Electricity costs exhibits

I note that there has been some interesting discussion here on costs of electricity, especial the comparative value of fossil fuels versus nuclear (and renewables). This is a point I will revisit from a number of perspectives over the next few months, because I agree with commenters like Arthur Dent, Peter Lang and DV82XL that this is a critical issue (though not the only one). For now, here are a few interesting points to inject into the conversation.

First, I have a paper coming out shortly in the journal Energy, co-authored with Martin Nicholson and Tom Biegler. It is called “How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies” (DOI: 10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039), but is not yet available online — when it is, I’ll write up an overview of it on BNC. The core message of this paper, based on a standardised meta-review of the last 10 years of authoritative assessments of levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) and life cycle emissions (LCE), is that nuclear is the lowest-cost option for mitigating carbon emissions; moreover, is already competitive with pulverised fuel coal (under the right conditions). I’d like to say more now, but I’ll have to wait until it’s been formally published online. Press releases etc. will be forthcoming…

Still, there are other things I can point out for now.

Exhibit #1: IEA/OECD projected nuclear costs for 14 countries — 2010 update:

Exhibit #2: 2016 Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources from the Annual Energy Outlook 2010:

Exhibit #3: OECD electricity generating cost projections for year 2010 on – 10% discount rate, c/kWh:

country nuclear coal coal with CCS Gas CCGT Onshore wind
Belgium 10.9 10.0 9.3-9.9 13.6
Czech R 11.5 11.4-13.3 13.6-14.1 10.4 21.9
France 9.2 12.2
Germany 8.3 8.7-9.4 9.5-11.0 9.3 14.3
Hungary 12.2
Japan 7.6 10.7 12.0
Korea 4.2-4.8 7.1-7.4 9.5
Netherlands 10.5 10.0 8.2 12.2
Slovakia 9.8 14.2
Switzerland 9.0-13.6 10.5 23.4
USA 7.7 8.8-9.3 9.4 8.3 7.0
China* 4.4-5.5 5.8 5.2 7.2-12.6
Russia* 6.8 9.0 11.8 7.8 9.0
EPRI (USA) 7.3 8.8 8.3 9.1
Eurelectric 10.6 8.0-9.0 10.2 9.4 15.5

Exhibit #4: Electricity prices by country (selection — have more than 5 million people), with % energy generated by nuclear and technosolar* renewables (only domestic generation is counted):

*Wind and solar. Hydro and conventional geothermal are not listed here as they are highly location-specific and not scalable to replace fossil fuels.

A super-crude multiple linear regression of these data yields the following equation:

Electricity price (c/kWh) = 20.5 – 0.1*N% + 0.5*T%

i.e. baseline cost is 20.5 c/kWh, with each percentage unit of nuclear reducing the price by 0.1 c/kWh and each % of technosolar adding 0.5 c/kWh to the price. (Don’t draw any serious conclusions out of this super-simplified analysis).


This is data from the real world. Yes, there are caveats — aren’t there always? Draw your own conclusions.


  1. Being from the US I looked at the Advanced Nuclear cost in the first two charts. I read the first cost as $48 to $77/MWattHour and the second as $119 (both for Advanced Nuclear in the US). Am I looking at the wrong numbers or is this leveled costing business so approximate that a factor of 2 is within reason?


  2. It may come as surprise to some that there is still a significant amount of undeveloped traditional hydro potential left undeveloped in the world. The National Hydropower Association (U.S.) river basin studies show a potential of 73,200 MW of additional U.S. hydroelectric capacity in 5,677 undeveloped sites. The situation is the same for Canada, including the Far North where eight major rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean are considered ripe for exploitation. Scandinavian hydro resources as well as a large number of watersheds in Northern Asia also draining into the Arctic Ocean have yet to be fully exploited.

    Of course this is emphasizing engineering feasibility and some economic analysis, but no environmental considerations. Despite the widespread belief that hydro is the ideal clean source of renewable energy the bald fact is that it is hugely destructive to local environments and can and does create disruptions to the hydrology of an area several orders of magnitude greater.

    Nevertheless these potential sources must be taken into account, as they use a mature technology, as does the long transmission networks to bring the power to market. Indeed if you look at the lower priced places for electric energy, the contribution of hydro is probably the major reason.

    The down side of new major hydro projects, is that the low-hanging fruit is been plucked, and the capital investments needed for developing the resources listed above are astronomical. However the same was said of hydro developments in the James Bay region, and North-west Labrador, yet both areas are now producing power for export to the States.


  3. This is data from the real world. Yes, there are caveats — aren’t there always? Draw your own conclusions.

    Nope, these are projections from a world with an OECD carbon price of $30 per tonne, which is not the real world and not relevant to the technology that the developing world will use for industrialization.

    As demonstrated in the linked thread, coal is still cheaper than nuclear and therefore WILL be used by the developing countries that will generate the overwhelming majority of emissions over the next few decades UNTIL nuclear (OR SOME OTHER FUTURE TECHNOLOGY) is ACTUALLY cheaper than coal.

    The fact that nuclear is the least cost clean energy doesn’t mean that the majority of the population, still on less than $2 per day, can afford to end up using it – and if they don’t then it simply does not solve the problem.

    In view of high capital costs for nuclear it will be even harder to displace gas for intermediate and peak loads, so it is still critical to find something cheaper.

    Of course solar is more expensive with or without a $30 carbon price as is well known (and wind is just a euphemism for gas ;-)

    The conclusion should still be to focus on R&D for reducing costs of clean energy. That may well result in nuclear fission getting there (it is closer than I thought). But nuclear isn’t there yet and we don’t know what the results of massive R&D would be over the next few decades. Fission is a “mature” technology with less scope for significant cost reduction. It could still be overtaken by fusion or by something currently unknown.

    Every extra dollar spent on nuclear instead of coal is a dollar that should have been spent on R&D instead. The fact that even more would be wasted by solar does not excuse diverting attention from the need for massive R&D to ACTUALLY solve the problem rather than make gestures at it.

    Carbon prices just displace coal with gas in developed countries. At least this type of wind doesn’t emit methane.


  4. BTW its interesting that Belgium has lower electricity prices than France – presumably because of having stuck to coal instead of mixing in too much nuclear (or solar or wind like germany and spain that are more expensive than France).


  5. Nuclear cheaper than coal in Australia. How?

    Here is another of my really rough, ‘back of an envelope’ calculations.

    I have argued here https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-105862 why the peoples of the world need low-cost electricity, and why low-cost clean electricity will reduce the world’s emissions faster than higher cost clean electricity.

    Below I argue why I believe nuclear can be the least cost way to generate electricity in Australia in the future without resorting to a Carbon Tax or Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).


    Adding a carbon tax or ETS will add more government imposed regulatory burdens on industry, without removing any of the mess of state and Federal government imposed conflicting regulations, tax breaks, subsidies and other incentives and disincentives that exist now. Rather than adding to this mess we should remove all that are unnecessary or distorting the market. That means cleaning up and removing all the regulations and other incentives and disincentives that favour one technology over another.

    We will also have to pass legislation that makes it clear to investors that the rules for new power stations have changed, and the change is permanent. We must convince investors that their investment will be secure and future governments will not renege. By sending this clear message the investor risk premium will move from nuclear to coal, over time.

    To do this we will have to invest in (subsidise) the first nuclear power plants.

    There are several parts to my argument:

    1 Assume as a starting price for new nuclear the latest contracted price for new nuclear in a country building its first nuclear power plants, UAE.

    2 Assume this price will decrease as a country develops the expertise and as prices come down world wide.

    3 The government can change the investor risk premium from nuclear to fossil fuels by the legislation it enacts and the messages this sends.

    4 The community is prepared to contribute (subsidise) the first plants for: a) the long term benefits of lower cost cleaner electricity, b) energy security, c) because the higher cost now is a result of bad policy decisions in the past (anti nuclear) and we have to bear a cost to correct those errors, and d) the precedent has been well established by the subsidies for renewable energy and also for nationalising the Australian communications network.

    5 The community is prepared to invest in the plants as a means to demonstrate to the investors that the community has a substantial financial investment in these plants. This is necessary to send the message to the investors that their investment is relatively secure against the government changing its mind and reneging on deals. (This is important because of the messages often sent by people who believe it is OK for the community to renege on deals with investors as has happened frequently, and is often advocated by some groups such as Greenpeace and the Greens).

    6 The government will remove all the impediments to a level playing field for electricity generators. (I recognise the conflict with the previous points – needs to be nuanced)


    1. New coal power plants would cost $2,100/kW in 2015 under the assumptions used in the analysis (ACIL-Tasman, Table 35, p58)

    2. New nuclear plants would cost $5050/kW in 2015 in Australia under the assumptions used in the analysis (ACIL-Tasman, Table 35, p58)

    3. The capital cost of nuclear will decrease by 15% in the five years following the commissioning of the first unit and cost reductions will continue at a declining rate (ACIL Tasman, Table 35, p58, Nuclear 2024-25 to 2028-29)

    4. A better current estimate for capital cost for the first nuclear power station in a new country (to use instead of the ACIL-Tasman cost) is the recently contracted price for the UAE nuclear power station. For this assumption to be valid we would also have to assume that Australia will adopt a regulatory environment that is no more onerous than UAE’s and we will address the investment risk so that the investment environment for nuclear in Australia will be as attractive as it is for nuclear in the UAE.

    5. The UAE plant is 4 units of 1350MW for a total capacity of 5400 MW. The capital cost of the UAE plant, including initial fuel load and technology transfer is US$20.4 billion, which is $3800/kW

    6. Investor risk premium in the USA for nuclear compared with coal is 26% (MIT, 2009).

    7. We could expect the investor risk premium to be considerably higher in Australia given that we have no nuclear industry and given the strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Australia. I’ll assume it is 30% in Australia.

    8. I assume we will remove the impediments to nuclear and remove the incentives for fossil fuel and renewables so we can develop a ‘level playing field’ for all technologies. There are many regulations, hidden subsidies and other buried incentives that advantage fossil fuels and renewable energy in Australia. Here is a list of some examples: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-86256 And here is a list of some of the government subsidies for different generation types for the USA, Texas: http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/index.php . This does not include the major component of the subsidies for renewables such as feed-in-tariffs, Renewable Energy Certificates, and the higher price renewables receive because the power generated by renewables is ‘must take’.

    9. I assume the community will accept and support that it needs to provide a climate for investors such that it minimises the investor risk premium for nuclear.

    Effect of the policy on Capital Cost on Nuclear and Coal

    Based on the above assumptions I calculate the capital costs of nuclear and coal power stations in 10 years from award of the first contract for NPP in Australia as follows:


    Starting price for nuclear = $3,800/kW

    Reduce by 15% over 5 years (say 25% over 10 years) = $2,850/kW

    Remove the investor risk premium of say 25% = $2,300/kW


    Starting price for new coal = $2,100/kW

    Reduce cost by 1.5% over 10 years = $$2070/kW (ACIL-Tasman for 2025)

    Add investor risk premium to coal (of say 25%) = $2,600/kW

    How much subsidy would be needed to get nuclear started?

    Starting price for nuclear = $3,800/kW

    Starting price for new coal = $2,100/kW

    Difference = $1700/kW

    However, nuclear has lower fuel and operating costs than coal, so allow (rough guess) $300/kW.

    Therefore the subsidy needed for the first plants would be $1700-$300 = $1,400/kW.

    This would reduce to zero by say the 8th reactor, so the average would be $1400/kW for the first 4 reactors and $700/kW for the next 4 reactors.

    Subsidy for 5400MW @ $1,400/kW = $7.56 billion

    Subsidy for 5400MW @ $700/kW = $3.78 billion

    Subsidy for the first 10,800MW = $11.34 billion


    Click to access 419-0035.pdf


  6. Actually Barry’s link for exhibit 3 is NOT to the OECD (IEA) data discussed in linked thread. It is to a “cooked” World Nuclear Association version.

    The * next to the rows for Russia and China has a footnote which explains that WNA added $25 per MWh to the coal costs for those countries as a carbon price to reflect the world as WNA would like it to be.

    That is the ONLY way they can get nuclear to look cheaper than coal.


  7. Nope, these are projections from a world with an OECD carbon price of $30 per tonne

    I don’t understand what you mean, Arthur, could you please clarify?

    Although, your theory about the developing world is too simplistic. If, for instance, they lack a significant domestic coal reserve, then fuel price and importation limitations becomes a significant determining factor, irrespective of the existence or otherwise of a carbon price.


  8. Arthur,

    We could spend 50 years or more doing R&D on things like nuclear fusion. And 30+ years on Gen IV before it is as mature as Gen III is now, or much longer hoping to make a breaktthrough with energy storage and renewables.

    OR …

    we could spend 5 years researching why Gen II and Gen IIi is too expensive (hint: regulatory regimes in western democracies and excessive IAEA restrictions as well).

    We could remove those impediments to nuclear for the cost of a public education campaign (plus a few bribes to special interest groups here and there).

    I see that as the best way to move forward in Australia right now. If we could get broad agreement for that I’d be prepared to agree to bribes splashed around all over the place including for massive increase in funding for RD&D.


  9. To get the subsidy into perspective (Peter Lang, last line, above): $11B is less than 1% of Australia’s annual GDP and is clearly marginal when spread over ten or twenty years.

    To think that this country can afford a hugely bloated and expensive banking and commercial services sector, yet not respond effectively to its share of the GHG and climate change challenge is sickening.

    Off topic a little, but a good motivational read is Dyer, Gwnne: “Climate Wars”, Scribe Publications, Vic, 2008.

    Containing extensive quotations from world leaders in many discliplines and a healthy review of the IPCC process, it gives one perspective of what the next 3 or 4 decades hold in store for us.. It is a little pessimistic (I hope), but comes down strongly in favour of immediate rational action in the hope of avoiding eventual climate, food, population and energy wars.

    Those who think that there is plenty of time for more research (eg CCS or fusion…) and to play with rooftop PV toys should stay away from this book – it might upset them.

    Those, such as Peter Lang, who are continually frustrated by Australia’s failure to adopt the only clearly effective clean energy option available right now, will not be happy to consider that the window for exercising this option may well close very firmly and very soon due to geopolitical events.

    My fear is that Australia will seek to follow a nuclear option, only to discover that our little country has wasted too much time while the trade systems of the world progressively are stressed and fail during the next decades. Who cares whether the Koreans, the Chinese, the French or the Canadians have the best NPP designs, if none of them want to do business half way around the globe and resource wars are breaking out around them?

    For mine, just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia. Rip out a few coal fired generating plants and construct the new as brownfield plants, using existing workforces, transmission systems and cooling water supplies. Failure to do so represents the highest cost path, by far – it could well cost us our futures while we remain fixated on cost differentials of less than 1% of annual GDP and/or a non-existent radiation threat to health.


  10. Arthur,

    Let us be absolutely clear about fusion power. There is no plausible scenario in which fusion power can prevent dangerous climate change.

    By 2050, mid range IPCC projections show atmospheric CO2 concentrations at around double pre-industrial levels http://www.ipcc-data.org/ddc_co2.html . That is a climate change commitment of around 3C. It could be worse.

    According to the ITER web site the earliest date for a grid connected demonstration fusion plant is 2040. http://www.iter.org/proj/iterandbeyond

    Who knows how long after that it may be before there are commercially deployable fusion plants and what the cost may be?

    This is not to say that fusion power is not worthy of research funding, but that it is extremely unlikely to be of any practical import before 2050 at the very earliest. And most optimistically, a couple of decades after that before making any serious impact on emissions.

    A lot of hand waving about increased research funding backed by absolutely no detailed analysis of time lines or anything else is treating science and engineering as magic.

    If it takes one programmer one year to develop some piece of software, the proverbial aircraft hanger full of programmers will NOT do it in a day. In engineering, this is even more true because there are physical constraints on elapsed time. For example, if you need to study the behavior of materials in the hostile environment of a reactor core, you need time to do it. To be sure, you can speed things up with multiple facilities working on different materials etc, but the facilities also need time to be constructed. Pilot plants need to operate for a period of time … otherwise there is no point in building them. It all takes time as well as money.

    If you cannot put any plausible time estimate on whatever you might be proposing, your position is just reckless advocacy of burning more fossil fuels for the foreseeable future masked by the most transparent of fig leafs. It is purely ideological and not fact based, other than the rather banal observation that in some circumstances coal is (a bit) cheaper than nuclear. And I might add, indistinguishable from libertarian ideologues.


  11. I think we should be very wary of the low LCOEs from Korea and China in Exhibit #1. They really are outliers from the rest. The medians are 58.53 at 5% and 98.75 at 10%.

    Nor is it clear which are FOAK costs and which are n-th build.

    From the IEA 2010 data, we can say that at a carbon price of $30 then n-th build nuclear will be comparable with coal without CCS.

    There are those who argue that the IEA is very pro-nuclear so any costs from them might be viewed skeptically.


  12. @John Bennetts

    For mine, just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia. Rip out a few coal fired generating plants and construct the new as brownfield plants, using existing workforces, transmission systems and cooling water supplies. Failure to do so represents the highest cost path, by far – it could well cost us our futures while we remain fixated on cost differentials of less than 1% of annual GDP and/or a non-existent radiation threat to health.

    What he said.

    There is no question of the importance of removing unnecessary obstacles to nuclear and leveling the playing field. But it is not necessarily useful to become embroiled in interminable debates over the costs down to the last tenth of a percent of GDP.

    Politically we need a narrative of the national interest. Support for the NBN has got nothing to do with arguments over the fine details of GDP percentages. It is seen as in the national interest. Whether it is or is not is quite irrelevant to this core observation.

    It is a political mistake of the first order to not phrase this narrative well.


  13. Martin Nicholson,

    There are those who argue that the IEA is very pro-nuclear so any costs from them might be viewed skeptically.

    I think this statement should not have been said. It needs to be balanced.

    The people who are saying that are renewable energy advocates. On the other hand, people in the industry point out how ridiculously biassed are the IEA’s renewable energy reports. They publish the renewable industry advocacy goups reports, such as the solar projections. Look at the Australian one for solar for example and look where it came from.


  14. “It is a political mistake of the first order” to not recognise that a large proportion of the community (perhaps more than half) do not trus the baggage that comes with accepting the agenda of those saying the costs don’t matter, we shouldn’t worry about what the government does with the money, it will delay roll out if we do a cost benefit analysis, no one should query us because we are the government and we know what wea r doing, and the IT industry supports what we are doing.

    Sorry, this is nonsense. The advocacy of irrational schemes, preventing visibility, preventing scrutiny, and advocacy for re-nationalising industries we’ve spent two decades opening up to competition scares the hell out of those who have some understanding about finances and business. And scares many others as well who have a sixth sence that all is not well with the management of the kitty.

    “It is a political mistake of the first order to” not realise why there is such strong opposition to ETS, and Carbon Tax (and other new taxes).

    “It is a political mistake of the first order to” not realise that the concern for letting this government proceed with any big spending program is because of the tax and waste in just 3 years so far, and historically. Miining Resource Rent Tax, and the mad spending spreee this government has embarked on concern people.

    So when you say just spend x% of GDP, it worries me and I expect many in the community because I can see there is little concern by those saying it of the consequences. Furthermore, those same people advocating such actions block scrutiny.

    I’d suggest, if you want to appeal to more than just the Hard Left, it would be wise to understand what influences the majority of the voters (hint: it is not socialist policies).


  15. “… just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost, Australia”

    I agree with John Bennetts.

    Peter, I’m unsure where you got the idea that this appeals to the “hard left” or that John Bennetts is advocating socialist policies.

    It would be economic madness not to stop burning fossil fuels. John summed it up well again by saying, “it could well cost us our futures while we remain fixated on cost differentials of less than 1% of annual GDP and/or a non-existent radiation threat to health.”


  16. Looking at price points for domestic electricity in isolation is not telling the whole story by a long run. If you look at France and Spain, it looks to be the same, however the average cost of industrial power in Spain is €0.085 to France’s €0.065 , ~31% difference.

    As well France is currently under its Kyoto target by some 6%, while Spain is 33% over.

    As a final added insult, France has a larger portion of its electricity generated from renewables (due to legacy hydro) than Spain does.

    In many places, quoting the cost of electric power is meaningless without quoting the current price of gas in the same region.

    While I think this approach may be a valid one, I caution looking at these prices myopically, and out of context.

    Suggesting that the wide scale implementation of nuclear power would require some draconian type of government is hyperbole of the worst kind. Governments have been passing legislation on what technologies will be used to solve some large problems adversely effecting the population at large since before Tarquinius Priscus ordered the construction of the Cloaca Maxima in Rome, and continuously ever since. Simple legislation can bring about large effect. As I mentioned in another thread, the various governments in Canada have ordered the closure of this country’s remaining coal burners, and that is that. I cannot see that this is out of reach for any government worthy of its name.


  17. Don’t worry, Tom. When Peter says that he needs a subsidy of $11B it is clearly justified and is a rational response to a demonstrated need.

    When anybody else says that they want the government to spend money, it is an indication of a deep red socialist at work in cahoots with green elves. It’s nothing personal – he applies this universally. I get quick a humorous kick out of this quirk of his.

    This, even when we might all absolutely agree with the expenditure proposal… in this case, getting the NPP show on the road asap.


  18. Barry,

    1. The real world is one in which both the largest emitter (USA) and largest per capita (Australia) in the OECD do not have a carbon price and key developing countries are outside OECD and WILL continue to rapidly rollout the cheapest technology whatever OECD says or does. In these circumstances it is simply misleading to “include” an arbitrary “projected” $30 carbon price in technology cost comparisons. There is no excuse for this after the collapse of Copenhagen. It simply mixes two separate issues together.

    Its gets really desperate and bizarre when the WNA has to add in a carbon price to IEA figures for Russia and China because IEA only did so for OECD. This is the kind of “costing” that ZCA does for renewables. Sales promotion, not engineering economics.

    2. I have said (twice) in linked thread, that there is a niche role for nuclear in places that have no local coal and transport bottlenecks. This obviously applies to both developed and developing countries. I also said that it makes perfectly good sense for both to preserve or prepare a nuclear industry and skills base as a hedge in order to be able to expand it more rapidly in future. This also applies to both developed and developing (the example I gave for both aspects was China – developing and with a local transport bottleneck in the south). What’s simplistic is discussing the willingness of developed OECD countries to pay for clean energy as though it is somehow relevant to avoiding a massive increase in carbon emissions over the next few decades in a world where most of the population is developing from current living standards of less than $2 per day.

    Martin Nicholson (and Barry)

    3. There does seem to be a problem with IEA figures. I noticed it (like Peter) in the way they get quoted by renewables advocates. This indicates the problem is not being “pro-nuclear”. The problem might simply be in the nature of “projections”. As discussed by EPRI, “projected” technology costs are reliably lower than “actual”. This would tend to bias against established technologies like coal. But the inclusion of carbon prices in a way that makes them harder to separate out could be related to IEA’s origins in OECD’s concerns about energy indpendence, which would strongly orientate them towards carbon prices.

    Either way (or neither way), a meta-study taking medians of projections merely mitigates against outliers. It DOES NOT solve the problem that carbon prices should be added in separately to facilitate meaningful separate discussion of both technology options and carbon pricing while any “median” of an arbitrary mixture is itself an arbitrary mixture.

    Scott (from previous thread)

    4. 10% discount rate does not reflect a special risk premium for nuclear but is closer to actual capital costs for utility infrastructure. Playing around with lower discount rates because they favor capital intensive technologies gets quite comical with renewables. You could end up like ZCA finding their 2020 plan was far too expensive at 8% so trying 6% and then going to the ludicrous Stern report 1.4% (then taking the result and applying a 10% utility rate to turn into a nice small looking rise in electricity prices)!

    5. Lets say $30 per tonne is something like $25 to $30 per MWh for coal. Unless I’ve misunderstood I think it depends more on the (locally varying) grade of coal than on whether the steam generator is ultra or just super critical. In these sort of comparisons different transport local costs for fuel clearly have a much bigger effect than any improved precision in emissions costs.


    6. Belgium has far less nuclear than France and far cheaper electricity. Both have cheaper than neighbours with ludicrous renewables subsidies because nuclear is merely a big more expensive than coal rather than completely ludicrous like renewables.

    7. I completely agree with you (!) on the decades long timescales for fusion and the difficulties of accelerating R&D. That is all the more reason to accelerate R&D on both fusion and any other possibility (including fission). If the consequences of the likely delay alarms you then you should be keener to throw in some geoengineering as it is very clear that the developing world IS going to keep on using the cheapest technology for the next few decades of rapid development so emissions WILL rise and the climate WILL grow warmer. Being alarmed about it doesn’t change it. Only R&D (eventually) can.

    There are also major lead time problems for accelerating R&D. To shift from the pathetic 3% of GDP currently spent on R&D we also have to expand education etc. Better get moving instead of wasting the meager amounts of “disposable” surplus on more expensive energy technologies.

    I’ll respond to Peter later.


  19. Barry,

    What is the source for the electricity prices by country in Table 4? I checked the wikipedia link, and the source for the Belgian price is down or no longer available.

    http://www.energy.eu/ gives some very different figures.

    € per kWh electricity
    Consumption: 7500 kWh/year
    (30% during nighttime)

    Belgium: € 0.152
    France: € 0.117

    € per kWh electricity
    Consumption: 24000 MWh/year

    Belgium: € 0.107
    France: € 0.067


  20. And going on DV8’s advice,

    € per kWh gas
    Consumption: 11.5GWh/year (1.05 million m3 of gas)

    Belgium: € 0.021
    France: € 0.025

    DV8, I’m not sure I understand this properly:

    “In many places, quoting the cost of electric power is meaningless without quoting the current price of gas in the same region.”

    Do you mean that by quoting gas prices, it approximates potential electricity cost, if said country were to use gas for baseload electricity generation?


  21. Tom Keen’s figures from energy.au should obviously be taken as more authoritative than wikipedia’s. (Somebody should update wikipedia and point the reference for EU countries to this source).

    These figures do refute the idea that Belgium has cheaper electricity.

    Also indicates that France’s lower price is not due to a cross-subsidy from industrial.

    The two figures provided for 3500 and 7000 kWh per year in each country should enable precise estimation of a block tariff with fixed rental plus variable costs per kWh.

    This might shed light on whether or not there is some subsidy or cross subsidy from distribution in France.

    At any rate my response on France and comparison with Belgium currently stands refuted.


  22. The prices of electricity can be much more volatile in districts that use gas for baseload electricity generation. In some cases electric power base retail prices might be artificially low due during some periods, but cannot be raised due to process, (required approval by a utilities commission, and such.) However a fuel surcharge can and is added to the consumer’s electric power bill.


  23. Arthur,

    I agree with the majority of what you say here. I think it is well worth others taking seriously.

    The only point I don’t agree with is delaying economically rational policies to cut emisisons while we do gear up research. I’d argue we can ramp up research, and pay for it, as long as the policies we implement are economically rational. I think you (Arthur) agree with this so I am writing it for others.

    To BNCers (not addressed to Arthur):

    I’m going to post another comment relating to the above on ‘Open Thread 7’, then leave you all to consider for a while. The subject of the comment has been developing in my mind for a while, partly as a result of what’s been happening on BNC (and not happening!) and partly from the responses on the John Quiggin and Skeptical Science web sites. I hope you will try to understand the message I am sending, rather that just flame out.

    Barry, I think the thread you have started here is one of the most valuable for a long time. Excellent!


  24. To the extent that anyone is interested, there are other tables online that emanate from the report from which Barry obtained his opening one. Two relate to LCOE coal/nuclear comparisons. Scott gave the link in the previous thread:

    If one subtracts $25 from OECD states, but not from Russia and China, one might hope to have eliminated the effects of carbon tax on the comparisons.

    FWIW, it appears that nuclear is cheaper than coal at both 5% and 10% discount rates in Russia, Korea and Japan. In other countries, it is around 5% more expensive at 5% and considerably more at 10% (5-45% range). Unfortunately, China appears to have less economic incentive to move from coal than most other countries cited, despite the fact that her nuclear costs are already almost the lowest.


  25. I think a useful metric may be a carbon cycle cost index calculated as unit fuel cost X CO2 intensity. If the index uses consistent units it can be used to make relative comparisons of different technologies. It won’t matter if carbon taxes are $23 or $30/t so long as they are proportional to CO2.

    I thought of this specifically to answer the question about replacing Hazelwood with combined cycle gas. For unit fuel cost I take $/GJ which for brown coal is $0.6 ( ~10 GJ/t costing $6) and for gas I’ve assumed $6 assuming future supplies are tight but still adequate. For CO2 intensity I assume 1.4 kg/kwhe for brown coal and .65 kg/kwh for CCGT. That gives a ratio
    (6 X .65)/(.6 X 1.4) = 4.6
    That is taxed carbon costs for combined cycle gas will be at least 4X higher than for brown coal fired since the higher fuel cost overwhelms the lower carbon intensity.

    For NP the carbon intensity will be near zero and carbon cycle cost ratios will be unflattering to gas and supercritical coal. Those technologies however will win on other costs, notably finance costs.


  26. I thought DV82XL made a good comment regarding the decision by governments in Canada to shut down coal plants.

    In all the discussion of the necessity of carbon taxes to promote nuclear it is usually not mentioned that the countries that are most likely to undergo a massive expansion of nuclear are China and India, which have no carbon tax (or am I wrong?) and plenty of coal reserves.

    Although China has an authoritarian government it seems they have simply decided that the external costs of coal require development of nuclear. India of course is a democracy. Although neither have yet halted construction of coal plants I think it is possible that they may do so in the future, if their nuclear programs develop as planned.


  27. “I think we should be very wary of the low LCOEs from Korea and China in Exhibit #1. They really are outliers from the rest. The medians are 58.53 at 5% and 98.75 at 10%.”

    Averaging numbers together without understanding is not useful. If anything, those “two” datapoints (plus the Japan figure) are the MOST meaningful of the entire table. They are not single datapoints, but tens of nuclear reactors each. Whatever estimating methodologies are involved elsewhere, the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese numbers have a very sound basis: those countries have been prolifically building nuclear power plants over the last few years, and have current, real cost figures.

    And it is hardly a coincidence that the countries building all the nukes have cheap costs: they’ve got the experience and have (relatively) mature nuclear construction industries. You say Korean reactors look suspiciously cheap, well, go look at how many they’ve built recently, how quickly those were built, how many fell over budget or behind schedule, and tell me if it’s still “suspicious” they cost less than e.g. the French estimate (one reactor — Flamanville #3 — FOAK, many problems, two years behind schedule).

    (A competing hypothesis is that these countries are building so many reactors *because* they are cheap there, because of other factors such as political climate).

    Look up “Update on the Cost of Nuclear Power” here:


    Appendix lists cost figures for COMPLETED nuclear reactors — all of them in Japan and Korea (again, because that’s where they’re being built).


  28. Just found this interesting page on cost comparison nuclear vs. coal.

    Unfortunately there are no references for the table. I’m assuming these are figures for the US. Does anyone have any more up-to-date/accurate figures of this sort? Anyway, here are the prices:

    $/MW-hr, nuclear the first price, coal the second.

    Fuel 5.0 – 11.0
    Operating & Maintenance – Labor & Materials 6.0 – 5.0
    Pensions, Insurance, Taxes 1.0 – 1.0
    Regulatory Fees 1.0 – 0.1
    Property Taxes 2.0 – 2.0
    Capital 9.0 – 9.0
    Decommissioning & DOE waste costs 5.0 – 0.0
    Administrative / overheads 1.0 – 1.0
    TOTAL 30.0 – 29.1

    Is the figure given for “total” representative of the real world situation in the US? I suspect not. But just looking at this, it looks like the main reason nuclear costs are (marginally) more than coal is decommisioning & waste costs. Again, I’m sceptical here, as it claims no cost for coal plant decommissioning.


  29. I agree with Arthur that there should be more investment in nuclear R&D, but this should not delay a roll-out of Gen III.

    Had R&D funding continued to fission moltern salt and liquid metal reactors and fusion reactors the US would have all three options now. The IFR project was to have a demonstration plant operating by 2010. In the 70s the US fusion program alone planned a demonstration plant by 2000. According to Rob Goldston at Princeton, the $30B development cost of the project has not changed, only the rate of investment has not kept to the original timeline, see p. 25 of http://fire.pppl.gov/dev_path_goldston.pdf.


  30. George, I agree that there should be more investment in nuclear R&D on the off chance that it will remain the best we can do or eventually become cheaper than coal. However neither the presence or absence of such nuclear R&D could ever be what inhibits the rollout of Gen III (or even Gen II).

    Don’t be taken in by the absurd histrionics in Australia. What prevents a nuclear rollout worldwide (as opposed to some nuclear hedging, demonstration and niche roles) is the simple fact that coal is generally cheaper than nuclear. There’s no realistic possibility that capital costs for nuclear could ever become comparable to much simpler coal plants even in the most benign regulatory environment and its difficult to make up for that with fuel improvements since the fuel is already so much cheaper. (The Chinese figures showing nuclear close to coal should be taken with a grain of salt until confirmed).

    Since it is unlikely that nuclear will ever become cheaper than coal, developing countries WILL continue using coal for as many as decades as we don’t have anything cheaper. So we also need to do research on ANY other possibilities. Massive research since there is nothing plausible currently on the horizon – and including geoengineering research because there is no reason to expect solution before we have emitted vast amounts of additional greenhouse gases.

    While some may dispute the difficulty of getting nuclear LCOE below coal, I don’t think there’s any serious argument that the high capital costs of nuclear preclude it becoming cheaper than gas for intermediate and peak loads unless some form of dramatically cheaper storage is developed. So we certainly need R&D on storage to also get rid of the rest of the electricity emissions from gas and to tackle transport.

    Its going to take decades and it has to be a global project paid for by developing countries because nobody else can afford it and there’s no plausible way to recover the R&D costs given that the aim is a price low enough to displace cheaper hydrocarbon based energy technologies.

    So spreading illusions that nuclear can solve the problem is less ludicrous than pretending that wind and solar can, but still a distraction from actually tackling a massive problem that will last for decades.

    The historical injustices to nuclear are irrelevant since the results of removing them, will still not make it generally cheaper than coal and so it still won’t get used by countries moving up from living on $2 per day. (Incidentally those countries are far more likely to relax regulatory and security standards way more than they should than they would be inclined to preserve the high cost US and EU regimes, but it still won’t be cheaper than coal, let alone gas for non-baseload.

    That’s pretty much my reply to Peter Lang too. What Australia does for its own power supply is simply irrelevant to the global problem. Wasting any of the financial contribution we MUST make to global R&D on more expensive local power instead is pure vanity gestures.


  31. Arthur:

    A very sound argument, but one possibly based on a false premise.

    Why are you so certain that nuclear power can never be cheaper than coal power in developing nations? I accept that, as I mentioned upthread, China appears to have very low cost nuclear power relative to Western nations ($68/MWh versusus $80-110 at 10% discount rates)), but $68 is still 35% above power produced from its very cheap coal. However, its coal will become more expensive and the costs of generating power from it will also rise as emissions standards are improved. Furthermore, I cannot accept that nuclear R&D will not be capable of bringing a 35% reduction in LCOE with new nuclear designs relative to those currently used.

    The R&D should be paid for by developed nations (or globally) despite the fact that LCOE differentials are far less between coal and nuclear in those states. This would not be a grandiose gesture, more an exercise in economic survival.


  32. @Arthur,

    Coal is simpler?


    Nuclear needs no coal handling plant, no bunkers, no boilers, no grinding mills, no conveyors, no FD fans, no ID fans, no chimney stack, no ash handling plant and no ash disposal system, for starters. These represent substantial costs and are also site-specific, thus at least partially are always OFAK.

    In exchange, nuclear has a more complex heat source and containment.

    It ain’t as easy as just saying that coal is cheaper because… Facts have a tendency to get in the way of simplistic arguments.


  33. Douglas Wise,

    If I was certain I would not have said:

    …there should be more investment in nuclear R&D on the off chance that it will remain the best we can do or eventually become cheaper than coal

    I would instead have said we should not devote scarce R&D funds on nuclear because it has no chance and would just be an extravagent waste like wind.

    I said we should ALSO do massive R&D on anything else that MIGHT be a possibility because it is so unlikely that nuclear fission could ever be cheaper than coal and virtually impossible that it could be cheaper than gas for non-baseload.

    If you can’t visualize how much more inherently expensive a nuclear plant is than a coal plant, consider the comparison with a gas plant. They both have similar power blocks, with turbines. The gas turbine simply burns gas. The nuclear plant requires the addition of a nuclear reactor. No amount of research will ever make that additional nuclear reactor cost free. A peaking gas plant only burns gas for a small proportion of the time, so, unlike the baseload situation, the fact that the gas is much more expensive than coal or nuclear fuel doesn’t really matter. Its the capital cost of the plant that is decisive in this case.

    As long as we keep using gas for intermediate and peak loads we will continue to be adding to greenhouse gases. Its certainly worth tackling the much larger baseload emissions first, but by the time we’ve dealt with them, the goal will have to be to eliminate virtually ALL emissions. Unless developing countries have already reached reasonable living standards by then, they will keep using whatever is cheapest which will never be nuclear for non-baseload.

    As far as I know nobody seriously claims that nuclear could displace gas without a carbon price (not that I am impressed by claims that it could displace coal without a carbon price).


  34. @ uvdiv

    It’s not just nuclear power plants. Xihoumen Bridge – the second-longest suspension bridge ranked by the length of the center span.

    Completed in 4 years for $1.7B.

    They just have a lot of people now that know how to carry out a major construction project.


  35. Gas plants for peak power? Here is the statement from Areva on load following for the Atmea Design:

    100 – 30%, 5%/min, including automatic frequency control, instantaneous return to full power capability, and effluent reduction by variable temperature control.

    Is this false? Is it unique? Does it mean that nuclear can meet all needs, not just baseload? Experts?


  36. John Bennetts,

    Your list of things that a coal plant has still sounds a lot simpler and cheaper than a nuclear reactor to me.

    Both are “mature” technologies and there is no obvious reason to expect incremental improvements in coal plant design to lag behind those for nuclear reactors if they were ever subject to serious competition.


  37. SteveK9,

    1. Low construction costs and times for Chiese bridges and nuclear plants apply equally to Chinese coal plants. Reversing the gap between coal and nuclear plant costs is what seems highly unlikely.

    2. There’s no doubt that nuclear plants can load follow. They usually weren’t designed to because they are intended to compete with coal for baseload and have no hope of competing with gas for load following. They can’t compete because of the higher capital cost which stands unused for most of the time in a peaking plant, not because of any lack of maneuverability. (Presumably it hasn’t cost much to add the maneuverability anyway, and it may be a marketing plus in some situations).


  38. 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.


  39. Arthur you say,

    “There’s no doubt that nuclear plants can load follow. They usually weren’t designed to because they are intended to compete with coal for baseload and have no hope of competing with gas for load following.”

    Isn’t this a bit irrelevant? Doesn’t the need for load-following gas turbines arise from the fact that coal plants aren’t so good at load-following? So if you instead have baseload plants that are also capable of load-following, doesn’t it reduce the need for extra load-following facilities, which in turn reduces capital costs? And given that gas turbines are generally expensive to operate, wouldn’t this also reduce operation costs?

    Please note, these are questions.

    Also, I believe gas turbines are more often used for peaking than load-following.


  40. quokka ABARE reckon a tonne of thermal black coal generates 2.4 tonnes of CO2. Therefore 2.4 X $30 = $72. I’d guess very few long term supply contracts have black thermal coal at anything like the $100 spot price but they must gradually head upwards as China and India run out of coal.

    Logically if Australia has a domestic carbon tax it should slap a levy on exported fossil fuels – thermal coal, coking coal, LNG and the proposed brown coal pellets. Since carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral the importing countries could ask for the money back if they promised to do green things with it. However I think there is buckley’s chance of an export carbon levy. Australia is a shameless international carbon pimp. Coal exports complement iron ore exports and pay for increasing imports of oil and food.

    Given that about 50% of the European Union’s carbon imposts are voided by offsets I’d guess any carbon tax will allow generous deductions. I’d also guess we won’t see carbon tax in the remaining term of the Gillard government. We’ll engross ourselves with troop pull-outs, troop pull-ins, Logies nights and such. Let’s hope the next El Nino is a doozie.


  41. Well said John Bennetts and Tom Keen. Just get on with building 20-40 NPP’s.The rest of the world is currently building 54 of the things. They must reckon it’s cost effective. Do we in Australia want to reduce our CO2 emissions soon or not? If we do , then we have to phase out coal and phase in nuclear. And stop wasting any more dough on Rand D for the renewables. Use it to initiate some nuclear build. Take note Wayne Swan


  42. You need to see a bigger picture.

    Germany: What wind and solar do is take down prices in extreme market situations.
    All the Data in Leipzig shows that. Prior to massive fed in solar power power companys made good bussines on hot summer days. Now they got solar power they need to buy off the consumer/producer.
    When you take in account price correction by feed in solar it costs 1.8B a year without even exploring further positiv effects in the German job market, export and technology leadership.
    Prices did not climb either the last years. Only the profits of RWE and therelike did.
    You can see that in marketprices which are not passed on to the consumer. Industrial clients have also not seen any rise due to solar or wind capacity instead prices have droped for them.

    Levelized produktion cost sometimes means nothing.
    I would like to see analyses of busineses by companys. Pit their profits, cash flows, investments against their generation park, their consumer base, the market price, competition and all other aspects of the business.


  43. Steve, Arthur and Tom and everyone else …. Apologies to those who know all this already.

    A quick heads up for those perhaps not fully familiar with electricity demand profiles and how they are serviced:

    Electricity demand is generally categorised as baseload, intermediate load and peak load. Baseload takes up most of the load and doesn’t tend to change significantly over time. Intermediate load does vary but is predictable and influenced by time of day such as weekday mornings and evenings. Peak load is much less certain and is often influenced by climatic conditions.

    All generators, including baseload, need to load-follow to some degree because the load changes continuously throughout the 24 hours. Some generators are better at it than others depending on ramp rates (the rate of change of output, both up or down, in MW/minute). A generator must be part loaded to load-follow. All generators lose some efficiency when not run at full load. Hence the least cost way to provide baseload is with generators that run continuously close to full load. Cold starting steam boilers can take several hours, so best to run them continuously if you can.

    Because baseload generators are ideally run continuously at close to full load, then new capacity needs to be started to handle intermediate load. Technically, the baseload generators could supply intermediate load as well, but then they would need to run perhaps 70% loaded during the night and this would reduce the returns. Most networks chose to run intermediate load generators (like gas turbines or hydro) that are cold started at around 6 am and shutdown in the late evening and may not even be needed on weekends.

    Peak load is something else. It is inherently variable day to day. It can be predicted 24 hours ahead but not with certainty. It requires some quick start generator like diesel, OCGT, hydro or storage systems that can ramp up quickly on very short notice. These are generators that may be idle much of the time so need to have low capital cost to go with the low capacity factors.

    It seems unlikely that nuclear plants will ever fully service peak load economically. So we can expect gas turbines and hydro (were available) to be used for many decades to come with a greater emphasis on storage systems where cost effective.


  44. In response to German’s post above, I offer the following:

    Can Solar Energy Crash the Grid?

    According to the Berliner Zeitung, the head of Germany’s energy agency DENA is warning that there is a real danger that solar power, could crash Gemany’s aging electricity grid.

    The problem is the amount of electricity produced by solar panels varies according to location, time of year, time of day and cloud cover. They are most productive when the sun emerges, which you will not be amazed to learn, is during daylight hours. But that is when demand for electricity is lowest.

    As a consequence there can be huge power surges as tens or hundreds of thousands of small solar installations export their surpluses back to the grid.


  45. Tom Keen,

    1. No. Gas would be used for load following in intermediate loads and peak loads even if coal plants were more maneuverable (even though it is ALSO true that coal plants are technically hard to maneuver as it takes hours to ramp them up or down). The existence of a peak and therefore also the existence of intermediate “shoulders” means there HAS to be extra capacity standing unused most of the time. The power system delivers both a power capacity and “energy”, each of which has its own costs. Adding to capacity with extra plant that is more economic for providing the “energy” is more expensive than doing so with plant that is economic for providing capacity that doesn’t get used most of the time.

    2. The key point in Martin Nicholson’s longer explanation is that the lower capital cost of gas means it is less expensive to have gas plant standing idle for most of the time even though it is more expensive per MWh to run it for a smaller portion of time. This is even more true for nuclear baseload than for coal baseload since nuclear has the higher capacity cost and coal the higher running cost.

    3. I would emphasize the economics over the technical limitations more. eg I don’t think Martin is correct that faster startup times is the reason for preferring simple cycle OCGT gas for peak with CCGT for intermediate load following. CCGT can actually be more maneuverable than OCGT and either have a similar fast start or be ramped up and down from running below capacity during the shoulder period to also cover peak. CCGT is also more efficient so cheaper to run. The reason for preferring OCGT as peakers (and sometimes diesel) is once again that being simpler it has a lower capital cost so despite higher running cost it is more economical for plant capacity that stands idle nearly all the time and only gets used for a short period each day at peaks (whereas CCGT gets used for a longer period of ramping up and down to the peaks as well as during the peaks and coal gets used all day). Incidentally at the moment CCGT is also getting used for some baseload as about three times as much maneuverable gas as wind is required to accommodate variable wind that utilities are forced to buy. Hence the gas/wind alliance. Also uncertainty over carbon prices is already adding a risk premium to coal plants that is delaying coal builds and resulting in extra gas builds.

    4. Bottom line is in Martin’s final paragraph. Since it is “unlikely” (I would put it stronger) that nuclear will ever be economically competitive with gas for peak, we can expect carbon emissions to continue for as many decades as we have not done the R&D to find something cheaper (even though emissions would be massively reduced if it was economically feasible for nuclear to replace coal for the much larger portion of baseload emissions). Hydro is fine but limited resources available and will be needed for its high ramp speeds in providing stability eg when a large generator or transmission line suddenly cuts out.

    5. Note also Peter Lang’s point that cheaper electricity would be needed to accelerate shift from oil based transport and gas based heating. “Just” becoming competitive with coal isn’t enough.


  46. In this region we have one NPP, Columbia Geneating station, a 1,150 MW BWR. It entered service in 1984 CE and load follows with busbar prices of US$0.0275/kWh. New NPP construction in this region might have an LCOE (busbar) as low as US$0.065/kWh, higher than my retail price; there is no interest in new NPPs around here.

    Extreme sensitivity to electricity prices in the USA is evidnced by an article in todays TNYT. The article mentions one state’s regulators rejecting a wind farm proposal because it would raise rates by 0.2%; another state had a similar rejection because rates would increase by 0.7%; this latter despite the utility badly wanting the extra source of power.


  47. Arthur here

    Your arguments are too simplistic, to the point where you erode the credibility of your sensible points. Fuel price, and security of supply, are strong determinant of the price of coal-fired power and decisions to build it. None of the Middle East countries, like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. are contemplating building coal plants. They’re planning nuclear — mostly because of fuel considerations (as well as reliability and cost [vs renewables]). Nuclear fuel, by contrast, is a tiny and insensitive determinant of nuclear electricity costs, especially so for fast reactors or LFTRs. As to peaking plants, there are many sensible way to deal with this in a nuclear-powered world, and this might include synfuels to replace natural gas, and multiple uses for the reactors, where they are switched from electricity generation (where needed) to multi-stage flash distillation, boron reduction, synfuel production, etc. There is no reason, in a future world, of ever letting the plant stand idle.

    I should also add that there are no other ‘magical’ energy sources out there to discover. There are no perpetual motion machines, or freely harvestable anti-matter. We have only 2 choices for energy on Earth. One is to use nuclear fusion, either by harvesting sunlight (direct dilute incoming radiation or some stored form), or by recreating a mini-sun on Earth in a fusion reactor (Tokamak, whatever). The other is nuclear fission (either directly, in fission reactors, or indirectly, via geothermal). Yes, there are trivial amounts from gravity etc. but they’re not worth considering. That’s it for energy, Arthur. That’s as good as it gets. All the future R&D in in the world won’t change these basic physical laws.

    I could go on, but I’ll leave it until Thursday’s debate.


  48. Stay focussed. The real issue is not how much OCGT gas is needed to follow a load curve: this can be achieved in a number of ways, right down to load shedding. All forms of generation can follow load curves, given time and favourable pricing.

    To spend endless effort trying to explain why one form of energy is good or bat at load following is to forget that the cost of load following is managed through the marketplace. It boils down to the price that the generators put on load following, rather than the theoretical cost which any given generating unit might incur as it load follows.

    This can be seen clearly from the bid prices which reach up to $10,000 per MWh for energy sent out. This is the price that the generating corporation bids for something which the break-even cost might be $40, $400 or whatever. The market price bears little relation to actual costs.

    This is why a solar PV FiT of $0.60/kWh ($600/MWh) in a market where the average price of power is $50 didn’t result in a market meltdown. Here we are all, having conniptions about the last one cent per kWh generation cost for nuclear Vs coal, when the real question is nothing of the sort.

    The real question is and will remain: “What is the cheapest, safest, cleanest available means of generating energy, in order that every single fossil fuel generating plant can be permanently parked?”

    The question is about safety and climate security, not a billion dollars here or there.

    If the Federal Government had the cojones and the means to actually develop policy and enact legislation (three big if’s), it would enact legislation to achieve three objectives:

    1. Outlaw construction in Australia of fossil fuelled fixed generating plant of any type at all – coal, brown stuff, gas, OCGT, CCGT, diesel… with possible exceptions on a case by case basis for backup power supplies in hospitals, etc.

    2. Repeal all Commonwealth legislation which bans or cripples nuclear and other clean power technologies, subject to the necessary environmental safeguards relating to site selection, etc.

    3. Pass legislation setting sunset dates for last operation, set by set, of all existing stationary fossil fuel generating plant. I suggest that the dirtiest should go first and that this should/must be as soon as a safe, clean alternative is available. Then the next, and so on.

    Unless and until these three things come to pass, anybody who sees benefitial use in NPP’s is bound to fail.

    So, tell me again… why should I give a fig what the actual or estimated cost of FF power generation might or might not be, or what the market price if the real price is environmental, not dollars?


  49. Arthur we can indeed expect carbon emissions to continue for many decades. But we don’t need to get emissions down to zero to achieve the 2 deg max temperature rise.

    We need to get the total emission intensity for electricity down to around 50kg/MWh by 2050. We can handle 12% of electricity coming from gas plants with an emission intensity of say 400kg/MWh. It could be more if they ever get CCS to work commercially. That would probably be sufficient to handle all the standing reserve demand – along with hydro and possible storage systems.


  50. – Martin,
    “We need to get the total emission intensity for electricity down to around 50kg/MWh by 2050”

    Won’t that depend strongly on how much generation capacity there is globally by 2050? What is the projected capacity for this CO2 intensity?

    – John Bennetts, 9 November 2010 at 11:46 AM,

    Very well said. I like the way you think.


  51. German,
    My recent research has revealed that in 2007, Germany allocated 1.5billion euros [$2billion US] for solar subsidies and in 2008, 1.7billion Euros [$2.3 billion US] and that was to get exactly 0.7% of their electricity. In 2008, nuclear produced 23.8% of Germany’s electricity and paid plenty of tax to support the alternatives [solar etc]. If that’s not wasteful, indeed economically irresponsible, I don’t know what is. The kindest thing, I believe that can be said about Germany’s energy policy is that it is “confused” And to think that they were considering phasing out nuclear is really quite incredible.

    Well said again John Bennetts.. Agree totally with your three points above. The cost of NPP’s is not putting off the 20 countries currently building them. They want a secure, emissions -free energy supply. Nuclear is the only one available at the moment that can deliver that. Why are we agonizing over costs etc.? Moverit!!


  52. Martin,

    1. Emissions are essentially cumulative due to the long atmospheric retention period. So eventually we do need to get net emissions down near zero.

    2. There’s very little chance of meeting 2050 targets. The world WILL get warmer.

    John Bennetts,


    So, tell me again… why should I give a fig what the actual or estimated cost of FF power generation might or might not be, or what the market price if the real price is environmental, not dollars?

    Because half the population of the world living on less than $2 per day don’t give a fig what you think they should pay for electricity while industrializing or what Australia does when already industrialized and WILL use the cheapest technology available in dollars, not in future environmental costs.


    4. Repeating things that are well known and I have already confirmed that I understand and agree with concerning fuel prices to accuse me of being “simplistic” may be a viable debating tactic but doesn’t help deal with the actual issues between us.

    5. I also agree (but have not previously mentioned) that extra off peak capacity could be used by selling discounted power to additional uses. This is rather obvious since we already do it with aluminium smelters and brown coal in Victoria. It doesn’t change the fact that as long as the costs of providing dispatchable power to the grid favor fossil fuels they will continue to be used by the developing countries that will be installing most of the new plant over the next 50 to 100 years. It certainly hasn’t resulted in any reduction of brown coal use in Victoria!

    6. There may even be a role for Concentrated Solar Thermal with heat storage in similar applications for desalination, synfuels, hydrogen etc if some plant is willing to accept shutdowns during extended cloudy periods in remote locations where this is infrequent. All this stuff is peripheral to the central question of reducing emissions from the new grid generating plant that will be coming on stream over the next 50 to 100 years, mainly in developing countries where costs are critical.

    7. Your opinion that we have discovered all there is to know about energy was more widely held in the eighteenth and even at the end of the nineteenth century. It seems rather quaint in the 21st century. I would prefer to find out by massive R&D than rely on your judgment.

    8. You mentioned fusion and I already mentioned I am more inclined to believe it will eventually become cheaper than fossil fuels than that fission will. Fusion has been 40 years off for about 50 years now so there’s not much chance of it happening before significant warming and we need massive R&D just to try to hurry that up and provide for some geoengineering in the meantime, even without also hoping for something entirely new.

    9. It is a bit “simplistic” to list UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait “etc” and explain their interest in nuclear as entirely due to fuel economics despite massive local gas resources. A less simplistic list should include Israel and Iran. Additional aspects may come to mind when considering the less “simplified” list.


  53. 7. Your opinion that we have discovered all there is to know about energy was more widely held in the eighteenth and even at the end of the nineteenth century. It seems rather quaint in the 21st century. I would prefer to find out by massive R&D than rely on your judgment.

    No Arthur, comparing 19th century scientific knowledge to today is not a rational comparison, and my opinion on this point is not quaint. To quote you: this “a viable debating tactic but doesn’t help deal with the actual issues between us”. Your view on energy R&D is, to all intents and purposes, reliant on ‘magic’. That’s quaint. Your faith in R&D is touching, but far removed from reality.

    Your point 5 contradicts your earlier concerns, and your point 6 is irrelevant to my argument, as I wasn’t discussing the use of CSP in this role multiple-use role. Your argument about fusion potentially being eventually cheaper than coal violates your argument that fission is inherently more complex and so can never be.

    Frankly, you’re all over the shop. Arthur’s have you really got a point, or are you just an absolute contrarian?


  54. Barry,

    1. Fundamental science and R&D is not “magic”. It requires effort which will cost billions and take decades. First we have to get rid of the magical thinking that by slapping a tax on things as an incentive, “the market will provide”.

    2. My point 5 does not contradict pointing out that nuclear won’t displace gas. It illustrates it by giving the example that more than a quarter of Victoria’s baseload capacity is discounted for aluminium smelters but we still also use gas peakers (and intermediate).

    3. There is indeed a similar problem for fusion to become cheaper than coal as for fission. Current R&D funding seems to be oriented towards eventually providing something competitive with coal as coal becomes more expensive. We’ll have to do much better than that. Hence the need for massive and broad based R&D.


  55. Arthur, you’re not listening (reading). If you’re hoping for a new, fundamental form of energy to appear in this universe, beyond nuclear fusion and fission — we ain’t gonna find it (unless you mean the energy that powers Harry Potter’s wand, hence my reference to magic). If you’re hoping for a more efficient way to capture fusion or fission energy, then we’re back to reality, and there, we’re talking about Gen IV nuclear or space-based solar.

    Your point 3 in your latest comment remains contradictory with your earlier statements.


  56. Arthur we don’t need to (and can’t) get emissions down to zero. The IPCC are calling for 85% reduction in emissions from 2000 levels by 2050 – not 100% reduction.

    What reduction we need from electricity is not easy to calculate because although energy use will rise, we will gain some efficiency by switching from oil to electricity for much of our transport (either directly or indirectly through another energy carrier like synfuels or hydrogen).

    The figure of 50kg/MWh has been thrown around by people like Treasury as an estimate of where the electricity emission intensity needs to be by 2050 to meet the IPCC reduction target. I think it would be naive to think we will not be using fossil fuels somewhere in the world by 2050. Like you I doubt we will get the emission intensity down to 50 kg/MWh on a world-wide basis. We might manage it in Australia with enough effort.


  57. Martin,

    1. Since we are agreed that we are unlikely to meet IPCC reduction targets on a world wide basis, why can’t we also agree that what Australia does in the way of meeting those targets is pretty irrelevant, the world will continue warming until we come up with some way for developing countries to meet similar targets eventually.

    2. I think I understand the renewables advocates – some of them just don’t get it and others actually want to hold back development. Pointless gestures are attractive to both. I also understand why the nuclear industry advocates nuclear – for the same reasons that the wind and gas industries advocate wind and gas. But for people here concerned about global warming, in favour of development and progress and reasonably knowledgeable about power economics I honestly don’t understand the value attached to gestures by Australia. If it isn’t a blind spot or parochialism you still haven’t spelled out the rational argument that is supposed to connect Australia reducing its emissions to the developing world not increasing them rapidly while industrializing.

    3. Contributing billions towards global R&D may or may not deliver results that could speed up the developing world becoming able to move to clean energy (either by offering cheaper clean energy or by contributing to more rapid development generally so that they can afford the switch earlier). Spending the same billions on more expensive clean energy in Australia doesn’t help solve anything. Its just a gesture.

    4. Wishing that nuclear fission could do it is certainly more plausible than wishing that renewables could do it. But until clean energy actually is cheaper than coal please focus on what needs to be done to make it cheaper or on a clear and compelling explanation of your reasons for believing that is not essential.


    In advocating massive R&D I am supporting:

    5. Possible (though rather unlikely) reduction of the costs of fission to below those of coal through Generation IV, V, VI or whatever it takes.

    6. Possible (though also uncertain and certainly taking longer) introduction of fusion cheaper than coal in however many decades that takes. I have already agreed that is difficult for the same reason it is difficult for fission to become cheaper than coal. Pointing this out for one of them and not for the other is, as you say, logically contradictory. Why on earth then are you persisting with it?

    c) More controllable and less risky forms of geoengineering than we have available now since it seems highly likely that we won’t be meeting any desirable timetables and will need to do the best we can about that.

    d) Ditto for adaptation and any other forms of mitigation that are cost effective in reducing damage.

    e) Ditto for new ways to exploit chemical, biological, elastic, electromagnetic and other forms of energy for generation, transmission and storage of electrical energy.

    f) Ditto for whatever new forms of energy we are able to develop as a result of overcoming dogmatism and improving our understanding of fundamental physics beyond the level we have been stuck at since about the mid 1970s.


  58. Sorry, Arthur, but as your posts become longer they lose focus.

    I tried a few posts up to explain why I am convinced that Australia should progress and in what way. Money is far from the only consideration, because there is always someone who will hold out hope that just another bit of R&D and a few more years and things might change.

    Things won’t change for the better due to more R&D – that I am sure of. By all means engage in research, but first and foremost stay focussed on reduction of GHG emissions now by the best means available now.

    If Australia cntinues to do diddly-squat, things won’t change for the better. Our little nation will continue to be perceived (rightly) as amongst the heaviest per capita carbon villains, both at home and, through coal and gas exports, overseas. That is important. Very important.

    Read again mine of 11:46am today. Action is the only thing that will improve our performance or, through example, that of others. Talk won’t do it. Research won’t do it. Wishing and hoping won’t do it.

    Building clean, safe, low carbon power stations can do it. “It”, of course, is retiring for ever fossil fuel power stations, one at a time. Decommissioning. Dismantling. For ever.

    Sadly, while I write this, nothing is happening that makes me think that this simple goal will be met any time soon, at any price. This isn’t war – it’s much more important than that – and wars are not won by novel application of R&D while the troops are kept in the barracks.


  59. Arthur, re: 6, I consider the harnessing of fission energy to be far simpler than fusion, that’s why. After all, it was first harnessed 60 years ago, and it requires relatively low temperatures and quite manageable materials science. You seemed, inexplicably, to be implying that fusion is comparable in the level of technological sophistication required. That is poor inference.

    Once again, I point out, you’re the one who’s being logically inconsistent, not me. Your options in (e) are all lower energy density than fission or fusion. Your option (f) once again appeals to ‘magic’ (which is something that, if real [i.e. indistinguishable from magic for us today], is so far into the future as an applied energy source as to be irrelevant to this discussion). I suggest you read Smil.


  60. Arthur,

    The entire basis of your argument is that nuclear is not/will not be price competitive with coal. It is merely an assertion of what you think and has two aspects:

    1. The price of nuclear cannot drop

    2. The price of coal will not go up and or not go up substantially.

    The first is highly questionable, even for PWRs.

    The second is more than questionable. Coal prices have risen dramatically this century. Spot price of thermal coal is currently ~ $100 a tonne.

    In a world where you envisage rapid coal powered development for much of the planet what possible mechanism is going to stabilize coal price? It could well double or more within a decade, let alone by 2050. And why would planners in third world countries not be well aware of this risk.

    Your argument is based very shaky ground indeed, and is based on little more than your opinion.


  61. And what happens if we cannot get the cost of fission or fusion beneath that of coal? Do we simply give up and accept climate change instead of increasing the wholesale cost of electricity by what? 20%?


  62. Quokka, that 12 % relates to new and rolled over contract prices, rather than to the industry as a whole. Some contracts extend well beyond a year and goodness knows what the spot price is going to do.

    That 12% may approximate an upper bound rather than an average, however I agree that the short term trend is north.


  63. Arthur, on 9 November 2010 at 11:10 AM said:
    Tom Keen,
    1. No. Gas would be used for load following in intermediate loads and peak loads even if coal plants were more maneuverable (even though it is ALSO true that coal plants are technically hard to maneuver as it takes hours to ramp them up or down).

    Either Arthur doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is mischieviously passing on rumours.

    It is not unusual for coal to be able to follow load at a rate of 10MW or 20 MW or even more per unit, per minute. It happens every day. That is not hours – it is minutes. All that is required is for the unit to be on line and not fully loaded. This is not, contrary to some opinions, unusual. Loading at 80% is far more common than at 100% of nameplate. Thus, 20GW of coal (or any other number you like to pick) should be able to follow the market up and down, within limits, at a rate of 200 or even 400 MW/minute.

    Looked at another way, if spinning reserve in the NEM is equivalent to 4 or 5 large units, ie 2 to 4 GW, additional energy can be very quickly found to follow a load swing of 2GW over 5 or 20 minutes. That’s up or down.

    Let’s hear no more about coal and nuclear not being able to load follow. It is a furphy which is not supported by the marketplace facts or the engineering reality.

    Meeting very sharp peaks is another thing. That’s where hydro worked very well from 1960 to 1990, when significant GT capacity came on line to assist. There are good commercial reasons for adding OCGT a bit at a time in lieu of major Bayswater style developments worth billions of dollars and delivering 2660MW or more. I won’t expound here, except to say that the threat of OCGT has been very good at scaring new power out of Victoria and NSW because it can be constructed very fast. A blast of new OCGT potentially queers the business plan of big coal or big nuclear, simply because it could change the market outlook by introducing ig scary lumps of commercial risk.

    Mind you, it need not be constructed to achieve this – it needs only to be possible to work as a believable threat.

    Several OCGT and CCGT developments have gained planning approval and have simply been sat on as a threat to new entrants, while the existing generators then win from a constrained market. It is better NOT to construct the GT’s than to actually construct and run them.

    On a communication channel such as this blog I expect mistakes to be made and for misconceptions to creep in. What I do not happily accept is repetition of inaccurate myths about the performance characteristics of competing options which suit a point of view but which serve no other purpose.

    By way of a footnote, yes, I have long experience in construction and operation of coal fired power stations. I have also project managed a few GT installations and played a role in site selection and design opton studies in both OCGT and CCGT. What I have said here is the truth. Regarding the manipulation of the NEM electricity market, this is an old story and much-argued. There must be market experts out there who can nail this down tight as a drum

    Last. Please consider. If a serious nuclear power proposal was to emerge within Tas/Vic/SA/NSW/Qld, would the existing players just stand to one side and say “Watch this!” or would they threaten to smash the NPP’s market opportunities by every means at their disposal, including by threatening their funding providers with war in the marketplace specifically aimed at the weaknesses of NPP and by construction of a fleet of OCGT power stations which they have no intention of ever constructing? The structure and dynamics of the marketplace are, in my opinion, much more significant than an additional real or imagined percentage point on the NPP construction cost.


  64. @John Bennetts,

    I understand what you are saying. I don’t know much about coal, but there is a big expansion in the traded volume of coal futures on ICE and the US exchanges. Is this a reflection of an evolutionary change in which coal is traded to become more like oil?

    Anyway here is another piece this time on China coal prices – currently at $127 per tonne, and projected to go higher over the winter. As you say, price certainly going north in the short term.



  65. Quokka, I am not expert in this area. Beyond pointing out the possibility that Bloomberg’s figures are not likely to be indicative of the whole market, year on year, I can add little here.

    Barry may have a mate who is better connected to the business of marketing coal internationally. I am sure that it is a cutthroat business and that false trails and rumour mongering abound.

    The volatility of coal prices is quite possibly as large a commercial risk as a carbon tax, possibly also introducing very large subjective variation in option pricing nuclear Vs coal. How much more or less is the future price of enriched uranium, I wonder? Could the relative stability of uranium price be a positive selling point for PWR’s and Type IV’s?


  66. @Arthur; 12:45pm today.

    So, tell me again… why should I give a fig what the actual or estimated cost of FF power generation might or might not be, or what the market price if the real price is environmental, not dollars?
    Because half the population of the world living on less than $2 per day don’t give a fig what you think they should pay for electricity…

    Arthur needs remedial reading classes. I didn’t put words into mouths of the world’s poor. I referred to the relative merit of a livable environment versus the possibility of a cheaper electricity bill while the environment disintegrates around us all. My opinion on this isn’t about to change any time soon.

    Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs and all that… better to be alive and paying a steep price for electrons under pressure, rather than the converse. Please, Arthur, do try to read and understand what is before you. As it is, some are probably doubting your intellectual capacity… why post nonsense and remove all doubt?


  67. John Bennetts,

    Either Arthur doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is mischieviously passing on rumours.

    It is not unusual for coal to be able to follow load at a rate of 10MW or 20 MW or even more per unit, per minute. It happens every day. That is not hours – it is minutes.

    On a communication channel such as this blog I expect mistakes to be made and for misconceptions to creep in. What I do not happily accept is repetition of inaccurate myths about the performance characteristics of competing options which suit a point of view but which serve no other purpose.

    By way of a footnote, yes, I have long experience in construction and operation of coal fired power stations. I have also project managed a few GT installations and played a role in site selection and design option studies in both OCGT and CCGT. What I have said here is the truth….

    Nevertheless anybody less qualified to speak off the top of their head than John Bennetts can simply lookup the data for themselves like I did.

    10MW per minute is 600MW per hour. 20MW per minute is 1200MW per hour.

    The AEMO National Transmission Network Development Plan Consultation Appendix B provides in section B.4.8. Generator ramp rates, the actual rates for every generator in the NEM as used by the NEMDE for actual despatch and in models for planning.

    The only plant units that can do 1200MW per hour are hydro. The default rate for gas is 600 MW/h, for coal it is 180 MW/h.

    Some coal examples include:

    Hazelwood 120 MW/h
    Loyang A 600 MW/h
    Loyang B 600 MW/h
    Yallourn 240 MW/h

    These are not for individual units but for very large multiple unit plants.

    The point scoring was of course also entirely irrelevant since I was explaining that it was NOT technical restrictions but economics that was more relevant to the load following and peaking role of gas and confirming that there is NO technical problem load following inherent to nuclear.

    For background on Australian power industry economics I strongly recommend the extensive AEMO and AER documentation.

    Instead of bluster John should consider a direct response to my very simple assertion that his proposals for Australia would not make any difference to global warming until the developing countries that will be generating most of the emissions over the next few decades are both able and willing to use clean energy.

    Others have offered such responses without bluster and I will respond to them more politely.


  68. Barry,

    I agree that fusion is far more difficult than fission. Likewise fission was far more difficult than combusion. It does not follow that that fusion energy when achieved will necessarily be more expensive than fission, just as it does not follow that fission energy when achieved would necessarily be more expensive than combusion. As it happens it is still the case that fission is more expensive than combustion and that may well remain the case. Likewise it may remain the case that fusion will remain more expensive than fission (as well as currently being impossible). But you have not offered any rational basis for your certainty on these things to the exclusion of R&D into other possibilities.

    Thanks for the reference to Smil. It looks useful and I will probably read it before writing anything serious for publication but obviously I won’t have time to read it before Thursday’s debate.

    I think in offering that reference you are working from the reasonable and understandable assumption that any solution to global warming has to be within the framework of the energy technologies we already know and understand. That is certainly the widespread general assumption, so any other view is naturally “contrarian”.

    But dismissing anything else as “magic” goes beyond a natural assumption to an irrational prejudice.

    On your assumption it is reasonable to conclude that there is no solution unless it turns out that fission is cheaper than combustion. That is not surprising since we have relied on hydrocarbon based fossil fuels for the past few centuries, have not industrialized more than half the world and on becoming aware of the problem over the last couple of decades have found it to be intractable. In particular nuclear fission has been available for half a century yet after more than two decades of alarm and international agreements about global warming it has made no headway against combustion of fossil fuels (although there are signs that the actual decline in nuclear relative to fossil fuels may be coming to an end).

    One irrational response is to have faith in renewables.

    A more rational response is to have faith in nuclear fission.

    But you have not demonstrated that nuclear fission is likely to displace coal and gas in the countries that will be generating the most electricity over the next few decades. Instead you seem to be insisting that it HAS to, because otherwise we are stuffed.

    Although less irrational than faith in renewables that is still irrational.

    Putting the available resources into cheapening nuclear fission is obviously more likely to accelerate adoption of fission in developing countries than simply adding some nuclear power stations in Australia to those already demonstrated in France, North America, China, Japan, India etc etc.

    In case nuclear fission R&D doesn’t make it cheap enough it is obviously worthwhile having a plan B. That is fusion. I agree with you that fusion could not possibly deliver before fission. But we still need a plan B. Your resistance to R&D for a plan B seems irrational.

    In my view we also need a plan C with known unknowns and plan D with unknown unknowns. Once you agree that opposing a plan B is irrational I think you would have to concede that we also need to put resources into a plan C and plan D since you already have very little confidence in plan B.

    But where are these R&D resources to come from if we are wasting them on pointless gestures like reducing emissions in Australia? Why isn’t that as irrational as wasting them on rooftop solar panels, windmills etc?

    There simply isn’t any reason at all to be complacent about doing it with the technology we have relied on in the past or that is described in any current textbook one could refer anybody to. We may have to write new textbooks about energy technology and that means massive R&D since the old ones are the product of several centuries wisdom.


    My point is precisely that if we can’t get the cost of nuclear below coal we do not give up on reducing emissions from the development of the developing world but instead keep doing R&D for a solution that they will adopt.

    Are you proposing that we should simply raise our wholesale electricity prices, reduce Australian emissions and just give up on the extra coal plants coming online every week in India, China etc?


    The entire basis of your argument is that nuclear is not/will not be price competitive with coal. It is merely an assertion of what you think and has two aspects:

    1. The price of nuclear cannot drop

    2. The price of coal will not go up and or not go up substantially.

    My assertion is that nuclear currently is not and is very likely to remain generally uncompetitive with coal (except for niche situations, with transport bottlenecks, as a hedge etc).

    The outrage about that here seems a bit mystifying. Far from being “contrarian” my understanding is that this view is widely shared by the nuclear industry and its hopes for a renaissance are based largely on the hope of a carbon price to overcome that lack of competitiveness without a carbon price.

    Far from believing that the price of nuclear cannot drop I advocate massive R&D in an attempt to bring it down via Gen IV, V, VI for however many decades it takes. (I am however somewhat pessimistic).

    If the cost of coal goes up enough, there is no problem. So far there have been lots of predictions that it will rise enough to make nuclear competitive, but with no such results. So I advocate preparations for the possibility that it won’t.


  69. @Arthur

    My assertion is that nuclear currently is not and is very likely to remain generally uncompetitive with coal (except for niche situations, with transport bottlenecks, as a hedge etc).

    That’s just what it is – an assertion. Why do you think anybody is interested in your assertion when your assertion is clearly at odds with, for example, the IEA projections that Barry had provided above. If you look at the China, Korea and Japan figures, nuclear is quite clearly competitive. In fact it’s competitive or more than competitive just about everywhere with a $30 per tonne CO2 price. That in itself should suggest to any thinking person that any cost advantage that coal has could evaporate in many countries with a percentage rise in coal price far less than occurred in the first decade of the 21th century – carbon price or no carbon price.

    In countries without political impediments to nuclear power, planners today are thinking about the implications of the fuel price sensitivity of coal or gas and the fuel price insensitivity of nuclear. Coal plants last decades – it’s not a decision to get wrong. Quite poor countries, desperately short of electricity such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are going for nuclear – why is that? It looks very much as if the Philippines will too. But there are a long list of countries looking (and acting) right now from Sth Africa to Turkey to Italy and quite a few more.

    The fact is that people want action on climate change – right around the world – and are prepared to make some sacrifice. If nuclear were three times more expensive then that would probably be a bridge too far. But that is in fact, very far from being the case – nuclear is competitive now and the impediments to nuclear are mostly historical and political, not economic. Here’s one hint – Chernobyl.

    As for being “outraged”, I have limited patience with concern trolls. I recall reading on your web site some years ago your opinion of AGW which went along the lines of not liking AGW because it went against Marx’s view of man or something to that effect. After cleaning the coffee from my keyboard and reflecting that the great man must surely be turning in his grave (he did after all profess a certain high regard for science), I decided I’d seen enough. This is functionally identical to libertarians who don’t like AGW because it interferes with the free market and by implication their view of man.

    It’s all transparently obvious – talk down the prospect of nuclear power -> promise totally unspecified technological marvels -> delay action on climate change. Just another denier.

    It is very clear that


  70. Quokka,

    …your assertion is clearly at odds with, for example, the IEA projections that Barry had provided above. If you look at the China, Korea and Japan figures, nuclear is quite clearly competitive. In fact it’s competitive or more than competitive just about everywhere with a $30 per tonne CO2 price.

    1. Translation: nuclear would be competitive if coal cost $30 more per tonne than it does. In other words nuclear is generally not competitive at current coal prices.

    2. Even the quoted spin is not what the figures sIEA how. You seem not to have actually looked at table 4.1b (10% discount rate) or followed the discussion about it. It has been clearly explained that the figures for China (a non-OECD member for which IEA did not “project” a $30 carbon price but WNA did) show that coal is still cheaper in China even though China has the cheapest nuclear. All three IEA figures for Chinese coal are significantly cheaper than all three figures for nuclear. You getting that wrong is not your fault (although you could have read the whole thread more carefully). It shows that blatant tricks like the WNA publishing its own cooked version of the IEA figures actually do work in misleading people. You might want to think about why they do things like that.

    Likewise it has been pointed out that after removal of the $30 carbon price that was added by IEA to their figures for Korea and Japan, nuclear is indeed roughly comparable to coal but that is an example of a niche market for nuclear as they have to import coal by sea (from Australia – which they still do, in rather huge quantities).

    In countries without political impediments to nuclear power, planners today are thinking about the implications of the fuel price sensitivity of coal or gas and the fuel price insensitivity of nuclear. Coal plants last decades – it’s not a decision to get wrong.

    Yes they are. China and India are important examples of careful planning because its an important decision for them. No political impediments to nuclear, no irrational anti-nuclear policy like Australia, no excessive regulatory costs like EU and USA. Result is a rational hedging by some nuclear deployment and overwhelming reliance on cheaper fossil fuels.

    Quite poor countries, desperately short of electricity such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are going for nuclear – why is that?

    They are also “going for” coal and gas and doing so much more extensively. There is a long lead time for developing a nuclear industry and skills base. So, as I said, it makes perfectly good sense to hedge against the possibility of needing to do so (eg due to the possibility of rising coal prices as you mention) by having some nuclear even while continuing to rely on fossil fuels as both those countries do.

    What does not make sense is not doing R&D to hedge against the possibility of fossil fuel prices not rising enough despite the fact that the world is still overwhelmingly continuing to build mainly fossil plants and very very few nuclear plants. Poor countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam cannot contribute much to that global R&D hedge so it is up to countries like Australia to do it.

    Given the strong advocacy of carbon prices and the collapse at Copenhagen followed by policy shifts in both USA and Australia, resort to shouting more angrily instead of planning for the possibility of the carbon prices you hoped for not being achieved seems rather silly.

    [confirmation of extreme silliness by incoherent ranting that trails off to incomplete sentence ignored]


  71. Arthur is trying my patience again.

    A ramp rate of 20MW/min as bid into the market is per unit, within a band or bands. Not per power station, because this is simply silly. At any given time, some units might be off line, under test, restricted or fully loaded. Yes, Arthur managed to find some indicative figures in the Capacity Statement, but that is not the manual for driving the NEM. Daily bids are, hour by hour, unit by unit.

    The actual number of large units on line at any given time in the NEM is close enough to 50.

    Each unit is capable of flexibility either or both up and down, each able to move 10 or 20 MW/min, for a price.

    Even half of this is of the order of a couple of hundred MW/min. That’s quite a lot per hour. The practical upper limit depends on the amount of spinning reserve in the system. The lower limit is… heaps low. Get out the candles.

    That’s my point… load following relies on numbers of generating units moving in harmony, rather than an assumption that there is only one way for it to be done, and that is to start up or stop a GT. There weren’t GT’s a few decades ago, yet the system coped with a bit of help from the Snowy and other hydro, perhaps with a bit of load shaping courtesy of the aluminium customers (for a price). It has been said that wind power is another way of saying “OCGT”, but nicely. Wind and solar have increased the instability of the system and dramatically increased the need for GT backup, but that has been dealt with elsewhere on this site. Surely Arthur doesn’t want to go there again right now.

    AEMO rates are not written in stone – the market bids essentially re-set the prices and ramp rates daily, because a price is put on everything.

    Arthur should try harder to keep up.

    For those who advocate sitting on the sidelines as the world fails to act, I offer the following.

    There are only two types of problems in this world. Some problems are of a type where the outcome can be influenced by my action.

    Most cannot be influenced by me.

    I choose to focus on the former and to leave the latter to the likes of Arthur, who insists on acting last. Think: actors and bystanders; players and the audience. It is perfectly reasonable to expect Australia and Australians to do what they can in the face of a world-destroying threat, regardless of anything that may or may not be achieved by others, whose actions I have no way of influencing… apart, perhaps, by setting a good example.

    I do not live on $2 per day, as Arthur’s target audience might. I can afford a reasonable additional impost to pay for nuclear power, as also can Australia as a whole. It is the actions of others that prevent me from being able to do so, and for this I am exceedingly disappointed. My grandchildren will hate me and my generation because we achieved so little when we had the knowledge and the opportunity to act, but chose not to do so.

    To not act with determination against AGW by all available means, on the pretext that somebody else, somewhere else, is not pulling his weight is tantamount to murder… of the planet.

    As I said before, R&D will not win this war, and a war it is.


  72. Arthur, there’s no point trying to explain it to you any further. You’re locked in a fixed position and are ignoring and misunderstanding (either deliberately or through ignorance) what I’m (and many others, Quokka, John Bennetts etc.) are saying. All laced with a string of evidence-free assertions. I suspect that you’re so used to calling out hypocrisy and irrationality in others when you see it in others, but are blind to it when it comes home to roost on your own perch. You are also putting words in my mouth, which is a shallow debating tactic that I hope you eschew on Thursday.

    But if I got nothing else out of this little exchange, it was the amusing sight of seeing Albert Langer trying to defend something for once, rather than just being anti everything.


  73. Thanks Tom Bond. Subsidizing renewables in the light of the German experience is just plain economic vandalism. Wayne Swan needs to see that article and then divert all of his $642million renewables R+D to nuclear.


  74. Thankfully and unlike some, I have no idea who Arthur is. Please don’t enlighten me.

    To clarify one small aside:

    I really do support R&D to the hilt, but not as an excuse for inaction. Australia can well afford to pull its weight in pure and applied research and should do so, if for no better reason than to maintain a thriving pool of talented and well-informed folk who can be relied upon to develop new and better solutions as they emerge and to use evolving knowledge to our advantage.

    If a world class banking CEO (gambler with others’ money) is worth tens of millions, think of the value of a good research school or ten.


  75. Barry,

    My “fixed position” is that both renewables and nuclear fission have not and most likely will not displace fossil fuels as the technology used in the overwhelming majority of new electricity generation in the developing world over the next few decades. Consequently emissions will continue to grow rapidly as the developing world industrializes, climate change will accelerate and targets to contain and start reversing it will not be met until, perhaps as a result of this failure and its consequences, there is a fundamental change in approach.

    Evidence of this is the actual history of the results of two decades of efforts since Kyoto culminating in the collapse at Copenhagen and defeat of carbon pricing policies in both the USA and Australia.

    I see no reason to believe that this will change until clean energy technology becomes available to developing countries at costs lower than or at least comparable to fossil fuels. Once that happens the switch to reducing emissions will occur without further exhortation, simply because it is cheaper.

    There is no sign that exhortation to impose a carbon price will succeed. Nor should it in most of the world where people are still living on less than $2 per day and quite sensibly prefer to industrialize first and let future better off generations deal with the resulting environmental problems including climate change – just as people in the developed world did, and are also still doing.

    Consequently all efforts should be put into a massive R&D program to develop cheaper clean technology whether nuclear fission, fusion, renewables or something else including something currently unknown. This could be very difficult and could take many decades, during which emissions will continue to accumulate and the climate will continue to change.

    Consequently we should stop denying the failure of current approaches and start that new approach as soon as possible.

    No resources should be diverted from that difficult and decades long massive R&D effort to pointless gestures deploying more expensive energy technology in the few developed countries that can afford to either make pointless gestures or else contribute to such a massive R&D program.

    Advocates of pointless gestures should be fought, isolated and exposed as the most effective allies of the fossil fuel industry working to preserve it.

    After carefully studying their comments I am quite certain that neither Quokka nor John Bennetts have the slightest interest or capability to make any serious attempt to refute this position so I have lost interest in anything further they have to say.

    I would be more interested in a refutation from Barry. But if you think a refuation that ought to persuade anyone not already onside has been presented in this thread, I have indeed failed to understand it, and am therefore unable to respond to it, let alone change my “fixed idea” as a result of it. Nor do I understand how anyone else not already onside could be convinced by a refutation that I have failed to perceive.


  76. @Arthur,

    Leaving the interpersonal shenanigans aside just this once…

    “No resources should be diverted from that difficult and decades long massive R&D effort.”

    The point is, that there are not decades to waste. The whole world may already be locked into severe, unprecedented and deadly climate change events. Certainly, Arthur does not know whether this is not so – he clearly hopes that it is, but that hope is founded on nothing concrete except a childish expectation that tomorrow is soon enough for action… today let’s play in the lab.

    Ross Garnault yesterday put this issue into clear focus.

    By all means, keep up the R&D. My argument is that, regardless of the outcomes of R&D programs, the right now situation justifies concerted application of dollars, effort, legislation and social change if our little blue and green world is to remain recognisable and habitable into the future. This is not scare-mongering. It is rational interpretation of the facts as we know them. This is not the time for time for prevarication, pointscoring and more effin’ delays due to a rival cheer squad on the sidelines.


  77. @Arthur

    Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Jordan, Pakistan, Philippines, Syria, Turkey and Uzbekistan are all countries that have or are looking at developing nuclear power domestically, and while one might argue the status of some of them as Third World countries, they are hardly nations as well off as Australia. In several cases there are cheaper supplies of carbon-based fuels, and clearly with several it is not a just a case of creating a fig-leaf to cover a weapons program.

    As it has been pointed out ad infinitum on these pages, the bulk of the expense, (as opposed to the cost) of a nuclear power plant, is in the bureaucratic burden placed on these projects in many countries. Without that, the price of a nuclear plant, like a CANDU, is competitive with that of an advanced coal plant. ( I’m using CANDU as an example here because it does not require an enrichment facility.)

    Most of the delay in these countries is now due to rather onerous demands being placed on them by the anti-proliferation apparatus, that have forced many into developing their own domestic programs, when they would have been just as happy to buy technology from off-shore vendors.

    Between these three observations, it is difficult to see where you have an argument.


  78. “most likely will not displace fossil fuels as the technology used in the overwhelming majority of new electricity generation in the developing world over the next few decades”

    Because it’s “unlikely”, we obviously shouldn’t even bother trying anything in the near-term to reduce world emissions.

    “… until clean energy technology becomes available to developing countries at costs lower than or at least comparable to fossil fuels”

    As is evident in France, and now increasingly in China, that clean technology (nuclear) is already competitive. coal prices are on the rise.

    “Consequently we should stop denying the failure of current approaches and start that new approach as soon as possible.”

    Yes, we should cease this futile attempt at cutting emissions with renewables only, and remove the ban on nuclear.

    “Advocates of pointless gestures should be fought, isolated and exposed as the most effective allies of the fossil fuel industry working to preserve it.”

    Pointless gestures? Like ignoring what is currently the only cost($) competitive technology, delaying any action for decades, and placing faith in some “magic” source of energy for the future?

    No one here is against R&D. A massive expansion of nuclear now is the best R&D excercise we could possibly hope for. To do nothing now and then stand by to wait and watch is folly.


  79. Barry,

    As I understand it, at least some people “onside” with your views, believe that an adequate refutation of my position consists of asserting that the situation is so urgent and desperate that even though we should “continue” long term R&D we should also put major efforts into doing whatever we can wherever we can.

    [I will refrain for now from directly responding to or quoting an example, “not a million comments from here” as that comment indicates that diversionary personal attacks will still be continued and have been suspended in an attempt at actual and relevant argument with less bluster only for just one comment]

    I honestly don’t know if that attempted refutation is also your position. It seems more or less identical to the position taken by advocates of renewables in the face of the facts you are familiar with the pointless gestures made by diverting resources to wind turbines, rooftop solar panels etc.

    I presume there are also people who advocate that in the face of urgent and desperate situations we should resort to the power of prayer.

    I just don’t see how reducing emissions in countries like Australia by nuclear could be seen as doing something useful to have an impact on global warming once it is grasped that the overwhelming majority of emissions over the next few decades are expected to come from rapidly industrializing less developed countries who will continue to use the cheapest technology available regardless of what cleaner but more expensive technology developed countries use.

    My speculation about such arguments is that they simply don’t get it, perhaps because of a parochial outlook that imagines local action could preserve their local climate environment rather than being part of a global response or a parochial outlook that results in being quite ignorant of the actual situation in developing countries.

    But that is just speculation.

    If my speculation is correct more effort is needed to educate people about the global facts and the consequences of such parochialism.

    If there is some other background to this sort of position than simple ignorance or parochialism I would be interested in an elaboration of it from Barry or others.


  80. DV82XL,

    1. I have agreed (repeatedly) that it makes good sense to preserve or establish a nuclear industry and skills base as a hedge to shorten the lead time for future expansion in case it does end up cheaper. That seems to be happening while at the same time confirming that the same countries still generally find fossil fuels cheaper and overwhelmingly continue to use them.

    2. There is strong evidence that the hostile environment based on proliferation and other regulatory concerns is a major factor increasing nuclear costs that could be significantly reduced. But even in China where that issue doesn’t arise, fossil fuels remain cheaper. Surely industry advocates would have mobilized more effectively than they have if there were fortunes to be made and the only obstacle was this stuff rather than the unexpectedly continued low cost of fossil fuels.

    Tom Keen,

    3. We agree on the need for R&D to continue lowering costs of nuclear and we agree on the futility of renewables and getting rid of the ban on nuclear.

    4. But having got rid of the ban in Australia and removed hostile regulatory environent etc how does spending cash on deployment in Australia while coal still remains so cheap here contribute to either R&D for research on cheapening nuclear fission or reducing long term global emissions more than spending the same funds directly on R&D? What would the additional Australian plants contribute to R&D not already demonstrated in numerous other countries with existing nuclear industries?

    5. Why should the R&D only be on cheapening nuclear fission and not also other possibilities in case that doesn’t succeed in bringing it below the cost of fossil fuels or takes so long as to require geoengineering?

    6. PS signing off for a while – any further responses from me may be delayed or very brief.


  81. David B. Benson

    The nuclear program in the Argentine

    Nuclear power in Brazil

    While Chile does not yet have a power reactor they are seriously considering having up to five by 1035 to offset the loss of gas from the Argentine due to exhaustion of the supply.

    The Chilean Strategy for Assessing the Nuclear Power Option

    Arthur – Why then are these places building nuclear at all, or looking into it?

    BTW you are not the first socialist that has gotten the idea that the energy/AGW issue is an ideal opportunity to advance your political ideology. Several have come here trying to convince us how necessary this is, and all have failed.


  82. Add me to the crowd of people arguing in favour of getting on with building the next 20-40 nuclear plants as quickly as possible.

    I wouldn’t say “at any cost”, but in practice, the point is moot. Let’s get a solid sovereign-risk free regime in place, establish efficient, non-arbitrary standards for evaluating environmental feasibility, concentrate on brownfields sites where this is simplest, and tender away. By the time we have built the 20th or the 30th the cost for all that capacity will almost certainly be similar enough to what it would have been for coal for nobody to quibble.


  83. Arthur,

    “What would the additional Australian plants contribute to R&D not already demonstrated in numerous other countries with existing nuclear industries?”

    How would a large expansion of the nuclear industry, including a large increase in nuclear physicists, engineers, operators, researchers and research facilities, influence R&D on the only viable competitor to coal?
    Think about it.


  84. Thanks to all but especially to Arthur for the posts on this thread. I single out Arthur not because I necessarily agree with you but because your comments provided a lightning rod against which others could respond, and did . The fact that this was mostly carried out on all sides without personal invective made it that much more enjoyable for passive readers.
    As fas as my own position- I’m with Fran Barlow- let’s just get on with building some nuclear as soon as possible, using existing technology, as cheaply as feasible. Yes, we need more applied R&D in Australia on all aspects of energy. But this should be seen as a means to a future end, not an end in its own right.


  85. David B Benson,

    Thanks for the link to solar-chemical process for CO2 removal from air. Looks interesting. Presumably similar processes using cheap grid electricity instead of solar energy could also be possible. I gather there are also proposals for genetically engineered algae or bacteria to “eat” CO2 and excrete something more useful or at least storable.

    These are all examples of research that could be well worth pursuing along with making fission and/or fusion and or something else a viably cheap energy source. Since reducing emissions looks like its going to take quite a while, we’ll certainly be wanting a way to start removing those that have accumulated in the meantime.

    I would assume its a lot easier to capture CO2 concentrated in flue gases in chimneys than to capture already dispersed CO2 from atmosphere as suggested in that report. Since CCS is so difficult with all the hopes placed on it by coal industry and allied governments like Australia’s I would assume removal from atmosphere is much harder and will take much longer. But we will certainly need it eventually.

    Once the proposals from fixtheclimate.org and “The Hartwell Paper” become part of the wider debate it should be possible to have more constructive arguments about which research programs should be given larger shares.

    Meanwhile I would have thought it would be to the advantage of nuclear advocates to be vociferously demanding public funding of research to make nuclear fission cheaper (and objecting to the wasteful deployment of solar and wind turbines instead).

    Once you ACTUALLY ARE cheaper there’s no way rollout could be stopped in most of the world and Australia would eventually follow suit.

    Meanwhile attempts to make the figures look better won’t sell nuclear plants to utilities etc actually buying them.

    Lets give more priority to the united front for more research and less priority to the divisions over which research is more important since the latter allocations will ultimately not be made by public opinion mobilization anyway.

    Until we do, the renewables fraud grabs all the funds available for both deployment and “demonstration” (and “awareness raising”) and the gas industry continues to prosper.

    Tom Keen,

    How would a large expansion of the nuclear industry, including a large increase in nuclear physicists, engineers, operators, researchers and research facilities, influence R&D on the only viable competitor to coal?

    As Bill Kerr explained you’ve got this backwards. It would be much easier to mobilize public opinion in favour of research, including nuclear research. Combine that with higher education export for countries that have more expensive fossil fuels and are preparing their nuclear hedges by getting a few plants that need a skilled workforce with tertiary training in nuclear engineering. We then have the beginnings of a lobby, though nothing like the gas/wind lobby.

    Once you’ve got some research institutes and training for nuclear engineers it would be a lot easier to get a plant or two as a hedge to enable future expansion (though still pretty hard in Australia in view of the low priority of such a hedge in the light of how cheap our fossil fuels are). Could perhaps even push for it as needed for research and training.

    As you are more confident than me that nuclear fission is already close to being economically competitive and could get there quickly with a bit of a push, that strikes me as a much more viable path to get what you hope for than demanding a large expansion now. It would break the barrier of ignorance and hostility without appearing so threatening.

    If you turn out to be wrong and some other solution gets cheap enough for rapid global deployment before fission, have you really lost anything or have you gained along with the rest of humanity?

    Leigh Bettenay,

    Thanks. Yes its been mostly an enjoyable discussion. Certainly refreshing to be arguing with people who want and are confident in an energy intensive future rather than wanting a more cramped lifestyle and preaching doom. (Though the more irritating parts seem to be closely related to “doom is nigh” preaching).


    I just re-read the previous original thread and thought it was more constructive before we got bogged down in disputes over whether IEA and WNA figures indicate nuclear is already price competitive.

    Was amused to notice that when not arguing about current relative costs I had been much more explicitly anti-capitalist in that first thread, with passing remarks like:

    Governments have pandered to renewables but in much of the world have not actually blocked nuclear. With all the pandering, they have continued to rely on fossil fuels while claiming that “market forces” will eventually deliver a viable alternative to fossil fuels by simply taxing them to provide an incentive for private R&D. There’s still no sign of that happening after 20 years!

    After all experience shows that the pitiful 3% of GDP used for R&D in the most developed countries is a massive underinvestment in the ultimate source of productivity growth, so even if such R&D efforts just confirm nuclear fission is the best we could do, the spinoffs from the resources put into other R&D are unlikely to be negligible.

    Spinoffs from technology developed for the last two world wars and the cold war have driven an awful lot of progress. But since end of the cold war there has been little incentive for expanded public funding of basic and strategic research. Instead the pathetic little put into R&D at all has increasingly gone to “business” which is naturally much more interested in applied research and experimental development than attempts at anything really difficult.

    There is little prospect of “capturing” the benefits of successful R&D into cheaper energy technology than fossil fuels so it is pointless pretending that “market incentives” like a carbon price can deliver the necessary R&D.

    4. The difficulties of “capturing” the benefits of R&D are inherent. Once you really grasp that the task is to get below the cost for coal then one cannot imagine that some “reward” for investment will flow to whoever funds the technology R&D by means of intellectual property etc. By definition there is no price gap to pay for the intellectual property since the price is to be pushed as low as possible, not just to whatever point maximizes revenue.

    5. This fundamental problem for “market forces” to do the R&D cannot be solved by “social engineering” or “financial engineering”. There is no clever financial instrument that could be designed to shift the risk that technology designed to “save the planet” will be used to “save the planet” rather than rationed to maintain a monopoly premium for rewarding the developers. As with military technology, this kind of research can ONLY be publicly funded.

    6. In particular, “giving investors confidence that low emission electricity will be replacing coal and gas from now on, and this direction will not change. If it does, the investors will be fully compensated” is self-contradictory. Granted that “investors” are stupid and that government funded R&D programs are wasteful, given that nothing but a massive government funded R&D program could deliver results and that it could not recover the costs except by the public benefit of “saving the world” there is no way to convince any moderately sane investor to invest in that kind of R&D.

    7. I certainly agree that funding is the key for big engineering projects. For global R&D the problem is even worse than for big national engineering projects, precisely because the beneficiary is “the world” rather than a national economy. At present governments are still far too interested in free riding than in actual paying their shares. They just don’t do calculations in terms of global benefit. Both military R&D and civilian infrastructure projects get public funding on the basis of “national interest” and there is a “national interest” in free riding on other countries basic and strategic research so there is massive global underinvestment in such research.

    8. Although green reactionary ideology opposed to modernity and industrialization is a problem, they would be isolated and defeated if “mainstream” conservative ruling class ideology was not so inclined to pander to them. The “mainstream” center bureaucrats and “business leaders” are now so parasitic that they actually BELIEVE their mantras about “market forces” producing R&D in response to “price signals” instead of actually paying to do the R&D! Meanwhile they can avoid coughing up their share for an expensive global project by pandering to the greenies and sounding “concerned”. Knock THEM over and isolating the greenies will be very easy.

    Its fascinating that you went out of your way explicitly endorse all that with this positively enthusiastic tribute:

    @Arthur – I agree with everything you have written here. I have not been participating in this thread because I can’t find anything to disagree with in your posts.

    Just thought I’d say so.


    Your first critical post came only after my reply to your post about the Vietnam war protests. You might want to reflect on that.

    I have already answered that countries like Argentina and Brazil with 3-6% nuclear energy are very sensibly hedging to reduce the lead time for a possible future expansion if nuclear actually does become cheaper and Chile is very sensibly assessing whether to do the same. I don’t see the point of you asking the same question yet again.

    Perhaps it was just a preface to:

    BTW you are not the first socialist that has gotten the idea that the energy/AGW issue is an ideal opportunity to advance your political ideology. Several have come here trying to convince us how necessary this is, and all have failed.

    I wouldn’t dream of trying DV8 but I bet I’m the first hard core commie you’ve gone to the trouble of announcing your complete agreement with ;-)

    Fran Barlow (and Leigh),

    You aren’t going to get 20-40 nuclear plants as quickly as possible unless you first get a research institute and school for training nuclear engineers. How about starting on that and making it supportive of fission research and other fundamental science as a first step?

    It could be “an end in itself” or a step towards other goals or a step towards your goals. But it would be a big step, which the antis would find harder to block.


  86. Arthur – Unlike some, I am not an ideologue, and I happy live in and support the mixed economic path Canada follows. Any rational examination of the facts forces the conclusion that there are areas where collective action delivers a superior outcome, and those that would ignore this, and persist on demanding that individuals should be left to take care of thing themselves in the name of some political/social philosophy are fools.

    On the other hand there are indeed domains where individual effort, based on the desire to gain personal wealth, are more efficient, and there those that care to follow that path, and invest their capital in some enterprise, should be left in peace and not subject to onerous regulation.

    Oh, and most of my family on my mothers side were communal Mennonites, who were commie long before Marx was a tadpole in a jampot. And I agree with many of their ideas.

    So there is no conflict agreeing with some of your earlier posts, and arguing against some of your latter. Thus while your observation that not enough is spent on R&D is accurate, your contention that nuclear energy cannot be launched without more R&D funding is demonstrably wrong, as is your contention that the fundamental issue preventing growth in nuclear energy is cost.

    It is that simple.


  87. DV82XL, on 10 November 2010 at 2:50 PM — I followed your suggestion to use Google and located a paper which I could read. It seems that Chile is planning to conduct a site location study, most necessary as Chile is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world.


  88. DV82XL,

    Fair enough, there is indeed no contradiction between agreeing on the need for more R&D and disagreeing on whether it is useful to push for rollout until nuclear is ACTUALLY cheaper.

    I’m still puzzled though as your previous agreement also appeared to cover.

    …I don’t want to pander to the idea (shared by advocates of both nuclear and renewables) that a technology plausibly cheaper than coal HAS been identified. There’s simply no reason to expect developing countries to buy the argument that they should pay more to developed countries for more expensive energy technology than coal and pretend it isn’t more expensive by putting a price on carbon.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t expect a DV8 half-amish pro-nuke to be an ideologue ;-)


  89. Mennonite, not Amish if you please. My mother left her community and married a Catholic, and I am proudly atheist. Nevertheless I recognize that there was some logic in Mennonite philosophy even if the lifestyle did not appeal to me.

    I guess I missed that originally, however the fact is that a NNP, especially CANDU, or the Indian knock-off, can be built for about the same cost as a modern high performance coal burner.


  90. Arthur and some others, perhaps, appears to be tightly bound up with the notion that cost is everything. Firstly, the relationship between cost and price is sometimes neither rational nor linear. If it cosots me $100 to raise a cow, is the selling price determined by my costs or the marketplace?

    Nobody has written of the likely scarcity of desirable technological options if/when the rush to nuclear begins and the oceans are going Canfield, or whatever. When scarcity comes into it, other factors come into play. What are the TERMS of sale? Cash up front, power by the hour, or whatever? Non-preferred and first-time customers will be at the back of the queue.

    Similarly, the desire to establish both massive R&D programs and nuclear engineering schools as prerequisites to actual action is well-meaning but mistaken. There is little or no linkage between these factors and an NPP program based on current technologies. The engineers and operators can be retrained perfectly adequately as the plant is constructed. In fact, some may see this as ideal, because it avoids the need to un-train bad habits from the staff and then re-train to suit the world as it is. Example: Many Qld and Hunter Valley coal mines prefer cleanskin plant operators who know jacksh_t to putting on “old hands”. Their first day’s lesson starts: “This is a 300t truck… The front end is over there… I will teach you how to drive it…”.

    There is a wide range of commercially available NPP’s available from sources around the world. The R&D for this particular technology is available off the shelf. The only rational reason for insisting that R&D is currently a constraint, even trivially, to the adoption of NPP’s is personal bias; perhaps driven from self interest or a blinkered and academic point of view.

    The true constraints to decarbonisation through NPP’s of society, both developed and less developed, are ignorance, misinformation, poor laws and overregulation. Note: I do not include cost or price, because these are driven by the above four factors.

    PS. Don’t know what a Canfield ocean is? I strongly recommend that you find out soon. This knowledge could be very very important to understanding the worst that might happen in the next one or two hundred years.


  91. Why is there no discussion of the issue that nuclear is far too expensive because we are demanding that it be 20 to 200 times* safer that coal; otherwise we don’t want it?

    Once we can get our heads around this issue, perhaps we could start to address it.

    * (Gen II are 10 to 100 times safer than nuclear, Gen III are claimed to be twice as safe as Gen 11, and even that is not sufficient for the Environmental NGO’s Greens and Labor).


  92. Peter Lang – I personally think that the whole issue of what is safer and by what multiple is more PR than it is anything else. To start off with, how is safety quantified in these estimates such that these assertions can be made.

    Safety itself is a multidimensional parameter, and is ill defined in these arguments. For example, most industrial plants measure safety in terms of the number of man-days of labor due to accidents or injury, while in transportation it is often measured by deaths per passenger mile.

    If the measure being used to judge ‘safety’ in comparing electrical generation technology is MTBF (mean time before failure) nuclear is inherently going to be better than combustion technologies.

    This is because the need for higher reliability on those components that will be expensive and difficult to replace due to to the fact that many parts, and the areas they are installed in become radioactive. As a consequence, it is often more cost effective to over build certain parts of a reactor, than accept a shorter lifespan and replace them.

    So until we have some idea what sort of safety is being measured, and how it is being measured, and what the ramifications of a failure are, it is not reasonable to, a) assign a numerical value and b) suggest there is room to effectively cut back.


  93. DV82XL,

    Peter Lang – I personally think that the whole issue of what is safer and by what multiple is more PR than it is anything else. To start off with, how is safety quantified in these estimates such that these assertions can be made.

    Thank you for the comment. I agree with you. I was referring to “total health effects presented as equivalent deaths per TWh”.

    To understand what my statement is based on please refer to figures 1 and 2 in “What is Risk; a simple explanation” here:

    I recognise what you are saying. and could go into more depth if it was warranted, but it is not. It is better to keep it simple – so I’ve discovered in 25 years of this. Otherwise the message I am trying to get across gets lost in ‘down in the weeds’ arguments with people like Jim Green, for example.


  94. OK – fine, but I still contend that the most of the reasons nuclear is safer in that regard is inherent to design features that cannot be cut. As I mentioned before high MTBF components are often required because of the expense of replacing them once they are irradiated. I frankly don’t see that there is a lot of fat to cut on the engineering side of the equation, and I have written at length that the expense of the regulatory burden could be significantly reduced without raising risk by bringing it into line with procedures used in aviation.


  95. This link may have been posted already. “UK Electricity Generation Costs Update”, June 2010, prepared by Mott Macdonald, a highly regarded engineering consulting organisation:

    Click to access 71-uk-electricity-generation-costs-update-.pdf

    Table B.1 gives the following figures in UKP/MWh (Case 1: 10% discount rate, 2009 project start at today’s EPC prices, with mixed FOAK/NOAK)

    Technology; Total levelised cost
    Gas CCGT; 80.3
    Gas CCGT with CCS-FOAK; 112.5
    ASC coal; 104.5
    ASC coal with CCS-FOAK; 142.1
    Coal IGCC- FOAK; 134.6
    Coal IGCC with CCS-FOAK; 147.6
    Onshore wind; 93.9
    Offshore wind-FOAK; 160.9
    Offshore wind R3-FOAK; 190.5
    Nuclear PWR-FOAK; 99

    Also notice figures 6.1 (FOAK) and 6.2 (NOAK). It is interesting to note that the Overnight Cost for nuclear is expected to drop 40% between the 1st unit and the nth unit. If we applied the same percentage reduction to the $3,800/kW capital cost of the first NPP in UAE, the 4 x 1350MW APR1400, then the nth unit (the settled down cost) would cost $2,280. That’s about the same as new coal in Australia. If our government would send the right signal to investors (i.e. the people want ‘least cost nuclear’ not ‘high cost, ridiculously regulated nuclear’) then the 26% investor risk premium that presently applies to nuclear would be shifted, overt time, to coal. With roughly the same capital cost, lower operating costs and 26% investor risk premium removed from nuclear and added to coal, the cost of nuclear generated electricity would be 50% of electricity from coal.

    No carbon price is required to achieve the transition to lower-cost, low-emission electricity. We just need to clean up the mess of government imposed impediments to nuclear and send the right signals to investors through appropriate legislation. We need to make the investors investment in NPP secure against future changes of mind by the government and the people.

    Also, notice in Figure 7.7 how the competitive position of nuclear gains on all other technologies so that by 2017 nuclear provides the lowest cost electricity of all technologies.


  96. DV82XL,

    I appologise, I haven’t caught up with the comments that have been posted over the past week. So I am posting comments without all the background.

    OK – fine, but I still contend that most of the reasons nuclear is safer in that regard is inherent to design features that cannot be cut. As I mentioned before high MTBF components are often required because of the expense of replacing them once they are irradiated. I frankly don’t see that there is a lot of fat to cut on the engineering side of the equation, …

    We are approaching this from different directions.

    Firstly, I agree there is not much we can do to change the engineering of Gen II and Gen III. As you have often pointed out, to change them would take decades. So no point. And it would be impossible to change them even if we wanted to because there is no chance of changing the regulations that have built up over time in the super conservative IAEA.

    So I am not arguing to change the design of the Gen II or Gen III. What I am arguing is that Australia should have a clearly stated requirement to set up a regulatory regime that is as streamlined as possible. We have the opportunity to get that right. We should have the stated aim to get nuclear with LCOE (NOAK) equivalent to Korea’s LCOE (or a little higher because of labor cost differences). If we do not state that requirement up front, the requirement we’ll inevitably get from our poll driven politicians is “we’ll implement nuclear power in Australia with world’s best practice safety standards (plus some)”. Oh yea!. And the most expensive too. And Greenpeace and the rest of the mob will have us taking 20 years to build them.

    I hope I am transmitting clearly this point that I think is really important. We don’t want safest. We want cheap electricity. The cheapest we can get!! It is important for the reasons I’ve outlined on the comments towards the end of the “Alternative to CPRS” thread.

    That was my first point. It is about Gen II and Gen III

    My second line of argument is about the future. I am annoyed by all the talk about greater safety of Gen IV. I don’t want greater safety. The safety is already excessive. (Yes, excessive!!) I want least cost electricity with greater safety than coal and gas, and small units that can be rolled out across Africa and Asia. That is the priority.

    I sometimes like to take the approach of looking at a clean sheet of paper. What could be if we start with a clean sheet of paper and the knowledge we have now? I am influenced by the following line of thought:

    We built the first large reactor, Hanford B, in 21 months from first breaking ground to going critical. The design took about a year (roughly, from memory). And that was 65 years ago. Not only that, but that first plant ran from 1944 to 1968 and had its power up-rated by a factor of 9 (I realise it was not an electricity generator). If engineers could do that 65 years ago, why can’t we get even close now? We should be really embarrassed that we’ve gone backwards so badly in 65 years. I look at this and think we must be able to do far better if we could get the damned Greenies out of the way.

    From this I conclude that we should be able to generate electricity that is nearly too cheap to meter (a little bit of exaggeration, but you get the picture)

    That is the second part of what I am arguing about reducing the cost of nuclear. I accept I often (mostly)don’t make it clear which of these two lines of argument I am talking about.


  97. To get cheaper-than-coal, low-emission electricity generation in Australia we need to do just three things:

    1. Remove the impediments

    2. Clearly state that the most important requirement is for least cost electricity – this means a lean regulatory regime is required.

    3. Change the investor risk premium from nuclear to coal, and to a lesser extent gas. To do this we must send a clear, unambigouus message to investors that nuclear is wanted, and your investment is safe against changes of mind of future governments. You will be fully compensated for any such changes.

    No Carbon Tax on electricity generation is necessary. Nor is it advisable if the real aim is to assist the world to cut emissions.


  98. Peter – Well the point is that talk about increased safety is, in the end, mostly PR. Just about everything in engineering becomes safer as the generations of design go up. Look at aircraft.

    While I guess everyone is tired of seeing me draw parallels with that industry, the fact remains that as designs evolved to be faster, and to lift heaver payloads, they also became safer as a consequence, rather than because of design philosophy per se.

    The breeders that the US operated to make plutonium in the late Forties to early Sixties, are poor comparisons with a modern powerplant. Those reactors took a beating, with frequent fuel failures, corrosion issues, (the reactor needed an average of 200 tube replacements per year) and needed chemical additives to the cooling system that were highly polluting to the river that they drew cooling water from, and rejected back without cooling or treatment. None of which would be acceptable even in a more relaxed regulatory environment, if we had one today.

    I don’t think there is that much space to reduce cost, by reducing safety margins, in GenIV designs, and talk of them being safer, is mostly marketing.


  99. the italian kitegen could be ramped up faster and would not suffer safety regulatiions already in place for decades. it would be cheaper also to built, decomission and repower. it could be built in any industrilised country. please do a tcase on the kitegen.

    greetings from milan,


  100. peter lang:

    how do the wind costs in exhibit no. 2 compare to your costings in your various bnc posts?

    what does exhibit 2 omit in its costing that you include?

    exhibit two notes that renewables costs are not directly comparable to the baseload costs. is this due to the overbuild and storage problems?


  101. Greg Meyerson,

    I don’t trust the Wind cost figures because transmission, grid enhancements, and the additional costs transferred to the back-up generators are not included in the figure. The additional costs transferred to the back up generators include (this is not all):

    1. The capital cost and fixed operating costs have to be covered by less electricity sold;

    2. More starts and stops are required and more time spent in spinning reserve, part loaded and responding to fluctuatring power demand. This means more fuel used, shorter plant life, more plants are needed because each plant is only allowed about 3 start-stop cycles per 24 hours, higher maintenance cost, higher capital cost for plants designed for the operating environment imposed by fluctuating wind power). Without wind in the gris we’d have more CCGT and less OCGT. Without wind in the grid, I expect we’d need less gas capacity altogether (this is not waht the wind industry says, but I am not convinced by the “Capactiy Credit” arguments when applied to high wind capacity penetration.) These costs muyst be passed on to the customer as higher prices for electricity.

    3. The gas transmission system has to be sized to carry the peak demand but less gas is used so the cost per unit is higher. There are major issues with the management of line pack too (the management of the quantity of gas stored in the pipes between maximum and minimum pressure). With irregular, unscheduled use as is the case with wind power in the system, it means the gas system must have more storage.

    Other comments:

    I also don’t trust the CCS figures. These figures are pure conjecture. About as (un)reliable as estimates of the cost of solar thermal and geothermal.

    The LCOE of coal generation would be higher in UK than it would be in Australia. I expect gas would also be considerably higher than in Australia.

    I expect the figure for nuclear is probably in the right ball park for UK, given it is one of the high cost environments. This is the point I keep on making. I expect many people do not want nuclear in Australia if it is going to be high cost like UK, USA, EU and Canada. I don’t want to embark on nuclear in Australia until we can get over what I consider ridiculous impediments to low cost nuclear. As long as the majority of nuclear advocates blogging on BNC are insisting they want high cost nuclear, I am opposed to it. (and please don’t you or the others that keep telling me to shut my trap about excessive safety requirrements, deny that you are demanding a high cost environment like USA, Canada, UK and Europe).

    I want a solution that reducecs the cost of electricity not raises it. It is clearly possible because the countries actually building nuclear are doing it.

    We have massive increases in demand for electricity ahead (eg desalination, electric vehicles, more industrialisation, improving standard of living meaning more demand on electricity, and move from gas to electricity for heating once the cost of heating with electricity is less than with gas).


  102. OK Peter, where exactly do you see places that safety concerns can be relaxed, I am willing to seriously consider anything you can offer, because frankly, I just can’t see it. This rather than disagreeing with your idea outright. Beyond the procedural nonsense in the approval/inspection bureaucracy, which I have always called for, it’s just not clear where the gold plating is.


  103. thanks a lot peter. I appreciate your answer.

    so technically these costs are “telling the truth,” in terms of cents/kwh. they are just not giving us cents/reliable kwh.

    are you satisfied with the caveat where they say that dispatchable and renewable are not comparable? or is this still misleading? seems misleading to me to treat renewable costs the way they do in this figure.


  104. Greg,

    Sorry, my answer above was not to the question you asked. I was answering with respect to the Mott Macdonal report for UK, rather than to Exhibit 2.

    Mean LCOE for on-shore wind is $149.3/MWh in Exhibit 2 . I haven’t checked what is inlcuded in this figure but I expect it is the standard costs which do not include the full costs of transmissions upgrades, grid enhancements (to manage the power quality given the fluctuating power input), and the costs transferred to the back up generators (see my previous post).

    Assuming this is the case then the comparable LCOE for wind energy in Australia (NEM) in 2009 was about A$110/MWh or US$120/MWh.

    The capital cost of wind farms in Australia increased by 25% from April 2009 to April 2010 (ABARE 2010), so LCOE would be higher now. But I expect similar increases have occurred in most Western democracies.

    The short answer to your question is wind energy in Australia would seem to be about 25% cheaper than the mean value quoted in Exhibit 2. If you include the other costs that should be included, who knows how the costs would compare. IEA found it to hard in their latest report so they excluded these costs that should be included.


  105. DV82XL

    OK Peter, where exactly do you see places that safety concerns can be relaxed, I am willing to seriously consider anything you can offer, because frankly, I just can’t see it. This rather than disagreeing with your idea outright. Beyond the procedural nonsense in the approval/inspection bureaucracy, which I have always called for, it’s just not clear where the gold plating is.

    I am not able to tackle the question the way you put it (as I have explained to Douglas Wise in the numerous times he has posed that question).

    I am not able to tackle it because I do not have an intimate understanding of the designs.

    However, I also feel that the question is based on a locked in thinking about what we have already and the practices that have built up.

    That is why I ask you to think about it with a clean sheet of paper.

    The problem is, in my opinion, we have all become so indoctrinated that nuclear is scary and dangerous that we are massively over designing them compared with the level of safety required of all other inductries

    So I am advocating we need to do the following:

    1. Convince the population and the policiians in the western democracies that we have over engineered nuclear and that is making it too expensive. If we want to cut worldf GHG emissions fast wwe need to design Gen IV with the principal aim being low cost electricity generation. Safety requirements to be consistent with other industrial processes.

    2. Change the IAEA’s way of thinking to being focused on achieving low cost electricity as thei primary aim with adequate safety rahter than ridiculous levels of safety. Also change the US NRCm the Canadians. UK, French etc way of thinking.

    3. Design Gen IV with the primary requirement being low cost electricity, and suitable for underdeveloped and developing economies.

    That’s all about Gen IV.

    Right now, in Australia, I want to get the politicans and media to down play the rhetoric about nuclear safety and proliferation and instead focus on getting nuclear at least cost. This means:

    1. Pointing out that nuclear is ridiculously safe and as a result is higher cost than it needs to be.

    2. Any currently available NPP design is more than safe enough (far safer than what we accpt now as safe enough). So we don’t have to focus primarily on safety. Instead we need to focus on what we need to do to get low-cost, clean electricity in Australia.

    3. To get low cost, clean electricity we need to remove all the impediments that are blocking it.

    4. And we need to send an unambiguous message to investors that Australia’s future electricity supply will be least-cost, low-emission electricity generation not fossil fuel generation.

    5. We can transmit this message by clearly removing all the regulatory impediments as well as legislating as I’ve discussed previously.


  106. DV82XL,

    Up thread you said:

    I frankly don’t see that there is a lot of fat to cut on the engineering side of the equation, and I have written at length that the expense of the regulatory burden could be significantly reduced without raising risk by bringing it into line with procedures used in aviation.

    I have a question to you. But first a preamble

    There are three components where costs may be reduced:

    #1. Design and construction

    #2. regulatory environment, siting requirements, etc

    #3. Investor risk premium, Sovereign Risk” security for investors, secure long term future for the industry (as distinct to what is now happening with the renewable energy industry)

    You argue that little can be done regarding #1. I don’t think I believe this for future generations of fission power plants. However, I’ll leave this aside for now.

    We can do a lot about #2 as you point out. But it cannot be done quickly because enormous bureaucracies with enormous numbers of stakeholders and enormous inertia are involved – IAEA, NRC, etc. What we can do is establish a lean regulatory regime in Australia, that is still consistent with the IAEA regulations (but at a minimum level not a maximum level). Many other small economies have done this before us, so we should take the best of what thye have done and focus on achieving an appropriate (light) regulatory regime for Australia. If we can’t get the media and politicans to focus on this, we’ll end up with a monster based on US NRC, or Canada or UK or EU. That will embed high cost nuclear in Australia forever. People here need to understand this and take it seriously.

    The really big opportunity to allow us to get low-cost nuclear generation in Australia, quickly, is #3. As I said in a previous comment, we can, by passing new legislation and by removing the impediments to nuclear (of which there are huge numbers throughout federal and state systems), move the investor risk premium off nuclear and onto coal and gas. If this is fully achieved it would mean a reduction of cost of nuclear of 26% (based on MIT, 2009, for USA) and an increase of (I guess for the sake of argument) 26% to coal. This would make nuclear significantly cheaper than coal in Australia. I recognise my figures may be over the top, but it is the message that is important at this stage.

    I am desperate to get the message across to others as to just how important it is that we change the message from what we’ve been sending.

    We must offer the Australian public
    cheaper electricity, that will also be low emission and safer than what we have nowl There will be transition costs until the industry is established. These transition costs will be carried by the government. The government must ecplain: Nuclear is necessary for the following reasons:

    1. energy security in a carbon constrained world (no matter what the justification for the constraint may be)

    2. Safer and cleaner environment than continuing with fossil fuel

    3. The least cost way to reduce emissions from electricity generation

    4. Only technology that can provide the amount of power we will need to meet the growing demand for: desalination, electric vehicles, airconditioning, replacement of gas for heating, increasing industrialisation, ever increasing demand for services and increasing standard of living.

    Now for my question to you:

    the expense of the regulatory burden could be significantly reduced without raising risk by bringing it into line with procedures used in aviation.

    How would you propose that the world proceed to do this? (by the way, I strongly support the aim and believe it will happen, over time)? How could it be accelerated (realistically)? What are the steps? How long would it take (realistically)? My feeling is it will take decades in reality.


  107. Greg,

    peter: when you say you are not persuaded by the capacity credit arguments, does this mean you think the wind industry exaggerates firm power numbers?

    Two points:

    1. Yes I do believe the wind industry overstates the firm power that will be available at higher penetration levels. I’ve often pointed to the real world figures coming from grids like the Australian NEM, European grid, UK, Ireland, and Texas to name a few.

    2. For me the bigger point is that I believe having wind in the system means more gas capacity is required than if no wind is in the system. A really rough, very simplistic analysis bu Luke_UK on another thread came up with a number of 25% more gas capacity is needed if wind had 100% capacity penetration. Luke_UK would not have meant his very rough figure to have been quoted as I have done here, but it illustrates for me that I do n ot believe wind power will give any reduction in back-up capacity. I also recognise that a “Loss of Load Probability Analysis: is required to do this analysis properly.

    I also await the results of the OzEA analysis for Australia.


  108. Peter – The problem is your premise, that there is room to relax safety standards and thus reduce cost, is flawed, at least in terms of design.

    I explained a bit up thread that higher performance in transportation technology simply requires higher reliability in components, which yields a greater safety margin as a bonus. The reason they are linked is because as speed, and payload increase, parts have to become more robust if they are to preform at all at the greater loads expected of them. As an example, we cannot go back to narrow, single-ply tires on our cars, they would not support the weight of the machine sitting still.

    The point here is that GenIV will run at much higher temperatures, with higher neutron fluxes, and with exotic (read corrosive) coolants. Because of these factors, they must be built with stronger materials, and constructed to higher tolerances, which will increase the overall safety of the plant as a consequence.

    If you are looking for a reactor suitable for the Third World, we do not need to go back to the drawing board as the PHWR offered by India’s NPCIL is available now. This reactor, a small CANDU knock-off is about as simple a design as one can get, does not require a large pressure vessel, uses very little in the way of exotic material, and runs on unenriched uranium. You can’t make them less expensively, and at 220MWe, they are the right size too for that market.

    Frankly claiming without proof that nuclear is over engineered, is not going to garner much support in the industry. It is just not a credible position to take. And no one will take it seriously at all if you can’t point to where the over building, and over engineering is occurring. Simply saying ‘I believe’ to a group of engineers won’t get you far.

    You should not use the Hanford reactors as any example. All of them needed such a massive amount of continual maintenance right from the beginning that had they been commercial power units, they would have been considered an abject failure.

    However I agree that removing all regulatory impediments, is long over due, and all one has to do is look at the bloody nonsense going on in Canada as I write with the two overhauls of existing units in progress at the moment. The overzealous idiots providing inspection oversight refuse to apply basic failure analysis, and have consistently overreacted to the least deviation or finding with extreme and ridiculous demands that have driven these projects over cost and late.

    I don’t see that it is impossible to reduce the regulatory burden on nuclear energy. Several years ago the Canadian government fired the chair of the Canadian regulator when she became obstreperous over reopening an isotope reactor that many countries depended on to supply medical material.

    Because these commissions are independent, this could not be done by order-in-council, (whim of the PM) but had to go to Parliament as a whole. Even though there was a minority government in power, and even though this was a ‘nuclear safety’ issue that was bound to draw flack, the chair was dismissed. Why? Because public opinion wouldn’t stand for sick people being left holding the bag because of some defiant mandarin.

    The reactor was restarted in a mater of days, and kept running until backup was arranged so that it could get a full overhaul. The lesson here is that with public opinion behind you, regulation can be tamed.

    Frankly the issue of investor risk is also tied up with the regulatory environment simply because that is the source of the endless delays that plague nuclear projects in the US, UK and Canada. Once the distortions caused by these are removed, nuclear can take care of itself in the capital marketplace.

    Thus the major thrust of the pronuclear movement needs to be outreach and education, because example after example shows that when enough people are mobilized, governments will listen. And getting regulation under control is just the sort of thing that public opinion can accomplish.


  109. @DV82XL:

    Fine contribution, thanks. I see no value in presenting a public face which even hints that the success of nuclear pp’s, either in Oz or anywhere else, depends on reducing safety provisions.

    The common ground on this thread appears to be the needs to:
    1. Level the safety playing field, so that all energy technologies are expected to achieve, measure and report consistently, so that comparisons are chrystal clear (ie regulatory harmonisation);
    2. Further level the safety playing field by using safety data to ensure equivalent outcomes (legal harmonisation);
    3. Environmental comparisons between technologies be assessed against the same yardsticks (More regulatory harmonisation); and
    4. Mobilising populations to demand that public and worker safety not be placed at unnecessary demonstrable risk (Public education and political policy formulation); and
    5. Removal of redundant (ie duplicated or overlapping) regulation within the power industry.

    It is this last where I perceive the greatest real gains can be made. It is also probably the hardest nut to crack, because of public misconceptions, lingering Helen Caldicott nonsense and outright spin coming from deep within established energy sectors against rational argument of anything nuclear, wind, solar or in any way “renewable”, whatever that term may mean in an era of throw-away solar and wind farms.

    Note: I do not rate highly ad hominen attacks on contributors to discussions on this site; to hectoring of contributors; or blatant party political stances by leading contributors. All these are negative and are best avoided as we find ways to work together towards public acceptance of rational consideration of safe, clean, available, NPP’s, which while possibly not the absolutely cheapest option on Australia’s table, are certainly cheaper than many unreliable and/or unproven alternatives which are currently finding both public and private support and funding.

    It is not about costs and funding. It is about building public and private support via development of an appropriate image, which culture wars and internal sh_tfights do nothing to achieve.


  110. In Table 2 the term ‘advanced coal’ could mean both supercritical water ( T>374C,P>230 bar) or gasified coal (IGCC) with conventional boilers. As far as I can tell no-one has set up a supercritical coal plant with carbon capture. An IGCC plant with CCS exists in North Dakota US but with atypical economics; it is fully depreciated, the CO2 is sold for oil recovery and no doubt the govt helps with subsidies.

    It is interesting to note that both supercritical coal with CCS (as yet undemonstrated) and combined cycle gas apparently without CCS have been considered for the water cooled 2 GWe Bayswater 2 baseload plant in the Hunter Valley, NSW. The operators say that gas is too expensive but carbon tax will swing the decision to gas anyway. I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision still went to coal if they promised to be ‘carbon capture ready’. They’ll need to promise to pump captured CO2 to remote depleted gas wells, say a decade after starting. During that time I’d guess they would be exempt from carbon tax. Problem solved.


  111. @John Newlands:
    Bayswater B power station has been approved to be “Construction and operation of a new base load power station and associated infrastructure with a maximum generating capacity of 2000 megawatts. The power station would be powered by either coal (using ultra-supercritical generating technology) or natural gas (using combined cycle generating technology). ”

    I am finding it difficult to locate specific details on Macquarie Generation’s site and that of Planning NSW, but from memory, dry cooling was envisaged, as also CCS, but this only for the coal fired units.

    Limited further information is available at: http://www.macgen.com.au/News/2008News/BB%20Summary.pdf

    I imagine that the planning submission is a public document and that it is available on-line from Planning NSW, but their site’s search facilities are somewhat rudimentary.


  112. @ Peter Lang:

    Yes, I did say that, and some more. It’s time certain contributors took a long hard private look at the way they present their arguments, with a view to accenting the positive and avoiding the negative and thus perhaps to win hearts and minds.

    I do NOT accept that by saying this that I am being in any way hypocritical. This is yet another dose of slander, but to what end? I’ve been accused of being socialist, left-wing, hypocritical, ignorant of commercial reality… on and on it goes – but for what reason? And to gain what in the end? Going out of one’s way to make enemies does not appear to me to be a smart tactic, yet many have copped this approach in these columns and I find now that I am accused of being hypocritical for objecting.

    So frequently, on BNC, the negativity comes directly from one repeat offender who, instead of responding to argument, dives straight into the gutter of invective and displays his conviction in his own omniscience.

    Peter is quite entitled to be proud of his original work which has led many of the threads on BNC – it is frequently concise, very readable, well supported by references and able to withstand critism well, emerging often unscathed.

    It is the rude , personal stuff, mixed with doses of political prejudice, that devalues the good work. Decorum goes down the toilet and I am sure that it is not only me who feels this way, as an examination of the 100+ contributions to this thread would verify.

    BNC would be a far better place to visit if a contributors’ code of conduct was respected by all, but this must start at the top or we will all progressively drift away to less unpleasant sites.

    Barry has previously offered to delete the interpersonal stuff as well he may choose to do with this message, but this will not address the core issue.

    Isn’t it time that standards were set and that polite respect was placed at the top of the list?


  113. Well said John Bennetts I agree entirely.

    Personally I really value both yours and Peter Lang’s contributions to this site as both have so much to offer, but find it sad when the comments become personal. The value of this site is that facts, data and evidence generally drive the debate


  114. 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.


  115. I agree with the short term outlook about bulldust called CCS ready coal will get built and that gas, very expensive greenpower (wind, waves and solar), more dough spent on geothermal and so forth will also.

    Unfortunately, cost isn’t the driver – fashion is. If cost was the determinant of what actually gets built, then rational debate centred on costs would carry the day and nuclear power would gain a seat at least some of the spoils immediately, by displacing higher cost alternatives which are currently being funded. Wind and solar would melt away.

    By fashion, I mean political and social grassroots fashion. Not rationally based, but populist. Populism is king and is currently winning the PR war.

    What nuclear (and the planet) needs is for the folly of high cost and even higher priced greenpower scams to be exposed publicly and rigorously for what they are.

    Combine this with an attack of logic against the last refuge of the illinformed – safety, and the tide of public opinion will turn, perhaps slowly at first. It’s happening right here on this site.

    As the tide picks up momentum, the speed of nuclear power construction will, I believe, be embraced by the majority, one jurisdiction at a time. This will be irreversible because the urgency of GHG reduction will drive the search for quick and effective solutions.

    Again, note that price is far from being the determinant. It is a factor and will remain so, but the determining factor, the strongest card in the deck, is the ability of nuclear fission to deliver today what is needed for tomorrow and to develop tomorrow that which is needed thereafter – Type IV at competitive prices.

    How does Australia ensure that they are not least favoured amongst possible suppliers? We must ensure that the emotional arguments of the green-or-nothing crowd are exposed each time they are trotted out and systematically turned back on those who attempt to use false argument. We must ensure that Australia is early, rather than late, in the queue for available manufacturing capacity. We must ensure that politicians understand that their political lives depend on their moving beyond sloganeering and that they adopt knowledge-based decision making tools.

    I didn’t emphasise cost, because politicians will find the money for that which is demanded of them… like the current wasted billions on intermittent “green” half-solutions.

    Oh, one further thought… How can the uranium miners of the world be persuaded to clean up their public image?


  116. John Bennetts said:

    Yes, I did say that, and some more. It’s time certain contributors took a long hard private look at the way they present their arguments, with a view to accenting the positive and avoiding the negative and thus perhaps to win hearts and minds.

    I do NOT accept that by saying this that I am being in any way hypocritical.

    And, upthread he said:

    Either Arthur doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is mischieviously passing on rumours.


    Arthur needs remedial reading classes.

    Please, Arthur, do try to read and understand what is before you. As it is, some are probably doubting your intellectual capacity… why post nonsense and remove all doubt?


    Arthur is trying my patience again.

    Arthur should try harder to keep up.


    Thankfully and unlike some, I have no idea who Arthur is. Please don’t enlighten me.


    Leaving the interpersonal shenanigans aside just this once…

    How generous!


  117. I still can`t understand why anybody would bother to built any new old (gen III and below) nuclear plant.

    Why bother with all the problems that are not solved?
    Waste management, uran mining, proliferation, high capital cost/risk (though I doubt there is any when a plant goes online…power companys just make more money every year…)
    There has been massive money wasted that could have done away with storage problems long time ago and would have been better invested into the grid.

    Germany has spent around 100billion € of tax money on nuclear plants in the last 30 years. It is absolutly clear that the german nuclear program failed.
    The German Sodium reaktor KNK!1 (Kompakte Natriumgekühlte Kernreaktoranlage Karlsruhe) was a massive failure.
    Kalkar is another example. Around 4 billion € wasted on a fast sodium cooled reactor.

    On the other hand we have solutions for 100% renewable energy programms…not one but a many.

    Ever heared about the ringwallstorage (Ringwall Speicher)?


    You can built it everywhere, combine it with desal, tourism and other power generating technologies (updraft plants on the slopes, wind, solar, otec pumping, offshore or barge placed kitegen, even built a kitegen carousel around the perimeter, biomass, gas,…).

    30 of this would enable 100% renewable for Germany. You could reduce capacity as more power generation and storage is added around Europe.


  118. Ok, this is my “wrap-up” post, before disappearing again as promised in previous thread. See also the two external links from that comment for a “mainstream” version of my general position.

    1. I’m glad Barry started this thread because of agreement with Peter Lang, DV82XL and me that costs are a “critical issue”. Differences over “how critical” in comparison to other issues that have been the focus here and differences over specific costs issues are less important than recognizing that.

    2. I hope “Costs” ends up becoming a major tabbed section like “Renewable Limits” (the one I found most useful), “Sceptics” and “Sustainable Nuclear” (which may be of more interest to “regulars”).

    3. In my view it would be really useful to graduallly develop a “primer” explaining how costs are modelled and helping people gain an intuitive understanding of relevant issues like capacity factors (as opposed to availability), dispatchability (as opposed to “baseload” versus “peak”) and “gambler’s ruin” (markov models of random walks for sunshine and wind and long transmission line and HVDC conversion forced outage rates for remote renewable resources in UnServed Energy estimation). There’s more than enough detailed information available from documents that have been linked here (and others readily available on the web) from AEMO, AER, EPRI, Mott & McDonald, ACIL, CIGRE, ABARE etc etc. A well expressed high level overview of the relevant factors would be far more useful than quoting snippets and random facts about particular projects and developments. It could actually influence policy makers who are clearly ignorant of these matters and incapable of understanding the more detailed material.

    4. I am in full agreement that any minimal understanding of the issues would result in recognizing that solar and wind are a diversion from dealing with climate change issues and that nuclear is the least cost clean energy technology available now.

    5. In my view a fuller understanding of the costs issues would result in agreement that 1) it doesn’t matter much what Australia does to accelerate locally switching to nuclear – the climate outcomes don’t depend on us but on what gets used in the countries now industrializing with coal and reaching NOAK deployment costs of nuclear here will have no significant effect in further reducing its costs worldwide compared with what’s happening anyway eg in China 2) Australia is likely to remain one of the laggards in switching to clean energy because of exceptionally cheap coal regardless of any changes in public opinion about nuclear 3) Australia could contribute far more to promotion of massive global R&D by example and it would be a more realistic strategy to counter the greenie promotion of “selling indulgences” for our high per capita emissions by nailing some theses to the door denouncing indulgences and demanding we cough up a major contribution to R&D and eliminate any subsidies to actual deployment of wind and solar and add those savings to our R&D contribution.

    6. I agree with Peter Lang in the last comment I saw before starting this:

    …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.

    However I think the fundamental reason is that coal is so cheap in Australia and that would remain true if everyone here agreed with Peter and as a result were more successful in swinging public opinion.

    The “deep resistance” would be rapidly eroded by a well financed education campaign if there was a realistic prospect of competing with coal and gas in Australia on LCOE. This “deep resistance” has not significantly inhibited uranium mining where there is money to be made, nor is there the slightest chance coal idustry export revenue would be sacrificed to “the greatest moral issue of our time”. I can even imagine the Victorian government simultaneously starting to shutdown brown coal stations to appease greenies while also promoting exports of brown coal if that became feasible. So I think there will be no problem overcoming the “deep resistance” once nuclear is ACTUALLY cheaper rather than merely potentially or allegedly cheaper.

    7. Capitalist interests tend to only fund public education campaigns when there is money at stake and only perform R&D when they have hopes of capturing the benefits instead of letting benefits “leak” to the rest of the world. However they did fund the manhattan project during world war II and lots of Cold War R&D and there’s more hope of winning a fight for R&D funds than for any other alternative to their current tactic of spending whatever it takes to pander to and buy off greenies while fundamentally continuing with “business as usual”.

    8. Even with everyone having exactly the same understanding of the relevant factors for projected costs with current R&D levels, opinions are certain to differ as to what priority should be given to different types of increased RD&D for basic research, strategic research, applied research, experimental development and demonstration into nuclear fission, fusion, renewables, geoengineering, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. That matters a lot less. Allocation decisions are unlikely to be influenced greatly by public debate anyway whereas switching expenditure from wind/gas and solar subsidies to R&D could be influenced by what we do.

    9. Now as it is rude to invite comments without engaging in follow up, I’ll sign off by responding to comments I had not seen before my last comment in this thread, that appear to be responses to or related to things I said earlier (plus some others because I can’t resist, but with this advance notice that I’m not likely to be able to engage further).

    In chronological order from timestamp below:

    @David B Benson, 11 November, 10:08 AM

    10. My speculation would be that Vietnam is buying more reactors instead of Australian coal for similar reasons to other countries like Japan, Korea and China doing so. Coal costs vary enormously with transport costs and are cheapest when low cost mines are local. The dramatic boom in Australian coal revenue results from export to these countries at boom prices which would encourage greater hedging of alternatives.

    Also perhaps a strategic hedge to enable more rapid nuclear weapons development with sufficient skills base if needed in light of Chinese naval expansion and competition with Vietnam for ownership of various islands that may have fossil fuels in their surrounding economic zone.

    Both suggestions are only unverified speculaton on my part. I’m not interested in looking up info on such snippets as they distract from the more important well established data on actual technology cost trends in much the same way that similar factoids from renewables advocates distract attention. See also less speculative response on similar factoids re China below.


    11. I have read the renaissance thread and fully agree that the nuclear fission industry was just having a nap rather than nailed to its perch. But its too early to call it a “renaissance” rather than simply “signs of life”.

    China increasing its nuclear generation from 2% to 5% instead of 4% could be due to many things. One of them is certainly the very rapid expansion of coal generation leading to a swing from net exporter to net importer at boom prices from Australia.

    There’s an article in the Sunday Age today from Guy Pearse complaining about “no hint of foreboding” and complete lack of interest in CCS at the World Coal Conference.

    It quotes triumphalist opening session speech that since “great debate” on climate change began, coal consumption has gone from 3.6 billion tonnes p.a. to nearly 7 billion tonnes and is expected to reach 11-12 billion by 2030. Chinese coal is expected to rise from 3 to 5.5 billion tonnes by 2020.

    If you call the reversal of decline in nuclear a “renaissance” what superlative would you use for the growth of coal and corresponding emissions?

    Most of the extraordinarily rapid growth of Chinese coal has been in north China while much of the electricity load is in the south. Its interesting that most of the planned new nuclear plants are more in the south than the existing ones. This map shows only twice as many new blue and green dots (4) in the north as red dots (2) for existing plant, but 12 new or 6 times as many compared with the two existing that are not as far north.

    As well as an increased hedge against coal costs rising, this looks like an essential step to avoid transport bottlenecks while expanding transport capacity to cope with the increased movement of coal. Upgrading a route also disrupts it, which you don’t want to do while it is already congested or you will have major traffic jams. Nuclear construction times under Chinese regulatory regime could be faster than upgrading rail and road links already near capacity limits.

    It looks like they severely underestimated the amount of accelerated nuclear they would need in the south while expanding transport capacity.

    Checkout the tens of thousands of coal trucks stuck in the world’s largest traffic jam, which looks like being recurrent for the next few years.

    BTW the previous Chinese nuclear target of 70 GWe is about the same as the capacity shortfall they had a couple of years ago due to planning errors. Coal stocks fell below 7 days and they had to shut down some coal plants. The nuclear target total is comparable to Chinese planning errors. Rather a small hedge compared with the total.



    …the fact is that a NNP, especially CANDU, or the Indian knock-off, can be built for about the same cost as a modern high performance coal burner.

    There are more than 50 google hits for the words CANDU, cost and DV82XL together on pages at this site, so I’m not willing to check through them looking for a link or explanation.

    I don’t know anything about CANDU or much about nuclear plant technology in general.

    I do know that nuclear fuel and other opex costs are lower than coal so if there was was some available reactor type with lower capex than coal then nuclear would already show lower LCOE than coal. This would be a game changer and your link would conclusively end all argument.

    I assume there is no such link and that this is some novel usage of the words “can be built for about the same cost” or of the words “modern high performance coal burner” that I am unfamiliar with.

    Peter Lang,


    Why is there no discussion of the issue that nuclear is far too expensive because we are demanding that it be 20 to 200 times* safer that coal; otherwise we don’t want it?

    FWIW as an observer with no claim to expertize on nuclear costs, the responses by DV82XL seem very convincing.

    I gather you do both agree that unnecessary regulatory burden (as opposed to actual safety levels) significantly increases costs, especially by increasing the lead time for planning and construction before revenue starts offsetting the capex.

    Please note that in developing countries the only regulatory burden is likely to be the cost of corruption. eg Most Chinese and Indian coal plants don’t have the pollution controls mandatory in developed countries to avoid acid rain etc and the safety record of the Chinese coal mining industry is quite deadly.

    Indian and Chinese power engineers will certainly agree:

    We don’t want safest. We want cheap electricity. The cheapest we can get!!

    So nuclear ought to already appear competitive in such countries if EU and US style regulation is the only obstacle. Nevertheless the figures still show higher LCOE for nuclear than for coal, even in China where corruption is quite extreme and planning and construction times are suspiciously short.

    I would worry more about some Chernobyl style setback occurring in a developing country as a result of relaxed regulatory environment. Even Japan has built nuclear plants in earthquake zones without sufficient protection to prevent extended closure with small radiation leaks following a quake and has also had shutdowns from discovery of falsified inspection records. This means they aren’t even adequately protecting the economic interest in safety that DV82XL explained.

    14. Thanks for UK costs link from M&M. It includes very useful background on the model for generation costs. (With the major limitation of comparing all technologies as though they had baseload capacity factors and not considering the system costs that ought to be added to direct costs of variable wind).

    No carbon price is required to achieve the transition to lower-cost, low-emission electricity. …

    Also, notice in Figure 7.7 how the competitive position of nuclear gains on all other technologies so that by 2017 nuclear provides the lowest cost electricity of all technologies.

    Nope! The data provided in table B.1 has a row which clearly shows how to separate out carbon prices from the totals you quoted. Subtract that row and you will see that ASC coal still clearly beats nuclear after taking into account the shift from nuclear FOAK to NOAK in 2017 (case 5) and 2023 (case 6) as well as for the FOAK case 1 for which you quoted totals with carbon price included.

    What matters in dealing with the billions of tonnes of extra coal consumption expected from the developing world is the costs without carbon prices. What the UK charges itself for coal and gas is almost as irrelevant as what Australia does.

    The projected costs are close enough for UK by 2023 so that R&D should look more attractive to you as being more likely to get nuclear LCOE below coal by that date then any other way of going about it. To see this you first have to say clearly to yourself “nuclear still really does cost more than coal, what can we do about that?” instead of being taken in by soothing impressions created by illusory carbon prices.

    The usual answer to this well understood situation is “let’s impose a carbon price” (or propose one and talk as though it is inevitable and will happen worldwide). Since you agree that’s not the right answer, and you are unable to refute DV82XL on “gold plating” of safety, you ought to admit that R&D is the best option available. (Even if we disagree on how much to also broaden R&D beyond improved fission reactor designs in case lowering the cost of fission through massive publicly funded additional R&D still doesn’t work).


    … Without wind in the grid we’d have more CCGT and less OCGT. …

    I agree with the surrounding explanation of wind adding to costs. It doesn’t matter much, but I don’t follow the connection claimed with CCGT and OCGT. My understanding is that CCGT has superior maneuverability (ramp rates) startup delays, efficiency, availability (forced outage rates) and every other technical paramater to OCGT so would be preferred to OCGT to compensate for the variable wind generation.

    I’m pretty sure OCGT is preferred for peaking despite being technically inferior in every respect, purely because the lower OCGT capex outweighs higher OCGT opex and everything else when you need extra capacity only used for a small part of the day in the peak season. (Perhaps also preferred as local alternative to transmission investment for serving load from more distant cheaper plant due to quicker construction times as well as lower capex).

    BTW I suspect two additional costs of wind are less generator inertia available making frequency control paramaters tighter and cut outs at high wind speed requiring more 6 second, 1 minute and 5 minute spinning reserve. The 2 GW wind bubbles in ZCA2020 would have highly correlated drop outs at high wind and presumably increase Minimum Reserve Level to 4 GW for N+1+1 recovery within 30 minutes.


    I want a solution that reduces the cost of electricity not raises it. It is clearly possible because the countries actually building nuclear are doing it.

    We have massive increases in demand for electricity ahead (eg desalination, electric vehicles, more industrialisation, improving standard of living meaning more demand on electricity, and move from gas to electricity for heating once the cost of heating with electricity is less than with gas).

    This is what I totally agree with. It is obviously even more important for developing countries than for Australia and developing countries are what matters both from the narrow perspective of carbon emissions and climate change and from the broader perspective of human progress.

    (Also move from oil to electricity for transport.)


    There are three components where costs may be reduced:

    #3. Investor risk premium, Sovereign Risk” security for investors, secure long term future for the industry (as distinct to what is now happening with the renewable energy industry)

    The really big opportunity to allow us to get low-cost nuclear generation in Australia, quickly, is #3. As I said in a previous comment, we can, by passing new legislation and by removing the impediments to nuclear (of which there are huge numbers throughout federal and state systems), move the investor risk premium off nuclear and onto coal and gas. .

    Legislation cannot remove sovereign risk because the executive government normally has a reliable legislative majority and can exercise the sovereign prerogative to change its legislation at the expense of investors.

    To obtain loans from overseas bondholders a 1928 referendum added an interesting element of protection from sovereign risk by s.105A(5) making loan agreements binding (ie enforceable by bondholders in any court) regardless of any legislation.

    Every such agreement and any such variation thereof shall be binding upon the Commonwealth and the States parties thereto notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution or the Constitution of the several States or in any law of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State.

    The wording also appears to overide any provision of the constitution itself, including the sovereign power of the people to amend the constitution by referendum and the protection of the Commonwealth from sequestration of assets.

    So there is away to eliminate the risk premium for nuclear (but you aren’t going to like it).

    You can provide the best possible guarantee against sovereign risk by simply issuing nuclear bonds in international currencies and having the Australian Government assume all investment risk by adding it to the national debt.

    Not sure how convinced investors would be though. A referendum in Iceland refused to repay an EU emergency loan extended when the country went bankrupt recently. Also Newfoundland was put under receivership during the last depression when it was a separate dominion. Ultimately the risks of investment always include the risk of bankruptcy and revolution.

    Still sovereign debt really is the best you can do in practice to remove a risk premium.

    (I did say you aren’t going to like it ;-)

    Sorry I cannot participate further for a while.


  119. Heavyweather,

    Isn’t is amazing how different people can interpret the available evidence so differently. Your interpretation and my interpretation of the available evidence is polar opposites. I’ll respond to a few of your statements:

    I still can`t understand why anybody would bother to built any new old (gen III and below) nuclear plant.

    Because Gen II and Gen III are the least cost way to provide the electricity modern society demands while cutting submissions almost entirely from electricity generation. Gen IV are not ready yet, renewables cannot contribute any meaningful energy or reliable power to the grid and are hugely expensive.

    Why bother with all the problems that are not solved?
    Waste management, uran mining, proliferation, high capital cost/risk (though I doubt there is any when a plant goes online…power companys just make more money every year…)

    “Waste management” is actually the management of ‘once used nuclear fuel’. It is trivial in quantity and trivial in cost compared with the management of waste from the other electricity generation technologies that are capable of providing society’s power needs. The cost of managing ‘once used nuclear fuel’ is already included in the cost of electricity from nuclear power plants. But not from any other generator. From other generators it is simply released to the environment – the quantities are far too large to be managed or contained.

    There has been massive money wasted that could have done away with storage problems long time ago and would have been better invested into the grid.

    I agree there has been massive money wasted. But I blame that on the activities of the anti-nuclear protesters and Greenies over the past 40 odd years. They have forced ridiculous requirements and enormous waste. If they had not blocked nuclear development in every way possible world GHG emissions would be about 20% lower now than they are.

    Germany has spent around 100billion € of tax money on nuclear plants in the last 30 years. It is absolutly clear that the german nuclear program failed.

    Germany has spent about 100billion € of tax money on non-hydro renewable energy in the past 10 years!, http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/10/21/germany-s-renewable-myth.aspx . And it provides just a few percent of Germany’s electricity – and not when the customer demands it!! Conversely, nuclear supplies about 23% of Germany’s electricity and subsidises coal production and renewable energy. The government keeps upping the taxes and levies on nuclear to pay for renewables and coal to keep the coal miners and the Greenies happy. So, please tell me, which is the waste of money? Nuclear or renewables?

    Germany’s nuclear program was a success but torpedoed by Greens in a coalition government. That is real waste. That is what has severely damaged Germany’s economy.

    The German Sodium reaktor KNK!1 (Kompakte Natriumgekühlte Kernreaktoranlage Karlsruhe) was a massive failure.
    Kalkar is another example. Around 4 billion € wasted on a fast sodium cooled reactor.

    How much of the failure is due to Greenie activities?

    Applying your logic you’d have to agree that all solar energy programs are a massive failure and a massive waste of taxpayer money. They’ve produced virtually no useful power, are massively subsidised, uncommercial and never likely to be commercial without government subsidies. A massive waste of taxpayers’ money.

    On the other hand we have solutions for 100% renewable energy programms…not one but a many.

    Nonsense. There are none. Show me any middle or large size economy where non-hydro renewables provide the bulk of the electricity supply.

    Ever heared about the ringwallstorage (Ringwall Speicher)?

    What is the actual cost of storage (power and energy storage capacity) and the life time. I mean actual cost of actual plants that have been operating for at least a decade (not the advocates estimates).


  120. This site attracts its share of dreamers.

    One them, Heavyweather, has just with straight face proposed a ring wall system of pumped storage and other bits and pieces.

    Review of the linked site indicates that the proposal has never been trialled and in concept form requires 800 square kilometres of worked out brown coal mine, within which an 11km diameter ring wall is constructed. The idea is that, within this wall, pumped storage of at least 200 metres height will provide a cornucopian power supply. Don’t forget the 2000 wind turbines and many square kilometres of solar PV collectors which will provide the energy to pump the ringwall full.

    Just the earthworks will be of the order of 3 billion cubic metres per installation. Let’s say $10 per cubic metre – $30B just for earthworks.

    It is not within the reach of budgetary prudence to devote say $50B and a huge terrestrial footprint to achieve only 2 GW of power supply, which may or may not be reliable. On an existing brownfields site, $5B or $6B should be able to achieve the same result using 2 x 1000MW Type III nuclear and achieve far better reliability and availability. The energy sent out would have to be at least 3 or 4 times better than Ringwall.

    Indeed, given the size of the footprint, this project is doomed due to environmental concerns well before economics and egineering are considered.

    I consider this to be the most outrageously impractical power station proposal I have ever seen. Thanks for the laugh.

    Oh, and before I go… where will the initial fill of a couple of hundred of cubic kilometres of water in the dam come from? Evaporation losses from 800 sq km of pond will require replenishment of at least 500mm per year… allow for another 40 – 100 billion litres annually, plus any thermal forcing and seepage.

    I’m still laughing.


  121. Peter

    You should discuss the ringwallstorage with Matthias Popp.
    Maybe he can enlighten you about the cost and benefit of renewable power.
    He wrote his dissertation about energy storage and renewable systems in Europe.
    He has calculated the need for windbackup on historical data, one of the most qualified studies ever done in Germany.

    Maybe you could invite him for an article on the idea or just to join the this thread.
    You obviously have no idea what you are dealing with.

    Its pumped hydro so the cost sinks with the size of the ring.
    The bigger the better.
    A 2GW ringwall compared to Germanys Goldisthal about 1/3 cheaper per kWh.

    You won`t abolish “Greenies” or have any impact on German laws…so drop that argument for GenII and III…they are not the least cost way. They are a brilliant way to hide cost for the power companys and drain money from tax payers.

    The positive market mechanism of renewables in Germany has been described in recent month.
    It is simply wrong that solar is driving price and that nuclear is cheaper.

    The price is made at the Strombörse. The customer does not gain from nuclear power…guess who does…RWE and others…
    Solar is merely an excuse to charge the customer.

    your link…manuel frondl…funny.
    He has just been exposed for bad science and guess who was funding his “studies” about German solar…
    I hope you understand German.

    better not try to judge about foreign policies or developements when you have no clue about your sources of information.


  122. Arthur seeks explanation of the practical difference between OCGT and CCGT.

    He has one point correct – low capex for simpler but less efficient OCGT tends to drive the decision towards OCGT.

    The other thing going for OCGT is the lower thermal mass, which enables the plant to reach full operating capacity faster and to reduce load or even go off-line faster than for CCGT. The limits to the loading and unloading rates have to do with avoiding damaging differential temperatures in the steam side of the plant, but this is an oversimplification.


  123. For those who would like to read an experts view on baseload power, I strongly recommend this article published in Electric Perspectives, written by a US utility CEO.

    Click to access 2010-09-01-BASELOAD.pdf

    It really gets renewable energy into perspective in a very balanced way and explains the relative positions of gas, nuclear and coal. It is a must read for all those baseload sceptics (Amory Lovins, Michael Goggin et al).


  124. Arthur, on 15 November 2010 at 2:27 AM — My guess regarding the Vietnam deal to obtain two NPPs from the Japanese is that, in return, the Japanese obtain access to the Vietnamese rare earth mineral supply.

    Looks like back-scratching to me.


  125. Martin,

    As an engineer with several decades’ experience, mainly at baseload stations but also GT, I salute that article.

    It brings many complex issues together in a straight-forward logical manner without resorting to technical jargon.

    Perhaps the only comment I would make re US experience differing from Australian is that our NEM is generally a much more sophisticated animal than their dispatch systems, especially when it comes to system anciliaries such as black start capacity, frequency control and bidding.

    Well done.


  126. In the article the second paragraph on the last page hints that gas plants should be paid penalty rates for remaining on standby. I guess that’s no different to a thrill ride operator increasing the ticket price to cover insurance.

    The author insists that CCS must be given every chance. I’d thought CCS had been done and dusted on these pages. I’d rank the reasons in roughly this order
    – lack of underground storage space
    – the fuel consumption penalty
    – general affordability of high enough carbon prices
    – whether the sequestered CO2 will stay put.


  127. John Newlands, on 15 November 2010 at 2:47 PM —
    (1) There is a superabundance of ultramafic (maybe even just mafic) rock surfically exposed (sometimes on the seabed) where OC2 weathers the rock via an exothermic reaction; the stuff will stay there over geologically long times.
    (2) Yes, it costs, for capture, tranportation and sequestration.
    (3) We cannot afford not to remove the excess CO2; otherwise agriculture comes to an end; see my prior post.
    (4) See (1) and the following links.

    In situ peridotite weathering:

    In situ basalt weathering:

    Ex situ olivine weathering:

    Click to access c03016.pdf


  128. @John Newlands:
    Quote: “…gas plants should be paid penalty rates for remaining on standby…”

    1. There is no reason why any market payment should be offered for a service not needed to ensure the stability, etc of the market.

    2. If there is a need for a service, eg rapid additional capacity (hydro, GT, demand reduction or whatever), then the desired service should be specified and prices obtained from the market, thus allowing all available suppliers to bid the price down to the minimum. That’s how markets work.

    There is no rational need for additional payments based on COST or JUST BECAUSE. The payments needed are a standby payment to ensure that sufficient standby power is available. Oversupply is worth nothing to the market, so it is probable that some potential suppliers of any given service will not be paid at all, however if their service is eventually required, then their (higher) bids come into play.

    Remember that, in a market, price will always trump cost. I think that I mentioned above that I may raise a calf for $100. What it is worth on the market is the price, not the cost.

    This confusion between price and cost is a classic conundrum for engineers preparing cost estimates. They may work and work to develop an anticipated cost and then get most frustrated when the bid price obtained via the marketplace is either wildly higher or lower. They think that it’s not fair, that cost + 10% is honorable but that cost + 100% is not, and so on.

    The trick is not to scare the bidders. Keep the task simple, don’t throw additional risks at the bidders and you may get a pleasant surprise from the tenders box because more bidders want to work with you and are prepared to price accordingly.

    I have raved on far too long, but the energy market, like so many others, is a living, breathing thing based on trust, risk and opportunity. It certainly isn’t endlessly rational or boringly constant.


  129. John Bennetts:

    You make the valid point that cost and price are often unrelated, but I wonder, given your relevant experience, whether you could expand on your final paragraph.

    You define a liberalised, competitive, energy market as a “living breathing thing based on trust, risk and opportunity” and go on to suggest that it is neither rational nor boringly constant. Should it be? Earlier, you suggest that engineers would typically feel happier working on a boringly constant cost plus10% basis.

    Under normal circumstances, I would favour the free market approach, but I wonder whether the circumstances that the energy market finds itself in can, in any way, be described as normal. There is urgent need for both a massive increase in generating capacity and a simultaneous transition to clean energy. Democratic governments are interfering in the free market, distorting the playing field, yet failing to give investors any long term confidence going forward. Under current circumstances, therefore, I fail to see how a free market solution can be reached in a sufficiently timely fashion. If the energy market fails to deliver, the rest of the economy will go down the tubes.

    As you can tell, I am in a muddled and undecided state, but am stumbling towards a realisation that governments will have to do more to lead and drive energy policy forward. Whether this would best be achieved by nationalisation, I don’t know. However, the French approach seems to have been reasonably successful so far.

    I would be grateful for your thoughts on this matter.


  130. @ Douglas,

    All young engineers seem to be truly shocked when they first see a contractor blatantly rip off their employer just because he can, or for their employer to cut their estimated price in order to win a job with a favoured client. It is part of growing up.

    All marketplaces seem to me to have some haggling happening somewhere, someone trying to steer the rules to their favour, and no market more so than the NEM, about which I really do not know much. Economists and lawyers and wiser people than me have made careers out of no-holds-barred public and private brawls over the NEM. That’s why there are so many Regulators, Reports, etc etc.

    Regarding my observation about trust, risk and opportunity – Isn’t that where all the decisons in any contract/market are made? How exposed do I feel? What is the worst that can happen? How can I maximise this opportunity/claim/relationship? What if I let an opponent win this contract? What are my negotiating plusses? where are the weaknesses on both sides? What do I/they know that they/I don’t?

    I have found, through the years, that these bridges must be crossed before considerations of cost and price can be concluded. It boils down to building a willingness to deal.

    There is no need to worry about the purity of the NEM or any other market – they are never pure, as long as any player holds an opinion that they have an additional lever or is under a specific pressure not applied to all other players.

    To come back to the real world and leave abstractions behind, I share with you a view that new baseload power construction in Australia is an emerging problem. If blackouts eventuate, it will not be the private or privatised players who get publicly pilloried – it will be State Governments in Victoria and NSW first (they’re biggest) and then all other governments involved – Tas, Qld, SA, ACT. That SE Australia could be (say) 5GW low on baseload power and that this situation is likely to continue for years will not be perceived as a market failure, but as a failure of governments to govern effectively. It won’t matter a scrap if 90% of the remainder of the world’s population makes do with even less reliable power supplies. What will matter will be cooking meals at home in a cold dark house for scared kids who do not understand what happened to their world.

    Nationalised or not, privatised or not, at that stage will matter little. THE GUVMINT FAILED US!

    Shades of 1950, when the Electricity Commission of NSW Act was passed and many small public and private undertakings were brought together under one management, the government may well decide that a grand gesture is necessary.

    Perhaps the capital required to reinforce the industry is only available via government.

    My guess, and it is only a guess, is that chaos would reign for a short while, California-like after Enron. Eventually, money would be found and designs done. Contracts would be let. People would start to hope for a better future and put up with an energy constrained present because they have no option but to do so.

    There is a better way, and it must be founded on believable, solid technology. It must feed other mouths as well, probably the climate change mounth and the low or zero carbon mouth. Politicians will decide this – I hope that they are listening to the societies they lead and that the population has been educated as to the possible outcomes, including costs and timing.

    Then the engineers and industrialists, the managers and technicians will do what it is that they do.

    See, whether or not the industry is privatised or nationalised, aggregated or split up matters not at all. What matters most will be the strength of the unity of purpose, the shared commitment that will (not might) emerge following a short period of turmoil.

    Personally, I am not worried by state owned enterprises. I don’t like the thought of trying to re-aggregate the former SECV or ECNSW, but if the politicians cannot obtain whatever style of generators they need through a marketplace, they will go public. Of this I am sure. If NPP’s by the dozen are the chosen path, then I expect that this will be the most likely route.

    The French state owned energy corporations appear to me to be much larger proportionately than anything probable within Australia. There isn’t the need, because NPP development is no longer so tightly intertwined with unknown state secrets, defence objectives, political intrigue and stolen nuclear technology. NPP’s are now simply very large factories, available off the plan for a price.

    If it isn’t to be NPP’s the same argument goes for other technologies, but I am convinced that no politician will, under those circumstances, stake the future of his society on unproven technologies – they will find their solution in the available, tested designs.

    Sorry for the rave, but I have enjoyed it.

    I really don’t feel up to a point by point analysis of the foregoing. I am sure that I have offended somebody out there, in which case please note that this is only one opinion, my opinion. Next year it may well be otherwise.


  131. John:

    Thanks for your reply. You make several interesting points short of advocating a preferred route. Perhaps you will allow me to comment and draw inferences – which you can correct if I am misinterpreting you?

    1) Perhaps I should clarify at the outset that I am a UK resident and that some of your replies are, understandably, addressing an Australian context.

    2) You acknowledge that the energy market, however apparently liberalised, will always be subject to state regulation or interference of some other sort.

    3) You acknowledge that “the better way” (presumably describing an energy policy) must also feed “other mouths” (clean energy/climate change) as well as supplying adequate and reliable power. It should be based on believable technology and determined by politicians.

    4) You imply that politicians will not lead, but only follow the wishes of their electorates. You thus require a well educated electorate before “the better way” can be employed. How long do you think this education process will take? Is it not likely, as you tacitly admit, that turmoil might be a necessary precondition. I am concerned that, by the time that electorates become really worried by the consequences of AGW and realise that renewables are ineffective, it could well be too late to take useful and constructive action. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I would like politicians to be strong enough to lead their electorates in directions that the latter will only reluctantly take. For this reason, I would wish for a “war footing” approach, but most see the implied suspension of democracy as too drastic.

    5) You suggest that, should it be determined that energy policy requires the rolling out of NPPs by the dozen, the most likely route will be a nationalised one and also suggest that the capital required to reinforce the energy industry may only be available to the government. I think that civilisation’s only hope does require NPPs by the dozen (or hundred).

    6) You state that no politician should (or would) stake the future on unproven technology (I suppose that the Germans might argue that technosolar approaches are proven. The fact that they are not fit for purpose in relation to the scale of the problem, nor cost effective doesn’t, therefore, necessarily discredit your statement. Presently, not even NPPs can match the goal of providing power more cheaply than from fossil fuels, but they, nevertheless, come closest to meeting this objective. Given the fact that new generation NPPs offer the prospect of producing the Holy Grail of really cheap power in the relatively near future, would you agree with Arthur that governments should pour generous and rapidly available R&D funding into this area? In fact, should such plants become commercially available within 10-15 years, it may well be that Australia won’t have even got round to commissioning existing designs by then. (Please note that I am not advocating delaying the roll out of Gen 3s while awaiting research results – merely suggesting that the public education that you think necessary to arrive at a sensible energy policy might take a decade or more to have effect.)


  132. Douglas Wise – I know your remarks above were addressed to John Bennetts, however I would like to comment on your point 6.

    An educated public, and a motivated public are two different things. Our opponents in the antinuclear movement did not put any effort into education. On the contrary they preferred that their audience not look to deeply into what they were saying lest they discover that it was all nonsense. Creating a groundswell of support for nuclear energy should not require that the voters get a short course in nuclear engineering, only that they understand the benefits, and that the objections raised in the past now have solutions.

    They also must be made to understand that the continued use of fossil-fuels will lead to more rapid damage to the environment than we have experienced to date, and that these fuels cannot be eliminated by existing renewable technology.

    The message must be kept simple, and pressed forward at every opportunity. Our opponents are vulnerable because they are often not basing their assertions on the truth. We have the high ground because we do.


  133. Heavyweather – You missed the part about telling the truth. It is the one area that the pronuclear side has going for it. The antinuclear militants lie outright and have for decades. They refuse to allow that in those areas that they are most strident about, solutions have been found that more than answer any objection they have tabled in the past.

    The renewable side lies as well, by asserting that the contributions that those technologies can make will be a significant portion of the world’s energy needs. Most importantly they gloss over the fact that these nebulous sources will need vastly greater arrays to harvest power, and that they will always require fossil-fuels to deal with the intermittent supply that is inherent to them.

    Nuclear can present an honest case that it alone can provide pollution-free, reliable baseload, on a par with hydro, coal,and gas, without the environmental costs.


  134. DV82XL:

    I want to believe you and then Heavyweather comes along and destroys all hope that the electorate will be convinced by anything so mundane as the truth.

    Our audience must combine a rudimentary understanding of both the laws of physics (which I’ve had to struggle with) plus an understanding of the relationship between energy and wealth (or well being) – which economists struggle to understand. We then need to negate the irrational fear of the antinuclear camp over the consequences of bombs and radioactivity when the real dangers we face are the deaths of billions of our own species and of many others through AGW. It’s a big ask


  135. Douglas Wise – The Heavyweathers will always be with us. They will never be convinced, and in fact are the opposition. But we don’t need them to make a case to the rest of the public.

    The fact is we have let these morons hold the floor for far too long because we have not been active in the debate. The public only hears their side, and we can mount good commonsense arguments to counter the lies, without needing to go too deeply into physics, or economics.

    I have engaged with many with no background, and I find that they are open to listen to our side, it’s just that no one is presenting it. I love to get into a debate with the Heavyweather types in front of even a small number of people, because the arguments they present are so one dimensional, and so lacking in fact that they can be used as a foil to present the nuclear case rather powerfully


  136. David Benson I’ve saved those links on peridotite weathering for future reference. I believe David Mackay also thinks it is cost effective to physically dig up and crush the rock as a CO2 absorbent. However in my opinion the reaction rate is far too slow based on observations of a quarry in 2500mm rainfall country near home.

    The links suggest that since we dig up coal to create energy and CO2 then we should dig up peridotite to absorb supposedly less energy and CO2. I suggest digging up neither. We could regard coal as pre-sequestered carbon from eons ago that should be left in the ground. We already refrain from digging up mercury and asbestos.


  137. I have yet to catch up on this thread, but had a quick scan and two things jumped out. I’ll catch up on the rest later.

    John Bennetts, you said a lot about the imperfections of the Australian competitive market for electricity.

    Could you provide appropriate balance by also talking about the problems of public sector ownership of the electricity industry.

    I am wondering about the imperfections of a government owned monopoly, no competition and all subordinated to a minister who knows next to nothing about the industry, has a big ego, reacts to ideology of party policy, changes direction each time the government is changed or the minsiter is changed, responds with knee jerk reactions to the daily media cycle and the 3 or 4 year electoral time table. Then there is the threat of union industrial action holding the country to ransom as has happened many times before and for long periods.

    I believe it is the type of activites you pointed out that take place in a competitive market that provide us with the least-cost alternative over the long term. I also think it is the best able to respond to change of requirements. The private sector will change quickest to changed requirements. It is up to governments to provide appropriate requirements. If we can’t get them right and we keep changing them, then the costs will be higher. But they will be higher still in a public sector owned system. And the costs can be kept hidden for decades.


  138. Arthur,

    Your posts are excellent. I will go through in slow time and see what I want to respond to or ask questions about. In the meantime I did notice this point:

    I would worry more about some Chernobyl style setback occurring in a developing country as a result of relaxed regulatory environment.

    I believe the real as opposed to perceived health and environmental consequences of industrial accidents in the nuclear industry, even of the scale of Chernobyl, are much smaller than in the chemical industry. Even smaller than in the aircraft industry. We have frequent plane crashes that kill hundreds of people and shrug it off. But each large airliner crash kills ten times as many people as Chernobyl (immediate fatalities). Regarding latent fatalities, routine operation of coal fired power plants in the OECD countries cause orders of magnitude more fatalities than nuclear power (per MWh) – I understand the figure is about 24,000 Americans per year due to pollution from coal fired electricity generation (but I don’t have the source for that figure).

    I believe nuclear is a negligible risk even if they provided all the worlds electricity. And even with Chernobyl scale accidents occurring from time to time. It is a far smaller risk that flying or having a gas fired plant or a chemical factory near where I live.

    Even Japan has built nuclear plants in earthquake zones without sufficient protection to prevent extended closure with small radiation leaks following a quake and has also had shutdowns from discovery of falsified inspection records. This means they aren’t even adequately protecting the economic interest in safety that DV82XL explained.

    The talk of radiation leaks and falsified safety records is not being presented in a fair and properly comparable way with those from other industries. Such statements need to be put in context with the releases of toxic chemicals and reporting irregularities from our industries. The radiation leaks are of negligible consequence compared with toxic chemicals we release. No one is saying we must stop all releases of chemicals of any magnitude into Sydney Harbour? Have you any idea what is in the mud at the bottom of Sydney Harbour, and in the soil under the Sydney Olympic Games site at Homebush Bay? To me, all talk about radiation leaks is just media hype (unless it is put in proper perspective with other leaks and regular emissions of toxic chemicals).

    I believe we will get over the fear as the roll out builds up (as has been demonstrated everywhere that nuclear plants are sited.


  139. Arthur, DV82XL and others,

    I remain of the opinion nuclear could and should be lower LCOE than coal and gas if the regulatory requirements for safety were equivalent. However, I recognise it takes decades to design, test and prove new technologies, so this won’t happen quickly. I believe the IEA regulations should be rewritten from scratch, but this cannot be done properly until the world gets over its fear of all things nuclear.

    In the meantime Australia should buy the least cost nuclear plants and build and run them to the minimum IAEA requirements and they’d still be 10 to 100 times safer than coal. If our governments took the necessary actions to remove all the impediments to nuclear, and passed legislation that sent an unabiguous message to investors that their investment in fossil fuels will be high risk and in nuclear will be low risk, then NOAK nuclear would be cheaper than coal in Australia. To get from FOAK to NOAK will require government subsidies – near the top of this thread I suggested the subsidy would be about $10 to $20 billion. The subsidy is justified in my post near the top of the thread.

    I remain of this view. It can be done.

    I also believe there is no way we can or should turn back the clock on opening the electricity industry to competitive pressures. I do not believe the public sector can get the funding to run the electricity industry in Australia, whereas the private sector can, and as quickly as we want it to. We just need governments to set the appropriate requirements and regulations.


  140. This has to be stressed over and over: it is just not possible to have a Chernobyl scale accident with any currently available reactor design. The RBMK reactors, such as the reactors at Chernobyl, have a dangerously high positive void coefficient. This was necessary for the reactor to run on unenriched uranium and to require no heavy water.

    Boiling water reactors have negative void coefficients, Pressurized water reactors operate with a large negative void coefficient and CANDU reactors have positive void coefficients that are small enough that passive safety systems can easily respond to boiling coolant before the reactor reaches dangerous temperatures. Magnox reactors, advanced gas-cooled reactors and pebble bed reactors are gas-cooled and so void coefficients are not an issue, as is also the case with Fast breeder reactors which do not use moderators at all.

    Current RBMK reactors have been derated and are being phased out, no new units will be built. There will not be another event of this sort again with a power reactor.


  141. DV82XL,

    No one will believe there are never going to be severe industrial accidents involving nuclear plants in the future. It is simply unbelievable. ‘Severe accidents’ means accidents involving five or more immediate fatalities. They will happen and the point is to put it in a proper context with accidents in other industries. That is what is missing.


  142. Eventually technologies do become failsafe, and nuclear reactors used as steam generators in nuclear power plants have reached this point. It is very similar to the situation in fossil fuel fired boilers. The last fixed boiler to explode killing people was the Grover Shoe Factory disaster, March 20, 1905, in Brockton, Massachusetts. And while there have been various events in transportation, it was almost always with antiquated/antique equipment.

    There may be accidents in the plants themselves, just as there are in coal-fired stations, the difference being that deaths in latter venue will not make international news, while anyone stubbing their toe in a nuclear plant warrants international coverage, with sidebars on nuclear safety questions.

    But the chances of a Chernobyl grade loss of containment is effectively nil with modern reactor designs.


  143. DV82XL,

    You are missing the point.

    There may be accidents in the plants themselves, just as there are in coal-fired stations, …

    True. That is the point.

    But the chances of a Chernobyl grade loss of containment is effectively nil with modern reactor designs

    Irrelevant. There will be other types of accidents. Just as there are still accidents in the airline industry that kills hundreds at a time and there are accidents in other fuel chains and in the chemical, construction and mining industries. It is the scale of industrial accident that is relevant not the type or cause of it. There will be severe accidents in the nuclear energy chain. To argue otherwise is not credible.

    Accidents in the nuclear industry need to be put in proper perspective with the accidents that occur in other industries.

    You say industries eventually become fail safe. The airline industry hasn’t.


  144. I wrote that eventually technologies become failsafe, not industries, and there is a difference. Fail-safe describes a feature which, in the event of failure, responds in a way that will cause no harm, or at least a minimum of harm, to other devices or danger to personnel.

    It is not the same as fail-secure, or fail-proof although it is often confused for such in the public mind. It dose not mean there will be no failures, it does mean that the impact of a failure is minimized to acceptable levels. In aviation the term is applied to components and systems that are designed and built such that their failure will not precipitate a catastrophe.

    There have been incidents with nuclear reactors other than Chernobyl, Three Mile Island being the best example. There containment did its job and despite the reactor failing and melting down, no lives were lost. That was because it was failsafe in design.

    There will not be another Chernobyl unless RBMK reactors (or something worse) are built again, just like there will not be an exploding supercritical boiler at a coal station.


  145. @Douglas Wise, on 16 November 2010 at 2:50 AM :
    1. Noted
    2. Yes
    3. Yes.
    4. The context is everything. If/when the politicians are put on the spot by the electorate due to failure of the power generation system, they will focus clearly on just what the electorate wants. Let’s hope that the electorate is, by then, an informed one.
    5. Again, there is a rider: preferably, private contract arrangements will be adequate to fund and to construct the necessary infrastructure, because after all, electricity is an eminently saleable good. Only in the event of market failure should/would I suggest that a government take over directly. I went on to say that I did not support rebuilding former government monopolies such as existed a couple of decades ago in NSW and Vic. They ended up overstaffed and under focussed, till eventually and correctly split up and privatised, bit by bit.
    6. Thanks to DVD2XL at 3:10, 4:06 and 5:02. I’m with him. A large portion of the electorate will wise up once they become personally affected by, for example, rolling blackouts. Until then, they’re happy to leave their brains on standby.


  146. @Peter Lang, on 16 November 2010 at 6:57 AM:

    I may have not made myself clear enough. The former ECNSW and SECV, one of which was my employer for a while, were monsters of hidebound bureaucratic nonsense. On occasion, this included silliness from Ministers and outright bully-boy tactics from employees via union power. Thank goodness I was involved in construction, not operation, at the time. The operations side we used to refer to as “destruction division” by way of contrast with “construction division”.

    A considerable amount of my effort was spent defending the right of contractors to make an income and to getting around, over or under the bans that they faced from the Delegates. Ah, yes! The Delegates! There was always the chance that a bunch of 3 or 4 refugees from their workplaces would arrive in a car and declare that this or that company, or contract, or job, had not been cleared industrially and that work must cease. What a charming bunch they were. One, only slightly before my time, is currently a Federal Labor Minister with a Home Country accent which can be turned on or off for TV purposes.

    So, back to the question about public versus private ownership structures.

    I simply do not see a need for public ownership of the power generation industry. Full stop. One caveat is in order.

    If, because of lack of funding or due to political pressures regarding the real or imagined threats to society of particular forms of generation, private enterprises cannot construct needed capacity in a timely manner, then a government business unit may be able to help out. I do not necessarily mean full ownership or operation. Perhaps the government’s support needs to extend only to coordination of projects for commercial security of completion; or for guaranteeing of funds, so that bidders do not feel that they are unnecessarily exposed to risk of insolvency, etc; or for some other reason.

    I see any such public ownership as being short term. This is, foremost, because once the market failure has been resolved, the market can take over again, with all of the benefits and efficiencies which markets bring and command economies cannot bring.

    In short: Government intervention in the market may be needed to overcome a failing in the marketplace, but there is no need for this to be permanent and in fact it would be counterproductive in the mid to long run if the government did not exit the marketplace as soon as they can.

    And finally, on the subject of public Vs private ownership:
    I repeat that I am not overconcerned which business structure the politicians choose to adopt if/when blackouts begin. Politicians will decide what will happen if that stage is reached. They, in turn, will respond to their perception of what the electors want. Let’s work towards an educated and awake electorate.

    And market regulation: Always was and always will be subject to political interference, lawyers working for their clients, economists with grandiose ideas of their own self importance and and so on. Hope for honest and intelligent politicians, because the current mob are not inspiring, State or Federal, on either side of the House.


  147. John Newlands, on 16 November 2010 at 6:07 AM — Actually the exsitu olivine weathering is fast enough and might well be cost competitive with in situ ultramafic weathering. Tests would be required.

    As for coal, by all means leave it in the ground. However, about 500 gigtonnes of excess carbon need to soon be removed from the active carbon cycle. Weathering, in one form or another, provides a permanent solution.


  148. DB this is way off thread but I’ll tell you a sad story about the peridotite quarry. It was worked by a father-son partnership. Following the discovery of a 75 gram nugget of platinum group metals the son would walk close behind the bulldozer driven by the father while watching for the glint of precious metal. One day in 1967 something went wrong and the bulldozer flipped and killed the son. In any case help was hours away.


  149. DV82XL,

    I wrote that eventually technologies become failsafe, not industries, and there is a difference.

    Whatever. You know what I am talking about. Aircraft are a technology. They are not failsafe and they’ve been around for 100 years. Jet engines are a technology, they are not fail safe.

    Gen III will not be immune to industrial accidents. Gen IV will not be immune to industrial accidents. Civil nuclear energy and the fuel handling will not be immune to industrial accidents. The accident statistics that are compared in the NewExt data base for example are for electricity generation by various technology groups such as coal, oil, gas, hydro, wind, solar, biomass, nuclear for example. A severe accident in any part of the full energy chain for one of these technologies counts against that technology.

    You can get pedantic about details and words I used versus words you want to use, but the main point is it is not credible to say there will never be another severe nuclear accident.


  150. Peter, I simply disagree. There are scenarios that can be ruled out on the basis of the laws of physics. A Chernobyl-like incident in a LWR or IFR or LFTR is one of those. It is simply not possible. So it comes back to defining what is meant by ‘severe’. It is always possible to imagine semi-plausible scenarios which could possibly result in very expensive accidents which ruin reactors (i.e. force them to be permanently shut down/scrapped) — although with defense in depth and judicious design and operation, their probability can be (and indeed already have been) reduced by many orders of magnitude compared to early era designs/procedures (e.g. of TMI severity). But we can assure against large-scale releases of radioactivity. To quote Cohen:

    It is very difficult to predict the future of scientific developments, and few would even dare to make predictions extending beyond the next 50 years. However, based on everything we know now, one can make a strong case for the thesis that nuclear fission reactors will be providing a large fraction of our energy needs for the next million years. If that should come to pass, a history of energy production written at that remote date may well record that the worst reactor accident of all time occurred at Chernobyl, USSR, in April of 1986.


  151. “it is not credible to say there will never be another severe nuclear accident.”

    I agree. To say “never” is to say there is a probability of zero, which simply doesn’t exist. And by claiming “never” you’re giving ammo to the antis by enabling them to reject this claim.

    However, the perception of what constitutes a “severe” accident varies. As Peter mentioned, it can be viewed as 5 people (perhaps in some official manner?). However, most people would draw a distinction between the death of 5 industrial workers or miners and, say, the Bhopal Disaster.

    I think we have to be realistic here. If another event like Chernobyl happened now (and you can argue about the severity of that and how it compares to other industrial accidents til you’re blue in the face), it would pretty much bring the nuclear industry to its knees, even if it was one of the old reactors which is still in operation.

    I think it is very important to stress that the probability of another Chernobyl-scale event occuring is exceedingly low, and to not get bogged down in what constitutes severity.


  152. Barry,

    You’ve missed my point.

    Firstly, we can try to tell people for another 20 years that it is impossible to have another major nuclear accident. The is simply not believable to the vast majority of people. They just roll their eyes and dismiss all you say no matter how much physics you try to talk at them. They’ve stopped listening. And wont listen to any more you say.

    Secondly, severe accidents are not just the Chernobyl type. They are any accident in the nuclear fuel chain (including a steam turbine failure or major fire) in which 5 or more people are killed. Chernobyl had 31 immediate fatalities. Of course there will be other accidents in the nuclear fuel chain that exceed this some time in the future. To deny it is not credible.

    The point is not to deny it but to put it in perspective. We’ve had one such accident so far in 55 years and 15,000 reactor years of nuclear power. In perspective, we frequently have accidents of the same and larger scale in coal oil and gas. The Air France jet that crashed recently mid Atlantic (Brazil to Paris) killed some 300 people and such events are common (compared with nuclear accidents). They are 10 times as severe, yet they make the headlines for a few days and then are mostly forgotten.

    I’ve already said all this so I’ll emphasise again that overstating the case looses credibilty (that applies to more than just nuclear accident risk). I repeat:

    it is not credible to say there will never be another severe nuclear accident.


  153. Peter, I don’t think I have. Go back and read what I say about ‘severe’.

    Bottom line is that your bolded final statement is the only thing people will look at, and as Tom Keen pointed out, is absolutely ripe for misinterpretation because anyone can choose how to interpret severe. This line of argument, along with your drum beating about making nuclear ‘less safe’ to reduce costs, is a gold-plated guaranteed sure path to failure in getting public acceptance, however rational it may seem to you. I have no doubt about that.


  154. Look at Figure 1 here: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/04/what-is-risk/

    The PSA early fatalities (pink line in bottom left of chart) is more than 3 orders of magnitude lower risk than Chernobyl. But who would believe that. I don’t. It is about as believable as the hydrological projections of the 100 year floods. We had three of them in Woden Valley in Canberra in about 1971 or so when Woden valley was being developed.

    If I don’t believe the risk is as low as the PSA states, what chance of convincing the sceptical public.

    I say, keep the preaching realistic and we’ve got a much better chance.

    And most importantly, all this is a side issue to what is going to be the real vote changer – the hip pocket nerve.

    If BNC is prepared to seriously look into what I’ve been suggesting for over a year – defining what are the impediments that are blocking NOAK nuclear being cheaper than coal in Australia – then we have the best shot of getting the quickest acceptance. Te public will listen to all our other messages once we can tell them that nuclear will substantially reduce electricity prices over the long term and be no higher in the short term. As well it will cut emissions more than any other technology, at least cost and be the safest and cleanest option. But we have to deal with the cost issue first. Then the majority will listen. Their listening now. Forget those that are entrenched. They will get sidelined.


  155. Barry,

    You say

    This line of argument, along with your drum beating about making nuclear ‘less safe’ to reduce costs, is a gold-plated guaranteed sure path to failure in getting public acceptance, …

    Well Barry, that is your opinion and I accept it is the opinion of many of the main contributors on BNC. That doesn’t make it correct. And I do not agree that it is the right approach. You are drum beating for one audience. I am trying to get through to you and others that there is another large audience the BNCers are not getting through to. And you won’t get through to them through ABC and the like.

    While we are discussing drum beating about the best approaches to take I’d similarly point out to you:

    This line of argument, along with your drum beating about “the world’s gonna fry, we’re all gonna die”, is a gold-plated guaranteed sure path to failure in getting public acceptance, …


  156. @ John Bennetts 16th Nov 10.32

    I am sympathetic to your line of reasoning. I think that nationalisation in the conventionally accepted sense would probably have many or most of the disadvantages that you point out .

    However, the French appear to have deployed an approach to a largely state owned nuclear sector that seems, until now, to have worked well for them. I believe that, though largely state owned, AREVA is run on private lines. The company probably benefits from state backing of its export arm. You might argue, however, that continuing lack of domestic competition has resulted in its less than satisfactory Gen 3+ offering – though that remains to be seen.

    I am also impressed by the efficacy with which warplane production was ramped up at the start of WW2. In the UK, this involved the government direction of existingh private sector aircraft manufacturers. I do understand that, at the time, some were critical that it allowed the latter to ramp large profits as well as aircraft. However, it got the job done.

    I also think that, given the range of existing manufacturers of licensed designs, there would be little point in any national government setting out from scratch to compete. This might not be the case for Gen 4 options, which are crying out for government support.


  157. On the subject of potential catastrophic failures at a nuclear power plant, I will not accept that these are inevitable unless someone can table a plausible mechanism demonstrating how this would be possible with any current design of reactor (existing RBMK reactors notwithstanding.)

    Also, I submit that expecting the proper use of terminology, far from being pedantry, is necessary when discussing a technical topic. For no other reason than that the public, left to define terms on its own, often are in error, making for misunderstanding that is often counterproductive.


  158. Barry,

    Wrong Peter, because I’m not saying ‘we’re all gonna fry and die’. I’m saying ‘we face serious issues and this is what we must do to prevent or mitigate this scenario’. It is very disappointing to see you trivialise my stance in this way.

    I understand your disappointment. However, I don’t believe I am trivialising it. What I am trying to get across to you and others here is this is the way many people (I suspect the majority) react to fear campaigns about Armageddon, apocalypse, catastrophe and end of the planet scenarios. I understand what you and the majority of the BNC followers are trying to do, but overstating the case is seriously damaging the message, and making many people simply turn off – totally!

    You say “Wrong Peter”. I say wrong Barry! That doesn’t help us much.

    I believe I am just as qualified as you to talk about what is the best way to bring on board those who do not accept that climate change is dangerous or catastrophic, and that are resistant to the whole message because of the amount of BS that has been transmitted by the Alarmists.

    I believe your message is directed at the Greenie groups and the Left side of politics and I haven’t seen much contact with the conservatives. So, I believe it is open to you to listen to what I am offering, take on board what you want and ignore the rest. Or tell me to shut it down if that is what you want.


  159. Douglas Wise,

    However, the French appear to have deployed an approach to a largely state owned nuclear sector that seems, until now, to have worked well for them.

    That was 30 odd years ago. The world has changed. Financing is different now. It would take decades to reinstate government ownership of the electricity industry in Australia. If you want ongoing delay, just try getting that through our state and federal parliaments. You might want to start by trying to stop the imminent privatisation of the remaining government owned NSW electricity industry. (Bids closed yesterday!). However, you might be lucky; the sale of the generators my be delayed because the bids may be too low given the current uncertainties.


  160. DV82XL,

    On one hand you and others incessantly carry on trying to persuade me to stop saying “nuclear is 10 to 100 times safer than coal” and pointing out the irrationality of wanting to maintain and raise such a requirement, because you say it is sending a wrong message – a message that will not be accepted by the public.

    On the orther hand you want to try to persuade the public there will never be another severe nuclear accident.

    What a conflict in positions.


  161. @Peter Lang

    It is not credible to say there will never be another severe nuclear accident.

    There had better not be. A large radiation release with fatalities and severe environmental contamination would in all likelihood mean the end of new nuclear for a generation – until the climate problem becomes so immediate that hard choices would have to be made. Fortunately such an event is very unlikely, but as you say not impossible.

    In this context, nuclear being 10 – 100 times safer than coal may be demonstrably true but unfortunately not relevant. It needs to be as safe as reasonably possible and most importantly seen to be as safe as possible.


  162. Douglas Wise,


    UNIONS are preparing to serve claims for annual pay rises of 5 per cent – 15 per cent over three years – on major contractors engaged in the NBN rollout.

    The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union is finalising draft agreements to be served in the new year and will seek to recruit most of the contractors’ employees into the union. The Australian understands the union will seek pay rises of 5 per cent for each year of the proposed three-year enterprise agreements.

    This is an example of the real threat to energy security in Australia if the electricity industry is nationalised. This is what’s happening already in the NBN, which is nationalisation of Australian communications. The same would happen, in spades, if the electricity industry was nationalised.

    There is large section of the community doesn’t weant to go back to the bad old days.


  163. Peter Lang – I am not going to debate this issue further until you can table some likely mechanism by which this type of event can be precipitated. Making the assertion that a major accident will happen sans a plausible way it could, just can’t be debated. It has been written up thread that the reasons this cannot happen are inherent to the fundamental physics of modern reactors, and the structures they are housed in. In that regard, they are indeed fail-safe.

    Now while I am prepared to give credence to your economic arguments, because they seemed to be well reasoned positions, I’m afraid that your lack of grounding, has made your technical arguments foundationless and little better than uninformed opinion.

    While you are right in pointing out that the public also holds these views, the task is to correct them, not tell them that the occasional Chernobyl is the price we have to pay. Yes they have accepted that the occasional crash is a risk when flying, but that has not stopped the development of safer and safer airplanes and the industry looks forward to the day when it can claim that the whole aircraft is indeed failsafe, but this does not mean that nuclear reactors have not met that mark yet.


  164. @Douglas Wise, on 16 November 2010 at 7:02 PM

    You are quite probably correct about French nationally owned corporations being managed and regulated as though they were private. That is true also of State Owned Corporations in NSW, for example and probably throughout Australia. Delta, Eraring and Macquarie Generation are three such and all comply with usual corporations law as well as the rules and governing laws of the National Electricity Market, NEM.

    So, in this way, my previous employer can be viewed as being less a thing of the State and more as a normal corporation. Even the costs of funding is balanced up, because the Treasury Corp of NSW skims off the benefits of lower interest rates for money borrowed borrowed. Thus, the cost of funds is not out of kilter with private industry.

    That’s fine for normal, business-as-usual type events, but in that case, why would the State bother to tie up its capital in a competitive industry, when NSW’s balance sheet is empty? They are currently attempting to exit the risks (and benefits) of ownership through a sell-off of generation and retailing corporations. Note that I am not expressing a personal opinion here – this is what is happening and I am trying to explain it. Tenders for the businesses closed a couple of days back. I expect the landscape will change forever by mid-March 2011.

    All this changes if the marketplace fails to meet the social perception of the need. That is, if there are blackouts and so forth. Then the politicians may be driven to act to repair perceived weaknesses in the market by finding funds, guaranteeing loans, changing legislation, or whatever they need to do to satisfy the electorate. This has not happened yet and I hope that it does not happen, although my personal opinion is that action in response to the threats posed by GHG/Climate Change has been too little and too late so far, with little prospect of being ramped up effectively any time soon. If this leads to unplanned action to curb FF usage (eg coal in all its forms), then the State will need to act, probably (IMHO) via environmental licencing and, if they are not very careful, this will result in massive stranded assets, compensation claims and employment uncertainty. Interesting times. Still, this is not sufficient reason or incentive for the State to buy back into power station ownership and retailing or whatever.

    This could all change in the third and final scenario, which is where your mention of WWII aircraft manufacture comes into focus.

    If, and only if, the national energy shortfall is so drastic that a kind of war effort is required to achieve the necessary build rate and/or control over and allocation of scarce resources for a whole of society response to a threat to the nation, then full governmental control might be needed. I certainly hope that this never happens. It should not be necessary, provided that sanity prevails during the next 10 years and believable long term strategies are being followed.

    It is not believable to consider that wind + solar + GT will decarbonise Australia’s electricity grid. For a start, GT energy is only fractionally better than black coal, which is a bit better than brown, etc. GT represents perhaps a step along the way, but the long term strategy must be to decarbonise fixed energy usage. It’s stupid to adopt any other strategy, from both environmental and resource allocation points of view.

    It is not believable that our energy usage will drop by 50% nationally, or by 70% per capita, or anything close to that as proposed in the ZCA so-called plan. There are simply no precedents for this type of outcome, short of actual drought.

    That leaves transition to nuclear, in one form or another – or all forms, spread over the next century or so. The believable nuclear response is Type II/Type III/Type III+, transitioning to Type IV when it is commercially available. We do not need nationalisation to achieve this. I will be very surprised if nationalisation gets a serious look-in, short of scenario 3 – war footing, because there are so many potential suppliers already in the marketplace.

    As I said before, the trajectory leading to high volume commercial construction of nuclear units in Australia depends on getting off our national tail and actually starting the journey, so that our experience of NPP’s and development of trained workforces, etc is matched by acceptance by the best of the potential suppliers that Australia is a great place to do business. Suppliers will not be interested in short term fixes, one-off problem solving, fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants stuff, especially if/when other potential customers are emerging in 200 other countries around the world. They need a business plan.

    To achieve this, Australia needs a national commitment to a long term plan and popular agreement with the plan. The primary roles for government are in the areas of policy development and implementation and market oversight. If Big Government takes over the ownership and operation of the power industry again, it will be for 50 or 100 years, because private capital would be scared off for generations.

    I know that this does not answer the questions one at a time. Perhaps my position is (1) my belief that a society-wide desire for a radical change away from FF is the prerequisite; (2) that the best way to achieve this is to preserve and encourage a free market approach because this is the only way that all proposals can be assessed and the cheapest and best alternatives implemented; and (3) only if war-like circumstances demand it will government ownership of the electricity industry make any sense at all.

    I didn’t mention the French, in part because 40 years have brought much change and in part, as I have stated previously, nuclear technology is no longer the stuff of state secrecy – it is available off the shelf. French and Italian mega-corporations owned by the state do nothing for me at all.


  165. quokka,

    In this context, nuclear being 10 – 100 times safer than coal may be demonstrably true but unfortunately not relevant. It needs to be as safe as reasonably possible and most importantly seen to be as safe as possible.

    We’ve been over this a hundred times. You are wrong!

    The problem you face is that you cannot compromise. The ideological group you belong to want everything and won’t give an inch.

    1. You want: “It needs to be as safe as reasonably possible” but to you the cost is irrelevant. By extension you are arguing that if it cannot be far safer than coal, you will stick with coal.

    2. You want everyone to accept your belief about the Alarmist claims about dangerous catastrophic global warming (many don’t), and

    3. you couldn’t care less about the economic consequences of your policies, and the fact they would have no effect on climate or world emissions is irrelevant to you. You just want a symbolic gesture so you can show how you have forced another dumb policy on society (like the many others listed in a previous comment)

    Unless you and the others can suggest a reasonable way to get nuclear implemented in Australia such that the LCOE of NOAK NPPs is less than coal, and the LCOE during the transition from FOAK to NOAK can be made less than coal by government subsidies, regulations or whatever, then I suggest there is a long hard struggle ahead with lots of backpedalling.

    If we want least cost clean energy you are going to have to make some compromises, such as:

    1. put aside all your ideological baggage that you want to tie to climate change;

    2. offer some feasible ways to allow nuclear to be cheaper than coal

    I’ve offered suggestions on BNC, but they are not making any headway because, I suspect, of the deeply held underlying beliefs of many of the participants here.

    There is another possibility which is that the government will impose a price on carbon. I believe it will have to be very high to have the desired effect, especially given the reluctance to remove the regulatory impediments to nuclear. High cost electricity is not going to be popular, especially when people come to realise it is going to make no difference to the climate and probably won’t reduce world emissions at all (explained in comments on the “Alternative to CPRS” thread).


  166. @DV82XL, on 17 November 2010 at 9:39 AM.

    Give up, mate.

    Peter’s research abilities and his analysis and presentation of facts are exceptional.

    When it comes to expressing opinion, he is best totally ignored as he pursues his heartfelt but nonsensical one-man private wars against perceived threats from anything Green, Left, unionised or state-owned. Safety systems are apparently state-owned. Your reasoned arguments are as water off a duck’s back.

    Lest some think that this is an ad hominem attack, it is not. I very much value the research posts which kick off so many threads on BNC. If only the airing of differing points of view in the comments section was not so consistently, personally, abusively and arrogantly denied oxygen by means of repeated and unending assaults against decency. Today’s posting of a completely off topic anti-union comment is the most recent example.

    This type of content does nobody any good and I am sure it limits the readership and acceptance of the on-topic content of BNC.


  167. John Bennetts,

    If only the airing of differing points of view in the comments section was not so consistently, personally, abusively and arrogantly denied oxygen by means of repeated and unending assaults against decency.

    More of your hypocrisy. You’ve been doing exactly this sine you started. Look at you consistent string of “consistently, personally, abusively and arrogantly denied oxygen by means of repeated and unending assaults against decency.” You never stop and never give it a break. Look at your consistent comments aimed at Arthur, me on this and other threads and EclipseNow (you told him to stop breathing) and others.

    You should perhaps take a look at your self before handing out advice to me, Arthur or anyone else.

    Today’s posting of a completely off topic anti-union comment is the most recent example.

    It is perfectly on topic. You just don’t want to hear the message. It is on topic because it is about the effect of nationalising industries in Australia which leads to reduced security of supply (strikes) and increased costs because of the threat of industrial action across the whole industry. If you can’t see the connection you are as close minded about your political allegiances as you have displayed throughout.


  168. Well if I was any more to the Right, I’d be goosestepping, and while I don’t always agree with Peter, I cannot see how the sorts of personal attacks address the theme of this thread. Debate means airing out both sides of an issue, otherwise what is the point?


  169. @Peter Lang

    1. You want: “It needs to be as safe as reasonably possible” but to you the cost is irrelevant. By extension you are arguing that if it cannot be far safer than coal, you will stick with coal.

    What I want is entirely irrelevant. If the general populace does not perceive nuclear as being very safe, and in fact “far safer than coal”, nuclear is just not going to happen. Fifty bucks a quarter off their electricity bill will not convince them otherwise. That is reality.

    As for my (largely irrelevant) opinion, if somebody was to offer RBMKs at bargain basement fire sale prices, I would tell them to get on their bike. Fortunately, no such choice is in the offing.

    2. You want everyone to accept your belief about the Alarmist claims about dangerous catastrophic global warming (many don’t)

    Never before has authoritative science been so readily publicly accessible as it is in the case of human induced climate change. If some people cannot accept the science then pandering to denial is not going to help matters.

    As far as political strategy goes, the people that most need to be convinced of the need for nuclear power are those most concerned about climate change. Much of the right will mindlessly tag along because nuclear is not perceived to be “green”.

    3. you couldn’t care less about the economic consequences

    You are making stuff up.

    1. put aside all your ideological baggage that you want to tie to climate change;

    You should act on your own advice.

    2. offer some feasible ways to allow nuclear to be cheaper than coal

    Carbon price or direct regulation of emissions and a level playing field backed by sufficient state support to get things kick started.

    I simply do not accept your argument about making nuclear less safe will make it cheaper. If Australia were to embark on a program of nuclear power, it will choose from one or more international suppliers and a large measure but not all of the safety aspects will be predetermined by the chosen designs. Vendors will NOT trade off safety for price. Criteria for choosing vendors will include price, safety evaluation, vendors financial viability, financing arrangements, vendors support organization, track record, whatever deals may or may not be cut for uranium supply etc etc. That’s the way these things happen. Reducing all this to a safety/price tradeoff just leads to confusion.

    Moving to nuclear in Australia is fundamentally a political issue. FOAK nuclear will not be cheaper than coal – for now. By the time Aus might get to the NOAK situation, it is entirely possible that nuclear may well be cheaper than coal. The Chinese (and others) are not sitting on their hands doing nothing. At the very least the economics ten or fifteen year out are unclear.


  170. The increasing shortage of food ten or fifteen years out is quite clear. One resolution is desal + pumping of irrigation water.

    A suggestion of another name for ‘carbon tax’ is FCOAD fee; Fossil Carbon Open Air Disposal fee. If that makes it more acceptable.


  171. Try “Load Based Licence Fee”. That’s the term currently used by the DECCW (the EPA) in NSW. This fee amounts to millions of dollars per annum and is levied on anything and everything relevant to an industrial operation, including of course mining and power generation.

    If talk of Carbon Tax is dropped in favour of a ramped-up LBL fee the effects will be the same, except that the cash would then flow to the Commonwealth rather than the States.

    As somebody just said – a political issue.


  172. “I’ve offered suggestions on BNC, but they are not making any headway because, I suspect, of the deeply held underlying beliefs of many of the participants here.”


    You are constantly talking about ideological beliefs and how people should drop them, yet YOU are the one who is constantly ascribing political positions to commenters here, almost always on completely unfounded bases. It looks very much like you are the one who is trying to advance a political agenda.

    You say “put aside all your ideological baggage that you want to tie to climate change;”. Well, perhaps you should put aside all your ideological baggage that you want to tie to conservative economics.

    The “Alarmist” claims about climate change made by Barry and others on this site are very well reasoned and supported strongly by evidence. I wonder why you bother making “derogatory” claims on a site which was initially made to communicate climate science, and continues to look at solutions to what is unequivocally a very serious problem.

    I’d be much happier to listen to your main points if you cut the political nonsense which you repeatedly attach to the majority of your claims. You’re not winning any support doing this.


  173. Well said Tom Keen.
    We have tried to get Peter off his ideological hobby-horse before, here on BNC, however, his foot seems stuck in the stirrup ready for re-mounting:) on any occasion. Peter – play the ball not the man – that is the standard of discourse we encourage in Oz. That said, I admire your intellect, knowledge and perseverance when you use it to promote nuclear energy.



    Click to access EPRI%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf


    1. Not a fair comparison because of the exclusion in the LCOE calculation: “Excludes grid connection, transmission, and firming (standing reserve requirements)”. Wind and solar are not comparable with fossil fuel and nuclear.

    2. Why is wind shown out of its correct ranking order (on the basis of LCOE) in each chart? This seems like a bias. It seems it has been shown on the 2015 chart ranked about four or five technologies higher than it should.

    3. Geothermal, of the types proposed for Australia, have never been demonstrated. They have decades of development before they are commercially viable at the scale required to make a significant contribution to Australia’s electricity supply

    4. Little allowance for cost reduction of nuclear between 2015 and 2030 but large cost reduction for solar technologies.

    5. I presume the projected LCOE for solar thermal with storage is based on the assumption that solar thermal with storage will be able to provide baseload generation. This is a highly optimistic assumption. For a fair comparison of LCOE why not assume that we will manufacture small to medium nuclear power plants on a production-line like tanks during WWII, and at a cost for such production?

    My opinion:

    6. Despite what others may argue, the LCOE will be the critical determinant of how, when, how much and at what rate nuclear will be rolled out (in Australia, in the developed countries and in the underdeveloped countries – eg Ethiopia and the like). We can get over all the other public perception problems relatively quickly, if the cost is below that of coal – which it could be if we removed the impediments and sent the right signals to investors.


  175. @Peter Lang:
    “We can get over all the other public perception problems relatively quickly, if the cost is below that of coal – which it could be if we removed the impediments and sent the right signals to investors.”

    In Australia, the wrong signals to investors, at present, include the legal bar on nuclear, fuzzy public misapprehensions re the nuclear fission cycle, the uncertainty re carbon pricing and the fact that so many investment decisions are made in a distorted market, eg government iniatives for solar and wind, especially rooftop domestic units which will never be economic except in niches such as ultra-remote locations. I would agree that LCOE is A critical determinant, but not that it is THE critical determinant.

    Thanks for bringing this paper to our attention. I imagine that there is a full report somewhere which more fully sets out assumptions, data sources, etc. I also imagine that it will never be publicly released.

    Barry’s figures for NPP (Exhibits #1 and #2 above) do not range as high as those from PRI. Is this due to use of of North American data in lieu of best available practice? If so, then there should be more allowance for cost decreases as the cheaper NPP technologies filter through.

    The authors of the EPRI report appear to have gone out of their way to ensure that they did no favours for NPP options.


  176. Its interesting to observe wind is priced the same as nuclear (LCOE). The nuclear capacity factor is assumed to be 85%, which I think is low, and as Peter remarks in his first point above, the indicated LCOE for wind is nothing like the full cost.

    Its frustrating to continually see the critical transmission and firming costs omitted in comparisons of technosolar to other technologies. I can only assume the solar costs indicated here are omit “firming”, meaning this “factsheet” is comparing the cost of daytime solar power to other generators. What is the cost of nighttime solar power?

    Is there some mechanism whereby the NEM could properly attribute wind and solar externalities to those generators? Having operators pay for the required transmission seems obvious. But is there any way the cost and CO2 emissions from backup could be clearly attributed to operators? They would of course complain about having to work within the outmoded baseload paradigm ..


  177. I assume ACIL Tasman’s report for AEMO was an input into the LCOE estimates. The figures could perhaps be reconciled using the AT report’s assumption that a tonne of CO2 will cost $23.

    Some entries lack credibility. Surely it makes a difference if the power station is 100 km from a black coal source as opposed to say 10 km. It seems fairly heroic to estimate CCS costs when there are no operating plants. There seems to be an element of flavour-of-the-month with the low estimate on hot sedimentary geothermal. What real world data is that based on? Perhaps their next report will be on the biology of Mars.


  178. You never seem to see a table of LCOE estimates that doesn’t contain contentious entries. That includes Wikipedia’s version. For example natural gas is currently cheap in the US but not in Europe. These tables need additional columns to cover
    1) CO2 costs say at 3c per kg
    2) expected subsidies
    3) costs to achieve say 85% capacity using only replication and transmission
    4) costs to achieve 85% capacity using gas fired generation.

    As it stands LCOE tables seem to come out every six months or so like edicts from the Vatican. Then commentators say this bit can’t be right and so it goes on.


  179. @John Newlands:
    I like the idea of CO2-e price sensitivity data being included in LCOE tables, along with indications of transmission and firming costs for each option, but then the whole would extend beyond 4 pages, which I presume was a mandatory maximum length of document.

    Seemingly, niether politicians nor the wider public can digest more than 4 pages, including a few pretty graphs and charts.


  180. I think you will find that the LCOE tables in the Fact Sheet are identical to the ones published in the ABARE Aus energy projections to 2029-2030 report released in March so nothing new here. They were derived by EPRI.

    Although the Fact Sheet doesn’t say so, these are 2009 A$ not 2010. The costs are derived in US$ and converted. The A$ range in 2009 was 0.6 to 0.9 so depending on when the conversion was done will have a significant bearing on the actual dollar values.

    John Morgan these figures do not include firming but they are life-time assessments and they do account for variation in output from solar and wind so it isn’t just the solar day-time. What is not included is any external back-up needed to make the technologies dispatchable.

    85% capacity factor is realistic. You might have an availability factor of 90% (10% for maintenance) but because of some part-loading and parasitic losses the actual output delivered to the bus-bar is only 85%.


  181. @ John Bennetts:

    My fear is that Australia will seek to follow a nuclear option, only to discover that our little country has wasted too much time while the trade systems of the world progressively are stressed and fail during the next decades. Who cares whether the Koreans, the Chinese, the French or the Canadians have the best NPP designs, if none of them want to do business half way around the globe and resource wars are breaking out around them?

    What’s this? Is this by the same John Bennetts who told me to drop dead for questioning ABARE in that old thread? Come on John, there are no ‘resource wars’ coming, ABARE says we’ve got plenty of everything!

    (nudge nudge wink wink)


  182. @eclipsenow:
    Yes, eclipsenow, this is the same JB who you tangled with before. Last time it was about one-track-mind the end is coming oil is going to cost a squillion and I won’t get any of it so the world will change forever raving. Of course peak oil is coming/has arrived. Of course changes will happen, just that I do not see calamity around the corner on this front… yet, and I certainly have not declared war on ABARE over their methodology.

    My reference was to potential resource wars (mainly over food and water and rising seas), not about FF scarcity. Who needs to travel anyway? Really? The tourism business is built entirely on a false premise, which is that the grass on the other side (of the globe) is greener. I like my grass to be at home and for the car and the two utes to stay in the shed.


  183. The rise and rise of gas. After Darling Downs Qld then Mortlake Vic the next gas fired power station will be Mannum SA
    They say they will work towards 1000 MW capacity which seems a lot for a peaking plant. Perhaps it will become the replacement for the Torrens Island closed cycle baseload plant which is Australia’s single largest gas user.

    I believe the unannounced plan is to connect Cooper Basin (Moomba) with central Qld coal seam gas and I gather a section of pipe is being replicated now. Let’s face it folks the higher powers have decided on the coal replacement technology and it is gas. Talk of 80% CO2 cuts and serious carbon prices can’t be taken seriously.


  184. @John Newlands:
    Don’t forget that Bayswater Power Station is close to both the North-South and the East-West pipeline routes which are proposed for CSG. B2 power station is proposed for and has been approved for either air cooled CCS ready coal (whatever and whenever that comes to pass, OR CCGT, again air cooled. 2000MW. Not strictly peaking, but at least flexible.

    Compared to the black coal alternatives, and after allowing for the auxiliary energy demand of the air cooled side of things, the potential carbon reduction is nowhere near 80% wrt, say, the existing adjacent 2.7GW Bayswater Power Station.

    As for CCS: Pull the other leg. I have yet to hear of a suitable storage formation in the Hunter, guaranteed not to EVER release the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

    Have you a handle on the 80% figure? It seems to be a bit high except perhaps wrt conventional brown coal, which is not a fair comparison unless additional brown coal is being proposed somewhere in the NEM.


  185. Hi John B,

    Of course peak oil is coming/has arrived. Of course changes will happen, just that I do not see calamity around the corner on this front… yet, and I certainly have not declared war on ABARE over their methodology.

    Glad to hear it. Although I don’t think in my most fevered moments that I questioned ABARE’s *methodology* but their focus. I’m sure they are great on domestic resources, but oil is an internationally traded commodity and peak oil is a global phenomenon. It was the head of ABARE’s flimsy replies to the peak oil task-force that really set my teeth on edge.

    But I agree with you on the potential water and food crisis, yet disagree that peak oil can be so easily dismissed. And have you followed the increasing chatter about peak coal becoming imminent? Seems impossible, unthinkable… until one divides total reserves into roughly half and labels the first half ‘easy and increasing’ and the second half ‘difficult and decreasing’. Whack on a bell curve, and it all comes clear.


  186. just get on with the first 20 to 40 NPP’s at any cost Australia

    @ John, Quokka, David Benson, Tom Keen, Barry, and others I have missed:

    I agree!

    The Left Versus Right debate has bored us all to tears long enough.

    I left BNC for a few weeks there because every 2nd post seemed to scream FREE MARKET, SAFETY REDUCED, LOWEST COST NUCLEAR IS THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE THE WORLD!!!!!!!!

    I’m grateful to DV8 who spelt it out so clearly:

    Frankly claiming without proof that nuclear is over engineered, is not going to garner much support in the industry. It is just not a credible position to take. And no one will take it seriously at all if you can’t point to where the over building, and over engineering is occurring. Simply saying ‘I believe’ to a group of engineers won’t get you far.

    And then Barry:

    This line of argument, along with your drum beating about making nuclear ‘less safe’ to reduce costs, is a gold-plated guaranteed sure path to failure in getting public acceptance, however rational it may seem to you. I have no doubt about that.

    I’m glad to see some more flexible economic paradigms finally standing up to this agenda-driven bullying.

    Let’s just agree to get the job done — whatever it takes — and bust all the anti-nuclear myths along the way.

    Also, what gives with the ‘binary’ nature of the hard right? They are so quick to slander anything a tiny degree left of their position as COMMUNIST!

    EG: Tom Keen said:

    Peter, I’m unsure where you got the idea that this appeals to the “hard left” or that John Bennetts is advocating socialist policies.

    Agreed! Peter’s world seems so ‘all or nothing’! If it’s not HARD right it’s socialist. As if there are not an infinite number of economic ratios in between. As if we can’t move the “government to market” dial 0.5% to the left without Peter screaming COMMUNISTS!

    Why are the hard-right so quick to slander any *tiny degree* left on the dial as ALL the way Left? Why are they so BINARY in their paradigms? It’s On or Off, a FREE market or North Korean Dictator! That’s all there is folks. No really. ;-)

    They’re blind to the infinite degrees of possibility between their artificial and contrived economic bookends.


  187. @eclipsenow:

    Peter has intentionally put aside some of his issues about how the marketplace works/will work. I suggest that you do also. Yesterday’s debate is about as tasty as yesterday’s food.

    Peter has brought to our attention a significant contribution, one that the politicians will pick up and dissect for the next news cycle – 6 hours to 6 months – and I appreciate very much the chance to look at its bonafides before it gets to the front page of the Australian wearing different clothes.


  188. Peter has intentionally put aside some of his issues about how the marketplace works/will work. I suggest that you do also. Yesterday’s debate is about as tasty as yesterday’s food.

    We’ll see. I’ve only been catching up recently, and must have missed the part where Peter agreed to stop riding his hobby horse to death in front of us all. Got a link? Cause I’m sure this particular horse is going to have another run. And another. As I said, it’s one of the reasons I stopped coming here.


  189. EN, there is no need for a link. Peter’s opinion is clear and will probably not change any time soon. On this thread, he has made clear that which is technical discussion and that which is personal opinion. See Item 6 of 8:12pm, 25th November.

    That’s clear enough, surely.

    The topic of this thread is the current comparative cost of stationary power via various technologies, not the re-opening of old wounds or off thread discussion of peak oil or peak coal.


  190. “current comparative cost of stationary power via various technologies”

    I guess one has to emphasise current comparative cost, and shut off all the ABC specials coming next year on peak oil and peak coal. Fine, I can play that game. But if you think peak coal is ‘off thread’ for that much longer, you’re mistaken. It’s coming. Fast.


  191. JB looking at various links suggests that central Qld CSG will be split 3 ways
    1) a pipe to the Gladstone liquefaction plant
    2) a connector to NSW
    3) a link to Adelaide via Moomba
    The Wiki entry on Moomba say its gas will peak in 2016. Different configurations seem possible
    – NSW ex-coal CCS CO2 going to Cooper Basin
    – Qld CSG going to NSW without CCS
    with the latter being the simpler approach. However the Bayswater B proposal says they regard gas (presumably without CCS) as too expensive.

    Australian gas has been set a Herculean task
    – replace 50 Mt a year of oil
    – replace 120 Mt of domestic black and brown coal
    – earn the same export income as 260 Mt of coal.

    80% CO2 reductions by 2050 were bandied about by Bob Brown et al a year ago. While some say combined cycle gas can save 55% CO2 compared to pulverised black coal I recall a comment on another blog that said the saving in the US was more like 35%.


  192. EN I pointed out before that Vic’s Latrobe Valley is supposed to be good for another 800 years but SA’s Leigh Ck only 30 years. It’s hard to see big remote deposits like SA’s Arckaringa Basin ever going commercial. OTOH you hear of plans to build a huge ammonia plant based on coal at Collie WA.

    I was surprised to hear that the ill fated coal mine at Greymouth NZ was their biggest. Perhaps Kiwis should grow our fruit & veg as we mine the coal and our river systems dry up most years. Political peak coal for Australia could be tomorrow if they announced a hard CO2 cap (including exports) and didn’t weaken it with giveaways.

    The general vibe seems to be that we will greatly expand coal exports to China and India but new power stations in Australia will be gas. No coal miners lose their jobs. I expect carbon tax to be negligible and when local power prices keep going up we’ll comfort ourselves with all the export dollars. I think Australian coal won’t decline until China and India go bad, nothing to do with geology or the next El Nino. Peak spot price for black thermal coal maybe $200/t by 2015, declining thereafter due to world recession.


  193. OK, but does that include exponential growth in coal demand as CTL kicks in to alleviate peak oil? (Assuming we go that way for airlines and heavy vehicles, even if we adopt Electric Cars, Trolley Buses and New Urbanism to replace conventional cars?)

    “Research in 2009 by the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded that Australian coal production could peak sometime after 2050.[3] While the Australian Coal Association (ACA) optimistically estimates that Australia’s identified black coal resources could last more than 200 years based on rate of production in 2007, this does not account for brown coal stocks.[14]”


  194. Thanks, John N.

    We are in substantial agreement, however the actual development approval was for either/or. Either dry cooled CCS-ready coal or CCGT, with air cooling for the condensers. Either way, there is a capital cost attached to air cooling, along with additional auxilary power costs and plenty of noise from the fans.

    Both Queensland and NSW CSG proposals are feeling a strong headwind of public concern. This isn’t going to go away any time soon.

    I stand by my observation that the Scottish CCS trial is by no means a lay-down misere. It might demonstrate what I have said for years – that CCS uses so much capital and energy that the underlying process (PF coal) becomes unattractive commercially.


  195. EN if/when petrol prices increase I think road transport will split into PHEVs and NGVs, neither using much liquid fuel. Jet fuel may have to come from GTL to get the power-to-weight ratio. Thus I see gas going to GTL and CNG putting it in direct conflict with power station demand and LNG export.

    I don’t see the public accepting CTL, not only here but if the Chinese make it using a percentage of Aussie coal. If nontrivial carbon tax ever happened (unlikely) then CTL would pay double since the Fischer Tropsch plant emissions without CCS are about the same as tailpipe emissions in the vehicle. Sure there is a CTL with CCS plant (Bismark) in the US but the costs and revenues are atypical. It would take years to build CTL plants in Australia not fast enough to keep up with oil decline.

    Another possibility is that oil prices don’t increase much because demand falls as supply dwindles. As we see now there may be no early price signal to make the switch to alternative propulsion. Trouble is a sudden panic could set in. I’d almost bet on that happening in the next 5 years. Holden might come out with an NGV under $25k and the switch will be on. No need for CTL.


  196. I see EN is still riding his ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak coal’ hobby horse to death, as are most others riding their hobby horses.

    And the vitreol and personal attacks continue, perhaps even increased. Where is the moderator who decided to enforce the “Comments Policy” but apparantly only against those who do not share the same beliefs as the disciples.

    All the other personal attacks and polically laced material (as long is it is properly aligned with the beliefs here) is allowed to run, perhaps even encouraged.

    BTW, I opened the thread to post this link. Enjoy!

    Click to access AEGTC%202010.pdf


  197. EN, don’t get your hopes up with every passing fad. I am convinced that this battery swap solution will never progress beyond a small niche and almost certainly will undergo various generational changes along the way.

    My main reason? Batteries with sufficient storage capacity are evolving pretty fast and at this stage it is not easy to see the whole commercial picture or the environmental one – resource constraints, end of life disposal and recycling issues, etc.

    I expect the next petrol price shock to drive this process much further than any blue sky development, especially one in Canberra. JN’s 5 year estimate seems pretty close to the money. That’s when fuel cells and batteries will go head to head, with only one dominant winner.

    We all know that nothing useful happens in Canberra, don’t we? Canberra! I’m still chuckling.


  198. Canberra might be funny but what about the C40?

    Bloomberg is urging the world’s top 40 cities coalition against climate change to adopt EV’s for their taxis.

    As the world’s great cities put their electric taxi rollout plans into effect under Bloomberg’s leadership, they are starting to look at our Tokyo Electric Taxi Project, which we launched last April to demonstrate switchable-battery EVs in the marketplace for the first time. Recently extended for an additional three months, the project shows how EVs – and electric taxis in particular – can make a major impact in terms of reducing emissions. In Tokyo, for example, taxis make up only 2% of passenger vehicles, but are responsible for 20% of the city’s transport emissions. And here in the host city of Hong Kong, transportation creates 50% of the ground level pollution with taxis and light delivery vehicles alone accounting for more than half of that.

    By electrifying our cities’ taxis, we not only take a chunk out of harmful emissions, but also deliver a fast, silent, efficient – almost futuristic – way to travel. Having clocked over 25,000 miles during the demonstration so far, 97% of passengers reported a very positive experience, and 73% said that when they ride a taxi, they want it to be electric. As Bloomberg points out, starting with the taxi segment maximizes the number of people who can experience the future of transportation and get them primed to adopt EVs themselves.

    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.



  199. Sorry, the conversation moved along from the impact of peak coal on the price of stationary electricity generation through to broader peak coal implications. I was merely responding to points that developed.

    I’ve moved this post about Better Place across to the Open Thread. Think of it. Taxis run 24/7. This is happening in San Francisco, in front of the C40. It seems like San Francisco will be adopting this big time. That’s just awesome.

    But enough for this thread.


  200. Barry, there was a spasm of OT and personal stuff this morning post-0800. I believe that it has blown over. Feel free to delete this message after reading, because it gets us no closer to the substantive topic.

    This evening, many of your readers will be heads down over the 200+ page report linked by Peter at 3:14. Great stuff!


  201. Thanks John. And to everyone — the general point is this: I don’t want to restrict commenting, mute people or generally do any censorship whatsover. I tried, for as long as possible, to say nothing regarding the whole political/accusational stuff. But there comes a limit. If everyone exercises a reasonable amount of judgement, I’ll not feel the need to intervene. It’s only the extreme circumstances that force my hand. Please don’t do that, and we’re all happy, and can tread the comments sections in BNC in the spirit they’re intended — for wide ranging discussions that cover a whole raft of views, and in which people are encouraged to be frank, open and honest. Just not personal.


  202. Comments on the Executive Summary to the EPRI report “Australian Electricity Generation Technology Costs – Reference Case 2010”

    Click to access AEGTC%202010.pdf

    1. The report is a Consultant’s report, and is clearly written to support the policies of the government that commissioned it.

    2. Page v

    “Due to water limitations within Australia, all cases evaluated were based on the use of dry cooling (air cooled condensing).”

    Nuclear should also be compared on the basis of sea-water cooling (i.e. lower LCOE by about 10%).

    3. page vii

    “Capital cost and operating and maintenance cost estimates were developed based on US, Gulf Coast rates for equipment, materials, labour and labour productivity.”

    So, apparently no attempt has been made to consider what the LCOE of nuclear would be if we removed the impediments to nuclear that exist in the USA and would be even higher in Australia.

    4. page viii

    “Australia is encouraging a broad portfolio of technologies and is already committed to initiatives to accelerate the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS), renewable energy technologies (including solar and geothermal technologies) and energy efficiency to reduce the carbon intensity of Australia’s electricity system.”

    Not true while nuclear, the least cost low emission technology, is prohibited. This statement demonstrates the report is written to suit and support the client’s policies. If the report was not biased it would have stated clearly, right here in the second paragraph of the Executive Summary, that nuclear is banned by Government policy.

    5.. page viii

    “The report provides a technical and economic assessment of globally available technologies with greatest relevance to Australia.”

    “Globally available” is a distortion. The report compares nuclear, a mature, commercially available baseload technology with technologies that are not available commercially, not available at the scale required and not capable of generating baseload (or dispatchable) power. Examples are: solar thermal, solar PV, wind, tidal, wave, biomass, geothermal (in non volcanic environments), IGCC, and Carbon Capture and Storage.

    6. page viii

    “Understanding the technical and commercial parameters of available stationary energy technologies in the Australian context will help define Australia’s options for responding responsibly and cost effectively to pressures on energy systems. The cost and performance of the available technologies is also an important input to work to determine the cost of economy-transforming structural change necessitated by a response to the challenges of climate change, energy security and economic prosperity.”

    This paragraph has been written or edited by a government spin doctor/bureaucrat.

    7. page ix

    “Costs for new technologies are expected to decline more rapidly than mature technologies as there is greater opportunity for ‘learning by doing’, ‘technology development’ and ‘economies of scale’ to lead to more efficient, lower cost plants.”

    The statement is true in principle. However, nuclear has been prevented from going through its development cycle because of the restrictions that have been placed on it. The cost reductions that have been continually predicted over the past 20 years for solar thermal have not eventuated.

    8. page ix

    “The levelised cost of electricity analysis presented in the report can provide an indicative comparison between technologies. However, site, market and system dependant factors such as transmission and firming costs will have a very significant impact on the ultimate mix of technology required to provide an efficient and reliable system. “

    True. Important point to remember. This means we cannot compare the LCOE of intermittent renewables with dispatchable power sources such as fossil and nuclear plants.

    9. page x

    “This report provides … an analysis of the levelised costs of each technology using a common methodology and set of assumptions.”

    Not true. Intermittent, non dispatchable, technologies with low capacity factors are compared with fully dispatchable, baseload technologies with high capacity factors.

    10. page x

    “Also of importance in interpreting the results is the implication of the relative position of each technology on the capital cost learning or ‘Grubb’ curve. As a technology moves along the continuum of development, the accuracy of performance and cost estimates tends to improve.”

    True. However, nuclear’s progress along the cost learning curve has been retarded by 40 years of political opposition (in the developed nations). Once the blocks are removed, the impediments are removed, and we get a level playing field for requirements (such as safety requirements) across all technologies, nuclear can also begin to follow the cost reduction curve it would have followed if it had not been prevented from doing so by 40 years of nonsensical opposition to it.

    11 page xi

    “KEY ASSUMPTIONS (selected)

    Coal supply is assumed to be based on characteristics of Hunter Valley black coal and Latrobe Valley brown coal. The coal plant sites are assumed to be mine mouth with conveyors delivering coal from the mine to the site with storage sized for 5 days generation.

    No SO2 or NOx reduction systems are included due to the very low sulphur content of Australian coal, unless SO2 reduction is required by the CCS technology.

    This assumption is favourable to coal and CCS

    For all technologies, dry cooling systems are necessary.

    Ths assumptions is unfavourable to nuclear. Nuclear should be lacated on the coast and use sea-water cooling.

    Cost boundaries include all equipment required to generate electricity (boilers, turbine generators, solar collectors, etc.) and all support facilities needed to operate the plant (emissions control equipment, wastewater-treatment facilities, offices, etc.).

    The cost boundary also includes the connection equipment, but switchyard and associated transmission line costs are not included due to system-specific conditions.

    This assumptions is favourable to renewables. Renewables are located far from demand centres, have higher switchyard and transmission costs than fossil fuel and nuclear plants Renewables also require higher power/frequency control grid management costs and these are not included in these comparisons.

    CO2 compression equipment and energy penalties are included for plants with carbon capture. Capital costs for CO2 pipeline and storage area for sequestration are not included in cost and performance data. A nominal AUD20/tonne for transport and sequestration has been included for levelised cost of electricity analysis.

    These costs are a major uncertainty. This assumption is highly favourable to CCS

    For solar thermal technologies, a range of direct normal insolation (DNI) of 5, 6 and 7 kWh/m2/day was used. For reference, some Australia specific DNIs are: Canberra = 4.9 kWh/m2/day; Mildura 5.8 kWh/m2/day; and Alice Springs 7.2 kWh/m2/day.

    These assumptions look optimistic and highly favourable to solar thermal. A) I understand the US plants are finding that the actual output of the plants is considerably less than calculated from DNI, especially in winter. There is still little information on actual performance output, at short time intervals (like 5 to 30 mins) from solar thermal plants. So any predictions of output based on DNI should be treated with caution.
    B) The prediction is being based on average annual DNI rather than worst case actual output. C)quoting figures for Alice Springs and Mildura indicates that transmission costs would be significant; however, transmission costs are excluded from the analysis. Tis is highly favourable to solar thermal.

    Total Plant Cost (TPC) and O&M cost estimates carry an accuracy of +/-30%

    That is a ridiculously low figure. That level of accuracy would not be assumed until detail design for a specific plant at a specific site and with all the local political issues resolved. Experience to date with solar thermal, would suggest an accuracy of +/- 500% would be more realistic for projections of future LCOE of solar thermal plants.

    The following items are excluded from the capital costs:

    CO2 injection wells, pipelines to deliver the CO2 from the generation plant fence to the storage facility and all administration supervision and control costs for the facility. (However, the levelised cost of electricity analysis includes a nominal AUD20/tonne for transport and sequestration to cover these costs)

    This assumption favours CCS

    Large differences between original cost estimates and actual installed costs have been common. Some of these differences have resulted from the type of estimate given, such as a “goal” type of estimate without explicit consideration of the likelihood of achievement.

    True – particularly for solar thermal. It suggests that solar thermal projections are likely to be highly optimistic (as they have been historically). The same should be expected for geothermal, CCS and IGCC

    11. Page xv

    The solar plant, since it operates with free fuel, was considered to operate whenever sunlight could provide energy (plus use of the stored thermal energy).

    Highly optimistic. This means no unscheduled. This is totally unrealistic for an immature technology. There will also be long periods (months to years) where plants are operating well below capacity due to the time needed to remove cacked on dust from dust storms.

    12. page xv

    The low end estimates of the charts assume a best case scenario: capital cost estimates and fuel prices are at the low end of the sensitivity ranges investigated in this study, project and site specific costs are assumed to add only 5% to the TPC (baseline is 7.5%), CO2 transportation and storage cost is assumed to be only AUD10/tonne (baseline is AUD20/tonne), and, for renewable technologies, the best available resource was assumed (DNI = 7 kWh/m2/day for parabolic trough and central receiver; wind class 6 (average wind speed of 8.4 m/s) for wind turbines).

    The low end estimates for nuclear should be based on costs with all impediments to nu clear removed, investor risk premium moved from nuclear to coal and renewables, and the cost for 2030 based on rolling out small NPPs from production facilities (like producing tanks for war). If we are going to base the low end estimates for solar thermal, CCS etc on all the most optimistic assumptions possible, then why not fdo the same for nuclear? Surely, in a report like this, it should at least show what would be possible if we were serious about cutting emissions (world emissions) at least cost.

    13. page xv

    The high end estimates of the charts assume the higher side of the uncertainties: capital cost estimates and fuel prices are at the high end of the sensitivity ranges investigated in this study,
    project and site specific costs are assumed to add 10% to the TPC, CO2 transportation and storage cost is assumed to be AUD30/tonne, and, for renewable technologies, the worst available resource was assumed (DNI = 5 kWh/m2/day for parabolic trough and central receiver; wind class 3 (average wind speed of 6.7 m/s) for wind turbines).

    Nonsense. The high end estimates for solar thermal are nowhere near the higher end cost that are estimated based on costs of available technology and on projections based on past trends. The estimates for solar thermal (and for all the immature technologies) are highly optimistic).

    14. Page xvi

    Multi-dimensional sensitivity analysis was also conducted on 2015 technology levelised costs of electricity. These sensitivity analyses are presented as ‘Tornado’ graphs showing the effect of different assumptions on the levelised cost of electricity results. Capital costs were varied by +/-30% of the baseline cost results. ….

    Garbage in, Garbage out. Or, more appropriately, policy driven inputs gives policy desired outputs (or no more jobs for you, thanks!! Don’t call us, we’ll call you.). Surely, the capital costs for solar thermal, should be varied by +500% at the high end, and nuclear varied by -50% below the UAE cost at the low end.

    15. Page xvi

    For all technologies except for the wind turbine, the plant life was varied between 20 years and 40 years with a baseline lifetime of 30 years.

    Why not 60 years for nuclear? (60 years is the standard design life for modern nuclear power plants)

    16. Page xvi

    Some technologies are only capable of operating for short periods (due to fuel limits) or face commercial incentives to operate for short periods of time (due to high relative fuel costs). Shorter operating periods for these technologies means that their capital costs must be recovered over shorter operating periods. As a consequence these technologies have a LCOE which is very sensitive to capital, fuel and resource costs.

    I wonder which they are. I wonder if nuclear is included as one of the technologies that has a short fuel life.

    17. Page xvii

    The Tornado charts are complete nonsense because the inputs are based on +/- a percentage where the percentage selected in based on the authors’ bias (to suit the client’s bias).

    They provide tornado charts for Solar thermal, photovoltaic, wind, Black coal PC with CCS, Brown coal PC with CCS, OCGT with CCS and CCGT with CCS. But no tornado chart for nuclear!!!! I wonder why. Is anyone still in doubt about the bias in this report?

    18. Page xxii

    Process and review
    To ensure the report’s output is consistent with Australian conditions, a comprehensive stakeholder consultation process was built into the program.

    No wonder the report is biased towards renewables and CCS and against nuclear. Take a look at the “Advisory Group” and “Reference Group” participants (page xxii – xxiii).

    This report is clearly biased towards renewables, CCS and against nuclear. It is clearly driven by government policy and carefully appointed special interests.


  203. Eclipsenow: repetitively off topic.

    What about this Sahara nonsense? Are you really claiming that 50% of the world’s energy can come from one desert, thousands of km away from the loads? No transmission system? Or, perhaps, HVDC at scales never before attempted? Do you consider this to be a practical pointer towards a realistic future, or a pipe dream?


  204. Austrailia get ready. Here comes you cheap nuclear power.

    China evolves basic reactor design for export markets
    The main type of power reactor being built in large numbers in China is the CPR-1000, based on the French 900 MWe design imported for Daya Bay in the 1980s. Known as the ‘improved Chinese PWR’, it features digital instrumentation and control and a design life of 60 years. Standard construction time is 52 months, and the unit cost is under CNY 10,000 (US$ 1500) per kilowatt. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) led the development of the CPR-1000 and has established a nearly complete domestic supply chain. However, at present Areva retains intellectual property rights. CGNPC is continuing to develop the design and its evolution to Advanced CPR-1000 as a third-generation reactor design with full Chinese intellectual property rights. At the China International Nuclear Symposium this week, CGNPC said it expects to make the ACPR-1000 available for local build and overseas markets in 2013.

    There’s over 200 posts here and I still do not know whether any of you think Australia would buy cheaper-than-coal from China.


  205. @ John B,
    I was merely posting for some backup over on their blog ‘Next Big future’ — to point out the reality of electricity costs. They’re a frustrating mob because they seem happy to discuss nuclear power, but then backtrack and seem to promote this solar PV idea as positive! Errrgh!

    I mean, they’re happy to confirm what Martin Burkle said above.


    Just wondering if I could have some backup on this rather popular blog to the effect that they should stop rabbitting on about renewables as it affects their credibility.


  206. With military hardware there seems to be an unwritten rule that it must come from Europe or the US. As in if we bought jet fighters from the Russians they might withhold spare parts. However the ACPR-1000 reactor is semi French semi Chinese so that’s a grey area.

    I think $1.50/w is optimistic in a country like Australia that has underemployed lawyers, meddling bureaucrats and attention seeking politicians. Perhaps Australia could cut a deal with China whereby they build the plants and we give them uranium.


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