Open Thread 4 is about to spool off the BNC front page, after 700+ comments, so it’s time to kick off a new one.
The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.
To add some grist to the new discussion mill, I provide three interesting extracts:
On scepticism, from Bertrand Russell, extracted from the ‘Introduction to his ‘Sceptical Essays’ (1928):
I wish to propose for the reader’s favorable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
First of all, I wish to guard myself against being thought to take up an extreme position. … [Pyrrho] maintained that we never know enough to be sure that one course of action is wiser than another. In his youth, … he saw his teacher with his head stuck in a ditch, unable to get out. After contemplating him for some time, he walked on, maintaining that there was no sufficient ground for thinking that he would do any good by pulling the old man out. … Now I do not advocate such heroic scepticism as that. I am prepared to admit the ordinary beliefs of common sense, in practice if not in theory. I am prepared to admit any well-established result of science, not as certainly true, but as sufficiently probable to afford a basis for rational action.
There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed. There are other matters about which experts are not agreed. Even when experts all agree, they may well be mistaken. …. Nevertheless, the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The scepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment.
On the anti-nuclear movement, from MIT Technology Review:
…asked about nuclear power, Totten invokes the prospect of Chernobyl-style meltdowns and reactors smashed open by terrorist-piloted planes. Reminded that these are technical impossibilities for modern reactor designs, he switches to an economic argument: nuclear plants are so expensive that the industry always requires government subsidies.
But it’s notable that in the 1970s, before regulations made construction costs skyrocket, nuclear energy provided America’s cheapest electricity. Nor should we forget that France gets more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, emits two-thirds less carbon dioxide per capita than the United States, and is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity—earning $4 billion annually—thanks to its very low cost of generation.
[Stewart] Brand says it’s entirely predictable that many greens neither know nor are interested in educating themselves about recent developments like new reactors or cleaner fuel cycles: “As far as they’re concerned, nuclear had been stopped, they’re glad it was, and now that it’s happening again, they’re confused and upset.” That observation strikes at the heart of the matter. If today Greenpeace and an entire generation of activists simply can not accept that nuclear power might be the most credible source of carbon-free energy, it’s because doing so would entail an almost unbearable recognition: that a very large part of their life’s work has been fundamentally, disastrously wrong, and that by obstructing the transition to nuclear back in the 1970s, they bear direct responsibility both for global warming and for the hundreds of thousands of deaths that have since resulted from coal-related pollution. It is to Stewart Brand’s credit that he can recognize that disturbing truth.
Finally, since we’ve been having plenty of discussion on costs and nuclear safety, I’d like to highlight the comment Tom Blees made here:
Noonan writes: “There are a number of significant inherent weaknesses in the arguments of nuclear proponents in Australia.”
After struggling through his article packed from end to end with weak and misleading arguments, this was a laugh out loud throwaway line. While it would take another full-length article to deal with the weaknesses of his piece here, I’ll comment on just a couple points.
The Price-Anderson Act is the federal law that covers the costs of any hypothetical nuclear accident whose damages exceed the considerable insurance pool already established by the nuclear power industry. Why don’t opponents ever discuss who would pay for the damages from a breached dam? How about an exploding LNG tanker? Major fiascos resulting from such energy system accidents would likewise be covered by the government. To say that utility companies are “unwilling to pay the real costs of insurance” is disingenuous, since they have already amassed a considerable insurance pool themselves. Since federal law is in place to pay anything else, what sensible company/industry would volunteer to dismiss that federal guarantee in order to spend more of their money on insurance?
As for the costs of the two AP-1000 reactors proposed to be built in Georgia, those costs of $6.5 billion per reactor can be compared to the first-of-a-kind AP-1000s being built now in China. The FOAK construction of any such major project is normally considerably higher than follow-on units, and indeed the Chinese expect that this modular reactor cost will soon be lowered to nearly half of what these first reactors are costing them, yet even the first ones are estimated to cost $1.9 billion each. So why should they cost more than three times that much in the USA? No, it’s not because of low Chinese labor costs. Japan was able to build US-designed ABWR reactors for about $1.4 billion per gigawatt, and they import virtually all the materials and pay their workers very well, higher than the USA in general. The truth is that much of the cost built into nuclear power plants in the USA is the cost of uncertainty because of past experience. No company can be sure that a bunch of protestors with signs might not shut down their project when it’s half-built, as happened too often in the past. That and other weaknesses in the US nuclear power arena inflate prices to these ridiculous levels (compared to Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea). It’s not a weakness in the economics of nuclear power per se. Otherwise we would see it everywhere. Are Australians doomed to create the same sort of dysfunctional climate for nuclear power in their own country? If so, then maybe they should stick to coal. But don’t pretend it’s because nuclear power plants can’t be built economically.
As for nuclear power projects not providing enough jobs compared to renewables, there’s perhaps a point there though I suspect it’s a weak one.
Chew on that, folks…
240 replies on “Open Thread 5”
This is most effectively achieved by a benevolent dictator.
We could form the Australian Nuclear Green Revolutionary Front. It’ll be benevolent because we’ll be in charge. We’re a pretty benevolent bunch.
Greens have blocked nuclear at every chance.
Labor has sided with green leaning voters for Labor’s electoral advantage at every election for the past 2 decades. Labor has run anti-nuclear policies to win the green vote.
This has delayed CO2 emissions reduction for 20 years at least.
Work it out who are causing the problem.
Coalition energy policy for the 1993 Election:
The Coalitions’ Energy Policy for the 1993 Election contained extensive content on how GHG emissions would be reduced, including specific and practical policies. The reduction of GHG emissions was one of five main objectives, and strategies, throughout the Energy Policy. The Coalition’s policy on nuclear energy was an key part of achieving the objectives and was explicitly laid out. I include one of many sections below.
In short the five major objectives of the Energy Policy were:
• Ensure energy security
• Reduce energy costs
• Reduce adverse environmental impacts
– Greenhouse gas emissions (the longest section of any in the policy)
• Maximise export earnings
• Maximise capital investment in energy systems
Below are some quotes from the Coalition’s 1993 Energy Policy:
This explicitly pro-nuclear policy had to be removed from the Coalition’s policy for the 2006 election for obvious reasons (Labor runs scare campaigns against any sign of a pro-clean-energy policy from the Coalition; Labor has continued to do this at every election since.) However, whether explicitly stated or not, the Coalition is fundamentally pro-nuclear.
The Coalition supported nuclear power for the 2007 election and prepared the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy” policy paper to educate the voters. Unfortunately, as always, Labor ran a strong scare campaign against it and the Coalition had to water down their policy statements in the immediate lead up to the election. Unfortunately, once again the voters voted for spin rather than substance. And look what we got!
What a dilemma! The House of Reps ALP sitting member is a time server who doesn’t deserve any more stress free employment. I’ve never heard a single utterance from the Liberal candidate. The Greens candidate probably has no practical experience of renewable energy but just knows it’s all good.
At least with the Senate polling slip I gather we can number them 1 to 26 as opposed to a party vote. Pundits reckon Greens will control the Senate regardless next year. Note the Greens in coalition with the ALP in Tasmania have caved in on poker machines and old growth logging. Thus it is quite possible the $23 carbon tax will never happen on the national scene. Conversely imagine if the $23/t CO2 tax did get up but nuclear was prohibited. Bizarro.
It’s not all bad; at least I can get some milk from the shop next to the polling booth.
Vote donkey and steal the pencil.
Vote for the party, not the local member;
Vote for substance, not spin;
Vote for the real, underlying, long-term policies, not what is being spun in the election campaign (for the benefit of those who make up their mind on the basis of spin and nonsense before the election).
Hey, you guys might be interested in this I saw in Nature yesterday:
@Morgan: you suggest at https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/07/open-thread-5/#comment-92616 in your quite funny proposed tender that AU be invaded by eg Switzerland.
You can read in French however that all Swiss citizens within 20 km radius of one of the ca 6 Swiss NPPs are given potassium iodide to protect their thyroids against I 131:
Others outside that radius have their daily tablets (130 Ug, sorry, no micro-symbol) stored at the local army barracks, as I recall. Germany and Austria have comparable arrangements, whereby the latter has no NPPs by popular referendum written into the Constitution . Easy for them, you will say, they have 70% hydro.
Anyway, you might have to agree with the invading Swiss Army that their troops stationed in AU be allotted potassium iodide for the duration, along with fondue and raclette and free ski passes for Thredbo, etc.
“Sea transportation should be by sail. The big clippers were the finest ships ever built and sufficient to our needs. Air transportation should be by solar powered blimps when air transportation is necessary.
Who should have children? Those who are responsible and completely dedicated to the responsibility which is actually a very small percentage of humans.”
And now we know where the environmentalist stereotype comes from, and why global warming isn’t treated seriously.
@Scott: global warming denialism has nothing to do with Sea Shepherd activities to successfully reduce Jap whale killing, as recently outlined by the head of Sea Shepherd on Russia TV’s Internet Keiser Report in an interview.
Instead, as has been documented by various US authors, AGW denialism has been orchestrated by FF interests through paid PR firms.
The elephant in the BNC room is corporate interests, which in turn enhance net worth from Double Bay to Vaucluse but not in Parramatta.
If you know what the Gini coefficient is, look at it from 1980 onwards, QED. Or have a chat to Coal King Clive Palmer and Macquarie Bank, who funds him.
I will be looking after the booth for The Greens at Gladesville Public School today so if any of the BNC crowd in Sydney want to come past and say hello, you’re welcome.
I just noticed this article about the Greens – Comunists.
It provides some idea about what Australia is in for with the Greens-Communists in control of the senate and, god help us, balance of power in the House of Reps. OMG! OMG!!
Peter Lalor, even if the Swiss tender stipulated lederhosen for the new national dress, it would still be competitive with the domestic submissions. Pleased you approve of my modest proposal.
“It provides some idea about what Australia is in for with the Greens-Communists in control of the senate”
That article doesn’t really give us any insight. It certainly doesn’t make Green’s party politics any more dubious than that of the major parties.
What happens to carbon pricing and nuclear policy now the election has been run?
Case A ALP control Reps, Greens control Senate
Case B Libs control Reps, Greens control Senate
The Greens have said they will bring in a $23/tCO2 carbon tax which would strongly favour low carbon technology except nuclear would be prohibited. The Libs would have no carbon pricing but there would be no perceived need for nuclear since we have lots of perfectly lovely coal. If Case A eventuates then carbon tax would seem to be part of any deal. I’d imagine there would be colourful scenes in Parliament perhaps with some conservative ALP lower house members threatening to cross the floor. Conversely Lib Turnbull who romped home demands climate action.
Expect pandemonium as all this is sorted out in the next few months. I don’t think the Greens can back down from a carbon tax as part of any deal.
I’m writing my undergraduate dissertation on how Nuclear Power can be implemented in my home country. I was wondering if the energy experts on this forum could tell me about all and any research papers I could use as resources/references.
Stuff on various designs of reactors (i’m planning to do a section on FBR), proliferation stuff, waste management etc would be great.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
You seem to be displaying your own personal bias against Conservatives with this statement:
Did you read see my post at 20 August 2010 at 20.33 ?
If you read this and follow through the history of what has been happening it should be pretty clear where the block is coming from – hint: it is not the Conservatives.
I am surprised you stick so rigidly to wanting a price on carbon, as if you think that will give us clean energy.
As long as the fanatics continue to insist on raising the price of electricity, as opposed to allowing clean electricity to be cheap, the strugle will be long and difficult.
My interpretation of the result last night is Australia wants the government to stop the waste! Australians recognises the Labor government was grossly incompetent. The ETS/CPRS contributed to this impression, (as did MRRT, NBN (nationalised broadband for $2000 per person plus $3000- $4000 per house and $200 per month thereafter), bad Health agreement with state governments, Building Education Revolution fiasco, Pink Bats insulation fiasco and many more).
My suggestion is we should change tack away from trying to force through ETS and carbon tax – yet!!. We should focus on explaining to people that there is a way we can have clean energy AND low cost electricity as well.
I’d word that a different way. I’d say:
The Greens have said they will bring in a $23/tCO2 carbon tax which would strongly favour massive waste of money with no real gains for the environment.
I’d add, the carbon tax would favour more waste on programs like those proposed in the ZCA2020 plan and the ‘Pink Bats’ insulation fiasco. Remember that the Government promoted the Pink Bats insulation program as the lowest of the low hanging fruit for reducing CO2 emissions. Yet the actual cost works out at $200 per tonne CO2 avoided – about ten times the avoidance cost of nuclear.
Renewable energy, government mandated energy efficiency improvements and smart grids are very high cost ways to reduce emissions compared with replacing fossil fuels with nuclear.
Stop the waste
@Peter without giving away my biases I am troubled by Case B which sees Australia with a PM who says ‘climate change is crap’. The generation industry says it needs to know whether carbon pricing is on or off for the next 40 years. Thus I concede even if Abbott can form a government it doesn’t mean new coal stations will be built. I also agree with Abbott that the NBN budget is too lavish. Cut it in half and buy two AP 1000s with the savings.
Like it not the Greens will be a major force for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to see yer Ludlams etc having a change of heart on nuclear. A sizeable chunk of the Australian public seem to be saying they are prepared to pay an extra 2c per kwh on electricity and 5c a litre on petrol. On the other hand yer Bob Katters etc might go into a rage over coal industry jobs and the cost of running cattle trucks.
A compromise deal might be no carbon tax if new generation is less than say 100 kgs of CO2 per Mwh. The Greens might agree to it thinking the wind/gas combination can achieve that but they are in for a shock. Then they’d have to rethink.
Peter Lang & John Newlands,
Do you think this scenario is plausible? :
An ETS or carbon tax is implemented now, with no cheap electricty generating alternatives available. This, combined with more renewable infrastructure, leads to a rising cost in electricity over the next few years. Society views these costs as intolerable. Realising that renewable technologies are unable to provide the cheaper electricity that society demands, the Government in one of the next few terms (whoever is elected in e.g. 2013, 2016, 2019) are forced to lift bans on the only electricity generating technology which can lower the price of electricity (that is, nuclear), and provide subsidies for its immediate implementation (say, equal to that which renewables have received by that time).
It’s a cost, for sure, but it won’t be as high as the cost of not adopting nuclear energy (e.g. more climate change, ongoing health effects from burning more coal).
Rather than ETS and Carbon Taxing, why not demand tax breaks for Low Carbon Emitting sources?
I think it is stupid, naive idea.
Why would you want to do that?
Why, if you know your idea is going to cost a mint and achieve nothing, would you advocate wasting the country’s wealth and the world’s wealth on such an irrational idea?
The only people that would advocate such irrational policies are those who are impressed by more stunts – more spin, no substance.
You asked, what do I think. That’s what I think!
There is no point at all, in fact it is really bad policy, IMO, to implement a price on carbon until after we have removed all the impediments on nuclear power.
We’ve been doing what you advocate for at least 20 years. It gets us nowhere. We’ll keep on building things like the ZCA Plan (even little bits of it like wind farms) at enormous cost if we don’t bite the bullet on nuclear. We need to address that issue. Every other top 20 economy has nuclear already or is moving to embrace it as fast as they can – except us.
I say no to tax breaks too. I wonder why you and others keep advocating government interventions to distort the market.
All we have to do is to remove all the market impediments that prevent low cost, clean electricity competing on a level playing field. If we did removal all the distortions, nuclear would be a ‘shoe in’!.
Before some here jump up too high about it is too high cost now, we have forced that by our interventions and regulations over the past 40 years, and by blocking it in Australia. Part of removing the impediements is to facilitate the removal of all that burden.
We can have low cost, clean electricity. But it will never happen if we continually try now fudges through government imposed market distortions.
Thank you for your response, but I wasn’t asking whether you thought it was a good idea, but whether you see it as plausible. I wasn’t advocating anything. The “idea” is merely a perceived scenario IF a carbon price is implemented in Australia soon.
You keep saying “All we have to do is to remove all the market impediments that prevent low cost, clean electricity competing on a level playing field”. I agree, but HOW are is this going to come about? I see no evidence to suggest this will happen in the near future, given the current climate of debate. I’m just looking at the Australian public’s attitude to nuclear at the moment and thinking that perhaps there needs to be something to trigger the idea that it is a necessity, before it happens.
And I don’t understand what you meant by “We’ve been doing what you advocate for at least 20 years”, as we haven’t had a carbon price before. And I don’t know what you think I’m advocating.
Tom & Tom,
This lists some of the regulatory distortions and imposts that are preventing low cost, clean electricity in Australia:
Many scenarios could be imagined but business-as-usual for the next decade seems unlikely. With or without climate nasties we are facing more expensive food and then fuel. Overseas demand for our LNG and black thermal coal is likely to drive up domestic energy prices even without extra charges. Our oil import dependence will increase. Desal and water costs will increase… see SBS One at 6pm tonight.
Under Abbott I presume there will be neither an ETS nor RET. However generators will want to know what happens when he is no longer PM. If any of the 20 million new trees he wants planted succumb to drought, dieback or fire I guess we just start again.
Tom W full pricing of energy is preferable to subsidies. I believe the Greens were foolishly talking about feed-in tariffs for wind and commercial solar. That’s on top of quotas. I like the idea of CO2 caps (excluding bogus carbon credits) that keep everybody’s eye on the ball. The carbon price doesn’t have to be explicit as in the case of a carbon tax but it can be implicit such as a portfolio emissions standard. That is the generators cannot put too much cheap coal in the mix. The customer ends up paying either way via taxes or power bills but assured subsidies don’t encourage efficiency.
I think you may misunderstand what “Business as Usual” means. It includes the sorts of efficency improvements, fuel switching, and changes in technology that go on continually, year after year, decade after decade.
I say “Business as Unsual” is what will continue. History demonstrates that this is what will happen. Government imposts to change the market will have only a fringe effect on consumptions, but at high cost – just as they have in the past.
The new post, just posted, shows this to be true. For the past 20 years, despite all the market interventions we have tried – and there have been an enormous number of them – we have deviated little from the BAU projections ABARE made in 1990.
There is no reason to believe that will change in the future. Of course there will be many unforseeable changes in the future, but history suggests they will roughly balance out.
Learning from this experience, what we can and should do to allw clean energy, i s to remove the government imposed impediments to cheap, clean electricity.
Watching the TV interviews with the ‘kingmaker’ independents MPs it has struck me that most of them at some point mention renewable energy. Whatever happens it seems like we will get both a carbon price (probably trivial) and more subsidies for renewables. What I fear is
Mistake 1 Feed-in tariffs for commercial wind and solar as flagged a couple of months ago. That’s on top of a carbon tax.
Mistake 2 Rural pork barrelling NZ style whereby farmers get well paid for practices that save tiny unverifiable amounts of CH4 and CO2.
Thus I’m not confident that any real GHG mitigation will occur, just delusion and dithering with high power bills.
boy: talk about cherry picking. I haven’t looked into the TVA situation but it’s possible that nukes on rivers with low flow during hot summers could have real problems.
it’s really dishonest to suggest this is nuclear’s main problem. that this problem is generalized. and then leave out the renewables “cost” problems. and of course, they leave out china. s. korea, examples that don’t fit their argument.
Let’s always try to do better here. Cherry picking is the problem, coupled with people who cherry pick accusing others of cherry picking.
This TVA point is the caldicott point that she makes in her book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. she gives the example of the shutting down of certain french nuke plants due to low river output. and the conclusion is that global warming is bad for nukes.
I made this argument in an article I wrote before I knew what I was talking about.
From the climateprogress link
” Kaj Luukko says:
August 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm
Rising temparetures are affecting concentrated solar power in the same way. They need a heat sink for the Rankine-cycle, just as nuclear and coal plants.”
Well said, Kaj Luukko :)
One might even say that because CSP more or less has to be built in areas that receive a lot of sun light (the deserts of Australia for example), they are far more burdened by this problem. What a patently dishonest argument. Some anti-nukes will stop at nothing.
Peter Lang’s medication mustn’t have kicked in recently.
Most of his contributions on this thread have been either political or personally abusive.
Like a broken record we get three themes:
1. Look at me! I once had a thought and wrote about at at !
2. , NO!! I think it is a stupid, naive idea. Why would you want to do that?
3. Politics, of the style “waste is bad, tax is waste, left is worse”.
I wonder how many other BNC readers find this repetition both boring and offensive?
John Newlands @ 7:44 26/8, you may have already seen this:
Welcome to our future.
Unless we change direction.
The Times August 28 2010
Carbon capture companies want protection if acid leaks into the sea.
Robin Pagnamenta Energy Editor
The energy industry wants the British taxpayer to shield it from the risk of new North Sea carbon capture and storage projects leaking and producing carbonic acid that could kill fish and other marine life at a catastrophic level.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) set out new guidelines yesterday on how it intended to license CCS projects, which it hopes will play a significant role in cutting UK emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
However, the document also revealed that some of Britain s biggest energy companies have expressed concern about who would be held responsible in the event of a devastating leak of the gas into the sea.
The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), whose members include BP, Shell, EDF Energy and E.ON, have been pressing for a bailout clause in new legislation governing the arrangements that would force the Government to step in during the aftermath of an environmental disaster.
If you put CO2 into the marine environment, it can cause very significant problems, said Jerry Blackford of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, who is conducting a three-year research project on the subject. The issue is how much you put in and how quickly. He said that a massive leak of carbon dioxide into the North Sea would lower the pH of the waters, which would damage the ability of sea creatures to build shells.
The DECC declined to say which of the companies had sought the bailout clause, but noted that 19 groups had responded to a consultation exercise. It acknowledged that some of them viewed the issue as a potential showstopper.
The authorities should indemnify the operator for unexpected and very high cost exposures ‹ avoiding an economic barrier for initial projects, the document read.
CCS technology is designed to lock away carbon dioxide permanently by stripping out emissions from power stations and converting them into a liquid. It can then be piped out to sea for storage in rock formations deep beneath the seabed ‹ mostly former gas fields.
Carbon capture and storage is essential for mitigating climate change while maintaining energy security, Charles Hendry, the Energy Minister, said. There is enough potential under the North Sea to store more than 100 years of carbon dioxide emissions from the UK s power fleet, and we need to make the most of that.
The CCSA is also concerned about another aspect of the financial implications of an accidental release of carbon dioxide, which, under present rules, would force the operator of a storage project to buy emissions permits for the gas.
A leak may be very unlikely but it exposes developers to a huge openended liability, an industry insider said.
Yesterday the Government brushed aside calls for it to underwrite the projects by acting as an insurer of last resort. It suggested that developers be held solely responsible for any leaks, a responsibility that would include full liability for remedial measures in the event of environmental damage. But it also signalled some flexibility, declining to specify who would be responsible once a temporary permit for a CCS project expired. It also emphasised that it wanted to hear more views from industry on the issue.
Concerns over the risk of a CO2 leak into the North Sea from a carbon storage project have been compounded by BP s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Nevertheless, Andy Chadwick, an expert on CCS at the British Geological Survey, said that the risk of a marine leak was extremely low.
He said: The risk from any leak of CO2 into the seas would be infinitely lower than the risk of climate change.