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An informed public is key to acceptance of nuclear energy

Guest post by DV82XLHe is a Canadian chemist and materials scientist (and regular, valued commenter on BNC). For his previous article on the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, see here.

Governments are coming to recognize nuclear power as an attractive option because of its near absence of carbon dioxide emissions and the widespread availability of uranium which serves as fuel. Furthermore, the major uranium producers – Canada and Australia – are noted for their long-term stability and good governance. Outside of a technical debate over benefits, trade-offs, and risks, at issue is the perception that public opinion rules out any serious new investment in the technology. The difficulty, of course, is that concerns over the safety and security of nuclear power often make it unpopular among the public. Hence, whether governments propose to introduce nuclear power for the first time, to simply replace existing ageing plant or to expand generating capacity, public acceptability questions must be faced.

The frames used to argue against nuclear energy remain familiar, paralleling the interpretations first introduced in the mid-1970s. Groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists push a public accountability interpretation, demanding that nuclear plants be tightly regulated, saying: “We continue to find and expose safety problems at individual plants, in industry standards, and in the failure of regulators to take effective action“. Other groups like Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace emphasize in their opposition not only the potential runaway dangers, but also the absence of cost-effectiveness. They advocate instead soft-path alternatives like increased energy efficiency and the development of solar, wind, and hydro energy production. They use the tagline that nuclear power is “not safe, not cost effective, and not needed.”

As is common in policy debates, advocates on both sides claim that the public backs their preferred policy options. Framing will be the central device by which both advocates and opponents of nuclear energy attempt to manage broad public opinion. However, if and when the decision is made to build a new nuclear power plant in a specific area, mobilized minorities of local citizens can prove decisive. Who shows up to protest, vote, or speak out at the local level will have a stronger impact on the future of nuclear energy than the current struggle to shape national opinion. We will return to this below.

One could suppose that people living in countries with nuclear power plants are more supportive of this form of energy because they are more familiar with it, better informed about it and more aware of its benefits. The hypothesis that better and increased communication leads to an increase in support is backed up by a poll (the Eurobarometer survey carried out for the European Commission’s directorate-general for energy and transport), in which Europeans were questioned about the degree to which they felt themselves to be informed about nuclear safety, and then looked at the impact of this on their views. What was found is that those who feel informed about nuclear safety tend to perceive the risks as lower than those who feel uninformed.

A similar link can be demonstrated between lower perceptions of risk and those having personal experience of nuclear power, even when the personal experience amounts to no more than living less than 50 km from a nuclear plant or knowing someone who works in the industry. Again, people in countries without nuclear power plants feel less informed and more likely to say that the risks outweigh the advantages. More evidence of the effect of knowledge and information on public acceptability of nuclear power comes from polls in which an opinion is sought before and after explaining some key fact. For instance, when it was explained that nuclear power could help to protect the world’s climate from global warming, the number of people supporting an expansion of nuclear power increased by an additional 10%, and more than a third of those who originally said that no more nuclear plants should be built subsequently changed their minds. Another, similar poll showed that knowledge about improvements in energy security also increased the proportion of people who were willing to accept nuclear power.

The importance of considering public opinion on policies relating to science and technology has been well highlighted in recent years, for example by the public backlash against GM crops demonstrated the need to engage with and respond to society’s views about this technology, it is no different with nuclear. When searching for the reasons motivating public attitudes to nuclear power, the first thing to be acknowledged is that, on a day-to-day basis, most people are much more concerned about issues such as unemployment, crime and healthcare than they are about energy issues, let alone nuclear energy. Even when people are asked “When you think about energy issues, what is the first thing that comes into your mind?”, the most frequent response is “price”. This suggests that most people have not given much in-depth attention to the question of energy policy, so that, more often than not, they will respond from a position that is not very well informed. However the public does demonstrate a very high level of awareness of the connection between fossil fuel sources of energy and environmental problems such as climate change, demonstrating that they can be made aware if the information is presented to them.

The inescapable conclusion is that more and better public information campaigns are needed in those countries where supporters want to advance the cause of nuclear power. This is the heart of the challenge for advocates for nuclear energy. It is not enough just to say we never met a reactor we didn’t like. We need to get the public up to speed, because when they know the truth it does look like they can make an informed decision and back nuclear. Antinuclear forces have held the public in high contempt for decades so much so that they lie almost reflexively now, and that makes them very vulnerable. The time to take this out into the streets is now, and it may not be as hard as it looks. The numbers of active committed supporters doesn’t need to be that high for this type of movement to make an impact. A new spirit of pragmatism has made the public more receptive than for decades to the irrefutable social, economic and environmental arguments in favour of nuclear energy. Without the support of a majority of citizens no lasting and meaningful political change can be achieved, and political change is what is needed if nuclear energy is to meet its potential, and climate change, if not avoided, survived.

I have come to the conclusion, based on observing the field for years, that pronuclear forces can be very effective getting the message out by taking some very simple steps. Although the examples apply specifically to the Canadian playing field, I can’t see how they wouldn’t apply in the U.S., the U.K., or Australia.

First and foremost we have to be a presence in the debate. Too often antinuclear forces have been able to operate without resistance of any kind, and this lack of opposition is itself a kind of force multiplier for them in the media. We have to organize the grassroots in a number of communities to hit the bricks every time there is a public event. They don’t have to be disruptive, hell they don’t even have to engage with the other side; just being there holding signs would be enough to generate media interest and guarantee a shot on TV and a sound bite.

It wouldn’t take many. There was a protest at Darlington, Ontario (out of my sphere of influence, I’m in Quebec) that drew fourteen protesters against the planned refurbishment. A couple of them chained themselves across the gate for an hour until the cops came and cut them down and arrested them. This, of course made the national news, and provided these morons a platform to preach about wind energy, and criticize the provincial energy minister for not being green enough. If there had been twenty pronuclear people there (not connected to the industry) just standing with placards, that would have been the story – they would have gotten the media attention, and they would have been the ones to read a prepared statement on the national news that night.

Other Western media outlets are no different than Canada’s, so this would hold true for them too. This can be done, because the old days when an antinuclear event could count on a mass of people showing up is gone. They didn’t need a lot of committed people then — most of them in the old days were just there for the hell of it anyway — and we don’t need them now. All we need is to have more warm bodies at these events than they do. I can’t overemphasize the importance of this. I was there in the Sixties and Seventies when the Ban-the-Bomb organizations segued into antinuclear power groups, and there wasn’t that dammed many of them then that were really serious about the issues, most of them were there because it was the thing to do. They came to meet people, raise a little hell, and put it to the man. You could tell who the committed were: they had bullhorns.

Second, every single story, in every single media outlet on ‘Green Energy’ has to be answered by having a number of people contact these outlets in writing, or by phone outlining the stupidity of these projects, and comparing them with nuclear energy. Yes, at the beginning we will be blown off, but we have to keep pushing; this is one of the cases where the squeaky wheel will get oiled. To our advantage there is the fact that many in the media, while far from being in full support, are less likely to be dogmatically against nuclear as they were in the past.

Antinuclear forces have been media darlings because they cultivated that status while the nuclear industry circled the wagons and seemed to believe that if they kept their mouths shut this would all blow over or that nobody would notice. Well the threat now IS that nobody will notice nuclear, while we dive headlong into windmills and solar panels that cannot produce a fraction of our energy needs. Many simply have no concept of scale, and in their minds a 50 MW wind farm equals a 1500 MW reactor.

At the same time there seems to be a growing awareness that nuclear energy is not as evil as it has been made out to be — people are beginning to question the standard shibboleths that they have been served up for the last twenty-five years, and I am beginning to see a real desire to understand the issue where in the past it was reflexively negative. Public confidence in the safety of existing nuclear power plants has also reached a record high. This represents a real opportunity for us and we should try and take advantage of it.

Unfortunately, what is needed is more than anything else is flesh-and-blood organization on the ground, so I believe that the major effort at this time should be to recruit people. As I said, it doesn’t need to be many in any given geographical area. Twenty or thirty people can make a huge impact at a meeting, or at a demonstration. Locally I know we can pull together a crew that size if need be, and we will if there is any resistance to the refurbishment at Gentilly 2. I truly believe that if the pronuclear movement could do that anywhere it needed to, we would have a very powerful tool to get our message out.

Where this recruiting has to be done is through high schools, colleges and universities. It is of primary importance that we get young people to engage in this subject, they carry a disproportionate amount of weight in this matter because they are the ones that will have to live with the decisions made now. As well, as a group they are truly feared by politicians because they are known to be fickle with their party support and when motivated can vote in significant numbers. Somehow we have to get leaders in this demographic to get the ball rolling. How we are going to recruit these people is the real problem at hand.

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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.

169 replies on “An informed public is key to acceptance of nuclear energy”

Don’t forget humour DV8, consider the following:

Large air spill at windfarm, some claim to enjoy the breeze.

This is powerful put down of the oil industry … and indirectly of the nuclear
industry. But should pro-nukes start making jokes about solar/wind? This
puts the energy issue into an adversarial mode. I’m pro-nuclear but not
anti-solar … how can anybody be anti solar? Its like being anti-apples. You
can’t live on apples, but they aren’t bad.

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Geoff Russle,

Solar is bad when you recognise the following;

1. it costs at least 10 times more than than nuclear to produce electricity – that causes a waste of wealth, and means we are less able to afford the policies that could make a real difference to health, environment, energy security.

2. Playing with solar power is diverting attention and resources from the solutions that could actually make a real difference

3. It is being used by people like Ian Lowe and many others to argue we don’t need nuclear. So this is preventing real progress.

Advocating wind and solar power is irrational.

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Geoff Russell – Renewables can’t be given a free ride just because of this one issue. This is along the lines of saying no one would get electrocuted if we got rid of a electric power. It is a tautological statement without worth.

We need the sort of power that large central plants produce to run our industries, and supply large urban centres. We are going to need more if, as many of us hope, convert to BEV. Wind and solar and other soft renewables just cannot supply that kind of energy no matter how their supporter play shell games trying to show that they can.

I have looked very carefully at their arguments, and they simply break down under any scrutiny. They are arguments framed to convince people that think that the only electricity they use is in their homes, that these systems will work, but until you show me an aluminium smelter running on wind, I know they cannot.

Furthermore wind and solar are just Trojan Horses for gas and coal “backup” and as such are nothing but greenwash of the worst kind.

These are the messages we have to get out; sure wind is clean, it’s also worthless, what’s the point?

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DV8 …

There’s not much to disagree with in your posts above, but just in terms of framing …

The strongest claims <i.against nuclear aoren’t ones that are easily reducible to rational debate. They are about values and culture. Persistent themes include

a) Attitudes to big profit-making corporations
b) Virtue in localism — the theme of personal control
c) Unquantified and openended fear of
(i) nuclear terrorism
ii) nuclear war
iii) nuclear waste/human mutation and cancer related nuclear waste storage taints whole country as less pristine, pure. Often the allussion is as a national metaphorical tumour — cf “our country is nuclear-free”; radiation as silent and insidious killer cf tritium in Columbia River from Hanford
d) Guilt: The Chernobyl Factor –> acceptance of nuclear power involves endorsement of Chernobyl Disaster-related harm (cf: WW2 Holocaust)
e) legacy debt — the problem for future generations cf: “won’t someone please think of the children?”
As one runs one eye up and down this list, it’s easy to see why the challenge is huge. The angst associated with the above is not peculiar either to the left or the right. These are the kinds of issues that allow coalitions to exist on both sides of the values divide.

Purity and cleanliness is not peculiar to the left, though of course the green paradigm trades greatly on it. Neither is the concept of legacy debt. Neither is concern for “our kids” or “our country’s image”.

Accordingly, part of our campaign has to be negative at least in part. We need to show that however they appear, solar and wind and hydro have their own environmental footprint — one much larger in practice than that of nuclear. They still involve serious and persistent reliance on what greens call “the extractive industries” and are therefore not green at all — that everything but the “fuel” is non-renewable.

We need to show that the legacy debt question also attaches to renewables, since all these facilities will need to be decommissioned too and on shorter timelines than nuclear. We have to show that renewables lead necessarily to fossil fules and the impact of that now and its associated legacy.

On the positive side we need to emphasise the one cubic inch per person idea of the energy from nuclear and also the resort to existing hazmat — since this means the net extra storage will be zero. We need to ask peopel whether they think countries like Australia or Canada are really contemplating nuclear weapons to refute the linkage.

We also have to show that sequestration of waste to secure dedicated sites can be made 100% effective, and in the longer run technologies like synroc can work into the indefinite future.

And we have to carry this argument at least into the mainstream with confidence so that instead of being the evil cousin in energy.

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DV82XL,

Thank you for this excellent article.

The awareness campaign is one important thing we must do. BNC is a valuable contributor in this regard.

In addition to the awareness campaign, we also need to focus on what can and should be done to remove the many regulatory imposts that are making nuclear more expensive than coal. We (other than you, DV82XL) seem to put this in the too hard basket, but it is fundamental.

We need to be able to show the public a list of the imposts as a first step, and secondly, show how much they are adding to the cost of nuclear. We need to be able to convince the public that we could have electricity at no higher cost initially, and getting less over time compared with what will be withour nuclear. Without this having this information, it makes our public awareness campaign difficult in Australia.

Raising the cost of electricity with a carbon price is not the right approach. It avoids addressing the fundamental underlying problems – the regulatory imposts on nuclear. We need to address that issue, not avoid it. Raising the cost of fossil fule generated electrcity by applying a carbon tax may be popular with a noisy small fraction, but it will not be accepted by the vast majority.

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Peter Lang, on 4 May 2010 at 9.14 — Ok, here is the Nuscale effort:
http://www.nuscalepower.com/
with construction cost estimated to lie between $3.5 and $5 per Watt electric. These estimates have to include on the regulatory bumf. What would you change, including possible redesign for lower actual construction costs?

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David B Benson,

I’d start by listing all the impediments to nuclear, and then estimating the effect of them (cost, schedule and risk).

There is not point using as our starting point, a vision for a new US nuclear design that hasn’t even been submmitted for design approval to the NRC yet.

We know that CANDU6 and AP1000 can be built for less than your quoted figure and that is with all the regulatory impediments in place.

First, we need to recognise what the impediments are and how much they are increasing the cost of nuclear power.

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Peter Lang, on 4 May 2010 at 10.01— I’m a bit puzzled by your claim about the AP-1000. I think that is a 1 GWe unit, and you are claiming it can be constructed for less than US$3.5 billion? Somehow I doubt that, so authoriative reference if you please.

By the way, the AP-1000 hasn’t made it through US NRC approval yet because the regulators wnat design calculations that the outer shield, designed to withstand an impact by a 747, can also withstand
(1) tornados,
(2) hurricanes, and
(3) earthquakes.
Talk about redundancy of safety…

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Candu 6 build 2004 $2B/Gw

http://www.cnnc.com.cn/tabid/168/Default.aspx

AP1000 build $1.2B/Gw

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&refer=asia&sid=aJPyNB5Q_Fr0

The NRC complaint about AP1000 disaster loading was bunk. These idiots even claimed the containment dome couldn’t support the weight of the emergency water pool – standard civil engineering practice.

I’m wondering if they have any state certified civil engineers working at the NRC at all.

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seth, on 4 May 2010 at 10.39 — Thanks. “The cost of building a kilowatt of AP1000 capacity is between $1,000 and $1,200, according to Westinghouse’s Web site.” From your second link.

Now the mini-reactors designs are going to have to compete with that, so I’ll guess the article in Der Spiegel, from which I obtained the cost estimate range had those estimates wrongly stated.

Anyway, current USA new coal burner prices seem to have a construction cost of close to $1000 per kilowatt:
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/201/03/18/20100318arizona-coal-plant.html

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Ewen Laver – I respectfully disagree. The points I was trying to make were that the issues that are trucked out by the media, the politicians, and others at the meta-level are not reflections of what the public really thinks at all, and that the real fight is going to be small local battles, because in the end that is going to determine if a nuclear generating station gets built or not.

The list you presented is what other claim the public is concerned about, and yes a few talking heads will agree, and some small groups might come out to protest, but polls show that when people are asked the truth is somewhat different, and that they are willing to change are they become familiar with the facts. The truth is that most of the standard reasons we are told the public doesn’t want nuclear energy is just spin from those with another agenda.

The other thing I want to get the pronuclear side to realize, is that this problem is manageable by working locally when the opportunity presents itself, and that to do this effectively, we must recruit more young people into the fight.

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Things may be somewhat different in Canada, DV8 but in several years of arguing these issues, thee above represent a summary of the most persistently uttered claims, stripped down to the basic conceptaul level.

Many people haven’t even thought through why a solar panel on your roof is more acceptable than a nuclear plant down the road and it actually takes a bit of probing to get there.

Yet when I ask myself why simple reason so often fails to move people, it seems to me that one can’t ignore the ways in which the arguments allude to what cultural theorists sometimes call meta-narratives. It is very hard to argue with the ghost in the machine, and attacking the machine is futile if the ghost can keep bringing it back to life.

The term “zombie ideas” has been used to describe the case made against anthropogenic climate change and one suspects it applies here too. In a very real sense, the FUD we see so often can’t be refuted effectively with evidence. What we need to do is to is to take on the cultural dimensions of the case for renewables showing them to be themselves implausible and a cover for just the things that those into, for example, notions of the pristine, can’t accept.

The idea that wind and solar demand more coal and gas to be burned strikes at the heart of renewables, even more powerfully than does cost amongst those keenest on renewables and hostile to nuclear power. The idea of coal seam gas (which is now making a pitch as some sort of free ride that is cleaner than coal) is being damaged by the threat to acquifers and of massive salinity-driven damage to agricultural land.

If we can present nuclear as a small footprint technology solution, we will wedge those who think the best footprint is a small one. If we can show that wind farms and CSP and rooftop PV involve far more market capitalisation and exercise of remote authority than equivalent nuclear power then again, we torpedo the localistic vision of renewables.

Make no mistake — when someone is trying to justify a cultural position — they will seize on even the flimsiest or objective rationales to cover it. How many people who smoke insist they know someone who lived until 90 while smoking 2 packs per day? I think we all do.

So we need to have our own arguments in order if we are to kick the cultural support out from under renewable technology advocates.

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And under $4000/kw nuclear via the AP1000 *in the US* IS bunk. Not gonna happen, not for a decade at least.

All hard quotes are from utilities which actually have a financial interest, and stock holder’s promise, to put the absolute highest figure possible and then look for loans based on that, along with rate increases to pay for it.

Having said that…it’s still damn cheap compared to total wind and solar costs.

The Chinese are, and I expect, will, build for that low price, actually about $1500/kw. No one for now is going to bring that in any cheaper.

For once, it appears that the AP1000 costs may actually come down in price as more get built. Another story.

I think it was an excellent post. Goes along with Rod Adam’s much praised interview with a nuclear skeptic.

David

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@Benson
Do you have a link from Westinghouse’s web site giving
“…between $1,000 and $1,200,…” ?

Your coal plant link is dead.

Here’s another set

Lets compare a new coal plant to a nuke using 5% 30 year money O&M costs similar for all three.

Longview Power state of the art 700 Mw coal $2B or 2 cents a kwh + Coal at 2.4 cents a kwh. 4.4 cents a kwh

Enmax in Calgary $1.6B or 1 cent a kwh for a 1.2 Gw CCGT gas plant with todays fire sale gas costing 3.1 cents a kwh.
4.1 cents a kwh

Enhanced Candu built Qinshan China 1.6Gw $2.9B or 1.2 cents a kwh + fuel .5 cents a kwh. 1.7 cents a kwh.

Obviously nuclear power is far cheaper than the alternatives.

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@Ewen Laver – the polls I referenced were pan European, and to some extent cut across several cultural domains.

In the States the Nuclear Energy Institute has run a series of polls with similar findings See:

http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/publicationsandmedia/newslettersandreports/perspectivesonpublicopinion

I’m not disagreeing with you per se, only pointing out that these polls are showing that it is a lack of the basics that is at the root of the misunderstandings, and that a large majority hasn’t thought about the subject at all in any depth, and thus their opinions haven’t hardened as we have been told they have.

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@Benson
Salt River Project Springerville Unit 4 coal plant at 400 Mw with a 75% capacity factor costing $1B and burning deadly Powder River coal works out to 3.3B/Gw

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Just gonna throw a fox in the coop here,

I’ve noticed a constant trend to the anti-argument in Australia over the last couple of years. Australia doens’t have any commerical nuclear power, and the antis know damn well that their arguments on reactor safety etc. don’t stand up to any scrutiny. So the vast majority of protesting is focussed on U mining, not electricity generation.

The Australian Greens Party have been very successful in using and spreading this argument, so I’m going to say that in Australia much of our acceptance argument is going to have to be based on this in the near term, if we are to see a necessary increase in uranium mining in coming years.

The arguments against U mining are mostly fallacious of course.

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TeeKay, on 4 May 2010 at 12.54 Said:

“The Australian Greens Party have been very successful in using and spreading this argument,”

Have they really or are they just going around saying that they have, and getting it repeated in the media.

In other words just how sure can you be that he general population indeed feels this way?

This is what I am driving at – it the same as when Lenin started calling his communists the Bolsheviks (Majority) and the opposition the Mensheviks (Minority) when the truth was quite the other way. This is why we can’t let the anti’s have a free hand with the media, we cannot let them do the framing.

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This is what I am driving at – it the same as when Lenin started calling his communists the Bolsheviks (Majority) and the opposition the Mensheviks (Minority) when the truth was quite the other way.

Except that the Bolsheviks were entitled to call themselves the majorityites since they were the majority faction, within the RSDLP (the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party) in 1903, as compared with the minorityite mensheviki.

This had nothing to do with their standing in the Russian population in November (new Style) of 1917 though they may well have been the most supported group in Petrograd at that time …

[end history lesson …]

a large majority hasn’t thought about the subject at all in any depth, and thus their opinions haven’t hardened as we have been told they have.

I agree. It’s more a sense of unease — uncertainty and unresolved non-specific fears about nuclear running up against renewables, which sound like motherhood. That’s why we have to make renewables sound more like the wicked scheming stepmother pretending to be nice.

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DV82XL,

I reckon you have the key points really clear in your mind.

A dot point summary, perhaps with short questions and answers, would be great – laid out for a pamphlet.

Many people have tried this in the past, but DV82XL, your thinking is clear, concise and well organised. Also, you are addressing the current state of politics.

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@DV82XL. Do you have some powerpoint or other presentation slides available for putting together a talk to a group of high-school students on this topic. There may be an opportunity for me to give a talk on this and, rather than reinvent the wheel, it would be handy to have some resources to collate.

Perhaps it would be useful to put together a resource kit along these lines. Maybe this could be hosted at BNC.

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Virgil C. Summer 3 & 4 (AP1000) are projected to cost $4400 per kilowatt including transmission and financing. I don’t see why sub $4000 costs are impossible as we get more proficient at building them.

Why does the capital cost of Nuclear even need to come down that much for it to be competitive with coal? Last I checked, Nuclear is slightly inferior to coal on actual cost per megawatt hour, and obliterates coal when external costs are introduced.

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DV8’s local tactics emphasis assumes the country is at a stage where a
decision to build a NPP in an area is possible … in which case he is spot on.
Having many good people visiting their local politician(s) is a very powerful
strategy.

But Australia hasn’t got to that point yet. Certainly DV8’s media
suggestions are pertinent. A common strategy to ensure that
“green energy” stories are jumped on is the humble mailing list … (e.g.,
all BNC registered users :), and an avid web surfer, whenever the surfer
sees a relevant article in the mainstream media, they send a link to
the list and as many people on the list as can write a suitable short
letter. Letter editors know this happens, but when they get
a bunch of individual emails about an issue, it still carries weight.

The most persuasive arguments I see against solar aren’t that:

a) it is expensive … so are iphones. Sorry Peter Lang, but I don’t
accept that very many people care about wasting money better
spent on health etc. Politicians and engineers care, but not Joe Public
who is way to preoccupied learning to use their iphone to wade through
the bewildering claims and counter claims about relative energy costs
to come to an informed decision. You can talk to politicians about
money, but the details are too difficult to use in a mass campaign.

b) or that it diverts attention from the main game. CSIRO has
solar scientists working on solar projects, these people were never
going to work on nuclear projects anyway. Any reasonable sized country
can afford to invest in quite a few technologies. Small countries may have
to pick and choose, but they are more likely tech takers than tech makers.

c) I don’t think the “solar needs gas backups” is a winner because
people will just mutter about better batteries and it assumes people
understand that we have to be totally off coal by 2030 … something not
yet accepted in mainstream consciousness!

For my money, the top anti-solar argument for mass persuasion is:

a) Germany has spent a lot of money on solar, they have
lots of really smart German engineers and the project
has been so much of a failure they are still building coal plants.

b) I expect Spain to deliver a similar killer argument shortly.

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I was looking at this study:

Click to access nuclearpower-update2009.pdf

‘With the risk premium and without a carbon emission charge, nuclear is more expensive than either coal (without sequestration) or natural gas (at 7$/MBTU). If this risk premium can be eliminated, nuclear life cycle cost decreases from 8.4¢ /kWe-h to 6.6 ¢/kWe-h and becomes competitive with coal and natural gas, even in the absence of carbon emission charge.”

What is the risk premium, and how is it eliminated?

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Ewen Laver – At the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, held in 1903, Lenin advocated limiting party membership to a smaller core of active members, as opposed to “card carriers” who might only be active in party branches from time to time or not at all.

Julius Martov, until then a close friend and colleague of Lenin, argued that party membership should be open to all sympathizers.. Lenin’s supporters narrowly defeated Martov’s supporters on this question. However neither Lenin nor Martov had a firm majority throughout the Congress as delegates left or switched sides. At the end, the Congress was evenly split between the two factions.

Nevertheless Lenin and Trotsky leveraged this, and the name ‘Bolsheviks’ to give the impression that they represented the will of the majority in Russia. It’s the spin that I was underlining, not the reality.

Peter Lang – I’ll see what I can come up with.

George – No I don’t have a presentation prepared as yet, but I know of a few on the web that I will link to latter when I’m on my terminal at home.

Geoff Russell, – I realize that this is primarily an Australian blog, but it has an international readership, and I was writing for those people as well. Nevertheless being visibly active is just as, if not more important in Oz at this stage of the game, and recruiting the young should be a priority for you there.

I also think you are right when you point out that the sharpest knife we have in the renewable debate is that the damned things just don’t work.

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Pro nukes who wonder how the public can be so irrational about nuclear power need look no further than inside their own ranks.

I’ll start off quoting Bernard Cohen on how difficult it has proven to be in the past to change public opinion.

Bernard Cohen, in “The Nuclear Option”:

“the public has become irrational over fear of radiation. Its understanding of radiation dangers has virtually lost all contact with the actual dangers as understood by scientists”

The “best example” of this irrationality, Cohen says, was the “howl of public protest” that emerged when a year after the accident at Three Mile Island authorities wanted to vent radioactive gases from the containment to allow cleanup work to begin. “The NRC therefore undertook a large program of public education….”

Polls taken after the NRC public education campaign showed that the public’s fear of radiation had INCREASED.

I have a theory about this type of irrationality. Nukes can solve it as soon as they figure out why so many of their own number deny climate science.

There are pro nukes who are hard boiled climate deniers. Some of the top people in the nuclear industry believe the entire scientific case, i.e. that climate change is serious and that civilization must do something about it, is ridiculous. I’ve seen nukes say everyone who thinks the scientific case is sound has drunk the “KoolAid”.

Some of the same people who believe nuclear should not be feared by the public because the scientific research is so solid, at the same time deny climate science even though climate science has the same solid foundation rooted in the same scientific processes and institutions as any aspect of nuclear.

Because Cohen is respected by nukes, and because he makes the case that the public should accept nuclear because scientists say so, I’ll quote him:

We should not fear nuclear, Cohen writes, because the fact that it is safe is “generally accepted in the scientific community”. He says that the public has the erroneous idea, magnified by media reporting, that there are “large and important areas of disagreement within the scientific community” on nuclear matters, which he explains is just not true.

Does this ring a bell? Is the climate debate in any way similar?

He writes about the scientific process – the research published as it emerges in the scientific literature, the meetings where “there is ample opportunity for airing out disagreements before an audience of scientific peers”, after which scientists return to their labs to do and publish even more research. “This is not to say that different scientists don’t initially have different ideas on an issue, but rather that there are universally accepted ways of settling disagreements, so they don’t persist for long”.

Climate science is solid enough and it has been solid enough for so long, that twenty years ago climatologists told governments they were more than 95% in agreement that climate change was a problem that could only be exceeded by global nuclear war and that it required decisive action. http://www.cmos.ca/ChangingAtmosphere1988e.pdf When describing how solid a scientific consensus is when he describes it as sound Cohen uses the figure 90%. Climatologists talk about greater than 99% now.

Cohen continues: “where scientific questions have an impact on public policy, there is an additional mechanism. The National Academy of Sciences and similar national and international agencies assemble committees of distinguished scientists …. only very rarely do these committees have a minority report, and then its from only a very tiny minority. The committee’s conclusions are generally accepted by scientists and government agencies all over the world.”

Nukes expect the public to believe that nuclear power is safe, reliable, and poses less threat to anyone than any other major industry, and they point to authorities such as the NAS BEIR committee, the US NCRP, the UN, i.e. UNSCEAR, the INCRP, Health Physics society, British committees, French committees, etc.

Then they blithely deny the even more solid support that exists for climate science. The IPCC is scorned. The Joint Science Academies statement put out by all the science academies in the developed world is ridiculed. The National Academy of Sciences President states for publication in Science, as a counterweight to the media perception caused by “climategate”, that “our understanding is undiminished”, and pro nukes laugh.

When nukes figure out how some of their number can hold such contradictory ideas in their heads, i.e. that the greatest institutions of the science establishment all over the world can be held up as being correct when it comes to nuclear, and that these same institutions wouldn’t know the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground when it comes to climate science, I think then that nukes will hold the key to how to change public opinion on nuclear power.

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David Lewis – The pronuclear supporters that I run into both on the net and in the flesh are overwhelmingly convinced that the science behind global warming is true. In the US there is a party issue where Republicans both support nuclear energy and deny climate forcing, but that is largely an artifact of their two-party system, and the ideology of the Right wing in that country.

This is reflected by the Democrats and the American Left holding contrary opinions on these topics, more as a mater of reflex, than rationality.

Nevertheless, new nuclear builds are being planned in the US and what I wrote about making sure that supporters make themselves heard at the local level is most important there, because local feelings carry a huge amount of weight in the US.

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@David Lewis: your comment is particularly pertinent inasmuch as the originator of this thread declared recently on BNC that he was, if not an AGW denialist, then an AGW agnostic.

It is interesting that while the blog owner Brooks says he himself arrived at his nuke stance after reviewing the energy supply options in the light of AGW, any pro-nuke at all appears welcome on BNC, irrespective of motivation.
Further, the resentment/hatred on BNC is directed not against Fossil Fuelers, with their high ratio of AGW denialists, but against Renewabilists, who are not denialists at all.

Incidentally, US nuclear submarine officer Rod Adams, while often mentioning his outdoors conservationist stance on his blog, does not seem to include AGW as a reason for being pro-nuke.

Thnking about the above, I ask myself how a pro-nuke stance fits into people’s worldviews in general. Can it be that the nukies you refer to rubbish the IPCC and other bodies because they see “that sort of person” as being anti-growth, anti-capitalist, anti-banks, abortionist and anti-gun (in the USA) pro-Third World, etc.?In other words, a threat to the existing order which is invariably (but not always) supported by nukies? A US contributor to BNC, I think it was Charles Barton, seemed to be describing this some time ago when mentioning his intra-US discussions with pro-nukes.

if the foregoing is valid, then the halo effect of other political views held by nukies will prevent any their argument from taking hold among current non-nukies.

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Peter Lalor – OK gloves off.

I don’t know how many times I have to repeat myself on this issue, but I am not ether an AGW denialist, or an AGW agnostic, rather an AGW ignoramus. Not understanding a subject well enough to feel comfortable debating it, is not the same as ether of those two options. It only is recognizing the limits of my knowledge, a realization sadly lacking in the majority of the people holding forth in many different parts of the web.

I have stated here and elsewhere several times, that there isn’t a place on the planet where the evidence of the impacts of climate change isn’t mounting, and I have looked at that evidence and found it compelling. However the ‘why’ is just not all that important to my agenda which is to promote nuclear power. This alone, takes up more of my time than perhaps it should, and I simply can’t spare more to learn enough climate physics and then follow the reasoning for AGW in enough detail, to hold more than a superficial understanding of what is being asserted.

This is not a rejection, nor does it imply doubt. It is a practical stand that I have maintained for most of my life, and one I believe necessary to maintain an open mind, without keeping it so open my brain falls out. It is a reflex that was drilled into me by the Jesuits that were my teachers for most of my time in school, and it has served me well.

Also I have yet to see anyone on this blog, or any other pronuclear forum show any support for fossil fuel. In fact Rod Adams in particular hates natural gas to the point where he won’t even consider it for peeking. I myself have written many times that I see the influence of this sector in the antinuclear domain. In general however, we do not rail against carbon fuels directly, because it is widely considered a given that they have to be replaced.

‘Renewabilists,’ as you call them, on the other hand are tying to advance solutions that do not work. Without contributing any reliable capacity, they will nonetheless make nuclear, by far our most practical and reliable form of zero carbon energy, less profitable, and new construction will be discouraged entirely. Already the British Nuclear Group is complaining that it can’t build any new reactors if they have to compete against subsidized wind farms. Anti-nuclear activists are turning handsprings, claiming joyously that wind is finally replacing nuclear. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, nothing will be replacing existing capacity–namely, the coal burning plants that are one of the largest sources of carbon emissions–as demand increases in years ahead. That means carbon emissions won’t be meaningfully reduced, since coal plants will have to stay on line to provide backup.

It is tempting I am sure for people like you to fixate on the political mood in the US at the moment and to try and tar all pronukes there and everywhere else with Far Right ideology, simply because that group there supports nuclear. However it is dead wrong. The US conservative movement is one enamored with mythical origin stories, paternalistic theocracies, outdated ethnic definitions of nationhood and peopled by those who think Jesus spoke king James English. I am convinced they are for nuclear power only in the mistaken belief it is related to nuclear weapons, which again they support because these are to them the ultimate penis extension, rather than out of any considered reasoning.

As for opinions about the Third-World, it is a point of dogma among almost all supporters of nuclear energy, that this technology is the only viable route to prosperity in that quarter.

However like I asserted originally, attempts to frame this debate with contrived reasons why the masses won’t support nuclear power, seem to dissolve away when the public is actually consulted on their thinking, and again support for nuclear energy appears to be growing.

From now on my position on these statements of what the public thinks on this subject is going to be a demand to prove it or stand down. I am tried of fighting specters that vanish when a light is shone on them.

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Just an aside that is probably harmless physically but harmful as far as public relations are concerned:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/03/2888354.htm

Australian uranium dust found in Antarctic ice

Posted Mon May 3, 2010 7:31am AEST

An ice core from the Antarctic bears traces of uranium that may have been carried by the wind from Australian mines in 1995, a glacier expert has told a Chilean newspaper.

The minuscule amounts of the radioactive element “correspond to a year (1995) when Australia increased its uranium production,” Ricardo Jana, who participates in an international research effort in the frozen continent, told El Mercurio daily.

He said scientists theorise the uranium particles were carried by the wind from Australia and deposited in the northern part of the Antarctic’s Detroit peninsula.

Dr Jana works for the Chilean Antarctic Institute, which takes part in a joint Brazilian-Chilean-American glaciological and atmospheric research on the Detroit Plateau.

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seth, on 4 May 2010 at 12.41 — Thanks. I missed that it was only 400 MWe.

Scott, on 4 May 2010 at 22.22 — The USA already has the Price-Anderson act, so I’ll gues the risk premium has to do with the possibility of spending lotsa $$ and then the plant never runs to obtain a ROI. I believe there were at least 2 such in the USA; couldn’t obtain all the approvals due to lawsuits.

Now the French, for example, don’t have that problem although I don’t know the exact laws and so forth. And AFAIK neither do the Swedes nor the Germans. Obviously the Chinese don’t.

So prehaps that puts the finger on Peter Lang’s (implicit) question of why NPPs are so expensive; hiher risk because of lawsuits. I’ll point out that in the USA there is a rapidly growing tendency to legally intervene in new coal burner construction projects with considerable effect; over 130 such projects have been cancelled.

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eclipsenow – you can detect the start of the Industrial Revolution from coal ash found in Antarctic ice. You can find evidence of the First World War from bits of cordite in Antarctic ice. When you can detect things down to single molecule levels, I’ll be you can find what you and I ate on this date five years ago if we were real determined, from dust in Antarctic ice.

But you are right, that this will be blown out of all proportion by the other side.

The French as well as most other First World countries with a nuclear energy sector maintain specific insurance pools for the industry.

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Scott @ 4 May 2010 at 22.22

You make an excellent point and ask a very important question:

I was looking at this study:

Click to access nuclearpower-update2009.pdf

‘With the risk premium and without a carbon emission charge, nuclear is more expensive than either coal (without sequestration) or natural gas (at 7$/MBTU). If this risk premium can be eliminated, nuclear life cycle cost decreases from 8.4¢ /kWe-h to 6.6 ¢/kWe-h and becomes competitive with coal and natural gas, even in the absence of carbon emission charge.”

What is the risk premium, and how is it eliminated?

This is outside my area of expertise, so my comments below are layman’s comments.

The investor risk premium is that the electricity must be sold for to attract sufficient investment. The investors need a higher return to invest in nuclear than in coal because they perceive a number of higher risks in nuclear. The MIT study you linked to outs the investor risk premium at 26% (from memory)

The most significant risk is sovereign risk. In effect that means the community will change its mind about nuclear power some time during the operating life of the plant and change the return on investment, and/or the risk that the investors may not recovering their capital. A very good example of this risk has been discussed on the BNC web site. In this discussion some commenters argued that we should simply shut down the dirty coal power stations and we do not need to compensate the investors because they should have seen this coming for a long time. In fact, Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Australia Greens Party, argues exactly that point. And many within our Labor Party agree with Bob Brown on this. So this adds to the risk for the investors, and they demand a higher return if we want them to invest.

What is the risk premium, and how is it eliminated?

The MIT study you linked to estimated the investor risk premium is 26% (from memory) for nuclear power in the USA. I expect it would be significantly higher in Australia because we don’t have any nuclear power yet.

How can it be eliminated? Here are some thoughts:

1. Remove all the legislation that is biased against nuclear.

2. Make it clear that if there is a change of the laws or regulation that will have a detrimental effect on the finances of the plant, at any time during the operating life of the plant, fair compensation will be paid.

3. Pass laws that will prevent public disruption during construction

4. Pass laws to shorten the site selection and approvals process to the extent possible

5. Remove all policy, legal and regulatory impediments to nuclear which bias investors against nuclear.

6. Replace “Renewable Energy Targets” with “Clean Energy Targets”

7. Remove all requirements that require nuclear to be much safer than the main technologies that are direct competitors of nuclear (e.g. coal, Coal with CCS).

8. Public to carry the equivalent investment risks that they carry for other technologies. Examples are: 1) subsidies to pay the premium involved with the initial builds in a country; 2) risk of catastrophic accident. Note that the community carries that risk with all our chemical plants and shipments, and our government has recently told the Carbon Capture and Storage proponents that the government will carry all the risks of leakages. The community needs to carry the equivalent risks for nuclear if we want to remove the investor risk premium?

9. Establish a mechanism to allow generators to challenge any regulation that is causing one generator type to have an unfair advantage over any other generator type. The purpose is to facilitate development of a level playing field and then to maintain it. This should help to remove the investor risk premium.

If you haven’t already read it, this might be of interest: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/

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Scott, on 4 May 2010 at 17.16 Said:

Virgil C. Summer 3 & 4 (AP1000) are projected to cost $4400 per kilowatt including transmission and financing. I don’t see why sub $4000 costs are impossible as we get more proficient at building them.

Why does the capital cost of Nuclear even need to come down that much for it to be competitive with coal? Last I checked, Nuclear is slightly inferior to coal on actual cost per megawatt hour, and obliterates coal when external costs are introduced.

The cost advantage of coal over nuclear is greater in Australia than in USA. There are several reasons for this:

1. We have no nuclear power yet; it is unpopular so this raises the investor risk premium

2. We have no education facilities and no knowledge or experience of nuclear throughout the entire electricity industry.

3. We have no nuclear regulatory regime. Our competence with regulatory regimes for other industries is demonstrable poor. They cannot act independently without excessive political interference (e.g. our civil aviation industry regulatoion).

4. So we have to go through the transition of First of a Kind in virtually everything.

5. Our coal is high quality and located close to our major demand centres. Our pollution emissions requirements are not as stringent as USA because of our lower population density. So the cost of electricity in Australia is less than in USA. Nuclear will be more expensive than in USA unless we can get serious about preventing the sorts of regulatory nightmare that impedes nuclear plants in USA, Canada, UK and EU.

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Peter Lalor above …

Your post is mischievous. This blog supports the mainstream science. So does DV8 though he doesn’t claim detailed insight. That’s not agnosticism. It is simply demurring to those with the expertise to declare on the matter.

Real agnostics say that certainty is impossible. DV8 has never said that. He is simply taking a position that any perfectly hopnest, serious person should take who isn’t completely au fait with the relevant elements of the basic science or the underpinning data.

I am no kind of engineer or surveyor. So if someone who is a well qualified engineer tells me something about how a nuclear plant operates or about what materials and engineering works would be needed to build a pumped storage facility I will defer to them without implying doubt about their conclusions until someone equally well qualified offers me reasons to doubt it.

The same applies here on AGW. DV8 contributes much of value to this site and I hope he will continue.

He is quite right here too that nobody here favours long term reliance on fossil fuels.

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David Lewis,

When nukes figure out how some of their number can hold such contradictory ideas in their heads, i.e. that the greatest institutions of the science establishment all over the world can be held up as being correct when it comes to nuclear, and that these same institutions wouldn’t know the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground when it comes to climate science, I think then that nukes will hold the key to how to change public opinion on nuclear power.

That is the most stupid argument I’ve seen.

What you are arguing is that people concerned about climate change should not support nuclear energy because some nuclear advocates are climate change deniers.

What a stupid argument. That seems like chucking a tantrum and cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

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Eclipsenow

Australian uranium dust found in Antarctic ice

I wonder if the researchers happened to measure and report the amount of other chemicals in the dust – chemicals far more harmful than uranium?

If not, I wonder why not. Could it be because any mention of uranium gets mass media attention?

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Peter Lang, on 5 May 2010 at 9.43 — Wonderful list, very clear.

I, however, would change your point 7 to equalizing the (perceived) risks so that coal becomes more expensive and maybe nuclear a bit less so.

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DV82XL, on 5 May 2010 at 9.54 Said:
Peter Lang – That’s a very good list. Now how are you going get it actioned?

I’m going to assemble a committee of BNC contributors, delegate actions, and monitor outcomes.

As an example, first action is on David Lewis and Peter Lalor. They are delegated responsiblitiy to convert all renewable energy advocates in Australia to drop their belief in RE and become enthusiastic advocates for nuclear energy. They approach they appluy is up to them; however, given the beliefs of their audience, I expect they will point out that renewables dont work, and wont reduce GHG emissions, but nuclear does and will. This task to be completed within 3 months; Define the performance measures and report % complete monthly.

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@Peter Lalor:
Incidentally, US nuclear submarine officer Rod Adams, while often mentioning his outdoors conservationist stance on his blog, does not seem to include AGW as a reason for being pro-nuke.

Please see the following articles:

http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2009/10/climate-change-causing-cognitive.html

http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/03/should-united-states-of-america-want-to.html

http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/02/weird-weather-multiple-double-digit.html

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DV82XL,

My response to your question was flippant. I did actually send modified versions of this https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/ to all the federal politicians. It was modified to fit their pary policies and the portfolio of the ministers and shadow ministers.

I do write to them when I have something constructive to offer.

Do you have another suggestion. But don’t load me up with too many ideas, just one good suggestion is enough for this retiree.

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Finrod, thank you for that information.

David Lewis, my appologies if I’ve misinterpreted your message. I interpreted the comment as being from an irrational extremist.

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On the question of how to inform the public, I think it would be a great idea if someone with the required expertise could create something like the ‘Climate Crock of the Week’ videos.

Having a set of videos that address the antis’ arguments one by one would, I think, be a powerful tool. It would certainly make it easier for someone like me, who is not an expert in nuclear power, to engage people in discussions.

Is there anything like that already out there? If so, I’ve not found it yet…

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DV82XL, 4 May 2010 at 13.06,

“Have they really or are they just going around saying that they have, and getting it repeated in the media.

In other words just how sure can you be that he general population indeed feels this way?”

I’m speaking largely from my experience of living in this country, and hearing people speak about it – particularly in the university environment.

I’ve been to two seminars by the Greens now on U mining (held at both Flinders University and the University of Adelaide), and listened to many of the people there afterwards (including friends of mine) saying a lot of things like “wow, that really opened my eyes to how bad uranium mining is.” Admittedly this example may be a case of preaching to the converted. I’ve heard it from others too, however.

Another thing is that the mining debate has become very closely tied to the human rights movement in Australia, centred mostly around uranium mining as it relates to Indigenous people. It’s an extremely sensitive issue. This is due to the wrong-headed belief that U mining is worse than other types of mining, and that it is actually so heinous that to allow it to occur on Aboriginal land is discriminatory and racist.

I will maintain that environment groups, including the Australian Greens, are having a large impact in pushing this argument in the first place, and others are taking it up.

Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable for these groups to then push for the mining of vast quantities of iron-ore and the raw ingredients for cement so they can have more wind-farms built.

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@TeeKay – You have touched on a valid point about mining. Australia is not alone in having issues with indigenous people, both the U.S. and Canada have this to deal with as well. In both of these cases there is some justification as native miners in the States did work under unsafe conditions in the early days of this industry (but then again so did white miners.) As well there was a certain indifference to environmental damage in the Canadian North around the Great Slave Lake mines, from the Thirties through the Fifties that the locals have every right to be upset with.

However, and I am sure the situation is the same in Oz, that was the past. Modern mining is a lot cleaner than it used to be in this sector, and uranium miners are probably the best monitored group in the whole mining industry period.

The real key is to watch the dates. The mining critics are usually referencing data from the middle of the last century, and many areas in mining for other minerals (asbestos as a prime example) had pathetic health and safety profiles in that period.
Note too, the indigenous leadership is (at least here) trying to leverage this into funding and as a chip in negotiations for further mining rights on native land. They don’t want to stop mining, they just want a thicker slice.

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Hi Teekay,
I’ve had the opposite effect, so maybe your experience was ‘preaching to the converted’?

Over business lunches etc when raising nuclear power, the immediate reaction was “Chernobyl”. When I pointed out that they didn’t even have a proper containment dome, and that the sheer scale of that leak and disaster was virtually impossible with Western reactors because we at least cover the plant in a huge concrete containment dome, the opposition melted away. “Wow, I didn’t know that… that’s really interesting!” Then when I mentioned that we could run the whole world just off the waste we’ve already created for the next 500 years, while burning the waste down to 10% of it’s mass, they were truly dumbfounded that they hadn’t heard about this before.

But how many people have an obsession about energy matters anyway? I doubt I would care as much as I do if I had not discovered peak oil during a particularly stressful crisis with my son’s health, and then ‘flipped out’ about some of the Mad Max scenarios I was reading about. I wonder if my boy had not looked exactly like one of Matt Savinar’s starving billions at the time, whether or not I would have just lumped peak oil in with just another ‘mad internet site’ and moved on to other news?

Most people just don’t really care or read about this stuff, and the opinions they hold are about as informed as one’s childhood voting predilections.

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Heads Up …
RN Breakfast this morning had Eric Isaacs from Argonne speaking of energy systems. He paid lip service to renewables as long term solutions, specifically focusing on solar, and spoke of grid storage systems, but importantly, noted the centrality of nuclear power in the short term, speaking of the heavy hitting renewable technologies as 30-50 years away from doing the job.

The RN website doesn’ t yet have the interview up, but you can find it when it updates here.

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“…noted the centrality of nuclear power in the short term, speaking of the heavy hitting renewable technologies as 30-50 years away from doing the job”

That would draw the remark that the person that said it has a very sharp pair of skates. At least in Canada.

Saying nuclear is a bridge to renewables is as ludicrous as it is brilliant. I intend to start using it the moment I can train myself to say it out loud with a straight face.

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Now now DV8, with 500 years of fuel just in today’s waste, who can say what the future will hold? What will we have by then? Imagine some future World Federation space agency sending 1 self-replicating asteroid mining robot-ship out to the belts, where it mines silicon and other useful metals. Imagine it is loaded up with enough plutonium to make the first dozen or so ships self powering, and then they mine any good uranium or thorium supplies to keep powering yet more and more ships. Now imagine that this fleet is growing exponentially, and eventually a fraction of it starts sending back giant solar PV dishes that are moved into Earth’s orbit for a space solar program.

One self-replicating robot ship successfully out of the gravity well could hypothetically power the earth. Sure it would take time, but eventually nuclear power could become the bridge we need to renewables. Then we can save all that precious uranium and thorium for much grander projects like running and underground Mars civilisation, or even propelling O’Neil arkships off to the stars…

Uranium and thorium are just too precious as dense energy storage to squander if we eventually come up with a cheap and viable way of harvesting the abundant sunlight and wind energy we have here on earth.

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And aliens might come to show us how to leave or bodies and live as beings of pure energy, and Christ may come again to raise the dead, and the damned Montreal Canadian could win the Stanley Cup this year…

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Your first example was first uttered by bishop Milton Wright after several men had demonstrated powered heaver than air flight.

The second was a promise made by one U.S. Senator Edmunds, during an election campaign that apparently cost him his seat.

And as you accurately point out Watson of IBM, never said anything of the kind.

You dream on eclipse, the grown-ups are going to work towards an attainable future.

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(yawns)

But who would have predicted that flight would move from a dangerous stunt across a football field into the multi-billion dollar business it is today, without which international tourism and many “just in time” component manufacturer’s would go belly up in a few weeks?

Oh, I know, a Sci-Fi writer like Jules Verne could have predicted such a thing!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jules_Verne#Predictions

Predictions
A mural in Tampa, Florida commemorating Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon.

Jules Verne’s novels have been noted for being startlingly accurate anticipations of modern times.[who?] Paris in the 20th Century is an often cited example of this as it arguably describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts.

Another example is From the Earth to the Moon, which, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program, as three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula and recovered through a splash landing. In the book, the spacecraft is launched from “Tampa Town”; Tampa, Florida is approximately 130 miles from NASA’s actual launching site at Cape Canaveral.[11]

In other works, Verne predicted the inventions of helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and other later devices.

He also predicted the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not discovered until years after he wrote about them.

You might be good at technically analysing today’s technology, but don’t try and limit those dreaming up the business, social, and technological trajectories out there on the extreme edge of possibility, as you will just end up sounding like these cranky old naysayers…

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain.. and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie

1. “Children just aren’t interested in Witches and Wizards anymore.”

–Anonymous publishing executive to J.K. Rowling, 1996.

2. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

–Ken Olson, Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

NOTE: Olson’s business made big business mainframe computers.

3. “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

–Decca Records executives rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

4. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

–Western Union internal memo, 1876

5. “Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.”

–Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

6. “You better get secretarial work or get married.”

–Emmeline Snively, Director – Blue Book Modelling Modelling Agency, to Marilyn Monroe in 1944.

7. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”

–The President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

8. “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.”

–Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later

9. “I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering music.”

–Alexandre Oulibicheff, reviewing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Note: He sounds just like Simon from American Idol!

10. “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”

–Associates of Edwin L. Drake mocking his idea to drill for oil, 1859.

11. “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat plans, 1800s.

12. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

–The San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a submission by Rudyard Kipling in 1889.

13. “Very interesting Whittle, my boy, but it will never work.”

–Cambridge Aeronautics Professor, when shown Frank Whittle’s plan for the jet engine.

14. “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

–Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

15. “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.”

–Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.

16. “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.”

–Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

…and my personal favorite, for it’s elaborate description.

17. “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.”

–Lee DeForest, Inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926.

http://j.mp/csmxur

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DV8 Said:

Saying nuclear is a bridge to renewables is as ludicrous as it is brilliant. I intend to start using it the moment I can train myself to say it out loud with a straight face.

[adopts tone from relevant Seinfeld episode] … Nevertheless … [/Seinfeld]

I quite like it, purely as spin. After all, can we really say with absolute certainty that we will never find a way of harnessing renewables in such a way as to make them comparable or better than the then nuclear technology. That would be heroic. While fusion also seems to be perpetually in the future, can we say with certainty that will never work? I don’t think so.

So we say … look, it’s entirely possible that 30 or 50 years from now, the facts on the ground may have moved in favour of renewables, but our problem is now. Until the day comes when the there is a compelling case for preferring renewables, can you agree with us that nuclear power is essential?

After all, however good an all-renewables-based energy system might proves to be, 30, 40 or 50 years from now, it cannot retrospectively remedy the harm that 30-50 years of fossil fuel usage will do, can it? We absolutely must buy the time we need to cash in on the benefits of renewables by scaling up nuclear right now.

I take it as read that after 50 years of nuclear, the angst and fear about now will have entirely dissipated and renewables will be as “useful” as they are now, relative to nuclear. If as Isaacs suggests, grid level storage is commercially feasible and lithium air batteries really do work as well as he thinks they might, then nuclear will be even better.

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You make some interesting points Ewen, but I really think you need to read this one out loud

7. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”

–The President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

Just substitute a few words…
7. “The nuclear power plant is here to stay but renewables are only a novelty, a fad.”

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7. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”

–The President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

Just substitute a few words…
7. “The nuclear power plant is here to stay but renewables are only a novelty, a fad.”

The analogy is not appropriate. The automobile was ultimately a much more powerful and flexible technology than horse transport. There’s no reason to suppose that renewables bear the same relation to nuclear as cars to horses, and every reason to believe the opposite.

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eclipsenow – I don’t think you real grasp the context of what is being said by me, Ewen or some of the people you are quoting.

Most of them were speaking after the fact, or out of ignorance of the subject they were holding forth on, or in fear.

When I, and many of the others that post here look at technology it is with knowledge and experience. We are not bishops and bankers holding out opinions on transportation, based on our own prejudices, and arrogant beliefs in our own infallibility. We are not men looking at seeing our life’s work flushed away by a new invention, and we are not frauds that used PR, patent law and barratry to claim others work (as DeForest did.)

We are holding out very considered opinions, in my case with almost forty years experience in technical industries. I know just how long it takes for a good, practical idea to be developed. Some that I first heard of as a young apprentice were just entering the field as I left. Look at the history of the fuel cell: a century and counting and its just in beta for all intents and purposes.

And then there is the simple economics of good enough being the enemy of better. With a fleet of GenIV NPPs making power on the cheap, who is going to pony up for a space-based system?

Like I said, dream on, but know you are dreaming.

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Quite right Finrod. Structurally, it has the same form as those silly anthopogenic climate change denier claims that because scientists have been wrong in the past or that a previous scientific consensus has been overturned we may coclude that they are wrong in the present of the present conensus will be overturned.

Nowhere do they explain how these things came to be overturned.

The horse one is interesting. Clearly, the sheer size, compexity and weight of the first motor vehicles, their expense and the paucity of road and fuel distribution made the horse a very attractive personal transport option 100 plus years ago. But the facts on the ground changed. WW1 forced mechanised transport forward and forced major engineering improvements. Ford himself introduced major improvements to the production process, massively lowering the cost of turning out vehicles. For his time, he counts as something of a progressive in a number of fields. Roads and fuel distribution spread. The development of a whole suite of technologies rendered the horse largely obsolete in modern society, as appealing an animal as it is.

The wind turbine will surely go the same way. Like the horse for transport, it made sense when it was milling grain or pumping water for irrigation. It was way more useful than doing this by hand. Intermittency wasn’t relevant. Now it is, because each of us demands a lot more than peasants or even barons in the middle ages.

It’s nonsense.

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Horses consumed about one third of the agricultural output of the UK during the 19th century. If we could only revive those sustainable 19th century technologies of horse-drawn transport and labour-intensive agriculture, we could create a green jobs revolution!

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Mind you Finrod, I do quite like horses. In a more rational world, there’d be more scope to engage with horses.

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Gee DV82XL I’ve got my money on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Have they won a Stanley Cup since 1981? Thanks for your helpful comments on all of Barry’s blogs. I’ve based all of my pro nuke efforts on my 1981 year in Canada and have and will continue to badger politicians, the public , business leaders directly through letters, speeches, one on one chats etc. People are coming around to the need for a nuclear Australia. All of we pro-nukes just have to keep on talking, long and loud.

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Terry Krieg, on 7 May 2010 at 20.34 Said:

“Gee DV82XL I’ve got my money on the Toronto Maple Leafs.”

A poor choice as they finished dead last in the regular season, and haven’t made the play-offs in years.

I had the pleasure of dinning last night with one of the readers of this blog who signs himself KeenOn350. We had a long talk about getting young people involved with environmental issues while not letting them fall for the standard Green agenda. This is particularly relevant to him, as he runs a nature camp where he tries to use the program to advance these aims.

However he does not want just preach doom and gloom, and wants to introduce some material on nuclear energy to hold out some hope for a future. Consequently we had a far ranging discussion on the topic, and covered some of the more common misconceptions.

He started a blog Climate Disruption which he hopes will serve as educational resource on the subject.

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It seems to me that all of the suggested renewables, especially wind and sun, hot rocks, biofuels etc, and gas and CSG [fossil fuels for goodness sake] are too far in the future to give the world anything like the base load supplies we shall need. As for the for ever in the future fusion, it may eventually come to something. But I thought the greenhouse problem was urgent and that we need to address it soon. The fact is, for the next 50 years apart from nuclear power, there is nothing else, not a hint of anything on the horizon that can be harnessed on the scale required and our needs are going to keep growing. Wishful thinking has no place in this discussion. We need to understand that most/all of the abovementioned renewables will probably never provide more than a small fraction of our energy needs and certainly within the time we would appear to have. The sooner we understand that fact, the better and the sooner we’ll start to pick up the nuclear option. Again I recommend “Power to save the World – the truth about nuclear energy” by Gwyneth Cravens and published by Alfred Knopf and Sons , New York 2007. If you’re still on the fence about nuclear power, then read this and you’ll be off it quick smart. DV82XL. How can I tap into your friend’s Climate Disruption blog?

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Anyone in doubt of the power of local groups in the nuclear energy debate should read this:

http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2010/05/anti-nukes-wins-some-lose-some-in-ga-sc.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FYiuo+%28Idaho+Samizdat%29

“President Barack Obama’s support for building new nuclear power plants with federal loan guarantees is not making much headway with the hard edges of the anti-nuclear crowd in the South.

Lawsuits are coming up quicker than robins chasing worms on your lawn after a rainstorm. There’s no clear trend, but lots feathers are flying in state courts.

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Barry B,

In a recent debate on the nuclear issue on John Quiggin the nuclear argument came out lacking substance against renewables. At the absolute worst renewables are equal in installation cost to Nuclear with a far better better operational longevity, certainly for Australia. And recent developments in photovoltaic solutions offer the prospect that distributed electricity generation will halve the centralised grid supply requirement over the next 30 years.

Are you sure that you are not wasting your time following this Nuclear tragectory?

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Terry Kreig,

On what do you base your claim

“renewables, especially wind and sun, hot rocks, biofuels etc, and gas and CSG [fossil fuels for goodness sake] are too far in the future”

? Renewables installation is accelerating rapidly (currently 25%) per year, where nuclear is declining (at present) at the rate of 1% per year. Australia is now certain to get its first nearly serious CSP plant in Whyalla and wind power is being installed at an increasing rate. Solar technology and investment is the hottest focus on the planet providing absolute certainty that solar solutions will follow a form of moore’s law, and each five years will see a doubling of solar energy performance from combined efficiencies and diversity. This is something not available to nuclear energy as it is confined by physics.

Meanwhile the Saharan Desertec solution is gaining political support and serious planning is underway. Total baseload CSP solutions are now fully defined and willsoon be appearing in a variety of countries. China is currently isntalling the largest single installation of 2 gigawatts. GenII PV solutions are being designed by several companies and the prospect of $1 per watt is very real.

Nuclear is destined to follow the path of mass supersonic flight, possible but ultimately restrained by materials limitations and geopolitical realities, and to be abandoned in favour of energy that can be generated by every by everyone and the positive economics that result.

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This is something not available to nuclear energy as it is confined by physics.

By which I infer you mean solar power is not. That certainly helps make sense of your perspective.

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In a recent debate on the nuclear issue on John Quiggin the nuclear argument came out lacking substance against renewables.

Unfortunately for you, the debate on J.Quiggin’s blog has been followed here in some detail, and the true paucity of the renewables case is known in full. You had better do some reading on this site before posting too much of this garbage. You never know, you may even learn something.

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Solar technology and investment is the hottest focus on the planet providing absolute certainty that solar solutions will follow a form of moore’s law, and each five years will see a doubling of solar energy performance from combined efficiencies and diversity. This is something not available to nuclear energy as it is confined by physics.

The current peak efficiency for a top-of-the-range commercial PV panel is about 18%. Three doublings takes that to over 100% (of course, it is unlikely that even one doubling can be achieved by any commersial technology in the forseeable future. Nuclear power fuel efficiency can be increased at least 160 times over by transitioning to breeder reactors.

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You did not read the comment properly Finrod.

John Morgan, of course solar energy is confined by the delivery rate, but not by the available diversity of collection options.

The debate at JQ took a farcical turn when one prominent blogger here entered the discussion and put forward totally rediculous claims on the cost of reneables 20 fold higher than reality, then insisted that I read his treatise on solar energy, which I demonstrated to be a confused mishmash of misunderstanding from which the totally unsupportable claims were drawn. At the same time the contributor refused to reas or comment on publications from European energy authorities.

Finrod the “top range” of solar panel efficiency is a moving target almost on a monthly basis. But most importantly the GenII PV solutions will offer energy collection efficiencies of 60%. And that will be good enough to completely change the energy landscape in ways currently unimagined.

What I suggest that you do is not believe, but pretend for a moment that this is real, and do your own evaluation of how that will play out in time.

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Finrod,

“Nuclear power fuel efficiency can be increased at least 160 times over by transitioning to breeder reactors”

Fuel yield yes, but not plant delivery. The issue is spread and diversity.

The other more real risk for Nuclear perhaps even greater than the environemntal risk is the risk of obsolessence. Again it is the SST situation.

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Finrod the “top range” of solar panel efficiency is a moving target almost on a monthly basis. But most importantly the GenII PV solutions will offer energy collection efficiencies of 60%. And that will be good enough to completely change the energy landscape in ways currently unimagined.

60%? In your dreams. There have been high efficiencies of this sort reported before for lab samples, but they tend to have severe problems which preclude commercialisation, which is why I specified commercially available systems. But even if you could achieve 60% for a commercial panel, it would do no good, considering that the curent cost of solar power is ~40 times that of nuclear power. And you have done nothing to demonstrate that any power storage technology currently available or being contemplated could serve to ameliorate the intemittancy issue.

You are asking people to take this non-existent technology on faith when nuclear power is here, ready, proven, fully developed, completely reliable and magnificently safe.

By the way, your claim that renewables have better operational longevity may well be your most hilarious to date. Solar panels, wind turbines and CSP plants are good for maybe 15-25 years at most, whereas there are already nuclear plants which have been in operation for 40 years, now reliscenced to 60 years.

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Fuel yield yes, but not plant delivery. The issue is spread and diversity.

How so? Nuclear plant construction could be ramped up to hundreds a year if needed. There exists a great diversity of actual and potential reactor types to cover most situations.

What do you mean by ‘spread’?

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To be cost effective a nuclear installation needs to be of a certain size and structure. The constraints are to do with core size/compexity, ancillary practical considerations, control system considerations, environemntal considerations, operational considerations, and distribution limitations. All of this means that a totally nuclear energy industry would look much like the current coal industry with the only difference being placement as proximity to coal seems no longer being important. The comment is that nuclear cannot be spread out due to the economics of scale, and there are not 100 different ways that fission can be economically and or safely achieved.

Solar energy on the other hand has the advantage being able to be harvested in a multiplicity of ways and is cost effective in a broad range of scales. Now that the technological energy genie is out of the lamp Their is a unstoppable commitment to energy collection, conversion, efficiency, and diversity. When NSW bought up all of the states coal reserves in the late seventies and eighties the legislated that individuals could not generate their own electricity, they had to buy from the grid. This was to secure the investment. For future large scale energy infrastructure that guarantee is no longer possible. So what ever investments are made they will have to be able to compete with the progressively changeing distributed energy generation landscape. This is a new reality the broad perception has not yet recognised. But once people see that energy independence is possible the connection of the risk to the established electricity energy generation industry is almost instantaneous. And that reality I am betting is not lost on the industry players, meaning that the investment calculation has a new and significant element of risk.

It is for these reasons that I believe that the Nuclear industry has missed its day. And this should all be good news for a forward looking discussion forum. It is still the future, clean and green, just different.

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BilB, it astonishes me that people can sit down and seriously dream up such drivel. The potentialities of nuclear fission technology have barely been tapped. Already there are serious commercial ventures aimed at producing small scale modular reactors for a number of applications, designs for PWRs, CANDUs, MSRs and a whole spectrum of fast breeder reactors, not to mention development of applications such as Green Freedom, desal plant designs… where do I stop?

Solar power is useful in certain highly constrained circumstances, but it is fundamentally limited by the dilute nature of the power flow being tapped. Even attempting to scale it up to anything like the level needed to power our civilisation would result in immense environmental destruction just from land clearence alone. Sticking it out in the middle of the desert helps a little, but that places it far away from the centres of demand, requiring huge transmission infrastructure, and we haven’t even started looking at the problem of storage of the intemittent power. Don’t give ma any crap about how CST can overcome this issue, either. You know as well as I do that it absolutely cannot without such a huge overbuild that it would be completely uneconomical, and most likely bankrupt society to the extent that the system itself couldn’t be maintained.

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a totally nuclear energy industry would look much like the current coal industry with the only difference being placement as proximity to coal seems no longer being important.

Actually, the real difference would be that the power generated would be emissions free. And that would be a fine thing.

You seem to think that a “diverse” generation system is a good, in and of itself. I don’t. Its only good insofar as it helps achieve what we really want for our energy generation system, namely that it should be:

1) Carbon free
2) Sustainable
3) Capable
4) Otherwise low in environmental impact

Diversity is not on my list. Why is it on yours? Why does it trump points 1, 3 and 4 (in respect of wind and solar)?

I understand the romantic notion that we should be able to generate our own power, go off grid, and not be beholden to the power companies. I have aspirations in that direction myself. But this is a frontiersman mentality that will never serve society as a whole. If we were to rely on diverse – wind and solar – generation, the capital investment required, many billions of dollars, is only accessible to the same kind of corporate entities that currently own the generation and transmission infrastructure. It will be the same kind of developers, they’ll just be building wind farms instead of coal plants.

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The debate at JQ took a farcical turn when one prominent blogger here entered the discussion and put forward totally rediculous claims on the cost of reneables 20 fold higher than reality, then insisted that I read his treatise on solar energy, which I demonstrated to be a confused mishmash of misunderstanding from which the totally unsupportable claims were drawn.

I think you will need to defend that statement (not here but here). I think you will need to show the error in Peter’s analysis. I saw your “demonstration” on JQ, and it was, to be honest, quite facile.

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Because JM, what nuclear will be competing with is all of those things as well, only it will not be free.

What diversity means is that more people can achieve an income or a cost benefit of more ways, and in more locations.

Solar energy includes Wind, Wave, CSP, PV, biofuels, biomass, direct heat/cooling, thermal convection, thermal industrial, solar chemical. Every single one of these has an array of sub categories each with a range of efficiency options. And what all of that means is an entirely new economy built upon previously untapped energy. Its is important to keep this in perspective because, in the west at least, electricity is a smaller budget item. Even for most businesses. However total energy is another thing altogether. All of the categories have a range of industry niche opportunities. Solar thermal industrial for instance suits a huge range of industries even including the platics industry where oil solar heated to 300 degC and circulated through machinery can be even more efficient than electricity particularly for materials such as PVC. Or air solar heated to 250deg C can save huge amounts of gas in the rotational moulding industry. If you do not believe this just google industrial solar and you will see companies starting to provide solutions to fill such opportunities. And so on.

The long and the short of it is that solar origin energy offers an employment diversity and intensity not identified in the linked report on Spain/Wind Industry/Emploment Loss. The energy industry is at the cusp of a rennaiscence every bit as landscape altering as PC’s, cellphones, and iPods have been, and this will be entirely at the expense of the centrallised energy production industries (including oil).

There will be a significant rethink of the future nature of the centralised electricity grid feed system. And it will not be what you are thinking.

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I missed this little bit (patronising little bit) here

“I understand the romantic notion that we should be able to generate our own power, go off grid, and not be beholden to the power companies”

As I said turn off the negativity for a short time, grab your calculator and just pretend that you are able to harvest energy from your house which will provide you with 19200 kilowatt hours per year plus other energy sufficient 10 kilowatts of air conditioning along with hot water and space heating. And pretend that such a system can be paid for with 4 to 8 years offset electricity expence at the current retail rate. Assume in this calculation that you run 1 or even 2 family vehicles that fit the VW Milano (google here) formula, ie 300 klm range 4 seater sedan with a fill capacity of 45 kwhrs. In such a scenario there is no feed in tarrif and export electricity is sold for 10% less after purchases are balanced. Spreadsheet that and see how that affects your family income.

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BilB I think you’ve discovered a law of human nature; people want things that are more convenient.

PCs, mobiles and iPods are more convenient.
Waiting for intermittent power is less convenient.

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BilB, what pray tell is the free alternative to nuclear? I don’t understand your remark.

All of the use cases you describe are better served by nuclear power than by renewables. The plastics molding industry in particular will not be looking at renewable power. This is an energy intensive industry that can not accomodate less than close 100% power availability. You can’t tolerate risk of downtime when there are customer contracts to fill. You do not want your polymer setting in your expensive injection molding machine. When you have dozens or more high temperature high tonnage high cycle time molding machines you have high power requirements and high availability requirements. This may be possible with renewables, but with a terrible envirnmental impact and much higher expense than nuclear power.

Same goes for something as breathtakingly expensive and intricate as a wafer fab. It’s precisely pc’s, phones, and ipods that ensure centralised and reliable generation will not be replaced by diverse and unreliable alternatives. And that extends to pretty much an business with paying customers with deadlines. ie., just about every industrial activity.

You may see this as being negative. I don’t. I see it as not being a complete pollyanna. The positive, uplifting side of the coin is there is reason to hope for near complete carbon reductions. But not from renewables.

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As I said turn off the negativity for a short time, grab your calculator and just pretend that you are able to harvest energy from your house which will provide you with 19200 kilowatt hours per year plus other energy sufficient 10 kilowatts of air conditioning along with hot water and space heating. And pretend that such a system can be paid for with 4 to 8 years offset electricity expence at the current retail rate. Assume in this calculation that you run 1 or even 2 family vehicles that fit the VW Milano (google here) formula, ie 300 klm range 4 seater sedan with a fill capacity of 45 kwhrs. In such a scenario there is no feed in tarrif and export electricity is sold for 10% less after purchases are balanced. Spreadsheet that and see how that affects your family income.

I’ll give it a go.

Average ACT solar radiation flux: 200w/m^2
Top commercial PV cell efficiency: 18%
= 36w/m^2

A:Vehicle= 7.5kw.h/day assuming total travel of 50km/day
B:Heating/cooling= 10kw.h/day
C:19200kw.h/365 days = 52.6kw.h/day

A+B+C=70.1kw.h/day.

Assume (very generously) equivalent of 6 hours of uninterrupted sunlight at full intensity during midwinter.

70.1kw.h/6 hours=11.7kw.h/h needed.

11,700w/36w=325m^2.

This is an unbroken square of PV panel 18m by 18m.
A quick google search shows that a 1m^2 solar panel can be purchased for $760.00
$760.00*325=$247,000.00
$247,000/8 years=$30,875.00pa.

70.1kw.h/day*365.25 days*8 years=204,832.2kw.h for 8 years to pay off system (you can already see you’re going to have to be pretty rich to do this).
Current electricity price is ~$0.15/kw.h
204,832.2 kw.h*$0.15=$30,724.83, or about $3840/year, which might seem excessive, but you are getting to run your car off this as well.

Oh wait a minute… I haven’t included the cost of battery storage for all that power yet. Who has some good figures on that?

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just so I understand you, Fin:

For our 8 year period, costs would be $30,000 per year; payback would be $3800 per year.

so after 8 years, you have recouped about 1/8 of your investment.

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“Average ACT solar radiation flux: 200w/m^2
Top commercial PV cell efficiency: 18%
= 36w/m^2”

You have fallen off the edge already.

The calculation goes 400w/sq/m (Sydney) 256 solar days at 7.5 full solar per day yielding 19200 kwhr per year. Remember this is the next generation of PV, not the system that you are familiar with.

The heating and cooling is additional to the electricity output but the total system consumes about 2 kw at full peak.

The costing conclusion is within range (high end).

You omit to recognise that the system is residential and small business and is grid connected. However industry studies suggest that EV battery packs having lost 20% of their charge capacity will be replaced with new and the old battery packs will find a market in the domestic sector. So an exEV pack may have a 30kwhr capacity which would power every element on a stove left at full for 5 hours. Considering the probability of a grid outage the battery would have an easy life.

But, yes, the car useage is every bit the extra advantage.

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Greg M.

The system earns 3800 per year which repays the cost of the system over the 8 year period in Finrod’s calculation. There after household and vehicle running cost is free and any surplus electricity (19200kwhr generated less x amount consumed) yields an income at the retail rate less 10% brokerage and cable contribution.

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The purpose of the renewable energy campaign is to undermine all large-scale power production. All of the most productive means of making power—coal, oil, large hydro, and nuclear—all of them got to be so productive precisely because they are large. Large-scale projects are able to take full advantage of the division of labour, creating economies of scale that allow more efficient operation than would be possible with a much greater number of small-scale projects. So in proposing that every farm, every office building, and every household produce its own energy, renewable supporters are attacking the division of labour economy that makes power production so economical—and which allows the production of large quantities of man-made power.

Almost all US central station solar electricity is generated in California. At maximum capacity, California’s nine solar stations—with a combined total of 11 square miles of mirrors focused on steam drums that drive steam turbines—can generate 413 MW of electricity, 0.8% of the state’s capacity. Because the sun sets at night and is sometimes attenuated by clouds, these plants produce only 0.3% of California’s electricity. They owe their economic existence to federal solar power tax credits awarded on top of California’s inflated PURPA contracts and renewable power subsidies. When these tax credits were interrupted for eleven months in 1991, the plants’ operator, LUZ, immediately went bankrupt.

The only reason why environmentalists love solar power is that there are no prospects for growth of central station solar power. After two decades of subsidized development, it remains hopelessly ineffective. How people like BilB can reconcile the facts with their own beliefs in a mystery and am indication of the type of intellect we are dealing with here.

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Dv8 there wouldn’t have ever been a nuclear electricity industry if it weren’t for nuclear bomb research, development and production. Unfortunatley for Solar energy there has not been some solar based weapon of mass destruction to drive its rapid introduction.

” Large-scale projects are able to take full advantage of the division of labour, creating economies of scale”

The fact is that there are other economies of performance that over ride the big industry economies of scale, certainly for Australia. It is your nuclear tunnel vision that prevents you from seeing a greater range of options.

It is the very small scale of the US seggs plants that makes them less cost effective than they should be. An optimally sized CSP plant is a minimum gigawatt and has 4 off 250 megawatt turbine houses instead of the 9 turbine houses as the US facilities have.

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