Open Thread 3

The last Open Thread has just slipped off the BNC front page, so time to launch a new one. The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So up on your soap box!

The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

Although I don’t want to direct commentary along any particular pathway, here are a few items I’ve read recently that you might find worth discussing:

1. The Bureau of Meteorology has released a Special Climate Statement on the recent exceptional rain and flooding events in central Australia and Queensland. 28 February was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory while 2 March set a new record for Queensland. Over the 10-day period ending 3 March 2010 an estimated 403 cubic kilometres (403,000 gigalitres) of rainfall fell across the NT and QLD!

2. A really excellent and easy-to-read paper has been published in the latest issue of Sustainability. It’s called “Is Humanity Doomed? Insights from Astrobiology” by Seth Baum of Penn State Uni. It’s open source (free to download, here). The author is not focused on whether humanity will go under anytime soon, but rather he is interested in a long-term view — especially, what astrobiology has to say about the Fermi Paradox (which I discussed here, way back in the early days of BNC). Fascinating paper.

3. Joe Shuster, in cooperation with the Science Council for Global Initiatives, has published an energy planning primer called “Want to see the future? Look at energy.” (download the 21-page PDF here). It’s a sharp review of fossil fuel limits, smart grids, wind, solar, hydro, biomass and natural gas, and the future role of plasma remediation and nuclear energy in the US energy economy.

His 2040 plan ends up with 42% nuclear, 12% natural gas, 5% plasma arc syngas, 6% bio/geo/tides/waves, 5% hydro and 30% wind/solar. For the latter, he says 30% is really the upper limit he can conceive, with any probable shortfall being met by more nuclear. Cost? About $6 trillion in direct investment over 30 years, but which results in an economy-wide cost saving equivalent of $8.5 trillion (mostly from no longer needing to purchase foreign oil, plus efficiencies etc.). All in all, it’s a plan well worth looking at, and fits nicely with the ‘real-world applicability’ criteria I described here.

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  1. Here, I’ll throw a fox into the coop:

    In 1960, the British novelist C. P. Snow said on the front page of The New York Times that unless the nuclear powers drastically reduced their armaments, thermonuclear warfare within the decade was a “mathematical certainty.” Nobody appeared to think of Snow’s statement as extravagant.

    We now have that “mathematical certainty” compounded more than four times, and no nuclear war. In September 1964, then US President L.B. Johnson said publicly, “Make no mistake, there is no such thing as a conventional nuclear weapon. For 19 peril-filled years no nation has loosed the atom against another. To do so now is a political decision of the highest order.” It would appear that even then it was realized that the rules of international conflict had changed, and that the world’s political leadership were sharply aware of it.

    Nuclear warheads are too precious to give away or to sell, too precious to “waste” killing people when they could, held in reserve, make any other nation, hesitant to consider military action. What nuclear weapons have been used for, effectively, for 60 years has neither been on the battlefield nor on populations; they have been used for influence. That influence has gotten the unfortunate name of deterrence when in fact the other side of that coin is that nations facing the possibility of a nuclear exchange now talk. So while military action may be deterred, diplomacy, negotiation and compromise are enabled.

    It might be time to re-evaluate our position on these things based on the actual events that have transpired in the last sixty years, rather than rely on beliefs in these matters which have no foundation.


  2. Barry,

    I’ve just discovered this blog recently through a link to a recent post, and from there I’ve looked through some archive posts. You certainly present energy issues in an engaging manner. But when you get into actual numbers comparing various energy alternatives, the statistics in your posts I’ve looked at so far appear to be pretty dubious. I realise this is a blog, not published research, but even in a blog statistics and calculations should be able to withstand scrutiny, so in that light I’ll give one example where the errors caught my attention quickly — “TCASE part 4” article comparing concrete and steel use for nuclear and renewable builds:

    You made a couple of ballpark figure calculations to produce this graph:

    I don’t really have a dog in the nuclear-renewables issue, preferring whatever can be done quickly and works well in each region, and I don’t think the whole steel and concrete comparison is a big issue anyway — whatever build rates nuclear etc achieve it will be a very small part of world demand for those materials — but I certainly take a stance on the side of using statistics responsibly, so I thought a few of the calculations in that blog post warranted mention.

    You made this calculation regarding concrete use for wind:

    “The 2008 US capacity factor for wind was 23.5%. For our unit, let’s choose a widely deployed turbine, the 2.5 MWe (peak), the GE 2.5xl. … To get 680 MWe average power, 680/0.235  = 2900/2.5 =  1,160 GE 2.5xl turbines. … Based on the University of Sydney ISA report (p145) … this will consume ~1,250,000 tonnes of concrete and 335,000 tonnes of steel”

    First, there’s no way 2008 US wind capacity factor was 23.5%. I realise it’s “just grabbed from Wikipedia” — but even a little knowledge about basic statistics of the US wind industry would have made this error obvious, so I’m surprised you used it without question. During 2008, US wind capacity grew from 16.9 GW at the start of the year to 25.4 GW at the end (with more than half the new 8.5 GW coming online in the last quarter). That’s an increase in theoretical annual capacity (multiplying 16.9 vs 25.4 installed GW by 24×365) from 148 GWh/year at the start of January to 222 GWh/year at the end of December. Now, the EIA’s Electric Power Monthly stats (URL: ) show the USA generated 52 GWh from wind in 2008, and 52 GWh just happens to be 23.5% of: 222 GWh. Ah, so the 23.5% figure takes the installed capacity at the END of the year, and assumes it was all available during the ENTIRE year. That’s a nice trick! (I feel a bit like a kid at a magic show explaining to the rest of the audience how it was done…)

    Second, it makes little sense to apply this capacity factor to future developments of large turbines (2.5MW) as you’ve done because it’s an average including older installations of smaller turbines which bring the result down. For example, the “Annual Report on U.S. Wind Power Installation, Cost and Performance Trends: 2007” (URL: page 23) U.S. capacity factors in 2007 averaging only “22% for projects installed before 1998” compared to “33-35% for projects installed in 2004-2006.” (Average new turbine size doubled between those two periods.)

    Third, your requirement of concrete for wind as from the ISA report is 433 tonnes/MW, but that is an average of six cited figures of which four came from publications around 2000 — now a decade old. Given the industry progress since then (trending to taller, more efficient turbines reaching stronger winds), using figures derived in part from 20th-Century data is a recipe for really bad result. Just as an example, I’ve seen a recent real-world figure (not sure if it’s on the net) for a wind farm needing around 400 m3 concrete per 3MW turbine which is around 320 tonnes/MW.

    One could also point out several other relevant factors for wind, such as (a) there is active research into wind energy possibilities that much smaller steel and concrete requirements, such as floating offshore turbines and high-altitude devices e.g. Kitegen and Magenn among others; and (b) there are significant differences between nuclear and wind in opportunities for recycling steel and concrete at decommissioning; but anyway on to the corresponding nuclear calculation in that “TCASE 4” blog post:

    “The AP1000 reactor, a Generation III+ design by Westinghouse that is now being heavily deployed in China, has a small concrete/steel footprint compared to other designs (see figure) – about 100,000 m3 of reinforced concrete incorporating 12,000 tonnes of steel rebar. … The AP1000 [… would] generate 1,154 MWe (peak) at a capacity factor of 91.5% (based on US 2008 operations). … To get 680 MWe average power, 680/0.915 = 743/1154 = 0.64 (close to 2/3) AP1000 plants … this would require ~160,000 tonnes of concrete and 10,000 tonnes of steel”

    First, why pick only the AP1000 alone instead of an average with other modern designs such as the EPR and ABWR? When you pick one design (with no commercial example operating yet) that appears to have a lower estimated concrete requirement than the others, it looks like cherry-picking.

    Second, why assume the 2008 US capacity factor, which was indeed a little over 90%, will apply to situations of rapid construction and higher penetration? One could just as easily use, say, the value for another developed country with tens of reactors such as France or Japan. Their nuclear capacity factors in 2008: 75% (418 TWh from 63 GW) in France, and just under 60% (246 TWh from 47 GW) for Japan.

    Even for this relatively minor comparison, every input value you’ve used differs from one I’d consider a reasonable middle estimate by up to 30% and all of them differ in the direction that makes the comparison more favourable for nuclear. On its own, 30% isn’t much of a discrepancy but multiply together several such values (1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 … vs 1 x 1 x 1 …) and you really get somewhere. (I’m getting that kid at a magic show “I see what you did there” feeling again…)

    That’s just the distortion for concrete. If we look at steel, it gets worse: in combination with the above errors, you’ve misused a statistic that distorts in favour of nuclear by a much greater amount. You did this when you cited 12,000 tonnes “steel rebar” used in the AP1000 design as its total steel use.

    That’s a very big error. Surely you’d know that steel rebar is only a part of total steel requirement, right? And surely you must have read enough about nuclear plant designs to know that the AP1000 in particular is the design where this difference is greatest — that is, the proportion of total steel needed as rebar is much lower for the AP1000 than others. The AP1000 is very notable for replacing traditional rebar-reinforced concrete with a “steel-concrete-steel” technique that has concrete sandwiched between steel plates. I’ve seen a Per Peterson powerpoint (URL: – slide 13) citing 42 tonnes of steel per MW for the AP1000 — which is about four times the value you used. If anyone wanted to really deceptive in favour of nuclear energy misrepresenting its steel requirements, I reckon this — picking the AP1000 over other designs and misrepresenting steel rebar as total steel use — is precisely the way they’d do it. (Kid at magic show feeling, again…)

    Were all these distortions oversights by someone who had an objective to be objective? I’d like to believe that, but it requires believing the blog post is example of very poor research written with ignorance of some pretty basic facts of wind and nuclear construction, making the appearance of input values being consistently cherry-picked in favour of nuclear as far as possible just an astonishing coincidence. I tend to not believe in coincidence but would hope none of the deception in your post was deliberate.



  3. I recently discovered the IFR upon reading this article about it in Esquire magazine:

    Is it really this good of a deal? How big of a problem are the sodium leaks, and how do we know this won’t be a problem. Is sodium-24 upon neutron bombardment a problem? Also, what about the lead fast reactor, how long until that works? I am very excited about this technology, a “DU silver bullet” in the sense of modern warfare!


  4. Not a good idea to confuse weather with climate.Australia has a wildly variable climate which may well get more variable with climate change.
    Gaia is a wild animal and it is not wise to be poking it with a stick.

    I’m currently reading Clive Hamilton’s “Requiem For A Species” – recommended.


  5. Ok folks, us nuclear power advocates have the answers
    (had them for a long while ) Next problem is , at least here in Oz , how are we going to get the nuke option even to be debatable in nice company. Our PM simply refuses even to discuss it , is totally dismissive even. Can’t see the greens ever even contemplating it. Do we have to take it to the state governments , buy tv advertising ? What is one to do ?


  6. For the LWR waste produced per KWh on average:

    Spent fuel 2.15×10-9 m3/kWh, High level rad waste 9.34×10-11 m3/kWh, Intermediate level rad waste 1.55×10-8 m3/kWh, Low level rad waste 4.88×10-8 m3/kWh

    These include mine tailings, milling and conversion wastes, and wastes from enrichment, and fuel fabrication as well as final decommissioning volumes.

    Yes those are negative exponents, and no I’m sorry, I got this from a collection of notes I keep, and the link to the original source is dead.


  7. Thanks for the kind remarks about my Sustainability paper, and for what looks to be excellent blogging work overall at this site. Interested readers can find other papers of mine at my website (which should be the link at my name here).


  8. I’ll kick it off with a few points that I was trying to make in the other thread, but for some strange reason people wanted to talk about the actual topic of that thread being the debate/s! ;-)

    *Combinations of developments make “Black Swan’s” in renewable energy likely*

    We all know about the place of the “Black Swan” in our culture don’t we?
    “The phrase passed into several European languages as a popular proverb, including English, in which the first four words (a rare bird in the land) are often used ironically. For some 1500 years the black swan existed in the European imagination as a metaphor for that which could not exist.”

    It seems that the pro-nukes here treat cheap, baseload renewables as a “Black Swan”. They rule it out as never being possible! It can’t happen! It’s just against the rules, get it!?

    But as I was saying in the other thread, combinations of events could contribute to a Black Swan.

    3 I see on the way:

    1. BZE on graphite blocks that can store the heat for a long time very efficiently

    2. Google’s new cheap concentrator technology:
    “Google’s new concentrated solar technology, he says, would cut the cost of solar thermal power systems in half — a good step towards Google’s overall goal of making renewable energy cheaper than coal.”
    3. And of course Better Place electric cars which will not only create overnight demand for all that *currently* lost wind power Blees bleats about, but also create a potential grid-battery because these vehicles will be V2G, Vehicle-to-grid. According to Shai Agassi, 50 thousand cars is a gigawatt of stored energy or 1 power plant taken off the grid.
    He talks about the grid at about 45 minutes into this talk.
    Download the audio only, unless you want to see Shai Agassi walking around on stage.

    Shai ALSO says that because Better Place are entering the Australian marketplace over the next few years and only buying their power off the renewables producers, wind etc will be bought at such scale that it will fundamentally change the Australian energy marketplace and make wind cheaper than coal.

    (Go ahead Mr Blees, scoff all you want. Whatever you do don’t listen to the above podcast or you might have a more narrow energy paradigm challenged by a few new realities).

    This is why I think Better Place qualify as a “Black Swan” in their own right, but put the above 3 together and surely there’s potential for cheap, abundant baseload solar thermal in any country.


  9. Scientific American reflects on the changing economics of renewable power and who will become the ultimate winners. This is the stuff I’m talking about… the combinations of amazing new technologies that offer multiple feedbacks in the economy, in energy efficiency, and in energy storage. But ultimately we know that sooner or later coal will cost more to use than renewables / Gen4 nuclear, and that will be the economic tipping point that sees exponential growth in fossil fuel alternatives REALLY take off!

    “Given the pace of scientific discovery, it is no longer a question of whether renewable energy will someday be cost competitive with incumbent technologies. It’s simply a question of when. And, although we don’t know precisely when, we do know that zero-cost feedstocks (sunlight, wind, geothermal, etc.) and an innovation cycle will ultimately win and different branches of renewable energy will become cost competitive at different points of technology maturity. Science is our ally in that we can all benefit from a clean, renewable, zero-cost feedstock. Our competition for the resulting high educational attainment jobs is quite simply other countries that have targeted these industries and are committed to significant and long term investment in renewable energy innovation. And, with no reason or evidence to suggest that the current technology cost improvement curves will expire, the benefits of all that investment and innovation will simply accrue to those nations, businesses and individuals who invest.


  10. Cheaper Solar with Natural Gas

    Florida Power and Light has built a solar power plant linked to a natural gas plant.

    By Kevin Bullis

    “A promising approach to reducing the cost of solar power is moving forward with the construction of an installation in Indianatown, FL, that will combine a field of solar concentrators with a natural gas power plant.

    Today The New York Times has an update on the project, which the utility Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced almost two years ago, and which we wrote about here. When completed later this year, the power plant is expected to generate up to 75 megawatts of power by making use of turbines at the natural gas plant, which itself has a 3,600 megawatt capacity.

    The solar concentrators generate steam, which can be used to drive the turbines. Using existing turbines and generators can greatly reduce the cost of a solar power plant. FPL says the current project reduces costs by 20 percent, according to the Times.

    Similar natural gas-solar hybrid projects are being built in Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria. There’s also an effort to pair solar concentrators with coal fired power plants. Abengoa, the Spanish based company that’s building natural gas plants in Morocco and Algeria, is working with Xcel Energy in Colorado to build solar coal hybrid test facility. According to Abengoa, such hybrids could cut the cost of solar power by 30 to 50 percent to as low as 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which is competitive with many fossil fuel power plants.

    Note the benefit of combining fossil-fuel with solar, is to lower the cost of the latter to make it competitive with the former. The logic here is breathtaking.

    Eclipse Now, when is it going to sink in that ‘renewables’ are nothing more than a Trojan Horse for continuing to use fossil fuels?

    When are you and others going to realize that V2G is just a way to off-load the cost of storage onto the consumer and make him responsible for paying not only the initial cost, but also the maintenance, and eventual disposal costs, while leasing it back to the power company at a negative rate?

    These are frauds, and the ‘rules’ they are breaking are simple physical and economic ones, that have been understood for centuries.

    Also your insistence on comparing the projected benefits of these unproven technologies with Gen IV nuclear is becoming tiresome. What we need to build now is Gen III and Gen III+ NPPs. Gen IV at this point is just as useless a distraction as these other fantasy power systems, and although I believe research should continue, they just don’t fit in to the picture right now as potential solutions to the CO2 issue.


  11. Having worked as a stablehand I planned to watch the horse races on TV today. They were cancelled mid meeting due to a hailstorm of unprecedented ferocity. Dunno if this is a sign of things to come.

    It occurs to me that renewables proponents want several bites at the cherry via
    – quotas or targets that guarantee sales
    – RECs sold as offsets
    – in some cases green loans
    – the CPRS solar ‘multiplier’
    – loan guarantees for CSP in the US
    – no foreseeable carbon tax on backup power
    – high visual impact of wind and solar farms
    – extensive new transmission
    – feed in tariffs
    with the latter being the most insidious. Nukists aren’t asking that hard yet for actinide storage areas. All they seem to want is loan guarantees and maybe carbon caps.


  12. ATC, if you want a more conservative comparison, try here:

    Peter used material requirements averaged over Gen II and Gen III units. The fundamental conclusions are unchanged. I didn’t have a figure for total steel in the AP1000 when I did TCASE 4. If 42 tonnes/MW is correct, then the conclusion that nuclear use an order of magnitude less steel than wind/solar remains unchanged. Your disputes about concrete and capacity factor are quibbles at the margin. I wonder that you can’t see them for that.

    Why choose an AP1000? Because there is more of these being built than any other Gen III+ unit – 12 units in China. I suspect they’ll be the most commonly commissioned Gen III+ plant in the decade 2010-2020.

    As to your final statement, it’s just water off a duck’s back. I’ve been insulted, and had my motivations challenged from all quarters, far too many times to give a tuppence ha’penny about what some anonymous sniper with an email “” has to say.


  13. Ewen Laver, on 6 March 2010 at 15.04 Said:

    One supposes though DV8 that a V2G system could help make better use of redundant capacity even if the core technology were nuclear power.

    So what?

    Look at the economics. I must buy a battery for my car. That represents a capital cost for me, then I have to pay a variable rate to charge it with energy, that I will then convert into distance travelled. All well and good.

    But now it would seem that when I am not using the energy I paid for, I must sell it back to the power company at a discounted rate, because even if the buy/sell price is nominally the same (which in none of these sell back to the grid schemes it is) there will be marginal losses due to the fact that the system is not ever going to be 100% efficient, losses which I will have to pay to make up for when recharging.

    On top of which, all systems that traffic in energy both ways, age, especially chemically based ones, because entropy always wants her pound of flesh, Consequently my battery is going to age prematurely, effectively increasing my capital costs per unit distance travelled.

    I question nobody will answer is that if electrical storage of this nature is so damned good, why aren’t the power companies rushing to build large battery yards? Why are they looking to their customers to lease out their car batteries. Because then they don’t have to pay. that’s why. They are the ones getting a free ride here, and I can’t understand why this isn’t crystal clear to everyone,


  14. “Is sodium-24 upon neutron bombardment a problem? Also, what about the lead fast reactor, how long until that works?”

    Na-24 is very short lived, half-life is 15 hours or so. So, basically, the primary coolant is radioactive but only while the reactor is operating. As far as I understand it, the sodium coolant loop is within the containment anyway.

    There have been a number of Russian/Soviet Alfa-class submarines – many built over 40 years ago – which performed successfully at sea running on lead-bismuth cooled fast reactors.


  15. Seeing that this is an open thread, I would like to kick off a slogan/bumpersticker competition for the catchiest / cleverest phrase in praise of nuke power .
    You have read it here first folks, how about ……








    Looking forward to your contributions :)


  16. That’s true DV8 but on some models the battery owner can decide how much if any power he or she sells back to the grid. Potentially, if the owner sells at peak rate and recharges at off-peak there’s a trading advantage no?

    Your question about battery yars is simple enough — paying for excessive redundancy.

    I don’t buy exercise equipment because most of the time it would be taking up space in my house and I wouldn’t be using it. So instead I go to a nearby gym where I use the exercise equipment they have for the few minutes each week I want it. It costs me more per hour but less per week than if I purchased all the equipment they have. The gym benefits because everyone else does much the same.

    From the POV of the energy company, having an expensive bunch of batteries sitting around when they might only be needed 20% of the time doesn’t make as much sense as renting out spare capacity from people who also use it 20% of the time as individuals. The individuals of coruse want the right to have that 20% randomly but can adjust their usage to meet the energy company’s needs. Yes their batteries may wear out earlier but they have had the ability to trade profitably in energy and if the energy company has saved money then they may ultimately have paid less for power, along with the whole customer base for the company. So they also get an indirect benefit in lower energy prices in their market.

    Of course, in five years time when they get a new battery they may get one that is better suited than their current one for the way they use it, whereas the energy company would have been stuck with a major cost and disposal problem. So again, the transaction may well be win-win.


  17. I see The Drum has two further articles on nuclear advocacy. The first is a story on pro-nuclear environmentalists:

    A new shade of radioactive green (love the headline – maybe a bumper sticker!)

    The interesting thing here is the interview with Goronwy Price, who stood at the Bradfield by election for Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy . I’ve never heard of them – will have to look into it. They even have T-shirts that might be fun to wear to the hippie folk music festival I’m going to at easter.

    The second is an anti piece by David Noonan, probably to counter Barry’s article, which is the usual tissue of nonsense.

    Nuclear energy: money can’t buy love

    The comments are really encouraging. By my rough count they are running 60 – 30 in favour of nukes. There’s a couple of BNC commenters there (Ewen & MattB) and Tom Blees is weighing in, but most commenters I don’t recognize. Its great to see a sustained intelligent counter commentary to Noonan’s nonsense. I get the feeling that the antis are just not going to keep getting the free pass they’ve had till now.


  18. Nuclear energy – critical to our future
    Nuclear power – always on!
    Nuclear power – because you’re worth it!
    Lose coal now – ask me how
    Yes Nukes (in a Franklin Dam triangle)
    9 out of 10 doctors prefer uranium
    My other car runs on a LFTR!

    Thanks Uncle pete, this is fun!


  19. re Joe Shuster’s paper.

    I would describe the paper as a pot boiling polemic. I am unsufficiently schooled in PR skills to know whether this is a good or bad thing for pro nuclear advocacy. There was much in the document that I entirely agreed with but, nevertheless, it offered up more than a few hostages to fortune:

    1) The paper associates itself with the Science Council for Global Initiatives but is a far from scientific presentation. This may be a pompous and academic statement. However, SCGI should make up its mind whether it wishes to continue as a front organisation, promoting of Tom Blees’ particular prescription, or intends to morph into something broader, more scientific and potentially, more influential. ( I am not attempting to knock Tom’s prescription – I’d probably take his medicine and even buy a used boron-powered car from him – but there are other medicines available, including other nuclear medicines.) I would like SCGI to look objectively at all evidence based medicines, even renewables where there are grounds to believe that they have emerged from the snake oil/homeopathy category in terms of affordability and scaleability.

    2) The paper uses the term, IFR, as if author regards it as synonymous with closed cycle nuclear fission in general. There is no recognition that the IFR is but one design of many, albeit one that incorporates on site reprocessing.

    3) The author talks up problems of nuclear “waste” in order to emphasise the benefits of using such in IFRs. In so doing, he could be seen to be attacking Gen 3 technology which is needed now.

    4) The author appears inconsistent. He suggests an energy mix in 2040 that has 30% of power produced from wind and solar and 42% from nuclear. He then goes on to list many of the downsides of the renewables and the upsides of nuclear. This will not necessarily strike the lay reader, coming to the subject for the first time, as even handed.

    5) The author suggests that $6 trillion is needed in the USA over 20 years in order to arrive at Energy Independence Day 2040 (good concept). Why not get there with 72% nuclear power for half the cost?

    6) The author has suggested that the expenditure will be more than covered by efficiency gains and reduced fuel imports (valued at $8.5 trillion) but has been very coy about citing support for such a proposition. In fact, pro renewable/antinuclear advocates could twist this logic to suggest that it demonstrates that a renewables only strategy is affordable without risking the terrible consequences of deploying nuclear power.

    To change tack, I thought the author’s approach to funding was interesting. Correspondents to BNC have previously debated the pros and cons of carbon trading vis a vis tax and dividend. There has been little mentioned of tax with an hypothecated spend on clean technologies. I think it merits a great deal of thought.

    In the UK, my government has just offered me 26p for every kWh of electricity I produce if I use most of it myself. This is tax free, guaranteed and inflation proofed for 20 years. I also don’t have to buy from my supplier the electricity I produce (saving 10p/kWh) but, if on a windy day, I make more than I need, my supplier has to take the surplus and pay me 3p/kWh. I can also write off the capital costs of erecting turbines in one year if I use my business to buy them. Whatever my views on wind (anti both on cost and CO2 reduction cost grounds), I would be foolish not to make an investment that gives such a good guaranteed return (assuming the government doesn’t default as a consequence of its prodigality). I can do the same for solar PV but, although I’d be given 41p/kWh for 25 years, the returns would be poorer, given my access to a reasonably good wind site. Next year, there will be similar subsidies for renewable heat and I’ll be going hell for leather on biomass boilers!

    It occurred to me that ity would be very sensible for my government to offer me the same perks for investing in nuclear (which they wish to see developed but won’t finance directly). As I can’t quite afford my own NPP, it would have to be a collective investment. Suddenly, Joe Shuster’s tax pot seems very attractive. It would be hypothecated so the government couldn’t fritter it away on other “good” causes. It should be used to incentivise individuals and businesses to invest in clean energy. The incentive levels should not, as now, be biased in favour of the least cost effective technologies but might take into account some of the gains to be realised from distributed compared with centralised power technologies. The government pot should not be spent on capital grants but be based, instead, on payments/unit of clean energy produced and on energy saved (eg heat pump technology). Loan guarantees for nuclear would also probably be required as would some dividends to investors during the construction period

    I think such an approach could be better than taxing and returning the money as dividend. However, i haven’t thought the matter through properly and would be interested in comments, adverse or otherwise.


  20. Regarding Gen III+ deployment vs Gen IV progression, Ray Hunter of SCGI had this sensible thing to say:

    Fast reactors are not ready for prime time and will never be until we go through the demonstration phase. What has rekindled the interest in this type of reactor is the LWR spent fuel issue which can be solved in a safe.economic and environmentally sound approach by using a metal fuel fast reactor with pyroprocessing. However these are just claims that must be demonstrated before fast reactors become a commercial product. . . .

    What the world needs now is as many advanced LWRs as we can build over the next 20-30 years to positively affect global warming and reduce use and dependence on fossil fuels. [To address the concerns over disposition of the spent fuel, this must be complemented by] the design, construction, and operation of an engineering scale facility for converting LWR spent fuel into metal ingots for fast reactor fuel. . . . In parallel the final design, construction, and operation of a PRISM module is essential. Neither of these efforts require additional research and new ideas should not be a basis for further delay.

    As a follow up, Bill Hannum of SCGI said:

    To translate that to specific requested action, I would suggest something along the following line:

    1. Support the loan guarantees for LWR construction; and;

    2. Direct DOE to demonstrate the practicality of the IFR, closed fuel cycle approach, including costs, by building and operating a moderate-scale demonstration. Given the enormous potential of this approach (solve the “Yucca Mountain” dilemma, assure unlimited energy resources, provide a basis for strengthening our non-proliferation stance), this would be a very prudent investment.

    I agree entirely with these viewpoints.


  21. To address the concerns over disposition of the spent fuel, this must be complemented by] the design, construction, and operation of an engineering scale facility for converting LWR spent fuel into metal ingots for fast reactor fuel…

    Well… that’s certainly worth building at the demonstration scale alongisde an IFR, but I’m skeptical that there is any critical need to do this right away.

    Used LWR fuel is being and can be stored on-site where it is generated, perfectly practically and safely, for decades.

    When hundreds of IFRs bloom, many years down the track, we can go and take that vast resource of fuel, when ever we’re ready. We don’t really need new plans for LWR used fuel right now.


  22. AP1000s. What’s exciting? Barry pointed out that there are lots being built. The excitement? Because this project is combining a large new build (“even though” it’s a LWR) with very advanced modular construction… ‘assembly line component production AND assembly’. It’s the latter part that is exciting here. By making true cookie-cutter designs in 249 distinct modules…it allows for a huge advance in large scale production of nuclear plants, something those of us here on this forum who are IFR and LFTR advocates should take clear note of.

    It’s important because I have publicly gone on record as suggesting that construction costs for the AP1000 should *come down* and not go up as is the history of nuclear.

    The Chinese are developing these techniques along with the Shaw Group (Westinghouse’s construction wing) that can be applied for the hundred(s) of new AP1000 and *their derivatives* being developed into the CAP1400 and future CAP1700. You can be sure the Koreans have at least one eye-brow raised in concern about this.

    The U.S. and Australia (maybe) will be the BIG beneficiaries of all this, of course.



  23. Seeing that this is an open thread, I would like to kick off a slogan/bumpersticker competition for the catchiest / cleverest phrase in praise of nuke power .
    You have read it here first folks, how about ……


    I used to like “Burn U, not us”. It’s short, and — especially when addressed to politicians and administrators — it means the same thing multiple ways.

    (Boron: A Better Energy Carrier than Hydrogen?)


  24. Ewen Laver – Every single V2G scheme I have seen to date places an end-over-end burden on the vehicle owner over the lifetime of the battery.

    That is to say even if there are intervals where there is an apparent gain, there is still a net loss over the lifetime of ownership. Any scheme that has the power company in owning the battery, and leasing it back to the vehicle owner for the cost of the electricity, perforce has very high rates for electricity.

    Look, any system like this will require a massive investment in a two-way grid, with the switching and control to manage V2G. Someone has to pay, and it isn’t going to be the power companies. Even if such a system were possible, and I’m not all that convinced it is, it will be terribly expensive. The only thing it seems to be good for, is holding out the possibility that a storage solution can be found for renewables, which is their Achilles’s Heel in the debate, but it is just not practical when you look closely.


  25. @DV28XL: notwithstanding your recent statement that I was mudslinging you, presumably because you object to being called magisterial and ex cathedra (or was it my inconvenient reference to the newly-translated Chernobyl studies:, ?)

    herewith 2 comments on your somewhat mangy fox, as thrown by you (your words) into the coop:

    Two comments on this, one factual, the other tactical with regard to civilian nuclear power :

    1. Factual:
    you seem to be saying that nuclear deterrence is actually better labelled ” influence” (whose?) and a Good Thing these last 60 years, because “nations facing the possibility of a nuclear exchange now talk. ” What a marvelous euphemism. Must a given country actually possess any nuclear bomb to “exchange” with that Other Country overlooking your Canadian Niagara Falls (south side) before the Other Country threatens it? Not that I know of. And as you like to think of yourself as a strict empiricist, kindly consult the historical record. It shows that all US presidents since 1945 bar possibly Ford have threatened nuclear attack:

    Gerson and Bello, “Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World” (2007)

    It is however true that US Quakers were involved with this book and given that you as a brand of Sorcerer’s Apprentice have super-Enlightenment views on Christians…

    2. Tactical:
    as I recall, this is the first time (?) you have come out in favour of nuclear weapons as such. As support for civilian NPPs is likely strongest among nationalist proponents of an atomic “force de frappe” and among global warming deniers in all countries (ie they are the converted to who you need not preach the Good nukie Word ), do you not think you are giving a hostage to fortune, in regard of trying to convince the “antis”, by mistakenly bringing proliferation into play?

    Or you past caring about converting antis in argumentation anyway, as I might suspect?

    Do I take it that as you have no expectation that the current nuclear powers intend to relinquish their weaponry, the best way to a multipolar world is for each country to get nuclear weapons, thereby achieving mutual standoff?


  26. @Peter Lalor – It was my intention to provoke a discussion on the subject per se, however I see that as usual, you only wish to exchange insults, and question motivations.

    If that is all you can bring to the table, then I decline to engage with you.


  27. Barry,

    Thanks for the reponse, even if it did not address my points.

    You wrote:

    I didn’t have a figure for total steel in the AP1000 when I did TCASE 4.

    Does that mean you knew the “steel rebar” wasn’t the correct value to use in your comparison but went with it anyway? Or were you just mistaken in thinking all steel used in the AP1000 was covered by this rebar value?

    You wrote:

    Your disputes about concrete and capacity factor are quibbles at the margin. I wonder that you can’t see them for that.

    An individual 30% distortion of an input value is indeed a quibble at the margin. But multiply a number of such distortions: 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 … and you get a major error very quickly. I wonder that you can’t see them for that.

    In any case, steel and concrete requirements are a very minor part of the greater problem of how we reduce CO2 emissions. The post caught my eye because it seemed the distorting of every input value to favour nuclear as far as possible could not be a coincidence, and I think you can tell a lot about someone from how they use statistics. What interested me more were such issues as:

    Are you happy for your calculations and use of statistics to withstand scrutiny?

    Are you willing to acknowledge errors and make corrections?

    Are you willing to justify apparent distortions and bias in your calculations?

    Your brief response makes me think the answer to all of those is “No.”

    As to providing a deliverable email address, I’ve gladly done so but hardly see the point, as apparently from your reply it seems “(will not be published)” means “(will not be published … unless I feel like it)”.



  28. Hi All,

    I’ve submitted the proposal below for debate at the 2010 climate summit.
    I’m wondering if the idea would interest participants of open thread.
    It is the only democratic way that I can think of to cleanse both main parties from the influence of the fossil fuel industry, which I see as the key to moving forward on dealing with Climate Change.
    It needs refining and thought through at the detail level before being implemented, of course.
    However I wanted to keep this document short and simple to understand.
    This idea is also open to the charge that it is naive. At their start many such breakout concepts appear so, yet when their time comes that doesn’t stop them from being adopted.
    I believe that we have to start thinking way outside the box. If we do not, we will have to wait until an extreme weather event occurs that includes a capital city, with many deaths and catastrophic damage, before the majority of people get it.
    Only then will they realize that they have been duped by their govt in hand with the fossil fuel industry and that it is too late to reverse climate change. At that point things are likely to get very ugly.
    Many thanks………./Chris

    Proposal Name: ‘Winning back Democracy from the Fossil Fuel Industry Govt Lobby”

    Introduction to the Problem

    The solution to the problem of Global Heating is not hard to understand.

    It simply requires that we reduce CO2 emissions, in the timeframe required by climate science, by stopping burning fossil fuels.

    To achieve that requires that Australia, along with the rest of the world, unites in the determination to implement a plan and passes the necessary legislation in each country.

    The greatest barrier to introducing effective legislation to deal with Climate Change in Australia and thus play our part in the this global effort, is the fact that our democratic process has been hijacked by an army of well financed lobbyists representing the fossil fuel industry, who continue to put their profits before the future of the planet.

    This has reached the point that it has become obvious over the last few years that both our main political parties have been infected by this virus, which has effectively corrupted the democratic process.

    Democracy means government of the people, by the people for the people.

    On this issue instead, we have government of the people, by a COALition of both State and Federal Govt together with the fossil fuel industry, for their mutuial benefit, at our expense.

    The USA and Canada, who also depend on burning coal and oil to produce electricity and fuel their transport have exactly the same problem with their recalcitrant fossil fuel industries.

    The Evidence

    ABC 4 Corners (The Greenhouse Mafia), Guy Pearse (High & Dry, Quarterly Essay), Clive Hamilton (Scorcher) and now Tony Kevin (Crunch Time). have all well documented the fact that the above is the case.

    In addition, an increasing number of media articles highlight the fact that the fossil fuel industry is using the same propaganda tactics that the tobacco industry used to confuse the public about whether there is consensus among scientists.

    This serves to give govt an excuse to do as little as possible to pass the necessary legislation.

    The Democratic Solution

    History shows that when governments are corrupted by such forces there are two ways for the citizens to redress the situation: by revolutionary force or by democratic means.

    The latter is preferable at this stage at least, so this proposal focuses on that solution.

    It is indeed incredible to realize that probably less than 100 of our country’s elite actually have the financial resources and political power to pay enough other people what it costs to achieve such political manipulation through an army of lobbyists.

    And as Al Gore quoted from Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    In other words, around 100 people have the resources to effectively outweigh with our govts, the views of all other Australians. And that’s what we have to change.

    And the only opportunity we have to do that is every three or four years at election time.

    Both main parties have been infiltrated by the fossil fuel industry and it is here we must concentrate.

    The key is to ensure that at the next federal election this year and those that follow, only those candidates of either party, who get elected are those who publicly endorse the science on climate change and commit to support and vote for the science recommended emission reduction targets, ahead of their individual party policies.

    If this can be achieved and MP’s are prepared to cross the floor on matters of conscience, it is likely that whichever party gets in at the election this year, the right climate legislation can be passed. Remember, Malcolm Turnbull lost by only one vote to Big Coal’s arch manipulator, Minchin.

    How can this be achieved?

    Around 150 Climate Activist groups attended the last Climate Summit in 2009. Perhaps there will be more by now. These groups are from every state in Australia and are therefore well placed to influence local electorates.

    By uniting to achieve this straightforward objective and supported by a concerted PR media campaign, it is likely that such a movement can win the day, particularly if it received endorsement from the Greens, which hopefully it will.

    To ensure that the right legislation is not only passed, but remains in place for the next half century until the Climate is deemed safe, will in any case require bi-partisan support.

    The strategy suggested here will also work to achieve that purpose.

    Proposal from:

    ‘Plug-in Australia’

    Chris Sanderson
    ‘Plug-in Australia’
    PO Box 264
    NSW 2479
    Tel: 02 6687 2244


  29. Chris S I’m swinging to the view that it will take the hip pocket nerve to turn public opinion. The public notices extreme weather events but doesn’t make the carbon connection. While to some extent the State and Federal governments are swayed by lobbyists they are also in on the act. Most politicians see their best interests in relentless economic growth fuelled by cheap resource extraction. That will change only when it looks unworkable which could be sooner than later.

    I think that carbon fuelled growth will look problematic within five years. Public rumblings may limit new coal fired power stations to one or two. However Asian demand for coal and LNG will likely raise domestic prices more than the near pointless ETS. As coal stations are replaced by gas and token windpower day rates for home electricity could be nearer 30c per kwh than 20c. Meanwhile petrol and food prices could skyrocket. That is what will get Joe Public’s attention, evidently not firestorms or floods. However my fear is that with too many distractions by that time there may not be enough capital for nuclear investment.

    So to recall the shampoo ad, it will happen but it won’t happen overnight. My slogan for NP
    Nuclear – it works


  30. @ bumper stickers
    Thirty-odd years back, the UK atomic energy agency tried to counter the ‘smiling sun’ Nuclear Power – no thanks! campaign with

    Dark Age? – No thanks ! – Atoms for energy
    Stone Age? N T A f E
    Ice Age? N T A f E
    Each with appropriate accompanying cartoon of caveman freezing in the dark. Aged ~12, I thought they were great, but I don’t think they had much impact.

    Also there’s This/My other car gets 35000 mpg
    (Approximate miles per gramme for a Tesla charged from a LFTR or IFR powered grid)


  31. Question. Suppose V2G or roof-top solar is rolled out on a massive scale. Am I right in thinking the electrical grid needs to be upgrade in a major way to cope with two-way flow of electricity?

    As I understanding, the current grid delivers high voltage (220kV / 500kV) to terminal stations where it’s changed to 66kV at the terminal stations (41 in Victoria) to either 22kV or 11kV at zone substations (235 in Victoria) to distribution substation which reduce it to 230V for cosumer supply. Reference: (sorry, no publication date).

    How does roof-top solar or V2G electricity flow backward through distribution substations from residential areas to commercial / industrial zones where it is needed while the sun is shining or when V2G is connected . Is it simply the case that if there is net positive supply at the consumer side of the distribution substation the transformers work in reverse and will step the voltage up from 230V to 11kV / 22kV to send it on it’s merry way to other zone substations?

    Or will the distribution substations need to be modified / upgraded to copy with bidirectional flow?


  32. AdamB, on 7 March 2010 at 12.54 Said:

    Question. Suppose V2G or roof-top solar is rolled out on a massive scale. Am I right in thinking the electrical grid needs to be upgrade in a major way to cope with two-way flow of electricity?

    The short answer is yes.

    The grid right now is huge and complex, with a bewildering number of control nodes and operates under protocols that been less designed then they have accumulated. It has not been built for two-way traffic, and even in cases where bi-directional flow is physically possible it is often achieved only by overriding system fail-safes, and potentially compromising system integrity.

    Extreme changes will be needed to support any highly distributed from of generation and storage. The current grid is just not set up to dispatch loads to a huge network of little sources.

    Refitting to allow for this, while certainly doable from the engineering standpoint, would be horrendously expensive, and in some cases would require that large chunks of the network go off-line or isolate for extended periods of time and in most cases this factor alone makes conversion infeasible.


  33. ATC, you’re certainly an antagonistic fellow. Indeed, you remind me of the anonymous referees I’ve often encountered during my career in publishing (and revising, often multiple times), more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

    Anyway, to your point: if you believe me to be systematically misrepresenting statistics on the BNC blog, as it appears you are arguing, please feel free to point out all the other examples you have come across, and detail the pattern of deception. Surely, if you hold that this represents some commonality of behaviour on my behalf, you should be able to come up with numerous examples. I invite you to try.

    As to TCASE 4, I would be the first to acknowledge that the figures I cite were a first pass analysis and open to reworking. In fact, if you look through the comments that arose as a result of the post, you will see that I already made a number of adjustments to my initial back-of-the-envelope calculations — including, you may be surprised to learn, updating my initial concrete figures to the 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 value. Or didn’t you notice? In this spirit, before I revise the figures and charts once again to satisfy your objections, pray tell me, what concrete : steel : land area ratios do you come up with for comparing wind : CSP : nuclear, using your preferred parameters? How do they alter the principal conclusions of TCASE 4, that instead of using far more materials that wind/solar, nuclear power actually requires an order of magnitude less concrete and steel?

    Furthermore, how do your re-calculated ratios compare with Peter Lang’s ratios, published here on BNC subsequent to TCASE 4 and using very conservative values, of the following? (Lang, Table 5):

    Type = Concrete / Steel
    Nuclear = 1 / 1
    Wind (raw figures) = 1.3 / 2
    Or when equalised to deliver the equivalent to nuclear power per unit of energy:
    Wind (equivalent output to nuclear) = 7.8 / 12
    Solar thermal (with 18 h storage) = 8.1 / 14.6

    I would be interested to hear your opinion on Lang’s calculations, and whether you believe they change the conclusions of TCASE 4.

    Finally, an email address of “” gets automatically diverted to my SPAM queue, and I have to find and clear it from hundreds of other spam posts. If you want to ensure your comments appear, you’d best use a real email address. That was my point, sir.


  34. Chris, it’s quite unfortunate that the overwhelming majority of these “climate activist groups” aren’t willing to have a rational discussion of nuclear energy or the realistic capabilities, costs and limitations of “renewable” energy systems.

    Are there any “climate activist groups” that you know of that would be prepared to actually learn about nuclear energy and discuss it in detail?


  35. Not that roof-top solar energy would seriously warrant grid upgrades:

    The average size fridge freezer of average age in good condition (no door seal damage) uses 230watt-hours, as measured by the watt meter I borrowed from the local library, over a 72hour period. 230w*24hr = 5.5kW

    Adelaide average *peak* sun hours over a year is 5 hours. So a 1kW roof-top solar install provides 5kW *peak* average per day over the course of a year.

    So a 1kW root-top solar system powers my fridge only and nothing else, approximately. But the only way I can own roof-top solar is if I pay for it outright and my landlord lets me drill holes in his roof, and I have an assurance my next and future landlords will be equally as acquiescent.


    Eclipse Now, on 6 March 2010 at 13.27, you said “50 thousand cars is a gigawatt of stored energy or 1 power plant taken off the grid.”

    1GW of stored energy and a 1GW power station aren’t the same thing.

    1GW of stored energy only lasts 1hr if used at 1GW / hour. Whereas a 1GW nuclear power station, if I use ATC’s Japanese nuclear capacity factor “60% (246 TWh from 47 GW)” I get 5.2TW.

    So you better make that 262 MILLION Better Place electric cars takes a 1GW power plant taken off the grid. Oops!

    I’ve purposefully neglected to include the calculations required with respect to having to *charge* the batteries (it’s Sunday).

    Having a quick look at the ABS website, in 01-02. Australia produced 216TW of electricity, and we lost 14TW electricity due to transmission & distribution loses. Take that 216TW and divide it by 8760 (hours in a year) and you’ll find Australia used 24GW / hour.

    And with V2G we’ll have bidirectional distribution and transmission loses.

    I’ll happily post my full name and email address, since the author of the blog kindly has his publicly available. Adam Bodnar fingersinterlaced at gmail dot com


  36. According to Shai Agassi, 50 thousand cars is a gigawatt of stored energy or 1 power plant taken off the grid.

    One would hope that Shai Agassi knew a little better.

    There’s no such thing as “a gigawatt of stored energy”, because a gigawatt isn’t a unit of energy.

    Call me pedantic if you like, but these things really do matter if we’re to meaningfully discuss quantitative information. If I had a penny for every time I hear someone talking about “watts per hour”…

    A watt is a unit of power, the rate of change of energy with respect to time. Energy is measured in joules (1 J = 1 watt-second) or watt-hours. Integrate power over time, and you have a measurement of energy.

    Perhaps he meant that 50 thousand cars represent a gigawatt-hour of stored energy? That’s quite plausible, since 20 kWh is plausible as the energy capacity of an EV battery.

    The capacity of an electrochemical battery is often quoted as charge capacity, in amp-hours. Simply multiply that figure by the battery voltage in volts, and you have the battery’s energy capacity in watt-hours.

    The average size fridge freezer of average age in good condition (no door seal damage) uses 230watt-hours, as measured by the watt meter I borrowed from the local library, over a 72hour period.

    Hmm. That can’t be right, can it?

    230 Wh / 72 h = 3.2 W or so. There’s no way your freezer uses so little power.


  37. Sorry, told you it was Sunday.

    I meant the watt meter said it consumed 230 watts, as in 230w / hr average over the 72hrs I left it connected to the watt meter. So 5.5kW / day, close enough to the 5kW I implied in the other paragraph. 16.5 kW over the three days.

    And I think we’re generally agreeing that we know watts aren’t the right measurement of stored energy, we’re just using it because of it’s ease of understanding when related to energy consumption by the end-user.


  38. Barry,

    Thanks again for replying.

    ATC, you’re certainly an antagonistic fellow. Indeed, you remind me of the anonymous referees I’ve often encountered during my career in publishing (and revising, often multiple times), more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

    I’m not seen that way at all by people I know, but find the comparison to anonymous referees amusing. Not sure what relevance your number of published papers has – never been one for appeal by authority myself – but I’m glad you evidently love what you do. I understand its appeal but it’s not for me – I lectured for a few years, but love my current work outside academia more.

    As to TCASE 4, I would be the first to acknowledge that the figures I cite were a first pass analysis and open to reworking. In fact, if you look through the comments that arose as a result of the post, you will see that I already made a number of adjustments…

    Having only visited the site recently, I’ve not seen the original version of the post and all the distortions I pointed out are in the current version with your adjustments. (I had actually thought reading it that the only reasonably accurate input value you used was the 2.4 concrete volume to weight conversion factor, but can see from a comment that it too had to be corrected.)

    In this spirit, before I revise the figures and charts once again to satisfy your objections, pray tell me, what concrete : steel : land area ratios do you come up with for comparing wind : CSP : nuclear, using your preferred parameters?

    I thought one job of anonymous referees was to point out mistakes, not rewrite the paper. :) I’m not going to waste time on an exercise that I think is fairly pointless for various reasons including:

    – There are numerous important logistical constraints on build rates for various fossil fuel alternatives beyond concrete and steel requirement.

    – Even at the grossly distorted results you reach for wind for example, it’s a very small fraction of current daily production of those input materials.

    – We don’t know what type of wind, solar and nuclear energy designs will be popular in a few decades, and some fossil fuel alternatives being researched may offer potential for providing electricity at significantly different capacity factors and concrete/steel requirements than you’ve assumed – e.g. for wind there’s floating offshore, higher-altitude towerless systems like Kitegen and Magenn, etc.

    But if you want to redo the calculations to get less distorted results, go for it. In that case I’d offer a few tips:

    – When you grab an input value, especially from a site of limited reliability like Wikipedia, check it if possible. For example a quick check of the USA wind capacity at the start and end of 2008, and the amount generated from wind that year, would have made it very clear that the value you used could not possibly be accurate. (I mentioned this in the first comment.)

    – For nuclear capacity factor, what’s the constant fixation with 90%? Yes it’s achievable, but far from ubiquitous in the real world. E.g. other OECD countries with many reactors are France at 75% and Japan at 60%. (Again, from my first comment.)

    – Be careful about using decade-old input values for a technology that has seen rapid change, e.g. your wind concrete/steel values came from an average mostly of papers published by the year 2000. Quite a bit of change in turbine sizes, rotor power to weight ratios, etc since then. (Again, 1st comment covered this.)

    Finally, you asked what I thought of Lang’s results. From a time-limited brief read they’re clearly far closer to reality than yours, but still would benefit from the tips above: same old data for wind material inputs, same 90% nuclear capacity assumption, etc. His final numbers you cite are also questionable for incorporating plant lifetime, but ignoring recycling of material inputs.


    P.S. Were you going to answer any questions I asked? E.g. I’m genuinely interested in what thought process saw you misrepresenting the steel rebar requirements of the AP1000 design as all the steel it would need.


  39. ATC – I’m genuinely interested in why you are projecting a thinly veiled suggestion that Prof. Brook was being mendacious in projecting his estimates.

    As for capacity factors for nuclear energy, the U.S. has been reporting >90% since 2002, while French capacity factors are lower than technical and operational standards would indicate, due to the surplus nuclear capacity in France and the limitations on exporting the surplus to neighbouring countries.

    Frankly I find it telling when a commenter accuses others of omitting or misrepresenting key facts, while simultaneously indulging in this behaviour themselves.


  40. I’m not going to waste time on an exercise that I think is fairly pointless

    Oh come on. You think his figures are too high. Why? Is it just a feeling you have? If you think the big picture conclusion is wrong, then different figures will be easily discoverable because the input parameters have to change so much. So don’t be lazy – have a stab at it. If you don’t have some numbers, you don’t have a point.

    – There are numerous important logistical constraints on build rates for various fossil fuel alternatives beyond concrete and steel requirement.

    So relax them, and just look at the total tonnages required. Or make an assumption about them and model that. Either way, you’ll be able to make a useful comparison on required resources.

    – Even at the grossly distorted results you reach for wind for example, it’s a very small fraction of current daily production of those input materials.

    What fraction? What’s its numerical value? And, out of curiousity, whats the annual rate of new windy or sunny land area they’re making these days?

    – We don’t know what type of wind, solar and nuclear energy designs will be popular in a few decades

    So lets use figures for whats available today, because (1) that’s what we’d be building, and (2) its real, not in-the-future magic technology.

    But if you want to redo the calculations to get less distorted results, go for it. In that case I’d offer a few tips:

    ATC, please follow these tips yourself and provide an estimate whose methodology is more to you liking. Right now I don’t see that your complaint is based on anything more than a feeling in your waters.


  41. ATC, French nuclear capacity factor is low because French plants are load following – from wikipedia

    In France, nuclear power plants daily make load following. French plants have the capability to make power changes between 30 % and 100 % of the rated power, with a slope of 5 % of rated power per minute. They can respond very quickly to the grid requirements.


  42. John – not true ! Please read the article again.

    Perth, where temperature records date back to 1897, has also experienced an unusually hot and dry summer. With only three days to go, it is very likely that the summer of 2009-10 will be the city’s second hottest, as well as its driest, summer on record.

    That would be the second hottest – with three days to go? By the way, how did the month really end up? I have started to notice a little “trick” whereby records are announced before the month has ended and a record has actually been set. Guess it is just a new method in keeping people “alarmed” !


  43. Gordon try this updated link
    Summer is December-January-February. None of them need to be a monthly record for the three month average to be broken, in this case by 0.2C over 1998.

    The point of this exercise is that while mid latitude northern hemisphere areas were experiencing cold snaps other parts of the world were hot. What if in a few months Europe and North America have an unusually hot summer? This seems to be a type of cultural cringe if we are only impressed by extreme weather outside Australia.


  44. John:

    A summary of your link:

    Rainfall: For Western Australia as a whole, summer 2009-10 rainfall was near average

    Temperature: The mean temperature for WA this summer was 29.6°C, which was 0.2°C above the previous hottest summer of 1997-98………..based on records kept since 1950 !

    Doesn’t look that bad until you “spin” Perth into the story.

    I thought that 80% of atmospheric heat is transferred into the oceans resulting in warming that is melting polar ice. Suddenly we see massive iceflows – so where did the heat go? I wonder how many Argo bouys are going to be discounted this year ?


  45. P.S. Were you going to answer any questions I asked? E.g. I’m genuinely interested in what thought process saw you misrepresenting the steel rebar requirements of the AP1000 design as all the steel it would need.

    I’ve already answered most of your questions, if you’d care to look over my posts above again. As to this specific one:

    AP1000 is rated at 1154 MWe * 90% capacity factor = 1039 MWe delivered on average

    I needed 680 MWe per day for TCASE 4 scenario, so ratio is 680/1039 = 0.654

    AP1000 used “<12,000 t" of steel rebar from the figure I reproduced in TCASE 4. I used 12,000. So, 680 MWe = 0.654 * 12,000 = 7853 t rebar

    Then, I used ratio of rebar to total steel given here, which is 0.64:

    Then, 7853/0.64 = 12,270 t

    Since I rounded all other values (wind and solar thermal) to the nearest 5,000 t, I did this for the AP1000 numbers too. Hence my use of 10,000 t per day. Note that for some of the wind and CSP numbers, they were also rounded DOWN rather than UP. But the end result either way is trivial, given the order of magnitude differences between the technologies — and the fact that TCASE 4 doesn't even account for energy storage overbuild.


  46. >90% CF is perfectly reasonable. The US, has been achieving this for practically a decade, as has South Korea. Japan has been having a hard time in recent years, mainly from an earthquake which managed to disable 8.2 gigawatt worth of capacity. Before these issues, it was about 85%.


  47. Barry:

    I appreciate the clarification, as in the TCASE4 post you made no mention of this 0.64 “ratio of rebar to total steel” factor nor the URL you got it from.

    Your method is certainly creative, but erroneous because it assumes the AP1000 has the same ratio of steel rebar to total steel as other modern designs — as my first comment pointed out, the AP1000 is very notable for a much lower proportion of its steel as rebar through a “sandwiched” steel-concrete-steel design that puts much less steel rebar inside the concrete by instead having steel plates outside it.

    I’m surprised you didn’t know this, because many sources on the AP1000 have made mention of this design aspect, increasingly media as well since UK regulators noted it — and as is typical of nuclear reporting in the media, some articles did it with reasonable headlines e.g. “AP1000 shield building made ‘regulatory issue’ in UK” and some with attention-grabbing hyperbole e.g. “New nuclear reactors might not stand up to terrorist attacks.”

    DV82XL and pault:

    It’s interesting that when I pointed out that a 90% nuclear capacity factor as chosen is “achievable, but far from ubiquitous in the real world” by noting the same year factors of the next two largest national fleets France and Japan were around 75% and 60%, you both presented a reason to excuse the former — and curiously made no mention of the latter at all. (Is mention of Japan’s nuclear capacity factor taboo on this site?) Assuming we have reasonably similar ideas of the definitions of “ubiquitous” and “real world” I’d consider your responses to be cherry-picking.

    Would you prefer a larger sample, say not just three but say the ten largest nuclear fleets for example? A quick scan of IAEA’s RDS2-29_web.pdf “Nuclear Power Reactors in the World” (Reference Data Series No. 2, 2009 edition) shows:

    USA         100683  806.68   0.91
    FRANCE       63260  419.80   0.76
    JAPAN        47278  241.25   0.58
    RUSSIA       21743  152.06   0.80
    GERMANY      20470  140.89   0.79
    KOREA_REP.   17647  144.25   0.93
    UKRAINE      13107   84.47   0.74
    CANADA       12577   88.30   0.80
    UK           10097   48.21   0.55
    SWEDEN        8996   61.34   0.78

    (Columns are: nation, nuclear fleet GW, 2008 electricity supplied TWh, and computed capacity factor. Not sure if the plain text will format nicely.)

    Of the ten, two (USA, Korea) reached 90% and the other eight ranged from 80% (Russia, Canada) to 58 and 55% (Japan, UK). What exactly about that table makes “achievable, but far from ubiquitous in the real world” an unreasonable description of the 90% value so often assumed for hypothetical calculations? (Perhaps any respondent could state what they think the word ubiquitous means to be sure we’re on the same wavelength.)

    P.S. Scott: Japan had a capacity factor of 70% in the calendar year before the 2007 earthquake, and the whole point of a real-world average is to avoid self-selection bias of subjective excuses.



  48. ATC, consider the following, using an extreme assumption.

    AP1000 rebar for 680 MWe average = 8,000 t

    Now, assume its other steel requirements is same as bulkier reactors; then 26,000 t * 0.654 = 17,000 t.

    Total steel is then 25,000 t for 680 MWe of AP1000 nuclear capacity.

    However, other components in the AP1000 are also reduced in volume, eg.

    …so the above assumption seems to be highly conservative.

    Yet, irrespective of which assumption is closer to reality, the greater than an order of magnitude difference between the AP1000 steel requirements (12,000 to 25,000 t of steel per 680 MWe), compared to Andasol-1 CSP with 7 hrs thermal storage (690,000 t steel) or the a modern wind turbine farm with some NaS storage (455,000 t steel), is unchanged. Do you agree?

    Further, the conclusion:

    The main point of this post, TCASE 4, is to take a one step in quashing the absurd ‘bait-and-switch’ meme that some disingenuous anti-nuclear folk repeat: That because the energy replacement challenge facing nuclear energy is huge (a 25-fold expansion on today’s levels), it couldn’t possibly do it, so renewables are our only sensible option. On the basis of this post alone, any objective reader can see that this is pure, quantitatively unsupportable, nonsense. It’s going to be really tough, no matter what…

    Is also unchanged. Do you agree?

    It would be good if you would take the time to answer John D Morgan’s questions.


  49. @ATC – I used the example of France only because I happened to be familiar with it off the top of my head. Frankly I don’t consider wasting time dealing with someone that is using sophistry in an attempt to undermine an estimate that in itself is of minor consequence in the comparison of nuclear vs renewables.

    Yours is a transparent attempt to FUD the discussion without engaging in any real debate, while avoiding taking a position on the issue. In other words if you wish to argue the advantages of renewables over nuclear, you should be willing to do so by examining all aspects of the issue. Instead you you choose to take a very narrow stand on one part only where you feel you might do some damage, while conveniently ignoring all the other factors.

    I have little patience with trollish behavior in what should be a considered discussion.


  50. ATC,

    Further to Scott’s post, the capacity factor of 90% he has quoted is for Gen II NPPs – i.e. basically a 40+ year old design and no new constructions started in the USA in about 37 years, if I recall correctly. Surely, it is not unreasonable to expect the Gen III’s to achieve at least 90% capacity factor on average since we have now gained 40 years of operating experience with Gen II. As pointed out in an earlier post we should include in the average only the plants operated as baseload not load-following plants.

    You seem to be trying to claim the high ground on integrity and criticise Barry for the rough calculations he has done to get a handle on comparisons and to propagate the figures as well as propogate the methodology for quick calculations to a wide audience.

    You criticise him for using figures from a 40 year old technology of which few will be built in the future, yet you argue he should use capacity factors for wind power that are propagated by the wind power advocates and are even more biased. Aren’t you doing exactly what you are accusing Barry of doing?

    Extensive discussion regarding the real world capacity factor for wind power in the USA, Europe and Australia was discussed on this thread: . You might want to catch up on that discussion.

    I support Barry’s approach regarding using rough numbers to get a handle on a comparison. It is the approach David Mackay advocates in his book “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”. The purp[ose of these articles, from my perspective, is to encourage others to do their own back-of-an-envelope calculations so they have the capability to check for the spin in what they are reading. The alternative to this approach is to believe the adjectives and drama that the media and the extremists want everyone to believe.


  51. The following quote from George Monbiot, apropos his recent critique of the UK’s solar feed-in tariff, is something of a rallying cry, and seems appropriate to the conversation here:

    To the greens who accuse me of treachery I say this: we do not have a moral obligation to support all forms of renewable energy, however inefficient and expensive they may be. We do have a moral obligation not to be blinded by sentiment. We owe it to the public, and to our credibility, to support the schemes which work, fairly and cheaply, and reject the schemes which cost a fortune and make no difference.


  52. Just a quicke heads up as in general I’m not posting here.

    The Science Show on the ABC tonight would have been of interest to contributors here. Much of the show was devoted to the question of how Climate Scientists communicate the science to the general public. I found this interesting, but in the last 8 minutes, or so the issue of nuclear hazmat management in Sweden came up along with a broader discussion of nuclear energy policy in general. The commentary was very positive and Gen IV even got a mention. Robyn Williams spole of nuclear as “green”

    Next week nucelar power comes up again on the Science Show.


  53. So, back to the trip to Lucas Heights I was trying to organize a month ago. Sorry for the delay, turns out its quite tricky to get into a nuclear reactor.

    The tour officer called me today to let me know possible dates in March are the 23rd (tuesday) and 31st (wednesday). Possible doesn’t mean guaranteed available, but let me know if those dates suit. Last tally of interest was:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (prefers week)
    3. Finrod (prefers weekend; possible delegate for weekday)
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)
    5. Pip (prefers week)
    6. Robert S (prefers 10:30 – 14:30)

    Anyone else who would be interested in a visit to the Lucas Heights reactor, shout out.


  54. From ‘RDS2-29_web.pdf’ overall Load Factor (which I assume is the same as capacity factor) for PWR’s is 83.44%. That is increasing, for example, in the US in 1998, average CF was about 85%, in 2008 it was about 92%. Again, it is not a stretch to assume new reactors will run at 90% CF, particularly since newer technology is 25 years newer than the average plant.

    Japan was hitting CF of over 80% about ten years ago, then they had a scandal, and a massive earthquake, which has severely tarnished that record.The UK uses many Gas Cooled Reactors and France load follows, for these reasons I think the UK & France should be excluded.

    Also, both the new build ABWR and AP1000 use highly modular construction techniques. 2/3rd of new reactors proposed in the US are of these designs.


  55. Barry, you wrote:

    consider the following, using an extreme assumption. / AP1000 rebar for 680 MWe average = 8,000 t / Now, assume its other steel requirements is same as bulkier reactors…

    That’s another demonstrably wrong assumption. Again, the AP1000 design is notable for using steel plates (not rebar) outside concrete in a sandwiched steel-concrete-steel structure in many instances where other modern designs use steel rods (rebar) inside concrete. It is interesting that you are happy to cite Prof Peterson when his research presentations produce numbers you like (your TCASE4 post has a URL that includes his name) but reject his value for AP1000 steel requirement per MW that shows your computational gymnastics to be bogus.

    It’s also interesting that you cited … for your “0.64 rebar to total steel” conversion factor, as that link provides this:

    In 2007 some US figures were published by the Nuclear Energy Institute for materials inputs to new nuclear power plant construction, based on four new designs: EPR, AP1000, ESBWR and ABWR (ranging from 1100 to 1600 MWe):
    concrete 351,000 m3
    reinforcing steel and embedded parts 46,000 t
    structural steel, misc. steel, decking 25,000 t

    From that you got 46 / (46 + 25) = 0.64 — but it warrants a question: given that the NEI’s average of four modern designs is undoubtedly less prone to error than your assumptions made to find a missing value for the AP1000 (which you got wrong as I noted), and that all four of those designs are being actively persued, why wouldn’t you just use the NEI figures directly? You have a ready-provided reasonable average the 351,000 m3 concrete and 71,000 t steel for a hypothetical average of those plants of around 1300 MW that covers the current popular designs. Makes a lot more sense to me, and removes any apparent bias that AP1000 was selected because of its lower use of one type of steel.

    One more quick point. You also wrote:

    It would be good if you would take the time to answer John D Morgan’s questions.

    Seems to be asking for estimates of world annual concrete and steel production. I trust he can find those on his own, and already stated why I think the TCASE premise was an exercise with very limited use. I merely saw a pattern in TCASE4 of some input values that are clearly wrong, and some others that give an impression of consistent bias in favour one energy source, and pointed these out. You’re most welcome to rewrite TCASE4 to remove the appearances of bias, and I’m sure it will show nuclear requires less steel and concrete (just nowhere near the distortion of the TCASE4 graph), but I’ve no intention of rewriting the post for you. Busy enough with my own work. (I only took the time to post the table of capacity factors in my previous comment because it was trivial to produce in seconds without even opening a spreadsheet – just two Linux commands, one pdftotext of the IAEA document then one awk-sed-sort-head-awk pipeline.)

    Peter, you wrote:

    Extensive discussion regarding the real world capacity factor for wind power in the USA, Europe and Australia was discussed on this thread: . You might want to catch up on that discussion.

    It’s interesting that Barry’s TCASE4 had the demonstrably wrong “The 2008 US capacity factor for wind was 23.5%,” I demonstrated how this is wrong (it ignores that the installed capacity grew 50% during the year and assumes the end-of-year capacity was available for the whole year), and someone else’s comments in that URL you gave pointed out exactly the same error. Barry might want to catch up on that discussion himself.

    Scott, you wrote:

    for example, in the US in 1998, average CF was about 85%,

    I think you’ll need to recheck your calculator or sources – US electricity that year from nuclear was around 674 TWh – see – which works out to a CF below 80%. None of which impacts my original point that a 90% CF is achievable, but far from ubiquitous in the real world.



  56. It’s interesting that Barry’s TCASE4 had the demonstrably wrong “The 2008 US capacity factor for wind was 23.5%,” I demonstrated how this is wrong (it ignores that the installed capacity grew 50% during the year and assumes the end-of-year capacity was available for the whole year),

    OK then, lets assume that that extra 50% installed capacity came online collectively at the end of the year and therefore contributed nothing to electricity production in that year, so we’re assigning all electrical production to the beginning-of-year capacity.

    That raises the capacity factor to ~35%. Not bad for wind, but harsly worthwhile if you want to run a power grid.


  57. The point of my question which you missed or ignored was to provide your preferred alternative values to the ones you think Barry got wrong, and see if the conclusion changes. Please do that.

    Its getting rather tiresome hearing from wind advocates who cry ‘bias’ every time someone refuses to massage data to favour renewabless, but aren’t prepared to do simple arithmetic to support their case. You’ve argued the detail over many paragraphs. Now pick a couple of numbers you think are fair, do a couple of sums, and tell us your answer.

    it was trivial to produce in seconds without even opening a spreadsheet – just two Linux commands, one pdftotext of the IAEA document then one awk-sed-sort-head-awk pipeline

    Oh lord, what a clever hacker. Let me tell you about the time I once used a hammer to hit a nail. It was cool.


  58. As DV82XL already noted, ATC can, and should, be henceforth ignored. He refuses to answer any serious questions put to him, and instead falls back on insults like “shows your computational gymnastics to be bogus”. He is nothing but a troll and unworthy of further attention. Plenty of such under-bridge ambush predators have come and gone on BNC.


  59. The most significant developement in conservation would be that
    A HDTV for 100 bucks consuming 10w.
    I`ll keep my CRT till this comes along.

    ‘Conservation’ is of absolutely no utility in restricting carbon emissions. All efforts should concentrate on the mass-depoyment of the only large scale carbon-free power source we have available (nuclear).


  60. If you want to save money and energy you’d be better off not buying the TV in the first place. Evidently you already have a computer, so you can watch anything you want and avoid the ads.

    I haven’t owned a telly in nearly a decade. One of my house mates owns a 42″ TV, or there abouts – it’s huge, draws 350watt. I’ve watched a couple of hi-def movies on it (we don’t have a TV aerial), but we always sit so far back from it that, from my perspective, one might as well watch the laptop screen, which is higher resolution anyway, and just sit closer to it. Laptop draws 80watt (max).

    Never really got that.


  61. My notebook draws 65-120W.
    There is also a lot of tv streamed today. I download movies anyways. To lazy to go to the movies and I don`t wait for dvds.
    I also got a tv stick. But it is still easier to zapp around on the tvset or record something on usbsticks with the push of a button.

    The pixelqi monitor will be available for notebooks too. You can change it yourself and save 75% of energy on the screen. Its also very useable in sunlight.

    You don`t need a stable grid for these though…or a grid at all.


  62. John and DV:

    I should close the little thread we had on Lovelock.

    The first 50 pages were the best. John, you are right that L is not in fact entirely happy reducing Gaia to “earth system science” even though the true predictions he claims were made by “gaia theory” are really made by ESS.

    the book is kind of creepy in a host of ways, and a little incoherent in others.

    His politics and sociology, in my view, are superficial and mostly misanthropic.

    but I still wouldn’t throw it in the garbage.


  63. So, how many other creepy, incoherent, superficial, misanthropic and wrong books do you keep on your shelves?

    It was nearly two years ago I was reading this so I don’t quite recall what specific straw broke the camel’s back, but it was something in that range of adjectives. As a dedicated bibliophile I just decided it wasn’t worth shelf space.


  64. The Gaia hypothesis is certainly evocative, the same way certain aspects of particle physics seem to have parallels in Hindu theology. This is interesting in an entertaining sort of way, but is of no real help in understanding the systems in question.

    However too much emphasis on these apparent correlations, especially when trying to inform the public are fraught with epistemological pitfalls, and in my opinion, are best minimized.


  65. Just read an interesting report called Matching Utility Loads with Solar and Wind Power in North Carolina at which seems to dispute a fair amount of what has been published on BNC about the cost of storage for wind and solar. As it discusses an 80% wind and solar solution and appears (to my untutored eye) to be reasonably sound and quotes enough figures to be disprovable l wondered if any of the assembled minds have read it and would like to comment.

    It has long been my belief that wind and solar would “creep up” and become more “real world” and provide a reasonable majority solution (along with energy savings) while the long lead times and panic politics associated with nuclear keeps it stalled.

    I am in favour of an IFR type solution for the last 6% of “other power” quoted in the study (which will probably end up being 10-20%) and even the odd LWR but only once the whole LWR waste to IFR equation has been well proven. As far as I can see this has not yet happened though the theory looks sound?


  66. @ Alastair Breingan – To start off with Arjun Makhijani and his soapbox Institute for Energy and Environmental Research take an extreme antinuclear position. Other papers by him like Nuclear isn’t necessary, Nature Reports Oct ’08 and Atomic Myths, Radioactive Realities: Why Nuclear Power Is a Poor Way to Meet Energy Needs, Journal of Land, Resources, & Environmental Law, Jan ’04 give a general impression of where he stands.

    In general he parrots the standard shibboleths of radiation fear, weapons proliferation, waste issues, and the threat of accidents that have been the standard offerings of the antinuclear propagandists from the beginning, Any detailed reading of his work shows a definite trend towards over exaggeration of both the threats of nuclear energy and the utility of renewables.

    Take this quote from the second paper mentioned above:

    “Severe accidents on the scale of Chernobyl can occur with nuclear power plants, even though the details of accident mechanisms and accident probabilities vary with design, care of construction, and degree of independent oversight and regulation.”

    Such a sweeping condemnation, unsupported by any reference or rationale is typical of the sort of statements one can expect from this organization.

    As to the publication at hand, the contention that wind and solar can contribute 80% of the time is very true for that particular situation, because these are being matched against hydroelectric generation. It is true that under that particular set-up these alternate renewable sources can contribute meaningfully, and without increasing CO2 output. However there is nothing particularly new about this observation, there are several projects planning to exploit that synergy where it is possible.

    Unfortunately, it only works in cases where the numbers work out. As Hydro Quebec (one of the world’s largest operators of hydroelectric generation) has found, just the existence of hydro and wind resources does not guarantee that this combination will work out ergonomically. In those cases where it does, it would seem the greatest advantage of wind/solar inputs is to save reservoir inventories on the hydro side of the equation, in situations where there is an seasonal threat of running out of head due to lack of rainfall.

    While this is useful to be sure, it does not stand as any sort of proof that wind/solar can assume a major percentage of baseload as a general rule, which seems to be implied by many that reference this type of situation.


  67. Isn’t the North Carolina proposal something of a rehash of the Jacobsen report that was in Scientific American? It also sounds like what the nation of Austria may currently be aiming for.

    Since I use wood for cooking year round and most of my car fuel is made from veg oil I’m intrigued by the optimism over biomass. Presumably when NG is gone biomass will be used for load balancing. The theory seems to be that when realtime or stored wind and solar are down biomass electricity will spring into action. Tank farms of pig poo methane or mountains of wood chips will power generators until the sun shines or the wind blows once again. However I’ve yet to see a realistic evaluation of net biomass energy after farm tractors and logging machines have renounced petroleum fuels. I strongly suspect net petroleum independent biomass energy that leaves enough soil carbon is way way overstated.


  68. @Morgan, Meyerson, DV82XL:

    re: “Gaia” (distinguish the hypothesis of the 70s from the theory of the 80s)

    notwithstanding your amusement/contempt/hostility, Lovelock provides a useful 3-column table on pp. 116-117 of “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” (Allen Lane).

    The table, as befits a hands-on instrument maker like Lovelock, is labelled “The test applied to some of the predictions from Gaia, and the results”.

    Refer also the Amsterdam Declaration with 1,000 signatures, made at the 2001 meeting of the European Geophysical Union.

    Concerning misanthropy (p. 151, mankind as infection), I see him more as an English, or maybe British, tribalist, given his statement on p.157 about tribalisms in general preventing coexistence, and other disparaging comments on EU countries here and there in this and earlier books.


  69. Some debate recently about a “Nuclear Waste Dump” in the Northern Territory. I’ve pitched in to the debate. See here for the ABC News story:

    Academic says waste dump worries ‘irrational’
    A South Australian academic says even a strong earthquake at a nuclear waste dump proposed for Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory would not put public safety at risk…

    and here for a 9 min radio interview where I get to explain things in a little more detail:

    “What will be stored at Muckaty?”

    Comments/corrections welcome.



    This guy seems to completely miss the point that longer-lived radioactive waste is created as a byproduct of the production of short-lived diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals using the reactor and radiochemistry facilities at ANSTO.

    Also, we’re not really talking about “fuel rods”, are we? What comes back from France after the fuel is reprocessed is a few cans of vitrified glass containing the fission products.


  71. hi peter:

    my point was not that the earth systems science part wasn’t very interesting; nor was it that it wasn’t science. My point was that I didn’t quite see the scientific work done by gaia theory insofar as it is DISTINCT from earth systems science.

    he does make a rhetorical pitch for gaia: if we treat the world as a living organism, we will act differently.

    but the tribalism you point to I think overwhelms any political solution he might have: he is very distrustful of any “activism” so I’m not sure then what the rhetorical point of the gaia metaphor is even here.

    DV: thanks for the comments on the IEER piece, which I will read.


  72. on ieer report:

    it’s interesting to note that the wind/solar/hydro/biomass plan is to provide around 90 billion kwh, down from the current number of 125 billion kwh used annually in north carolina.

    this sort of efficiency gain in a presumably growing economy strikes me as Lovins on steroids: a 30 percent reduction in total energy use would require what sort of unit efficiency gains?

    tell me: isn’t this an amazing assumption to build into their model? without it, their plan does not even get off the ground.

    I think I read something by charles on the tremendous reliance of solar/wind advocates on energy efficiency. How deal with Jevons paradox, khazzoum/brookes?

    as george monbiot has noted, these paradoxes are “blissfully ignored by most environmentalists.


  73. it’s interesting to note that the wind/solar/hydro/biomass plan is to provide around 90 billion kwh, down from the current number of 125 billion kwh used annually in north carolina.

    this sort of efficiency gain in a presumably growing economy strikes me as Lovins on steroids: a 30 percent reduction in total energy use would require what sort of unit efficiency gains?

    Yep, I noticed that too. Mind you, as soon as I saw
    Makhijani’s name on it, I knew what to expect. Still, this is the sort of thing that will be referred to by anti-nukes as ‘proof’ that nuclear isn’t necessary, so long as we all put on an extra jumper in the winter, insulate our roofs and use the washing machine at three in the morning when the wind is blowing right.


  74. Alastair,

    The McKinnsey type numbers for achieveable enetgy efficiency gains are highly optimistic. They do not take into account what is economically achievable (althought they think they do).

    The Australian today has an article exposing gross exaggeration by the Department of Climate Change (DCC). The department exaggerated the emissions cuts that the insulation would achieve. It seems the government’s pink bats scheme has cost about $200/tonne CO2-e avoided. For comparison, the nuclear in Australia would cost about $20 – $40 per tonne CO2 avoided if we leave all the imposts on nuclear in place. For those that have been following the diiscussions on these threads for some time, you would recall that I beleive nuclear generated electricity should actually be lower cost than coal, and could be if there was a level playing field on health, safety, and environmental imposts on all the generators.

    It is certainly readily achievable to remove remove the unequal imposts. But to achieve it we need to change the minds of the anti-nukes (Jim Green, Mark Diesendorf, Mark Jacobson, Amory Lovins, ACF, WWF, FoE, Greenpeace). These are the types that brought us anti-nuclear protrests since the 1970’s, bio fuels, and much other nonsense.


  75. I wrote this in an email to someone els this morning so I’ll post it here. Hopefully, someone might pick it up and develop it further.

    “What I would like is a list of the unfair imposts on nuclear power, and what is the cost of them.

    Off the top of my head here are a few:

    1. Nuclear is some 10 to 100 times safer than coal per kWh, yet we demand ever more safety from nuclear and accept coal as it is. Why don’t we simply demand the same level of safety from nuclear as coal gives us? After all, we already accept the level of safety of coal because we recognise the enormous benefits of low cost electricity to society?

    2. We subsidise wind by $65/MWh (correct me if I have that figure wrong) and solar PV by about a factor of 12, yet we ban nuclear. This is a case of governments picking winners; it must be just about the worst case ever.

    3. Our government subsidises CCS yet balks at any contribution to assist nuclear to get started in Australia. A government contribution is essential to send the message to investors that the government also has some interest in the success of establishing nuclear here. Without some significant government involvement (such as loan guarantees) we are not going to go anywhere with nuclear in Australia (while the unlevel playing field remains in place).

    4. The government has stated it will accept all the risk of leakage for CCS, but places ridiculous requirements on the storage of once-used nuclear fuel (i.e. fuel that has had only 1% to 10% of the useable energy actually used so far).

    5. We don’t require any other generator technology to manage its waste and emissions (to water, air and land) to the same extent as we do for nuclear.

    6. We require that a nuclear power plant must be able to withstand the highest possible earthquake and must be able to withstand impact from a fully loaded jet liner, yet we don’t require the same of all the tanks containing highly poisonous gasses that are located throughout our cities. And whereas a nuclear accident may cause a small number of early fatalities, toxic chemicals kill manny immediately. Chernobyl 31 immediate deaths, Bhopal, 6000. Many other examples. “Ah, but what about the latent fatalaties?”, I hear some scream at me. Chernobyl: projected 4000 early deaths in a population of 200 million over 70 years. That is an almost unmeasurably low rate of early deaths when compared with the early deaths from all the chemicals we emit to the environment from all our industries.


  76. The Australian today has an article exposing gross exaggeration by the Department of Climate Change (DCC). The department exaggerated the emissions cuts that the insulation would achieve.

    In a similar vein, I seem to recall that Charles Barton wrote an article on the scamming involved in the whole ‘energy-efficient green buildings’ strategy for reducing GHG emissions. To cut a long story short, it seems that the benefits to be had from green architectural innovation have been greatly exaggerated. I’d link to the post, but I haven’t been able to find it. I’m sure it’s there somewhere on amidst Charles’ prodigious output.


  77. Luke, regarding what is being returned to Australia from France — it’s hard to determine. The most complete information I can find is here:

    “ANSTO: Higher activity operational waste from radioisotope production and operation of the OPAL research reactor. 2.5 m3”


    Residues from reprocessing HIFAR spent fuel
    TN type casks (shielded steel casks)
    Approximately 26 m3 in 53 casks by 2020 (loaded cask volume – 72 m3).
    Approximately 6 m3 of vitrified glass waste in two TN type casks by 2015 (loaded cask volume – 60 m3).

    Residues from reprocessing OPAL spent fuel*
    Approximately 20 m3 of waste in TN type casks1 (loaded cask volume – up to 120 m3) between 2020 and 2060.
    * The United States has agreed to take back spent fuel of US origin from OPAL until 2016. No waste will be returned to Australia from that spent fuel.”

    I suspect it’s not all vitrified fission products (seems like only 6 m3 of the 26 m3 from HIFAR). Can anyone clarify?

    More info here:


  78. Click to access NC-Wind-Solar.pdf

    “The annual utility load was taken to be 90 billion kWh, a somewhat
    more energy-efficient version of the present 125 billion kWh load … The reductions were based on the author’s data set of measured energy use in more than one hundred North Carolina homes.”

    So presumably there is no industry in North Carolina? Only residential homes.

    Oh, wait. Let me Google that for you,

    160 aerospace and aviation companies
    160 motor vehicle parts companies
    520 bioscience companies
    1700 banking and finance firms
    3000 IT companies
    1500 textile complex facilities

    Here John Blackburn, let me give you a leg-up

    Quit lying to us!


  79. Phil McKenna has an “Insight” item in New Scientist on how the US is going with AP1000 LWRs in its new loan guarantee backed nuclear construction push, whereas other nations are pushing ahead with more contemporary technology:

    The online version does not contain a small table which appears in the print version, as follows:

    Nuclear reactors, present and future

    Generation III (Light water reactor)
    Coolant: Water
    Available: Now worldwide
    Pros: Proven track record
    Cons: Low efficiency. Low temperature waste heat is less useful. Cannot burn recycled fuel efficiently.

    Generation IV (High temperature gas reactor)
    Coolant: Helium
    Available: 2013 in China
    Pros: Produces useful heat. Increased efficiency and safety.
    Cons: High pressure coolant poses possible safety risk.

    Generation IV (Fast reactor)
    Coolant: Liquid sodium or lead
    Available: France, Japan and Russia
    Pros: Produces useful heat. Can burn spent fuel.
    Cons: Requires spent fuel from conventional reactors to be processed into plutonium. Safety issues with coolant. Early-stage technology.


  80. to go from 90 billion kwh to 125 billion kwh would be a 38.8 percent increase.

    to go from 125 to 90 would be a 28 percent decrease.

    here is the entire quote adam refers to:

    The annual utility load was taken to be 90 billion kWh, a somewhat
    more energy-efficient version of the present 125 billion kWh load. Average hourly loads in each of the four seasons were taken from Duke Energy’s 2006 load profile. These were modified to show some reduction in summer and winter peaks as structures become more energy-efficient and enjoy
    disproportionate reductions in heating and especially cooling energy demands. The reductions were based on the author’s data set of measured energy use in more than one hundred North Carolina homes.


  81. @Peter Lang: at

    you state that various bodies such as WWF, Greenpeace, FOE etc. “brought us anti-nuclear protests and much other nonsense” since the 1970s”.

    I assume you as economic neoliberal and possibly foreign policy neocon are also referring here for AU to the military testing of nuclear weapons (41 French atmospheric A-tests at Muroroa 1966-74; 147 below -ground to 1996) British testing at Maralinga in the 50s and knock-on consequences thereafter).

    I would comment as follows:

    1. it does not seem tactically advisable for nukies to conflate their wish for civilian nuclear energy rollout with non-civilian use in any way. Possibly you are not aware of this or do you view US nuclear status as a guarantee that AU will not be overrun by Indons or Chinese, given 20+ US bases in AU incl. Pine Gap?

    2. assuming that neither fallout from AU or Polynesian tests nor the geological containing structures are hazardous, see e.g.,

    the fact remains that the “anti-nculear protests” you are referencing were directed in part against proliferation.

    “Other nonsense” on the part of Greenpeace, FOE etc. since the 70s includes environmental campaigning unrelated to nuclear energy or proliferation, so that your allegation implies hostility to any and all efforts to preserve biodiversity, and various other conservation concerns as well.

    Given your apparent stance, it is not clear how your intend to “change the minds”, as you put it, of such nonsensical people and bodies. Because nonsense is not amenable to persuasion, is it? Does it not have to be suppressed by the “social engineering” you advocated on BNC some weeks ago? What form should this engineering take? Is China not a model in this regard?


  82. north carolina’s total power consumption is roughly 827 billion kwh (299 milion btu/person times 9.4 million divided by 3.41 million btus to get unit of 1000 kwhs). I think I did the math right.

    presumably, we want to electrify most of this. it puts the ieer plan into perspective, which claims to budget for 90,000 billion kwhs.

    That said, I don’t think the ieer piece (I have not finished it yet) takes into consideration overbuild or transmission line changes, etc. does it, alastair? (will answer my own question in time but perhaps you can save me work!)

    it means to show that the basepower argument is wrong.

    so it just “scales up” wind and solar based on insolation and wind data. does it look at capacity factor? if solar is to provide around 40 percent of electricity consumption (a little more than 4 gigawatts of energy given the grandiose efficiency improvements), does that mean 20 gigawatts installed capacity etc?

    20 percent cf would be optimistic given that much pv use in this plan would be residential. doesn’t mackay say that affordable solar now has much lower cf?


  83. question for barry and peter etc:

    the north carolina ieer report has this footnote, referring to Jacobson:

    The authors studied hourly wind generation data
    from 19 separated wind farm sites in the Midwest. Among their significant findings they noted that wind energy had a base-load equivalent of 33% to 47% as compared to coal plants. That is, in 87% of the year’s
    hours (the operating hours of baseload coal plants) wind plants together were generating 33% to 47% of their average output. Another study is Troy Simonson and Bradley Stevens, Regional Wind Energy Analysis for
    the Central United States, Energy and Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ms. Hansen, cited in note 7, found the same effect in her study of three sites for North Carolina.

    The note reminds me of course of the study here made of Jacobson.

    can someone translate? is this 33 to 47 % of average output referring to the average output of the wind farms or the coal plant? The reference of “their” is not clear. or is this number 33 etc percent of the capacity factor?


  84. in this study, the only reference to capacity factor I found was to a 22% capacity factor for the natural gas turbine operating as auxiliary power.

    also, above, I lost my senses and wrote 90,000 billion kwh when I meant 90 billion kwh.



  85. V2G:

    people here have commented periodically on V2G scenarios.

    does anyone have some links where these scenarios are critically analyzed?

    the problems here would be partly analogous to the problems of having to divert renewable energy to any kind of storage, right? and then there would be both large scale coordination problems (how to get enough cars to be storing instead of driving at the right times) and price: I never understood the idea that our plug in hybrids could be charged off peak, drawing on excess wind power at night. wouldn’t millions of cars charging at once cause a power problem? like, during hot summer nights? plus, if millions of cars are charging at once, would not off peak then become peak?


  86. @gregory meyerson – you can do a Google search for the phrase “Vehicle to Grid scam” and come up with a few.

    Look, this doesn’t require a deep analysis. Even its supporters admit it will need a massive upgrade to the grid to accommodate this system, and commonsense shows that individuals are going to realize a net economic loss participating in this scheme. It is just not practical, no matter how good it looks at first glance.

    This is just another part of the Anything-but-Nuclear campaign being waged, by several interests right now. V2G is a very seductive idea, but it just falls apart under any sort of detailed scrutiny. It is not a solution to grid based storage, and never will be.


  87. I’m going to try and parse Blackburn’s paraphrase of Jacobson. You folks in AU are probably sleeping (what’s the time difference?)

    if “their average output” refers to wind capacity factor, then following barry, that gives us 33 % to 47 % of 35% (optimistic wind cf) operating 87 percent of the time.

    the thing is, if I’m correct in parsing B’s paraphrase, isn’t it highly disingenuous for Blackburn to omit capacity factor? You might have 33-47 percent of dispersed wind functioning as base power, but it’s not a lot of power. 14-16 percent of nameplate. while B expects to get about 4 GW from wind, he never says what his wind’s nameplate is.

    If we apply Jacobson’s numbers (run thru barry) to the N.C. situation, with .35 CF, Blackburn’s nameplate would be 11.43 GW, 14-16 percent of which he’d get as baseload equivalent: about 1.7 GW.

    okay my energy tutors. does this make sense?


  88. thanks dv:

    in the blackburn piece, just to emphasize how much power renewables can provide, there is a section on V2G in which B says this:

    These last three arrangements [V2G, purchased power and auxiliary generation–gm] bring enormous new demand-shaping and storage possibilities to the electric grid. They complete the task of accommodating grids to intermittent power sources. They permit the utility systems to operate with a complement of backup generation capacity which is smaller than the backup facilities commonly used in the present systems and their huge centralized coal or nuclear baseload plants. [24-5]

    As you can see, DV, and I’m not cherry picking, there’s no reference to the obvious difficulties you raise about massive upgrades.

    I agree with Finrod that this sort of analysis functions to narcotize the renewables camp. They can answer the challenge posed by nuclear greens and do it with lots of graphs and numbers.


  89. skysails just updated their systems to new steering units and doubled the sail area to 320m².
    The new system does optimize operation time and saves 30-40% anualy.
    It would be possible for skysails to employ over 3000 systems over the next 10 years saving 1-2tonns of oil per ship and day.
    Operational systems have a tow force of 8-16 tonns.
    They plan to operate sails of up to 130tonns by 2012.

    We would need ways to finanze retrofitting of ships. The system costs 500.000-1Mio €.
    It pays for itself in 3-4 years but there is no money for the investment.

    Ships emit about 2% of global GHG.


  90. @heavyweather0 – Yet again this is more of an Anything-but Nuclear ‘solution’.

    There is no mode of transport more able to adapt to small modular nuclear power than big ships. Sealed units that only need refueling every 30 year, not only are available now, but collectively have over a million hours and more of operation at sea with several navies.

    If windjammers were so good, why did the shipping industry abandon them for steam?


  91. I have nothing in priciple against large wind-powered commercial vessels as long as they do what is necessary, but I doubt they would be able to match the performance of powered vessels in speed and reliability. If it wasn’t for that, the industry might well look at the fuel savings to be had from sails.


  92. DV8
    Because they had no kites and missed the automatisation needed to operate a power kite at 500m atlitute?
    Your question is as stupid as asking why they needed so many people to rig the things.
    Now it is automated.

    The kite actually makes the vessel faster and takes load off the engine and drive train.
    Sails are another technology. Sails take space and would be very hindering unloading containers.

    Ships do not need to go fast btw.
    Actually the are building/designing diesel engines to go slow now because shipping companys like to operate them slow but keep all ships at sea even when there is less demand.
    This slower operational speed puts more wear on the engines.

    While not nuclear related it is CO2 related.
    I don`t believe nuclera can deliver a fast solution or shipping.
    60.000 kites is easy compared to 60.000 ship nukes.


  93. heavyweather0, Said:

    “Because they had no kites and missed the automatisation needed to operate a power kite at 500m attitude?
    Your question is as stupid as asking why they needed so many people to rig the things.
    Now it is automated.”

    Categorically not. Steam replaced wind because it was more versatile, faster and could serve more ports of call on schedule than sailing ships ever could. And just to illustrate the depth of your own ignorance, later steel-hulled, iron-masted cargo ships were working right up to WWII carrying grain, on very small crews, they were not as labor intensive as the steamships of the era were.

    Your claim that slower operation puts more wear on a diesel engine is also way off base, and again demonstrates you have no idea what you are talking about.

    And where did you get 60,000 ships? There are less than 25,000 vessels over 5,000 Dwt. registered in the world at the moment. Only 6800 of these are container ships of the sort that can benefit from powerkites.

    Or is that another stupid question?


  94. Ships do not need to go fast btw.
    Actually the are building/designing diesel engines to go slow now because shipping companys like to operate them slow but keep all ships at sea even when there is less demand.

    Yes, but the reason they’re building slower, low-power ships is for economy in the face of high fuel prices. If they went nuclear, that would no longer be an issue. In fact, they could probably be designed to go a bit faster than the ~25 knot standard set when the fuel was cheaper.


  95. The current hard reality:

    Look who’s cooking with coal
    The Minister for Resources spells out some green truths

    HERE’S the dirty little secret of the Rudd government’s refusal to negotiate with the Greens over its emissions trading scheme. It couldn’t. Talking to Bob Brown and his colleagues would have revealed the truth about the emissions trading scheme – that this was fudged policy designed to do very little about reducing carbon emissions. It has been clear to this newspaper from the start that the ETS was a minimalist scheme with limited impact. But it was Martin Ferguson’s appearance on Lateline on Wednesday night that belled the cat about the fine line walked by Labor on climate change. Mr Ferguson’s old-school Labor manner is easy to dimiss in an age of Twitter politics, but there is nothing out of touch about the Minister for Resources and Energy. On Lateline, his grasp of his portfolio detail was matched by a grasp of its politics. No way, he told interviewer Tony Jones, would the Rudd government move to close down coal-fired power stations such as Loy Yang and Hazelwood without a base-load alternative. “If we were to close Hazelwood tomorrow, we’d have an absolute backlash from the Australian community . . . they couldn’t go home of a night, put the lights on and cook their evening meal.” Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott could not have put it better. There you have it: the government’s approach to climate change, no matter how it has been sold to the inner-urban green crowd, has always been designed not to scare the horses in Labor-held coal electorates in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Here the promise is of funding for research and development of clean coal and other alternatives, along with the guarantee Labor will not turn off the lights. Coal stays until there’s a proven alternative source of base-load power.

    Mr Ferguson says that 2015-20 is the “window of opportunity” to prove low-emission technologies such as carbon capture and storage because we are “very quickly approaching maxing out” the energy system. With the gap between base load and peak load disappearing fast, we need to invest in new generation capacity or we will all be in trouble. The minister isn’t picking winners but likes the look of gas and wind along with geothermal and biomass. He says the missing link is a price on carbon to launch the market race for low-emission alternatives.

    Mr Ferguson didn’t say it, but the truth is if we can’t make algae et al work, the only option is nuclear power. That’s an argument the Prime Minister does not want to have. Given his self-described status as a “practical pragmatist”, perhaps it’s one for the Minister for Resources.

    Nuclear power, anyone?


  96. One point on shipping: Half the world’s shipping is about moving around dirty, climate changing fossil fuels. Yep, half.

    After peak oil and hopefully a bit of sensible climate policy kerbs demand for coal on the international market, we’ll halve the world’s shipping Co2 simply because we won’t need it.


  97. eclipsenow, on 12 March 2010 at 21.07 Said:

    “Is an aluminium factory really just a super-cheap, giant battery waiting to be discovered? Surprises in energy storage? Who woulda-thunk-it?”

    Before declaiming the birth of a Black Swan, maybe you should look into just what is being said in the video attached to the link you posted.

    Molten metal batteries are not aluminum smelters run in reverse, they use different metals and different designs. The only place an aluminum smelter comes up in this story is as the seed of the idea the researcher had.

    These things are not small, a megawatt would be the size of a bus, they have a high net loss due to the need to keep the cell at temperature, and like all electrochemical cells, are high-amperage, low-voltage devices that will need to be built in large numbers to have any real impact.

    hey have a very long way to go before they will have any impact on the grid, if indeed they ever do.


  98. Hello everyone. I’ve been away for two weeks including from my computer, which I can’t use very well anyway. Very interesting catching up on this blog however. Uncle Pete – I have a car sticker now three years old which states “BE COOL WITH NUCLEAR” Barry, you’re right. We need to ignore ATC and the other anti nukes for that matter [Diesendorf, Noonan etc]. They persist in recycling 40 year old objections to nuclear power even while most countries are going “hell for leather” in developing or increasing it. On the cost comparisons of steel/concrete for wind and nuclear I note that steel rebar gets a mention. Is that the same steel rebar that was used in a huge block of apartments in Taiwan about 15 years ago? It contains Cobalt60 and that’s radioactive. It scared the hell out of the Taiwan authorities when they discovered that fact and so they set about checking the effects of the additional radiation on the residents of the apartments. Surprise, surprise. Those people had a lower incidence of cardio-vascular disease and cancer than the general population and there were fewer childhood abnormalities noted as well. Admittedly it was only a small sample [about 10,000 tested]. But scientists conducting the study concluded that low level chronic radiation seemed to act like an immunisation. Other similar studies, especially the Nuclear Shipyard Workers Study carried out by the US Dept of Health in association with Johns Hopkins University discovered similar results and in a huge sample of nuclear workers [27,000] compared with 31,000 controls. The conclusions indicated that the low level radiation exposure of the workers contributed to DNA repair and stimulation of the immune system. These findings contributed to Prof Paul Davies writing in the Adelaide Advertiser in 1998 that ” the effects of radiation have always been ludicrously exaggerated”
    I’ve been to the Lucas Heights facility [three years ago] and I also visited the Chalk River nuclear research facility in Ontario in 1981. That’s one of the reasons I converted from an anti to a pro position on nuclear power. Most rational people change their minds when they know the facts. Not Diesendorf, Noonan etc though. We must not let them dictate our future energy policy. Cheers guys.


  99. Just as a heads up to people, I’m about to hop on a plane to Singapore and will probably be offline for ~24 hours. If you’re comments accidentally get diverted to the SPAM queue during that period, sit tight and I’ll clear them when I can.


  100. adam: the taiwan case is discussed in william tucker’s book, Terrestrial Energy. perhaps both cases are. G. Cravens discusses LNT at length also, with refs to cases like those you point out.

    I can look up the refs if you like.


  101. John D Morgan:

    I read the the IFR-related cite you linked to and was prompted to ask a couple of questions which you may be able to address.

    1) What can one infer from the information cited that GE is ready to build a rector vessel for $50 million? I am unable to interpret the significance of the statement, given that I have been led to believe that a completed nuclear plant would be likely to cost $4 billion/GW.

    2) Sodium cooled reactors have, in the past, been more often than not associated with fires. These haven’t been dangerous but have caused disruptions, delays and rich sources of adverse propaganda in democratic states. It appears that only the Russians have been pragmatic enough to put the fires out and carry on producing power. I was therefore wondering whether lead, should corrosion issues be satisfactorily addressed, could be substituted for sodium in the IFR design without major modification? I can imagine that the lack of need for secondary cooling loops and inert gaseous atmospheres would not involve major design changes and would, in fact, make things less expensive.


  102. Douglas:

    1. $50 million is for the reactor vessel only – it can be filled with water, but I understand its construction is helpful for NRC certification.
    2. Molten lead is quite corrosive to steel, very heavy and hard to keep circulating, prone to freezing (melting point is 327C, lead-bismuth eutetic @125C helps here), and rarer than sodium (perhaps an issue when there are 1,000s of such reactors). It is certainly possible that it will be adopted in 4th Gen designs, and the Russians are happy to pursue this reactor coolant; the corrosion issue, as I understand it, is the biggest stumbling block. See Table 3 here for the list:


  103. Hi Douglas,

    To add to Barry’s remarks, and I have no insight into GE’s plans, the reactor vessel is just the metal bucket which would hold the core, the sodium pool, and parts of the coolant circulation loop. GE recently testified to the US congress and remarked that a next step for them would be construction of the vessel and first filling it with water for further engineering studies (sorry, can’t quickly find the link). I assume the reason why you would do this is that liquid sodium has very similar viscosity and density to water, so you would be able to check internal flow behaviour against simulations, and maybe structural behaviour as well. As a complex bit of metalwork its probably worthwhile prototyping. Its the sort of activity you would undertake as part of a process scale up from a pilot scale (which the EBR-II would be) to full scale.

    When I met Tom Blees at ANSTO recently, 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. While GE would do water experiments, the Russian approach is, they’d just go ahead and build a working plant to start with. And given the quality of existing fluid dynamics simulations, structural analysis and mechanical design tools, etc., I don’t really see a problem with that.


  104. OK, ANSTO visit again. I have the wednesday 31st of March locked in, so please confirm your interest for that date.

    Once again, this is for a visit to the Lucas Heights research reactor, for a tour focussed more on power production than other nuclear science. Its open to anyone who can make it, so if you’re interested just add you name to the list here – all welcome, including lurkers, not just regular commenters.

    Current interest:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L
    3. Finrod (prefers weekend; possible delegate for weekday)
    4. Ewen L (can’t make it – sorry Ewen)
    5. Pip (prefers week)
    6. Robert S (prefers 10:30 – 14:30)

    Peter, what time would suit, coming from Canberra?
    Finrod, are you still unavailable?

    Could you all please email me contact details, to my gmail address, username john.d.p.morgan?


  105. I have lost an URL, maybe I will find it from here.

    It’s a collection of very good and complete texts about many different kind of energy sources. Texts from a professional, but I don’t remember the name. Very realistic and objective. Tells the truth about renewable energy sources just as is it, with all limitation and benefits.

    All the texts are also published as a book, but also available on-line. Hope someone here could help me to find this site.


  106. Peter, Finrod, Pip, Robert, I’ve got a rough programme together for the ANSTO visit, as below. I’ve suggested a 10:30 start – how does that sit with Canberrans?

    Barry, could you possibly email Pip and Robert Smart in case they miss seeing this post?


    I have locked in the date with Andrew Humpherson as he would like to greet you when you arrive. Andrew is our General Manager, Government and Public Affairs. I will endeavour today to lock the date in with the other managers involved.

    The draft program would be roughly:

    Arrive a ANSTO, have ID’s checked, valuables& mobile phones in lockers
    Tea/Coffee and morning tea on arrival.
    Welcome by Andrew Humpherson
    ANSTO overview by our Education Officer including nuclear medicine.
    Travel to OPAL, discussion with OPAL Reactor Manager and tour of OPAL models.
    Travel to Waste, 20-30 minute discussion on waste.
    Travel to Environment, 20-30 minutes at Environment.

    Doing my timing, this whole program would take approx. 3.5 hours.

    Would this be okay with you? If I start it at 10am it would finish between 1.15-1.30pm.


  107. Kaj, that Climate Progress link doesn’t offer any credible economic argument against nuclear power. Its main claim is that nuclear power is too expensive at 1 trillion dollars for the US. Thats based on 100 plants at $10 billion per plant, which is ludicrous. And as one commenter remarks, how much would any realistic alternative cost?

    There’s more, but its equally superficial. But there’s an interesting discussion running in the comments. Thanks for the link.


  108. I BEG (Peter Lang: if you help me out, I’ll never raise non energy issues again) someone to help me out with the following. I really need the information. The IEER author of the recent piece on North Carolina cites Jacobson’s wind studies as a model. The author says:

    The authors studied hourly wind generation data from 19 separated wind farm sites in the Midwest. Among their significant findings they noted that wind energy had a base-load equivalent of 33% to 47% as compared to coal plants. That is, in 87% of the year’s hours (the operating hours of baseload coal plants) wind plants together were generating 33% to 47% of their average output. Another study is Troy Simonson and Bradley Stevens, Regional Wind Energy Analysis for the Central United States, Energy and Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ms. Hansen, cited in note 7, found the same effect in her study of three sites for North Carolina.

    Now I don’t know if this is the exact study Barry critiqued, but it’s similar enough. Blackburn’s language is slightly different and so I was wondering whether he meant what Jacobson meant (based on your parsing).

    If “their average output” refers to wind capacity factor, then following barry, that gives us 33 % to 47 % of 35% (optimistic wind cf) operating 87 percent of the time. You might have 33-47 percent of average wind output as base power, but it’s not a lot of power. 14-16 percent of nameplate. While Blackburn expects to get about 4 GW from wind, he never says what his wind’s nameplate is.

    If we apply Jacobson’s numbers (run thru barry) to the N.C. situation, with .35 CF, Blackburn’s nameplate would be 11.43 GW, 14-16 percent of which he’d get as baseload equivalent: about 1.7 GW.

    Or: does 33-47% of average output refer to the average output of the coal plants? (not too clear to the layman from the quote) that would be an entirely different number. For every GW of coal, .33-.47 gw of wind?

    Such a number would be much more favorable to IEER case and I wonder if he misreads Jacobson.


  109. The Climate Progress link is the best outlook on the future of nuclear.
    If it can`t be finanzed it wont happen.
    It does not matter what any other solution will cost because there will be multiple solutions.
    There will also be some nukes in that mix.

    Like one of the linked articles concludes one industry can`t drain all the budget.
    When there is no private money what money is left?


  110. heavyweather, if we can’t afford to build the nukes, we can’t afford to build the more expensive renewable alternatives. There’s unlikely to be a mix of a cheaper solution which works with more expensive ‘solutions’ which don’t.


  111. Thanks Greg Myerson for providing AdamB with the Taiwan study, Much appreciated. It was good to read it all again. I used that study in a pro-nuclear speech I gave to several groups during 2005.I told you I’ve been at promoting nuclear power for a long time, 12 years in fact.


  112. Hi Finrod, Peter Lang, and anyone else interested in touring ANSTO on Wed 31st March (next week),

    Can you please email me at john.d.p.morgan at ?

    I will need to get the following ID details from you this week in order to book in:

    Anyone UNDER 18 Years of AGE: Name, Address and AGE ONLY.

    Anyone OVER 18 years of AGE: Name, Address and either a Driver’s Licence, Passport or RTA Proof of Age Card. If the tour participant is OVER 60 years of age and does not have any of the previous 3 forms of identification, a Pension Card No. will be accepted.

    Finrod, please pass that on to your friends. I’ll probably bring some colleagues along too.

    I’m awaiting confirmation that the programme will run through10:30-13:45. ANSTO have kindly offered to shout us lunch, too.


  113. I note the recent publication of an Australian version of David MacKay’s “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” prepared by Peter Seligman, with the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne as the institutional affiliation:

    Australian Sustainable Energy –
    by the numbers

    or MacKay’s site:

    Australian Sustainable Energy –
    by the numbers

    This is a pretty substantial document at 125 pages, and probably deserves substantial review. I’ve barely scanned it.

    Disappointingly, the document does not even mention nuclear power, aside from a brief paragraph on thorium (presumably thorium=good, uranium=bad, plutonium=evil). There is no discussion as to why nuclear power is not considered, its just ignored out of hand. I guess the idea is that its inadmissable by its nature and that is simply obvious to everyone. The author’s perspective is, from the Foreword,

    .. the UK cannot supply all its needs from renewable energy, it would have to go offshore, or treat nuclear as renewable. In Australia, the situation is quite different. We could supply all of our needs many times over. In fact, in theory we could supply the whole world with renewable energy, if we were prepared to do it ..

    Unlike MacKay, Seligman offers some treatment of the costs involved. However, just on a cursory scan, I can’t find headline numbers that would allow an easy comparison of options, or with, say, Peter Lang’s calculations.

    I’ll quote the author’s conclusions here. I think finding the key numbers and understanding their origin in the analysis is important. I can see this study being widely cited in support of the idea that we can do it all on renewables alone, and that we should not consider NPP, and that this will carry, by association, some of David MacKay’s authority:

    1. In theory, Australia could comfortably supply all of its power requirements renewably.
    2. In practice, for some interim period, the use of some non-renewable sources may be necessary but the overall carbon footprint can be reduced to zero in time.
    3. The major contributors would be geothermal, wind and solar power.
    4. To match the varying load and supply, electricity could be stored using pumped hydro, as it is at present on a much smaller scale. In this case, seawater could be used, in large cliff-top ponds.
    5. Energy efficiency would be a key aspect of the solution.
    6. A comprehensive modelling approach could be used to minimise the cost rather than the current piecemeal, politically based, ad hoc system.
    7. Private transport and other fuel based transport could be largely electrified and batteries could be used to assist with storage.
    8. In a transition period, liquid fuel based transport could be accommodated by using biofuels produced using CO2 from any remaining fossil fuelled power sources and CO2 generating industries.


  114. “I’ll quote the author’s conclusions here….”

    The usual ‘anything but nuclear’ list that betrays the real agenda of the author.

    Note that in points 2&8 it is implied that there needs to be bridging with carbon-based fuels. Where have we heard this line before?

    The usual sop to energy efficiency without any real indication just how this can happen.

    Brine does not make a good working fluid for pumped storage hydro unless you are a glutton for punishment.

    “A comprehensive modelling approach could be used to minimise the cost rather than the current piecemeal, politically based, ad hoc system.” Just buzzing that means absolutely nothing when you examine it up close.

    Name dropping biofuels while describing a synfuel process, because ‘bio’ is more PC than ‘syn’ these days.

    Jesus weeps


  115. I’m not making a substantive post here John, but just looking at the summary, the plan outlined sounds almost exactly like the model I would have advocated before I became persuaded that nuclear power was key to serious progress on CO2 abatement.

    Solar, sea-based pumped storage, biofuels, energy efficiency, V2G … and later I added thorium to the things I thought worth putting into the mix. He doesn’t mention algae biodiesel or butanol or panicum but I can forgive that.

    That’s just spooky …


  116. Mark Diesendorf was his point of reference for the viability of thorium energy. Say no more…

    A 10 min scan of it left me profoundly disappointed. The working scenario fails to account for the problems of low supply times and the concomitant storage problems that arise from this, as detailed by Peter Lang. I’ll probably have a more substantial go at critiquing it on BNC within the next few weeks. But beyond the banal conclusion that Australia is bathed in lots of sunlight and buffeted by lots of wind — far more than we could ever use, IF we could somehow harness it in a cost competitive way — I’m not seeing what this document is adding.


  117. Fran, me too. DV82XL, agreed. Barry, I noticed the “Diesendorf – personal communication” reference too.

    Here’s the headline cost: Seligman estimates the cost of going completely renewable at $253 billion over 25 years.

    The appropriate comparison from Peter Lang’s work is probably the capital cost of the solar, wind and gas option – figure 9 in Emission Cuts Realities – Electricity Generation. That’s $520b out to 2050,but it only replaces 50% of fossil fuel consumption.


  118. One interesting idea I got on a link to that site John was a (possibly tongue-in-cheek) BETS — a bicycle emissions trading scheme which applied the FIT for solar PV of 60cents per KwH to pay bike commuters an average $8 per 30km round trip to ride their bikes to work.

    I suppose there would have to be bike ways and bike storage provided too, but it was a fun idea.


  119. “7. Private transport and other fuel based transport could be largely electrified and batteries could be used to assist with storage.”

    This is the big black swan as far as I’m concerned… the great unknown. Just how much energy will V2G EV’s be able to store, and how frequently will they be able to dump vast amounts of stored energy back onto the grid?

    If society proves to be too paranoid about nuclear energy, I wouldn’t rule out incredible innovation from engineers, people, the marketplace, and other social synergies all interacting to meet our needs in new ways, especially if the New Urbanism meme takes over.


  120. Yeah, I saw that too Ewen, I think it was only semi-serious. I see they also have some interesting seminars coming up:

    April: The Future of the Grid – Integrating Energy Supply
    June: The Future of Nuclear Energy in Australia
    August: The Future of Cities in the Low Carbon Economy

    Pretty much what we’ve been talking about here. Maybe someone in Melbourne could go and post back here.


  121. New Pew Environment Group report: Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?: (China leads)

    My take:
    1) China aims for 30 GWe of wind power by 2020 – at 33% capacity factor, that is 9 GWe average power (before accounting for storage)

    2) China’s new announced nuclear target is 70 GWe by 2020 – at 90% capacity factor, that’s 63 GWe with no storage required

    3) So China will have 7 times more delivered nuclear energy than wind by 2020, and won’t need storage for it, and the Pew Group ignore this??


  122. “before accounting for storage”

    If we see the wind power as mainly for charging EV’s then storage is a non-issue. The average car sits still 22 hours a day. If plugged in at work, rest, and play then as the wind blows it can charge away! And with V2G standard in Better Place cars, the fleet can sell back to the grid as needed. The batteries for the Zone are already paid for in the Better Place plan.

    What storage problem?


  123. Whoooops! Ha ha ha!

    My family were all blabbing about my boy heading off to a kids club called the Zone, and I meant to write:

    “These batteries for the GRID are already paid for in the Better Place plan”.

    So anyway, it’s similar to the Blees complaint against European wind blowing when there is no demand. If the EV’s are plugged in 22 hours a day, most won’t really care *when* they’re charged. With more and more ‘smart’ devices like this, with flexible demand and supply (like industrial fridges that *store cold* when the juice is flowing for the periods when the energy is not as abundant), I can see the potential for more surprising synergies between various “Black Swans” down the track.

    Remember: I’m with you on having *some* nuclear power where reliable baseload power is absolutely required. However, I can see all sorts of other surprising solutions down the track.


  124. How many V2G cars will China have in 2020? And will the grid in the vicinity of the wind farm / end user be compatible with two way flow by then?

    Does the general population of China know or care about any of this?


  125. I don’t think anyone really cares about peak oil right now. Give it 5 years and we’ll hear more about peak oil than global warming as the world economy shrieks in pain.

    THEN they’ll care about EV’s, V2G, and all that.

    PS: I’ve been talking about what is possible with today’s technology, not what is.


  126. … beryllium oxide …

    As I recall, it’s too expensive and too toxic. Not quite as good a moderator as carbon, but incapable of burning, so it was once used in a nuclear ramjet motor — “Pluto” was the name, I think — that was tested on the ground, but never flown.

    Among untried transparent incombustible moderators, heavy boron oxide, (11-B)2O3, is the really interesting one. Boron. Is it ever not the answer?

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  127. Beryllia isn’t cheap, but it isn’t all that expensive. Beryllium is used as a high worth neutron reflector in many pool-type reactors.

    But I cannot comment on the link because, indeed it is 404 for me too.


  128. Sorry, the link to the beryllium oxide story doesn’t appear to work.

    I think it was bait to encourage investment in a small Canadian company that had a lot of beryllium and needed investment. As far as I understood the claims, the nuclear industry was falling over itself to obtain the material so that a mixed beryllium and uranium oxide fuel, allowing better heat dissipation, could replace uranium oxide. This would give one 25% more bangs for one’s buck and be worth millions.

    In the meantime, I have come across another story which might interest Peter Lang and Eclipsenow and relates to giant offshore wind turbines directly hooked up to CAES underwater storage bags. This cheaper than coal, green source of dependable energy will be brought to you courtesy of Nimrod Energy Ltd, a spin off company from the University of Nottingham.

    I hope this link works:


  129. Well, that is a *very* interesting story. They’re going to get BIGGER (and as a result catch more air, change the ‘capacity factor’ and make the overall price of electricity cheaper!) and come with cheap storage!

    Why, IF they pull this off it could be yet *another* Black Swan.


    ““I believe that the ethical/green investment market is effectively waiting for precisely this company to appear. We have already demonstrated that the energy storage system can work. We have not yet built a 230m diameter turbine, but we know what it looks like. A neat mechanical engineering concept called ‘structural capacity’ shows directly and quantitatively why these new machines will be far more cost effective,” added Professor Garvey.”


    “He believes it is possible to store energy at costs well below £10,000/MWh — less than 20 per cent of pumped hydro energy, the cheapest competing technology.”


  130. Oh yeah, and not all the wind power MUST be pumped into storage… the grid can handle a certain amount of flexibility already, and with a whole new fleet of EV’s on the way…. things get more and more flexible.

    The future for our grandchildren gets brighter and brighter… if we can just avoid the nasty little detail of peak oil wars in the meantime.


  131. Sorry, meant to attach this to the comment above:

    “If you have 1MW of integrated compressed air system (including large energy stores) for every 3MW of conventional generation, then the whole set of offshore wind equipment starts to look like a very versatile power generating system which can adjust its output to match demand — notwithstanding what the wind is doing.””


  132. as I understood the claims, the nuclear industry was falling over itself to obtain the material …

    There was a story a few years ago about … I was going to say experiments were done, but I’m not sure of that. It may be that only computer simulations were done, at MIT I think, of how good this extra thermal conductivity would be.

    If sufficient non-simulated trials had been done — this would take years — the nuclear industry might now be falling over itself to do slightly larger-scale trials in one commercial reactor. And anyway, BeO is an obtainable material now-a-days. USGS Be information.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  133. The problem of balance also applies to energy

    No it doesn’t. The idea that we need a variety of electrical power sources, and that there can be no energy silver bullet is nonsense.


  134. Ocean whitening with bubbles. Hmm. The proposer is suggesting generating 5 micron bubbles in the ocean to reflect light back to space. There’s not much detail, but there is a submitted paper that presumably addresses the question of required scale.

    My initial reaction was (i) those bubbles will dissolve pretty fast – they have a high internal pressure, and (ii) how do you pump the ocean full of bubbles – how do you achieve scale? 5 um bubbles have a very slow rise time, so loss by flotation probably doesn’t figure.

    Then I realized that if you blew the bubbles with helium, they’d last a very long time – helium is pretty insoluble in water, and helium bubbles actually scavenge dissolved air from water. In fact you’d only need to blow air with some helium mixed in to achieve that stability to dissolution.

    So far as scale goes, a helium enriched bubble sparger carried by commercial shipping would cost practically nothing and there’s a lot of boats out there. Gas tank, air pump, sparger. Simple.

    There is an idea out there about fleets of boats generating salt water aerosols for cloud whitening – Barry had a post on this a long time ago but I can’t find it. But it was one of the more plausible albedo modification schemes. This seems more feasible than that idea if the scale works out. All the caveats already stated about geoengineering in general and albedo modification schemes in particular still apply.

    So in the spirit of Mythbusters, I’m prepared to call this – Plausible.


  135. @ Barry: What, the underwater balloon compressed air storage is WA as well? I hadn’t taken that in. I thought I was reading a British website. The original link was from Douglas Wise.

    @ John Lennon says he doesn’t believe in overpopulation and that people believing in overpopulation is all a conspiracy!! Yeah, good one John, way to set the broader environmental discussion back a decade or so.


  136. Eclipsenow’s, undoubtedly well-intentioned goal is to replace fossil fuels with, well, just about anything but nuclear energy. What he seems not to realize that many of his ‘black swans’ imply a stunning and unprecedented re-engineering of the power grid and the energy inputs underpinning all economic activity. Real, productive people need real, industrial-sized power, and this just cannot be reliably supplied in the quantities necessary, but Rube Goldberg contraptions based on over-active imaginations.

    Any practical energy technology is not the result of revolutionary ideas, springing out of nowhere, regardless of how it looks to outsiders. It is a product of a long development cycle, with lots of dead ends, disappointment, and failures. This process is usually also very expensive.

    Look at wind in Denmark. They were not fools, they looked at what they had, and what they wanted to accomplish, and did their damnedest to engineer a system that could harvest the wind efficiently. But they failed. If, however, you were to look closely at the work they had done before hand, you would see that they used the best assumptions that they could, and used them properly. The point being here, that the best laid plans….

    We cannot afford to go chasing every idea out there on an ‘anything but nuclear’ quest, we just don’t have the time, and history shows that MOST of these will fail to meet expectations. We cannot afford to consider solutions that would require the wholesale overhauling of energy distribution networks. But most importantly we cannot afford to continue to believe that the West is still making the calls on what technology will be used for the rest of the world.

    We have a solution at hand. Maybe it is not a elegant as everyone would like, but it does work, and it can do the job – its the only practical choice.


  137. Eclipsenow’s, undoubtedly well-intentioned goal is to replace fossil fuels with, well, just about anything but nuclear energy.
    Totally incorrect. Ask almost anyone else here what my view is and I think they’ll sum it up as

    “OK with nuclear — if we *have to* — but still agnostic over which energy source will be the final winner due to the increasing developments in renewables across the globe.

    Any practical energy technology is not the result of revolutionary ideas, springing out of nowhere, regardless of how it looks to outsiders. It is a product of a long development cycle, with lots of dead ends, disappointment, and failures. This process is usually also very expensive.
    Agreed, except that…. many of the developments I’m talking about have had millions and millions of dollars invested in development and testing and are now in the deployment stage. Some are in existing industries that are now approaching tens of billions of dollars and decades of experience.

    EG: Wind meets all of your criteria above, with billions in deployment and decades of real world feedback.

    Instead of upwind blades they’re now playing with downwind blades that can be more flexible and durable and cheaper. They’re making them bigger. They’re making them connect to underwater pressure bags for compressed air. So many of the developments I’m talking about are “Black Swans” only in the sense that YOU probably couldn’t see them coming (or admit to even their possibility.

    And so they’ll surprise you as much as the first Europeans that discovered that enigma of the Black Swan here in Australia.

    So while there may be some ground in current criticisms of wind, when these synergies come together who knows what the final price of wind will be? Bigger, downwind blades + EV’s that are a constant demand market whenever the wind is blowing + ultra-cheap underwater compressed air storage + some other developments in materials I haven’t guessed at yet or some *other Black Swan* may just equal energy cheaper than the full cost of nuclear. We shall see. This is why I’m ‘agnostic’ over it.


  138. Minds are there to be changed Lawrence. EN has in fact shifted and developed in his ideas since first posting here. As have I.

    John, thanks for acknowledging this. DV8’s straw-man of my position only shows he doesn’t read.


  139. It would be nice if one of these ‘black swans’ didn’t start growing turkey feathers just after the downey stage.

    If this undersea compressed air energy storage business can be made to work, instead of wind turbines, why don’t we anchor a few nukes on barges out at sea and use them for peak load?


  140. Because I thought nukes were already meant to be the silver bullet and didn’t need any peak load adjustments. ;-)

    The real reason? Safety. If a wind turbine breaks, it sinks to the bottom and I guess someone has to rebuilt it. If a nuke sinks to the bottom, that coastline is poisoned. Oops.


  141. The real reason? Safety. If a wind turbine breaks, it sinks to the bottom and I guess someone has to rebuilt it. If a nuke sinks to the bottom, that coastline is poisoned. Oops.

    Everything should be OK so long as containment isn’t breached. The safety factor will depend on the design, of course. Kirk Sorenson is quite the enthusiast for submerged LFTRs as a high-dafety power source, and has looked at the technical issues involved.

    There have been a number of nuclear submarines wrecked by accidents and lying on the seabed. Their containment all held. Apparently the nuclear plants were among of the toughest components on board.


  142. Back then the waste was just dumped into the ocean.

    How could the containment hold forever?

    Lets built a floating LFTR. I can`t see how it could compete with wind though.

    Most people here fail to see that nuclear ain`t cheap.
    You just see what you want to see. SimCity style theoretical planing does not work in real life.
    There will always be some nuclear power but not anywhere near 25% of total electricity supply.
    Right now there is more hydro than nuclear.
    2.2% and 2.3% in primary energy.


  143. The reactors on the Thresher and Scorpion weren’t specifically designed to contain spent fuel at the bottom of the ocean, but they’ve done OK at it, and most high-level fission products would have decayed away by now. Plenty of cooling water for it too…

    Something like Kirk Sorensen’s submersible LFTRs would have safeguards. Check Energy from Thorium for details.


  144. Eclipse Now – You can say what you want about your position here, but your actions still are consistent with those that take the ‘anything but nuclear’ stand. Breathlessly holding up every press-release of some new, untested power technology, one can almost hear you chortling in anticipation of nuclear’s demise.

    You show your true colours dragging up the old nuclear bugaboo of a nuclear accident, with the standard underling assumption that these possibilities would not be anticipated by the builders and dealt with.

    “I’m not against nuclear, but…,” has become the little throwaway introit of a class of antinuclear commenters, used in the hope that they won’t be dismissed out of hand.


  145. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

    Another centralized power source prolongs sozio-economic errors.
    A small reactor (whats small anyways…) would not be democratic either. You need to oversee these things and the distribution somehow.
    Its also unproven technology. Who will license those? Its just trouble and not worth the financial risk.

    The nice thing for anybody antinuclear is that economics will knock out this bridge technology some day. They will run until decomissioned. But that also applies to coal fired plants. They are built now and they are here to stay for another 30-60 years.

    I am sure the new German Movie “The 4th Revolution” will be available in English some day.


  146. Dream on Heavyweather – The masses aren’t going to buy into your hairshirt socialism now than they did before.

    It simply doesn’t matter how often you repeat the idea that nuclear economics won’t work – it is just not so. The economics works out just fine in France, in Canada, and Japan. The current technology is well established and mature, and when artificial constraints are removed, are competitive in cost with CCS coal plants of similar size.

    But at the end of the day, the thing that will kill your ideas is simple human greed. No matter how much you preach self-sacrifice, and the joys of doing without, the majority will never follow. Not only that, but in the dawning post-Christian Age in the West, they won’t even pay lip-service any more.


  147. Heavyweather said:

    We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them

    Much too glib. Firstly, technology counts. Da VInci it is said, came up with the concept of a ‘helicopter’ but the technology to do what he had in mind simply didn’t exist. Combine the right approach with the right resources and much can be accomplished.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with using energy. Like everything else that is in finite supply, we should use it wisely. That kind of thinking makes sense, as does trying to make it more abundant. In the end, abundance frees humans from unnecessary labour and thus frees us all to be more err … free. It hands us the most precious and irreplaceable commodity of all — time.

    Your appeal to authenticity based on localism is the kind of thinking that is woolly. While some things ought to be dealt with locally, many others are best dealt with regionally, or nationally or even internationally. There’s nothing undemocratic about that.


  148. Large, centralised baseload power stations hooked to our standard power grid are a great democratic enabler for the masses, because they can provide electrical power to people virtually all the time and people can use it whenever they wish, and in whatever quantity. It is the decentralised ‘renewable’, ‘smart-grid’ models which restrict people’s options.


  149. Socialism is very different to social democratic systems.
    Do not confuse those.

    France? I am afraid you believe what you are talking.
    Lets all built EPRs and socialise costs.
    Lets create waste because it is the fuel of the future.

    You can wait for it to happen. We know it wont happen and that nuclear energy is just adding to the problem.
    Most people are sensible enough to recognize problems with nuclear..others try to talk anything away.
    Where do you see problems with nuclear? Its cheap. Its green, its available, to anybody, no problems with the technology…why are their still so little nukes?
    When will nuclear energy take over?
    No science fiction please.


  150. @DV8: The reality is you don’t SEE my actions because I’m actually posting all over the net about Gen3 reactors that can solve our nuclear waste problems and run the world for 500 years. I get *really* cranky with misinformation on all sides, both from the anti-nukes peddling the “waste for 100 thousand years” myths, and from the anti-renewables denying even the *possibility* that within a few years, they might prove to be an economic contender competing with nuclear.

    My blog summary page on nuclear reads:

    “This is one pathway to a Co2 free, radioactive waste free world for the next 500 years at least. This now seems to be a ’silver bullet’ for most of our energy needs. I will have to gradually alter the rest of my blog to reflect the fact that I now consider nuclear to be one more option we might have into the future, especially if the cost concerns can be dealt with. However, until I see Gen4 reactors coming off the production line I’m agnostic about the costs, which could ultimately be the Achilles heel.”

    You are using lazy straw-man character attacks, and are acting like the countless other internet Nazi’s I’ve met, screaming blue murder and betrayal over any perceived difference to your most precious opinion. WIth a god-like ego like yours shouting down anyone with honest questions, good luck with trying to win friends and influence people. I guess I can’t help the fact that you’re technically educated but socially retarded. Grow up.


  151. Eclipse Now – You are right, I only see what you post here, and if that isn’t your stand, I would suggest then that you should be more careful what you put up here.
    Your gibbering about ‘black swans,’ is typical of those that hope that something will come out of left field to bury nuclear energy. If there is a strawman here, it is one of your own construction.

    It is also typical for these to declare they are under character attack when it is their stand that is being criticized, as is the broad accusations of Nazis, and god-like egos, and immaturity when in fact it is clear that they have nothing left to say in defence of their ideas.

    But if you don’t want to be treated like an antinuclear shill, stop posting like one. And while you are at it, stop flinging insults around like a 16 year old poser in his parent’s basement. It doesn’t do anything for your image or your credibility.


  152. hope that something will come out of left field to bury nuclear energy

    Wrong again. It’s not a ‘hope’ that nuclear energy will be beaten, but merely acknowledging the reality that we just don’t know how much Gen4 reactors will cost at this stage, as experts have stated in papers Barry has happily posted here. I also see immense debate from the bean counters on the real costs of the current fleet of reactors, and have spoken with people in the industry. However, if I have any ‘feelings’ about nuclear power it is one of comfort that it is there, that it can now ‘burn’ the thousands of tons of radioactive waste down to 10% of the mass which can easily be stored for a mere 500 years until it is safe. I rave about these facts at parties, dinners, and even to anti-nuclear greenies I meet in my circles. Barry’s careful and relatively polite explanation of these basic facts for lay people have all been quite helpful.

    Yet I also acknowledge the reality that technology is accelerating on so many fronts that I doubt even the ability of even your vast ego to keep up with it all. If I have a ‘hope’, it is that the scientific peer review process will somehow beat the ideologues of all kinds, whether the Helen Caldicott anti-nuclear shills or the dishonest tactics of pro-nuclear shills such as yourself, and one day reveal the real costs of various baseload renewables systems and nuclear systems. Only then will governments be able to make an informed choice. But as things are shifting so fast, I see Blees making claims about wind power supply not meeting demand times, that in just a few years will be as irrelevant as Caldicott’s 100 thousand years of nuclear waste to protect and guard! (“Oh the humanity!”)

    Both are in error.


  153. Don’t be obstreperous. I wrote that you posted material that is typical of that POV, and indeed your parting shot about wind becoming dispatchable is just that.

    The belief that technology is being introduced very rapidly, while true, is often misinterpreted. The press (and the web) are quick to point out new discoveries, but fail to make their readers understand that the timeframe between the genesis of a new ides, and it showing up in a blister-pack at the neighbourhood store, is almost always very long. This is even more so in the case of large scale energy. The first fuel cells were made in the 1870s and they are still in beta in most cases, to give an example.

    I have spent over thirty-five years now involved with the other end of these ideas, the part where they are turned into products, and I know just how hard a road it is, and on top of this I also have an education in the sciences that allows me to look at these claims in a more focused way than most laymen. You are free to reject my education and experience if you like, and put it down to an inflated ego, but when the money wants an opinion on these matters it comes to someone like me, not some ranting little peckerwood from the net for a considered opinion.

    The fact is that by your own admission, you do not have the background to evaluate these matters in anything but a superficial way. To then assume that anyone should care what your opinions are is probably more a sign of an out of control ego, then when I extend mine. At least have some idea what I am writing about.


  154. Eclipse.
    DV has never written anything technical.
    He just repeats all assumptions on Gen4 paper reactors or believes that there are no problems with available nuclear.
    Hes probably around 15 and has made up some sick second life internet character going on boosting about nuclear fantasies.
    I wonder where all those reports of uneconomic nuclear power come from…all these peckerwoods from the big banks…how dare they write something on nuclear energy.
    Really strange that there is little money left for nuclear and that Gen4 is 20 years away and maybe never become competetive against renewables.

    You are wasting your time, you cant convert that guys. They will never let go.


  155. Eclipse.
    DV has never written anything technical.
    He just repeats all assumptions on Gen4 paper reactors or believes that there are no problems with available nuclear.
    Hes probably around 15 and has made up some sick second life internet character going on boosting about nuclear fantasies.

    May we henceforth take this comment to be an example of your ability to size up a situation?


  156. Heavyweather – Just to show how little you have been paying attention, I have on many occasions written on this very forum that I think it is Gen III reactors that we should be building and that Gen IV, while they should be researched, are not ready for commercial deployment, and won’t be for at least another twenty years.

    For pity sake, if you are going to attack me, get your facts straight.

    You have nothing but unsubstantiated claims that nuclear power is uneconomic, I have the evidence that CANDUs have been built, eight of them since 1990 on budget and on time. And guess what, those customers are booking more reactors from AECL These are facts, not suppositions.

    And as for being 15, I only wish I was that young again – I’m actually 57.


  157. One of my “peckerwood” insights into Blees critiques of wind is that when it blows in various European countries, there is no real demand.

    Please, DV8, will you all enlighten us as to how much money has been invested in Better Place by Deutsch Bank, and how many Better Place compatible EV’s will be coming off the Renault-Nissan lines, and when they are plugged in on average 22 hours a day, what that will do for Blees accusation that there is ‘no demand for wind when it blows’.

    See, when I see something as soon-to-be-irrelevant as that argument from Blees trotted out as an “accusation” against wind, I wince. If someone as smart as Blees can make a fundamental error like that, it’s just as bad as Caldicott going on about waste for 100 thousand years.

    And I don’t need a Phd in Engineering or Physics to detect this misinformation being spread in the name of ‘scientific debate’. As a layperson, I scratch my head in bewilderment at the fundamental errors being promoted by these so called “experts”.

    Caldicott doesn’t have all the answers, Diesendorf doesn’t have all the answers, Blees doesn’t have all the answers, and neither do you.


  158. Eclipse – how often do I have to repeat that I am basing my remarks on what you have written and posted here.

    So do I really grasp at every other development in energy in the desperate hope that nuclear power fails? Or is that a more subtle philosophical perspective working itself out in practice in a manner you just couldn’t tolerate, being the cranky old internet Nazi that you are?


  159. Or is that a more subtle philosophical perspective working itself out in practice in a manner you just couldn’t tolerate

    No. You’re just being a dick.

    I find your attitude and manner to be downright childish.


  160. Eclipse – See that’s the problem with knowing a little about something, you make assumptions based on too little understanding of the fundamentals.

    Electric energy is not the same as other energy commodities, the networks that transmit and distribute the power must be scheduled very tightly, the power conditioned, regulated, and switched and various compensations applied to account for inductive and capacitive loading and a number of other subtle but necessary adjustments have to be made to supply electricity in a way that it can be used.

    Just slapping windmills up all over the place an hooking them into the grid, like you were plugging in a light just doesn’t work. The infrastructure can’t take it, and probably never will unless it is compromised to the point where it will not be as reliable as it is now.

    This cannot be swept under the table by blather about smart grids, making the necessary change will take decades, and cost billions upon billions of dollars (euros, whatever.) This is just not a good investment, when we can supply all the energy that we need, even for EVs, using the existing network, with nuclear energy.

    You are just being too superficial in your analysis, and again you are so lacking in the fundamentals that you can’t even conceptualize the depth of your own ignorance.

    Unfortunately, you are not alone. Just about every well-meaning individual that holds forth on these issues suffers from the same lack of foundation. Worse those that are charged with keeping nuclear energy at bay for their fossil-fuel masters, know just what buttons to push to have you all chasing after the next rainbow.

    Any rate I tire of this, as it it becoming sterile, I have to work this week and I need my sleep. Till next time.


  161. (sighs)

    Wow, DV8’s rambling about the complexities of the energy grid really made that Blees blunder go away. No really. I mean, the observable fact that wind power is one of the largest growth areas in energy supply today must just vanish because managing electricity grids is complex. Thanks for pointing out this fundamental flaw in my thinking!

    (Smacks hand to forehead!) What a condescending and ultimately irrelevant argument that all was. It reminds me of an old army saying, “Bullshit baffles brains.” Your eloquent effusings about the complexities of the grid was just a dumb ass attempt at avoiding the question.

    It’s simple really.

    Did Mr Blees mislead the audience by whining about how wind mostly blows during times of low demand considering there’s a whole fleet of Better Place EVs about to come off the production line?

    From the wiki…

    The company has raised funding from various sources including, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Israel Corporation (33% ownership),[38] Israel Cleantech Ventures, Morgan Stanley, Acorns to Oaks II, Esarbee Investments Canada, GC Investments LLC, Musea Ventures, Ofer Group, Vyikra Partners, Wolfensohn & Co. and Maniv Energy Capital.[39][40]

    Better Place announced agreements with AGL Energy and financial advisor Macquarie Capital Group to raise $1 billion (Australian) and begin deploying an electric vehicle (EV) network powered by renewable energy. According to Better Place, their model for sustainable mobility will help Australia move toward oil independence. With the world’s seventh highest per capita rate of car ownership, the country has nearly 15 million cars on the road after adding over a million new cars last year.[41]

    In January 2010, as Israel Corporation completed its investment of $100 million in the company,[42] a consortium of investors signed a deal to invest a further US$350 million in Better Place, citing their confidence that “Better Place has the technical and commercial solutions to allow for the mass adoption of electric cars in the near term.” The consortium is led by HSBC, which invested $125 million, and includes Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Lazard Asset Management. The deal represents one of the largest financial investments of its kind by HSBC, which will gain a seat on the Better Place board of directors and approximately 10% of the company’s shares.[39]
    [edit] Partners

    In May 2008, the company presented a prototype of its electric car at a press conference in Tel Aviv. Shai Agassi estimated that the company’s partner, the Renault-Nissan alliance, would likely invest $500 million to $1 billion in developing the swappable-battery electric cars.[43]

    Better Place has also announced plans to develop electric recharge grids in the city of San Francisco[44] and the state of Hawaii.[45]

    Better Place will work with Australian finance group Macquarie, which pledged to fund the construction of plug-in stations, and Australian utility AGL Energy, which has committed to powering those stations with renewable electricity.[46]


  162. The reason I harp on about this is it is just one example of the experts not quite seeing the whole picture, not that I have it in for Blees or anything personal.

    I think I’d mostly be in agreement with Blees book, if I had the time to read it.

    Yes, we have to make energy policy based on the facts we have today. But I for one would not pull the plug on solar and wind and wave R&D simply out of spite because I’m a fan of nuclear. People on this list appear so frustrated with the technological incompetence of greenie cliches today that they’d be prepared to throw out some of the remarkable breakthroughs that seem on the horizon across areas of energy production, energy use, city design, home design, and transport systems.

    All of these factors impact on each other in a variety of ways that, in this case, an expert (Blees) cannot seem to keep up with.


  163. Eclipse Now, you really should pay attention to what DV82XL has just written, both his last comment, and his earlier one upthread. Read them again. You should resist the urge to react defensively.

    When I read his commentary it is clear that he has a deep systemic understanding of technology development cycle, the physical engineering and its connection to a saleable product, the influence of policy and politics on these developments, and a long view of the history of the the development of these technologies and systems. His arguments frequently connect across multiple strands of history, physics, engineering and politics. There are many internal consistency checks, if you go looking for them.

    In contrast, your various black swan sightings just aren’t buttressed by the same strong foundation. In fact, its painful watching you putting up these ideas, like watching Charlie Brown going to kick the ball that Lucy is going to whip away from him at the last moment, yet again. I wish you would exercise just a little more scepticism towards these press releases.

    No one is expected to be an expert in every field. But you should at least be able to recognize a sophistication in DV8s analysis that is lacking in yours. If he says something, there’s probably a good reason for it, and a childish reaction will probably backfire.

    Heavyweather, same goes for you, but in double measure.


  164. DV82XL, on 29 March 2010 at 11.17 Said:
    “… Gen IV, while they should be researched, are not ready for commercial deployment, and won’t be for at least another twenty years. ”

    Now that’s disappointing for me. I guess it would be disappointing for most of the IFR/LFTR proponents.

    George Stanford, in this post:

    “Well, I suppose at least we saved some of the taxpayers’ money.

    Wrong. Termination cost as much over the ensuing four years as finishing the research would have done, especially since the Japanese were all set to chip in $60 million.”

    If the research would have been finished in four years, why would it take 16 more years to make the IFR production ready?


  165. So there is no solution for waste problems available for another 25-40 years.
    The EPR is sayed to produce even nicer “future fuel”.

    Just looking at the situation from a waste management perspective, there are already multiple solutions developed, such as synrock and deep geological disposal, which could be carried out even if a commercial breeder cuycle is never implemented. In short, this is another non-issue the anti-nukes like to try to scare people with.


  166. Congratulations John and Peter,
    you’ve proved you’re a DV8 fan, but nothing more.

    Want to actually have a stab at the question I put to DV8 about wind supply missing the demand window? Blees delivered this point so smugly, absolutely ridiculing wind in a cheap throw away comment about how it almost never meets the demand window, and yet a whole fleet of EV’s is about to make that point totally moot.

    If a lay person such as my self can wince when an expert like Blees can make fundamental gaffs by ignoring critical societal trends, how can I trust any of your projections? It’s a matter of epistemology. You all come across as technically informed, but somehow having fundamental problems with basic comprehension.

    Is it too big a heresy to actually admit Blees came across as rather smug and ignorant on this point? Or is he some hallowed saint of the atom?

    Interesting how no-one here wants to actually answer the question.


  167. Eclipse Now:

    I don’t doubt for one moment that your concern over AGW is profound and that you are prepared to contemplate/ remain open minded about any solution that might contribute to a solution, including, of course, nuclear technology.

    However, you appear to have a reasonably optimistic nature and admit to not having had a scientific/research training. A potential curse of the latter is to inculcate cynicism and make one distrustful of claims of easy solutions, most of which won’t scale or will be too costly to implement. Like you, I have no technical knowledge of the technologies that might provide solutions, but I do have a research background in another sphere of science. After much reading, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that, if nuclear isn’t the silver bullet, nothing is.

    The corollary of this conclusion is that heavy expenditure on alternative solutions is likely to be deleterious and make civilisation’s survival less likely.

    Of course, I could be quite wrong and wouldn’t wish to see R&D on alternatives cease. However, you might argue that wind has got past its R&D phase and would offer a viable part solution were electric cars to take off. What you don’t explain is why such a solution would, with all its inconveniences and likely extra costs, be preferable to a nuclear one. I take it that you would still expect wind farms to be grid connected and accept that this would be costly as well as environmentally damaging. You might consider this to be a price worth paying were there to be no alternatives. However, you assert that you are not anti nuclear. Therefore, you presumably think that nuclear power will be more expensive than do most other commentators here or that wind will be cheaper than claimed. I suspect that , even were the demands of back up to overcome intermittency to be eliminated by the batteries of electric cars (which I think is almost certainly a naive proposition), wind farms plus additional grid connections would produce power more expensively and with fewer CO2 reduction benefits than would nuclear. Where, for example, do you think Peter Lang has gone so wrong?


  168. EN, its not a question of fandom, its a question of perceiving the difference between a sophisticated awareness of the engineering problem and a superficial one. The fact of this is not a personal slight against you, but the bluster you muster in reaction to DV8 does you no credit.

    I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about re Blees, but if he said wind rarely meets the demand window, he’s pretty much right. But he can defend himself as far as I’m concerned.

    As to heresy, you’re confusing a technical argument with an ecclesiastical one. If you hunted back through the comments you’d find me disagreeing with Tom on a good chunk of his book, for instance. We had a good discussion and no-one ex-communicated anyone.


  169. Eclipse Now, Said:

    “…and yet a whole fleet of EV’s is about to make that point totally moot”

    Well that of course is the premise I was attacking when I wrote up thread about the difficulties of modifying the grid. It is all very well to claim a solution, it is another thing altogether to put it in practice.

    Wind cannot be dispatched like gas, where it is a relatively simple matter to push supply into one end of the pipe to have it available at the other. This is the crux of the matter and the reason for the low utility of all intermittent renewable energy sources, and the problems of transmission and distribution are not solved by V2G schemes.

    And this is not an epistemological issue by any means.


  170. @ DV8

    “…Wind cannot be dispatched like gas…
    The Trec-solar maps have HVDC transmission running all the way from Africa up to Europe with only about 3% loss over each 1000km. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Yes this adds to cost, but what is the *true* cost of nuclear power? Why is France, the king of nuclear, building 25 gigawatts of new wind power instead of nuclear? (They only have one nuke under construction right now).

    Ariva building the EPR in Finland was supposed to be a cheap poster-boy, but it’s gone from 4.1 billion to 7.2 billion and is 3 years over schedule, and has basically stopped through legal action over who is going to bear the costs!

    Ontario just cancelled 2 new reactors because they had “sticker shock”… couldn’t believe the price of them! Florida had a reactor that tripled it’s cost estimates.

    According to the links I supplied above regarding the underwater Compressed Air Storage, yes it can, economically as well, especially with bigger and better turbines. If that’s the crux of the matter it could be about to ‘go away’.

    Read the link again.

    So, for illustration purposes only, maybe a third of the power in some future hypothetical nation comes from geothermal & solar thermal combinations, maybe a third comes DIRECTLY from wind *whenever* it blows to charge our cars directly, and maybe a third comes from this new generation of super-giant turbines feeding into the undersea CAS bags that moderate wind’s power supply.

    @ Doug Wise,
    I’m fairly close to your position with the basic difference in that I’m prepared to admit the possibility of curve balls from left field throwing out all our projections.

    Maybe nuclear seems to be the silver bullet now, but the way technologies are moving out there I’m optimistic that a variety of possible solutions could present themselves by the time governments became really serious about weaning off the coal.

    And for now, let’s ignore technological development and revisit another societal ‘technology’, that of how we build our cities, and the enormous impact this has on the competitiveness of our economies.

    EG: 1: Just this morning Fran Kelly was interviewing New Urbanist Jeb Brugmann, author of “Welcome to the Urban Revolution”.

    Well worth downloading and listening to!

    He was discussing a field of New Urbanist argument that I am not that familiar with, and that is the economic subsidies governments have to plug into suburbia to make it viable to the residents. In other words, suburbia costs more to maintain and run. Suburbia requires enormous government subsidies in the form of housing grants that would not be required with abundant cheap housing from New Urbanism. He argued that suburbia also requires factors more government investment in infrastructure.

    From other sources I know that 1 million people living in suburbia requires 400 square miles of development, but New Urbanism only requires 40 square miles. That’s a factor of 10 times the roads, public transport, electrical wiring, plumbing, gutters, water management, sewerage management, and sheer distance to move the population across!

    So Jeb’s argument is that if we don’t provide viable, attractive higher density accommodation in our cities, we will simply become far less competitive as a nation. There are some serious government fiscal consequences for rolling out suburbia across our land.

    The relevance to our energy discussion? What implications does a societal roll out of New Urbanism or “Ecocities” have on energy demand have on energy systems and demand?

    This quote is from Richard Register (the American version of our own Dr Paul Downton).
    “EcoCity Builders is advocating transformation of cities for radically lower energy use. We plan energy demand so low that transition strategies to environmentally benign renewable sources like solar and wind become not just practical but ample.”

    No one goes without. This is not about asking people to become saints and give up their quality of life. This is about giving people a modern, comfortable, trendy life in a city plan that is ‘more European than European’, and as Jeb argues above, various forms of density and New Urbanism are now an urgent matter of government fiscal management, not just town planning!

    So the “Black Swan” here is that even if Nuclear Power is the most efficient way to generate electricity, society might save so much money in other areas like city planning that populations that remain fearful of Nuclear power (for whatever antiquated reasons) may simply not *have* to go down that route to remain viable modern cities with a high quality of life.


  171. Ooops, posted too soon when editing large post.

    @ DV8… I didn’t add the heading’
    Wind could be becoming baseload and fairly easily despatched

    “According to the links I supplied above regarding the underwater Compressed Air Storage, yes it can, economically as well, especially with bigger and better turbines. If that’s the crux of the matter it could be about to ‘go away’.”


  172. Whatever you say man, I’m fed up with arguing with you. Not having a technical or engineering background, plainly puts you head and shoulders over someone like me. It obviously gives you a far deeper insight into these things than I could ever hope to have, despite my years in industry. I stand in awe of your superior grasp of these concepts.


  173. Go ahead, attack me I’m an *easy target*, I’ve admitted that myself. I’m just honestly asking some questions right now about why, if wind is so impossible to integrate into the grid, France (that great poster child of nuclear power) seems to be voting with their budget… 25 gigs from wind?

    And why the Finland EPR nearly doubled their cost estimates and has ended up in court?


  174. @ Barry,
    when Mark Diesendorf attacked *you* in the debate for not being an expert on renewable energy systems, you asked him to respond to the arguments, not your qualifications.

    DV8 seems to be saying “Wind is too hard, trust my credentials” when all I can see with my own EYES is hundreds of gigawatts of wind power being built around the globe. If wind is SO impossible to integrate, why is so much of it being built, especially in France where they seem to *just know* nuclear is better?

    The arguments I put above where from NPR Science Friday, and confused me because I thought you were all so certain about the low cost of nuclear.

    EG: Richard Lester is a professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.

    Dr Lester says:

    Dr. LESTER: Yes. Well, let me just say that Lester Brown is right about the cost issue. The – unless we can bring down the costs, unless we reduce the financial risks, and unless we can reduce the cycle times for designing and building nuclear reactors, it’s going to be quite unlikely that we’re going to have our companies – private companies willing to go forward with these things. And that’s why the smaller reactor concepts are really quite interesting because they achieve all of those things. It’s much less of an outlay for a company. It’s something that can probably be built much quicker, because in large part these plants will be built in a factory environment.

    Lester Brown had just claimed wind was half the price of nuclear power!

    Even John Deal, CEO of Hyperion, says:

    Mr. DEAL: Well, our cost per kilowatt capacity is about two to 4,000 per kilowatt, and that equates just under ten cents a kilowatt hour. You know, I completely agree with Lester Brown that the complexity of any large plant is going to drive costs up, and I think that’s where, you know, where the real challenge is, is how do you manage such a very large, very complex, you know, undertaking, whether it’s coal or nuclear or wind or solar? Nobody has been able to put any real data out that says that something that only works 30 percent of the time, in the case of wind, is actually going to make a difference in terms of our base loads.


  175. Here’s a thought experiment; what would it take to supply 360 MW continuous power to the Pt Henry Vic aluminium smelter, using just wind and solar? Excerpt from the Wikipedia entry
    The current power demand of the smelter is 360 MW for a 185,000 tonne annual production capacity, of which approximately 40 per cent is met by the Anglesea power station. The Point Henry smelter, along with the smelter at Portland, use 18 to 25 per cent of Victoria’s electricity production. In March 2010 it was announced that the operators of Loy Yang B power station (Loy Yang Power) had signed a contract with the smelter operators for the supply of electricity to power aluminium smelters at Portland and Point Henry until 2036, the existing power contracts expire in 2014.

    The current price paid for electricity is a commercial secret but is believed to be under 5c per kwh. A follow up question is; what price would they pay for electricity supply from a combination of wind, solar and gas? Note the smelter’s current captive brown coal station (Anglesea) can’t keep up so they need additional Latrobe Valley brown power. In theory ETS carbon penalties are supposed to apply from July 2010. I’m not sure whether Al smelting gets some free permits under the electricity clause or the trade exposed industry clause.

    That’s one for the renewables enthusiasts.. running an aluminium smelter 24/7 on wind and solar.


  176. Oh, and that *really* made 25gigs of wind in France just blow away. ;-)

    It healed the rift between Finland and Ariva as well. “Oh, it’s all just propaganda!” they said, as they left the courtroom.


  177. Lawrence – This is an example why it will take that long:

    The U.S. Department of Defense began the Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental (JVX) aircraft program in 1947 based on a clear need for a high speed, heavy lift military VTOL.

    Despite the fact that the experimental Bell XV-3 flew in 1953, and the Bell XV-15 flew in 1977, both tiltwings, both successful proof of concepts, the V-22 Osprey did not enter operational service until 2007.

    You have to understand (and this goes for you too eclipse) that it is a long hard grind between an idea, and a proof of concept, and even more blood, sweat and tears, before a commercial product can ship. There is just no way to avoid it as these technologies become more and more complex.

    GenII/III NPP will be built first because the are an off the shelf product that has proven to provide good service. They will be built because there are already companies that can build them. They will be built because unities are not going to take multi-billion dollar chances on some new tech. And this is why there are 40+ projects underway to build these types over the next decade.

    GenIV will come – in the fullness of time – but not now. You cannot push the river.


  178. EN, no one is attacking you based on credentials. I’ve taken pains to say that explicitly above.

    DV8 is not saying “Wind is too hard, trust my credentials”, he’s saying “Wind is too hard, here’s why”, if you read his posts.

    You are an easy target, but you don’t have to be. Just exercise a bit more scepticism towards sources that incline to inflate their claims for reasons of commercial interest, idealism or journalistic excitement.

    Read a bit more carefully. From your quote, Richard Lester is not agreeing that wind is half the price of nuclear – he’s agreeing that costs is important. Thats all. Its a polite way to disagree with someone without turning a discussion into a shouting match. He then goes on to describe ways nuclear is addressing the cost issue.

    John Deal also does the same thing. He’s agreeing with Lester, but only on the “cost is important” point. He then goes on to give his costs, and further makes the point that wind doesn’t make any difference to serving the base load.

    Your enthusiasm is a great quality, and it would be even better if it was tempered by a bit more critical thinking and reflection before posting.


  179. I’m sure Dr Richard Lester and John Deal, CEO of Hyperion both appreciate that.

    They would at least understand what I meant by it.

    It seems that you have long abandoned any interest in the actual issues under consideration and opted to get cheap thrills by continually posting snarky little comments to piss off your betters.


  180. We’ve said it all before eclipsenow, we answered your objections in a way we see as appropriate — you just don’t want to listen. In proceeding no further, I’m not deferring to authority, I’m simply deferring to past writings. I personally haven’t got enough time to constantly repeat myself. This is why I gave up on Steve Gloor/Ender. It was pointless, circular time wasting.


  181. I thought this interesting:

    In Korea, the gap would be even wider, with nuclear costing $US29.05 a megawatt hour and coal $US65.80. The study attributes this to Korea’s low construction costs and its experience in building nuclear stations.

    At that price, new nuclear would be cheaper than existing coal fired electricity in Australia.

    If the figures are correct, it is an indication of what could be achieved if we wanted to remove some of the impediments.

    Of course, if the world wanted to get serious and reduce many of the impediments that apply internationally to nuclear (through IAEA regulations), I expect the cost of nuclear could be reduced to well below this figure.

    What we need to do it to work out the priorities. Which is the higher priortiy:

    1. low cost clean electricity (with all the benefits that brings)?
    2. continue with the anti-nuclear beliefs that got us to where we are now?

    From my perspective, I’d support building Gen II nuclear power plants in Australia until Gen III’s become cheaper.

    The CANDU6, at 600 MW would fit well into the Australian grid. I expect there are other Gen II’s that would fit well too.

    DV82XL, you mentioned in an earlier post that you had a list of the recent CANDU builds and some other recent information on them. I’d love to see whatever informationyou feel like posting here.


  182. DV82XL, on 29 March 2010 at 11.17 Said:

    You have nothing but unsubstantiated claims that nuclear power is uneconomic, I have the evidence that CANDUs have been built, eight of them since 1990 on budget and on time. And guess what, those customers are booking more reactors from AECL These are facts, not suppositions.

    DV82XL, I can’t find it now, but I think you said on an earlier post that you’d be happy to post some more information on these CANDU implentations if anyone is interested. I am very interested.

    Also, if you have anything on the actual costs of electricity (sent out from the power stations), that would be very interesting too.

    I am coming to the conclusion that we do not need to go to Gen III until they are cheaper than Gen II. Gen II is already 10 to 100 times safer than coal fired power and far more environmentally benign. So why would we want to go to Gen III until it is cheaper than Gen II?

    If we want to make progress, I believe we have to get realistic about the economics. If we try to raise the cost of electricity there will always be a battle. I, for one, and probably representative of many, would always wonder why we are raising the cost of electricity when we have an alternative, which is being blocked because of ideological beliefs.

    The benefits of low-cost electricity are so enormous, that I just cannot see why we should advocate artificially raising the cost of electrcity while there is a proven alternative.


  183. Peter, the logic is fine, in principle, but I’m not convinced a Gen II unit like a 600 MWe CANDU is really any cheaper than a Gen III+ unit like an AP-1000, given the lag in construction of any Gen II units in the West (i.e. they’re effectively back to FOAK costs in terms of tooling up in Canada, US, Europe etc.).

    The most recent CANDU build I’m aware of is a Chinese unit in the early 2000s.


  184. Barry,

    If you are correct, then I agree. I don’t have the figures. I am hoping DV82XL may have som figures.

    If the costs are close, then obviously we would go for the Gen III. In the solicitation and procurment process we would determine what would be the least cost option to get right through the FAOK stage. If it is cheaper, overall, to go Gen III from the start, then let’s do so. If it is cheaper (overall) to go Gen II then later change to Gen III when they are the cheaper option, then lets do that.

    My point is, to get started we should work out what will get us started earliest, and what will be the least cost in NPV terms over the long term. (hope this makes sense).

    We spend too much effort looking at how we can raise the price of coal, and not enough effort working out how to bring low-cost clean electricity to Australia.


  185. Did someone in another thread somewhere tell me some French Gen3 reactors are breeders able to burn depleted uranium waste?

    (I forgot to bookmark that detail and look it up later, and the wiki seems silent on the subject of fuel types and processes for Gen3).

    Also, what are the documented costs for such reactors?

    Lastly, if Gen3 can reprocess fuel, and if this is becoming fairly standard in France (from memory, someone told me about a third of French reactors could do this), why did that Science Friday ‘propaganda piece’ not mention using old waste as fuel for future reactors? They focussed on storing waste deep underground and did not go into the quite exciting fact that all that depleted uranium waste is actually fuel.


  186. As far as I know, and thats not very far, France is currently running all light water reactors which would be classed as Gen II, I think, which would not be able to burn DU. They used to have two liquid metal fast breeder reactors, Phenix and Superphenix, but they closed many years ago and had a chequered history. So I think your friend was misinformed.

    France does however reprocess its spent fuel, so that may be what they were thinking of.

    Gen III in general can’t reprocess fuel, by which I think you mean use spent fuel from other reactors. However, the CANDU reactors can, and they come in Gen II and Gen III flavours.

    I don’t know about the Science Friday piece, but I don’t think the nuclear waste = fuel point is very widely appreciated.


  187. I don’t know about the Science Friday piece, but I don’t think the nuclear waste = fuel point is very widely appreciated.

    That, to me as a “depletionist” concerned about various limits to growth, is one of the single most important points in the whole debate. That old ‘spent’ fuel rods can become fuel, can be burnt down to a tenth of the mass, and then only have to be stored for 300 years basically takes care of most of my former nuclear concerns…. peak uranium and storing waste for 100 thousand years.


  188. @Peter & Barry

    The following table gives the record of recent CANDU 6 projects undertaken by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, you will note that in places there aren’t too many layers thing can get done on time and on budget. These are all CANDU 6 units, and the last one went critical in 2007.

    1996 Cernavoda-1 Romania On budget, on schedule
    1997 Wolsong-2 South Korea On budget, on schedule
    1998 Wolsong-3 South Korea On budget, on schedule
    1999 Wolsong-4 South Korea On budget, on schedule
    2002 Qinshan-4 China On budget, 6 weeks ahead of schedule
    2003 Qinshan-5 China On budget, 4 months ahead of schedule
    2007 Cernavoda-2 Romania On budget, on schedule

    AECL has also booked two more reactors for China, and at least one mor for Romania of the Enhanced CANDU 6 type.

    @eclipsenow CANDUs do not burn DU as a rule, some DU fuel bundles are used for flux leveling on occasion, particularly when a unit first goes critical. However in normal operation CANDU reactors convert U238 into Pu and then burns it in situ. That’s one of the advantages of a reactor that is very stingy with neutrons, some internal breeding happens.

    @John D Morgan – CANDU can burn natural uranium, enriched uranium, MOX, spent fuel directly from LWRs, and thorium without modification. All of these fuels are in use or have been tested extensively.


  189. So does a CANDU reactor get the best burn out of the fuel? Is part of the push for Gen4 reactors about getting more bang for your uranium buck (fuel efficiency) or is it about cost-saving through the modular construction (plant design gains)?


  190. DV82XL,

    Thank you for this info. Do you happen to have any figures on what the budget and schedule was for these CANDU 6 power stations? Ot even better, point to a link where they are listed.

    Just for interest, recently (when I looked about a year ago) the fleet of four Wolsung reactors had the best life time capacity factor of any in the world.

    I can’t find that link, but I notice that Korea’s 20 NPP’s (all types, not just CANDUs) have the third highest lifetime capacity factor in the world (after Finland and Romania).


  191. @eclipsenow – CANDUs get superior fuel-burn because first they have a very high neutron economy, and second because the fuel bundles can be shifted around while the reactor is at full power. This last feature in particular allows the operators to shift fuel from low flux areas on the perimeter, into the center high flux areas. Think of it as similar to shifting log on a fire to get a better burn.

    Each series of CANDUs are also standardized in design so while not modular per se, they all use a common parts pool, and all types use the standard CANFLEX fuel bundles.

    @Peter Lang – See

    The Qinshan contract was for $3 billion (CDN) for both reactors, but also contains a service and supply agreement.

    AECL quotes $900 million (CDN) for a CANDU 6 reactor with containment building and auxiliary equipment.


  192. “Think of it as similar to shifting log on a fire to get a better burn.” This is exactly the kind of analogy that I think we should all be looking out for when describing nuclear techno-babble as it will really help Barry’s podcast.

    Each series of CANDUs are also standardized in design so while not modular per se, they all use a common parts pool, and all types use the standard CANFLEX fuel bundles.

    So are you saying that if the world decided to go CANDU the designs are standarized and components can be easily production-lined and brought to site for quick and cheaper assembly?


  193. eclipsenow, Said:

    “So are you saying that if the world decided to go CANDU the designs are standardized and components can be easily production-lined and brought to site for quick and cheaper assembly?”

    It’s not quite like that, but closer to it than the bespoke style that most reactors were built under.


  194. Eclipsenow, you’re being a troglodyte. Answer my question.
    SIR YES SIR! May I apologise for my tardiness SIR!
    ….Far out, chill dude.

    I haven’t read every single post in this thread as it was drifting across a number of topics. One of the advantages of forums over just commenting on a blog is one can have more on topic moderation in a particular forum. Rather than just “Open thread 3” you’d have an open forum, and if very specific and particular questions are asked about a particular reactor project / type / cost, then that can be quickly addressed, and not get in the way of other longer debates about particular wind issues, etc.

    If you have a particular comment post you wish to draw my attention to, then click on the date & time function and insert it below.


  195. DV82XL,

    Thank you for the figures. I wonder if “auxillaries” includes everything required for the generating station. If so, the C$900 per 700 MW power station works out to be C$1300/kW. The $3 billion for two CANDU 6 units works out to about C$2130/kW. Quite a difference. I’d like to know the figure that could be compared with the roughly US$3700/kW for the four AP1000’s Korea recently contracted to build in UAE.

    Either way, if the figures are correct, CANDU would seem to be worth considering.


  196. Eclipsenow, I meant which other of the 438 (not counting the Humour category) posts on this blog (and the subsequent comments) have you read, not which of the comments on this post have you read.

    I don’t really have much to add to any of the actual discussion going on here (as I know I’m just a layperson with a current interest in the topic of this blog) but it has become evident that neither do you.

    You remind me of me up until about 5 years ago when I started to realise all of the (what seemed like) good ideas I had had already been done to death by people of far greater professional, academic, dialectic and life experience.

    I realise this is ad hominem, but I feel it’s quiet fitting as per the definition: (of an argument or reaction) arising from or appealing to the emotions and not reason or logic.

    You lack reason or logic. You lack any expertise on what you are talking about. Your enthusiasm scares me. The thing that worries me most about people like you is that you’re allowed to vote.

    Reading your comments has been entertaining, I grant you that, but not at all informative.

    Thanks for reading, I just had to get that out.


  197. Pardon my obtuseness, but which of the IFR features Barry talks about also apply to CANDU? There are so many types of nuclear fuel & waste product that I’m having trouble picturing, in laymans’ terms, whether CANDU can do roughly the same job as IFR’s.

    (Below is my layman’s list of the benefits of IFR’s, added to my summary pages after listening to Barry’s podcasts).

    * IFR’s eat today’s nuclear waste, and are the only way to economically solve the previous generation’s nuclear waste!
    * Instead of old waste being an expensive problem to dispose of, it becomes a fuel that could run the world for the next 500 years! Just the American waste alone would then be worth $30 trillion dollars!
    * Nuclear waste from older reactors has to be stored for 100 thousand years, but after ‘burning’ in an IFR it is reduced to 10% of the mass and then only has to be stored for 300 years because it is so radioactive that it quickly burns itself out.
    * 500 years of cheap baseload power is attractive in a world of peak oil, gas, and coal, and who knows what other energy alternatives we may have discovered and developed by then?
    * If we started building IFR’s today, by the time we ran out of ‘normal waste’ to reprocess, the first few generations of IFR ’super-hot’ waste would have burnt themselves out and could be decommissioned from high security storage and be safe! That’s the nuclear waste problem solved!


  198. Wow, thanks Adam, that’s great. So what am I to do as a concerned citizen who is very upset at the world’s lack of preparation for peak oil and climate change… just sit back and give up because the experts all disagree over what should be done? Have a few beers, and just shrug my shoulders at parties and say, “They all disagree, who can tell?”

    I’m not asserting myself as an expert on any of this, but am merely watching *these* experts disagreeing with *those* experts, and pointing out when I see an expert stuff up with other information I’ve taken on board from other sources. (EG: Fleets of electric cars that will be able to suck on the juice any time the wind is blowing, and New Urbanism that could change a society’s demand profiles for energy and economic prosperity to afford renewables, assuming they are more expensive in the first place.)

    I’m just trying to make sense of contradicting experts… many of whom I respect at some points, but am concerned about at others. I’m not a scientist, and don’t have plans of studying several degrees to try and tell who’s pulling our legs.

    But when DV8 seems to just right off wind altogether with technobabble that it’s complex to integrate into the grid, well, what do you make of that? What about the phenomenal growth that has *already* occurred and that is projected to occur? What do *you* do with claims like that in the face of France building another 27 gigs of wind? Are we really to believe that none of the world’s utilities have thought of this?

    Check this graph mate… does the following graph indicate a world where energy utilities have all agreed with DV8 and just given up because wind is too hard to indicate? Money talks. Just from the graph it looks like we had about 2 gigs of wind in 1998, 200 gigs now, and 400 gigs by 2014.

    Don’t the utilities know wind is difficult to integrate? ;-)

    This only came up because I mentioned Blee’s conveniently forgetting that wind power will be a perfect fit for the fleet of EV’s ready to charge at almost any time of the day. DV8 just plain IGNORED this inconvenient truth and so went on the rampage against the integration of wind power.

    Reminds me of the War the Worlds rock album.

    “The chances of anything coming from *wind*, are a million to 1 he said….. And still they come……”.


  199. DV82XL
    Got any ideas how to convince the NZ Govt to replace Huntly with a CANDU-6 (or two)?
    “A 2006 government report outlining future anti-climate change and energy policies was seen by the operator as a sign that the plant might have to be closed by 2015 under these plans, with around 10 years of design life still remaining. It was also noted that, apart from being difficult to replace as a source of power (due to New Zealand’s annually growing generation demand, especially around Auckland), such a decision would also be uneconomical for the foreseeable future, even if coal prices were to rise.[8]” (The cite is a newspaper article).
    I’m with Peter Lang (and I think I’ve said this before) – CANDUs for everyone.


  200. The same article cited has this:
    “Climate change itself might pose a risk to hydro generation. Genesis cites advice from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research warning of an overall reduction of inflows into the South island hydro lakes, and increased dry-year risk, in the coming two or three decades.”
    The north of NZ is currently experiencing a 100 year drought. So is Venezuela. So, I gather, is China. Nuclear power would not rely on water (so much) and could be configured (I believe) to use some of the generated heat for desalination.


  201. Of course, the political situation in NZ has changed – the govt is now centre-right not centre-left, when the quoted govt report (2006) was done. Not sure how that changes things. And I know NZ is anti-nuke. Which is obviously crazy, now that I know a little about nuclear power. All those dams in the South Island that drowned towns, something like the way the St Lawrence river shipping channel development drowned the towns there. Well, ok, it’s different, but then if they had not made the Seaway, maybe there would not be zebra mussels either. And there’d by lots more rail, and less money in Paul Martin’s pockets.
    Uh oh, I’m rambling.


  202. @ Peter Lang – Peter I think I mentioned that the Qinshan contract was for more than just the reactors, there were other service and supply considerations that were folded into the price. Just how this was broken down are details I am not privy to. At any rate it would be for the Chinese to release the particulars, not AECL.

    The “sticker price” of $900 million is the number that is being thrown around for a CANDU 6 basic, the enhanced CANDU 6 is more, as is the CANDU 9. The ACR1000 very expensive, and I don’t think it has much of a future myself. As well there is the The 450 MWe CANDU-3 but I think the Indians are going to eat our lunch on small heavy water reactors.

    @ Lawrence – I’m afraid I can’t be of much help


  203. DV82XL
    Can you say how much local suppliers would/could be involved in an overseas installation. The Pt Lepreau story shows the perils, but if those perils are avoided, how much can locals contribute to the cost of a CANDU installation?
    I am asking you to speculate of course – NZ would not be like China or India.


  204. DV82XL, Yes, I did get that the “Qinshan contract was for more than just the reactors”.

    But I am still not clear what you mean when you say “The “sticker price” of $900 million is the number that is being thrown around for a CANDU 6 basic”. Does this price include all the facilities for the complete power station – such as turbines, gnerators, transformers, and everything else? The reason I ask is that sometimes these are not included.


  205. The Allegheny Treasures website links to a paper by de Groot and le Pair. That paper confirms that in Germany generators of controllable power are obliged to throttle back when the wind is blowing. Even if that obligation is not as rigorous in other countries I’d argue that the effect of multiple layers of subsidy is the same. That is add together any feed-in tariffs, renewables quotas subject to penalty and RECs that can be sold as offsets. That combination makes it nearly impossible to say no to available windpower whether it is useful or not.

    A more correct approach consistent with what I recall of Econ 101 would be for wind generators to bid for short term input the grid, say 10 minutes at a time. The price they quote should cover their expected average costs including a return to shareholders. I suspect that price would be uncompetitive for many sites. That is without FiT, MRET or REC there would be very little wind power.


  206. I am wondering why there isn’t more interest by the BNC contributors in the CANDU 6.

    We know it is safe. CANDU’s have been operating for 40 years and they are operating in may countries.

    If the capital cost really is less than $2000/kW (after FOAK), then the cost of electricity would be less than from coal generators in Australia. And we could certainly reduce the costs a lot further, over time, if we wanted to progressively remove the distorting impediments that apply to nuclear power stations in the west.

    So why isn’t there more interest in trying to get nuclear here at least cost, rather than trying to force governments to raise the cost of electricity?


  207. The CANDU certainly sounds interesting Peter. I recall someone here recently made the point the CANDU is well suited to starting up nuclear power in a country, partly because its fuel flexibility means the fuel cycle is less constrained, ie run on natural uranium without the need for enrichment facilities or contracts, or thorium. Hot refueling for enhanced availability and no need for a large steel forging for a pressure vessel give it particular advantages. I’d be interested in seeing how it stacks up in a comparison to the AP1000 for suitability for a first Australian nuclear deployment.


  208. John D Morgan,

    I agree. And the proposed “modern equivalent of the Snowy Mountains Authority” would investigate would investigate that. They would consider the options and the cost / benefit of the various option over the long term. Is it cheaper to start with Gen III now, or run with Gen II until Gen III is cheaper? Taking all issues into consideration what is the best alternative?

    But importantly, let’s get started at looking at the options. Let’s change the focus away from ETS and CPRS and Carbon Tax or any other government intervention to raise the cost of electricity. Instead, let’s focus on what needs to be done to bring low-cost clean electricity to Australia as quickly as possible.

    Let’s focus directly on getting the solution.


  209. Eclipsenow:

    You keep asking how it is that people here say wind isn’t necessarily a great solution when many nations are committing so much money to building wind farms. I think there is a single proximate reason, which is subsidy. You might then go on to ask why governments are stupid enough to offer subsidies on investments that aren’t worthwhile. I think that the answer is that it is only recently becoming apparent that , having factored in extra grid connection costs and the costs of reduced efficiency when using gas as backup, wind energy is much more expensive and has much less CO2 reduction benefit than previously thought. You might then argue that the gas back up argument will be rendered irrelevant with the arrival of electric cars but I think you’d be quite wrong. Use of nuclear power would provide a cheaper and better match as far as electric vehicle charging is concerned.

    Why, with greater understanding, haven’t governments already shied away from wind? As far as the EU is concerned, I understand that there is legislation that demands each member state provides a certain and growing percentage of its energy from renewables. In northern Europe, solar is a non starter and that leaves wind. I don’t know, but this might explain France’s wind investment. It certainly explains that of the UK. It is hard to reverse legislation of this sort – egg on face, armies of enforcing/administering bureaucrats with vested interests etc. The only way to meet these commitments is through the generous provision of subsidy (robbing taxpayers to provide investment opportunities to those who can afford to take them).

    EN, you’re an ethical sort of guy. What would you do in my position? Is it immoral for me to buy a turbine despite the encouragement of my government ? I ask because the salesman’s coming to see me this afternoon. I can buy the gadget for an all in cost of £60000. I can produce about 30000kWh/annum of electricity which I can mostly use myself. What I can’t can be sold to the grid. This would provide me a saving approaching £3000/annum. Obviously, a non starter. However, I’d also be paid an extra 27p/kWh I produced, worth about £8000/annum. This would be annually for 20 years, index linked and tax free. Since my government has also decided to up my top rate of tax to 50% (not counting the 10% National Insurance which they don’t consider), I’m wondering whether self interest will win out over ethics. It’s such a pity that I can’t persuade myself that investment in the project would be a public good and a proper indication that I take AGW very seriously. What would you do in my position?


  210. Peter Lang:

    I continue to search for a use for stranded wind.

    I think I might have dreamed one up. Care to comment? The plan would be to use the energy to grind up calcium and magnesium silicates and spread them on the beaches of the wet tropics where nuclear power might not be available. This could be classed as a mitigation, air capture strategy through accelerated weathering and might prove a necessary adjunct to phasing out fossil fuel use.

    I ask because you did say that stranded wind could be used in mills – though I think you were thinking of water lifting and later admitted to being flippant.


  211. Douglas Wise,

    My comment is, someone needs to do the full cost benefit analysis properly.

    Personally, I reckon there is no chance of it being viable. The energy involved in mining, transporting, grinding and spreading would be enormous. (I haven’t done any calcualtions).

    Yes, I was being flippant. I was reffering to wind mills being useful for pumping water for stock where there is no electricity.

    I do exaggerate a bit from time to time. I agree there is a role for solar PV and wind. But it is where they are economic without subsides and without being mandated.


  212. Douglas Wise,

    I have a question for you.

    Why are contribuitors like yourself and many others focused on all these minutae distractions rather than focused on what we need to do to get low cost, clean electrcity in Australia as quickly as possible. We spend inordinate amounts of time discussing all these anything-but-nuclear alternatives. In Australia, we’ve been doing this for 20+ years. Why?

    How can we get people discussing how to implement the options that can deliver the goods?


  213. Peter Lang – Lawrence,

    Your two questions are related in that all export builds are a mix of Canadian and local components, and the price is set accordingly. I assume, but I don’t know for sure, that the price I quoted was for the reactor, its auxiliary equipment, control, and the steam generator. I doubt if the turbine hall and its equipment are included.

    Unfortunately, you cannot compare domestic builds in Canada with the export market, because of the usual antinuclear interference and the machinations of the CNSC, which since it was created, has largely been a political instrument to hobble nuclear power in this country. Admittedly, they have seemed to softened their approach, (a bit) since the current government had parliament kick out the political flack that had been its previous chairperson, after the NRU fiasco and the medical isotope crises that precipitated. However they have a long way to go before they are at the level the previous regulator was in terms of supporting nuclear activities in this country.

    I know I appear to be a CANDU salesman, and perhaps there is some justification in seeing me as such. I assure you I have no connection to the industry, but I am a proud Canadian, and CANDU is one of our successes. Mostly though, as an industry observer I see just how well this reactor would fit into Australia, and I would like to see you guys give it a good hard look.


  214. Peter Lang:

    While not wishing to speak for others, I think you are a little unfair to brand me as one who is distracted by minutiae. I do give primacy to economics and, thus, to nuclear . I think you could have inferred this if you had read the post on Britain’s Energy Future.

    However, it seems not unreasonable to keep an eye on non nuclear developments in the hope that, one day, something economically sensible might emerge. New developments are usually interesting even if few live up to early claims. It was for that reason that I posted the other day on giant offshore turbines hooked to CAES bags, claimed by the no doubt not unintelligent professor whose baby it is to be capable of producing energy cheaper than coal. I am disinclined to believe him but hope he proves me wrong. Same applies for pioneers of high altitude wind.

    The post dealing with sequestration of CO2 by accelerated weathering can’t necessarily be considered a distraction, given the fact that cessation of fossil fuel burning may occur too late to prevent considerable climate change damage unless accompanied by geoengineering. The weathering approach has the added benefit, if taking place in the intertidal zones of starting to put the oceans’ pH back to where most of its current denizens would prefer it to be.

    Certainly, you are correct to demand a cost benefit analysis and, in the recent past, the energy costs of mining, grinding, transporting rock before throwing it away have indeed been considered. I suppose the benefit side would have to be judged relative to alternative geoengineering proposals. However, accelerated weathering would best be conducted in third world countries and I was thinking wind might therefore represent a reasonably practical source of power for the job. Intermittency shouldn’t be a major drawback. (Grind when its blowing, rest when not -one needs rest in the humid tropics, so I’m told!) Often, the choices would have to between wind, solar and, in the future, nuclear batteries. It is my understanding that nuclear power from a “battery” is likely some five times more expensive than from a mainline NPP. Thus, wind doesn’t seem so daft an idea for a theorist like me with no engineering knowledge. I believe Graham Cowan has posted on the subject and might have a contribution to make on the costs/tonne of carbon sequestered. However, to the extent that you might consider this a distraction, I’m sure that you, like me, would appreciate, in any event, an update from him on the progress of the boron powered car.


  215. Peter Lang:

    I’m back on what you might consider to be the central track. You have been asking questions to determine which design of NPP would be best as a starter for Australia and seem to be trying to decide between between the AP1000 or CANDUs. I have been interested in the answers you have been getting. I suspect you would choose that which gave you the cheapest electricity (as might I).

    As a layman’s first guess, the cheapest electricity would come from a site converted from coal to nuclear. The cost savings should, in theory, be maximised if the coal’s steam generators and turbines could be used by the nuclear reactor. (Even if they couldn’t , proximity to grid, roads and water ought to save something significant). My question might therefore be to ask which designs of reactor would be best in a converted system. However, other correspondents here have suggested that such conversions would not be sensible and would not save money. It would be instructive to learn why they hold this view. Is it because the turbines get clapped out before the burners and would thus need replacing anyway or is it more of a PR problem- starting on a dirty site? If the latter, I think the PR could be reversed. Inform surrounding residents that most of the harmful emissions would disappear and that background radiation would not increase over that already present. (This should appeal to Peter because it would allow the nuclear operators to leak more radiation than would have been permitted from a green field site and still keep to their agreement with surrounding residents, but, perhaps, I’m being too cynical).

    If one reverts to to simple choice between AP1000 and CANDU, might I ask those with more knowledge to comment on the relative worths of their wastestreams as judged in terms of the usefulness of the residual energy for 4th generation start charges? If the CANDU has less useful “waste”, is it merely because the original fuel was used more efficiently in the first place or would its “waste” be qualitatively less useful as well?


  216. Douglas Wise – The option exists with CANDUs to reprocess the spent fuel and recycle depleted uranium or self-generated plutonium back into the fuel cycle. The decision to pursue these options is based upon economic and resource-availability arguments. In Canada, the cost of fresh uranium is low, so we don’t reprocess, however the Indians, cut off until recently from the market do.

    In CANDU reactors, the spent fuel contains depleted uranium on par with the tails from enrichment plants (~0.2%). Therefore, there is no incentive to recycle uranium from spent CANDU fuel. Self-generated plutonium is also dilute in spent CANDU fuel, typically 2.6 g fissile Pu/initial kg U. The plutonium in LWR spent fuel is roughly twice that concentration.

    Since reprocessing costs are dependent upon fissile concentration and the amount of material that has to be handled, there is little incentive to reprocess CANDU fuel, especially in comparison with LWR fuel.

    So while CANDU would not create starter charges for fast-spectrum reactors, its spent fuel could be burned in that type once it is running.

    By in large, fuel bundles are cycled out of a CANDU, not because they are exhausted, but because of swelling. Work is ongoing to improve on this, and higher burnups may be possible.

    Also CANDU reactors can play a role in fuel waste management, by being able to burn actinides without creating more actinides. In this strategy, waste actinides would be mixed within an inert matrix and burned in a CANDU core. As an efficient destroyer of waste actinides using currently-available technology, CANDU reactors can serve a role in reducing the total volume of high-level nuclear waste requiring long-term storage.Thus CANDUs could reduce the total requirement for fast spectrum reactors needed for the final destruction of actinides, while extending the time requirement for their development.


  217. DV82XL:

    Thank you for the informative answer, my interpretation of which is as follows: If one’s priority is to go flat out for closed fuel cycles, realisiing the necessity for maximising start charges, one ‘s objective would not be well served by using CANDUs in the interim. However, were one to opt for maximising economic returns and not worrying too much about rapid elimination of “waste”, which, in the long term, would be used as fuel anyway, then the CANDU approach might be the way to go.

    As a separate issue, MSRs, though not as ready-to- go as metal fuelled, sodium cooled reactors would require less start charge material anyway but, themselves, might be less capable of generating the start charges for their own next generation.

    This leaves me with the view that one should explore both IFRs and LFTRs as quickly as possible while using either or both CANDUs and AP1000s (or bigger models therof ) in the interim. However, this conclusion was reached before I started thinking that things could get cheaper still by taking the coal to nuclear route which might necessitate a totally different design of interim reactor. It’s all getting a little complex for a senescent biologist to get his head round.


  218. Douglas Wise – GenIV is definitely the long term solution to everything as far as fission is concerned. However as I have written in the past, experience warns me that the distance between where this technology is now and full commercialization is a good deal farther out than its supporters make it out to be.

    Nuclear energy is safe and reliable because current designs have had a long period to mature, so while it would be technically possible to start building production Gen IV s out of the gate, the risks would be high and everyone that eventually will be tasked with making them know this, and won’t rush blindly in. In fact most of the discussion now about funding is for experimental units, not power plants.

    The money and the utilities will know this too, and will not rush in while there are off the shelf products that can do the job.

    As for coal plant conversion, this is not that simple. steam circuits, and turbines are matched to the boilers they are connected to by many parameters, and thus conversion is not a case of cut up the old steam generator and drop in a reactor. Each instance would have to be designed separately, and licensed in what would be a regulatory nightmare for all parties involved.

    Real the best thing would be to brownfield the coal plant, and start from scratch, with a proven design, maybe keeping the switchyard and the interconnect from the old installation and little more.


  219. “Je déteste les idiomes anglais” – Balzac

    I have to agree. Yet another one to strike off my list, never to be used again.

    But thank-you, Lawrence, the only way I find out is if someone is kind enough to tell me.


  220. Well, the tour to ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization) I was organizing finally happened yesterday. Thanks Finrod, Pip, Geir and Nick for coming, Peter Lang was unfortunately unable to attend.

    Thanks to David Ross our very knowledgeable tour guide on the day, OPAL Reactor Manager David Vittorio, Head of Environmental Research John Dodson who showed us the biggest tank of SF6 I ever want to see, GM of Gov. Affairs Andrew Humpherson and Geoff Parsons from Waste. It was a great presentation from all for us.

    Its particularly bizarre, having seen a (mockup of) a reactor core the size of a wastepaper bin, the desire by the Greens and others to close this down, particularly given all the great neutron science going on there. I’ve bounced a few neutrons of a few nuclei in the past, and seeing the beam hall and detectors was amazing.

    Thanks again everyone.


  221. Not that it matters but “by-in-large” is what is called an eggcorn

    This refers to malaprop phrases uttered as a result of mishearing things, typically when they embody semantic allusions to apparently germane concepts. IOW they are phrases as they might have been. “The end-of-year sale was discountinued is probably a typo, but it kind of works. If they get taken up in popular discourse they can become neologisms.

    Other examples might include

    just desserts
    preying mantis This one is especially good because it really is a predator
    old timers’ disease I actually use this ironically …
    Doing your upmost
    on the spurt of the moment

    Cheers …


  222. Douglas Wise, on 1 April 2010 at 0.17 Said:

    However, it seems not unreasonable to keep an eye on non nuclear developments in the hope that, one day, something economically sensible might emerge.

    It seems all the focus is on ‘down in the weeds’ possibilities and this is to the detriment of where our effort should be placed. We’ve been doing this for at least 20 years. In Australia, our research effort has been and still is on fossil fuels and renewable energy and zero on nuclear. We need to turn that around. Constantly talking about wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal and crushing rocks with windmills is a waste of our effort, in my opinion. It is a distraction.

    Meanwhile, there is no serious debate on what we need to do to implement nuclear in Australia at an electrcity generation cost that would be less than coal.

    It must be doable because the energy density of uranium is ome 20,000 times that of coal – higher for enriched uranium.

    I would like us to focus on what needs to be done by our federal and state governments to remove the impediments to low-cost, acceptably-safe, nuclear power in Australia.

    My objectives:

    1. least cost electricity for the long term
    2. energy security (we have that with coal now, but that security might be reduced or removed in the future by international agreements/pressure)
    3. improved environmental and health effects of electricity generation
    4. maintaining Australia’s position in the world with modern technologies
    5. Help the world to move to low-cost, clean electricity as quickly as possible

    In my opinion all of these objectives can be achieved by bringing nuclear power to Australia, if we focus on least cost.

    To do that the main focus needs to be, initially, on what we need to do to remove all the regulatory and policy impediments. As part of that we’ll need to educate the public – or as some say, ‘have the debate on nuclear power’. I suggest we need a faculty in at least one university in each mainland capital city who will work on how we can implement least cost nuclear power in Australia. If you prefer to avoid picking winners, call it least-cost, low-emissions, baseload electricity

    The early focus needs to be on identifying the impediments to low-cost nuclear generation. The actual technology is a side issue at this stage. I brought up sever al examples of low cost nuclear just to show that the technology is not the issue. The issue is the government policy and regulatory impediments.

    By the way, I do not believe ‘nuclear waste’ (once-used nuclear fuel) nor proliferation are major technical or cost issues. I believe they are public perception issues that must be tackled and sorted by education. That will be one of many that need to be achieved by the university faculties.

    We need to change our bias from high cost useless technologies (i.e. renewables) to low cost, clean, safe, abundant energy of the future (i.e. nuclear).


  223. DV82XL:

    I am in no position to question your judgement. You essentially make two points:

    1) It is pointless to consider a policy that seeks to maximise the speed of transition from gen 2/3 to 4 because the latter designs are insufficiently developed to be deployed safely in the near term.

    I am now wondering whether you misunderstood me. I had not envisaged any commercial Gen 4 before 2020 in my maximised scenario – rather, I was considering maximum rollout thereafter, which would be determined, among other things, by access to sufficient start charge material. The choice of such a strategy was based upon the fear that , by 2050 plus, a large expansion of thermal nuclear reactors might start limiting uranium availability.

    If you did not misunderstand where I was coming from, may I take it that you are not concerned that uranium will become limiting? Alternatively, are you suggesting that factors that are limiting will not be resources but lack of skilled personnel and/or finance?

    2) Coal to nuclear will be a regulatory nightmare if one attempts to plumb into the theoretically usable equipment extant on site. Therefore, it would be better to brownfield the site and start again. In percentage terms, what is your best guess for savings to be gained from the brownfielding compared to greenfield start ups?


  224. Douglas Wise

    I am not concerned with a potential uranium shortage in the in the near to medium future. It might require more reprocessing than is done at the moment, but I suspect that as the price of uranium rises, more deposits will be exploited.

    I might add that the cost of the fuel is so minimal, that it could go up by a factor of ten without negatively impacting the economics of nuclear energy.

    The lack of skills is a broader issue than just its impact on nuclear energy, and is well known in industry. However we cannot ignore this issue, and it has the potential to be a limiting factor. One way or the other we have to attract and train more people in the skilled trades, and as technologists.

    The biggest advantage of using a coal plant site is the availability of transmission lines that are already hooked to the grid, and usually a source of cooling water. These factors will always make it less expensive than a greenfield in most instances.


  225. For interest/comment:

    Report of the individual review of the annual submission of Australia submitted in 2009..pdf

    Click to access aus.pdf

    II. Energy

    A. Sector overview

    39. The energy sector is the main sector in the GHG inventory of Australia. In 2007, emissions from the energy sector amounted to 408,162.69 CO2 eq, or 75.4 per cent of total GHG emissions. Since the base year, emissions have increased by 42.5 per cent, mainly due to the rise of emissions in energy industries (+55.0 per cent) and transport (+ 26.9 per cent). Within the sector, 54.4 per cent of the emissions were from energy industries, followed by 19.3 per cent from transport, 11.9 per cent from manufacturing industries and construction and 6.6 per cent from solid fuels (fugitive emissions). Other sectors accounted for 4.8 per cent and oil and natural gas accounted for 2.7 per cent. The remaining 0.4 per cent was from the category other (1.A.5), which included emissions from oxidation of lubricants and military operations. CO2 is the dominant GHG, contributing 91.2 per cent to total sectoral emissions, while CH4 and N2O contributed 8.2 and 0.7 per cent, respectively.


  226. Electricity’s share of energy consumption will grow over time. Electricity will substitute for oil and gas for land transport and heat (over time). So our main focus should be on electricity. All the other areas need to be addressed also, but the largest proportion of our effort needs to be on electricity.


  227. I should have added that the rate of substitution of electricity for oil and gas will be faster the lower is the cost of electricity.

    So we can speed the rate of substitiution of clean electrcity for oil and gas, and therfore speed the rate of reduction of GHG emissions, by making the cost of electrcity as low as possble.

    Low cost electrcity also gives the country (and the world) more wealth and more aboility to handel all the problems society wants addressed, including environmental problems.


  228. Thanks Peter – they’ll have been received okay, but until we get the commenting system working properly, they’ll sit in the moderation queue until one of use (Francis or Manzur) approves them. We’re working hard to get this improved.

    It’s pretty primitive right now, but having a completely tailored website will eventually allow us to do way more than the WordPress-linked BraveNewClimate ever could. Besides, as you can see, it serves quite a different, research-oriented purpose.


  229. Barry


    I wonder why you use the plebeian vernacular emphatic “wind don’t blow” register. Are you aiming for a downmarket audience?

    Note correct format for world power in XX TwHe …

    You probably need comprehensive data about wind patterns in various portions of the country where 30%+ CF is possible and in wm2 for insolation in major proposed areas for solar. It would be nice to be able to identify the frequency of long periods of low insolation during notional daylight hours.

    Something on feasibility and cost of possible storage systems and the basis for modelling redundant gas capacity would be useful

    Best …


  230. Your reflexive loyalty is admirable Peter but here is the section I was referring to …

    “At the moment, world electricity usage is at an average of around XX GW. Five times this is 5XX GW”

    It would be silly to speak of usage in this way given that we are talking about the entire planet. If they had meant that they would have said “current installed world capacity is …”

    Usage of electricity really ought to be expressed in terms of how much is used per unit of time … (eg ??TWh per year

    I suspect Barry took this into account in his response


  231. Ewen,

    I haven’t looked back at the text you are referring to, so you may or may not be correct. However, we often use the term average power over a period instead of energy. For example, the average demand on the NEM in 2007 was 25GW, the peak was 33GW and the base-load 18GW for most of the year and 20GW in winter. If we want energy, we can convert by multiplying by the hours for the period. Without referring back, I suspect Barrys use of power in this instance was OK and normal.

    It is important to recognise that, although we pay for our power in enery untis, what we zsactually want is power, not energy. We want power the instant we turn on the kettle.


  232. Terrence Tao [Australia’s, and one of the world’s, greatest mathematicians] has a “google buzz” post on perceived risk that is of some vague relevance: This suggests a possible interest in getting involved in the real world problems that beset us. Another mathematician, David MacKay, made the leap with his book “Sustainable Energy, without the hot air” and became Chief Scientific adviser to the British government on energy and climate change. John Baez promises to also switch to investigating, analysing and getting involved in real world issues. I wonder what the world would be like if it was run by mathematicians instead of lawyers.


  233. Finrod:

    I noted this section:

    It was previously known as Conservatives for Climate and Environment and described by Labor strategists as a ”Coalition front organisation”.

    Hmmm … rather telling.


  234. Unless I miss in my guess, I believe Environmentalissts for Nuclear Energy – Australia was most likely originally the Australian branch of the international organisation Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy. I also noticed some time ago when I looked at their website that they claim the party was originally registere in 2007. They must have had at least 500 members at that point to do that. Their membership level was alleged to be a bit over 600 late last year, so they can’t have grown too much over that time, and might not have grown at all.


  235. Notice the new cover picture for my book in the top right hand corner of the blog sidebars. Full-sized image is here:

    I’ll be posting more details about it in a week or so. It hits book stores on 3 May 2010.

    See also:


  236. If we made the leap to a world powered by the wind, the waves, and the sun, they would hemorrhage profits, so it is not allowed. We are all being held hostage to the profit margins of a few polluters and their “lobbyists in alligator shoes.”

    Quote is from Hari’s review of Hansen.

    Hari ignores nuclear power. (unless I ignored his mention of it). why? assuming I’m right.


  237. gregory meyerson, on 13 April 2010 at 7.32 Said:

    “If we made the leap to a world powered by the wind, the waves, and the sun, they would haemorrhage profits, so it is not allowed.”

    If that is indeed the case, why is most of the wind in North America being backed and built by natural gas interests?


  238. Concerning conspiracy theories holding that renewables are a fossil fuel industry plot:

    FT (Europe) runs an interesting interview today 14.04 with the new CEO of 100%Swedish state-owned power group, Vattenfall. 51% of its GHG output is from fossils, mainly in Germany and Poland, where it runs coal-fired stations, whereas in Sweden it runs NPPs and hydro. It is looking to expand nuclear in Sweden as the govt. is set to authorise new NPP construction. Vattenfall is no. 5 power producer in Europe.

    It is also building the UK off-coast windfarm with Iberdrola of Spain, and wants to replace 40% of its hard coal use with biomass eg wood chips.

    The CEO, Oystein Loseth, says:” If you look at all the coal used in the world and all the investment going into new coal plants, carbon capture and storage must be part of the solution for climate change or there will be no solution”.

    Now it is true that Vattenfall is running a rare (the only?) CCS pilot in Germany at Schwarze Pumpe, but given that CCS is likely eyewash /greenwash for various reasons, what does one say to Loseth?


  239. CCS is a waste of time, is probably more expensive than nuclear, releases more radioactive waste into the environment than nuclear, and is basically just an excuse to expand an industry that we really need to kill.


  240. I have another question for DV82XL. As is my wont, I am drawn to perusing the infernal TOD (evidence above). Here is another link, from someone on that forum who does have brains:
    Regardless of anyone’s belief about the timing/scale/etc of peak oil, if the chips were down, and the regulators and every one who currently makes nuclear harder than it should be reversed themselves to encourage it, how quickly could we build reasonably safe nuclear power plants? If we just needed power, ASAP, how quickly could it be done?


  241. Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 6.34 Said:

    “….if the chips were down, and the regulators and every one who currently makes nuclear harder than it should be reversed themselves to encourage it, how quickly could we build reasonably safe nuclear power plants? If we just needed power, ASAP, how quickly could it be done?”

    Shifting over to turn-key modular designs that were built at dedicated factories and then shipped to location to be installed into prepared underground containment would allow for very swift deployment. Several companies have designs on the table for this type of NPP where several of these small reactors would be installed in ‘6-packs’ or ‘8-packs,’ collectivity producing 1 to 2 GWe.

    If these were also of the liquid fuel types, there would also be little delay in fabricating fuel ether.

    Of course pursuing such a route would ultimately have to be a national-level decision where the government would drive the process. There are, of course, historical precedents for this kind of government led process, the one that is unfortunately used when discussing this in the Manhattan Project, which personally I think evokes ideas better left unsaid. I would much prefer that the drive to build transcontinental railways be used instead to illustrate the point.


  242. I share your dislike of the Manhattan project analogy – I had not thought of the railway analogy, but my reading of the financing deals behind the Canadian railway is that some of the financiers had not entirely altruistic motives.


  243. Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.10 Said:

    “Can I take it that you think such an approach is not, from the point of view the question comes from, greatly impaired by current (to the extent I understand it) lack of nuclear engineering skills??

    On the contrary, the skilled trades shortages are more limiting at this point than engineering per se. Centralizing manufacturing in dedicated facilities first makes more effective use of available skills, and second makes transmitting these skills to the next generation easier.

    And yes I was referring to MSR as well as liquid metal core types of reactor.


  244. Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.10 — Here is a compnay ready to build mini-NPPs and simply now working with NRC to obtain approvals:

    I estimate that one not-very-big factory could produce one 45 MWe module per month.

    Lack of nuclear engineers is not the problem; obtaining regulatory approval (in the USA) is, but also training nuclear operators would have to be scaled up.


  245. I think I read somewhere if we want to go to a non-carbon future by 2050 we would need 1 GW per day to replace all existing energy consumption – world use is 15TW/per annum = 15000GWpa -> 15000/365 = 41 years, = the number of years btw now and 2050. We need to scale up and fast.


  246. Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.50 — Ok, 1 GWe per day. That’s 24 Nuscale modules and 2 500 MWe steam turbines per day, plus heat excahngers, pumps, electrical switchyard, transmission lines and large transformers.

    Just now order lead times for the large transformers is almost 3 years.

    I’d say lack of skilled tradesmen will be a limiting factor, agreeing with DV82XL.


  247. Can we outsource it to Chindia, or the BRIC?
    We just need a fleet of USS Savannah’s to transport the finished goods here. We connect them up using something like the scaled up version of USB2 ports, and wah-la, Bob’s your aunt.
    My guess is that’s what’s in the minds of TPTB.
    Just guessing.


  248. Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 9.33 — Nuscale modules are 60 feet (18.29 m) tall so they’ll fit on railroad cars, trucks, barges and of course ships. You might look into the dimensions of the 500 MWe steam turbines…


  249. And yes I don’t know if they work in the Carnot ranges of Nuscale plants. I want to see a nuclear future ASAP, I’d much rather it was done here and not imported from overseas, I don’t know much else.


  250. Interesting article by P. DiNezio et al. in the latest Eos. It has previously been suggested that a warmed world would result in a permanent El Niño-like state for the Pacific region, with all the reduced rainfall for Australia that that would imply. However, this paper suggests it’s not that simple. This is, if not good, then certainly better news for Australia, as GW-induced rainfall reduction will not be as pronounced as in El Niño events.

    Sorry the original is behind a paywall (a low one, but a paywall nevertheless), hence the précis here. It’s all to do with differences with how the Pacific thermocline behaves in GW vs El Niño scenarios.


  251. This site contains some interesting energy stats, mainly for Europe, but some are for the world.

    For example,

    1. Denmark has the highest domestice electricity prices in Europe. The other countries that have intensive renewable energy programs also have high electricity prices.

    2. The countries with intensive renewable energy programs have high emissions

    3. The currently known recoverable Uranium reserves would last until 2144 (about the same as coal). I don’t know how this is calculated, but as most on the BNC web site would know, the calculation is irrelevant for two reasons: 1) “Known recoverable reserves of uranium” will increase as we explore for more and as mining methods improve over time. 2) as we move to Gen iV and Gen V nuclear power plants the amount of new uranium required will reduce.


  252. The figure for U-235 given on the European energy portal site works out to about 2.5 million tonnes of natural uranium, which I believe is the curent proven reserve. It does not include the estimated 35 million tonnes of reasonably assured reserves which can be mined at the same return using current techniques.

    I’m in the process of writing up an essay on the availability of nuclear fuel in the earth’s crust. I’m thinking of using the analogy of mining as much mass of average rock and dirt from the crust as we do coal at the moment (I think about 6 billion tonnes/year), and figuring how much energy is locked up in the U and Th thus accessed. From what I’ve determined, mining average crust is no good (although it almost is) for light water reactors ( or any other sort which burns U-235), but it’s fine for breeders of the U and Th varieties, and will yield more energy per mass of crust than for the same mass of the purest anthracitic coal… and by a considerable margin at that.


  253. Finrod,

    You probably already know this, but I’d suggest you concentrate only on the contiental crust, not ‘Earths Crust’. Uranium is concentrated in the Continental Crust in the differentiation process thaty separates the Continental Crust from the undifferentiated crustal rocks.

    For a bit of trivia, Uranium is being concentrated in the Earth’s crust at a rate of about 10,000 tonnes per year.

    Uranium and tin are at about the same concentration in the Earth’s crust. We are mining Tin at about 165,000 tonnes per year and uranium at about 45,000 tonnes per year. We are concerned about running out of uranium, but not concerned about Tin, or any of the much rarer elements we mine. more evidence of bias generated by 40 years of anti-nuclear propoganda?


  254. More in-principle support for my idea that an NPP/desal should be located on the SA west coast say near Ceduna. First Areva is building a desal on Africa’s desert coast to supply water to uranium mines in Namibia.
    They don’t say what power source will be used. The SA desal to supply Olympic Dam and the coastal region would need to be a lot larger, say 300,000 cubic metres of water a day or 100 million c.m. a year.

    Secondly Siemens corporation apparently like the idea of an HVDC cable between SA and WA
    However they don’t mention nuclear. That idea was proposed here a year or two ago by Neil Howes. Whether or not the proposed renewables make economic sense in the long run WA will have the natural gas when south eastern Australia has run dry. Electrons are easier to transport than physical gas. That cable would also pass close to the suggested NPP/desal which would enable the plant to export surplus electricity.


  255. Washington Post reports today that the Feds have stated that the coal mine operator in West Virginia Upper Big Branch mine showed “reckless disregard” for worker safety leading to the deaths of 29 men recently.

    Question to any of the many 19th century liberals on BNC:

    please refresh my memory as to why multiplying the number of NPPs 2010-2050 (e.g. in China, USA, Russia) subject to the net operating profit mentality of capitalism is not going to outscore 29 deaths by orders of magnitude? After all, anybody who can read an income statement (GB: P&L) can see that personnel expenditure e.g. NPP operator training, is measured as a cost and not an income line item.


  256. please refresh my memory as to why multiplying the number of NPPs 2010-2050 (e.g. in China, USA, Russia) subject to the net operating profit mentality of capitalism is not going to outscore 29 deaths by orders of magnitude?

    Refer to safety statistics of NPP operation over the past 50 years. I see no reason to think that things are going to get worse the more experience is gained.


  257. Oh dear Peter Lalor …

    Your post is yet another example of the speciousness of assuming ceteris paribus where there’s no foundation. You may not map coal mining deaths to uranium mining deaths per tonne unless you can show that the drivers of the former apply to the latter. The driver of coal mining deaths is not a wanton disregard for OH&S, but a qualifed disregard for it in circumstances where this is germane. Shutting down gassy mines costs money, but so do mine closures at an accident. Somewhere a bean counter has decided that they “like them odds”.

    The overwhelming cause of deaths in coal mining, unsurprisingly, relate to the specifics of underground mining of coal, and of course, the degree to which is it labour-intensive. For geo-morphological reasons, coal seams worth exploiting are close to methane. They are often also close to water. So mine cave ins, gas explosions and water ingress account for most deaths. Clearly, if you have lots of people working underground, as is especially the case in smaller coal mines in China for example, you are going to have trouble getting them all out before they asphyxiate.

    This simply doesn’t apply in relation to harvest of uranium or thorium, so your mapping of morbidity from coal is baseless.

    Note also that in this place, the focus is very much on reactors that can reprocess existing hazmat, and thus imply no new uranium recovery at all.


  258. John Newlands,

    Could you siummarise you prefer Ceduna rather than near Adelaide for the first NPP in South Australia?

    I understand two reasons are cooler water at Ceduna so slightly greater efficiency, and less of an issue at Ceduna with excess salt from desalination.

    However, against these I see the following benefits of having the NPP near Adelaide:

    1. lower construction cost and lower operating cost throughout its life. The higher cost of setting up the infrastructure and attracting the necessary work force to a town at Ceduna would be a considerable cost impost on the plant for its entire life.

    2. Higher transmission costs for water and electricity to the main demand centre – Adelaide. Remember, that a single major user for electricity and water means there will be large changes in load from both scheduled and unscheduled shut downs of the mine. If the plant is feedfing into a large demand centre, such as Adelaide, then such disruptions are less important. You might argue that the the NPP at Ceduna would feed into the SA grid, adn of course this is true, but there are still costly consequences of having a large generator far removed from the main demand centre.

    3. If located near Adelaide, there is greater benefit to the Adelaide education facilities which then benefits the plant in return.

    4. More members of the public will visit the plant, and vistis will be more frequent if it is near Adelaide. This means the population become familiar more quickly and the ignorance of matters nuclear that is so prevalent in Australia, will erode more quickly.


  259. Peter, I think John’s argument is that a new NPP is a perfect fit for the Olympic Dam mine expansion. It will require about 700 MW of extra electricity and a large amount of additional freshwater (roughly an extra 100 ML per day). A NPP the size of an AP1000, located in Ceduna, could provide both requirements with ease. The transmissions costs would be lowest by building it in Ceduna, since this is an open ocean coastal site that is still relatively close to the mine. #2 could then be just north of Adelaide, to replace the Playford coal-fired power station.


  260. Hi Barry,

    I understand your point, and perhaps I should be careful to stay out of local politcs. However, I am still wondering if this is a wise thing to be advocating.

    1. While the Olympic Dam mine will have a 700MW demand at a point in time, that will vary greatly over time. Nuclear power stations are most economic for base-load not fo following load changes. The load changes will be large on a single load source like Olympic Dam mine. I wonder what the base-load would be as a proportion of the 700MW (I expect it might be as low as 20%). What happens to the remainder of the power when demand from Olympic Dam is low?

    2. I would expect we would eventually build power stations consisting of at least two and perhaps four units. Why would we want to build a large power station at Ceduna rather than near the main demand centre?

    By the way, when I said “near Adelaide” I was thinking of somewhere between Port Augusta and Adelaide. I think the distance from Port Augusta to Olympic Dam is similar to that from Ceduna.
    So the transmission costs to Olympic Dam would be similar, but the costs to Adelaide would be much less.

    I still reckon the costs of building and operating an NPP so far from a major population centre will be a significant cost impost. And I also think the education and PR benefits of having our first NPP (and all future NPP’s) near a city are significant.


  261. I believe the OD expansion will need 187 ML/d. The Morgan-Whyalla pipeline keeps inching westwards and I think is now about 400km from the River Murray. Locals believe the top of Spencer Gulf already has excess salinity so any desals should be on open ocean. Word is that in July Garrett and Rann will axe the proposed Whyalla desal on Spencer Gulf. Whyalla to Roxby Downs is about 285 km if I recall and Ceduna-Roxby about 350 km if salt lakes have to be skirted around. I suggest a Ceduna based desal area should produce 300 ML/d. It would supply 187 ML/d to Roxby Downs and the balance to the SA west coast and Pt Augusta, partially reversing the flow in the existing pipeline. The river pump at Morgan could be switched off allowing the water to flow downstream to Adelaide and dairy farmers.

    A possible future industry for Ceduna is refining of zirconium, rare earth metals and thorium. Their jetty at Thevenard is supposed to handle 25% of the world’s zircon from the Jacinth-Ambrosia mine. OD also has a lot of lanthanides in the tailings dump.

    If a 1000 MWe NP was built at Ceduna and the desal only used electrical not thermal input (as in the UAE) it would draw say 100 MW for reverse osmosis and pumping. OD might now use 650 MW leaving 250 MW for local use or ‘export’ if suitable transmission existed.

    This helps Adelaide 700 km away because they now have more water in the river and the State has more more freed-up baseload electrical output. I suggest if a Ceduna NPP created good vibes SA might consider a second reactor and desal on Fleurieu Peninsula between Adelaide and Victor Harbour.


  262. John Newlands,

    The proposal you are advocating needs a full options analysis, with proper analysis of all financial and other risks.

    Sitting here in tha Canberra, from where all wisdom amnd money eminates, I am somewhat dubious aboit an NPP at Ceduna being cost effective.

    This is what an NPP should look like (see picture on p11). Notice the background (you might be able to see Terry Krieg in one of the back yards if you look carefully!).

    Click to access jan-carr.pdf


  263. That pdf is 5 pages. There is a Terry Krieg who posts here that used to live on the SA west coast.

    The OD expansion could become a cause celebre for the nuclear lobby. There are some extra-ordinary proposals like building a 400Km gas pipeline from Moomba to Roxby Downs, the trouble being that the gas basin (Cooper) is in its twilight years. At one stage SA Premier Rann thought geothermal would supply the 690 MW. Bad call. Seems radioactive decay is OK, fission is not.

    If my informants are correct the Whyalla desal will shortly be knocked on the head. That means the OD expansion can’t proceed. OD is the world’s largest uranium deposit and incidentally Jacinth is the world’s richest zircon deposit. What we could see in a few weeks time is fumbling and bumbling by politicians over why OD cannot expand because there is no clean energy source large enough to supply the water and electricity. BHP will implement Plan B to export concentrate to China were copper and uranium will be extracted. Exporting jobs and profits is evidently less problematic to our politicians than support for nuclear power.


  264. John, I was referring to the page numbers. The picture in on p11 of the article (the article starts on p8). Sorry for the confusion..

    The Terry Krieg you refer to, and who posts here, is a school teacher who spent an exchange year in Toronto near Pickering – the power station pictured. He learnt a lot while he was there and has been trying to educate the Australian public and politicians ever since. His brother is a research geologists who knwos a lota about the Officer Basin and has been promoting it as the world;’s best site to take the world’s nuclear waste (if there si any left to dispose of, of course).

    Your last paragraph is a repeat of what you’ve said in previous posts, on this and other threads. But it does no address my main question about the economic viability of lacating it at Ceduna instead of somewhwere between Port Augusta and Adelaide. Salt is one issue, but is it an overriding issue or just one of many factors that need to be taken into account in an overall cost benefit analysis? I don’t know the answer, but your arguments seem a bit overly pushing a particluar site, rather than looking even handedly at all the alternatives to find the best solution.


  265. If Rann-Garrett don’t allow OD to expand I would think that the price of U308 must escalate well above its current price of around $100/kg. If the world is stuck with Gen 2/3 for 20 more years then fuel costs could become more significant.


  266. Peter there are several tricky questions concerning costs of transmission and water pumping assuming we still want 300 ML/d to supply Roxby Downs, the OD ore processors, Woomera, Pt Augusta, Whyalla, Pt Lincoln and so on. A deepish open water site is preferable to shallow saltmarsh or mangroves which cuts out a lot of your suggested coastline. You could have an NPP/desal on Yorke Peninsula and send output by underwater pipe and cable at some risk of being snagged by trawlers. Gas and some fresh water are already piped under the gulf to Whyalla and electricity is sent south of Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.

    The Playford B coal station at Pt Augusta is surely near its use-by date but it is on saltmarsh, not open water. In defence of Ceduna they could build just the eastern side of an east-west HVDC cable and postpone completion until WA is the last place left with natural gas (as opposed to coal seam). If the price wasn’t too high govts could let Desertrec/Siemens build some showpiece wind/wave/solar near Ceduna with the real grunt coming from a NPP.


  267. John,

    When you mention an eas west transmission line, you make me think noone has crunched the number os all this thing you are advocating.

    It is not a big issue, for me; I just thought I’d raise it. It seems to me that advocating Ceduna as a site for an NPP nees to be carefully considered. It sends messages, to various interst groups of:

    1. It must be really dangerous if we are having to put it that far away from inhabited areas,

    2. It looks like a very high cost option,

    3. Perhaps we should have our first NPP in Victoria to replace the dirty brown coal power stations, or in NSW because their electricity system is a basket case, they have insufficient capacity and it is government owned which should make it easier to implement nuclear, etc, etc, etc.


  268. This blog is replete with numerate, gentlemenlike, Smoking Guns holding long-term leases on Rationality and Non-Ideology and fantasising about how WWF, Greenpeace, FOE etc. are all paid for by fossil fuel interests, this explaining the anti-nuke stance of such “environists” (T. Blees)


    at end-December carries a podcast of 2 AU Greenpeacers, Shannon and Derek, who had been “badly beaten” by Philippine coal-fired power plant personnel at Masinloc when protesting against the expansion of this fossil fuel usage.

    I look forward with interest to BNC surmising about how such bashing can actually occur. Did the Tagalog-speaking coal plant personnel not recognise their Australian Greenpeace allies, who probably spoke only English? so was it a case of friendly fire between allies dedicated to destroying all chance of nukes?


  269. I believe I have been clear that in North America at least, these organizations, have sided with natural gas interests, not coal.

    They have established this through their actions and rhetoric for several years now, and in some instance are quite open about it. At any rate anyone supporting wind and solar, necessity supports NG as a backup fuel, except in those rare case when it is linked with hydro.

    We should also note that the footsoldiers of these organizations, probably have bought into the propaganda – this is not always so for the upper echelons of these groups.


  270. Peter Lang you could be right about Victoria. The Wonthaggi desal will be even bigger at 400 ML/d and around 100 MW I believe. They are building that now and the ‘offset’ wind farm will be built later. The locals appear to be against everything. Back in SA that still doesn’t solve the problem of stymied U308 production at Olympic Dam due to lack of dedicated power and water.


  271. The latest quarterly report from NPCC is out and the latest 20 year plan was passed. These plans are updated ever five years, but this is the first to assume some form of carbon offset or tax will happen in the next 20 years. More important, perhaps, the plan calls for an astounding 5,900 average megawatts over the next 20 years via energy efficiency, “the most agressive conservation target in the nation”.

    Next up after that is “renewables”, which here in the PNW means wind, mostly, with a bit of geothermal. While not mentioned directly in the plan, there is consierable interest in the steady (well, steadier) winds well offshore from Washington and Oregon.

    After that comes natgas.

    Given the current low cost of natgas, I suspect that actuality will be more natgas and rather less wind than in this plan.

    The is no interest and nothing in the plan about building Gen 3 NPPs, despite the supurb siting on the Hanford Reservation. That paln does specify that no new coal burners are to be built. (But likely none of the 4–5 existing ones will be dismantled.)


  272. I been told that IFR eliminate the risk of proliferation. But:

    “If, instead of processing spent fuel, the ALMR system were used to reprocess irradiated fertile (breeding) material in the electrorefiner, the resulting plutonium would be a superior material, with a nearly ideal isotope composition for nuclear weapons manufacture”

    From here:

    Click to access 9434.PDF

    Could someone explain? I think I know the answer, but I’m not sure.


  273. John Newlands, on 25 April 2010 at 6.29 Said:

    Back in SA that still doesn’t solve the problem of stymied U308 production at Olympic Dam due to lack of dedicated power and water.

    You still seem to be missing my point. I agree that Olympic Dam mine needs power and water and without it the ore will be exported for the Chinese to gain all the value adding benefit that could be obtained in Australia if we could provide the power and water the mine needs.

    What I am asking is “why is Ceduna better location for the NPP than between Port Augusta and Adelaide”.

    You have provided some descriptive justifications for your preferred site in previous comments. However, thee read to me like an advocacy statement rather than a properly done options analysis, with proper cost and risk analysis.


  274. Peter I’m using a mix of psychology and wider system economics, albeit unquantified. If Olympic Dam doesn’t expand then future SA jobs, royalties and contract work will either be lost or handed to China. Gen 2/3 NPs will pay more for uranium in future because world supply has been politically restricted. Being way out of the big smoke Ceduna provides a guinea pig or demonstration effect. If a NPP/desal creates good jobs and there are no meltdowns and two headed fish in the cooling water then city folk might feel more kindly towards a similar plant near town.

    On the money side BHP Billiton has already laid out the ground plans for a reverse osmosis desal on the gulf at Whyalla and 300 km pipeline route. Details as to the ~40 MW power source are fuzzy. Intense lobbying over cuttlefish and salinity changes will probably kill that site. Locals want an even bigger bigger desal to supply the coast as well as the inland. They suggest alternative sites south of Whyalla and an open water site near Elliston heading towards Ceduna.

    However for OD to expand to 18,000 tonnes of U3O8 a year plus gold, copper etc the mine will need not only desalinated water from some part of the coast but another 650 MWe more than the SA grid can provide. An ex Roxby Downs resident now living in Hobart told me they think only a NPP could provide the grunt. Therefore BHP is up for big bucks for the desal side of things and they may secretly hope for nuclear power paid for by someone else.

    How real the concentrate-to-China threat is hard to say because it would require a massive loading terminal. With RO desal there is no need for the power source to be co-located I just think it is a good PR move.

    So I think the comparative scenarios would be

    1) 1000 MW NPP near Adelaide distributed as say 100 MW RO desal and pipeline on the west coast and 650 MW X 500 km transmission to OD. Surplus power for Adelaide 250 MW with only minor new transmission.

    2) everything on the west coast 1000 MW NP, 100 MW RO desal and pipelines, 650 MW X 350 km transmission to OD, 250 MW X 700km transmission to Adelaide or 400 km to Pt Augusta.

    Note BHP pays for the mine fraction of the desal.


  275. John Newlands

    Why can’t the NPP be on the east side of Spencer gulf or east side of Gulf of Victoria north of Adelaide?

    Your argument: Being way out of the big smoke Ceduna provides a guinea pig or demonstration effect.” Has benefits for NIMBY’s now and for the anti nuclear protesters ling term. I believe we need to confront all this anti nuclear stuff now! Not keep on giving in to it. For the very reason you see the remoteness of Ceduna as an advantage, I see it as a bad choice of site because it will, in my opinion, make it harder to get future nuclear plants located near the demand centres. They need to be near the demand centres to keep costs down. It is not just the construction costs that are reduced by being near a city. It is also the ongoing operation and maintenance costs, and especially the ongoing labour costs for the life of the plant.

    You mention that OD will need an extra 650MW of power. You seem to have missed my point about the 650MW demand being at a point in time, not a steady demand. The demand might fluctuate between 20% and 100% of this demand. The NPP is not ideally suited to load following as would be required for a single point load such as OD. It would be better to have the NPP supplying the SA grid (from near the main load centre, Adelaide) and the grid supplying OD. I am asking rather than stating because I am not convinced that the option you are advocating has been properly evaluated. I suspect an NPP located near Ceduna will be supply electricity at far higher cost than if it is located nearer to the main load centre. And siting it out in the boonies sends a really bad message.

    Considering your options 1) and 2), I don’t think it is right to consider a single unit NPP. It would be too expensive. When you consider that the power station will probably end up being two to 4 units (2000 to 5000MW), does it still make sense to site it at Ceduna? If there is a single 1000MW unit at Ceduna, what would be the cost premium for such a single unit NPP in the boonies?


  276. PL the eastern side of St Vincent Gulf is thick with mangroves yet Adelaide’s urban sprawl is heading out that way. Opposite on both sides of Yorke Peninsula there are rocky headlands but I’m not sure of summer water temps or whether they get the cool Flinders Current. Land transmission easements are already there that could be upgraded.

    I took BHPs claim at 690 MW at face value of which around 40 MW will go on coastal desal. In times of reduced mine load the desal could produce extra water for a non-rainy day and store it in large elevated tanks. That would require some modelling.

    In fairness to Ceduna it is a hi tech town with a university observatory and communications stations. It has lost its nuclear virginity via the Maralinga A-bomb tests and the fact mildly radioactive zircon will be shipped from the wharf. There’s talk of oil drilling offshore so they know energy is where the money is. I sense the good folks of Adelaide might prefer if the first NPP went there which may be irrational but an easier sell even if there is a cost premium.


  277. John,

    I understand the point you are making, but they are not very convincing to me. They all seem to be rather small considerations in the big picture. I don’t think the y0our answer of load following the OD by swithching to desal would be viable. The load at the mine would some time drop massively.

    I am sure the residents of Adelaide might prefer the NPP to be anwhere else but near Adelaide. That is the problem we have to get over in Australia. Which city is foing to be first to say it wants cheap nuclear power. High cost nuclear is just not going to fly. And locating an NPP at Ceduna will mean high cost power, I believe.


  278. Solar Panels Working at Night

    A report from Spain describes a rather dramatic demonstration of the relative economics of solar power. Excerpt:

    It appears that gasoline generators are at work pumping energy into Spain’s heavily subsidized solar panels. Of the 6 billion euros in government aid to the electricity market, 2.3 billion is lavished on electricity that is supposed to be produced by the sun’s rays, generating a mere 2 percent of the nation’s power needs. Under the profligate plan, anyone installing a solar panel can collect a check for 436 euros for each megawatt[-hour] of power returned to the electrical grid. Several solar farms have sprung up as a result. As the newspaper El Mundo reported last week, at least 6,000 megawatt[-hour]s of purported solar electricity were generated during the dark evening and early-morning hours over three months. The decidedly nongreen use of generators helped the enterprising fraudsters walk away with at least 2.6 million euros.

    Note: 436 euros per MWh is 58 US cents per kWh.


  279. In Sustainable Energy – without the hot air David Mackay states:

    Uranium can be used 60 times more efficiently in fast breeder reactors, which burn up all the uranium – both the 238U and the 235U (in contrast to the once-through reactors, which burn mainly 235U).

    I would have thought fast breeders to be about 200 times as fuel efficient as current LWRs, given the efficiency of the enrichment. Am I missing something?


  280. Finrod, it really does depend on the purity of the waste stream (% of actinides that come out with the fission products). If the purity was over 99%, then it would be ~160 times better fuel utilisation in a fast reactor than a thermal reactor. If the purity was 95%, the the 60-times figure cited by Mackay is probably realistic (incidentally, this 60-times figure comes from the WNA fast reactor page — there is nothing deeper about Mackay’s number than this).


  281. Regarding the new book on Chernobyl, I just received this email:

    The translator, Dr. Janette D. Sherman is affiliated with this organization: This organization will provide a copy for $40. Still overpriced.

    Some of their ‘experts’ are John Gofman (deceased), Sternglass, Mangano, and Alec Baldwin. It’s definitely important to collect baby teeth, they tell us so much. NOT! Amazing how many movie people are scientific experts.

    My take on it from various commentaries by supporters is that the majority of information is anecdotal without proper medical workup on disease vectors. But, I have not read it.


  282. @BNC acolytes, concerning:

    There is a better discussion at

    I referenced this book by Yablokov and the 2 Nesterenkos more than once already and met with resounding silence. This will have been for various reasons among BNC neocon and neoliberal worshippers of the Chernobyl Forum as an “independent arbiter”. And as noted before, WHO has been formally required since its inception not to tread on the toes of IAEA: a facsimile of the relevant document from 1958 or 1959, I forget which, is on the Net..

    Here are some possible reasons for BNC attitudes: 1. the authors are funny foreigners, I mean, what normal people have names like Yablokov or Nesterenko? 2. they had high managerial positions in 1986 in the nuclear sector of the USSR and Russian Academy of Sciences respectively, so were “damned communists by choice” and such people are “liars by definition” and threaten our values and way of life.
    3. they discuss Chernobyl impact research papers subversively, rudely and unprofitably written in languages other than English.

    Concluding, the oft-proclaimed loyalty to numeracy and rationality on this blog seems to go out the window once the type of persons otherwise welcomed here write a study which does not suit the BNC agenda.

    That is, I would have thought that BNC, once presented with statements based on research i.e. numerical data, would show a modicum of interest in attempting to refute them.

    Nor is it clear to me why being in possible denial about the effects of a defective Soviet NPP design is relevant to the presumed passive safety features of e.g. the Toshiba/Westinghouse AP 1000,


  283. Finrod:

    Excellent article.

    Initially, I stumbled over the 10kW per capita power consumption in the USA to include all energy needs. This translates to 240 kWh/day. Given the public’s potential to get muddled by differences between rate of energy production and amount used per unit time and by the fact that the term, power, is often kept to describe energy from electricity only when, currently, most of the American energy use doesn’t come from electricity, I was wondering whether your document might be marginally improved by re-wording what is nevertheless an accurate statement.


  284. I was wondering whether your document might be marginally improved by re-wording what is nevertheless an accurate statement.

    Thanks Douglas. I’ll take that on board and think about what might be done.


  285. Peter Lalor, you really do have some strange views, especially about radiation. In addition, I wasn’t aware that my humble WordPress blog had sufficient ecumenical gravitas to attract ‘acolytes’. Though if it does, I guess you must be one of them, given the frequency of your comments on many, many posts.


  286. Peter Lalor, on 27 April 2010 at 17.55 Said:

    “I referenced this book by Yablokov and the 2 Nesterenkos more than once already and met with resounding silence. This will have been for various reasons among BNC neocon and neoliberal worshipers of the Chernobyl Forum as an “independent arbiter”. And as noted before, WHO has been formally required since its inception not to tread on the toes of IAEA: a facsimile of the relevant document from 1958 or 1959, I forget which, is on the Net..”

    First, it is statistically impossible to hide a million plus deaths for almost 25 years, such that they could only be detected by Eastern European researchers, working for most part during the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the poor conditions that were typical of that period. Had the claim been ~50,000 or so I might consider it possible, but the number one million is just too high to be taken seriously by anyone that has any understanding of radiation related health issues.

    Most of the papers used in this survey were of poor quality and politically motivated, Chernobyl served as a cause célèbre for those that were working to throw off the Soviet yoke, and this was reflected in much of the reportage on that incident.

    The numbers that this report bandies about are also obviously exaggerations, based on very questionable extrapolations from very poor data sets. It is simply beyond the capabilities of the researchers of these documents to have gathered and verified enough data points to give their conclusions any meaningful confidence level.

    The general rule of thumb is:

    >5 sigma: discovery
    ~3 sigma: observation
    <1.5 sigma: noise

    and the best of these papers in the survey didn't do better than 2 sigma.

    In short garbage in, garbage out. Repackaging this collection of rubbish, and publishing it under the imprinteur of the New York Academy of Sciences, cannot hid the smell of what is within.

    And this bears repeating: The events at Chernobyl were cause by poor design, criminal negligence, and a culture that was already in terminal decay. It does not represent nuclear power, or the issue surrounding nuclear power anymore than the Titanic represents modern ships. To continue to hold this up as a reason to reject nuclear energy is false logic of the worst kind.


  287. Finrod, I’ll do a quick check for you tomorrow, but you may be having difficulty with this datum because I suspect the solid phase of silicon dioxide is not sufficiently well defined to permit measurement of the latent heat of fusion. Latent heat of fusion is the the energy required to change a solid to a liquid at its melting point, but as you probably know, glass does not have a melting point as such, so the property may not be readily measureable. SiO2 has a variety of crystal forms for which the property may be measureable though.

    I did notice you used this property of silicon as an upper bound in a calculation in your article, and wondered why you didn’t use SiO2.


  288. I did notice you used this property of silicon as an upper bound in a calculation in your article, and wondered why you didn’t use SiO2.

    Only because I didn’t have the figures to calculate for it. If I can get those I’ll use them instead. That should be a pretty good match for the amount of power actually needed.


  289. Actually, from what I’ve gleaned so far, if it turns out there’s no actual ‘heat of fusion’ energy hurdle at the temperature where nine out of ten unsophisticated observers would agree that the SiO2 has melted, it may be that the required energy will actually be less for silicone dioxide than for pure silicon. That’s not what I expected.


  290. Vitreous silica is rare in nature because it is minutely higher in energy than quartz. So you get fulgurites, but not very old fulgurites. They revert to quartz, and quartz has a sharp melting point.

    The energy required to melt quartz also figures in setting a crude lower bound on the energy payback ratio of concentrating solar plant, and in doing that here — search within the page for Frank Shuman — I used 127.5 kJ/mol as the heat input to raise quartz from room ‘T’ to 1996 K and then melt it.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  291. I used 127.5 kJ/mol as the heat input to raise quartz from room ‘T’ to 1996 K and then melt it.

    I still make that to be 2.1 kJ/g, as opposed to 2.78kJ/g for pure silicon. Looks like my upper bound isn’t working out too badly.


  292. What, a bunch of right wing nutters in the USA think climate’s hogwash and so that convinces you? Don’t forget apparently 10% of Americans also think they’ve been abducted by aliens and ‘probed’. So take some Vaseline with you because they also say that hurts like heck.


  293. Oh DV:

    I read the PR around that Chernobyl book and its acceptance of LNT is relatively insignificant compared to their re-estimation of the total radiation released in the accident: it’s up from the previous estimate of 50 million curies to 10 billion curies. So all those world health organizations, IAEA, etc. were off by a factor of 200. why would anyone take this shit at face value? (asked and answered)

    From here, they obviously calculate some collective dose number and multiply by .04 person-sievert (LNT) to get their ridiculous number.

    I wonder if Tom Blees heard anything about this study or what the response has been when he was in Russia.


  294. gregory meyerson – Sigma as the standard deviation. It is the decisive parameter of the Gaussian curve, a mathematical function that describes the distribution of data from many sources. It is a measure of confidence.


  295. re:

    Coronal mass ejections, CME, and induction in high-tension power lines fed inter alia by NPPs

    The 2008 workshop outcome referenced by New Scientist is at:

    Monbiot is currently on the case:

    I have not been able to find any solution to the apparent impact of a repeat of the 1859 Carrington Event,or the lesser one of 1921, on power lines at current kV levels, let alone the higher-kV ones being built in China or touted for (solar) Desertec in N. Africa to cut line loss on the way to the EU. Lovelock mentions the latter in his most recent book without addressing CME impact at all.

    So in the all-electric economy driven by nuclear fuel of some sort or another, how does BNC envisage factoring in the problem of CMEs, short of keeping warehouses full of replacement transformers to replace those that melt down once the CME hits?


  296. A big enough CME event is a bit of a war-time emergency thang isn’t it? Shouldn’t governments subsidise programs into coping with this? (I mean, it would hit pretty much any power system we devised… it’s nothing that particular to nukes or renewables… but wow. Scientific American has raised the subject twice in the past year).


  297. eclipsenow – yes it is particular to renewables. One on the most vulnerable networks is the high voltage long lines bringing power down from Northern Quebec’s huge hydro projects, and hydro is renewable. The same would be true of transmission networks for wind that would gather power from many locations.

    Small nuclear, on the other hand, could be more local and thus will not present these long inductive ‘antennas’ that more remote generation does, thus is unlikely to suffer huge power spikes if an event like this occurs.


  298. gregory meyerson – I have seen a few of the papers on this subject that have been written in Eastern Europe and ex-USSR states in translation. As well I have read other sources that have reviewed these, and they have come to the same conclusion.

    There was a desperate competition for funding of any sort during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the new states and old client states. Blaming Russians, and getting outside money for basic health services where priorities, and Chernobyl served both purposes.

    But even if knowing this were not the case, just the magnitude of the numbers being offered up is simply beyond any reasonable modeling of this event.

    I think it is very clear to any reader of these pages, that far from being the wicked and powerful international cartel that it is portrayed as by the antinuclear movement, nuclear energy is a politically weak industry. To assume then that it could swing a big enough dick to cover up a million deaths is obviously ridiculous.

    I suspect I am going to have to cough up the $150 to get this waste of paper, only so that I can dismantle it with more authority, because it is going to be at the center of the coming season’s debate on nuclear.


  299. Water industry backs nuclear desalination

    29 April 2010

    The future prospect of co-located nuclear or renewable energy powered water desalination facilities has been supported by leading water experts at the Global Water Summit 2010 in Paris, Water and Wastewater International (WWi) reported. Speaking at the conference, Imad Makhzoumi, president of the International Desalination Association (IDA) said: “Nuclear is enjoying a resurgence. We must reach out to the nuclear sector – where all nuclear projects are being considered, desalination must be taken into account [where appropriate].” Dan McCarthy, president and CEO of Black & Veatch’s global water business, told WWi, “I’ve heard leaders in the energy business say that nuclear has to be a large part of their portfolio for the future.” He added, “If you think about combining that with reverse osmosis, forward osmosis or any of the technologies, that could be a fairly efficient way to deliver water supply.”


  300. Nah, this one is much more fun.

    Freshwater production: The fresh water produced is pure and distilled from seawater, with no need for chemical treatment.

    No fossil-fuel requirements: Unlike traditional greenhouses, which often rely on gas or other fossil fuels for temperature control and CO2 enrichment, Seawater Greenhouse systems use only seawater and sunlight to control the growing environments, with equal effectiveness.

    Pesticide free: Our seawater evaporators have a biocidal and scrubbing effect on the ventilation airflow. This greatly reduces or eliminates the need for pesticides.

    Land: Our technology enables the development of land normally considered unsuitable for agriculture.

    Cost-effective: Commercial grade crops yields, coupled with significantly lower capital and operating costs result in enhanced operator economics.

    Salt and mineral production: Salt gained in the process can be sold and other minerals used as crop nutrients.

    Import Substitution and Jobs: On a country or regional level, there may be advantages linked to import substitution. Most arid regions of the world are net importers of horticultural produce. By employing Seawater Greenhouse systems on a large scale these regions could see rises in local green employment as well as reductions in costs by substituting expensive imports with high-quality, locally produced Seawater Greenhouse crops.


  301. No fossil-fuel requirements: Unlike traditional greenhouses, which often rely on gas or other fossil fuels for temperature control and CO2 enrichment, Seawater Greenhouse systems use only seawater and sunlight to control the growing environments, with equal effectiveness.

    They’ll need some power to run the water pumps and the fans, as well as various minor systems. I couldn’t see any figures for that. I did see a promotional picture of a solar-thermal plant in the middle of a complex of seawater greenhouses, but if the seawater greenhouse idea proves meritorious, those needs could be taken care of with nuclear power better than with solar-thermal.


  302. For sure! But the only energy this system requires is the pumping of the seawater, which is marginal compared to the enormous quantities of agricultural water they hope will one day turn the northern Sahara green. Each greenhouse produces enough water to grow not only the food inside, but 5 times that quantity of water can be released to grow more heat resistant crops outside the greenhouse.

    (Being in the desert, the greenhouse has special filters to cut the inside temperatures, because outside is hell on earth. So any crops outside would have to be heat tolerant, and so I’m thinking the best guys on earth to ask are the “Greening the desert” permaculture guys that build swales in the desert, with very tall, non-food producing trees for shade for the more sun-sensitive and temperature sensitive fruit and nut trees they were growing. Check out “Greening the desert”, it’s only 5 minutes and is the cutting edge in low tech design… that could of course be combined with the cutting edge in nuclear power design to totally rejuvenate the Northern Sahara’s ecology and economy).


  303. Question:

    which is the best method of generating liquid fuels for airlines? Assuming that most of the world moves to electric cars and fast-rail that runs directly on nuclear (or whatever “Black Swan” arrives ;-), what about the limitations of producing liquid fuels?

    I have to admit that I love the idea of biochar processing agriwaste into the miraculous, carbon-NEGATIVE biochar (which when stored in the soil becomes a ‘coral-reef’ of the soil micro-organism environment), and also produces quite a bit of syngas. But that might be needed for local agricultural purposes.

    Then there’s this SCIAM article about a new catalytic process with sugars…

    What about it? With nuclear power as a plentiful baseload power source, what other options become available for airlines, agriculture, and mining sectors?


  304. which is the best method of generating liquid fuels for airlines? Assuming that most of the world moves to electric cars and fast-rail that runs directly on nuclear (or whatever “Black Swan” arrives ;-), what about the limitations of producing liquid fuels?

    If we manage to get rid of all the other fossil fuel CO2 emissions, we might as well just keep pumping it out of the ground until it’s no longer competitive with nuclear-generated fuel. Aviation fuel isn’t really a major contributor to current GHG emissions.


  305. Thanks for that SciAm link EN. It describes a fairly good process for catalytic conversion of sugars (sucrose, cellulose, most biomass) to a wide range of hydrocarbons. Conversion to hydrocarbon instead of ethanol avoids the very energy intensive separation of water from the product. Liquid fuels will be with us for a long time, and extending the toolkit for their production is a good thing. Aviation aside, agriculture and mining is going to want a lot of this stuff.

    Note though that it is a plant derived biofuel, and is subject to the same constraints as, say, scaling up ethanol production, such as how much of your arable land and water do you want going to fuel production instead of food. There are limits to how far biofuels can take us towards a sustainable energy system.


  306. @ Finrod,
    But unless the same amount is taken out of the atmosphere each year, it will build up over time. I guess according to the wiki airlines are currently only about 3.5% of our Co2 emissions… and the biochar process I’m talking about is meant to negate a ‘wedge’ of about a 7th of our emissions annually by 2050. So there may be room for the process you describe of just pulling the fuels out of the ground… which seems a bit nasty to me in terms of our need for plastics and chemical feedstocks. I guess there’s a lot of coal for that for future generations… and one day hopefully our grandchildren will crack nano-tech that negates all these questions.

    @ John,

    1. I’m very aware and concerned about the “food V fuel” issue, which is one of the reasons I love biochar so much. Relying on agriwaste and forestry waste alone, it produces fuel *and* food. (With the charcoal drastically increasing soil productivity, water retention, and decreasing nitrogen requirements by about a third).

    2. What about efficiency?
    Isn’t there fuel cells that burn other fuels like methanol or something to use far less energy for generating forward motion on harvesters?


  307. An additional comment: The 4,000- & 5,000-death numbers, based as they are on the discredited LNT model, have no relevance to the real world. The health physics community is preponderantly in agreement that LNT has no valid empirical foundation, and that there is much empirical evidence to the contrary. An official statement by the Health Physics Society says this:

    A large dose to a small number of people is not equivalent to a small dose to many people, even if the collective doses are the same. Thus, for populations in which almost all individuals are estimated to receive a lifetime dose of less than 10 rem above background, collective dose is a highly speculative and uncertain measure of risk and should not be used for the purpose of estimating population health risks.

    Quoting from Nucleonics Week:

    The [French] Academy [of Medicine] “denounces” the use of the linear nonthreshold (LNT) theory to estimate the health effect of doses below a few milliSieverts, the order of magnitude of the variation in natural background radiation among French regions. It also condemns the use of the collective dose concept to estimate health effects, saying “these procedures have no scientific validity, even if they appear convenient for administrative reasons.” . . . The full Academy adopted the opinion in a unanimous vote Dec. 4 [2001].

    The credible literature (WHO, IAEA) puts the total Chernobyl death toll at less than 60. The ‘conspiracy theories’ drummed up against these authoritative organisations rings a disturbingly similar bell in my mind to the crank attacks on the IPCC, NASA and WMO in climate science.


  308. @ Gordon,
    you still haven’t answered a number of pertinent AGW questions on my blog, and so I’m not bothering to play these games with you any longer. It’s Friday night… maybe you should go out and catch a movie or something? Meet some people? Silly jabs at climate science only embarrass yourself.


  309. Yeah, that’s really going to help you… except what point are you trying to make from *which particular* paper?

    I could trot off to real climate and just enter MWP into their search engine and blindly list a dozen links… like a teenager trying to win an argument by the sheer quantity of “internet links, so what I’m saying must be true!”

    So if you could quote a few relevant summary paragraphs from one study please, and be a little bit more adult in the way you venture information, that would be great.

    What are you trying to argue, how does it disprove AGW, and which peer reviewed science backs you up?


  310. @ eclipsenow,

    “you still haven’t answered a number of pertinent AGW questions on my blog”

    My answer is, according to your blog:
    “Your comment is awaiting moderation” and I guess if you can’t see my reply (I can) then I can understand why you are confused.

    Basically, the point I am trying to make is that there is research into the MWP that contradicts Mann’s hockey stick. Even the IPCC is moving away from the Stick.

    “The National Academy of Science Report from 2006 – all of which have helped to clarify that the hockey-stick methodologies lead indeed to questionable historical reconstructions. The 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC now presents a whole range of historical reconstructions instead of favoring prematurely just one hypothesis as reliable.”

    If the MWP was as warm (or warmer) than today then the “alarm” over recent warming would be unfounded.


  311. hi barry:

    those quotes from Health Physics and Nucleonics are very useful but someone might rebut that the mainstream organizations you cite at end of your post (WHO. IAEA) do, nonetheless, retain LNT, no? for “administrative purposes,” whatever.

    and of course, anti nuke groups like IEER will treat the health physics society as themselves “a group of cranks” questioning mainstream science. It’s all pretty infuriating.

    you would think there would be some urgency in running those experiments on LNT in Carlsbad Caverns given the magnitudes of dead people created out of thin air as a result of LNT.

    The numbers you mention above–4-5,000 deaths. to what is that a response?


  312. @ Eclipsenow
    The theory that the MWP only affected the Northern Hemisphere and was cooler than today is starting to fall apart. The reality is that it was global and just as warm – if not warmer than today.
    Here are a few links for you but given that you didn’t bother to read the peer-reviewed articles I linked above then I doubt you will bother reading these.
    Five thousand years of sediment transfer in a high arctic watershed recorded in annually laminated sediments from Lower Murray Lake, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada
    Cook, T.L., Bradley, R.S., Stoner, J.S. and Francus, P. 2009; Journal of Paleolimnology 41: 77-94
    Recent temperatures were the warmest since the fourteenth century, but similar conditions existed intermittently during the period spanning ~4000 1000 varve years ago.

    Click to access cook2008.pdf

    Data –
    Summer temperatures in the Canadian Rockies during the last millennium: a revised record
    Luckman, B.H. and Wilson, R.J.S. 2005; Climate Dynamics 24: 131-144
    “The reconstruction shows warm intervals, comparable to twentieth century values, for the first half of the eleventh century, the late 1300s and early 1400s.
    In fact, 1434 (1.69°C) showed the warmest reconstructed summer, followed by 1967 (1.46°C) and 1936 (1.45°C).

    Click to access LuckmanandWilson2005.pdf

    South America:
    A quantitative high-resolution summer temperature reconstruction based on sedimentary pigments from Laguna Aculeo, central Chile, back to AD 850.
    von Gunten, L., Grosjean, M., Rein, B., Urrutia, R. and Appleby, P. 2009.; The Holocene 19: 873-881
    Our data provide quantitative evidence for the presence of a Medieval Climate Anomaly (in this case, warm summers between AD 1150 and 1350; T = +0.27 to +0.37°C with respect to (wrt) twentieth century)

    Click to access Von-Gunten-et-al_2009_HOL_summer-T-Aculeo.pdf

    Tropical glacier and ice core evidence of climate change on annual to millennial time scales
    Thompson, L.G., Mosley-Thompson, E., Davis, M.E., Lin, P.-N., Henderson, K. and Mashiotta, T.A. 2003; Climatic Change 59: 137-155
    This composite 18Oice record shows enriched 18Oice from 1140 to 1250 AD, possibly reflecting the Medieval Warm Period

    Click to access Thompsonetal-climatic-change-2003.pdf

    A preliminary 3000-year regional temperature reconstruction for South Africa
    Holmgren, K., Tyson, P.D., Moberg, A. and Svanered, O. 2001; South African Journal of Science 97: 49-51
    Medieval warming with a maximum at around AD 1500 and a pronounced warm episode around 100 BC were prominent features of the record.
    The Little Ice Age and medieval warming in South Africa
    Tyson, P.D., Karlen, W., Holmgren, K. and Heiss, G.A. 2000; South African Journal of Science 96: 121-126
    The climate of the interior of South Africa was around 1oC cooler in the Little Ice Age and may have been over 3°C higher than at present during the extremes of the medieval warm period.
    Alkenone-based reconstruction of late-Holocene surface temperature and salinity changes in Lake Qinghai, China
    Liu, Z., Henderson, A.C.G. and Huang, Y. 2006; Geophysical Research Letters 33: 10.1029/2006GL026151
    Oscillating warm and cold periods could be related to the 20th century warm period, the Little Ice Age, the Medieval Warm Period, the Dark Ages Cold Period, and the Roman Warm Period.
    Climate variability in central China over the last 1270 years revealed by high-resolution stalagmite records
    Paulsen, D.E., Li, H.-C. and Ku, T.-L. 2003; Quaternary Science Reviews 22: 691-701
    The changes include those corresponding to the Medieval Warm Period Little Ice Age and 20th-century warming lending support to the global extent of these events.

    Click to access QSR2003_691.pdf

    New Zealand and Indonesia:
    Short-term climate change and New Zealand temperatures during the last millennium
    Wilson, A.T., Hendy, C.H. and Reynolds, C.P. 1979; Nature 279: 315-317
    Climate and hydrographic variability in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool during the last millennium.
    Newton, A., Thunell, R. and Stott, L. 2006; Geophysical Research Letters 33: 10.1029/2006GL027234
    The warmest temperatures and highest salinities occurred during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)

    Click to access NewtonThunellStott06-ITCZsouthLIA.pdf

    Data –
    Oxygen isotope and palaeotemperature records from six Greenland ice-core stations: Camp Century
    ohnsen, S.J., Dahl-Jensen, D., Gundestrup, N., Steffensen, J.P., Clausen, H.B., Miller, H., Masson-Delmotte, V., Sveinbjörnsdottir, A.E. and White, J. 2001; Journal of Quaternary Science 16: 299-307
    Holocene environmental variability in southern Greenland inferred from lake sediments
    Kaplan, M.R., Wolfe, A.P. and Miller, G.H. 2002; Quaternary Research 58: 149-159
    Intervals of ameliorated limnological conditions occurred between 1300 and 900 and between 500 and 280 cal yr B.P., briefly interrupting the decreasing trend in productivity that culminated in the Little Ice Age. Increased lake productivity during the latter half of the 20th century, which reflects the limnological response to circum-arctic warming, still has not reached peak Holocene values.

    Click to access Kaplan%20et%20al%20QR%202002.pdf

    800-yr-long records of annual air temperature and precipitation over southern Siberia inferred from Teletskoye Lake sediments
    Kalugin, I., Daryin, A., Smolyaninova, L., Andreev, A., Diekmann, B. and Khlystov, O. 2007; Quaternary Research 67: 400-410
    Comparison of these reconstructed Siberian records with the annual record of air temperature for the Northern Hemisphere shows similar trends in climatic variability over the past 800 yr.

    Click to access Kal2006a.pdf

    Environmental changes in the northern Altai during the last millennium documented in Lake Teletskoye pollen record
    Andreev, A.A., Pierau, R., Kalugin, I.A., Daryin, A.V., Smolyaninova, L.G. and Diekmann, B. 2007; Quaternary Research 67: 394-399
    Around AD 1200, regional climate became warmer and more humid than present, as revealed by an increase of Siberian pine and decreases of dry herb taxa and charcoal contents.

    Click to access And2005g.pdf

    Oxygen-isotope (18O) evidence of Holocene hydrological changes at Signy Island, maritime Antarctica
    Noon, P.E., Leng, M.J. and Jones, V.J. 2003; The Holocene 13: 251-263
    Strong similarities with other Holocene proxy records from the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula Region are apparent, including the mid-Holocene climate optimum followed by the Neoglacial and, most recently, late twentieth-century climatic warming.
    Unstable climate oscillations during the Late Holocene in the Eastern Bransfield Basin, Antarctic Peninsula
    Khim, B.-K., Yoon, H.I., Kang, C.Y. and Bahk, J.J. 2002; Quaternary Research 58: 234-245
    The late Holocene records clearly identify Neoglacial events of the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Warm Period (MWP). Other unexplained climatic events comparable in duration and amplitude to the LIA and MWP events also appear in the MS record, suggesting intrinsically unstable climatic conditions during the late Holocene in the Bransfield Basin of Antarctic Peninsula.


  313. @ Eclipsenow

    “You know that some regions may have been slightly warmer….”

    Michael Mann released a paper (published Nov 2009) that concluded the following:

    “The Medieval period is found to display warmth that
    matches or exceeds that of the past decade in some regions……”

    Click to access MannetalScience09.pdf

    Whilst his reconstruct draws on studies that are contained in the offending link….
    his work is already outdated given the weighting that would be applied to this study:

    and yes this was published in a peer-reviewed journal


  314. Peter Lalor, on 30 April 2010 at 20.39 — Sorrry, no URL. It was part of lunch time conversations here with those in the know. I don’t don’t know why such plans are being laid nor how many transformers are to be stockpiled. But transformers do fail and in order to meet the newer reliability requirements imposed on utilties by regulators, some stockpiling would be necessary in any case.


  315. @ Eclipsenow

    NO, you said:

    “You know that “some regions” may have been “slightly warmer”.

    Mann said:

    “…..display warmth that
    “matches or exceeds that of the past decade” in “some regions”.

    Mann’s own reconstruction concludes this based on evidence from the following regions:

    North America
    South America

    But hey, these are just “some regions” and don’t represent the globe as a whole!

    Two things I will point out is that Mann’s hockey stick no longer looks like a hockey stick and Mann now refers to the Medieval Warm Period as the Medieval Climate Anomaly. An anomaly – like the data now represents some strange, unusual, or unique occurrence. Watch as the data confirms that the MWP was warmer than now and it is all spun as an “Anomaly”.

    PS Your Crock IS a crock as it is already out of date.


  316. Well, that’s it then. Global warming is all wrong, ’cause climatologists just don’t know about any of the earth’s previous climatic shifts. ;-)

    Note: Mann reviewed those regions but concluded the warming was not global. Want to explain that? Do you honestly believe if he saw indications of warming over all those continents that he’d still call it ‘regional’? Do you honestly expect me to take you seriously when you put arguments as childish as the one above? “Well his SURVEY was of the whole earth, so neh!” is basically the tone of your post.

    How about quoting the relevant paragraphs that show Mann found warmer temperatures in all those continents? ;-)

    So here’s your last chance. You’ve done an ‘info dump’ with your previous post, and if I find in their executive summaries that you’ve actually misquoted them and they still find the MWP lower than today’s temperatures, then I’m done with you.

    So I suggest you find your top 1 or 2 studies, because I’m not chasing after your top 10 denialists… and throw out anything prior to Mann, if we’re going only on the latest studies. (And keep in mind ‘latest’ sometimes means not yet peer reviewed and so inconclusive).

    They’ve NEVER attributed climate shift to any other natural causes, have they? ;-)

    And they certainly don’t know a thing about the physics of Co2 and other greenhouse gases, do they?

    You’ve definitely won me over! ;-)

    The thing is, while I’m still scratching my head over the conflicting claims for the MWP, climatologists easily admit that there have been warmer periods on the earth in the past! Of course they do!

    So what is your point? Relevance please!?


  317. @ Eclipsenow

    Global Warming IS happening but the debate we are having is about what is driving it. I think it is becoming clear that the “science is far from settled”.

    On the 28th April you wrote:

    “Where do you get the information that humanity has seen warmer temperatures? It’s just not true”

    From here:

    Click to access MannetalScience09.pdf

    Whilst Mann wrote:
    “The reconstructed MCA (MWP) pattern is characterized by warmth over a large part of the North Atlantic, Southern Greenland, the Eurasian Arctic, and parts of North America, which appears to substantially exceed that of the modern late–20th century (1961–1990) baseline and is comparable to or exceeds that of the past one-to-two
    decades in some regions.”

    He also added a “disclaimer” to the reconstruct:
    “The reconstruction skill diagnostics suggest that the MCA (MWP) and LIA reconstructions are most reliable (Fig. 2) over the Northern Hemisphere and tropics, and least reliable in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in the extratropics.”

    Mann was not confident in the data for the Southern Hemisphere and this is shown in (Fig. 2) in the paper. What is interesting is to look at the mean surface temperature anomaly and the associated relative weightings of various proxy records used. Where you have proxy data used it is represented by a single pixel (take particular note of the representation of the work in South America). This contrasts wildly with the extreme warm area off Greenland and Iceland where only lightly weighted data is used.

    So my point is: there are some pretty major gaps in the understanding of climate science and I think that until the science is settled then the campaign of fear that is currently being waged is challenged unreservedly.


  318. @ Gordon
    1. “Disclaimers” that you try to attribute something dubious or sinister to are a legitimate part of science. Stop looking for epistemological absolute certainty and start to realise that humanity can only run off the information we have now. The science is not as uncertain as you try to suggest, but does involve some margins of error and low probability of not being 100% correct. It’s all we can run off, and all we ever have!

    2. Why didn’t you complete the quote from that paper? There’s an important part of the sentence on page 1256 that you decided not to include, and I quote:

    The Medieval period is found to display warmth that
    matches or exceeds that of the past decade in some regions, but which falls well below recent levels globally.
    Ooops, Gordon, you’re fly is undone! Like all denialists, your honesty is brought into question when you cherrypick studies like this. You lie by omission.

    3. Lastly, and completely hypothetically, even if there was some natural forcing that temporarily pushed temperatures up so that they were “comparable to or exceeds that of the past one-to-two decades in some regions“, what we have here is a man made forcing, Co2, which we know is having certain extreme effects from the physics that are longer lived on climate effects.

    Stop trying to extrapolate out ‘vagueness’ and uncertainty from a few shorter term natural climate variablesin climate history into the broader argument from physics that is longer term, man-made, and extremely serious GLOBALLY!

    It’s wonky logic, it’s dishonest, and you need to stop it.


  319. Gordon, on 1 May 2010 at 22.08 — Here is a borehole temperature reconstruction study:
    Do note the conclusion.

    There are more papers than I have time to read on just borehole reconstuctions. These papers agree with other, proxy oriented studies: its hotter now.

    For an analysis of the last 12 decades, read
    in which the first formula is missing a right parenthesis and should read
    AE(d) = k(lnCO2(d-1) – lnCO2(1870s)) – GTA(1880s)

    For a more thorough treatment of the instrumental record, see Tol, R.S.J. and A.F. de Vos (1998), ‘A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect’, Climatic Change, 38, 87-112, which agrees with my shorter analysis in the above link.

    For just how bad it will become, read Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”.


  320. @ Eclipsenow

    The fact the temperature falls well below globally is due to the least reliable data for the Southern Hemisphere dragging down the average.

    On the manmade CO2 forcing issue, maybe someone would like to comment on why the energy budget can’t be balanced.

    Is it that the current models are flawed or is there some other climate mechanism that Science has yet to understand?

    @ David B Benson

    David, the time frame we are discussing covers the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD) whereas the Pollack study you have offered covers the period 1500-2000 AD – which is from the Little Ice Age (LIA) until recent times.

    @ G.R.L Cowan

    Not sure exactly which article you are directing us to – could you please clarify. If, however, it is a further “personal attack” then I would like to refer you to BNC’s comments policy


  321. @ DV82XL

    You believe in Nuclear Power – so do I.

    You believe that we should reduce CO2 but not necessarily in a manner that will reduce the quality of our lives or the lives of others – so do I.

    You believe changing weather patterns may indeed be natural, or they may be caused by greenhouse gases – but if I propose an arguement that it is natural then I am a Troll.

    Go figure!


  322. No Gordon, I have said I do not know, and that I do not have the background to make a judgement. There is a difference. This is why I do not engage in debate on this subject; it is not an area I am comfortable in the depth of my knowledge. That would be unlike others on the net that cannot weight the difference between an article in The New York Times, and a proper scientific publication. I know how much I don’t know, and act accordantly.

    However I do have enough understanding of the topic of geophysics, to see that there isn’t a region on the planet where the evidence of the impacts of climate change isn’t mounting, that the ocean is rising, and the ice caps are melting, and deserts are expanding. Those are observations the quality of which I judge to be sufficiently accurate to show that climate change is real.

    So it is not a case of I believe it could be natural or due to Man’s activities. It is the third option of ‘I don’t know.’ If you had any training in science, you would know what that means.


  323. @ DV8,
    does one have to be professionally educated to the Phd level in a particular field to have an opinion on it?

    Isn’t there a point where you’d be happy to say, “My opinion is that, from my limited knowledge in this field, the consensus seems to be XYZ, and that’s good enough for me for now until proven otherwise?”

    Otherwise none of us would have any opinion on the trustworthiness of any scientific field of knowledge outside one’s own arena.


  324. Gordon,
    you’re a troll because you come onto a climate blog run by a famous climatologist, pull out the same tired old Denialist myths that must to Barry stink like fresh, hot, steaming piles of dog pooh, and then you repeatedly rub our noses in this filth.

    Seriously, what do you get out of it? Do you honestly believe in your myths so strongly that if you can just chat with Barry a little longer, and just share your whack-job websites just one more time, Barry might eventually come around? (In which case I’d suggest you are deluded). Or are you just pathetically lonely and looking for some negative attention online? As we all know even with little kiddies, “Negative attention is better than no attention.” (In which case I’d ask you to switch of the computer and go outside and meet some people).

    Delusional or socially backward? I’m all ears.


  325. eclipsenow, on 2 May 2010 at 20.22 Said:

    “does one have to be professionally educated to the Phd level in a particular field to have an opinion on it?”

    Obviously not.

    However I will not hold forth on subjects which I have not spent the time to study in sufficient depth, such that I am comfortable that I have developed a reasonably complete understanding of the mechanics.

    This doesn’t make me a climate change sceptic, or a so called ‘agnostic;’ I have seen enough evidence of climate change to know that it is happening. But I have not spent enough time studying the topic such that I have a clear picture in my mind what each explanation is asserting, thus I cannot weight them to determine which is the more plausible. Consequently I am left at this point, with little more than arguments from authority to form my opinions with, and I will not argue from that position.


  326. – Jobs available in fossil vs. nuclear energy-

    I was listening to the Blees interview podcast of 11-2008 in which he “debated” Wassermann. One woman rang the station with a startling allegation which has not, I think, been addressed on BNC, though it is the first thing a politician thinks of: jobs in his electorate.

    The woman alleged how renewables provide many more jobs than nuclear, as all roofs in the US are apparently going to get PV panels (sic).

    Are there any figures based on manhours/MW of power produced in nuclear versus fossil electricity generation, for example? Did France keep its pre-1970s manpower data before building its 59 NPPs at that time? are they valid now, given notional increases in fossil fuel power generation efficiency since 1970, if any?

    To what extent can historical experience 1945-2010 predict manpower requirements across economic sectors in an all-electric nuclear economy?

    It seems that such figures are likely to be increasingly important in electoral politics. Within EU countries that are otherwise anti-nuke, whole small towns are pro-nuke if the population depends on the local NPP for work.


  327. @ descendant of provosts, seigneurs (sociologically inconsistent with sneering at “chardonnay-swilling Vermont-ers”, as you did on BNC recently, but I let it pass:
    how do you deign to address me once more? ):

    it is true as you say that nuclear and fossil are apples and oranges, but it behoves politicians wanting election to push NPPs as job creators, or at least to fudge the issue successfully. One idea would be for them to say that, as Rod Adams said when talking of theft by terrorists in his most recent podcast, NPPS are difficult of access.

    So that would imply many paid security staff per square metre long-term compared to a solar thermal plant/hydro dam/wind park .

    But if NPPs were rolled out at French 1970s speed, there would be a great demand for construction labour anyway.


  328. @Peter Lalor – Yes as a matter of fact I do draw a distinction between families like mine who have roots in the region going back +350 years, and arriviste posers, vendus, and flâneurs who meddle in local politics and culture with no understanding or appreciation of ether.

    Few of the jackasses working to close down Vermont Yankee Power, derive their incomes from local sources, yet they are happy to push for the closure of a plant that provide jobs to an area that is going to be devastated economically by the loss of the high paying jobs, and the transfer of this wealth to an out of state gas plant.

    And for what? A tritium leak that was smaller that the amount of the same gas that would be released from a self-power ‘EXIT’ sign.


  329. Peter said:

    Are there any figures based on manhours/MW of power produced in nuclear versus fossil electricity generation, for example?

    I suspect (though I don’t know) that there would be far fewer jobs per MW installed in nuclear than in renewables. That would help explain why renewables are so much more expensive, If nuclear power is less labour-intensive, that would be a good thing, because it would entail humans being freed up to do the other work that this reliable and substantial source of energy provided.


  330. Interestingly, IEA estimates of the cost of CCS reduce to about half the current long-term contract price of coal. This means that to sequester all the CO2 and use coal burning derived energy to do so then requires

    1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … = 2

    times as much coal for the same net electric power generated. So 9 cent/kWh power becomes 18 cents/kWh power and at that price clearly NPPs are less expensive.


  331. DV82XL, on 3 May 2010 at 8.32 — The infinite sum accounts for the doubled emissions to be captured. But yes, there would be twice as much fly ash to help make twice as much concrete. Moving twice as much coal would not significantly affect the cost, except

    lack of coal shipping terminals, which Aussies and Chinese will know fabout far better than I.


  332. David B. Benson – From what I understand, not all fly ash is suitable for making concrete. Nevertheless the real burden from doubling the amount of coal required will be the environmental damage wrought by mining it. This is one of the other reasons CCS is a fraud – it only addresses the smokestack side of the pollution equation from burning this fuel, yet it’s being touted as ‘clean coal.’


  333. @ David B. Benson

    Yes, but didn’t they find :

    The reconstructions show the temperatures of the mid-Holocene warm episode some 1–2 K above the reference level, the maximum of the MWP at or slightly below the reference level, the minimum of the LIA about 1 K below the reference level, and end-of-20th century temperatures about 0.5 K above the reference level.

    and in the Summary and Conclusions:

    Data from the depth range 0–100 meters, the depth range where most of the information about 20th century climate change resides, were excluded from the reconstruction because of noise considerations. Thus the reconstructions derived from that dataset cannot be used to compare the Medieval Warm Period to changes taking place in the 20th century.


  334. Data from the depth range 0–100 meters, the depth range where most of the information about 20th century climate change resides, were excluded from the reconstruction because of noise considerations. Thus the reconstructions derived from that dataset cannot be used to compare the Medieval Warm Period to changes taking place in the 20th century.

    Your point being?


  335. DV82XL, on 3 May 2010 at 9.36 — I love coal so I want everybody to leave it in the ground, not immolate it. :-)

    The point of my simplistic analysis is that unless the cost of CCS can be broght down more dramatically than I see how to do, coal+CCS is clearly more expensive than even an AP-1000, not to mention newer designs of NPPs, and even completely ignoring the other externalities.


  336. Gordon, on 3 May 2010 at 9.42 — Borehole reconstructions are quite difficult and I prefer the earlier linked one with its error intervals. Extrapolating that back to the MWP period strongly suggests that boreholes, even analyzed in ways that allow comparisons to the 20th century (as in the prior link to the NOAA site), are not accurate enough for simple comparisons that far back in the past.

    Therefore other proxies have to be employed. Using those, one finds evidence than indeed “the maximum of the MWP at or slightly below the reference level, the minimum of the LIA about 1 K below the reference level, and end-of-20th century temperatures about 0.5 K above the reference level.” Or thereabouts.


  337. Ewen said:

    I suspect (though I don’t know) that there would be far fewer jobs per MW installed in nuclear than in renewables. That would help explain why renewables are so much more expensive, If nuclear power is less labour-intensive, that would be a good thing, because it would entail humans being freed up to do the other work that this reliable and substantial source of energy provided.

    This is the key point that Peter Lalor obviously doesn’t understand.

    We need rational arguments not the totally irrational arguments contributed by Peter Lalor. No rational thinking person would argue that we should go back to technologies that require more labour to get the same output.

    When we get to the point of arguing we should implement the technologies that require the most labour (ie renewables) to provide our electricity, then we really have lost the plot.


  338. The most labour intensive form of renewable energy (reducto ad absurdum) is muscle power (humans and beasts of burden).

    I recently read somewhere (I don’t exactly recall where) that kW.h for kW.h, humans can do twice the amount of mechanical work as horses for a given amount of grain consumed. This little fact probably underpinned the economics of human slavery in pre-industrial societies for a long time.


  339. Finrod,

    On the same basis, Ants can do 20 or a 100 times as much work as humans.

    Furthermore, if we banned ants and termites, we’d halve world CO2 emissions in one go!

    I have a chart that shows man’s daily per capita energy consumption for the past 200,000 years. It shows daily energy consumption for: food; home and commerce; industry and agriculture; transportation; total. It is for the periods:

    Technological man
    Industrial man
    Advanced Agricultural man
    Primitive Agricultural man
    Hunting man
    Primitive man

    This chart persuades me that we are not going to move back to less dense sources of energy. So, playing with and promoting renewable energy is like trying to stop the tide coming i. It just isn’t going to happen.


  340. This chart persuades me that we are not going to move back to less dense sources of energy. So, playing with and promoting renewable energy is like trying to stop the tide coming i. It just isn’t going to happen.

    Yes, but I like to remind renewables advocates of some of the realities of history, and the consequences to be expected of any attempt to repeat it.