Nuclear Open Thread

Open Thread 4

Time for a new Open Thread (the last one has more than 500 comments and is about to spool off the end of the BNC frontpage).

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

One point of interest for possible discussion. Dr. Eric P. Loewen is Chief Consulting Engineer, Advanced Plants, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas. He was recently profiled in the excellent Esquire article “Meet the man who could end global warming“. Last week, Eric gave testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate. You can read his 8-page written testimony, Advancing Technology for Nuclear Energy, here. His presentation was followed by a Q&A session with senators, and is well worth checking out (video, with Eric’s presentation starting at 106 minutes [Steven Chu also presents, at 40 min]).

Eric has previously briefed Congress on GEH’s “Generation IV” PRISM reactor technology — a commercial blueprint for the Integral Fast Reactor.

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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.

718 replies on “Open Thread 4”

Taking this to the Open Thread, where it should have been in the first place ..

DV82XL and Finrod, this is a serious business, and there are powerful fiscal and cultural interests we will need to fight, and it will be a dirty fight.

But I fail to see how this means we must insult on sight every ingenue who is in the process of developing their ideas in this area.

In this country the public dialogue on climate change, peak oil and emissions reduction is still very much in the ‘maybe we should think about this / we’ll have to be more efficient and start to build up renewable energy’. No one is seriously talking nuclear. The public is unaware of the problems and consequences of renewable energy. The discussion happening on this blog is many years ahead of where the public conversation is.

So when the typical engaged member of the community encounters this website, that is where their head is at. There is a process involved in discovering and understanding these issues. There is a space between renewables and efficiency, and nuclear power as the endpoint of a chain of reasoning. By meeting these posters aggressively you remove this space.

When someone raises questions that are at the level of the current public understanding, that should not raise suspicions of conspiracy, its to be expected because thats where most people are at. Suppose they’re really Greenpeace agents and you politely respond to their questions. Whats the worst that could happen? You’ve politely answered their questions, for them and anyone else reading. Desastre! Suppose they’re genuine, and you do a hit job on them. What’s the worst that could happen? You turn them right off, along with everyone else following along at home.

I’m pretty much on board with Finrod’s idea that the rabid antinukes/windies don’t really matter, and that they serve the useful function of objects of ridicule. Fine. I’ve had my fun with them, check back through the comments. Just don’t assume thats everyone who comes here to ask a question, or tells us what they (currently) think.

If you reread my comment, you’ll see I’m not rejecting confrontation with the enemy, just making sure that it is the enemy you’re engaging. Don’t shoot tlll you see the whites of their eyes.


@Morgan: “powerful fiscal and cultural interests we have to fight”. If that means RE rather than FF, pull the other leg, it’s got bells on.

C Barton washes his hands of US nuke companies refraining from ever attacking Big Fossil competitors on the mere say-so of their own hired PR flacks; there is the noticeable “more in sorrow than in anger” stance of the rest of BNC when it comes to FF, at striking variance to the genuine hatred of RE, due likely to the “halo effect” I sourced a while ago.

Now AU has been a US vassal since Curtin wrote that particular letter in WW2, and the (US) Westinghouse S-PRISM, as I recall, can be bolted into a pre-existing coal-fired.

Is this why BNC is much happier damning all those woolly innumerate pie-in the-sky RE people (bar Diesendorf in Applied Maths, but he will be your “exception that proves the rule”)? is it because you view any coal engineer as the Black Sheep of your Family, who can be brought to see the error of his FF ways with an S-PRISM or two?

Get real: King Coal’s demonstrated power in AU to corrupt and bribe legislation at all levels shows your fantasising about the all-powerful RE lobby for what it is.

Given that the FF Deepwater Horizon blowout has not raised so much as a comment on BNC as far as I can see, there are certain contributors who have a severe anti-FF credibility deficit in my eyes. Latest news out of FEMA and US Army Engineers is that the dispersant BP is using may force the permanent evacuation of ca 40m from within a 200 mile radius.

But, you see, the CEO of BP may well be nice to his dog and kids and his wife to boot, so as the BNC-approved Hayden Manning, declared friend of the Blog Owner, wrote to general approval here: corporations are not per se bad.


actually, I have a question concerning the BP disaster.

I have heard by the way that the amount of oil that might leak into the gulf if a relief well didn’t work (this is the extreme disaster scenario coming from people like Matt Simmons, who is no idiot) was on the order of 2 billion barrels. this is a big deep sea oil reservoir (the global economy uses about 31 billion barrels per year).

disaster scenario aside, does anyone have a ballpark figure for the cost of drilling these relief wells? better yet, a picture of the size of the thing? DV mentioned a while back that BP was negotiating drilling rights in Arctic and trying to get out of drilling a relief well. I’m assuming the cost is pretty impressive, given BP’s desire to avoid drilling such a well even after this eco-catastrophe.

DV: do you have a source for that interesting comment you made a while back about BP and the relief well?


BTW, it does strike me that this BP catastrophe gets at the true meaning of peak oil, beyond 175 dollars per barrel of oil (Deutsche Bank prediction for 2016).

Peak oil leads to situations where multinational oil companies depend for their profits and their survival on intrinsically dicey and dangerous projects. and the oil dependency of our economies depends upon the continuation of such preposterous projects.

getting back to nukes, it seems to me that tap dancing with renewables in fact fails to take seriously bringing such disaster projects to an end.


The fact that oil hasn’t returned to $150 a barrel in 2010 has caused some head scratching all round. Car companies like General Motors assumed petrol would be expensive enough to drive sales of plug-in hybrid cars. I believe that expensive petrol and diesel will eventually force a shift to CNG powered vehicles, initially trucks and buses then cars. Electric vehicles will mostly stay within the city limits. I’ve suggested CNG demand could make the gas price too high for power generation. See this discussion of MIT’s claim that most electricity will be gas generated in 2050.

The fact that oil is now being drilled in difficult sites suggests future supplies will be parlous. Potential drill sites offshore from NW Australia are twice as deep as Deepwater. I wonder if we are in store for a 70’s style oil price shock. The current moderate price for oil is the calm before the storm.


The Energy Supply Association (ESAA) of Australia has just released its 2010 Yearbook. Today’s article by Keith Orchison describes the hurdle ahead of Australia:

The point I’d like to make is that Keith Orchison is an authoritateve journalist on energy matters in Australia. He is one who would be really valuable if he could be converted to favour nuclear power. He doesn’t now and never has.

Keith Orchison started life as a journalist. He became Head of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association and then head of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia. He had the role of Head of ESAA during the 1990’s when the electricity industry was being broken up to encourage generation, get it out of public ownership, and set up the National Grid.

Keith’s heart is in petroleum, gas and coal. He often writes supportive articles on renewable energy, but I wonder. He once said to me “Peter, no one in the ESAA is going to put up their hand in support of nuclear power”. That was at a time when Labor was in government.

Obvioulsy from the positions he has held he has enourmous amount of knowldege of our energy industry, and has excellent contacts trhoughout the industry. He is largely persuaded by his experience, beliefs that have built up through that experience, and continually reinforced by his contacts.

I cannot suggest how to open a dialog with him. However, I believe doing so has potential to be enormously beneficial.


Are you in contact with him Peter? What is his current position? Perhaps he could be invited to offer a guest post here.

I just read his Business Spectator article, which basically says the projected demand increases are so great there is no prospect of meeting them under the governments renewable energy target, and that we’re going to be building a lot more coal. And thats it. I find myself mildly irritated when I encounter such fatalism. The article begs the question, why not nuclear?

So maybe we could ask him to expand on this theme here. The he paints simply calls on more coal and more gas, ad infinitum. It can’t go on forever – what does he think it would take to break out of this?


John Morgan,

I have no contact with him. He contributes in various papers when they run a special large section on energy matters. Occassionaly The Australian runs an 8 page section on energy and he contributes several articles to it.

Barry might be able to contact him, or perhaps someone else could. I think it would be best to wait for the opportunity to just meet him sometime and just have a chat and see if anything can go from there. I did write to him in response to one of his articles in the Australian, but I never heard back and don’t know if my letter was forwarded to him.

By the way, my interpretation of what he wants to get across in this article is “this is the way it is going to be if we don’t take appropriate policy actions”.

I think he believes the demand will grow as predicted (I do too) and we will build coal and gas to meet the demand unless we implement appropriate policies.

I believe he is correct. At the moment Australian’s, including many who blog here, are in a sort of dream. People seem to think we can cut emissions without getting cheap nuclear. We can’t. Its that simple. And the important reality is that expensive nuclear, as in the western countries, is not going to be acceptable. That is the reality. No matter how much people want to try to avoid it or think they can beat the market realities by imposing their desires through regulation, taxes, or other government actions, it just wont happen unless it is cheap.

When it comes to the final decision, the bulk of the population is inherently wise, and they are not going to allow our economy to be destroyed by policies that will seriously disadvantage Australia.


The Keith Orchison article quoting the Electricity Supply Association says Australia burns more brown coal than black coal for electricity generation. I’m sure that wasn’t the case a few years ago. I also believe the Dept Climate Change has said Australia’s emissions once nudging 600 Mt of CO2e are now nearer 500. Either the stats are inconsistent or gas fired generation has quickly forced its way into the mix.

This reinforces my belief the new angle of attack on fossil fuels may not be AGW so much as cost with steady price increases likely for both gas and coal. A troubling aspect is that I suspect those who wanted the ETS killed probably promised to go on an efficiency drive. Obviously not. To take just one example there is talk of a new silicon smelter in Tasmania largely powered by Victorian coal via the undersea cable. That I think is a direct result of the demise of the ETS whose body is still warm.


Dear John Morgan and other dear friends,

What I find really frustrating is that we could have everything we want. We could have:

– low cost electricity
– keep our industries that use lots of electricity and employ lots of people
– maintain our competitive position internationally
– clean up many types of emissions
– improve the health of our population
– get to be part of the drive to new electricity generation alternatives (real one not the RE fantasy)
– get the benefits from being involved in the technology of the future

We could have all that.

But somehow we have to get the population to let go of their fears about the risks of nuclear.

We must emphasise that we need cheap nuclear, not expensive nuclear. If that means we have to back of the demands for ridiculous safety requirements, then we should do so. For example, there is nothing wrong with having NPPs on the coast near our major cities, jst as the rest of the world does.

Importantly, we must also realise that the investors will not invest, or they will demand a much higher return on their inc=vestments, unless we find a way to protect them from changes of government policy that could lead to their investment being devalued. The investors have enough other risks to deal with without also having to deal with high sovereign risk. I certainly believe the sovereign risk for nuclear power in Australia is now very high. And the government’s efforts to force Telstra to hand over its assets, and to take value from the investors in the existing mining projects, has raised by a large margin the level of sovereign risk for investing in projects in Australia.


John Newlands,

Instead of making guesses like this:

The Keith Orchison article quoting the Electricity Supply Association says Australia burns more brown coal than black coal for electricity generation. I’m sure that wasn’t the case a few years ago. I also believe the Dept Climate Change has said Australia’s emissions once nudging 600 Mt of CO2e are now nearer 500. Either the stats are inconsistent or gas fired generation has quickly forced its way into the mix.

Why don’t you look up the figures on ABARE and DCC and back up your opinions with facts?


@ Peter shall do but here’s the figures of the top of my head so I’ll see how my memory serves.
2008 black coal 92Mt, brown coal 65 Mt est.
CO2e emissions 2006 588 Mt, 2009 528 Mt.

I realise now some of the black coal could have been for steel mills and cement works. Now to see if those links still exist.


@P. Lang:

in view of the status of eg Pine Island glacier in the Antarctic and AU Fed. govt. coastal protection concerns and reports cf. Tim Flannery, why are you sanguine about placing NPPs on the coast just because other countries did so years or decades ago at a time when AGW was not yet an acronym?

Is it not advantageous for a coastal NPP to have a coast to stand on? how long does it take to blow up their water wings (a). with (b). without compressed air from the local service station forecourt?


I expect it would be faster to use the hot air from the mouth of one Peter Lalor.

However, since NPPs on the coast can withstand a tsunami, I don’t think sea level rise will be of the slightest significance to the design.


Peter googling efforts so far tend to support ESAA’s ballpark figures with some discrepancies. The coal industry does not give a direct figure for 2008 domestic thermal black coal consumption. Source 1 splits export black coal between thermal and coking but doesn’t make the split for domestic production. However saleable black coal 335 Mt minus exports 261 Mt gives domestic black coal consumption of 74 Mt, most of which can be presumed to be thermal. However Source 2 gives 2007 bituminous and sub bituminous coal used in electricity production of 63.0 Mt. The figure for brown coal used in electricity production is 63.8 Mt.

I could try more sources plus year-on-year extropolation to to resolve this discepancy with ESAA. The surprising result with all three sources is that domestic black coal from several big producing States isn’t way ‘bigger’ than brown coal, given that the latter has essentially one source the Latrobe Valley. For the moment I can’t back up the ~90 Mt figure for domestic black coal but it has been bandied about in the blogosphere.

On emissions changes Table 5 of this source says electricity gas and water emissions have risen 58% between 1990 and 2008 about 2.8% compounded annual growth. Some months ago the claim of an emissions reduction may have been due to a subdued quarter that was annualised or perhaps a revision of the methodology.

I still can’t believe brown coal is bigger than domestic thermal black coal.


Hi all,
wondering if anyone had follow up comments to make about this criticism of plasma arc recycling?
John Newlands wrote:

eclipsenow I’m not a chemist just a backyard experimenter fortunately not blown up yet but here are some problems. Gasification gas including from plasma arc may not be a good chemical feedstock if it contains sulphur compounds and tar which bugger up catalysts. The gas is usually too low in free hydrogen to get to useful compounds like methanol. I think pure CO2 might be a better starting point using nuclear hydrogen to get to useful hydrocarbons.

AFAIK furnace slag usually binds metal in the form of silicates so it would be uneconomic as an ore. Very few ores are silicates since it takes huge energy to extract the metal eg zirconium from zircon.


John Newlands,

I would consider the ESAA an authoritative reference. Other authoritative references are ABARE and ABS.

provides the black coal and brown coal figures used in generating electricity. It used to provide them in both PJ and tonnes, but now gives them only in PJ. To convert PJ to tonnes, which is what ESAA has used, we need to know the energy density. But it varies. From memory, brown coal is about 60% water, so water makes up a lot of the mass. This explains why the figures for brown coal are less than black coal if quoted in energy units (PJ) but higher if quoted in material units (tonnes).


John Newlands,

You can get Australia’s GHG emissions here:

It gives the emissions for electrcity divided into solid, liquid, gas and renewable fuels but does not divide solid into black and brown coal.

I notice that the emissions from coal generated electricity have increased every year to 2008 except in 2007.

In 2008 the emissions from electricity generation were 204 Mt, according to DCC.


Peter Lalor,

Since you are concerned about NPP’s being located on the coast, could yuou suggest you travel to China an protest to the Chinese Government about this one: Take plenty of chains with you so you can chain your self to the front gate.

While you are tied to the gate, dont forget to tell the authorities that you know more about than the local Chinese engineers about how to design these damned dangerous things.

When you get out of jail in about 80 years time go back to the site and see how much the sea level has risen during your life in jail.

If you do get out early you may want to go and protest at some of the NPPs on the coasts of Korea, Japan, India and Taiwan, Russia, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Zealand that are being built when you get out.


@Peter Lang: I have long since realised that neocons and neoliberals such as you retain democracy just as long as it suits them; the history of eg Latin America is replete with examples, but Indonesia 1965 comes to mind too. If only Canberra treated dissidents as robustly as Beijing, eh?

Note that the theory of Ricardian competitive advantage beloved of such as yourself dictates that I should buy my chains on arrival in China, especially as any AU chains will have been imported from there subsequent to their export as iron ore to the detriment of the fiscal receipts of AU Treasury, cf. the Julia Thatchard mining industry putsch against Rudd.

King Canute attempted to stop sea rise in the English Channel, but he wasn’t about to build an NPP; kindly evidence your claim that an NPP has withstood a tsunami (which?) at some time.

As regards sea level trends currently, let alone 80 years hence, and Arctic ice cover etc, you might like to read the website Real Climate.


Peter Lalor said:

King Canute attempted to stop sea rise in the English Channel …

No, he didn’t attempt any such thing. In the apocryphal story he tried to show that he couldn’t stop the waves from hitting the shoreline …


For Barry, thinking of the two Peter Ls:

hansen is worried about relatively quick sea level rise if tipping points are reached. He says that once ice sheets begin to collapse, sea levels can rise as rapidly as one meter every 25 years.

So: to what extent is this a problem for the siting of nukes?

One might answer: not a problem since the building of coastal nukes will prevent the sea level rise and if it doesn’t, there is still time to react? and careful siting could accommodate plenty of sea level increase anyway since the plants would ordinarily not be sited literally at sea level, just near the seas, etc.

The slower sorts of sea level rise would not seem to be much of a problem.



The engineers are capable of designing the NPP’s to handle the conditions and risks. The last thing we need is for them to be directed how to do their job by a a public who is totally ignorant of such matters.

The points like this one that you and others keep raising on BNC illustrate the problem we will have with trying to bring nuclear to Australia. The public will want to prescribe everything down to when the engineers can pick their noses. Investors will not invest in nculear while the public wants to pay such close attention to every detail of the design, construction and operation of them. From the perspective of the investor it is inevitable that the whole process would be delayed indefintiely through public protests and special interest groups stirring up fear and turning over governments so they can impose their beliefs on society. It happens in the USA and UK all the time, and will happen here.

Greg, if we want low cost nuclear in Australia, we have to find a way to get past the very problems that you and many others keep highlighting.

I ask you to consider: How can we do that?

I hope you will come back with a considered response.


If Ice Sheets start to really give way, won’t we start the ‘sulphur gun’?

Only $50 billion a year — peanuts when discussing preventing runaway tipping points. (If Australia abolished our State governments we’d save $50 billion in parliamentary fees). If Australia would be able to fund it without giving up much of our lifestyle, surely the world will head down this route if runaway tipping points threaten us too dramatically? It might shut down the Indian monsoon, but this is where geoengineering gets geopolitical because one country could potentially ‘go it alone’, despite the risks to other countries.


I was having a look at the Beyond Zero Emissions organisation “Zero Carbon Australia”, ZCA, (synopsis) plan which Melbourne Energy Institute is releasing on 14 July.

As CST and wind are their big hope, “nuclear” is mentioned once only in the 16pp synopsis, where they say on p.5 that “average estimates” of lifecycle C02e emissions of NPPs are “several times larger” than for CST.

It is interesting that they do not quantify or source this for nuclear but then say that the lifecycle CO2e figure for coal carbon capture and storage, CCCS, is a factor of 25x more than for CST.

They proceed by saying that both NPPs and CCCS “take much longer to commission” than wind or CST plants, so that this lengthens the amount of time that coal plants have to keep running and emitting.

Printable and unprintable BNC comments on the above?


I think BZE’s biggest hope is 50% reduction in energy demand by 2020. It will be interesting to see how they think that can be achieved when they release the details of the plan.


We really ought to put together a checklist for these various plans as they turn up, since they all prompt the same first pass reality checking. Such as:

What nameplate capacity is to be installed?
What average capacity factor is assumed?
What minimum capacity factor is assumed?
Is sufficient overbuild in place to service demand through the minimum output periods?
How much storage capacity (GWhr) is assumed?
What stored power (GW) is assumed?
What is the longest outage that the storage system can cover, and is it adequate?
How long does it take to recharge the storage, in the presence of the assumed demand?
What demand is assumed?
What demand growth is assumed in the future?
What demand reduction by efficiency is assumed?
What sectors are covered (eg electrical, all stationary, stationary and transport, all industrial, etc.)
What fossil fuel backup is assumed?
What penetration is assumed, ie, can the solution ultimately scale to 100%?
Have the fossil fuel backup emissions been accounted for?
Have the backup emissions been done correctly for plants driven hard in ‘shadowing’ mode?
What geographical dispersal is assumed?
What new transmission infrastructure is assumed, and is it adequate?
Is the transmission sized to cope with servicing most demand from a single site on occasion (as required under the assumption that geographical dispersion works)?
What land usage is required?
What are the materials volumes required?
What are the water requirements?
What is the lifetime of installed plant?
Has the plan been fully costed?
What are the ongoing servicing/fuel costs?
What is the cost per tonne of foregone carbon emissions?


This could really be a pretty standard scorecard for any of these proposals. It would help the public understand the issues better, and it would help the proponents understand the issues better.


John Morgan,

That is an excellent check list.

I’d add a subordinate question to your question on transmission:

What is the transmission capacity to each site (as a proportion of the site’s nameplate generating capacity)


Here is another article by Keith Orchison titled: “The cost of carbon consensus

I posted comment as follows:

Dear Keith Orchison,

I like your contributions to the energy debate in Australia.

However, I believe there is a better way than putting a price on carbon through government intervention.

In my opinion Australia should not put a price on carbon until:

1. The world agrees to an ETS or some other internationally agreed solution, and

2. Australia has removed all the imposts that would prevent nuclear power providing us with low-cost electricity.

The words “low-cost” are important. Nuclear cannot provide low-cost energy in a situation where:

a. There is a high investor risk premium caused by high sovereign risk. Unless we can assure investors that they will not have their return on investment reduced or their assets devalued by future government actions, then the investor risk premium will be high. We need to assure investors that they will be fairly compensated for any such action during the 60 year life of the facility.

b. We need to provide a genuine “level playing field” for all electricity generators. This means removing the Renewable Energy Targets, Feed in Tariffs, subsidies for renewables, subsides for research and development that prefer one type of generator over another, preferential tax treatments, cost of transmission for renewables carried by everyone, tax breaks and subsides for coal, etc.

c) to level the playing field for electricity generators I propose an Electricity Generators’ Appeals Tribunal (EGAT). Generators could appeal against any regulation that gives an advantage to one type of generator over any other type (examples that could be appealed might be:

i) Renewable Energy Targets,

ii) regulations that require nuclear power to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal fired power, etc.).


Here’s another beef against BZE type fantasies. Right now I’m enduring the din of logging machines a few hundred metres from home. A standard response to the depletion of gas for backup power is that biomass fired power stations will become the norm. Don’t think so.

For starters biomass harvesting uses large amounts of diesel as does transport to mills that create sawdust, bagasse or whatever. Presumably post-diesel these trucks and harvesters will run on wood fired steam engines. Think Casey Jones but a truck not a train. That raises the second point that the fastest response grid electrical generators.. gas turbines and hydro, don’t run on wood chips. Steam based generators need to keep a head of steam going at all times. The third point is that there will never be enough. Coal, oil and gas took half a billion years to accumulate in the ground. Biomass is real time.

The more you look into claims that renewables will displace coal the weaker those claims become.



That is a revealing article. I believe it is widespread that these groups are more interested in pushing renewables and their other agendas than in cutting CO2 emissions and providing cleaner and safer electricity generation, at less cost.


Kaj, they want renewables, even if they have to pay through the nose. Did you see Peter’s recent post on closing down the Hazelwood coal power reactor? To eliminate 12 MtCO2 per annum, you could spend $2b to replace the coal plant with gas, or $6b to replace the coal plant with gas and wind. Guess which approach Environment Victoria advocates.

Thank you for the link, which does much to expose the thinking and the motives at play. If we manage to get nuclear onto the agenda in Australia, we can expect similar resistance here from the renewable business lobby and its fellow travellers.


@J Morgan: revealing, isn’t it? your term “fellow travellers” ie fellow travelers of Moscow-controlled Communist parties , which has been used by Anglo Tory class warriors since 1917 to smear anything to the left of what was perceived to be “sound and healthy” private sector practice at any given time. With innuendo like that, why bother to attempt persuasion through numbers-based argument?

Actually, BNC is stuck in a timewarp in other respects: Prof Hudson was recently in AU talking about the financialisation of the international economy since 1980 by the FIRE sector, ie finance, insurance and real estate. Abolition of Glass-Stegall was a landmark.

This raises the question of in what ways FIRE causes misallocations. How does Treasury in a power corp. view ROI now compared to 1980?


My local utility has a waste wood burner, in operation since 1988, generating 43–45 MWe from 7 tons of wood waste per hour.

In contrast, the recent ungrade to an older hydro gnerator added 5% (new turbines and generators) to reach ~600 MWe maximum.


The result of the woting yesterday was very clear, 120 yes, 70 no, 10 empty or missing. ‘Those groups’ are scared, I think. They are loosing their fight after 20 to 30 years of hard work and succes of delaying. Now the whole Europe and western world have an example to look at. Finland is going nuclear, because there is no other way. Yes, we have big forests and producing about 10 per cent of electricity by biomass already now. By burning all forest biomass, building wind mills as many as Denmark and continuing to use hydro power, we can get about 200 TWh from RE, witch is about half of the primary energy use in Finland, not more. I have no idea how to handle this without fossil fuels AND without nuclear. It’s simply not possible.

It has been very confusing and interesting to follow the debate about those 2 NPP’s. And revealing, too This autum the parlament is going to decide about subsudies for renewables: wind, biomass, biogas, heat pumps and biofuels. So the answer for CO2 reduction in Finland will be nuclear AND renewables as well as improwments in energy efficiency. The amount of renewables is very high allready, about 28 per cent of end use. That’s a lot, but Greenpeace only mentioned the tiny amount of wind. What a sherry picking.



Thank you for your interesting and illuminating posts. Finland, and in fact Sweden and Norway too, seem to have a more rational decision making process than most other countries.

It will be interesting to see if this decicison in Finland indicates the beginning of an awakening elsewhere – eg in Australia.


The games up! Its true, I’m an Anglo Tory. Except when I’m a Reaganite or Thatcherite or neocon or corporate apologist or manager or whatever bogeyman Peter perceives amongst the spirits that inhabit his demon haunted world.


John wrote:

Peter perceives amongst the spirits that inhabit his demon haunted world.

Well put.

@ Peter Lalor,
The way you carry on it seems like you’re stuck somewhere back in an era where ‘agit prop’ posters still seemed to carry some hope for the university student idealist, the young comrades in arms still pitifully naive enough to believe gigantic bureaucracies had the public interest at heart.

Newsflash: Communism fell across the Soviet block! The Berlin wall collapsed! East German’s wanted some of that western prosperity!

How someone like you can live with the realities of the dangers of uncontrolled Corporate greed on the one hand and yet be blind to the dangers of uncontrolled Communist party states on the other leaves me utterly bewildered. “Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your brains!”

Until something better comes along, I’m a Social Liberalist. The banner on my blog says:

“Social Liberalism: Civil Rights, Social Justice and State funded welfare in a Market Economy”.

The realities of the marketplace are simply that economic information, ‘goods and services’ or what have you, simply flow faster and more effectively in a free marketplace, as long as they are constrained by the rule of law. So on the one hand I fight for the freedom of the marketplace. On the other hand, Corporate greed truly is a frightening monster ready to dump toxins and Co2 on the environment, contest workers rights, drop a ‘fair go’, externalise costs, and get away with whatever they can. So we need the clear ‘rule of law’ and good monitoring and anti-corruption processes in place. That’s the only answer I can see: absolutely constipating the marketplace under the inertia of government bureaucracy just doesn’t make sense.

It’s the abject failure of Communism around the globe that has me amazed to meet someone like you: I have trouble believing people like you still exist? What’s left of your position? North Korea. China doesn’t count as Communism: that’s an increasingly capitalist model, but without the transparency of democracy: it’s more a Feudal power structure than anything else. Who really knows what is really going on in there?

So if life in Australia is so horrific for you, why not migrate to North Korea?

Maybe I’ve straw-manned you and completely misunderstood. Can you please articulate position in under 300 words so I can attempt to understand your constant sniping? Because I’m WITH YOU on the dangers and misbehaviours of the Monolithic Corporations: I really am. I just don’t know what your counter-proposal is?


Eclipse Now, on 3 July 2010 at 10.53 — PRC is maybe more fascist? Not exactly, of course. Some mandarin elements I think.


FYI, email sent today to Penny, Julia, Martin, Wayne and Lindsay and copied to all politicians:

Penny Wong, Julia Gillard, Martin Fergusson, Wayne Swan, Lindsay Tanner,

Cutting GHG emissions – Least-cost

If you are serious about cutting GHG emissions, nuclear energy is by far least-cost way for Australia to do so. [Note 1]:

We will have to embrace nuclear power as a major part of our electricity generation mix if we want to make substantial cut to our emissions.

The sooner you do so the better.

However, it is vitally important that you bring low-cost nuclear to Australia, not high-cost nuclear.

I list below some suggestions for bringing low-cost nuclear to Australia.

Labor and Coalition could differentiate themselves on the basis of public versus private ownership, the amount of regulatory control, and who’s policies will give us the lower cost electricity over the long term.

Nuclear is already 10 to 100 times safer than coal and about the most environmentally benign of all electricity generation technologies, so this is not the policy area that Labor and Coalition should fight over.

Suggestions for implementing low-cost nuclear power in Australia:

1. Remove the bans on nuclear power (Commonwealth and, initially, at least one state).

2. Remove all the regulatory imposts that discriminate against nuclear power.

3. Investor Risk Premium

a. Perceived sovereign risk causes investors to demand a risk premium. The investor risk premium will be high unless we can convince investors that they will not have their assets devalued or their return on investment reduced by future government actions. We need to convince investors that they will be fairly compensated for any such action during the 60 year life of the facility.

b. We need to provide a genuine “level playing field” for all electricity generators. This means removing the Renewable Energy Targets, Feed in Tariffs, subsidies for renewables, subsides for research and development that prefer one type of generator over another, preferential tax treatments, cost of transmission for renewables carried by everyone, tax breaks and subsides for coal, etc.

c. To level the playing field for electricity generators I propose an Electricity Generators’ Appeals Tribunal (EGAT). Generators could appeal against any regulation that disadvantages one type of generator compared with any other type. Examples that could be appealed:

i) Renewable Energy Targets,
ii) regulations that require nuclear power to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal fired power,

4. Establish a faculty in at least one university in every mainland state. The purpose of these faculties is a) to determine how best to bring nuclear power to Australia at least cost, b) to advise the policy debate, and c) to educate Australians so we have the skills we will need.

5. Establish an agency (such as ‘Clean Power Australia’) which is the modern equivalent of the Snowy Mountains Authority to manage the implementation of clean, low-cost electricity generation in Australia.

6. Negotiate an agreement with a country such as Korea such that we provide that country with low cost nuclear fuel and they build and operate low cost nuclear power stations in Australia (and provide technology transfer to us).

Note 1:


c. To level the playing field for electricity generators I propose an Electricity Generators’ Appeals Tribunal (EGAT). Generators could appeal against any regulation that disadvantages one type of generator compared with any other type. Examples that could be appealed:

Now this is an interesting idea! It might help encourage that mythical beast Galloping Camel believes in, the ‘Free-market’ for energy, to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes and help the future burn brightly.


I wonder if Peter would be willing to advocate a vote to the ALP if they took his recommendations to an election?

That might stick in his throat a little.

With the exception of 3(c)(ii) I’d not object to what he is proposing though.

I think you’d open a legal can of worms which RE people could exploit unless his proposed EGAT terms were very carefully specified.


I suspect that if Peter’s letters get any reply it will be waffle along the lines of ‘ thank you for your concerns… but at this time the Australian government remains fully committed to renewable energy…’ . I think we have to call bullsharks on this kind of fobbing off. The reality is that we cannot possibly even achieve the current 2020 RET and we are as coal dependent as ever.

A chink in the armor would be if the pollies could progress to ‘low carbon energy’ not just RE. The response could then be ‘great let’s have feed-in tariffs and carbon credits for nuclear as well. If not why not?’. Of course I don’t actually believe in those subsidies just to back politicians into a corner over their illogical stand.



Why do you object to 3 (c) (ii)?

Whjat I am getting at is we should regulate the level of safety, health effects per MWh, CO2 emissions etc. We should not have different regulations for different technologies. I realise this is simplistic and the actual practicality is different, but it is the principle I am trying to get at. Once again, we need to be mindful we dont miss the forest by focusing on the trees. We can’t specify requirements down to the finest level of detail on a blog site.


Wow … this is an interesting site. I thought because this site was in favour of nuclear energy it would all be right-wing let business do what it likes anti climate change people here, but it seems like that many of you (most??) are actually FOR the environment. I never thought I’d see the day that environmentalists and lefties would be pro-nuclear. I’m going to tell my friends about this place!! They won’t believe it.

It’s a bit of a shame if what you say about renewables not working is true — I always thought that was just business people lying to get us to use more coal, buy more stuff and screw the planet. It would be so much better if we could just do it all with renewables.

Still, if we can’t, then I’m for doing the next best thing, and if that is nuclear well fair enough. If it really is a lot safer than coal to use, then obviously that’s a big selling point for all those doofuses who can’t get their heads around global warming. We ought to run with that because there are a lot of people whose heads are stuck in the here and now.


Why do you object to 3 (c) (ii)?

Because, fairly obviously, it sounds like you are trying to trade safety for cost. Since in practice you can’t do that and save any serious amount of money on price, this is just an own goal.

If nuclear is already 10-100 times as safe as coal (I’d say that this would be conservatively true), there’s no need to free plants from being so and make it seem like we are trying to pull some sort of cost cutting swifty at the public expense.

On the contrary, our pitch would require that everything else be no less safe than the industry standard of nuclear power, and that as we recognise that this is not the case now, we draw up a schedule for bringing other energy generators up to the nuclear standard. We can define safety very broadly, including emissions beyond the plant gates. That gives us the moral high ground and simultaneously subverts gas, which is the mainstay of wind.

I like that ground a lot, when pitching at the opponents of nuclear power.


Fran said:

Because, fairly obviously, it sounds like you are trying to trade safety for cost. Since in practice you can’t do that and save any serious amount of money on price, this is just an own goal.

That is just about the most ignorant statement you’ve made so far.

No wonder we are making no progress.

Keep chattering amongst the irrational lefties. What a waste of time.


I’d like to say hi to Ady Gil from the email list, but can’t see his post above? Do new posts from new people go out to the list but await moderation before they go up on the blog?

Anyway, yeah Ady, there’s a bunch of different people of different political persuasions, but most are concerned about global warming and care for the environment. And I hear you on the renewables… I was a very passionate pro-renewable advocate until recently. One of the shocks is just how incredibly expensive they really are compared to nukes! No WONDER the world has been slow to act on climate change!

An energy show I like called “Beyond Zero Emissions” is a free podcast in iTunes. They’re Melbourne based activists concerned that we’re already in the danger zone with climate change: but push for renewables. They’ve come up with a plan for a renewable Australia that’s only $320 billion over 10 years to get us off coal, oil and gas!

Problem is nukes could do the same job for coal and gas at least (replacing electricity) for about 1 billion, AND BZE assume a 50% energy efficiency plan over 10 years. Australia is just going to use half the electricity. Excuse me… how? When? How much does ‘energy efficiency’ cost? Now please don’t misunderstand me: if you read my blog you’ll see I’m REALLY passionate about New Urbanism, reducing car use in the first place, and creating energy efficient cities. My sister-in-law has a Phd in sustainable building codes and teaches at Melbourne University.

But this is about cost and time. We’re about to hit the final oil crisis, and we’re running out of time. So just assuming we’ll get 50% energy efficiency over 10 years seems a bit reckless and ideology driven to me, not based on a real plan about what is achievable. And in case you missed it: the BZE plan is actually saying renewables are 6 times more expensive than nuclear, because it’s $320 billion to do only half the job. Even if Australia moved to electric cars and fast rail, the number of extra nukes to supply that electricity would not be that great.

So… unless some magic battery arrives that’s 100 times cheaper, or deep geothermal develops some magic new technology that’s even cheaper than nuclear power, renewables can’t do it. We’re back to nukes.

So if you’d like to, feel free to download this poster and print it out and put it up. That’s one way to tell people in your local library or shops about this site.


Do new posts from new people go out to the list but await moderation before they go up on the blog?

Yes, the first time someone posts, their entry is held up on the moderation queue (it’s a standard anti-spam measure), but its original entry point is set. So, when I approve their comment, it gets inserted in the comments thread at the time that they made it, not the time I moderated it. After their 1st post has passed moderation, they’re able to post thereafter without moderation.


And you Peter want to keep preaching to the already converted on nuclear power on how cutting safety can save you sixpence each week on your power bill, while offering frist to the mill for those grasping at any straw to obstruct it. One can almost write the disingenuous slogans and catchcries — and it would set the whole debate back another 20 years. And for what?

Something that in practice you are never going to do anyway.

How are you going to save money cutting safety standards anyway?


Did you like Ady’s reaction?

I thought because this site was in favour of nuclear energy it would all be right-wing let business do what it likes anti climate change people here, but it seems like that many of you (most??) are actually FOR the environment. I never thought I’d see the day that environmentalists and lefties would be pro-nuclear. I’m going to tell my friends about this place!! They won’t believe it.

When I look at my poster, I wonder if it comes across as incredibly right-wing? That’s not me at all! That’s why a bunch of different posters will help, but… as always… family are too busy today.

(I’m meant to be home with my head in the books studying marketing).


I apologise for my display of frustration.

There is a trade-off between safety and cost.

Let me repeat that. There is a trade-off between safety and cost. This applies to everything, not just nuclear. You want air bags in your car? That costs. You want better highways? That costs.

Here are a few points to illustrate. Please assemble them in your own mind.

As governments and society impose more stringent safety requirements this results in more bureaucracy, more inspectors, more bureaucratic oversight, more reporting, more delays, more changes, more rework. And more layers oversight bodies to oversight the department with the inspectors, and so on. And each bureaucrat hires some consultants and contractors to do the real work because bureaucrats can’t afford to do any work or make any decisions. They have to remain totally risk averse. If they do actually do any work or make a decision they risk being disciplined or losing their job whenever a mistake is made. But the consultants and contractors are expendable. That’s how the real world works in the government bureaucracies. All this adds cost to the project.

The more stringent requirements also means more complicated facilities. This means higher cost. And longer construction time which means more interest during construction (ie higher cost)

To many, greater safety means locating the NPPs far from cities rather than near the cities. This adds to the cost. It is not just the transmission cost. It is all the transport and travel time costs for all the workers throughout the life of the plant, and for all the materials, equipment and services.

Yesterday, Peter Lalor asked why we would want to locate NPPs on the coast. He is concerned about the threat of inundation by sea level rise. This gives us some insight into the ridiculous level of involvement the public wants to have in the NPPs – all in the name of ensuring their “safety”. The public takes an inordinate level of interest in NPP safety but does not take a similar level of interest in the safety of other plants that are far more dangerous. The public’s interference adds to the cost. The public gets action groups together and spreads its concerns until governments have to act to make changes to the design or make other changes. This adds to the cost.

The public stirs up strife over nonsensical “safety” issues and gets operating plants shut down permanently. This means we have to design to try to prevent such issues in the future. It is a horrendous cost burden to try to prevent every tiny problem from ever occurring. All such requirements adds to the cost.

Australia has a habit of not accepting ‘off-the-shelf’ designs. We have to make changes to “improve the designs for our special needs” (e.g our military equipment purchases). In this case it will be our special “safety” needs. This adds to the cost.

CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) is an example of a regulatory authority. It is forever responding to changing political demands. It is bound up by lawyers and spin doctors. All this adds cost for the taxpayer, the regulator, the civil aviation industry and the travelling public. (I am not saying we don’t need any regulation or oversight, but I am pointing out that there is a trade off between safety and cost.)

If we want nuclear power to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal, there is a massive cost involved. Worse still, Australia, in its present frame of mind, will no doubt demand even higher safety.

For me, nuclear power using Chinese, Russian, Indian and Korean NPPs would be many times safer than coal generation (life cycle analysis). So implementing any of these NPPs would be better than what we are using now.

My frustration stems from the fact that irrational people cannot see that we are better off to have nuclear power that is safer than what we have now (coal and gas) rather than demand we will only accept nuclear power if it is orders of magnitude safer than what we have now, even though the greater safety will be far more expensive. The result of such an irrational demand is that we continue with what we have indefinitely. The majority of the voting public is not going to make a totally irrational decision no matter how much the irrational lefties bleat on. It is just not going to fly.

Realistically, we have a choice between nuclear at a cost competitive with coal (cheaper if possible) or continued delays. If try to introduce nuclear at a cost much higher than new coal generation, the transition will be slow and fraught with ongoing dealys.

Fran, I expect you will pick out some sentence in here that you can argue about. That is your way. I see this as demonstrating your inability to ‘see the overall picture’ – or getting lost looking at the trees and cant appreciate the forest.



If we can’t have nuclear at a cost that is competitive with coal, we won’t get it (or it will be delayed until we can or the implementation will be very slow).

Do you understand this?

I haven’t seen you say anything yet that suggests you do actually understand this.

If you do understand it, please tell me how you foresee getting nuclear to Australia at a cost competitive with coal.



We can simplify what we are arguing about down to two relatively “immoveable objects”:

1. Public concern about nuclear safety

2. Uncompetitive cost of electricity

I believe the former is more ‘moveable’ than the second. I believe the public can be educated to accept nuclear power at less than 10 to 100 times safer than coal much more easily than they will accept higher cost electricity.

Higher cost electricity has massive consequences to our economy and all the things people want. I do not believe you understand this.


Peter Lang:

You advocate inviting Koreans to build and operate low cost nuclear plants in Australia.

I would assume that these plants would be extremely safe, but how much less safe than, say, European or American – built and operated plants? I would doubt there’d be a great deal of difference. This was certainly the view expressed by DV82XL when this was discussed before. Most of the extra costs attributable to the latter don’t contribute much to safety and may even reduce it due to over-complication.

It seems to me, therefore, that your form of words, giving the impression of a cavalier attitude towards safety (which I don’t believe you really have), is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. While I don’t give a damn as to how you treat your own feet, I do worry that you may inadvertently be setting back the cause of nuclear roll out.

Instead of sniping at Fran and constantly repeating the same mantra, you would do better to consider how it comes across to others. Nuclear costs and safety are not necessarily well correlated, despite the impression you give to the contrary.


Douglas Wise,

I do worry that you may inadvertently be setting back the cause of nuclear roll out.

You have, as usual, decided to avoid looking at the forest and have focused on a tree instead.

IMHO it is those, who argue that we need safety 10 to 100 times greater than coal and cannot compromise on this that are setting back the cause of nuclear roll out.

What a ridiculous argument.

There seems to be no comprehension that in the end the public makes the decision on the cost. When it comes time to make the decision it will be on cost, not safety. I agree there is a small group, who dominate the discussion here, that do not care about cost. But that is a small proportion of the population.

As for “sniping” and “shooting yourself in the foot”, and your other statements in this vein, that is what I think you do repeatedly. I haven’t seen many constructive contributions from you, just continually wanting to divert onto trivial and irrelevant points (such as “we need to stop globalisation and protect our way of life. We shouldn’t have to compete in the big bad world”).

If you have something constructive to suggest why don’t you write to the politicians.

I presume you will tell them that “nuclear must not be considered as an options unless it is 10 to 100 times safer than what it is replacing”. That would certainly help to progress the roll out of nuclear in Australia (sarcasm alert).


IMHO it is those, who argue that we need safety 10 to 100 times greater than coal and cannot compromise on this that are setting back the cause of nuclear roll out.

What shall we cut to save a few bucks? Inspectors? Guarded transport of waste / fuel? I know, those pesky containment domes must cost a packet! ;-)

I for one am glad nukes are being forced to be orders of magnitude safer than coal, because the risks are orders of magnitude greater. Or, can you please point to the coal powered station that had to have everyone around it for 200km evacuated for 200 years?

Unless you can tell us exactly what you’d cut, this is just so much annoying prattle.


Nuclear is fundamentally a hundred times safer than coal, even in countries without the ridiculous regulations show this. Streamline the process to lower the costs, don’t reduce safety.


I for one am glad nukes are being forced to be orders of magnitude safer than coal, because the risks are orders of magnitude greater.

I don’t think that’s true. Coal plants typically have ~100000-tonne coal piles so as to be able to run for a week or two before getting more shipped in. If one of those piles were to burn completely ,but with inadequate oxygen, it could create a ~200000-tonne slug of carbon monoxide that, once mixed with a few megatonnes of cold ground-hugging air, could slowly drift across a continent, depopulating and freeing of animals a miles-wide swath of countryside a thousand miles long.

Or, can you please point to the coal powered station that had to have everyone around it for 200km evacuated for 200 years?

This is advanced as if it were necessary to refute a claim that nuclear energy has risks orders of magnitude higher than coal combustion.

For the sake of argument let’s say three orders of magnitude, i.e. 1000 times. Wouldn’t the refutation then only require mentioning one or more historical coal-energy mishaps that, together, were more than 0.001 times as bad as the summed badness of all historical nuclear-power mishpas?

(How fire can be domesticated)


Tsernobyl was by far the most severe enviromental accidend in the whole industrial history.

Not because the accident itself. But because half of the world became so scared about nuclear power that the world changed from nuclear to coal. This can even be seen in coal consumption statistics. This has lasted to these years but seems now slowly to change back to nuclear. Without Tsernobyl we would have significantly less coal power plants than we have now, I think.

This is the risk of nuclear power. Me myself realised during Tsernobyl, that somebody had lied to me. Half of the globe did not explode, the burning reactor did not destroy every living creature in Ukraine. I thought, that if, and when, this is the worst nuclear accident rhat can happen, and the probability for such is extremely low, then there is no reason to not accept nuclear power. The coal, without any accidents, is causing by far more deaths than nuclear.

Risks of coal and nuclear are so different, it is difficult to compare them. And people don’t think practically, rhus feeling nuclear more dangerous. It’s like many people are scared to fly, but have no problem driving a car. It is a psychological problem, not anything that could be fixed by showing the right numbers.


Peter Lang keeps advising us all to “stay out of the weeds” by attempting us to haggle with the government on where the weeds start and stop.

Few if anyone, and least of all I, deny that designing systems to foreclose harm adds to complexity and cost. The more you seek to control the prospect of foreseeable and unknowable negative events and their quality and scope, the more finely engineered a system must be. That’s a given. Peter refers to motor vehicle systems, and one can see the kinds of risk trade there very easily.

We seek to force compliance in vehicle control standards, driver competence, fitness and discretion, the quality of roads and so forth. Achieving compliance is very expensive, but most of us think the risk trades are worth it because the costs of non-compliance exceed the costs of compliance, even if here and there we aren’t unanimous that all the trades are right.

What Peter forgets though is that only a tiny proportion of the populace are engineers or actuaries. For the vast majority of people, and especially the vast majority of those opposed to nuclear power, human safety represents an absolute and non-tradeable commodity. It is not the least bit “moveable”. There are far better places to cut costs than on apparent safety.

It doesn’t matter whether one can show that in practice, this assertion is logically paradoxical, or that we can show that everyone is risk trading all the time. Trying to raise this argument in order to reduce safety standards will always be politically toxic and generate utterly groundless unquantified angst which will utterly shut down debate.

Yet it is all completely mad because it is virtually impossible for us to build a contemporary nuclear plant that could have anything remotely like the harm profile of a coal or gas plant. We certainly wouldn’t save any significant amount of money doing it.

This would be the political equivalent of approaching a bunch of Year 9s in the playground and asking them if your butt looked big in this skirt.

You simply don’t raise the question in that way because it is not germane. Instead, you emphasise what is real and germane — demanding, in the name of a level playing field, that other facilities approach your harm profile. That is how you cast evidence-free posturing on safety in a fair light.

Peter has been an engineer so long he simply doesn’t understand the culture of non-engineers, and he has totally failed to understand the faux debate on matters nuclear this country has had over the last 30 years or so. Even Lucas Heights — a medical isotope and research facility is controversial. Handing our opportunistic enemies this free kick in front of goal from the penalty sport is a recipe for defeat.


David B Benson – thank you.

To Fran, EclipseNow, Douglas Wise,

I understand your position is as follows:

You do not want a level playing field for generator technologies.

You want some technologies to be treated favourably and some to be treated unfavourably.

You want a higher hurdle rate on safety for nuclear than for other technologies.

Do I misunderstand your position?


I wouldn’t give the public any misgivings about NP. For now the faceless decision makers seem to prefer something like this as a very gradual replacement for coal. However a number of factors could put NP back on the table;

– a Gillard govt re-introduces carbon pricing
– China demand escalates the price of coal
– truckers discover CNG is cheaper than $3 diesel
– a severe El Nino
– Indonesia gets NP
– aluminium smelters threaten to leave town
– widespread disillusionment with RE.

Something will have to give within the next decade so I wouldn’t compromise public perceptions of NP.



I don’t believe my approach is compromising public perceptions of NP. I think it is confronting wrong perceptions (ie that is is dangerous) and educating the public at the same time (ie that existing technologies are already 10 to 100 times safer than nuclear, and the new generation are designed to be even safer).

We can educate the public. That is what my point 4 here is aimed at achieving.

We need to get people talking about the trade off between the cost of electricity and excessive safety requirements. Trying to hide this is not going to progress the debate. It just allows the anti-nuclear brigade to continually raise it.

If we scratch the skin of those arguing here for excessive safety, we see that really that is there underlying fear – exemplified by EclipseNow’s statement:

I for one am glad nukes are being forced to be orders of magnitude safer than coal, because the risks are orders of magnitude greater.

EcliseNow. You have it back to front. The risks are 100 times less. Your statement demonstrates the complete misunderstanding that is rife throughout the public. This is the sort of misunderstanding we have to confront.

Fran, put your teachers hat on and start educating your followers instead of trying to avoid the issue (of different safety requirements for different technologies).


Peter said:

I understand your position is as follows:

You do not want a level playing field for generator technologies.

You want some technologies to be treated favourably and some to be treated unfavourably.

You want a higher hurdle rate on safety for nuclear than for other technologies.

Do I misunderstand your position?

As unbelievable as it sounds after all I have written above, it would seem you think I’ am saying the opposite of what I havee written. I could begin to speculate on how that has come about, but it would probably be fruitless.

Putting that aside, if you do agree with me that there should be, as I put it, a level and nuclear power level standard playing field amongst generators on safety, you might wonder why almost everyone else here thinks you are seeking to lower the bar. What does that tell you?


Fran, Your gobbeldegook doesn’t make sense to me.

How can you argue that we must demand that nuclear be 10 to 100 times safer than coal and still think you are arguing for a level playing field?


In case anyone is in doubt, I am arguing to lower the bar on the safety regulation.

I am prepared to have nuclear as long as it is safer than coal and cheaper. I do not need nuclear to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal and I do not want nuclear if it is more expensive.

I believe that we could have nuclear in Australia at no less safe than it is in Korea, China, India and Russia and that is still many times safer than coal here. So that is plenty safe enough for me.

What I do not want to see is Australia go down the path that we will if we proceed the way the Lefties would like to take us. That is with oversight by everyone. Everyone has a say in every detail. NPPs taking twice as long to build or even longer. Unions holding stikes at a whim so they can get more control. Media and public continually calling for new inquiries. Public waste like the ‘Building Education Revelution’ (BER), the ‘Pink Bats’ insulation fiasco, and the $43 Billion government funded and owned National Broadband Network (NBN). This is the sort of public interference and waste that will cause nuclear power to be totally uncompetitive in Australia.

“Safety” in this case is just a way to gain control the way it is being applied here.

I wonder why Lefties continually avoid debating the issue of cost. To most Lefties cost is irrelevant. They seem to think money grows on trees.


Peter said:

How can you argue that we must demand that nuclear be because nuclear is 10 to 100 times safer than coal and still think you are arguing argue for a level playing field?[my emendment: FB]

You see, this is one of those brilliant occasions when one can demonstrate that at the margins, ideology trumps intelligence. There is a blindingly obvious answer to Peter’s question, which, even though he is intelligent, he can’t or won’t see. It is trying to force itself into his mouth but he is turning his head and clamp like a child being asked to swallow unpleasant medicine.

Ten points to the first person who can articulate the obvious in language Peter cannot decline to understand. To help, I’ve slightly amended Peter’s text so that it avoids the implicit strawman.


To Fran, EclipseNow, Douglas Wise,
I understand your position is as follows:
You do not want a level playing field for generator technologies.
You want some technologies to be treated favourably and some to be treated unfavourably.
You want a higher hurdle rate on safety for nuclear than for other technologies.
Do I misunderstand your position?

You totally misunderstand: I want to know exactly what you are proposing to cut, otherwise you are just ranting general principles that we can’t measure or quantify in any way, and the words are just lost in the wind. What are you actually talking about cutting?
The reason I said I was ‘glad’ about the passive safety built into the physics of new designs, the containment dome, etc is because unlike the generic damage to the climate of coal-fired power, the potential damage of a reactor core meltdown and leak is so horrific geopolitically. The actual lives lost to coal mining and the environmental damage done to both landscapes, our lungs, and our climate makes coal and oil far more dangerous than nuclear.
Yet the perceived risk of losing Sydney overnight resonates in a more immediate way with our monkey-brains. We ‘get’ that more than the abstractions of emphysema statistics and slow motion climate change. So while I agree that the global risks of nuclear are far less than fossil fuels, the local specific risks of nuclear seem far greater.
Anyway, I think you could have saved the list a lot of angst if you’d just been more specific in what you are talking about! I largely agree with you now that I know what you are concerned about. I thought you meant cutting something about the plant, not your list of political and union exercises.
I personally would be happy to have Corporation independent safety inspectors from 3rd party engineering inspection firms come in and verify construction on the assembly line, and installation on site.
However, how are you going to stop the media and public running away with a media beat-up and suddenly wanting a new enquiry into Nuclear power? After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, public enquiries are all the rage. But that’s not our concern because the utilities do not fund these enquiries, they come from the public purse. This undermines your concern that it will make them less cost-competitive than nuclear utilities.
As far as I am concerned if the public are stupid enough to demand enquiries, then they can pay for it. Nuclear activists protesting against such enquiries would only look like we had something to hide. Better to let the public waste their money on an enquiry or 2 and verify that all is well, than tarnish nuclear utilities with some kind of cover up. After all, how much money will such enquiries REALLY cost compared to the cost of subsidising renewables?
On a more personal note Peter, I think it would be wise not to get into silly arguments about such general principles in such general language that no-one even knows what you are talking about. You get down to the level of insulting other nuclear activists like Fran, and none of us even really know what in particular has got your blood up!
Your technical prowess might be something to respect, but when you behave like this you’re going to lose people for your cause. I’ve seen it time and again in other activist circles and this is just too important! Please think twice before over-reacting and criticising friends and allies the way you did above. And for what? From welfare theory I’ve studied, blogging is a medium that has a lot of ‘noise’ in it. Try to assume that the person you are questioning is not intentionally being disagreeable, because half the time it’s just ‘noise’.

With Concern,


Well, I don’t understand Fran’s edited sentence. I just cannot understand how she thinks she is correct. I am baffled.



You totally misunderstand: I want to know exactly what you are proposing to cut, otherwise you are just ranting general principles that we can’t measure or quantify in any way, and the words are just lost in the wind. What are you actually talking about cutting?

I can’t answer the question in the way you frame it. I am cutting all the thinks I described up thread. At least, I am trying to cut all the imposts that are not the same for all generators.

I don’t want RET or FiT for renewables, or tax breaks etc for one type of generator and exclude others.

Regarding safety, if I may talk at a high level for a moment, I’d like to require that all generators must demonstrate that they will cause less than x deaths/TWh of electricity generated. (ref to the third figure here : to understand what I mean by this statement).

To put this another way, I want generic safety requirements that apply equally across all generators. I do not want to have every nutter in the country trying to impose their beliefs as to what generation technologies we should and should not have based on their emotive beliefs and ideologies.


I am finding this discussion extremely frustrating because I cannot understand how anyone can think that if we apply different rules to one type of generator there is a ‘level playing field’.


EclipseNow said:

However, how are you going to stop the media and public running away with a media beat-up and suddenly wanting a new enquiry into Nuclear power?

Exactly my point. Over to you.

How are you going to prevent this happening?

How are you going to prevent nuclear construction and operations being delayed, and perhaps shut down once in operation, by all sorts of radical environmentalist and anti-nuclear agendas?

How are you going to prevent the cost blow outs?

I’ve told you how I propose to go about it. So over to you for your better alternative.

By the way, this argument started because Fran said she did not agree with 3 (c) (ii) here: which states:

c. To level the playing field for electricity generators I propose an Electricity Generators’ Appeals Tribunal (EGAT). Generators could appeal against any regulation that disadvantages one type of generator compared with any other type. Examples that could be appealed:

i) Renewable Energy Targets,
ii) regulations that require nuclear power to be 10 to 100 times safer than coal fired power,


EclipsNow asked:

After all, how much money will such enquiries REALLY cost compared to the cost of subsidising renewables?

Why don’t you have a go at answering this for your self.

What is the total delay caused to the NPP build?

What is the cost of this delay (interest during construction and the effect on the cost of electricity for the life of the plant)?

What is the total cost of the changes?

What are the knock on effects?

The way you are arguing demonstrates that you have absolutely no idea what the cost would be of trying to build an NPP under the sort of regime that would be in place in Australia given our current propensity to stop everything. Look at the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, the Tulley Millstream hydro project and many others for examples. Imagine how much worse it would be trying to build an NPP in Australia with the regulator regime we have in place at the moment.


Everyone has a say in every detail. NPPs taking twice as long to build or even longer.

I read your list above as different interference’s at different stages, some during construction but some after. I assumed the public enquiry occurred after construction, say, at a rumoured leak. So I now grasp your concern more clearly. Thank you for your calm reply.
To get the things built in the first place in Australia will require such a momentous public debate that the systems for rapid deployment will have to be decided upon as part of that debate. I’m not a politician or lawyer, so I’m not even going to approach that level of discussion. I think our first priority as activists is to point out the facts: that nuclear CAN be deployed really fast really cheap IF smooth and standardised safety inspections by ISO approved bodies are employed.
(As for almost any other construction job in Australia).
As long as you are not talking about actually reducing PLANT safety, I don’t really care too much about the legislation.
We’ve got the facts on our side about energy performance / cost and how much renewables subsidies have cost European countries. I say that as activists we push the inherit safety of plants, benefits of the technology, dangers of energy subsidies distorting markets, and mechanisms by which ISO safety inspectors for GenIII and GenIV plants could be standardised into construction mechanisms. I say we focus on the positive aspects.

In case anyone is in doubt, I am arguing to lower the bar on the safety regulation.

Language like this should be avoided . If we can present the positive goals I’ve highlighted above then the legislation and standard inspection procedures should be in place by the time we actually come to build them. ISO inspection reports could even become public property, with clear writing and interpretation allowing squeaky clean accountability to dispel the fear-mongering by anti-nuke activists. But I’ve just noticed that I’m starting to get into legislation, and again, that’s not really our job. I say we try to keep it positive and let the obvious benefits speak for themselves.



You are looking at the trees and can’t see the forest.

Go back to the original post and re-read it so you can keep everything in context:

The point is, we need to get the investor climate suitable to attract investors at a rate that will allow nuclear generated electricity to be competitive with coal generated electricity. Unless we can assure the investors that their investment is safe and they will get the return on investment they require, either they will not invest or they will charge such a high investment premium that NPPs are uneconomic.

What you and the others need to do is get your head off safety and onto cost.

Continually talking about safety “is shooting yourselves in the feet”

Safety is more than adequate no matter how we purchase them. No matter what we do they will still be far safer than coal and gas. We can explain that to the population and all but a small proportion will understand and make the decision to proceed with NPPs – just as Finland has just done.

So what we need to focus on is getting them at least cost.

If we can’t find a way to get them cost competitive, they will simply not happen.

In the current environment in Australia, even if the government removed the bans on nuclear and made a lot of other nice noises, investors will not trust us. They can see the way you, Fran, Ewen Laver, Douglas Wise and others think. They can see that that is representative of the sorts of people who influence the government and the election of governments. The Resource Super Profits Tax has woken up the world to what can happen here to nationalise investors’ assets . That is sovereign risk. We elect governments that will change the rules in response to public pressure. That is sovereign risk. They can see what has happened to the Gunns Pulp Mill. They can see what has happened to Telstra with the government taking over its assets and building a government owned National Broadband Network. They can see what has happened to many other projects.

That is what we have to overcome. Please tell me how you foresee us overcoming those obstacles.


FYI, todays email to all parliamentrians:

Dear Julia, Wayne, Penny and Martin,


1. Replace ‘Renewable Energy Targets’ with ‘Clean Energy Targets’

2. Remove all impediments to nuclear energy

3. Allow nuclear power to compete on an equal basis with other generators

4. Subsidise nuclear until we have removed the “First of a Kind” costs and the “Investor Premium” costs. These are caused by our rejection of nuclear power for 40 odd years and the excessive safety requirements that have been imposed on the design, so we need to pay, through taxes, until these imposts are removed. If society wants clean energy, and we want it cheap for the long term, we need to subsidise it to get started. The precedent has been set for this through the subsidies for renewable energy, RET, FiT, etc

5. Do not impose a cost on Carbon until all imposts on nuclear power have been removed.


@P. Lang: you wrote at that I, as a member of what you define as the public (power engineers being presumably a superior caste) want “a ridiculous level of involvement” in NPP coastal siting.

Now G Meyerson picked this up on BNC citing Jim Hansen’s concerns on sea level rise, but has not been answered yet so far as I can see. Jim Hansen will also be ridiculously overinvolved, I suppose.

(There was a discussion on BNC months back of NPP siting and coolant requirements, I think in relation to Ceduna, in SA)

Did you not also claim that an NPP had survived a tsunami, which admittedly is not currently seen by science automatically as an AGW-related event? What is the evidence for your claim? Further, assuming the NPP was intact and functional, what happened to the parts of the grid immediately adjacent? That is, an intact NPP is no use in the envisaged all-electric economy if its connections have been downed.

As regards AU, Tim Flannery recently gave a talk, vodcasted by the ABC, at a Darwin library in which he mentioned his work on coastal protection for the Fed. govt. He expressed his concern about Antarctic ice.

I suppose Flannery too is one of your “ridiculously involved public”. But power engineers too cowardly to whistleblow will not be in high regard following the Gulf of Mexico blowout. Indeed, complicity in the prior cost-cutting at the expense of borehole safety will have caused the accident.

It would be interesting to hear your views on qualified AU engineers over the years who were whistleblowers: are they Lefty communistic stirrers trying to destroy their employer’s balance sheets?

You yourself may have seen the photos of current coastal erosion for NSW.


@Eclipse Now, who at wants me to clarify:

there are a lot of dots in the world which BNC generally does not join up. I assume for the time being that this comes from AU being under the US nuclear umbrella and feeling that this is a given in the face of threatening Indons or other Asians, like gravity or the freezing point of water. And who apart from physicists talks of the nature of gravity? However, you designate me pointing out some of these dots as “sniping.” I find it surprising that the state of Finance in the world since 2008 or indeed ca 1979 does not register on BNC at all. One could possibly commission an article on post-1980 financialisation and energy politics; one need not stop at Enron…..

in regard of energy issues, the analysis by Michael Klare of international geopolitics seems correct, as also Brzezinski’s views on Central Asia as an FF energy reservoir. So those things have to feed back into talk on BNC, but do not do so.

The woman who as Clinton’s energy secretary cancelled the IFR is now an advisor for a US anti-proliferation body; it is no use for BNC to say that civilian nuclear and bombs are unrelated in any way, either historically or technically, because that link is being made all the time. So why and how?

For example, as I wrote a while back, a senior Pakistani man on a Lowy Institute panel on S. Asia security in Sydney in early 2010 talked of India having no “safeguards” for its NPPs: nobody on the panel from China, USA, AU or India batted an eyelid.

Nuclear engineers working for certain countries have had a habit recently of getting killed or disappearing before turning up in countries which Klare or Brzezsinski see as being the “opposition”: these are some of the “ghosts or demons” (sic: J. Morgan) that allegedly populate my world.

It seems to me that failure to include the above in analysis of nuclear power cannot lead to an understanding of what is fondly called The Real World on BNC.


Peter Lang
I too am baffled! A level playing field is just that – all we need to demonstrate, (IMO) is (as you suggest) that nuclear power has not and will not, cause more deaths than any other power generation technology. I have had no problems convincing people that new generation NP is safe with explanations of containment domes, non-human shut down systems etc. Cost will be a major factor in personal opinions on which energy option we should choose and I agree that imposing unreasonable regulation on nuclear is unreasonable and unfair. Sorry Fran – but again I worry about your motivation.


@ Ms Perps, I’m all for removing subsidies. I think Fran was advising against anything that gives the public even the faintest whiff of disregard for safety, even if it is nothing of the sort.

@ Peter Lalor,
You appear surprised that we don’t spend all day talking about Michael Klare’s geopolitical analysis of fossil fuel energy issues and how oil has corrupted government policy and caused wars, intrigues, and all manner of other foul play on the world stage?

You’re also asking in why we don’t spend all day discussing the causes of the financial crisis?

Well, as fascinating as those 2 subjects are, I’ll break it to you gently.

Our mission is how to solve these to problems, not come up with cleverer and cleverer ways to navel gaze what has already happened in the past.

We are discussing how to promote the benefits of nuclear power so that each nation can have energy security and economic prosperity. Rather than spend endless hours on they symptoms, we’re trying to surgically remove the disease. If we solve fossil fuel addiction and resource constraint issues, surely Michael Klare’s future scenarios evaporate like so many nightmares when we wake in the morning glow.

But I asked you to outline where you sat on the political economy spectrum, and instead received this stream of free-association consciousness? I don’t think I have the energy to ask again.


The main discussion points are about current GEN-III reactors, as well as the LFTR and IFR. But what about other designs such the GFR, and LFR? Just curious.



Pter Lang suggested as follows:

OK Fran and EclipseNow,

I’ll change the wording to 3 (c) (ii), to read as follows:

ii) regulations that discriminate against any one type of generator compared with others on the basis of safety

That text seems to violate your (and my) desire for a “level playing field” for generators or power. It could be read as allowing coal and gas to have a free ride at the expense of nuclear unless nuclear could cut the kinds of cost corners needed to become as unsafe as coal and gas. In short, one would wipe away one of nuclear powers most significant advantages.

Were I Ms Perps and consistent I’d be imputing dark trolling motives to you. Of course, Ms Perps is not consistent, except in baselessly imputing malign motives to me.

what about …

ii) regulations that would have the effect of lowering or enduring safety outcmes beneath those that are cost-benefit best practice in nuclear power generation.

That way, the key public benefit of nuclear power — that it is safer and healthier than fossil fuel usage — can be realised. At the same time, we don’t endorse absurd “safety” regulation for its own sake.



What you’ve said here is completely wrong. This demands excessive safety for nuclear compared with the safety the community accepts for electricity generation. The excessive safety you are demanding costs us dearly and is not econonic in Australia. So it will be delayed indefinitely, or until the majority of the population becomes sufficently informed to be able to make a rational decision. Some people will never get to that point. I recognise that.

Fran, you just don’t understand.


Fran and Peter,
let’s get real here OK? You’re not actually writing policy for Parliament but are just ‘blogging’ for a fairly limited audience.

The first priority is to get the Australian people even remotely interested in nuclear power in the first place. So let’s put posters up! Let’s get some more activists in here discussing how to help Barry set up a podcast. Let’s get a fully functional BNC forum running. Let’s even have our experts pool resources and make a DVD that can be downloaded from BNC, burnt to disc, and handed out as a grassroots activist tool. Let’s go viral with the benefits of the new nukes.

Australia is so far away from actually writing nuclear legislation that it is counter-productive to generate bad feeling in the group fighting over words.


I think we have the best political situation for a very long time to support nuclear.

Martin Ferguson is a long time support of nuclear energy (although he cannot say much)

Martin Ferguson has increased his credibility in Cabinet and with the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, by bringing home the bacon on the jettisoning of the Resource Super Profits Tax.

Julia Gillard needs a better policy on CO2 emissions. It is the next big political issue she wants to address. Martin Ferguson knows that RE is BS even if Penny Wong doesn’t. Martin Ferguson will explain this to Julia and Julia will listen to him.

Election is as soon as Julia feels the polls are in her favour.

This is the right time to get the message to the politicians that they should consider nuclear as part of the solution to cutting CO2 emissions.

Therefore, Labor should remove its opposition to nuclear energy as part of its strategy to win the coming election.


Dead right Peter Lang. That’s why I’ve just sent letters to Gillard, Ferguson, Hawke, Howes and Holloway in SA and Don Argus [Ferguson’s co-chair] urging them all to help get the outdated, illogical, hypocritical anti-nuclear policy of the ALP changed. I did the same with Rudd two years ago. I think we have a better chance with Julia. But I’m not holding my breath. The penny [not Wong] will eventually drop. Anyone want to see my letter to Julia?


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