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|
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.
259 replies on “Electricity costs exhibits”
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.
Anyway, I wouldn’t expect a DV8 half-amish pro-nuke to be an ideologue ;-)
Arthur, on 11 November 2010 at 9:24 AM — I point out that to suppliment the NPP the Russians are building in Vietnam, the Vietnamese are sure to acquire two more from Japan. Why is that, when Australian coal is so nearby?
China’s revised nuclear power target is 112 GW by 2020 (up from previous 70 GW, itself up from earlier 40 GW estimate): http://goo.gl/X1kmn
How do you explain this, Arthur? (I also suggest you read this BNC thread: The 21st century nuclear renaissance is starting – good news for the climate)
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.
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.
John Bennetts, on 11 November 2010 at 11:16 AM — Well written. Most states in the USA have old-fashioned, hence poor, laws governing the ultility regulatory commissions.
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).
Peter Lang, on 13 November 2010 at 10:03 AM — I suspect it has to do with perception of extreme events with extreme consequences.
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.
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.
Woops. Sorry, wrong link in previous comment.
Please refer to “What is Risk; a simple explanation” here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Up thread you said:
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:
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.
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.
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.
peter: thanks. the simple example of 100% wind capacity penetration helps me understand the point conceptually.
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.
Wow, did John Bennetts actually say this:
What a hypocrite.
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.
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.
@ 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?
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
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.
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?
Apologies to all re crook grammer in para 1 above. You get the drift, I’m sure.
It might cheer you to revisit the 25th August post, entitled “Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor at UC Berkeley – Low Cost Nuclear?”
John Bennetts said:
And, upthread he said:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
“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.
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 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.
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.
Nonsense. There are none. Show me any middle or large size economy where non-hydro renewables provide the bulk of the electricity supply.
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).
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.
nice posts john and 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.
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.
The artist’s impression for ringwall storage looks spiffy
but as Barry pointed out with vertical farming the numbers aren’t sensible. Perhaps another example is the Leonardo da Vinci ‘helicopter’ with inadequate power for size among other issues.
I guess Desertec with solar in N. Africa and cables to Europe has now fallen out of favour.
John Newland’s link is a good one.
The size of the ring wall just halved to 6km. The volume of earthworks has halved but the volume of stored water is now only a quarter of the previous.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
John Newlands, on 15 November 2010 at 2:47 PM — Sorry, it was my latest comment on the electricity requirements for 2060 CE.
John Bennetts – thanks for the comments on the article. I wonder if you would be good enough to send me an email. I want to ask a favour.
You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks John in anticipation.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
You could discribe it short words.
Anti renewable propaganda combined with nuclear science fiction miss information.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You are missing the point.
True. That is the point.
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.
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.
@Douglas Wise, on 16 November 2010 at 2:50 AM :
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.
@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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
I use the term “severe accident” in the way used defined in the NewExt data base of severe accidents.
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.
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:
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.
@ 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.
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.
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.
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.
It is not credible to say there will never be another severe nuclear accident.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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.
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).
@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.
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.
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.
John Bennetts, on 17 November 2010 at 10:09 AM — I agree.
So all the Left are in agreement.
How surprising :)
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?
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.
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”.
You are making stuff up.
You should act on your own advice.
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.
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.