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:



    “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