It’s nuclear power or it’s climate change

I was asked to reflect very briefly (<400 words) on the implications of Fukushima Daiichi to my local city newspaper, The Adelaide Advertiser. The focus was on what it means for Australia, but the basic message resonates for any number of other countries.

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If you study the history of modern energy, there is only one conclusion you can reach. You can have fossil fuels, or two alternatives: nuclear power and hydroelectricity.

A number of countries in Europe rely almost exclusively on either nuclear power (France), hydro (Norway), or an even mix of the two (Sweden, Switzerland). These are truly low-carbon economies.

What of Denmark, which has taken the wind route? It only gets 20 per cent of its electricity from wind, but must also sell it cheaply to the rest of Scandinavia when production is higher than demand, and buy in coal-fired electricity when there is little wind.

Even with 20 per cent wind, Denmark has among the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person in Europe. France has among the lowest.

Australia has no access to large-scale hydro. We do have abundant uranium, and a high technology society in a geologically stable region, all perfect for the deployment of nuclear power.

Or, we can burn more coal and gas. It’s nuclear power, or it’s climate change.

What of the solar and wind dream? I sure hope they work out, and can provide a lot more energy for us in the future. But history is not on their side. No country has displaced its fossil fuel fleet in the past by using these energy sources, for a number of practical engineering and economic reasons.

One has to be an extreme optimist to imagine that this reality – this lesson of history – is going to miraculously change in the coming decades.

I try to address these issues from a scientific perspective. I get no money from nuclear, uranium, coal, gas, solar or wind industries. I talk about these issues in public because I think the public debate ought to be based on real-world evidence and robust analysis – not hype, spin and ideology.

Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi accident, caused when a 14 metre tsunami crashed into a 40-year old power station in Japan, no member of the public had ever been killed by nuclear power in an OECD country.

As of today, that record remains unchanged. When small risk is weighed against great and proven benefits, nuclear power is an obvious choice.

I wonder why Australia still isn’t taking it seriously.

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I’ll have a lot more to say on this in the coming weeks.

Oh, and for those who didn’t see it, you should also read George Monbiot’s decision: How the Fukushima disaster taught me to stop worrying and embrace nuclear power. His conclusion:

There are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.

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133 Comments

  1. In all the discussions, arguments I have seen about the choice of nuclear energy, opponents put forward the dangers of it, and the death toll related to the various incidents (tchernobyl, etc) being a widely used metric

    I have heard no one pondering the direct, straightforward death toll related to our greed for fossil fuels: coal has to be mined, people are spending their lives underground, and many loose their lives or their health in the process (6,027 deaths in 2004 in China alone): a direct consequence of a deliberate energy choice … strange how this is never mentionned and compared to the risks related to nuclear

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  2. Barry,
    Thanks for your exertions during the Diichi disaster. It is looking ever more likely that your optimistic predictions at the start of the crisis will be mostly vindicated while the alarmism of the “Main Stream Media” will erode their credibility once again.

    You kept your head when all about you were losing theirs.

    No need to keep telling us that you are not a shill for the nuclear industry; most of us never believed that for a second. The ones that do believe it are beyond persuasion so just ignore them.

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  3. As long as my name is anywhere on it i will be monitoring this site. You do understand that don’t you?
    Please feel free to delete all my comments if you think i’m no good. I mean, it is your site. Then i can stay away, or silent at least. Gallopingcamels remark is a bit a slap in the face to me. Can’t you imagine that?

    I respect that you don’t like the way i go about it, but i do believe nuclear energy is both needed and unstopable. I didn’t get judged on my comment, but on my intentions. That hurts.
    MODERATOR
    Your comments were deleted/edited either because they were in the wrong thread thus gluing up/ bogging down the debate or because you violated one of the Commenting Rules. Please check the rules again ( they are repeatedly listed and also on the About page)
    and ensure that these are followed to avoid moderation. I can assure you that everyone has to follow the same rules and you were not singled out.

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  4. Barry, with all due respect, I’m not sure I agree with you when you say, “It’s nuclear power, or it’s climate change.”

    Is there truly no other alternative?

    Reducing demand, whether through improved efficiency or conservation measures, is the quickest, cleanest, and least risky path to improving our energy balance sheet. Amory Lovins famously called the potential gains here “negawatts,” and there are a LOT of negawatts out there!

    Is it going to be easy to increase efficiency and implement common-sense conservation measures? No, but are you honestly going to claim that it’s easier to mine, extract, refine, concentrate, ship, install, control, monitor, remove, and then store uranium for the next 10,000 years?

    I appreciate your perspective, and thank you for your especially diligent work these last couple of weeks.

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  5. Up to now, worldwide, have been relying on fossil fuels (mainly), nuclear energy and hydro-power. Renewables are growing, but still negligible.

    Environmentalists are now claiming that in 20-30 years they will be able to replace nuclear energy by renewables. I can’t judge the feasibility, but the public is hearing that.

    The point is that nuclear energy scares people. There are many reasons for that. You can spend billions trying to educate the public, but it’s a tough job. Fear is an emotion and it is hard to fight emotions with reasoning.

    I think that this accident is going to seriously increase the fears in the public. Like it or not, the nuclear industry will have a hard time convincing people that it is “safe”.

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  6. Lately, he’s savaged the feed in tariffs that resulted in Germany obtaining about one reactors worth of electricity delivered to its grids after ten years of the most aggressive solar subsidy program in the world and in excess of $40 billion (USD) commitment. http://www.monbiot.com/2010/03/12/the-german-disease/

    His argument pre Fukushima was that we needed to find the “most effective means” of preventing runaway climate change. If not solar, and if he recognized that cost effectiveness was paramount, I thought, the guy would have to be a pro nuke.

    Bearing in mind I mistook him for a pro nuke before, as I read his “after Fukushima” piece I see more caveats than a guy like Rod Adams.

    When the investigation is complete and we understand more, it will become far more clear how many layers of defense were left at Unit 4’s pool between Tokyo and the worst whatever could have happened if it had proven to be impossible to keep water in it.

    It may be that the rods were in such a condition and arranged the wrong way so that a propagating zirconium fire simply could not have happened. Or it may be shown that by the time the concrete wall of the pool “fell away” as Yurman reports it did, all that stood between a worse than Chernobyl plume of all the cesium in the pool headed to Tokyo was the stainless pool liner.

    We’ll see where Monbiot stands then. As for me, no matter what comes out I don’t see my position changing. Nuclear Power? Yes Please!

    PS. Kohlbert’s “post Fukushima” position was featured in the latest New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2011/03/28/110328taco_talk_kolbert She is author of the excellent book “Field Notes From a Catastrophe”. She studied Hansen extensively to write “The Catastrophist” http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/29/090629fa_fact_kolbert In New Yorker podcasts I’ve heard her speak as if the climate crisis has proceeded too far for much to be done. She has what seems like a profound pessimism. Yet she still buys in to the anti nuke line, even after Fukushima.

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  7. I meant to start my previous comment documenting how Monbiot’s position had evolved from when he opposed nukes as of 2006 to when he came under fire from his Green friends in the UK as he wrote positively about it as of early 2009. I took him for a pro nuke then. That was the context for my preceding comment.

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  8. @François Manchon

    The point is that nuclear energy scares people

    At the time of TMI the only references the general population had in relationship to nuclear accidents were based on a hollywood disaster movie and civil preparedness movies of what to do in event of a nuclear attack.

    The public tends to fear the unknown. The nuclear industry spent a lot of money trying to convince people that nuclear was 100% safe.

    IMHO They would have been more successful using an argument that it’s 99.999% safe and if it goes horribly wrong this will be the result.

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  9. I would like to add to the climate change risk, the amount of premature deaths due to lung cancer, coal mining accidents, oil and gas rig explosions, fires at refineries and such.

    Estimates vary but at the lower end we see several hundred thousand premature deaths. Over 6000 coal miners died last year in China. That last figure is not based on some theoretical effects model, but on real body counts, people who get buried alive or are overrun by mine carts etc.

    Fossil fuels are very dangerous. Every year we don’t build more nuclear capacity or even close down existing capacity, more fossil fuels will have to be used.

    It’s not just climate change that’s at stake here.

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  10. According to NCRP Reports No. 92 and No. 95, population exposure from operation of 1000-MWe coal-fired and nuclear power plants amounts to 4.90 person-Sv/yrs for coal plants and 0.004 person-Sv/yrs for nuclear plants. Thus, the population effective dose equivalent from coal plants is 100 times that from nuclear plants. For the complete nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to reactor operation to waste disposal, the radiation dose is cited as 1.36 person-Sv/yrs; the equivalent dose for coal use, from mining to power plant operation to waste disposal, is not listed in the report and is probably unknown.

    Worldwide releases of uranium and thorium from coal burning total are about 37,300 tonnes (metric tons) annually (the annual U.S. share of those releases is about 7,300 tonnes). [Gabbard (1993)] More radioactive heavy metal is released into the environment every two years by coal burning than the total spent fuel waiting to be buried from all U.S. nuclear power production and most U.S. nuclear weapons production. [Lehman (1996] Also since uranium and thorium are recoverable nuclear fuels, burning coal also wastes more potential energy than it produces. [Gabbard (1993)]

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  11. > uranium and thorium are recoverable nuclear fuels

    Odd nobody is doing that, I wonder if it’s easier to purify those from hard rock ore than from coal ash, or if most of it goes up the stack (like mercury does) rather than down into the ash pit. Two different ash streams.

    > more radioactivity
    Not the same kind, which has to be considered. Fission daughters and transuranics are a different handling problem than uranium and thorium

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  12. The shale formations they are getting the “fracked” natural gas from in the US now were mapped out by The Atomic Energy Commission after WWII and found to be the largest uranium resource the US has. Coal ash was examined at that time. Then richer ores were discovered and everyone forgot about the shale. They actually prospect for gas today in the US by looking for the most radioactive shale they can find, because the same geological processes that concentrated the organic material that became the gas concentrated uranium along with it. The shales are former ocean bottoms. see: http://theenergycollective.com/david-lewis/47970/shale-gas-some-it-hot

    Once all the richer ores are exploited, they’d go for what’s in the shales I believe, before sea water, and before coal ash.

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  13. Barry, I’d be wary of encouraging the misunderstanding that climate change would stop immediately when we stop burning fossil fuels. You know this, ‘or climate change’ sounds like it’s one _or_ the other. Not that simple; not sure how to explain it though.

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  14. Barry, thank you for this site and the opportunity to share my view. The current crop of waste producing nuclear plants are a thing of the past. Until clean nuclear is readied to take its place, the world will say “No, thank you”, to pools of spent fuel and certainly not “Yes, Please”. Enough has happened at the Fukushima plant to assure this stance. So it is a total waste of time and money promoting the current generation of nuclear projects. The race now is on for Thorium, perhaps traveling wave reactors or whatever. My bets are on China to dominate the future of clean nuclear. Sadly, the US lacks the political will to foster innovation and the project follow through to make it happen, but instead will blow billions in loan guarentees for conventional heavy waste producing nuclear that will never happen, while underfunding research and production.

    To summarize, simply put, Fukushima has taken the happy face off pools of spent nuclear fuel. The world now knows why it is not a good idea.

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  15. Hank, stopping CO2 emissions won’t immediately reduce our little global warming trajectory, but that’s no excuse not to stop emitting thirty billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents each year!

    If you left your water faucets are all open and are flooding your house, do you think about how fast the water would be removed from your house or do you close the faucets first?

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  16. Here’s the thing about nuclear vis-a-vis climate change as I see it. No matter how seriously you take AGW and how critical you think it is that humanity takes serious action on it, and I’m one who does on both, it never trumps every other issue. If it did, we would be building terrawatts of solar power and transmission and damn the cost.

    They’ve got people spraying Fukishima with hoses to keep it cool. All of the backups failed. There is a run on bottled water in Tokyo. Radiation in incrementally increasing amounts keeps turning up in more places in more things.

    Humans are far more afraid of large-scale costs than distributed costs. Maybe fossil fuel does kill more people overall, but it’s probably as hopeless to expect to get society to react that way as it is to get Sen Inhofe to take AGW science seriously. Or to expect people who are afraid of flying to switch and be afraid of driving instead.

    I don’t know if technological improvements adequate to make wind and solar capable of delivering true baseload are in the cards. I’ve seen proposals such as an article in SciAm last year, but do not claim the expertise to really know if thay can happen. But as far as I can see realistically, that’s where the hope is. I am by no means assuming it will happen, and I think it is unlikely. But it seems like our best shot overall.

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  17. I tried challenging Joe Romm to debate George Monbiot over nuclear power in the light of Fukushima.

    Both are prominent climate activists, both have written books describing the climate threat as significant, both are advocating immediate action, yet their positions on nuclear are diametrically opposed.

    Romm’s latest post on Japan ridicules those who support nuclear power. Of course, as a pro nuclear climate activist comments under my name don’t even enter the moderation queue at this point over at Joe’s blog Climate Progress. I then attempted to post the challenge as Joe Bftsplk. Mr Bftsplk’s comment was placed in the moderation queue, then rejected.

    The challenge was:

    “Why not take on George Monbiot in a serious public debate over the future of nuclear power given how serious both of you take the climate problem to be? Here is his most recent column on nuclear power, written post Fukushima. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/21/pro-nuclear-japan-fukushima

    Your take seems to be that anyone who would support nuclear now must be an [ad hom deleted] climate denier. Monbiot, author of “Heat: how to stop the planet from burning” takes the diametrically opposite view on nukes, yet shares your climate concern.

    PS: Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey studies ancient earthquakes and tsunamis. He says “Japan is reeling from a tsunami so rare that its immediate predecessor probably dates from the year 869″. You can hear an interview with him and read the record of a forum he conducted during the last week here http://www.world-science.org/forum/unearthing-ancient-tsunamis-brian-atwater/

    The nuclear plants at Fukushima came through a once in a thousand year seismic/tsunami event and the net effect on the population of Japan in terms of exposure to radiation will turn out to be minimal.

    Natural gas exploration and use in the US exposes the general population to an order of magnitude greater amount of radiation than nuclear. Coal is two orders of magnitude greater. ”

    Joe’s post I attempted to place this on: http://climateprogress.org/2011/03/23/tokyo-tap-water-declared-unsafe-for-infants/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+climateprogress%2FlCrX+%28Climate+Progress%29

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  18. actually,i’m from indnesia and i’d worked previously at a largest contractors named leighton,at their second large mine in south borneo.okay,that would be plenty much radioactivity released by a nuclear plant.but if think comprehensively about its cleaness,there would be no scarry sudden death in the movie of nuclear workers savior..
    i tend to choose nuclear in its safe

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  19. I worked in “Green” biotechnology for 20 years. I accept AGW as scientifically valid. I leaned pro-nuclear. However if the Fukushima situation is not brought under control soon, I’ll take my chances with biofuels, solar, conservation and whatever GW effects might occur. I’m not afraid of radiation, I have worked around it often, but you cannot expose 35,000,000 people to elevated levels without having consequences. There is a difference between poppy seeds and heroin.

    –bks

    p.s. To a first approximation, green leafy vegetables, dairy products and fresh water is my diet!

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  20. @Barry
    Forget about it, i dont want to stress you. God knows you dont deserve that and i should be used to all this. During my studies i was in a think tank once. I made the mistake of suggesting it might be a good idea to try and get MacDonalds to take one organic burger on their menu world wide. I thought it was a good idea and i still do, but you could have read a book by the flak i was taking. I dont know why but i always end up saying wrong things for right reasons.
    Never mind.

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  21. Here is a podcast consisting of an interview with Bruce Shapiro and Oz “Late Night Live” interviewer Phillip Adams discussing US liberal politics and nuclear power while Fukushima was still near its height, and at no extra cost, a description of a long ago dinner Ralph Nader and Phillip Adams attended where Nader converted to his religion of life long anti nukism and denial of all evidence to the contrary.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2011/3164792.htm

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  22. David Lewis, on 24 March 2011 at 4:08 AM said:

    PS: Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey studies ancient earthquakes and tsunamis. He says “Japan is reeling from a tsunami so rare that its immediate predecessor probably dates from the year 869″

    That quote is demonstrably false. It applies to the earthquake, but not the tsunami, which caused most of the damage to the nuclear reactors and the population. This has been discussed on the https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/23/fukushima-10-days-crisis-22-march/ thread on this site. A link to large tsunamis with many in Japan of comparable size to the current one in the last 100 years can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_tsunamis
    MODERATOR
    Please switch this discussion to the Open Thread. Everyone – please note that future off-topic comments, which glue up the thread and become rambling will be deleted. You will be asked to re-post on the appropriate thread as we cannot move comments with this version of WordPress. It is suggested that you keep a copy of your posts in case this occurs and you need to re-submit.]

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  23. Barry,I’m happy to hear you got your little piece onto the Advertiser.The Murdoch papers seem to have been running a distinctly anti nuke line lately and Fairfax is no better.

    Some of the editorial decisions have been appalling in their deliberate attempts to give a false impression.Like running a headline stating x number of (tsunami) casualties under a photo of one of the damaged nuclear plants.

    Of course we’ve had a procession of the usual culprits like Lowe and Dusendorf getting air time and columns.[ad hom deleted]Always the same tired old arguments which they seem to think are strengthened by tiresome repetition.

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  24. I would make the title of the article “It’s nuclear power or climate change AND recession’. We are headed for climate change no matter what but fossil fuels will run out sooner than we think. That means both a buggered climate and global energy poverty.

    Crude oil appears to have already peaked 2005-2008 and it appears coal production in China (the world’s no. 1 user) is peaking now. The cornucopians tells that gas will provide both baseload electrical power and fuel our trucks as well as the evergrowing need for urea fertiliser. OK but not cheaply for more than a couple of decades at this rate.

    Somehow we have to do all this with fickle sources of energy that need permanent large subsidies while being backed up by the very same fossil fuels that are on the way out. There must another way out of this dilemma. I suggest hamsters on treadmills.

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  25. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride

    Those of you demanding that nuclear be stopped in favor of renewable, must understand that you cannot wish away the myriad on problems that this type of energy has. Even its poster-boy Hydro, damages the environment in all sorts of major ways.

    It is just not practical, and you cannot make it so just by wanting it bad enough.

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  26. Ng Ai Soo since you are the second person this week to bring up the Seligman proposal I found a link
    [dead link deleted. Please re-submit.]
    Looking at the maps it ties in with uranium mining, desalination and creating a national electricity grid.

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  27. I would be interested to know if money were equally spent (government subsidy included)- which path would end up being the most useful for the sustainability of life on the planet. I have it stuck somewhere in dark recesses of my brain that if the same amount of will and money were spent on renewable(wind, tide, solar, bio…) and the same fraction on new(fusion, capacitors…) that this debate wouldn’t be so simple.

    Also, Barry, while I have linked your blog out to many of my freaked out the sky is falling friends as a fantastic resource for real data about this mess, I want to tell you I take exception to driving stakes in the ground and saying it’s this way or no way. It feels very anti scientific and more like a bit of zealotry. Only a bit though. I am guilty of this as well regarding other things but I do try to catch myself.

    Please continue your fantastic and I-can’t-believe-it’s-bloody-free! work.

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  28. @ louis on on 24 March 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Your links have no scientific credibility at all. They are spoofs. Pretend science.

    They contain multiple debunked claims that are listed with reference to peer reviewed science at http://www.skepticalscience.com/ which is a good site for sorting fact from fiction.
    MODERATOR
    Comment was deleted as off-topic and advised to be re-posted in Sceptics thread or Open thread where personal opinions/deliberate distortions of fact are allowed with more relaxed commenting/referencing rules.Perhaps you could re-post this comment there too if “louis” has re-posted.

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  29. Bravo Barry, keep up the fight.

    So many good points made by you and your contributors. Fukishima aside how is the world going to advance beyond fossil fuels? With a frightened public, rather than trying to defend nuclear we need to demonise coal/gas to the point where it is unacceptable to allow unabatted emmisions into the atmosphere. Perhaps a few UN resolutions are in order? With expensive CCS nuclear will need to be reevaluated even the Germans may conceed.

    Been a bit of a lurker and lovin the blog any chance of an apprasal of pollywell nuclear fusion sometime?

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  30. This is a good article, but there is some very debatable use of comparative European statistics in both the text and the youtube video.

    I don’t know who made the video, but noticed that it: (a) cuts off one comparative graph five years earlier than the other; (b) looks only at CO2 intensity per kWh of electricity rather than per utilized energy despite comparing a country that has lots of combined heat and power to one with very little CHP; and (c) paints non-fossil renewables combustion in black as producing CO2 even though biomass CHP is a part of a more carbon-neutral CO2 cycle and can contribute an overall net reduction in CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the proportion of more potent greenhouse gases such as methane.

    The article text states: “Even with 20 per cent wind, Denmark has among the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person in Europe. France has among the lowest.”

    For this to be accurate and not misleading, I would to interpret it to mean in mathematical terms that if we ranked European nations by greenhouse gas emissions per capita, Denmark would have to be above the third quartile (in the highest 25% of observations) and France below the first (in the lowest 25%). Any observation of actual data shows that both these expectations are false.

    For example, visit http://www.eea.europa.eu and drill down the links to find European greenhouse gas emissions per capita for each country. You will see France has per-person GHG emissions of 8-9 tonnes CO2 equivalent per year, nearly 20% below the European average and Denmark has 11-12 per year, nearly 20% above the European average. Both countries are within the interquartile range, not in the top or bottom 25%. There’s not much difference to compare and neither nation is “among the highest” (or lowest) in that data set as most people would interpret these phrases.

    Both these countries have per-person greenhouse gas emissions that are above the global average but below the OECD average, and notably less than half that of Australia. I find it strange that an Aussie might examine reasons for the relatively small difference in greenhouse gas emissions between these two particular countries on the other side of the world and claim one is doing great while the other is doing poorly, instead of observing how they compare to one’s own country and exclaiming, “Crikey, they’re both doing fantastic compared to us!”

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  31. Barry

    You say “Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi accident, caused when a 14 metre tsunami crashed into a 40-year old power station in Japan, no member of the public had ever been killed by nuclear power in an OECD country.”

    In your current phase of pro-nuclear advocacy, I think you’re leaving yourself open to criticism that you’re dodging the real questions

    – post Chernobyl, are you sure there were no excess cancers in countries in Western Europe after the accident?
    – are you really trying to suggest that nuclear industry workers are not members of the public? (there have been numerous fatalities of workers in the nuclear industry in Japan)
    – are you really saying that there have been no adverse health impacts from uranium mining, radon and tailings issues for indigenous communities near mine sites in Nevada, Sakatchewan etc

    Sure there are many hazards with coal mining etc etc etc, [ad hom deleted]

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  32. [comment deleted for violation of several commenting rules including: personal opinion presented as fact without references, ad homs, unsupported hearsay. Please re-post following the commenting rules.]

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  33. Ignoring everything else that’s wrong with Randal’s post for the moment, I’ll just point out that Barry is one of the foremost advocates of the Integral Fast Reactor.
    MODERATOR
    Randal’s post was deleted for violation of several commenting rules]

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  34. Well, actually, I didn’t mean to be so abrasive…. I take it back… [ad hom deleted]
    We just need to do better than we’re doing in nuclear, and it’s not wishful thinking, it’s within our grasp. Why haven’t we?

    Randal

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  35. Barry, you say Australia has no access to large scale Hydro and I agree that we’ve used most the hydro that could be a ‘source of energy. But what about as a battery?

    Your Environment Institute hosted a pro-renewables guy recently who raved about the BZE plan.

    I was waiting for him to address intermittency. Then he suggested something truly interesting; a
    ‘battery’ that could run the whole of Australia for 10 hours if the wind and solar went down?

    The idea is to build a large shallow hydro dam at the top of the Great Australian bite. When you have excess solar and wind, pump seawater up. When you need the energy back, run it back down the 90 meter cliff back into the sea! It doesn’t use up freshwater or drown valleys, just desert. And we’ve got plenty of that!

    The only thing is I haven’t seen whether or not this is has been costed. He talked about building a 20 meter high dam, so quite shallow but large. I wonder what the engineering costs would be?

    Here’s the link.
    http://tinyurl.com/5rndh2l

    This was briefly dismissed in other threads, but if this meme gets out there it would be logical to have a costed paper that details the costs of such a scheme and the super-grid that would go with it. (With SA as the ‘battery’ for the continent!)

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  36. Well AllenW, I’ve spoken to Gwyneth Cravens quite a lot and she and I think very much alike! She’s written a terrific book on nuclear power + sustainability, by the way.

    By the way, I’m not saying it’s nuclear power and nothing else, or it’s climate change. I’m saying that without nuclear power, renewables will be insufficient to address climate change. I’m not anti-renewables and am not seeking to block them! I’m being practical and realistic.

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  37. @Eclipse Now: Storing power using water is quite well known, and has been deployed (in Portugal at least, possible elsewhere), although in those cases I think it was using existing hydro-electric infrastructure. I believe it is often referred to as pump hydro.

    More broadly, I think it’s a big strategic mistake for nuclear advocates to continue to claim than renewable cannot provide base load power.

    It is quite clear that the real problem there is power storage, and the problems there are (slowly) being overcome. Strategically, focusing on the base load issue leaves nuclear power increasingly vulnerable as these problems become less.

    (There are also things like geo-thermal power, which are conspicuously ignored by nuclear advocates)

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  38. Barry,

    Thanks for being objective and fair in promoting civil dialogue and discussion based on facts, and opinions when stated as such. Only with facts and not assertions, can people make educated decisions on their own.

    Richard

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  39. @ DV82XL

    operation of 1000-MWe coal-fired and nuclear power plants amounts to 4.90 person-Sv/yrs for coal plants and 0.004 person-Sv/yrs for nuclear plants. Thus, the population effective dose equivalent from coal plants is 100 times that from nuclear plants.”

    I believe that if the figures you gave are correct, then you actually mean that the effective dose from living next to a coal plant are over 1000 times more than a nuclear plan.

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  40. @Barry Brook, looking at this post, seems you regain your full confidence on the fact that the situation is going to be solve without any huge damage, am I right? Looking forward your and Red_Blue comments.

    Again, sorry about my grammar, it’s really diferent from my main language.

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  41. Steve H. Reducing demand wouldn’t work even if every body was 100 percent on side … dumped their plasmas (didn’t replace them), turned off their air cons. Every thing imaginable. It still wouldn’t work. Not even
    close. Why? Work out sustainable global emissions level and divide by the population. This gives each person’s allocation in a fair world. Its a bit over a tonne CO2eq per person per annum. Australians would exceed their allocation simply by their choice of food even if all food was shipped around the place on solar powered trucks built in solar powered steel plants. Ditto any other high meat/dairy consuming country. If everybody goes vegan, then you have a tonne or so of emissions to play with … its just not enough, even for the most spartan of consumers.

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  42. @ Peter Burnett

    1. There is absolutely no credible evidence to suggest that nuclear power has caused an increased cancer rate anywhere in the world, apart from Chernobyl (and even then, many of the claims surrounding that are spurious).

    2.

    are you really trying to suggest that nuclear industry workers are not members of the public? (there have been numerous fatalities of workers in the nuclear industry in Japan)

    That is a fallacious argument. There are deaths in virtually every industry, and the nuclear industry has a better safety record than any other energy sector

    3.

    are you really saying that there have been no adverse health impacts from uranium mining, radon and tailings issues for indigenous communities near mine sites in Nevada, Sakatchewan etc

    Is there any evidence to suggest that mining for nuclear materials has a worse record than any other type of mining? Including mining for materials for renewable infrastructure, which require something in the order of 10 times the amount of materials to produce the same amount of energy (and that doesn’t even include the extra transmission infrastructure)?

    Like

  43. The productivity claims Lovins makes for renewable energy range from the improbable, to the extravagant, to the impossible.

    This wild fantasy, masquerading as a scientific hypothesis, contradicts an extensive body of real-world evidence. Nevertheless, Lovins enjoins the great minds of science, engineering, and business to ignore these contradictions and divert their efforts and intelligence to the task of converting mankind’s industrial economy to renewables. Whether such a conversion is actually possible is not important—because the continued existence of industrial civilization is not the goal of Lovins’s proposals.

    The purpose of his renewable energy campaign is to undermine all large-scale power production. All of the most productive means of making power—coal, oil, large hydro, and nuclear—all of them got to be so productive precisely because they are large. Large-scale projects are able to take full advantage of the division of labor, creating economies of scale that allow more efficient operation than would be possible with a much greater number of small-scale projects. So in proposing that every farm, every office building, and every household produce its own energy, Lovins is attacking the division of labor economy that makes power production so economical—and which allows the production of large quantities of man-made power.

    Lovins himself implicitly acknowledges that small-scale technologies can never produce the geometrically growing quantities of power required by man’s geometrically expanding industrial economy. His “Negawatts” are supposed to be a measure of the megawatts of capacity that do not have to be built due to reductions in energy consumption, either through increased efficiency or through the pure sacrifice type of conservation.

    In this nihilistic view, the elimination of man-made power is economically equivalent and ecologically superior to its production. Lovins’s vision is a vision that serves only to mask his goal of extinguishing the lights of industrial civilization

    Like

  44. @ Geoff Russell,

    Fascinating point. I’d never thought of it in this way before (not so much the vego point alone, but the sustainable emissions/population point, and the dietary context within this)

    Cheers.

    Like

  45. Much of the public has an irrational fear of nuclear power based on extreme and often fictitious scenarios.

    Much of the public has an irrational fear of climate change based on extreme and often fictitious scenerios.

    In both cases I wish the general public was startled with fewer extreme and fictitious scenarios. Barring that I wish the public was less irrational and fearful. Scaring people is so much simpler than educating them so the fear industry will remain forever profitable.

    Boo.

    Like

  46. Mr Sum said:

    ///More broadly, I think it’s a big strategic mistake for nuclear advocates to continue to claim than renewable cannot provide base load power.///
    That’s not the question, it’s whether or not it is even *economically imaginable*.

    ///(There are also things like geo-thermal power, which are conspicuously ignored by nuclear advocates)///
    Hmm, really? In Australia? I think you’re dreaming. Even BZE ‘conspicuously ignored this’ in their Zero Carbon Plan for Australia. I wonder why? ;-)

    Like

  47. DV8

    You know that I’m a fan of whatever works, ok, and have changed my previous ‘greenie’ anti-nuke position to being pro-nukes IF that’s what it takes. You’ve seen my nuclear page on my blog, something that has made me an outcast in my old greenie circles.

    So please don’t take it the wrong way when I ask a few questions about your following paragraph.

    ////Large-scale projects are able to take full advantage of the division of labor, creating economies of scale that allow more efficient operation than would be possible with a much greater number of small-scale projects. So in proposing that every farm, every office building, and every household produce its own energy, Lovins is attacking the division of labor economy that makes power production so economical—and which allows the production of large quantities of man-made power.////

    I’m not building a solar PV cell any time soon, nor a wind turbine. So I’m not sure your argument works? Solar PV or thermal or wind projects come of a production line just like any GenIV modular nuke. They involve specialisation and mass-employment of the engineers that go out and install them. And if “solar paint” that is super cheap ever arrives, along with “super batteries” that are super-powerful and super-cheap, homes going off-grid might actually become economical. But both will require highly specialised manufacturing processes and engineers to install.

    Like

  48. Tom Keen, on 24 March 2011 at 11:42 AM said:

    I believe that if the figures you gave are correct, then you actually mean that the effective dose from living next to a coal plant are over 1000 times more than a nuclear plan.

    Coal plants have huge smokestacks that blow the radiation all over unless they install scrubbers, in which case someone gets to live next a radioactive ash dump.

    Like

  49. @Eclipse Now – If my aunt had a beard, she’d be my uncle.

    The fact remains that we don’t have ‘solar paint’ or super batteries, and I doubt we ever will. I know you believe that these enormous breakthroughs may come, but I am less sanguine.

    Also economies of scale are quantifiable. So while a wind project may have some, it will never reach the magnitude of a central base load power station.

    Finally don’t fall into the trap of thinking that domestic energy use is all that significant. Even if all dwellings went off-grid, we would still have to supply about 80% of current loads for industrial use, and industry has been doing their best for years to reduce their power consumption, and there isn’t a lot of fat left to cut in that domain.

    Like

  50. Mr Sum,
    no, it’s not economical yet for large scale deployment and needs HVDC power cables to bring it from our deserts into our cities… over 2000km in some parts!

    NO!

    If it ever proves viable by some of the hypothesised means, by — ironically — injecting liquefied co2 down the hole for a slipperier heat exchange medium that gets into all the rocks and then comes shooting back up the hot pipe, then yes, I’d be all for it. But I listen to the Science Show regularly and they’ve covered it and it’s just not ready, not even according to the geothermal boosters.

    If it was ready, I’d be all for it and prepared to pay a bit more for my power to pay for the transmission all the way to Sydney!

    Like

  51. I noticed last night on Lateline, Greg Hunt is advocating carbon soils as a cheaper option for carbon sequestration, with a synergistic benefit of improved soils and the continued use of Coal power stations.

    Would be interesting to see the science behind these claims. He was rather coy when it was put to him that the CSRIO weren’t completely convinced with the idea. What does seem apparent is that he believes Obama will push for this to count in CO2 reduction at the next global meetings in 2012, or if we are given freedom to determine our own plans, we will count this as an offset.

    Like

  52. I think soil carbon is an open invitation to fraud and I think Garnaut should have steered away from it, as does the European commission. Now the opposition is saying we don’t need to stop burning coal just plant a few trees and feed cows in a less flatulent way. I suggest we’ll need reverse carbon credits in case the trees catch on fire or the cows fail to mend their ways.

    The cliff top pumped seawater proposal linked upthread is for a giant (7km diameter) tank scaled up from the small pilot plant in Okinawa Japan. It is claimed that stored wind and solar energy can be retrieved for a combined cost of 11c per kwh. I understand PV-lead acid battery systems work out more like 40c per kwh so it seems like a stretch.

    Like

  53. Yeah, saw that too. I love Co2 in soils but how is it going to get there? Biochar isn’t economical enough yet for farmers to adopt it wholesale, but I do LOVE it so. See my page at:

    http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/replenish-the-soil/

    Other than that, I’ve heard that the USA currently grows subsidised corn on 1 acre to feed 2 cows for a year. The corn depletes the soil and uses lots of energy to grow; it’s very Co2 intensive.

    However, if we took that same acre of grassland and let the cows just eat grass (instead of corn meal which is bad for them), then we’d have… 2 cows. But so much more. We’d have fertile soils that were alive and growing the occasional tree and storing micro-organisms and worms and micro-fungi that all stores carbon back into the soil.

    Not only that, but there is a new emphasis on using wood as a new building material for SKYSCAPERS! Imagine all that wood locked up there for centuries.

    This ABC podcast architect Michael Green unpacks how ‘new’ wood is cheaper, safer, and stronger than steel and concrete for building Skyscrapers!
    http://abc.com.au/ru…11/s3159230.htm

    One cubic meter of wood stores 1 ton of Carbon. Imagine fast-growth trees of 10 to 15 years sequestering all that Carbon to house the next 3 billion people who need homes!

    * He uses Aspen and Birch trees that are shredded and the fibres glued together
    * (Note: glue can come from our rubbish tips!)
    * Trees are only 10 to 15 years old when harvested
    * Apart from the foundations, wood can replace the use of steel and concrete in buildings and becomes the new structural backbone of the skyscraper!
    * Huge wood beams are now 20m long by 2.5m wide by 85mil thick
    * Wood weights half as much as concrete which improves the strength of the building in an earthquake
    * Wood buildings have survived earthquakes better than heavy steel and concrete buildings
    * Can lead to an enormous reforesting business worldwide, and an enormous sequestration of Co2!
    * As a material the wood is more expensive but …
    * It so drastically reduces the labour costs associated with buildings as it can go up so much faster.
    * EG: It takes a week to pour a concrete floor in a skyscraper before the next floor can be constructed. Michael Green has seen wood skyscrapers that can build 6 floors a day!

    Here is his TED talk.

    Like

  54. ///It is claimed that stored wind and solar energy can be retrieved for a combined cost of 11c per kwh. I understand PV-lead acid battery systems work out more like 40c per kwh so it seems like a stretch.///

    As DV8 pointed up up thread, that’s the difference between a large centralised system and smaller individual unit costs. However, the large centralised system is more vulnerable and has less resilience. (Dam buster terrorists anyone?)

    Like

  55. Tom Keen: Checkout the Pelletier paper linked in
    my last BNC post.

    https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/01/17/livestock-and-climate-change-status-update/

    The point is also made in another recent paper,

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1934/20.full.pdf

    This paper looks at global budgets out to 2100 and the chances of staying under 2 degrees … they
    eventually face the fact that food is critical but don’t seem to understand the food–reforestation connections … can’t see the trees for the forest, or the forest for the trees perhaps :)

    Like

  56. Not sure that Michael Green is correct with the assertion that “One cubic meter of wood stores 1 ton of Carbon.”

    Wood is also made up of hydrogen and oxygen (its a carbohydrate). Green wood (i.e. ca. 50% water) usually floats on water. Therefore its specific gravity is less than 1. Dry wood is less dense.

    Like

  57. @Eclipse Now: Some of the proposed geo-thermal projects are in SE South Australia, ie, hundreds (not thousands) of kms from Melbourne & Adelaide, and near existing transmission infrastructure.

    I agree wood is a great building material. After all, it’s natural carbon fiber.

    Like

  58. Eclipse now: I checked your cattle/corn figures, I thought they looked wrong, but they are close enough … except I think in hectares.

    So why do cattle growers use feedlots?
    Consider the caloric value of 10 tonne of corn … which is about what you can get off a hectare per annum with the right fertilisers and 20 tonne of grass … which is also about what you can get off a hectare (NPP in Oceania averages about 8.9 … dry matter). 10 tonnes of corn has one hell of a lot of
    calories … and when I get time I’ll find a figure for the grass, but I’ll bet it has a heap less. Hence the inevitable rise of feedlots.

    Like

  59. @ John Newlands; thanks for this! I finally got to download it and it looks interesting. I hope the technobabble is not too far above my comprehension.

    ///Try this link re the Nullarbor cliffs energy storage proposal
    http://energy.unimelb.edu.au/uploads/Australian_Sustainable_Energy-by_the_numbers3.pdf

    It needs some study as to whether it contains ZCA like assumptions about major lifestyle changes and trains loaded with hay. My point is that if it has some merit it could tie in with improved economics of desal and new transmission.///

    Like

  60. Like it or not, energy is POLITICAL. This means that we make less than rational or economically ideal choices at times. Nuclear power has huge economic hurdles of it’s own and also people will pay a premium to avoid it.

    [comment deleted – unsupported hearsay/personal opinion presented as fact. Please re-submit with references.]

    Like

  61. @Steve H @1.44am re energy efficiencies and power usage reduction.
    Can you reference any country anywhere that has managed to reduce their carbon footprint by increased energy efficiency and reduced power usage? Hunger for power, and use of power is increasing, particularly in the developing countries and with the switch off petrol and to electric vehicles the need will further increase.
    Nice idea but not probable or maybe even not possible.

    Like

  62. esquilax is now banned. I don’t need to explain why, the above is self explanatory. There were actually plenty of comments like this going through the site over the last week that the moderators caught — I just thought I’d give the readers a flavour of what we had to deal with. — Barry Brook

    Like

  63. Umm, feel like an outsider looking in and do appreciate the interesting discussion. But I must say if you want to maintain the credibility of the site, you should apply the rules for postings across the board. Opinion, unsupported claims, etc. seem to be fine if you are pro-nuclear. For example:

    DV82XL, on 24 March 2011 at 11:57 AM said:
    “The productivity claims Lovins makes for renewable energy range from the improbable, to the extravagant, to the impossible.”

    “In this nihilistic view, the elimination of man-made power is economically equivalent and ecologically superior to its production. Lovins’s vision is a vision that serves only to mask his goal of extinguishing the lights of industrial civilization”
    MODERATOR
    The reference has been made to Lovins’ work as required by the Commenting Rules on BNC.

    Like

  64. OOPS!
    That didn’t make sense.
    I meant:
    Anti-nuclear blogs rarely, if ever, allow pro-nuclear comment. Whereas BNC welcomes pro-renewable comments/discussions, particularly if backed by factual data. In fact Prof Brook constantly reminds us that he is not anti-renewables and believes them to be a part of the solution to climate change.

    Like

  65. Steve@4:25
    Surely analysis of another’s work is not the same as personal opinion presented as fact without references.
    There are many examples of this sort of analysis on BNC from both all perspectives.

    Like

  66. @ Steve:

    I saw Lovins name. It was the paragraphs of opinion and generalization without fact I was concerned by. I can get that kind of nonsense anywhere.

    Lets see what Mr. Lovins himself has to say on the subject of energy. One of his more publicised opinions can be found here:

    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Renewable-Energy/1977-11-01/Amory-Lovins.aspx?page=14

    If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.

    Mr. Lovins is not fond of people having enough energy to be able to enjoy their lives as they will.

    Like

  67. Ms. Perps@4:33
    What I like about the site is the exchange between pro and anti-nuclear on a higher level than found elsewhere. But that post wasn’t analysis [excessive language deleted] It suggests – without support – that Lovins work is both “unscientific” and driven by a hidden agenda. The economics of power generation, centralization versus decentralization, etc. are critical issues. Their consideration should be treated with the same care commentors here show toward rates of decay, etc. I am collaborating with Lovin’s institute on fuel efficiency issues in the trucking industry and the idea that he is out to destroy industrial society is not supported by any of their very practical interventions or their partnerships with private firms. For instance, he has helped Wal-Mart, the largest private trucking fleet in the US, acheive a 60% increase in fleet fuel efficiency in just 5 years. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/06/post_54.php
    http://www.truckinginfo.com/clean-green/news-detail.asp?news_id=70833&news_category_id=62
    Decide for yourself whether Lovins is out to bring about the demise of industrial society
    http://www.rmi.org/rmi/Trucking

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  68. Steve@5:11
    Finrod quotes this comment of Lovins’ and gives a link.

    “If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.”

    Eh, or should that be que? Seems perfectly reasonable to deduce from that quote that Lovins would like us all to change our lifestyles, cut our usage of power and return to a perceived golden era of the past without modern conveniences.

    That seems to support Finrod’s analysis of Lovins’ work from Lovins’ own mouth.

    Like

  69. Ms. Perps@5:27
    I don’t want to read into a single sentence from an interview of thousands of words given in 1977 (before the recognition of climate change), but I think the following sentence provides further insight: “We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other.”

    I would certainly concede that, from what I know of him and this statement, Lovins’ appears to have deep concerns about the possibility of human beings degrading biological systems and our ability to sustain ourselves through particular kinds of economic and technological development. And, sure, he would love to reduce consumption of raw materials and energy. But that is far different from claiming that he seeks the demise of industrialized society and a modern lifestyle and that we should disregard his contributions as a result.

    My point was on process. We all agree we face enormous energy challenges. To meet those challenges we are going to have to have a very serious long-term discussion involving private industry, policy makers and the public about a range of extremely complex issues involving science, money, personal freedom, future generations, etc. And we are going to have to sustain the political will to make enormous investments over decades. Many readers here advocate for a solution that they feel is misunderstood by the public and their opponents. I’m open-minded and willing to give it a hearing. It’s a distraction and waste of my time to read stuff that doesn’t take seriously the work of serious (and influential) people on the other side of the issue.

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  70. In summer, France cannot cool its nuclear plants efficiently and has to buy additional german power – fossil power. Because also in Germany, the nuclear plants are then throttled.

    So the equation is not as easy as you pretend.

    Like

  71. Also it is generally said that nuclear power can (like wind and solar, btw) only provide _base_ coverage, nuclear plants are not controllable FAST enought to react to changes in power use.
    This is a job that hydro and gas can cover a lot better. I figure modern solar plants like Andasol with a large heat storage system can also be used for fast-controlled production.

    Like

  72. me said “In summer, France cannot cool its nuclear plants efficiently and has to buy additional german power – fossil power. Because also in Germany, the nuclear plants are then throttled”

    I’d like to see a reference to support that statment

    Like

  73. @DV8
    France imports when necessary, and exports when possible. Reference:-

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilities/article6626811.ece

    Also E_f_Thorium discussion on this issue

    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=2138

    Antinuclear groups use this as a means to bash reactors, but coal and CCGT plants would have the same problem, and it is largely an economic issue anyway – UK and Germany have electricity demand peaking strongly in winter, and spare capacity in summer. France is also winter peaking in an average year, but has an additional summer peak if it is unusually hot. Rather than build excess capacity that would mostly sit idle, they buy from the neighbours, because it is cheaper..

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  74. “Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi accident, caused when a 14 metre tsunami crashed into a 40-year old power station in Japan, no member of the public had ever been killed by nuclear power in an OECD country.”

    As far as I’m aware, that’s still true.

    As far as I’m aware, nobody has been killed by radioactivity at Fukushima.

    (If I’m actually wrong and real credible evidence exists to show that, I would be happy to be corrected.)

    Like

  75. Tepco has not reported any deaths due to radiation. Tepco has reported one poor worker who got stuck in a crane and died during the earthquake, the poor bloke. Nothing to do with radiation, being in a crane is not the safest place during a 9 moment magnitude earthquake.

    Several workers are injured, a few are brought to medical centers because they felt bad. One confirmation of exposure of more than 10 rem, worker brought to medical center.

    The TEPCO site has the following to say:
    —————————————————————–
    -2 workers of cooperative firm were injured at the occurrence of the
    earthquake, and were transported to the hospital on March 11th.
    -4 workers were injured and transported to the hospital after explosive
    sound and white smoke were confirmed around the Unit 1on March 11th.
    -Presence of 2 TEPCO employees at the site is not confirmed on March
    11th.
    -1 TEPCO employee who was not able to stand by his own holding left chest
    with his hand, was transported to the hospital by an ambulance on March
    12th.
    -1 subcontract worker at the key earthquake-proof building was unconscious
    and transported to the hospital by an ambulance on March 12th.
    -The radiation exposure of 1 TEPCO employee, who was working inside the
    reactor building, exceeded 100mSv and he was transported to the hospital
    on March 12th.
    -2 TEPCO employees felt bad during their operation in the central control
    rooms of Unit 1 and 2 while wearing full masks, and were transferred to
    Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station for consultation with a medical
    advisor on March 13th.
    -11 workers were injured and transported to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power
    Station etc. after explosive sound and white smoke were confirmed around
    the Unit 3. One of the workers was transported to the FUKUSHIMA Medical
    University Hospital on March 14th.
    -At approximately 10 pm on March 22nd, 1 worker who had been working on
    setting up a temporary power panel in the common pool was injured and
    transported to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station where the industrial
    doctor is.
    -At approximately 1 am on March 23rd, 1 worker who had been working on
    transporting a temporary power panel in the common pool was injured and
    transported to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station where the
    industrial doctor is.

    —————————————————————–
    In OECD countries there appear to my knowledge no radiation deaths due to commercial nuclear power plants. In experimental powerplants, there have been researchers which have managed to kill themselves, for example in the Simi reactor incident. Not sure if those researchers died due to radiation, could be a chemical or heat/coolant explosion also, they were standing on top of the reactor (!) to see what was wrong with it, and then there was some kind of explosion. My memory is failing, will go and look up the exact situation.

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  76. It should be noted, that simple and fairly harmless chemical treatments are available that are highly effective against iodine and cesium overdose. Preventive stable iodine pills are probably taken by all workers already (anyone know?) and active carbon pills and other simple getters help a lot too.

    Like

  77. Barry, you said I am not saying its nukes or nothing- the the title of this post is it’s nuclear power or it’s climate change.

    I am sorry, but that kind of statement does not hold up.

    Simply, the Earth’s climate is going to change no matter what we do- proximity to the sun in an elliptical orbit over time compounded with the moon’s orbit. Of course we can then aid it along by damaging the atmosphere and damaging surface. We all know this. By saying it’s nukes or climate change is unwanted hyperbole.

    What I would still love to hear addressed is the political will aspect of this discussion- where is the Manhattan Project for fusion? For better, more efficient storage? For lower power consuming devices?

    All of the current arguments seem to say that power consumption is on an ever increasing trajectory (say, like the value of houses). But if demand goes up and efficiency out paces it- that argument doesn’t work anymore. And with a political will behind this goal it seems quite feasible. Where is that Manhattan Project level of determination?

    To be clear, I think making power with stuff you can’t clean up is [excessive language deleted]short sighted. If we cannot do it without making a mess we shouldn’t do it, regardless of demand. Charging one’s iPhone is not paramount to having air and water. I recognize that this is a singular, fantastical notion, but saying nukes or climate change is as well.

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  78. DvD “What I would still love to hear addressed is the political will aspect of this discussion- where is the Manhattan Project for fusion? For better, more efficient storage? For lower power consuming devices?”

    Ditto for me. As of March 11, conventional, dirty nuclear is a thing of the past in the US. The ever increasing volumes of “spent fuel”, trucking it down US highways, hoping it stays cool, out of the wrong hands, stacked up somewhere or holding it in pools on top of reactors; it is not a happy face kind of deal at all.

    The new construction projects will stagnate in the face of renewed and very stiff opposition. So again, where is the political will? Proposed legislation that would better our collective research and development has simply gone to committee to die, usually with very few co-sponsors. I talk to very intelligent folks and they have never heard of molten salt reactors or traveling wave reactors. The awareness, the public debate for R&D, where is it?

    The amount of money we’ve spent in a typical month in Iraq, could fund meaningful R&D in our own country. Pushing for more Conventional Nuclear plants in the US is a waste of time and precious resources that we do not have.

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  79. @Randal

    Fusion has been said to be 10 yrs away from being achieved for the last 50 yrs. They have gotten to scientific breakeven, but are still very far from a pratical design that would produce any power. Research is on going, but they actually have to prove it can effectively work. Sure more money for the research, but I think it would be at least 30 more yrs before fusion would contribure anything, given even an optimistic evaluation of their chances.

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  80. William, this is a non-answer to the question. It is stating the as-isness of things- we get that. Why is there no will to push it forward? That 30 years could be dropped to 10 if there was sufficient shoving to get it done- but instead there is so much peer derision of attempts at this (“junk science’, correct?) but the H-Bomb worked, fusion does in deed work it’s just not efficient- yet.

    Why are scientists not pushing for this ‘clean’ energy in the same way they are backing fission? It just doesn’t feel right.
    [deleted personal opinion on motives ]

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  81. DvD

    Though you might want to mandate scientific and engineering breakthroughs by pushing money at them, that is far from guaranteed. These are very large undertaking that take a long time to develop and build. Each one of these experimental fusion reactors cost billions to build. You want to actually do some research with them, before you go rushing off to build the next, without knowing what things you should be trying next. We could speed it up, but we still don’t know if these things will ever be pratical. How much resources do you want to put into something that may never work?

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  82. @William Fairholm. Thanks. If we only rely upon innovation in the US, you are right. In fact with the US regulatory environment, according to Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the American ambassador to China: “it would take decades just to certify the design.’’ It is no wonder he is pushining for a joint US/Chinese effort to develop and commercialize fusion reactor design. (January 18, 2011)
    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/pushing-the-energy-envelope-with-china/
    The Chinese, however, don’t need the US, and will likely own the intellectual property rights to a clean nuclear future as a result. (February 1, 2011)
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/02/china-thorium-power/
    The United States is in no way serious about our energy future, climate change or the dependency on fossil fuels. If it was, the famed SUV Tax Loophole (Hummer Loophole) would have been closed long ago. Believe it or not, it’s still there, while most hybrid and automotive fuel efficiency incentives have expired or are non-existent. http://www.section179.org/section_179_vehicle_deductions.html
    “Certain vehicles – with a gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 lbs but no more than 14,000 lbs – qualify for expensing up to $25,000 if the vehicle is financed and placed in service prior to Dec 31st and meets other conditions.”

    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Please re-submit with refs/links]

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  83. DvD

    Also go look at that link I provided. Fusion has radioactivity problems as well, though not nearly as great as fission. And it can not “blow up” in even the limited sense you can say a fission reactor can “blow up”.

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  84. William, for the sake of future discussion please assume that if you have taken the time to post something I have read it. In fact I had read that link many moons ago. It still does not get to the core question- and I am just using fusion as an example. I am personally far more interested in carbon or graphene nano tubes used in improved capacitors.

    But getting to the question… if there were a will wouldn’t these technologies provide more bang for the buck? Why must it be fission or the highway?

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  85. DvD,

    I wouldn’t say it is nuclear fission or the highway. There are lots of promising technologies that are being developed. I wouldn’t even say I’m a nuclear advocate. I started to be turned off by the cost of building and maintaining nuclear power plants. However, the cost of using fossil fuels is enormous. Right now, with the technology we have now, nuclear can’t be rejected. But even then I don’t know if it would be enough to reduce our carbon footprint that much. That is a much harder problem, which is getting worse not better. Conservation, energy efficiencies, and a reduction in our profligate lifestyle are going to be needed to make a major impact. The world is having and will continue to have human driven climate change. How far it will go is what we are struggling with right now.

    I have no way of evaluating the table top fusion reactor you linked to. This is so extremely unlikely I don’t know what else the say, but if you believe in it I suggest you invest as much money as you can in it.

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  86. It never ceases to amaze me that nobody ever talks about using less. Living more simply so we may simply live.

    We have everything here (except a swimming pool). Two laptops, a fridge, a freezer, hot and cold running water, lights in every room, a TV, stereo, and a constantly comfortable temperature all year round from simple good design. We live on 3 kWh/day. Oh and we produce ~12 kWh/day of solar power, hail rain or shine, which we sell to the grid for money to spend on luxuries!

    And we hardly ever shop… we grow 80+% of our own food, even meat, milk, cheese etc.

    If everyone lived like us, we wouldn’t be discussing building nukes, we’d be talking about which coal fired power stations we should shut down…

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  87. @ mikestasse
    I agree in principle however, I am sorry to say it is idealistic.Not everyone can follow the self-sustainability path. Too many people live in places crowded cities (high rise, small terraces etc) where there is no possibility of growing their own food. Houses have already been built (many of them unfortunately) which are not well designed and have no extra money to radically alter them. If you are able to live on a country block (BTW where do you live) it is much easier to follow those principles. What about people in developing countries – how are they going to access modern conveniences without baseload power which has to be nuclear or hydro to cope with the demand and stop using fossil fuels. Nowhere, so far, in the World have reductions in CO2 been achieved through energy efficiency and new design and nowhere in the World has a fossil fuelled power station been replaced by any renewable souce except hydro power – and that has another set of drawbacks as we know.

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  88. It never ceases to amaze me that nobody ever talks about using less. Living more simply so we may simply live.

    It never ceases to amaze me just how Western-centric statements like this are. Tell the 50-80% of the world who live in poverty that they should use less. Then tell them that they should never have access to sufficient energy because a select few groups in the developed world are strongly opposed to the only viable, non-fossible fuel baseload energy source available to them.

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  89. See…. who’s western centric? If WE used a lot less, then THEY would have more for themselves.

    And my prediction is that as soon as oil gets short and very expensive, supermarket shelves will go empty and cities will be largely abandoned….. This will happen well before any of your wet dream nukes are ever built, I expect Australia to be totally out of oil before 2020.

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  90. See…. who’s western centric? If WE used a lot less, then THEY would have more for themselves.

    Typical uncreative zero-sum thinking. With sufficient energy, the vast resources of this planet can be endlessly processed and re-processed into the forms we need.

    And my prediction is that as soon as oil gets short and very expensive, supermarket shelves will go empty and cities will be largely abandoned….. This will happen well before any of your wet dream nukes are ever built, I expect Australia to be totally out of oil before 2020.

    What you are describing is mass starvation. What can I say? I hope you’re wrong. I also believe that you’re wrong in your timescale (but right about the long term non-viability of fossil fuels for powering our civilisation, and of technosolar renewables to replace them). But I doubt the oil will run dry in the sudden manner you believe. Gas and coal will be used as substitutes for a while, before we transition to synfuels produced with nuclear power.

    It’s also clear from material you’ve posted on BNC previously that you are actually looking forward to this disaster you’re predicting with considerable anticipation, and possibly impatience. If you’re going to speak of wet dreams, look first to your own lust for catastrophism.

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  91. I think this discussion has gone into the realm more suitable for the open discussion thread.
    MODERATOR
    I agree William. Comments are not moderated until morning, Australian time, so it seems a little harsh to delete comments that have been posted on the wrong thread overnight.
    Please move this conversation to Open Thread.

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  92. Stasse, if your long-desired gottedamerung ever occurs, you’re in for a very nasty shock. In the final extremity of the crisis there will be no way that you will be permitted to enjoy the security which you think your little lifeboat in the country offers you. All such assetts will be taken over by whatever passes for the state. The elite will expend its resources to secure those assetts for themselves. You wouldn’t stand a chance.
    MODERATOR
    Please move this conversation to Open Thread.

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  93. @mike interesting blog. I have some totally off-grid neighbours here in SW Tas who are sanguine about nuclear. When it all gets too hard perhaps they hope the old folks home will have cheap heating instead of having to go out to chop wood. I wonder how many people in Australia are into both PV and permaculture? Thousands perhaps and growing.

    Good point about Australia effectively running out of oil within a decade yet nobody seems to care. Too busy worrying about a temporary hiccup.
    MODERATOR
    Please move this converation to Open Thread.

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  94. mikestasse
    I don’t think many on the BNC blog would disagree with you about oil running out. It has been discussed at length here. It is just another reason why we will need to provide more electricity not less to run those machines etc that now use oil. So your ideals are just that ideals. Using less/energy efficiency doesn’t/won’t work.

    MODERATOR
    Please move this conversation to Open Thread. Further like comments posted here will be deleted.

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  95. this is a hard choice but I have to agree with the pro nuclear side. We arent on any fault line, we have no active volcanoes, it would be simple to build a bush frie and cyclone proof plant. We should go for the idea we could even become self sustainable I think its a great idea.

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  96. You forgot the third and fourth options – wholesale slaughter of most of the human race, or a return to a subsistence economy.
    Of course, an extensive slaughter is almost inevitable, if we don’t adopt one or more of the other options.

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  97. Pingback: Renewables and efficiency cannot fix the energy and climate crises (part 1) « BraveNewClimate

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