Open Thread

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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By Barry Brook

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

526 replies on “Open Thread 3”

Back then the waste was just dumped into the ocean.

How could the containment hold forever?

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Heavyweather said:

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

My blog summary page on nuclear reads:

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Both are in error.


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

No. You’re just being a dick.

I find your attitude and manner to be downright childish.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

It’s simple really.

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

From the wiki…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


DV82XL and John D Morgan,

Very well said. Those mentioned could gain a lot by taking notice of your comments.


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

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

George Stanford, in this post:

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Eclipse Now:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Eclipse Now, Said:

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

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

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

And this is not an epistemological issue by any means.


@ DV8

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

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

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

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

Read the link again.

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

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

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

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

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

Well worth downloading and listening to!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ooops, posted too soon when editing large post.

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Dr Lester says:

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

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

Even John Deal, CEO of Hyperion, says:

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

They would at least understand what I meant by it.

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


I thought this interesting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DV82XL, on 29 March 2010 at 11.17 Said:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

Also, what are the documented costs for such reactors?

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


@Peter & Barry

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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


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

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

@Peter Lang – See

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

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


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

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

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


eclipsenow, Said:

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

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


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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

But when DV8 seems to just right off wind altogether with technobabble that it’s complex to integrate into the grid, well, what do you make of that? What about the phenomenal growth that has *already* occurred and that is projected to occur? What do *you* do with claims like that in the face of France building another 27 gigs of wind? Are we really to believe that none of the world’s utilities have thought of this?

Check this graph mate… does the following graph indicate a world where energy utilities have all agreed with DV8 and just given up because wind is too hard to indicate? Money talks. Just from the graph it looks like we had about 2 gigs of wind in 1998, 200 gigs now, and 400 gigs by 2014.

Don’t the utilities know wind is difficult to integrate? ;-)

This only came up because I mentioned Blee’s conveniently forgetting that wind power will be a perfect fit for the fleet of EV’s ready to charge at almost any time of the day. DV8 just plain IGNORED this inconvenient truth and so went on the rampage against the integration of wind power.

Reminds me of the War the Worlds rock album.

“The chances of anything coming from *wind*, are a million to 1 he said….. And still they come……”.


Got any ideas how to convince the NZ Govt to replace Huntly with a CANDU-6 (or two)?
“A 2006 government report outlining future anti-climate change and energy policies was seen by the operator as a sign that the plant might have to be closed by 2015 under these plans, with around 10 years of design life still remaining. It was also noted that, apart from being difficult to replace as a source of power (due to New Zealand’s annually growing generation demand, especially around Auckland), such a decision would also be uneconomical for the foreseeable future, even if coal prices were to rise.[8]” (The cite is a newspaper article).
I’m with Peter Lang (and I think I’ve said this before) – CANDUs for everyone.


The same article cited has this:
“Climate change itself might pose a risk to hydro generation. Genesis cites advice from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research warning of an overall reduction of inflows into the South island hydro lakes, and increased dry-year risk, in the coming two or three decades.”
The north of NZ is currently experiencing a 100 year drought. So is Venezuela. So, I gather, is China. Nuclear power would not rely on water (so much) and could be configured (I believe) to use some of the generated heat for desalination.


Of course, the political situation in NZ has changed – the govt is now centre-right not centre-left, when the quoted govt report (2006) was done. Not sure how that changes things. And I know NZ is anti-nuke. Which is obviously crazy, now that I know a little about nuclear power. All those dams in the South Island that drowned towns, something like the way the St Lawrence river shipping channel development drowned the towns there. Well, ok, it’s different, but then if they had not made the Seaway, maybe there would not be zebra mussels either. And there’d by lots more rail, and less money in Paul Martin’s pockets.
Uh oh, I’m rambling.


@ Peter Lang – Peter I think I mentioned that the Qinshan contract was for more than just the reactors, there were other service and supply considerations that were folded into the price. Just how this was broken down are details I am not privy to. At any rate it would be for the Chinese to release the particulars, not AECL.

The “sticker price” of $900 million is the number that is being thrown around for a CANDU 6 basic, the enhanced CANDU 6 is more, as is the CANDU 9. The ACR1000 very expensive, and I don’t think it has much of a future myself. As well there is the The 450 MWe CANDU-3 but I think the Indians are going to eat our lunch on small heavy water reactors.

@ Lawrence – I’m afraid I can’t be of much help


Can you say how much local suppliers would/could be involved in an overseas installation. The Pt Lepreau story shows the perils, but if those perils are avoided, how much can locals contribute to the cost of a CANDU installation?
I am asking you to speculate of course – NZ would not be like China or India.


The only Australian version I know of is OPAL (not a power producing installation of course) – I do not know how much Ozzies contributed to it’s construction.


DV82XL, Yes, I did get that the “Qinshan contract was for more than just the reactors”.

But I am still not clear what you mean when you say “The “sticker price” of $900 million is the number that is being thrown around for a CANDU 6 basic”. Does this price include all the facilities for the complete power station – such as turbines, gnerators, transformers, and everything else? The reason I ask is that sometimes these are not included.


The Allegheny Treasures website links to a paper by de Groot and le Pair. That paper confirms that in Germany generators of controllable power are obliged to throttle back when the wind is blowing. Even if that obligation is not as rigorous in other countries I’d argue that the effect of multiple layers of subsidy is the same. That is add together any feed-in tariffs, renewables quotas subject to penalty and RECs that can be sold as offsets. That combination makes it nearly impossible to say no to available windpower whether it is useful or not.

A more correct approach consistent with what I recall of Econ 101 would be for wind generators to bid for short term input the grid, say 10 minutes at a time. The price they quote should cover their expected average costs including a return to shareholders. I suspect that price would be uncompetitive for many sites. That is without FiT, MRET or REC there would be very little wind power.


I once asked Stensil how much of Ontario would need to be covered in windmill’s to get power somewhere all the time, he refused to answer.


I am wondering why there isn’t more interest by the BNC contributors in the CANDU 6.

We know it is safe. CANDU’s have been operating for 40 years and they are operating in may countries.

If the capital cost really is less than $2000/kW (after FOAK), then the cost of electricity would be less than from coal generators in Australia. And we could certainly reduce the costs a lot further, over time, if we wanted to progressively remove the distorting impediments that apply to nuclear power stations in the west.

So why isn’t there more interest in trying to get nuclear here at least cost, rather than trying to force governments to raise the cost of electricity?


The CANDU certainly sounds interesting Peter. I recall someone here recently made the point the CANDU is well suited to starting up nuclear power in a country, partly because its fuel flexibility means the fuel cycle is less constrained, ie run on natural uranium without the need for enrichment facilities or contracts, or thorium. Hot refueling for enhanced availability and no need for a large steel forging for a pressure vessel give it particular advantages. I’d be interested in seeing how it stacks up in a comparison to the AP1000 for suitability for a first Australian nuclear deployment.


John D Morgan,

I agree. And the proposed “modern equivalent of the Snowy Mountains Authority” would investigate would investigate that. They would consider the options and the cost / benefit of the various option over the long term. Is it cheaper to start with Gen III now, or run with Gen II until Gen III is cheaper? Taking all issues into consideration what is the best alternative?

But importantly, let’s get started at looking at the options. Let’s change the focus away from ETS and CPRS and Carbon Tax or any other government intervention to raise the cost of electricity. Instead, let’s focus on what needs to be done to bring low-cost clean electricity to Australia as quickly as possible.

Let’s focus directly on getting the solution.



You keep asking how it is that people here say wind isn’t necessarily a great solution when many nations are committing so much money to building wind farms. I think there is a single proximate reason, which is subsidy. You might then go on to ask why governments are stupid enough to offer subsidies on investments that aren’t worthwhile. I think that the answer is that it is only recently becoming apparent that , having factored in extra grid connection costs and the costs of reduced efficiency when using gas as backup, wind energy is much more expensive and has much less CO2 reduction benefit than previously thought. You might then argue that the gas back up argument will be rendered irrelevant with the arrival of electric cars but I think you’d be quite wrong. Use of nuclear power would provide a cheaper and better match as far as electric vehicle charging is concerned.

Why, with greater understanding, haven’t governments already shied away from wind? As far as the EU is concerned, I understand that there is legislation that demands each member state provides a certain and growing percentage of its energy from renewables. In northern Europe, solar is a non starter and that leaves wind. I don’t know, but this might explain France’s wind investment. It certainly explains that of the UK. It is hard to reverse legislation of this sort – egg on face, armies of enforcing/administering bureaucrats with vested interests etc. The only way to meet these commitments is through the generous provision of subsidy (robbing taxpayers to provide investment opportunities to those who can afford to take them).

EN, you’re an ethical sort of guy. What would you do in my position? Is it immoral for me to buy a turbine despite the encouragement of my government ? I ask because the salesman’s coming to see me this afternoon. I can buy the gadget for an all in cost of £60000. I can produce about 30000kWh/annum of electricity which I can mostly use myself. What I can’t can be sold to the grid. This would provide me a saving approaching £3000/annum. Obviously, a non starter. However, I’d also be paid an extra 27p/kWh I produced, worth about £8000/annum. This would be annually for 20 years, index linked and tax free. Since my government has also decided to up my top rate of tax to 50% (not counting the 10% National Insurance which they don’t consider), I’m wondering whether self interest will win out over ethics. It’s such a pity that I can’t persuade myself that investment in the project would be a public good and a proper indication that I take AGW very seriously. What would you do in my position?


Douglas Wise,

Very well put.

II trust you to do the ethically right thing for the community’s long term benefit – the right thing by the commons !! :)


Peter Lang:

I continue to search for a use for stranded wind.

I think I might have dreamed one up. Care to comment? The plan would be to use the energy to grind up calcium and magnesium silicates and spread them on the beaches of the wet tropics where nuclear power might not be available. This could be classed as a mitigation, air capture strategy through accelerated weathering and might prove a necessary adjunct to phasing out fossil fuel use.

I ask because you did say that stranded wind could be used in mills – though I think you were thinking of water lifting and later admitted to being flippant.


Douglas Wise,

My comment is, someone needs to do the full cost benefit analysis properly.

Personally, I reckon there is no chance of it being viable. The energy involved in mining, transporting, grinding and spreading would be enormous. (I haven’t done any calcualtions).

Yes, I was being flippant. I was reffering to wind mills being useful for pumping water for stock where there is no electricity.

I do exaggerate a bit from time to time. I agree there is a role for solar PV and wind. But it is where they are economic without subsides and without being mandated.


Douglas Wise,

I have a question for you.

Why are contribuitors like yourself and many others focused on all these minutae distractions rather than focused on what we need to do to get low cost, clean electrcity in Australia as quickly as possible. We spend inordinate amounts of time discussing all these anything-but-nuclear alternatives. In Australia, we’ve been doing this for 20+ years. Why?

How can we get people discussing how to implement the options that can deliver the goods?


Peter Lang – Lawrence,

Your two questions are related in that all export builds are a mix of Canadian and local components, and the price is set accordingly. I assume, but I don’t know for sure, that the price I quoted was for the reactor, its auxiliary equipment, control, and the steam generator. I doubt if the turbine hall and its equipment are included.

Unfortunately, you cannot compare domestic builds in Canada with the export market, because of the usual antinuclear interference and the machinations of the CNSC, which since it was created, has largely been a political instrument to hobble nuclear power in this country. Admittedly, they have seemed to softened their approach, (a bit) since the current government had parliament kick out the political flack that had been its previous chairperson, after the NRU fiasco and the medical isotope crises that precipitated. However they have a long way to go before they are at the level the previous regulator was in terms of supporting nuclear activities in this country.

I know I appear to be a CANDU salesman, and perhaps there is some justification in seeing me as such. I assure you I have no connection to the industry, but I am a proud Canadian, and CANDU is one of our successes. Mostly though, as an industry observer I see just how well this reactor would fit into Australia, and I would like to see you guys give it a good hard look.


Peter Lang:

While not wishing to speak for others, I think you are a little unfair to brand me as one who is distracted by minutiae. I do give primacy to economics and, thus, to nuclear . I think you could have inferred this if you had read the post on Britain’s Energy Future.

However, it seems not unreasonable to keep an eye on non nuclear developments in the hope that, one day, something economically sensible might emerge. New developments are usually interesting even if few live up to early claims. It was for that reason that I posted the other day on giant offshore turbines hooked to CAES bags, claimed by the no doubt not unintelligent professor whose baby it is to be capable of producing energy cheaper than coal. I am disinclined to believe him but hope he proves me wrong. Same applies for pioneers of high altitude wind.

The post dealing with sequestration of CO2 by accelerated weathering can’t necessarily be considered a distraction, given the fact that cessation of fossil fuel burning may occur too late to prevent considerable climate change damage unless accompanied by geoengineering. The weathering approach has the added benefit, if taking place in the intertidal zones of starting to put the oceans’ pH back to where most of its current denizens would prefer it to be.

Certainly, you are correct to demand a cost benefit analysis and, in the recent past, the energy costs of mining, grinding, transporting rock before throwing it away have indeed been considered. I suppose the benefit side would have to be judged relative to alternative geoengineering proposals. However, accelerated weathering would best be conducted in third world countries and I was thinking wind might therefore represent a reasonably practical source of power for the job. Intermittency shouldn’t be a major drawback. (Grind when its blowing, rest when not -one needs rest in the humid tropics, so I’m told!) Often, the choices would have to between wind, solar and, in the future, nuclear batteries. It is my understanding that nuclear power from a “battery” is likely some five times more expensive than from a mainline NPP. Thus, wind doesn’t seem so daft an idea for a theorist like me with no engineering knowledge. I believe Graham Cowan has posted on the subject and might have a contribution to make on the costs/tonne of carbon sequestered. However, to the extent that you might consider this a distraction, I’m sure that you, like me, would appreciate, in any event, an update from him on the progress of the boron powered car.


Peter Lang:

I’m back on what you might consider to be the central track. You have been asking questions to determine which design of NPP would be best as a starter for Australia and seem to be trying to decide between between the AP1000 or CANDUs. I have been interested in the answers you have been getting. I suspect you would choose that which gave you the cheapest electricity (as might I).

As a layman’s first guess, the cheapest electricity would come from a site converted from coal to nuclear. The cost savings should, in theory, be maximised if the coal’s steam generators and turbines could be used by the nuclear reactor. (Even if they couldn’t , proximity to grid, roads and water ought to save something significant). My question might therefore be to ask which designs of reactor would be best in a converted system. However, other correspondents here have suggested that such conversions would not be sensible and would not save money. It would be instructive to learn why they hold this view. Is it because the turbines get clapped out before the burners and would thus need replacing anyway or is it more of a PR problem- starting on a dirty site? If the latter, I think the PR could be reversed. Inform surrounding residents that most of the harmful emissions would disappear and that background radiation would not increase over that already present. (This should appeal to Peter because it would allow the nuclear operators to leak more radiation than would have been permitted from a green field site and still keep to their agreement with surrounding residents, but, perhaps, I’m being too cynical).

If one reverts to to simple choice between AP1000 and CANDU, might I ask those with more knowledge to comment on the relative worths of their wastestreams as judged in terms of the usefulness of the residual energy for 4th generation start charges? If the CANDU has less useful “waste”, is it merely because the original fuel was used more efficiently in the first place or would its “waste” be qualitatively less useful as well?


Douglas Wise – The option exists with CANDUs to reprocess the spent fuel and recycle depleted uranium or self-generated plutonium back into the fuel cycle. The decision to pursue these options is based upon economic and resource-availability arguments. In Canada, the cost of fresh uranium is low, so we don’t reprocess, however the Indians, cut off until recently from the market do.

In CANDU reactors, the spent fuel contains depleted uranium on par with the tails from enrichment plants (~0.2%). Therefore, there is no incentive to recycle uranium from spent CANDU fuel. Self-generated plutonium is also dilute in spent CANDU fuel, typically 2.6 g fissile Pu/initial kg U. The plutonium in LWR spent fuel is roughly twice that concentration.

Since reprocessing costs are dependent upon fissile concentration and the amount of material that has to be handled, there is little incentive to reprocess CANDU fuel, especially in comparison with LWR fuel.

So while CANDU would not create starter charges for fast-spectrum reactors, its spent fuel could be burned in that type once it is running.

By in large, fuel bundles are cycled out of a CANDU, not because they are exhausted, but because of swelling. Work is ongoing to improve on this, and higher burnups may be possible.

Also CANDU reactors can play a role in fuel waste management, by being able to burn actinides without creating more actinides. In this strategy, waste actinides would be mixed within an inert matrix and burned in a CANDU core. As an efficient destroyer of waste actinides using currently-available technology, CANDU reactors can serve a role in reducing the total volume of high-level nuclear waste requiring long-term storage.Thus CANDUs could reduce the total requirement for fast spectrum reactors needed for the final destruction of actinides, while extending the time requirement for their development.



Thank you for the informative answer, my interpretation of which is as follows: If one’s priority is to go flat out for closed fuel cycles, realisiing the necessity for maximising start charges, one ‘s objective would not be well served by using CANDUs in the interim. However, were one to opt for maximising economic returns and not worrying too much about rapid elimination of “waste”, which, in the long term, would be used as fuel anyway, then the CANDU approach might be the way to go.

As a separate issue, MSRs, though not as ready-to- go as metal fuelled, sodium cooled reactors would require less start charge material anyway but, themselves, might be less capable of generating the start charges for their own next generation.

This leaves me with the view that one should explore both IFRs and LFTRs as quickly as possible while using either or both CANDUs and AP1000s (or bigger models therof ) in the interim. However, this conclusion was reached before I started thinking that things could get cheaper still by taking the coal to nuclear route which might necessitate a totally different design of interim reactor. It’s all getting a little complex for a senescent biologist to get his head round.


Douglas Wise – GenIV is definitely the long term solution to everything as far as fission is concerned. However as I have written in the past, experience warns me that the distance between where this technology is now and full commercialization is a good deal farther out than its supporters make it out to be.

Nuclear energy is safe and reliable because current designs have had a long period to mature, so while it would be technically possible to start building production Gen IV s out of the gate, the risks would be high and everyone that eventually will be tasked with making them know this, and won’t rush blindly in. In fact most of the discussion now about funding is for experimental units, not power plants.

The money and the utilities will know this too, and will not rush in while there are off the shelf products that can do the job.

As for coal plant conversion, this is not that simple. steam circuits, and turbines are matched to the boilers they are connected to by many parameters, and thus conversion is not a case of cut up the old steam generator and drop in a reactor. Each instance would have to be designed separately, and licensed in what would be a regulatory nightmare for all parties involved.

Real the best thing would be to brownfield the coal plant, and start from scratch, with a proven design, maybe keeping the switchyard and the interconnect from the old installation and little more.


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