Climate Change Nuclear

Some other perspectives on Fukushima

Apart from getting on with my life (e.g., building a new computer, catching up with my backlog at work, spending time with the family, etc.), I’ve been spending the last few days reading widely on what other people have had to say, in reflection, on the Fukushima crisis. Here are some highlights:

1. Bill Tucker, author of the book “Terrestrial Energy” (which I discussed in detail in this post back in 2009, and reviewed here), wrote a piece for The Americal Spectator called “Pass the Plutonium“.  The leading paragraph:

People think that Fukushima will mean the end of nuclear power, but I’m convinced it’s the opposite. We’re going to lose our nuclear virginity over this accident and start seeing the world as adults. In fact it’s already happening.

2. The video linked to in the image below was mentioned in the BNC comments — an ABC (US) news feature called “Japan Nuke Crisis: American in Dead Zone“. It’s a perspective on local area an sea water radiation levels, from an American doctor Robert Gale (a radiation expert) sent by the US to advise the Japanese government on Fukushima, and has years of experience working around Chernobyl. He is definitely worth listening to…

3. Mark Lynas (author of the wonderful albeit troubling book Six Degrees) and Chris Goodall (author of Ten Technologies to Fix Energy and Climate) — two very serious and critical thinking environmentalists trying to tackle climate change — offer this excellent essay: The dangers of nuclear power in light of Fukushima. You really must read it all, but here, as a taster, is their final paragraph:

No technology is completely safe, and we don’t wish to argue that nuclear power is any different. But its dangers must be weighed against the costs of continuing to operate fossil fuel plants. Just down the road from us is Didcot A power station, a large coal-burning plant with poor pollution control and therefore with substantial effects on local air quality, as well as more substantial emissions of radiation than from any UK nuclear power station and a Co2 output of about 8 million tonnes a year. We offer a view that Didcot has caused far more deaths from respiratory diseases than all the deaths ever associated with nuclear energy in the UK, and that coal power is a far more legitimate target of environmental protest than nuclear.

4. Are our fears about nuclear power irrational? Today the Sydney Morning Herald published four different and interesting perspectives. I agree with three of them! One was written by Ben Heard, who recently wrote Think climate when judging nuclear power for BNC. Below is his piece — click on this link for the other perspectives.

Until recently I was a vocal opponent of nuclear power. Understanding the scale of the climate crisis led me – reluctantly, I’ll admit – to investigate nuclear power as a solution. To my surprise, I found my fears of nuclear power were overwhelmingly irrational.

I had three main concerns. First, that nuclear power is not safe. The Energy Related Severe Accident Database set that straight. In the past 40 years, the energy chain for coal killed more than 32,000 people worldwide in severe accidents, more than 2000 of them in OECD nations. The comparative figures for nuclear? Zero in the OECD, and 43 worldwide. This includes cancer deaths from Chernobyl, a reactor with no containment building, a horrible and unique design flaw.

Meanwhile, 440 reactors provide 15 per cent of global electricity, including to the world’s 16 largest economies (leaving out Australia at number 13). A tsunami hitting 40-year-old reactors has caused injuries and major issues, but not one fatality.

Nuclear power is more than safe enough, and getting safer all the time.

Second, I feared high-level nuclear waste was impossible to manage safely. Cutting a long story short, it isn’t. It’s predictable to the point of being boring: cool, encase, contain, contain again, and monitor. And the coming generation of nuclear technology will consume it as fuel. Cross that from my list.

Third, I feared proliferation. While nuclear power and weapons programs were once joined at the hip, this is no longer true. Twenty-one nations deploy nuclear power with no weapons capability. If it’s a weapon you want, there is no slower, more expensive way of creating substandard material than by using a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is not a threat to peace.

So my concerns were not rational. But they were understandable, given we are fed a diet of fear by opponents of nuclear power, mainly comprising selective facts that have been stripped of meaningful context. This finds fertile ground among well-meaning people who trust the sources.

Rationally, we should all fear climate change. It threatens our occupation of this planet within a century. This, rather than nuclear power, is what keeps me awake at night.

The biggest contributor to climate change is coal. Renewables alone cannot displace coal quickly enough. But nuclear power plus renewables can, with minuscule risk. The only rational response is to be open to the further deployment of nuclear power, in partnership with growth in renewables.

5. Finally, something interesting from a purely climate change perspective — Friends become enemies as a scientist expected to cast doubt on global warming trends does the exact opposite! I always like to see good science in action…


Trend of Radiation in the Environment around Fukushima Daiichi NPS (from JAIF):

Below is the latest FEPC update:

  • Radiation Levels
    • On March 31, TEPCO announced that radioactive nuclides were detected from the groundwater sampled around the turbine buildings of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station on March 30. The results of the analysis are as follows:


Concentration (Unit : Bq/cm3)
Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 5 Unit 6

(8 days)

4.3 x 102 8.0 x 101 2.2 x 101 1.6 x 100 2.0 x 101

(2 hours)

8.3 x 100 UDL 1.3 x 101 UDL 5.8 x 10-1

(2 years)

5.2 x 100 7.0 x 10-1 1.0 x 101 2.5 x 10-1 4.7 x 100

(13 days)

3.9 x 10-1 6.5 x 10-2 9.4 x 10-1 2.7 x 10-2 3.9 x 10-1

(30 years)

5.9 x 100 6.3 x 10-1 1.0 x 101 2.7 x 10-1 4.9 x 100

UDL: under the detection limit

  • At 7:00PM (JST) on April 1, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 141 micro Sv/hour.
  • At 7:00PM on April 1, radiation level at west gate (approximately 3,609 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 90.0 micro Sv/hour.
  • Measurement results of environmental radioactivity level around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 7:00PM on April 1 are shown in the attached PDF file. English version is available at:
  • For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro Sv per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6,900 micro Sv per scan.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.295MPa.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.65 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.165MPaabs.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, the temperature of the reactor vessel measured at the water supply nozzle: 479.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 90 tons of water in total has been injected into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.007MPa.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.5 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.11MPaabs.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor
    • At 4:30PM on March 31, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete, until 7:33PM (approximately 105 tons in total).
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.016MPa.
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.9 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.1068MPaabs.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 4,802 tons of water in total has been shot into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
    • At 8:28AM on April 1, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete, until 2:14PM (approximately 180 tons in total).
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 1,278 tons of water in total has been shot into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor
    • At 2:00PM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor
    • At 2:00PM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool
    • At 7:30AM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Others
    • At 3:42PM on March 31, a US Military barge carrying freshwater docked at the dedicated port at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, towed by a vessel of Marine Self Defense Forces.
    • At 3:00PM on April 1, anti-scattering agent was dispersed on a trial basis around the Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool.
    • At 3:58PM on April 1, transferring the freshwater from the US Military barge to a filtrate tank commenced.

Our official sources are:

  • Office of The Prime Minister of Japan
  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Press Releases
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

By Barry Brook

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

178 replies on “Some other perspectives on Fukushima”

An excellent posting Barry. Thanks. I think the Japanese should rebuild the Fukushima plant site with a new nuclear plant built on top of the encased tomb of the old failed plant. How else to better utilize the land, learn from past failures, and set an example for the rest of the world so see how to do it right. The Japanese can do it. Lets hope they do.


Well I am squarely in the camp that thinks that this event will likely cause many to realize that nuclear is not as dangerous as has been imagined.

On the other hand there are lessons to be learned by the industry in a number of areas, and these should not be ignored.


Thanks for providing part of my weekend reading list.

I’ve been a climate activist for more than twenty years and took no public position on nuclear power until I heard that Hansen, after having decided to publicly proclaim there was too much GHG in the atmosphere already, was touting nuclear as the only possible solution.

Privately, I had had my doubts about nuclear but I hadn’t looked into it very deeply. Obviously, a bit of research had me quite enthusiastic. I still wonder about how the proliferation issue can be solved, whether the world turns to nuclear power as its power source or not.

All this is just to say I am familiar with the views of climate activists.

What I’m also studying this weekend is “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus” by Kagan (available online A few quotes:

“Myriad theories have been advanced for the limited influence of science in formulating the factual basis for public policy debates but none seems complete….”

“Yet public debates rarely feature open resistance to science; the parties to such disputes are much more likely to advance diametrically opposed claims about what the scientific evidence really shows”. The problem, it seems, is not that …the public are unexposed or indifferent to what scientists say, but rather that they disagree about what scientists are telling them”.

The authors then offer their insight. They feature data on how the public is split on several issues, including climate science and what to do about nuclear waste.

What has me thinking this study will prove useful in debate is that Kagan find that roughly the same group who agree with the scientific consensus about climate change tend to cherry pick “science” to dispute what the relevant scientists think about safe disposal of nuclear waste, and the same tendency is displayed by the group who tend to accept that scientists believe that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely tend to disregard any evidence that the climate scientists are almost totally unified that climate change needs to be dealt with.


PS in the evidence that the position of anti nukes will be strengthened department:

The German Green Party has just been elected to run one of the German states. This is a first for the Greens in Germany, and it may be the first time a Green Party has been elected as the leading coalition partner in any government at the state or national level anywhere in the world. (The German electoral system gave them this role even though they only got 25% of the vote – no other party got more). Fukushima is said to have played a primary role.

Deutsche Welle “Living Planet” features an interview with a Herman Ott, a Green Party member of the federal Bundestag, partially about Green nuclear policy, starting around 6:14 into a podcast to be found here:,,14914710,00.html


For those still worried about radiation: from JAIF we see total dose rates in the highest affected area of Iitate, of under 300 microsieverts since the accident begun. This is 10% of typical background levels.

Background levels vary wildly depending on where you are; from a low of about 1000 microsieverts up to around 260000 microsieverts in Ramsar, Iran. Yes thats two hundred sixty thousand microsieverts or 0.26 sievert per year. And mostly from dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can bioaccumulate. Oddly enough no matter where you look around the world, there is no evidence of this being a factor in cancer deaths at all!

For safety of energy sources I recommend the following from Brian Wang:


nuclear waste

The science indicates that it would be undesirable to arrange for permanent disposal of spent fuel from current reactors. Fast reactors use nuclear “waste” (and nuclear weapons material) for fuel.

“Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated.” Scientific American, Dec. 2005

Click to access NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

It’s a short article, about 8 pages. I’m sure you’ll find it illuminating.


I’m hoping that when the dust settles on this incident, I can agree with DV82XL. The clincher will be how soon people from the exclusion zone will be able to return to their homes.

Looking at those graphs of radiation readings inside the exclusion zone, and nearby, it seems that in most places the levels have returned to normal background levels now, and people should be able to return once the Dai-Ichi situation becomes fully stable.

Cesium Contamination of land is my primary fear, and may explain the now leveling elevated radiation readings in some places (Litate etc). How likely is it that there will be permanent land contamination/abandonment?


Hi, folks!
Here in Portugal is the same! An incredible amount of noise, lies, propaganda, in almost all media. But not all: I’m going to appear in a TV channel explaining facts (unfortunately a low-audience TV) and we have blogs. They can’t stop the flow of truth completely, nowadays.
And at leats for me this is a first time I can see the Internet providing a worlwide Times Sqaure where we can go to know news, meet people and talk.
Thank you, Barry Brook! It has been a pleasure to have met you!
And by the way: here, and also all over Europe, it’s not just a question of ideology: it’s also about money, big money being made by the fed-in power producers! Have a nice sunday, friends!


The Greens where going to win in Germany on the nuclear issue even if this hadn’t happened. Anyone following the story, and knew of the demonstrations that were going on since the government stopped the plant closures can see this was a given long before events in Japan.

Propter hoc ergo post hoc doesn’t cut it here.


You’re perfectly right, DV82XL. The victory of the german Greens has nothing to do with the nuclear issue. It is the other way: the anti-nuke propaganda is invoking the Greens victory to scare the other polititians with the nuclear issue.
The german Greens won because any party in power will loose now if elections happen. Everybody blaims the present governments, whichever they are, for the unpopular measures to fight the finantial crisis.


@ Cyril R

The monitoring data at the top of this post do not appear to agree with your estimate of cumulative dose. Iitate registered an average rate exceeding 20microSv/hr for at least four days, and then averaged at least 10microSv/hr in the ten days subsequent. That is a cumulative dose of more than 4,0000 microSv. Also the background doses you are using for comparison are annual doses. A rate of 10microSv/hr is around 30 times the average annual background worldwide.


> Ramsar, Iran … 0.26 sievert per year. … mostly
> from dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can
> bioaccumulate

Citation needed on that last claim of “dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can bioaccumulate” in Ramsar Iran.

What’s your source for believing this?


nuclear waste etc
David Lewis – an interesting paper, although I may be swayed by my decades-long adherence to the two correct positions – seriousness of climate change and safety of geological waste storage – that they use as tests of mindset-over-science attitudes.

seamus – the science indicates deep waste storage would be utterly safe; it’s only undesirable because there are (as you say) better ways to use it. I’m not disagreeing over all, just pointing out that it’s important to pick and choose our moments to demur from the geological repository concept.


David Lewis says:
3 April 2011 at 3:08 AM

” (The German electoral system gave them this role even though they only got 25% of the vote – no other party got more).”

This is not completely accurate. The Christian Democratic Party actually got 39 % of he votes bus since their liberal coalition partner only received 5 % thats why the Green Party can rule starting may in Baden Wuerttemberg state since they have 3% more votes together with their social coalition partner.


It should be pointed out that things at fukushima daini are very quiet. It’s located only 7 miles south of Fukushima Daiichi and from google earth the layouts are remarkably similar.

Don’t know what the tsunami height was at daini (anyone know?), but the containment structures are mark II and mark II+.

The fact that daini did not suffer any major problems, despite a 9.0 earthqauke and subsequent tsunami reveals just how safe the newer generation generation plants are. This proves we can build reactors in even the worse locations and they will survive the worse.

The daini plants are still mid 80’s technology, imagine how much better the gen III plants will be.

Case made for nuclear power.


Another great quote from the Mark Lynas/Chris Goodall posting: “There is substantial evidence, as the UN reports on Chernobyl attest, that the psychological impacts of fear of radiation far outweigh the actual biological impacts of radiation. Thus, misinformation about exaggerated dangers of radiation is actually likely to be harmful to large numbers of people – a point which should be borne in mind by anti-nuclear campaigners.”


New Perspective on Fukushima

I think you will find the Washington Post report by y David Nakamura and Michael Alison Chandler, [Saturday, April 2, 5:07 AM] has an interesting ‘new perspective’

TEPCO officials revealed Thursday:

… that most of their dosimeters had been destroyed by the tsunami. Sometimes only group leaders were given a badge. Tepco officials on Friday said they had obtained more badges and that all workers would wear one.

So these nuclear engineers could not get a proper distribution of dosimeters to all workers until when? If emergency workers do not have dosimeters then how can anyone monitor their radiation exposure?

But this is not all ….

The same report indicates there are several areas continuing to radiate at over 1 sievert. Obviously TEPCO knows which areas, but somehow the information is not in the Washington Post.

Is there any official reports on these areas with ongoing over 1 sievert radiation?

If it is 1 sievert now; is this a recent increase or the results of a decrease?

See: Washington Post


When most of the uranium is “burnt” in the future fast neutron reactors many of which I hope may eventually be in Australia, there will, I believe, be a small amount of waste to deal with. Pangea Resources identified the best place on the planet for deep burial several years ago. My older geologist brother was consultant for Pangea, having mapped and written the geoplgy of the OFFICER BASIN [the SA part] some thirty five years ago. The site could handle easily, the entire future waste generated around the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. An international waste repository for the world’s little bit of waste that will ultimately be generated would be a sensible first step for Australia to take as it begins the development of the full nuclear fuel cycle.


More non-evidence for increasing anti nuclear sentiment coming as a result of Fukushima, that confirms how stupid I am. (Sorry about mentioning an analysis aired on Deutsche Welle, a German English language radio station purporting to inform the world about Germany, that the Fukushima was a primary component of the Green political success there – what could I have been thinking? Obviously, Deutsche Welle wouldn’t know the first thing about Germany.)

Here’s what the Director of the Sierra Club, the largest environmental organization in the world, or it used to be, had to say on the NPR: 04-01-2011 “Environment” podcast, aired as item 4 under the title: “Are Nuclear Plants Safe? Environmentalists are Split”


Host: “But the Sierra Club supported the climate change bill that passed the House two years ago. It included subsidies for a next generation of nuclear power plants. Sierra Club Director Michael Brune says that will not happen again.…”

Michael Brune: “It will be hard to stomach any further support for additional nuclear power plants in the country…. …making the problem worse by throwing taxpayer dollars at new nuclear plants would be something that the Sierra Club would definitely not support. We would oppose it vigorously.”

Host: “In recent years public opinion polls had shown growing support for building more nuclear power plants in the U.S. As many as 60% of Americans said they were in favor of them. But since the crisis in Japan polls show support has shrunk to 40%….

Obviously, NPR hasn’t the slightest clue about what is happening in the US. They probably cited a poll they made up themselves. As for Brune, they must have cut and pasted the tape to fabricate him saying that the Sierra Club would not support climate legislation in the future if it contained any support for nuclear power, given what happened at Fukushima.


I’m interested to see the number of people I meet in everyday life who I haven’t previously suspected of pro-nuclear sympathies and are nonetheless quite open to the suggestion that the Fukushima accident is not a death knell for nuclear power. My personal experience suggests that we have indeed turned the public perception corner forecast by DV82XL.


Finrod – I meet more people that are pro-nuclear or neutral that people who are anti. And yes this surprises me also.

I remain anti nuclear on one issue which is cost. Cost reduction needs to be a major focus for this industry if it is to fully win over people such as me. I certainly think the prohibition of nuclear should end but I don’t favour implicit or explicit subsidies other than perhaps some modest government guarantees relating to sovereign risk.


p.s. The way the carbon tax fiasco is unfolding I think the government may need to also provide sovereign risk guarantees to new fossil fuel plants and maybe I even think it should. The alternative may be very high energy prices or else power shortages and possibly both.


“People think that Fukushima will mean the end of nuclear power, but I’m convinced it’s the opposite. We’re going to lose our nuclear virginity over this accident and start seeing the world as adults. In fact it’s already happening.”

There are many ways to lose your virginity, one of them is rape and it leaves emotional scars…

Germany will phase out nuclear power sooner rather than later, Japan may follow after so MANY nuclear tragedies, people forget the workers that died in INES scale accidents in the 90’s. Accidents are not just TMI, Chernobyl and now this, they are brutal and final, there is nothing more final than a criticality exposure, or a few grams of a potent isotope.

There are two pro-nuclear crowds: the ones that try to privatize their profits and socialize their costs, and the idealists that do everything in their power to help the former. Had you guys pushed for your pie in the sky uneconomical fast breeders that never seem to come on-line, you might have more credibility with environmentalist movement, as it stands you are just useful…


I don’t think we can make accurate predictions about future attitudes towards nuclear power at this point. The US attitudes towards offshore drilling have shifted since the immediate aftermath of the Deep Water Horizon accident and today.



The other big difference between Daiichi and Daini is that Dainai never lost power. All else is not equal here.


I live in Germany and follow politics here quite closely. In the end, the situation in Fukushima is the main reason why the Green Party was a major winner in the last elections. The economic crisis hasn’t hit Germany hard, unemployment is falling here and Germany is considered to be a winner of the crisis.

Currently, the eight oldest nuclear power plants have been put off the grid and there is growing consensus among all parties to shut them down forever. Also there are renewed efforts to invest even more strongly in renewables.

Germany’s lesson from Fukushima will be to quit nuclear power asap (probably by about 2020). At the same time huge sums will be invested in renewables and the grid to still meet Kyoto CO2 output demands.

This could end up in two possible ways:
1. Germany fails miserably, rising energy costs will ruin its economy and people will regret having shut down their nuclear power plants or
2. Germany sets a modell on how to produce sufficient low-cost energy with renewables only and no nuclear power. 100% renewables may be achieved by 2050 to 2060.

The outcome of this experiment will be highly interesting for the rest of the world. Since coal and gas are bad for the climate the only question is whether nuclear will be in the worlds future energy mix.

At present there can be no serious doubt that nuclear power which was unpopular ever since Tshernobyl is absolutely dead in Germany. Even proponents of nuclear power only propose to let the current plants run longer. No political party has plans for building new plants.


@ Bill:

At present there can be no serious doubt that nuclear power which was unpopular ever since Tshernobyl is absolutely dead in Germany. Even proponents of nuclear power only propose to let the current plants run longer. No political party has plans for building new plants.

That might have the effect of reviving some of the planned expansion of nuclear generation in Eastern Europe which had been put on hold following Germany’s previous decision to drop the nuclear phaseout.


I agree with some of what Bill says. Let’s see how Germany does with no nuclear?

I actually think they’ ll hem and haw and avoid shutting down these plants.

I would note that on winter days, they were often getting under 1 percent of installed capacity.

They’ll probably buy electricity from France.


Correct. If Germany’s ambitous plans fail, neighbouring countries like France and soon Poland will be most willing to sell their comparatively cheap nuclear energy to Germany.

The question debated here, whether Fukushima will mean a revival or an end of nuclear power, will (imho) also be decided by the question whether Germany fails or succeeds in its ambitious plan to quit nuclear energy, reduce CO2 emissions at the same time and keep energy payable. If Germany fails this will be a major breakthrough for nuclear power worldwide since no industrialized country would commit the same mistake.

I hope Germany succeeds and shows that nuclear power is unnecessary and that Prof. Brooks equation that no nuclear means more coal and gas is untrue.


I actually agree Bill. If all renewables is doable, it would be preferable (no way, I”m thinking, however).

after all, even if ESBWR and LFTR/IFR have only an infinitesimal possibility of melting down, solar and wind have no chance of that. of course, decommissioning all those scaled up solar chemicals, and all that noxious mining will be no picnic. in fact, will kill many more people than the traumatic meltdown, but without the trauma.

okay: maybe I don’t agree with you Bill, the more I think about it. But since the world is not currently rational enough to do global energy lab experiments, germany might be providing one.


Ah yes I slipped a 0 there, it would be 3000 not 300 microsieverts or around typical background levels of radiation. So Iitate region gets 2-3x background.
[deleted unsubstantiated personal opinion. Please provide links and re-submit.]


@ David B. Benson
There is a very strong connection, quite the contrary :
From an economic standpoint, most of the renewables investment are supported by feed-in tariffs, I.e. the guaranteed offtake of intermittent electricity at a price 1.5 to 5 times higher than average production price (and much more expensive than nuclear). Therefore all renewable projects are a monetization of this guarantee.
Who provides the guarantee ? It is either the electricity user, through State approved monopoly power, as in Germany or Denmark, or the taxpayer, through the state, as in, say, Portugal and Spain.
If the state fails to enforce the guarantee, or reneges it, it is a default, and many people loose a lot of money. One of the most exposed are the German/Danish Credit Export Agencies, because they are guaranteeing the payment of wind turbines, which themselves rely on the feed-in tariffs.
see for instance

I would add that Nuclear Power is also linked to sovereign risk : Practically, only the Sovereign can be trusted with the reserves for decommissioning and waste treatment. We are talking 30-100 years liabilities here ! In my opinion, such reserves should not only be exclusively invested in inflation adjusted Domestic Government Bonds but also these bonds should constitutionally rank higher than any other debt of the Sovereign. Of course, the interest on these bonds should be lower because of this feature, therefore increasing the provisioning burden, but the Nuclear Industry can afford that.


Germany succeeds, what with solar power that is not there 89 percent of the time? They’ll just burn more fossil fuels as they have been doing all the time. Germany is a fossil fuel hellhole. If it weren’t for the nuclear stations coal/gas/oil would have grown far more.


@ Bill:

Correct. If Germany’s ambitous plans fail, neighbouring countries like France and soon Poland will be most willing to sell their comparatively cheap nuclear energy to Germany.

Not just France and Poland:

Temelin delayed by another five years

Last October, the Czech government said in an official announcement that detailed bid documents with technical specifications for up to five new reactors at two sites would not be released as planned in December 2010. On February 21, 2011, the government said that the release of technical bid documents would be postponed to the end of this year.

Lower electricity demand in the Czech Republic–and Germany’s decision to keep its 17 nuclear reactors operating instead of closing them down–are the key reasons for a delay to as late as 2025 for completion at Temelin and one other site.

Perhaps the Czechs will revisit that decision if Germany turns back to an extensive phaseout.



You forget solution #3 :

Germany builds gas turbines to replace nukes and delay the closure of coal power plants, even the dirtiest ones. With its export gains(as long as they last), it buys off european carbon credit to southern countries mired in deep recession : it is cheaper than installing costly CCS devices.

That will kick the can for a decade. Of course, somewhere between now and 2020, Germans realize that NG prices go up and up and they are in a dead-end to decarbonize their economy while staying competitive. Then the obvious solution will be to send even more any energy intensive activity to countries that kept Nuclear Power and/or are less regarding of environmental norms. Maybe France and Scandinavia if they manage to stick to nukes despite German inspired regulations, most likely Russia and Belarus. In the latter case, Russia asserts more and more its energy leverage and manages to “finlandize” all eastern europe including Germany. Mr Medvedev and Putin high-five each other : everything is going back to the plan that Mrs Merkel derailed for a while. Mr Schröder retires very rich.

Even if it succeeds, this is not a model for the world because it will be just an elaborate NIMBY scheme.


Gregory Meyerson,

If all renewables is doable, it would be preferable ..

I can’t agree with this at all.

I think I might have agreed at one point, briefly, as my views changed from hope for renewable energy to a hope for a nuclear future. But when I look squarely at what I have learnt and verified to my satisfaction of the last few years, I very much hope we have an alternative to the renewable technologies being discussed today.

If it turns out that renewable energy is doable, and we do it, we face an ecological disaster due to the scale of the intrusion of industrial energy collection systems, storage systems, and transmission infrastructure in the environment. The fabrication of these systems will be fed by the mining and quarrying of vast quantities of iron and steel and rare earths and other exotics.

The scale of these insults is estimated in a first order pass by Barry in the TCASE posts, in particular

TCASE 4: Energy system build rates and material inputs
TCASE 7: Scaling up Andasol 1 to baseload

The numbers in those analyses are scary enough. But they very generously underestimate the resource requirements and impacts of renewables because they assume no redundancy and minimal storage and don’t consider expanded transmission requirements.

In practice the impacts of a capable all renewables system would be much greater due to the need for a high degree of redundancy with redundant generators distributed over continent scale regions, with attendant transmission systems with more river systems dammed for hydro for power conditioning and pumped hydro for storage. I wrote about some of these overbuild and redundancy issues here:

TCASE 12: A checklist for renewable energy plans

In every way, the environmental footprint of nuclear power is a fraction of that of a putative renewable power system. Its not zero, and we could always wish that nuclear was not our best option and that there was something else, better. But thats a meaningless truism. We can only look at the options we know we have. And from an environmentalist’s perspective, nuclear power is far superior to anything else that’s been proposed, and we can know this by analysis.

So I cannot join with you in hoping that we can somehow make renewables work so as to avoid nuclear power. If we could, and if we did, it would be an ecological disaster. But (like you), I do not see this happening.


John Morgan, on 3 April 2011 at 1:14 PM — Well reasoned. I fully expect electric power grids to have some generators of every kind; whatever appears best at the time of commitment to build.


Offshoring of European NP to the former Soviet bloc is perhaps akin to US offshoring coal powered manufacturing to China. The result is that the less energy squeamish country grows as it client declines. Perhaps it will all level out in some kind of generalised entropy principle.

Some who advocate ‘sustainability’ don’t seem to question whether renewables subsidies and quotas are themselves financially sustainable. For example they claim that the reduction in PV costs is largely due to German subsidies. If I recall Tom Blees said that would be 79 billion euros to 2013. Ironically cheaper PV may be more due to cheap labour and cheap coal energy in China in order to meet Western PV demand.


KeenOn350, on 3 April 2011 at 6:03 AM said:
“Does anyone have real information about this “blue light” noise that’s going around the MSM?”

The “Blue Light” story that was broadcast by Fox News yesterday makes no sense from a scientific perspective so I challenged them to provide corroboration or publish a retraction.

No response yet and I am not holding my breath.


I continue to be impressed by your erudition. Latin was a mandatory requirement for entry to my alma mater.


@ Enviromentalist

there is nothing more final than a criticality exposure, or a few grams of a potent isotope.”

Oh no? Not the mercury in compact fluorescent (“energy efficient”) light bulbs? Not the cadmium used in solar PV?

And we know what is going on in Germany. They appear to be making the switch from nuclear to coal. We know this has disastrous effects for many reasons, climate change being one of them. It also increases radioactive particle emissions by around 100 times.

Congratulations “Enviromentalist” for being a part of them problem.


“Oh no? Not the mercury in compact fluorescent (“energy efficient”) light bulbs? Not the cadmium used in solar PV?”

It is not as deadly as seeing the blue light, or ingesting a few grams of polonium 210 (and yes I know it is not a product of commercial reactors but its half life is 120 days or so).

Those things mean certain death, a finality that cannot be cured with modern medicine even under immediate treatment. A bus falling on top of you has a similar finality but criticality accidents is about as quanta as a screwdriver moving just one millimeter.

The nuclear lobby want traditional uranium reactors (MOX is but a finite resource) because it is much more profitable, had they argued for breeders and willing to take the worlds nuclear waste they might have some credibility, but they don’t. So if the 100% nuclear world happens we end up with 100% nuclear waste. How is that environmentalist?

I am 100% for medical nuclear reactors because there is no other alternative, not so for energy.

“Ironically cheaper PV may be more due to cheap labour and cheap coal energy in China in order to meet Western PV demand.”

All of the PV I have tracked online are made outside China for warranty reasons (20 years 90%,25 years 80%).Their prices per watt are falling drastically below 1 $/Watt. First solar in particular has the lowest priced (CdTe is less efficient than crystalline silicone though in terms of Watt/Area).

As for the environmental footprint of Andasol, despite the land consumption calculation being off, land is reusable, steel is recyclable etc. Its much much lower once you factor nuclear waste.
This is off-topic on this new blog post. Please direct futue comments like this tio the Fukushima Technical Open Thread.


My wife agrees with you (I am over educated). I was also expected to sing in Latin at my high school. While I can’t remember what happened yesterday I still remember every word of those old Latin songs:

“O, sodales gaudeamus voce hilare fremamus, dum canentes iteramus. Cras! Cras! Redibimus domum.”
Amusing – but off-topic;-)


Environmentalist, how is the land usage calculation for Andasol “off”? What data or assumptions are in error? How would you correct the calculation?

Land given over to industrial usage may well be reusable for other industrial uses or application in the built environment. But any original ecological value can be lost. And we’re not considering acquiring the land for renewable energy temporarily, and then decommissioning and regenerating the original ecological communities (which is not often possible). This is land that is lost to the natural estate.

When you need one or two more order of magnitude more steel for renewables than for nuclear, its recyclability doesn’t really help. And for infrastructure that might have about a 20 year life, what kind of a hit does the EROEI take if you have to use renewable generated renewable energy to recycle itself?

And you can’t recycle the concrete.

There are serious environmental problems associated with the production and installation of renewable energy systems at scale. It should not be the choice of anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist.


Comments seem to be drifting off-topic -although I admit some overlapping can occur. Please keep your technical or philosophical comments (unless specifically mentioned in “Some other perspectives on Fukushima” )in the appropriate Fukushima Open Thread i.e. Technical OT or Philosophical OT.


Long ago (50-60s) I did a science degree, but, I soon realised there was at that time no future for women in physics (which I loved) – I ended up in archaeology, which gives a useful long-term perspective on the life-span of civilizations relative to storage times of radioactive materials. I only discovered this website following the events in Japan, and have been reading it with interest. Some comments:
1. to the ‘Now I have been converted …’ cohort – the Fukushima event has barely started; perhaps you should wait at least the half life of Cs 134, or even Cs 137 before getting too excited?
2. to the ‘Look how dangerous coal is – we should go nuclear’ – my reaction is ‘wow, we can’t even manage the risks / dangers of coal ! (cf shuttle O rings, BP oil platform etc etc). The safety controls on nuclear may be a bit better, but my guess is the sample sizes are not equivalent to allow real comparison. Show me that we can really manage risks and slash accidents/deaths in coal based energy and I’ll then have confidence in your confidence about nuclear.
3. There has been a lot of information about radioactivity levels in fruit and veg, the ocean, fish, etc. around Fukushima. I haven’t noticed anything about pre-earthquake baseline data – how extensively was land/sea/air/water/food monitored before (and is there any old data from before the reactors were built) ?
4. There will always be human error – which is why structures are over-engineered; Fukushima perhaps shows that nuclear reactors at least in earthquake / tsunami areas need to be super-over-engineered, not for the worst that has ever happened in recorded history (ca 100 odd years of earthquake measurements?!) , but for beyond the worst imaginable. Most of what I read from nuclear energy proponents seems far too over-confident – look, we’re hardly had any accidents – it’s safe! Guys, it’s only been 50 odd years – a mere blip in the geological/human evolutionary/ radioactive decay timescale! Feels too much like confirmation bias. Watch out for the black swan.


@ Enviromentalist, on 3 April 2011 at 3:24 PM:

<I don't believe your solar PV costings.

Dear Enviro, can you substantiate your costings?

A typical 1.66 kW installation (sold as 1.5 kW) is available from the supplier linked below.

I have no idea whether the price, of over $5.23 per watt, is for the same type of installation as your $1 price, but I have difficulty believing that the price you provided is fair dinkum.

Further, note that there are no batteries with this system – it will still need mains backup for those 18+ hours per day (average) when the sun isn’t delivering and that power will, in Australia, come almost entirely from fossil fuels. So, you actually rely on fossil fuel for all but 6 hours per day, even after spending more than $5/Watt for that six hours, by my estimate.

The capital cost of that fossil backup plant will be at least another dollar or two, so the capital for (PV + Fossil), which is what you are really advocating, is really $6 or $7/W.

How about a reference for your $1/watt price, or is it just for the bare, unmounted panels? Does it include some kind of subsidy as an offset? If it doesn’t include a cost for mains connection or battery backup, why not?

Where can the rest of us buy some of those cheap panels?

You state that First Solar is an American manufacturer (correct), and hint that Chinese suppliers are unable to offer warranties (which I doubt, because China is reported to be the world’s largest manufacturer). Are you aware that FirstSolar and Guangdong Nuclear have a commercial arrangement for a 30MW PV station to be constructed in China? And that this underpins FS’s Chinese manufacturing plant? Or, that the 30MW installation is only viable because of a generous feed-in tariff, as happens in Australia? Or that FS has a recycling program in place in USA for their existing panels… Have they been in business long enough already to have to trash their own product?

If not, check out First Solar’s own press release:

Like many others, I really do hope that PV has a strong future, but also like many others, I have come to the conclusion that any technology which cannot stand by itself after all the money which has been thrown its way is worthy of a critical re-evaluation, as has happened in Spain and Portugal and is reported to be close in Germany. You would be aware that in NSW the Feed in Tariff has been slashed by more than half, with more to come, so the adjustment has commenced.

I won’t provide on-line references for these developments because published recent articles are easy to find and I don’t want to run foul of the WordPress’s spam filter. If you need, just ask and I will dig a few out.

So, Enviro, was that price “drastically below $1/Watt” or >$5?

The credibility of your contributions on this site ride on your answer, as far as I am concerned. Prove that you are credible.


John Bennetts, on 3 April 2011 at 5:23 PM said:

I would be very careful about gratuitous challenging of others’ posts.

PV’s are following Moore’s Law, and are drastically below $1/watt;

see: PV under $1

Anyway that will do as a reply to this point in this thread – plenty of other stuff will go in the Technical Open Thread.


Helen, we have had nuclear power for a long time, different designs different countries much abuse and many accidents.

Despite this it is by far the safest form of electricity generation, safer even than solar and wind. Sadly all energy forms are dangerous, generating electricity involves huge flows of energy which are inherently dangerous.

Not building nuclear means killing people for certain. Coal cannot be made clean. You can put particulate filters on it but then you have a heavy metal contaminated ash disposal problem. As an archaelogist you might be interested to know that burying the stuff somewhere means it needs to be guarded for the lifetime of our earth. Whereas fission products, actinides are almost all valuable and 20000x less massive in waste streams. What is more, particulate filters are not very good at removing PM2.5 which is the most carginogenic so the coal filter solution is a fairly poor solution.


@ Helen,

I tend to agree with you, but I think that unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a complete set of data to support our decision. Global Warming and resource depletion are going too fast.

Regarding over-engineering, some countries already base their worst case scenarii on paleo-seisms, thus going much further that 100 years. It is clear that such an approach would condemn some designs in lots of countries, including Japan.

Before throwing the stone to Japanese, please consider that this country is really between a rock and a hard place : “blessed” aussies or north-americans tend to neglect how little this country is endowed with natural resources. The 1941 war was fought because of an embargo on Indonesian oil where Japan lost several million people. It certainly shifted the needle of the Japanese leadership when it was assessing relative risks with nuclear 40 years ago.
France’s historic battle with Germany was fought for access to the coal rich regions of Alsace and Lorraine. The same applies : the French are really sensitive to energy security.


Welcome aboard, Helen.

Safety of Coal
One of your points was “Show me that we can really manage risks and slash accidents/deaths in coal based energy and I’ll then have confidence in your confidence about nuclear.”

I offer two small windows on the safety of coal fired power plants, from my personal experience.

First, there are two power stations with which I have been familiar for over 30 years. One has been operating since 1984, the other since 1971. The combined safety experience of these two power stations, with capacity >4600MW, can be summarised as:

Only one post-construction death, which was due to an underage subcontractor’s visitor who had joined a work team and who attempted to drive a vehicle for which he was not qualified.

No lost time injuries AT ALL for the past three years at the older station and (I think) 3 for the larger, newer station.

These statistics, I believe to be well above the industry’s norm, especially the international experience.

Helen, much has changed and is changing to improve the safety of coal fired power stations. I am sure that there are equally impressive figures coming from the mining sector. Certainly, I back Australian coal power’s safety record against all comers.

This could contain the seeds of what you are seeking, when you ask for caol based safety to be documented as a prerequesite for considering nuclear power plants.

Perhaps the time has come to compare like with like – Australian coal fired experience and that of comparable nations, as well as those other nations’ nuclear PP experience over time.

Maybe Helen will soon be confident that safety is managed much better in Australia than elsewhere, and that this can be achieved in the nuclear power industry.

Is there a safety expert out there who can compile the stats of Australian safety experience Vs the world; and Australian safety outcomes Vs time over the past 2 to 5 decades (hopefully, improving)?


John Morgan:

I guess my self undercutting irony didn’t come through.

Renewables would be preferable to nuclear–except that they’re not.

The G. Cravens three words are my view: baseload and footprint.


what kind of a hit does the EROEI take if you have to use renewable generated renewable energy to recycle itself?

John Morgan: this strikes me as a great point.

So please apologize for missing my irony and accept with grace my compliment.

seriously though: has anyone modeled this idea in a TCASE way? It would make the case for renewables even worse.


Why is the human health risk for nuclear energy presented as a certainty/fact when that is neither nescessary nor true?

One of the major arguments of NP opponents is the alledged downtalking of risk. Why feed that argument?Why downtalk when there is nothing there worth downtalking? Even if the risk for human health is presented as it is, an assumption, it is still much more convincing than any alternativ.

If the objective is to create acceptance for the fact that nuclear practice can be done safely, than it might pay off to be truthfull. Somebody once had the same problem with justifying the use of tamed fire and that only got accepted on the basis of truth.

To my understanding, an argumentation is as strong as the weakest argument, like with a chain. In the assesment of the impact of nuclear energy on human health/health risk, the weakest argument is assumption.


EROEI, good point, how about a billion year responsibility of cadmium in First Solar’s panels? How much energy do they have to expend in order to safeguard the deadly cadmium until Judgement Day? A billion year monitoring electronic device?


How about this?

If we follow Helen’s argument, we should never have tried anything new until we knew all the risk.

That means we would still be cavemen now. No, not even cavemen, after all how do we know they are safe? Fire, seems risky, lets not even try that. Electricity, are you crazy, one might be killed by electrocution.

I am glad that humans long ago decided to try new things despite possible risk. Being a caveman is much more risky than the alternatives.


Cyril, Douglas Adams has a good quote to go with that…

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.


Gregory Meyerson, I apologize for my cloth ears. We are of one mind :)

Your comment actually hit a nerve that had recently been exposed by George Monbiot, and others. I’ve watched and read some of George’s recent contributions. His endorsement of nuclear power has been accompanied by a great deal of overwrought handwringing. It strikes me as overdone – and perhaps a bit self conscious. Its a better outcome for the environment than the alternative he prefers.

“Baseload and footprint” – beautifully succinct, thank you.


Dear Bill,
As a citizen of the European Union as you, I would add a few points regarding your assessment of the German options regarding Power:
1) – Germany already has the most expensive electricity of Europe, only behind Denmark, and both are the world champions of renewables:
2) – the option for renewables only and no nuclear can be economically viable for Germany if all other european countries are forced to follow the same politics. This is just the goal of the “20-20-20” Brussels politics (nobody knows who decided it), specially the first “20” – 20% renewables. A proof of this point is this very important german paper, claimed by the american NREL as a proof that the renewables option can create net employment:
I underline the followinf paragraphs in the conclusions: “International markets play a very important role for the development of the domestic industry. Currently, 16% of the world markets are installed in Germany. Future world markets will grow faster than the German market, as current installation plans and targets in several countries
show. By 2020 domestic installation will only contribute 4% to the international market.
Therefore, the employment in the industry crucially depends on the development of exports”.
As a matter of fact, this study shows that if the exports do not grow up, there will be a fall in the employment in Germany due to the risings costs of power. So, as 1+1=2, we can add all this to understand the reason for the “20-20-20” european politics…
However, I think this reasoning has not in due accounting the asian competition in producing wind and PV equipments, and because of that the persistence of this german vision will only be possible if the european market is closed to the non-european competition.
I do not believe this will happen, but if it will, what are we going to have? An european closed market, forced by an obscure central political goverment to buy very expensive renewables equipement to support german employment, all this because of a utopic vision of a new future! And we have already seen that before in the troubled european history…
This is just my personnal opinion, Bill. Don’t extrapolate for the remaining europeans, or even portuguese, but pay attention to the rise of nationalist feelings in France and all over Europe…
I wish you a good sunday!


Cyril, those numbers, thow highly usefull in themselves, do not substantiate the claim of conclusive definition of the hazard to human health i.e. they would not stand in court as such. What i am suggesting is to reduce their sinificance in claim to what they do define, in order to get more convincing. The margin allowes that.


I appreciate the various comments on my post. I should make it clear that I am not in principle against nuclear energy, and definitely not against trying new things (though I do have a bit of a niggle about the original trying out of the new thing, nuclear energy, by incinerating a lot of humans – I have never bought the argument that it was necessary to end the war). I am mainly concerned about the glowing PR for nuclear energy as the saviour of the world against the evils of climate change and coal and slightly unnerved by the confident certainty with which nuclear proponents speak. In my work I’ve heard engineers (non-energy) speak with similar confidence …just before things totally stuffed up. And then ignore the lesson of the first stuff-up and repeat it (we’re not interested in post-mortems). I’m sure nuclear power operators are much more careful, but humans have a tendency to excessive over-confidence and cutting corners (not to mention being silly – like standing in a radioactive puddle and ignoring your monitor!) ..Let’s just see what happens at Fukushima first in the slightly longer term … a couple of weeks seems to be a bit too soon to be jumping to conclusions.


I agree with your general concerns, but allow me to support the ideia that even waiting for Fukushima final outcome we still need to fight an information battle.
Do you remember the one-million deaths expected from Chernobyl? 25 years have past, and the real numbers, something between 60 and 4000, are now almost impossible to make public. People only remember the fear they had, not the rationale reasons for that fear.
Even regarding the 170-220 thousand incinerated japoneses in 1945, do you know how many more died from chronic sickness afterwards? About 520, 180 of which from leukemia. Not millions…
On the other hand and on a completely different subject, I also doubt the true reasons for the 1945 blasts were Japan surrender. It may be Japan already wanted to surrender, provided the Imperor was allowed to continue, as Mac Arthur did afterwards. So, the true reason could well be to send a message to the rising communist power all over the world. But in the end, was’nt that right? May be this is a bit cinic, but consider the options: would you like to live in a Goulag World?
Kind regards,


Parrot, I believe you are wrong, because the real battle of nuclear acceptance will not fought in the court of lawyers and judges, but in the court op public opinion, as Tucker has put it eloquently. Nuclear litigation is a symptom of lack of public acceptance; improve on the latter and you reduce the former.

Helen, yes corners may have been cut, the plants were the oldest in the fleet, not designed for large tsunamis, poorly managed leading to lack of spent fuel cooling etc.

That by itself is more proof, though, that the technology of LWRs is robust. Do everything wrong and still there is no indication of even 1 person dying of radiation.

This discussion is not one of principle, it is one of alternatives. The alternative to nuclear is not solar or wind that are not there 60-90 percent of the time; the alternative is mostly fossil fuels which kill large numbers of people every year. I am not trying to downplay Fukushima as clearly it is very serious; but also it is more evidence that nuclear isn’t infinitely dangerous. Its just dangerous like all power plants are dangerous, but its much less dangerous even during an accident than fossil fuels are during normal operation!!!


Cyril,i wasn’t suggesting to take it to court, just trying to point out it’s relative value. Let me ask you something:

Considering those numbers, would you still support nuclear energy if we didn’t need it? If it was just for fun?

I mean, let’s face it. According to the numbers it is less dangerous than f.i. mountain biking or skiing, which IS for fun.


I thought the ABC news story was very important, especially the interview with Robert Gale: but right now, the story circulating is that the workers fear they are going to die in weeks.

what do people think of this? Certainly not very good communication between workers and experts. The clash between these views will lead to cover up charges.

what do people think?


Cyril R, on 3 April 2011 at 9:27 PM said:

Nuclear litigation is a symptom of lack of public acceptance; improve on the latter and you reduce the former.

In the US we have on going litigation against coal, solar thermal, hydro, windmills, natural gas pipelines, natural gas drilling, oil drilling, oil refineries and nuclear.

If you happen to live in a neighborhood with a home owners association slapping some solar PV on your roof is almost guaranteed to get you a nasty letter from the home owners association.

Litigation and broad public acceptance don’t necessarily have a relationship. There is always going to be someone that is unhappy about everything.


@ Gregory Meyerson, on 3 April 2011 at 10:09 PM

I discussed that story about worker conditions on the April 1 thread here:

Where I commented on this Fox News story:

and I suggested that appeared to be an uncorroborated story based on a purported telephone call with an anonymous worker’s mother.

In my linked thread I also discussed Fox’s claim of “blue lights” which never gained any legs in the interim – and would have if true.

This morning Fox has an article with this headline:

“Japan Nuclear Plant Owner Confirms First Deaths as Workers Fail to Contain Leak”

Seems to me that they are trying very hard to tie those two (Tsunami deaths prior to any plant problems) to the current problems of the plant, even though they more or less correct themselves in the first paragraph. But that’s been Fox’s style throughout their coverage.

Unless there is confirming indications of poor worker treatment coming from independent sources, it may be likely that these stories all originated with the Fox article and if so then you can make your own assessment as to the credibility :-). I’ve come to my own conclusions about Fox’s credibility, as outlined above :-)


Parrot, what if we had no electricity? Well we wouldn’t be having this digital discussion in the first place.

Seriously. What-if we didn’t have deadly fossil fuel energy systems, gee. That’s a useful way to think ourselves out of this mess, eh?

I am trying to point out that there are alternatives. Doing nothing is also an alternative and it has consequences. Consider the consequences, is all I’m saying.

I do believe we need to focus more on the advantages of nuclear power because indeed that strongly determines acceptance. Reliable affordable clean air revival of industry leading role low ecological footprint, sounds pretty good to me.


“Helen, on 3 April 2011 at 8:59 PM said:
… I am mainly concerned about the glowing PR for nuclear energy as the saviour of the world against the evils of climate change and coal and slightly unnerved by the confident certainty with which nuclear proponents speak. ”

Helen, I personally think nuclear vs coal vs…. is a game of lesser evils. I don’t agree with your assessment as stated above. I think most of the more level headed nuclear advocates recognize this game of lesser evils and recognize they are choosing a lesser evil, not a perfect solution.

It is a fact, based on 50 years experience, that nuclear power is statistically safer than other forms of energy, all of which are evil if you scrutinize them to the same degree. It is unfortunate that nuclear has a statistically small chance of widespread negative impacts, probably mostly related to loss of use of land surrounding an accident.

I think it is also fair to say that the probabilities of such an accident occurring in the future (or now at Fukushima) and the actual impact are vastly exaggerated by the anti-nuclear crowd, and that is the norm of their arguments. Maybe we have to cut a little slack for the pro-nuclear advocates that have to counteract that, and as a result, some (but not all) may overly minimize that risk.

It would be better if there were a simpler solution that can be scaled up to the point where it would actually positively effect the world carbon production now but we have to play the hand we are dealt. We have to choose the lesser evil.


Jose, what really strikes me is that you correctly point to the fact, that energy prices in Germany are quite high (second highest after Denmark). Yet if you look at the economic performance of Denmark and Germany the rise in energy prices in the last decade hasn’t hampered economic development here. On the contrary, Germany and Denmark outperform most of the other EU countries.

Also there is absolutely no reason to close the European market because of cheap renewables from China. Legally thats virtually impossible and since Germany is relying a lot on exports (of a lot of industrial products) it doesn’t have any interest to initiate a global tarrif competition. After all we are talking about raughly 250.000 jobs that will or will not be created in the renewable energy sector in the next decades. With a workforce of roughly 30 mio. that’s a neglectable figure.

Your scenario sounds like unbased fearmongering to me…

It’s clear that Germany will go for renewables and there’s no chance of new nuclear plants being built here. What I’m saying is that we will see how that works out and if that can be a model for other countries to follow or not.

In the past decade Germany has invested huge sums into renewables (only China invested more) and it faired well economically. Future will tell whether this trend can continue or not.

Germany’s perspective on Fukushima is to further develop renewables. Others will try to push the nuclear option. Yet I don’t think that there is any chance to tackle the problem of low acceptance of nuclear power. People here present these papers that state that opponents of nuclear power are often misinformed and have irrational fears of radiation. Yet I don’t see how this is going to change in the next couple of decades.

And to believe that an INES 6 event like Fukushima will convince people that nuclear energy is safe, seems to be very optimistic. Let’s face it, TMI and Tshernobyl have not helped the cause of nuclear power and neither will Fukushima. Independent of what the real scale of the disaster is.


No Germany’s perspective is to close old nucler plants and burn more fossil fuels. The brunt of renewables cost is yet to come because it is a small portion of electric supply now and intermittency cost rises sharply in the higher penetrations.

I don’t think people care about INES because they don’t know about it. They will understand that no one died due to radiation and there is no large scale contamination of land. This is a good starting point because it puts things in perspective. Next is the point that new builds have passive cooling features that can deal with a huge tsunami or terrorist attack. So we can go and build new plants to replace aging plants.

People care about facts, is my experience. The media has turned Fukushima into a circus but most people I’ve talked to in real person say they don’t believe the apocolypse stories, even without me telling them about the benefits of nuclear power. People appreciate it when radioactive dose is compared to a CT scan because they can understand 1 CT scan isn’t harmful. Most people don’t take Greenpeace very seriously, they have been overreacting and have assaulted guards at nuclear power stations, people I have talked to much disprove of this. Greenpeace has overplayed its hand. These are good developments which I did not see 5 or 10 years ago.


Bill Yes, yes electricity prices in Germany are extremely high. Jose’s information put the price in Germany at 27 euro per 100 kWh in the 1st half of 2010.

In the US at that time, the average was 9 euro per 100 kWh, Calif was 11 euro and Hawaii (where all electricity is generated by imported oil) was 21 euro per kWh!

If electricity is generated by all renewable energy, one can only imagine what the cost would be, but it seems that Germany will find out. Run your cars on it too.


Bill, on 3 April 2011 at 11:12 PM said:

It’s clear that Germany will go for renewables

For a number of years it looked as if there were no new coal-to-power plants possible, but the fact is that some 8,300 MW are under construction to replace old units………French bank Societe Generale …. forecast that German thermal coal consumption, which counts both coal types and coal usage in and outside of power generation, would increase to 138 million tonnes by 2015 from 129 million in 2009.

That was before the Germans decided to temporarily idle 7 nuclear plants.

As far as German electricity prices, the large industrial users’ price for electricity isn’t that much different then other EU countries. The residential price is quite high.


It is my opinion (and I think the opinion of most people you really need to convince) that the true debate over nuclear power is not the green or safe generation of nuclear power. And it’s not nuclear power verses renewable. Nuclear and renewable energy sources will exists together in the energy solutions of tomorrow. It is the fact that after 50 years we still haven’t devised a working and fully funded method of dealing with the nuclear waste. I know there are many worthy ideas and technologies floated in various stages of development, but to date nothing has actually been done to process the waste we currently have. And we have a lot of it already stockpiled. Yes there are various ideas in various states of development, but no plan to deal with the waste. Until we come up with a fully funded and deployed way to safely deal with all of the waste, in other words, processing and storage facilities built and waiting for nuclear waste, it is immoral to build more nuclear power plants. We can’t keep making nuclear waste with no plan in place to deal with the waste. We’re not just endangering ourselves, we’re pushing off a legacy of radioactive waste onto future generations to deal with. We have to come up with a fully funded and deployed waste processing plan, a permanent government institution, before we can build anymore reactors and call them “green”. But even that is not 100% safe, because no nation in history has ever lasted longer than the radioactive half life of our nuclear waste. That is a profound. It cannot be glossed over, it must be dealt with. The fact is, nuclear power generation maybe green, but dealing with the waste is anything but green. For 50 years the nuclear industry has put their cart before the horse. We’ve gone off half cocked. The grace period is over. It would be immoral if we built even one more nuclear plant, before we fully fund and deploy a comprehensive plan to process all nuclear waste, now, and for the rest of all time. That must be the next big investment. Only after comprehensive cradle to the grave waste processing has been fully funded and deployed, can we begin to discuss the building of more nuclear reactors. I honestly feel you are beating a dead horse (nuclear energy production verses renewable), and not addressing the problem of waste processing.


Cyril, its seems the point i am trying to make is not clear. To my understanding the methode is less important then getting there. I can clearly see your effort to support the use of nuclear power. Its just that you might get more results if you directed your effort after the ones you are trying to convince.


The increase in coal consumption is vastly lower than the increase in renewable energy installed. Also, the share of coal in Germany’s total energy consumption has fallen quite dramatically from 1990. Cf.:
Hard coal has dropped about 75%, lignite has dropped 50%, while renewable energy has risen 500%… I really don’t see how these figures indicate a trend for more coal. Even if Societe Generale’s estimate is right, more renewables will be installed than coal plants, 2015 figues will still be dramatically lower than 1990 and any rise is only expected to be temporarily. Most plans for new coal plants have been abandoned. The increase in total consumption of coal is due to the thriving industry (steel etc.).

Leo Hansen: Yes that’s the price I’m paying, why not? And why not run our cars on it? You would be surprised to find out what car fuel costs here. Current price is about 10 American $ per Gallon. Makes fuel efficient cars quite attractive.


Bill, relative figures are half-truths. Germany produces almost as much CO2 today as it did 40 years ago. It uses more fossil fuels in electricity generation and the only transition it has made to help reduce CO2 is a combination of waste burning (hardly renewable burning of plastic etc.) nuclear power and natural gas.

Click to access DETPES.pdf

Click to access DEELEC.pdf

A little bit extra renewables almost as an afterthought, but an expensive afterthought. 500% more than tiny levels is still tiny. The Germans are comitting themselves to over 50 million tons CO2 per year with that 8300 MWe of coal, for at least 30 years. Not to mention over a million tons of heavy metal contaminated ash which has to be safeguarded from getting into the environment for all time. In matters of environment, absolute numbers and emissions matter. China is also greatly reducing CO2 per $ GDP but that doesn’t mean China is emitting less CO2!

Click to access CNTPES.pdf

Click to access CNELEC.pdf


Germany’s expensive policy has only succeeded in keeping CO2 emissions constant in its own country:

Of course they are importing more energy intensive stuff from other countries that have cheaper electric rates so this is misleading just like California. Chasing away energy intensive industries is a great way to make your statistics look better.


Now If you compare the German graphs with those of Australia or the US you can clearly see what I mean:

Click to access AUELEC.pdf

Click to access AUTPES.pdf


Click to access USELEC.pdf

Click to access USTPES.pdf

Germany produces almost as much CO2 as it did 40 years ago. Australia and the US produce way more CO2 than they did 40 years ago….

Also I would disagree with your claims about renewables being tiny in Germany. Check out the latest official statistics reproduced in this blog:

“Source 2009 2010*
Nuclear 22.9% 23%
Lignite 24.0% 23%
Hard Coal 17.7% 18%
Natural Gas 13.7% 14%
Renewables 16.5% 17%
Heating Oil, Pumped Hydro, Others 5.2% 5%

* rounded estimate

On the renewable side, wind power provided 6.2%, biomass 4.7%, hydro power 3.2%, photovoltaics 2% and waste power plants 0.8%.”

17% of the total electricity production of a major industrialized country are by no means tiny…


It’s a damn shame the nuclear industry screwed up with the maintenance of these old-type plants so badly in Germany, and got caught out earlier and for a while more obviously than they did in Japan where the government helped keep the lid on. The issues of trust between industry and government play out differently in different parts of the world, but basically the same technical issues of maintenance always come back with sharp teeth, it appears.

In Germany, the old plants got the same deferred or incomplete maintenance and the consequent failures but those caused the government to distrust the industry earlier and more skeptically, rather than to support the industry more comprehensively.

A film that came out in February takes a look at the German industry; the interview here is thoughtful and it sounds like the film-maker did quite a level-headed job:,1518,746099,00.html

—-excerpt follows—-


Inside the Atomic Industry
In Germany, Nuclear Power ‘Has Been Demonized’

Volker Sattel spent years researching his documentary on nuclear power, ‘Under Control…
… film is beautifully shot — a montage of wide-angle pictures of the power stations’ intimidatingly large control rooms, all flashing lights, buttons and measuring devices, which look more like spaceflight control centers, contrasts with vistas of pretty, green European countryside studded with giant cooling towers. But there is no real narration. Instead, the engineers and plant workers responsible for safety at the power plants simply talk about their jobs and the various shutdown procedures they would go through, should any problems arise. …”

Germany may have had, like Japan, a government that helped the industry persist too long in cutting corners and assuring profitability.

Countries where the skeptics have been listened to and allowed more success pushing for faster improvements and quicker development of later-generation safer plants are in a better position to leave the older technology behind without abandoning the idea completely.

The filmmaker in the interview quoted above says:

“… what do the opponents of nuclear power have to do with the daily running of the plants? Nothing. But they are important for the technology. They are also in control. Without them, improvements in nuclear power plants, which have been significantly upgraded, particularly in comparison to the 1970s, would never have happened. Those improvements did not happen because of the nuclear power plant operators. It was because of outside pressure.”

Acknowledging this is very hard for those who were true believers that this kind of problem could not happen — and so repeatedly for years skimped on maintenance, from the record at TEPCO

Acknowledging that it can be done better is very hard for those who were true believers that this kind of problem was inevitable — because [here is where Barry or someone in the industry needs to fill in the story with verifiable examples of avoiding the human failures by managing excellently]

Both were wrong.

We’re all tugging at this problem. The goal, from the point of view of the future, is to have all our different angles pull with a vector sum that gets the future to work out well.


Cyril: Do you have any basis for your latest claim about German imports and exports?

Sounds very unlikely to me. Germany has a huge trade surplus. i.e. it exports much more than it imports. Main export goods are: cars, machinery, chemicals, metals and manufactures…. That is energy intensive stuff…

Also most of Germany’s imports are from France, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and other European countries.



The BP compile figures for German Coal consumption don’t seem to agree with the figures you found-

Click to access coal_section_2010.pdf

Germany consumed 80 mtoe of coal in 1999 and 80 mtoe of coal in 2008. 2009 saw a substantial drop of 10 mtoe but that could be the recession

What has dropped is German Coal production, From 59 mtoe of coal in 1999 to 47 mtoe of coal in 2008.

The EU was consuming 306 mtoe coal in 1999 and that dropped to 293 mtoe by 2008.

Their may be massive increases in renewable energy investment but it isn’t showing up in the coal consumption numbers.



You are using a different database. Also, my figures reffered to 1990 – 2009 while yours refer to 1999 to 2008 or 2009 respectively.

If you read the chart that I provided, you could clearly see that the most significant reductions of total coal consumption happened in the early 90’s. It is the significant drop you can see also in the graph provided by Cyril:

Click to access DETPES.pdf

But I found my error: Hard coal has dropped _to_ about 75% of the 1990 total. I.e. a decrease by 25%. Lignite by 50%. Sorry, English is not my native language.


Bill Yes, gasoline in Germany is 10$/gal but only ~3$/gal is the cost of crude, transportation and refining/marketing. The rest is taxes to pay for govt, renewables and to force people to live how the politicians want them to live.


Leo: Exactly. The purpose is to make people buy fuel efficient cars and drive less. If we want to avoid climate change we will not get there for free. Why do you think most cars in Europe are smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than cars in America?

High fuel prices, just like high energy prices are also an incentive to reduce energy consumption. With gasoline at 3$ a gallon we will never meet Kyoto demands. Why do you think the US has not ratified the Kyoto treaty? Because it would mean that they have to raise fuel prices to provide an incentive to reduce energy consumption.

And yes, since we are a democracy we have voted for those politicians who force us to reduce our energy consumption….

I’m quite astonished that a lot of people here seem to think that CO2 reduction is either not a problem or will come for free.

It won’t even come for free with 100% nuclear power. Wake up people, the times of cheap fossil fuels must be over, for the sake of humanity.


Thanks for those other links to recent Fox News features mentioning “Blue Lights” and the fears of imminent deaths among the TEPCO workers.

Like you I was a fan of Fox News as they used to display less bias than ABC, CBS, CNN et al. However the examples you cite with misleading head lines and innuendo are cases of shoddy journalism.

Fox solicits “feedback” from their audience so I have asked for confirmation or retraction. As yet I have received no comment from them but as you point out these stories would have legs if there was a grain of truth in them.


What I want to see is a realistic plan, based on real wind and solar output, combined with real demand data, on how to eliminate coal in Germany without greatly increasing natural gas and without making unreliable grids. I have seen nothing realistic so far, just wishful thinking on solar that is not there 89% of the time (0.11 capacity factor average in Germany) and wind that is not there 75% of the time (0.25 capacity factor average in Germany). This does not work, people. Germany has very constant electric demand with quite small differences between nighttime low and daytime high demand. It is an industrial nation.

The policy of pricing into efficiency by itself is naive. It only works very well when there is a decent alternative. If people pay 10 dollars a gallon for gasoline and decent performance and decent looking electric vehicles are available it will work ok.


Leave a Reply (Markdown is enabled)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s