Open Thread 7

Open Thread 6 is getting overly bloated in its old age, at 650 comments, and is taking too much time to load. So it’s time for 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.



You may find this letter of interest, on the IFR and an upcoming book on Len Koch: The death of something wonderful.

TCASE #5 at the RiAus is coming up next week. There are still seats available, so book now (free, but you must register). Details below (and here):

Thinking critically about sustainable energy: Demand side management and energy storage

When: Wednesday 3rd of November 2010 – 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Venue: The Science Exchange Address: 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide

Click here to book for this free event.

Demand side management (DSM) aims to improve the efficiency of energy consumption by reducing demand and using supplementary energy sources at peak times. Emerging systems can store excess energy produced during low demand periods and return it to the grid during peak periods. Smartgrids, which can monitor and control domestic usage instantly, are just around the corner. Will these systems play a significant role in reducing our power consumption? Professor Barry Brook and an expert panel (Craig Oakeshott from AEMO, Andrew Dicks and Glenn Platt) explain the role of these technologies. This event is the fifth of six public forums on sustainable energy technologies.


  1. Here is an interesting speech by Eric Loewen, VP of the American Nuclear Society, on 25 Oct. Definitely worth a read. Here is an extract:

    We can do this. We can build new nuclear power plants in this great country. New nuclear power development. Why do I think this? We don’t have it that bad.

    What if you were John Stevens, who was selected by the U.S. to continue building the Panama Canal? Considered the best construction engineer in the country at the age of 52, and of whom President Roosevelt said was “a big fellow, a man of daring and good sense, and burly power,” he faced in the creation of the Panama Canal an unprecedented feat of engineering. At its time, the Panama Canal project was the largest, most costly single effort ever mounted on earth. It spanned 40 years! It affected the lives of over 10,000 people. France was rocked to it foundations in its failure to complete the project. It marked a score of advances in planning, engineering and project controls. A visualization of the volume of earth that was removed is difficult to convey. The total excavation of the Canal would fill an unbelievable number of train cars that would encircle the world four times at the equator. Or with the same volume you could build 63 of the world’s largest pyramids. All we’re trying to do now is build a power plant. So what can we learn from the Panama Canal? Courage and tenacity need to be of the highest order to meet unexpected obstacles. We can and will overcome those obstacles.

    Remember, this is not the revival of our industry, but rather the development of it. We are not dormant or in a weakened state. We have been and remain critical to stimulating economic growth, creating jobs, fostering research and innovation, and supplying critical base load electricity generation. And we do so in an environmentally sustainable manner.
    So now it’s time to do our part. As you share information at this meeting to improve our industry, let’s remember the larger audience outside these walls. Remember your neighbors. Let’s help them put fear aside and embrace the knowledge that nuclear power is the safest, large-scale energy source on earth.


  2. Loewen invokes a time when Americans believed in themselves, believed in their government, and had yet to face anything even close to a national failure. It is not the same nation that built the Panama Canal, and could take a leading role in prosecuting war in two separate theaters, against two separate enemies. Most importantly, they no longer believe in science, preferring to substitute faith for facts in too many domains. People like Loewen are the modern equivalent of the Lesser Prophets, and being paid attention to about as much.

    He is right in that the only real battle in the fight for nuclear power is for the hearts and minds of the public. All the technical issues are secondary, or have known solutions. Nuclear power will rise if and only of it is pushed up from the bottom by the force of public demand, without it it is at the mercy of special interests and will never achieve what it is capable of.


  3. Oh and apropos to nothing in particular, I see that it is estimated that during the next forty years about two thousand coal power stations must be replaced world wide, due to age. The opportunity this represents should not be taken lightly.


  4. “Oh and apropos to nothing in particular, I see that it is estimated that during the next forty years about two thousand coal power stations must be replaced world wide, due to age. The opportunity this represents should not be taken lightly.”

    So assuming that each coal power station has an average 500 MW capacity (I don’t know how correct this value is for a conservative estimate), that’s 500*2000 = 1 million MW that needs replacing. That is 1/10th of the 10 TW scenario from the last BNC thread, that needs to be built by necessity. This could have large roll-over effects influencing the additional capacity demand, if it gets momentum swinging in the right direction (i.e. towards nuclear).


  5. I have the impression that grid energy providers (electricity and gas) have had a major rethink on their role in the last couple of years. Once they were service providers now they appear to see themselves differently. It seems when the Rudd ETS died in the arse the companies all took it upon themselves to obtain hefty price increases. The claimed grounds for this appear to be infrastructure renewal such as new transmission and replacing transformers. I heard one exec waffling on radio about everything and anything. Perhaps what he really meant is that they had to get in before carbon prices arrived. What GW Bush would call a pre-emptive strike.

    Just one troubling aspect is the increase in the daily connection charge for grid tied microgeneration. If the fee is $1 and you get a minimal 20c feed-in tariff you have to export 5 kwh a day to the grid just to cover the fee. That could be $10k worth of PV panels or micro wind turbine for no tangible benefit. If the fee keeps increasing what are the implications?

    Another troubling development is bill shock from smart metering, not yet here in Tas. Possibly users mistakenly thought appliance use would somehow be controlled automatically. The more likely explanation is that providers changed the pricing schedules and used the smart meters as cover.

    Are the utility companies our friends or are they trying to pull a swiftie? Surely Electricite de France is not like any of the Australian power companies.


  6. “If the fee keeps increasing what are the implications?”

    That this whole grid tied microgeneration nonsense dies a well deserved and long overdue death. The processes for integrating new power production should correspond to its impact, complexities and benefits, and hooking any generator under one megawatt to the grid, is just not worth the trouble.

    As for ‘smart metering’, this is just a euphemism for rationing. Rationing of the worst sort as it effects the poor more than the rich. Thus the folks that can’t pay the higher primetime rates, level demand for the wealthy that can afford it.

    How this managed to get by the Green-Left is beyond me, and is yet another indication of how disconnected they are to energy realities.


  7. I recall several years ago on The Oil Drum someone said in the long run the only things that would really work are nuclear power and rationing. That seems to be truer with the passing of time. I believe rationing politely called demand side management DSM is inevitable because the fossil fuel replacement problem is now too enormous.

    Since Barry and others will be addressing DSM next week perhaps discussion should deferred. However I would like to propose a general rule that covers both microgeneration and smart metering; if the rules are going to be changed let people know well in advance. That is, give people a sporting chance to make the necessary adjustments and not change things out of the blue. Not just in the Anglosphere; if they cut PV subsidies in Germany (see sidebar) we’ll hear the yelling from here.


  8. I have yet once to see ideology trump physics in the real world. If I may permitted a baseball metaphor: Mother nature always bats last, and she is batting 1.000. The Germans can scream all they want, they still can’t change facts just because they don’t like them.

    Microgeneration fed to the grid in tiny amounts at best just makes heat, and at worse contributes to stability issues. It’s a sham and it will never get better. As far as reducing ones energy purchases, things like an integrated solar/electric, or solar/gas domestic hot water system (or pool heater) is more likely to yield a faster payback, and give longer service, than PV’s.

    Yes it may be inevitable, but all the DSM systems being proposed are essentially regressive, impacting the poor far greater than the rich, and that is not fair rationing. As well it is a market distortion that impedes development of other sources. If the top half of society has got theirs, the poor can be left to suck a dry teat for all they are going to care, thus the group that can put real pressure on for change will not be motivated to make waves.

    You know I am as far from being a Leftist as I can be without starting to goosestep, but this DSM scam is making me see Red (pun intended)


  9. There are DSM systems that have been used for years that do not require smart meters. In the late 70’s we were renting a house in a suburb of the Greater Toronto Area, and this house used electric power both to heat domestic water and the water for the hydronic heating system. Both of these systems had apparatus that permitted the utility to shut them down remotely during high load conditions. There was some complex formula in place that in essence seemed to suggest that outages would be less than 15 min. in duration, and that they would be rolled through the neighborhood (as everyone was on the same system in the area) and it was unlikely that we would even notice it. And indeed we did not. Furthermore, rather than being punished for use, as is the case with smart meters, by higher prices, we were rewarded for participating, with overall lower rates.

    There are passive systems that can be attached to inductive loads, that detect frequency variation on the incoming line. Small changes in frequency, are indications of the state of VAR on the grid, and having things like fridges, air conditioning, and other motors under automatic control, switch in and out on the bases of this value can save huge amounts of energy that would otherwise just turn to heat. Again, most of the time these are planned with a preferred rate to the customer for using them.

    Smart metering is only a way to raise rates in those times where demand is high, and generally demand is high because there is a good reason. Pompous talk about social engineering notwithstanding, it looks to me like simple price gouging painted green.


  10. I should clarify the above somewhat.

    DSM is a term that covers an array of techniques, and some, like the two I described above, are for all intents and purposes, transparent for the consumer. There are several other load shedding schemes, like control of water tower pumps, and industrial process heat that also, in essence, use stored energy to permit dynamic load management.

    Certainly too there is nothing wrong with time-of-day contracts that some industries can take advantage of that offer a preferential rate to those facilities that can shift high process loads to the night shift, and so on. These schemes though, have been around for decades, and the grim truth is that they have reached saturation, which is why attention has been turned to smaller consumers.

    This is fine IF the principle of user transparency was maintained, but of course it is not, and that is the crux of my issue with things like smart metering.


  11. A fair number of coal burners have been coming up for relicensing across the USA. For relicensing, the EPA now requires the installation of significant pollution abatement equipment, to the tune of around $1 per Watt of nameplate capacity. The result is often that the coal burners are instead going to shut down. One utility in South Carolina is going to shut down one 400 MWe unit and convert its twin next door into a wood burner. The TVA announced plans to shut down 7 coal burners and convert an additional one to a wood burner. [Don’t expect lots of wood burners; the one in South Carolina probably will use all the waste wood from the entire state and the TVA plant similarly in Tennessee.] The Navaho Nation contains two large (1.2 GWe each) coal burners. The operators are likely to close those rather than re-equip, according to a recent article in TNYT. [Both locations would be ideal for big NPPs, but the Navahos probably don’t want to have anything further to do with uranium, sorry.] The ~600 MWe Portland General Electric (PGE, different than PG&E in California) coal burner upwind from me is, it seems, going to have its $600 million upgrade and continue burning coal, despite some opposition in Portland, Oregon.

    Not that I know about all plans and construction in the contiguous US, but AFAIK there is only one new coal burner currently being built (in wesstern Kansas) and definite plans going forth in Illinois, despite significant opposition in parts of Chicago (NIMBYism).


  12. This IEA Wind Power Study

    Click to access T2493.pdf

    points out that most thermal producers can sart up in 4–6 hours. Indeed, this is an important source of baqckup for wind the Germany (and therefore neighboring countries). I suppose this reference was to the North German monster-sized coal burners radily visible from road or rail.

    So my question is, could an NPP also be fully cycled that quickly? I was under the impression that is not done, but could an NPP be on similar stand-by (tertiary reserve)?


  13. @David B. Benson

    From the Areva web site:

    “Load follow: between 60 and 100% nominal output, the EPR™ reactor can adjust it power output at a rate of 5% nominal power per minute at constant temperature, preserving the service life of the components and of the plant.”

    I believe that existing German NPPs can load follow, but unfortunately, I’ve lost the reference.

    I get the impression that it’s more of an economic than an engineering issue. Running NPPs at a low capacity factor is obviously going to be a fairly costly way of generating electricity.


  14. quokka, on 31 October 2010 at 10:57 AM — Thanks. SOP in the US is to run the NPPs at full power, even if it means having to pay somebody to consume the power during periods of low demand. I’m under the vague impression the Germans do something similar, while I have it on the best authority that the French do indeed cycle their NPPs because that is almost all they have. Since the French are planning on building quite a slug of off-shore wind turbines, one suspects they will be doing ever more such cycling in the future.

    I’m not suggesting all this makes the best of sense from a purely rational decision economic standpoint. It seems to me that the German practice of backing up wind with coal burners is at least somewhat more rational; no CO2 (and other junk) emitted when the coal burner isn’t running.


  15. @David B. Benson – The only circumstances where US utilities are forced into negative pricing regimes is to accommodate wind. The nuclear plants in the US are all baseload stations, and blaming them for the fact that they cannot throttle-back to accommodate an intermittent generator like wind is sophistry. But it is typical of the both the antinuclear and pro-renewable arguments to try and shift blame in this shamless way.

    Nor is it an inherent problem with NNPs in general that the current ones in service cannot load follow, as they were designed to provide baseload from the outset. Newer designs will correct that.


  16. DV82XL, on 31 October 2010 at 12:33 PM — Possibly now you might be right, but my understanding is that when some of the NPPs in the USA were new they were oversized for the then existing baseload, hence negative pricing.

    The French do in fact, cycle some of their reactors.

    One of your sentences suggests you are ascribing positions to me I do not hold. To make my position clear, I currently advocate anything which is reasonably economic and doesn’t burn fossil carbon. I’ve learned enough about nuclear thermal power generation to view it as currently a decent solution with prospects for definite improvement. But up to a limited portion of the total load that is also true of wind turbine power (I encourage reading the IEA study) and in some regions, maybe also solar thermal. If the price of NPPs drops below the cost of CCGTs on a LCOE basis, then those other methods won’t be built anymore (which I would actually prefer).


  17. Scott the big trip on the battery powered Audi may not have been done under typical conditions and household budgets. I’d guess the quick charger was higher voltage than home outlets. The drive may have been flattish and smooth. The drawdown may have been injurious for that type of battery. We aren’t told how many such deep cycles will shorten battery life. Nor are we told the battery price, weight and ease of refurbishment. It would seem to vastly outperform workhorse batteries proposed for the General Motors Volt.

    Pending more info I’m sticking to my view that people will prefer hydrocarbon based mobility, assuming those hydrocarbons remain affordable.


  18. @David B. Benson, I will need to see some reference to back up the claim that there was negative pricing due to overproduction when the existing fleet of NNPs were new. First, most of these were on supply grids with coal and hydro which can load follow with ease, secondly the market was a very regulated one at the time, which I am almost sure was not equipped to deal with negative pricing even on the spot market, and I am positive did not have a mechanism to allow for it on the forward market, which would be where the systematic overproduction that you are saying existed, would have to have been arbitraged.

    BTW I was remarking on the argument, not suggesting you were a member of the groups that use it. However I will state for the record that I think wind and solar are stupid little toys and they will forever remain toys. They will never power an advanced civilization. They are a waste of our economic resources, our attention and our time. Without contributing any reliable capacity, they will nonetheless make nuclear, by far our most practical and reliable form of zero carbon energy, less profitable. Existing plants will be caught in a trap and new construction is being discouraged entirely. Furthermore, it is clear that they are little more than a green fig-leaf to cover the burning of natural gas, their ‘backup’ that generally is found to supply over 80% of the power these systems are supposed to generate.


  19. I’m swinging to the view that most extra-urban road vehicles should eventually use compressed methane as fuel. The capital cost is moderate and the net energy is reasonable. That is mainly piston engine cars running on natgas, coal seam gas, scrubbed fermentation gas, synthetic methane or a blend. The 200 bar compression effort is minor and relatively safe as shown by scuba tanks. Coincidentally a CNG fillup is usually around 6 minutes I believe same as the ultra HV battery charger.

    If methane for road transport is how things could pan out why oh why are we in such a hurry to flog it off?
    Think of Australia’s troubled million barrel of oil a day habit as around 50 Mt a year of premium hydrocarbon. That means we should not be exporting so much gas nor adopting gas fired generation as the unwritten agenda for coal replacement.


  20. DV82XL, on 31 October 2010 at 1:59 PM — I’ll eventually ask my source for more data regarding the negative pricing.

    Having been through the IEA Wind Power Study

    Click to access T2493.pdf

    I’ll somewhat disagree about wind turbines and I’ll certainly disagree about the potential for solar thermal in certain locations. But for both there can only be about a 20% share of the capacity of the (correctly defined) grid. That leaves room for, guess what, France’s 80% nuclear.

    Of course all that changes if NPPs can eventually supply considerably less expensive electricity. Not holding my breath.


  21. The fact is that predictions aside wind and solar installations never come close to yielding their nameplate rating, and all of them need some sort of load following back up like gas or hydro to work.

    Further, stripped of their subsidies, feed in tariffs, and guaranteed loads, they wouldn’t last an hour on the electric market, because they are not dispatchable, and too variable. Right now the grid operators consider them more trouble that they are worth.

    It is interesting that the renewable supporters always demand that nuclear demonstrate hard positive economics, but are as quick to demand that the infrastructure adjust to the shortcomings of wind and solar, and as well pay them preferential rates.

    BTW 20% is dreaming in color for wind and solar.


  22. DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 7:23 AM — BPA will back up to 20% of installed total nameplate power with its vast hydro resources. In addition, BPA regulates when the wind farms can produce, this mostly having to do with minimum streamflows in the spring.

    Denmark already has 20% wind and appears to be planning on 50% wind power, but that is only a subgrid scale, no matter what they call it; ample hydro backup from the Nordic neighbors.

    The grid operators require some additional training around here and that training is being provided from down the hall and one floor down. If you’d actually read that paper you too would see how well done this is, especially in Spain. With modern computers and communications the adjustment to the variabity of wind isn’t that difficult. It does mean paying more attention to the weather as the Texas grid operator fairly recently learned the hard way.

    As for the various pricing arrangements, the various energy markets don’t appear to follow what is termed rational decision economics, so railing about that won’t do a bit of good. However, if nuclear was demonstrably less expensive than CCGTs, you’d find all other generation methods being eventually abandoned. I don’t demand that, it’s rather the various decision makers who appear to need it.


  23. …down the hall and one floor down eh? So you’re an industry shill.

    The fact is, the price of electricity within a grid region is set at a single price known as the “market-clearing price” or MCP. In most organized electricity markets, electricity generators are encouraged to participate in a daily or day-ahead auction process whereby a uniform market price, the MCP, is established. The MCP is the offer price of the highest-priced generation within the market.

    Consider a simple electricity system with baseload coal generators having low production costs of approximately $25/MWh, and gas-fired peakers having higher production costs of approximately $100/MWh. Off-peak, when demand is lower, only the coal generators may be necessary to meet demand. The market-clearing price for energy is set by the coal offer price, which can be expected to be around $25/MWh. However, on-peak, when demand is higher, both the coal and the gas-fired generation may be required to meet demand and the market-clearing price will be set by the offer of the gas-fired generation, which can be expected to be around $100/MWh. On-peak, both the coal and the gas-fired generation receive the market-clearing price.

    ISOs typically operate using a day-ahead auction where generators are required to offer firm levels of production for each hour of the next power day. The energy price, in turn, is determined based on those bidding into the system; all generators receive the same price per megawatt hour of generation. Significant penalties are applied if a generator is unable to meet his commitment.

    Since wind is an unreliable, intermittent energy source, power pools cannot rely on wind generation to be there at critical times. Since the production from a wind resource cannot be reliably forecasted, the ISOs do not require wind to schedule any of its production in the day-ahead energy market. Instead, wind resources are permitted to operate exclusively in the spot market carrying no penalties for non-performance and where prices are generally greater than the prices paid for the day-ahead energy market. Those selling into the spot market are paid at the clearing price of the spot market.

    Day-ahead markets represent roughly 90% of the available generation with the spot market holding only a 10% share. Since the price paid for ninety-percent of the generation is established twenty-four hours in advance of the power day, any participation from wind will have only a marginal impact on prices limited to those resources operating within the real-time market.

    Now wind is reliant on subsidies to compensate, in part, for any losses due to its fluctuating, intermittent nature. And more and more developers are under pressure from investors to secure power purchase agreements with utilities that will ensure long-term guarantees that their power will be purchased at a fixed price. Even with these purchase agreements in place, wind will still sell into the spot market. But the agreements assure the developers, and their investors, that they will be paid a stable price for each megawatt hour of generation.

    The purchase price of wind for 20-year contracts in these schemes is being set based on a rate 2-3 times the anticipated future pricing of natural gas, the fuel generally being used to fire peekers which sell on the spot electric power market.

    Now keeping in mind that the grid is often forced by law to buy wind preferentially to other generators, and buy all of it (thus negative pricing) it is hard for me to see how this benefits the end consumer. Not only that, but where wind is backed by coal, the coal station must keep burning fuel to maintain spinning reserve, so your computerized leveling magic can work thus the savings in CO2 will be far less than advertised.

    Oh but you were talking about it being backed by hydro. Well here in Quebec we have lots of hydro, and lots of wind resources, and the idea was to couple them together. To make a long story short in those seasons where the wind blows, the reservoirs are so full the water has to be released through spillways, and the months when they are low on water, there is little wind.

    And I am still waiting for proof of the unsupported statement you made up thread about NNP needing negative pricing when they first started. I’ve looked and I certainly can’t find any mention of this anywhere.


  24. DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 8:44 AM — This is a university office. An important part of the study provided to the working power engineers and operators has to do with the understanding of the computers in substations as well as various forms of generators.

    I am aware of how these various markets (sorta) work, but around here all the utilities are vertically integrated still and all buying some of BPA’s hydro plus a bit of other stuff such as wind and nuclear. For example, if I wanted to claim to be running of “wind power” I could pay a premium to Avista Utilties which they, in turn, presumably pass on to the wind farm operators; I choose not to. Leaving out the wind, my power comes from
    51% hydro
    25% coal
    21% natgas
    03% oddments swuch as biomass and 0.22% nuclear.

    The IEA study just stated that northern Germany’s tertiary reserves were thermal without specifying coal or natgas. Whichever, those are usually not running except when there is too much or too little wind. The faster reserves appear to be OCGTs; those aren’t usually running either. The IEA study did complain about the usual day-ahead market; what wind requires is an intra-day market but it seems the Europeans have some other way of doing the accounting.

    It’ll probably be several days before I can straighten out what my source was talking about; hold your breath.


  25. My apologies for calling you a shill.

    Thermal plants don’t have ‘cold start’ (as the term is used in the industry) capacity the way gas turbine stations do. Thus when they are on stand-by they still must burn fuel.

    You do understand that the real time market is set in 5 and 15 min. blocks, as well other power related commodities ancillary services like transmission, regulation, and frequency discipline must be purchased as well for these blocks, and at a premium price.

    The question that has to be asked, is if there is any real benefit to wind in terms of reduced carbon, and why should anyone put up with wind if there is a high penetration by nuclear. I can understand the people that insist that we will always have natural gas peaking, because while I believe that even this will go nuclear in time, in the short term they have a point. But I have yet to see a good argument for integrating an intermittent generator into the mix, when it cannot stand on its own economic feet, and has to be shoved down the throats of the electric power market by force of law.

    BTW the sketch I gave up thread is very general, but almost all electric power markets work about the same.


  26. DV82XL, on 1 November 2010 at 10:46 AM — I would suppose that a thermal plant can get going in 4–6 hours. If so, that’s enough.

    Yes, there are smaller blocks which the ISO has to control. To my surprise, it turns out that wind turbines, being induction generators, have several desirable characteristics for providing control over the shorter time periods. So the operators around here need to learn about that as well; the Spaniards appear to be the best st this. Anyway, there is some payback for grid controllability in trade for the intermittency.

    As best as I can determine, the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon. For whatever reason, even the French are going to construct a substantial off-shore wind farm, much more than needed to replace their 5% reliance on coal. Maybe they intend to do even more electricity exporting to neighboring countries?

    The electric power industry is highly regulated in any event; requiring some renewables is now part of it. So is the ever increased requirements for electirc power reliability, which is somewhat more difficult to meet, IMO.

    Natural gas peaking is not necessary, except for rather small increments, if one runs NPPs French style.

    As for the economics, all methods of generation receive some form of subsidy, even if only not paying the externalities, such as hydro. As for wind turbines, the argument in the USA is that traditionally all new technologies have been helped along by the government; aiplanes for example. The decision makers have accepted the argument.

    I’ll have to ask the power engineering professors at lunch some day, but as best I can make it out here in the Pacific Northwest there is no such electric power market. BPA sells to the retailers what they need in addition to the retailers own generation. There is a highly limited market between the different retailers. This might seem old fashioned, but the dominance of BPA plays a big role in not (yet) restructuring the way other regions have.


  27. For whatever reason, even the French are going to construct a substantial off-shore wind farm, much more than needed to replace their 5% reliance on coal. Maybe they intend to do even more electricity exporting to neighboring countries?

    David, there is a simpler explanation. France, as an EU member, is obliged to produce 23% of its electricity from ‘renewable’ sources by 2020:

    This figure is calculated arbitrarily on the basis that ” every nation in the 27-member bloc is required to increase its share of renewables by 5.5% from 2005 levels, with the remaining increase calculated on the basis of per capita gross domestic product (GDP)”.

    France can do it partly from hydro, but it will have to seek large amounts of wind and solar to make up the remainder.

    Inexhaustible nuclear fission doesn’t count. Go figure. You’ve got to shake your head.


  28. DV82XL:

    It is interesting that the renewable supporters .. are as quick to demand that the infrastructure adjust to the shortcomings of wind and solar, and as well pay them preferential rates.

    Here’s a prime local example example of exactly that, which I saw reported yesterday:

    Rural systems struggling on high blood pressure lines

    SOLAR-PANEL owners in parts of country NSW are finding their systems do not work because the grid cannot handle the energy they produce. In some cases owners are being asked to pay for improvements themselves.

    Patricia Stuart, 42, and her husband, Ian Gillies, 43, spent $65,000 on a 10-kilowatt array of solar panels for their property at The Channon, in northern NSW.

    They hoped by feeding energy back into the grid using the state government’s Solar Bonus Scheme, their panels would pay for themselves in six years. However, the system just kept switching itself off.

    “We’ve got ‘high blood pressure’ lines,” Ms Stuart said. “They’re old lines and they’re not big enough to carry the load of electricity going both ways. The voltage kept going too high for our system.”

    [the utility said] “If the customer wants to put on more load than the network was designed for, we would be seeking a contribution from the customer,” which could cost ”thousands”.

    Ms Stuart said if that was the case they would have to take the system down.

    Quelle horreur!


  29. @David B. Benson, – you suppose start up times are enough, you think that nuclear plant had negative pricing when they were new, you claim induction generators have several desirable characteristics for providing control over the shorter time periods, and you assert that the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon.

    You making these claims without backing them up is meaningless noise, produce proof for what you write, because I don’t believe a word of it, and I can proved data that shows that most of what you are saying is simply wrong.

    If you want to try and make a case for wind do it with numbers, everything else is conjecture, or wishful thinking.

    BTW The Bonneville Power Administration uses the same basic system for selling power every one else does, or at least within the general description I gave up thread. A lot of power producers have long term contracts as well, it was just not germane to the discussion.


  30. @John Morgan – That was the thing that made my jaw drop to the ground when I first heard of these domestic generation schemes back in the 80s’. No one seemed phased by the fact that the distribution network was never designed for two-way traffic.

    Everyone that is but the engineers that were responsible for maintaining it, but who listens to maintenance anyway?


  31. David B. Benson,

    As best as I can determine, the use of wind turbines does reduce burning fossil carbon.

    I’d be very interested to see any studies that have actually measured the emissions avoided by wind farms. Could you ask your “professor” mates – down the corridor and one floor down – if they can point us to any such study of actual measurements.

    Note: I recognise there are many modelling studies that produce the results the wind advocates like to publicise, but ….


  32. My understanding is that there are protocols for exporting surplus microgeneration to the grid covering voltage, frequency and harmonics. The set up has to be approved in advance. My gripe is changing the rules mid way through the game. Microgenerators may have based their investment decision on a payback of say 5 -15 years. If the conditions change that to 30 years or perhaps never (as alleged with micro wind turbines) then the umpire has changed the rules.

    Example the Collingwood vs St Kilda game score was 9 goals 14 points to 10 goals 8 points, a draw if a goal is worth 6 points. Suppose after each side busted their nuts the umpire made a goal worth 5 or perhaps 7 points. You’d change the umpire.

    I understand there are also flow reversal problems with HVDC lines, as in not too often.


  33. John Newlands – Ya, there are protocols for exporting surplus microgeneration to the grid, it doesn’t mean that there will be a net gain of power to the grid from doing it. Take away the government mandates that force the distributors to accept these things, and they would be gone tomorrow. The truth is the overwhelming bulk of the electricity pumped back into the line from microgeneration turns into heat long before it does any useful work.

    The laws of physics are not subject to change by legislation. Unfortunately, short-sighted government intervention in support of this idea has created a market so distorted, that certain technologies with little real contribution have become fashionable, favoring eco-bling icons that attract massive public subsidies and policy support, which creates an inherently disproportionate cost to the taxpayer.


  34. Excuse me? You don’t drop a link to a 240 page document in our laps and tell us to find the parts that prove your statements. Is that how its done at your university? You don’t write a paper, you just tell the prof that he can find the information in the library. Somehow I don’t think so.


  35. Barry Brook, on 1 November 2010 at 12:03 PM — Thanks and I shook my head.

    I’ll guess that the result is a highly overpowered French grid so they’ll have to export more. Which means somehow paying for the extra transmission that will require.

    So I shook my head again.


  36. Seriously, this is your answer? “Think of it as your homework assignment” As far as I am concerned you pulled your ‘facts’ right out of your butt. Anyone can make up things as they go along to support whatever they want in a debate, the whole point of this process is to have a meaningful discussion, not just blow B.S. past each other.

    When you make a statement you back it up with a reference if challenged, or withdraw it as wrong. That’s how it works

    Your attitude, and your answer demonstrates high contempt for us, and it is clearly a transparent attempt by a coward to avoid admitting he was wrong. You have no credibility left whatsoever.


  37. DV82XL, on 2 November 2010 at 10:11 AM — Touchy today, arn’t we? Sorry the attempt at humor failed, but think of it as payback for “shill”.

    Now seriously, do study the document. It is indeed my reference for matters about wind turbines that I hadn’t previously known; I found it quite useful as a basis for rational discussion of the revolutionary changes wind power brings to grid operation. [I found it helpful for some other matters not yet mature enough to present.]


  38. Now seriously, provide the references or admit they are not there, your blowing smoke around to try and hide the fact that you got caught us. Be a man and admit it, or prove me wrong and show me the passages that support you statements.


  39. Since so much of what is discussed on BNC is predicated on a climate sensitivity of 2+, I ask the big question: *Is Lindzen Wrong*? (see, for example, So much of what has made me skeptical has been inconclusive; that is, just because an argument is sloppy, or an individual less than honest, or a data set ‘corrected’ for the wrong reasons, it does not logically follow that the underlying argument is false. Lindzen on climate sensitivity, however, seems to be the strongest direct refutation of the hypothesis to date.

    From the very start it seemed intuitively implausible to me that the net feedback could be positive.

    None of this is to argue that the energy discussions are not important — just that underpinning assumptions around AGW may be more shaky than some realise.


  40. @rafnics

    Your link has nothing to do with Lindzen. You can however see a debate between Dressler and Lindzen here. Dressler eats Lindzen’s lunch and discusses climate sensitivity in a very clear and straightforward manner.


  41. @quokka

    You say “Your link has nothing to do with Lindzen”

    This is so incomprehensibly at odds with the link I posted that I do not bother watching the video you post. If you would care to even start responding to the material I introduce, then I will in good faith follow the points and arguments you employ to do so, but not before.


  42. Bass Strait scallop fishermen have complained that seismic testing by Geosciences Victoria has killed their catch. Maybe we don’t need no stinkin’ scallops if a big oil find is on the cards. Not so, the testing was to find sites to inject liquid CO2 in conjunction with carbon capture projects
    From the map it looks as if the sites are about 200 km from major point sources of CO2 like Hazelwood brown coal fired power station.

    Does this mean they will shut down Hazelwood if CCS proves too expensive? Or is it part of a stalling exercise by appearing to be doing something?


  43. @rafnics,

    Your link ends up at #29 in Watts excruciatingly tedious series of photographing weather stations.

    I would also point out that lots of evidence ranging from models to direct measurement, and paleoclimate studies all point to a sensitivity of 3C. Your “intuition’ really count for much.


  44. ok – apologies quokka – I understand what happened now.

    My aim here is not to engage in a spitball debate on climate sensitivity. No doubt it is possible to provide any number of counter ‘links’ to the one I post. So, what am I doing?

    Whatever ‘side’ you are on, I think the argument presented by Lindzen is a serious one. And it does not suffer from the weaknesses that arise when fitting CO2 to temperature across a reference period.

    I am always prepared to change my views, and if someone can explain to me what is wrong with Lindzen’s argument, or present a *compelling* counter argument, them I will be happy to see that. However, on past experience, I will probably need some indication that you have comprehended the point I am making. I have been aware of this WUWT page for many months, read it several times, and it is the clearest and most concise form of the argument that I have seen. That is why I post it.


  45. rafnics, there are always many ways you can come at a complex problem like climate sensitivity, where direct observations are not amenable (at least in the short- to medium-term). Lindzen and Choi, and Schwartz, have theories regarding negative feedbacks dominating, and they have some merit. But when the ensemble of lines of evidence are gathered, Lindzen’s model estimate falls at the lower tail. Make what you will of the body of evidence. This figure is particularly useful for illustrating this general point, which avoids getting into arguments about the validity of individual models/proxies:

    The associated post is worth reading:


  46. Some interesting facts here:

    “The six-unit Gravelines nuclear power plant near Dunkerque in northern France has become the first nuclear plant in the world to deliver 1000 billion kilowatt-hours (one petawatt-hour) of electricity.
    “It is the first nuclear power site to generate this historic figure, which is equal to twice the annual consumption of the whole of France.”
    “The nuclear reactors at Gravelines have saved 1000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that would have been emitted to the atmosphere had coal been burnt instead. The high-level waste from the plant – which has been subjected to reprocessing – fills a volume about one-third that of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”

    French reactor reaches generation landmark

    I think the report got a bit overly enthusiastic in equating this power station to 200,000 2MW wind turbines. 10,000 seems more realistic. Still a lot of wind turbines.


  47. quokka,

    Thank you for the post. I have to take issue with this statement:

    I think the report got a bit overly enthusiastic in equating this power station to 200,000 2MW wind turbines. 10,000 seems more realistic. Still a lot of wind turbines.

    I’d suggest a near infinite number of wind turbines cannot replace nuclear power, because wind turbines cannot provide power reliably. :)


  48. Thanks Barry,

    The graphic has rhetorical power, but says nothing in response to Lindzen’s argument – nor anything much at all really, unless one simply ‘believes’ graphics.

    The article:

    It starts by claiming three strands of evidence:
    1. paleoclimate data
    2. recent empirical data
    3. generally accepted climate models

    Most certainly interested in (1) and (2), but (3) is a cry to authority, and it is precisely the climate models that are on the line here.

    Agree that climate sensitivity is not about CO2 per se, but is about what happens when the surface warms up a bit, for whatever reason.

    Call to authority.
    Call to models.
    Call to authority of Hansen.
    “The main limit on the sensitivity value is that it has to be consistent with paleoclimatic data.”
    Models again.

    “Other Empirical Observations”
    Gregory et al. (2002) — based more-or-less on temperature data
    Call to authority of Hansen / models (in the Empirical Observations section no less!).

    “Using a Bayesian statistical approach”

    Knutti and Hegerl (2008) – source of figure

    end blah

    SO – nothing in there to move me at all. Maybe further digging into the paleoclimate data could be interesting (although this is a really difficult area to do well); but in terms of the claim to “recent empirical data”, I give a solid fail to this piece.

    My challenge, if you like, to make an actual direct hit on Lindzen’s argument.

    Perhaps as an easier challenge, I’ll put my own intuition on the line. As quokka notes, intuition does not necessarily count for much in argument, but it can be a powerful influence in our own thinking. The intuitive difficulty I have with a climate sensitivity much greater than 1 comes back to this point that it is not CO2 per se that the system responds to; rather it is ‘temperature’. If a little warming causing more warming, then as far as I can see the system is unstable. We know that the system is in fact very stable (in the longer term at least), and so to my mind the climate sensitivity is driven by negative feedbacks more powerfully than positive ones.

    I expect there is a simple misconception in my thinking here (and could even now write my own counter…), and will be happy to deepen my understanding; but please, I’d much prefer a paragraph or two from someone who *knows* they are telling me something solid over links to blah.


  49. Barry or anyone:

    I have purchased and read whyvswhy, barry and Ian Lowe’s nuclear book.

    I may make some comments a bit later, but I really want to get hold of the footnotes and for some reason, the pdf file on the why vs why site does not load on my computer (pretty new Mac).

    Barry, if you have access to the notes for the book, could i get them? you have my email but here it is again:

    Have you, Barry, had a chance to respond to the studies Ian cites to support his renewables vision? His arguments, to be honest, don’t appear to pass the laugh test.

    what do you make of the reference to the Diesendorf claim to replace a 1000 MW coal plant with about 800 MW combining wind, nat gas and bioelectricity?

    it makes no sense on the face of it, unless I am missing something, which of course has occurred more than once.



  50. rafnics, on 4 November 2010 at 1:39 AM — I early posted a link to my little study which suffices to demonstrate that Lindzen’s lowball estimate cannot be correct.

    As for positive feedbacks and stability, many are simply misinformed regarding when it is possible to have both. This is being discussed in the comments of

    More generally on climate stability, it is the case that fairly small forcings set it into other modes, even such little matters as orbital forcings causing descent into and recovery from glacials.


  51. Models again

    rafnics, as you would no doubt be aware, science is all about models. Lindzen’s theory is also a model. There’s no point criticising some models and not others, just because they’re models. Doesn’t make sense. There are some published critiques of Lindzen & Choi 2009 coming out, and science is proceeding as it should do. If you are interested in the deep details, it would be worth exploring this literature:

    Paleoclimate data is strong evidence for climate sensitivity because whilst we can never be certain that models include (and realistically represent) all relevant processes, we can be sure that observed geophysical responses to climate change, in the real world, do – thereby providing the fundamental basis for calibration. Recent empirical data is similar, BUT, is sensitive to the duration of lag effects, such as ocean heat content exchanges.

    The intuitive difficulty I have with a climate sensitivity much greater than 1 comes back to this point that it is not CO2 per se that the system responds to; rather it is ‘temperature’. If a little warming causing more warming, then as far as I can see the system is unstable. We know that the system is in fact very stable (in the longer term at least), and so to my mind the climate sensitivity is driven by negative feedbacks more powerfully than positive ones.

    The climate sensitivity of 1 comes from CO2 being the direct forcing. Add a +ve feedback, and this warming will be enhanced; add a diminishing feedback, and this warming will be diminished. Your intuition says that the +ve feedbacks balance the -ve feedbacks, and in the long run, of course that is true — the climate system is in *approximate* equilibrium and has been for billions of years. But that does not mean that there is not ‘room’ for the climate system’s state to move within narrower bounds, and we should be able to (eventually) define these. Thus we have ice ages and hothouse conditions in the past. These were, axiomatically, forced by *something*, yet they also eventually stabilised.

    How can +ve feedbacks drive further system change without causing runaway changes, as I think you’re asking? Well, that could occur if the +ve feedbacks diminish in strength with each feedback loop — or at least reach some maximum feedback strength, and then diminish. So, for instance, CO2 has a direct forcing effect that causes warming, leading to an increase in water vapour and release of CO2 from the oceans, causing more warming, and so on. But, if, over the longer term, these feedbacks are weaker than the initial direct effect of CO2 inputs caused by the triggering mechanisms (such as fossil fuel combustion, supervolcanoes, whatever), then a new equilibrium will be reached. That’s the core definition of climate sensitivity — it’s a new equilibrium condition after all the feedbacks have ‘played out’ (diminished to the point of insignificance).


  52. Anyone who still thinks this issue will no be won or lost on the back of public opinion would do well to look at what has happened in the state of Vermont.

    Greenpeace can barely contain themselves:

    This afternoon we’re a step closer to shutting down Vermont Yankee!

    Anti-Nuclear CampaignIn an extremely close race, Peter Shumlin (D) defeated Brain Dubie (R) and will be the next Governor of the Green Mountain State. Shumlin is an avowed opponent of extending the license of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon past its expiration in 2012, citing the plant’s leaks and other problems and its owners’ poor record in dealing with state officials.

    Dubie was open to granting the plant an extension to operate and wanted decisions about the Vermont Yankee’s future made by “experts” at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Vermont Public Service Board.

    Entergy, which owns the decrepit 38 year old reactor, has vowed to challenge the state and attempt to relicense the reactor. Greenpeace and our allies won a major victory with the shut down vote and now have a Governor who will defend that vote. Our job, now, as Greenpeace is to use our powers of persuasion and convince Entergy to give up the ghost!

    Below is the statement we released to the media upon Shumlin’s victory from our resident Vermonter aka Mark Floegel:

    “Earlier this year, Peter Shumlin provided the impetus behind the Senate vote to retire the dirty, dangerous and dilapidated Vermont Yankee nuclear plant,” said Greenpeace’s Mark Floegel. “Mr. Shumlin’s election as governor proves again that Vermonters want a clean energy future. Entergy should withdraw its license renewal application and prepare to permanently retire the reactor in March 2012,” Floegel concluded.

    In February the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 to deny Entergy and Vermont Yankee a certificate of public good. In a 26 to 4 vote, the Vermont Senate decided that the continued operation of the 38-year-old nuclear reactor was not in the best interest of Vermonters.

    Greenpeace looks forward to working with the governor elect to ensure a safe and orderly shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

    Concurrently, rumor has it that Entergy Corp. will announce this week that it plans to sell the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

    Note that while the State of Vermont cannot rule on this plant’s license, (such things are a federal prerogative in the U.S.) the company that owns it is fed up with the State and and has decided that continuing to do business there is not worth the trouble.


  53. DV82XL, Thanks for this. I put my own interpretation on it and posted it elswhere.

    I also posted this, so I thought I’d post it here too.

    Estimated US Energy Subsidies in 2006

    Technology: $/MWh
    Nuclear: $1.42

    Wind: $8.22
    Solar: $156.33
    Hydro: $1.05

    Coal: $1.29
    Oil & Gas: $3.61

    This shows that subsidies (just the ones included in you source document) for wind energy are 6 times and for solar energy are 110 times the subsidies for nuclear per MWh supplied.

    Government financial subsidies, 2006:
    IEA, Electricity and heat for USA, 2007


  54. Wow – thanks Barry

    a question: how do I post plots?

    ps – thanks to Peter also – to me that seems about right in proportions, but no idea on scale

    isn’t the US inventing money in any case?


  55. The solar power production costs will be as low as 12.6 eurocents per kilowatt-hour by 2020. At the same time, fossil fuel electricity costs around 15.6 eurocents. The study and estimation has been made by Phoenix Solar AG, of course, a German solar panel manufacturer.

    The study also suggests that the current costs of building and commissioning new natural gas and coal-fired power plants are higher than the costs of solar cells production, which is currently around 23.8 cents per kWh.

    derived from


  56. Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon

    The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

    Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.


  57. In relation to the RealClimate piece on feedback, I have read it, and do not hold it in high esteem.
    I have already taken the time to respond in some detail to one link posted in response to my link:

    And now, until someone acts in kind and intelligently, and directly, critiques the Lindzen piece, I refrain from spending more of my time in this way. Fair enough?

    In relation to Barry’s comment (4 November 2010 at 10:26 AM), I refrain from making more than a passing comment that the sorts of ‘models’ we are talking about here are quite new to science. What I do want to follow up on in the nature of positive feedback, at least one step beyond ‘intuition’ or belief in authority.

    At a basic level; If 1 degree of warming induces a positive feedback that generates an extra X degrees of warming (as required by the AGW hypothesis), this extra will in turn induce a further X^2, which will in turn induce a further X^3 etc. Patently X must be less than 1. Now, this geometric series sums to 1 / (1 – X), and so is easy to plot. Simply for your consideration I include this here:


  58. rafnics, your plot didn’t come out. There is no requirement that X must (or should) remain constant over each feedback cycle, since the determinants of X are many and complex and depend (among other things) or reservoirs and response times. That was one of my points. So x might be larger that 1 for a loop, and then diminish thereafter.


  59. What can we do break the log jam?

    I think most long time BNCers would acknowledge BNC is dominated by people from the Left side of politics.

    They chat amongst themselves and reinforce their beliefs about what should be done and how it should be done. They tend to resist policy suggestions from the Conservative side of politics. In fact, they criticise and ridicule the Conservatives for not seeing things the same way as the Left sees things.

    The Left tends to use derogatory terms like “Denier” and “Crock of the Week”. Do you really think this is going to convert anyone who has doubts about what the Left are preaching (preaching like an extremist religious group)?

    For many, when they hear this sort of talk, it is not taken the way it is intended by the speaker. It is interpreted as: “the speaker is an extremist of the Left with deeply held convictions. What they are preaching is part of an agenda whose primary purpose is to impose the Left’s package of reforms on society”. That is how it is interpreted.

    This interpretation is reinforced, for me, by the fact that most of the Left who support nuclear are more interested in arguing with the Conservatives about ideology than in trying to convert their Left brethren to change their anti-nuclear stance. The Left who believe in nuclear should be focusing their efforts on changing the policy of Greens, Greenpeace, etc, instead of trying to convert the Conservatives.

    If the Left was more interested in cutting emissions than in trying to convert Conservatives to accept Left ideology, they would focus on trying to find common ground with the Conservatives. I’d suggest this:

    1. Stop using derogatory terms like “Denier” and “Crock of the week”, etc. Reach out to the doubters instead.

    2. Separate off all your other Left ideological baggage and leave it out of your arguments altogether.

    3. Ask the Conservatives what they want instead of trying to tell them what, in your opinion, they should want.

    4. Be prepared to adopt economically rational policies to achieve what you want. That way you can give the Conservatives what they want (reduced electricity prices, reduced government, reduce tax and no other Left baggage) and also get what you say you most want (reducing CO2 emissions).

    5. Work on what can be done to remove the impediments to low-cost low-emissions electricity generation. Seriously tackle this one!!!!!

    6. Focus on converting your Left brethren instead of on attacking and ridiculing the Conservatives.


  60. Really, Peter?

    I don’t really identify much as “Leftist”, but you can easily reverse your points to say the same about the Right.


    1. Stop using derogatory terms like “Alarmist” and “Climate Change Fraud”, etc.

    2. Separate off all your other Right ideological baggage and leave it out of your arguments altogether.

    3. Ask the Left what they want instead of trying to tell them what, in your opinion, they should want (e.g. only the cheapest electricity).

    4. Be prepared to adopt socially just policies to achieve what you want.

    5. Work on what can be done to remove the influence of the fossil fuels industry, which impede on low-cost low-emissions electricity generation.

    6. Focus on converting your Conservative brethren instead of on attacking and ridiculing the Left.

    I’m not saying I necessarily disagree with all that you wrote, or agree with all of what I just wrote. But I don’t really think this gets us anywhere. In all honesty I don’t see the point in spending much time engaging with the ideological Right or Left. It’s the majority of those who are centrist/care less about politics who are worth talking to about these important issues.


  61. The first wave of nuclear power development was gradually destroyed by a well-planned political campaign, which was part of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West. The long-term strategy of the Soviet Union was to weaken the West any way it could. During the Cold War the Soviet Union provided massive financial support to Communist parties worldwide. It is notable that the vast majority of the vociferous opponents of nuclear power have been Communists and left-wing politicians. It is therefore not unreasonable to surmise that the campaign against nuclear power originated in the Soviet Union. It was very well planned and was made plausible by basing it on physical facts that are correct, but exaggerated completely out of proportion, the traditional tool of Soviet propagandists.

    Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has leveraged their vast natural gas resources to replace influence they lost with the break up of their empire and their loss of military hegemony in Eastern Europe. It became increasingly clear to them that this strategy was being undermined by the reemergence of interest in nuclear power. If Western nations built more and more nuclear reactors they could become less reliant on Russia gas. It was therefore again necessary to persuade them that nuclear reactors were unsafe and dangerous, so that public opinion would become opposed to nuclear power and so prevent more reactors from being built.

    What we are seeing in Europe of late is just that.

    I do not believe for an instant that protests on this scale are spontaneous. These are organized by a well oiled machine, that knows exactly what it is doing and has the funds to do so. The communication budget alone for this weekend probably ran close to a million euros, and the coordination we are seeing shows far to much advanced planning to have been carried off by Greenpeace, who just does not have the apparatus to pull something like this off.

    I hate to sound like an old Cold warrior, seeing commies behind every tree, but this event is just too reminiscent of the protests in the Sixties, and the threat to Russian interests too clear to ignore the possibility.


  62. Well speaking as a hardcore commie leftist who was very active in the sixties protests in Australia I can confirm that the most hard core were also the most anti-soviet and we had no objection to nuclear power.

    The Democrats in the USA were as I recall the party that got into Vietnam under Kennedy and escalated under Johnson. The Republicans under Nixon got out. Leftists at the time certainly never regarded the Democrats as leftist and (nobody thought the Republicans were).

    Parties like the British and Australian Labor Parties are not by any reasonable criteria leftist, though admittedly there are still people who think so. The Greens are polar opposites of Reds politically as well as in the color spectrum. They are openly reactionary and stand directly opposed to the barest minimum concepts of progress and support for a better life for workers common to any actual leftist.

    There’s an obvious tactical alliance between the gas industry, wind industry and Greens that is well organized and financed. As far as I know the gas industry is closely associated with as well as competitive with the goal industry. I haven’t seen any evidence of a connection with Russian gas producers.

    Currently there is no active left in western politics. That has left a lot of space for outright reactionary opposition to modernity and leaves traditional conservatives stuck with agreeing with leftists that this reactionary shit is intolerable. Its rather strange to be blaming either a non-existant communist left or the Russians for what is plainly the dominant ruling ideology of pessimism and fear.


  63. @Arthur – While I know that it is difficult on this blog to avoid the distinction, my accusation of Russian influence has nothing to do with the tiresome Left vs Right tensions that are a constant undercurrent here. That the Soviet Union provided massive financial support to Communist parties worldwide during the Cold War is a matter of historical record, as is the fact that they used that support to leverage their foreign policy.

    Furthermore, if you cannot see evidence of Gazprom’s influence on European politics, over the last decade, it is because you have your eyes closed.

    And please don’t start making pointless remarks about the West doing the same in the Third World – we know already – it’s just not germane to the events right now in Germany.

    @Luke Weston – Most people are attracted to some intuitive (and wrong) notion of epistemic fairness: Someone is making one claim, the other guy is making another claim, the two of them are therefore on equal footing. But insinuating that the open lies that are Caldicott’s stock in trade, are just as valid as the well researched, and well reasoned arguments of Gwyneth Cravens, is a mockery of the intellectual honesty this fool Schneider pretends to be serving.

    There are many honest critics of the nuclear option who’s arguments could be examined and evaluated, rather than giving any credence to the rubbish that Caldicott utters. Far from showing the other side of the issue, it makes those that oppose nuclear power look like cartoon villains, which is not the case in general. At least her students a sophisticated enough to call out this stuff for what it is when they see it.


  64. DV8XL

    Glad you recognize that the absurd “left/right” stuff here has nothing to do with actual left and right politics. FYI the Communist Party in Australia was both strongly anti-Soviet and a conservative influence dragging back the much more radical (and and much more anti-Soviet) militant protests against the Vietnam war. The protests were inspired by the war, not by Soviet funds (and we openly carried “Viet Cong” flags to identify with the communist “enemy” so it isn’t a matter of concealed Soviet influence but open communist influence that was also strongly anti-Soviet and received no Soviet funding.

    I think you’ll find that Margaret Thatcher’s enthusiasm for undermining the mining unions by switching Britain from coal to gas had a lot more to do with the situation in Europe that any machinations from Gazprom.

    Do the tentacles of Gazprom also explain the situation in the USA, Australia etc? Seems to me the local gas industry has its own interests independent of Gazprom.


  65. A $30 per tonne CO2 price is about equal to $11-$12 per tonne rise in coal price. With sea transported thermal coal currently at ~ $100 per tonne, that’s say 12% increase in fuel cost for coal fired electricity. Which is neither here nor there in view of the fact that coal prices have risen hugely over the last decade (300% ?).

    For nations without abundant domestic coal supplies, relying on imported coal looks quite risky over the life time of new coal plants, both in price and security of supply.

    Countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam must surely have taken account of this in opting for new nuclear.


  66. Do the tentacles of Gazprom also explain the situation in the USA, Australia etc? Seems to me the local gas industry has its own interests independent of Gazprom.

    One would assume. Consider that there is plans to build a gas fired plant to replace Vermont Yankee, and in Ontario, which has the greatest number of NPP in Canada, are tuning to gas to replace all their dirt burners, rather than let Bruce Power build another nuclear station at Nanticoke.

    As for Margaret Thatcher pro-gas stance in the U.K., keep in mind that was in the heyday of North Sea gas.

    My remark about Gazprom was in reference to Central and Eastern Europe, but gas interests have been lobbying against nuclear everywhere.


  67. Oh and I see that there was more than one group claiming to be the legitimate Communist Party in Australia, and at least one of them was clearly pro-Soviet, a detail you accidentally left out.


  68. DV82XL,

    There were 3. The largest one was anti-Soviet following invasion of Czechoslovakia. The militant wing of the protests was led by Maoists in some states, trots and anarchists in others, mpst of the activists were of course not communist at all. There was a very small pro-Soviet party which had little influence on the Vietnam protests (as far as I can recall they had nothing against nuclear power and the Maoists certainly didn’t).

    If you are really curious about the party line on nuclear power at the height of the Cold War go to a research library that has “The Marxist Quarterly” Vol 3 No 2, April 1956 special issue on Atomic Power and Automation.

    It is wildly enthusiastic about nuclear power and denounces the diversion of uranium resources from peaceful uses to weapons.


  69. Arthur – You are missing the point: (or avoiding it) the Soviet Union used their influence with international communist groups to further their own ends during the Cold War. In many cases, that was to encourage the antinuclear movement. If they did not see the need to do so in Oz or not, isn’t germane to the hypothesis that they are using the same network to cause the problems we are seeing in Europe right now.

    Of course they were all for nuclear power on the surface, they certainly used it at home, and they paid lip-service internationally to the ‘Peaceful Atom’ in their rhetoric, they just did not want the West to use it. This is about subterfuge, not ideology.

    Clearly, it is now to the advantage of Russia, economically, and geopoliticaly to maintain and encourage European dependency on Russian supplied gas. Naturally they see growth in nuclear power as a threat to that. It would be foolish not to examine the possibility that there was some Russian influence in these very large protests.


  70. I’m beginning to understand green chic. It’s all about gestures and some vague sense that nasty coal and oil will be replaced, but not just yet. What brought this to a head was hearing that a bus tour will visit the micro-hydro in the next valley from my place. That installation generates 7-14 kwe. Then I recalled that Monarto Zoo in South Australia has installed tracking PV as an attraction alongside the exotic animals. The best system output is over 300 kwh/day.

    In both cases many times that power could be generated from the internal combustion engines of the buses and cars that visit. What’s going on? I suggest that these small installations are in effect religious shrines. Visitors become infused with a sense that all will be right with the world. Pity they can’t tell the difference between very small numbers and the large numbers of the real world.

    I suspect we’ll go on this way until there is a reality check. Hopefully there will still be enough money to do more than gestures.


  71. Rather than further derail the quite good thread on electricity prices, I’ll remark on biofuels on this open thread.

    There are sensible biofuels and senseless ones. Ethanol from maize is in the latter category. But fuels based of vegatible oils can be sensible, although often are not. For example, rapeseed oil probably is just barely carbon neutral and after figuring in the production of nitrogen fertilizer might not make it up to the mark.

    However jatropha, while banned in West Australia I gather, is quite a sensible choice in some places. It has the advantage of being poisonous, so isn’t a food the way palm oil is. It has the advantage that all vegatable oils have of being readily refined into biodiesel; alternatively a stationary diesel is easily converted to run on raw jatropha oil. After all Herr Diesel originally designed his engine to run on vegatable oil, presciently noting that the world would eventually run out of petroleum.

    There is a jatropha plantation in Myanmar (Burma) and I have read about two successful co-operatives in India where jatropha is grown to provide otherwise off-grid villages with a few hours of electricity in the early part of the night.

    The possiblity of producing significant amounts of biodiesel and bio-jet-fuel remains but a possibility; maybe someday that will work.

    Another, but non-biological, possibliity is discussed in the link:


  72. PB I make quite a lot of biodiesel using waste vegetable oil and catalysts, but at very low cost. I’ll omit numbers. The use of WVO could be regarded as ‘bottom feeding’ the way crabs eat dead whales that fall to the sea floor. However detritus feeding is a limited niche which won’t power the more active parts of the system. If all the trucks on a single major highway tried to run on biodiesel from used frying oil there wouldn’t be enough. Some claim that algae can produce enough fatty oil (triglyceride) to make plenty of biodiesel but this approach doesn’t seem to be working out.

    Where I live (Tasmania) is too cold for jatropha so I’ve experimented with olive and Chinese tallow trees. They are also too slow growing. Leguminous oilseeds like canola seem to invite insect plagues. My conclusion is that we should largely replace liquid fuels with natural gas while it is still cheap. Therefore not burn so much in power stations. Convert some NG to jet fuel and range extender fuel for battery hybrid cars. Meanwhile try to get costs down on thermochemical fuels like Fischer Tropsch diesel, methanol, dimethyl ether and synthetic methane; if necessary with the assistance of nuclear hydrogen. Bio-ethanol and biodiesel can never replace 86 million barrels of oil a day.

    Your link describes an electrochemical approach some variant of which may turn out to be least cost. When there is no oil or gas and food is expensive we will have to find a way of combining organic waste carbon with hydrogen and then cycling the products within the biosphere.


  73. David,
    Jatropha is a bad weed in northern Australia, and a lot of money has and is being spent on eradicating it.

    Biofuels and burning biomass for electricity generation strike me as being very backwards ways of addressing the issues of transitioning from fossil fuels. Yet they are often touted by politicians, industry and advocacy groups alike as being a clean source of energy.

    Surely if people are thinking rationally about the environment and conservation, they would see that the only way to achieve a good outcome is by taking pressure off of the biosphere, not by placing more dependence on it. This yet another reason (among many) I support a transition from fossil fuels to nuclear, as it helps to achieve just that.


  74. Since this is an open thread, I would like to promote somediscussion on UCG (underground coalseam gassification). I have not seem any coverage of this on BNC (but my apologieis if I’ve missed something).
    Assuming (with a big A) that there turn out to be no major issues on leakage of aromatic hydrocarbons into the near-surface groundwater, this seems tome to be be a technology with promise.
    It extracts a lot more energy from buried (and otherwise usless) coal seams than does CSG, it doesn’t need profile dewatering and it delivers a useful mix of gases from whic CO2 can be easilty removed for sequestration (assuming we can do this economically- and I don’t know if this is the case).
    What am I missing and why has this not had the profile I think it deserves in the energy mix?
    Over to those with a wider perspective than mine….


  75. Along with the issues you mentioned, others which have not been solved with UCG are:

    – When larger UCG patterns are used, subsidence of the surface will occur inevitably which may have a deleterious impact on structures and land use above the working seam. Most importantly subsidence may lead to disruption of overlying aquifers, and potential uncontrollable gas leakage.

    – Poor heating value of the generated gas, as perforce, the exact physical composition of the working seam is not accurately known.

    – And for the same reason, managing the burn-front is technically difficult, and it is unknown just how much control can be exercised.

    -The process still needs large volumes of water.


  76. The woes of UCG developer Cougar Energy illustrate the problems
    If I recall George Monbiot thought that UCG would unlock all the nooks and crannies of otherwise inaccessible coal seams thereby postponing Peak Coal. By the way some reckon global Peak Coal will occur in 2011 but the downslope will be gradual.

    Note the lack of control over the underground plumbing is similar to the problems of hot dry rock geothermal. HDR was supposed to be providing us with renewable baseload power a year ago but I gather this and other problems are proving insurmountable.


  77. Leigh Bettenay,

    Assuming (with a big A) that there turn out to be no major issues on leakage of aromatic hydrocarbons into the near-surface groundwater, this seems tome to be be a technology with promise.

    Why would anyone make an assumption like that?

    Shouldn’t we assume that of course it will leak and of course it will poison the water in the Great Artesian Basin?

    That is, poison it for at least 2 million years – the time it takes for water to pass through the GAB.

    For BNC’s overseas contributors, coal deposits are part of the Great Artesian Basin. The Great Artesian is the largest artesian basin in the world (so I understand), most of Queensland, much of NSW and North eastern area of South Australia, has porosity up to 20% in places (exceptionally high), is recharged in the highlands along the eastern side of Australia, and the water flows west through the aquifers to all parts of the basin . It provides drinking water for people and animals over an enormous area of otherwise dry, inland Australia.

    In recent years these groups have been stuffing it up (or want to):

    – Carbon Capture and Storage want to use it and are already running pilot projects

    – Geothermal energy

    – Coal seam methane (already several reports of toluene being releeased into the ground water in the GAB).

    – Underground Coal Gassification

    – Mining (all types)


  78. DV82XL — I talked with Carl Hauser at lunch today about where he found out about NPPs with negative pricing overnight. He recalls reading about it, just a mention, in the report of the 2003 Northeast blackout. At that time there was probably almost no wind turbines connected to the Eastern grid. I opine that some industrial user, such as electric furnaces to make rebar out of scrap steel, was willing to be paid to operate graveyard shift.


  79. Do you have a reference to back this story up, or are you going to tell me your leaving it to me to find one as an exercise?

    On the other hand I don’t really care since you have demonstrated that any discussion with is a waste of my time. You are simply not worth engaging with.

    I will not be responding to anything you write from now on.


  80. Tom Keen, on 12 November 2010 at 3:40 PM — I don’t know how Jatropha species were introduced into nothern Australia, but small holders in Southeast Asia introduced some of these species, all native to central America (and maybe the Carribean islands) as a boder for their fields. The leaves are poisonous as well so the plantings help keep the pests out. In that circumstance, pressing the oil to burn or sell with the resulting oilcake for cookfires is an additional benefit.

    I opine that Jatropha cultivation is suited mainly for the tropics and for those whose daily labor earns them only the most modest of livings. Nonetheless, it is a start towards a more energy intensive way of life.

    It certainly isn’t a replacement for NPPs but is a suppliment for declining reserves of petroleum.


  81. The penny is beginning to drop.

    About two weeks ago NSW reduced its feed in tariff from 60c/kWh to 20c/kWh for all new residential solar panel installations.

    A few days ago the federal government announced it is cutting back it subsidies for the upfront cost of solar panels.

    Yesterday, the ACT Governmnet admitted the feed in tariffs for solar PV would raise the cost of electricity by $225 per year for the average houselhold (I’d guess that’s an increas of about 30%).

    Of course, the panels have been bought by the wealthy (the Greenies) and the subsidy will be paid by the poor.

    More of the irrationality forcved on us by the you know who!

    It also occurred to me that if Australia had not prohibited nuclear in about 1990, and had voted the Coalition into government instead of Labor, Australia’s emissions from electricity generation would be between 10% to 20% lower now than they are.


  82. DV82XL,

    If you are correct that there is no realistic way to reduce the LCOE from nuclear plants, I guess we are stuck with coal, gas and some CCS for Australia for a while. Either that or we will introduce a high carbon tax or some other measure. However, I personally doubt that will get approved by the majority of voters, and even if it does get majority support it will not contribute to reducing world emissions. It just disadvantages Australia for no gain. Another dumb symbolic gesture.

    I am becoming persuaded that Australia will have to live with coal and gas generation because of the deep resistance to nuclear in the community and the fact that even the main participants on this web site seem to be opposed to even discussing how to get nuclear implemented in Australia at a LCOE less than coal. Since BNCers have that opinion what chance is there for less knowledgeable groups? What chance of convincing the media or politicians that nuclear is a realistic solution that will reduce rather than increase the cost of electricity?

    I haven’t suddenly arrived at this opinion. It’s been developing over quite a while I’ve been trying to get BNC contributors to discuss this issue for 18 months but it is clear that the contributors are turned off by this subject. They clearly prefer to discuss anything but.

    I expect the reality is that Australia will continue with mostly coal, perhaps build some ‘CCS ready’ coal plants (what ever that means) for a while, build lots of gas plants, and play around with wind, solar, geothermal, wave and CCS to keep the population distracted.


  83. Peter Lang, on 14 November 2010 at 7:26 PM — I fear that reducing the LCOE of NPPs is largely a technical mettar about which I, at least, have no expertise. I agree that the regualtory burden might be lowered but I doubt that this woudl affect the cost appreciably; the discount rate surely has a greater effect.


  84. A stupid question, if I may.

    I’ve recently tried to post a comment over at Quiggin’s blog, in the nuclear discussion thread… but can’t get the comments to post. I enter the comment, click submit… and wait for the page to reload, but the page reloads with no comment posted. It doesn’t say your comment is awaiting moderation or anything like that.

    Does anyone have any ideas as to what I’m missing?


  85. Hmmm. I’ve been trying to post a comment in the nuclear energy thread on Quiggin’s blog, but the comment simply will not post. I hit submit, and the page reloads… but without my comment.

    I wonder if there’s something I’m missing?

    Surely they wouldn’t be so blatant as to simply ban me from posting, would they?


  86. JQ is using WordPress, too, as far as I can tell.

    I did notice that I had a similar failure before, when I tried to post a comment here.

    I wonder why it would suddenly do that when there have been no problems previously?

    Unless some twit has flagged my email address onto the WordPress list of known spammers?

    I do have two email addresses that I sometimes alternate between on posts on WordPress blogs, but they should both work fine, on many different blogs.


  87. Port Hope ponders legal action against local anti-nuke groups

    Nov 18, 2010 – Karen Lloyd PORT HOPE – “After a week of provocative commentary from anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, the Municipality of Port Hope may take legal action.“We all know a fight’s a fight, and you can defend and you can defend, but after awhile you have to fight back,” Deputy Mayor Lees said told council members Tuesday night.

    “I say things that people are often afraid to say,” Caldicott said. “In fact, you know, if someone wants to charge me with something, I’d welcome it.”

    But Deputy Mayor Lees is not interested in Dr. Caldicott. Instead he wants to go after those who made her recent visit possible, and gave her the publicity that has resulted in a new nation-wide belief that Port Hope is unfit for habitation.

    Dr. Caldicott’s visit was arranged by Families Against Radiation Exposure (FARE) and Friends of the Port Hope Cleanup, after she was quoted over a year ago saying the community is unsafe because of its exposure to Low Level Radioactive Wastes…”

    She has, apparently suggested everyone who lives in Port Hope should up and leave and sue the federal government for the costs. The fact is that the town of Port Hope has lower background radiation than Banff National park, and the idiot Caldicott exposes herself to more radiation on the plane trip over than she would have received in the town.

    Her words are doing huge damage to Port Hope, to the realtors, and to the people that live there, the property values, to real estate in general and to the image of the town, and the town is fighting back.

    They are right, the guilty party here is not Caldicott, she is what she is, but those that brought this pest into Port Hope and let her rant on uncontrolled..


  88. I believe there is a snowball’s chance in hell that Hazelwood power station will be replaced by gas. No politically survivable level of carbon pricing will overcome the cheapness of brown coal at $6 a tonne. This poses the question when will gas run out for the south eastern States SA, Vic and Tas? Despite suitably large numbers of tcf’s quoted for the southern gas basins behaviour suggests otherwise. For example Adelaide’s 1.3 GW gas baseload plant has supply pipes from two of the basins, Cooper and Otway. Another hint was that Santos said it had plenty of empty space to store sequestered CO2 piped in from NSW coal stations.

    Now I see connectors are being replicated from Qld’s Surat Basin the major source of coal seam gas. This links outlines plans coming onstream now
    Conceivably flow could be reversed eg so that Surat CSG flows to Adelaide then to Victoria and then to the Hazelwood replacement. Which won’t happen.

    Of course Surat Basin CSG will soon be liquefied at Gladstone and sent overseas in cryogenic ships. We evidently won’t need the gas in the south east since we have perfectly lovely coal. Once again I call on Minister Ferguson to explain where this is all heading and incidentally how to replace a million barrels of oil a day.


  89. I thought some would be interested in seeing a portion of Trainer’s recent paper from Energy Policy. Trainer’s analysis of nuclear power, frankly, stinks.

    but his analysis of renewables’ limitations bears much resemblance to Peter Lang’s and I thought Peter might appreciate the passage I cite. This article is well worth reading, the nuclear parts nothwithstanding. I think the comment on the misleading use of levelized costs in discussions of renewable energy is especially useful.

    Trainer (from p. 4112, section 2.5, implications for redundant generating capacity):

    In addition as we have seen there are times, especially in winter, when wind for example will be contributing little or nothing, meaning that a sufficient amount of solar plant to meet demand at such times would need to have been constructed. Indeed given the very low capacity credit for wind (Lenzen, 2009,
    p. 92) there will be times when alternative generating plant almost equivalent in magnitude to the wind system would need to be available, and its construction would add greatly to the capacity and investment costs of a wholly or largely renewable system. In other words the intermittency of the renewable sources creates a very significant need for redundant plant.

    The combined effect in the above budget [445 EJ/yr–gm] is that much more peak generating capacity must be built than the 17.5 billion KW of coal or nuclear capacity that would suffice. In fact the amounts of peak capacity in the above budget are, wind 9 billion kW, PV 26
    billion kW and solar thermal 64 billion kW, making a total of 101 billion kW, some 7.3 times as much as would have been needed in the form of coal or nuclear plant. In addition this creates a problem of energy dumping. At times of good wind and solar radiation when all renewable components of the system under examination are functioning at peak output,
    supply would be 6 times demand. The crucial point here is that the task is not to average a flow of kW, it is to maintain it at all times. (2008, pp. 186–187),

    Similarly it can be quite misleading to think in terms of the levelised cost of electricity from specified renewable sources when estimating total system costs. Advocates of renewables typically do this, for instance claiming that the levelised cost of wind power is comparable to that of coal fired power. This might
    be so if lifetime outputs at average capacity are compared, but that overlooks the point stressed above that the crucial task is to maintain the required level of output. Because there will be times when wind cannot contribute much and resort must be made to
    redundant plant, the cost of providing that plant needs to be somehow included in the cost of the wind sector. It is an essential part of the wind sector if that sector is to be able to make its contribution continually, just as an emergency generator must be understood as part of the total energy supply cost of a hospital (Lenzen, 2009 recognises this in passing).


  90. okay, speaking of caldicott, I was teaching her chapter 3 on radiation (np is not the answer), and in rereading the horrific chapter, I came upon the following comment. Speaking of TMI, she notes toward the end of her ludicrous narrative that in 1990, “2.3 million gallons of radioactive water containing tritium were PURPOSEFULLY evaporated from the damaged reactor building, exposing many people in the vicinity to DANGEROUS radioactive elements.” [I highlight the scare words].

    Charpak and Garwin, in Megawatts and Megatons, discuss the same event, indicating that “General Public Utility Nuclear…between 1991 and 1993 evaporated 2.2 million gallons of radioactive water, USING FILTERS TO RETAIN THE RADIOACTIVITY.” (175)

    The second highlight indicates what Caldicott managed to OMIT, thus allowing her to use the scare words, with connotations of conspiracy (PURPOSEFULLY).


  91. it is interesting to note, given the recent discussion about left and right on another thread, etc., that Peter Lang and Ted Trainer, who could not be more opposed ideologically– have much different views of capitalism, consumerism, free markets, etc.–come to the same conclusions about renewable energy.

    for whatever reasons, the two of them have taken great pain and care in some areas of investigation, and it pays off. both are much less careful in other areas of investigation.

    we all have our blindspots. unfortunately, we tend to have them in areas of inquiry whose consequences matter.


  92. If Ted Trainer is dismissive of nuclear it could be over the issue of timing rather than the huge over-capitalisation he identifies for renewables. I believe his prescription is to get used to hard times. Even Barry seems pessimistic about 10,000 NPPs ever getting built.

    I was working on a roof the other day and I started sliding backwards. I was saved by the gutter. That tale seems to encapsulate the Trainer thesis.


  93. hi john:

    in the article I cite, Trainer dismisses nuclear on peak uranium grounds. he says there’s enough uranium for 85 years of operation at current levels.

    there is a note referring to his 2008 work where he addresses IFRs.


  94. John: shit, I should be more precise. T does not “dismiss” nuclear exactly. He says it will not produce significant quantities of energy.

    8 EJ out of 469 EJ or 627 EJs (if renewables power hydrogen conversion for transport–section 2.1.13).


  95. Luke: your comments elicited a bizarre response. ernestine sees you as producing obfuscatory spin because of the way your comments come out on that blog (formatting quirks).

    I’m disarmed by this type of response. the argument that nuclear plants produce a tiny fraction of the radiation that characterizes natural variation convinced me that radiation was not a worry. that and the underwhelming evidence for LNT.

    I can’t wrap my mind around not being convinced by this argument. you have to turn nuclear power plants into malevolent, demonic entities and radiation from power plants into special forces for evil.

    It seems to me that the radiophobia borders on attributing nearly all cancer to nuclear power plants, and the less evidence, the more sinister the invisible force.

    on the other hand, the barriers to agreement here are no greater than those around climate change.


  96. I wonder if nuclear phobia has religious overtones. People seem to take great umbrage if you question bizarre tales of the supernatural and other-worldly powers of the prophets. Get a subculture going with icons (wind turbines), mantras (solar not nukular) and prophets (Caldicott etc). When you have enough like minded souls any critics are clearly overstepping the mark because they are taking on just individuals but a whole class of people.

    However I didn’t see any of that at the open day today at my neighbour’s mini hydro. There were no questions about frequency regulation in asynchronous generators, more like ‘what happens if a yabbie gets sucked in the pipe?’. Some ideas did seem to get a consensus over the tea and scones. One I recall is that aluminium smelters should pay more like household electricity prices or get lost. Another is that 20c per kwh is plenty for a feed-in tariff.

    All of the 50 or so people attending evidently thought that the 220 MW Franklin-below-Gordon should be built. Oh no it’s special some will say and there’s those religious icons again. There was some discussion of how tall a weir a run-of-river hydro could have without being strictly a dam. 1.5 metres? The trouble is that now 200 MW just isn’t enough when we want to replace gigawatts of coal a.s.a.p.


  97. John Newlands – I don’t know how old you are, but any baby boomer will tell you the the words ‘atomic’ and ‘nuclear’ were terms of real fear during the Cold War. There were drills at school, there were regular tests of the civil defense sirens, and the emergency broadcasting network, both with terrifying sounds that went on for minutes.

    People were digging fallout shelters in their back yards, or hardening rooms in their basements, and laying in emergency supplies. Magazines were full of ‘after the attack’ advice, and there were no end of TV dramas that dwelt on the subject. And of course everyone had read On the Beach, or seen the movie.

    We were kids, and we were having the shit scared out of us, on an almost daily bases, half convinced that we were not going to make it to adults.

    That is what is at the root of fear of radiation, and all things nuclear.


  98. DV82XL,

    Spot on. I don’t know whether there were any such things as civil defence drills etc in Australia – I’ve never heard of them – but the fear was certainly here too. My mother has told me of the recurrent nightmares of nuclear armageddon that plagued her. I’m sure sure was not alone in this.

    That fear was not irrational. Events such as the Cuban missile crises were certainly quite sufficient basis for grave concern.


  99. Of course the situation was not improved by our parents, for whom global warfare was a vivid memory. They gave the nuclear Armageddon scenarios a great deal of credibility, unlike say, vampires, and zombies, that would be dismissed as nonsense.


  100. I’m on the young end of boomer, and much of the culture around nuclear turned to laughs and schtick. my neighbor had a pillow (remember, he’s 12): “in case of nuclear attack, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.” then there were the godzilla movies (I’ve seen every one).

    the stuff that scared people was china syndrome and silkwood. Recently, david mitchell’s great novel cloud atlas has a very scary attempted murder of an anti nuclear activist (she was digging into safety issues at an analogue of diablo canyon). but great novelists like david mitchell are not read enough to produce a mass cult impact. (in case people are interested in the novel, it has very little to do overall with nuclear power)

    what’s important to remember is that most ordinary people, those who are not “anti nuke” activists, are very open to nuclear power and interested.

    btw, for those leftists out there (david, fran, geoff and maybe charles b, peter Lalor), or for those who like to keep an eye on the leftists, there’s a new book out called ecology and socialism. I like it, yet it is sheer crap on the questions of np and renewables.

    NP critiques therein circulate the usual suspects: a quote from caldicott here; one from Lovins on gen four there. and the renewables stuff consists of the just-so-stories from scientific american, with fantasies about desertec thrown in. it’s interesting to see the combination of care and rigor (discussions of fracking are great) on the one hand, and propaganda on the other. and by propaganda, I don’t mean that all arguments for renewables are necessarily propaganda.

    To me, propaganda is signalled by insistent cherry picking and double standards, which is what you see in this particular case. the one book this author (a physics and chem prof at Pace U) cites that many here will have read is david mackay’s, yet he manages to cite mackay several times while avoiding the inferences one would draw about the plausibility of renewables without nuclear.


  101. What does Peter Lang make of the IEA finally ‘sort of’ admitting peak oil?

    “Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68-69 mb/d, by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70mb/day reached in 2006.” —International Energy Agency

    PDF here…

    Click to access factsheets.pdf

    Lifetime geologist Kenneth Deffeye’s says…

    Make that 2005; then we’re talking about the same planet. The implied IEA message is that the peak happened several years ago and the world didn’t come to an end. Wayminnit. We are in the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression and we don’t know whether we can ever restore our earlier prosperity. My interpretation is that the 2008 crude oil price, $147 per barrel, shattered the global economy. The “invisible hand” of economics became the invisible fist, pounding down the world economic growth to match the limitations of crude oil production.

    And where is ABARE on global peak oil again? Oh yeah… never got to that one did we?


  102. DV8 and other good number crunchers, after reading your comments on wind and solar, I’m just wondering what kind of *hypothetical* energy storage technology we’d need to make wind and solar work?
    For a while I’ve been saying “we’d need batteries 1000 times cheaper and 100 times stronger”, but that’s just a guess-timate.

    How would we *actually* measure how much cheaper and ‘stronger’, or greater energy density and storage, we’d actually need? Just to illustrate the impossibility?

    Take, for example, the compressed air balloons they’re talking about being much cheaper than hydro. A summary from the following podcast… “It’s cheaper than any storage so far: Batteries are at about $500 thousand per mWh, Pumped hydro is about $80 thousand per mWh of storage, but these compressed balloons are only about $1 thousand per mWh!”

    But is $1000 / mWh cheap enough? How cheap would ANY form of energy storage need to be to back up the wind?
    (I picked wind because it is apparently one of the cheaper forms of renewable energy WHEN it actually can be bothered to produce any energy, and the costs seem to come from trying to overbuild capacity for when it isn’t producing energy).


  103. It’s going to take three kinds of storage placed at key locations on the grid to utilize renewables and become energy secure. Looking at the possibilities with current technology we see that these are:

    Grid scale storage that is located on the major transmission corridors to prevent curtailment, congestion, and stabilize intermittent resources. If power is cheap enough to produce, yet has a high price in a particular market, this can be accomplished with large scale NaS batteries, Vanadium Redox systems, and of course, pumped hydro, if available. For sure there are some markets where this is cost effective, and several working installations are in service.

    The next storage need is area management, best controlled with fly wheel technology, superconducting magnet energy storage (SMES) systems and banks of supercapacitors with a voltage-source IGBT converter. This level is rather well developed and several installations are operating offering an ancillary service called Reliability Must-Run (RMR) Contracts. However in most cases this can be accomplished less expensively by gas fired turbine generators, the more exotic technology used where very, very rapid response is required.

    The final storage realm needed is to control utility side variability. This last is the real stinker, cost wise, and is the regime where the the vehicle-to-grid schemes are supposed to make a difference. The fact is that the costs here are very high, and not economic for a utility to install. Basically a large battery (a one cubic meter unit, if we are talking NaS) would have to be installed with about the same frequency as distribution (pole) transformers, throughout the network. This is the big killer in any integrated grid storage plan.


  104. Peter Lang wrote:

    “If you are correct that there is no realistic way to reduce the LCOE from nuclear plants, I guess we are stuck with coal, gas and some CCS for Australia for a while.”

    Maybe, but don’t forget that even peak coal is now on the airwaves!

    From the following podcast at the 24 minute mark…

    * ABARE says ‘at current rates’ we’ve got 90 years of coal left.
    * As the program finally says, and us peak oilers have been saying for years, there’s no such thing as ‘at current rates’. Production always increases, exponentially, until it peaks and then declines, exponentially.
    * If growth continues the way it has been, we’ll RUN OUT in 45 years.
    * As we know production runs in a bell curve, so Australian peak coal should be well before then.

    All of which means only a dramatic increase in our use of nuclear power can prevent our hitting peak coal, and possibly extend our coal out past 90 years… and hopefully leave a lot of it in the ground as we move to a 100% clean nuclear future.


  105. It would be strange if the public objected to molten sodium in IFRs but not in electrical substation batteries. It seems to me dense forms of energy storage are prone to violent failures. The PV charged lead acid battery in my garden shed has lasted 6 years so far I guess because it is clunky and operates on a shallow cycle. Note the wind charged vanadium redox battery that fills a big shed on King Island has not been copied much elsewhere. Too big too costly.

    e.n. parts of Australia are looking at imminent coal shortages eg SA’s Leigh Ck field. However Vic’s Latrobe Valley could last all century and beyond. It will power the big new desal despite the public being told that wind farms are doing all the work. Perhaps the worksite spies could report on that instead. That is why I’d bet London to a brick that some pathetic ruse will be used to keep the brown coal stations going for another 20 years. For example the stations could work towards being ‘carbon capture ready’. Or they could get not offsets but ‘legitimate’ carbon tax deductions for planting trees in school playgrounds. Any kind of lame excuse to maintain cheap electricity.


  106. I was just thinking about something interesting.

    If you were to install a small modular nuclear energy system like a Hyperion Power Module, or Toshiba 4S, or Adams Atomic Engine or similar, and you were able to sell electricity back into the grid at the same kind of feed-tariffs that solar power proponents want to see to offset the cost of small solar power systems, like 60 c/kWh or so, then you would pay back the cost of the reactor extremely quickly, and you would make gigantic amounts of profit.

    But that is, if there was a fair, level playing field for nuclear energy and solar energy.


  107. That’s true of course Luke but the reason the 60cent tariff was abandoned was precisely because the state couldn’t afford to pay it if fully subscribed.

    When solarPV units were a lot more expensive, this acted as a constraint, but as soon as they dropped, the state had a problem.

    Even at 20cents it is doubtful if this is sustainable. Bear in mind that we are haggling over whether an interim carbon price of $23 per tonne is reasonable. The implied price of 20cents per kWh prices CO2 at roughly 8.6 times that price and the one they abandoned at 3 times that. This made it about 50% more expensive than cash-for clunkers which was rightly abandoned.

    Really, at $23 per tonne, assuming we get it, the feed in tariff shouldn’t be more than about 2.3 cents per kWh. Then again, why impose one at all?

    If solarPV were a cost-effective way to abate CO2, wouldn’t you think the generators themselves would lease people’s rooves from them, install PV and pay them according to the net value of the output? Why would the state need to become involved at all?


  108. Does anyone know much about the ammonia based chemical storage mooted for the CST “Big Dish” at Whyalla? Where will they source the ammonia? How will they store the H2?

    Come to that, does anyone have any definite information on whether it is going ahead, or its specs? I couldn’t find any beyond the promotional bumph.

    Curiously, Barry’s face was in one of the powerpoints!


  109. Well, I gave a talk at the same conference in Whyalla as when that CST presentation was given — ironically, my talk emphasised the need for nuclear and said that Whyalla might be a good place to build a NPP!

    I’m not aware of any prices given for the chemical storage of that CST plant or where they’ll get it from, but it’s simple enough to obtain. They were only talking about a small-scale demonstration with a few 10s of MWh of storage.


  110. Thanks Barry

    One verison of the plant quoted 150mW but later versions spoke of 80mW.

    It was said that the best use of thermo-chemical storage was if the plant was in excess of 500mW so why they were talking about it in connection with this was hard to follow.


  111. I believe there are two sources of ammonia in that area. The OneSteel coke ovens at Whyalla produce ammonia from Newcastle coal and Olympic Dam produces ammonium sulphate byproduct for sale as a fertiliser. Not sure where OD gets raw ammonia.

    When I last looked the Whyalla ammonia CSP project was a joint venture between the Uni of SA and ANU. I’ve hung around both those august institutions as well staying with rellies in Whyalla a few times yet I’m not confident. To my knowledge the basic concept of thermally dissociating ammonia then recombining to release heat has not yet been proved on a megawatt scale. The whole project could disappoint. I don’t mean to be uncharitable but if it was a goer it would have been done long ago.

    If so the list keeps getting longer.. hot fusion, cold fusion, hydrogen cars, hot rocks etc etc then perhaps ammonia CSP. There must be a point at which we proceed with proven technology rather than hold out for new technology breakthroughs. BTW if Spencer Gulf was to supply cooling water for a serious thermal plant it should be either well south of Whyalla or on the opposite side. Electric cable could be laid under the gulf as there are already gas and water pipes.


  112. “Not sure where OD gets raw ammonia.”

    I would guess that they synthesize it on site, rather than transporting it by road or pipeline.

    That’s a neat thing about ammonia… all you need to synthesize it is a bit of hydrogen (from natural gas or water), and nitrogen out of thin air.


  113. … the basic concept of thermally dissociating ammonia then recombining to release heat …

    … requires enormous amounts of hydrogen to be stored per unit energy: about seven times more than if it would be combined with oxygen.

    … has not yet been proved on a megawatt scale

    Partial deoxidation of magnetite would produce ferrous oxide, a much less awkward energy-storing substance. The linked document talks about using it to produce hydrogen, but that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, It can simply be reoxidized.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  114. Re magnetite reaction I’d guess most solar furnaces have to work in batches of solid material rather than continuous flow of fluids. That must be a major disadvantage. The graphite hot block planned for Cloncurry Qld has been mothballed. The idea was that the block is stationary but the steam tubes work intermittently.

    I wonder if auxiliary power losses and plumbing problems have a habit of undermining theoretical yields. That seems to be the case with granite geothermal. Now the same enthusiasts hope ammonia CSP will be the next big thing. If it doesn’t work as well as hoped I suspect there will be more reaction vessels and pumps and separators. Then I expect the promoters will ask for more grant money to make it bigger. I believe the govt has pulled the pin on granite geothermal after $300m in grants. The solar updraft tower never went ahead. CETO and other wave power devices seem to be struggling.

    OTOH Gen III nukes can be bought off the shelf. Cut the NBN budget in half and buy two of them.


  115. I thought people might find this amusing. I love the “new paradigm” metaphor. makes a dumbass idea sound like Galileo or Einstein, and if overwhelming objections and refutations are offered, that just shows we folk trapped in the “old paradigm” lack imagination.

    Peter Lang (don’t leave us: a little discipline from BWB never hurt anybody) has a response on the climate spectator site.

    Is baseload power necessary?

    Giles Parkinson

    For years, David Mills, the eminent solar energy technology developer, has dreamed of creating a new model for an energy system that does away with the conventional design of massive baseload infrastructure.

    Next week the newly-retired founder of solar thermal technology company Ausra (now owned by French nuclear giant Areva), and a former leading researcher at UNSW, will present that model.
    Using hourly data for energy use of the entire United States economy in 2006, Mills will demonstrate how it could have been powered almost exclusively by wind and solar (with storage and the help of biofuels for aircraft and some biomass capacity for certain smelting operations).

    The details of his findings, including capacity and costing estimations, will be released when he addresses the Australian Solar Energy Society’s annual conference in Canberra next week. But in an exclusive interview with Climate Spectator, Mills gave a broad outline of his conclusions and suggested there was a surprisingly small difference in costs.

    “Everyone says that you need flatline baseload capacity (such as coal or nuclear, or in some countries hydro) and build on that platform, and use load-following gas turbines,” Mills said.
    “They assume that being baseload makes it cheaper, and all other things are more expensive.”
    “What we are suggesting is a new paradigm. The traditional paradigm of flatline baseload does not exist in this scenario, but you need to understand that the replacement for baseload power is not another baseload, it’s a system of flexible and inflexible energy mechanisms based around wind and solar and other sources.”

    The study is an extension of an idea that Mills has held dear for some time. In 2005 he presented a talk in Canberra suggesting that solar plans with a “primitive” storage model could run the electricity grid in eastern Australia.

    Two years later, he did a similar study for California concluding that, based on hourly data for energy usage in 2006, solar could have carried well over 90 per cent of the electricity load.
    The latest study – completed with a former R&D specialist at Ausra, Wei Li Cheng, and a US Department of Energy analyst Phil Larochelle – looks at how solar and wind could handle the entire electricity needs for the US in the same year, and also looks at whether it could handle the entire energy needs for the country, including transport.
    Interestingly, wind and solar account for around 50 per cent each of the electricity supplies to handle summer demand and peaks, while more wind was used in winter. Such a system would require a capacity redundancy above peak demand, but would in fact be less than current systems.
    Mills says the study looked to test a number of different premises. The first premise was that there was enough solar and wind that, in combination, could run the US economy. There was.
    The second was that solar and wind would be connected with a new electricity transmission system, using high voltage direct current lines for the spine of the network, which will allow more flows and result in considerably reduced transmission losses.

    These are the sort of networks being contemplated by the Desertec consortium founded by a group of large European industrial giants that are looking to source solar power from north Africa to provide some of Europe’s energy needs.

    Mills says China is installing more HVDC lines than any other country in the world – looking to link coal plants with the Three Gorges dam and wind and solar from the north and west of the country. “It very clear to see what they are doing and that it is a very good thing to do,” he said.

    Mills says the data used for his study came from 2006, and was based around technology that might be used in 2050, but exists now – even though its lack of scale makes current deployment expensive. “Its not technology that we don’t have now. I didn’t want people saying that it’s future technology.”
    He says the model would need to be refined to be implemented, but it provides food for thought. He says it could easily apply to the Chinese and Australian economies, which also benefit from a population largely based on the eastern seaboard, western deserts (which can provide power later into the evening to the eastern consumers), and strong wind resources.

    The Mills model will add to the considerable debate about the role of renewables – whether they are a “worthy” but annoying addition to the current network systems, or if they can assume a prominent role in powering economies.

    Mills notes the work of the Beyond Zero Emissions group, which outlined a highly contentious study into how Australia could go 100 per cent renewable by 2020 – not so much to suggest it should be done, but that it could be done.

    The German industrial giant Siemens has also produced a report entitled “Picture the Future”, which suggested renewable energy could, by 2030, provide 70 per cent of Australia’s electricity needs, with half coming from solar – augmented by storage and a suite of installation across different time zones – and the rest made up of an equal share of wind and geothermal.


  116. An open letter from long-time ALP member Phil Sawyer to federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet:

    Briefly put, I wish to argue that our traditional opposition to nuclear energy has effectively blinded us to the significant advantages that would actually follow from a well managed change in policy, and that our politically expedient concord with the greens on this issue is coming at a very high cost, to the party, to the Government, and to the public interest, and that it needs an urgent rethink.

    The full letter is at

    Janet Albrechtsen also riffs on Sawyer’s letter in The Australian today.

    Left and Right speaking with one voice. Interesting and hopeful times.

    Here’s hoping Combet and Gillard are listening.


  117. greg meyerson – I don’t want to leave your post unanswered. This, ‘we don’t need baseload’ meme is simply one of the worst lies being told by the renewable side, and one of the most dangerous.

    The problem is that numbers work out, BUT only if one is prepared to radically change the way energy is used. It must change so radically, in fact, that it would require a total overhaul of modern civilization, and the cultures that inhabit it. Bluntly, the arguments seem to be of the same general flavor as the arguments for a single global language that were popular at the turn of the previous century – and about as practical.

    Like the latter, Mills considers the problem superficially, conceding that there need be changes only in the transition and distribution infrastructure, ignoring the massive legacy we have in technology that depends on the availability of baseload power. The expense of converting both plants and processes to work with this system would be staggering. In many cases it would mean the end of certain industries, or at least their concentration into areas with existing hydro. Even then it is doubtful that capacity could be maintained at current levels.

    We have seen this sort of reasoning before, both in energy and in other domains. I’m reminded of statements to the effect that Canada need not burn a drop of heating oil, if we all lived in R100 homes and heated with electricity. True, as far as it goes, but the cost of the R100 conversions to every building in Canada would have been several time the gross domestic product for the country. Therefore, so what? It may be true but it is unobtainable.

    At any rate Mills’ scheme is clearly a case of putting the cart before the horse – energy supplies should be tailored to the need, not the other way around. And this brings up the final nail to be driven into the coffin of this idea: there is no real path for growth in this plan. It is not just the total energy use across the globe will rise as more want to obtain a decent standard of living, but per capita use will go up as well as dealing with things, like climate change, makes more demands on energy supplies. Renewables cannot meet future needs.

    This is a pure case of misdirection, right out of stage magic, everyone looks at the detailed calculations he made, and thinks the reasoning is sound. No one looks at costs of making it come about.


  118. Sometimes the public gets it and sometimes not. For example; the world’s oceans are full of water therefore there can be no water shortages. The public sees the flaw in the argument immediately. With energy I’d bring it down to a mundane level, like making coffee and toast at 7 a.m.. Sure the problem is solvable since people who camp in the remote outback in motor homes have solved it with propane (since piped gas will be disallowed) or with batteries and inverters. Does the whole of suburbia want to take up that approach?

    I doubt there is enough hydro world wide to do all aluminium smelting. It is noteworthy that the supposedly hydro powered Comalco smelter in northern Tasmania is within 10km of two combined cycle gas plants and a HVDC converter station. Also interesting to see in the sidebar that an aspiring Greens Party political candidate was burned at the stake for suggesting that solar may struggle to replace Hazelwood brown coal fired power station.


  119. @DV8
    Be fair, Miles is taking the existing demand data, admittedly only at hourly resolution, and creating a system to meet it. No major behavioural change or smart grid impositions. The approach doesn’t look THAT different from Barry’s OzEA project, except that he’s overbuilding the renewables rather than burning gas to cover shortfalls. The problem will be the cost, how much overbuild and transmission infrastructure is it going to need, and how often will you still need to burn gas? It will be too expensive for China and India to afford, therefore it doesn’t solve the problem.


  120. Luke – It is precisely because he doesn’t admit that these changes must occur, that I am criticizing him for.

    It is abundantly apparent that his scheme requires load flatting and other forms of demand management, and these are the very things that cannot be implemented, particularly in heavy industry, by bolting on a box somewhere. That’s the rub – possibly most processes could be redesigned to work with this sort of scheme – it’s the cost of implementing these changes that cannot be ignored.

    Some things, like smelting, simply cannot, and these would have to be relocated near reliable continuous sources, again at huge costs.

    Even the distribution network he envisions is a non-trivial expense, especially with the levels of redundancy that would be needed to maintain any sort of reliability. Again, not impossible, just very, very expensive.

    And for what? To sooth the irrational fears of a handful of people that reject nuclear energy? It just doesn’t make any sense to suggest that we turn the world’s economy, and industrial base upside down, and remake it to accommodate this plan, when a better option is available.


  121. I’m glad you chimed in, DV.

    i agree the idea is dangerous, not because it would really happen but because it stops the nuclear build.

    it won’t really happen. ironic to cite China for its HVDC lines connecting coal to wind given both their continued building of coal plants and their big nuclear build planned. I’m sure China will take Mills advice and stop the coal and nuke build.

    you say that the numbers work out. what do you mean by this? the article states that overbuild would only be slight, “a capacity redundancy above peak demand,” but no more and less than we have now.

    where are numbers for this that don’t amount to a just-so-story?


  122. greg meyerson – I recall looking at this sometime in 2007 when Mills’ ideas were being featured in Scientific American. There was also a paper he wrote around that time that I looked at. I admit that I am echoing here the conclusions I drew then based on those sources.

    As I recall, the figures he was batting around at that time were superficial plausible, that is there were no glaring errors that stood out for me. The problem was, of course, time-domain averaging of electrical consumption is somewhat meaningless beyond its use as a general forecasting tool in power arbitrage. Assuming that it represents a hard number for long-term planning is a stretch at best.

    If you play 21 as the house, it is statistically guaranteed that over the long run you will win more than you lose, however that doesn’t mean that there cannot be a significant loss on any given hand. Electric power is unlike money in that it cannot be easily stored, so while a momentary loss to the house may be tolerated on the blackjack table, a momentary loss on the grid cannot be. This is what makes trafficking in measurements of central tendency fraught with problems when looking at electric power.


  123. central tendency leaves out the fluctuations, right? so you’d have power outages left and right unless you had a “genius” grid.

    even so, I just don’t understand the minimum overbuild claim. capacity factor alone rules this out.


  124. Mark Duffet, thanks for posting that link to Phil Sawyer’s letter to Greg Combet. This strikes me as a really important document – a considered political strategy for the ALP to switch its position on NP (as opposed to an energy strategy, or a climate response strategy).

    We can’t expect people, or parties, to act against their own interests. Phil Sawyer’s argument is important because it clearly articulates how changing policy on NP aligns with the ALP’s current political interests, and makes the case in the terms of a positive party political outcome.

    I await Combet’s response.


  125. I also note Barry’s twitter link to the story of the Green’s candidate being disendorsed for displaying an ounce of commonsense and rejecting the idea that the 1600 MW Hazelwood coal reactor should be closed down and replaced with 1200 MW of photovoltaic cells.

    Cheryl Wragg, from the Latrobe Valley, was disendorsed last night in a row with Greens MP Greg Barber, over the proposed closure of the Hazelwood Power Station.

    Ms Wragg will continue to appear on the Greens list on the ballot paper but says she will be running as an Independent.

    She says Mr Barber’s proposal to close down the Hazelwood Power Station in four years will not work.

    “Mr Barber’s plan proposes to replace the 1,600 megawatt base-load generation of Hazelwood with 1,200 megawatts of photovoltaics,” she said.

    “It just won’t work. It’s technically incompetent. Mr Barber doesn’t seem to understand that base-load power needs to be there 24 hours a day.”

    Some coverage:


  126. phil sawyer says:

    People like the doyen of alarmists, James Hansen, and the Gaia Guru Lovelock, are very influential, and pro-nuclear to boot, as you would know, and could be expected to suitably laud our new approach. Closer to home, Bob Carr and people like Professor Barry Brook come to mind, not to mention Ziggy, as folk who ostensibly believe in AGW, but who see nuclear energy as the only rational response to the challenge at hand. It is rumoured that such people even inhabit the cabinet room!

    yes, I guess barry ostensibly believes in AGW.

    do these folks look at evidence and argument or do they just react to what “sounds extreme,” especially if it implies having to change things up significantly?

    to me, this letter, welcoming as it is to people who want nuclear power, engages in more guilt by association. if you think our institutions need “transformation,” you are a “fundo,” an “alarmist,” etc. etc.

    even though this blog has made clear how serious the challenge is confronting the world, it’s nice to think that little centrist shiftings of alliances will make all okay.


  127. Mind you John, Ms Wragg is calling for coal gasification, which is good enough in my opinion to get her dumped.

    Barber’s “plan” may well be technically incompetent, but there’s no advantage in having a Green elected to vote for what is essentially an ALP proposal. Barber isn’t going to get his way in eny event.


  128. Hi DV8,
    thanks for the comments on the various power types.

    I’m after a baseline figure… but if you think it requires the same work as a Phd to come up with… I’ll settle for a rough guesstimate.

    The same science show flagged batteries as 500 times as expensive as the balloons. Batteries are over $500 thousand per Mwh but these underwater balloons are *projected* to only cost $1000 / Mwh for reliable compressed air storage.

    Being underwater rubber balloons full of air also mitigates the concerns John Newlands voiced about toxic, potentially violent high energy storage out in the suburbs. These balloons would be all along our coasts.


  129. eclipsenow – any CASE type system suffers from a huge problem of high losses do to the fact that there is a major heat loss during the compression stage, and the need to return that heat to the air as it is decompressed.

    I also understand that the people that have come up with this scheme, envision specially designed wind turbines with free-piston compressors internal to the blades. Even if this idea had merit, and frankly I think it would be a nightmare to make and run, (the lubrication/airseal issues alone would be staggering) they would be tremendously expensive, negating any gains that might be realized.


  130. But the point is they claim $1000 / Mwh.

    The point is that wind is expensive because it is only produces a third of the nameplate capacity and is intermittent. How cheap would storage have to be to make wind, the cheapest of the renewables, baseload?


  131. “How cheap would storage have to be to make wind, the cheapest of the renewables, baseload?”

    I would think that could be calculated in a rough fashion by something like: wind turbine + storage < = cost of traditional baseload plant.


  132. Yes but I have no idea how to calculate that for Australia let alone carry around a hard and fast rule for the world. There are so many different sites for wind and different capacity factors. Some sites are closer to cities, others require far more transmission lines and more expense. Some have higher capacity factors that would lower the storage draw down.

    I guess I’ll leave it. Looking at the cost of my energy from the last energy bill, $1000 / Mwh seems expensive, if I assume say 2/3rds of my bill at that rate.


  133. DV82XL said:

    I would think that could be calculated in a rough fashion by something like: wind turbine + storage < = cost of traditional baseload plant.

    Providing the storage could lift the capacity credit to something like the baseload plant used to compare it with.

    So if a 1.6GW plant like Hazelwood is 85%available, you’d have to show that a wind plant could produce pro-rata, 1GW of wind would produce 1GW 20 hours per day 7days per week or equivalent at a similar price.


  134. C40 watches as San Francisco replaces petroleum taxis with full electric cars supplied by Better Place, with the battery swap service keeping the car running 24/7.

    Now, C40 is watching switchable-battery electric taxis come to the San Francisco Bay Area to cement the region as the EV capital of the U.S. Seeing the success of the project in Tokyo – both in terms of emissions reduction and quality of life – the U.S. Department of Transportation (via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission “MTC”) awarded us a major grant to help us launch the U.S. taxi project. After analyzing a variety of proposals, the MTC decided on the Better Place approach based on its ability to move the needle the most on emissions reduction, mentioning that the application scored the highest marks of all filings.

    The C40 meeting is now winding down in this Asian business hub, the center of a region from which many next-generation transportation solutions will emerge. As the mayors from the world’s greatest cities prepare to depart, I am eager to see how their experiences here translate into policy and action at home.


  135. My take on yesterday’s carbon price meeting in Canberra
    is that the end result will be trivial or perverse. It seems to me that genuine players were outnumbered by rentseekers, greenwashers and corporate bullies. The same problems that plagued the ETS seem likely to re-appear in new form.

    Specifically I think that offsets will come back in the form of carbon tax deductions. The meeting included banks who stand to make huge profits from carbon trading v.2. Also present was the farm lobby who seem confident they can get some kind of financial advantage, perhaps selling carbon credits for keeping less methane intense livestock and other unverifiable measures. The presence of airlines and steel makers could have been to convey a subtle threat. They may have given a wink to the farmers and banks that they want carbon credits (questionable or otherwise) at an affordable $2 a tonne when carbon tax is $20-$30/t.

    Treasurer Wayne Swan seemed pleased with the proceedings perhaps as a piece of political theatre. Mother Nature may take a different view of the resulting carbon cuts. However fossil fuel prices must soon go up in absolute or relative terms with or without carbon pricing . Perhaps big biz really wants more handouts like fuel tax cuts, feed-in tariffs and some kind of kudos for gas helping out renewables.


  136. I’d be for a carbon price if I knew the funds raised would actually go towards REAL solutions like Fast-Rail, EV’s, and of course Nukes.

    The fact that the offsets seem to fund coal so much just makes me SICK of the whole political system.


  137. There is now a Senate inquiry underway and I encourage submissions from BNCers ->

    The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms

    Information about the Inquiry

    On 27 October 2010 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Community Affairs Committee for inquiry and report.

    The Leader of the Family First Party (Senator Fielding), pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved business of the Senate notice of motion no. 1- That the following matter be referred to the Community Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 30 April 2011:

    The social and economic impacts of rural wind farms, and in particular:
    (a) Any adverse health effects for people living in close proximity to wind farms;
    (b) Concerns over the excessive noise and vibrations emitted by wind farms, which are in close proximity to people’s homes;
    (c) The impact of rural wind farms on property values, employment opportunities and farm income;
    (d) The interface between Commonwealth, state and local planning laws as they pertain
    to wind farms; and
    (e) Any other relevant matters.

    Please be advised that the committee has sought advice from the Clerk of the Senate on the matter of parliamentary privilege for potential submitters and witnesses that have signed confidentiality agreements with windfarm operators.

    Submissions should be received by 10 February 2011. The reporting date is 30 April 2011.


    ***** also I would recommend people having a read of this article recently pub’d in the Australian ->


  138. Fran Barlow,

    Providing the storage could lift the capacity credit to something like the baseload plant used to compare it with.

    So if a 1.6GW plant like Hazelwood is 85%available, you’d have to show that a wind plant could produce pro-rata, 1GW of wind would produce 1GW 20 hours per day 7days per week or equivalent at a similar price.

    I think you are on the right track. You may have missed this comment
    which I think will answer the question you are addressing about the cost of hydro to back up for wind power;


  139. “… but these compressed balloons are only about $1 thousand per mWh!”

    Is this before or after the thermal penalties. That’s the problem with all CASE schemes, PV=nRT keeps getting in the way


  140. I’m not sure where the thermal penalties come in? These compressed air balloons are designed for special wind turbines that compress air, not produce electricity. They catch and compress air. As I understand it the turbines are further downstream somewhere, either drawing off the balloons if it is a quiet night, or drawing down off the compressed air directly from the turbines themselves.

    (Everything I’ve just said may be completely irrelevant to your point. I’m just trying to explain how these things work).


  141. @eclipsenow – When one compresses any gas, like air, it heats up. In fact as the pressure increases much of the energy being used to compress the gas is turned to heat. Much of this heat is lost to the surroundings, in this case the body of water the balloons are siting in.

    When the gas is expanded, to do work, that heat must be returned, and it has to come from somewhere. Mostly this is solved in most CASE schemes, by using the compressed air as a high pressure feed to a methane burning turbine generator. The burning natural gas is needed to return the lost heat from compression.

    This is a consequence of the fundamental thermodynamic properties of compressed air, and cannot be ignored or brushed off as irrelevant, it is the major source of loss in these systems, and the losses are substantial.

    Therefore I would like to know if this estimate on the cost of energy storage is taking this loss into account.


  142. This is the guy, Seamus Garvey, Professor of Dynamics and Research, Faculty of Engineering.

    This is his comment on heating air: I have no idea how to critique it of course. I’ll leave that up to you.

    “To Rich (July 23). You calculation for pressure is wrong. 750m of water gives you 7.5 MPa, not 20 MPa. The stored energy density at that level is between 33 MJ/m3 and 65 MJ/m3 depending on how much you reheat the air recovered from store and whether you reheat it between expansion stages. The lower figure is extremely conservative and it involves expanding the air “isothermally” at about ambient temperature. Let’s take 40 MJ/m3 as a reasonable energy density. I agree with your approximate volume calculation so the stored energy in one bag would be around 160 GJ. That is equivalent to over 45 MWh – about 380 times more than the 120 kWh which you suggest !”

    (It’s about the second comment down dated S.D.Garvey :
    06 Aug 2010 12:25:11am)

    Here’s a shot of him with the scaled down energy bag. In 2011 they’re building full scale house-sized energy bags.

    This article also mentions another feature: cutting the wind cost itself by 4 by building super-sized turbines.

    “230m (755ft) diameter is the baby of the family – and considering some radical redesigns, the total amount of structural material per kilowatt of rated power can be slashed, effectively cutting costs by a factor of four or more.”


  143. I would like see just how they intend to expand the air isothermally, and still make it do work. Look this is hand waving around the thermodynamic issues that plague all CASE systems. When you calculate the amount of heat involved it turns out to be huge.

    This is the other issue, trafficking in large amounts of heat is not trivial, it has to be dumped out in the compression stage, which means some sort of cooling, and it has to be added back during expansion very quickly, and in huge volumes. One way or the other that is going to involve burning natural gas, or some other fuel. There is no other way around this problem.

    Thus this idea is just another way renewables are being used as a Trojan horse for natural gas.


  144. eclipsenow, let me try and provide some scale for the issue DV82XL is describing.

    When you compress a gas it gets hot. You might have noticed this pumping up a bike tyre. If you let a compressed gas expand it cools. You might have noticed this spraying an aerosol can.

    If this submerged bladder thing compresses the air from 1 atmosphere (101 kPa) and 25 C to 7.5 MPa, and the heat is not dissipated, the compression will heat the air to 730 C, if I did my sums right.

    But the heat apparently is dissipated, lost into the ocean I assume. Thats what Garvey means by isothermal – the temperature stays the same, because you’re throwing away this heat.

    When you go to recover the stored energy, the air expands and the temperature drops. Suppose the temperature at 750 m deep is 10 C (I’m just guessing). If you forced it to expand till it reaches atmospheric pressure again, without heating, the temperature would drop to -190 C. But at that temperature its only a quarter of its original volume, so its not blowing very hard.

    This is what DV82XL was referring to when he said: “I would like see just how they intend to expand the air isothermally, and still make it do work.” The same issue applies to schemes to store compressed air in underground caverns (perhaps to a lesser extent due to better thermal insulation, but probably with other losses from pumping into porous rocks, and leakage).

    So if you’re storing, say, wind energy, on the round trip you through away the energy that would heat the air to ~750 C on the compression cycle, and then burn fossil carbon to effectively heat the air from -190 C to ambient on the expansion cycle. This is on top of the other usual losses, such as friction, viscous losses, and transforming mechanical energy to electrical and back a few times.


  145. bryen: that wind article is pretty interesting and it cites Peter Lang, but it says things like this:

    “Boswell says at $2.4 million per kilowatt hour, the construction cost for wind is about 2.5 times that of coal or gas.”

    The guy must mean per megawatt, not kilowatt, which would put the cost at 2.4 billion per gigawatt. and I don’t think he means per kwh.

    and 2.4 billion per gigawatt wouldn’t come close to the real cost Peter cites (this even though the article cites Peter’s costs later).


  146. bryen that article The Great Wind Rush provides plenty of food for thought. In a roundabout way it says that Australia’s nameplate wind capacity must increase from 1.9 GW to 18 GW in just 10 years. No way Jose, yet a sizeable segment of Australia’s political elite doesn’t question it.

    It also mentions that the REC system will be split between large and small generators with coal burners having to buy certificates from the large renewables sector, presumably excluding hydro built in the 20th century. The effect of this will have to be analysed. Suffice to say it would be a lot simpler if generators were told they could have an average carbon intensity of x% and no more.

    Perhaps a simpler way to explain the poor CO2 savings from wind would be to point out that gas burning in 75% working mode + 25% standby mode isn’t much less than 100% working mode. I like the notion that wind turbines have become the new form of religious icon.


  147. Gregory / John

    Yes, journalists never gets things quite right do they. However, it was good to see an article that is prepared to give a voice to the people like Humphrey & Jennifer, who have been dealing with windfarm issues for about 10 years, and now have a whole bunch more turbines to deal with.

    When I drove past Cullerin WF a few days back they have now started construction of the nearby extension, which I believe is about another 80 turbines. I am pretty sure it is the Gullen Range development. Was very sad to see it going ahead.

    + The Vinalhaven “community wind farm” in Maine is now about a year old, and is still plagued with noise problems. This WF was originally supported by the community, until it got switched on… ->

    ***Again, I would ask Barry & other BNCers who have the time to put in a submission to the Senate Inquiry :

    The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms

    You can bet Diesnesdorf will be putting a sub in to say how great wind is, he did for the inquiry last year. In fact his word (& those of the developers) was practically taken as gospel, so it is very important that people like Barry and other BNCers make subs if you can. Closing date for sub’s is 10 Feb 2011.


  148. Back in 2004 when I lived in southern NSW I was thinking of moving to a bush block in the Gunning-Jerrawa area but I moved to Tas instead. I see a few Sydney connected VIPs have moved to that area and they want to keep it pristine.

    I also note that Origin Energy thinks that a Mwh of wind energy displaces a Mwh of fossil fuel, based on 30 MW nameplate displacing 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. See
    Any submission must clarify that CO2 savings may possible if the pre-existing system has sufficient flexibility and does not require new backup or transmission. That is why I think estimated wind power costs must be based on 85% capacity and include all subsidies.


  149. Kaj, I don’t believe so. At what temperature would you store this heat? 750 C? In that case this large underwater air storage system needs to be thermally insulated, and made of materials that work at this high temperature.

    Would you store it at something less than 750 C? Say 400 C in some hot body? Then you through away a lot of energy in the Carnot cycle. And you still need high temperature materials and excellent thermal insulation. But now you also need heat exchangers and other elements of the storage and regeneration. This is a long way away from the simplicity of the original idea, and no doubt very expensive.

    Or would you store it at lower temperatures, say, 80 C, where materials are less of a problem and maybe thermal loss rates slower. Well, then the recoverable energy is stuff all, due to Carnot cycle losses.

    I can’t see how thermal regeneration could work with this storage concept.


  150. Kaj, I don’t believe so.

    I said it’s possible, not that it is cheap or rational.


    Adiabatic storage retains the heat produced by compression and returns it to the air when the air is expanded to generate power.

    Many things are technically possibel, but economically not. Like to establish a colony on to Moon. Yes, it can be done. The moon is there, and we know how to go there. But…

    All of our energy can be extracted from the wind. Yes, it can be done. The wind is there, we know how to build windmills. But…

    This is sometimes confusing. Many things are technically possible are not economically possible. Or impossible for some other reason. We all knows that there are far more wind and solar available than we ever need. But…


  151. The recent wind turbine fire at Cape Jervis is now the 3rd one in South Australia.

    I have been told this turbine collapsed in strong winds about a week after the fire, but I have seen no further reporting in the press of this incident other than this news article, which also includes a couple of pictures of the blaze ->

    a brief excerpt from the start of the article –>

    Last Saturday at 2.33 pm, the Southern Fleurieu CFS group was alerted to a fire at the Starfish Hill Wind Farm, near Cape Jervis, in which a turbine had caught alight.

    The fire caused $3,000,000 in damage.

    On arrival, CFS officers could do little but watch the blaze from half a kilometre away, as the situation was deemed too dangerous to approach.

    “There was not a damn thing you could do about it,” said Mr Crawford of the turbine fire.

    When Work Safe arrived to the scene, CFS officers were told to retreat a further 500 metres away from the fire, as the blades continued to spin.

    “There were tips of the blades flying some distance,” said Mr Crawford.

    “You could go no closer than a kilometre away.”

    CFS officers kept watch for spot fires, but were unable to extinguish those close to the turbine.



  152. Pisarenko & Rodkin
    Heavy-Tailed Distributions in Disaster Analysis
    Springer, 2010.

    Emphasis on earthquakes, but considers other distributions of extreme events as well. Relevaant to power gird planning.

    Castronuovo, ed.
    Optimization Advances in Electric Power Systems
    Nova Sci. Publ., 2010


  153. There was a guest post on BNC, quite a few months ago. It was a post written by somebody who is usually a critic of nuclear energy. I don’t remember exactly who it was, but I think it was Ian Lowe, or maybe Jim Green, or Diesendorf. But my memory of the exact details is unreliable.

    Can anyone remember the post in question, and remember exactly who the author was? Also, a link to that post would be helpful if someone might be able to find that for me. Thanks!


  154. Barry suggested that this might be a good place to post this link to Kirk Sorensen’s “Energyfromthorium” Bloq .

    ( see my nov30 posting)

    The paper you can download there (“CWF……”) discusses one of any genuinely sustainable nuclear power scenario’s key “technical issues” (reprocessing radwaste management) & outlines a practical solution to one of the problems posed by the current IFR implementation scenario.

    Please read the paper (don’t forget the footnotes) & offer your comments/opinions. If you wish you can email me directly.



  155. John Newlands, on 29 November 2010 at 8:31 AM said:
    “Back in 2004 when I lived in southern NSW I was thinking of moving to a bush block in the Gunning-Jerrawa area but I moved to Tas instead. I see a few Sydney connected VIPs have moved to that area and they want to keep it pristine.”

    I am not sure what you mean by this comment John. The wind farm issue is upsetting the locals in South West Slopes and surrounding regions, and has has been for a long time! Ever since they put up the useless Crookwell 1.

    Have a read of this article on the Yass Valley WF and the comments by the Mayor of Harden ->

    “Wind farm consultation under fire”

    begin excerpt ->

    Harden’s Mayor Chris Manchester is frustrated.

    They are fast tracking a lot of this major development, he said.

    Its taken out of the hands of local government and we have no say or no control over what does happen, they are rushing through.

    Harden council has told the Planning Department the area of the proposed wind farm is steep, inaccessible in wet weather, bushfire prone and susceptible to soil erosion.

    Councillor Manchester says locals are apprehensive.

    Its a major concern. The Copabella one, there was very little consultation of the community. It just happened and the next minute it¡¯s on sold to Origin Energy,¡± he said.

    Origin Energy says it is currently responding to public submissions about the Copabella wind farm and once that is done a development application will be lodged with the State Government.

    Cr Manchester says the new development would significantly impact on Jugiong and Bookham.

    He says the State Government has not done enough community consultation.

    Its creating problems within the local community, with the local landholders because they’re unsure where it’s going and what’s happening and what they’re going to get out of it, if anything, he said.

    What’s going to happen with the local community?

    —– end excerpt —–

    The wind farm Coppabella, is part of the Yass Valley WF proposal (215 turbines), which will stretch 30 km along the Hume, and encompass the villages of Binalong & Bookham. This new application for Jugiong will add another 80.

    To get an idea of whats planned in the Goulburn to Gundagai area this article gives a good idea ->

    although the number is getting nearer to 1000 proposed turbines already. Imagine all that lot going offline at once, instead of just Capital & Cullerin as it is at the moment. There are also many other wind monitoring masts owned by wind prospectors that will be putting in apps in the next couple of years.

    These are the most recent NSW Dept planning apps ->

    Birrema (80, turbines this is the one near Jugiong mentioned above) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=4101

    Collector (60 to 80) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=3778

    Rugby / Boorowra (90 turbines ) ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=4316

    Adjungbilly (26 turbines )->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=3837

    **** This is clearly not planning for geographical diversity and smoothing! I wonder why….


  156. bryen the thing about VIPs is they get listened to. Plebs don’t. I’m sure the fact Gerry Harvey and John Singleton have horse farms next to proposed new Hunter Valley coal mines makes a difference. Otherwise those farms would be holes in the ground.

    The fact they (Origin etc) want to string wind farms along the Hume Highway suggests a large PR element. Look how green we are as we drive along. In Tassie they leave 400 year old trees next to the road and clear fell just out of sight. When I lived in Yass one really good idea was a CNG truck filling station for semis on the Sydney to Melbourne run. Let’s not bother the authorities said. Perception beats reality every time.


  157. Hmmm… John Quiggin’s nuclear thread is closed.

    So, that’s it then, no more discussion of nuclear energy is acceptable for Quiggin?

    It’s all this ALP talk about nuclear power. He’s terrified that by allowing a little of it on his blog, he’s invoked Something from Ye Spheres Outside which has got loose in this world. Too late he’s remembered the advice of the ancient sages not to call up that which you cannot put down. :-P


  158. Oh, but I forgot to mention, articles posted at TOD will need some defence. We’ll all need to be ready to respond if Barry or someone does post a nuclear article over at TOD. Peak oil doomers may try to jump all over it. Overall it is a very popular site and it would be great to see some BNC content over there.


  159. I think in general that TOD is a good site, even though I don’t personally subscribe to any kind of Malthusian peak-anything doomsaying, including but not limited to fear and doom surrounding peak oil.

    There has been some good discussion of nuclear energy on TOD before, and since there are comment threads, there’s always opportunity to peer review and thrash out debatable claims.

    For example, there was a post on TOD in 2007 regarding nuclear power, written by Prof. Martin Sevior at the University of Melbourne. (Some of you may have heard the name before, he often does a little research and public communication regarding energy, and nuclear energy particularly.)


  160. Jim Green is at it again, trying to fraw a connection between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons, somehow impying that N. Korea is typical of the third world.

    I suppose he’s probably not up for my suggestion that Australia establish its own U enrichment facility to provide LEU to others, thereby de-justifying those others establishing their own such facilities. If we did that, we’d be making a solid contribution to curbing proliferation throughout the world.

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the decided anti-nuclear bias of SMH?


  161. Sydneysiders are dreamin’ if they think they can substantially power the place by trigeneration equipment run on sewer gas
    I suspect the heating value of the gas will be an order of magnitude too low. The average landfill generator in the US produces about 20 kwe from umpteen acres of rotting garbage. I’d guess a lot of that sewer gas is already burned so there may not be that much more to give. In Sweden I believe there are clashes between the railways and the bus lines as to who gets biomethane.

    At least warm climate Australia shouldn’t have to burn gas to keep the digesters warm. The normally NG powered trigen equipment may need to be modified to run on sewer gas with say 25% CO2. I have no idea of the capital cost of trigen equipment but it seems strange to have a form of gas powered air conditioning. A cold air con next to a hot chimney.

    However it might be a step in the right direction for when there is no oil and no phosphate. Rearrange the suburbs to grow local food on sewer waste. Most electricity will still have to come from somewhere else.


  162. Does anyone have access to data on the actual performance of some of these solar thermal heat-storage systems? Even though for energy delivered they are still wickedly expensive, I’m interested in whether they actually deliver on the power projections which are usually the only material easily available. Andasol seems to claim 3500 hours expected operaton/year (CF 40%), which could well be timed as a useful contribution to load requirements, But I don’t know if it delivered, or indeed how much of that heat was NG-combustion-generated – Spain allows 15% I think even for a “pure” solar project.


  163. I’m putting this on OT 7 to see if machiavelli reads anything but the radiation thread.

    anyway, I found what seems like an interesting study correlating increased incidence of breast cancer and ambient exposure to radiation from cosmic rays. conversely, author shows correlation of decreased exposure with decreased incidence.

    the author attributes the causal mechanism to alpha particles that penetrate the body. if this study is borne out, what does it tell us about cancer incidence in general and radiation levels? very little since such stats are consistent with lower incidence overall and higher radiation levels (low level).

    what implications might this have for nuclear power? virtually nothing. in fact, in this study, part of the point is that breast cancer incidence in Brazil, Aus, France and U.S. shows no significant divergence.

    Recall that the cohen radon study shows powerful inverse correlations between higher levels of radon and lung cancer incidence. different cancers show different patterns.

    anyway, here is the abstract. what do you think? and has anyone seen this study?

    Breast cancer mortality reveals the same geographical distribution within Australia, Brazil, France, and USA.

    Alan Astbury
    Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, PO Box 3055 Stn Csc, Victoria BC Canada V8W 3P6


    Abstract. A simple model is proposed as a possible major source of breast cancer. It is assumed that the
    cause of the chromosomal dislocations in the cells of the breast, which may ultimately lead to cancer
    formation, is uniform irradiation from internal alpha particles. These alpha particles, which are the source of a high LET radiation field, are produced in the structures of the breast by interactions of cosmic ray neutrons which bathe planet earth. This model leads directly to a predicted correlation between mortality from breast cancer and the geographical distribution of the intensity of the cosmic ray neutrons. Such a correlation is observed globally, and also locally in Australia, Brazil, France, and the USA. The correlation may be modified by the existence of environmental factors, such as the systematic variation of the age at menarche
    and menopause, nulliparity, and the age at first birth. None of these factors can play a role in mortality from male breast cancer, which reveals the same correlation in the USA where detailed data exist. The ratio of mortality from breast cancer in males and females is determined to be (1.05+/-0.07) x 10-2, in good agreement with the quoted value of about 1%.

    I have not read this article closely yet but the graphs are interesting.


  164. If someone would like a copy of the article mentioned above, email me, though you could find it yourself.

    on a similar topic, I downloaded Charles Sanders’ book on radiation hormesis (Verlag-Springer) from my school library. I have about 15 pdf files. it looks like a very interesting and perhaps important book. I first heard of it from Rod Adams’ blog.

    if you want some of this, I can share with you. email me at


  165. The SBS program Thalassa last night covered fears by the Norwegians of sea borne isotopes (Tc 99 etc) originating from Sellafield on the UK west coast. Without meaning to downplay their concerns what about all the millions of people who live far closer to Sellafield? That includes Ireland and the north west coasts of Scotland. If radioactivity follows an inverse square law you’d think that the Norwegians who live 4X as far away would get 1/16 the dose.

    Perception and groupthink must be a large component of radiation fears. I thought the Scandinavians were cool until this and the Wikileaks saga.


  166. greg meyerson – I normally take this sort of correlation study based on population statistics with a grain of salt. This is primarily because it is almost impossible to control properly for confounding variables, and they depend on data sets that were collected for other reasons that may have hidden biases.

    We can also note the breast cancer is not regarded as particularly having a radiogenic cause. In fact it shows a rather flat high-does linear response, compared to thyroid cancers and leukemia.

    It’s difficult for me to see how the findings can confidently be considered anything more than accidental correlation.


  167. I appreciate the response.

    but the graphs seem pretty persuasive. especially things like the graph that “gives the single sided probability that the particular value of the linear correlation coefficient would result from the selection of the data set from a random parent distribution.” (7)

    the guy obviously concludes differently from what you say on breast cancer.

    the thing is, it’s not clear that the study, whatever conclusions can be drawn about breast cancer (and the author notes the usual cautions about correlation studies), has any significant implications for support of nuclear power.

    that’s the thing. if the study is borne out (in its claim about causal mechanisms), it would be crazy to infer that nukes are bad and RE is the way to go. etc.

    seems to me that the anti nukes attribute huge significance to things like utterly insignificant tritium leaks while brushing aside the huge import of the fact that renewables cannot provide baseload power without such ludicrous overbuild and storage that no country would ever do it.



  168. DV: would you say the same thing about Cohen’s (radon)correlational study, which shows (at least to my insufficiently tutored eye) the same sorts of improbable inverse correlations (if LNT were right)?

    serious question.

    perhaps the studies are not usefully comparable due to quality of data.

    just asking?


  169. greg meyerson, –

    Data sets as poor as the one that was being looked at here, with three of them very short baseline and two long, with no attempt to determine if these cancers presented as radiogenic, and without corrections for the presence of other risk factors cannot yield results with any confidence.

    The real problem is that I am sure that Dr. Astbury (for who I have the deepest respect) understands this, and so does his professional audience, the trouble is that laymen will latch onto work like this and give it weight far beyond what the author expects or wants.

    I understand what you are saying, in that there is panic over man-made releases of radioactive material, and little concern over NORM, and this is laughably true in many instances. But at the same time I will not give a scientific finding more status than it is due, even when it supports my position.


  170. okay: I’m learning from what you’re saying.

    but you know, he’s written numerous papers that focus on proton momentum cut off.

    in his conclusion, he says this:

    It seems quite remarkable that having taken account of familial tendencies and any hereditary
    genetic weaknesses in terms of DNA repair; if environmental factors are comparatively uniform,
    then the relative probability of a woman suffering breast cancer can be reduced to the evaluation
    of a single parameter, namely vertical proton cut-off momentum. This variable appears to be
    sufficiently pervasive that it can provide a framework against which cancer mortality can be
    examined. The explicit link to cosmic ray neutrons requires more work, but the level of the current evidence seems to merit serious discussion.

    He does admit that the link to cr neutrons has not been demonstrated, but is a basis for further research.

    anyway, the only way I can continue to learn from this list is to play student. so bear with me.



  171. greg meyerson – I don’t have much confidence in simple correlation studies, and few people with scientific training do, and this holds with Cohen as well.

    However on the topic of radon there have been numerous case-control studies done to assess directly the lung cancer risk from indoor radon. Some studies report positive or weakly positive findings, while others report no increased risk, or weakly negative findings. And a pooled analysis of of a collection of these studies each with 1000 lung cancer cases displays no trend overall.

    The findings from studies done in mining show a clear relationship, so its not a question of doubting that high radon exposure is a risk factor for lung cancer. But clearly this result doesn’t extrapolate well to indoor radon exposure in homes and other buildings.

    Research into things like this must be on going, it is true. The problem is that there are too many people doing simple correlation studies, and few doing case-controlled, cohort based followups to determine if indeed there is something there. This is of course because these are long and expensive, and cannot usually be done by academic researchers.

    Unfortunately, the research that is done, is treated like it is definitive by the general press, regardless of how much the original author(s) try to make the limitations of their work clear.


  172. DV and others.

    for what it’s worth, and i think it’s worth something, here are some summary paragraphs on cancer incidence and background radiation from Charles Sanders book on hormesis and the LNT. Many of the results summarized are from correlational studies, though they gain some credibility side by side with specific studies of DNA repair mechanisms and low dose radiation.

    From p. 39, chapter three of “Radiation Hormesis and the Linear No-Threshold Assumption.”

    A negative correlation was found for all cancer (SIR and SMR) with natural background dose in cities of India (Fig. 3.1) [25]. No increase in overall mortality or birth defects was found in case–control studies in
    Ramsar, Iran [26] or in Kerala, India [27].
    Ramsar, a coastal city in northern Iran, has the highest level of background radiation
    level in an inhabited region of the world; the dose level is more than 100 mSv/year. This
    dose is more than five times higher than the 20 mSv/year permitted for radiation workers
    or 55–200 times more than the average global dose. There have been no ill effects to
    populations in Ramsar exposed to these high-radiation levels [5]. No significant cytoge-
    netic effects in blood lymphocytes have been observed in Ramsar compared with those
    living in normal background levels. Physicians in Ramsar have not reported an increase in
    cancer rates [4, 21, 22].

    An in vitro challenge dose of 1.5 Gy given to blood lymphocytes of inhabitants of Ramsar showed significantly reduced chromosomal damage compared with residents of normal background levels [22]. The age-adjusted cancer mortality rate for the U.S. population (1950–1967) decreased with increasing background radiation (Fig. 3.2). A 20% lower cancer mortality rate was found in Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico than in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama where background radiation levels were nearly five times less than for those living in the mountain states [28]. The incidence of leukemia and lymphoma was 19% less in males and 6% less in females for those living in the United States at an altitude of 2,000–5,300 feet
    when compared with those living at an altitude of <500 feet [29].

    Correlation coefficients between mortality rates for various cancers and diseases of the heart and background dose levels in 43 urban populations are shown in Table 3.4. All correlations were negative with increasing background dose [30].


  173. All of the studies that purport to show a relation to low level radiation and health issues have been simple correlation studies, and they have not been very well done. The reason they can get away with this is that, correlation studies utility is in forming hypotheses, not drawing conclusions. The same holds true for projective modeling like this. The fact remains that when these hypotheses are revisited with properly controlled, long-baseline longitudinal studies, most of the time these initial correlations vanish. This has been the case with all of the so called clusters of health issues associated with nuclear plants. When they are looked at with the proper tools there is nothing to see.

    Cohort and case-control methodologies are the best tools for analytical epidemiological research. Other types of epidemiological studies like cross-sectional and correlation studies, are really only valid for forming hypotheses and this sort of modeling is really only sniff-test for determining if there is grounds for a hypothesis there in the first place. No valid conclusions about the validity of the hypotheses can be drawn from findings of these latter types – nothing at all.

    We need to be very careful and not let our biases drive us to give more credence to research that supports the hormesis phenomenon than it warrants. We must apply same high standards and jaundiced eye that we criticize papers that support LNT.

    What is needed is a push for quality long-baseline studies that include in vitro work, a search for evidence of mechanisms, and the sort of high standards that the issue deserves, with a view to providing a definitive answer to the question.

    This is not to say everything that has been done is useless, but it needs to be seen for what it is, and used for what it was intended for: a guideline for further research, NOT a guideline for regulations.


  174. DV82XL:

    You suggest that correlation studies are useful only for forming hypotheses. Would you not accept, however, that ,when multiple such studies produce similar findings, the probability of the hypothesis being correct is greatly enhanced.

    Furthermore, the in vitro lymphocyte challenge test cannot be so readily dismissed although I respect your caution. Clearly, the concept of hormesis suits nuclear power supporters and your failure uncritically to embrace it stems as much from your distaste at the idea of being tarred with the same brush as the anti-nukes as it does with doubts over the direction of the evidence. ,


  175. Douglas Wise – Not necessarily. There have been some very bad meta-analysis done, for example, on certain aspects of the health impacts of radiation that are just as worthless as the individual studies that were collected to review.

    My concern is this: if work of this nature is going to be used to make public policy, there needs to be a very high level of confidence in the results. Much of the research I have seen is poorly done, relying on self-reporting, estimated exposures and historical data that isn’t always reliable. Are we going to trust medical records kept in places like Ramsar, Iran, or in Kerala, India, places where corruption is endemic? I’m not saying that it is, I’m just pointing out that there seems to be too many uncontrolled sources of potential error, to make me feel totally confident in the results.

    But more importantly this cuts both ways. If we are going to argue our positions with weak research, and reject the oppositions claiming their research is flawed, we are not going to convince anyone. There are other types of epidemiological studies that can be done that have better methodologies, that yield much firmer results.

    Now true I happen to think that the evidence supporting radiation hormesis and rejecting LNT is strong, but unfortunately it is not definitive enough to silence all the critics (or at least the ones that count) so I believe that the better studies are needed to put this matter to rest.

    So yes you are right, my objections are motivated by more than just science. But in general I do not like the fact that the popular media takes the results from simple correlation studies and reports the hypothesis as a firm conclusion. Once that happens the anti(whatevers) treat it like it was a Law of Nature carved in stone. Then it becomes a reason for making policy. This has happened just too often, not just in nuclear related issues, but in many domains, and I belive it should stop.

    As for “distaste at the idea of being tarred with the same brush as the anti-nukes” that would be the first time I have seen anyone try and put a negative spin on a desire not to be a hypocrite.


  176. DV82Xl:

    I take your point and respect you for making it. I can’t help myself from adopting a devil’s advocate role.

    You reminded me of a flirtacious virgin, attracted to the advances of a potential suitor, but unwilling to accede to his demands without first putting up a suitable level of resistance to demonstrate your respectability.

    I fully agree that it should be possible to undertake better research to sort this matter more definitively. For example, one might argue that those currently living in Ramsar are, indeed, quite resistant to the harmful effects of radiation, but that this is only due to the fact that susceptible individuals perished in utero or perinatally. How do recent Ramsar immigrants fare? It all needs sorting out and you’re right to remain sceptical.


  177. Douglas Wise – Yes that is a variation on what is called the ‘ healthy worker effect’ in industrial hygiene where a population of workers exposed regularly to some insult fail to show the same number of individuals expressing a effect, as expected, due to the fact that those that do leave the field. Indeed it is this sort of thing that needs to be eliminated from the radiation hormesis/LNT issue.

    However I am not being coy here as much as I want to make an airtight case. I have elsewhere on on the interwebs, had long sterile debates with otherwise intelligent people concerned about the potential effects of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation who, due to their lack of science education, giving these poor studies much more weight than they are due. Even on those rare occasions when I am able to convince them that these studies are untrustworthy, they continue to fall back on the precautionary principle, correctly asserting that it cuts both ways: nothing is disproved by this type of research ether.

    To shut the door on LNT, with or without definitive proof of radiation hormesis should be the objective here for the nuclear energy supporter, and it is clear that this can only be accomplished by research that yields confidence levels at the 5-sigma level, an that is not going to come from small-baseline, poorly controlled studies, with sloppy experimental design.

    Frankly. I can’t see any other way of prosecuting this issue that doesn’t leave one open to accusations of cherry-picking or outright hypocrisy.

    This is not to suggest good work has not already been done – it has. AECL has had an ongoing heath study running for over thirty years in the regions around Canadian nuclear power stations, that is being conducted with several departments of the Providential and Federal governments. This study has found nothing to indicate that there is any risk to the general population living around those facilities, even though Canadian limits for tritium in drinking water is 7000 Becquerels per Liter, compared to the American standard of 750 Bq/L.

    There are others, and slowly a body of proof is building that will be useful in a policy fight. But as I have said in the past, in my opinion, two parasitic cultures have grown around nuclear technology, both artifacts of Cold War paranoia: first is the radiation protection industry and professionals working in the field that depend on the continued acceptance of the the linear-non-threshold dose-response model, despite the fact that this model has been thoroughly discredited on multiple occasions; the second the nonproliferation bureaucracy. The latter having no more of an evidentiary foundation than the former, but is similar in that a host of people depend on its assumptions for their jobs. Thus the battle to kill LNT, and proliferation paranoia, unfortunately means also fighting our own in many cases.


  178. greg, I assume this: is the study you were looking at. The graphs you find convincing look extremely suspect to me. Especially I don’t like the trend lines drawn on the graphs – they mostly look completely bogus.

    Most revealing is the throwaway comment in the second paragraph of his USA discussion. The strongest effect associated with increased cosmic radiation – increased altitude – is reviewed and, because it doesn’t show the required effect, is dismissed. It makes me wonder what other data – say from Canada? – was reviewed and discarded on a similar basis.


  179. I have a suggestion:

    DV, your thoughts on this issue of statistical significance and the 1-5 sigma range ought to be written up in however many installments and posted on BNC–in the context of discussions around LNT/Hormesis.

    That said, I am wondering how much science could actually meet the standards of 5 sigma
    (0.99999999802 confidence level??).

    would you not place climate science in the same category as correlational studies?

    at any rate, I am a student here. feel free to correct anything I have said that is rooted in ignorance.



  180. joffan:

    yes, I noticed that too!!!!!! (the caveat about altitude) what do you make of this comment? does it discredit the study or make DVs point about scientific caution?

    I trust your judgment more than my own on this and in part that’s why I posted it.

    I am attracted to DV’s point that c studies might best be used as plausibility tests for even projecting a hypothesis in the first place…? (if I understand DV right and in this area, I take nothing for granted)

    according to DV, who respects the author, the author himself knows this and scientists all know it but the public does not.

    this is interesting. but I wonder if scientists here agree. again, how much science is done at 5 sigma?

    as far as the trend lines, first of all, they were really hard to see!! they were all at least negative correlations, right? if his trend lines are completely bogus, what does this say about an established physicist that a smart guy like DV respects?

    when you say completely bogus, are you suggesting incompetence or dishonesty?

    these are serious questions. I have only in the last several years taught myself enough math to know basically what I’m looking at (stats/prob/calc/chem/phys for dummies, and assorted other texts, visual aids etc). so no irony whatsoever. despite my penchant for irony in other contexts.


  181. Regardless of the character and interpretation of the hypotheses and theories, a working scientific discipline requires at least the 5-sigma standards if its insights are going to be quasi-reliably reused in realistic, chains of reasoning.

    Two-sigma is mathematical jargon for a measurement or discovery of some kind that sticks up high enough above the random noise to be interesting but not high enough to really mean anything conclusive. The criterion for a genuine discovery is five-sigma, suggesting there is less than one chance in roughly 3 million that it is wrong. Two sigma, leaving a 2.5 percent chance of being wrong, is just high enough to jangle the nerves.

    To recap:

    >5 sigma: discovery
    ~3 sigma: observation
    <1.5 sigma: noise

    Science is not about proof it's about weighing up the evidence. Is the claim an extraordinary one, then the evidence better also be extraordinary. But at the same time we must keep in mind that it is not always possible to to wait until the evidence is overwhelming, if the risks of waiting are too dear.

    This is what I feel about climate forcing – why wait to find out that AGW is right, when by the time definitive evidence is so clear it cannot be questioned, we are up to our necks in seawater (or whatever.) A means that may help avoid the worse outcomes is available – implement it and we'll argue later.


    Dr. Astbury is a professor emeritus at University of Victoria, and led a group from the Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory who confirmed the existence of the W particle

    He was the Director of the Canadian Institute of Particle Physics during 1991-94, and was appointed Director of TRIUMF in 1994. The fact that the laboratory has remained one of the world's prime institutions for subatomic research and has maintained its outstanding reputation is due in large part to his leadership. Dr. Astbury was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1989 and of the British Royal Society in 1993. In 2001 he received the Chair's Award for Career Achievement by the Science Council of British Columbia. He has served on a large number of national and international committees and scientific advisory bodies.

    This paper is a bit of a departure for him, and is the product of a scientist past his peak years. I think it was an idea he found interesting and published knowing that he had reached the point in his career where he could go out on a limb without doing himself much professional damage.

    The conclusion to draw from the work is that there may be something that warrants a closer look, and I suspect that's all he wanted to say. More should not be read into it.


  182. very good, DV.

    another great response.

    I understand better what you’re saying now than I did when you said it to me several months ago.

    I think you should write this up. there are plenty of smart people out there with an insufficient understanding of science–and this leads to belief in lots of half digested b.s.

    I include myself in this. Humility always, understanding what Ben Franklin said about it.


  183. There are several good basic treatments of confidence intervals and related matters available. on the web. This is not really the place to delve into the topic in much more detail than I did above. Certainly I would not likely be able to do the subject the justice it deserves, if I tried.


  184. It said on The Oil Drum that by 2013 Germany will have spent 70 billion euros on PV subsidies. Not a lot to show for it. It’s shame there are no small scale energy storage systems that carry over for 6 months. For example around Christmas save 20 kwh a day for mid winter (Australia) but costing less than a million bucks per household. This one was an eye opener

    There seems to be no way of avoiding the need for fuel powered devices when natural fluxes can’t meet our expectations. Back to the Neolithic then.


  185. greg, very little science is done to 5 or 6 sigma, which is as it should be. Much, probably most, science does not rely on statistical inference, but rather on deductive or syllogistic reasoning, or direct measurement, or some other way of knowing.

    If you synthesize a new molecule and characterize its structure by NMR, there’s no statistical measure involved. Likewise if you measure the red shift of the hydrogen lines from a distant galaxy. Much science is of this nature.

    Statistical measures are more appropriate in some fields than others – epidemiology, pharmacology, field biology, psychology and so on. Or looking at inherently random processes like collision products in high energy physics.

    For the purposes of pure science, a 95% confidence (2 sigma) is usually sufficient to be regarded as provisional confirmation of a hypothesis. You really only want to push beyond that when there are real world consequences for being wrong, like in medicine (with human health consequences), engineering (with safety consequences or investment consequences) or product reliability (with business consequences), etc. In the latter cases, you really want to throw away theory and become an empiricist, and push out to 5 or 6 sigma.

    So not all science uses statistical tools to generate knowledge, and when you do use such tools there is a cost benefit tradeoff, because acquiring high confidence is often very expensive. Most science does not require a six sigma standard.


  186. EN, the Green/Wasley piece at OLO appeared a few days earlier at New Matilda. Not sure why OLO haven’t acknowledged this; they usually do.

    I’m not sure that any further effort is needed; the piece is pretty thoroughly demolished in the comments on both sites. Yours was a very nice coup de grace.


  187. After yesterday’s wind farm forum meeting in Yass run by the DECC (well the wind industry really), I think a BNC community critique of the GHG abatement study could be a good thing if anyones up for it? This was being heavily endorsed ->

    Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement
    from Wind Farms in NSW

    When I raised the issue of the poor ability of wind to reduce GHG the DECC (and the wind industry reps) were completely dismissive and just point to this doc. One of the wind industry guys (from the CSIRO spin off Windlab) actually seemed to think this report was based on “measurements” not “modelling”, can you believe that! Unless of course the DECC come up with another document…

    I could perhaps include some of the community critique in a submission to the Senate Inquiry, mentioned earlier upthread.

    The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms :

    *** Oh, and the guy form Suzlon turbine company (Mike Bagot) who was there, who is involved in the Rugby/Boorowa wind farm application (I think he is proj manager), said was involved in writing the BZE ZCA 2020 report (his name is not listed in the report), and said it was “meant to be dreamland stuff”… and blathered on the usual ZCA blather, and also said the costings were rubbish.

    He also expressed a desire to get the community involved in his wind farm developments at Boorowra/Rugby. Perhaps a bit late as the first community meeting is “today”, and the wind resource monitoring/ planning app has been put together since 2004 for this 90 turbine wind farm between these two locations, which will cover 100,000ha of land between Boorowa and Rugby.

    The planning app was lodged on 2/11/2010 & is at :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=4316

    As yet there is no web site for the wind farm for the local community to have a point of contact. And it is being built by Suzlon & CSIRO spinoff Windlab . There is no mention of the Rugby wind farm on Windlab’ s site ->

    A search of Suzlon’s website reveals zero results for Rugby ->

    Two news articles I found ->

    Hmmm, community consultation … ????


  188. The report mentioned in my previous comment ->

    Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Abatement from Wind Farms in NSW

    was commissioned by NSW DECC & written by McLennan Magasanik Associates , published in July 2010.

    Here is a quick brain twister (well not really:). Section 3, p7 is titled “MEASURING EMISISONS ABATEMENT FROM WIND FARMS”

    the first sentence says ->

    “There are a number of issues that need to be considered in attempting to estimate the actual level of emissions abated from wind farms. ”

    and then go on to talk about the “modeling” they used to estimate emissions abatement. I find it strange that they use the title “measuring”, when they are not actually doing any measuring… is that just me, or does anyone else find this section title a little difficult to believe or, dare I say it, deliberately misleading ?

    And bear in mind this doc is being pushed by the wind precinct advisory committees & officers of the NSW DECC & the wind industry developers.


  189. OK, here also is the exec summary ->


    This report has been prepared for the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water to report on electricity market modelling that has been carried out to determine the emissions abatement impact of wind farms located in New South Wales.

    The greenhouse gas abatement from wind energy is specific to each electricity system, primarily because the generation that is displaced by the output of a wind farm is location-specific. In NSW, wind farms would almost exclusively displace fossil-fuel generation, either from NSW coal-fired and gas-fired generators, or from coal-fired generators in Queensland and Victoria.

    The present study consists of four scenarios, each with a different level of wind
    penetration in NSW from 2010 to 2020:

    Scenario one: the baseline scenario in which no new wind capacity enters NSW.

    Scenario two: a 150 MW wind farm (an average large wind farm).

    Scenario three: 500 MW (a very large wind farm).

    Scenario four: 3,000 MW of wind capacity (the upper range of wind capacity that
    would be expected to penetrate the NSW market under the expanded RET scheme).

    Each of these cases were set to run using the PLEXOS electricity market simulation
    software package, and the modelling horizon was set from July 2010 until June 2020.

    As Executive Figure 1 illustrates, the greenhouse gas emissions abated by NSW wind
    farms varies annually over the modelling horizon:

    Scenario two (150MW wind farm): from 150 kt CO2e to 450 kt CO2e per annum.

    Scenario three (500MW wind farm): from 900 kt CO2e to 1,600 kt CO2e per annum.

    Scenario four (3000MW wind capacity): from 6,900 kt CO2e to 9,000 kt CO2e per


  190. greg meyerson, I truly admire this:

    I have only in the last several years taught myself enough math to know basically what I’m looking at (stats/prob/calc/chem/phys for dummies, and assorted other texts, visual aids etc)


  191. Taking the average CO2 saving for each wind scenario the figure seems to be 2-2.5 kt annually per MW of nameplate. If wind displaces a mix of combined and open cycle gas at say 0.5 tCO2 per Mwh then a full year’s running at 100% capacity factor would be 4.38 kt per MW. Thus they appear to assume nearly 1:1 gas displacement at capacity factors of nearly 50%.

    CO2 displacement seems impossible to measure without wind-free comparison data for a similar region. Perhaps data from around 1985 could be used. The consultants report must have incorporated some major assumptions about future coal and gas prices in order to model carbon intensity.

    I lived in Yass 1994-2004. My take on it is that some politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra decided that wind power was a good thing and the hapless yokels will have to wear it. Needless to say various consultants find mostly good things to say about it. Suits get the comfy jobs shuffling papers around or skiting their green credentials while yokels get their lifestyles compromised. The mirror to this is the Murray Darling saga.


  192. okay:

    is there such a thing as multiple working hypotheses for dummies (not total dummies, but those who have read many dummy books, some several times, etc).

    thanks for your reply on stats and science, John. I was actually pushing DV to be more teacherly. NEVER LOSE TOUCH WITH THE STUDENT IN YOU. You assist people a lot more that way, I think.


  193. barry: your work fills me with loathing. even though I haven’t read it.

    but seriously, I can likely download a copy for free from work. I have a feeling you sent this to me before in the context of another discussion.

    but if you have a copy, and don’t mind sending it, I would appreciate it. would read it right away.


  194. Well I guess in predicting weather we can forgive ABARE. But in largely ignoring the imminence of a predictable, measurable phenomenon such as global peak oil… well, their jurisdiction is only Australia right? So they don’t really have to report on such matters, right? Except they forecast the price of oil. Oh wait…


  195. Here a few Australian articles that will provide interesting background reading for the Senate Inquiry on wind farms, some excerpts below from each article ->

    Farmers join ranks against wind farm

    Farmers fear rows of 150m-high turbines will tower over their properties as part of AGL’s $1 billion Coopers Gap Wind Farm.

    The proposal includes up to 200 turbines around Cooranga North, between Kingaroy and Dalby, 180km northwest of Brisbane. It would supply 400 megawatts towards Queensland’s renewable energy targets.

    Some turbines will be only 500m from homes, leading to concerns about sleepless nights and health problems from noise and vibrations collectively known as “wind turbine syndrome”.

    A senate inquiry is currently under way into the health effects of wind farms and will include impacts on property values and the interface between levels of government. The Queensland Government is under pressure to legislate a minimum distance between turbines and homes of at least 2km – similar to the new Victorian coalition government’s policy.

    Nanango MP Dorothy Pratt said it was “totally unacceptable” to locate turbines near homes.

    “I think we seriously need a 3km buffer and as soon as possible because people’s health should be first and foremost,” she said.


    Renewable energy targets in doubt as expensive wind power runs out of puff

    Without subsidies, current electricity prices would need to triple to justify new wind capacity, which costs about $2.5 million per megawatt to build.

    Some analysts and industry sources say most of the required capacity will not be built in time because an oversupply of certificates will continue to depress prices and mean wind farms remain uneconomic for the next four or five years.

    For wind farms to be viable at current electricity prices, certificate prices would need to double from a current price of about $35 per megawatt hour (MWh).

    Industry sources say new wind capacity needs to return $100 to $120/MWh to recoup development and operating costs, compared with industry estimates of $40 to $45 for new coal-fired capacity.

    Therefore, to justify the wind spend, the electricity price received, plus the price of an REC, which is for 1MWh, needs to be at least $100. With electricity futures tipping prices of $37/MWh in NSW next year, and a certificate price of $35, wind farms are far from economic.


    Adelaide environmental court rules in favour of AGL’s Mt Bryan wind farm in landmark judgement

    The landmark judgment that could set the precedent for community litigation against wind farm developments in South Australia has been hailed by developers and disappointed anti-wind farm campaigners.

    Handing down its judgment on the state’s first case of this kind, the Environment, Resources and Development Court cleared the way for the proposed $180 million wind farm.

    “As a consequence of this decision, opponents to such projects around South Australia can now see that the demand for renewable energy outweighs any community concerns,” he said.

    Ill wind for anti-turbine push: more to come

    Under the Coalition’s wind farm election policy, welcomed by anti-wind farm campaigners, residents can veto a development if turbines are less than two kilometres from their home. Planning authority was also given back to local councils.

    The new minister encouraged energy companies to be ”mindful” of the government’s guidelines when building their projects. Coastal Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy, who welcomed the election of Mr Baillieu, acknowledged the government had a problem applying its policy retrospectively but urged the industry to embrace the guidelines on a voluntary basis.


    TV chef warms to Baillieu’s turbine tactics

    Those “monstrous” things are 90m-high wind turbines, which energy company Transfield Services is investigating putting near Mr Russell-Clarke’s home at Tooborac, an area studded with picturesque granite outcrops, 105km north of Melbourne.

    The new Victorian Coalition government has declared the area in the Macedon and McHarg Ranges a “no-go zone” for wind farms, along with other mountainous and coastal areas.

    Transfield had been investigating putting up to 80 turbines across the hills west of Tooborac, but is likely to have the project killed if the new government sticks to its policy, which stipulates a distance of 2km between wind turbines and houses.

    (bryen note – Transfield are the developer for Collector wind farm near Yass in NSW)


    Legal block puts the wind up wind farm protesters

    PLANNED legal action against a wind farm approved in the final days of the Brumby government has been abandoned.

    The action was dropped after it emerged that former Victorian planning minister Justin Madden had blocked any future appeals.

    The proposed Moorabool wind farm, consisting of 107 turbines near Ballarat, 90km northwest of Melbourne, received final planning approvals on November 1, the day before Victoria went into caretaker mode for the poll.

    Mr Madden, whose failure to consult on planning decisions dogged the Brumby government, appointed a delegate to sign on his behalf because his relatives own property in the Moorabool area.

    “It’s taken away all our options,” said Ms Kirk, who will have five turbines within a kilometre of her property. “It’s just taken away our civil rights.”

    The new Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, condemned Mr Madden’s actions but said they could not be undone.

    “It’s indicative of why the last government became so unpopular on planning matters, because it was very clear they had no intent of obtaining community consultation on these wind farm issues,” he said.

    “They called it in at two minutes to midnight, and cut out any ability for the community to have an appeal process or any kind of feedback into the application.

    “They just don’t get it when it comes to people in regional Victoria who have concerns about a 40-storey turbine being placed within 2km of their homes.”

    The new policy requires a 2km buffer between houses and turbines unless separately agreed to by the resident, but is not retrospective for approved wind farms.

    Moorabool Shire Mayor Pat Toohey said he was disappointed Mr Madden had signed off on the wind farm “about an hour from caretaker mode”.

    “Instead of a good planning process, that was a government in panic chasing green votes,” Mr Toohey said.


  196. bryen you point out that Origin paid consultants to confirm that NSW wind power displaces CO2. However the model was shrouded in obscure manipulations. I’ve been wondering about approaches the plebs could do on spreadsheet software. On reflection I’m not sure that correlation based studies will give the full picture. For example we could do a linear regression
    Z = aX + bY + c
    where Z is tCO2 from stationary generation, X is fossil Mwh and Y is wind Mwh. If the overall fit was good and the estimate for b turned out negative (b<0) we might conclude wind power was offsetting fossil. However there might be a third independent variable such as total economic activity, perhaps measured as inflation adjusted GDP. In a recession heavy industry might cut back on core electrical demand so that fossil would decline anyway. In that case wind shouldn't get the kudos for lower emissions.

    I think different models should be proposed and tested with comparable data in different grid systems. I regard the issue of CO2 displacement by wind as a grey area. Even if there was some the next issue is that of justifiable cost.


  197. I like your thinking John. I’d hate to run the math myself, but it’s great to see people considering the extra variables such as overall economic activity, especially after the GFC demonstrated lower Co2 emissions from a recession.


  198. John,

    The study was commissioned by NSW DECC(!) and is currently being used as a political / greenwashing tool by NSW gov and wind industry developers :


    So it is being endorsed by the NSW wind energy precinct “advisors” and officers ->

    Note that the gov in NSW has waived “critical infrastructure fees” until 30 June 2011. The Suzlon proj manager Mike Bagot of Rugby / Boorowra told me this would save them @ $750k.

    The NSW DECC study, methodology Section 4 p10 ->

    The emissions abatement impact that wind farms will have in New South Wales is driven in part by the future generation mix, which is in turn driven by electricity demand, the carbon price and the expected level of renewable energy generation. The carbon price is a critical component in this equation as it drives the abatement of emissions, primarily through the retirement and/or winding down of coal plant production. However, with respect to renewable energy projects the carbon price has a lesser impact while the carbon price is insufficient to meet the renewable energy targets without additional certificate revenue. This is because any increase in carbon price raises electricity prices which then reduce certificate prices. The critical factors for renewable energy projects during this period are:

    The magnitude of the renewable energy target.

    The new renewable energy supply curve which will determine the new entry cost for renewable energy.

    The extent to which renewable resources are developed in areas of higher energy costs relative to other locations. Returns to wind farms in other locations would be reduced if REC prices are lower due to high energy prices elsewhere, such as in Western Australia.

    The electricity modelling developed for the NSW DECCW take into account the following parameters:

    Regional and temporal demand forecasts.

    Generating plant performance.

    Timing of new generation including embedded generation.

    Existing interconnection limits.

    Potential for interconnection development.


  199. @bryen re the NSW GHG abatement by wind modelling, the following (from appendix A.9.1) does not exactly fill me with confidence:

    Typically, each wind farm operates at an average capacity factor of between 25% and 45%, with intermittency represented through the use of stochastic wind profiles. Wind profiles are randomly developed within PLEXOS assuming a log-normal distribution and high autocorrelation from one period to the next, using parameters determined from historical wind profiles.

    I would be interested in others’ opinions as to the validity of these availability assumptions, and whether this is important for the purpose of the study.

    Notwithstanding that, the bottom line is in Figure 6-3 in the report. Note that even under the most optimistic 3000MW-of-wind scenario, total emissions continue to increase through to 2020. The modelling indicates that this scenario results in abatement of ~10% over BAU. However, this still only represents a renewables (including hydro) contribution of 18% to the total (Figure 6-7). As the report sort of says (section 3.3), intermittency management issues mean all bets are off once you try to push wind contribution beyond 20%.


  200. Also see Appendix A.9 ->

    Modelling other renewable energy technologies
    Non-hydro renewable generation modelled in the PLEXOS NEM database includes
    wind, geothermal, biomass/bagasse, new hydro and solar thermal. The availability of
    this renewable generation is represented through a combination of profiles, stochastic
    variables, forced outage rates and maximum capacity factors.


    A.9.1 Wind
    Wind farms are modelled as multiple units, each with a maximum capacity of 1 MW.
    Up to six generic locations are assumed in each state to represent some diversity in
    availability – the six in NSW are based on the renewable energy zones. With high
    wind penetration expected in the future, modelling only six generic locations models
    the fact that there is high correlation between wind farms situated in similar locations,
    as observed already in South Australia. Typically, each wind farm operates at an
    average capacity factor of between 25% and 45%, with intermittency represented
    through the use of stochastic wind profiles. Wind profiles are randomly developed
    within PLEXOS assuming a log-normal distribution and high autocorrelation from one
    period to the next, using parameters determined from historical wind profiles.

    In modelling the NSW wind farms, historical profiles from two existing wind farms
    were used. The profiles had a correlation coefficient of 76%, which is remarkably high,
    and reinforces the statement in the preceding paragraph that the output of wind farms in similar locations is highly correlated (the wind farms are approximately 50km
    apart). However, MMA has also found that the correlation decreases as the distance
    between wind farms increases. Thus, in Victoria the correlation coefficient between
    two wind farms that are 200km apart is only 40%.


    I have a few immediate issues here (over and above it is a report on modelling and not measuring). i) units of 1 MW for a wind farm … come on!!! what is that all about ???

    ii) what were the 2 existing NSW wind farms . given that Cullerin & Capital the only 2 declared as operating on the NEM in NSW, have been operating for just over a year ??? not much of a historical record to go on their, and Capital has had a bunch of turbines offline for part of that time too!

    iii) they try to make some vague statement that wind farms in Vic and NSW are somehow not correlated, when Andrew Miskelly & Tom Quirk, and anyone who cares to look at the AEMO data will find that the whole lot can go offline…


    Here’s one for you all Appendix 9, p64 :

    A.9.5 Solar thermal
    Photovoltaic and solar thermal generation are modelled as multiple units of 1 MW,
    using generic profiles to represent the solar radiation potential throughout a day and
    across a year. Figure A-17 shows the generic profile applied for December, assuming
    no storage potential. In winter, the estimated profile is 80% lower than in this figure.
    For capacity planning purposes, PV/solar thermal is assumed to be 100% firm.


  201. European gas lobby urges switch from coal
    It might create early CO2 reductions then all the other problems will become apparent as explained in the article.

    Despite some points in favour of their case they weaken it by suggesting that gas will take the next step to lower emissions by adopting CCS. I doubt it. Their other weak point would have to be that most gas will come from outside Europe.


  202. “One point of concern has been the standard of radiation emission from 10,000 years to 1,000,000 years into the future. On August 9, 2005, the United States Environmental Protection Agency proposed a limit of 350 millirem per year for that period. In October 2007, the DOE issued a draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in which it shows that for the first 10,000 years mean public dose would be 0.24 mrem/year and that thereafter to 1,000,000 years the median public dose would be 0.98 mrem/year, both of which are substantially below the proposed EPA limit.” from
    At that time, none was planned to be weapons or fuel grade


  203. First of all rems is no longer the unit of choice for exposure, given that this is not an American forum, I suggest that we use the SI unit, sieverts:

    1 rem = 0.01 Sv = 10 mSv
    1 millirem = 0.00001 Sv = 0.01 mSv = 10 μSv

    Second, the existence of a regulation does not prove the existence of a risk, very much like cannon law does not prove the existence of a God.

    Just to put things in perspective:

    – A dose of under 1 Sy (100 rems) is considered subclinical, which is to say it basically does nothing.

    – The average exposure for Americans is about 3.6 mSv per year (360 mrem)

    – The equivalent dose for 365 bananas (one per day for a year) is 36 μSv (3.6 mrems)

    If the EPA is calling for 3.5μSv/yr (350 millirem per year) they are in essence calling for the facility to be sealed such that no more than the average background radiation will be released. Naturally because whatever high-level waste they put in the repository will decay rapidly, there is little risk that the standards will not be met. I suspect that there is more residual radiation in that area from decades of activity at Nevada Test Site, than could ever possibly come from sequestered material that was to be stored at Yucca Mountain. While this is laudable, it does not speak to the issue of the physics of radioactive decay which is the subject of this discussion.

    In fact the entire farce that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository saga has become, is a textbook example of policy being divorced completely from science, and the longer it goes the wider the split.


  204. DV82XL, on 12 December 2010 at 2:51 PM — There remains quite a division about whether low dosage cancer risk can be extroplated linearly from higher dosage cancer risk. The three camps are (1) sublinear, less risk than a linear extrapolation; (2) linear; (3) super-linear. Last I checked EPA uses linear and only one small group of nuccflear health physicists still claim sper-linear. I find the sublinear model more plasuible myself in that it takes a hit while the cell is undergoing repair to either die or become cancerous.

    There is also the question of the trustworthyness of the various lung clearance models. In recent times the nearby air quality researchers have been focusing on micron sized particles (of whatever one breathes) as most likely to invade via lungs. Of coarse they are most concerned about chemical poisons (which might also be cancer inducing). So a thorough analysis has to account for whatever combination of ‘dust & smog’ together with ionizing radiation is emitted by the particles and the particular chemical affinites of the emitters; not all ionizing radiation is equal.

    The US DoE is a highly dysfunctional agency in many aspects, but this exchange started by your making the error of stating that plutonium was a chemical poinin, not a radiotoxin. You made the same mistake regarding uranium. I corrected you. You then appeared to have stated that isolation for a long time was not necessary. I pointed out that was thought to be required (but not mentioning that health physicists were the ones to determine that, possibly being overcautious).

    For probably more sensible policies regarding radoactive wastes what do Canada, France and Sweden do?


  205. DV82XL — No, even the simple calcuations are not simple. You have to consder every possible fission decay path to a stable isotope. Many decades ago I watched a room full of human calculers with electromechanical Marchant calculators working out such radioactive decay sequences.

    Of course, shortly thereafter that was turned into a computer program, not not complex. But lung clearance models are anothr matter and the entire health physics subject continues to fill journals.

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Know whereof you write before writing, hmmm?


  206. David B. Benson – We have criticized at length, on these pages, the Linear Non-threshold Theory and it is apparent that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to justify the continued application of this standard. In fact the bulk of the evidence shows rather the opposite: populations exposed to low levels of radiation are more healthy, and have less cancers than those without such exposure. This is called radiation hormesis and the scientific evidence for it has been solid as a rock for the last forty years.

    Any real concern with radioactive particulates would more properly apply to coal-burning, which releases several tons of uranium and thorium into the atmosphere yearly. The overwhelming bulk of nuclear wastes are solid and not particularly friable at that. Most of the concerns about underground storage of used nuclear fuel are its potential to dissolve and contaminate the water table.

    I wrote: “The long-lived materials such as uranium and plutonium, on the other hand, radiate for a very long time but at an extremely low level — so low that their danger is essentially chemical.” Which does not imply they are chemical poisons, that is something you chose to read into the remark.. The fact is that metallic plutonium is a fire hazard, especially in a moist environment, as plutonium forms hydrides on its surface, which are pyrophoric and may ignite in air at room temperature. Plutonium expands up to 70% in volume as it oxidizes and thus may break its container. These represent essentially chemical driven dangers.

    As for the calculations, if you indeed knew what you were talking about, you would know the decay of used nuclear fuel is well understood. It is calculating the time to any given level of activity that is relatively easy to do to determine how much of a risk is involved.

    If you watched a room full of calculators on Marchants work out decay sequences that would make you much older than me and I’m 58, perhaps there have been some changes in that time that you should make yourself aware of before making statements about having little knowledge, as yours seems somewhat lacking.

    Oh, and I won’t go away because my opponent tries to kill the discussion with insulting behavior, I have a very thick skin when it comes to that, and anyway when that starts I can smell weakness, and get ready to move in for the kill.


  207. Looks like the some sort of agreement has been reached in Cancun. It’ll be interesting to read the official summit summary documents, but here is a media summary:

    I find it interesting that the article refers to “targets” such as ‘reductions of X% by 20XX’, ‘reduced deforestation’ and ‘X amount of money to help poor countries’, but fails to mention actual targets, e.g. commitment to replace X% of our current energy infrastructure, X area to be properly protected from deforestation etc. It might be that this is just a simple report, though I have a feeling that meaningful targets haven’t been defined in this summit.


  208. Climate resolutions are beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. More absurd subsidies and unreachable quotas for renewables with more fantasy talk on carbon capture and carbon farming while the nuclear prohibition continues. However the PM is in a difficult position with the generators wanting certainty, the Greens to control the Senate and the Murdoch press digging in for a fight

    Somehow I think carbon pricing will end up as an irrelevance. Nobody is going to double the wholesale price of brown coal fired electricity. I think things will start to happen when BAU looks unlikely. My guess is that will be when we get an El Nino and $150 a barrel oil prices in the same year, perhaps between 2012 and 2015.


  209. Yesterday’s TV gave a glimpse of what a slippery slope carbon farming could turn out to be. The ABC Landline program showed a WA farmer bulldozing a bluegum plantation. The plantation leasing company went broke so the farmer was restoring the land to pasture by bulldozing extensive rows of trees and stumps. My guess is that he was going to put a match to it when the TV cameras had left.

    The problem is that if a carbon credit had already been sold on the basis of the growing trees it would have to be repaid when they were burned. This is the kind of silliness we are likely to get more of in 2011 the Year of Being Tough on CO2.


  210. The familiar old thing from Gavin Mudd and Scott Ludlam.

    Given that uranium and radioactivity is supposedly so horrible and nasty, and that tailings waste from mining is supposedly so abhorrent, why are they proposing to put the horrible scary deadly uranium back into the tailings waste dam, instead of separating it out?

    It’s pretty amazing to note, by the way, that following the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, the greenhouse gas emissions prevented by Olympic Dam’s uranium will single handedly offset 100% of Australia’s entire greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.


  211. Actually, Luke (or anyone else), do you know how many metric tonnes of CO2 are offset by Australia’s uranium exports?

    According to The Australian Uranium Industry Australian uranium offsets about 400 million tonnes of CO2. I don’t know how accurate this is though.

    According to the UN Millenium Development Goals data Australia emitted a total of 374 million metric tonnes of CO2 in 2007 – couldn’t find anything more recent.. I don’t think this includes other greenhouse gases (CO2e), and only accounts for direct emissions so doesn’t include land use change.

    It’s a significant offset anyhow. Though these savings are easily offset again by our coal exports. Our net contribution to the greenhouse problem is still huge.


  212. DV82XL, on 12 December 2010 at 4:06 PM — I’m 70 years old now and the mechanical calculations were watched at some point in 46th to 12th grade in the Los Alamos, New Mexico, public schools.

    Last time I paid any attention to it, about three decades ago, radiation hormesis was a contentious matter since there was at that time no explanation for the observations (which might be accounted for as due to other reasons).

    I agree that those concerned with low level radiation hazards ought to pay attention to coal burning operations. It also appears you and I didn’t agree on the meaning of chemical hazard; no big deal. I’m sure we agree that for various reasons plutonium isn’t something to fiddle around with.

    Since some physicits took up health physics prior to much use of radioactives the standards were set quite high regarding exposures (partly becuase the risks were not well characterized). This differs from the situation regarding hazardous materials in use before there was much understanding of the dangers such as mercury (readily available to me for lab experiments in high school and college) and carbon tetrachloride used routines to remove solder flux. And so on. Some thousands of such chemicals are not subject to EPA regulation, being grandfathered in; stupid.

    As I previously stated, NPP waste storage is essentially a nonissue in that what actually is required is not difficult; consider how the Swedes go about it.


  213. Many examples of the hormesis effect are well known: A bit of sunshine does you good; too much may cause skin cancer. Small doses of aspirin have many beneficial effects; too much will kill you. In fact the the existence of chemical hormesis is not in dispute.

    Epidemiological evidence supports the hormesis effect of radiation by omission as many studies done to populations chronically exposed to low levels of radiation failed to show the predicted negative effect.

    While I am not ready to say we all need more ionizing radiation in our lives, the results of studies that have been done, simply do not support LNT.

    Plutonium has been overly vilified both by propaganda and media hysteria, purely because of the use of one of its isotopes in nuclear weapons. As actinides go, it is middle of the road at best in terms of radiological, and chemical dangers in all domains.

    However the bottom line – that concernsz about the dangers from SNF stored underground in 10,000 and 100,000 year time-frames is ludicrous and is it driven by political considerations, not scientific reasons – stands.


  214. @Barry indeed, I had thought SNF = Single-pass Nuclear Fuel.

    Further to Mudd, the great irony (to put it kindly) of his position is that he has previously written extensively on ‘peak minerals’ (pretty much the whole gamut) occurring in the short to medium term (years to decades), principally due to increasing energy required to extract them. Yet here he proposes throwing away the world’s single largest, most concentrated source of energy, for which most of the hard work has been/will be done anyway. I have commented as much at Climate Spectator.

    This piece of work has destroyed whatever credibility Mudd had in my view.


  215. Barry Brook, on 14 December 2010 at 2:21 PM — Thank you.

    Linear No Threshold is certainly conservative, but doesn’t seem to be correct provided ionizing radiation is the only environmental insult to the living cell. The (thirty year old) working hypthesis is that a double hit is required, the first for damage and the second while the cell is undergoing repair.


  216. David B. Benson – As an aside, I should not have to caution anyone of the problems one can encounter using Wikipedia as a source. In nuclear related articles, in particular there are constant attempts by antinuclear sympathizers to inject what they consider balance into the topic. I was very active in that area at Wikipedia from the beginning, and was driven out by the endless fighting with idiots determined to insert their views. It came to a head with the depleted uranium entry, where I had to spend several months getting one person barred from contributing through the grievance procedure they have there. When I was through, I realized the futility of it all, and also realized that the wiki would never mature into a place where fact took precedence, except where it did not matter.

    There were several underlying factors that contributed to the marginalization of radiation hormesis. The most critical factor affecting the demise of radiation hormesis was a lack of agreement over how to define the concept of hormesis and quantitatively describe its dose-response features. If radiation hormesis had been defined as a modest overcompensation to a disruption in homeostasis as would have been consistent with the prevailing notion in the area of chemical hormesis, this would have provided the theoretical and practical means to blunt subsequent criticism. A second critical factor undermining the radiation hormesis hypothesis was the generally total lack of recognition by radiation scientists of the concept of chemical hormesis which was markedly more advanced, substantiated and generalized than in the radiation domain. The third factor was that major scientific criticism of low dose stimulatory responses was galvanized at the time that the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) was organizing a national research agenda on radiation and the hormetic hypothesis was generally excluded from the future planned research opportunities.

    Furthermore, the criticisms of leading scientists of the 1930s which undermined the concept of radiation hormesis were limited in scope and highly flawed and then perpetuated over the decades by other ‘prestigious’ experts who appeared to simply accept the earlier reports. This setting was then linked to a growing fear of radiation as a cause of birth defects, mutation and cancer, factors all reinforced by later concerns over the atomic bomb. Strongly supportive findings on hormetic effects in the 1940s by Soviet scientists were either generally not available to US scientists or disregarded as part of the Cold War mindset without adequate analysis.

    This widespread non-acceptance of hormesis as a real-world phenomenon is not present in the case of chemical hormesis; the oversight appears systematic.

    The evidence against the linear model and for radiation hormesis has been solid as a rock for 40 years. Yet the LNT model prevails. Why? Follow the money and the politics. The health-physics community is divided, roughly along the lines of who puts money before principles. There have been some amazingly bitter fights within the Health Physics Society. A look at the historical background of radiation research is instructive.

    After World War II, the details were released of the A-bombing of Japan. Studies of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, showed a linear relationship between cancer mortality and high doses of radiation as a result fallout hysteria became one of the themes of the times. The situation was not helped by lurid stories of several high dose incidents reported in the press. Health Physics and Genetics were supported lavishly by radiation fears, and Radiation Biology became the most intensely researched science in history. Health physicists soon learned that their livelihood depended upon scaring funds out of governments and science became irrelevant if the paymasters wanted to mislead the public about the hazards of radiation. If a particular study failed to find evidence of radiation’s ill effects, the data was simply forced into the LNT model. Yet some of these studies are among the best evidence for radiation hormesis because the authors were not looking for it, and effectively denied that it existed.

    The LNT model was first considered in the 1940s purely on the theoretical grounds that a single hit by ionizing radiation on a single cell could cause chromosome damage that could cause a mutation or cancer without any hard evidence to support that contention. The justification for using the LNT model was that too many test animals or too much time would be needed to evaluate chronic dose rates. If the LNT model is correct, there is no “no observed adverse effect level” (NOAEL) for regulators to observe, thus officials responsible for public health can claim justification in calling for minimization of exposures to ionizing radiation. Note that this is tantamount to saying that avoiding sunlight is justified on the grounds that nobody will get sunburns in the dark. Added to this, during the Cold War a number of people promoted the LNT model in an attempt to discourage nearly all uses of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and used it as leverage in their campaigns.

    As a result the radiophobes and the politicians took a handy but false rule of thumb and enshrined it in law and regulation. The second problem, related, is that this results in a lot of stupid but expensive procedures where people and vendors can make a lot of money thus entrenching this false standard through special interests.

    In spite of this atmosphere, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, about 40 articles per year described hormesis. In 1963, the AEC repeatedly confirmed lower mortality in guinea pigs, rats and mice irradiated at low dose. In 1964, the cows exposed to about 150 rads after the Trinity A-Bomb test in 1946 were quietly euthanized because of extreme old age. This trend continues. It was found that there was decreased cancer mortality in government nuclear facility workers in Canada, the UK, and the US. Whether exposed in uranium mines or processing plants, laboratories, or nuclear power plants—and whether the exposure was to uranium, plutonium, thorium or radium, so long as the dose was 50 times background (chronic) or, 50 rad acute, workers were healthier than those in the general population, mainly due to lower cancer incidence. Decreased cancer mortality, decreased leukemia rate, decreased infant mortality rate and increased lifespan in atomic bomb survivors from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki who received 1.2 rad. was found and a 20% lower cancer death rate in Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico, which have background radiation of 0.72 rad/yr compared with Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with 0.22 rad/yr was also reported. There were many other similar examples as a quick look through the literature will reveal.

    At a minimum the upshot of this reliance on a thoroughly debunked standard has created astronomical expenses in the public and private sector attempting to protect the population from dangers that are not really there. It has severely limited the use of therapeutic radiation treatments and hobbled the development of new ones. It has severely limited the use of radiation to reduce spoilage in food, and to disinfest food shipments of vermin.

    Most importantly an unwarranted fear of radiation hazards has limited the development of nuclear energy by unnecessarily raising the cost of nuclear power plants and generating public opposition to their construction.

    I would strongly suggest that you, or anyone else wishing to understand this subject look deeper into it, rather than depend on broad treatments of the sort that can be found in Wikipedia.


  217. DV82XL:

    You have been very helpful in contributing to my education on several nuclear topics such as safety, “waste” and proliferation. I am wondering whether I can draw you into another area.

    I was recently talking to the mother of an engineer whom, she said, had considerable nuclear experience. I was very surprised when she said that it was her son’s view that the biggest problem for nuclear power was not so much safety as the costs or even impossibility of fixing broken reactors before they had reached their sell-by dates and also the costs/difficulties of decommissioning. I found this both disturbing and surprising. Would you care to comment?


  218. Douglas Wise – I find it difficult to give these concerns much credence as stated given that there are several examples of both successful repairs of nuclear reactors, and successful decommissions.

    Thus I would have to ask you to expand a bit on what issues specifically were considered a problem before I could attempt to give you an answer


  219. DV82XL:

    As you might imagine from the conversation I reported, it didn’t go into specifics. I recall something to the effect that one of three reactors (my recall may be flawed) on one UK site had ceased functioning and that engineers couldn’t work out a way of fixing it and that there had been no public admission of any ongoing problem. There was further mention of old sites being left until a means of decommissioning could be worked out, with the inference that no means had yet been found.

    The conversation led me to a study of relevant information on Google and I learnt something of the subject. I am, of course, aware that, as you state, there are examples of successful repairs and decommissions. However, it appears that the latter often involve a cooling off period of several decades and, in consequence, the experiences of successful decommissioning are less than one might otherwise have expected.

    Possibly, therefore, the question I should leave you with is the following: Are you aware of any failed repairs or unsuccessful decommissionings?


  220. Douglas, might it be the case that the engineer’s mother was talking about the graphite-moderated gas cooled reactors which were popular in Britain? I understand that their decommissioning is somewhat more problematic than the now more common PWRs.


  221. Cooling off is factored into any nuclear decommissioning plans from the beginning. It doesn’t represent a problem, as the original containment still serves to keep anything from escaping. In fact simple entombment is considered sufficient decommissioning by IAEA. Other than Chernobyl, this has been applied twice elsewhere; once at Lucens, Switzerland, and again at Dodewaard, in the Netherlands.

    To the best of my knowledge there have been no unsuccessful nuclear plant decommissionings, per se, although there have been cases where funds were not available and the State has had to foot the bill. Many countries now have laws requiring owners of nuclear reactors to establish assurance funds to finance decommissioning.

    It is moot to call situations where a facility has been put in Safe Enclosure (so-called SAFSTOR) because of some missing factor that would allow decommissioning to proceed ‘failures.’ In most cases this is due to lack of acceptable final disposal sites for the rad waste, and one assumes that this will be rectified at some future date, and decommissioning can continue.

    As for failed repairs, this is so flexible a term, as to be almost useless as a broad description of an issue. Repair, in general is an process carried out only when it is deemed cost-effective, otherwise it is better to scrap. This is true across domains, not just for nuclear facilities. In the case of repairs that are going to be very expensive, a great deal of time will be spent evaluating the situation, and that this may not be resolved in a short time cannot be described as a repair failure.

    They say in the military, that few battle plans survive first contact with the enemy. Anyone that has done maintenance on complex systems will tell you, repair plans often don’t survive past the first panel being opened. There is always the possibility of finding a nasty surprise that can turn a routine procedure into a nightmare, this is just the way it goes, again not limited to nuclear. I would assume that this has happened to those involved in repair of nuclear facilities, with the same frequency that it happens in any other field, but these are not failures, even if they push the situation past the cost effective point.

    And yes, sometimes a repair is unsuccessful and must be done again, or the project abandoned to scrap – this is normal in any engineering situation, but I cannot think of any cases where this has led to the shutdown of a nuclear facility in and of itself.

    So really your question is a bit open-ended, and subject to debate on what actually constitutes a failure.


  222. DV82XL and Finrod:

    Thanks for your replies. I suspect that Finrod’s comments on graphite moderated gas cooled reactors being more problematic to dismantle might well be apposite.

    DV82XL, as usual, makes sense as far as I’m concerned and I have to be reassured, albeit with slight reservations about power costs and LCOE calculations being based capital, routine O&M, fuel and decommissioning costs. It wouldn’t take many unexpected and costly problems to up these costs and also risk premiums.


  223. Douglas Wise – It is again one of those double standard situations. Coal facilities are under no legal requirement to ether properly decommission/decontaminate their sites, or are they responsible for their wastes in perpetuity as nuclear plants are. Hydro generating stations are not responsible for returning rivers to original courses, nor are the responsible for the reservoirs, as several failures of abandon dams in the States can attest. It will be interesting to see who is responsible for abandoned wind turbines when the day comes.

    In fact nuclear is the only energy technology that must plan for and guarantee the cost of its own decommissioning from a plant’s inception. Again a level playing field would be telling in terms of comparative costs.


  224. Some claim that NSW coal production will soon peak then become exhausted by mid century
    I think there may be some new evidence for this in the current conflict between horse breeders and coal miners
    If there truly were all these billions of tonnes of coal near the surface they wouldn’t have to disturb prime agricultural land. New born foals shouldn’t have to breathe coal dust.

    No doubt coal fanciers will say there is plenty of coal under the remote outback in which case they should go there. The effective price of coal must go up with or without carbon taxes particularly as firms from China and India buy their own mines in Australia. Coal is so yesterday yet it makes 80% of our electricity. It’s like we’re stuck in 1940s thinking.


  225. DV82XL, on 14 December 2010 at 4:00 PM — Writen like a true believer in Luckey’s hypothesis. Looks exactly like what a climate denailaist writes. Shame on you.

    I’ll stick with BEIR VII: “The committee judges that the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal, and mechanistic studies tends to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk. Uncertainties in this judgment are recognized and noted.” from


  226. David B. Benson – Frankly it looks to me like you are gibbering, however I will be charitable and assume that you missed what I wrote up-thread. I contend that radiation hormesis presents as a modest overcompensation to a disruption in homeostasis,. I do not go as far as those that suggest that the population is suffering from a lack of exposure to radiation, and that this lack is causing unnecessary deaths.

    Nor am I impressed by studies purporting to show evidence for the LNT model that set exposure floors at levels higher that those done for studies supporting radiation hormesis. 2.0 Sv is far higher than the <1.0 Sv levels where hormesis effects are seen. No one pro or con in this issue disputes the linearity of dose response for higher exposures, it is assuming that this extrapolates down to zero that is the crux of the argument.

    At any rate, it is not the need to accept radiation hormesis that is the issue, as much as it is the rejection of LNT as a bases for making policy. This is clear if only because of the failure of any research to find a simple correlation between mortality and various populations exposure to NORM as background. If LNT was valid there would be indisputable evidence from that area.


  227. DV82XL, on 15 December 2010 at 6:57 AM — You once again demonstrate your inability to understand low level BEIR. As a simple example, what is now called the linear-quadratic model probably could resolve the normal background problem.

    First of all, NLT for regulation appears to be conservatively safe. Second of all, I re-iterate that the jury is still out regarding radiation hormesis (although proposedf mechanisms appear to me to be biologically implausible).

    Give it up and return to sound, skeptical science.


  228. David B. Benson – Your behavior in this thread has done nothing but expose you as an intellectual fraud, regardless of your academic standing. You presume understanding of topics that clearly you have not bothered to acquire fundamental background knowledge of, you make unsupported claims, and then refuse to provide references, you do not have the grace to back down when you have been shown categorically wrong.

    It is apparent by the first paragraph of your last post that you have not bothered to do any research and seem to believe that making broad statements, again unsupported, will get you off the hook, and you are trying to hide behind condescension which marks you as a coward. And you have the gall to tell me I should be ashamed of myself.

    I hope that as I approach your age over the next dozen years, I will do it with more grace that you are exhibiting here. In the meantime I will not engage with you anymore. I will not be party to your efforts to embarrass yourself further.


  229. david B:

    your “climate denialist” comment on DV is over the top. first, he has been very cautious about the correlational studies that appear to confirm radiation hormesis. perhaps you missed the discussion.

    second, you say above that “the jury is still out regarding radiation hormesis,” and yet you compare DV8’s stand on hormesis to climate denialism. Is the jury still out on the AGW and its causes? Is radiation hormesis to LNT like climate denialism to AGW?

    (I realize some here still think so but that’s not the point in this case)


  230. DV82XL, on 15 December 2010 at 7:45 AM — But it was indeed you who failed to supply any references (I suuplied two) nor to qualify your remarks in any fashion (I attempted to qualify mine). You made bold assertions which the evidence does not support.

    Sorry, but it is, once again, you who has gone emeritus, as the saying is these days. This time was sufficient for me to, from now on, distrust anything you have to post on BraveNewClimate (in part as you have earlier demonstrated a willingness to post readily checkable matters as fact when indeed the checking shows the conterfactuality of your writings).


  231. A couple of questions I’ve been meaning to ask for a while now. Does disposing of the sodium coolant in a fast reactor present special problems in decommissioning? And would the decommissioning cost for a fast reactor be comparable to that for a PWR?


  232. quokka, the sodium coolant presents no special problems for disposal, and has already been dealt with in multiple SFR decomms to date, including EBR-II, FFTR, PFBR & EBR-I (both NaK), etc. It ceases to be radioactive very rapidly, since the only significant activated species, Na-24, has a 15-hour half life (all other radioactive Na isotopes have a half life measured in seconds or ms, except natural Na-22). There is no reason to expect decomm costs to differ markedly from the PWR experience to date, as the experience with EBR-II has shown.


  233. David Benson, I don’t understand your beef here, DV82XL has patiently explained his position and justified as much as is reasonable in a blog comments section. Do you want him to write an academic review on it? Be reasonable. I suggest, if you want to continue this weird line of interrogation, that you go and party with the endlessly soliloquising Machiavelli over here (oh, and do take the time to read the top post first).


  234. quokka – The NOAH process was developed to dispose of the sodium coolant from the Rapsodie reactor in France and has been used in every other instance since. It looks like this will be the standard procedure. The alkali metal is converted to brine by mixing small batches with large quantities of aqueous sodium hydroxide and then neutralizing it with hydrochloric acid. Radioactive caesium is extracted by passing the liquid through an ion exchange column, leaving a cleaned up salt water that can discharged safely to the sea.

    About 10 tons of effluent are produced for every ton of sodium coolant destroyed.

    Other than than you understand that the bulk of the expense in decommissioning is generally dealing with the containment simply because of its mass.


  235. quokka, without having ever decommissioned a fast reactor, I can’t see that it would present any special problems.

    The main reason is, you wouldn’t dispose of it. There are plenty of commercial applications of metallic sodium. If you had to decommission a reactor, you’d sell the material.

    Likely it would wind up in another fast reactor. On the assumption that we have an energy future in fast reactors, the fleet will be expanding for perhaps hundreds of years. Maybe at some point we reach stasis. There would be no net sodium disposal unless the fleet started to contract – maybe LFTRs displacing sodium pool fast reactors?

    If there weren’t a market for the sodium, there is a market for lye – just add water, and sell the sodium hydroxide. But I think the sodium metal would be more valuable.

    I assume the reactor vessel would be designed with ports for filling and draining the sodium, so the handling aspects should be covered at the design phase.

    I don’t think there’s a radiological problem. The sodium isotope formed by neutron capture (Na-24) has a half life of 15 hours. I haven’t checked the decay pathway but I expect any decay products are short lived, and probably insoluble in liquid sodium so readily isolated.


  236. Gregory Meyerson, on 15 December 2010 at 7:59 AM — DV8 went on about “funding sources” and similar matters. I concluded he was less than fully rational regarding the more dubious claims for radiation hormesis. It looked to me to be the style of argumentation (unreferenced) which many who have jumped to a conclusion use; most recently I’ve seen this repeatedly from climate denialists.

    In every matter of science the jury is always, to some extent, still out (although not much for the laws of thermodynaics and a few other settled matters). Regarding AGW the risks are potentially so high that one ought to simply accept it, holding whatever remaining doubts one has at bay for the interim (which might be a long time).
    Merely pointing out a correlation (without giving references) and without a causal hypothesis (even if wrong) isn’t advancing science.

    I am open to cogent argument which offer an explanation of radiation hormesis which also accounts for why, in some circumstances, only very low dosage LNT appears to explain the evidence; read the Wikipedia article.

    However, rgarding the usual range of topics here, radiation hormesis is rathr off-beat (since as I understand the matter, regulatory agencis all consevatively use LNT).


  237. Barry Brook, on 15 December 2010 at 8:46 AM — Sorry about all that, which is rathr off-topic for BraveNewWorld. I don’t have any beef other than what I’ve previously posted recently on this thread.

    Thanks for the offer of the older thread, but as a former resident of Los Alamos and a voluntary Hanford downwinder, I’m not particularly concerned about radiation risks, just setting the record straight.



  238. Kaj Luukko – Unfortunately the contaminated building in Taiwan is a poor experimental location to ether support or reject radiation hormesis as some of the exposures were almost 3 Sv, at the beginning of the building’s occupancy . This is well above the level of radiation for which radiation hormesis has been observed.

    Thus there is nothing conclusive that can be drawn from this event in support of radiation hormesis.


  239. BIER VII has this to say, on p268, about their low-dose methods:

    The use of data on persons exposed at low doses and low dose rates merits special mention. Of these studies, the most promising for quantitative risk assessment are the studies of nuclear workers who have been monitored for radiation exposure through the use of personal dosimeters. These studies, which are reviewed in Chapter 8, were not used as the primary source of data for risk modeling principally because of the imprecision of the risk estimates obtained. For example, in a large combined study of nuclear workers in three countries, the estimated relative risk per gray (ERR/Gy) for all cancers other than leukemia was negative, and the confidence interval included negative values and values larger than estimates based on A-bomb survivors (Cardis and others 1995).

    – my emphasis.

    The “most promising” studies were “not used”. Because of “imprecision” – but the evidence that they were imprecise was that they gave the wrong result.

    In Chapter 8, page 194, Results:

    In most of the nuclear industry workers studies, death rates among worker populations were compared with national or regional rates. In most cases, rates for all causes and all cancer mortality in the workers were substantially lower than in the reference populations.

    Sounds convincing – but basically a little later, this solid conclusion has been discarded.

    I was surprised to see Steve Wing in there as one of the key studies being used to wave off this inconvenient finding. But perhaps not everything he does is as fantasy-based as his TMI work.


  240. Joffan – That’s what I meant up thread when I wrote: “If a particular study failed to find evidence of radiation’s ill effects, the data was simply forced into the LNT model. “ The other favorite technique is to define ‘low-dose’ as starting at exposures well above those at which radiation hormesis effects have been observed.

    Unfortunately though, it must be admitted that there is a lot of poor work done on the side of supporting radiation hormesis as well, the worst with authors offering ludicrous conclusions that the population is suffering from a lack of exposure to ionizing radiation. Others, like the Co-60 in the apartment blocks in Taiwan, poorly controlled. This sort of nonsense, and sloppy work has not helped, and one must take care and examine each study carefully on its own merits.

    The fact is that regulators of several stripes, are scared spitless of backing down from LNT because of the political implications, and the fall-out that they would have to endure. Keep in mind that there is an active segment of the population in many countries, that is convinced that there is a real and present danger from cell-phone towers, and there is now a huge body of poorly done studies that purport to show that these are linked to health issues in an exposed population. Against this backdrop, and with many careers in radiation protection at stake, one can understand their reticence.


  241. DV82XL , I was just curious to see what BIER VII actually said about low-level studies, since I knew there are plenty of reputable results which show no effects from low doses and low dose rates.

    Also in the frame for discarding is the idea of lifetime cumulative doses. This pretty naturally falls away for below-threshold doses anyway once LNT is repudiated, but also opens the interesting question of what period is a sensible cumulative span? Wade Allison puts the accumulation span at some period less than a month, from medical radiation use considerations among other things.

    So the dose rates for the highest-exposed Taiwan apartment dwellers would be, according to the AEC estimates in the paper, , about 50 mSv/month, with some text following that suggests the AEC overestimated. Not so high that a health penalty is automatic. But I have to agree that the reported health outcomes from that paper strain credulity, so it’s hard to know what to believe there.


  242. Joffan – The Achilles heel in most of these studies, pro and con, is poor dosimetery. With the exception of rad worker, the general population doesn’t file wear a badge an have it checked every month, so it’s almost all estimates.

    This is why I personally think that the studies done on large populations in high background areas is most valuable, even though there are other confounding factors with these as well, that make it difficult to use them to validate radiation hormesis. Nevertheless, one would expect to see an overall clear indication of a LNT effect with these groups, if the hypothesis had any value, and yet this is not the case.


  243. DV82XL,

    Where people have exposure to a natural background radiation 200 times the average dose and become more resistant to high levels of ionized radiation as in parts of Iran, seems to indicate that radiation hormesis is a better hypothesis than LNT.

    It also fits the Darwinian logic as well.


  244. spangled drongo – radiation hormesis is not considered that type of adaptive response, where a breeding population of organisms are under selective pressure. Hormesis is defined as a dose response phenomenon characterized by a low dose stimulation that results in a positive inhibition of disruption in homeostasis.

    It’s expected by the hypothesis that in any randomly selected population, most individuals would manifest a positive effect to low dose exposure to the insult in question.

    However, the possibility that a population that has been under evolutionary pressure, may have adapted through natural selection to have a high tolerance to a given toxin, is a confounding variable that must be controlled for in any epidemiological study of the hormesis phenomenon.


  245. DV82XL:

    I have been thinking about your comments about decommissioning.

    You mentioned that one option was entombment. Given that new reactor designs may be a) smaller and modular, b) that they may in future be buried, c) that NPPs are generally sited within a relatively large perimeter and d) said sites are usually going to be suitable for new reactors when the previous ones have become obsolete, I was wondering why entombment shouldn’t become much cheaper and more convenient than dismantling.

    Could you comment? I imagine that the planning processes could, if necessary, be altered to obviate the need to restore the sites to their original states and be a small part of playing field levelling.


  246. Greens could be onto something about fossil fuel subsidies.
    It turns out Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Tasmania has been paying 2.2 c per kwh while households pay more like 20c. The new price is a secret but a couple of years ago it was said to be worth $133k per employee. 550 workers X $133k = $73m p.a. approx. Link.

    Some more factoids. The aluminium smelter is close to two gas fired power stations supplied from gas platforms in Bass Strait. It is also close to the HVDC converter station for the underwater cable. That cable sells peaking hydro high and imports un-carbon-taxed brown coal power low. According to the Peak Energy website the Hydro’s wind farm at Woolnorth in NE Tas lost money because wind speeds were 14% lower than expected. Sounds strange.

    I was just talking to a Hobart foundryman who said his business is too small to extort cheap power prices. However there is talk of a silicon smelter to add to the State’s aluminium, zinc and specialty steel electrorefiners. It seems pensioners will have to foot the higher power bills to pay for it.


  247. Douglas Wise – Several small reactor designs are assuming in situ entombment as the preferred decommissioning method. TerraPower’s traveling-wave nuclear reactor is being designed with this type of end-of-life final disposal in mind.

    John Newlands – One should be careful in doing this sort of comparison between industrial pricing of electric power and household pricing. In general the cost of delivering power on a per-watt bases, is very much lower for something like a smelter. About the only thing the power company does is run high voltage lines to the facility, switching, transformers, VAR compensators and such are the responsibility of the end-user. Whereas the delivery and distribution network for small consumers is owned and maintained by the provider. Part of the price of the latter is the cost of maintaining that aspect of the service.


  248. DV8 that may be true that industrial customers have to manage the quality of available power. However my understanding is that households and electro smelters are treated very differently when it comes to supply interruptions. I got a hint of this riding in a cable car that services a hydro dam. The workers said (if I heard it right) that the smelters have to be compensated under a penalty clause in the contract. You and I might invest in a UPS and put up with blackouts but smelters get cash.

    The bigger issue here is what I’d call ‘energy equity’ that Peter Lang also touches on. For example seniors who’ve worked for 40 years but can’t afford the energy to survive a cold snap or heat wave. Maybe aluminium smelters should get a discount but not 90%.


  249. John Newlands – Ultimately with primary industries added costs are always passed down to the final consumer anyway, and shows up as a higher price for finished goods. Thus it’s hard to see how those on fixed incomes would benefit.

    As for smelters being compensated under a penalty clause, this is normal too, because the consequences of an unscheduled loss of power to an operation like that can be severe, and expensive.

    The two types of customers for electric energy cannot be compared, and it is unfair to do so, the facts on the ground are often much more complex than can be described by superficial analysis.


  250. Thanks for the link MD. The key difference between BNC and sites like the Tasmanian Times is that emotive arguments get short shrift here.

    There is a widespread perception that aluminium smelters should pay a lot more than 10-15% of what households pay. For example some suggest the workers clock in for 5 minutes a day, don’t bother making aluminium but the subsidy gets paid and spent regardless. An inquiry needs to propose multiple criteria by which to assess this state of affairs.

    The terms of reference could be wide ranging
    -10c deposits on sticky soft drink cans
    – tariffs on imported aluminium
    – giant battery banks to take wind power
    – effect of carbon tax
    – alternative employment
    – price effect on households.
    As household energy bills skyrocket and nukular is a non-option Big Biz will have to take some of the pain.


  251. Benson: So, BEIR VII is basically admitting hormesis and want to understand why it works?

    No, I didn’t think so.

    Did you have anything to say about my earlier extract from BEIR VII, where they admit that the best data for low dose exposure has been discarded?


  252. Fran, just read your excellent comments on Dan Cass’ blog, and that was indeed a very polite, terse, GTFO response.

    As an aside, the commentary I see you provide in various fora I occasionally visit is first class. The tenacity and intelligence of your comments is surely cutting through. You’re doing great work.


  253. Thanks John Morgan. I value your feedback.

    I found it telling that Dan was unable/unwilling to directly accept or reject my proposal still less refute even one the counterclaims I made to his nuclear power acceptance benchmarks.

    PS: GTFO?


  254. Having read the Dan Cass links I think he is a harder case than Ian Lowe or even Jim Green. In a comment in his own blog he says neither Israel nor Pakistan have a nuclear power industry; I assume that means electricity generation. However Wiki says Pakistan have 425 MWe operational and 1900 MW planned. It’s like Peter Garrett’s alleged remark that 20,000 died at Chernobyl. If they don’t do any fact checking I’d say they’re not interested in facts.


  255. I was recently flipping through the Zero Carbon Australia report, and I found that in their discussion of life-cycle analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of different energy technologies, they’ve actually cited the Severance paper as a source on the GHG emissions intensity of nuclear power.

    That’s a pathetic lack of checking of the scientific integrity of the sources.


  256. Benson, you will have to be specific rather than patronizing to undertake a discussion on why you feel it is valid to discard the best data source. “Read more carefully” is a cop-out.

    Nobody is saying these studies are easy. But without convincing evidence of harm, there is no reason to spend effort and resources on preventing that speculative harm.


  257. They say follow the money well the money isn’t going to CCS

    Yet the coal industry trumpets CCS as a saviour. Both NSW and Qld have talked of approving new coal fired plants if they promise to be ‘carbon capture ready’. OK provided they are not exempted from CO2 penalties in the decade or three it takes to fit CCS. If you follow the money the winner is combined cycle gas.


  258. I think the Australian Greens Party risk undermining their credibility. Prominent MPs Bob Brown and Andrew Wilkie have called for a $140m re-routing of the new highway linking Hobart and Launceston. Site preparations uncovered thumbnail sized stone chips enclosed in clay. A technique called stimulated optical luminescence suggests the clay could be 42,000 years old but radio carbon dating of nearby material suggests human habitation about 5,800 years ago.

    If this saga gets to the point of laying down in front of bulldozers the Greens risk losing the plot. The public will see they put emotive arguments ahead of impartial analysis. The party’s dominance of the Senate in 2011 will be a one-off and they could go the way of the Australian Democrats. Along with them will go much of the opposition to nuclear and support for subsidies like feed-in tariffs.


  259. Joffan, on 19 December 2010 at 3:43 AM — No intent to be patronizing, merely brief. (1) LNT is conservative and the BEIR VII explain that the available evidence doesn’t (statistically) support a more complex relationship. (2) BEIR VII states that the so-called linear-quadratic relationship gives a better fit to the available evidence. [I understand the presumed biologicial response for the low dose, quadratic portion; it is sensible, but that doesn’t mean it is correct.] (3) I’m not going to read more of BEIR VII. The quotation I gave suffices for me to conclude that at the time BEIR VII was written the (knowledgable and expert) authors wrote ‘purported hormesis’; clearly they have yet to see any unbiased, statistically significant evidence nor any plausible biological hypothesis advanced.

    I suspect they dropped the data you mentioned for lack of an adequate control group, statistical significance or one of the many other reasons such epidemiological studies have to be disregarded.


  260. John Newlands said:

    If this saga gets to the point of laying down in front of bulldozers the Greens risk losing the plot. The public will see they put emotive arguments ahead of impartial analysis.

    I doubt it will come to that. FTR, this seems like one of the sillier things Bob Brown has done. He compared it with the Franklin Dam case, which is astonishing.

    AIUI, the proposal as it stands would leave the area untouched.

    The party’s dominance of the Senate in 2011 will be a one-off and they could go the way of the Australian Democrats.

    Doubtful. There is now going to be a pretty solid 11% voting for The Greens and as long as that is true enough preferences will flow for them to stay in the balance.

    The Australian Democrats stood for nothing specific and betrayed their own supporters by supporting Howard’s Telstra sell off and GST. Rather than keeping the bastards honest, they became dishonest. Howard could not have won in 98 but for their help.

    Moreover, because they were in the centre, they could be pillaged on both sides. There’s nowhere else on the landscape for Greens supporters to go.

    Along with them will go much of the opposition to nuclear and support for subsidies like feed-in tariffs

    Hardly. The main effectiveopposition to nuclear power is in the ALP left. If The Greens were to decompose politically most would return to strengthen the ALP left.

    What is needed is to win over the lefts still in the ALP and the Greens to at worst, an agnostic position on nuclear. Neutralising this issue would mean that the ALP could not be wedged and clear the way for a change in policy.


  261. Benson – in case you have forgotten, in the previous instance it was you refusing to provide a reference from that paper. An act that I chose to interpret as an attempt to dodge the fact that you had not read it yourself, as you claimed.

    In this latest arrogance on your part, at least you are admitting to not reading the source, yet again you expect us to accept it as a reference on the bases of your assertion that it was written by “(knowledgeable and expert) authors”

    If you cannot see that in both cases you are clearly in the wrong, you are blind.

    You are nothing but a pompous old fraud, that holds everyone in this forum in contempt. Do not be surprised if that feeling is reciprocated.


  262. DV82XL, on 21 December 2010 at 12:03 PM — I don’t hold anyone in contempt.

    I do view you as lazy for not reading the IEA wind study; find out for yourself.

    As for the suthoritative aspects of BEIR VII, its an NRC study, similar the the previous six BEIR studies and if you start at the title page you can find the list of authors yourself.

    If you were actually interesting in the matter, that is. I fear you demonstrate you have other motives.


  263. Benson – I’m lazy? You won’t find the passages in a paper you say supports you, and “leave it as a homework assignment” for me to find them, and you admit to not finishing to read another paper you assert is authoritative and I’m the lazy one?

    Your grip on reality is slipping . Seriously, you have to start looking at what you are writing here, because you are just embarrassing yourself more and more every time you post.


  264. From the latest Nature editorial, an illustration of how many renewable energy advocates are beyond rationality:

    In 2004, the environmental engineer and atmospheric modeller Somnath Baidya Roy, then at Princeton University in New Jersey, published work showing turbulence created by turbines would, among other effects, lead to vertical mixing of energy and heat in atmospheric layers that would affect local temperatures, and possibly change evaporation patterns (S.B. Roy et al. J. Geophys. Res. 109: D19104; 2004). Some took his study as an attack on the wind industry, and he was besieged with nasty e-mails. They questioned his sanity, threatened to get him fired from his post at Princeton, and accused him of being a pawn of the coal or oil industries. (He has never had nor sought any industrial ties.) The president of one US-based wind-farm firm told Roy to consider “how much heat is your head turning out, while you consider such thoughts?” and to ponder many other factors “while checking your navel for lint”. (We know this because Roy considered the comments humorous enough to post on his webpage.)

    Humorous maybe, but these are the people who currently hold great sway in the energy and climate debate.


  265. @John Newlands “…things will start to happen when BAU looks unlikely. My guess is that will be when we get an El Nino and $150 a barrel oil prices in the same year, perhaps between 2012 and 2015.”

    You may be interested to know that James Hansen and co-workers concur with your climate forecast (I don’t know what JH thinks about oil prices ;-). From their latest paper in Reviews of Geophysics:

    The data in Figures 9 and 10 and knowledge that tropical SSTs are now (July 2010) moving into La Niña conditions permit several conclusions. The 12 month running mean global temperature in 2010 has reached a new record level for the period of instrumental data. It is likely
    that the 12 month mean will begin to decline in the second half of 2010. The subsequent minimum in the 12 month running mean is likely to be in 2011–2012 and not as deep as the 2008 minimum. The next maximum, likely to be in 2012–2014, will probably bring a new record global temperature because of the underlying warming trend.

    You can add to that the knowledge that we are only just coming out of a deep solar radiance minimum now, which reinforces the notion that we may face a perfect storm of El Niño + solar maximum + continued CO2 increase circa 2013.

    The full Hansen et al paper is here, and is well worth a read (it’s not too heavy) as a summary of the current climate situation (and, as an aside, it comprehensively eliminates the possibility of urban heat significantly affecting climate trend measurements).


  266. MD thanks I had googled ‘next El Nino’ with slim results. Hansen is one of the few to make a prediction. Rellies just sent me happy snaps of recent skiing in NZ and I said they’d better have a Plan B for a poor snow year. Maybe 2013 will be it.


  267. For anyone with the desire to read something gobsmackingly inane in the anti-nuclear genre (warning, first put on head gear to avoid injuring head on desk) … read here and here

    I did answer the first seriously but the second of my posts descended into sarcasm as by then I just couldn’t believe what I was reading.


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