OZ-ENERGY-ANALYSIS.ORG – open science for the new millennium

This is an invitation to BNC readers to join in, at an early stage, an Open Science experiment based around systems analysis of renewable energy.

Okay, what’s all this about? Click here (or on the image above) to go directly to the front page, which currently says this:

Once upon a time…

We all wanted to understand renewables. What were the promising technologies? Are they available now? Could they produce enough power? How would the variability be managed? How reliable would a high-grid-penetration renewable energy system be? How much would it cost?

While markets and legislators tussle on aims and rules for 2020 targets, and while some get on with building wind farms, the public analyses on how we integrate increasing levels of renewables into our electricity network struggle to rise above crystal ball gazing. Fairy tales about ‘energy futures’ were interesting for a while, but now we yearn for a more adult plot line.

We need answers to the above questions, and we need to draw these together into realistic plans – not uncosted visions or idle speculation that ‘the market will sort it out’. We need a realistic plan for the implementation of desired goals; one following an evolutionary pathway that integrates with existing systems, is likely to work in the real world (that is, it relies principally on established or demonstrated technologies), and is economically feasible.

We need to work out what is reasonably possible into the medium term so that the actions needed in the short term can be understood and implemented with confidence in their rationality. For these plans to be taken seriously, we must be able to provide the likely cost, and say clearly what sort of support is needed.

And we need always to consider the implications for electricity-grid stability, energy storage requirements, and sustainability into the future.

In short, real-world energy plans have to work in the real world.

This Open Science website is rising to that challenge. Join with us.

(In time, we expect much of this text to go, and instead have a ‘portal’ on the front page which links through to key areas of the website)

Our context and goals are also laid out in the first story, which can be found here.

The scope of the website is greater than the hard material we have developed to date; our initial focus is data collection and the variability of renewable resources, while the site scopes out a broader view. We are hopeful that others will join with us in fleshing out the overall view as is needed by policy makers, and simply for a sophisticated public discourse. At the beginning of this year we had a choice; a choice to either plow on with our limited resources, old and wise enough to know that all we could really do, as an isolated unit, was to produce more-of-the-same, OR, we could be bold and try something different. So, while we have, and will continue to, develop analysis; our big project, our big hope, our big passion even, is to go beyond the limitations of inbred groups, and also to go beyond the blog style that is so 2009.

This is the future; we can bring it on. Yes we can. Join with us!

Okay, okay, that’s the hype, the path we have chosen. Time for some details…

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In short, our plan is to examine the broad implications of increasing levels of renewable energy (predominantly wind and solar) into the electricity grid. We come at this with a range of preconceptions – working hypotheses, if you will – ranging from ‘renewable energy technology will never contribute more than 20% of our energy supply’ through to ‘a 100 % renewable energy system is a practical goal’. Any such default position is fine as a starting point, so long as you are willing to respect and listen to others, and evolve your position as understanding of specifics deepens. A range of views can engender the creative passions that drive us to nail down specifics.

Our fundamental aim is to lead by example in being as thoroughly transparent with data, assumptions, models, analysis, interpretation, and so on, as is humanly possible. You can engage or argue at every stage in the process (we encourage it!), and the resolution will be open for all to see. We want for everyone (specialists, decision-makers, the general public; you) to have access to a place where our choices for future electricity supply are discussed in an ideology-free zone. The Open Science model is absolutely key to making this function, and for the resultant work to be credible.

You’ll soon notice that the initial focus is on the state of South Australia. This is for reasons of tractability (and local knowledge); the vision is to scale up this work and apply to all of Australia, and even other countries. Also, the Australian context is ideal for exploring the practicalities, problems and possibilities of high-penetration renewables; Australia, more than just about anywhere else, has (i) low population density, (ii) huge RE resources, (iii) money, (iv) high technology. This is an ideal circumstance to build from… the question is, can it be made to work (and will people buy into it)?

The website, as of today, is in ‘beta-2‘ release (the ‘alpha’ and beta-1 versions have been in development and testing for the last few months, with some regular BNC commenters being involved in the beta-1). During the next few months, our main goals are:

1) To ramp up the Open Science aspect of the site. We want to start with some quality contributors; it is not so much about technical expertise at this point (although this will become critical soon enough); rather, it is about engaging with people (you?) who appreciate what we are starting here. It’s about quality more than quantity; it’s about engaging and contributing intelligently more than making a comment or suggestion and walking away. Can you lend a hand to get this ball rolling?

2) ‘Beta test’ the website and its material, to facilitate a steady improvement in content, structure and appearance. The goal being to solicit feedback from real users/participants on what works, what doesn’t, and what we may wish to add/modify/remove.

Actually, it’s more than just this. While the development of the site is now settling into an evolutionary mode, the beta-2 phase is an opportunity to identify mistakes and seek the BIG opportunities. This is a sort of intellectual ‘extreme sport’ — we need good people to help us. We understand that some of you will look at the website, maybe make a comment, but not feel drawn to engage. In this case, please try and think of someone, one person (or a small number), that you know who might be more aligned or engaged with what we are doing here, and please forward them this invitation with a short note from yourself. For this we are most grateful in advance.

We’re looking for candid engagement, which you can either email to us personally, at ozenergyanalysis@gmail.com or (ideally) post as a specific comment on a page on the website. Don’t hold back. A guide to our current concept of good etiquette for commenting on the Oz-Energy-Analysis.org website can be found here. More about The Team (the site curators and managers, as well as the ‘grunt’ researchers) can be found here.

Although not yet fully functional, we are working hard to develop a sophisticated commenting system, which will permit (i) easy formatting of comments and (ii) editing of comments that you’ve already submitted (to fix typos, miscalculations, etc.). While most pages can be contributed to, for general discussion please use the forum.

We hope you find this venture well worth a modest investment of your time, and look forward to working together with you on this exciting Open Science project. It’s time to crunch the hard numbers to match the grand ideas!

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Finally, some things to look out for on the OzEA website, and general points to note:

— There is a link on the front page to a ‘What’s New‘ page, which is a kind of mini-blog that we’ll update regularly to indicate the things — new data, analysis, models, stories — that we’ve been up to recently. Soon, we’ll also have a ‘comments feed’, similar to the one on the right-hand sidebar on BNC, that allows you to quickly see which pages have had the most recent, active discussion.

— On the front page there is a subscription box, where you can enter your email. Subscribing to this what’s new email allows us to send you a short message every few days with a wrap up of recent developments on the site. It keeps you in the loop without having to check the site every day, and it helps us develop the community we are building this site for.

— This site is definitely not meant to be just for ‘tech geeks’ — you know, the folks (like me) who love to crunch the numbers, do modelling, stats and extrapolation, plot data etc. Of course this is a major focus of the work, but there is also a huge scope for more ‘artsy’ souls to make important contributions. For instance, how to you think an Open Science (community) model of research should work — what should its philosophical and intellectual underpinnings be? Also, let’s think about The Stories — you may, for instance, like to write (or suggest) a vision that in some useful way follows on from what we have now. Particular topics of interest include: (i) how the grid is managed, (ii) a short history of electricity in Australia, and (iii) the possibilities for CSP in Australia. Note that while stories may include a little data and analysis, they are not research pieces; stories give the context and meaning from which analysis springs.

— Here on BNC we talk mostly about climate change and nuclear power (and often, the synergies between these two topics). As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a strong advocate for nuclear energy as a  (perhaps THE) major low-carbon energy solution for the 21st century. There is also a large body of posts on BNC that ask critical questions about the capacity of renewable energy to meet the fossil-fuel-energy replacement challenge in time, and in a cost competitive way. BNC remains the place to talk about these issues; this is not a focus of the OzEA site. You really do need to read this to understand and accept this point.

On the OzEA website, by contrast with BNC, we’re making the presumption (call it a ‘working hypothesis’) is that it really might be feasible to take the ‘all renewables’ route to energy futures, but (and this is a big but…) the system configuration, and costs of doing this, are largely unknown and unquantified. As such, we’re interested in OzEA on the three components that would be essential to making renewables work — supply, storage and demand management. We’re interested in looking at ‘limit analyses’ and multi-technology contributions of wind, solar, hydro and so on. You can’t ignore any of these, and so the analyses and modelling will not really be about taking the current system and pushing renewables on top of it until it breaks (although that’s an interesting early question). It’ll ultimately be about defining what would be required to build a new system, and in exploring and optimising the evolutionary pathways that would take you there.

What might a workable all-renewables system really look like? What form would a 40-year transition from a fossil to renewables energy system take? Critically — how much would it all cost (and ultimately, how effective would it be at reducing carbon emissions), when capital infrastructure, overbuilding, storage, smart grids, geographically spread networks, etc. are all figured out? These are huge questions for which I want robust answers — and yet, I’m not satisfied that, to date, they’ve ever been tackled on anything more than a superficial level. Time to change all that, and let the numbers and science speak. Openly, transparently, and objectively. Welcome to oz-energy-analysis.org

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121 Comments

  1. My commendation goes to all of those involved in the launching of this new open science endeavor. If fills a significant knowledge gap, attempting to answer energy related questions that are vital to the human future in a post carbon world.

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  2. Off topic, in Australia:

    A major union expects others to join its campaign to “starve” Australia’s uranium industry of workers.

    The Electrical Trades Union has banned its members from working on uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

    “We’re sick of hearing about nuclear power as the panacea of global warming, we’re sick of people sweeping safety issues under the carpet,” ETU secretary Peter Simpson said on Tuesday.

    “Our view is there’s enough ETU labour in the place … that we’ll be able to starve the industry out.”

    He was speaking at the launch in Brisbane of an anti-uranium DVD, When the Dust Settles, alongside pediatrician and activist Dr Helen Caldicott.

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-business/union-plan-to-starve-industry-of-labour-20100601-wts3.html

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  3. @uvdiv – Wow, just wow. That’s going to depress me for the rest of the day.

    I don’t know what sort of labor laws you guys have over there, but a pronouncement like that here would have the government tell the union to drop the idea or face decertification.

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  4. I doubt if the ETU can make this stick in the real world.
    Tradesmen and contractors will work for whoever they please regardless of the ravings of a few nitwits in the union management.

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  5. Just great! Within just 2.5 years of socialists winning government in Australia (through a massive union funded scare campaign) we are back to the days of old: union strikes, unions running the country and asserting their control of business and industry. This is just one of several examples (others being 50% wage hikes for Maritime workers, and numerous other examples). Here we go again: Wharf strikes, petrol strikes, electricity strikes. The socialists are great at screwing the country !! Industrial relations rolled back 20 years, and all within the first 2.5 years of Labor winning government.

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-business/union-plan-to-starve-industry-of-labour-20100601-wts3.html

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  6. That Caldicott woman is getting sillier by the minute. But she’s in good company with the ETU, whatever the hell that is. Thank goodness all unions aren’t as stupid as they are. How CAN we silence these crazies??

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  7. The chart that is most easy for me to understand is from http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/05/wind-power-challenges-in-pacific.html which show all power in the Pacific Northwest. The top of the chart is easy to understand because a week is shown where each night there is a dip in demand. The bottom of the chart is easy to understand because it is simply the supply from wind. Between the top demand line and the bottom wind supply would be the supply from sun and storage in a totally renewable system.

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  8. From the KGB Dossier…

    The gold rush on our rooftops
    GILES PARKINSON

    Last year it was solar hot water systems and heat pumps that flooded the market for renewable energy certificates; this year it is rooftop solar photovoltaic power systems.
    According to an analysis from broking house Wilson HTM, nearly two thirds of the 2.1 million RECs issued during May (a monthly record) came from solar PV, due mostly to the generous gross feed-in tariffs in NSW and a burst of interest from Queensland.

    Indeed, from virtually nothing three years ago, when just 15MW of solar power was installed in the country, Australia now has a $1 billion a year solar PV industry that is growing at a phenomenal rate.

    In January, Wilson HTM analyst Jenny Cosgrove predicted some 69MW of solar energy would be installed in Australia in 2010. Last month, she lifted that prediction to 100MW and already believes that will undershoot the final tally. Other industry insiders predict it could be as high as 130-150MW.

    All this is having a marked impact on the price of RECs, Australia’s most significant environmental market. The flood of certificates created in May has forced the price of RECs down by nearly 20 per cent in the past month, from around $45 to $38. “There now seems little doubt that due to solar PV, the REC market will be oversupplied in 2010, as it was in 2009,” Cosgrove says.

    The weakness is exacerbated by market apprehension about the passage of the revised Renewable Energy Target legislation through the Senate. That legislation is designed to separate small scale solar from large scale installations: a successful passage would offer stability to the RECS price, but failure would see RECS slump to even lower levels than the $28 plumbed last year – and would force the postponement of several billion dollars of wind farm investments.

    The rush to rooftop solar is not hard to understand. In NSW, the gross feed-in tariff of 66c per kilowatt hour means that a $3000 investment into a 6kW rooftop solar package – already greatly reduced by the RECs scheme and a 40 per cent slump in module costs in the last 18 months as the as the global industry gains economies of scale – can be repaid in little over two years.

    That slump in module prices – and predictions that they could fall a similar amount over the next two years – is also making people realize that solar PV – even without tariffs – could turn out to be a useful hedge against rising energy prices. If you include up front capital costs, solar PV over its lifetime already produces energy well below peak costs now offered by some energy retailers, and solar just happens to produce most energy at the same time as peak production. A smart household would use the grid as a base-load back-up and for cheaper energy in low peak periods at night.

    Solar PV is forecast to hit ‘grid parity’ in some European countries and US states within the next year or two. A recent report by US-based GTM Research estimates that global demand for PV will reach 11.2 GW in 2010, a rise of 58 per cent over last year. Germany will account for nearly half that, before demand falls as the rate of feed-in tariffs declines, but it is expected to remain the largest national market for another three years, by which time five countries are expected to install 1000MW per year.

    A bigger question for Australia is that if effective feed-in tariff, or another broad based market mechanism, can be so successful in creating a gold rush in the small scale PV market, should similar mechanisms, possibly extending to tax incentives of loan guarantees, be deployed in areas where Australia has the opportunity to establish global leadership, such as solar thermal or geothermal, where the pace of development into new technologies is not really being accelerated by the various flagship programs and one-off grants.

    As for solar PV, the rush to install panels on household rooftops is not extending to the vast areas offered by business and industrial locations. Some in the solar industry are suggesting a system of capped feed in tariffs like that proposed in India to help meet their ambitious targets of 22GW of solar power by 2022. Having a cap, it is said, encourages innovation and cost effective projects, and might avoid the boom/bust cycle that has marked the industry in other countries as feed-in tariffs are introduced and then cut according to the political cycle.

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  9. This is another lesson in why governments should not distort the market. What is the cost of the many market distortions the government is imposing onm the market. The CPRS would be another one.

    Why not, instead, remove all the market distortions and regulate emissions – just as we do for the release of other emissions? We can regulate emission from new power stations and apply a time scale for reducing emissions from existing power plants. And/or spend the money we are currently wasting on renewables subsidies on ‘persuading’ our dirtiest power stations to conver to cleaner energy.

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  10. I do have a question about this site and it has bugged me from the first time I read about it on the Energy Collective.

    My question to Barry is – WHY?

    To explain – from all I read here and what caused me to leave is this is a nuclear echo chamber and most people that post here are fully convinced that nuclear is the only future energy source and that renewables can’t do the job. Certainly Mr Lang has produced enough of what he calls independent analysis to ‘prove’ that renewables are not up to the job.

    So why would would you do this? Have you suddenly had an epiphany and thought “maybe renewables are up to the task and we need to find out”

    It also brings up the interesting point of if this open and transparent study shows renewables are cost effective and viable are you going to admit it? Also as you are banning nuclear from the site how are you going to compare it to any other solution or are you going to do another one for nuclear?

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  11. Ender:

    So why would would you do this? Have you suddenly had an epiphany and thought “maybe renewables are up to the task and we need to find out

    No, I haven't had a sudden epiphany, and my feeling is that the study will show costs of renewables to be way too high and the system still too unreliable. But I want the hardcore analysis, done is as transparent, objective and systematic manner as possible, to back up my back-of-the-envelope and intuitive calculations and estimations. Francis Clark, my main co-contributor (and research fellow), is coming at it from nearly the opposite 'feeling'. So, let the data and analyses decide!

    It also brings up the interesting point of if this open and transparent study shows renewables are cost effective and viable are you going to admit it?

    Yes, absolutely. How can it be any other way, given the way the site has been set up?

    Also as you are banning nuclear from the site how are you going to compare it to any other solution or are you going to do another one for nuclear?

    The nuclear cost calculations can be done elsewhere, on BNC, or another oz-energy-analysis.org equivalent. In principle, they are much simpler, and we have real-world examples of high-penetration nuclear grids like France to look to. Also, because the implications for system reliability and backup/storage are very different between these options, it would make little sense to conflate them — at least at this stage of the analyses.

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  12. Stephen Gloor,

    I don’t think discussions of motives are at all productive. The point surely is to expand knowledge to facilitate better planning for future energy requirements within the overall objective of cutting carbon pollution.

    Whatever the outcome, I think it is fair to assume that the work will be fair and objective. The “Open Science” model should guarantee at the very least transparency. It should be welcomed.

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  13. To be honest, I can’t really understand why we need to be limited to only systems analysis of non-nuclear alternative energy.

    It seems to me that it would be a perfectly good idea to analyse everything in the one place, with the data all arranged in a consistent way that can easily be compared across different energy systems – including “renewables”, hydro, nuclear energy and even fossil fuel contenders such as natural gas and coal with CCS.

    To make a good comparative analysis and a wealth of valuable data, I think it’s best to start by putting everything on the table and analysing everything together.

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  14. Stephen Gloor, quite obviously, I do not need to be convinced that the cost and reliability issues will eventually sink the renewables ship. It is anti-nuclear deniers like you who need to face reality. Deniers like you will require an enormous amount of evidence before they let down their psychological defenses. Barry has adopted a rational approach to demonstrating the insanity of the anti-nuclear, pro-renewable viewpoint.

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  15. Stephen Gloor, I was thinking again on this sentence you wrote:

    It also brings up the interesting point of if this open and transparent study shows renewables are cost effective and viable are you going to admit it?

    The more I ponder this, the more revealing it becomes to me. I’m ‘anti-renewables’ (for want of a better term) not because I particularly dislike the concept of large solar fields in the desert, or wild coastlines graced by huge wind turbines. (The problem of replacing fossil fuels is sufficiently high on my agenda that I’ll quite readily tolerate these large-scale installations, if they’ll solve the energy problem). I’m not out there saying ‘Don’t build renewables!’, or worse, ‘Australia must ban the installation of renewable energy’. I hope you can see that such a position would be incredibly silly. No, I’m ‘anti-renewables’ because, based on my assessment of the costs of upscaling the technology, I believe them to be infeasible, uncompetitive and, all in all, a weak and incomplete solution to the climate and energy problems. As such, I’m saying ‘Don’t subsides renewables while at the same time blocking nuclear — let them both compete on a level playing field, and if there are subsidies afoot, such as a mandatory target or carbon price, let them compete!’ And, if I’m wrong in my BNC-expressed views, and renewables can be made to work at scale, and turn out to be cost competitive, then great, fantastic, excellent — let’s do it, let’s support it, let’s show the way!

    You, on the other hand, are ‘anti-nuclear’ for reasons that are patently emotional, illogical and unscientific. A reader need only trawl through many past BNC or Energy Collective comments threads to convince themselves of that. You are similarly ‘pro-renewables’ because you believe that they have to work, and want them to succeed, You appear to look at me, and automatically assume that I am your anti-renewables/pro-nuclear mirror. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Anyway, that is ultimately inconsequential. On Oz-Energy-Analysis.org, you have a chance, as one of the contributors, to prove that your all-renewables, no-nuclear vision is workable, cost effective and sensible. You can use science, analysis, data and logic to prove me wrong. For all the world to see. I see that you’ve already provided some comments over there, which is terrific. Bring it on. I absolutely relish the prospect, as do people like Peter Lang and Charles Barton. We’re ready to cross swords on a fair battleground!

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  16. If I may suggest, It is important to establish that renewables need to work while providing the same standard of living we now enjoy There are no end of schemes that will have us all living in thatch huts, wearing homespun, riding bicycles, and only eating what is produce locally. This is not a solution, and it should be made clear at the beginning.

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  17. Stephen Gloor apparently can’t see what is obvious to most of us. Barry is helping us find the best available information relating to energy policy. Right now it looks as if nuclear is the best long term solution if we want affordable electricity on a scale that our current civilisation requires.

    Things can change if there is a breakthrough, for example better Photo-Voltaics at a fraction of the cost. This will be one of the first places you will hear about such breakthroughs and I am confident Barry will support whatever makes sense.

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  18. Barry Brook – “You, on the other hand, are ‘anti-nuclear’ for reasons that are patently emotional, illogical and unscientific”

    Hmmmm – so this is your scientific answer then Barry. That is that anyone who has a differing viewpoint must be unscientific otherwise how could they possibly hold that viewpoint.

    Are you suggesting that the other renewable advocates like Amery Lovins, Joe Romm, Mark Diesendorf, Mark Jacobson to name a few are also all emotional illogical and unscientific?

    I will watch with interest and contribute in whatever way I can and see what happens.

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  19. Charles Barton – “Stephen Gloor, quite obviously, I do not need to be convinced that the cost and reliability issues will eventually sink the renewables ship”

    BTW did you mention your quite revealing statements on the Energy Collective to the faithful here?

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  20. Charles Barton – “Barry has adopted a rational approach to demonstrating the insanity of the anti-nuclear, pro-renewable viewpoint.”

    Charles, Charles, Charles you really should not have let this cat out of the bag quite so early in the piece. I am sure the faithful would be quite annoyed with you almost as much as telling the truth about light water reactors.

    So this is actually a rational approach to proving the greenie lefty socialist renewable nutters are wrong after all. And here I was thinking Barry’s motives were pure and simple.

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  21. Are you suggesting that the other renewable advocates like Amery Lovins, Joe Romm, Mark Diesendorf, Mark Jacobson to name a few are also all emotional illogical and unscientific?

    Well, let’s say they’d all be on my top 5 list. But equally, they, like you, are most welcome to contribute to oz-energy-analysis.org and (if you can) show why the BNC people are wrong. I quite genuinely look forward to your work and suggestions over there.

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  22. And I’ll give odds that like that other mouthy sod BilB, Gloor is all talk and insults, and no substance.

    You should make a rule on oz-energy-analysis.org: shut up and calculate.

    (yes I know it’s not the same context)

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  23. We need to remind ourselves we are not even on track to meet the 2020 RET of 45,000 Gwh from renewables. In just a decade I believe that will require a four fold increase in non-hydro renewables. That failure will occur despite a tilted playing field in which one team gets feed-in tariffs, RECs and ‘multipliers’.

    Since the RET is an absolute not a relative target like 20% there is no guarantee that any coal burning would be displaced as in the case of a static total output. To put it politely the RET is both rigged and illusory. As of now it looks like for the next 20 years Australia will burn as much coal as ever while medium sized gas plants spring up like mushrooms. Token renewables will get disproportionate amounts of government cash while gas fired electricity adds more to power bills. I don’t see a happy outcome.

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  24. Barry Brook – “Well, let’s say they’d all be on my top 5 list”

    This is actually important, Charles’s slip ups notwithstanding, as you are accusing fellow scientists and engineer’s that produce peer reviewed work of being unscientific.

    I am but a gnat standing on the shoulders of giants as I have produced no original work nor am I a scientist. Any knowledge I have is from my own limited technical training and what I have been able to educate myself from people such as these.

    My arguments, that you have called emotional, unscientific and illogical are only those of the engineers and scientists that I have studied. They make the same arguments only better than I do, I admit, however they use exactly the same science and engineering.

    How can you possibly call these people that just because they come to a different conclusion. And remember they are not distorting the science like climate change deniers they are producing peer reviewed work to support their opinions.

    In short why are you right and they wrong?

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  25. Stephen Gloor,
    This is no “Nuclear Echo Chamber”. If it was your views would be deleted by “moderators” just as mine are on Joe Romm’s “Climate Progress”.

    Nobody here will greet you with scorn or derision. However you would make a better impression if you could put some cogent arguments on the table.

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  26. Barry Brook – ” I don’t intend to retread this already trampled ground here.”

    Fair enough we would not want you to suffer another round of Ender fatigue even from a humble gnat.

    However you will notice I have put a post up on the site asking for measureable goals. If this is not a cynical attempt to rationally bury renewables then we can all agree on reasonable and measureable goals that a renewable solution has to pass to be called successful.

    I welcome your input into setting these goals.

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  27. I have no tolerance for those that won’t argue with facts and numbers, and I make no bones about holding them in absolute contempt. You and your ilk are just noise, that make having any discussion of substance in forums like this difficult. Your lot contribute nothing to the debate, because you don’t bring anything new or well reasoned to the table. They tediously accuse everyone of bias, they obviously cannot follow anything that has numbers in it, yet they regularly make vague claims of expertise that are transparently false. None of you are here to engage in the discussion, you are here to salve your pathetic little egos by pretending that you are peers of your betters. you remind me of children when they try to drown out the conversations of adults, when they are bored, or not getting enough attention.

    So yes I call them out for what they are, and I don’t sugar-coat it.

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  28. Stephen, I left nothing out of the bag except my view that science should be about identifying mistakes. I have on my own Blog, Nuclear Green, over the last2 1/2 years conducted an investigation of claims made by renewable advocates. During that time, i have kept my comment section open, for critics of my reasoning to demonstrate errors.

    Do you understand Karl Popper’s theory of science? Real science is done by testing hypotheses for falsehood, not simply be asserting their truth. Renewable advocates like you seem to think that there is something wrong with testing the hypothesis that renewables can reliably power society at a reasonable cost. Testing is the stuff of science, and if your hypothesis can withstand rigorous tests, then i suspect that both Barry and I will change our minds.

    I am, however, not sure what it would take to change yours. You seem to have little respect for well attested facts, and logical analyses. In a rational community facts are determined first, and you can certainly critique the process by which facts are determined. This is after all the point of open science. Once facts are determined, analyses follows, and you would certainly be free to contribute your own analysis, and critique the analyses of others.

    I happen to believe in Kant’s motto, “Think for yourself.” I keep the comment section on nuclear green, as long as my commenters are not advertising something, or being abusive. I am capable of admitting that I am wrong is a commenter offers a valid point, or points out a mistake. I do listen to what other people, including you say. I look for both common ground, but I also test what people tell me. i also do not hesitate to disagree with other nuclear advocates like Barry, if I think they are wrong.

    My problem with you, Stephen, is that you do not listen. You are a Manichean, who divides the world into black and white. As far as you are concerned, renewables and their advocates are white, and nuclear power and its advocates are black, and all of our arguments are wrong because we are intent on evil. Barry and I are concerned about knowledge. You seem more interested in the problem of theodicy.

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  29. “demonstrating the insanity of the anti-nuclear” is a consequence of rational energy systems analysis, not the goal. This insanity label doesn’t inherently apply to pro-renewables, so I’d leave that part out. I’m pro-renewables. I’m also pro-nuclear…admittedly more so than the former.

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  30. “Fair enough we would not want you to suffer another round of Ender fatigue even from a humble gnat.”

    Instead of hovering around Barry’s head and making irritating mosquito-like noises you could just use the search function and read the relevant articles in question; perhaps even offer substantive critique.

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  31. once again: stop the insults, difficult as it is. and let’s admit, it’s real difficult.

    I have learned a lot from this blog from people with whom I have big disagreements (I have also learned much from those with whom I have smaller disagreements) about politics and society. some of these have called me and others whacko, crazy, etc. This has done no good. it’s also false by the way. I in turn have replied with insults that I tried to make funny (calling social theorist Peter Lang George Babbit’s evil twin). That didn’t do any good either (though I still think it’s kind of funny).

    Instead of calling each other crazy or brainless, perhaps we can politely call each other’s ideas false, and then lay out the consequences of these false ideas as we see it. it’s not possible to avoid evaluation of another’s ideas so we should not strive for some bogus neutrality.

    DV: just stick to the point about facts and numbers. there’s no benefit in saying anything more. and charles, the comment about popper isn’t too helpful either: stephen may have read lots of realist philosophy of science, and all the best critiques of popper, of which there are many.

    who cares? He surely does not view himself as dogmatic. None of us does.
    (actually, it might be interesting to have people offer up some prominent examples of their being wrong in the past or currently).

    I realize in pretty short order, we (me included) will return to insults. but it’s also true that these posts are of little worth. I also realize that there are contexts where it’s very difficult to distinguish between an insult and simple plain speaking (necessarily value laden as our plain spokenness may be).

    Now: I actually do think Caldicott’s anti nuke position is in off the cuff terms “crazy,” but it does no good to say this. it allows her opponents to feel self righteous; and is not going to convince a Caldicott supporter, of whom there are many.

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  32. Charles Barton – “My problem with you, Stephen, is that you do not listen.”

    How much do you listen? I have accepted your favourite form of nuclear, the LFTR, and accepted that it is safe and proliferation resistant enough to be acceptable and when/if it is developed will contribute greatly to the low carbon energy future.

    So what part of the renewable argument have you listened to and accepted? If you are going to accuse me of being black and white and not listening surely you must show examples of where you are different to me.

    How about you start with accepting that in any future of energy, either nuclear or renewable, a really good start is to make the problem smaller for whatever the solution may be by promoting energy efficiency and conservation.

    If you can do that then I really do not care if in your country you build as many nuclear reactors as you like as this is you and your country’s choice and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

    What most concerns me, despite what Barry and others say, is that I believe that our present energy use is unsustainable no matter what source it is obtained from. Renewables are no more the answer by themselves that any other supply of energy.

    My position is that the path to low energy use while preserving the technological wonder our society is, is more important than the energy source that we use.

    Most nuclear advocates that I have talked to are of the opinion that there is no need to transition to a low energy use society because nuclear can supply all the energy we need forever and solve all the worlds problems by supplying unlimited energy. I don’t think that this is true.

    Most, not all, renewable advocates that I talk to accept the limitations of renewables and have no illusions that renewables can supply unlimited energy to continue our society the way it is setup now. Most accept the need for EE@C and the transition to a sustainable society based around mostly renewables.

    If more nuclear advocates could accept the need for transition and fit nuclear into this then they would have a much easier time with people such as myself. I can see where nuclear could be valuable in areas that have very low solar insolation and little wind however I cannot accept nuclear as the silver bullet that most advocates believe it to be.

    So Charles can you listen and accept that there is the possibility that nuclear could fit into a low energy future society like I have just done?

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  33. Stephen Gloor,

    “What most concerns me, despite what Barry and others say, is that I believe that our present energy use is unsustainable no matter what source it is obtained from”

    Why? Please explain why. Promoting energy sparsity as a solution to climate change is draconian.

    Just because our affluent societies could potentially benefit from reduced energy consumption, it doesn’t mean they actually will reduce their energy demand. They almost certainly won’t. That’s reality. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the majority of the world who have very limited or no access to energy (and therefore access to resources and better standards of living) will slow their demand for energy. They will do everything they can to overcome energy sparsity, even if that means fossil fuels.

    The world’s energy demand is increasing. How hard is that to understand?

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  34. It was encouraging to hear that Stephen Gloor finds some merit in LFTRs.

    I agree with Charles Barton, who is ready to scold folks on both sides.

    When it comes to renewables everybody should love hydro in spite of the people who are displaced when valleys are flooded. The benefits go far beyond cheap electrical power as anyone who has seen the impact of the Hoover dam on agriculture in California, Colarado and Nevada can tell you. Hydro’s problem is that there is never enough of it.

    With regard to readily expandable renewables such as wind and solar it comes down to economics and environmental impacts. Several countries including Denmark, Germany and the UK have ambitious wind power programs that are being assessed based on real time performance. Every day that goes by improves our ability to make a “warts and all” comparison between fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables.

    If someone would build LFTRs we could get practical experience with a more advanced nuclear technology. The trouble with that wish is that governments have been applying disincentives to nuclear power while applying incentives to renewables.

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  35. mmm hydro… of course, the Three Gorges Dam springs to mind. I’m not sure how you rationally argue whether or not it is acceptable to displace 1.3 million people to build >22 GW of generating capacity.

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  36. Charles Barton – “My problem with you, Stephen, is that you do not listen.”
    How much do you listen? – Stephen Gloor

    Stephen, I do listen to what nuclear critics say. And i agree with many of their criticisms. Like nuclear critics I am concerned about nuclear safety. Like nuclear critics i am concerned about the satisfactory resolution of the nuclear waste problem, and like nuclear critics, I am concerned about nuclear costs. I have had things to say about all of those subjects that are direct responses to what nuclear critics say.

    I am willing to find common ground with nuclear critics if they are willing to engage in a dialogue. Unfortunately this is seldom the case.

    As far as what part of the renewables case I have accepted, i have stated in the past, and i still believe that solar hot water heating is a useful carbon mitigation tool, although not a universally useful tool. I have also supported the use of solar space heating in many areas. I have supported the use of air and ground source heat pumps, in areas where there is not enough sunshine, or where solar space heating needs to be supplemented with heat from other sources.

    i support the use of hydroelectricity including dams, and pump storage facilities, in areas in which they are economically viably, environmentally acceptable, and safe.

    I support the use of geothermal generated electricity as long as their is not an earthquake risk involved in the use of the technology, and it is economically viable.

    Stephen, you would know all of this is you were paying attention and actually interested in my views.

    I also view both solar and wind generation systems as too expensive,
    indeed I have concluded that they are more expensive than nuclear. I have reached these conclusions after reviewing the costs and capacity factors of dozens of renewable projects, as well as studies of projected future costs, from what are regarded as reliable sources, such as the United States Energy Information Agency. When i don’t agree with a future cost estimate, I usually have a reason, such as a failure to factor in historic inflationary trends, known to be still operating in the market.

    In addition I view the problem of intermittency as a serious handicap to the pro-renewables case. Renewables advocates have suggested to me that I look at the Jacobson wind reliability study, and so i have. I found that Jacobson failed to include cost studies in his account of the wind reliability scheme, and that when cost were factored in “firm” wind would be more expensive than nuclear power, and still would require carbon emitting fossil fuel backup. I also compared wind output at sites which Jacobson included in his study, and found that it was poorly matched to local consumer demand.

    Others who have looked at Jacobson’s work, for example Bill Hannahan have pointed out significant flaws and errors. I might also point out that Jacobson is aware of my work, and has as of yet not responded to it.

    Renewables advocates have pointed told me that a combination of wind and solar would offer a solution to the problem of intermittency, and i have reviewed this claim. I find that while the combination helps, it is far from a perfect solution, and it is more expensive than nuclear power.

    Renewable advocates have suggested to me that energy storage would offer a solution, so i looked at three energy storage options, pumped storage, Compressed Air Energy Storage, and batteries. in every case, when the cost of renewables, energy storage systems and electrical transmission were added up, the cost was always higher than the cost of conventional nuclear.

    I then reviewed the question of backup reliability and carbon emissions. I determined that the most reliable, lowest cost carbon free backup system would employ LFTRs. But LFTRs would be capable of carrying base load power, and thus the renewable component of a renewable-LFTR system would be redundant to system needs, and an unneeded luxury.

    Thus far from not listening to what renewable advocates have to say, I have been carefully listening. What I have done beyond listen is to test test what renewables advocates have told me. But when i report back to renewable advocates what i have found, they get upset and stop listening.

    Stephen, I am 67, and repeated life lessons have taught me to check on what people say, if its truth matters. Many of the tests i have used to check on claims made about renewables, are simple, and are suggested by common sense. When I for the results of those tests when performed by renewable advocates i find very few. The test I perform are tests which renewable advocates should make themselves before the offer claims about renewable cost and performance.

    I am now going to make a suggestion and point out the importance of listening too it. Renewable advocates need to conduct careful research on costs and performance, before they make claims about nuclear being too expensive. If renewable advocates make a good case by carefully compiling data, and analyzing it in a logical fashion, fact and logic oriented guys would be much more likely to believe what you say. If you pay attention to valid methods, and avoid rhetoric ploys, you are a whole lot more likely to convince fact and logic oriented guys like Barry and myself.

    I do not suffer fools gladly, and if i listen to people and spend several years doing research in order to check on what they tell me, only to find that it does not hold water, they go on my fools list. It is as simple as that Stephen.

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  37. Charles,

    I think your above response was admirable.

    Moving somewhat off topic, I think your advocacy of the LFTR and other molten salt technologies has won many potential supporters (as has that of Kirk Sorensen). However, I am left wondering what is actually happening in the way of real world R&D? Is any government or commercial organisation actually putting money where your mouth is? This isn’t intended to be derogatory and I would like to think you could answer in, at least partially, the affirmative.

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  38. Charles Barton – ” If renewable advocates make a good case by carefully compiling data, and analyzing it in a logical fashion, fact and logic oriented guys would be much more likely to believe what you say. If you pay attention to valid methods, and avoid rhetoric ploys, you are a whole lot more likely to convince fact and logic oriented guys like Barry and myself.”

    But they do Charles and in peer reviewed literature and we had the discussion about Bill’s criticism of the Jacobson paper which turned out he did not clearly define the term reliability as I pointed out using the IEEE standards that he was holding Jacobson up too.

    You responded, so you say, to Jacobson’s work on a blog. Well that’s great however was your rebuttal peer reviewed or accepted by a peer reviewed journal for publication?

    It goes back to the question of who is right and who is wrong. It is all well and good to claim that you have found errors in the work of renewable advocates and then they do not listen to you. Perhaps you need to write the papers where you prove firm wind and solar with storage is more expensive than nuclear and submit it for review.

    Do you have something like that? Again I am not qualified to judge the quality and truth of your work however reviewers are thats why peer review is so important.

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  39. I submit that the Open Science model under which oz-energy-analysis.org operates is potentially* superior to peer reviewed technical journals, and indeed it’s a model that’s been discussed as a desirable option by working scientists for a number of years. The PLoS journals have made some attempt to move to this format, and I think you will find that, within a decade or two, it may well be the predominant model.

    *Peer-reviewed journals could be superior if the best/most appropriate people are doing the peer review, and the Open Science method is not getting that sort of treatment. In practice, I think it will be rare that Open Science, done properly would not get better (and more diverse and incisive) review than that which could be offered by a few anonymous reviewers who only have a chance to comment on the final version, rather than on the process of doing (except to recommend rejection if they don’t like the methods).

    [It would be good to continue this conversation over at OzEA, I’ll cross-post this comment over there and see how it goes]

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  40. Stephen, You are shifting ground, rather than dealing with the points I have made. My point was that I have listened to what renewable advocates have said. i have followed up on what i heard by testing their statements. This is evidence that I not only listened to what renewable advocates tell me, but i made a serious attempt to investigate.

    Your raising the issue of peer review was non responsive to my argument. You are not listening Stephen. As for peer review, my posts have been informally reviewed via Internet comments. And I have received hundreds of comments on Daily Kos, The Oil Drum, The Energy Collective, Energy From Thorium and Nuclear Green. So far none of my commenters have pointed me peer reviewed studies which show that I am wrong.

    I received a private communication from Mark Z. Jacobson which offered no major challenge to the points I made on my posts concerning his work, but did request a change in the graphics of one post, and in effect some changes in language. I did comply with his request.

    I do not claim that my finding are the last word on the cost of renewables vis a vis nuclear power, only that no one has yet demonstrated that they are wrong. In fact people who are better qualified than i am, for example Kent Hawkins and Peter Lang, have offered similar but more comprehensive studies and have reached similar findings. Having read debates concerning their studies, I would say that they have past muster so far.

    If you know of research, that contradicts my point of view, pass the links on.

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  41. I find it bemusing that people who have made positive comments over at OzEA are having a slanging match here. This is sport? Yes? You are all having fun?

    My experience with peer review is limited (~10 papers that I have co/authored, and have reviewed about the same) — and from this albeit limited experience I have clearly seen that the system of peer review is very fallible. I have been at the end of both the easy run and the nasty block. I have seen (and been) a referee carefully seeking to understand work, and I have seen (and been) a referee simply making a positive suggestion or three but otherwise not having the stomach or confidence or time to reject with clearly articulated and dispassionately rational reasoning. And I have seen editors without the stomach to accept that published work is wrong in the extreme.

    And yet, people wave the stamp of “peer review” around like some sort of gold standard. This is silly and foolish.

    The peer review model itself can work, and work well, but often fails to live up to what it can be. I no longer ‘trust’ peer review; I no longer ‘trust’ scientific institutions. It would be like trusting the media.

    Just as Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done, I contend we have reached a point in science where peer review must not just be done, but must be seen to be done.

    These experiments in Open Science are serious endeavours.

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  42. Douglas Wise, The current United States military funding bill, now working its way through congress, contains language calling for the development of thorium fuel cycle liquid core reactors to power future destroyers. We shall see if this language is enacted, and if a development program follows. The United States Army is reportedly looking into the use of molten salt reactors as a possible source of energy on battle fields. MSRs would be dug in and replace current fossil fuel powered generators. There are huge logistic advantages to this.

    Both Kirk Sorensen, and David LeBlanc believe that uranium cycle MSRs are possible using currently available technology. Both appear to be taking career paths that are directed toward involvement in innovative, privately funded, MSR developments aimed at short term production of viable small (100 mw to 200 mw) MSRs.

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  43. Peer review is all very well but at the end it is just an academic exercise.

    I am much more impressed when my local utility continues to supply cheap electricity whether it be from coal or nuclear power plants. We have a small solar plant under construction in my part of Florida but the projections suggest that the power produced will be more expensive than our present sources when depreciation is taken into account.

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  44. Charles Barton – ” My point was that I have listened to what renewable advocates have said. i have followed up on what i heard by testing their statements. ”

    I am not shifting ground. You have accused me of not listening. However I have done exactly the same thing. I have read the work available on nuclear power and I am not convinced by it. I have read the work by qualified people doubting the platitides about waste disposal and proliferation controls and I think that their work has more merit. I have also examined all the work available on nuclear costs and find that nuclear will be expensive – much more than you estimate.

    Exactly like you I have listened to the nuclear side and found it wanting. I have looked at your work on the LFTR and seen that it has merit and accepted it. Now how can you accuse me of not listening when I have simply done exactly what you have done? I have listened to the nuclear advocates and I do not accept what they in exactly the same way that you have listened to the renewable people and do not accept what they say.

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  45. I don’t think there’s anything new in scientists being critical of peer review. Anyone who has been through the process at either end understands its weaknesses, and they’ve been discussed for decades. Its basically a quality control point, but one with a relatively low bar.

    Many other disciplines, particularly applied engineering and medicine, have developed far more rigorous and effective methodologies for evaluation of the work of peers. Some of them have elements of the approach Barry is taking with OZA. I really wouldn’t get too hung up on the whole peer review thing, and any case particularly interesting findings can always be published in the peer reviewed literature, and I’m certain this would be Barry’s intent.

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  46. Francis – “And yet, people wave the stamp of “peer review” around like some sort of gold standard. This is silly and foolish.”

    I think that this is very dangerous ground. One the most potent defenses against the rubbish that climate change deniers keep feeding us is peer review.

    If you undermine this then you are undermining the case against deniers that we have been building for years.

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  47. John Morgan – “I don’t think there’s anything new in scientists being critical of peer review. ”

    I completely agree John. The peer review process is not perfect I would be the first one to admit that – it is not supposed to be. There was an extremely interesting discussion on it on Real Climate a while ago.

    I actually have no problems with admitting the flaws in peer review. However we have held the climate change deniers up to this standard for years. I think for laymen like myself peer review is an important quality check. I lack a lot of the skills required to understand some of the science and engineering so at least if it is peer reviewed I know someone has had a look at it.

    That is why I asked Charles if his work was peer reviewed and checked independantly. It hasn’t, so I classify it as interesting however not verified – the same goes for Peter Lang’s work. Jacobson’s work by contrast has been checked so at least I can think that it has a reasonable chance of being true.

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  48. I think for laymen like myself peer review is an important quality check.

    I agree – I didn’t think of this when I read your post. Peer review started life mainly as an internal review mechanism within the scientific community, but its true it now serves an important role in public acceptance of research.

    Unfortunately I think many layman equate “peer reviewed” with “right”, which is wrong. Peer review also operates in particular academic research context, which means unless a large publishing house like Elsevier decides there is a sufficiently large academic community interested in a particular area, and sets up a journal to fleece .. err .. serve them, there won’t be systematic peer review. A lot of the discussion here and I expect at OZE touches on applied engineering problems which frequently fall outside the catchment for peer review.

    That said, I would expect Barry would want to publish significant findings from OZE in peer reviewed journals.

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  49. Ender, because a paper has made it through the review of 2 or 3 anonymous peers does not make it right, just as the lack of such a process does not make a paper wrong. This is inappropriately black-and-white thinking.

    The kind of peer review you are talking about is not a ‘gold standard’, it is simply one of a number of quality control checks, as John Morgan said. The fate of many papers is for them to bounce from journal to journal, being rejected ‘down the line’ until they are finally accepted because they happen to arrive at a place where the editor is favourable and the 2 or 3 referees happen to like the paper, or at least not dislike it sufficiently to write a telling critique that would be grounds for having it rejected. The fact that some climate science contributions bounce all the way down to the very bottom, to ‘journals’ like Energy and Environment, says a lot more about their quality than others that have never even been through the ringer.

    Charles Barton’s and Peter Lang’s work has been subjected to considerable scrutiny without any major flaws being pointed out, but ultimately, it’s still only been subject to a ‘blog science’ form of review and commentary. Jacobson’s work has been similarly heavily criticised in the technical blogosphere, including by me. This is a useful process. A better process, however, is the Open Science methodology that we’ve developed for OzEA, because it has more rigor — the methods are more explicit and iterative, and the whole thing is aggressively transparent. A natural outcome of this work will still be submission to technical journals, for another (standard) round of peer review. Indeed, I’ve recently submitted a paper on costs of electricity and carbon price impacts to an energy journal, which is now under formal review – Peter Lang has read through the submitted draft.

    The peer review of climate science is significant not because 1 or 2 papers has passed this particular quality control mechanism, it’s because a vast body of literature has, and has also been checked and cross-checked and verified and tested and verified and refined etc. again and again. This is not about judging any single body of work on the basis of some mythical ‘gold standard’, over which a scientific paradigm rises or falls. Any working scientist knows this, even if it does still seem to be mysterious to the majority of the laity.

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  50. [deleted as requested]

    Can I please withdraw this? Please just delete the post. I spoke out of turn an apologize. The reply to John contains my thoughts on peer review.

    If conversations on BNC can stay as civil as this then you may get a wider diversity of opinion returning. For my part I will have a bit more of a think before I post.

    Plead excuse the formatting. I am doing this from my phone at the shops.

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  51. “I am not shifting ground. You have accused me of not listening. However I have done exactly the same thing. I have read the work available on nuclear power and I am not convinced by it. I have read the work by qualified people doubting the platitides about waste disposal and proliferation controls and I think that their work has more merit. I have also examined all the work available on nuclear costs and find that nuclear will be expensive – much more than you estimate.” – SG

    Stephen once again you substitute rhetoric and appeals to subjective standards for facts and well reasoned analysis. First, if you listen, why did you not focus of the identification of well attested facts and the conduct of logically valid analysis. I pointed to both as lying at the heart of valid energy related arguments. In stead you offer reading and your own subjective judgements. You say that you find platitudes, but say nothing about the standards that lead you to qualify statements as platitudes.

    You focus on nuclear power, and not the comparison nuclear power to renewables. You express concern about “nuclear waste” and describe proposed solutions as being supported by platitudes. Yet I have not seen you offer anything like a plausible probabilistic account of the risks involved in those proposed “nuclear waste” solutions.

    You state that you are not satisfied answers provided by conventional nuclear power supporters. Yet I have, in effect, argued that the case that Reactor Grade Plutonium from NPP’s would be used for weapons production is extremely implausible, because of its heat, radiation, its uncertain yield, and its very short shelf life. I have pointed to proven routs to nuclear proliferation that even poorly industrialized nations can follow, that offers lower cost, stable and safe fissionable materials, predictable weapons yields, and long shelf life. I ask, what is the probability that a would be proliferator would chose the costs, dangers, uncertainties, and lack of reliability of a RGP nuclear weapon, over an inexpensive nuclear weapon built from Pu-239 provided by World War II, low cost graphite, low technology graphite reactors such as that used by North Korea to develop its weapons program? I have also pointed to the role of criminal organizations in existing cases of nuclear proliferation, and the relatively low cost, low technology centrifuge uranium enrichment technology that is would be proliferators can probably purchase, as well as the proven low cost alternative enrichment rout developed by the South Africans. I have argued that it is the existence of these proven routes to nuclear proliferation, rather than the unproven, and extremely problematic routes suggested by nuclear opponents, that provides the real incentives for would be proliferators. Thus the very weak case for the weapons use of RGP, does not support the argument that civilian NPPs increase the likelihood of nuclear proliferation.

    If you truly listened to me, you would take my arguments seriously enough to seek out answers to the questions I raise. You would not simply rely on rhetorical tricks, and subjective judgements to support your arguments. Rather you would seek out well attested facts, and rationally analyze them. I do not find evidence that you have done that.

    Stephen this discussion has been useful to me, because it has offered me a chance to clarify the methods we need to identify bad solutions to our present and future energy problems. I have probably not satisfied you, but I suspect others will find my comments accurate and in keeping with the methods of science, and perhaps even useful and illuminating. This is what open science is about.

    I am glad that you find merit in the LFTR. What are the standards by which you judge it meritorious? And how does other forms of nuclear power not measure up to your standard of merit?

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  52. Barry Brook – “This is not about judging any single body of work on the basis of some mythical ‘gold standard’, over which a scientific paradigm rises or falls.”

    I take your point here. However the peer reviewed literature for renewable energy is also building into sizable body of work that is also consistent. Gavin said much the same as you about peer review in his article which I reread.

    Publication in a reputable journal that does thoroughly check the paper surely is a good filter. When Peter Lang’s papers were first introduce when I actually participated in BNC I and Niel raised several objections that were never addressed. During this process I realised that none of my objections were being treated seriously. It was at that time I stopped trying – I am sure you will remember.

    Peter really needs to submit his papers to someone like Mark Diesendorf for comment. It can only improve them.

    Anyway lets see how the open science goes.

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  53. Charles Barton – “Stephen once again you substitute rhetoric and appeals to subjective standards for facts and well reasoned analysis”

    This discussion actually was not about technical stuff at all. It was entirely about who listens and who does not. You have amply demonstrated that you are not willing to listen to the other side of the argument exactly as you accuse me of doing.

    The truth is that you and I both listen better to what we want to hear. This allows climate change deniers to worship Steve McIntyre despite the complete rubbish that he puts out. Now please do not misunderstand me I am not putting you in the same class as McIntyre nor am I comparing your particular opinions to climate change denial. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. I naturally favour information that is supportive of renewables over those that are supportive of nuclear.

    Where the truth is – who knows?

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  54. Stephen, I will leave the issues we have raised for our peers on Brave New Climate to judge. I have discussed questions related to denialism on Nuclear Green and will welcome comments on my discussion there.

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  55. Stephen Gloor states:

    When Peter Lang’s papers were first introduce when I actually participated in BNC I and Niel raised several objections that were never addressed. During this process I realised that none of my objections were being treated seriously.

    I understand all your claims were dealt with. Only one was valid, it was minor, and the article was revised to correct it. I also wrote an addendum on solar thermal and transmission costs to addresss your claim that the first paper was invalid because solar thermal is substantially cheaper and therefore invalidates the conclusions. The addendum is here:
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/
    The remainder of your claims were invalid or irrelevant. All were addressed and discussed to closure. However, if you want to restate them in a way that can be resolved, I am more than happy to tackle any specific criticisms. Please post comments on the relevant thread.

    You may not have seen the articles where a mix of technologies is considered and the transition period.
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

    You may not have seen the articles on pumped hydro and on replacement of Hazelwood Power Station. These are listed in the right sidebar.

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  56. When Peter Lang’s papers were first introduce when I actually participated in BNC I and Neil raised several objections that were never addressed.

    I don’t believe you did. You raised one point that was comprehensively dealt with, by John Morgan then others, and thereafter became very vague. But if you’d like to start that process again, then I suggest (as we did to BilB before he vanished) that you work through the process systematically, starting with 1 point, and working on that until we (collectively) reach a consensus and move onto point two, and so on.

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  57. Gloor has nothing of value to add, or any cognisant arguments to bring to the table, that is why he tries to drag the conversation into discussions of peer review, and who is listening to who.

    I doubt is he will be willing to engage in a point by point, systematic discussion, because he knows he will loose.

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  58. Peter Lang – “The remainder of your claims were invalid or irrelevant. All were addressed and discussed to closure.”

    That is not how I see it. An no, I am not interested in going over them point by point because I tried this and was shouted down. Ask EclipseNow if you do not believe me.

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  59. DV82XL – “I doubt is he will be willing to engage in a point by point, systematic discussion, because he knows he will loose.”

    No. As I stated before I tried this here and was drowned out by the faithful. This is exactly like if you posted on a renewable faithful site.

    Also this discussion was entirely about who is listening to who and interesting in its own right.

    Dragging it to a technical level means I have evidence that you will refuse to acknowledge and you have evidence that I will refuse to acknowledge and so on for 400 posts until Ender fatigue sets in or one of us dies.

    Your evidence and arguments are not gospel truth and neither are mine. They are subject to interpretation and assumption. Basically Peter Lang gives analysis of the data that you like and Jacobson gives analysis of the same data that I like.

    I can pick holes in Lang’s analysis and you can pick holes in Jacobson’s work equally using your world view as a starting point.

    The point is accusing me of not listening is pointless. Not everyone that disagrees with you is misguided. I interpret the data in a different way. If you cannot see this then it is you who think in black and white not me.

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  60. Stephen Gloor

    That is not how I see it. An no, I am not interested in going over them point by point because I tried this and was shouted down.

    I and others went through your criticisms one by one. John Morgan, Barry Brook and others tried as hard as we could to determine exactly what your criticisms were so we could deal with them. We dealt with each one as well as we could given that most were of the non-specific, ‘hand waving’ kind. If there are outstanding criticisms, and you can define them specifically, then we can deal with them. However, general criticisms such as “I want you to withdraw the paper because I don’t like it” is not a criticism I can deal with. This seemed to be what you wanted.

    All the comments are still posted on the thread. If you go through them I think you would have to agree we did the best we could to try to decipher exactly what your criticsm was about and then fix it if it was an error, or explain to you why it is not a valid criticism where that was the case.

    You would also have to agree that you were fairly rude throughout. Barry and others pointed this out to you several times, but you did not seem to heed these comments. I did get a bit frustrated with the tone of your posts. I’d have to say, I agree with DV82XL, I think you are all BS, like BilB.

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  61. On peer review:

    Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, has said that:

    The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily corrupted, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.

    The thing is Stephen Gloor, is that those of us that that have been around the sciences for awhile, know this and we weight what we read even in the refereed journals with this in mind.

    Also:

    Dragging it to a technical level means I have evidence that you will refuse to acknowledge and you have evidence that I will refuse to acknowledge and so on…

    Beyond the fact that any discussion of renewables outside the technical domain is somewhat pointless, given that our differences hinge on issues like performance, and any statements you, or anyone else makes without tabling supporting evidence is worthless, I’m left to wonder if you have anything to say at all.

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  62. Richard Horton’s assessment of peer review tallies very much with mine, and I’m not speaking as a novice, having published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and, on the other side of the fence, edited many dozens more. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

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  63. Peter Lang – “You would also have to agree that you were fairly rude throughout. Barry and others pointed this out to you several times, but you did not seem to heed these comments. I did get a bit frustrated with the tone of your posts. I’d have to say, I agree with DV82XL, I think you are all BS, like BilB.”

    Well thank you Peter I am so glad that think that I am all bullshit. This is EXACTLY why I do not want to start from the beginning again with your papers.

    Yes I was rude however I modified my behaviour and was polite in the extreme despite incredible aggravation like you just now calling my opinions bullshit in a thread where politeness has ruled until this.

    If this is going to be the standard on the Open Science forum then there is not much hope for it.

    Galloping Camel:

    Hows the faith in no scorn or derision going????

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  64. Ender, perhaps we should go back to the fundamentals.

    Wind and solar thermal are quite cost competitive when done on a relatively small scale (but large enough to enjoy economies of scale, so we’re talking above a few percent of grid supply). Why? Because storage or backup is a non-issue — the grid can supply its deficits when needed via its peak load capacity. Nuclear energy is expensive when done on a small scale (I mean here single reactors, not nuclear batteries etc.) because of certification costs, one-off designs, etc.

    This reverses, however, at larger scales. As wind and other solar sources constitute an increasingly large fraction of the grid supply, energy storage or backup for extended down times, and sufficient spinning reserve to compensate immediately for short-term delivery fluctuations, become paramount and increasingly expensive. For nuclear, this is irrelevant — the more plants, the merrier. Indeed, with standardisation of design, modular construction and simplified passive safety designs, it will get cheaper, not more expensive.

    At 15% wind and 15% solar, one really starts pushing the bounds of credibility of a reliable electricity supply (unless natural gas is also relied upon) — without major breakthroughs in energy storage, and more expensive backup generation facilities if this storage involves chemical (e.g. hydrogen, vanadium, ammonia) or non-heat storage (e.g. compressed air, flywheels). Molten salts don’t suffer from the backup generator costs, but are limited to CSP and require increasingly huge infrastructure and embedded costs if more than the proposed nighttime backup is envisaged.

    PV could drop incredibly in price (which would be great, provided embodied energy requirements are sensible), but it would still need complete backup at night and during lower production times (winter, cloudy periods or days) and a way of managing its dramatic impact on electricity demand (a huge surge in available power as the sun rises, a huge drop as it sets). If the cost of backup equals the cost of the PV itself, and that backup is not carbon emitting (e.g. nuclear), you have to wonder why you’d bother with the PV in the first place, beyond niche (off-grid) applications. I know this is a simplification, but it’s a broadly valid point.

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  65. On Echo Chambers.

    Lets face it, this blog is now a nuclear echo chamber where no renewable people dare to tread. Now this seems to be a natural progression as like minded people group together. Examples are Climate Audit where climate change deniers go to listen to the gospel according to St Steve. No matter that this gospel is against the fantastic body of work that Barry has worked on compiling and is so self consistent and compelling so no really sane person should be able to deny climate change and yet there they are. If you post there with a dissenting opinion you are torn to pieces.

    No don’t get me wrong I am not comparing BNC to climateaudit. I am just demonstrating that no matter what the subject echo chambers naturally develop. I used to post at Jennifer Morohasy in the beginning where a mixed group of deniers and people like me used to have interesting discussions until it became a denier echo chamber and the learning ceased. Louis Hissink and cohenite then got free reign to peddle their peculiar brand of reality without disturbance from anything approaching science.

    Similarly I used to learn a lot from BNC until the transformation into a nuclear echo chamber happened and the learning ceased. For example the post TCASE 10 – there is not a single dissenting voice in the entire 55 comments despite TCASE10 being as full of holes as the Titanic on April 14th. Anybody the least bit interested in renewables has long since given up posting here. Mike Stampe, Neil Howes to name a few who used to give an interesting contrast with their experience gave up as did I.

    The point to this is that the Open Science Project needs a drop dead date. To prevent it becoming a nuclear or renewable echo chamber then it should have a definite shelf life after which it is wound up, conclusions drawn, papers written and then finished. I suggest a year is a good time to prevent polarisation of opinion is a good timeframe.

    After a year or so the project can finish and a new one started fresh examining a new topic.

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  66. For example the post TCASE 10 – there is not a single dissenting voice in the entire 55 comments despite TCASE10 being as full of holes as the Titanic on April 14th.

    Okay, provide just one one, with justification as to where the error lies. You’re not even trying, and it’s no wonder you get torn to shreds here. Pathetic.

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  67. “I can pick holes in Lang’s analysis and you can pick holes in Jacobson’s work equally using your world view as a starting point.”

    if the picking of holes merely confirms one’s starting point or world view, then one could never come to change one’s mind rationally.

    I switched from anti nuclear to pro nuclear after reading a lot of books–and the many critiques here– that were far more convincing than the pro renewable/anti nuclear stuff I had previously thought convincing.

    perhaps I am mistaken in my beliefs. Please show us, Ender, what’s wrong with T Case 10’s arguments about capacity factor and capacity credit. if these arguments are that bad, I would hope you could convince us of this instead of relying on “relativism” as a way to avoid having to make your best argument.

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  68. There’s a fairly simple process of discrimination called for here. The numbers run so hard against renewables that if they are wrong. they are the result of large errors in data or analysis. Large errors are easy to spot. So feel free to point them out – if they’re there, they’re not hiding.

    This runs both ways – if the studies supporting renewable power are in error, the errors are large and should be easy to find. And in general, we have found them. They involve:

    – neglecting intermittency, and extended outages in particular
    – grossly underestimating storage requirements
    – underestimating the generation overbuild required to cover intermittency and maintaining charged storage
    – overstating the ability of spatial distribution to smooth power delivery of locally intermittent sources
    – silently ignoring the necessity for fossil fuel grid coverage
    – understating the overbuild requirements of electricity transmission infrastructure
    – ignoring the increased emissions intensity of gas plants shadowing wind
    – understating the vast materials inputs required for renewable deployment at scale
    – ignoring grid integration issues
    – overestimating demand reduction and efficiency
    – indulging in optimism over unknown technological advances

    These things are knowable. We are not reduced to arguments from authority. We do not have to throw our hands in the air and say Mark Jacobson says this but Barry Brook says that so how can we tell? We can tell, because the arguments are constructed, and we can inspect the elements of their construction.

    We can discern the verity of these claims. To refuse to do so is an abrogation of personal responsibility.

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  69. – indulging in optimism over unknown technological advances

    It would seem that nuclear advocates share this last issue with renewables advocates.

    Wouldn’t an all nuclear solution have problems tracking demand without have technological advances?

    Wouldn’t an all nuclear solution using current technology have problems with producing enough uranium? Banking on IFR or LFTR seems like having optimism in technological advances?

    It looks to me like nuclear could go from 6% of world energy supply to 25% of world energy supply by 2050 if everyone works really hard using current technology. That does not save the climate!

    It appears that the only way to save the climate is to “indulge in optimism in unknown technological advances”!

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  70. Martin, you’re right of course. You have to be an optimist whichever way you cut it. No one here gets out alive without heroically optimistic assumptions, whether its the number of windmills we can plant or the speed we can develop LFTR factories.

    What I had in mind was a particular kind of techno-optimism that assumes advances without knowing where they’re coming from. The transfer of Moore’s law from the information domain to the materials domain. The idea that we will inevitably solve the energy storage problem because, well, its progress, right? That we’ll keep getting more efficient solar cells, or more efficient electrical generators, or we’ll solve the problems of drilling kilometres deep into hot plastic rock, etc. The materials sciences are not like microfabrication, their advances are not bankable, you can’t set out a roadmap for, say, power or energy storage density doubling. Its cargo cult thinking.

    And much of the forward looking optimism around renewables is focussed narrowly on the generation technology, without regard to whole system scale integration. Nuclear advocates keep getting called techno-optimists, and told we’re looking for technofixes, but honestly, I think we pale in comparison to the renewable technofetishists. The technological advances we’re looking for have been realized in prototype, with development expected to be within the domain of conventional engineering, not discovery, and no different system scale issues than we already have with, say, coal. From here to there, its just boring engineering.

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  71. Martin Burkle, John Morgan,

    Unfortunately Martin is right, but only in that there are a vocal contingent of nuclear supporters that are chasing new technology, when the current situation calls for deployment of those designs that have proven themselves. They are attempting to leverage the current situation to advance nuclear designs along novel paths, and in my opinion are leaving us wide open to another round of criticism. Worse, many of these designs are geared toward solving problems that don’t exist, such as so-call waste, and proliferation resistance, thus validating these nonsensical claims.

    Unfortunately, the bulk of those supporting nuclear energy are technically inclined folk to begin with, and as such see the issues as design problems, naïvely believing that if they offer up solutions to these objections, those opposed will embrace them, and we can move on. This will not happen, because the stated reasons, nuclear power is opposed, are rarely the real ones. One only has to look at the farce that is being played out in the State of Vermont to see that reason is not a factor in the debate.

    Many of us have waited and worked a long time in the wilderness, and the nuclear renaissance is the validation of everything we believed, and I know some, (and I include myself) want to see it underway before we pass, and are eager to see ideas that have been on the shelf for decades, get dusted off and put to use. But now is not the time for technical revolutions in the nuclear power industry, not until the more important work of establishing it as a viable option to produce carbon-free energy, and that needs to be our focus.

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  72. Martin Burkle,

    From my perspective the answer to most of your questions is “No”

    Wouldn’t an all nuclear solution have problems tracking demand without have technological advances?

    No. If we want nuclear to track demand we design it to do so. All the nuclear powered ships and subs can start and stop and accelerate and decelerate as much as the crew orders. The EPR is designed to ramp by 5% per minute (that’s 80MW per minute) throughout 50% of its power range and can operate down to 25% of its power.

    Wouldn’t an all nuclear solution using current technology have problems with producing enough uranium?

    No. There is sufficient uranium in the Earth’s Crust and oceans to last for way beyond the foreseeable future. As we want more, we explore for more. It is like this with all minerals.

    It looks to me like nuclear could go from 6% of world energy supply to 25% of world energy supply by 2050 if everyone works really hard using current technology.

    We can certainly scale up to produce the nuclear power plants if we wanted to. A previous post by DV82XL explained this well and drew the parallel with how USA, UK, Germany, Russia all geared up in just a few years to build enormous numbers of aircraft, tanks, etc to fight WWII. We built the first large nuclear reactor, 65 years ago in just 21 months. If we got over the silly fear of all things nuclear and built sensible nuclear power stations, they’d be built in a quarter the time and a quarter the cost of the present monsters. It will take a while to get there, but the point is that we can certainly do it, cost effectively. We just need to get started.

    If nuclear can’t cut GHG emissions then why would we want to turn to renewables? They require at least ten times more material, mining, manufacturing, construction, land area, water, transport than nuclear, and don’t cut emissions as much. They are requiring very large increases in transmission capacity, for low average energy flows. So why do we keep pushing renewables? We are wasting our resources and wealth on a non-solution. We are doing it purely because of belief.

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  73. Martin Burkle posed interesting questions and received informed and informative reponses. However, DV82XL’s answer prompts me to ask a follow-up question.

    DV82XL, you suggest that many nuclear supporters are attempting to leverage the current situation to press for their preferred and more sophisticated designs. Your preferred route is to stick with the tried and trusted existing ones, certainly in the short to mid term. My question relates to sustainability.

    Suppose we all go nuclear and rely on LWRs and CANDUs, how long will the fuel supply last? I have read what (to me) appear to be fairly authoritative reports that suggest we will run out in 50 to 60 years, even assuming that stated reserves are greatly underestimated. Others, however, point to the fact that there is more than enough uranium , at low oncentrations, both in granite and in the sea that would, nevertheless, be commercially viable to extract using nuclear power and which would last ad infinitum. At the very least, one must doubt the wisdom of using very significant amounts of one’s hard won energy in the pursuit of more fuel when there is an alternative option with greater ERoEI, namely more advanced fuel-efficient reactors.

    DV82XL, these advanced reactors can’t be deployed in the short term, so we’ve got to run with your preferred option anyway. Sometimes, however, you give me the impression that you are, in principle, opposed even to any attempt to develop the next generation. Given that you know a hell of a lot more about the subject than I, I ask myself “what does he know that I don’t?”

    Unless we push for urgent research and development of IFRs and LFTRs (or whatever) leading to construction of commercial demonstration units in the next 10 to 20 years, we will have risked the future of civilisation by placing all our trust in the sustainability of uranium extraction from low concentration sources. What is your assessment of said risk? Would you accept that, at least from a PR perspective, one of the more logical criticisms of nuclear is its perceived lack of sustainability? Would you not also accept that new generation nuclear designs are mor likely to allay fears over safety, waste and proliferation that currently exist with existing designs, regardless of your contempt for such fears?

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  74. Douglas Wise – Uranium supply issues are a canard – with current reprocessing technology the current supplies will be adequate.

    Nor am I saying development of GenIV should halt. However for some places, like Australia, the focus should be on existing designs. There is enough interest in things like MRS and liquid-metal reactors in places like the US that can afford to engage in this sort of project, and have a greater need. They don’t have vast supplies of domestic uranium, and this gives them incentives that are lacking elsewhere.

    However it is the public face of nuclear energy that is under discussion here, and the original point was about the hypocrisy of calling the renewable side out for invoking the promise of new tech to solve shortcomings in that sector, while insisting that GenIV will solve all the issues with nuclear. In this regard, I believe we should stick to supporting what is available now, and leave other developments to the future.

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  75. DV82XL:

    Thanks for the reply. The assertion in your first sentence was comforting to me because I want to believe it. However, one could not expect it to convince those with no such wish. Obviously, I can’t expect you to crystal- ball-gaze and inform me that uranium reserves from reasonably rich ores are ten or a hundred times greater than currently stated. However, you might have the technical expertise to assess the likely effect on ERoEI of ores of falling uranium concentration. A simple plot of ERoEI against ore concentration would do! It would be useful in making contrasts with ER0EIs of coal, oil, wind and sun. I would like to think that you’d get better than 20-30 for very low grade ore.

    I fully accept all your other statements.

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  76. Douglas Wise,

    I would look at the issue of quantity of uranium in a different way. We find as much ore as we need (or any mineral ore other than fossil fuels, which ARE limited).

    It has always been this way. Man has always found the minerals he needs as he needs them. In the late 1950’s Australia had a ban on exporting iron ore because we thought we didn’t have enough for our own needs. Once the ban was lifted, we revealed the largest iron ore reserves in the world. There are similar concentrations of uranium as there are of zinc, copper and other commonly used metals in the crust. We mine much more of them but no one is talking about running out off them. As we need more we explore for more. Mining methods improve. Most of Australia is locked up against exploring for uranium. Most of the world hasn’t even been explored. And we’ve hardly begun to look much below the surface yet.

    Remember, we would run out of materials for the renewables long before we run out of materials or fule for nuclear energy. We seem to keep missing that point, or ignoring it.

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  77. Peter,

    No quibble with your last point. The earlier statements may or be not be correct with respect to high quality ore sources but they sound cornucopian and won’t in any way mollify the antis.

    I accept that oil has organic origins and thus must be regarded in a different manner from crust minerals. The finite nature of the former is evident and, as peak is reached or approaches, ERoEI falls, reducing prospects for economic growth which depends upon easy access to cheap energy. The same could occur with falling uranium ore quality, certainly while we remain dependent upon once through reactors.

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  78. @Wise and Lang: the recent figures reveal that BNC users are for the most part on the London-Ottawa-Canberra-Washington axis ie under the US nuclear umbrella, as it is known among in nuclear weapons circles.

    And Lang’s statement that Man always finds minerals when He needs them is written from the BHP Billiton, Vale, Barrick Gold or Chinalco CEO standpoint of Man and his needs.

    There is however more than sort of Man: those with political power and those without.

    Honest miners (on BNC?) admit that there are winners (their own countries and shareholders) and losers (the backward indigenous sitting on mineral reserves in the Amazon or Baluchistan).

    Increasingly however (Peru, Ecuador, Baluchistan) the “rural idiot Indigenous” are wanting to block such hazmat mining, even in the face of enticements like jobs as mine security guard or company-paid village hospital/road/school construction. After all, teratogenic hazmat pollution in the jungle is Toronto Stock Exchange equity gains, because every income statement has line items for expenses.

    Thus it may be that nukie assertion of Jevon’s Law in regard of energy efficiency is valid. And all nukie objections to RE as being 10x more expensive than NPPs across the board may hold water too.

    So the fact, if proven, that RE’s demand for crust minerals could thus destroy indigenous habitats much more than uranium or thorium mining is an important pro-nuke argument, if only nukie technocrats knew it. Because in many rich countries, anti-nuke goes hand in hand with thirdworldism. Recently, somebody justified to me his objection to Areva’s uranium mining in Namibia by saying it was bad for the local Africans, the idea being that this made it especially heinous.

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  79. DV82XL said:

    Uranium supply issues are a canard – with current reprocessing technology the current supplies will be adequate.

    If you are talking about reprocessing that allows us to access 0.8% of the energy in mined uranium, instead of 0.6%, then I disagree. I don’t see why this form of reprocessing is relevant to this question.

    I would agree that there are sufficient uranium resources to potentially power thermal reactors through to the end of the century, but the environmental impacts of accessing this lower-quality material will necessarily rise, and that will inevitably impact public opinion. The public largely ignores science and engineering over emotive justifications. That will change, with time, but not pursuing advanced fuel cycles as (one) urgent priority risks, in my opinion, an ongoing styming of nuclear deployment.

    You and Peter are falling into the trap of conflating scientific logical and societal reality. We must balance the two if we’re going to make any headway, and given the urgency of these problems, ruthless pragmatism is called for. This, fundamentally is why I support, and continue to promote, the deployment of Gen IV commercial demonstrations as an urgent priority, whist also acknowledging and supporting the need to deploy multiple thousands of gigawatts of thermal reactors over the next two decades.

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  80. Peter Lang said:

    Remember, we would run out of materials for the renewables long before we run out of materials or fule for nuclear energy. We seem to keep missing that point, or ignoring it.

    I don’t think this point is relevant, since we are not going to run out of steel or concrete, no matter how many renewables we choose to deploy. This is the wrong way to argue the issue of uranium supply, as it implicitly acknowledges a problem that doesn’t exist — unless one accounts for environmental damaged caused by mining, which is relatively minor compared to other anthropogenic impacts, but is still something we would prefer to minimise if we had the luxury of doing so. Advanced closed fuel cycles allow us that luxury.

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  81. As far as the uranium supply goes a good treatment of the subject can be found here:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf75.html

    I say again I am not saying that advanced fuel cycles should not be developed; they should and will be. However they should not be a factor in the current drive to to move to a nuclear energy economy. Older technology will simply have a better chance of being deployed over the next ten years. From a practical point of view, it is going to be easier to get regulatory approval, and funding for proven designs.

    What I don’t like to see is the hard won slow rise in public acceptance of nuclear energy being leveraged to mount projects that probably won’t produce a watt-hour of salable electricity for a decade, more likely two. I am particularly uncomfortable with promises being made about these designs, while they are still in the conceptual phase. I have spent a lifetime in industry, and I know better than most just how far it is from the drawing board to a commercial product, and I am frankly worried that many in this field are writing checks with their mouth, that their asses can’t cash.

    Just getting nuclear energy deployed period, is what is needed now, particularly in places like Australia. In short kill coal first; worry about uranium later.

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  82. @Blog Owner: you write that environmental damage caused by crust mineral mining of uranium is relatively minor (presumably compared to AGW) and its avoidance is a luxury.

    However, electorally-relevant anti-nukes in AU and other rich countries are wont to cite Caldicott, TMI, Chernobyl, Iran/N. Korea, Bin Laden and the immiserated Indigenous breathing uranium ore mining dust all in the same sentence. So I think that Peter Lang`s argument may be valid.

    Another question: you write of steel or concrete, but do not eg wind turbines need (rarer?) rare earths?

    Can one not argue that while RE advocates have no schedule of specifications for crust minerals needed for their future technologies, and hence cannot predict how many acres of e.g. rainforest carbon sink and hence indigenous habitats need be torn up to find them, nukies already know in 2010 what mineral types and quantities are needed to roll out e.g. 1,000 EPRs or AP 1000s or VVERs?

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  83. Peter Lalor, the question for REEs is the same as any other mineral resource — there is enough in the crust, if you are willing to pay the $$ and energy cost of extracting it. I have no figures on how mining costs or EREOI will rise as lower quality REE ores are accessed. This would not be relevant to CSP, as far as I’m aware — I don’t think there are any particularly exotic materials used in their construction, even if molten salt storage if factored in. Your final paragraph is a good point, for which I would answer ‘yes’.

    DV82XL – we are in agreement then. I just failed to understand your point about current ‘reprocessing’ methods making any noticeable difference in the supply of uranium (one way or the other) — whereas recycling in fast reactors obviously will.

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  84. Douglas Wise, on 7 June 2010 at 20.29 Said:

    Obviously, I can’t expect you to crystal- ball-gaze and inform me that uranium reserves from reasonably rich ores are ten or a hundred times greater than currently stated. However, you might have the technical expertise to assess the likely effect on ERoEI of ores of falling uranium concentration. A simple plot of ERoEI against ore concentration would do! It would be useful in making contrasts with ER0EIs of coal, oil, wind and sun. I would like to think that you’d get better than 20-30 for very low grade ore.

    Not really, but I can offer this from the link I posted above:

    Since uranium is part of the energy sector, another way to look at exploration costs is on the basis of energy value. This allows comparisons with the energy investment cost for other energy fuels, especially fossil fuels which will have analogous costs related to the discovery of the resources. From numerous published sources, the finding costs of crude oil have averaged around US$ 6/bbl over at least the past three decades. When finding costs of the two fuels are expressed in terms of their contained energy value, oil, at US$ 1050/MJ of energy, is about 300 times more expensive to find than uranium, at US$ 3.4/MJ. Similarly, the proportion of current market prices that finding costs comprise are lower for uranium. Its finding costs make up only 2% of the recent spot price of US$ 30/lb ($78/kgU), while the oil finding costs are 12% of a recent spot price of US$ 50/bbl.

    @Barry – When I think of reprocessing, I include the LWR used fuel cycles that can be accomplished with CANDU reactors.

    CANDU/LWR Synergism

    Although little incentive exists for the extraction of fissile material from spent CANDU fuel, based upon its low fissile concentration, the opposite is true for spent LWR fuel. Depending upon initial enrichment and burnup, spent LWR fuel contains about 0.9 wt% U-235 and 0.6% fissile plutonium.

    Since the U-235 content exceeds that of natural uranium, CANDU technology offers the unique option of uranium recycling without reenrichment. This “recovered uranium” (RU) fuel cycle would extract at least 25% more energy from the mined uranium going into the LWR fuel cycle. Compared to reenriching the RU for use in an LWR, about twice as much energy can be extracted by burning it without reenrichment in a CANDU reactor.

    Twice the energy can also be extracted from burning LWR-recycled plutonium in a CANDU reactor, compared to using an LWR. In general, therefore, CANDU technology is an efficient vehicle for the recovery of fissile material at the back end of the LWR fuel cycle.

    The remaining material after fissile-material recovery would be the actinide and fission-product waste. Responding to international interest in the destruction of actinide waste in reactors, CANDU fuel cycles that burn this material have been studied (Chan, 1997; Verrall, 1998). An “inert-matrix” carrier using SiC has high thermal conductivity, leading to low fuel temperatures and other safety benefits. The absence of uranium precludes the creation of additional plutonium and higher actinides, and leads to high net destruction rates. Studies using the unadjusted mix of plutonium and actinides from spent LWR fuel show a net destruction efficiency of 60% for the total actinide inventory, and 90% for the fissile inventory.

    In addition to its high neutron economy, the CANDU reactor’s on-power refuelling capability is key to the success of this process. With no uranium in the initial fuel mix, reactivity drops rapidly and must be matched by an increased fuelling rate. The refuelling strategy can be optimized by shuffling bundles within and between channels.

    CANDU technology offers another unique option for the back end of the LWR fuel cycle, which completely avoids the need for wet reprocessing and fissile-material recovery. The “DUPIC” fuel cycle, or “direct use of spent PWR fuel in CANDU”, utilizes the non-separated, non-enhanced waste product of LWRs directly as CANDU fuel (Keil, 1992).

    The transfer from LWR to CANDU can be literally “direct”, involving only the cutting of spent LWR fuel rods to CANDU length (~50 cm), resealing (or double-sheathing), and reengineering into cylindrical bundles suitable for CANDU geometry.

    Alternatively, a dry reprocessing technology has been developed which removes only the volatile fission products from the spent LWR fuel mix (Lee, 1998; Sullivan, 1998). After removal of the cladding, a thermal-mechanical process is used to reduce the spent LWR fuel pellet to a powder, which is then sintered and pressed into CANDU-sized pellets.

    The DUPIC process is much simpler than conventional wet-chemistry techniques for reprocessing, and promises to be cheaper. It presents a significant anti-proliferation benefit as well, since radioactive fission products and fissile material are not separated. In addition, since the heat load of spent DUPIC fuel is similar to that of the original spent LWR fuel, disposal requirements do not increase. However, since approximately 50% more energy can be derived from LWR fuel by burning it as DUPIC fuel in a CANDU reactor, the disposal cost is expected to be lower than either spent LWR or CANDU fuel (Baumgartner, 1998).

    Between the extremes of conventional reprocessing and the DUPIC fuel cycle, a spectrum of options exists. The CANDU reactor’s high neutron economy offers many options for exploiting the CANDU/LWR synergism, allowing customization to meet local requirements and capabilities. Pursuing these various options requires international cooperation, such as the Canada-South Korea partnership that has pioneered the DUPIC process. South Korea has a fleet of both LWR and CANDU reactors, and can thus benefit from the synergism within its existing nuclear infrastructure (Lee, 1998).

    Yes I tend to push the CANDU option every time I can, but no, it is not from national pride, or is it an attempt to sell more of these to the benefit my country’s economy. I do it because CANDU is not considered by many because of it’s low profile, and the fact that it has never been accepted by the U.S.

    However any rational evaluation of this design shows that it comes very close to meeting the requirements of both a proven type, and one with more capabilities than it is given credit for.

    More to the point, the costs of uranium are still low enough that breeder cycles are not needed, nor will they be for many years to come

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  85. DV82Xl, Peter and Barry:

    DV82’s link on uranium supply was interesting. One might deduce from it that we might have more time than many think before we need to deploy advanced fuel cycles for sustainability reasons (though there are others). Set against this, however, is DV82’s warning that the time from drawing board to commercial deployment often takes longer than one would initially contemplate. I conclude, therefore, that it remains important, as Barry states, to get to work on the advanced designs asap.

    Barry, you admonish Peter on his suggestion that we would run out of materials for renewables well before the same occurred for nuclear. In the case of the former, surely the materials that would be limiting would not be concrete or steel but fossil fuels and money?

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  86. Excellent series of posts everyone. BNC at its best.

    The transfer of Moore’s law from the information domain to the materials domain is a non sequiter. This is a really important point made by John and I’d like to see a whole post on it because the “techno optimisim” of renewabilists largely depends upon this assumption. [The TO here depends upon lots of other assumptions too of course: like wishing away the barriers to instant innovation–sunk capital, asset inertia].

    Second, there is another non sequiter from peak oil to peak minerals. But I think this difference needs explaining to people. Peter Lang has done this in the past but I personally would like a whole post on it. There are enough minerals in the earth’s crust to warrant the assumption that “if we look for it and invest in the right technology, we will find it.” The same assumption does not hold in the same way for fossil fuels, especially the light sweet crude that came to define cheap energy.

    btw, are rare earth minerals then, not that rare relative to “our energy needs”?

    I have seen many people commit the peak oil/peak mineral non sequiter. It’s an easy mistake to make unless you know a lot about geology is my guess. That’s why I’d like a more expanded meditation on the issue.

    Great posts: Peter Lang; Peter Lalor; Douglas; Barry; DV and Martin: whose nice point about technooptimism started the discussion.

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  87. Keep in mind that the issue at this point is not so much one of ‘peak oil’ as it is the cost of winning it, as has been harshly illustrated by the on going BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Still in general the material shortage issue is a dead horse, historically predictions of such have never come to pass.

    On advanced designs: Just to bring the debate around full circle, the original contention was that nuclear supporters were just as guilty of deferring issues with this mode into the care of novel technology as the renewable crowd, and this is what I was arguing was a indeed a valid point, and that we should dwell on what we know works when selling nuclear.

    Categorically that does not imply that development on new fuel cycles should stop, only that falling into the trap of invoking them as solutions to everything is counterproductive.

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  88. dv: it is my understanding that peak oil really just is inseparable from “the cost of winning it.”

    it’s not about running out of oil, not in any interesting sense.

    still, there is a difference worth spelling out. the search for minerals is unlikely to incur a statistically significant rise in BP like events. there really is a difference just as there really is a difference between growth/innovation rates in the information domain compared to materials/infrastructure.

    I would like to understand the differences better.

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  89. I dislike attempts to draw parallels between information technology, and other technical areas. To start off with ‘Moore’s Law’ type growth is typical of just about every new technology at the beginning. Look at steam power or aviation as examples. As these technologies mature, gains slow until they are incremental, and I suspect the same will hold with IT.

    The historical picture with resources is somewhat different, and most importantly, is demand driven, thus as demand grows, the amount of effort that can be dedicated to producing it can rise without having too much of an impact on price. Too when a particular resource becomes expensive, the way it is used often changes that it may be used more effectively. Conversely, it can often be replaced by some other material, that may be more expensive to produce, but has superior performance. The progression seen in transitions between the flint-copper-bronze-iron ages is a prime example.

    However even looking at it holistically the innovation rate (properly the rate at which new ones replace old ones) for materials doesn’t match IT primarily because: a) the tech using it has to go through the complete development cycle before there is cause to move on, and b) even when that point is reached there is a fair amount of time before the resource becomes too expensive, and thus makes it replacement competitive.

    If you want the IT comparison, you must look at silicon and the replacements for it waiting in the wings. Si is never going to be in short supply, thus it is only going to be replaced when it can’t perform.

    In short, history shows that technology moves on long before shortages in a particular material becomes an inhibiting factor.

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  90. Thanks for all the thoughtful ideas! You all are even more optimistic than I thought and polite too.

    It is optimistic to think that we have several choices of reactor types that can be built now that are well designed, certified, and have some level of construction experience. Not one research break through is needed to build safe power plants that provide quality electricity. It is even reasonable to expect the cost to come down once we get past the first-of-a-kind issues. Hopefully, the societal will can be found to take the “inconvenient solution”.

    I see now that the renewables optimism is of a different kind. A real energy storage break though is needed. With all the work that is being done a break through is sure to be made, but will it be scalable and cost effective and timely? Hmmm. Do I want to bet Greenland’s ice on such a promise. No, but I surely will cheer if it happens.

    Is there a uranium supply issue? Maybe there is not. After reading the World Nuclear Associations papers, I see that there are several “non-standard” sources of uranium:
    1. There is really a LOT of bomb material in the US and Russia. About 13 years of fuel for our current fleet.
    2. There is a small Australian company that is developing a new cheaper way of extracting uranium from phosphate for fertilizer (Uranium Equities). There’s more uranium in phosphate formations than high grade ore deposits. Plus no extra mining is needed because the uranium is a byproduct of making fertilizer.
    3. Then of course there is always extraction from sea water.

    Can someone point me to the book about natural resources and cycles of scarcity (high price) followed by exploration and production that lowers price? I remember seeing a chart of inflation adjusted prices of commodities over long periods of time where the commodity actually became cheaper as time went by.

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  91. John, I would seek independent confirmation of any resource estimate found on the Oil Drum. If generation IV reactors become common, we need to asses how the availability of stable fission products produced that will be byproducts of reactor operations will effect mineral supplies.

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  92. DV8 2XL, During a discussion at ORNL last month, which included Kirk Sorensen, David LeBlanc, retired ORNL MSR researchers, and ORNL researchers who are currently doing molten salt related research, the consensus seemed to be that simple, non-breeding uranium cycle MSRs represent a mature technology. The potential for marketable products is there, if anyone wishes to develop them. The major barrier is not the cost and time required to explore new technology, which would be the case for the LFTR, but the market risk, If MSRs can be marketed at a lower cost than LWRs and CANDUs, then they should be brought to the market. The major issue would be finding investors who are willing to take the risk.

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  93. On mining generally and uranium specifically the decision is due next month on whether to permit a fourfold expansion of the Olympic Dam mine. The major products are gold, copper and yellowcake. The mine cannot expand without a large new power supply and coastal desalination plant. Word is that any go-ahead will have so many conditions attached as to be unviable. Likely excuses include the new mining tax but a major element will be green dogma that nuclear is not needed in the Lucky Country.

    Meanwhile countries like Kazakhstan will get the uranium sales. If anyone can predict raw uranium demand in 20 years time it could be that even bigger bucks will be on offer for those who conserve the resource. However an OD non-expansion goes hand in hand with Australia having no involvement in other phases of the nuclear fuel cycle. Nor CO2 reductions for that matter.

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  94. This post by DV82XL is what I believe too:

    I say again I am not saying that advanced fuel cycles should not be developed; they should and will be. However they should not be a factor in the current drive to move to a nuclear energy economy. Older technology will simply have a better chance of being deployed over the next ten years. From a practical point of view, it is going to be easier to get regulatory approval, and funding for proven designs.

    What I don’t like to see is the hard won slow rise in public acceptance of nuclear energy being leveraged to mount projects that probably won’t produce a watt-hour of salable electricity for a decade, more likely two. I am particularly uncomfortable with promises being made about these designs, while they are still in the conceptual phase. I have spent a lifetime in industry, and I know better than most just how far it is from the drawing board to a commercial product, and I am frankly worried that many in this field are writing checks with their mouth, that their asses can’t cash.

    Just getting nuclear energy deployed period, is what is needed now, particularly in places like Australia. In short kill coal first; worry about uranium later.

    I agree with every word and would add two extra words after “coal” in the last sentence. The two words are “and renewables”.

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  95. @Charles Barton – The US is unique in that much of the work for MSR reactors was done there, and you have a large and lively nuclear sector. If this type of reactor can be commercialized, it will be up to you guys to do it.

    For everyone else (with the possible exemption of Russia and France) we have to go with what is available.

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  96. Below is abstract from oil drum article:

    Obviously, if this is right, then DV, Peter, Barry et al are wrong (and I don’t think DV et al are wrong but I want to make a good argument).

    Charles Barton says not entirely to trust Oil Drum. Fine, but don’t we need to take this issue on? We say peak oil to peak minerals is a non sequiter. This guy says no. (I think I read this article a while back; need to reread it).

    I first raised the peak minerals business after looking at a usgs 2006 minerals chart in Li, who wrote (Li has luddite tendencies):

    “without the abundant supply of a wide variety of metallic minerals, the post fossil fuel world may not have the capacity to produce the required structures and equipment and its ability to produce energy from renewable and nuclear sources would therefore be limited.”

    Don’t we need a good critique of this stuff?

    Abstract: We examined the world production of 57 minerals reported in the database of the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Of these, we found 11 cases where production has clearly peaked and is now declining. Several more may be peaking or be close to peaking. Fitting the production curve with a logistic function we see that, in most cases, the ultimate amount extrapolated from the fitting corresponds well to the amount obtained summing the cumulative production so far and the reserves estimated by the USGS. These results are a clear indication that the Hubbert model is valid for the worldwide production of minerals and not just for regional cases. It strongly supports the concept that “Peak oil” is just one of several cases of worldwide peaking and decline of a depletable resource. Many more mineral resources may peak worldwide and start their decline in the near future.

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  97. actually, as a follow up, I have a question about how institutions like EIA and USGS operate.

    EIA has tended to “dismiss” full confrontation with peak oil. So in a recent trend chart, they have oil(liquids) being consumed at 105 mbd by 2025 or so, yet 43 mbd by their own account are “unidentified.”

    It makes sense to me that EIA would be slow to adopt a peak oil view; yet we have USGS charts seeming to embrace (or show) peak minerals. why don’t they adjust their figures to account for the arguments made above about “seek and ye shall find”?

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  98. @greg meyerson – Looking over the list of minerals that are listed among the eleven that they claimed have peaked I note that the top four have had their industrial uses sharply curtailed do to the fact that they are very hazardous, and work has been done for decades to develop replacements for most of their applications.

    In the case of Thallium, Selenium, Rhenium, and Gallium, these materials have razor thin markets, that are maintained by controlling supply. All except Rhenium have lost applications to better performing materials. To give you an idea of how small the market for Re is current consumption is given as 28% for General Electric ltd., 28% Rolls-Royce plc and 12% Pratt & Whitney inc, all for superalloys, while the use for catalysts only accounts for 14% and the remaining applications use 18%.

    We will see about Zirconium as demand heats up for this metal, as it will if there are more nuclear reactors built. As it stands the market has been flat off and on for this material.

    As for potash and phosphate, there may be some issue with these, however they not without potential replacements, and if the price rises, there will likely be a change in agriculture to reflect this, and the importance of these may be reduced.

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  99. on zirconium, I have a distinct but not clear enough memory of barry indicating that zirconium was actually a by product of breeder reactors. (I had asked about zirconium)

    In the relevant quantities to render supply issues moot, he didn’t say.

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  100. Between 2002 and 2005, zircon demand exceeded supply. The shortage of zircon in the market would have continued into 2006 had it not been for the emergence of Indonesia as a major new supplier of zircon, resulting in the market entering a period of oversupply in 2006.

    Several new zircon-producing mineral sands projects have come on line the impact of these is that the oversupply will continue and could reach more than 400kt in 2010.

    In other words: what peak?

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  101. I see the Chinese nuclear industry looks to Australian zircon as a raw material for making zirconium metal. Source.

    That company Iluka plans to ship about 25% of the world’s zircon production through Ceduna SA with some locals concerned about slightly radioactive minerals and grain shipments through the same port. I understand the zircon is further processed in WA to extract monazite a source of thorium and rare earths. Huge amounts of thorium and rare earths are also in the tailings at Olympic Dam about 350km inland from Ceduna.

    As former PM Malcolm Fraser put it the problem with the Australian mining industry is not tax rates but lack of value adding. In my opinion we are flogging our irreplaceable resources without getting maximum value for them.

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    • OPEN SCIENCE EXPERIMENT ON OZEA

    A new call to arms! Want to get involved in the Open Science method of the OzEA website? Here’s the first really tractable opportunity, for those who want to get stuck into playing around with some real data. We call it The Broome to Cooktown challenge and it’s focused on using meteorological station data (wind speed and direction) to forecast wind farm performance.
    http://www.oz-energy-analysis.org/data/BoM_wind_data.php

    [7 June 2010] There has been significant interest in analysis of Wind data, and we agree that characterisation of the wind resource will be very interesting. This work is not immediately critical to the OzEA core project, and we have some time to do an Open Science experiment – The Broome to Cooktown Challenge (below). We have provided a draft list of 30 BoM Stations that have wind data for 2009 (as below). When this list has been suitably refined we will assemble the data from these stations in order that we (i.e. you and us) can perform a synoptic level examination of the Australian wind resource.

    Some details: From Broome to Cooktown

    [first included here 9th June 2010]
    Here is an Open Science, group project proposal; it will fly if you make it fly.

    In short we construct a hypothetical network of wind farms from Broome to Cooktown (or thereabouts), and examine how the system as a whole behaves as synoptic scale weather patterns pass through. This is spatial smoothing on a big scale. This project is envisaged as an Australian version of this US work:

    Willett Kemptona, Felipe M. Pimenta, Dana E. Veron, and Brian A. Colle. Electric power from offshore wind via synoptic-scale interconnection PNAS, April 20, 2010, 107(16), pp 7240-7245 http://www.pnas.org/content/107/16/7240

    If successful we can write a paper that might be an Australian version of the above paper (but better!)

    I would be happy to be one of many authors (and not necessarily the first if someone else steps up to the role). But, please, leave authorship discussions until we have broken the back of the problem, by which point the relevant parties to that discussion will be apparent.

    So, let’s get started…Read on here:
    http://www.oz-energy-analysis.org/data/BoM_wind_data.php

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  102. UPDATE: The first Open Science experiment, the Broome to Cooktown Challenge, takes shape on OzEA. Time for YOU to make a difference:
    http://www.oz-energy-analysis.org/stories/The_Broome_to_Cooktown_Challenge.html

    This is the first group project, and is expected to lead to a publication authored by all serious contributors. Who wants to be an Open Science pioneer?

    In short we construct a hypothetical network of wind farms from Broome to Cooktown (or thereabouts), and examine how the system as a whole behaves as synoptic scale weather patterns pass over the continent. This is spatial smoothing on a big scale.

    The work is envisaged as an Australian variation on this US work:

    Willett Kemptona, Felipe M. Pimenta, Dana E. Veron, and Brian A. Colle. Electric power from offshore wind via synoptic-scale interconnection. PNAS, April 20, 2010, 107(16), pp 7240-7245 http://www.pnas.org/content/107/16/7240

    While the overall concept of building Wind Farms and a Transmission Network from Broome to Cooktown is not a serious proposal as such, the exercise serves many serious aims and goals.

    Currently the startup work and discussion is occurring in the Data / Wind area. Once a preliminary cut of the necessary data has been decided (by all who involve themselves), this will be obtained and collated (by Francis and Alex), and then characterised in the Open Science way. As this coalesces we will start the necessary analysis work (in the Analysis area), and proceed to also do the requisite modelling and literature work in those respective areas.

    General discussion on this project belongs here at this stage (will add tomorrow). Once the data analysis gets going we will open a Discussion page for more focused discussion and manuscript building.

    Join with us.

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  103. Pingback: OzEA modelling – large-scale wind power using a bucket storage model and gas backup « BraveNewClimate

  104. Pingback: OzEA – The second story « BraveNewClimate

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