The majority of the senior Labor politicians understand that we must go nuclear for many reasons and it is good not bad. But they are constrained by the Labor Party policy unit.

I suggest people send very short emails to the politicians in their party explaining why nuclear needs to be an options available to Australia.

The politicians email addresses are here.

List of Senators and contact details.

List of Members and Contact details:

Click to access memlist.pdf


Thanks to the link you provided Barry, for the first time I am able to view the Brisbane debate between you, Graham Readfearn ,Lord Monckton and Ian Plimer in full. After viewing the whole debate, I can only concur with Bruce McMahon’s verdict in the Courier Mail on January 30th, that “Lord Christopher Monckton, imperious and articulate won yesterday’s climate change debate in straight sets.” Your side of the debate was handicapped by Graham Readfearn who is not a good speaker, irrespective of how good a journalist he is. He often came accross as angry and frustrated. You presented compelling data, that unfortunately whithered against Monckton’s onslaught against the credibility of the IPCC. I find it incredible that Mockton’s calculations on climate sensitivity to C02 , the centrepiece of his argument, was never seriously called into question. Where have these caculatons


to continue : Where have these calculations been published in a peer reviewed journal ? And why isn’t the world beating a path to your door Lord Monckton ? I hope Tim Lambert does better in his encounter with Mockton, though I fear he’ll do as well as Alan Jones allows him to.


Very well done Barry. I really enjoyed your style and I too think you were slowly winning over people in the audience.

I think that Mockton did have a good idea though. That idea of a court style debate where you could cross examine each other. If you could all give a week’s time it would be marvelous. I would suggest that you would make a very good team with David Karoly though. Perhaps Graham Readfearn could be your legal secretary.

It would be good to see people like you have time to cross examine claims made by Plimer and Mockton.


Matthew, I absolutely agree that a court style debate would be the only really effective way of ‘winning’ an argument like this. I’ve often said this to friends, that I’d love to be able to cross-examine these people (climate change sceptics OR anti-nuclear protesters). This really is what we, as a scientific community, should be aiming for. Of course, I’d be delighted for them to also cross-examine me on the matter. Truth with out.

Further to Mark Diesendorf’s intellectually bankrupt appeal to authority, I offer this quote from Karl Popper:

Today, the appeal to the authority of experts is sometimes excused by the immensity of our specialized knowledge. And it is sometimes defended by philosophical theories that speak of science and rationality in terms of specializations, experts, and authority. But in my view, the appeal to the authority of experts should be neither excused nor defended. It should, on the contrary, be recognized for what it is – an intellectual fashion – and it should be attacked by a frank acknowledgement of how little we know, and how much that little is due to people who have worked in many fields at the same time. And it should also be attacked by the recognition that the orthodoxy produced by intellectual fashions, specialization, and the appeal to authorities is the death of knowledge, and that the growth of knowledge depends entirely upon disagreement.


“Matthew, I absolutely agree that a court style debate would be the only really effective way of ‘winning’ an argument like this. I’ve often said this to friends, that I’d love to be able to cross-examine these people”

Good luck with that. Most in the antinuclear movement know damned well they will have their asses handed to them in cross-ex, that is why they will generally only debate under extemp or mace rules.


@Gregory — I agree that Popper’s view on falsification/disagreement is too constraining. I wrote an article on this a few years back in BioScience, see here:

Revisiting Chamberlin: multiple working hypotheses for the 21st century
The method of multiple working hypotheses, developed by the 19th-century geologist T. C. Chamberlin, is an important philosophical contribution to the domain of hypothesis construction in science. Indeed, the concept is particularly pertinent to recent debate over the relative merits of two different statistical paradigms: null hypothesis testing and model selection. The theoretical foundations of model selection are often poorly understood by practitioners of null hypothesis testing, and even many proponents of Chamberlin’s method may not fully appreciate its historical basis. We contend that the core of Chamberlin’s message, communicated over a century ago, has often been forgotten or misrepresented. Therefore, we revisit his ideas in light of modern developments. The original source has great value to contemporary ecology and many related disciplines, communicating thoughtful consideration of both complexity and causality and providing hard-earned wisdom applicable to this new age of uncertainty.

Happy to send you a PDF copy.


Diesendorf says the following in his discussion of the debate with Barry/Tom:

But we pointed out that this statement [RGP is not weaponizable] is misleading, because the ‘reactor-grade’ plutonium produced in a civil nuclear power station is nuclear weapons capable, that is, it can be used to produce an inefficient but destructive nuclear weapon, sufficient to wipe out the central business district of a small city. Indeed, the USA has successfully tested such a weapon.

Two questions: is this true? and if it is, of what importance is it? the latter question is perhaps the key one. I imagine there are one million ways to put together bombs from industrial materials that could destroy a business district. Do we thereby ban the materials? People have made this argument here before and it’s a good one.

Charles Barton’s long response to Diesendorf was interesting but might be another longer way of saying what Diesendorf says above. So I wanted some clarification.

on popper: that quote is good on the weakness of arguments from authority, but the growth of knowledge depends upon a lot more than disagreement. there can be disagreement with virtually no gain in knowledge. The he said/she said form of disagreeing that scientists rightfully complain about in media treatments of science often lead to no knowledge.

Encouraging disagreement is no panacea. Teaching ordinary folks how to recognize cherry picking, now that would be significant.


“Two questions: is this true? and if it is, of what importance is it?”

This argument keeps coming up and it is pure sophistry of the worst kind.

Yes, technically it is possible: IF you have the resources of the US Nuclear Weapons Complex at your disposal. In other words, mobilizing some of the best minds in nuclear weaponry of the age, at the height of their powers, a poorly performing, explosive nuclear device (not a weapon) was detonated as a proof of concept.

The upshot of this project, was that it was proven that RGP was not a proliferation risk, given the difficulties of making a weapon with it.

Thus this nonsensical concept of ‘weapons capable’ is pure dissemination on the part of the antinuclear side.


Thanks, DV, for the excellent response. I’ve copied and pasted it into my “what to say to anti nuclear bullshit” file. why don’t you mention this on the energy collective blog?

One thing though: you should say more about the distinction between “weapon” and “poorly performing explosive nuclear device,” because if you don’t, the anties will pounce on this as a sign of your evasion of reality. and even regular folk might not get the distinction.

The key point is your “upshot.” That RGP is not a proliferation risk.

It strikes me that “proliferation risk” could use some defining nearly every time the term is used. the anties use it outrageously loosely as a synonym for what’s possible, with the further assumption that ordinary folk will conflate what’s possible with what’s probable. Most people don’t know much about statistics.

barry: I’d like a copy of the phil of science piece.


A weapon must by deployable, reliable, and deliverable. For example, “Ivy Mike” the first thermonuclear explosive device, was the size of a railroad tanker car, and needed a cryo-freezer for support; this was not a weapon.

The other factor is that one nuclear weapon is not very valuable for a country. A nation needs a arsenal to have any strategic leverage as a nuclear power, this is also something that is never given consideration in proliferation discussions.

All of this makes any plan to make weapons from spent fuel a very poor option; in the end it is easier and cheaper to go the traditional route, as every emergent nuclear`power has done to date.


Just a thought. I notice that BNC commenters seem to spend more time talking about nuclear weapons than about the economics and what we can do to make nuclear generated electricity economic.

Are those who support nuclear energy being drawn, unwittingly, into never ending discussions about irrelevancies?

If we are going to have nuclear, it will have to be cheaper than coal. How do we get there?


Thanks John: keep on repeating yourself. we all have busy lives if we’re lucky and we all, it is to be hoped, come to say lots of true things but that doesn’t mean they all get heard in meaningful ways.

thanks dv. don’t mean to be a pain in the ass but it’s good to anticipate criticism, even really stupid ones, which are nonetheless very common.

I’m assuming then that these “fizzle devices” might often not “work” at all?

Ivy Mike was from what you say not deployable and not deliverable (too big). was it “reliable?”


I find this posting a bit rich. I was at the debate and my understanding is that you agreed the tactic with Graham beforehand, ie that you blind the crowd with science and he attack the opponents for their crudentials. Graham, for his part, did a great job. He came across very passionate and had obviously done a lot of research beforehand. I could hardly hear what you were saying and got totally confused by your graphs. You would have been better off focusing on three or four graphs and explaining the research behind them. Who was it that gave you the chance to take part in this debate? Don’t shoot the messenger.


Who gave you that impression Becky? Graham’s method was of his own choosing, as was mine. If he had wanted to take the same approach as me, I would have been fine with it. The audio level in the ABC Big Ideas video is fine for all speakers.


Peter: I don’t think proliferation objections will disappear as long as we ignore them.

We have to make them go away, I suspect, by answering the same questions over and over.

That said, answering proliferation objections isn’t effective without the energy budget type arguments that you provide.


@ Greg – As I wrote before, RGP devices are difficult to build. The difficulty is constructing them such that that a significant amount of fission occurs.

Ivy Mike was a proof of concept test shot, it was in retrospect 100% reliable.

@!Peter – you are quite right.


Peter you say “If we are going to have nuclear, it will have to be cheaper than coal. How do we get there?”

well firstly many nations have demonstrably made a decision to use nuclear power, so I take that as clear indication that these nations have decided that nuclear power has enough benefits to choose over coal.

I also take it as evidence that those nations have decided that using nuclear power is not a hinderance to their economy.

I deduce from that that nuclear power is already cheap enough to drive the economies of developed nations.

Therefore, we don’t have to get “there”, we are in fact already “there”, save for the fact that coal is a bit cheaper in many situations.

It is not the economics of nuclear that is holding it back, it is the public impression and acceptance of the technology surely. I think a focus on the cost ignores the real barrier.


Dead right Matt Buckels,
The fact that 33 countries are already nuclear and a further 20 are building power reactors as I write confirms that at least 53 countries see nuclear as their best option to achieve power security and without greenhouse emissions and cost competitive with coal in every case except where power stations are close to readily available coal. These are points I’ve been making over the past 5 years during my pro nuclear speeches. 2000 people at last count have heard me make those points.Barry, get me over to put the case for nuclear to the people. You can invite Deisendorf, Caldicott, Noonan, Lowe and any other anti-nuke you like. I’ll take them on, alone. Letting them know that I’m just an ordinary layman should see them ready to come and slaughter me. They won’t., because I tell the truth.


I am surprised that you are so distracted by Diesendorf ‘s shot at your credentials as it was one point after the debate and particularly given the number of times you have employed the same tactic when refuting Ian Plimers nonsense.

Given the response from the audience I would also suggest it was an even split on for and against nuclear.

As to who won the debate, I suspect that is a mute point.


Peter L even though you disagree with forced carbon pricing the fact is the cat’s out of the bag. It hangs over the generation industry like the Sword of Damocles. Even if it doesn’t actually eventuate for a few years then depletion issues will cut in, exacerbated by regional logistics such getting more gas to Victoria or China dominating world coal demand.

I suspect that board members of some major generators like ETSA and TRUEnergy would love to build a Gen III NPP. However they need the nod from their political masters plus some major financial help. What would be bizarre if nuclear was cheaper by a country mile than cleaner coal or gas but the nod went to fossil anyway. I expect that to happen initially but as the years go by the gap must widen. At least in terms of fuel cost not capital cost.

Put it another way for nuclear NOT to get the nod in the end some strange things would have to happen
– all talk of carbon taxes suddenly stops
– competing users of coal and gas withdraw forever
– a scalable cheap baseload renewable emerges.


Barry, I make it a practice to not fire off all my bullets on the first round of internet debate. RGP the long passages I quoted demonstrated that RGP is not weaponizable, and no nuclear weapon has been produced from it. True several tests of nuclear devices – not weapons – have been conducted. Tests of RGP devices showed that RGP is not desirable for weapons use. The difference between a device and a weapon, is that a device may be complex, that is it may include special features that would preclude its delivery as a weapon, it may be built with special, expensive, and difficult to maintain materials., ti may be assembled just before testing, and it may not be usable after a few hours in storage. A device with some or all of these characteristics would be undesirable and even unusable as a weapon.

A RGP device may explode with the force of $100,000 worth of high explosives, yet cost millions of dollars to construct. A RGP device would require special skills and knowledge to construct, far more than would be required to construct a gun type U-235 weapon. The South Africans demonstrated that a low cost uranium separation technology could actually produce enough HEU to make deliverable nuclear weapons that were 100 times more powerful than RGP devices. Thus, it is far more likely that a would be proliferator would prefer to replicate the South Aftican path, rather than to construct difficult and expensive to design and construct nuclear devices, that are not militarily useful.

A proliferator can be expected to have access to several routs to deliverable nuclear weapons. These include the South African route, the A.Q. Kahn route, and the North Korean route. All of these routes would cost less, and produce effective, powerful and deliverable nuclear weapons. RGP would not. Thus the existence of and access too RGP would not increase the would be proliferators incentive to acquire a capacity for nuclear explosives, and thus would not increase the likelihood of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, the technical, material, and deliverability problems of would preclude the use of RGP devices by terrorists. Again, $100,000 worth of fertiiizer, and a design that can be obtained on the internet would produce an explosive device that would have the same effect as a RGP device. Thus access to RGP would not give terrorist a greater incentive to produce a device capable of a very large explosive, while increasing the cost, technical difficulties and the likelihood of being detected.

Finally we have the issue of expertise. In effect, Diesendorf challenged your expertise, but what qualifies Diesendorf as an expert on nuclear weapon design? That is why I referred to De Volpi’s statements. De Volpi has been qualified in court as an expert witness on nuclear weapons design. He has worked with Soviet technical experts on nuclear proliferation issues. What qualifies Diesendorf to make statements contradicting De Volpi. Diesendorf is simply using anti-nuclear bullshit line that De Volpi challenges and exposes.


John D Morgan

Thank you for re-posting the link. I read the information contained therein and found it to be clear, concise and an excellent piece to pass on to those with proliferation and waste concerns.


@ Wise, Morgan: as I have written before, BNC appears to fluctuate between 1. wanting the IPR as outglined by Blees precisely because it burns spent NPP fuel and puts out waste measurable in centuries not millenia and is not weaponisable; or 2. being quite happy with any other NPP at all in Gens II-III bar the Chernobyl design.

I take it that the latter stance is based on justifiable fear of AGW on the part of many, but not all BNCers, as there are BNC Nukie persons who appear to be climate change deniers.

A cynic might say that BNC persons resident in AU who are sanguine about Gens II-III are not living on top of Gen II plants, sometimes built near active geol. faultlines, as are western Europeans.

Now as World Nuclear Assoc. (see website) wants deep geol. disposal as the preferred method, as practised/planned in e.g. Sweden/Germany, it seems to me that the arguments about pyroprocessing advanced by Marsh in the paper referenced by Morgan do not address current “waste concerns”.


Peter, there certainly are contributors here who are AGW denialists, or agnostic on the matter. For the record, I don’t agree with them on that subject (fairly passionately), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have useful insights in other areas. The approach I try to adhere to is to judge all arguments on their merits.

Personally, from all I understand about Gen II facilities, I’d have no more concern about living next to one than any equivalent industrial installation. I would not like to live next to one, but only from a simple amenity perspective. I would prefer to live next to a Gen II plant than, say, a brewery, an abattoir, a sheet metal fabricator, or a sawmill, for instance, if they were the options. (And the latter were all options in the town I where I grew up.)

If you’ve been following the discussion here, you’d understand that deep geological disposal is generally regarded as a tragic waste of valuable materia. I’ll bet the Indians would be happy to take it from the Swedes for free.

Douglas, Greg, you’re welcome. Some time ago I accepted I would spend much of my time repeating myself, and am at peace :)


Oh, and I would much rather live next to a Gen II reactor than any of the coal reactors currently making electricity in this country.


BNC appears to fluctuate between 1. wanting the IPR as outglined by Blees precisely because it burns spent NPP fuel and puts out waste measurable in centuries not millenia and is not weaponisable; or 2. being quite happy with any other NPP at all in Gens II-III bar the Chernobyl design. – Peter Lalor

Peter, any inconsistency is in your mind. not in BNC. Generation II-III LWRs are good, Generation IV technology is better. One can argue for example that the actuarial evidence is that Generation II-III reactors are safe, but that in Generation IV reactors the equivalent level of safety costs less. As John indicated, the fundamental problem with nuclear waste is not that it can be turned into weapons, but that it is a valuable resource that is now wasted. Your problem appears an inability to comprehend a system of complex relationships, and a deep seated confusion which has as its source, your dogmatic anti-nuclear mentality.


Peter Lang

I have been reading up on your Pandora link. The conclusion is that, currently, nuclear electricity might be expected to be 20-50% more expensive than coal electricity if none of the latter’s pollution costs are internalised. This is, I think, from memory, a narrower gap than you stated in your Emissions Cuts Realities post (where you concluded nuclear electricity cost might be nearer double the coal level.) Given that investors apparently presently require a 27% risk premium to go for nuclear technology , it ought to be politically possible to eliminate this and, if the Pandora info is correct, more or less equalise nuclear and coal electricity costs. Most governments are justifying continued coal burning by stating their intention is to build in the future only plants that can be readily retrofitted with CCS technology when it is ready. Most optimistic assessments of CCS suggest that one might it expect that it would add no more than 20-50% to coal electricity prices. However, the LCA of CCS coal electricity would remain much higher than that of nuclear electricity generation because mining and transport emissions would remain after removal of flue gas emissions. Furthermore, based on the Pandora figures, CCS coal derived electricity would definitely become more expensive than nuclear with investor risk premium removed. You may think I am merely stating the obvious and I am sure that I shouldn’t be teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. The reason I am raising this is only because the conservative nature of your original post may have obscured the disadvantages of CCS coal to policy makers. It certainly did serious damage to the claims of the renewable lobby but left CCS hanging. I am sure you might wish to argue that CCS is pie in the sky but I think it needs to be taken seriously – certainly, many governments are purporting to do so. You may suggest that they are all being massively cynical and using the potential of future development of CCS as a figleaf while continuing to pollute.

Two letters to the editor in my daily paper prompted this communication:
1) From a global warming sceptic : “What cannot be denied is that most of the world’s energy is supplied by methods that are finite. Would it not have been more productive for environmentalists to have warned us of the dangers of overreliance on fossil fuels?
Efforts to to reduce usage of these fuels would have then been met with a far more positive response than experienced so far, and would no doubt have led to a greater reduction in everyone’s carbon footprint.”
2) Another sceptic (readers of my daily mainly are): The quote follows an acknowledgement that the globe is warming but the cause might not necessarily be anthropogenic. If it isn’t, he concludes with this statement: “If so, then the worldwide expenditure of astronomical sums on hideously expensive renewable energy systems, paticularl;y wind farms, will be seen in the future as the most reckless spending frenzy ever undertaken by mankind.”

I think these letters speak for themselves. However, among my UK acquaintances, I have yet to meet one who doesn’t think we should be deploying nuclear power and who doesn’t make scathing remarks on renewables other than tidal. However, they split 50;50 on the issue of AGW. I would accept, however, that most of my acquaintances don’t vote Labour.

In conclusion, coal electricity is not sustainable long term, CCS both reduces its sustainability and increases its cost. Continued economic growth is vital to avoid catastrophe for the expanding population already in the pipeline (however much we embrace energy efficiency and however we may wish to reduce human population in the longer term). Economic growth will be severely constrained or prevented if our energy supplies become more expensive.


I finally managed to download the video of the debate staring Monckton. I have watched the first 70 minutes (out of 90) as this was enough for me. It was not quite as I expected from the comments above. (Becky is correct about you being hard to hear, Barry, but I think this was only during the questions and discussion.) If anyone thinks the last 20 minutes are worth listening to them then I will.

Monckton actually seemed to start reasonably well by identifying sensitivity of the climate to carbon emissions as the issue for discussion. He conceded that greenhouse gasses will cause warming. This was so that the debate could proceed, but it was not entirely clear that this is what he actually believed). He contended that the amount of warming was around one sixth to one seventh of that proposed by “the UN.” He said he would offer some evidence for this. He then proceeded with some obscure quotes regarding the politics of some wording in an IPCC report and some sophistry about recognising trends in data. If you applied his approach to mathematics there is no basis for recognising trends in any data. I would not be able to tell if the fuel efficiency of my vehicle is declining. Mathematics is our servant, not our master. He then ignored what he just said and then recognised rates of warming in the past. He started to make a point that there were two other periods in the measured rates were similar, but did not take this to any conclusion. He then proceeded to give details of one case of variation in ocean surface temperature matching the variation in solar radiation (due to variation in cloud cover). Apparently he thought his rough calculations from this isolated case this demonstrated his conclusion for the whole planet and that this was better than all of the best efforts of scientists to take into account all of the variables in complex computer models.

Brook then gave a reasonable and professional presentation of the best data available.

Plimer then spend his two minutes asking why Brook did not tell us about a lot of different issues.

Readfearn answered his question succinctly by saying it was because he only had 10 minutes. Readfearn had obviously done a lot of work researching the material published by Monckton and by Plimer. His reaction was understandable. He must have been livid! Unfortunately that caused him to question character, for which he was ruled out of order by the chair.

I was disappointed that Plimer got away with asking why climate change scientists do not talk about water as a greenhouse gas. If carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere and causes an incremental increase in temperature (as Monckton conceded), then it follows that there will be a change in the equilibrium of the water cycle and more of the water will be in the atmosphere until a new equilibrium is reached. The effect of this increase in water vapour caused more warming than the initial increase in carbon dioxide. Thus water amplifies the effect of increasing other greenhouse gases. It is Plimer who is not taking water into account, not the climate scientists. It seems that he either fails to understand this or is he knowingly misleading. His opinion that other factors, such as past climate change and volcanic emissions, are not considered by scientists does lead one to question his integrity.

Regarding Monckton’s conspiracy theory: if we did not have the IPCC, the result of the science would still be the same. They have only acted as a voice. The sceptics have not revealed anything wrong with the assumptions or approach of climate change scientists.

I found it fascinating how the audience responded to points made by Monckton and Plimer. They both knew how to give the audience what they wanted in the well rehearsed points. I was reminded of Victor Borge using the same corny gags over and over.


Peter Lalor

You are clearly even more of a layman in this area than I am. Charles Barton has commented already on your post. However, he did not mention one factor that you may have overlooked and which it took me some time to appreciate. Gen IV NPPs will not be deployable for a decade or two in signifant amounts. Furthermore, each requires a “start charge” and there are insufficient “start charges” to get many up and running until they have bred more of them for themselves (which will take a considerable time). A more practical approach is to build more Gen III plants, the “waste” from which will make more “start charges” for Gen IV plants so that the latter can be deployed faster when they become available.

I hope I haven’t oversimplified and I hope it helps explain why it is not necessarily sensible to suggest that we go for Gen IV or nothing when a gradual evolution from Gen III to Gen IV would best protect us from both peak fossil fuels and AGW. I am not stating anything that hasn’t been written on BNC before (I wouldn’t have known otherwise).


@Morgan, Barton:

(Barton; as you claim I am deeply confused and quite uncomplex (as it were), perhaps you can recommend me to Peter Lang for some of that “social engineering”-cum-education (sic) he deems suitable for the recalcitrant? Maybe you have some equity in listed AU/GB/US/CAN security firms enforcing that sort of thing? I mean, after all that relevant experience in “AfPak and the Sandbox”, as those people put it?
This suggestion for appropriate treatment for myself as seen by you is based on the default politics of BNC bar Meyerson and Walters and a couple of others, with Geoff Russell holding the ring. That politics appears to be managerial-neoliberal, current or aspiring. Russell had to intervene when some contributor used the term “rent a crowd” recently.)

To get back to the point: OECD wrote in March 1995, with approval of IAEA and EU, see WNA website:

“(we) caution that, in pursuing the reduction of risk from a geological disposal strategy for radioactive wastes, current generations should keep in perspective the resource deployment in other areas where there is potential for greater reduction of risks to humans or the environment, and consider whether resources may be used more effectively elsewhere.”

Assuming BNC views WNA as a sort of intellectual mentor, (as opposed to e.g. IPPNW: joke) this quote implies that future risk over millennia as a result of current geol. disposal decisions is being discounted heavily in favour of addressing current risk. “Effectiveness” is thus defined in terms of current remedy. What happens in millennia from now is seen as trivial.

It is precisely this attitude to long-term risk and their responsibility for it (i.e. asymptotic to zero) which distinguishes Nukies from others. This may be because of their can-do engineering headset assuming that problems exist merely to be solved by engineers, and that as there will always be engineers, there is no such thing as an insoluble (spent fuel) problem as long as humanity and hence engineers exist.

By the way, enlighten me as to why the countries listed A-Z at WNA which do favour geol. disposal over reprocessing took that decision?

As regards Gen II, actuarial data to date may or may not be relevant. Granted that coal-fired has killed more per annum per kwh in the NPP era, why does a Nukie think that Gen IIs will continue to perform as well before their retirement?


Charles Barton has commented already on your post. However, he did not mention one factor that you may have overlooked and which it took me some time to appreciate. Gen IV NPPs will not be deployable for a decade or two in significant amounts. Furthermore, each requires a “start charge” and there are insufficient “start charges” to get many up and running until they have bred more of them for themselves (which will take a considerable time). – Peter Lalor

Peter here we come to a matter upon which Barry and I disagree. In 2000 there was already enough RGP in American nuclear waste to start more than 400 GWs worth of LFTRs, or at least 12 times many as IFRs that could be started with the same amount of nuclear waste. Indian research suggests that by adding thorium to the IFR core the number of iFRs that can be started increases. And, of course, with the construction of new reactors, the number LFTRs can be started also increases. In addition there are numerous other sources of start charges, including weapons grade U-235 and Pu-239 stockpiles. Re-enriching uranium extracted from nuclear waste, and re-enriching so called depleted uranium. Of course further start charges could be obtained by reprocessing uranium mine tailings, and enriching the uranium obtained, or by processing uranium out of phosphate mine tailings and enriching that. Your observation seems to suggests you are poorly informed about Generation IV options, and their potential.

Your speculation about the origins of my views is quite inappropriate. You appear to have not the slightest idea who I am. My views have quite differemt intellectual and personal origins than you suggest. Your mistakes reflect your confusion.


Peter Lalor said: “By the way, enlighten me as to why the countries listed A-Z at WNA which do favour geol. disposal over reprocessing took that decision?”

It is generally simple economics, balanced by political expediency. At the moment, given the price of uranium, and the SWU’s to enrich it, makes fuel derived from reprocessing much more expensive for most countries. For countries that are guaranteed a secure supply of fresh fuel, and if the population doesn’t object to geol. disposal, then this is the most cost effective route.

The fact is that spent fuel is not a hazard for millennia, as constantly asserted by antinuclear hysterics. Figures such as 50,000, 100,000, or sometimes millions of years get tossed around, but hyperbole always involves randomly large numbers. The radioactivity of the original uranium ore is generally used as a benchmark since it is what we would be dealing with if it were not for nuclear power. However uranium ore is not especially radioactive and so represents a relativity benign level of activity.

Spent fuel does not remain glowing green for ten thousand years at which point it stops being significantly radioactive. It continually decays, becoming less radioactive, as time goes on. Because the decay is exponential, most of it happens in the early stages so that the majority of time period is spent at a significantly lower level of activity than at initial disposal and in fact a level that is not especially hazardous at all. Compare this to those mercury and arsenic solid wastes from coal burning, which will be just as hazardous in a hundred thousand years as they are today.

Peter Lalor said: “As regards Gen II, actuarial data to date may or may not be relevant. Granted that coal-fired has killed more per annum per kwh in the NPP era, why does a Nukie think that Gen IIs will continue to perform as well before their retirement?”

The more relevant question is why should they not? There is continuous monitoring of radioactive discharges, there is constant inspection of the containment, and the safety features of the facility. If the process dose not produce toxic emissions right from the beginning, as is the case with combustion power generation, there is no reason why it should start.


Peter, I’ve asked several times before, if not nuclear, what do you believe should underpin our carbon free energy system? Choosing to oppose nuclear power means choosing to advance an alternative. What do you believe this alternative is?

Each time I’ve asked this, you’ve disappeared. Are you going to disappear again? Or are you going to let us know what you stand for? Are you anything more than a cipher?


the default politics of BNC
bar Meyerson
and Walters
and a couple of others,
with Geoff Russell ..

Yeah, what have the Romans ever done for us?


Peter Lalor
What are your “waste concerns”
You pretend a concern for the citizens of the future a “millenia” from now (and DV82XL has dealt with your “millenia” reference). Your concerns, I can only assume, are based upon the hypothetical possibility of radiation leaks from storage deposits. Your worse case scenario being , I suppose, that at some far flung time in the future, when people have forgotten where the waste is held and so no longer monitor it, it gets into some city or communities water supply and poisons them all? A nasty scenario indeed. I can imagine that happening, hypothetically speaking, then again , like most human beings I have a fertile imagination and can imagine quite a lot of unlikely things happening.
Moving out of the realm of science fiction for a moment, climate change is happening right now, and if nothing (or not enough) is done to curtail it’s progress it will result in a dramatically alerted world (not city, not country, not continent – world) a world in which we can be sure our current population/civilization cannot survive.
Now back to our hypothetical. To suppose that there will be people in the future, which can be effected by radiation leaks, you must suppose that: 1. Climate change was adequately addressed, and, as the waste deposits you are so worried about attest, was done so using nuclear power. In which case, you are in fact conceding that nuclear power is a solution to climate change. Your hypothetical radiation leak would then be highly unlikely to cause any large scale damage since we would still be a well organized, well equipped society, able to monitor, maintain and use the spent fuel in our fleet of Gen IV reactors. Or: 2. That we pursued nuclear power as a solution to climate change, but its’ GHG reduction capacity was insufficient to avert catastrophic climate change. World population plunged as upwards of 5 billion people died until we reached a sustainable low carbon population level in the last habitable places on earth. Now, after all this has happened, you are worried that some unsuspecting remnant of humanity may fall foul of some leaking radioactive waste? I cannot believe a leak is your real concern with this scenario. Your real concern must, in this instance, be that nuclear power did not reduce GHG emissions. If that is your concern, you should state it; there are plenty of people here who can help you with that. The possibility of leaky storage facilities at some time in the distant future is an insignificance compared to the threat of climate change.
Note: There are two other scenarios some might imagine; one involving a 100% renewable solution – but if spent fuel storage is really your concern, then this possibility will do exactly nothing to rid us of the waste already accumulated, since there will be no Gen IVs to reduce it; the other involves climate change denial.


This is straying from the Monckton vs Brook thread but I think Australia could easily replicate the Swedish model of high level waste storage. Canisters are stored in a 500m deep system of shafts and tunnels
It would be too difficult for ‘non-state actors’ or Boy Scout operations to remove any material. I recall Terry Krieg proposes a site on the WA-SA border but I suggest Arcoona Station near Olympic Dam. The Federal govt already owns Arcoona and when/if OD goes open cut the underground mining equipment only needs to be moved a few kilometres. It also returns some actinides back to where their U235 precursor originated which is kind of poetic.


John Newlands,

If we dont require that the coal and gas fired power stations must dispose of their toxic emissions, why do we require nuclear to dispose of its still valuable once-used fuel?

In considering your anwer, remember that the toxic emissions from coal and gas are far greater in quantity and toxicity, and have no half life.

So why do we focus on the disposal of once-used nucear fuel?


PL I’m talking about intractable waste which cannot be reprocessed. Both IFRs and LFTRs have some intractable waste I understand. If Australia had Gen IV technology then I think it would need a disposal site. Not sure about taking other countries high level waste unless the money was too good to refuse. Note the gypsum loading port of Thevenard in the Great Australian Bight will soon be deepened to ship slightly radioactive zircon and monazite.

Oddly I would guess with ocean acidification and terrestrial saturation the ‘half life’ of CO2 must be increasing. That is the time to absorb half the original amount. If that’s right future CO2 emissions will take longer to absorb than historically.


John Nwewlands,

Agreed. I did go over the top a bit with that last post. I was expecting a few serves :)

I agree with you and Terry Krieg and others. I am all for taking the worlds nuclear waste (one all the available energy has been used), and managing it on behalf of the world.

Similarly, we should offer to take all the toxic waste from all power stations and manage it (the cost to be paid for by the power station and passed onto the customer through electricity price increases – that’s my concession to you, Douglas Wise, Ewen and whoever else has been hassling me. Of course this is an impossible proposition, so just like a politician, I am happy to agree to this undertaking. :) )


Peter Lang

I do not recall ever having hassled you over nuclear safety or so-called waste.

On Feb 11th at 22.58 I invited comments from you on a separate issue. Unfortunately, I posted inadvertantly on this thread rather than on the intended CPRS one. Nevertheless, I would still welcome a response.

In summary, I suggested that your Emission Cuts Realities paper may be giving a hostage to fortune by inviting casual readers to believe that electricity produced by your nuclear/gas option would be nearly double that of the BAU route, thus leaving the door open for policy makers to continue with coal and keep their fingers crossed that CCS would come to their rescue.

Your approach was conservative but nevertheless sufficient to make readers query the renewable route. However, the conservatism was not helpful in demonstrating that nuclear had the potential to procuce electricity cheaper than coal – not even coal with internalised costs.

I know that you think nuclear costs are capable of being greatly reduced but do not recall your making this case particularly strongly, if at all, in the Emissions Cuts post. Given that you and Barry are intending to produce a peer reviewed paper based on this work of yours, I think it might be as well for you to explain in its discussion why the near factor of 2 difference has the realistic possibility of being eliminated.


Douglas Wise:

I have been reading up on your Pandora link. The conclusion is that, currently, nuclear electricity might be expected to be 20-50% more expensive than coal electricity if none of the latter’s pollution costs are internalised. This is, I think, from memory, a narrower gap than you stated in your Emissions Cuts Realities post (where you concluded nuclear electricity cost might be nearer double the coal level.)

Everything you say there is correct, but not an apples to apples comparison. The costs in the UMPNE report are the settled down costs and are in constant 2003 $, from memory. The costs in the “Solar Power Realities” paper are from ACIL-Tasman’s estimates and projections. They are in constant 2020 $, and they are not settled down costs until about 2035. The costs up to 2025 ar for First of a Kind. They are also high because of some of the limits placed on where they could be built. These limits were in the Terms of Reference for the contract for the work.

The costs for all technologies increased dramatically between 2003 and 2010.

So there are three main differences betwen the two sets of figures you are comparing:

1. 2003 $ versus 2010 $
2. Settled down costs versus FOAK costs
3. Different assumptions regarding the regulatory environment, and therefore the financial risk premium.

I’d recommend perusing the EPRI report that was prepared as part of this study It explains what is involved in attempting to get comparitive costs.

You said:

Given that investors apparently presently require a 27% risk premium to go for nuclear technology , it ought to be politically possible to eliminate this and, if the Pandora info is correct, more or less equalise nuclear and coal electricity costs.

Yes. That is what I believe is the case. I actually believe nuclear could be less than coal if we had a genuine level playing field for all technologies. And that is where I believe the effort should be. I believe the experts here could have more effect by focusing on identifying all the imposts that tend to disadvantage nuclear compared with the other technologies.

Regarding CCS, I accept that in a world that wants anything but nuclear, and with coal so entrenched in our systems we’ll be buring coal for a long time to come. I also accept that there will be some CCS because of the massive international push for it and the massive funding. But I don’t expect coal or gas with CCS will ever become a major component of our electrcity supply. I believe CCS is being driven by political considerations. In Australia CCS is being advocated to preserve our coal mining industry for as long as possible. As time goes on, I believe people will come to realise the whole CCS idea is daft, much higher risk than nuclear, and much higher cost than what nuclear could be if we are prepared to unwind the blocks to nculear.

I propose to Barry a thread to identify all the imposts that tend to disadvantage nuclear compared with the other technologies. I’d love to see us take a fresh sheet of paper approach regarding the regulatory impediments to nuclear and the unequal discriminators for and against other technologies compared with nuclear.


Douglas Wise,

I saw you latest post where you said: “I do not recall ever having hassled you over nuclear safety or so-called waste.” after I posted my other reply to you.

My apologies again. I was writing with a smile on my face (couldn’t you see me on skype?) :) No offence was meant.

You said:

In summary, I suggested that your Emission Cuts Realities paper may be giving a hostage to fortune by inviting casual readers to believe that electricity produced by your nuclear/gas option would be nearly double that of the BAU route, thus leaving the door open for policy makers to continue with coal and keep their fingers crossed that CCS would come to their rescue.

I agree with all this and the following paragraphs. The costs for nuclear and new coal I used in the “Emission Cuts Realities” are from the ACIL-Tasman report. That report was contracted by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). ACIL-Tasman are commonly and recently contracted by the Australian Treasury, Department of Climate Change, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) and ATSE. Therefore, this report has more credibility than any other current report. It also provided projections of capital cost, electricity cost, emissions intensities and other relevant information to 2029. No other report does this.

I am explaing this so you and others understand that I could not include, in the “Emission Cuts Realities” paper, my interpretation of what the costs of nuclear could be. That paper is now a basis from which we can work. We can look to see what is causing nuclear to be much hifgher cost than we believe it should be. I think that would be a valuable contribution from those who contribute on the BNC web site.

Perhaps Jim Green and like minded people could be brought it to contribute to with the aim to find “what do we need to do to get nuclear power in Australia at least cost with reasonable safety and environmental impacts.”


Both IFRs and LFTRs have some intractable waste I understand. – John Newlands

What do you mean by “intractable waste”, John? First most FP from LFTRs, are short lived. Most of the intermediate and long term radioactive FPs, are either biologically inert, or low energy radiation emitters. Some are currently considered safe enough to be injected into the human body for medical testing purposes. Biologically inactive and low radiation energy long lived radioactive FP can safely be disposed of by vitrification followed by sequestration. This is a low cost, high safety approach. High radiation energy, long lived FPs potentially have uses in food processing, and sanitation. Thus no fission products pose intractable problems, and most are useful immediately after they come out of reactors, or within a reasonable period of time after.


“Similarly, we should offer to take all the toxic waste from all power stations and manage it (the cost to be paid for by the power station and passed onto the customer through electricity price increases – that’s my concession to you”

The thing is, it’s just not practical for fossil-fuel energy.
There’s such a massive, enormous amount of this hazardous waste, you can’t capture it and handle it and move it around or store it, it’s just not practical.


I forgot what FOAK was and had to google it. came up with “fount of all knowledge” and “first of a kind,” and figured it was the latter that was meant.

what’s the best way to deal with the acronym problem? just ask questions?

or is it worth putting together a bnc glossary along the lines of a post barry did on radiation vocabulary?

BTW, have you seen the latest harvey wasserman shit circulating? two days after a natural gas explosion killing five in connecticut, we’re back to “radioactive nightmares” from tritium leaks at vermont yankee, leaks which are harmless.

no analysis of the consequence of the leaks, or what they really mean, no call to stop the leaks. shut down vermont yankee.

this story is basically a situated (vermont) repeat of the christian parenti nation article that folks here took apart.


I mean, it just sounds too good to be true!


Advanced Traveling-wave reactors offer a path to zero-emissions, proliferation-resistant energy that would reduce nuclear waste volumes. Exploiting new physics that has only recently been fully explored with 21st-century computational tools, traveling-wave reactors run on depleted uranium, a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. Huge amounts of depleted uranium already exist in stockpiles around the world, with more being made each year as the fleet of conventional reactors is refueled. Burned in traveling-wave reactors, this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.

A traveling-wave reactor can sustain fission in a nonfissile fuel such as depleted uranium because it sets up a slow-moving wave in which neutrons produced by fission reactions in one small part of the core convert adjacent fuel pellets from fertile isotopes (such as U238) into fissile isotopes (such as Pu239).

The traveling-wave reactor creates the simplest nuclear energy fuel cycle. A TWR breeds its own nuclear fuel, where it needs it, when it needs it. Exhausted fuel can be left in the core. So unlike conventional nuclear plants that take in new fuel and expel high-level waste every 18 months or so, a TWR can in principle be fueled once, sealed up, and run without refueling for 60 years or more.


Luke Weston,

The thing is, it’s just not practical for fossil-fuel energy.
There’s such a massive, enormous amount of this hazardous waste, you can’t capture it and handle it and move it around or store it, it’s just not practical.

I agree completely. That is the point I’ve been attempting to make to some other commenters, but it doesn’t seem to be understood.

If we want to get a level playing field for nuclear, these are the sorts of inequalities we need to document, cost and communicate.


What waste? Don’t Gen3 reactors just burn all today’s waste down to 10% of the mass and then it only has to be stored 500 years? Isn’t the ONLY way we are going to deal with all the nuclear foolishness of our parents to build at least a few fleets of these new Gen3 nukes to “reburn” this fuel and turn, for example, 10 thousand tons of waste that will last 100 thousand years down to 1 thousand tons of waste that only has to be stored 500 years?

Barry has explained a number of times that we could run the WHOLE WORLD on today’s nuclear waste for 700 years. Now I don’t know if they’re going to discover cheap inexhaustible Polywell fusion, or some super-battery that makes solar & wind more competitive, or what exactly is going to happen in energy over 700 years…

But it seems to me that until we have a better idea for the waste, we should at least build a few dozen Gen3 reactors in the USA to start the long process of munching through the existing waste!

And again, I’d love to see commentary by people grounded in the nuclear physics and history of nuclear as to whether or not the Travelling Wave Reactor is a pipe dream or a viable nuclear reality we have just yet to build.


“The thing is, it’s just not practical for fossil-fuel energy.
There’s such a massive, enormous amount of this hazardous waste, you can’t capture it and handle it and move it around or store it, it’s just not practical.”

Hang on… are you talking about coal-waste? Don’t they turn fly ash into concrete and various other uses?


Eclipse Now, the TWR is a variant of the IFR. It is essentially a large ‘nuclear battery’ – a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor that can run for a few decades. It is less well-developed than the IFR, and has some potential gotchas, both in terms of materials science and fissile load (it requires a very large fissile start charge). It’s an interesting idea, but there are many interesting ideas. We’ve got to start building them.

What’s the major edge the TWR has? It’s got the $$ support of Bill Gates…


Cheers Barry… so in summary the IFR doesn’t just load once for 60 years, which you see as a “gotcha” because… of the economics of all that fuel at once?

If I remember, when the Gates TED talk comes out I’ll link to it somewhere on your blog.

BTW — good work on the Brisbane Institute Debate, and just because I’m still hoping Renewables can one day come in cheaper, baseload, and less politically charged than Nuclear, it doesn’t mean I’m a climate sceptic! ;-)

This blog has removed much of my instinctive antagonism towards nuclear. However I’ve seen so many papers about the hidden costs and externalities about so many different forms of energy… I’m having an epistemological breakdown about anyone in energy ever honestly being able to remember all the costs and include all the externalities.

So many renewable systems are incrementally improving and scaling and costs are coming down, that I guess the MAIN message I’m getting, as a former peak oil Malthusian, is that there are SO MANY fossil fuel alternatives that we’ll get by somehow. (As long as we don’t trigger some of the scarier “Carbon bombs” or global warming feedbacks along the way).


Barry – I just watched the video of your debate at the Brisbane institute. It is a pity about the audio quality. I thought you presented as a very honourable individual. Your number two seemed to be a complete flake and I think it is a pity you were not partnered with somebody more substantial. For what it is worth I think Monckton presented well also. Much better in fact than I had expected.


I’ve now listened to the entire debate and watched some sections of it. Based on my very limited debating experience, I’d score the formal section as won very narrowly by the negative side. Essentially this was because I don’t think the case against renewable energy options was adequately made by the affirmative side, and I don’t think they quite succeeded in demonstrating the poverty of the weapons proliferation argument.

However, in question time, I thought the affirmatives absolutely wiped the floor with the negatives, exemplified by the exchange over Germany.


Mark, I would agree with that assessment, with one caveat — I viewed the ‘debate’ as centering around the Q&A. Indeed, Tom and I argued strongly that it should be ALL question and answer, without the preambles, but were repeatedly overruled by the -ve side and the organisers.

I would need a whole ‘nuther session to get stuck into the ‘all renewables’ argument, but figured if I tried to go down that line, I’d only do it in a half-arsed way and end up sounding even weaker than if I left it alone (as I basically did). It was a nuclear energy debate first and foremost, after all.


Bill Gates TED talk is up there now on the TWR.

Watch the 20 minute talk and then stick around for the Q&A because he makes a claim I’m not sure about… that the Travelling Wave Reactor takes today’s nuclear waste and burns it for 60 years… so far so good.

Then he says they can take the reprocessed waste from the TWR and put it in the next one! Is that true? This may be sold to greenies on a NO WASTE platform! Forget storing the 10% waste for 500 years, this technology has NO waste? Is this just a case of a software guy not quite understanding what the TWR experts were explaining to him?


I’ve been trying to get a comment up [quite long in fact ]on waste. But after two goes, I’ve given up because it just won’t go [I’m not good on computers] But John Newlands was right to note that I had suggested the Officer Basin in SA as the best site on the planet for waste disposal. It is and I’ll try to tell you all why in a later blog. Lots more facts for you Marion if only I can get them to you. Stay tuned


eclipsenow – For sure there is going to be hot waste after the initial charge is burned. All the mass doesn’t disappear.

So far there is very little in the way of hard numbers for this reactor, and it is easy to find plenty of breathless hype, and difficult to find any rational discussions of the downsides.

I wrote elsewhere that at the moment the only thing they have is computer models, and I’m not so sure they can be relied on to predict the behavior of this assembly for its full 60+ design life.

As well it will produce several tens of tonnes of spent fuel, which will not be in easy form to handle, and will remain very hot for at least a couple of hundred years after the fuel is exhausted, and the unit retired. Thus it will most likely need to be buried on the spot, a factor that will limit where one can be placed.

And God help us if Gates insists that the controls run on Windows.


“And God help us if Gates insists that the controls run on Windows.”
Ha ha ha! As a mac-user, oh that was sweet.

So unlike IFR’s TWR’s have not been tested? OK, interesting. Gates was trying to sell the idea that leaving a rod there 60 years was better than the current fuel cycles we run each year, saying that “moving fuel in and waste out of reactors is a bad thing” which got a laugh from the TED audience. As a Simpson’s view (with my son of course) I even appreciated the point. Less moving parts for the Homer’s to bugger up.

But if you’re talking about this TWR not being built or tested (and that’s a 60 year test!??), AND having significant waste to be dealt with all in one hit at the end, then maybe it is safer to process it in smaller, self-contained safer units as we go. Lock it away in Synrock and let it sit in a basement under a Police Academy or Military Base, or at least the local police station, to save on security monitoring costs over the 500 year period.

Then at the end of that 500 year period, I’d recommend the nuclear PR people put up a big sign: “Another 1000 tons of waste safe!” (Or how much of the original Gen1 & 2 waste they processed).

Waste, safety, proliferation and most of all the economics were the main concerns I had with nuclear. This blog has removed the first 3 concerns for me… but I remain agnostic about the 4th… but hey? In a world with multiple advances in multiple energy scenarios, time will tell.


Just entering a transcript of what Bill actually said in the Q&A at the end.

“Today you’re always refuelling the reactor, so you have lots of people and lots of controls that could go wrong. That thing where you are opening it up and moving things in and out, that’s, that’s NOT GOOD! (Audience laughs). So if you have very cheap fuel, then you can put 60 years in, just think of it as a log, put it down and not have those same complexities, and it just sits there and burns for 60 years and then you’re done.”


Ha ha ha!

Oh man, I just watched the Q&A part of the SlowTV debate where Barry and Mark went head to head, and THEN this nutter from the crowd starts ranting about the USA as the largest terrorist organisation on earth and Barry just said “That’s a bit crazy for me, I won’t go there”.

The risks of live debate in front of a crowd encouraged to ask questions. Well done Barry. I have some sympathy for some of Mark’s previous work, but ultimately just want the problem solved. Whatever does the job in a given context hey?


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