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Emissions Policy

Government intervention on fossil fuel pollution

Guest post by DV82XLHe is a Canadian chemist and materials scientist (and regular BNC commenter). An earlier relevant post by this author can be read here: An informed public is key to acceptance of nuclear energy.

I have been watching with some amusement the debate here at BNC surrounding the idea of a carbon price on CO2, which often seems to be a thinly veiled debate on climate forcing in general. Both sides have made both rational, and in my opinion, some irrational statements to support their stand. Lost in this, however, seems to be the realization that that using fossil-fuels has other impacts and costs that are not questioned as AGW is, and to my mind, make a case for the swift adoption of nuclear energy that is at least as strong. Leaving the CO2 issue aside, there is serious damage being done to the environment, and to human health, from the extraction and combustion of these fuels, topics that are being by-passed in this discussion.

For example, not only does the mining of coal lay waste to vast areas, rendering the land unfit for other uses, but also when coal surfaces are exposed and come in contact with water and air, sulfuric acid is formed. As water drains from the mine, the acid moves into the waterways, and as long as rain falls on the mine tailings the sulfuric acid production continues, whether the mine is still operating or not. This process is known as acid rock drainage (ARD) or acid mine drainage (AMD). If the coal is strip mined, the entire exposed seam leaches sulfuric acid, leaving the subsoil infertile on the surface and pollutes streams by acidifying and killing fish, plants, and aquatic animals which are sensitive to drastic pH shifts.

Strip mining, or surface mining of coal completely eliminates existing vegetation, destroys the genetic soil profile, displaces or destroys wildlife and habitat, degrades air quality, alters current land uses, and permanently changes the general topography of the area mined. The community of micro organisms and nutrient cycling processes are upset by movement, storage, and redistribution of soil. Generally, soil disturbance and associated compaction result in conditions conducive to erosion. Soil removal from the area to be surface mined alters or destroys many natural soil characteristics, reducing its productivity for agriculture and biodiversity.

Ground water supplies are adversely affected by surface mining. These impacts include drainage of usable water from shallow aquifers; lowering of water levels in adjacent areas and changes in flow directions within aquifers; contamination of usable aquifers below mining operations due to infiltration or percolation of poor quality mine water; and increased infiltration of precipitation. Where coal or carbonaceous shales are present, increased infiltration may result in increased runoff of poor quality water and erosion from spoil piles; recharge of poor quality water to shallow groundwater aquifers; or poor quality water flow to nearby streams. This may contaminate both ground water and nearby streams for long periods. Lakes formed in abandoned surface mining operations are more likely to be acid if there is coal or carbonaceous shale present in mine tailings, especially if these materials are near the surface and contain pyrites. Degradation of aquatic habitats has often been a major impact from surface mining and may be apparent to some degree many miles from a mining site. Sediment contamination of surface water is common with surface mining. Sediment yields may increase 1000 times over their former level as a direct result of strip mining.

Fires sometimes occur in coal beds underground. When coal beds are exposed, the fire risk is increased. Weathered coal can also increase ground temperatures if it is left on the surface. Almost all fires in solid coal are ignited by surface fires caused by people or lightning strikes however spontaneous combustion can occur when coal oxidizes and air flow is insufficient to dissipate heat. Where coal fires occur, there is attendant air pollution from emission of smoke and noxious fumes into the atmosphere. Coal seam fires may burn underground for decades, threatening destruction of forests, homes, schools, churches, roadways and other valuable infrastructure. Spontaneous combustion is common in coal stockpiles and refuse piles at mine sites.

Mine collapses, or mine subsidence has a potential for major effects aboveground, which are especially devastating in built-up areas. German underground coal-mining, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, has damaged thousands of houses, for example.

The mining and burning of coal leads to slag heaps and substantial fly ash sludge storage ponds. Thousands of these all over the world will remain a potential hazard essentially forever, and several failures of the containment of these have had a devastating impact on both the surroundings and water resources nearby.

Nor are the negative effects of coal limited to the environment. Every year, coal miners die from diseases brought on by breathing hazardous coal dust. Black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ lung pneumonoconiosis, is caused by breathing in coal mine dust. If inhaled over an extended period of time, this dust can collect in the lungs and create scar tissue that obstructs airflow to the lungs. Despite laws, miners continue to die from this disease. As well, as coal production increases in an area, so does the incidence of chronic illness in nearby communities among segments of the population not directly involved with the industry.

According to the U.S. Clean Air Task Force (CATF), the adverse health consequences of breathing air pollution caused by emissions from utility power plants are severe and well documented in the published medical and scientific literature. In the report Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants CATF found that: Fine particulate matter pollution from U.S. power plants leads to more than 24,000 deaths each year; coal-fired power plant pollution is responsible for 38,200 non-fatal heart attacks per year; and people who live in metropolitan areas near coal-fired plants feel their impacts most acutely — their attributable death rates are much higher than areas with few or no coal-fired plants.

I have dwelt in detail with coal, because it seems to be the fuel mostly under discussion here; however the facts surrounding other fossil-fuels are not much better. We have recently been treated to the spectacle of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which it turns out wasn’t all that unique, and the issues with winning oil from the Tar Sands are not much better than those of coal. Hydrofracking to produce gas from shales already has caused serious problems where it is being tried, which will scale to the level of an environmental disaster of huge proportions if it is allowed to grow.

These impacts are not projections, they are not opinions, and they are not the problems of the future. They are directly observable in the here and now. Certainly it is clear that the magnitude of these impacts could never be offset by any reasonable tax levied against the burning of these fuels at cycle-end.

Since the early Seventies, (and prior, to some extent) industry in general has had to take increasing responsibility for its wastes. The bulk of the work that I preformed during the course of my career certainly was driven by this, ether by direct involvement, or indirectly due to changes that precipitated from these policies. In fact material science in general today is largely a product of efforts to avoid production and end-of-life waste issues for products. (That is the work being done in the trenches, which almost never get the press the sexy end of the field gets.) The point being that in the face of legislation, almost every industry has changed its process and procedures to reflect the new reality.

Now it is true that in many cases, industry has simply left jurisdictions with strict environmental laws, for those with more relaxed attitudes and this is a concern, but many have not, and even then the ‘pollution haven’ effect is not systematic, either across industries or between countries. This is because increased globalization leads to increased competition, which in turn pushes firms to invest in the latest and most efficient technologies and the most efficient technologies are at the same time, generally speaking, the ones that harm the environment less. This behavior is also pushed by fears of environmental impact trade restrictions, an idea gaining currency in many developed countries.

However, except for some minor efforts to reduce the nuisance-factor of their emissions, fossil-fuel burners have not addressed this issue with anything like the efforts other industries have.

Throughout history it has been recognized that there are times when governments must intervene and enact legislation which in essence demands that certain industrial activities must change, this is done by fiat, without regard for the direct economic impact that this will have. Industries are then expected to change to accommodate these laws, or cease operation. Did these cause upheavals? Yes they did, but the speed that the necessary changes were made was astonishing, and the larger impact on prices and labor which had been predicted to be dire, did not materialize, and in fact were just as likely to be positive. This is what is required in the energy sector.

I am not arguing against the impacts of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), or the validity of the theory, or disparaging the evidence for it. But it must be recognized that it has a large number of vocal detractors that are managing to devalue the idea as a driver of change, and they do not have to fight to win; all they need do is maintain the current stalemate to meet their objective of avoiding change. Being a person primarily interested in the promotion of nuclear energy, and someone working towards its wide adoption, I am beginning to question the utility (rather than the truth) of the AGW argument, and the idea that it can be fought with a carbon tax, as a step towards that goal.

By Barry Brook

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

133 replies on “Government intervention on fossil fuel pollution”

DB my guesstimates use 6-8%. Depends upon Federal guarantees as well. I use straight line depreciation according to plant life eg 5% for 20 years. However I understand most nukes are written down well before retirement. I understand fuel costs are typically 2% of a Gen II’s operating budget.

I think a smart approach for Australia could be to build CPR 1000’s using a joint venture with the Chinese. As with several operating mines here avoid Chinese names and signage or too many low grade ‘guest’ workers. As long as enriched uranium remains affordable we can buy it in and still be way ahead because of the low capital cost. If I understand correctly the capex of a CANDU type reactor wipes out any fuel import savings.

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What I am saying John is that rising demand for SWUs suggests that Oz should invest in domestic enrichment facilities. It would be a one time investment, that would have to be added to the initial costs, however you would then be in a position to add value to your own uranium resources as a net exporter of fuel, rather than just yellowcake or UF6.

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John Newlands, on 15 January 2011 at 12:20 PM — Thanks. LCOE seems to be highly sensitive to the financial package. For example in the USA, CCGTs don’t have to start paying interest until completed having in effect a 30 year mortgage on units with a design life of 40 years. Wind turbines have to start paying the mortgage upon delivery of the parts, before completion. I believe the mortgage has to be paid off in 15 years corresponding to the 20 year design life.

I would suppose that the Chinese NPP has a design life of 40 years, so a 30 year mortgage ought to be obtainable.

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I suspect that China may not export CPR-1000 and opt for AP1000 or some derivative thereof.

http://thetechfile.posterous.com/tag/ap1000

In any case do we really want GEN II reactors? The probability risk assessment for Gen III+ is a lot better. If we start talking about 1000 or more reactors world wide Gen II risk assessments start to look a bit uncomfortable.

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quokka,

I disagree with two points in your last comment.

In any case do we really want GEN II reactors? The probability risk assessment for Gen III+ is a lot better.

I don’t care if we have Gen II or Gen III. I am interested only in which will give the lowest LCOE (i.e. the expected lowest cost electricity over the life of the plant, based on a proper whole-of-life assessment). Gen II have demonstrated their reliability and running costs over a 40 year period. Gen III have not. I’d lean towards proven technology unless there is a good case for the newer, but less proven, designs.

If we start talking about 1000 or more reactors world wide Gen II risk assessments start to look a bit uncomfortable.

That is not true. It is an emotive, not a rational, argument. Gen II nuclear is 10 to 100 times safer than the viable alternatives (coal). That is ample and excessive. The extra funds would be better spent on saving lives elsewhere than in raising the level of safety of nuclear even further than it is already. (ref.

If Gen II is cheaper than Gen III (whole of life cost) then we are better off buying Gen II than Gen III on all grounds including safety. The reason is because Gen II will be built faster and therefore more will be built if they are cheaper than Gen III. So coal plants will be replaced faster so more lives will be saved because of the greater safety of nuclear compared with coal. And emissions will be cut faster.

When Gen III becomes cheaper than Gen II, that is the time to buy Gen III instead.

However, as long as we, the public, do not limit the requirements, and instead we instruct the project manager to get the least cost nuclear that complies with the minimum IAEA regulations (or whoever’s regulations we are using), then we do not have to concern ourselves, and neither should we!

If we are going to dictate everything from our state of total ignorance, we’ll have a situation worse than DV82XL described for Canada.

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DV82XL,

The “Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy” report looked into the viability of fuel processing, enrichment, and taking back the used fuel. The study determined that it was not likely to be viable in Australia for a very long time, even if we did proceed with implementing nuclear power.

You might be interested to read the relevant sections in this excellent report:
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/66043

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Peter Lang – we are into areas where my ignorance of how things work in Oz is handicapping me. Having said that, I do think that before the decade is through Australia is going to regret not investing in facilities to service the front and back ends of the fuel cycle, and would seriously regret investing in GenII reactors.

However I will yield to your superior understanding of the situation on the ground.

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The Australian developed laser enrichment process has been implemented in the US
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silex_Process
One of the in situ uranium mining companies Heathgate wants to produce uranium fluoride rather than the usual oxy salt ‘yellowcake’. It’s as if Australia is scratching on the door of enrichment but just can’t open that door.

Once Australia was a world beater not only at cricket but innovation. Now we’re followers not leaders. I suspect Indonesia (also coal rich) will turn to NP before Australia.

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Nobody who follows BNC will suppose that Peter and I are predisposed to support each other on very much but I agree with Peter’s reasoning on Gen II reactors.

I don’t care if we have Gen II or Gen III. I am interested only in which will give the lowest LCOE (i.e. the expected lowest cost electricity over the life of the plant, based on a proper whole-of-life assessment). Gen II have demonstrated their reliability and running costs over a 40 year period. Gen III have not. I’d lean towards proven technology unless there is a good case for the newer, but less proven, designs

My caveats would be that

a) it’s going to be hard to do a proper comparative whole-of-life cost for Gen II v Gen III/Gen IV. It’s possible that quite early in the cycle of any Gen II plant here, that factors bearing upon Gen III costs might fall enough to have made Gen III and maybe Gen IV retrospectively preferable.

and given the above …

b) If there were a difference of quality and magnitude in the public acceptability of Gen III and Gen II that probably would make the difference between having and not having nuclear plants, I’d lean to Gen III and take the risk of paying a premium over Gen II until the cost factors for Gen III declined. Operational feasibility is a consideration.

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DV82XL,

I do not have “a superior understanding on the ground”. I have an opinion that is informed by different experiences than you. Part of that is 13 years working in and from Canada on many different types of energy projects, including nuclear (BC Hydro, Syncrude, Canatom, Montreal Engineering Company and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited).

You do not need an understanding of Australia to make the excellent contributions you are making. You are making more valuable contributions than anyone other than Barry, in my opinion. So please don let me stating of my opinions put you off.

What you have been posting, I would suggest, is really helping to progress the debate and also helping to educate a very large number of people in Australia. I believe, Anna Bligh’s recent announcement that, in effect, Labor would dump its anti-nuclear policy at the upcoming Labor Party National Convention, is in considerable part due to BNC and in part to your contributions. Why I say this is that Anna Bligh specifically stated that some environmental groups are starting to urge Australia to go nuclear to cut emissions. The next day, they specifically referred to Barry Brook.

So, I’d say, you are helping Australia to gain acceptance for nuclear. You are help us and also progressing what I believe are your goals.

I hear your opinion about the front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, but in this case, I put more faith in the excellent “UMPNE” report by a task force led by Dr Ziggy Switkowski. I think this report is near brilliant given it was prepared from scratch and tabled in Parliament in about 5 months. It contains excellent appendices and subcontracted contributions by the EPRI on costs and ISA on emissions (which is overly generous to the renewables and over states emissions from nuclear by about a factor of 3 to 5). I find the UMPNE report one of the very best sources of information on nuclear for Australia. I’d strongly urge you to skim the table of contents and pick on one small section or two you are knowledge about and see how they have handled it – for example have a look at what they say about Gen IV (They agree with you) and on the viability of front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia (they don’t agree with you, but read it to see why).

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The possibility of Australia being involved in conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication resents some challenges. The commercial viability and international competitiveness of new plant will depend on factors such as capital investment cost, operating costs, the ability to access technology on competitive terms, the state of the international market, access to the required skill base and regulatory environment and, in the case of enrichment, nuclear non-proliferation issues

Taken from the “UMPNE” report.

Frankly this sounds like a laundry list from someone who has already decided that this is a bad idea, and is looking to justify it. It is also five years old, and things have changed in the international nuclear power world since then, and rather radically at that.

I believe that enrichment in particular may become a bottle-neck in rapid, wide-scale deployment of nuclear energy. This will drive up the cost of SWUs and if Oz has its own power reactors or not, this is going to be a seller’s market

As I wrote in an earlier post, Australia would be fools not to negotiate some technology transfer into the contracts for their first reactors. Why you would want to do this with GenII designs is beyond me.

Again the road to GenIV will be long, and so are nuclear plant lifetimes, while I appreciate that some of you are looking to immediate costs, some thinking about the long term aspects wouldn’t hurt.

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DV82XL,

I posted my previous comment before I’d finished.

Regarding the argument about Gen II versus Gen III:

I am not saying Gen II or Gen III. I am saying I would not want to see either of them excluded or prohibited, at an early stage by public and parliamentary decree, from being included in options analysis. The more we dictate, and restrict proper options analysis, the higher will be the the overall cost of the system and the less good will be the result. The last thing we need is the public and Parliament limiting the options and specifying to the extent of, e.g.: “there must be four toilets for every worker and they must all be within 10 m of wherever he works!” (you get the picture!).

I agree that Gen III will almost inevitably be the best option, but let’s not restrict the options analysis at this stage.

The purpose of my comment in response to quokka was to push back against the growing desire to restrict and overly-specify the requirements for our nuclear power plants.

Other examples I’ve seen posted on BNC which suggest an inclination to restrict options and over specify are:

Tom Keen – we cannot limit union powers to prevent excessive costs and schedule blow-outs on the project because it is the Australian way (sure it is, but in that case we must accept the cost of the plant being 2 to 3 times that of a new coal plant)

Ewen Laver and many others – we must not mention any reduction in the excessive safety requirements; we must demand the highest safety standards for nuclear no matter what the costs (sure, well, we’ll stick them out in the desert somewhere and that will double the LCOE again)

Ewen Laver and many others – stuff the “Robber Barron” investors, we should just renege on deals made by previous governments. We’ve changed our minds now. The investors should have seen the changes coming. It’s their bad luck. Take their money for the good of the ‘commons’. The Mining tax fiasco is a classic example of what these sorts of people argue is acceptable behaviour. All this raises the investor risk premium until nuclear is not financially viable. No one will trust the government to not renege.

Other examples where the government has said it will do something but precluded rational options are:

1. in 1990 to 1993 the Government implemented policies to cut CO2 emissions (to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005!), but nuclear was precluded. In fact it was precluded from options analysis and discussion (to try to retain the environment lobby’s support and the votes it could influence)

2. Recently (2008) the government instructed the head of Treasury to conduct a wide ranging review of the tax system with the aim of a ‘root and branch’ reform of our tax system. However, the terms of reference precluded consideration of changes to the GST (one of the three most important taxes in the tax system).

The point I am making is that we should not exclude options if we want the best result. So, I’d argue we should not exclude Gen II from options analysis.

By the way, I consider CANDU 6 to be Gen II not Gen III). I can be persuaded to change my mind but I’d need to see a listing by an impartial, authoritative group (such as IAEA) that classifies CANDU6 as Gen III).

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DV82XL,

Taken from the “UMPNE” report.

Frankly this sounds like a laundry list from someone who has already decided that this is a bad idea, and is looking to justify it.

I hope you would acknowledge that what you have done in your critique is very unfair. It is the sort of thing \you accuse others of doing. You have not read the report, but instead pulled out a summary paragraph and criticised it for being a “shopping list”. That does not do much for your credibility.

Before making such a shallow criticism, surely you should read the relevant sections of the report and if necessary delve into the references cited. Surely you don’t expect me to accept your opinion over what is in this highly regarded report do you?

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Peter Lang – I call them as I see them, and unlike some that are active in commenting on nuclear subjects, I make no pretense as to the value of my opinions, nor do I give a damn what others think of them. You can accept y opinion, or not as it suits you.

I clearly stated above, that the market conditions have changed, and that in itself makes this aspect of the report open to question. Even then Australia is under no obligation to ship uranium in any other form except finished fuel, which would change the economics of this idea, a fact that was left out of this analysis.

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DV82XL,

It is very frustrating how often people misinterpret or misconstrue what I’ve said. This is an example:

Again the road to Gen IV will be long, and so are nuclear plant lifetimes, while I appreciate that some of you are looking to immediate costs, some thinking about the long term aspects wouldn’t hurt.

Who has been talking about “immediate costs”?. I haven’t and I haven’t interpreted anyone else as talking about immediate costs. I’ve been talking about Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE), Long Run Marginal Cost (LRMC) and “whole of life costs”. All these are the projected cost of electricity for the life of the plant, including refurbishments, decommissioning, and waste management/disposal costs.

When I talk about the capital cost, I am using it as a short hand for cost comparisons. I do not always talk about the other components of LCOE, but always my meaning as to compare the whole of life costs.

You may be correct that it will be in Australia’s best interest to implement its own front end and back end nuclear fuel processing and management capability. That will come out as we progress. But if we take on too much for a start, there will be even more causes for delay.

By the way, the USA is putting strong pressure on Australia to sign an agreement that would preclude us from ever embarking on nuclear fuel processing. So far we have resisted. The Greens want us to sign it! And the Greens have control of the senate from 1 July. OMG!

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DV82XL,

I don’t think you are in a position to know what was in or left out of the analysis; you haven’t even read the UMPNE report, let alone the many back up documents!

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By the way, the USA is putting strong pressure on Australia to sign an agreement that would preclude us from ever embarking on nuclear fuel processing. So far we have resisted. The Greens want us to sign it! And the Greens have control of the senate from 1 July. OMG!

They have been doing the same to Canada since Saskatchewan and Cameco started making noises about looking into an enrichment plant there. In fact Cameco was taken out of the equation when they suddenly acquired a large interest in the new enrichment plant being built in the States.

So let us think about those two things for a moment.

Yes it must be because the stupid Americans like to lean on countries that have no economic incentive to enter a small specialized market.

If you cannot see that the Yanks hold exactly the same opinion as I do in the probable growth in the fuel market, and are acting preemptively to keep the two countries that could take that control from them from exercising that option, you are blind.

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First a declaration, I work in the coal industry.

To be far to the Australian coal industry a lot is done, both voluntarily and in compliance with regulations to restore original vegetation to open cut coal mines and there is an extensive period of remediation. Australian coal mines are also amongst the safest in the world. Certain externalities, such as subsidence, are internalized by means of payments into government managed subsidence funds.

And in terms of oil we have petrol taxes in place that somewhat account for the cost of externalities. Although not entirely.

I do however think the article by DV82XL is broadly correct. Nuclear would be better if made cheap enough.

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DV82XL,

Sorry. I am not across the status of all the technologies. Could you just remind me,and other readers that may not remember either, how many EC6s are operating and how many years of operational experience have they accumulated so far?

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Peter Lang,- there are two operating in Qinshan, China, however the 11 other CANDU 6 built in five countries and have over 150 reactor-years of excellent and safe operation.

I am not a shill for AECL, and would not suggest that Australia consider CANDU reactors on anything other than their merits. However I recognize that no matter how much I say otherwise, it will be assumed that my motivations are tainted, thus I will not discuss this further.

I will leave you with this thought: If Australia doesn’t want to start a domestic enrichment program, then why would she want to buy into technology that will leave her beholden to others to have her own uranium turned into fuel?

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DV82XL,

In my opinion it is not a matter whether or not the Australian Government should mandate that we must build the front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle at the same time as we build or first nuclear power plants. It is a matter of the economics. Is it financially viable to build these parts of the nuclear fuel cycle at the start of the nuclear program? I doubt it is. I suspect it may be more economic to buy fuel from others for a long time before it becomes cheaper for us to process and enrich our own fuel. The economics will decide when the time is right as long as government policy allows it – does not preclude it happening. Economics will also cause capacity to be expanded in other countries if there is a market for the fuel. We cannot buy nuclear fuel cheaper than elsewhere just because we make it in Australia. Wherever it is made it will command world prices.

I am not saying don’t do it, I am saying don’t preclude it from being an option. It will be developed when the time is right. I doubt that would be until several nuclear power plants are running.

Nuclear waste management is different matter. There is a considerable support for Australia to take back the used fuel and manage it. We have possible the best environment in the world for storing or disposing of nuclear waste:

– dry continent
– inland drainage over large areas
– low topographic relief – which means low ground water flow rates if anything ever did leak
– tectonically stable
– suitable geology (low hydraulic conductivity over large areas)
– low population density.

I don’t believe anywhere in the world comes close to such a good environment with such a large area of suitable sites to choose from.

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My question about the EC6, not CANDU 6 and was in response to your comment:

Indeed the CANDU 6 is GenII, it is the Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) that is GenIII

which in turn was relating to your comment that we should not consider Gen II for Australia.

That is why I was asking about the operational history of the EC6.

Previous to that I’d said we should not limit ourselves and you disagreed. If Gen II is likely to be the cheaper option for nuclear in Australia (for some time), then I would opt for Gen II
I trust the background to my question makes sense now.

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DV82XL, You ought to differentiate between Generation IV reactors and Generation IV breeders. Arguably some very advanced but non breeder Generation IV reactors can use technology that are already in the can, and therefor will not require extensive development periods. The United States had two very successful generation IV prototypes, the EBR-II and the MSRE. Both prototypes usted technology that could be transferred to commercial reactors without further development. At the time these prototypes were developed, there was little interest in developing the technology into non-breeder reactors, although ORNL did design converter reactors in the 1960’s and explored the possibility of uranium fueled MSRs. However, it is quite possible to develop commercial Generation IV reactors using EBR-II and MSRE technology and indeed there are currently projects to do so. These projects include the ARC-100 a commercial small Reactor that draws heavily on the EBR-II:

http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2010/06/update-on-arc-100-small-reactor.html

The FUJI Reactor and even more the Mini-FUJI Reactor use tested MSRE technology.

http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspot.com/2010/10/mini-fuji-thorium-molten-salt-reactor.html

Both of these Generation IV projects have had a considerable gestation period, and neither should require prolonged development. In addition to these projects, I am aware of two Uranium fueled MSRs that would be built with ORNL tested and proven technologies. Because all of these projects are past the proof of concept prototype stage, their development can begin with the development of a commercial prototype. Even in a business as usual environment, a small Generation IV commercial prototype could be developed and brought to market in a time period as short as 10 years, although perhaps not in the United States. Mini-FUJI development plans call for the development of a Generation IV commercial micro-reactor within 10 years, and there is no reason to view these plans as unrealistic. Their estimated development costs would run in the neighborhood of $300 million, and they already have targeted s customer industry to sell Mini-FUJIs to.

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Charles Barton – You should address your remarks to those in this thread that think GenII is good enough. If Oz won’t consider a GenIII reactor, what makes you think they will take a chance on GenIV?

We both know that there could have been commercial MSRs any time since the 1960s in the States, if the politics were right. I doubt that an off-shore interest, like Australia, is going to select an unknown technology that its originating country won’t try itself.

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@DV82XL, I am in fact writing a post that points out the limitations of LWRs both for electrical generation and industrial process heat. Industrial process heat constitutes a very significant problem for post carbon energy, and renewables don’t offer a viable option. Generation IV nuclear technology does appear to offer low cost solutions.

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Quite correct Peter Lang, the Officer Basin in the western desert of SA is demonstrably the best site on the planet to store/dispose of nuclear waste. I’ve been pushing that line for years. My older brother was consultant for Pangea Resources having written and mapped the geology of the basin over 30 years ago. They were looking at the WA section of the basin on behalf of the IAEA. I shall be making reference to all of this when I speak next Tuesday to the Royal Overseas League in Adelaide. I plan also to run by them an outline of the Ockham’s Razor piece Robyn Williams has asked me to prepare for Radio National. This is part of my educating the people programme which is now in its 12th year. Gradually we’re getting there. So, heads up you nuclear advocates and try to get more of your ideas found in Barry’s BNC blogs out to the people. Don’t just keep them to the select few BNC bloggers. By the way, I’ve just sent a letter to Anna Bligh urging/insisting that nuclear power be the main item on the ALP agenda for this December’s convention. It contained letters I’ve sent to Gillard, Swan, Ferguson, Combet, Paul Howes etc. Ferguson’s adviser has written back telling me that Australia doesn’t need nuclear because of all of the other energy options at our disposal. I’ve replied pointing out that the renewables and the yet to be commercialized technologies [CCS,geothermal] will NEVER cut it. I pointed out that in a recent report handed down by the Canadian Society of Senior Engineers [this is for you DV8] that in Canada, for provinces without hydro, the best option for secure energy, BY FAR, is nuclear followed by natural gas, oil, coal,biomas, geothermal, wind,solar and tidal in that order. I guess that the 20 countries currently building 63 reactors, adding to the 440 already operating in 33 countries indicates that nuclear really is the energy of the future and that all of the negatives “it’s too costly, too dangerous, too slow too every other damn thing” hasn’t stopped these countries taking the nuclear option. Eventually we’ll get the message here in Australia.

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