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.


  1. DV8,
    As usual a very interesting presentation. The negative effects of winning energy from coal are huge compared to whose associated with nuclear power.

    Here is an anecdotal which supports one of your points. In the 1950s I was living in London (UK); it was a time of “killer smog”. The practice of burning of soft coal for household heating was deemed to be the prime cause. The government banned this practice and in a surprisingly short time span London was transformed.

    Great obstacles prevent a rapid build up of nuclear power capacity in the USA, such as the failure of the general public to understand the problems associated with other technologies and a fear of all things nuclear. Your arguments should help to move things forward.


  2. That wasn’t the first time that coal burning had to be stopped in London by government fiat.:

    …But when Workmen living in the Out-Skirts of London, began to bring in the burning of Sea-Coal, (which was about the Time of Edward the First) it was much complained of, as tending greatly to the making of the Place unhealthful. About the latter End of that King it was, that Brewers, Dyers, and other Artificers, using great Fires, began to use Sea-Coals instead of dry Wood and Charcoal, in or near the City. Which occasioned the Prelates, Nobles, Commons, and other People of the Realm, resorting thither to Parliament, and upon other Occasions, with the Inhabitants of the City, and the Village of Southwark, Wapping, and East Smithfield, to complain thereof twice, (one time after another) to the King, as a publick Nusance; corrupting the Air with its Stink and Smoak; to the great Prejudice and Detriment of their Health.

    The King therefore, first prohibited the burning of Sea-coal by his Proclamation. Which being disobeyed by many for their private Lucre; upon a second Complaint, he issued out a Commission of Oyer and Terminer, to inquire of all such, who burned Sea-Coal against his Proclamation, within the said City, or Parts adjoining, and to punish them for the first Offense, with great Fines and Ransoms. And upon the Second Offense, to demolish their Furnaces, Kilns &c. wherein they burnt Sea-coals; and to see the Proclamation strictly observed for Time to come; as a Record 35 Edw. I. informeth.

    The coming of the Industrial Revolution saw that ban lifted, but for a time it worked, proving that if the population gets upset about something and presses the government, things can change.


  3. Coal contains: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Thorium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using cinders and smoke as ore. Unburned Coal also contains BENZENE, THE CANCER CAUSER. We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.
    If you are an underground coal miner, you may be in violation of the rules for radiation workers. The uranium decay chain includes the radioactive gas RADON, which you are breathing. Radon decays in about a day into polonium, the super-poison.

    Chinese industrial grade coal is sometimes stolen by peasants for cooking. The result is that the whole family dies of arsenic poisoning in days, not years because Chinese industrial grade coal contains large amounts of arsenic.

    Yes, that ARSENIC is getting into the air you breathe, the water you drink and the soil your food grows in. So are all of those other heavy metal poisons. Your health would be a lot better without coal. Benzene is also found in petroleum. If you have cancer, check for benzene in your past.
    for most of the above.


  4. The old joke is that you could not have a coal fire inside the fence at a nuclear power station as it would violate the radiation release regulations, is true in some places, and with some grades of coal.

    Sparton Resources is a firm involved in processing coal ash, specifically from plants located in areas where ash contains commercially useful quantities of uranium – something close to the 500 parts per million that is generally considered viable for in situ leaching techniques.

    Right now they have projects in China, and one under development in Southern Saskatchewan, Canada.


  5. It’s been suggested some coal seam gas wells may lose money or have negative net energy if the cost of aquifer damage is factored in. Whatever deal the farmer signed I’m sure a court will agree that a supply of clean bore water must be restored when the gas wells are gone.

    If any CO2 leaks out from saline aquifers under Barrow Island WA then the federal govt pays the damages. Chevron plans to eventually inject 120 Mt of CO2 separated from raw gas by zeolite sieve. However taxpayers not Chevron will foot the bill if the experiment goes wrong.

    To me Australia’s huge coal exports seem somewhat sordid, as if we can’t help ourselves. We should be ashamed not pleased of adding all that CO2. However to their credit the US has resisted proposals to greatly increase coal exports to China. Therefore we can add a troubled conscience to all the other problems of fossil fuel.


  6. Yes,all of the above and much,much more.There have been 4 coal mine explosions in Queensland alone in the latter half of the 20th century.

    1972 – Box Flat – 18 dead
    1975 – Kianga – 13 dead
    1986 – Moura 4 – 12 dead
    1994 – Moura 2 – 11 dead

    In 2010 there was the Pike River,New Zealand, explosion which killed 29.

    Meanwhile,because of flooding of open pit mines in Central Queensland,the companies are being allowed to pump the water into local streams.The QLD government minister responsible,Stephan Robertson,claims that this is OK as the present water flow will dilute the contamination.Draw your own conclusions.

    This.of course,is the self interest aspect of the problem.However,I do get some cynical amusement from the renewable energy enthusiasts to whom nuclear is an obscenity and the great unmentionable.If they keep on their present path and get their way we will be burning fossil fuels till we can’t.
    I wonder do their hands shake when they turn a switch to get that coal and gas fired juice.


  7. Thanks DV8 for that timely post.
    Considering this dreadful history of coal mining it is interesting that so called environmentalists are still considering “clean coal”, something that has been going on for centuries with only limited results, to be the solution rather than grabbing something like NP with both hands when it finally turns up to solve these problems.
    Even in a confined area like the UK where they have faced every conceivable drama involved with coal, they seem to be blind to the solution.


  8. DV82XL,

    I agree with much of what you say. But as always, I wonder just how western democracies could implement fiat in practice.

    How long would it take?

    Would countries need to reach an international agreement so that one would not be disadvantaged by acting alone?

    How could we do it in Australia?

    How could we do it with the current minority government?

    Would the intention be to stop mining our coal for export? (Leaving the massive ‘asset’ in the ground and Australia leading the way in the world to do so is simply an unrealistic goal. It simply would not fly politically – not yet)

    I strongly agree with this statement you made (but with a couple of significant changes):

    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 (….) of the [C]AGW argument, and the idea that it can be fought with a carbon tax, as a step towards that goal.

    I also point out that I believe there is great benefit in removing the impediments to low-cost nuclear power. I perceive the benefits to Australia of doing so are likely to be similar to (perhaps greater than) the economic reforms implemented from 1980s to 2007. That is how massive is the potential to be gained from removing the impediments to nuclear as part of reform of our tax, industrial relations and other systems. I also believe that this reform could be done over a period in parallel with implementing the nuclear regulatory environment and nuclear education and research facilities in Australia. By doing these together it would hasten the rate that nuclear would become strongly accepted and would shorten the time to the first plant on line. [We could still achieve this by 2020 – just]. This would produce the result Douglas Wise has been arguing for – rapid roll out (but in a way that could be achieved in the western democracies but without the immediate threat of attack from a foreign military power) .

    By the way, I am not opposed to internalising the external costs of burning fossil fuel, to the extent it is feasible to do so. However, I am very dubious that pricing carbon is the best way to do so. I don’t trust this approach for many reasons. For example, on another web site (Skeptical Science?), an intelligent person argued that CCS is the most direct way to stop CO2 emissions from coal. She completely ignored that all the other damage costs (such as mentioned by DV82XL and others) not only continue, but actually increase by 25% to 50% if we add CCS to coal burning. Another reason for my opposition to Carbon Pricing is it is picking on one externality to penalise rather than addressing all the externalities in properly balanced manner. This picking of CO2 is ideological. These are two of many reasons I am opposed to carbon pricing.


  9. Peter Lang – Democratic governments are capable of passing laws that would mandate the phasing out of coal. My contention is they will do so because the government is responsible to the electorate. Enough people have to demand that these laws are passed, and they will be passed.


  10. DV82XL,

    You omitted to make any mention or time frames.

    You also ommited to comment on the repercussions of Australia deciding, unilaterally, that it will not make its coal reserves available to China (or others). I think something similar – IS blocking Japan’s access to oil – caused a world war!!

    There are other factors to consider as well when proposing unilateral actions that will have international consequences.

    My concern is being prompted by the obvious avoidance of considering the alternative of removing the impediments to low-cost nuclear.


  11. spangled drongo, on 9 January 2011 at 9:04 AM — I know of no environmental organization which does other than follow the slogan “just say no to dirty coal” and none which advocate CCS, the so-called clean coal of the CCS advocates.


  12. DV82XL,I have always regarded Carbon Credits as a scam and I believe that the European experience alone supports that view.
    I was supportive of a Carbon Tax however the more I see of the shenanigans of the smart/stupid financier crowd the more I think it too would fall victim to all sorts of scams.
    The likely result would be people paying exorbitant prices for electricity with little being done on the ground to remove fossil fuels from the generating system.

    Already in Australia we have a privatized electricity retail sector,supposedly under the control of a Competition Commission,ombudsman etc playing all sorts of games including some recent stiff price rises in the absence of a Carbon Tax.

    Yes,as a sovereign nation,we can (and should) build a nuclear generating system by government fiat.As we have a fiat currency a large part of the cost can be funded by the federal government without borrowing.Obviously this funding would have to be provided with due care that it was not inflationary. In other words,spending would be measured against resources available.

    As a significant part of a nuclear generating build would have to be imported this provokes a problem with balance of payments.Unfortunately we will have to continue exporting coal and gas in order to pay for the nukes.
    As we have consistently and deliberately ran down our manufacturing capability for many years as part of the free trade/globalization madness it will take a while for Australian industry to tool up for nuclear.

    The end result would be a much better nation in so many ways it would be worth putting up with the squalling of the fossil fuel industry and the pro renewable/anti nuke groups.

    In the end,this is a political problem so it is going to come down to education of the citizenry and applying pressure in sensitive spots to the politicians.


  13. DV82XL,

    I should make it clear, I do support what you are arguing for. I do agree we need to do all we can to educate the population about the health, safety and all environmental effects of fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable energy generation.

    However, I feel it is equally important to identify the impediments to low-cost nuclear power. This can and should go hand in hand with what you are arguing for. We do need to level the playing field for electricity generation technologies. If we don’t the economics of nuclear power (as it is in the western democracies) makes the task difficult. A government cannot simply direct that we double our electricity costs. The resistance will be too great.


  14. Peter Lang – I am not at home at the moment so my answers must necessarily be short.

    In a previous thread, I outlined the problems and causes that plagued NPP builds in Ontario. These were the impediments to low cost nuclear, and remains so in Canada.

    To recap: Interference by both levels of government; bad financing laws that were outdated; an incompetent regulator; and finally the companies involved on both sides were government owned monopolies, thus not under market discipline. In that thread I also suggested that due to the general political and cultural similarities between Canada and Australia, these might well be pitfalls that you might also suffer.

    Beyond that I cannot comment, and your insistence in re-asking that same question is beginning to make me think that it a leading one. I have written before that I am not interested in ideological debate, and I am firm about this. If you are trying to draw out some general statement of this sort from me in this area, you are wasting your time.


  15. My attempts to determine the costs of new construction for electric power in the USA concluded much the same as the professionally done NPCC study for the Pacific Northwest. To wit, LCOE for
    (1) CCGTs
    (2) wind turbines
    (3) NPPs
    (4) advanced coal burners
    were determined to be quite similar, but generally increasing in the order given. NPCC assumed a modest ‘carbon tax’ in the form of an offset fee.

    I just studied the first three, without such an offset fee and obtained the ordering (2), (3), (1).

    My general observation is that some designs of NPPs are available for about US$4000/kW and with, then, an LCOE of ~65 mills/kWh (when 5% financing is available). So I opine that NPPs are not more expensive, just perhaps that longer to complete all the permitting before construction begins. That doesn’t have to happen; reducing the ppp to the ~2 years for CCGTs might lower the costs of NPPs slightly.


  16. DV82XL,

    Beyond that I cannot comment, and your insistence in re-asking that same question is beginning to make me think that it a leading one. I have written before that I am not interested in ideological debate, and I am firm about this. If you are trying to draw out some general statement of this sort from me in this area, you are wasting your time.

    That comment is fairly annoying. It suggests you did not read my replies to your comments on the previous thread. In particular this comment which refers you to the most relevant posts on this issue: (You did not reply to this).

    My questions are about identifying the impediments to low cost nuclear. You mentioned a few, but that is by no means the full extent of the impediments making nuclear higher cost than it could and should be in western democracies. Furthermore, there is no quatification or ranking. It is frustrating that intelligent people either do not understand the question, do not want to understand, or are not prepared to seek clarification if they do not understand. It seems to me that for nearly a year, this important topic has been avoided. You make interpretations about my motives, and I do similarly about others’ motives.

    I am not “trying to draw out some general statment.” You’ve provided stacks of them. I am seeking specifics from you and others. I’ve provided some in many posts. Why are you and others avoiding listing and quantifying the impediments to low-cost nuclear?

    Put another way, why are you and others avoiding identifying the impediments that prevent nuclear being cheaper than coal?

    Why are you avoiding quantifying them (for example as your estimate or guestimate, in terms of $/kW or $/MWh or $/tonne CO2 avoided).

    DV82XL, you have said previously that resistance to nuclear is not about cost and never was about cost. That statement is nonsense. If that is the belief that underpins your opinions then I would have to put you in the same grouping as the Greens – completely irrational and irresponsible.

    To reinforce this point, this is what Anna Bligh, National President of the Australian Labor Party, said on 23 December:

    ANNA Bligh has backed calls for the Labor Party to review its policy on nuclear power.
    The Queensland Premier has warned that renewable sources cannot meet the surging demand for baseload electricity.

    Ms Bligh and ALP national president said development of the only other viable alternative energy, hydro-electricity, had been hamstrung by resistance to new dams.

    Ms Bligh said pointedly that “parts of the environment movement” had shifted on the nuclear option, and now supported it as an abatement measure for climate change.

    Ms Bligh’s comments to The Australian reflect an important shift on nuclear power among Labor leaders, who now cite cost and perception issues rather than philosophical considerations as the impediment to introducing nuclear energy.

    and NSW Labor Premier, Ms Keneally said:

    “Any change to Labor’s long-stated policy against nuclear power would have to consider a range of issues, including safety and cost.”

    Clearly, cost is one of the major issues we have to deal with. In my opion it is THE major issue, because the others are perception issues and these can be changed by education. But cost cannot. We must deal with what is causing nuclear to be more costly than it could and should be in western democracies. That means genuinely confronting the issue, not continually avoiding it.

    DV82XL, your post is political in that it asserts we need to take political action (activism) to force governments to impose nuclear power and ban fossil fuels by fiat. Given your belief, I cannot see how you can argue that politics can be avoided. I’d urge you to re-read this article: It provides a political context for the year ahead, and it should make it clear to everyone why I am urging people to:

    1. define the impediments to low cost nuclear (list and quantify)

    2. recognise the the Grens and Labor want to impose a carbon price but they are not being open and honest about the consequences of it

    3. There is the very serious risk that Labor will change its policy to endorse nuclear power but their policy will mean that nuclear will be prohibitively expensive and therefore not viable.

    4. If this happens, the practical outcome will be we will move to gas, not nuclear. Policies that lock in high cost nuclear will be implemented by the Greens-Labor and they will be locked in for decades.

    It is naive to believe that you can argue to force a government to act by fiat and at the same time pretend politics is not relevant.


  17. I have to agree with Podargus upthread that the govt is likely to make a mess of any carbon tax and the corporate spivs will get the ETS loopholes reinstated under a new guise. The Europeans disallow carbonsink credits like tree planting on the basis that the CO2 absorbed is temporary. However they allow ‘clean development’ credits whereby if someone uses less than their presumed entitlement they can sell it on. An invitation to creative accounting if ever there was.

    Further evidence of local muddled thinking comes from the RET scheme whereby water heaters that live in a cupboard are deemed to generate solar electricity and actual output from PV gets counted 5 times. Would you buy a used carbon pricing scheme from that govt?

    I think most of the creative effort and key items for an NP program will have to come from overseas. Aussies are good at digging coal not so good at cricket or clean energy solutions.


  18. Peter Lang – My experience, and the history of nuclear energy in North America and most of Europe clearly indicates that it is NOT a matter of cost that is a major, or even minor impediment to the adoption of nuclear energy. Quite the opposite in fact was clearly understood by fossil-fuel interests, that recognized that once breeder reactors were developed, even the limiting factors of uranium availability and enrichment would vanish, and they would be out of business.

    ALL costs, over and above those common to any thermal generating plant, are consequences of political and social manipulation that have attempted to drive the cost of nuclear higher in an attempt to inhibit it. They have used their political influence to have regulations, many times stricter than those their own industries are under, applied to nuclear energy, and work diligently to make sure these are not relaxed.

    They have had governments create the false problems of low-level radiation, and proliferation, issues that can be clearly proven without merit, so that the costs of nuclear energy can be kept high.

    Just about the only thing that kept nuclear energy alive in the US is the military programs they had, which, while not directly involved in the civil side of things, did stop a complete abandonment of the technology there.

    These interests have funded anti-nuclear groups which have undertaken public protests and acts of civil disobedience which have included occupations of nuclear plant sites. Other salient strategies have included lobbying, petitioning government authorities, influencing public policy through referendum campaigns and involvement in elections. Anti-nuclear groups have also tried to influence policy implementation through litigation and by participating in licensing proceedings. All of these increase the cost of starting a project.

    These are not quantifiable in nice clean figures that can be plugged into a spreadsheet. The degree of influence, and the actual mechanisms change from country to country and are constantly in flux, especially now that nuclear is again being considered. Thus any attempt at ranking them is futile.

    The problem is social-political, and those are just messy. Thus it is not a question of avoiding quantifying the impediments to low-cost nuclear as much as not being able to in any meaningful way. God knows I wish it was that easy. I am not comfortable with squishy human public affairs – I too would like to see hard numbers. They are just not there.

    I understand that you are frustrated but please do not ever presume that I am being obstreperous again if you want to continue discussing these matters with me.


  19. Peter Lang,as I mentioned in a comment on the Open Thread 8 post, you are placing far too much credence on what Anna Bligh says,whether she is wearing her Premiers hat or her ALP National Presidents hat.

    Her government in QLD is on the skids.This is mainly due to dishonesty,manipulation and corruption.It is increasingly likely that the ALP will lose power at the next election, due in 2012.

    Her position as national president doesn’t carry much weight vis a vis the federal or state ALP branches.
    Federal policy is decided at the annual national convention and whether nuclear power even gets on the agenda is problematic.
    Any resolution has to be passed by a majority and,in practical (and historical) terms it is not necessarily binding on any ALP government.

    Finally,the report from the Australian which you quote was contradicted by a report in the Fairfax papers the same day so where the truth is in this matter of what Bligh actually said is also problematic.

    I would be overjoyed if Labor came out for nuclear power but I know their track record and I will believe it when I see it.


  20. Podgarus,

    I saw your previous comment about the Anna Bligh statement and ignored your opinion. It wasn’t worth answering. On this post
    I said a little more. If you want to discuss what it all means , I sugest you post on Open Thread 8.

    I posted the quote from the article to back up the poiint I was making that “cost” is a key issue, perhaps THE key issue. If you think I am wrong, why don’t you post links to back up your belief, rather than simply stating your belief without any substantiation.


  21. DV82XL,

    You made my point exactly, and very clearly, in this statement:

    ALL costs, over and above those common to any thermal generating plant, are consequences of political and social manipulation that have attempted to drive the cost of nuclear higher in an attempt to inhibit it. They have used their political influence to have regulations, many times stricter than those their own industries are under, applied to nuclear energy, and work diligently to make sure these are not relaxed.

    I agree. That is exactly what I’ve been saying for a long time. The cost of nuclear in the western democracies is much higher than it should and could be. We need to identify all extra costs. I’ve been calling them “impediments to low-cost nuclear”. However, there are other impediments to nuclear as well, such as legislated, regulatory and policy impediments – for example, Labor currently bans nuclear altogether.

    Whatever way you try to argue it, if nuclear is not economically competitive with coal, it will be a very tough job to get it going. However, if we identify all those impediments you mention, and the others, then we can start highlighting them. Then we can consider what needs to be done to remove them.

    These are not quantifiable in nice clean figures that can be plugged into a spreadsheet.

    That is a cop out. Of course the costs of delays and disruptions can be calculalted and estimated. It is much easier than guessing the costs of CAGW or the cost of externalities of electricity generation – which has already been done, many times over the past 30 years for all the problems you mentioned in your lead article. So lets not say it can’t be done. Of course it can. We are not trying to do the job of the ‘Productivity Commission here on BNC. We are just doing what we can, with the expertise available, to get some estimates and back up the points we are trying tro get across. We can do simple back of an envelope estimates and they are much better than long sentences and saying “we can’t do it”.

    The first thing we need to do, not just you and me but all those who can provide input on BNC, is to start preparing a list of the impediments to low cpost nuclear. For example, I started with this (unquantified) list many months ago:

    Since then I have added many more examples mostly unquantified (but it was an attempt to get us started on preparing a list).

    Included was this quantified list of costs of fossil fuel subsidies.

    Click to access CR_2003_paper.pdf

    Also included wasd this explanation and ‘back of an envelope’ calculation of how we could get nuclear cheaper than coal.

    All this drew almost no constructive response from BNC contributors.

    I agree with much of what you say. I do not agree that cost is not important. In the end it is the most important discriminator. The plants in USA and Europe were built on the basis (understanding) that they would provide energy security and the least cost electricity given the anticipated rising cost of fossil fuels at the time.


  22. DV82XL,

    Sticking with my focus on cost and politics, I’ll make this very simple.

    The ACIL-Tasman report estimates that the capital, fixed operating and tax costs of nuclear would be roughly double the cost of new coal (without CCS). The tax cost alone is more than twice as high for nuclear ($18/MWh) as for coal ($8/MWh). How crazy is that?

    According to the ACIL-Tasman figures, the short run marginal costs (SRMC) which includes variable O&M and fuel costs, for nuclear would be only slightly cheaper than for new coal.

    So, very roughly, we need to identify and remove roughly half the capital cost of nuclear (compared with the $5,100/kW in the ACIL-Tasman report).

    Half of the needed reduction is already achieved in the UAE bid (contracted cost not as-built cost so may be an underestimate). And this is a first of a kind in country. What could we achieve by nth of a kind? What could be achieved in Australia, a green fields country, if we got our act together and set the correct policy priorities from the start?

    This is the real point. We need to set the correct policy priorities NOW. That is, before Labor deliberates throughout this year and changes its anti-nuclear policy (at its National Convention in December 2011).

    NOW is the time to have this discussion.

    Now is the time to influence Labor to focus its policy on least cost nuclear, not prohibitively costly nuclear.


  23. Now is the time to influence Labor to focus its policy on least cost nuclear, not prohibitively costly nuclear.

    To do this, we need a list of the impediments to low cost nuclear and some attempt to estimate the cost of each impediment that, if removed, would reduce the cost of nuclear in Australia.

    My hope is that we can demonstrate it is possible for nth-of-a-kind nuclear in Australia to cost less than coal without tax payer subsidy, and the in the order of $20 billion tax payer subsidy would be sufficent to get nuclear to the point that it is cheaper than coal.

    I may be wishful thinking – a little – but let’s explore this. Let’s see what we come up with, not just say it aint possible!


  24. Peter Lang – You are putting the cart before the horse here, and it is a surefire way to fail.

    I used to contribute to another forum on nuclear energy matters, that was largely populated by people with a technical background. Most of them had taken the position that the way to deal with the opposition to nuclear energy, was to address the laundry-list of criticisms that the antinuclear side had with the technology (waste, proliferation, uranium shortages, etc) and engineer their way around them.

    I spent a great deal of time trying to disabuse them of this idea because it is clear that the arguments that are put forward by the antinuclear side are simply without a scrap of truth to back them up. They are not looking for a solution, they don’t care if you find one, they will just make up more false reasons why nuclear is bad.

    It was almost impossible to make this lot I was arguing with, see what I was driving at. Their whole personal philosophy was based on the belief that problems were meant to be solved. It was difficult for them to grasp the concept that someone complaining about a problem might not want it solved. This despite the fact that the fight over the US nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain was a perfect example of antinuclear groups working hard to stop the implementation of a solution to their constant refrain that there was nothing that could be done with the waste.

    The same thing seems to be happening here. Even if we were to go through some exercise of assigning costs to things like NGOs filibustering public consultations , and going to court as intervenors at injunction hearings, so what? The whole point of their behavior is to raise costs by forcing delays, everyone knows this, they themselves are open about their intentions. They get away with these shenanigans because the process is designed to permit them. Costs aren’t the problem, they are the result.

    Look, elsewhere I told the story of the delays and cost overruns at the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant Project. There I reported that the Provencal government stopped the project five times, claiming that the market for the power was not developing. At that time the biggest power plant in the Provence was the The Nanticoke Generating Station, located on the north shore of Lake Erie, a coal burner.

    In fact in its day Nanticoke was for a time the largest coal generating plant in the world, and for a long time held the dubious distinction of being the largest single-point polluter in North America. It would have been this generator that would have seen it market shrink had Darlington come on line too soon.

    You want to quantify this? Why? Do you think anyone close to the issue didn’t know what was going on? If the public had been told, would they care that much about the costs? They would see what was going on regardless.

    Nor at any time are the politicians ignorant, they know exactly what the score is, they may plead ignorance when it suits them to anyone who asks, or tell you they are looking into it, but they are very aware of what is going on. Fossil-fuel interests (companies and unions) pay lobbyists to make sure that these people know what is happening, and how it will effect their political careers. That’s what lobbyists do.

    Nice polished financial arguments will get the same treatment that nice polished technical arguments get: a polite hearing – and nothing more. The fight is long past these niceties.

    I also wrote elsewhere that a group tried to get a moratorium on uranium development in Quebec, and how I thought we might have a fight on our hands. These guys set up a faux mining camp outside the Quebec legislative building with about 200 supporters, they claimed 2,000. Had there been 20,000, or 200,000 like the recent protests in Germany, you can be sure that the government would not have blown the protesters’ demands off.

    Numbers count in this fight alright, but the only ones that do, are feet on the ground behind you.


  25. DV:

    just so you know, I switched from anti nuclear to pro nuclear after reading convincing rebuttals to the standard objections to NP coming from dogmatists: proliferation, peak uranium, waste, cost, radiation, etc. etc.

    the arguments are largely without merit as you say and many people can recognize this.

    I agree that changing the minds of the dogmatists is either a lot harder or impossible. but there are plenty of “greens” out there who are open to the nuclear argument. Those who have built their identities and/or professional lives around backing renewables and hating nukes will be much harder to move. but there are many good (and not so good) people in the world who have not gone there and so are easier to persuade.


  26. I should say that there is nothing wrong with building your identity around a position you think is correct. Thoughtful people do this; fanatics do it too.

    but if the position you’ve built your identity around is not correct, it’s very hard to change. and nearly impossible to change if that position is in some sense “fundamentalist.”

    This focus on identity is really just another way of talking about the difficulty of paradigm change when you are genuinely in the grip of a paradigm, one that has significant “explanatory resources” in the sense of plausible sounding moves to make in response to challenges.

    the people I have been able to persuade have been those who have NOT built their identities in any significant sense around the renewables/nuclear binary.

    Most of these folks I have in mind are leftist in orientation and so have built their identities around other issues: say a critique of the free market narrative. these people would have to be hit over the head and lose their memories to be persuaded by a “libertarian world view.”


  27. Some may have noticed on SBS TV that Santos is pushing gas as a clean energy solution. Their sponsorship of cycle races no doubt conveys a clean and green image. Indeed I suspect that South Australia will replace its ageing coal plants with gas. If the decision has effectively been made they haven’t bothered telling the public yet.

    If true we are getting similar outcomes to carbon pricing but without the mechanism in place. That is less CO2 but with more expensive electricity. Not as good as no CO2 with same priced electricity. It also underscores my belief that within 20 years or so Qld coal seam gas will carry all of eastern Australia.


  28. John Newlands – Unfortunately is is not a unique phenomenon; gas, not nuclear is more likely to be the replacement of choice for coal in many places. The gas companies have been very active lobbyists, and have thrown their support behind wind and solar to greenwash their image. They are going to be a difficult opponent in many places.

    However the industry faces some problems that they are glossing over that might limit their ability to grow fast enough to keep nuclear at bay. One of them is the speed at which production wells can be driven. This is especially acute in shale gas fields.

    Equipment and skills don’t grow on trees and this has limited growth in this fuel in the past.


  29. Australia seems oblivious to the experiences of other countries. In Canada I gather the east coast imports LNG while the west coast has plenty of gas
    Evidently a transcontinental pipeline would be too costly. Not only the UK but Trinidad and Indonesia are now concerned about long term gas supplies.

    Gas will one day be too essential for process heat, ammonia production and CNG diesel substitute to burn unnecessary amounts in power stations. Nor will it achieve the needed 80% CO2 cuts in electricity generation. I’d like to see a study on Australia’s hydrocarbon supply and demand out to 2050; as a transport fuel, heat source, chemical feedstock and as a frugal fuel for peaking plant. The same politicians who waxed lyrical about geothermal and CCS now seem to be dazzled by the claims of gas.


  30. Window of opportunity

    To: Aussie BNCers (and anyone else who wants to comment),

    We have a short ‘window of opportunity’ to get Labor to define its new policy on nuclear so that it focuses on low cost nuclear rather than (non-viable) high-cost-nuclear.

    The window of opportunity is until early December this year when Labor will hold its National (policy) Convention, at which it is almost a certainty Labor will dump its anti-nuclear policy.

    There are intermediate milestones (working backwards):

    June 2011 – NSW Labor Party (Policy) Conference – at which NSW Labor Party will dump its anti-nuclear policy so it can support the dumping of Labor’s anti-nuclear policy at the National Conference in December

    10 May 2011 – Federal Budget – last chance to get a line item in the budget – such as for funding the start of looking into setting up the long lead time items – e.g., regulatory environment and nuclear education/research faculties

    Feb to April 2011 – Government Departments prepare their Budget Estimates for submission to the Finance Department for preparation of the Federal Budget. This is the last opportunity to get new line items into the Federal Budget.

    So we have a very short window of opportunity. If we miss this opportunity, and Labor dumps its anti-nuclear policy – but couches it in spin, such as ‘safest in the world’ etc (you get the picture) – we will be committed to a high cost-nuclear policy for decades.

    We are in a very similar situation to what we were in two decades ago. Right now we have a hung parliament with a Greens-Labor alliance in government. 20 years ago Labor sought and got preferences from the Greens and environmental groups to help it win power. It won power with a minimal majority in Parliament (similar to now). To keep the Greens and environmental activist groups on side it strictly banned nuclear and instructed the Federal bureaucracy that nuclear was not to be considered as an option in policy options or advice to government. Labor ran an anti-nuclear campaign at elections (and has done, to different degrees, at every election since). At the time much of Labor’s policy and activities within the bureaucracy were centred on their “Ecologically Sustainable Development” programs. Now we have the equivalent with “Climate Change” being the centre of everything – even to the point where they’ve promoted the Head of the Department of Climate Change to be head of Treasury (Wow, The CAGW crowd will love that – I can’t believe what is happening).

    We missed the opportunity to start down the nuclear path two decades ago and I believe we will again. I believe Labor will dump its anti nuclear policy in December (and in all the important lead ups to the Labor Party National Conference), but they will keep the Left happy by burying the policy in spin on matters such as safety. What this will do in effect is entrench Australia in a high cost nuclear policy like the other western democracies have. Once this happens, it will be almost impossible to change it for decades. Labor will use the discriminator of “safety” to scare the electorate at every election so it can win government. That is what I believe will happen this year.

    If we want to avoid this outcome, we have a short window of opportunity to get the message out. The message in DV82XL’s lead article is excellent. It will be an extremely important part of reducing the general public’s fear of nuclear. It is essential we promote this message.

    But there is another group that also needs to be brought on board – the economically rational people. Those who have some understanding of economics, finances business, investment, trade, etc. Cost will be the final discriminator, even if it is not all over the newspapers.

    It is essential, in my opinion, that we point out to everyone, especially to Labor, the difference between high-cost and low-cost nuclear, what are the likely impediments to low-cost nuclear being implemented in Australia, how we can remove and avoid those impediments and how removing them can be part of the sort of economically rational reforms that took place from 1980 to 2007 and everyone loves to crow about and lay claim to.

    Labor needs to change its policy to support low-cost nuclear. Otherwise, progress to cut emissions will be slow.


  31. John Newlands, – The TransCanada pipeline is a system of natural gas pipelines, that carries gas through Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Along with the TransQuebec & Maritimes Pipeline, and Alliance Pipeline networks, natural gas can be delivered from one end of the country to the other. These are not small lines, the trunks are 1.3 meters in diameter.

    The issue has been markets. The U.S. has always been a more attractive market for Canadian gas than the domestic one, thus the bulk of the gas is sold there at a premium. This creates a situation in some of the Easter markets, that do not depend on gas for electric generation, where it is cheaper to import LNG that buy it domestically.


  32. DV82XL,

    You are putting the cart before the horse here, and it is a surefire way to fail.

    Wrong. You are trying to avoid the key issue, cost, and that is a surefire way to fail.

    I agree your message about the problems with fossil fuel generation has to be put. I agree it is extremely important. But if Labor changes policy to support nuclear, but buries its new policy in caveats that result in high-cost nuclear, we will be f—ked – for decades.

    DV82XL, I suspect you have not read the links I provided and so do not properly understand what I am saying. You have a preconceived idea. I am surprised that given your experience you do not recognise that cost, in the end, is the defining factor. If nuclear is high cost it will not make headway. Sure we have to change the perceptions or we wont get anywhere either, but if nuclear is a high cost alternative it has no chance.

    Most of them had taken the position that the way to deal with the opposition to nuclear energy, was to address the laundry-list of criticisms that the antinuclear side had with the technology (waste, proliferation, uranium shortages, etc) and engineer their way around them.

    I recognise this. But that is not what I am arguing we should do. (In fact, I agree with you as I have demonstrated previously when I urged you and others to stop the detailed discussion you frequently get into regarding radiation and other highly technical matters on chemistry and materials science!). What I am arguing for is that we should identify the impediments to low cost nuclear, attempt to quantify their importance in increasing the cost of nuclear above what it could be, and trying to define how they could be removed. I am trying to entice the highly knowledgeable people who contribute to BNC, and those experts lurking in the background, to contribute so we can see if nuclear could be cheaper than coal in Australia if we removed the impediments to low cost nuclear.

    It was almost impossible to make this lot I was arguing with, see what I was driving at.

    That describes exactly how I feel too!

    The same thing seems to be happening here. Even if we were to go through some exercise of assigning costs to things like NGOs filibustering public consultations , and going to court as intervenors at injunction hearings, so what? The whole point of their behavior is to raise costs by forcing delays, everyone knows this, they themselves are open about their intentions.

    Yes, that is the purpose of their intentions. But you ask “so what?” is the purpose of identifying how much all these activities (and other impediments) are raising the cost of nuclear. The benefit of doing so is we can show that safer, cleaner, more environmentally benign electricity generation than coal is available and we could have it if we (the population) dismissed the anti-nuclear propaganda. But, we must vote for policy that will give us low-cost nuclear not high-cost nuclear.

    This is so damned obvious to me, I can’t understand why you don’t see it.

    Costs aren’t the problem, they are the result.

    High cost is the problem. It is also the result. But we need to quantify the impediments and make them explicit, because if they are not clear then people just think that nuclear is too expensive and will reject it. If they do not have the information they do not realise that it doesn’t need to be too expensive, and they could prevent it being too expensive if they voted for policies that remove the impediments to low-cost nuclear. We need to provide the information to the electorate so it is informed and can make rational decisions.

    The material you have written above is good for some – the emotive types. But it is irrelevant to many. They are concerned about cost of living, the economy, etc. If they believe nuclear will raise their cost of living they will not support it. You seem to want to ignore this large block of the population and think you can win them over with the arguments that appeal to the eco-warriors. You are wrong on this.

    Nor at any time are the politicians ignorant, they know exactly what the score is.

    That is definitely not true. Our previous Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, locked himself away with a small group of young, inexperienced advisers that told him what he wanted to hear. Even his ministers couldn’t get to see him. I can give many, many examples of how government ministers are beholden to their beliefs. Anna Bligh, Queensland Premier, did not realise until recently that much of the electricity price rise her people were suffering was due to the impacts of the renewable energy policies. Many of them believe what people like Mark Diesendorf tell them. So, pleased don’t tell me that they understand everything. They certainly do not.

    Nice polished financial arguments

    DV82XL, now you are misrepresenting what I’ve been saying. That is not what I was advocating and you know it. I am arguing for simple, clear articles aimed at an audience of “intelligent, interested, non specialists” such as the “Emission Cuts Realities” paper. This paper informed a lot of people and they changed their opinion. I urge we should do similar to explain, for a similar audience, that we could have nuclear cheaper than coal if we (especially Labor) sets appropriate policies – policies that will allow us to remove the impediments to low-cost nuclear before we apply a carbon price. Furthermore, by listing the impediments to low-cost nuclear it makes visible all the bad policies we have in place. It allows the voters to see the bad policies they have been voting for in the past. We are not trying to get to the locked-in anti-nukes. They cannot be brought on board. We are trying to make information available to the open minded, interested but currently misinformed voters.

    Numbers count in this fight alright, but the only ones that do, are feet on the ground behind you.

    True. But you will not get the numbers if what you are proposing is going to increase electricity costs.


  33. Greg Meyerson,

    I agree with both your comments at 2:03AM and 2:18AM this morning.

    We do need to remember, however, that it is not just Left that we have to convince and bring on board. We also have to win the Conservatives and the large number of Centre-Left and Centre-Right.

    I suspect the Left and hard-Left comprises about 30% of the electors, hard-Right about 10%, and centre groups about 60%. These people are largely concerned about economic issues. To ignore this group means certain failure.


  34. Listing the impediments to low-cost nuclear helps to make them explicit so people can understand.

    Here are a few off the top of my head and by no means a complete list:

    1. UAE contracted price is 25% lower than the ACIL Tasman estimated cost of nuclear in Australia. That means half the gap to coal is achieved just by implementing whatever is responsible for the difference between the UAE contracted price and the ACIL-Tasman estimated price for new coal. That alone would provide 50% of the cost difference we are seeking.

    2. No work disruptions and delays for bogus reasons. (estimate 20% cost reduction – admittedly this reduction is probably not additive to the previous point)

    3. Located at the least-cost sites: near cities, sea-water cooling (save 10% to 25% compared with remote inland locations).

    4. Remove the fossil fuel incentives and favouritism (raise the cost of coal and gas by 10% to 20%)

    5. Change the investor risk premium from nuclear to coal and gas (20% to 50% swing – reduced nuclear electricity cost and increased fossil electricity cost). As described in other comments (links provided previously) the investor risk premium is very significant and this can be changed by the policies adopted by the major political parties and by the legislation they enact.

    Arguing to avoid undertaking this exercise is unhelpful.


  35. Peter Lang, on 10 January 2011 at 9:41 AM — In the USA, it seems, the investor risk premium is so high for new coal burners that, AFAIK, no new ones are in planning. Utilities are constructing CCGTs and their are ~29 applications for new NPPs wending their way through NRC approval.


  36. Peter Lang – I will choose to take the charitable view that things in Australia, because there is no nuclear power industry to speak of, are very different from those here. It that is indeed the case I can contribute nothing to your exercise.

    Costs for nuclear energy in North America and Europe are driven higher than they need to be by laws, and NGO activities designed to do so. These are not quantifiable in any meaningful way, nor would those numbers, where they available, do anything to change the situation. Nuclear energy in these regions is in dire need of public support, support that is lacking because of widely held beliefs that nuclear energy is dangerous, not that it is too expensive. The point of my post was to underline the fact that there are other dangers to burning coal beyond AGW that need to be leveraged in this fight.

    I still believe you are suffering from boy-with-a-hammer delusions. However I will yield to your superior understanding of conditions in your country. If you insist that nuclear energy can overcome entrenched interests, by presenting a well-formed economic argument to your political leadership, I am not in a position to argue, and I wish you good luck.


  37. DV82XL,

    The point of my post was to underline the fact that there are other dangers to burning coal beyond AGW that need to be leveraged in this fight.

    Your post is excellent. And this is a really important argument. I am not in anyway trying to argue against continuing this approach. But I am most surprised that you are arguing to prevent discussion of the economic aspects. That is similar to trying to prevent CAGW sceptics from being heard.

    What you are arguing for and what I am arguing for are not mutually exclusive. We need both. We need the material you have put up and more like it. It is essential. But so is the ability to explain to the electorate that they can have low-cost electricity, but to do so they need to support the policies that will deliver that – or exclude that option for decades to come.

    I will choose to take the charitable view that things in Australia, because there is no nuclear power industry to speak of, are very different from those here. It that is indeed the case I can contribute nothing to your exercise.

    I will ignore the ‘loaded’ component of this comment. I believe there are two ways Australia is different for not having nuclear already. First, we have the opportunity to avoid many of the problems that are causing new nuclear to be a high cost option in Canada, USA, UK and Europe. Second, Australian voters can change their opinion more quickly. Australia has shown its capacity to do this frequently in the past on other issues. I am convinced that we can and will change, to a considerable extent, our opposition to nuclear this year (and thanks to BNC to a considerable extent). But I fear, we will embed policies that will result in high-cost rather than low-cost nuclear unless we can wake people up to debating this very issue.

    Nuclear energy in these regions [Canada, USA, Europe] is in dire need of public support, support that is lacking because of widely held beliefs that nuclear energy is dangerous, not that it is too expensive.

    I do not agree belief that nuclear is dangerous is the single factor preventing progress on nuclear power. Misunderstanding about safety is one concern. The high cost is the other. Why didn’t Ontario proceed with its new nuclear power station? The reason was the cost was excessive. Why was the cost excessive? It would help if we had a list of the reasons and quantified impacts.

    But I am after a more generic list of impediments to low cost nuclear, and for it to be applied to Australia. I would urge you to look back to the links I suggested in this comment so you understand what I am arguing.

    I am having great trouble understanding why someone with your broad experience in business, large projects and politics is so strongly opposed to this.


  38. Fantastic article DV8. This is a real breath of fresh air to the recent discussions of nuclear, and how we get there, on this blog.

    I think your questioning of the utility of climate change alone as a means of getting there is particularly interesting and important. The issues you raise are far less contentious (politically) than climate change, and as far as I’m concerned are reason enough to make the transition to nuclear alone.

    I do believe the issues of climate change and ocean acidification (i.e. the CO2 issues) in this debate are still important in that they add the element of urgency to the transition. Essentially none of the problems you have discussed here are new to the fossil fuel cycle, they have been observed for a long time, and they haven’t spurred a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. However, getting this information out there adds a lot of weight to the nuclear argument.

    I also found this paragraph interesting:

    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.

    In your view (using Canada as an example to make things simple), how could the current government enact legislation to force changes in industry practice without political backlash? (Please let me know if I am not interpreting this correctly).

    Also, do you have some examples to support your statement that “the larger impact on prices and labor which had been predicted to be dire, did not materialize”. (This is an honest question – I know little to nothing about this.)

    Anyway, thank you, I will share this article around.


  39. Peter Lang – I have presented the reasons I won’t proceed along this path and why I think the exercise is sterile. I am not going to go over it again.

    You are also misinterpreting the issue with the ACR-1000 in Ontario. The issue with that reactor was very complex and a lot of people were trying to cover their asses on a project that should never even made it to the design stage.

    The short version of the story is that AECL wanted to prove they were up there with G.E. and Westinghouse with a 1200MW reactor. But they have a successful market as the only supplier of medium-size units that can be ganged together as it were, in multiple unit stations. Careers were on the line, AECL was not the government of the day’s favorite by a long shot, and the ACR project was a good stick to hit the company with.

    Now, as they should have from the start the plan is to add two more CANDU E6 units to Darlington, and this is going forward.

    Again it was a simple matter to see that the elevated costs that were being thrown around over the ARC where fabrications. There was much traffic over this on the blogs at the time and everyone was aware that it was all politics. I might add that in this case I was happy to see the project canceled, and I hope the ACR never sees the light of day.


  40. spangled drongo said:

    “it is interesting that so called environmentalists are still considering “clean coal

    I am not aware of any environment groups that have shown support clean coal. It is generally dismissed by them as an oxymoron (and rightfully so in my opinion). In fact, I don’t ever recall hearing anyone other than politicians talking up clean coal. I think this speaks volumes about the political influence of the lobbyists from the coal industry.


  41. DV82XL,

    I now realise you think cost is sterile, unimportant and we should not pursue this discussion. I entirely disagree with you on this.

    Thank you for the comment on the ACR for Ontario. I was not intending to misrepresent the situation. I was not up on all the shenanigans in detail. But roughly I had the impression that the ACR was not the only bidder, but the others withdrew and only ACR bid. From my perspective the critical point was that so much extras had been loaded on to the bid (highway realignments, bus routes, etc) that any bid would be totally uneconomic so it could not be supported by governments or investors. The investor risk premium alone would be prohibitive. This is one of many examples from the western democracies where the impediments to low cost nuclear are preventing them being built.


  42. Tom Keen – Almost all countries have enacted legislation limiting industrial emissions.

    In the U.S. the Clean Air Act amendments of 1970 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act amendments of 1972 moved environmental concerns in a new direction. The standards that they put in place were unattainable with existing technology- they were technology forcing. The standards that the EPA put into place called mainly for state implementation. Each state prepared state implementation plans (SIPs), requiring EPA approval, and each state had to request permits from the EPA to emit pollution into any surface water. Congress also provided for a massive public works program to assist in the construction of water and waste treatment plants for municipalities.

    Discharges in to lakes and rivers from any number of processes like smelting, chemical industries, and general manufacturing have been controlled by law for decades. Effluent control is now a part of every plant that uses and discharges water.

    It has been much the same for discharges to the air. “smokestack” industries, have few smokestacks these days, but many scrubbers.

    Although these fights did not happen in public, there were always rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth, and warnings from business that jobs would be lost, yet the governments knew that public concern for the state of the water and air had reached a point where they had to act. Granted there has been some backsliding, and more relaxed interpretations of the law by some the administrations that took office. Yet the opposite too has been true.

    The thing is that almost all of these industries made the changes they had to and continued to make money.

    The point is that in general the progress has been forward, and it has been driven by public attitudes, not by political ideology.


  43. Peter Lang – The politics of that bidding process, the reasons it was opened up to non Canadian bidders, the nonsense over roads and infrastructure was pure political theater that had very little to do with nuclear energy per se.

    If you want I will give you the whole story in detail, by e-mail, but it way off topic here, and requires a working understanding of the political dynamics in Canada and Ontario, not a topic for this blog.

    As for the cost issue I wish you luck, frankly I don’t think you understand that cost analysis is only valuable in situations where costs can be controlled. When they are the result of a campaign to push them higher, it is those that are responsible that must be fought, not the costs themselves. No one on ether side of the debate is in any doubt who is behind the schemes that are driving up the costs of nuclear energy, thus the way to fight them is with political action not fiscal analysis.

    Now it is getting tedious, I won’t interfere with you in this matter, but I will not support it ether.


  44. DV82XL,

    You continue to misunderstand or misrepresent me. I strongly suspect it is because you have not read the comments I linked to.

    As for the cost issue I wish you luck, frankly I don’t think you understand that cost analysis is only valuable in situations where costs can be controlled. When they are the result of a campaign to push them higher, it is those that are responsible that must be fought, not the costs themselves.

    The point I am making is we need to be able to enlighten the voting public, not simply by way of sentences and adjectives – so they have to work out for themselves what are the consequences of all the many impediments to low-cost nuclear power – but to make the impediments explicit and show how, if allowed to happen here, they will increase the cost of electricity, (reduce services, reduce disposable income, etc.).

    I now understand you will not support looking into this matter. That is unfortunate!


  45. DV82XL is right to blame green politics for the current lack of progress on a meaningful expansion of NPP capacity in the USA. Here is one tiny example:

    Some years ago I ran for office against one of the nuclear hysterics in our state senate. What I thought was a WIN issue for me arose from reneging on a deal we had with South Carolina.

    South Carolina was to build a high level depository (which they did) and North Carolina was to build a low level repository. Largely as a result of efforts by Eleanor Kinnaird, we failed to hold up our side of the deal and that was detrimental to nuclear safety in North Carolina.

    As one would expect, South Carolina retaliated by hiking the rates for using their waste repository. At the time of the 2002 election the financial consequence of our failure to build the low level repository was already estimated at over $200 million. In the context of a state budget of less than $2 billion, it was a weighty matter.

    The issue actually worked to Eleanor’s advantage and she serves in the state senate to this day.


  46. Peter Lang – I did read what you have linked to, they do not support your belief that the main issue is cost. I think you are desperately misinterpreting the problem. But I also don’t know why you care what I think – if you are convinced of this hypothesis then ‘shut up and calculate’, as the saying goes.

    Produce these figures and rank the reasons and table them rather than arguing why we should get on board with this program. As it stands you are making some rather bold assertions, and without the data you claim is critical to this line of reasoning I don’t see why I should be convinced it has any value on your say so.

    Like I said, maybe the voting public in Australia is more sophisticated than the ones in North America, and if that is the case you may have a point. I know that any discussion of costs in the antinuclear environment here, and with the attention span of the normal voter, would be a monumental waste of time.


  47. DV82XL,

    I have received the message, loud and clear, that you don’t want to get involved in this. I also have my interpretation of why. The reason I have not tried to write a paper on this on my own, any more than I’ve already done, is because it needs input from people with much more knowledge than me – like yourself – and input from a a wide variety of skill sets.

    However, I see you are not supportive (for whatever reason), so any progress on this with you is unlikely.

    I believe the reason for needing low-cost nuclear is clear, as is the reason we need to get this matter explained to the public, as is the reason we need to educate the people who will influence Labor Party’s policy decision on nuclear this year. It is all absolutely clear. But people have their own reasons for pushing their own agendas.

    But I am absolutely startled by the opposition to this.


  48. DV8 said:
    “maybe the voting public in Australia is more sophisticated than the ones in North America”

    As an Australian who has lived in Canada, I am far from convinced of this.

    As far as I can see, your assertion that “any discussion of costs in the antinuclear environment here, and with the attention span of the normal voter, would be a monumental waste of time”, is equally applicable here.


  49. Peter Lang – Look I don’t accept your premises, that’s why I don’t think much of this exercise of yours. It is that simple. Perhaps if you were as familiar with the subject as I am you would see it to be a fool’s errand. Perhaps.

    I take exception to the veiled suggestion that I have ulterior motives, or a hidden agenda – I just think you are barking up the wrong tree. It is just that simple. These sorts of accusations have always been the hallmarks of cranks, that cannot believe that someone just might think them wrong, and then assume some conspiracy is at work. I am sure that you are not like this, but you are coming close.


  50. “High Tax hurts the laggard states”

    If the population was disinterested in economics, as you seem to suggest, why would national newspapers (all of them) run lead articles on their front page such as this one:

    The disinterest in the economics of nuclear power by the majority of BNCers, and emphasised by today’s comments by DV82XL and Tom Keen, says more about the alignment of BNCers than it does about the voting public.


  51. DV82XL,

    These sorts of accusations have always been the hallmarks of cranks.

    If the cap fits, wear it – given that you have been making such pointed remarks in numerous comments.

    Perhaps if you were as familiar with the subject as I am you would see it to be a fool’s errand. Perhaps.

    I accept you have great knowledge in your area of expertise but not about everything (although you might think you do). I do not think you have much knowledge of some matters of importance. You have now revealed you have no interest in the economics of nuclear power. That says it all.

    I take exception to the veiled suggestion that I have ulterior motives, or a hidden agenda.

    I’ve taken exception to quite a few of yours too.

    I am sure that you are not like this, but you are coming close.

    Sentiments reciprocated.


  52. Peter, I’ve not had much to say on this matter, so it’s not really fair to offer an opinion until I come up with something more substantial, but it is telling that you are being met with resistance or ambivalence or disinterest on this point at BNC (where most folks are favorable to nuclear power). If this is the case, how realistic a chance of success do you think this approach will have with the electorate more generally? You might be right, you might not be – I promise to give some details on my views in the coming weeks – but either way, this may not end up being the path of least resistance.


  53. Barry,

    I agree there is enormous resistance or ambivalence or disinterest to this topic on BNC. I agree that trying to win electoral support for policy to implement low-cost nuclear rather than high-cost nuclear may or may not be the path of least resistance (I assume that is what you meant by that point). I find it extremely surprising that BNCers don’t want to consider altenatives to a carbon price.

    but it is telling that you are being met with resistance or ambivalence or disinterest on this point at BNC (where most folks are favorable to nuclear power). If this is the case, how realistic a chance of success do you think this approach will have with the electorate more generally?

    I think there is a falisy underpinning this question. It seems to assume that BNCers are a representative sample of the electorate. I don’t think that is true. in fact it is a point I’ve made many times. I suspect/belive that about 90% of the BNCers are Green-Labor supporters. I suspect the reluctance to consider alternatives to a carbon price is at least in part because imposing a carbon price is Greens and Labor policy. It is very important, politically, that they succeed in implementing this policy – for political reasons. But that does not mean it is good policy.

    It also doesn’t mean the electrorate will support it – especially if there has not been a thorough investigation of the alternatives.

    Lastly, for those who want nuclear (BTW, I simply want economically rational), I have argued on this and other threads that carbon price will mean gas not nuclear, unless low cost nuclear is an available option, and it will not be an available option in Australia if it is effectively prevented by Labor’s revised policy on nuclear.

    Barry, I recognise, there is enormous resistance to this on BNC.

    I still hope you will undertake the mini “Productivity Commission” analysis as suggested here:
    and as you responded here:

    I like your terms of reference idea for a productivity commission enquiry, and would definitely like to explore this idea further in 2011, along with many of the other points you suggest. The idea of collecting together a team on BNC, with different areas of expertise (law, power engineering, finance, modelling, regulation, etc.) is a great one. The “how” is the question to first be explored… Legal might be a good place to start, for Australia at least.

    Barry, I take the point. There is no point me pushing this any further at the moment.

    However, unless you direct me not to, I would like to continue to accumulate ideas on this subject on the “Alternative to the CPRS” thread as they come to me.


  54. Up thread John Newlands suggested that the U.S. had resisted the temptation to export more coal to China, whereas to its shame, he implied, Australia had not.

    It turns out the the limiting factor in slowing the growth of US coal exports is lack of facilities to load it on to ships. In fact a good portion of US coal gets sent north by rail to Canadian ports for forwarding to Asia. However growing domestic exports are beginning to absorb the surplus capacity at those Canadian terminals, and the US is looking to build their own terminals on the West coast.


  55. China and India are now looking to Africa for coal supplies. That will be applauded by the growth-at-all-costs lobby until the Africans start to wonder if those costs include devastating floods and firestorms. In a few months the Greens Party will control the Australian Senate. They want carbon tax, no nuclear and a coal export phase-out. No doubt if Australia slows coal exports for whatever reason other countries will eventually fill the gap. That’s why carbon pricing must be international.


  56. John Newlands,

    That will be applauded by the growth-at-all-costs lobby until the Africans start to wonder if those costs include devastating floods and firestorms.

    Do you have any idea just how stupid such statements appear to people with any ability to think rationally or question such tripe?


  57. Yes,Peter,I do realize the extent of the ideological trap you are in – economic rationalist,neo-conservative etc ad nauseum – and I do sympathize.

    You are obviously a man of few words,you just like to say them a lot. But the abuse is getting a bit hard to take.Your response to a perfectly sensible comment by John Newlands is a recent example.

    My prescription is to take some time out,have a cup of tea,a Bex and good lie down.
    Do try it,old son,for your own sake,if nothing else.


  58. DV82XL wrote,
    “I used to contribute to another forum on nuclear energy matters, that was largely populated by people with a technical background. Most of them had taken the position that the way to deal with the opposition to nuclear energy, was to address the laundry-list of criticisms that the antinuclear side had with the technology (waste, proliferation, uranium shortages, etc) and engineer their way around them.

    I spent a great deal of time trying to disabuse them of this idea because it is clear that the arguments that are put forward by the antinuclear side are simply without a scrap of truth to back them up. They are not looking for a solution, they don’t care if you find one, they will just make up more false reasons why nuclear is bad.”

    DV82XL problem was with the EfT community that he did not recognize that the Joe Romm, Amory Lovins, David Roberts criticisms of nuclear power actually pointed to opportunities for the Generation IV pro-nuclear community. We knew LWRs were safe enough, but we knew we could make reactors safer and at a lower cost for that safety.

    We knew that the problem of nuclear waste was not a big deal, and that technically acceptable solutions existed, but we also knew that we could turn what was a waste into a valuable resource that could actually become a second source of income for nuclear power complexes.

    We knew that Generation III + reactors were the most affordable form of post carbon energy currently available, but we were aware that we could build Generation IV MSRs for half the cost of AP-1000s, and in far less time.

    We also knew that MSRs could be deployed more quickly than LWRs and in far greater numbers.

    Whether or not the anti-nuclear crowd could ever be convinced, LFTR supporters have an answer for all the public concerns about nuclear power. Convincing the public, gaining not just public acceptance but public excitement is important and that is what EfT participants like me have been after.
    We have been crafting arguments that are intended to convince the public that the extreme nuclear critics are wrong in every detail.

    Unfortunately DV82XL has failed to see the difference between convincing the public and convincing the extreme critics of nuclear power, or the importance of public support for the future of advanced nuclear technology.


  59. Charles Barton – I was not unaware of the fact that those promoting MSR technology were attempting to leverage antinuclear arguments to advance their design. What I was concerned about is that this tactic was very likely to blow up in their faces. I still believe that is a major risk in trying to dance to that tune.

    The risk is that you are just going to hand the antinuclear side fresh material to work with.

    One particular example I went to some length to show illustrated that potential, is the claim that spent fuel could be made too radioactive to handle without special equipment, thus making is self protecting. I even went as far as writing a fictitious public dialog between two individuals from both sides, showing how this would happen.

    Furthermore, if the pronuclear side would stop to lift its collective head out of the fray, they would realize that the public is not as concerned about the issues raised by antinuclear militants as they were in the past. Poll after poll shows growing support for the nuclear option in the West. In previous lead article here on BNC, I showed that as the public becomes informed, support for nuclear grows. In the U.S., Perspectives on Public Opinion, an NEI publication, reported that in surveys conducted in 2009, it was found that 70% of Americans support nuclear power. Further, 84% of Americans see nuclear energy as an important source of electricity for the future, and 70% would accept a new reactor at the nearest nuclear power plant site. This is hardly the demographic profile of a public confused over the debate.

    However, hand the antinuclear side a fresh set of contrived reasons to tar nuclear power with, and things may change. As it stands now they are leaning on arguments that are getting stale, and increasingly seen as transparently false. The last thing we need them to get a new set.

    MSR designs can stand on their own merits, and they will, but the other impediments they face from vested interests, to regulatory intransigence, are too steep to make them candidates for the next wave of reactor builds.

    It is also somewhat ironic that you are suggesting that I, of all people, fail to see the importance of public support for the future of advanced nuclear technology, when I have lately been roundly criticized for thinking like a Baby Boomer, for suggesting that what was needed was more active public support for nuclear energy.


  60. @ DV82XL, It should be noted that many of us in the EfT community appreciated your contributions to us. When you left Kirk paid tribute to your contributions to the community and stated that he had learned much from you. It is very unfair of you to say that we did not pay attention to your views. Our treatment of the anti-nuclear arguments has been quite sophisticated, and sophistication is one of the qualities which the anti-nuclear community lacks. They have, as of today, not been able to mount anything like an effective counter to us, and usually they simply ignore us. We are, as i indicated not trying to convince them, but rather the public. You do not make a convincing case that by doing so we put ourselves into some sort of danger by answering the anti-nuclear argument point by point..


  61. Charles Barton – You are welcome to your opinion Charles, I have stated mine in this matter.

    However you are all fooling yourselves if you think that you are telling the public anything – the public doesn’t know you exist.

    If they do become aware of MSR technology via issues like making spent fuel too hot to handle, in a useless conceit to ‘keep it out of the hands of terrorists’ it will be turned against you.

    Meanwhile the IFR group is out eating your lunch because they understand that at this point in Gen IV development, the ears of the politicians count.


  62. @DV82XL, Since you left the EfT community, it has continued to grow, and to get its message spread to a wider audience. I don’t know what you are talking about with the reference to when you speak of “issues like making spent fuel too hot to handle.” I don’t recall discussing such an idea, or coming across the idea in an EfT discussion. That does not mean that the idea was never discussed, but it probably mens that no one was very impressed with it. Perhaps you are referring to the storage of fission products, or Protactinium-233 in a hot cell.

    American politicians have proven fickeled friends to fast reactors, whether they will prove more faithful in the future is open to question. in the mean time Per Peterson who is working on the design of a molten salt cooled reactor is a member of the DoE’s BRC on the nuclear future. That cannot be doing too badly.


  63. Charles Barton – The general public has no idea what a molten salt reactor is, and you are only fooling yourself if you think they do. Nor does the little bit of press that Gen IV gets in the general media mention it at all.

    As for the topic in question, I suggest you search for it there, it was part and parcel of the point that I was making at the time, and from where I drew the anecdote. I am not surprised that they have moved on, I would be if they had not.

    I hold no grudges, but I have now limited the number of places I post and comment to those where I think I can contribute something of value, and that moment has passed at EfT.

    While I have a great deal of respect for Dr.Peterson, the lengthy exchanges we have had indicated to me that he is as much a political creature, as he is a scientist. It is good that the MSR crowd has some representation on the Blue Ribbon Commission its mandate is to review the policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, not select Gen IV technology.

    As I have stated before many times, this fight has to be prosecuted on the ground, with the public, and it needs to see that the only enemy that counts are the fossil-fuel interests.


  64. Useful post … but if the environmental arguments about
    coal haven’t worked in the past, then I wouldn’t expect
    them to work in the future without some change of
    circumstances. AGW might be the straw that breaks
    the back of coal, or it might be the big killer argument, either way there is no shortage of anti coal arguments. I don’t know what would make
    nuclear sexy/exciting … perhaps Apple could
    launch an iNuke? Nuclear needs an image makeover.


  65. Geoff Russell – Things like the risks from ash ponds, potential community health impacts, and local resistance are some of the reasons that no one can get funding for a dirt-burner in the States these days.

    Ontario, Canada has decided to shut all of its coal generating stations and build no new ones, because of general opposition to coal due to pollution concerns.

    So these reasons are important and should not be ignored.


  66. Last year I spoke briefly at a public meeting providing ‘community feedback’ about feed-in tariffs for solar panels. After saying some positive things about nuclear, I was approached by some people after the event. One anti-nuclear bloke mentioned that he’d heard good things about thorium reactors, and how much better and safer they were than uranium reactors. I pointed out that ‘thorium reactors’ actually burned uranium bred from thorium. His reaction was instructive. He immediately dropped his support for ‘thorium reactors’, and obviously thought that he’d been decieved by whoever had swayed him earlier concerning them. Apparently uranium is evil, and no amount of rational discourse will ever convince him otherwise. He’d been given a magic formula for safe nuclear power, but evil uranium hexed the whole thing.

    The trouble with the arguments for Gen IV which have been developed by present advocates is they lean too heavily on the dialogue created by the anti-nuclear movement. They are cowtowing to false concerns, giving those concerns the very aura of validity which the pro-nuclear movement needs to destroy.


  67. The trouble with the arguments for Gen IV which have been developed by present advocates is they lean too heavily on the dialogue created by the anti-nuclear movement. They are cowtowing to false concerns, giving those concerns the very aura of validity which the pro-nuclear movement needs to destroy.

    Very well put Finrod, and quite so.


  68. I think we have to understand the cultural and economic status of coal mining as opposed to the fear of the unknown that comes with nuclear power. In Queensland everybody seems resolved to clean up after the floods then get the coal mines working again. It’s about jobs, families, keeping the lights on and triumph over adversity. If the mines flood again then they’ll just have to do it all over because it’s the right thing to do. Even Monty Python suggest that coal mining is a worthwhile and decent vocation. The imposition of a carbon tax in 2011 would be like kicking someone when they are down.


  69. John Newlands – as I understand it, the coal that is produced in the mines suffering from flooding is coking coal for steel-making. This type of coal will always have a market, even if the world was 100% nuclear. In fact getting to that 100% point would put a huge amount of pressure on that resource.


  70. Just to speak up a bit for the Thorium supporters, I would point out that there was a fairly comprehensive article in C&E News last year. This is the trade publication of the American Chemical Society, which claims it is the largest scientific society in the world (237,000 members?). Of course that is not the general public, but probably has more readers than any pro-nuclear blog.

    Also, in the not too distant future, India’s thorium program should be showing some results. These are not MSR’s but will give Thorium in general some additional publicity.


  71. SteveK9 – Thorium fuel cycles have been explored for use in CANDU reactors twenty years ago. Some test fuel bundles were burned, and in fact the Indian thorium program draws heavily on that research, as their reactors are CANDU knock-offs.

    The technology was not pursued, of course, because Canada has no shortage of uranium, the main impetus of the Indian program. And this is the only real justification for thorium power reactors.

    There is no doubt that thorium will be a very important fuel in the future, and that it will be attractive to those countries that have more of it than uranium, but at the moment it is not cost effective. Even the Indian program may not move at the pace that it has been now that they have had the nuclear trade embargo lifted.


  72. DV8 we course always smelt steel with hydrogen though that would be a touch expensive. If I recall a tonne of Bessemer steel produces about 1.7t of CO2. If carbon tax was $20 that would add $34. Scrap steel (not stainless) around here sells for about $100 so we could be talking ~30% higher steel prices with a soft carbon tax. That would encourage greater recycling. Don’t park your car on the street overnight.

    Ditto aluminium that uses a lot of coal fired electricity typically costing under 5c per kwh. Some take the view that structural metals must be cheap or the economy will collapse. I think we should pay what it really costs. I’ll be thinking that when I throw a soft drink can in the garbage.


  73. John Newlands – I don’t think so. Coke, along with limestone is used to reduce iron ore. While there are processes like HIsarna steelmaking, with smaller carbon footprints, they are not yet at their full commercial potential. The basic oxygen process will be with us for a while.

    At any rate coked coal is rather clean burning, as the tars and VOC’s have been removed and turned over as feedstock for other applications.

    Steel and Portland cements will likely be the last CO2 producers to change, but if coal burning for power is removed from the equation, we could wait for those two, for a while.


  74. DV8: Mea culpa. My rethinking nuclear power supported
    GenIV as a solution to GenIII “problems”. Since then I’ve become more comfortable with the technology as a whole. It was GenIV that gave me the incentive to read enough to change my views. When you (ignorantly) think you know something, then you need a reason to revisit the issue. GenIV can do that.


  75. Geoff Russell – I’m not against GenIV, research in that area is vital. What I am less than pleased with is the backbiting that is going on between supporters of various designs, and the attempt to leverage the false concerns of the antinuclear side.

    I am not convinced that the fight with fossil fuel is over. They may not use proxies, as they have in the past to do their dirty work, but they are far from rolling over on this. They can’t: the other option is to go out of business.

    Nuclear supporters still need to circle the wagons, and a feud between factions in our camp will make us weaker. Especially over something a stupid as GenIV which will not launch for at least twenty years. Lots of time to explore all of the options before selecting one.


  76. And let me say that I followed much the same path as Geoff above. Thorium reactors prompted me to revisit my ideas on nuclear, and now that I know a lot more than I did just 10 years ago, I’m OK with a timeline starting with entirely conventional reactors.

    I agree with DV8 that a bunfight over which is best right now would be unhelpful, especially if it became an argument over “GenIV or nothing”. I regard raising the benefits of GenIV and Thorium in this context as a useful entree to those who have come to identify themselves strongly with the old anti-uranium –anti nuclear weapons movement and that is almost all environmentalists.

    We need a conversation starter — but what if there were no long term waste or proliferation problem? — would you still take the same view, given what we know about fossil fuels?

    This way we can separate those in touch with reality from those who are simply culturally bothered with the idea of nuclear.


  77. Same here. I was intrigued enough by the GenIV ideas to try and understand the technologies, and in the process educated myself about nuclear power in general. I think GenIV is an important part of the nuclear power story right now, even if we can’t have it right now, for exactly this reason.

    I can’t think of a better hook into a discussion of nuclear power with someone labouring under the usual misapprehensions than something like, “Hey, have you heard about these new nuclear reactors that eat nuclear waste?”. Its worked just like that with many family, friend and colleagues I’ve talked to. These are conversations I just couldn’t have had starting with “Nuclear power is actually really safe and the waste isn’t really a problem.”

    The nuclear fuel cycle is a dry, dry, topic. You want to talk to people about it, you got to sex it up some. Gen IV can do that.


  78. And just to underline the point DV8 makes, even though it would be great if GenIV reactors were ready to roll at commercial scale right now, I am not amongst those who thinks the perfect should be the enemy of the good, or as here, that the very good should be the enemy of the good enough.

    Let us drag nuclear out of the realm of unthinkable and unspeakable evil, where it now lies for most of those on the left and environmental movement, into the realm of things to be understood and considered on comparative merit, like any other technology.

    Talking GenIV and thorium, even as on the horizon technologies compels a consideration of where nuclear is now and its connection with that longer timeline. That in turn separates it from where it was when most considered the question 25 years ago.


  79. I also like the idea of having an NPP designed with almost nothing above ground. Imagine if a picture of a contemporary nuclear reactor were … a car park space with some trees around it. Not very scary and it doesn’t make good pictures for the antis.

    There’s a PR victory right there.


  80. I suppose there is some truth to what Fran and John are saying. But to me GenIV is only slightly better than fusion as a practical technology. Like fusion, it needs support for research, of that there is no question, but I do not want to see the ‘why don’t we wait for fission’ attitude that was popular for a while in the Eighties.

    Even before GenIV, we may see the deployment of small reactors in the 25-300MW range. Although some of these designs are GenIV in and of themselves, of the forty-odd project underway, the thirteen most advanced (working prototypes, or units in the field) are firmly GenIII and GenIII+ technology.

    These may be a game changer in that several factory-made units could be shipped and installed on a prepared site as a turnkey project , and this might prove more attractive to many utilities than larger GenIV designs.

    The ones to keep an eye on are the NIKIET VK-300, (Russian); the Westinghouse IRIS, (USA); Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower, (USA); the KAERI SMART (South Korea); and General Atomics’ TRIGA Power System (USA). Although this last one I put on the list because it is built around a proven design, more than it being a real contender outside a narrow market.


  81. There is nothing wrong with any of them except that they are small, and none of them are available, except some of the VK-series and NIKIET has domestic orders to 2020. The rest are hung up in type approval and licensing, or are still at the initial design phase.

    In reality, NPPs under 300MWe have only a limited market at this time.


  82. DV82XL, on 13 January 2011 at 10:09 AM — Thanks again for the prompt relay. The Nuscale unit is designed to be grouped in up 24 modules at a time, a nameplate 24×45 = 1080 MWe unit. Type approval is scheduled to be finished in October of 2015.


  83. David B. Benson – Like GenIV it is farther away than that. You cannot believe the approval schedules that you read on the OEMs website.

    To date no manufacturer has sought certification for any small reactor, what they have done is submitted requests to the Pre-Application Review process. When this is complete, they move on to the next stage, and given that most regulators have said outright that they do not have the capacity to do all of these at the same time, delays are inevitable.

    I’m all for multi-reactor stations, CANDUs are used that way to great effect. But as always FOAK costs and jittery investors are going to make Nuscale a difficult choice against a proven 1200MWe design by one of the big companies.

    There has been a great deal of speculation about cost savings that may be valid for the reactor itself. The big question is if site preparation for an installation of 24 reactors is going to follow. Again regulatory demands (and this time from several agencies, that might have influence) will be pivotal.

    So while these look like a good thing, and they are, they may not be that close to deployment.


  84. DV82XL
    (no need to reply unless you want to)

    You suggest that democratic governments can act by fiat and they should to reduce GHG emissions. But what exactly is the fiat you are proposing and what are the consequences. Why would this be a better approach than removing the impediments to low-cost nuclear?

    What is the fiat (legislation) you propose?

    1. Government imposed carbon price (by Emissions Trading Scheme, Carbon Tax, combination or some other similar type of government imposed scheme to impose a price on carbon)?

    2. Prohibit new coal power stations?

    3. prohibit coal mining (with a transition period)?

    4. prohibit coal exports (with a transition period)? or

    5. Regulate emissions from power stations? (perhaps along the line I suggested in the lead article here: )


    All the above ‘fiats’ would have severe consequences for the economy if nuclear is prevented from being a low-cost option, as it is now.

    None (except prohibiting coal exports) would help reduce world emissions – for the reasons pointed out here: [prohibiting coal exports would likely lead to significant international consequences, potentially escalating to trade wars, military conflict, even invasion of Australia (I am intentionally highlighting the extreme concerns like the CAGW alarmists commonly do!)].

    It seems to me that our initial effort (right now) should be not only in spreading the excellent message in your lead article, but also in convincing the electorate, the media and the politicians that we need to look seriously and thoroughly at what are the impediments to low cost nuclear and what can we do to remove them.

    (I acknowledge your previous, highly informative contributions regarding Canada’s experience with impediments to low cost nuclear).


  85. Peter Lang – The only impediment to low cost nuclear is government interference. As I tried to show with the Canadian experience, this can be subtle, like not reforming finance laws for new generation that were written seventy years prior, to overt, stopping work on the project at a whim. And everything in between, like an uncontrolled regulator, permitting NGOs to create delays, and so on. Essentially this has been the story in every country where there has been difficulties, and resistance to nuclear power.

    I believe that the evidence that this is a product of lobbying by fossil-fuel interests of government and their surreptitious funding of NGOs that oppose nuclear energy, while largely circumstantial, is compelling.

    Thus the passage of laws forbidding the burning of carbon based fuels to generate electric power is only likely to happen in a political environment where the artificial impediments to nuclear energy will also fall.

    The bottom line is that a nuclear power plant is really no more expensive than any other thermal plant of similar size, once the playing field is leveled. This is not a process that can be done piecemeal. The problem is not technical, nor is it regulatory per se, but ultimately political, and must be fought on political terms.

    Given the depth of the opposition’s pockets, the only other recourse I can think of is direct democratic action, via the ballot-box.


  86. Thanks DV82XL,

    I understand what you are saying. I am still trying to get clear in my own mind how we could convince the public to ban coal while they believe there is no economically viable option (they believe, and Anna Bligh reitterated, nuclear is a high cost option).

    I believe that there will be substantial benefit in pointing out to the people what are the impediments to low cost nuclear in Australia, why the ACIL-Tasman cost projections for nuclear are about twice those for new coal, and what we would need to do to remove those impediments.

    As I’ve said on the “Alternative to CPRS” thread, I also think it is urgent that we broadcast this information riht now (as well as what you are saying), because Labor is now looking at dumping its anti-nuke policy. It is most important that, when they change policy, they do not change it in such a way that they effectively lock in high-cost nuclear. Otherwise we will change to gas not nuclear. Nuclear will be on the back burner for a very long time – just as it has been since 1991.


  87. On the Open Thread David Benson mentions the CRC 1000 reactor which can be built in China for $1.50/w and under 5 years. Suppose using Chinese crew and prefabricated components we could build one in Australia for $2bn. I think interest, depreciation, admin, staffing, fuel etc could come in at $300-$500m a year. Taking the high end cost figure if that reactor sold 8 million Mwh a year the cost would be 500m/8m =$62.50 a Mwh.

    However ACIL Tasman is talking about new pulverised coal paying $23 carbon tax coming in around $70 per Mwh in 2011. The key would be to exclude the ditherers and obstructionists from the project. They might hesitate to vilify a Chinese managed operation.


  88. First you would be fools not to cut some technology transfer deal into your first power reactor. Second fuel, while a small part of the total expense, may suffer availability issues if you have no indigenous enrichment facilities, and they would have to be added to the total price.

    My prediction is that in ten years there is going to be a lot of NPPs chasing a limited number of available SWUs and that will be trouble.


  89. 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.


  90. 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.


  91. 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.


  92. 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.


  93. 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:


  94. 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.


  95. The Australian developed laser enrichment process has been implemented in the US
    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.


  96. 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.


  97. 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).


  98. 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.


  99. 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).


  100. 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?


  101. 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.


  102. 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!


  103. 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.


  104. 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.


  105. 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?


  106. 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?


  107. 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.


  108. 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.


  109. 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:

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

    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.


  110. 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.


  111. @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.


  112. 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.


Comments are closed.