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Climate Change Emissions Nuclear Renewables

Take real action on climate change – Part 2 – the FAQ

This post follows on directly from part 1, which you can read here. Here, a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on climate change and nuclear energy are answered. These are quite deliberately not technical – you won’t find explanations of adiabatic lapse rates, actinide isotopes or Brayton cycle efficiency here! Nope… these are ‘big picture’ questions. I hope you find them stimulating, easy to understand, and appropriate to their target audience – the average ‘Joe’ and ‘Josephine’. Once again, this material was authored primarily by Marion Brook, in collaboration with various other BNC commenters. Thanks to you all for your efforts in developing this everyman’s guide.

We hope to add to this list, and refine the answers (these are very much first drafts, and some certainly need a little filling out). Eventually, I hope that this becomes a static top banner page on BNC, and, I hope, a pamphlet for you to distribute among friends and colleagues. So, feedback is very welcome – let’s work together on this.

Q1. How urgent is it to address climate change?

Q2. Why do we need nuclear power? Won’t renewables provide our needs?

Q3. We need to act fast, aren’t renewables the fastest response?

Q4. Aren’t renewables the most affordable option?

Q5. What about storing excess energy for later use?

Q6. Isn’t it more important for us to scale down our energy requirements through energy efficiency and conservation?

Q7. Aren’t renewables our safest option?

Q8. Does nuclear emit more CO2 than renewables

Q9. What about meltdowns? Is nuclear energy safe?

Q10. What about radiation?

Q11. What about the waste?

Q12. Wouldn’t a nuclear power staion be a terrorist target?

Q13. What about nuclear weapons proliferation?

Q14. Nuclear power is unnatural, isn’t it?

Q15. Is there enough uranium?

Q16. Is nuclear energy expensive?

Q17. Is nuclear energy fast enough?

Q18. Why isn’t every country following the French model if it’s the best?

Q19. Isn’t the nuclear lobby in bed with the coal lobby?

Q20. But… isn’t nuclear power evil?

FAQ

Q1. How urgent is it to address climate change?

Increasingly urgent. The longer we delay on the move away from fossil fuel energy sources, the more we will ‘lock in’ the build-up of long-lived greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

To have a 50:50 chance of avoiding 2°C or more global warming, carbon emissions must be slashed by around 80% by 2050 and essentially eliminated in the few decades after that. It will take time to make this massive, worldwide transition to new energy sources. We have no time to lose!

Q2.Why do we need nuclear power? Won’t renewables provide our needs?

No. Renewables are very expensive and cannot meet our needs all the time (see below).

Q3. We need to act fast, aren’t renewables the fastest response?

Unfortunately, non-hydro renewables are proving to be slow and ineffective.

For the last 20 odd years, Denmark has been aggressively pursuing wind power, yet it still still only supplies between 5% and 20% of their electricity needs. In twenty years the Danes have been unable to replace a single coal fired power station with renewables.

At 650 g CO2 per kilowatt hour, Denmark’s emissions are more than 7 times greater than nuclear-powered France. And remember, no country has done better with wind then Denmark.

Conversely, in just ten years, France almost completely replaced their old coal-fired power stations with 34 nuclear power plants. Nuclear power currently supplies 77% of electricity to the French grid. At just at just 90g CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity, France now has the lowest emissions from electricity generation of any non-hydro/geothermal, developed nation in the OECD.

Ten years! Nuclear power is the fastest response we have.

For more details, read Danish fairy tales – what can we learn? (by Tom Blees)

Q4. Aren’t renewables the most affordable option?

No. Effectively replacing just one coal power station involves a massive overbuild at huge costs.

Australia’s largest wind farm is the 192 MWe Waubra plant at $450 million. To match the nameplate capacity of Hazelwood (1675 MWe) we need 8 of these wind farms (or solar equivalent) spread across state. That’s $3.6 billion. But because weather can vary across the state, this variability means wind and solar combined produce at best only about a quarter of their capacity. So we quadruple our first calculation and blanket the state in 24 Waubras at $14.4 billion. But, wind can also drop off over huge areas. To account for this we need to spread another 24 Waubras interstate. $28.8 billion and we’ve lost our energy independence right there. Theory is, when our wind and solar are out, NSW should be operating and vice versa. Assuming the whole of NSW is experiencing ideal conditions and doesn’t need the power themselves (big assumptions), they should sell it to us. Then there’s transmission lines, more $, and transmission loss, more MW… and so it goes on. Or, we could replace it with one nuclear power plant at a quarter or less of the cost. Old power station out, new power station in, MWe for MWe.

Replacing Hazelwood coal-fired power station – Critique of Environment Victoria report

The 100% renewable option is neither fast nor affordable.

[R]enewable sources tend to be alternative rather than additive. Therefore it is not a matter of having each renewable source carrying a fraction of the load all the time. If we build one unit of wind power and one unit of PV power we would not necessarily have two more units of renewable energy capacity; sometimes we would have no more, e.g., on calm nights. This means we might have to build two or even four separate systems (wind, PV, solar thermal and coal [or]nuclear) each capable of meeting much or all of the demand on its own, with the equivalent of one to three sitting idle much or all of the time.

Ted Trainer: Renewable energy cannot sustain an energy intensive society

A video on the high cost of Danish wind:

Does wind power reduce carbon emissions? (by Peter Lang)

Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds (by Peter Lang)

Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs (by Peter Lang)

Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum (by Peter Lang)

Q5. What about storing excess energy for later use?

In a continent a dry as Australia our hydro capacity is extremely limited and could not by itself fulfill the storage requirements of a 100% renewable grid. Pumped hydro in Australia is also prohibitively expensive, geographically limited and, to pump water, requires the kind of guaranteed steady power supply variable wind/solar cannot supply. Pumped-hydro energy storage – cost estimates for a feasible system (by Peter Lang)

Concerning solar thermal:

Plant capable of delivering 1000 MW in winter would need 100+ million square metres of collection area. At the estimated SEGS cost of $800/m (Trainer 2008) the plant would cost $80 billion.

The climate data seems to show that despite their storage capacity solar thermal systems would suffer a significant intermittency problem and in winter would either need storage capacity for four or more cloudy day sequences once or twice each winter month, or would need back up from some other sources. This means they could not be expected to buffer the intermittency of other components in a fully renewable system.

Ted Trainer: Renewable energy cannot sustain an energy intensive society

Q6. Isn’t it more important for us to scale down our energy requirements through energy efficiency and conservation?

Population increase, a switch to electric vehicles, climate change adaptations (eg desalination) and the continuing electrification of the developing world will all conspire to make conservation little more than a smoke screen – empty action that allows even weak adherents to feel a dangerously misplaced confidence while the planet continues to die. They cannot be relied upon as anything more than peripheral emissions reduction strategies.

A great video on India’s growing demand

Put all energy cards on the table to fix climate change fully

Q7. Aren’t renewables our safest option?

Our foremost reason for pursuing renewable energy is to avoid dangerous climate change. Therefore the 100% renewable option can only be considered our safest option if it adequately addresses climate change. Unlike nuclear power, renewables have so far proven unable to prevent new fossil fuel stations being built, and unable to replace existing coal and gas . We are deeply concerned that placing our sole faith in technologies, yet to prove their efficacy in replacing fossil fuels, is a climate disaster waiting to happen. Effective action is our safest option.

Further reading:

Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030′

Germany – crunched by the numbers (by Tom Blees)

Unnatural Gas (by Tom Blees)

Q8. Does nuclear emit more CO2 than renewables?

No.

When generating electricity, nuclear power emits no CO2.

When construction, mining and decommissioning of the various technologies are accounted for, nuclear emits far less CO2 than any other electricity generation technology, or mix of technologies, that can meet our demand for electricity.

If we ignore the emissions from the back-up generators, wind power emits roughly the same as nuclear generators. When we include them, wind power emits about the same as efficient gas generation.

TCASE 4: Energy system build rates and material inputs

Emission cuts realities for electricity generation – costs and CO2 emissions (by Peter Lang)

Q9. What about meltdowns? Is nuclear energy safe?

Yes. Nuclear is about the safest of all the electricity generation technologies.

Compare Chernobyl with Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Chernobyl didn’t have a containment dome, Three Mile Island did. Not a single person died or fell ill as a result of the Three Mile Island meltdown. Containment domes work.

Risk assessment studies show that nuclear power is the safest of all the electricity generation technologies. Nuclear is 10 to 100 times safer than coal electricity generation. Coal plant safety varies but nuclear power is at least 10 times safer than the safest coal power plant. This has been demonstrated by 55 years of nuclear electricity generation. Nuclear power is the only universally deployable, zero emissions technology that has proven able to replace a fossil fuel power station. This alone makes it a safer bet than intermittent renewables such as wind and solar.

Current generation III nuclear power stations are even safer than the already incredibly safe current designs. They have passive safety systems, controlled not by human operators but by the laws of physics, unless the laws of physics – which have been running the universe since the beginning of time – ‘decide’ to change, then these designs are fail safe. They cannot melt down. If something goes wrong and there is not a single human operator in the plant they simply shut themselves down. Not a single human operator need be present in the plant for this to occur.

Q10. What about radiation?

Radiation is all around us. People, animals, plants, water, rocks and the sun all emit radiation. The average radiation dose we receive each year is 360 millirems. But depending on where you live in the world, what your life style is like, what your favourite foods are etc you may be exposed to a natural and completely harmless background radiation dose of anything from, about 200 millirems per year, to more than 5000 millirems/yr. For example:

Poland is low at – 240 millirem/yr

Grand Central station, NY – 540 millirem/yr (It’s built from granite.)

Kerala, India – 900 millirem/yr

Pripyat, Chernobyl (1992) – 2500 millirem/yr (non-natural levels)

Certain beaches in Brazil – 3000 millirem/yr.

Tamil Nadu, India at – 5,300 millirem/yr

A nuclear power station’s radiation is indistinguishable from natural background radiation levels. At about 0.005% of our average radiation dose it’s equivalent to the radiation dose we’d receive from eating one banana per year and around 100 times below that emitted by our current coal plants.

The developed nations with the highest reliance on nuclear power have life expectancy, under 5 year old mortality, and infant mortality rates equal to any other developed nation. There is little evidence to suggest nuclear power stations pose increased health risks. Numerous studies have been undertaken to determine the effects of living near nuclear power plants and the overriding evidence demonstrates no rise in cancer rates, or other problems, for communities who live close to nuclear power plants, compared to those who do not.

Ask yourself this: If we accept the science on climate change, why shouldn’t we accept the science on nuclear power? (See also Q12,17 & 18).

How dangerous is radiation?

Radiation – facts, fallacies and phobias

Q11. What about the waste?

Nuclear power produces a tiny amount of waste. To put the volume of waste into perspective, this is all that remains from a now decommissioned nuclear power station which generated power for 31 years.

This is a minuscule amount compared to the waste from fossil fuel power stations, which release the equivalent of 5000 Gulf of Mexico oil spills into the atmosphere every single day.

All technologies create waste – even wind and solar require the disposal or recycling of long lived toxic waste such as cadmium and arsenic. Many of these waste products have no half life, they are toxic forever, yet, instead of concluding we must abandon renewable technologies, we find ways to manage their waste. We can, and do, use the same approach for nuclear waste. Indeed new Generation IV nuclear power plants (eg IFR) have solved the nuclear waste issue. In reality, nuclear waste is much better thought of as ‘once-used-nuclear-fuel’, of which only about 1% to 10% of the energy has been used. The brilliant thing about Generation IV nuclear power plants is that they use this ‘waste’ as fuel, using over 99% of the remaining energy. In fact, Generation IV nuclear power plants are the ONLY way we can get rid of the long-lived nuclear waste we have already generated, by burning it as fuel. If ones concern is nuclear waste, the solution is Gen IV nuclear power.

The final waste product from an IFR Gen IV nuclear power plant (ie: with once-used-fuel recycling) has a half-life of just 30 years. A half life is the amount of time it takes for radioactive isotopes to degrade into non-radioactive isotopes. A half life of 30 years for Gen IV waste means in 30 years it’s radiation levels will drop to 50% of original levels, in 60 years this 50% will have halved again, a drop to 25% of original levels, in 90 years only 12.5% of original levels will remain, and so on until, in about 300 years, this tiny amount of waste will be less radioactive than the granite walls of Grand Central Station in New York City.

Lastly — and this is ironic — we are currently living with 5-50% more nuclear waste being pumped into our atmosphere every year in the fly ash from our coal stations than an IFR would produce capture and store away over the same time frame. By going nuclear we would in fact be reducing our nuclear waste.

Q12.Wouldn’t a nuclear power station be a terrorist target?

No…

…not if they actually wanted to do some damage.

Q13. What about nuclear weapons proliferation?

Nuclear power is not a precursor to nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons were developed before nuclear power, evidently nations do not need nuclear power in order to develop nuclear weapons.

None of the weapons that currently exist will disappear with a dismantling of our nuclear power fleet.

There are many nations (Japan, for example) who have nuclear power, yet do not have nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power can replace coal in all nations who currently have nuclear reactors, nuclear power or nuclear weapons without increasing any imagined proliferation risk, and that would take care of more than 90% of our stationary energy emissions worldwide.

Banning nuclear power because of nuclear weapons proliferation concerns is akin to banning medical research because of biological weapons proliferation concerns. In other words, absurd! The connections are too tenuous and the positives too great.

Q14. Nuclear power is unnatural, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Atoms don’t have prejudices, and energy is not selfish. The universe is naturally awash with radiation, and nuclear fission is not black magic. Nuclear reactors have even occurred naturally in Earth’s history. Ever heard of the Oklo reactor? Look back over a billion years, and find out more

Q15. Is there enough uranium?

Yes. There is enough uranium to provide all the world’s energy indefinitely.

Australia holds a quarter of the world’s known reserves, if any nation can rely on nuclear power, we can.

Using advanced reactor technology an individuals entire energy need for a whole year (electricity, synthetic jet fuel, electric vehicles etc.) can be supplied from the uranium and thorium that could be extracted from half a cubic metre of ordinary dirt. Over an individuals entire lifetime the amount of extracted nuclear fuel involved would be no bigger than a golf ball. Indeed, we’ve already mined enough uranium to power the whole world using next-generation nuclear power for 700 years!

Q16. Is nuclear energy expensive?

It’s much cheaper than 100% renewable energy — basically wind and solar and the little hydro we can muster.

Once up and running, nuclear power produces some of the cheapest electricity in the world.

It can be made more expensive (but still cheaper than 100% renewables) wherever there is an unsupportive public. Public demonstrations, legal stalling, superfluous or conflicting regulation changes mid-build, all cause delays and cost overruns. The simple answer is to:

1. Support nuclear power as our surest carbon mitigation strategy.

2. Get the appropriate regulations in place before building begins and stick by them.

Nuclear power can be the least cost electricity where there is a ‘level playing field’ for all types of electricity generation.

Recent nuclear power cost estimates – separating fact from myth

Emission cuts realities for electricity generation – costs and CO2 emissions (by Peter Lang)

The 21st century nuclear renaissance is starting – good news for the climate

Q17. Is nuclear energy fast enough?

It’s the fastest option we have. With a supportive population, and a little inspiration from France, we could replace our coal base load with nuclear power in 15 years. At its peak, France was building 3,500 MWe of nuclear power, or around four to six nuclear power stations, per year. Despite valient attempts in countries like Germany and Denmark, no nation has ever come close to installing this much wind or solar in such a short time frame.

Q18. Isn’t the nuclear lobby in bed with the coal lobby?

No. Because they know nuclear power is the only zero emissions electricity generation system capable of displacing coal, the coal lobby is fighting hard to keep nuclear power out of Australia. This is a real advertisement produced by the coal industry in Australia.

Q19. Why isn’t every country following the French model if it’s the best?

In the developed world? Because they are needlessly afraid of modern nuclear power for any number of obsolete or unsubstantiated reasons. (see Q20) Still, 19 of the world’s top 20 economies either use nuclear power, or are building it for the first time. The only one missing from that list is… Australia.

The developing world is attempting to lift itself out of poverty and inequality — aiming to enjoy the standard of living of those in the West. Their priorities are development first, climate change second. They will build what’s cheapest. At the moment that’s coal, but they are successfully reducing the up front cost of nuclear power and as they do so nuclear builds are expanding. At the moment nuclear power is expensive to build (compared to coal), but cheap to run. Hence their perseverance on reducing capital costs.

Q20. But… isn’t nuclear power evil?

For many greens, opposition to nuclear power is automatic. Nuclear power stands for war, sickness, invisible radiation, toxic waste, an apocalyptic symbol of technology gone awry.

The idea of nuclear energy as a kind of modern day evil is an indulgence we can no longer afford. It is not some mysterious malignancy. It is a mature, safe, unremarkable technology that provides carbon free electricity for many communities. The real consequences of climate change beginning around us are set to become far worse than the imagined perils of nuclear power.

It is time to set aside the mythology and theatre of anti nuclear sentiment. Nuclear power is still a core environmental issue today, but this time around, we support it as strongly as it was once opposed.

By Barry Brook

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

282 replies on “Take real action on climate change – Part 2 – the FAQ”

I’ve put one up at the local shops and will see how the tear-off tabs go. School children and old age pensioners pass by regularly, along with businessmen and women after 5:30 or 6pm.

Epping library will probably be a better testing bed, as that’s where many of the high school and university youth are.

Barry, did you find the poster too negative looking?
http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/nuclear-posters/

Did you get the juxtaposition I was trying to set up between the cliché objections to nuclear power that are totally outdated by the facts? If you like it, would you put it up here and create a posters page, as that might get a bit of a feedback-loop running if we can recruit more young people into the cause.

Anyway, I think there’s promise in Marion’s ideas…

Our response to climate change is CRUD. Costly Renewables which are Unfair and Dangerous (ie ineffective).

Or: …is a DUD. Dear, Unfair and Dangerous.

Nice. With a few short facts and figures about estimated costs and roll out times, this could be great. Imagine an image panel of wind turbines and solar panels with the word DUD “rubber-stamped” across the image. Then 3 paragraphs explaining the acronym with some facts and figures.

What do you think?

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I love the first poster, eclipsenow. Very slick, and leaves people wanting to know more. Also, very professional looking. I love it.

(two edits: half the annual global economy, and better to call me an environmental scientist as I’m not a climatologist [though I am, more generally, a climate change scientist])

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One concern I can imagine people having is something along the lines of ‘How will my car/aeroplane/Central Heating system run on Nuclear once oil is gone?’. Maybe this issue should be addressed?

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Fran Barlow,
You said:
“When you buy in bulk, you get a better price and greater standardisation — which simplifies maintenance and compliance. If you are going to roll out thousands of nuclear plants cost effectively, centralising the process makes sense.”

Certainly there are economies of scale but when it comes to innovation it is dangerous to create monopolies at the national level even though there are some precedents for doing this.

Maybe you can see what I mean by looking at another critically important industry. Would automobile manufacturing be stronger by having a centralized source of automobiles, say Volkswagen for Germany, Toyota for Japan, Ford for the USA and so on?

I would argue that the present chaotic situation with many competing companies trying to serve the same market guarantees that innovation will occur and that consumers will get good value for their dollars.

You folks who think that Marxism failed because the wrong people were in charge are deluding yourselves. Even if the wind farms, solar, nuclear, fossil fuel and wave projects are put together by centralized organizations there still should be a market test.

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Huw Jones,
With plentiful, affordable electricity it is no big stretch to imagine a world without automobiles driven by internal combustion engines. We had a preview when the EV1 was on the roads in California. See:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F

The Sony corporation produced a very interesting documentary movie on this saga. Even though GM destroyed its own child (the EV1) it is
working on another with the Chevrolet “Volt”.

All electric homes with heat pumps are already commonplace in the USA but heat pumps are less effective in colder latitudes.

No viable alternative to fossil fuels for aircraft propulsion is available. The development of nuclear powered aircraft was abandoned in the 1960s by the USA and the USSR (Tu-119).

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Huw Jones, on 28 June 2010 at 21.00 — The current plan for airplanes is a mixture of 50% JP4 and 50% bioJP4. Heavy trucks could do something rather similar, as could ocean vessels.

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@GC 29 June 2010 at 4.01

Your attempt to map the system for delivering cars to market to what one would say about infrastructure makes your post a fairly common instantiation of vacuous Rand-style fundamentalism. I’m not sure how many road-going vehicles and how many distinct iterations of there are on the planet, but both these are certainly orders of magnitude larger than the numbers of power plants we are discussing. The comparision is thus just as silly as saying that because it is OK to leave corner shops to run their own game, it is OK to have dams and power grids run by small proprietors.

One sees everywhere that the more complex a system is, the larger its scale and the more life-critical its operations, the moere need there is for robust structure and centralised control, whether this is via states or very large corporations. There would have been no aircraft industry in the US absent serious federal government involvement — the early innovation and development points went to the Europeans and it was only war that spurred the US to shed its ideological vision.

Indeed, even in the car market you cite as exemplar, it was only the collusion of the state and large corporations in fuel and manufacturing, and the fact that the US was tooled up post-war that underpinned the mass roll-out of automobiles. Nor could pure individual choice have built roads or other key elements of the infrastructure. The foundation stones for communication infrastructure in communication have everywhere been laid by states, up to and including the internet. That ought to tell you something, but of course, you want to cover your ears to protect your fundamentalism.

The mass of the public is not going to pick power power plants on the basis of minor technical features. Does the plant come in a range of colours and does it have a blue tooth connection don’t arise. Wjhat is wanted in power plants is constant efficient and safe operation, easy compliance, modularity of components, low cost and the ability to deploy rapidly — and for these things you need a minimum number of designs and the benefits of mass manufacturing. This is especially true in a setting such as Australia, where we are considering perhaps as little as 25*1GW plants rather than the 450 such plants that the US might roll out. We would not want to have to separately manage and audit operation of 25 different designs.

To the extent that your particular species of fundamentalism has had its way in America, your country has suffered a persistent pattern of own goals, with the Great Depression and most recently with the GFC. You have poisoned your children with e-coli in meat authored some of the most obese populations on the planet, had the most expensive and least effective and most inequitable health system anywhere in the advanced world, made yourselves dependent on foreign oil and imprisoned large sections of your population in commuter tailbacks everyday — surely the most persistent, predictable and ubiquitous imposition on freedom anywhere — caused, it should be ironic, by the pursuit of a vacuous pursuit of libertarian fundamentalism. And of course it is every American’s right to be murdered by someone honouring the 2nd Amendment. In your vision, there’s no room at all for collective action problems.

You need to descend from the rarified air of Rand and Rothbard and decide whether you want the pragmatic service of human interest or simply to repeat the verities of your brand of secular metaphysics.

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Can’t they make jet fuel from municipal waste run through the plasma arc?

Anyway, in a world of peak oil, they’ll either:
* do something really stupid like turn to coal-to-liquids programs,
* come up with an alternative ( algae/biofuel/Municipal waste stream through plasma arc / cellulose ethanol mixed with other ingredients), or,
* go back to airships which would probably change the economics of travelling overseas: but do we really all need to holiday in Bali?

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The mass of the public is not going to pick power power plants on the basis of minor technical features. Does the plant come in a range of colours and does it have a blue tooth connection don’t arise

I’m sorry, but I wanted my nuclear power plant in Cerise, not pink! Take it back!

@ Fran,
that was such an eloquent rant I’m putting it up on my blog! Honestly, as you point out there is a place for the free market AND a place for State intervention, legislation, and standards.

That’s why I have the Social Liberalism graphic on my blog, which reads:
“Civil Rights, Social Justice and State funded welfare in a Market Economy”

Read more here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_liberalism

Historically American’s were the first to get some things right, and have advanced the notion of democracy in some areas. But their adherence to certain silly notions of the ‘free market’ providing services where it absolutely should not do so is not only fundamentalist but outright absurd. I think it was the documentary “The Corporation” that showed what can go wrong when something as critical as the Fire Department is left to the “Free Market”. Guys would turn up and let a house burn down because the house did not have the right Fire Department badge on the front door! You’ve also provided some good examples. Why oh why can’t these people see the reality?

When my son was sick with Leukaemia, the last thing I would want to have to do is go on a fund-raising mission to try and pay for his treatment. When poor people are further incapacitated by easily prevented blindness, simply because they cannot spend $15 thousand on the operation, isn’t there a point where Government SHOULD OBVIOUSLY intervene and just fix their eyes so they can work and not cost the government EVEN MORE in disability pensions, or worse, incarceration because they became so desperate?

There’s a kind of madness at work in the States. Don’t even get me started on their rates of imprisonment!

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Since practical aircraft require a high power to weight ratio fully laden with fuel I think that means fuel that is liquid under ambient conditions. One suggested solution is biodiesel that doesn’t gel below 0C. That may help but won’t be nearly enough. Another suggestion is coal-to-liquids with coal prohibited from use in stationary generation. CTL with CCS is as polluting as petro-fuel since there will be as much uncaptured tailpipe emissions outside the plant as can be captured onsite in the Fischer Tropsch process.

My suggestion for aviation fuel is gas-to-liquids GTL. There is a modest sized GTL plant in Malaysia and the Kiwis used a variation of the process. The gas industry assures us we have 100 years supply so there should be no problem. However nobody from the govt has yet explained how Australia can replace a million barrels of oil a day for trains planes and automobiles. The follow on question is how transport energy needs affect stationary generation eg will there still be a century of gas, how many people will use electric cars?

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Thanks Eclipse, but there was an editing mistake in the last part of the 2nd last para that made it less eloquent:

<caused, it should be ironic, by the pursuit of a vacuous pursuit of libertarian fundamentalism.

The broader question goes to the collective action problem, which appears most obviously when what best serves each individual member of a group is at odds with what each member of the group should do to maximise the interests of the group as a whole.

Insurance is an obvious example. Each of us has an interest in defrauding the insurance company that covers our assets. Selling our assets down the pub and then saying we got burgkled and lost them (plus some other stuff we never had) is brilliant from an individual point of view because our advantage is at the expense of the insurance pool. Everyone chips in to make us better off. Of course, if everyone, or even a significant minority behaves like that, the pool collapses and the very thing we legitimately wanted — protection from foreseeable catastrophic loss at the price of a modest overhead — vanishes. Indeed, if we know that the pool is about to collapse, we have an interest in defraying our losses by getting what we can out of it by fair means or foul, accelerating the decline of the pool. The bank closures in the 1930s were an other example of this. It didn’t really matter if the banks were at risk or not. the mere perception that they might be caused a run, and that procured the collapse, which encouraged others to fear (with good reason in many cases) that theirs might also fail, and so forth.

So we have an enduring interest in restraining others (and thus having others restrain us) from acting to the prejudice of the collective interest, even where we may have a temporary but significant interest in cheating the group.

In the US, one sees a very great willingness in policy to ignore this problem in the pursuit of a fundamentalist notion of individual rights. Of course, in practice, all this does is throw the bulk of practical rights to the best organised groups of privileged stakeholders and invite each coherent stakeholder group to seek to outmanoeuvre its rivals in cheating the mass of the populace, who are of course politically atomised and unable to resist being cheated. That’s why the leath system is run by Big Pharma. It’s why Big Oil and Coal runs energy. It’s why the Big Banks run finance. It’s why Big Agriculture runs farm policy. Today, corporations have the benefit of free speech and can offically buy and trade politicians

Almost everybody loses, (as they must — otherwise why do it?) when the pursuit of individual interest takes no account of how the rubber hits the road and instead becomes holy writ.

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From Q12:

The final waste product from a modern nuclear power plant has a half-life of 30 years and will degrade back down to natural background levels within 300 to 500 years.

I assume ‘modern’ here means a fast reactor, right? This is not the case for, say, a gen III reactor, eg an AP-1000. If so, I think this needs amending, because I don’t think it is true for what most people would interpret as a ‘modern’ reactor.

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You’re right. I’ve updated to read:

The final waste product from a next-generation nuclear power plant (with fuel recycling) has a half-life of 30 years and will degrade back down to natural background levels within 300 to 500 years.

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Fran Barlow,
You certainly refuted a whole lot of things I did not say while ignoring what I did say.

When looking for wisdom on economic issues we should pay more attention to Peter Drucker than to Karl Marx. Your ideas appear to be elitist and authoritarian; you will find that a hard sell with me.

Somehow I seem to have touched a nerve on this site, exposing a strong anti-American sentiment. That is something I regret because I am not qualified to give an “American” world view.

For the record I am from “Old South Wales” where poetry, community singing and Rugby football matter while the slag heaps are huge, ugly and sometimes dangerous (Aberfan disaster). West Virginia on steroids.

Marxism actually helped eliminate child labour in our coal mines but that does not persuade me to accept the entire manifesto:
Article 10, ………………Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form…………………
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1848

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Fran Barlow,
Your comment that I need “to descend from the rarified air of Rand and Rothbard” is way off target.

Bernard Shaw said “Those who can…..DO, those who can’t……TEACH.”

While my income since 1990 has been from academic research and from teaching, it is a recent aberration. For most of my life I worked in high technology industries creating new products and a bunch of patents.

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It’s not about attacking you, but the idea/s you may have unintentionally conveyed. The irony here is that the word “Centralisation” that appears to have provoked your market-based critique (and all the blowback) is not at all incompatible with the market… after all, didn’t Henry Ford perfect the assembly line? And isn’t that efficient precisely because it is centralised?

Fran’s writing stirred into life the Social Liberalism I support, which of course is way off topic.

Getting back on topic: awareness raising poster typo’s fixed below.

http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/nuclear-posters/

Again, the reason I like posters is they just sit there on the notice board and do all the ‘nagging’ for me.

No tabs taken at local North Epping Shops yet, but:
* poster very high up on board, last spot left
* more kiddies at these shops than university activists
* I’ll try Epping library later tonight

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EclipseNow
I would like to sincerely thank you for the effort you are putting in to providing us with some professional, innovative and striking posters. Be assure that I will be downloading, printing, pasting and pursuing the results:) I will report back on the action round here in retirementville.

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GC said above:

In the USA we already have “centralised” approaches to energy issues. […] Gasoline containing no ethanol is no longer available here except in a handful of stations that have special permits to serve light aviation and marine users. This “centralised” approach is unfair because it prevents a true market test of gasohol. […] Strangely enough, the UK is in the forefront of developing competition between power companies because consumers can now choose their provider of electric power

and yet said …

For the record I am from “Old South Wales”

FTR, I am not the least bit anti-American. I am opposed to a number of policies that have been pursued by various American governments

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@Camel:

Leaving aside for the present your AGW denialism, be advised that your implied and farcical attack on Barlow as a teacher, citing GB Shaw ,is a cultural artefact of the strictly Anglosphere worship of the self-made man from the Pilgrim Fathers onwards.

Self-made double entry bookkeeping man is notable for ethnic cleansing and extermination 1492- for the sake of a “land improvement” which is losing the world untold tons of topsoil every year via stock exchange-driven agribusiness. The calories you eat thus contain imputed calories of fossil fuels, as fertiliser is made from natgas.

The self-regarding prattle on BNC of the techno-geek AKA nerd naturally overlooks not only that most scientists who ever lived are now alive but also that most work in some way for the military. Ansd the rest for Monsanto (joke).

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Peter,
I’ve been there. I was a peaknik doomer a few years back, and was literally frightened that after our family battled my son’s cancer, we’d also have to battle off the roadwarriors (from Mad Max). I’ve read Eating Fossil fuels and written magazine articles about the imminent challenges to agriculture as peak oil hits. (Note: I’m not claiming any scientific expertise in this area, just that I’ve written about it as a concerned citizen and activist).

But the reality is that just as the so-called “Green revolution” in agriculture has destroyed much topsoil, there are also methods for bringing it back.

There are many methods for ‘growing’ soil 100 times faster than nature can in large scale industrial bio-farming. Check it out.

Industrial strength biochar can restore soils, closed loop phosphorus systems can recycle phosphorus, the animal and crop rotation method’s of polyface farm can also massively improve soil quality.

http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/replenish-the-soil/

With enough nuclear power providing the baseload electricity we need, manufacturing enough ammonia to run tractors will be a breeze. Coupled with the plasma arc burner which seems to turn our entire industrial waste stream into a new resource, and we have truly invented a sustainable industrial ecosystem.

So whether or not the internet sprang forth from the womb of DARPA, I for one am grateful that it enables conversations like these, and new worldwide coalitions of bright professors and ecologists and systems analysts that can take in the whole sweep of destruction, and work to reclaim and repair and restore, rather than just sit back and whine.

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When I said ‘One concern people would have is their car/aeroplane etc’ What I meant was, possibly a question and answer should be added to the FAQ along those lines. Sorry I should have clarified that.

I personally can think of solutions to those problems using Nuclear, but I don’t think the average person who the FAQ is directed at can.

The car problem can be easily fixed with a electric/hydrogen/boron solution, as can heating. Perhaps if Tom Blees is around he could tell us if an aeroplane can be in anyway run on Boron (I’m still waiting to read Prescription for the Planet, my copy is on order). But this issue needs to be addressed if the general public are going to be switched on about this issue.

One possible solution I can imagine would be to combine air travel with a kind of geo-engineering – mix the jet fuel with sulphur dioxide etc to negate the effects of the jet’s emissions. I have no idea of the feasibility of this, however.

Also, I’ve read that there are plans to use sunlight to turn H20 and CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18993-green-machine-cars-could-run-on-sunlight-and-co2.html

The problem with that is, I can imagine it would consume far too much land. As in that design, all the sunlight is used for is generating heat, why not just stick one on top of an IFR or Gen III+ Nuclear plant. As I saw Tom Blees say in an interview, in the night or during off peak times, the IFR is just producing waste heat. Why not use this heat, combined with a form of atmospheric Carbon Sequestration (which again could use Nuclear) to make Long Chain Hydro Carbons, essentially Carbon free?

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eclipsenow

I’m glad you liked my ideas. Here’s a first pass attempt to flesh them out a bit. I used your BZE example for the first one.

Dear – Even optimistic estimates assuming a 50% cut in energy use cut across Australia put the zero emissions, renewable bill at $320 billion, or $32 billion a year for the next ten years.

Todays nuclear power could achieve the same results without the 50% cut for about a 3rd of that price. Any energy efficiency we mange to achieve would reduce that cost still further.

Unfair
Pursuing the renewable only ‘solution’ is leading to soring energy costs in early adopter nations around the world, yet emissions continue to rise.

We have the power to prevent climate action inequality with affordable, zero emissions nuclear power.

Dangerous – Renewables like wind and solar need reliable back-up. Where neither hydro nor nuclear power is available that means coal or gas. World wide non-hydro renewables have failed to replace a single fossil fuel power station. Wherever hydro and nuclear power are not available renewables are reinforcing the building of new fossil fuel plants.

Renewables are failing to reduce our carbon emissions and leading us towards a dangerous climate future.

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@Eclipse: wouldn´t you know it? it, I took time off from whining and dooming some time ago to read about terra preta and biochar; Mel Gibson cannot act anyway.

Thank you for that interesting Polyface reference: I wonder why nobody at all has commented on it on its Wikipedia entry?

So what strikes me about your website and what you say here on BNC is what the Blog Owner and similar say about renewabilists: show that it scales and cite numbers. Where is at least the Mark Jacobson who can do for “Soil” what the former did for RE in Scientific American?

And when your Soidl ideas have been scaled, how about facing up to, rather than ducking, the question of who runs agribusiness and how you make agroforestry, permaculture etc. palatable to them without breaking their power to maximise profit. This is the same problem as making NPPs palatable to Fossil Fuel companies.

Notwithstanding the above, your tone seems similar to that of the owners of PV firms in N. Europe… “it has to work, so it already does.”

As regards the Internet and DARPA, I suggest reading James Bamford on signals intelligence in the widest sense, as an antidote to can-do naivete.

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You should know the soil performance numbers are all over the International Biochar Initiative sites and latest peer-reviewed soil Phd test beds.

You should know that when forced to, the marketplace reacts with surprising swiftness. It’s not up to me to say who will mass-produce the nuclear power far cheaper than any source of energy today, rather that it can be done and someone should do it. It’s not up to me to say who will mass-produce the biochar and bring the soil back to life, rather that the soil science says it can be done and someone should do it.

And as the main game is making money in the long term, as this planet starts to run out of fresh arable land to turn to, and as us greenies get more and more land declared national parks, or just outright buy it as the Nature Conservancy, WWF, and even Steve Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors all do, then someday some farmers are going to turn to ideas that actually keep their soil alive and productive and earning them money!

If you think new approaches are not already starting around Australia, you obviously don’t watch Landline enough.

Basically, I’m used to the doomer comeback that basically asks, “Oh yeah, well WHOSE gonna fix THIS problem as well!” which avoids the startling advances in science being discussed and tries to vainly imply that society will never bother to implement the radical, much needed new technology being discussed. It’s pathetic! I remember ROEOZ leader Mike Stasse going on about Gen1 biofuels leading to a probable mass starvation epidemic because all corporations were big and evil and wanted to starve everyone. Now I think everyone knows about the fuel V food dilemma, and the marketplace is quietly plugging along looking for Gen2, non-food biofuel production that lets us have our biofuel and eat it too!

Second generation biofuels

By Keiren McLeonard

Thursday, 03/06/2010

The disastrous oil spill gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico highlights the cost of our dependence on oil.

Since late April, up to nineteen thousand barrels or 3 million litres a day have escaped from the ruptured underwater well, the largest oil spill in US history.

There’s an increased risk at the tail end of this resource and we are starting to pay a very heavy price.

So the weights are really going to come on to biofuels, despite the food verses fuel debate.

While there are significant improvements in first generation biofuels, an Australian company is at the forefront of revolutionary efforts in second generation biofuels.

These could effectively double the productivity of farm land and produce significantly high quality and high quantity feed for animals.
http://www.abc.net.au/rural/telegraph/content/2010/s2917217.htm

Yeasts that eat the cellulosic woody bits, turn it into sugars we can brew ethanol from, AND then leave a great yeast we can make vegemite from or feed to stock animals. And the evil marketplace thought this up? Who woulda thunk it?

Now, I’m traditionally a greenie quite suspicious of The Corporations (as the movie shows). But there are these ethanol guys, and the Ray Anderson’s of the world who are trying to turn things around. All I can do is give it a nudge.

As for whatever other “Military controls everything” conspiracy theories you’re pushing, I thought everyone knew that the military often got to play with the best stuff before it got scaled down for the little guy. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and war is the mother of all necessity, even the potential for war.

So I’ll see your James Bambford (whoever that is) and raise it with my Peter Nowak.

Sex, Bombs and Burgers

| download audio

What forces are driving the rapid technological developments that shape our world? Well, according to today’s guest, Peter Nowak, it is a very un-holy trinity; the war, porn and fast food industries.

In this talk which was recorded at Gleebooks in Sydney, he brands the internet as “military made and porn perfected” and explains his thesis by looking at how these industries drive technological change.

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/stories/2010/2892312.htm

So you call my website “can-do naivete”? Well, if that’s the case, I’m sticking with it rather than indulging in navel-gazing doomerism.

From my doomers page:

I have noticed the tendency for some extreme Doomers to even want to keep peak oil to themselves. This is not characteristic of all Doomers, please don’t take offense if you hold little hope for civilization at the end of the oil age. I am speaking about a very specific mindset here. It seems that the Apocalyptic Outsider has too much of their identity caught up in their end of civilization belief system — to the point that if society did Powerdown successfully, these individuals would be saddened and disappointed. In other words, if civilization did not come crashing down after the peak, who would this person be?

The characteristics that mark the Apocalyptic Outsider are:

* a tendency to gloat smugly over the coming destruction of civilization.
* a judgmental attitude to the uninitiated (and even non-Doomer Peakniks are scolded for their inferior position.)
* a tendency to kick back and enjoy esoteric discussions over the end of civilization — rather than actually doing anything about it
* very harsh criticism of those who do try to mitigate peak oil
* can be obstructive, critical, destroy group moral, and is ultimately attention seeking.

Ooooops

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Hmm, quote code got mixed up.

ABC link on sex bombs and burgers here.
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bigideas/stories/2010/2892312.htm

Quote from my doomers page here.
http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/doomers/

I have noticed the tendency for some extreme Doomers to even want to keep peak oil to themselves. This is not characteristic of all Doomers, please don’t take offense if you hold little hope for civilization at the end of the oil age. I am speaking about a very specific mindset here. It seems that the Apocalyptic Outsider has too much of their identity caught up in their end of civilization belief system — to the point that if society did Powerdown successfully, these individuals would be saddened and disappointed. In other words, if civilization did not come crashing down after the peak, who would this person be?

The characteristics that mark the Apocalyptic Outsider are:

* a tendency to gloat smugly over the coming destruction of civilization.
* a judgmental attitude to the uninitiated (and even non-Doomer Peakniks are scolded for their inferior position.)
* a tendency to kick back and enjoy esoteric discussions over the end of civilization — rather than actually doing anything about it
* very harsh criticism of those who do try to mitigate peak oil
* can be obstructive, critical, destroy group moral, and is ultimately attention seeking.

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most [scientists] work in some way for the military

Not in this country (oz). Likewise most historians work for the military, most linguists for the CIA and most poets in advertising. Don’t be such a bigot.

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There’s that answer as well. ;-) But John, don’t you sometimes love to trace the origin of various technologies? Some of the big ones really have been invented by war.

But ultimately, Sex Bombs and Burgers is a young bloke trying to sell a book and a theory of his. I didn’t hear him rallying a call to arms to stop DARPA doing such amazing research, or even that this was a bad thing.

I guess Peter Lalor just sees ghosts wherever he looks. He would have had a field day at Salem. “I saw Elizabeth Proctor dancing with DARPA and CEO’s! She has Corporate Intentions on her!”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Proctor

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Hi Marion,
I like the point of DUD so far. I’m just wondering if it’s a bit too wordy at the moment? Let’s have another look at it tomorrow, and see if we can edit it down while keeping the key features.

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@Eclipse: It is only a couple of days since on BNC that somebody ( F Barlow?) correctly adverted to the stupendous “natural persons” advantage handed to US corporations by the Jan. Supreme Court decision; forgotten already? The Good Friend Hayden Manning of Flinders Uni. had carefully ignored this landmark ruling at the time in his BNC paen of praise to Capital.

I wonder if you have actually worked in a big corporation and witnessed what can and does go on there, or even read the various insider reports on them over the years, whether from Finance, Agro-, Pharma or Auto??

Ever heard about how Firestone in Calif. destroyed the local public transport system so as to flog car tyres to car drivers? or how Aborigines got cleansed off the AU landscape to make way for profitable 19th century wool exports back to the UK? As Marx says, “primitive accumulation”. Your reification of “the marketplace” is thus farcical. There is no “marketplace”, a word which conjures up bucolic village smallholders having a chinwag: there are instead fractions of capital fighting each other through PR, business strategems, lobbying, bribery, corruption, revolving door policy between corporations and government and, if required, murder.

This is best documented for the USA because unlike AU, it has an FOIA. The deputy head of food in the US EPA has strong occupational links to Monsanto and steered recombinant bovine growth hormone into production bar any testing.

Your language and assumptions reek of the business management ideology imported into AU systematically in the 80s when Hawke was busy worsening the Gini coefficient in AU and which now appears to you to have the hegemonic status of physical laws, cf. work by Alex Carey.

Now if you want to understand how AU actually works, consult Uni. Syd. Political Economy website. It will flesh out the “ghosts” that I, and several million or billion others outside the country, allegedly see all the time.

@Morgan: yet again, the New Right borrows the linguistic clothes of the former anti-racist or anti-Christian secular Left, hence: “bigot.”

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Peter Lalor,

There are also these amazing things called peer-reviewed papers that discuss the SCIENCE of soil productivity and I don’t care which political wing you’re operating from because both sides can use and / or abuse it.

That was just one long communist rant that utterly failed to address the subjects raised in our earlier discussion. This would fail a student in Year 10 English.

Mate, I was the one who raised the movie “The Corporation” OK? To make the point that I ‘get’ what they can get up to? But on the other hand, I’m a Centrist, not a hard-lefty blinded to any hopeful technology unless it comes wrapped in a side-serve of Communism. I’m not foaming at the mouth about the wonders of the so called free market either. I’m a Centrist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_liberalism

You should relax, and be a bit more like me. ;-)

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eclipsenow, you said:
“The irony here is that the word “Centralisation” that appears to have provoked your market-based critique (and all the blowback) is not at all incompatible with the market…”

As you point out you can have solutions produced by national monopolies (e.g. AREVA) without throwing out the “Market Test”. The organizations that produce electricity can compete with each other for consumer dollars even if they get their power generating facilities from national monopolies. Also there are international market tests; for example France profits from selling electricity to Germany and other countries.

Many here think renewables are expensive solutions that delay the inevitable nuclear solutions. I agree with that but no amount of learned studies will be as effective as allowing consumers to buy their electricity from several generating companies. Companies that depend heavily on wind & solar will find it tough to compete when the subsidies are removed.

As long as you folks are not advocating a monopolistic electricity supply industry as we used to have in the UK I will go along with you.

However, I would prefer open competition in plant design as well as giving consumer’s a choice of electrical power providers.

When I find people arguing against proven market test mechanisms I start looking for hidden agendas. I have already objected to centralization with its stench of Marxism and “….factories and instruments of production owned by the State….”
(Article 7, Marx & Engels, 1848).

On this blog we may have another reason to fear market tests. What if our solution (nuclear power) is not the most cost effective one? Are you worried that coal would get a boost because in many situations it is likely to be the source of the lowest cost electricity?

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GC asked:

On this blog we may have another reason to fear market tests. What if our solution (nuclear power) is not the most cost effective one? Are you worried that coal would get a boost because in many situations it is likely to be the source of the lowest cost electricity?

No to both questions. Coal can never be the lowest cost near-zero-emissions solution. Indeed, even if we recklessly ignored the cost of GHG forcing in CO2 emissions, and simply examined the other costs to humans, it would be more expensive by far than nuclear power. Throw in the fact that nuclear power can underpin a clean commuter transport system and desalination and the comparison gets even worse for coal.

The more I heard from you, the less serious you sound.

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GC wrote:

I agree with that but no amount of learned studies will be as effective as allowing consumers to buy their electricity from several generating companies. Companies that depend heavily on wind & solar will find it tough to compete when the subsidies are removed.

See what you’ve done here? You’ve assumed that the renewables get built, waste our time, waste our money, and for what? Your ideology. Surely we don’t want them to get built in the first place.

Think of all the discussions here as ‘market feasibility studies’, or pre-commercialisation studies if you will. The problem for us is that we have to be activists about this and bend government policy to the actual energy realities precisely because there is no such thing as a ‘free-market’ for energy to begin with! I wish there were, and then the next Generation of nuclear power might already be out there. The only reason some of the renewable plants are being built is all the government subsidies. Indeed, if you look at my page below, you’ll see that the only reason some COAL fired power plants are being built is once again, government subsidies!

I repeat: (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ENERGY FREE MARKET IN AUSTRALIA) (or America for that matter), so frankly I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

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@ GC: Also remember that the ‘studies’ here are studies into renewables that have already been built! So ‘the marketplace’ ) has already ‘tested’ these things in the field, and they don’t work! If you had bothered to read the articles on this blog you would know that we already have stacks of data from ‘the marketplace’. We know they don’t reduce dependence on natural gas or coal, they only come in on budget when these other energy sources are there to back them up, we know this, and it’s time to stop government interference in the marketplace (with suspect energy accounting) from bankrupting our country through poor ‘public policy’.

Maybe a free energy market would eventually sort these things out, but we don’t live in that kind of world, so stop fantasising and wasting our time. Your ‘free market’ idealism is as bad as Peter Lalor’s communist utopia. Grow up and accept the ways and means of the world we live in, and try and work for something that is even remotely possible in tinkering with some public policy changes, rather than trying to institute a fantasy overhaul of the entire political system!

(I’m starting to hear the internet mantra: “Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t feed the Trolls! DON’T FEED THE TROLLS!” You’re a known global warming Denialist, and that’s usually about attention seeking. I’m thinking your presence in this discussion must be motivated by something similar, it’s equally fantastic and “unearthed”.)

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eclipsenow and Fran Barlow,
You seem to think that a centralised (Marxist) approach to energy policy is the way to go. You can’t provide any cogent arguments so you call me a TROLL who is “not serious”. Enough of the “ad hominem” already.

Fran said:
“Coal can never be the lowest cost near-zero-emissions solution. Indeed, even if we recklessly ignored the cost of GHG forcing in CO2 emissions.”

My power comes primarily from coal fired plants and I pay $0.11/kWAh. How much do you (assuming you live in Australia) pay? My guess is about the same because your power is coming from coal too. Your statement above is quasi-religious nonsense.

Of course, if I lived near the Niagara falls my electricity would be cheaper………………..

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eclipsenow, you said:
“Maybe a free energy market would eventually sort these things out, but we don’t live in that kind of world, so stop fantasising and wasting our time.”

Contrary to your rather insular beliefs, many of us do live in that kind of world. Consumers have meaningful choices in the USA and the UK as well as other countries I am less familiar with.

The US market structure is quite complex so take a look at the structure of the UK electrical market:
http://rwecom.online-report.eu/factbook/en/marketdata/electricity/supply/structureelectricitymarketuk.html

The only monopoly remaining in the UK electric power industry is the transmission system.

http://rwecom.online-report.eu/factbook/en/marketdata/electricity/supply/structureelectricitymarketuk.html

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GC

I won’t participate in further deraling this thread. If you want a substantive answer, go to Open Thread 4 …

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Getting back to ‘taking action’ via posters:

Poster Report: not encouraging so far.

No tabs have gone from the poster at the suburban shops of North Epping (been there 2 days) or the poster at Epping library (been there 1 day, not a very visible portion of the notice board though).

Back when I was running peak oil posters a few tabs would go each day!

I’ll give it a week and see what happens. Tear-off tabs, and resulting newcomers commenting here, are a measurable activity, but the real impact may actually be the passive viewers who think about it in the back of their minds, are ‘agnostic for now’, but we hit pay dirt as the story continues to grow and they see a few more posters.

Should there ever come to be a vote on the issue, all those posters surely would have helped get the basic message out.

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GC actually confirms he’s a troll by dodging the actual issues and trying to divert our attention into ‘monopolies’.

Sorry mate, won’t work.

My main points were:

1/ We already have a few decades worth of renewables testing, especially wind in Europe and German solar PV plants, and the verdict is in already. We don’t need to wait. We have the *science* to advise us in which direction we should move.

2/ Government subsidies have distorted the marketplace, whether through feed-in tariffs to renewables or discounts on diesel for big oil or King Coal.

So by all means, wave your magic wand or click your ruby slippers together 3 times and say “There’s no such thing as a free-market for energy”. I think you’d find most of us cheered you on if you actually achieved anything in this regard. Indeed, other than whining at us about it, have you done anything about government distortion of the energy marketplace? Have you joined a political party to discuss these matters, written to your local MP, or dare I ask: even downloaded and printed out a nuclear waste poster?

In the meantime, please let the rest of us get back on the job of discussing real world means of trying to help governments remove subsidies to renewables and swing policies around to decriminalise nuclear in Australia in the first place!

Then I’m totally flexible as to whether a centralised Corporate facility builds it, or a government workshop gets on the job. As long as the job gets done I don’t really give a fig who builds it.

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How are we going to equal the nice factor?

I was listening to a nice German bloke that mentioned peak oil on youtube. He just seems to be a genuine, ‘nice’ guy. A smart energy expert, also a German energy official.

And he recommends renewables. Now I’m with you guys on the need for baseload, yet as a former anti-nuke greenie I can’t help but wonder how we are going to get by the ‘wisdom’ of getting our energy from the sun.

Did anyone watch Grand Designs a few weeks back where some guy lived in a hut in the woods, and was totally off grid? The old greenie in me admired his Solar PV and battery setup. There’s just something beautiful about taking energy from our environment…. being energy independent.

So I’m wondering how we cast nuclear power as something beautiful? It’s the aesthetics of the message… sorry, having trouble communicating tonight. Not sure what’s conflicting me. I’ll sort it out.

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I know this thread got derailed by a troll, but I’m trying to ask a serious question about the actual FAQ – shouldn’t a question and answer be added to address people’s concerns about Nuclear powering other things, other than their electrical supply?

Sorry If I sound rude by repeating myself.

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Hi,
If we move to fast-rail and electric vehicles a lot of the pressure for liquid fuels will obviously be cut. Then there’s nukes powering ammonia and hydrogen systems, and the liquid fuels we could extract from the plasma arc municipal waste burner.

So… I’m not sure if Barry wants to get into the technicalities of HOW these other needs will be met, but I understand they are in discussion and that ultimately nuclear as a large source of reliable baseload will go a long way to solving our oil addiction.

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So I’m wondering how we cast nuclear power as something beautiful? It’s the aesthetics of the message… sorry, having trouble communicating tonight. Not sure what’s conflicting me. I’ll sort it out. – eclipsenow

One of the strong selling points of the LFTR is its elegance. It solves so many problems so neatly. There liquid fuel circulation and cleaning systems of the LFTR resembles the circulatory systems of animals.;

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So I’m wondering how we cast nuclear power as something beautiful?

One possibility: Cerenkov light. Power reactors tend to be inside layers of opaque material, but blocking of neutrons and gammas can be done by water and other transparent materials. My long interest in boron began with studying the oxide of the heavy isotope as a transparent, extremely heat-resistant reactor fluid.

So power reactors, necessarily very bright with Cerenkov light, may someday share this light with nearby gawkers.

Another, probably difficult: find photos of the “fireball reactor”. Although its vessel was opaque, it reputedly ran hot enough to glow like an overfed woodstove. I’d like to see that.

(How fire can be domesticated)

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This thread was supposed to be about the “big picture” relating to an energy policy that we all support, namely a rapid growth in nuclear power plants.

Now you are blowing your chance to persuade your audience by calling me a “Denialist” and a “Troll” while accusing me of derailing the thread.

While I accept most of the compelling arguments on this blog in favour of NPPs, the big picture is that you can’t “win friends and influence people” by insisting on centralised solutions managed by a cognitive elite who study reports from “think tanks”. Reports by academics will never be a substitute for real market tests.

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Now you are blowing your chance to persuade your audience by calling me a “Denialist” and a “Troll” while accusing me of derailing the thread.

You’re assuming without evidence that doing so will offend someone apart from you enough for them to not listen to substantive arguments. That’s mere handwaving.

Maybe you are a troll, and maybe you aren’t, but you’ve said nothing relevant to this topic above.

the big picture is that you can’t “win friends and influence people” by insisting on centralised solutions managed by a cognitive elite who study reports from “think tanks”.

On the contrary, such solutions are very popular, even with conservatives here. The right-of-centre opposition favours “direct action” (i.e. the government picking winners) based on their own “think tank”. Of course, the chracterisation of what is being put as a “centralised solution” is your simplistic characterisation alone. You are trying to take cheap shots. That’s one of the things that makes you sound like a troll.

Reports by academics will never be a substitute for real market tests.

So now you are taking a swing at the work of the host of this site. Good luck with that.

The reality is that no “real market test” is possible until we actually have them rolled out. On your proposal, that could never happen. You seem to be saying that we should posture as market fetishists and scientific oddballs before people who want action on climate change. That would definitely ensure we got nowhere.

So again, this sounds like disingenuous trolling. No wonder people are calling you out.

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Hi Ewen,
you make some good points. The irrelevant accusations of Camel certainly are enough to make people pull their hair out! That’s about the 3rd post in a row that ignores the fact that there IS no such thing as a ‘free market’ in energy because of all the rebates and kickbacks by government that totally distort the true picture. (Not that Camel, being a troll, will ever concede this point).

See http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/remove-subsidies/ for the few subsidies that I’m aware of.

However, I wanted to ask you a question about this next paragraph.

The reality is that no “real market test” is possible until we actually have them rolled out. On your proposal, that could never happen. You seem to be saying that we should posture as market fetishists and scientific oddballs before people who want action on climate change. That would definitely ensure we got nowhere.

Don’t you think that (when we get to the bottom of all the government subsidies and handouts) the experience in Europe means that renewables have been tested in the marketplace, and found wanting by those who can actually understand what happened?

Camel, ‘the market’ has been conned by government kick backs, and the consumer’s don’t even know or understand what happened. Meanwhile, peak oil and global warming make this too important a subject to leave to the Global Warming Denialista Conspiracy theory pundits.

The dirty, corrupting hand of government has bent your precious energy market all out of shape. Deal with it.

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Don’t you think that (when we get to the bottom of all the government subsidies and handouts) the experience in Europe means that renewables have been tested in the marketplace, and found wanting by those who can actually understand what happened?

I certainly do. Here we have rolled out some wind, and tested it. It doesn’t work. We rolled out the Snowy Scheme. That did work in the market.

I was more thinking about nuclear power here, and especially third and 4th gen approaches. Here, it is unlikely we will get nuclear power at all at scale unless it is rolled out by the government.

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Exactly Ewen!

Yoohoo, oh Camel, how do we test nuclear in the marketplace if the government has made it illegal!? Camel’s “free marketplace” for energy is looking more and more ethical.

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One of the nice things about NPPs is that you can put everyhting but the reject heat exchanger underground if you want to. What you see is just the cooling towers nearby a park on the artificial hill piled over the actual NPP. Possibly also an artifical pond filled with the warm water from the cooling towers; suitable for warm water fish such as tilipia(?). The additional cost for this is quite small; ask an actual engineer.

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@ David:
Now I have a headache… that’s given me an idea for another poster!

Spot the nuclear reactor!
(Shows cooling towers and has arrow pointing to them. Text reads: No, that’s the heat exchange towers, nothing radioactive there!)

(Shows duck pond) No, that’s the warm water pond that farms algae for biodiesel, nothing radioactive there!

(Shows park) No, that’s the park where the power plant workers have their lunch break, nothing radioactive there!

Where IS the nuclear reactor?

(Then in small text under images):
The reactor is actually under the reinforced concrete containment dome, which is capable of withstanding a 9/11 aircraft attack! You cannot see it because it is buried under the grassy hill. Soviet built Chernobyl didn’t even have a containment dome. Western containment domes work, as the ‘3 mile island’ reactor meltdown proves. (No radiation leak, no casualties).

Modern reactors also have ‘walk away’ safety features. If the reactor overheats, the laws of physics prevent the reaction continuing, and engineers simply walk away for a coffee break until the reactor cools down again.

The ‘New Nukes’ also eat nuclear waste and nuclear warheads! Waste solved. It provides vast amounts of reliable power that does not turn off at night time like solar, or die off on a quiet day like wind power. Intermittency solved. When Australia inevitably moves to electric cars, it could break our increasing addiction to imported oil (which is already affecting our national accounts.) Peak oil solved.

With all these incredible benefits, why has the Australian government made nuclear power illegal in this country? Environmental awareness is growing around the nuclear answer. Find out more at bravenewclimate.com

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It’s heavy on the text, so if (when we ever get to this!) we find the image just doesn’t work with so much text, we might cut the last 2 paragraphs and just focus on safety. Usually with posters it’s best to focus on one idea at a time.

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Eclipse Now, on 2 July 2010 at 9.43 — Yes, one idea at a time. But a poster featuring a park on the hill, pond (not filled with algae scum, please) in the foreground and coolng tower in the background (to one side), labeld “this is an NPP” ought to help quite a bit.

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Ref Q15. Further to the point I and Finrod have made – there is no shortage of uranium; the quantity of uranium available will increase as we explore for more – I’ve just noticed this statement in the latest ABARE report (page 7):

Australia’s identified uranium resources have more than doubled over the past two decades, and increased by 63 per cent from 2006 to 2008.

http://www.abare.gov.au/publications_html/energy/energy_10/energyAUS2010.pdf (page 7)

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We are suffering a “failure to communicate”. You folks advocate building more nuclear power plants and I support that idea. I am not going to give up on you no matter how abusive you become. It should help you to have feedback from people like me who do not share the world view expressed by most of your correspondents.

This thread is about using big picture arguments to “win the hearts and minds” of folks who currently oppose you. Why make it harder to sell the idea of more NPPs by attaching a load of unnecessary political baggage?

For example it would be a huge mistake to insist on centralised or monopolistic solutions that will alienate many people who might otherwise support you. You will lose people who prefer individual freedom over authoritarian rule.

Many are not convinced that AGW is a “Catastrophe”. If you insist on acceptance of CAGW dogma as a litmus test, you will lose the support of many people.

David B. Benson,
High temperature NPPs such as MSRs offer high thermodynamic efficiency with a closed system (Brayton cycle). No need for cooling towers. They will also be substantially smaller than LWRs with the same electrical output. They can be cost effective in small sizes (e.g. 75 MWe). These features can make them much less obtrusive than the older technology.

eclipsenow,
The renewables are being built in spite of all our objections. I would have thought that you would be the first to realise that a market test is the best way to drive a stake through the heart of bad ideas. Currently, the Photo-Voltaic subsidy in the UK can be as high as 45p/KVAh; what an opportunity for fraud! Crazy subsidies like this cannot long endure.

Here in the USA, burdensome regulations killed NPP construction over 30 years ago. Obama is talking about government financing for 3 nukes but don’t expect the private sector to invest while the regulatory mine field remains as it is. Until the US government re-writes the Price-Anderson Act, you can be sure they are not serious about nuclear power.

Leadership in nuclear power is passing to China, Russia, India, Canada and maybe France if it gets over its current funk. Will Australia take an active role?

Ewen Laver, you said:
“The reality is that no “real market test” is possible until we actually have them rolled out. On your proposal, that could never happen.”

One of my earlier comments included a link showing the electrical power market in the UK:
1. Transmission system. One operating company. Still a monopoly!
2. Distribution network. Seven companies, fourteen zones.
3. Retail suppliers. Seven companies.

Clearly, the UK has a market test as there are multiple suppliers at the retail level. These companies buy their electricity from thirty major power plants and many minor ones that compete with each other, constituting a market test at a higher level.

If new generating plant is added to the UK system it is immediately subject to a market test against the pre-existing generating facilities. In spite of what you say, there are market tests in the UK. If you still have an operating monopoly in Australia, maybe that is something you need to look at.

I have nothing against academics because I am one. However, Barry Brook has his feet more firmly planted on the ground than most of us. My favourite academics work at North Carolina State University. This is a “Land Grant” university which means the professors are expected to communicate with farmers. I think Barry might fit right in as he can communicate effectively with non-technical people.

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GC,

I agree with much of what you say and encourage you to keep making the points.

This is spot on:

This thread is about using big picture arguments to “win the hearts and minds” of folks who currently oppose you. Why make it harder to sell the idea of more NPPs by attaching a load of unnecessary political baggage?

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It should help you to have feedback from people like me who do not share the world view expressed by most of your correspondents.

Why would it help us get feedback from people who only accept “Denialist science”? Unlike you, a majority of Australians actually care about climate change.

The renewables are being built in spite of all our objections. I would have thought that you would be the first to realise that a market test is the best way to drive a stake through the heart of bad ideas. Currently, the Photo-Voltaic subsidy in the UK can be as high as 45p/KVAh; what an opportunity for fraud! Crazy subsidies like this cannot long endure.

Good, so you admit there is no free marketplace in energy. That’s my first point.
Now, how do you propose to subject new power to a ‘market test’? What would that involve? How do we get there? How do YOU propose we remove government subsidies?
I suspect your strategies would be similar to what we’re already doing: promoting public awareness about the problems with renewables based on the already demonstrated poor performance of renewables in the marketplace. There’s no need for more ‘market testing’: it’s all been done. But it takes clever people to test it: the very thing you expressed horror over a few posts back.
See, after all that I think we’re basically in agreement about the need to remove subsidies and provide accurate information to the marketplace. However, here in Australia it may take government leadership to kick start new nuclear industries as there is a lot of cultural inertia and market nervousness about the word ‘nuclear’. I fully expect the government NOT to make wind power or geothermal or solar illegal, so they’ll still be there in years to come to judge against nuclear (if we can ever get politicians brave enough to have the debate. We need a “Brave New Climate” of political debate in Australia indeed!) However, can you imagine the political mayhem if governments WERE to withdraw the politically-correct subsidies to renewables? Wind power lobbyists are growing around the world. So again, what do we do about it?
Basically, I WISH there were a free-market test for energy but governments and corporations have their hands so far up one another’s pockets it’s getting indecent.
We agree on that. If it were not for your over-reaction to the word “Centralised” we wouldn’t have had this brawl and wasted so much time. I expect clearer thinking in future.

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gallopingcamel:

You argue for a “big tent” approach to winning the hearts and minds of those who might not share one’s world views. I fully agree, though, in passing, I would note that even nomadic arabs generally prefer to keep their camels out of their living accommodation.

You mention the so-called free energy market system in the UK with separation of power producers and retail power suppliers with the buffer of a nationalised grid system. However, it is a very distorted free market system, as is inevitable when the government has a duty to ensure energy security. Furthermore, while you may not agree on the need for clean energy on AGW grounds, the government does see transition to clean energy as essential and is backed by the vast majority of scientists with expertise in the discipline of climate science. This split between AGW deniers and believers would not matter a whit (except to fossil fuel producers) were one able to transfer from CO2 emitting energy sources to clean sources without resulting large hikes in power prices. I think that we both agree that only nuclear offers this possibility. However, the possibility can only be realised with full government support for the technology. Without it, it will an expensive option relative to coal and, probably, just as expensive as wind, for reasons repeatedly made by, among others, Peter Lang (see, also, David MacKay). In the UK, however, the government is subsidising wind while leaving nuclear to the free market. Without more overt support from government, it seems that nuclear power expansion will be slow and expensive.

There is an article in my paper today by Bjorn Lomberg (author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming”, entitled “The EU’s response to global warming is a costly mistake”. He concludes that “expensive, poorly conceived carbon-emission plans such as the EU’s will cause major economic damage and political strife, while doing little to slow global warming. Europe must change course.” Unfortunately, he offers no alternative other than to suggest spending the wasted money on keeping yet more people alive, hardly a solution. Not once did he mention nuclear as an alternative to renewable energy. Given that he pays lip service to AGW, perhaps he should be invited into the “big tent” and encouraged to learn what possibilities nuclear has to offer. He has the potential to become a valued supporter.

I have been pondering the wisdom of a free energy market and have begun to wonder whether it is the best way forward, given the pivotal importance of a reliable power supply and the government’s role in ensuring it and given its simultaneous intent of reducing CO2 emissions. The sector must always be in a position to produce surplus product to accommodate demand peaks. This makes matters very uncomfortable for producers – in many commodity markets, a small surplus can result in a major fall in price and eliminated profits (or losses). A private power producer can only buffer against this by selling at high prices when he is in a position to sell at all. Retail buyers are indulging in a commodity trading operation with wild short term price fluctuations. This may be reasonably efficient while the pattern of supply and demand remain predictable, but it threatens to become inefficient when new producers (eg nuclear and wind) enter the market, particularly when wind producers are subsidised, when they have no responsibility for grid management and when retailers are obliged to use their product when it is available.

The currently developing wind energy exercise on Oz-energy-analysis is looking at wind costs and scaling. However, eventually, the knock on effects on those who produce the same product by different means will eventually have to be factored in if we are to have meaningful information on the effects of wind (at various levels of penetration) on overall retail power cost.

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Wow! What a great set of responses. Especially Doug Wise who understands the consequences of letting a camel get his nose in the tent.

It seems we agree on most of the important stuff such as the tendency of governments to distort markets by subsidising the solutions they like while putting obstacles in the way of nuclear options. My take on this is that governments are seldom good at picking technological winners and losers.

My apologies to Marion Brook and anyone else I may have offended. Please be assured that my intention is to help you expand you audience.

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Eclipse Now,
The point of this thread is to develop the “big picture”, non-technical arguments in favour of a sharp increase in nuclear power generating capacity.

My contribution is to recommend that you stick to the main message (MORE NPPs) without linking irrelevant issues that may alienate large segments of your intended audience.

For example, over-centralised, authoritarian and undemocratic solutions may be seen as Marxist. “Marxist” is not a label that “Brave New Climate” should embrace.

In contrast, I recommend that this site accept support from people you deride as climate “Deniers” or “Sceptics”. I put myself in this category and have mentioned Roy Spencer as a Sceptic who could be an effective advocate.

When it comes to removing government subsidies I have no argument with you. Government subsidies/low taxes encourage while penalties/regulations/high taxes discourage.

EEC subsidies created “Butter Mountains” and “Wine Lakes”. Low corporate taxes in the Republic of Ireland created the “Celtic Tiger”. Byzantine regulations in the USA killed the nuclear power industry. I am sure you can come up with plenty of similar examples within your own jurisdiction.

You ask:
“How do YOU propose we remove government subsidies?”

I ran for state senate and was soundly beaten by a hysterical anti-nuclear (incumbent) candidate who is well to the left of Karl Marx. If I was a little younger I would run again but now it is up to people like you to stop whining and get yourselves or like minded people elected.

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Politics is not my cup of tea, but I can help with the posters.

Now, another trollish straw-man from yourself!

For example, over-centralised, authoritarian and undemocratic solutions may be seen as Marxist. “Marxist” is not a label that “Brave New Climate” should embrace.

Again with the red-menace hysteria! Where has anyone on this thread actually said anything to justify such a stupid comment? Is Ford motors ‘red’ for developing the Centralised assembly line?

You really have a problem with the C word, don’t you?

I want nuclear power deployed, fast, to deal with the climate and energy crisis. I don’t care how that is achieved.

The GOAL is clean energy, and I don’t care if China gets there using Feudal power structures, America leaves it to the marketplace, or Australia builds them with public private partnerships.

I can easily create a variety of posters that appeal to all political persuasions, and so I don’t need to be dictated to by you.

And you still haven’t answered the main objection to your free market ideological rants.

My main points were:

1/ We already have a few decades worth of renewables testing, especially wind in Europe and German solar PV plants, and the verdict is in already. We don’t need to wait. We have the *science* to advise us in which direction we should move.

Both Open Thread 4 and this thread are getting bogged down too much down in the extreme particulars of how we are going to run a nuclear industry in Australia, not how we are going to get the Australian public to care enough to build one in the first place!

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Eclipse Now,
We seem to agree that science and economics are in favour of a sharp increase in NPP capacity. Yet in many developed countries the impetus is in quite another direction owing to the realities of politics.

Let me make one more appeal on behalf of freedom and against compulsion.

I started buying compact fluorescent lamps 20 years ago when they cost $10 each and were only available through Amway. Nobody held a gun to my head; I did it because it made sense.

Today, politicians are under pressure to ban the incandescent light bulb and at least one country (the Republic of Ireland) has done it. I deplore such authoritarian action.

Likewise I drive an electric car because it makes sense. I would strongly object if the government took away my choice by banning cars with internal combustion engines.

Taking this to the next level, fiats that ban the building of more NPPs are deplorable but it would be equally wrong headed to ban windmills or Photo-voltaics. Let the people vote with their dollars!

You apparently see no problem with the centralisation of such decisions; perhaps you believe that the end justifies the means. If so, here is a link to Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” reduced to a series of cartoons:
http://mises.org/books/TRTS/

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Let me make one more appeal on behalf of freedom and against compulsion.

To which I answer:

The GOAL is clean energy, and I don’t care if China gets there using Feudal power structures, America leaves it to the marketplace, or Australia builds them with public private partnerships.

I just don’t care! Keep pouring forth your ideology all you want, what do you think you’re actually going to achieve? You’re one tiny blogger on an nuclear awareness blog. It’s not as if BNC are going to actually write the legislation! So ‘appeal’ away all you like! Rant to your heart’s content. I’ll not be reading any further.

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@ Barry,
BNC is getting kind of busy, and if the posters work and more activist join in the conversation, won’t you need a fully functional forum?

Then you can appoint certain trusted people moderators, who can help deal with the trolls on the list, etc.

(And if we were using Simple Machines Forum or Phpbb3 I could click “ignore” on Camel and not even see his posts in future).

Forums are great, and if BNC continues to grow in popularity, they could save you a lot of work. You would still publish articles here at the BNC blog, but instead of commenting under the article you’d link to the appropriate thread in the forums. Conversations would then have the full power of forum software to enable better graphics, better moderation, and cleaner threads that are more ‘on topic’.

(EG: Most bulletin boards have forums for various subjects. EG: A forum could be set up for nuclear safety, fuel cycle, activism in , general chit-chat / after hours, politics, etc.)

Anyway, just my 2cents.

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I have a suggestion: in question 20: Isn’t nuclear power evil, comparisons could be drawn to fear of plane crashes and shark attacks where the level of fear far outweighs the true risk.

This is because the human imagination goes into overdrive when contemplating these kinds of visceral horrific outcomes.

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Barry, I’d love Q11 on expense to have various realistic nuclear price options for replacing Australia, in plain language?

EG: “Summary of this paper” (link to it) shows how 35 AP-1000’s would replace coal for $130 billion (or whatever?) and 40 AP-1000 would also replace gas and oil with potential to run electric cars, fast rail, and trolley buses for xyz billion. (Fast rail & trolley buses not costed)

EG: “This other paper” presents expected costs for GenIV nuclear once it arrives in 10 to 15 years… etc.

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