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”

“Je déteste les idiomes anglais” – Balzac

I have to agree. Yet another one to strike off my list, never to be used again.

But thank-you, Lawrence, the only way I find out is if someone is kind enough to tell me.


Without getting overly exact about it I thought your usage was ok, just you didn’t know the “spelling”.


Well, the tour to ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization) I was organizing finally happened yesterday. Thanks Finrod, Pip, Geir and Nick for coming, Peter Lang was unfortunately unable to attend.

Thanks to David Ross our very knowledgeable tour guide on the day, OPAL Reactor Manager David Vittorio, Head of Environmental Research John Dodson who showed us the biggest tank of SF6 I ever want to see, GM of Gov. Affairs Andrew Humpherson and Geoff Parsons from Waste. It was a great presentation from all for us.

Its particularly bizarre, having seen a (mockup of) a reactor core the size of a wastepaper bin, the desire by the Greens and others to close this down, particularly given all the great neutron science going on there. I’ve bounced a few neutrons of a few nuclei in the past, and seeing the beam hall and detectors was amazing.

Thanks again everyone.


Not that it matters but “by-in-large” is what is called an eggcorn

This refers to malaprop phrases uttered as a result of mishearing things, typically when they embody semantic allusions to apparently germane concepts. IOW they are phrases as they might have been. “The end-of-year sale was discountinued is probably a typo, but it kind of works. If they get taken up in popular discourse they can become neologisms.

Other examples might include

just desserts
preying mantis This one is especially good because it really is a predator
old timers’ disease I actually use this ironically …
Doing your upmost
on the spurt of the moment

Cheers …


Douglas Wise, on 1 April 2010 at 0.17 Said:

However, it seems not unreasonable to keep an eye on non nuclear developments in the hope that, one day, something economically sensible might emerge.

It seems all the focus is on ‘down in the weeds’ possibilities and this is to the detriment of where our effort should be placed. We’ve been doing this for at least 20 years. In Australia, our research effort has been and still is on fossil fuels and renewable energy and zero on nuclear. We need to turn that around. Constantly talking about wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal and crushing rocks with windmills is a waste of our effort, in my opinion. It is a distraction.

Meanwhile, there is no serious debate on what we need to do to implement nuclear in Australia at an electrcity generation cost that would be less than coal.

It must be doable because the energy density of uranium is ome 20,000 times that of coal – higher for enriched uranium.

I would like us to focus on what needs to be done by our federal and state governments to remove the impediments to low-cost, acceptably-safe, nuclear power in Australia.

My objectives:

1. least cost electricity for the long term
2. energy security (we have that with coal now, but that security might be reduced or removed in the future by international agreements/pressure)
3. improved environmental and health effects of electricity generation
4. maintaining Australia’s position in the world with modern technologies
5. Help the world to move to low-cost, clean electricity as quickly as possible

In my opinion all of these objectives can be achieved by bringing nuclear power to Australia, if we focus on least cost.

To do that the main focus needs to be, initially, on what we need to do to remove all the regulatory and policy impediments. As part of that we’ll need to educate the public – or as some say, ‘have the debate on nuclear power’. I suggest we need a faculty in at least one university in each mainland capital city who will work on how we can implement least cost nuclear power in Australia. If you prefer to avoid picking winners, call it least-cost, low-emissions, baseload electricity

The early focus needs to be on identifying the impediments to low-cost nuclear generation. The actual technology is a side issue at this stage. I brought up sever al examples of low cost nuclear just to show that the technology is not the issue. The issue is the government policy and regulatory impediments.

By the way, I do not believe ‘nuclear waste’ (once-used nuclear fuel) nor proliferation are major technical or cost issues. I believe they are public perception issues that must be tackled and sorted by education. That will be one of many that need to be achieved by the university faculties.

We need to change our bias from high cost useless technologies (i.e. renewables) to low cost, clean, safe, abundant energy of the future (i.e. nuclear).



I am in no position to question your judgement. You essentially make two points:

1) It is pointless to consider a policy that seeks to maximise the speed of transition from gen 2/3 to 4 because the latter designs are insufficiently developed to be deployed safely in the near term.

I am now wondering whether you misunderstood me. I had not envisaged any commercial Gen 4 before 2020 in my maximised scenario – rather, I was considering maximum rollout thereafter, which would be determined, among other things, by access to sufficient start charge material. The choice of such a strategy was based upon the fear that , by 2050 plus, a large expansion of thermal nuclear reactors might start limiting uranium availability.

If you did not misunderstand where I was coming from, may I take it that you are not concerned that uranium will become limiting? Alternatively, are you suggesting that factors that are limiting will not be resources but lack of skilled personnel and/or finance?

2) Coal to nuclear will be a regulatory nightmare if one attempts to plumb into the theoretically usable equipment extant on site. Therefore, it would be better to brownfield the site and start again. In percentage terms, what is your best guess for savings to be gained from the brownfielding compared to greenfield start ups?


Douglas Wise

I am not concerned with a potential uranium shortage in the in the near to medium future. It might require more reprocessing than is done at the moment, but I suspect that as the price of uranium rises, more deposits will be exploited.

I might add that the cost of the fuel is so minimal, that it could go up by a factor of ten without negatively impacting the economics of nuclear energy.

The lack of skills is a broader issue than just its impact on nuclear energy, and is well known in industry. However we cannot ignore this issue, and it has the potential to be a limiting factor. One way or the other we have to attract and train more people in the skilled trades, and as technologists.

The biggest advantage of using a coal plant site is the availability of transmission lines that are already hooked to the grid, and usually a source of cooling water. These factors will always make it less expensive than a greenfield in most instances.


For interest/comment:

Report of the individual review of the annual submission of Australia submitted in 2009..pdf

Click to access aus.pdf

II. Energy

A. Sector overview

39. The energy sector is the main sector in the GHG inventory of Australia. In 2007, emissions from the energy sector amounted to 408,162.69 CO2 eq, or 75.4 per cent of total GHG emissions. Since the base year, emissions have increased by 42.5 per cent, mainly due to the rise of emissions in energy industries (+55.0 per cent) and transport (+ 26.9 per cent). Within the sector, 54.4 per cent of the emissions were from energy industries, followed by 19.3 per cent from transport, 11.9 per cent from manufacturing industries and construction and 6.6 per cent from solid fuels (fugitive emissions). Other sectors accounted for 4.8 per cent and oil and natural gas accounted for 2.7 per cent. The remaining 0.4 per cent was from the category other (1.A.5), which included emissions from oxidation of lubricants and military operations. CO2 is the dominant GHG, contributing 91.2 per cent to total sectoral emissions, while CH4 and N2O contributed 8.2 and 0.7 per cent, respectively.


Electricity’s share of energy consumption will grow over time. Electricity will substitute for oil and gas for land transport and heat (over time). So our main focus should be on electricity. All the other areas need to be addressed also, but the largest proportion of our effort needs to be on electricity.


I should have added that the rate of substitution of electricity for oil and gas will be faster the lower is the cost of electricity.

So we can speed the rate of substitiution of clean electrcity for oil and gas, and therfore speed the rate of reduction of GHG emissions, by making the cost of electrcity as low as possble.

Low cost electrcity also gives the country (and the world) more wealth and more aboility to handel all the problems society wants addressed, including environmental problems.


Barry and team,

This is great. Congratulations. I look forward to learning and commenting as it grows.

I’ve posted two comments, but I am not sure oif they were received.


Thanks Peter – they’ll have been received okay, but until we get the commenting system working properly, they’ll sit in the moderation queue until one of use (Francis or Manzur) approves them. We’re working hard to get this improved.

It’s pretty primitive right now, but having a completely tailored website will eventually allow us to do way more than the WordPress-linked BraveNewClimate ever could. Besides, as you can see, it serves quite a different, research-oriented purpose.




I wonder why you use the plebeian vernacular emphatic “wind don’t blow” register. Are you aiming for a downmarket audience?

Note correct format for world power in XX TwHe …

You probably need comprehensive data about wind patterns in various portions of the country where 30%+ CF is possible and in wm2 for insolation in major proposed areas for solar. It would be nice to be able to identify the frequency of long periods of low insolation during notional daylight hours.

Something on feasibility and cost of possible storage systems and the basis for modelling redundant gas capacity would be useful

Best …


Apologies Barry

It’s annoying that I can’t edit after submitting. Dyslexia strikes

My point was that the site just had XXGW …


Oh, yeah, right — lots of gaps to fill throughout, with many figures not there yet. We hope to have the website in shape by the May launch, and these’ll be plugged then.


Your reflexive loyalty is admirable Peter but here is the section I was referring to …

“At the moment, world electricity usage is at an average of around XX GW. Five times this is 5XX GW”

It would be silly to speak of usage in this way given that we are talking about the entire planet. If they had meant that they would have said “current installed world capacity is …”

Usage of electricity really ought to be expressed in terms of how much is used per unit of time … (eg ??TWh per year

I suspect Barry took this into account in his response



I haven’t looked back at the text you are referring to, so you may or may not be correct. However, we often use the term average power over a period instead of energy. For example, the average demand on the NEM in 2007 was 25GW, the peak was 33GW and the base-load 18GW for most of the year and 20GW in winter. If we want energy, we can convert by multiplying by the hours for the period. Without referring back, I suspect Barrys use of power in this instance was OK and normal.

It is important to recognise that, although we pay for our power in enery untis, what we zsactually want is power, not energy. We want power the instant we turn on the kettle.


Terrence Tao [Australia’s, and one of the world’s, greatest mathematicians] has a “google buzz” post on perceived risk that is of some vague relevance: This suggests a possible interest in getting involved in the real world problems that beset us. Another mathematician, David MacKay, made the leap with his book “Sustainable Energy, without the hot air” and became Chief Scientific adviser to the British government on energy and climate change. John Baez promises to also switch to investigating, analysing and getting involved in real world issues. I wonder what the world would be like if it was run by mathematicians instead of lawyers.



I noted this section:

It was previously known as Conservatives for Climate and Environment and described by Labor strategists as a ”Coalition front organisation”.

Hmmm … rather telling.


Unless I miss in my guess, I believe Environmentalissts for Nuclear Energy – Australia was most likely originally the Australian branch of the international organisation Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy. I also noticed some time ago when I looked at their website that they claim the party was originally registere in 2007. They must have had at least 500 members at that point to do that. Their membership level was alleged to be a bit over 600 late last year, so they can’t have grown too much over that time, and might not have grown at all.


Notice the new cover picture for my book in the top right hand corner of the blog sidebars. Full-sized image is here:

I’ll be posting more details about it in a week or so. It hits book stores on 3 May 2010.

See also:


If we made the leap to a world powered by the wind, the waves, and the sun, they would hemorrhage profits, so it is not allowed. We are all being held hostage to the profit margins of a few polluters and their “lobbyists in alligator shoes.”

Quote is from Hari’s review of Hansen.

Hari ignores nuclear power. (unless I ignored his mention of it). why? assuming I’m right.


gregory meyerson, on 13 April 2010 at 7.32 Said:

“If we made the leap to a world powered by the wind, the waves, and the sun, they would haemorrhage profits, so it is not allowed.”

If that is indeed the case, why is most of the wind in North America being backed and built by natural gas interests?


Concerning conspiracy theories holding that renewables are a fossil fuel industry plot:

FT (Europe) runs an interesting interview today 14.04 with the new CEO of 100%Swedish state-owned power group, Vattenfall. 51% of its GHG output is from fossils, mainly in Germany and Poland, where it runs coal-fired stations, whereas in Sweden it runs NPPs and hydro. It is looking to expand nuclear in Sweden as the govt. is set to authorise new NPP construction. Vattenfall is no. 5 power producer in Europe.

It is also building the UK off-coast windfarm with Iberdrola of Spain, and wants to replace 40% of its hard coal use with biomass eg wood chips.

The CEO, Oystein Loseth, says:” If you look at all the coal used in the world and all the investment going into new coal plants, carbon capture and storage must be part of the solution for climate change or there will be no solution”.

Now it is true that Vattenfall is running a rare (the only?) CCS pilot in Germany at Schwarze Pumpe, but given that CCS is likely eyewash /greenwash for various reasons, what does one say to Loseth?


CCS is a waste of time, is probably more expensive than nuclear, releases more radioactive waste into the environment than nuclear, and is basically just an excuse to expand an industry that we really need to kill.


I have another question for DV82XL. As is my wont, I am drawn to perusing the infernal TOD (evidence above). Here is another link, from someone on that forum who does have brains:
Regardless of anyone’s belief about the timing/scale/etc of peak oil, if the chips were down, and the regulators and every one who currently makes nuclear harder than it should be reversed themselves to encourage it, how quickly could we build reasonably safe nuclear power plants? If we just needed power, ASAP, how quickly could it be done?


Of course, all others are invited to answer as well. I have no good excuse for limiting my answerers like that.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 6.34 Said:

“….if the chips were down, and the regulators and every one who currently makes nuclear harder than it should be reversed themselves to encourage it, how quickly could we build reasonably safe nuclear power plants? If we just needed power, ASAP, how quickly could it be done?”

Shifting over to turn-key modular designs that were built at dedicated factories and then shipped to location to be installed into prepared underground containment would allow for very swift deployment. Several companies have designs on the table for this type of NPP where several of these small reactors would be installed in ‘6-packs’ or ‘8-packs,’ collectivity producing 1 to 2 GWe.

If these were also of the liquid fuel types, there would also be little delay in fabricating fuel ether.

Of course pursuing such a route would ultimately have to be a national-level decision where the government would drive the process. There are, of course, historical precedents for this kind of government led process, the one that is unfortunately used when discussing this in the Manhattan Project, which personally I think evokes ideas better left unsaid. I would much prefer that the drive to build transcontinental railways be used instead to illustrate the point.


I share your dislike of the Manhattan project analogy – I had not thought of the railway analogy, but my reading of the financing deals behind the Canadian railway is that some of the financiers had not entirely altruistic motives.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.10 Said:

“Can I take it that you think such an approach is not, from the point of view the question comes from, greatly impaired by current (to the extent I understand it) lack of nuclear engineering skills??

On the contrary, the skilled trades shortages are more limiting at this point than engineering per se. Centralizing manufacturing in dedicated facilities first makes more effective use of available skills, and second makes transmitting these skills to the next generation easier.

And yes I was referring to MSR as well as liquid metal core types of reactor.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.10 — Here is a compnay ready to build mini-NPPs and simply now working with NRC to obtain approvals:

I estimate that one not-very-big factory could produce one 45 MWe module per month.

Lack of nuclear engineers is not the problem; obtaining regulatory approval (in the USA) is, but also training nuclear operators would have to be scaled up.


I think I read somewhere if we want to go to a non-carbon future by 2050 we would need 1 GW per day to replace all existing energy consumption – world use is 15TW/per annum = 15000GWpa -> 15000/365 = 41 years, = the number of years btw now and 2050. We need to scale up and fast.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 8.50 — Ok, 1 GWe per day. That’s 24 Nuscale modules and 2 500 MWe steam turbines per day, plus heat excahngers, pumps, electrical switchyard, transmission lines and large transformers.

Just now order lead times for the large transformers is almost 3 years.

I’d say lack of skilled tradesmen will be a limiting factor, agreeing with DV82XL.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 9.02 — 24*365 = 8760 assembly lines for the Nuscale module. That’s one per hour, 24/7.


Can we outsource it to Chindia, or the BRIC?
We just need a fleet of USS Savannah’s to transport the finished goods here. We connect them up using something like the scaled up version of USB2 ports, and wah-la, Bob’s your aunt.
My guess is that’s what’s in the minds of TPTB.
Just guessing.


Lawrence, on 18 April 2010 at 9.33 — Nuscale modules are 60 feet (18.29 m) tall so they’ll fit on railroad cars, trucks, barges and of course ships. You might look into the dimensions of the 500 MWe steam turbines…


Or perhaps we will build gas turbines, perhaps even supercritical CO2 turbines. They don’t take up much space as far as I know.


And yes I don’t know if they work in the Carnot ranges of Nuscale plants. I want to see a nuclear future ASAP, I’d much rather it was done here and not imported from overseas, I don’t know much else.


Interesting article by P. DiNezio et al. in the latest Eos. It has previously been suggested that a warmed world would result in a permanent El Niño-like state for the Pacific region, with all the reduced rainfall for Australia that that would imply. However, this paper suggests it’s not that simple. This is, if not good, then certainly better news for Australia, as GW-induced rainfall reduction will not be as pronounced as in El Niño events.

Sorry the original is behind a paywall (a low one, but a paywall nevertheless), hence the précis here. It’s all to do with differences with how the Pacific thermocline behaves in GW vs El Niño scenarios.


This site contains some interesting energy stats, mainly for Europe, but some are for the world.

For example,

1. Denmark has the highest domestice electricity prices in Europe. The other countries that have intensive renewable energy programs also have high electricity prices.

2. The countries with intensive renewable energy programs have high emissions

3. The currently known recoverable Uranium reserves would last until 2144 (about the same as coal). I don’t know how this is calculated, but as most on the BNC web site would know, the calculation is irrelevant for two reasons: 1) “Known recoverable reserves of uranium” will increase as we explore for more and as mining methods improve over time. 2) as we move to Gen iV and Gen V nuclear power plants the amount of new uranium required will reduce.


The figure for U-235 given on the European energy portal site works out to about 2.5 million tonnes of natural uranium, which I believe is the curent proven reserve. It does not include the estimated 35 million tonnes of reasonably assured reserves which can be mined at the same return using current techniques.

I’m in the process of writing up an essay on the availability of nuclear fuel in the earth’s crust. I’m thinking of using the analogy of mining as much mass of average rock and dirt from the crust as we do coal at the moment (I think about 6 billion tonnes/year), and figuring how much energy is locked up in the U and Th thus accessed. From what I’ve determined, mining average crust is no good (although it almost is) for light water reactors ( or any other sort which burns U-235), but it’s fine for breeders of the U and Th varieties, and will yield more energy per mass of crust than for the same mass of the purest anthracitic coal… and by a considerable margin at that.



You probably already know this, but I’d suggest you concentrate only on the contiental crust, not ‘Earths Crust’. Uranium is concentrated in the Continental Crust in the differentiation process thaty separates the Continental Crust from the undifferentiated crustal rocks.

For a bit of trivia, Uranium is being concentrated in the Earth’s crust at a rate of about 10,000 tonnes per year.

Uranium and tin are at about the same concentration in the Earth’s crust. We are mining Tin at about 165,000 tonnes per year and uranium at about 45,000 tonnes per year. We are concerned about running out of uranium, but not concerned about Tin, or any of the much rarer elements we mine. more evidence of bias generated by 40 years of anti-nuclear propoganda?


More in-principle support for my idea that an NPP/desal should be located on the SA west coast say near Ceduna. First Areva is building a desal on Africa’s desert coast to supply water to uranium mines in Namibia.
They don’t say what power source will be used. The SA desal to supply Olympic Dam and the coastal region would need to be a lot larger, say 300,000 cubic metres of water a day or 100 million c.m. a year.

Secondly Siemens corporation apparently like the idea of an HVDC cable between SA and WA
However they don’t mention nuclear. That idea was proposed here a year or two ago by Neil Howes. Whether or not the proposed renewables make economic sense in the long run WA will have the natural gas when south eastern Australia has run dry. Electrons are easier to transport than physical gas. That cable would also pass close to the suggested NPP/desal which would enable the plant to export surplus electricity.


Washington Post reports today that the Feds have stated that the coal mine operator in West Virginia Upper Big Branch mine showed “reckless disregard” for worker safety leading to the deaths of 29 men recently.

Question to any of the many 19th century liberals on BNC:

please refresh my memory as to why multiplying the number of NPPs 2010-2050 (e.g. in China, USA, Russia) subject to the net operating profit mentality of capitalism is not going to outscore 29 deaths by orders of magnitude? After all, anybody who can read an income statement (GB: P&L) can see that personnel expenditure e.g. NPP operator training, is measured as a cost and not an income line item.


please refresh my memory as to why multiplying the number of NPPs 2010-2050 (e.g. in China, USA, Russia) subject to the net operating profit mentality of capitalism is not going to outscore 29 deaths by orders of magnitude?

Refer to safety statistics of NPP operation over the past 50 years. I see no reason to think that things are going to get worse the more experience is gained.


Oh dear Peter Lalor …

Your post is yet another example of the speciousness of assuming ceteris paribus where there’s no foundation. You may not map coal mining deaths to uranium mining deaths per tonne unless you can show that the drivers of the former apply to the latter. The driver of coal mining deaths is not a wanton disregard for OH&S, but a qualifed disregard for it in circumstances where this is germane. Shutting down gassy mines costs money, but so do mine closures at an accident. Somewhere a bean counter has decided that they “like them odds”.

The overwhelming cause of deaths in coal mining, unsurprisingly, relate to the specifics of underground mining of coal, and of course, the degree to which is it labour-intensive. For geo-morphological reasons, coal seams worth exploiting are close to methane. They are often also close to water. So mine cave ins, gas explosions and water ingress account for most deaths. Clearly, if you have lots of people working underground, as is especially the case in smaller coal mines in China for example, you are going to have trouble getting them all out before they asphyxiate.

This simply doesn’t apply in relation to harvest of uranium or thorium, so your mapping of morbidity from coal is baseless.

Note also that in this place, the focus is very much on reactors that can reprocess existing hazmat, and thus imply no new uranium recovery at all.


John Newlands,

Could you siummarise you prefer Ceduna rather than near Adelaide for the first NPP in South Australia?

I understand two reasons are cooler water at Ceduna so slightly greater efficiency, and less of an issue at Ceduna with excess salt from desalination.

However, against these I see the following benefits of having the NPP near Adelaide:

1. lower construction cost and lower operating cost throughout its life. The higher cost of setting up the infrastructure and attracting the necessary work force to a town at Ceduna would be a considerable cost impost on the plant for its entire life.

2. Higher transmission costs for water and electricity to the main demand centre – Adelaide. Remember, that a single major user for electricity and water means there will be large changes in load from both scheduled and unscheduled shut downs of the mine. If the plant is feedfing into a large demand centre, such as Adelaide, then such disruptions are less important. You might argue that the the NPP at Ceduna would feed into the SA grid, adn of course this is true, but there are still costly consequences of having a large generator far removed from the main demand centre.

3. If located near Adelaide, there is greater benefit to the Adelaide education facilities which then benefits the plant in return.

4. More members of the public will visit the plant, and vistis will be more frequent if it is near Adelaide. This means the population become familiar more quickly and the ignorance of matters nuclear that is so prevalent in Australia, will erode more quickly.


Peter, I think John’s argument is that a new NPP is a perfect fit for the Olympic Dam mine expansion. It will require about 700 MW of extra electricity and a large amount of additional freshwater (roughly an extra 100 ML per day). A NPP the size of an AP1000, located in Ceduna, could provide both requirements with ease. The transmissions costs would be lowest by building it in Ceduna, since this is an open ocean coastal site that is still relatively close to the mine. #2 could then be just north of Adelaide, to replace the Playford coal-fired power station.


Hi Barry,

I understand your point, and perhaps I should be careful to stay out of local politcs. However, I am still wondering if this is a wise thing to be advocating.

1. While the Olympic Dam mine will have a 700MW demand at a point in time, that will vary greatly over time. Nuclear power stations are most economic for base-load not fo following load changes. The load changes will be large on a single load source like Olympic Dam mine. I wonder what the base-load would be as a proportion of the 700MW (I expect it might be as low as 20%). What happens to the remainder of the power when demand from Olympic Dam is low?

2. I would expect we would eventually build power stations consisting of at least two and perhaps four units. Why would we want to build a large power station at Ceduna rather than near the main demand centre?

By the way, when I said “near Adelaide” I was thinking of somewhere between Port Augusta and Adelaide. I think the distance from Port Augusta to Olympic Dam is similar to that from Ceduna.
So the transmission costs to Olympic Dam would be similar, but the costs to Adelaide would be much less.

I still reckon the costs of building and operating an NPP so far from a major population centre will be a significant cost impost. And I also think the education and PR benefits of having our first NPP (and all future NPP’s) near a city are significant.


I believe the OD expansion will need 187 ML/d. The Morgan-Whyalla pipeline keeps inching westwards and I think is now about 400km from the River Murray. Locals believe the top of Spencer Gulf already has excess salinity so any desals should be on open ocean. Word is that in July Garrett and Rann will axe the proposed Whyalla desal on Spencer Gulf. Whyalla to Roxby Downs is about 285 km if I recall and Ceduna-Roxby about 350 km if salt lakes have to be skirted around. I suggest a Ceduna based desal area should produce 300 ML/d. It would supply 187 ML/d to Roxby Downs and the balance to the SA west coast and Pt Augusta, partially reversing the flow in the existing pipeline. The river pump at Morgan could be switched off allowing the water to flow downstream to Adelaide and dairy farmers.

A possible future industry for Ceduna is refining of zirconium, rare earth metals and thorium. Their jetty at Thevenard is supposed to handle 25% of the world’s zircon from the Jacinth-Ambrosia mine. OD also has a lot of lanthanides in the tailings dump.

If a 1000 MWe NP was built at Ceduna and the desal only used electrical not thermal input (as in the UAE) it would draw say 100 MW for reverse osmosis and pumping. OD might now use 650 MW leaving 250 MW for local use or ‘export’ if suitable transmission existed.

This helps Adelaide 700 km away because they now have more water in the river and the State has more more freed-up baseload electrical output. I suggest if a Ceduna NPP created good vibes SA might consider a second reactor and desal on Fleurieu Peninsula between Adelaide and Victor Harbour.


John Newlands,

The proposal you are advocating needs a full options analysis, with proper analysis of all financial and other risks.

Sitting here in tha Canberra, from where all wisdom amnd money eminates, I am somewhat dubious aboit an NPP at Ceduna being cost effective.

This is what an NPP should look like (see picture on p11). Notice the background (you might be able to see Terry Krieg in one of the back yards if you look carefully!).

Click to access jan-carr.pdf


That pdf is 5 pages. There is a Terry Krieg who posts here that used to live on the SA west coast.

The OD expansion could become a cause celebre for the nuclear lobby. There are some extra-ordinary proposals like building a 400Km gas pipeline from Moomba to Roxby Downs, the trouble being that the gas basin (Cooper) is in its twilight years. At one stage SA Premier Rann thought geothermal would supply the 690 MW. Bad call. Seems radioactive decay is OK, fission is not.

If my informants are correct the Whyalla desal will shortly be knocked on the head. That means the OD expansion can’t proceed. OD is the world’s largest uranium deposit and incidentally Jacinth is the world’s richest zircon deposit. What we could see in a few weeks time is fumbling and bumbling by politicians over why OD cannot expand because there is no clean energy source large enough to supply the water and electricity. BHP will implement Plan B to export concentrate to China were copper and uranium will be extracted. Exporting jobs and profits is evidently less problematic to our politicians than support for nuclear power.


John, I was referring to the page numbers. The picture in on p11 of the article (the article starts on p8). Sorry for the confusion..

The Terry Krieg you refer to, and who posts here, is a school teacher who spent an exchange year in Toronto near Pickering – the power station pictured. He learnt a lot while he was there and has been trying to educate the Australian public and politicians ever since. His brother is a research geologists who knwos a lota about the Officer Basin and has been promoting it as the world;’s best site to take the world’s nuclear waste (if there si any left to dispose of, of course).

Your last paragraph is a repeat of what you’ve said in previous posts, on this and other threads. But it does no address my main question about the economic viability of lacating it at Ceduna instead of somewhwere between Port Augusta and Adelaide. Salt is one issue, but is it an overriding issue or just one of many factors that need to be taken into account in an overall cost benefit analysis? I don’t know the answer, but your arguments seem a bit overly pushing a particluar site, rather than looking even handedly at all the alternatives to find the best solution.


If Rann-Garrett don’t allow OD to expand I would think that the price of U308 must escalate well above its current price of around $100/kg. If the world is stuck with Gen 2/3 for 20 more years then fuel costs could become more significant.



All true. But this doesn’t address the question I am asking – the overall costs versus benefits of siting at Ceduna versus between Port Augusta and Adelaide.


Peter there are several tricky questions concerning costs of transmission and water pumping assuming we still want 300 ML/d to supply Roxby Downs, the OD ore processors, Woomera, Pt Augusta, Whyalla, Pt Lincoln and so on. A deepish open water site is preferable to shallow saltmarsh or mangroves which cuts out a lot of your suggested coastline. You could have an NPP/desal on Yorke Peninsula and send output by underwater pipe and cable at some risk of being snagged by trawlers. Gas and some fresh water are already piped under the gulf to Whyalla and electricity is sent south of Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.

The Playford B coal station at Pt Augusta is surely near its use-by date but it is on saltmarsh, not open water. In defence of Ceduna they could build just the eastern side of an east-west HVDC cable and postpone completion until WA is the last place left with natural gas (as opposed to coal seam). If the price wasn’t too high govts could let Desertrec/Siemens build some showpiece wind/wave/solar near Ceduna with the real grunt coming from a NPP.



When you mention an eas west transmission line, you make me think noone has crunched the number os all this thing you are advocating.

It is not a big issue, for me; I just thought I’d raise it. It seems to me that advocating Ceduna as a site for an NPP nees to be carefully considered. It sends messages, to various interst groups of:

1. It must be really dangerous if we are having to put it that far away from inhabited areas,

2. It looks like a very high cost option,

3. Perhaps we should have our first NPP in Victoria to replace the dirty brown coal power stations, or in NSW because their electricity system is a basket case, they have insufficient capacity and it is government owned which should make it easier to implement nuclear, etc, etc, etc.


This blog is replete with numerate, gentlemenlike, Smoking Guns holding long-term leases on Rationality and Non-Ideology and fantasising about how WWF, Greenpeace, FOE etc. are all paid for by fossil fuel interests, this explaining the anti-nuke stance of such “environists” (T. Blees)


at end-December carries a podcast of 2 AU Greenpeacers, Shannon and Derek, who had been “badly beaten” by Philippine coal-fired power plant personnel at Masinloc when protesting against the expansion of this fossil fuel usage.

I look forward with interest to BNC surmising about how such bashing can actually occur. Did the Tagalog-speaking coal plant personnel not recognise their Australian Greenpeace allies, who probably spoke only English? so was it a case of friendly fire between allies dedicated to destroying all chance of nukes?


I believe I have been clear that in North America at least, these organizations, have sided with natural gas interests, not coal.

They have established this through their actions and rhetoric for several years now, and in some instance are quite open about it. At any rate anyone supporting wind and solar, necessity supports NG as a backup fuel, except in those rare case when it is linked with hydro.

We should also note that the footsoldiers of these organizations, probably have bought into the propaganda – this is not always so for the upper echelons of these groups.


Peter Lang you could be right about Victoria. The Wonthaggi desal will be even bigger at 400 ML/d and around 100 MW I believe. They are building that now and the ‘offset’ wind farm will be built later. The locals appear to be against everything. Back in SA that still doesn’t solve the problem of stymied U308 production at Olympic Dam due to lack of dedicated power and water.


The latest quarterly report from NPCC is out and the latest 20 year plan was passed. These plans are updated ever five years, but this is the first to assume some form of carbon offset or tax will happen in the next 20 years. More important, perhaps, the plan calls for an astounding 5,900 average megawatts over the next 20 years via energy efficiency, “the most agressive conservation target in the nation”.

Next up after that is “renewables”, which here in the PNW means wind, mostly, with a bit of geothermal. While not mentioned directly in the plan, there is consierable interest in the steady (well, steadier) winds well offshore from Washington and Oregon.

After that comes natgas.

Given the current low cost of natgas, I suspect that actuality will be more natgas and rather less wind than in this plan.

The is no interest and nothing in the plan about building Gen 3 NPPs, despite the supurb siting on the Hanford Reservation. That paln does specify that no new coal burners are to be built. (But likely none of the 4–5 existing ones will be dismantled.)


I been told that IFR eliminate the risk of proliferation. But:

“If, instead of processing spent fuel, the ALMR system were used to reprocess irradiated fertile (breeding) material in the electrorefiner, the resulting plutonium would be a superior material, with a nearly ideal isotope composition for nuclear weapons manufacture”

From here:

Click to access 9434.PDF

Could someone explain? I think I know the answer, but I’m not sure.


John Newlands, on 25 April 2010 at 6.29 Said:

Back in SA that still doesn’t solve the problem of stymied U308 production at Olympic Dam due to lack of dedicated power and water.

You still seem to be missing my point. I agree that Olympic Dam mine needs power and water and without it the ore will be exported for the Chinese to gain all the value adding benefit that could be obtained in Australia if we could provide the power and water the mine needs.

What I am asking is “why is Ceduna better location for the NPP than between Port Augusta and Adelaide”.

You have provided some descriptive justifications for your preferred site in previous comments. However, thee read to me like an advocacy statement rather than a properly done options analysis, with proper cost and risk analysis.


Peter I’m using a mix of psychology and wider system economics, albeit unquantified. If Olympic Dam doesn’t expand then future SA jobs, royalties and contract work will either be lost or handed to China. Gen 2/3 NPs will pay more for uranium in future because world supply has been politically restricted. Being way out of the big smoke Ceduna provides a guinea pig or demonstration effect. If a NPP/desal creates good jobs and there are no meltdowns and two headed fish in the cooling water then city folk might feel more kindly towards a similar plant near town.

On the money side BHP Billiton has already laid out the ground plans for a reverse osmosis desal on the gulf at Whyalla and 300 km pipeline route. Details as to the ~40 MW power source are fuzzy. Intense lobbying over cuttlefish and salinity changes will probably kill that site. Locals want an even bigger bigger desal to supply the coast as well as the inland. They suggest alternative sites south of Whyalla and an open water site near Elliston heading towards Ceduna.

However for OD to expand to 18,000 tonnes of U3O8 a year plus gold, copper etc the mine will need not only desalinated water from some part of the coast but another 650 MWe more than the SA grid can provide. An ex Roxby Downs resident now living in Hobart told me they think only a NPP could provide the grunt. Therefore BHP is up for big bucks for the desal side of things and they may secretly hope for nuclear power paid for by someone else.

How real the concentrate-to-China threat is hard to say because it would require a massive loading terminal. With RO desal there is no need for the power source to be co-located I just think it is a good PR move.

So I think the comparative scenarios would be

1) 1000 MW NPP near Adelaide distributed as say 100 MW RO desal and pipeline on the west coast and 650 MW X 500 km transmission to OD. Surplus power for Adelaide 250 MW with only minor new transmission.

2) everything on the west coast 1000 MW NP, 100 MW RO desal and pipelines, 650 MW X 350 km transmission to OD, 250 MW X 700km transmission to Adelaide or 400 km to Pt Augusta.

Note BHP pays for the mine fraction of the desal.


John Newlands

Why can’t the NPP be on the east side of Spencer gulf or east side of Gulf of Victoria north of Adelaide?

Your argument: Being way out of the big smoke Ceduna provides a guinea pig or demonstration effect.” Has benefits for NIMBY’s now and for the anti nuclear protesters ling term. I believe we need to confront all this anti nuclear stuff now! Not keep on giving in to it. For the very reason you see the remoteness of Ceduna as an advantage, I see it as a bad choice of site because it will, in my opinion, make it harder to get future nuclear plants located near the demand centres. They need to be near the demand centres to keep costs down. It is not just the construction costs that are reduced by being near a city. It is also the ongoing operation and maintenance costs, and especially the ongoing labour costs for the life of the plant.

You mention that OD will need an extra 650MW of power. You seem to have missed my point about the 650MW demand being at a point in time, not a steady demand. The demand might fluctuate between 20% and 100% of this demand. The NPP is not ideally suited to load following as would be required for a single point load such as OD. It would be better to have the NPP supplying the SA grid (from near the main load centre, Adelaide) and the grid supplying OD. I am asking rather than stating because I am not convinced that the option you are advocating has been properly evaluated. I suspect an NPP located near Ceduna will be supply electricity at far higher cost than if it is located nearer to the main load centre. And siting it out in the boonies sends a really bad message.

Considering your options 1) and 2), I don’t think it is right to consider a single unit NPP. It would be too expensive. When you consider that the power station will probably end up being two to 4 units (2000 to 5000MW), does it still make sense to site it at Ceduna? If there is a single 1000MW unit at Ceduna, what would be the cost premium for such a single unit NPP in the boonies?


PL the eastern side of St Vincent Gulf is thick with mangroves yet Adelaide’s urban sprawl is heading out that way. Opposite on both sides of Yorke Peninsula there are rocky headlands but I’m not sure of summer water temps or whether they get the cool Flinders Current. Land transmission easements are already there that could be upgraded.

I took BHPs claim at 690 MW at face value of which around 40 MW will go on coastal desal. In times of reduced mine load the desal could produce extra water for a non-rainy day and store it in large elevated tanks. That would require some modelling.

In fairness to Ceduna it is a hi tech town with a university observatory and communications stations. It has lost its nuclear virginity via the Maralinga A-bomb tests and the fact mildly radioactive zircon will be shipped from the wharf. There’s talk of oil drilling offshore so they know energy is where the money is. I sense the good folks of Adelaide might prefer if the first NPP went there which may be irrational but an easier sell even if there is a cost premium.



I understand the point you are making, but they are not very convincing to me. They all seem to be rather small considerations in the big picture. I don’t think the y0our answer of load following the OD by swithching to desal would be viable. The load at the mine would some time drop massively.

I am sure the residents of Adelaide might prefer the NPP to be anwhere else but near Adelaide. That is the problem we have to get over in Australia. Which city is foing to be first to say it wants cheap nuclear power. High cost nuclear is just not going to fly. And locating an NPP at Ceduna will mean high cost power, I believe.


Solar Panels Working at Night

A report from Spain describes a rather dramatic demonstration of the relative economics of solar power. Excerpt:

It appears that gasoline generators are at work pumping energy into Spain’s heavily subsidized solar panels. Of the 6 billion euros in government aid to the electricity market, 2.3 billion is lavished on electricity that is supposed to be produced by the sun’s rays, generating a mere 2 percent of the nation’s power needs. Under the profligate plan, anyone installing a solar panel can collect a check for 436 euros for each megawatt[-hour] of power returned to the electrical grid. Several solar farms have sprung up as a result. As the newspaper El Mundo reported last week, at least 6,000 megawatt[-hour]s of purported solar electricity were generated during the dark evening and early-morning hours over three months. The decidedly nongreen use of generators helped the enterprising fraudsters walk away with at least 2.6 million euros.

Note: 436 euros per MWh is 58 US cents per kWh.


In Sustainable Energy – without the hot air David Mackay states:

Uranium can be used 60 times more efficiently in fast breeder reactors, which burn up all the uranium – both the 238U and the 235U (in contrast to the once-through reactors, which burn mainly 235U).

I would have thought fast breeders to be about 200 times as fuel efficient as current LWRs, given the efficiency of the enrichment. Am I missing something?


Finrod, it really does depend on the purity of the waste stream (% of actinides that come out with the fission products). If the purity was over 99%, then it would be ~160 times better fuel utilisation in a fast reactor than a thermal reactor. If the purity was 95%, the the 60-times figure cited by Mackay is probably realistic (incidentally, this 60-times figure comes from the WNA fast reactor page — there is nothing deeper about Mackay’s number than this).


What’s to be done about this sort of scare-mongering?

Oh, the usual combination of patient explanation and outright ridicule should do the trick.

There. That’s better.


Regarding the new book on Chernobyl, I just received this email:

The translator, Dr. Janette D. Sherman is affiliated with this organization: This organization will provide a copy for $40. Still overpriced.

Some of their ‘experts’ are John Gofman (deceased), Sternglass, Mangano, and Alec Baldwin. It’s definitely important to collect baby teeth, they tell us so much. NOT! Amazing how many movie people are scientific experts.

My take on it from various commentaries by supporters is that the majority of information is anecdotal without proper medical workup on disease vectors. But, I have not read it.


@BNC acolytes, concerning:

There is a better discussion at

I referenced this book by Yablokov and the 2 Nesterenkos more than once already and met with resounding silence. This will have been for various reasons among BNC neocon and neoliberal worshippers of the Chernobyl Forum as an “independent arbiter”. And as noted before, WHO has been formally required since its inception not to tread on the toes of IAEA: a facsimile of the relevant document from 1958 or 1959, I forget which, is on the Net..

Here are some possible reasons for BNC attitudes: 1. the authors are funny foreigners, I mean, what normal people have names like Yablokov or Nesterenko? 2. they had high managerial positions in 1986 in the nuclear sector of the USSR and Russian Academy of Sciences respectively, so were “damned communists by choice” and such people are “liars by definition” and threaten our values and way of life.
3. they discuss Chernobyl impact research papers subversively, rudely and unprofitably written in languages other than English.

Concluding, the oft-proclaimed loyalty to numeracy and rationality on this blog seems to go out the window once the type of persons otherwise welcomed here write a study which does not suit the BNC agenda.

That is, I would have thought that BNC, once presented with statements based on research i.e. numerical data, would show a modicum of interest in attempting to refute them.

Nor is it clear to me why being in possible denial about the effects of a defective Soviet NPP design is relevant to the presumed passive safety features of e.g. the Toshiba/Westinghouse AP 1000,


Peter Lalor, you really do have some strange views, especially about radiation. In addition, I wasn’t aware that my humble WordPress blog had sufficient ecumenical gravitas to attract ‘acolytes’. Though if it does, I guess you must be one of them, given the frequency of your comments on many, many posts.



Excellent article.

Initially, I stumbled over the 10kW per capita power consumption in the USA to include all energy needs. This translates to 240 kWh/day. Given the public’s potential to get muddled by differences between rate of energy production and amount used per unit time and by the fact that the term, power, is often kept to describe energy from electricity only when, currently, most of the American energy use doesn’t come from electricity, I was wondering whether your document might be marginally improved by re-wording what is nevertheless an accurate statement.


I was wondering whether your document might be marginally improved by re-wording what is nevertheless an accurate statement.

Thanks Douglas. I’ll take that on board and think about what might be done.


Peter Lalor, on 27 April 2010 at 17.55 Said:

“I referenced this book by Yablokov and the 2 Nesterenkos more than once already and met with resounding silence. This will have been for various reasons among BNC neocon and neoliberal worshipers of the Chernobyl Forum as an “independent arbiter”. And as noted before, WHO has been formally required since its inception not to tread on the toes of IAEA: a facsimile of the relevant document from 1958 or 1959, I forget which, is on the Net..”

First, it is statistically impossible to hide a million plus deaths for almost 25 years, such that they could only be detected by Eastern European researchers, working for most part during the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the poor conditions that were typical of that period. Had the claim been ~50,000 or so I might consider it possible, but the number one million is just too high to be taken seriously by anyone that has any understanding of radiation related health issues.

Most of the papers used in this survey were of poor quality and politically motivated, Chernobyl served as a cause célèbre for those that were working to throw off the Soviet yoke, and this was reflected in much of the reportage on that incident.

The numbers that this report bandies about are also obviously exaggerations, based on very questionable extrapolations from very poor data sets. It is simply beyond the capabilities of the researchers of these documents to have gathered and verified enough data points to give their conclusions any meaningful confidence level.

The general rule of thumb is:

>5 sigma: discovery
~3 sigma: observation
<1.5 sigma: noise

and the best of these papers in the survey didn't do better than 2 sigma.

In short garbage in, garbage out. Repackaging this collection of rubbish, and publishing it under the imprinteur of the New York Academy of Sciences, cannot hid the smell of what is within.

And this bears repeating: The events at Chernobyl were cause by poor design, criminal negligence, and a culture that was already in terminal decay. It does not represent nuclear power, or the issue surrounding nuclear power anymore than the Titanic represents modern ships. To continue to hold this up as a reason to reject nuclear energy is false logic of the worst kind.


Finrod, I’ll do a quick check for you tomorrow, but you may be having difficulty with this datum because I suspect the solid phase of silicon dioxide is not sufficiently well defined to permit measurement of the latent heat of fusion. Latent heat of fusion is the the energy required to change a solid to a liquid at its melting point, but as you probably know, glass does not have a melting point as such, so the property may not be readily measureable. SiO2 has a variety of crystal forms for which the property may be measureable though.

I did notice you used this property of silicon as an upper bound in a calculation in your article, and wondered why you didn’t use SiO2.


I did notice you used this property of silicon as an upper bound in a calculation in your article, and wondered why you didn’t use SiO2.

Only because I didn’t have the figures to calculate for it. If I can get those I’ll use them instead. That should be a pretty good match for the amount of power actually needed.


Actually, from what I’ve gleaned so far, if it turns out there’s no actual ‘heat of fusion’ energy hurdle at the temperature where nine out of ten unsophisticated observers would agree that the SiO2 has melted, it may be that the required energy will actually be less for silicone dioxide than for pure silicon. That’s not what I expected.


Vitreous silica is rare in nature because it is minutely higher in energy than quartz. So you get fulgurites, but not very old fulgurites. They revert to quartz, and quartz has a sharp melting point.

The energy required to melt quartz also figures in setting a crude lower bound on the energy payback ratio of concentrating solar plant, and in doing that here — search within the page for Frank Shuman — I used 127.5 kJ/mol as the heat input to raise quartz from room ‘T’ to 1996 K and then melt it.

(How fire can be domesticated)


I used 127.5 kJ/mol as the heat input to raise quartz from room ‘T’ to 1996 K and then melt it.

I still make that to be 2.1 kJ/g, as opposed to 2.78kJ/g for pure silicon. Looks like my upper bound isn’t working out too badly.


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