Open Thread 15

The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason (see Note below). So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.

You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the cascading menu under the “Home” tab.

Note: This is a new general Open Thread. However, two more specific Open Threads are also still available: (i) if you wish to make a philosophical comment on the Fukushima Nuclear crisis, go here; (ii) for technical comments on the Fukushima situation, go here. Every other non-post-specific comment can go below. For reference, the last general open thread (from 20 February 2011) was here.

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195 Comments

  1. As I predicted several weeks back certain sectional interests are lining up to demand exemption from or compensation for the proposed carbon tax.

    The steel industry certainly has a good case as they operate in a highly competitive international environment and have strategic importance for Australia.As free trade is the current conventional wisdom they couldn’t possibly be offered protection now,could they?

    It will become increasingly obvious that playing around with financial incentives/disincentives to reduce carbon emissions opens up up a whole industrial bin full of worms.And the end result will probably be next door to zero reduction in emissions with a swag of collateral damage.

    What is urgently needed is positive action by government with the assistance of private industry to eliminate the primary offender,coal,from
    electricity generation.The other polluters pale by comparison and can be tackled at leisure.

    Of course,none of this is going to happen given the bipartisan attitude that deficits bad,surplus good,nuclear power bad,air fairy renewables good,goverment enterprise bad,privatization good,national interest bad,globalization good,stable population bad,Big Australia good etc etc.

    By the way,if anybody is interested in learning about the real nature of money in a sovereign nation with a fiat currency then I suggest reading Bill Mitchell’s “Billy Blog”. Modern Monetary Theory consigns deficit hawks to the looney bin where they belong.

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  2. @Hank

    What current numbers are you comparing the table to? Is there some data of yearly fallout for locations as far away from fukushima as denmark is from chernobyl?(or are you not referring to the fukushima numbers?) Some clarification would be welcome.

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  3. As we roll over the peak oil curve, which we are now doing, hardships are being created all over the world in the form of higher fuel and food prices. This is triggering riots in some countries and bringing out into the open other social problems that have been pent up for a long time. In the US there is a constant struggle to maintain economic “growth” through borrowing and spending. The US has worked itself into a debt corner so that a continuation of increased debt results in economic catastrophy. However putting the brakes on borrowing also results in an economic downfall. I see little hope for US economic recovery as long as it continues to put nuclear power R&D on the back burner. We should have continued with the 1992 plan. http://ifr.blip.tv/file/4198688?filename=IFRTeam-IntegralFastReactorPRISMIntroduction699.flv

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  4. I’ve been puzzled why wind farm builders have been welcoming the carbon tax if renewable energy certificates are to be phased out as Garnaut insists. Isn’t it better from their point of view to have a 20% mandate instead?

    A $25 carbon tax will penalise a Mwh from pulverised black coal by that amount since it generates a tonne of CO2. That’s 2.5c per kwh. However RECs have been selling recently for $33 a Mwh for large scale wind. Thus the immediate incentives will be similar. However as coal stations retire the question must arise about the cost and reliability of a growing gas/wind combo. My guess is that wind integration costs get steeper beyond a certain point maybe 10% or 20% of total Mwh. Meanwhile gas will get expensive with both increasing carbon tax and raw fuel cost.

    Unless somebody can predict the exact parameters it seems unknowable at this stage whether wind and solar can get to 20% on their own just with carbon tax. My hunch is that it won’t without some major upheavals like new subsidies or mandates. Well before then major electricity users like aluminium will be complaining about costs as coal stations retire. Next question; what about the other 80%?.

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  5. @John Newlands, 16April, 9.53pm.
    A carbon tax gives more certainty than REC, for example if 25% renewable energy is built the price for REC may decline to zero. I think wind power is competing with low cost base load coal not higher cost OCGT and hydro peak power. A price on carbon will make it more expensive to keep coal fired running during off-peak periods. OCGT can just shut down when the cost of fuel exceeds price per kWh. Wind has to keep operating so is a price taker.
    Why would wind power become more expensive at >20% total MWh produced? Loss of income by wind operators would occur when off-peak load shedding starts to become significant, ie when total wind capacity is 100-150% of off-peak demand, unless additional pumped hydro can use some of the surplus. OCGT(and hydro) will only operate when wind ( and coal) cannot supply all demand. CST with storage would be competing with OCGT to supply peak demand. A CO2 price of $25/tonne may not be high enough to make it competitive with OCGT for peak demand.

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  6. I’m wondering if anybody has thoughts on the work of Dr. Steven Wing on re-evaluating the health impacts of radiation exposures in the 10 mile zone surrounding Three Mile Island. Steve Wing is an associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) Gilling’s School of Global Public Health. Here is his CV and list of publications. As described in a 2003 paper (and on Wiki), he says he was first asked to look into research findings by lawyers working on a court case by 2,000 plaintiffs (regarding radiation releases from TMI). As described in the paper, he “was wary of beaming involved in the lawsuit,” mainly because he felt the trend in the media was to see such claims as alarmist (a “product of radiation phobia”) and related to an effort to extort money (and he was cautious not to associate himself with such “interested” perspectives). The title of the 2003 paper laying this background is titled: “Objectivity and Ethics in Environmental Health Science.”

    So what did he find regarding health impacts of TMI (and his review of the Columbia study cited here and here)? His findings were published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal in 1997: “A reevaluation of cancer incidence near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant: the collision of evidence and assumptions.” Dr. Wing highlights short follow up, estimates of low dosage (which he and others have questioned), and selectivity of health impacts (such as categorizing leukemia and childhood cancers separately) as evidence of weak (and unreliable) assumptions in earlier research. When he attempts to correct for these weaknesses (and draws on different models) he gets a different result. His summary of research findings can be read in the following UNC press release from 1997 (emphasis added): “He and colleagues conclude that following the March 28, 1979 accident, lung cancer and leukemia rates were two to 10 times higher downwind of the Three Mile Island reactor than upwind … [Wing states:] ‘The cancer findings, along with studies of animals, plants and chromosomal damage in Three Mile Island area residents, all point to much higher radiation levels than were previously reported. If you say that there was no high radiation, then you are left with higher cancer rates downwind of the plume that are otherwise unexplainable.'”

    Thought I would include this here, since many people assume (depending on whether you take the Columbia Study to be accurate or not) that there were no health consequences from TMI. Wing’s reluctance to be involved in this research, and his subsequent publications on ethics and objectivity, and on-going professional work on the issue, would seem to indicate the contrary (or at least considerable uncertainty on the issue). If anybody knows any differently, please provide a follow-up, commentary, or rebuttals to this research. When I do a citation search for the 1997 article, I find the following in more recent journals:

    – “Epidemiological studies of leukaemia in children and young adults around nuclear facilities: a critical review” (Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 2008). Agrees there is a higher incidence of cancer, but states the reason for this is not yet known: “Many studies were launched to investigate possible origins of the observed clusters around specific sites, but up to now, none of the proposed hypotheses have explained them.”

    – “Three Mile Island epidemiologic radiation dose assessment revisited: 25 years after the accident” (Radiation Protection Dosimetry, 2005). It also finds problems with earlier assessments, “This commentary suggests that the major source of radiation exposure to the population has been ignored as a potential confounding factor or effect modifying factor in previous and ongoing TMI epidemiologic studies that explore whether or not TMI accidental plant radiation releases caused an increase in lung cancer in the community around TMI.”

    – “The cancer epidemiology of radiation” (Oncogene, 2004). Puts TMI assessments and re-evaluation by Wing (et. al.) in context of other studies, most specifically cohort studies of atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, radon exposure among hard rock miners, and workers in nuclear weapons programs in former USSR. Study takes issue with findings on lung cancer at TMI (by Wing), but suggests “The degree of carcinogenic risk arising from low levels of exposure is more contentious, but the available evidence points to an increased risk that is approximately proportional to the dose received.”

    – “Long-term follow-up of the residents of the Three Mile Island accident area: 1979-1998” (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2003). A comprehensive account that provides the following conclusion: “Although the surveillance within the TMI cohort provides no consistent evidence that radioactivity released during the nuclear accident has had a significant impact on the overall mortality experience of these residents, several elevations persist, and certain potential dose-response relationships cannot be definitively excluded.”

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  7. Moderator: Sorry for the “throwaway” comment. I’ll be more careful. I figured that being it was for lulz, everyone would understand the satire.

    Allow me to append that comment by saying that standing under a failing turbine would be much scarier than an invisible radiation release. Also, I hope all agree, levity is good, it relieves tension and the fear of death.

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  8. Gene Preston,that word debt seems to be the bogey man in the US and other Western nations at the moment.Private debt is certainly of concern but federal government debt is not.

    The government of a sovereign nation controls its currency,free and unimpeded,unlike a state or local government or private citizens.Probably for ideological reasons the US government has chosen to borrow to fund their deficit.There is no real reason to do this as they can create money at the stroke of a computer key and they do this all the time with due regard to inflation and other unwanted effects.As long as the amount of money available reflects actual resources available then there is no problem.

    With unemployment approaching 10% at the lowest measure and upwards of 40 million souls on food assistance I hardly think that the US needs to worry about inflation for some time.These people can be put to work at useful and badly needed public infrastructure tasks but it will take
    government initiative to do that.

    Sadly,that initiative is lacking for ideological reasons as well as the control of government by the wealthy 1%.

    I am not picking on the US here as this situation is common in the West,including Australia.

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  9. I think we’re a bit smug in Australia since we seem to be avoiding the worst of the global downturn. Much of that must be due to the fact that every day we send numerous boatloads of rocks to China, some of which come back as climate change. When the global Peak Oil/Peak Debt contagion affects China they won’t buy so much from us then we’ll struggle just like Europe and the US.

    Neil I think wind would have to be more than half the wind/OCGT combo to compete with pulverised black coal even after carbon tax. On checking this I see LCOE cost estimates are all over the place. $45 per Mwh black coal plus $25 carbon tax is $70. OCGT is $105 to $130 (some say more) plus say $18 carbon tax (from .75t CO2) is about double the cost of black coal. Unless gas balancing of wind can be minimised we’ll still be using coal just paying more for it.

    That’s why when carbon tax fails to drastically cut emissions I think they will bring back RET maybe make it it 40% this time.

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  10. Alternatives to fossil fuels for generating electrity.

    I have tried to find actual contract prices, and failing that, estimated build prices and other costs related to operations, for four alternatives in the contiguos USA. These may already include some of the various forms of subsidies or tax incentives. The result is the busbar (generation) cost (LCOE) in US cents/kWh. CF is Capacity Factor.

    Solar PV: 23.4 @ CF=25%
    Solar thermal: 21.7 (Mohave desert with 4? hour thermal storage; without storage CF=25%)
    Nuclear: 11.8 for Vogtle 3&4 Gen III+ Westinghouse AP-1000 @ CF=90%
    Wind: 9.15 @ CF=30%+

    so on cost alone to the retail utility company, just now wind [in windy locations] seems best. But alas, to provide on-demand power requires backup for the wind turbines; around here combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) are being increasingly used for that purpose — not fossil fuel free.

    Of course, there is nothing which requires society to prefer the least costly solution. Using newly constructed pumped hydro as backup for the wind resource results in an estimated levelized cost of 14.572 cents/kWh to the retail utility.

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  11. John Newlands,
    I think you are missing the dynamic nature of electricity pricing in at least in SE Australia. OCGT only has to operate when the price is high(peak demand) or if there was a lot of wind capacity when demand was high and wind output low. Coal would be competing with wind during off-peak periods and with OCGT during peak periods, unless the power stations can start and stop once or twice a day. Coal will be able to compete where it has a bulk consumer such as an aluminium smelter.
    Why would wind be able to compete with coal? because operating costs are lower than OCGT during peak demand, and it can afford to sell off-peak at close to zero, whereas coal has to pay for fuel and a CO2 tax during off-peak periods.
    This may well result in more expensive electricity than having 80% generated from coal, but the market is pricing electricity in 30min blocks not 10 year blocks.
    If we had nuclear and OCGT instead of wind and OCGT coal would be in a similar disadvantage during off-peak periods when nuclear would keep operating whatever the price.

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  12. @David Benson 17April 9.41am.
    OCGT is not FF free, but is used at a very low capacity factor(10-20%) so contributes a lot, lot less CO2 than coal-fired running at 75% capacity factor. Of course nuclear is also backed up by OCGT and pumped hydro.
    Solar thermal with storage would be competing for peak power against OCGT not against wind or nuclear.

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  13. “Solar thermal with storage would be competing for peak power against OCGT not against wind or nuclear.”

    To give the Devil his due, that is probably the sanest statement about an application for solar I’ve seen to date. However having said that, cheap enough, thermal storage with the capacity to be economical useful could more easily be recharged by spare heat from a reactor, making the point of using solar moot.

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  14. Neil Howes, on 17 April 2011 at 10:37 AM — At least here in the Pacific Northwest with ample hydro there is very little OCGT (used just for peak shaving). In fact reserve wind does an even better job (when the wind is blowing).

    Backing for wind in Germany is cold thermal with 4–7 hour startup times; that implies to me it is coal fired.

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  15. DV82XL, on 17 April 2011 at 10:46 AM — Please spec it out. What is the waste heat source that would recharge the molten salt thermal storage?

    I had thought that the approximately two-thirds of the thermal was simply lost except for the little bit used in district heating schemes as exemplified by (coal fired, mostly) thermal generation in Germany.

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  16. @David, I didn’t use the term ‘waste heat’. I was thinking more of routing working heat to storage when it was not required to make steam.

    However the point is that any storage medium that would serve to level power from variable sources like wind and solar, could just as easily store surplus power from a NPP to use as peaking. This is the Catch-22 of renewables – they are not practical without economic, scalable storage, but the availably of such storage would make it cheaper to recharge from nuclear, making a renewable-based system uneconomic.

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  17. Hmm there’s potential for nuclear/renewables cohabitation there. Off peak power from a reactor could charge up a storage medium, and then be utilised to back up renewables when they don’t match demand.

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  18. RE:EL’s last post above -Normally I will not respond to this commenter, as I consider him a troll, however he has posted his last comment twice, and it needs to be answered, if only to demonstrate the kind of dissemination he engages in.

    First of course we need to see an article titled:Objectivity and Ethics in Environmental Health Science which suggests that the TMI cancer incidence studies were conducted in the context of conflict between residents who believed they had been injured and officials who denied that such injuries were possible, and were thus subject to bias and commercial interference.

    The next paper linked to:
    “A reevaluation of cancer incidence near the Three Mile Island nuclear plant: the collision of evidence and assumptions,” has several obvious flaws.

    As usual in TMI research, dubious methods of guessing what the doses might have been for a given population are questionable. In this case because 15 years had elapsed between the accident and the sampling, comparisons of chromosomal to stable aberrations were used to calibrate the dose estimated for TMI area residents. This calibration was based primarily on a group of Chernobyl emergency workers known as liquidators. In other words they looked for chromosomal aberrations to estimate dose levels, based on data from a high-level exposed group. No justification was mentioned for this method, and the details of this critical part of the study are sketchy indeed. Given that the hypothesis hinges on demonstrating a dose response, this is a considerable oversight and smells of using the conclusion as a premise.

    As well, in studies of changing disease rates following a well-publicized event, heightened awareness of symptoms and surveillance by medical personnel can lead to increases in disease due to detection bias. While some effort was made to control for age, sex, and socioeconomic variables, the actual numbers of cases were small, making trends on the short time scale of the study period difficult to justify.

    Next: Epidemiological studies of leukaemia in children and young adults around nuclear facilities: a critical review, come to the conclusion, (when you read the actual paper) that: “Localized excesses of cases of childhood leukemia exist in the United Kingdom close to the reprocessing plants at Sellafield and Dounreay, and in Germany close to the Kruemmel nuclear power plant. Nevertheless, none of the multi-site studies currently available shows an increase in the frequency of leukemia overall in children and young people aged 0-14 or 0-24 close to nuclear sites.” (emphasis mine) Somewhat different than what EL implies.

    Then we have: Three Mile Island epidemiologic radiation dose assessment revisited: 25 years after the accident. Which states that the challenge of adequately reconstructing past radiation exposure makes it very questionable as to whether or not the various TMI-related epidemiologic studies had sufficient power and rigor to make any claims regarding whether or not the radioactivity released during the TMI accident had a statistically significant impact on the lung cancer mortality experience of this population. This was due to, the lack of control of confounding exposure values by radon decay products given that the counties around TMI have the highest regional natural radon potential in the United States.

    Hardly supporting evidence for increased health effects due to the TMI incident.

    Moving on there is, The cancer epidemiology of radiation Which is an exhaustive review of the standard work done on the subject of radiation induced cancers that has nothing to add to the TMI question other that to restate that LNT is considered a reasonable model for low-dose exposure.

    Finally, Long-term follow-up of the residents of the Three Mile Island accident area: 1979-1998 . Actually concludes (again if you read the whole paper) that: ” the mortality surveillance of this cohort, with a total of almost 20 years of follow-up, provides no consistent evidence that radioactivity released during the TMI accident (estimated maximum and likely gamma exposure) has had a significant impact on the mortality experience of this cohort”

    In short, nothing in the studies posted above support any measurable increase in cancers in the TMI ‘downwinders’ population that cannot be dismissed as experimental error, detection bias, or statistical noise.

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  19. “but the availably of such storage would make it cheaper to recharge from nuclear, making a renewable-based system uneconomic.”

    By the same token its cheaper to use coal for recharging.

    I understand that everyone here is trying to quantify coal whose externalities are unacceptable even if it were free on paper.

    That is pretty much t he same argument the anti-nuclear crowd makes. Nuclear waste, the costs of decomissioning, the costs of meltdowns both level 7 or level 5, death of innocent civilians (children most vulnerable).

    PV and modern wind has no externalities, but its problem is pretty much all on paper ($$$). Even the installation casualties can be eliminated with CHEAP safety standards (rope and harness).

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  20. Enviromentalist, on 17 April 2011 at 1:07 PM — The LCOE, some actual and some estimates, that I posted eralier includes the mandated fee into the decommissioning fund for nuclear. AFAIK the solar and wind operators are free to abandon when no longer operable.

    As has been mentioned many times on this site, spent fuel rods are a valuable resource for reprocessing.

    Both PV and wind have externalities which you may discover on the ExternE site:
    http://www.externe.info/

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  21. DV82XL wrote:

    This calibration was based primarily on a group of Chernobyl emergency workers known as liquidators. In other words they looked for chromosomal aberrations to estimate dose levels, based on data from a high-level exposed group. No justification was mentioned for this method, and the details of this critical part of the study are sketchy indeed.

    There is extensive discussion of this in the paper, and why authors are drawing on this approach. It’s not to make hard and definitive associations between dose levels and cancer incidence (this is difficult and near impossible to do without adequate monitoring of exposure levels around the accident site, and comprehensive follow up with residents). Instead, they use this approach to disprove a faulty a priori assumption of early studies that they suggest leads to an erroneous result … namely, that there was no environmental release of radiation at TMI above normal background levels for the area. They provide two lines of evidence to discount this assumption: 1) anecdotal reports of hair loss, dead pets, vomiting from residents at time of accident (which they associate with higher than background levels of radiation exposure), and 2) cytogenetic analysis of 29 persons who lived near TMI and “reported erythema, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms at the time of the accident.”

    Why does this matter … Wing provides more detail in a follow-up comment (pp. A 546 – A 547): “Both Talbott et al. (1) and Hatch et al. (3,4), who reported on the Columbia University studies of cancer incidence, began with the assumption that the maximum possible radiation doses from the accident were well below average annual background radiation levels. Even if standard radiation risk estimates are underestimated by an order of magnitude or more, such doses would be associated with very small increases in cancer in a general population with heterogeneous susceptibility (2). Given the measurement constraints of epidemiologic studies, it would not be possible to detect an accident-related increase in cancer at the dose levels assumed by these authors. Thus, when they find increased cancer rates among residents assumed to have received relatively higher radiation doses from the accident, such as the significant linear trend in female breast cancer (1), the authors must conclude that the association is not due to the exposure they are studying.”

    There thus appears to be a problem of definition and assumptions here, and not one of measurable results and conclusions. The problem remains, if we are to take Talbott and Hatch (reporting on Columbia studies) as definitive, how are we to explain higher cancer incidence levels among downwinders when compared to other populations (sharing similar age, gender, and socio-economic factors … but differing only in geographic exposure to radioactive plume). Claiming that there is a detection bias, or that residents are somehow imagining their “cancers” doesn’t really do it for me. Most researchers accept these epidemiological facts, they simply explain them with different models and assumptions (or don’t explain them, as is the case with Talbott and Hatch).

    DV82XL wrote:

    In short, nothing in the studies posted above support any measurable increase in cancers in the TMI ‘downwinders’ population that cannot be dismissed as experimental error, detection bias, or statistical noise.

    I appreciate that you looked at the other sources in the original post. I did not include them to suggest they confirmed the analysis by Wing. Quite the contrary. I’m interested in what readers here have to say about Wing. They were not cherry picked, but were included as the most recent papers citing Wing (1997), and as some measure of the response of peers to the paper (a crucial aspect of “peer review”). One of them disputes his analysis with respect to lung cancers (I indicated this in my summary). But they also appear to agree on the broader questions raised by Wing … the work is unfinished on health impacts and there are unanswered questions in the epidemiology (and I indicated where this was the case in my original comment). If it was only statistical noise or detection bias, I am not sure why other researchers are repeating it, and also expressing concern with data that appears to have no explanation.

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  22. Solar/wind decomissioning is hardly comparable, the land is reusable and the materials recyclable, nuclear’s low footprint is not reusable, and the steel structure a radiation hazzard.

    “As has been mentioned many times on this site, spent fuel rods are a valuable resource for reprocessing.”

    Pie in the sky, it has the problems of renewables (cost, and low capacity) and the same problems as traditional uranium, meaning the nuclear industry will prefer to build profitable uranium reactors. Also it only gets rid of fissionable actinides the rest of the isotope cocktail we are seeing released at Fukushima remains as nuclear waste, again its positive that the waste/watt is much lower, but there is waste.

    http://www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/rr08.pdf

    Another externalitiy is the safety of old reactors, because of electrical blackmail power companies do not decommission old plants unless forced by government, new nuclear does not replace old that is silly (a common attack on the anti-nuclear crowd), at best it just replaces dirty coal, but most likely just coping with increasing demand. It does not matter what generation a reactor is the older it is the weaker the entire structure is considering the constant neutron radiation. An PV past its warranty will still produce power without any safety risk.

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  23. Renewables are the answer, Germany keeps doubling installed PV capacity almost every year or two, nearly keeping pace with moore’s law! this follows the popular prediction on PV prices. This from a country with low avg solar irradiation, sure its peak power for now, but eventually when storage is mastered with hydro or biogas it has the potential to be the only base load the planet would ever need in the foreseeable future. In the meantime wind plays an important role too, maybe even a natgas stopgap if needed.

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/03/new-record-for-german-renewable-energy-in-2010??cmpid=WNL-Wednesday-March30-2011

    The only REAL problem is cost, scale is perfect since it is basically silicone and energy PV itself net energy producer.

    There is no need to saddle future generations with nuclear waste.

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  24. @EL, There was extensive discussion of why they chose this approach to estimate dose levels, however an explanation justifying why it is valid is missing. Furthermore anecdotal reports are worthless, especially from a physiologically stressed population, and a sample space of 29 persons with self-reported symptoms is suspect both is size and validity , and at any rate was not matched with proper controls.

    The bottom line is that without proper dosimetry, and reliance on uncontrolled sources for critical data AND given the small amplitude of the actual deltas, it is difficult to see what if anything is present in terms of some effect that can reliably be assigned to the event at TMI NPP.

    It boils down to this: in almost all cases where there are claims of health impacts from exposure to radiation from nuclear power stations, finding a positive correlation, in all but the most obvious cases where high exposure was involved, requires jumping through hoops with the statistics. However this is not necessary when looking at the impacts of coal burning, where the evidence of wide scale harm is strong and unassailable.

    As to why this continues to be a subject of interest, you know as well as anybody how funding research works, and why some topics have funds available, and others do not. The fact remains that there are those that wish to keep this topic current and find it expedient to fund research that yields marginal results that can be spun into something that appears significant in the public media.

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  25. DV82XL wrote:

    The bottom line is that without proper dosimetry, and reliance on uncontrolled sources for critical data AND given the small amplitude of the actual deltas, it is difficult to see what if anything is present in terms of some effect that can reliably be assigned to the event at TMI NPP.

    This is the crucial point … is it not? And it would seem to apply equally well to studies showing no correlation, as well as those suggesting a strong relationship between dose levels and cancer incidence. Should we throw out all research on TMI because the proper dosimetry was never done, or try and establish better methodologies for working with the material that was collected (and acknowledge where there are weaknesses and where this is likely to show up and trend in conclusions). In fact, it’s the paucity and inconsistency of the data that leads Wing and others to search for other methodologies for arriving at more accurate results (or approaches that better account for unexplained findings or anomalies).

    You claim the deltas are small, but that assumes that conservative estimates for short range projections are correct, and will continue to hold for long range projections (as well). That’s a lot of assuming (and a lot of wishful thinking on conservative estimates), when it’s measurable and repeatable (or independently verifiable) results that we are after. And this debate (in the peer literature) is all about that … coming to reliable conclusions about the health impacts of the accident at TMI today, and in the future (and closing the gaps on outstanding questions).

    For those who haven’t downloaded the article, here’s their statement on delta curves (from the abstract), and where they think this points with respect to future research, on-going questions, and revised conclusions: “Considering a 2-year latency, the estimated percent increase per dose unit +/- standard error was 0.020 +/- 0.012 for all cancer, 0.082 +/- 0.032 for lung cancer, and 0.116 +/- 0.067 for leukemia. Adjustment for socioeconomic variables increased the estimates to 0.034 +/- 0.013, 0.103 +/- 0.035, and 0.139 +/- 0.073 for all cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia, respectively [see Table 2 and 3 on pg. 55]. Associations were generally larger considering a 5-year latency, but were based on smaller numbers of cases. Results support the hypothesis that radiation doses are related to increased cancer incidence around TMI. The analysis avoids medical detection bias, but suffers from inaccurate dose classification; therefore, results may underestimate the magnitude of the association between radiation and cancer incidence. These associations would not be expected, based on previous estimates of near-background levels of radiation exposure following the accident.”

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  26. I hope you do not mind me introducing a different question regarding Plutonium; I came across the statement attributed to GT Seaborg, who discovered Plutonium, that it is the most dangerous substance on earth. If you want an emotional argument, then finding someone or something to demonise is an effective strategy. So my question is whether Plutonium deserves the claim stated by Seaborg and promoted by those who oppose nuclear power generation.

    I looked at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium for some basic information, but did not find the claim. I found that statement that “The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk for inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 microns wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average.” The paragraph went on to say “no human is known to have died because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium, and many people have measurable amounts of plutonium in their bodies.”

    So, does Plutonium deserve the fear that is being promoted about it? Helen Caldicott seemed to link this danger with any internalisation. I would have thought the statement would have been in relation to nuclear weapons. Is the statement that it is the most toxic substance on earth completely taking Seaborg out of context?

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  27. @Environmentalist :

    Your statement on the replacement of older reactors is somewhat oversimplifying the actual situation. The only unreplaceable part of a nuclear reactor is the pressure vessel. It is the only part that receives neutron doses and continuously ages because of them (neutron embrittlement), while the other materials are regularly replaced. The pressure vessel integrity is surveilled by a dedicated program, in which pieces of the steel and welds from which the pressure vessel was built, are irradiated in the reactor core under the same neutron flux as the pressure vessel itself. Since the capsules in which these samples are irradiated are slightly closer to the core than the vessel itself and they are put in the reactor from startup, they actually run ahead of the vessel ageing (this is called the lead factor). Every 3-4 years, a capsule is drawn from the reactor and the mechanical properties of the samples are tested in a laboratory, from which they derive what the expected lifetime of the vessel can be. It is mostly because these datasets did not exist when the first reactors were built that reactor lifetimes were set at 30 years for many reactors. Now we know that, at least for what the vessel is concerned, the safe exploitation of many plants is assured for over 60 years.

    Of course, there is one more thing that cannot be changed, at least not in practice, which is the general layout of the reactor. Certain choices that were made (such as the location of the spent fuel pools or the availability of water and passive safety features) definitely have been much improved in today’s designs. The initial investment cost for a nuclear plant is indeed the capital contributor to the cost of nuclear power, while the fuel cost is more important for fossile power. However, taking into account the statistics of nuclear accidents and their consequences, expecting utilities to replace an older power plant for a newer model only for those reasons would be like expecting you to replace your car every time a new model comes out with better airbags. If one would consider his/her chance of dying in a car accident sufficiently large, he/she would probably do it… Accidents with nuclear power plants are hard to compare with car accidents, I agree, but your chance of dying in your car is still quite large.

    As for PV and wind, they surely should be a bigger part of the energy mix, but it is my conviction that a balanced energy mix, including nuclear and even fossil, is our best option.

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  28. The real problem with solar is that its not there 80 to 90 percent of the time depending on how sunny your area is. In my country, the Netherlands, not very sunny, the best performing PV installations, the ones that are decent at converting diffuse insolation, and have ideal installation angles and enthusiast everyday cleaning, get about 1000 kWh/kWpeak per year. This is about 12 percent capacity utilisation (0.12 capacity factor).

    Our single, old, primitive nuclear plant, Borssele, gets 7000 kWh/kWpeak per year. 7x as much. and it lasts longer (60 years operating licence). This means this power source IS there 80% of the time. Whereas solar isn’t there 88% of the time. This is unacceptable, so the practical alternative is the burn a lot of natural gas. I don’t see how that’s sustainable, too much greenhouse gasses, importing from unstable countries/dangerous regimes, not good. I worry a lot about this fossil fuel lock-in. Its one of the reasons I like nuclear so much.

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  29. @EL, – Well to start off with there are no strong correlations shown, only rather weak ones. Strong correlations are the ones shown between tobacco use and pulmonary system cancers, or between obesity and late onset diabetes. In those cases, one doesn’t need to massage the data or rely on sketchy assumptions. Not only that but the actual number of cases in the sample space is very small for the conclusion being drawn in these TMI studies and that in itself is fertile ground for breeding statistical artifacts. So perhaps the answer is that rather than construct a house of cards out the poor data available, it might be better to admit that little can be determined with a reasonable level of confidence with available tools. The fact is the bodies are not piling up such that a high level of concern is warranted, and there is little scientifically to be gained pursuing this question.

    As for the latency argument, frankly it is getting stale. I find it disingenuous to continue to invoke latency every time actual results fail to meet the dire predictions made previously. We were told shortly after the event, when the immediate death toll was found to be minimal, that the full impact would not be felt for twenty years. Thirty-plus years later, the Cassandras are now saying it could be as much as sixty years before the damage appears or maybe several generations in the future. At what point do we accept the fact that the impact of this accident has not been anywhere as serious as it was assumed it would be?

    Also the statement: “The analysis avoids medical detection bias,” is another case in this study where we are expected to take the authors’ assertions at face value with little in the way of substantive evidence to support it. Like the dose estimations, there is a element of hand-waving here that I find suspect.

    This has nothing to do with real research, and everything to do with keeping anxiety levels high over nuclear energy by smearing FUD around. I can see straight through these ‘studies’, as anyone with a scientific background can, thus the only possible utility for these things is as propaganda.

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  30. On plutonium I was at the hardware store looking at a display of smoke detectors ( I was looking for a CO detector as I use firewood). The cheaper ‘ionisation’ type alarms have less than a microgram of Americium 241 a decay product of Pu 241. It is removed before making MOX fuel I gather to reduce gamma ray emissions.

    The price of optical or non-ionising smoke alarms generally seems to be a little higher. The radiation symbol is usually minuscule so millions of people may be unaware they are in effect using plutonium. I understand old alarms can be legally thrown in the garbage and like mercury in CFL bulbs the dilution is adequate.
    Refs http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf57.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium

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  31. @NukeMaterialsSpecialist:

    Thanks, but a 57 page technical report from 1995 on setting safety standards for workers doesn’t really address what Seaborg meant about the dangers of Plutonium, except that if it was the most toxic substance on earth you would not be wanting to inject it into people or to get them to ingest it at all. Is that how you read it?

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  32. I’ve got about 370,000 Becquerels of Am-241 hanging in my house, in smoke detectors (10x 1 microcurie).

    Here is a link to the Manhattan bomb builders that handled lots of plutonium and subsequently received quite large doses due to plutonium. Plutonium turns out to be so dangerous that fewer of the plutonium workers died than would be expected from average US population. In fact it is so dangerous that the level of mortality in the plutonium workers is similar to that of non-plutonium workers. Gee.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9314220

    “Twenty-six white male workers who did the original plutonium research and development work at Los Alamos have been examined periodically over the past 50 y to identify possible health effects from internal plutonium depositions. Their effective doses range from 0.1 to 7.2 Sv with a median value of 1.25 Sv. As of the end of 1994, 7 individuals have died compared with an expected 16 deaths based on mortality rates of U.S. white males in the general population. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) is 0.43. When compared with 876 unexposed Los Alamos workers of the same period, the plutonium worker’s mortality rate was also not elevated (SMR = 0.77). The 19 living persons have diseases and physical changes characteristic of a male population with a median age of 72 y (range = 69 to 86 y). Eight of the twenty-six workers have been diagnosed as having one or more cancers, which is within the expected range. The underlying cause of death in three of the seven deceased persons was from cancer, namely cancer of prostate, lung, and bone. Mortality from all cancers was not statistically elevated. The effective doses from plutonium to these individuals are compared with current radiation protection guidelines”

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  33. Thanks Cyril R. It looks like radioactivity or toxicity don’t make it the most dangerous substance on earth. It seems most likely that Seaborg was referring only to its danger in nuclear bombs. I would have thought that an element with a half life of 80 million years would not be exceptionally dangerous due to its radioactivity alone, even if it concentrates in bone material. If there is something missing in this logic, I hope somebody will enlighten me.

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  34. @Robert Lawrence – The toxicity of Pu is greatly exaggerated, as toxic metals go, arsenic,cadmium, mercury and beryllium beat it hands down as an acute systemic toxin, and polonium among others is more radiotoxic, although this somewhat dependent on specific isotope. From a purely chemical standpoint, Pu is about as poisonous as lead.

    Botulinum toxin is the most acutely toxic substance known, with a median lethal dose of about 1 ng/kg when introduced intravenously and 3 ng/kg when inhaled.

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  35. I came across the statement attributed to GT Seaborg, who discovered Plutonium, that it is the most dangerous substance on earth.

    To take an educated guess here… did you hear that from Helen Caldicott?

    Like most things Caldicott says… you probably cannot find any source that actually shows that it is true.

    Now, let’s compare this with the following genuine, legitimate, citation-provided transcript of an interview with Seaborg:

    “Q: Now, plutonium, this substance that you did your work on, has come to be demonized in our society, both for its proliferation potential, but also many environmentalists talk about it as “the most toxic substance in the world.”

    A: The number of (I guess you’d call them) environmentalists characterize plutonium as the most toxic substance in the world. That, of course, is nonsense. There are many toxins and viruses that are more toxic than plutonium, that lead to immediate death if taken in amounts equal to what they’re talking about as the toxic amounts of plutonium. There have been scientists, as a result of accidents, dating clear back to the war, who have ingested plutonium up to the level of what is considered tolerable amounts. And some of those are still alive, 50 years later.

    Whereas, if they had ingested an equal amount of some viruses or toxins, they would have died immediately. So it’s just nonsense to speak of plutonium as the most toxic substance in the world. It’s not anywhere near it, not in the ballpark of being near that toxic a substance, when people who ingested it 50 years ago are still alive.”

    Lots of other interesting stuff in that interview, too.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interviews/seaborg.html

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  36. DV82XL wrote:

    So perhaps the answer is that rather than construct a house of cards out the poor data available, it might be better to admit that little can be determined with a reasonable level of confidence with available tools.

    I agree with you. This is a fair assessment. But the risk of building a “house of cards” around the null hypothesis seems to me to be an equally likely risk and has a far greater potential to cause harm (and mislead) than statistical assumptions looking at evidential anomalies and following a cautious and precautionary principle (which you are comfortable writing off as FUD). [deleted personal appraisal of probabilities, not supported by evidence]. Instead of turtles all the way down, it appears we will have to be content with assumptions (and hope that no great damage gets buried in the statistical noise).
    MODERATOR: edited

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  37. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2011/apr/17/apparent-tornado-causes-surry-nuclear-reactors-shu-ar-978675/

    The plant in Surry was shut down temporarily due to a nearby tornado (well, not so near, across the James and up the Chesapeake coast a ways, in Gloucester). Just something I never considered about US nuclear plants… we don’t often have severe earthquakes in the East, and nok tsunamis, but we do get severe storms with tornados (as well as hurricanes with storm surges and flooding).  

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/asia/14industry.html

    And the US plants have the same risks… if the diesel generators get taken out somehow, there’s just hours of battery power left before things can get bad.

    Hurricanes are so powerful sometimes they can overwash a barrier island and create a new inlet within  hours. This happened at least a couple times in the last decade. We have some nuclear plants on barrier islands. Our plants are built to  withstand hurricanes and tornados, but I’m not sure how a plant could be built to withstand a storm that is powerful enough to wash away the land underneath it. 

    Any who still really believe that a Fukushima-style incident can’t possibly happen in the US?  

    I am search engine-challenged (help!) so I can’t find the story (a summary was on slashdot a year or two ago) about the discovery (or invention?) that a series of spaced pillars placed in the ocean surrounding an island or structure could cause giant waves to go around the island (using interferometry?) Perhaps these should be installed off the coast of any coastal nuclear facilities. Sounds like an ounce of prevention to me.

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  38. shamus, on 18 April 2011 at 5:22 AM said:

    And the US plants have the same risks… if the diesel generators get taken out somehow, there’s just hours of battery power left before things can get bad.

    Exactly what nuclear plants in the US are at risk of a flooding event? Exactly how long do the emergency cooling steam driven pumps operate? What measures have or have not been taken at those specific plants to minimize these risks? Are there additional cooling systems staged nearby I.E. Fire Engine Pump Trucks?? Are ‘plug compatible’ generators available nearby?

    There are lot’s of questions that need to be asked and answered before a judgment can be made on even one specific plant.

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  39. >There are lot’s of questions that need to be asked and answered before a judgment can be made on even one specific plant.

    I think I can only answer the first question:
    >Exactly what nuclear plants in the US are at risk of a flooding event?

    The ones along the coast, especially the ones on barrier islands between the ocean and the intercoastal waterways. But I think you missed the point of what I (and the nyt) meant by “same risks.” As far as I know, most of the nuclear power plants in the US are of such similar design to Fukushima that if these plants lose power (by whatever means, fire, flooding, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, meteorite, or terrorist) the same backup safeties are in play… diesel generators and battery backups.

    But of course you are right… generalizing as I am does not allow us to make any sweeping judgements about all the plants… there’s only 104 or so, they’d have to be individually assessed.

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  40. The “Decarbonise SA” site looks good, although of course there is not much content yet.

    I’m quite fond of the idea of building up a detailed plan, analogous to the Zero Carbon Australia plan, except with better science, better assumptions, better skepticism and without the anti-nuclear dogma, meaning much lower prices and more realistic availability of the technology when nuclear energy is included in the system.

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  41. @Huw Jones

    Sounds good, but what is the storage medium? As I understand it PWRs would not be hot enough for molten salt storage. Which leaves pumped hydro as the only viable option for now.

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  42. And the US plants have the same risks… if the diesel generators get taken out somehow, there’s just hours of battery power left before things can get bad.

    To further harrywr2’s comment, the Japan experience shows that you need an event so powerful that it completely knocks out external AC power supply to the plant (i.e. cripples multiple other electricity plants as well as transmission infrastructure), as well as the backup diesel generators. While not impossible (as shown by what’s happened in Fukushima), it takes an incredibly mighty event to do so, and some fairly simple steps can be taken to minimise the risk of it happening again (you learn from the past).

    I will also contend that with the passive safety features of modern reactors, this argument becomes more and more irrelevant. And anyone that argues we should be prioritising the replacement of any existing, operating nuclear power plants over fossil fuel plants, simply isn’t worth engaging with.

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  43. That several topics become interwoven on an open thread is inevitable and I have no difficulty with following up to three (rarely four) different subthreads at the same time. When there are more than that many I simply skip the ones of lesser personal interest.

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  44. As a former ‘safstrine’ I think the Decarbonise SA movement is overdue. Several things trouble me about the State
    – dependence on distant tropical storms for water supply
    – dependence on old industries like defence and auto manufacturing
    – the talent exodus dare I suggest starting with Rupert Murdoch.

    SA’s energy situation is parlous. It has Australia’s biggest gas user the Torrens Island baseload plant and possibly the creakiest coal station Playford B at Pt Augusta. The much vaunted 867 MW of installed windpower depends on RECs yet struggles to produce 70 MW in recurring heatwaves when the State needs to import a GW of power over the border. CouId be why ETSA wants to put radio controllers on air cons.

    It reeks of desperation they pinned their hopes on granite geothermal which didn’t pan out. Now they think fracking will extend the life of the Cooper Basin so they can build a new gas baseload plant ‘Cherokee’. Another wild idea is UCG or coal mining in the Arckaringa basin. Maybe CO2 isn’t a problem. Meanwhile the world’s largest uranium deposit Olympic Dam can’t expand and the Chinese will get some uranium out of the copper extract. I’d call that ‘value subtracting’.

    I think SA should go with uranium mining and enrichment. Tie in with a trans-Nullarbor HVDC link. Get the hi tech people away from slow diesel submarines into pressure vessels and nuclear contracting.

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  45. >While not impossible (as shown by what’s happened in Fukushima), it takes an incredibly mighty event to do so

    Yes… but these mighty events are not so rare. Hurricanes Hugo and Isabella both ripped new inlets in barrier islands off SC and NC, and if I’m not mistaken, Hurricane Francis did the same in FL. There can’t be too many plants operating on barrier islands, but there’s at least 2 in FL that I know of, and I believe there may be one in NC. If a hurricane rips a new inlet underneath one of those plants, I don’t think any AC lines, generators or batteries would survive. And you may think the chances of a hurricane hitting a bullseye like that are pretty slim, but I’m pretty sure two of the 2004 hurricanes made landfall within a mile of each other not far (10 miles?) from the St. Lucie plants, which surprised even the meteorologists. 

    So my thin point is, unlikely as a hurricane ripping an inlet underneath an operating plant seems, we should probably not be so quick to dismiss what we in our arrogance believe is only a shadow of a remote possibility (which you agree is what the Fukushima builders did… “9.0 earthquake? 30m wave? impossible!”). And that’s just hurricanes. I’d like to see anything survive an F4 or F5 tornado, or one of those gigantic fires that show up in drought conditions we’re used to seeing in CA, now we’re seeing in TX.

    These are events that cannot be predicted, but that doesn’t make them rare. There is nothing we can do about a natural catastrophe, but that doesn’t make them unworthy of serious consideration. The likelihood of natural catastrophe occurring in any particular place is just as great as it occurring in any other particular place (damn Nature, you scary!!).

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  46. How low does the LCOE for wind power have to be so that with pumped hydro backup it can become more cost effective than nuclear power generation?

    Using the estimates I’ve previously posted, the LCOE of wind power, c, has to be less than the value determined by the equation

    0.32c + 0.68(5.6+c/0.80) = 11.8

    which is c = 6.83 UScents/kWh. That price, without incentives, appears possible within the decade.

    The dubious part is finding enough suitable land to sacrifice for the pumped hydro reservoirs; I don’t expect there to be much of it for the pumped hydro incremental cost of 5.6 UScents/kWh.

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  47. And for the record, DV82XL and EL, both you guys are my heroes. In order for the best conclusions to be made, there must be people that are accurate and intellectually honest that disagree with each other, and your analysis and arguments and disagreements are exquisite. I hope we get to see more.

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  48. @ shamus

    I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say in your last post. That large natural events can happen and cause mass destruction?

    Even when taking into account the absolute worst case scenarios (i.e. Chernobyl and Fukushima, both 40+ year old reactors, vastly inferior to modern designs), over 14,000 reactor years experience globally has proven nuclear power to be the safest, most reliable and scalable way of generating electricity. Obviously things can be done better, but it’s silly not putting one form of power generation into perspective with other types. Not to mention into context with the reality of life without access to plentiful energy.

    And just to comment on your idle speculation re tornadoes and fire: If a nuclear power plant is designed to survive a fully fueled Boeing 767 impact, and the strongest of hurricanes, it’s difficult to imagine a tornado doing anything other than cutting external power supply (in which case you have back up generators to keep cooling systems operating – unless hit by a 14m tsunami, apparently, and even then, better design [as in modern reactor designs] could have avoided this). E.g. Davis-Besse NPP when it was hit by a smaller tornado. Nuclear power plants are extremely robust industrial infrastructure, not houses. And cement and steel aren’t flammable…

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  49. >I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say in your last post. That large natural events can happen and cause mass destruction?

    Precisely. Its what we can’t plan for that will get us. Granted, this particular argument against nuclear energy doesn’t hold a candle to the economic argument, but I still think it has merit. Dams breaking, a refinery fire, a turbine flying apart… these kinds of things happen, and then they’re taken care of reasonably quickly… in a month, a few years (ah, well, there is Gulf/BP thing isn’t there… what a mess). A natural catastrophe is bad enough… but if it can effect the stability of a nuclear reactor and there are problems,  then there is this lingering danger. In the case of Fukushima, with multiple reactors, if all goes according to plan, at least another 6-9 months, but something tells me it is equally possible the trouble may linger for far far longer, and the area may remain dangerous. 

    >over 14,000 reactor years experience globally has proven nuclear power to be the safest, most reliable and scalable way of generating electricity.

    If there were 14K reactor years since Fukushima, you may have had a decent point. But I certainly can’t subscribe to the idea that because nearly all other reactors haven’t had an issue that it somehow mitigates what happened at Chernobyl or is still happening at Fukushima. The O-rings worked out fine for all the shuttle flights before Challenger’s last. There was only a single failure. Should that excellent track record have permitted NASA to continue using them? (rhetorical, and perhaps a poor analogy… best I can come up with at the moment).

    >it’s silly not putting one form of power generation into perspective with other types. Not to mention into context with the reality of life without access to plentiful energy.

    There are other energy sources. Most that I can think of don’t do the things that nuclear power plants do when things go really wrong because an unexpected event causes cascading failure. 

    >it’s difficult to imagine a tornado doing anything other than cutting external power supply

    A tornado can empty a large pond in seconds. It can tear steel pipes out of the ground. Ever seen a piece of straw impale hard wood? Very strange. Tornados turn things like bulldozers into projectiles. You never know what to expect from the most powerful tornados.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_intensity_and_damage
    “Above-ground structures are almost completely vulnerable to F4 tornadoes, which level well-built structures (including stone and reinforced steel buildings)”

    >Nuclear power plants are extremely robust industrial infrastructure. 

    I realize this, and I am thankful for it. But all it takes is enough energy (like in a natural catastrophe), and anything mankind can build can be destroyed. So look at other energy sources and ask if any of them can cause the scale and scope of disaster that a nuclear plant can create once it is destroyed, as well as the time and cost it takes for it to be made safe.

    >And cement and steel aren’t flammable…
    no way to tread lightly here… then why isn’t the WTC still standing? Because fire weakens cement and steel, and can weaken them to the point that they will fail. Perhaps the plant designs can withstand the impact of a 767, but whether they can stand up to the ensuing fuel fire is another question (and I’m not a materials engineer or any other kind of engineer, so I shouldn’t speak to it). But perhaps your point is that surrounding the plants there is very little local fuel for a large fire in a mostly concrete facility. Fair enough.

    This argument need not go much further… I think I’ve beaten it to death by now. Its a small point to make, especially compared to the other arguments, and I think you and others must have it by now.  

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  50. DV82XL and supporters
    I am surprised the moderator didn’t cut you short before for breaking the commenting rules including DV8 saying the following to EL in different comments – to me they break the ad hom and attrubution of a person’s motives rules.

    Normally I will not respond to this commenter, as I consider him a troll, however he has posted his last comment twice, and it needs to be answered, if only to demonstrate the kind of dissemination he engages in.

    AND

    This has nothing to do with real research, and everything to do with keeping anxiety levels high over nuclear energy by smearing FUD around. I can see straight through these ‘studies’, as anyone with a scientific background can, thus the only possible utility for these things is as propaganda.

    AND

    As to why this continues to be a subject of interest, you know as well as anybody how funding research works, and why some topics have funds available, and others do not. The fact remains that there are those that wish to keep this topic current and find it expedient to fund research that yields marginal results that can be spun into something that appears significant in the public media.

    EL, has not,as far as I can see, similarly broken those rules but a couple of commenters have claimed his links did not prove what he asserted they did. Doesn’t that break the citation policy.

    Get over yourself DV8 and give the moderator credit for a hard job done well. I have certainly noticed an improvement in the tenor of BNC since moderation was instituted.

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  51. Pingback: Plutonium is the most dangerous substance on earth (not) « SeekerBlog

  52. David Benson, 18 April 2pm,
    Wind doesn’t have to be cost competitive with nuclear in Australia or US, because no additional nuclear is being built and coal fired plants are nearing end of lifetime.
    What is LCOE?
    Australia has some very large storage reservoirs suitable for pumped hydro, no new dams or land is required, just reversible turbines and tunnels. Present storage capacity of hydro >24,000GWh.

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  53. If we talk risk, we have to talk acceptable risk. Risk will never be zero.

    It seems to me a reasonable definition of acceptable risk for a nuclear plant is when it doesn’t add much damage to an event. It has to be ‘marginal’ in actual damage (its much harder to be marginal in the eyes of the media, of course).

    Japan was hit by a natural disaster that killed over 25000 people and costs like 200-300 billion $ or more in financial cost.

    The radiation from the nuclear plant is unlikely to kill anyone of the public, some workers may be at risk of increased cancer incidence. Cost of decommissioning the reactors probably in the range 10-20 billion $. There is some added financial damage in not being able to sell certain foods.

    Seems to me that the risk to public health is minimal and financial damage cost is quite small compared to total financial damage.

    The radionuclides in seawater are total media hype and of no long term concern to humans or ecosystems. The only real concern is the area northwest of Fukushima that received some fallout, in particular radiocaesium. From the maps it might be more than 100 square km that has to be at least temporarily closed and perhaps largely decontaminated by removal of vegetation and topsoil. This could be very expensive, and cannot be considered a marginal risk.

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  54. John Newlands, 18April 12.40pm
    EDSA wants to put controllers on A/C because SA’sa peak demand (>3200MW) is >X3 off-peak (<1000MW) and a lot of this is due to A/C load in summer heatwaves.
    and SA has no hydro or solar both of which would be good for summer peak demand.
    Most of SAs water comes from winter rains( in local catchments) supplemented w.ith water derived from winter snowfall in snowymountains .
    Where does tropical storms come into the picture? or do you mean the once in 20 year floods in the Cooper and Darling catchments?

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  55. Neil it looks like the SA Coorong and Lower Lakes will dry up without major floods in the Qld part of the MD Basin, maybe 2,000 km away. The NSW water contribution (Murrumbidgee, Upper Murray etc) never seems enough. Ironically river water is now pumped to Woomera only 70km from water strapped Olympic Dam that relies on groundwater. Mind you Adelaide plans new housing developments with town water. Barry suggests 2013 will be hot and if it is also dry Adelaide will suffer water shortages with the new Pt Stanvac desal working hard.

    As to SA electricity imports I wonder if they should try seawater pumped hydro. I’d rather see carbon tax revenue spent on storage than direct renewables subsidies.

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  56. @shamus

    We just had a severe storm with many tornadoes (a record number after preliminary counts). One even hit a nuclear reactor in Surry, Va. By all reports the reactor held up fine, they have not classified all the tornadoes yet.

    Maybe Barry with his resources can get more info.

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  57. Neil Howed, the LCOE is the levelized cost of energy. If you had a cash flow stream into the future you could find its present value by summing up the future costs, with each future year brought back to a current year dollar amount and summed with all the other future years. Then if you had that cash flow stream be the energy cost in future years you could swap back and forth between future years cents per kwh and future years costs. The LCOE is a level cents per kwh value applied each year that produces the same total present value cost as the actual future cash flow stream.

    I do not like to use LCOE because it has several shortcomings. It assumes that:
    1) we will continue to earn money on our investments as we have done in the past which I think will not be true one we reach a world economic decline,
    2) the long range effects of running out of oil and climate change are too far into the future for LCOE to capture the costs adequately, i.e. the LCOE over empasizes the current value of making money at the expense of future investments. This leads to cutting down all the trees and then worring about the problem when we get there,
    3) and finally LCOE is causing utilities to create purchase power agreements with escalating energy prices so that the LCOE looks ok but the future energy prices are far too high. This is selling out the future for the benefit of the current time. Its a bad practice that I think will lead to the failure of many small utilties here in the US as big companies bobble them up in the future. This is most prevelant with bio wood burning plants PPAs here in the US, such as the 2.3 billion dollar boondoggle that Austin energy recently signed into. It going to result in financial failure of the utility in about ten years.

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  58. Mark Snodgrass, on 18 April 2011 at 9:19 PM said:
    One even hit a nuclear reactor in Surry, Va… they have not classified all the tornadoes yet.

    See Richmond Times-Dispatch link in my post above. The tornado touched down between Gloucester Point and Gloucester, and then reappeared in Deltaville; it did not hit the Surry plant, which they shut down for safety. By the damage, the tornado was a strong F2, or a weak F3.

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  59. I have a couple of questions about the Fukishima situation that I hope someone can answer.

    I understand that the tsunami struck and wiped out the diesel generators and that’s why emergency power wasn’t available after the batteries ran out.

    However, there’s some ignorance on my part about what happened after that, and as a result of the tsunami.

    Were the control rooms of any/all of units 1-4 also submerged by the tsunami?

    I think this is a key question. If they were, then it doesn’t really matter that there wasn’t diesel power since it couldn’t be distributed by a control room that had been submerged in seawater.

    If the control rooms were not submerged, what is the delay in bringing the reactors back under control now that reliable power has been restored?

    Lastly, do we have any idea what the radiation level is within the control rooms at this point? Is this the source of the 26 Sv reading I asked about a week or so ago that went unanswered?

    Thanks

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  60. DV82XL wrote:

    I agree with this. [DELETED: attacks on the moderator] DV8 does get a little personal (such as with his comment on me being a troll), but I found the rest of our discussion informative and substantive (and to raise issues I didn’t consider with my initial post, or had to give greater attention to). We come at these issues from completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and I can say he helped me see these questions with greater clarity and to be better informed (while we still disagree). The way I see it, if the issues are important enough to be debated in the scientific literature (where there are also substantive disagreements over findings and assumptions), it’s important enough to be considered here.

    While I don’t want to put all my cards on the table, a few comments are probably worthwhile. I’m not anti-nuclear, but I am a reluctant defender of the industry. I believe it has to be held to the highest standard for safety, engineering, and regulatory oversight. I feel the same way about deepwater drilling and shale gas development, and believe when short cuts are taken (for whatever reasons) the general public is exposed to risk, and public confidence in our energy systems is damaged (and this leads to additional difficulties in meeting our current and future energy challenges). I’d like to see reliable and safe nuclear used to displace coal for baseload generation, but I think our energy system is broken (and needs a major retrofit). We don’t need “more sources” of energy, but better management of existing sources (and slowly phasing out older, inefficient, unsustainable, and polluting technologies). I believe political and monopoly interests in the marketplace are far more significant challenges than any technical issues we face. Renewables do fine up to 20% (even higher), conservation and efficiency yield huge rewards in sustainability of existing supplies and lowering costs, demand growth in energy consumption needs to be far better managed (it currently results in huge profits for utilities, a hidden tax on consumers, and a great deal of wasted energy from congestion), we could be adding storage to national grids (lots of affordable technologies may be ready in coming years), and we should be throwing up a great deal more wire and HVDC to improve transmission (regardless of energy sources utilized). In general, in the US (where I write) we’re going to all have to become more European in our approach to energy (with respect to conservation), and get used to higher costs. I’m also an academic by profession, teach courses in cultural anthropology (as I finish my PhD), and am involved with policy development in my city on Climate Change (working on energy efficiency programs in low income communities). So taking part in academic, policy, and “objective” analytical debates is not unfamiliar to me.

    [Deleted attacks on moderator] and a concerted effort to minimize the severity of the Fukushima crisis, and health risks from radiation releases we have seen to date and are likely to see from Fukushima in the coming 6 to 9 months (as they endeavor to bring these reactors to a “cold shut down”). It is correct to point out that emissions from coal fired power plants and environmental damage (air emissions and well design failures) from shale gas drilling operations also have a significant impact to human health and environmental quality … and that the tsunami was an unmitigated disaster (and has no peer with respect to injury and deaths). But I believe the best response to the nuclear crisis in Japan is not going to be to minimize the health risks from radiation releases or engage in false analogies (this is going to do nothing to restore public confidence in these power plants). The best response is going to be transparent and comprehensive oversight and focusing on viable, substantive, and cost effective solutions to restore people’s trust and confidence in nuclear power plants, and prevent radioactive fission products from being released into the environment in the first place. This is largely the “spirit” and “constructive” purpose to which I make my comments on the site. [Deleted attacks on moderator]

    Like

  61. @EL –

    EL wrote:

    …the risk of building a “house of cards” around the null hypothesis seems to me to be an equally likely risk and has a far greater potential to cause harm (and mislead) than statistical assumptions looking at evidential anomalies and following a cautious and precautionary principle (which you are comfortable writing off as FUD).

    That is not so. This is the point where Ockham’s razor comes into force. Statistical ghosts can be teased out of a given data-set to show a minor correlation with anything if you allow for the unlimited use of questionable techniques to supply missing parameters, or selectively ignore confounding variables. This is exactly what lex parsimoniae is invoked to avoid.

    The null hypothesis here is not built on shaky ground, if for no other reason than the fact that there is no spike in morbidity, and mortality that sticks out of the background high enough to warrant an explanation. So it becomes a question of what sort of harm is being avoided with the assumption that there was an impact.

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  62. Aren’t we overlooking that something major could still go wrong at Fukushima Daiichi that could make the situation a whole lot worse? With 7 reactors or spent fuel ponds requiring unusual steps to keep under control, it has always concerned me that one could get out of control and release so much radiation that it would become impossible to manage the other 6. This would seem less and less likely as more and more time passes but other things could go wrong. For instance, what happens if a major typhoon hits the accident site this summer?

    Like

  63. The problem with 5.4 cents per kwh is that it may not result in base loading here in ERCOT (Texas) because of the way the market is run. The risk that the plant is not base loaded and the revenus stream may fail is the reason nuclear power is going nowhere here in ERCOT. The cost of the Vogtle plant is put into the rate base in their case but this is no longer possible here. So the financing of nuclear has everything to do with a project being possible or not. I think that with time ERCOT will realize their mistake, when the lights keep going out ha ha.

    Like

  64. No I don`t.
    Because the granite Block is heavier than water you can store much more energie per km³.
    Thats why it is projectet to be so much cheaper than pumped hydro.
    Think big!

    Another idea is the “Ringwallspeicher”
    It would also be cheaper than conventional pumped storage.
    Could be done in old coal pits. Earth dams that big have also been build.
    http://www.ringwallspeicher.de/

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  65. I suspect ringwall pumped hydro is like vertical farming in that the energy capture area is not big enough. You can draw a picture of a pedal powered helicopter (off-topic reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_Prize ) but getting it to fly is the hard part. OTOH the seawater pumped hydro I referred to upthread proposes octagonal tanks 7km in diameter 20m deep atop 100m cliffs and a test plant exists in Japan. However replacing the plastic liner means that the technology remains oil dependent.

    Like

  66. Stephanie, granite cannot be pumped. This is a very expensive proposition. Heavy lifting equipment is very expensive. Not to be used to store a few MJ of commercial grade wholesale energy storage.

    None of the alternative hydro schemes are cheap. RiverBank hydro has a project costing $2/Watt peak for just 6 hours of underground pumped hydro. You need more like 600 hours of storage for a total wind/solar grid.

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  67. Cyril. Yes, it does not make sense for a few Mj…
    The idea is to built a storage with a reach of at least a month.

    Lueder von Bremen, EWEC 2009.
    For a 60% wind/40% solar based solution you need 2-7days of storage.

    Thats with todays wind technology. But there will also be Makani Power and Kitegen type windpower…
    There is other renewable power available besides wind/pv.

    A granite storage 4,4km diameter: 2,2km high – strage volume 624 TWh …that would power Germany for a year.

    There is no haydraulic lifting equiptment involved. It`s liftet by water which also generates the power…
    Pressurized pumped storage, if you like.

    Please try to understand an idea before you start bashing it.

    Like

  68. John,

    Many points have been brought up against the idea of the “Ringwallstorage”.
    Matthias Popp has defended his work in his dissertation and is even so kind to answer questions raised in articles about his work online or help people understand certain aspects.

    I am not the person to translate everything for you and take his place here.
    If you are really interested and have any constructive critique to contribute please contact Matthias Popp in person.

    Maybe you can try to autotranslate this page online to understand more of it. Its the EIKE critique and answers and corrections to the questions raise and errors made.

    http://www.ringwallspeicher.de/Fragen_und_Antworten/EIKE-Kritik_am_Ringwallspeicher.htm

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  69. John,
    Raise the price money for the Sikorsky Price to 10.000.000$ and it will be done.

    There is much more at stake here than 20k$…

    I also prefere the granite storage idea over the ringwall.
    It`s still amazing what people come up with.

    The geo-hydraulic storage seems just like the next logical step after pumped hydro, raising the system size of storage technology.

    If you have any questions that I could answer by translating the presentation I will try to do so.

    Like

  70. While views on energy storage other than mountain lake hydro are generally dismissive I think there is longer term question; will wind and solar assets be stranded when gas is prohibitive for load balancing plant? The notion that battery cars can store renewable energy seems to be making little progress. An alternative automotive technology fuelling by natural gas ( recently endorsed by Obama) will shorten the lifespan of gas as a power plant fuel.

    At some point in cost terms (renewables + gas backup) > (renewables + storage) for equivalent output. Should nuclear baseload go worldwide then energy storage may be needed for peaking. Therefore solving the storage problem is imperative. It will raise NIMBY issues since water tanks can burst, flywheels can disintegrate and sodium batteries can incinerate.

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  71. Hi John mate,
    but you’ve got to admit that Nullarbor seawater hydro dam idea is interesting! 10 hours of storage for the WHOLE of Australia coming in at … what did they say … 2 billion?

    (But, as always, they discount the sheer COST of adding a Continent Wide super-grid and then overbuilding wind and solar capacity).

    http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/storing-energy/

    But with several of these massive hydro dams running, a renewable grid seems doable — it’s now a race about economics.

    PS: About economics — there’s some new buzz about Wave power at the moment. There are claims it is ‘approaching baseload at CHEAPER than fossil fuel rates’ within 3 years.

    Late Night Live had a piece on it recently.

    I don’t have the technical expertise (or time) to chase it up, anyone?

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2011/3176948.htm

    If this is for real and we build a Nullarbor hydro dam or 2 (with a carbon tax in place?) then… well… don’t the renewables guys have a case again?

    Like

  72. EN last TV item I saw on wavepower was the machine at Wollongong smashed up on the beach. I think 7km diameter tanks might be a bit difficult to build near beach resorts, hence the Nullarbor. That’s on the WA side but perhaps the Decarbonise SA people should link it with the proposed SA-WA HVDC cable.

    When the transport industry ‘discovers’ gas they will pay $40+ per gigajoule while the proposed Morwell Vic gas plant is complaining about $7. We also use 50 Mt a year of of mostly imported oil compared to 20 Mt of gas. Fracking won’t save us if the wells only get two good years. We must save gas for the long haul and that means burning less in power stations .

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  73. Eclipse Now, on 20 April 2011 at 12:52 PM — Ducking under storms seems a good idea, but it does increase the variability of the power supplied. However, if the LCOE is low enough, wave power togethr with pumped hydro backup should prove to be an attractive solution.

    But I’ll wait until I see some reliable figures on costs and various technical matters.

    Like

  74. I guess all ‘start up’ technologies sound convincing from the sheer enthusiasm of the staff raving about their technology. Yes, I’m on ‘wait and see’ mode with them as well. However, they’re talking 3 years whereas how long are Gen4 reactors?

    I really love the idea of Gen4 reactors burning up today’s nuclear waste so that we solve that 100k year storage problem.

    But hey, maybe today’s depleted uranium will come in handy if we decide to *really* get into space or terraforming? Last time I looked Mars didn’t seem to have good wave power potential. ;-)

    Martian dust storms can blot out the sun for months, even up to a year!

    Like

  75. On the Gravity Power storage concept, the seals might only be required on the downstroke, as it were, if the weight is directly driven up when collecting energy and directly locked to the wall for pure storage. In that case, using one-way seals, there might be number of more durable possibilities.

    If the concept is successful – every nuclear power station should have one. Probably, knowing nukes, three.

    Like

  76. Barry,

    I know you don’t really do the whole AGW vs Skeptics thing any more, but just wondering what your thoughts are on the current popular/political debate in Australia. My assumption, possibly false, is that you probably are not too fussed if the carbon tax does not get up, but do you have concerns regarding the shifts in public opinion to out and out skepticism and the distinct possibility of an election essentially based on climate skepticism/denial?

    Cheers

    Matt

    Like

  77. There are two things to consider with the seals.

    The pressure, which is constant, should be keept low by a good diameter/height ration.
    Don`t know about the GPM idea but the pressure on the granite block seal is around 200bar.

    200bar is your typical hydraulic system and a rather low pressure for industrial sealing.

    They are working with multiple industies and science institutions developing the granite storage…
    Fraunhoferinstitut UMSICHT KIT Geologie Karlsruhe, Freudenberger Dichtungen (industrial seals), WDiamant Seilsägen Verband Deutscher Schleifmittelwerke (ropecutting equiptment)
    tunnel, drilling and mining companys,….
    thats not the project of one weired scientist….actually there is nothing involved that has not been done yet on other projects even on a bigger scale (a longer ring shaped tunnel at CERN down 100m.

    The second important point is the speed it is moving along the wall.
    The slower it is moving, the easier to seal.
    You can calculate that for the GPM.
    Granite Block again anywhere between 0 to 5mm/s, normaly around 1mm/s.
    That again is easy to seal.

    Some things can help:
    Multiple, pressure distributing (get it down to 10bar each) seals.
    A viscouse top fluid atop the water.

    The idea on the granite block storage are multiple, teflon coated flaps pressed against the Wall by the fluid below.

    You can see that on slide #29 and #30.
    http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/heindl-518848-lageenergiespeicher/

    The walls are not round….the granite block is a polygone with flat faces.

    The bouys seem to be very small with each rated at 150kw?

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  78. @ Stephanie. Please provide references to your idea. Cost, materials requirement, and the 2-7 day storage requirement. I would like to know also how you’re going to pressurize the water to lift billions of tonnes of rock. You are talking about a 100 billion ton piece of rock. Pie in the sky, pie in the ground.

    Take a look at this:

    http://uvdiv.blogspot.com/2010/03/uptime-downtime_07.html

    >7 day low wind periods happen. Are you going to burn fossil fuel then?

    Solar is also intermittent. Total PV output of Germany:

    http://www.sma.de/en/news-information/pv-electricity-produced-in-germany.html

    We don’t all live in the desert. We have to talk global, and we have to talk phaseout of dangerous coal. I can’t make wind+solar work when I look at the real data and the real global energy challenge and looking at how we’re going to get rid of deadly coal the fastest.

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  79. Here is the Frauenhofer studie I was refering to.
    http://www.iset.uni-kassel.de/abt/FB-I/publication/2009-007_Storage_and_Transport_Capacities.pdf

    It`s actually a polygon in the ground.

    We do not need the desert for a 60/40 wind/solar mix.
    There is still a fair share of hydro in Europe on top of that 100% wind/solar scenario.
    It does not include other renewables and the frances nuclear fleet which will not be phased out any time soon. It does not include further advances in solar and wind technology (…kitegen, makani power).
    It is the post fossile/nuclear energy solution.

    It does not help to claim anything on basis of some blog links. Please provide reference to your 600h storage claim.
    Frauenhofer scientists in contrast can make wind/solar work when they look at the real data.

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  80. @John Newlands 18April, 8.34pm

    Not sure why sea water pumped hydro would be built distant from present grid connections, when large reservoirs already exist with good grid connections to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Upgrading the Murray Link could accommodate all of the wind power planned for SA.

    Like

  81. @ Neil:

    Seawater in the desert avoids messing up more freshwater rivers and all the conservation concerns that raises.

    I understood the rationale behind this beast was that it would make use of much of the S.A. solar stuff planned for the desert there and STORE it in a battery that could run the whole of Australia for 10 hours.

    That’s a lot of stored energy! It also seems to be one of those projects trying to cash in on the efficiency of scale. You might have a certain cost per unit of battery energy sold to the market from your freshwater river, these guys are trying to deliver a lower cost per unit without stuffing up yet another river.

    And how many rivers do we have that could supply significant hydro anyway?

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  82. @ Neil Howes, German solar panels produce up to 80% of their rated capacity at peak in summer, but that’s a misleading statement. Its at peak only for an hour or less, if you look at the actual generation per hour and add that up, you get around 100 GWh for yesterday (today is not yet full but looks like similar to yesterday, a sunny spring day). Theoretical production from that 17.3 GWe is 24×17.3=415,2. Thus the capacity factor for yesterday is around 24%. On a dull winter day you get around 1 or 2%. On some winter days there is snow on the panels, resulting in zero output. Please be sure to check those winter days as well. On average throughout the year, the German solar PV fleet does about 11% capacity factor.

    Energy that is not there for 89%. I’m flabbergasted how anyone thinks that running a modern industrialised country on highly intermittent energy that is not there 89% of the time is a good idea. The German solar PV idea is inherently flawed even if the panels get really cheap.

    We discussed this on energyfromthorium.com/forum and things were even worse than I thought previously:

    http://energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2689

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  83. Capacity factor is a useful number when comparing one generating station to another of the same technology. And I think that one could argue a nuclear plant has only a 30% capacity factor if we look at the energy from the fuel that actually is converted to electricity. Taking the percentage of energy from the sun that is converted into electricity by a PV plant and making a point that the resulting 10 or 20% is “intermittent” or such a number is inadequate and not a relevant comparison. A low capacity factor that is from a cost effective energy source is just fine, so it is all in the economics, not the capacity factor. This debate frequently come sup when comparing low cost inefficient PV to high cost highly efficiency PV. PV of course does not yet meet the cost effectiveness required when compared to coal fired generation. A load duration curve and solar availability relative to the load duration curve is a more useful number, especially in sunny climates. In terms of land area required for PV, all the world’s nuclear output is about 2800 TWh/year (2008 data), a PV farm of about 150 km x 150 km in a moderate solar climate would produce all the world’s production of nuclear electricity (modeled in Retscreen with present commercially available modules), and of course it would be intermittent, so of course on its own could not replace the nuclear station, some sort of storage, costing money, would be required. Cost is another issue of course, but to rule out PV is to exercise the same close mindedness of ruling out nuclear without a fact based argument.

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  84. Steve lapp, no that is efficiency and not important in this discussion. A solar panel has an efficiency of much less than 30 percent but is also not important in this discussion.

    What is important is when is your energy there. If it is not there 89% (solar PV in Germany) you have a big problem, even if your solar PV stations are cheap. Energy storage is not cheap. Fossil fuel backup is cheap. This makes cheap PV in not very sunny countries a nice way to lock yourself into fossil fuels indefinately.

    These are fact based arguments. Energy that is not there 89% of the time. What more can I say?

    PV enthusiasts often make the mistake of confusing total kWh potential of solar with the time it is actually generated. This is the strange paradox with solar power: it is abundant in total resource potential, but is not there 80 to 90 percent of the time depending on how sunny your location is.

    Cost is overruling. When considering transport to your work for example, a helicopter might look effective. But when cost comes into play that helicopter is no longer on the list of practical options.

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  85. Very brief analysis and cost estimate for
    “Ring-wall” Storage:

    Diameter of upper lake: 11.4 km

    A1 = pi * r1^2 = 102 km^2

    Level of surface of upper lake? Let’s say h1t =
    0.4 km. Level of bottom of upper lake? Let’s say
    h1b = 0.3 km

    Volume of water in upper lake: V1 = (h1t-h1b) * A1
    = 12.2 km^3. Mass of water in the upper lake =
    1.224 x 10^10 kg

    Altitude of surface of lower lake? Let’s say h2b =
    0.020 km.

    What’s the potential energy released from the
    water in the upper lake if all of it is
    transferred to the lower lake? We need a bit more
    info …

    Let’s suppose that the area of the lower lake, A2,
    is 100 times the area of the upper lake. Then if
    we entirely empty the upper lake into the lower
    lake, it’ll raise the surface level of the lower
    lake by 1m.

    That seems possible to deal with as long as the
    emptying happens reasonably slowly.

    Let’s hope there will never be a catastrophic
    failure of the 400m high ring-wall!!

    A2 = 10200 km^2

    Wow! It seems like a pretty large footprint.

    We’ld have: r2 = (10200/pi + 5.7^2 km^2)^1/2

    Or r2 = 57.3 km, and the circumference of the
    lower lake would need to be C2=360 km.

    After the water was transferred to the bottom
    lake, the level would be: h2t = h2b + 1m = 0.021
    km

    Let’s assume that all of the pumping and
    generating is done at 100% efficiency, in order to
    be kind. Then the energy we can get back from the
    water will be just the gravitational potential
    energy difference between the situation where the
    upper lake is full, and that when it is empty and
    all the water is in the lower lake.

    The potential energy difference is then given by:

    V1 – V2 = rho * g * (A1 * (h1t-h1b)(h1t+h1b)/2 –
    A2 * (h2t – h2b)(h2t +h2b)/2) = 1000
    kg/m^3 * 9.8 m/s^2 (3.57×10^12 m^4 –
    2.091×10^11 m^4) = 3.29×10^16 J = 9138 GWh

    If instead A2 = 1020 km^2 we could make do with r2
    = 18.9 km and a circumference of C2 = 119 km, but
    we’ld need a 10m embankment.

    V1 – V2 = 3.25 x 10^16 J = 9026 GWh

    If we take A1 = A2 =102 km^2, we could make do
    with r2 = 8.1 km and C2 = 50 km. But it seems
    we’ll need to build a 100 m high embankment at the
    edge of the lower lake.

    V1 – V2 = 2.80 x 10^16 J = 7777 GWh

    Or we could reduce the depth of the upper
    reservoir by one tenth and make do with a 10 m
    embankment in which case our stored energy is
    reduced by about a factor of 10.

    V1 – V2 = 1027 GWh

    That’s a pretty big hit to the performance, but
    the prospect of building a 100 m embankment 50 km
    long makes me a little bit nervous. The scale of
    such a construction project is greater than the
    scale of the Three Gorges Dam. Anyway, 1027 GWh
    seems like a pretty respectable amount of energy
    to store. It certainly seems sensible to minimize
    the area footprint of such “Ring-Wall” storage
    systems, to the maximum extent possible. Land does
    cost money, after all.

    But it would yield 1000 GWh of storage. How does
    that compare to Germany’s anhual electricity use?

    http://www.indexmundi.com/germany/electricity_consumption.html

    The total in 2011 is projected to be 547 GWh; So
    that’s pretty good. Once we fill the upper lake
    there will be enough energy to provide hydropower
    for almost two years!

    For comparison: the Three Gorges Dam in China, the
    largest comparable construction project in the
    history of the world that I can think of, and the
    only one I can think of that’s comparable in scale to
    such a “Ring-wall”, is 181 m high and 2335 m
    long. It’s 40 m wide at the top and 150 m wide at
    the bottom, which amounts to an approximate volume
    of 3.2×10^6 m^3 for the whole dam. This project is
    being completed right now (construction began in
    1994) at an estimated overall cost of US $26
    Billion.

    Suppose that the cost of construction would scale
    with the volume of the structure (possibly not a
    very good assumption).

    Then assuming that the embankment and the central
    ringwall are each isoceles right triangles, the
    volume of the 10m embankment would be 2.5 x 10^ 6
    m^3, and the volume of the 400m ringwall would be
    2.87×10^9 m^3.

    That would amount to US $13 Billion for the outer
    embankment and US $23 trillion for the
    ring-wall.

    That’s a pretty penny!

    And how does this compare to Germany’s GDP?

    In 2010 it appears that the nominal number was US
    $3.3 Trillion.

    I sure hope that either I’ve made a serious error
    here, or that I’m very wrong about the cost of
    such a project scaling as its volume … because
    at this sort of cost, it is just not going to
    be practical.

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  86. David.

    Your points have been adressed in the link I included. You should have tried to autotranslate ist before writing your part.

    Maybe you can try to autotranslate this page online to understand more of it. Its the EIKE critique and answers and corrections to the questions raised and errors made.
    It does include your objections in comparison with the 3 gorges dam and includes corrections on your cost estimates, storage capacity and building efforts.

    Although I still stand behind the “ringwall storage idea” I figure the granite block storage is the more practicable idea.

    http://www.ringwallspeicher.de/Fragen_und_Antworten/EIKE-Kritik_am_Ringwallspeicher.htm

    Like

  87. Interesting, so that’s $ 20000 per kWh of storage capacity. Sounds too high. I’ve seen energy islands in the sea (reverse pumped hydro) that are an order of magnitude cheaper. Underground pumped hydro @ $2/Watt for 6 hours, or $ 333 per kWh. Capacity related cost probably in the 100-200 per kWh range.

    However, there is a problem. Germany doesn’t use 547 GWh, it uses 547 THOUSAND GWh. Five hundred billion kilowatthours.

    Storing 10000 GWh (about 1 week of average power in Germany) with an optimistic $ 100 per kWh energy storage at very optimistic 100% efficiency would cost 1 trillion dollars. Solar panels and wind turbines not included ladies and gentlemen.

    OR they could spend one quarter of that on new nuclear plants and have electricity to spare for their electric cars and heat pumps. Almost no need for energy storage.

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  88. The Nurek Dam is 300m high and thus the highest dam in the world. Furthermore because of earth quake dangers its core is made of earth and clay.
    The comparison with the 3 Gorges dam is not very helpfull in that respect.

    The area occupied by the ringwall storage is about 100km², like the big German brown coal pits but only a fraction of the earth moved in brown coal mining would be needed for the ringwall.

    I am not translating everything now, I am not doing well at this task anyways…please contact Matthias Popp if you are interested. Maybe he is up to the challange and can write an English peace about his idea for BNC readers.

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  89. Cyril,
    Your numbers are completly off.

    The highest volume dam up to date is Syncrude Tailings with 0,54km². This dam is built with the overburde from oilsands mining…the dam is 18km long and used as a reservoir in oil sands mining.
    The ring wall storage would be 1.4 times the volume.
    I guess Syncrude Tailings did not cost 666 Phantazillions of C$.

    Please get seriouse in your critics. Its amusing to read your prosa but thats about it…

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  90. With cliff top tanks the lower reservoir is the sea. There are no concentric rings. The depth of the upper tank is just 20 metres reinforced by the outer earth bank but the cliff needs to be 100m or so in height. The water is not recycled other than through inadvertent mixing.

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  91. stephanie, on 21 April 2011 at 6:13 AM said:

    The ringwall proposed would store 0.7TWh and would be rated at 22GWe.

    Excellent, thanks for that, Stephanie.

    So the energy storage would be roughly equivalent to the case I considered with A1=A2=102 km^2 with a 100m lake at the top and a diameter of 11.4 km (7777 GWh). No major disagreement there.

    If rated at 22GWe with 50% efficiency it would be exhausted in 0.5*318 hrs or 6.5 days. Close enough.

    11.5 TWh for 7 days also sounds about right if
    electricity consumption is 547 TWh.

    So we agree on basic orders of magnitude.

    You’ll need 17 of these Ring-walls, though,
    to store 7 days of total consumption.

    Having a footprint of 204km^2 x 17 = 3468 km^2.

    stephanie, on 21 April 2011 at 5:36 AM said:

    David.

    Your points have been adressed in the link I included. You should have tried to autotranslate ist before writing your part.

    I don’t need to autotranslate since I can read a little German. But it’s slow with technical language.

    I actually read most of his presentation
    but not any of the commentary. Possibly my criticisms were answered there. I’ll look into it later and see whether I agree that it’s so.

    I think it would be great to see an article from Matthias Popp on this blog. I have no objections
    to the principle he presents, but as I indicated, possibly little understanding of the costs.

    To me these would seem to be:

    (1) Land.
    (2) Construction.
    (3) Pumps.
    (4) Hydroelectric generators.

    (5) Wind turbines for what was it? 40%
    of Germany’s electricity.
    (6) Transmission lines.

    I’ld love to see it all costed out.

    Three Gorges dam will produce about 22GWe,
    I think. Interestingly, about the same as on Ring-wall.

    Eclipse Now, on 21 April 2011 at 8:51 AM said:

    @ David Kahana re: the wring wall storage?

    What’s your background?

    I’m a theoretical physicist for 25 years now.

    What’s yours?

    Like

  92. So the energy storage would be roughly equivalent to the case I considered with A1=A2=102 km^2 with a 100m lake at the top and a diameter of 11.4 km (7777 GWh). No major disagreement there.

    Sorry, that’s wrong by a factor of 10: 7777GWh is 7.7TWh. 0.7Twh is closer to the case I considered with a 10m deep upper lake.

    22GWe would exhaust 0.7TWh storage in 31.8 hours, at 100% efficiency, so that doesn’t seem to get you to 7 days. I think the lake had better be a bit deeper.

    Like

  93. John Newlands said:

    With cliff top tanks the lower reservoir is the sea. There are no concentric rings. The depth of the upper tank is just 20 metres reinforced by the outer earth bank but the cliff needs to be 100m or so in height. The water is not recycled other than through inadvertent mixing.

    This sounds more sensible: taking advantage of natural topography where it exists rather than building small mountains in lowlands in order to situate lakes up in the air. There would be no worries about evaporation versus rainfall either. Perhaps, depending on cost, it could find a niche in the right places.

    Like

  94. Stephanie, if you are serious yourself you should provide cost numbers by engineering firms to show your suggested idea is affordable. Also, let’s see how much land, concrete, and steel are required for 1 week of Germany’s electric output storage.

    It is amusing to be said by someone that numbers are completely off and then to see no rebuttal or even numbers at all in defense.

    I am a mechanical engineer by profession. I can tell early on by standard go/no go project decision whether something makes sense. A week of energy storage does not make sense for Germany. There is not enough pumped hydro capacity. You need alternative pumped hydro schemes which are all heavily engineered. These schemes were looked at decades ago by various engineering firms, and it was concluded it wasn’t remotely economical.

    Like

  95. Cyril,
    I am not going to translate everything written about the idea in German.

    If you are serious and interested please contact Dr.-Ing. Matthias Popp who runs an engeneering firm himself.
    You can also buy his book/dissertation and have it translated by someone.
    You can contact him in person and tell him that he is completly off in your opinion.
    You would be adviced to view his writtings in advance though.

    You still did not provide any evidence for the 600h storage needs you suggested.

    Germanys pumped hydro capacity is 0.6TWh.
    The gas grid is another potential storage already explored by windgas pioneers.
    The german gas grit has a capacity of 514TWh and multiple times transport capacity compared to the e-grit.
    The gas mix in Germany can contain 5% hydrogene and 100% methan.

    You are also ignoring politics. There is no going back to nuclear energy. There is the KIKK study which concludes leukemia clusters around nuclear power stations. The social economic impact of NPPs is negativ. The people are feed up with the industry and the shortcomings in waste management and storage. The next governemnt will include the green party again and the phase out will be continued even faster.
    There is a broad consensu against nuclear power in Germany if you like it or not.
    You can still try to argue against it or call them names, it really does not matter in the big picture.

    The next decades will show which way was the better idea.

    I would also be interested in an article and BNC critique with Prof. Dr. Eduard Heindl.

    Like

  96. “600 h storage requirement”

    Just look at German wind output referenced several times here. Two weeks very low wind conditions happen a lot. Also see this study on large scale wind power in the USA:

    http://people.ucalgary.ca/~keith/papers/65.Decarolis.2006.EconomicsOfWind.e.pdf

    At least 550 hours storage is required for fossil backup to be eliminated. (of course normal CAES is run with loads of natural gas so isn’t that useful for eliminating natural gas).

    “leukemia clusters around nuclear plants”

    Small wonder, most nuclear plants are close to industry and coal plants. Lots of carcinogens (coal plants even emit more radioactive particles than nuclear plants, because of the uranium and thorium in the coal).

    There are clusters of crime around places with many churches. The more churches, the more crime.

    One needs to realise that it is not the churches that cause the crime, it is the size of the city that increases crime rates, and bigger cities tend to have more churches.

    “Germany’s pumped hydro capacity is 0.6 TWh”

    A long way from the 10 TWh it needs.

    This is called a spurious correlation.

    “The german gas grit has a capacity of 514TWh and multiple times transport capacity compared to the e-grit.”

    Like I said, you burn fossil. Not enough pumped hydro, but plenty of fossil fuel available. What a coincidence! Its a fossil fuel lock in. Thanks for confirming this with numbers Stephanie.

    While the next decades show which is the better idea, millions will continue to die of fossil pollution of various sorts, while nothing much certain happens for reducing GHG emissions.

    Is this your idea of a robust energy policy?

    Like

  97. Well. The KIKK studie was conducted by the german government and the data is evident for a radius of 40km around nuclear plants.
    You will have to deal with that or at least the german government has to deal with the findings.
    You can keep denying against scientific evidence if you like but maybe you should review the data first.
    You seem to be clueless about the situation in Germany.

    The gas grid is a storage for biogas and synthetic gas (“wind/solar”-gas and hydrogen).

    Like

  98. Cyril points out that Germany doesn’t have nearly the storage capacity (nearly a months worth seems to be his target) to provide uninterrupted electrical service with wind, asserts that fossil fuels will be used to bridge the gap, reminds us of the evils of fossil fuels, and concludes with the question “Is this your idea of a robust energy policy?”.

    Talk about rhetorical questions. For a rhetorical answer one would have to say “no”.

    The implicit assumption Cyril makes is that since wind won’t replace 100% of fossil fuel consumption that nuclear plants are the answer.

    If we’re going to ask rhetorical questions, one might include with something like this:

    “Is it a rational energy policy to spend a trillion dollars building nukes to eliminate the last 5% of fossil fuel consumption for electrical production?”.

    Cyril, it’s not an either-or proposition. A policy of conservation (negawatts are really inexpensive), some storage, and geographical diversity, can allow Germany (or most other countries) to eliminate the vast majority of fossil fuel consumption.

    If the purpose of this site is to preserve the climate then we ought to be pursuing the most immediate, cost effective solutions to reducing CO2 even if it’s not a 100% solution. If the purpose is to promote nuclear energy whether or not it meets that mission then please carry on as you were.

    Like

  99. 5%, not a chance, The Decarolis and Keith study shows you can’t get over 70% or so (asymptotic behaviour) even with good wind resource and geographic spreading, and even then it at least doubles the cost of wind due to mismatch etc.

    Conservation is good but as pointed out seperate from the supply discussion; you get to reduce the demand but not eliminate it. Look at how global demand is growing.

    Its not just about Germany anymore. Its about how to phase out fossil world-wide. With a quadrupling of energy use even with the most aggressive energy conservation this century, a 25% residual fossil fuel share is unacceptable, as fossil fuel use would be similar to today.

    It is hard enough with nuclear power. It is an either or proposition in the sense that you can only spend your money once. Spend it on expensive unreliable mostly unavailable fossil fuel locking wind and solar, and you get less solution than spending it on nuclear.

    I used to be more optimistic about solar and wind’s role, but now that we’ve got good, real performance data, its clearly a giant misallocation of precious resources.

    The questions are not rhetorical or academic. Real people are dying because of widespread radiophobia and the unwillingness to assess energy sources on realisitic, pragmatic basis, comparing real energy demand profiles with real wind/solar/nuclear output we see that only the latter can get us to that 90+ percent (especially with nighttime charging of electric vehicles, nuclear matches this the best of all sources).

    Like

  100. Stephanie, you will also have to deal with the statistical fact of spurious correlations. Clearly you have not read my previous posts very well.

    Please try to comprehend the situation better. Statistics isn’t hard, but can be misleading.

    Like

  101. From Das Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz

    http://www.bfs.de/en/kerntechnik/kinderkrebs/kikk.html

    The study found that there is a significantly increased risk for children unter five years of age to contract cancer and leukaemia the nearer they live to 16 sites of the 22 nuclear power plants results from the study itself. According to today´s radio-biological knowledge the increase in risk determined in the study cannot be explained through the emissions from the nuclear power plants. The additional radiation exposure of the population required for this explanation would have to be about 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than it has been observed…The study thus provides indications for possible causes for the increased number of cancer incidences around certain nuclear power plant sites but cannot furnish proof in terms of a causality.

    This is hardly strong proof, and is not backed up by similar studies done in Canada and France.

    Like

  102. A quick look at nuclear plant locations in Germany:

    reveals that most of the plant are in the south. As it just so happens, this is also where Gemany’s industrial production is from:

    Makes sense that you find lots of cancers from heavy industry areas. Makes sense that the nuclear plants are there because heavy industries need cheap reliable energy.

    An example of an industrial and transport related pollutant that causes leukemia is benzene. Very nasty stuff, here is what Wikipedia has to say:

    “Benzene was historically found as a significant component in many consumer products such as Liquid Wrench, several paint strippers, rubber cements, spot removers and other hydrocarbon-containing products. Some ceased manufacture of their benzene-containing formulations in about 1950, while others continued to use benzene as a component or significant contaminant until the late 1970s when leukemia deaths were found associated with Goodyear’s Pliofilm production operations in Ohio. Until the late 1970s, many hardware stores, paint stores, and other retail outlets sold benzene in small cans, such as quart size, for general-purpose use. Many students were exposed to benzene in school and university courses while performing laboratory experiments with little or no ventilation in many cases. This very dangerous practice has been almost totally eliminated.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzene

    Clearly the suggestion that nuclear plants cause leukemia is a very unscientific one.

    Like

  103. As Cyril R and others pointed out, pumped hydro storage is hardly a new or a
    radical idea. In fact, it’s a mature technology. The US, for example, has
    about 2.5% of it’s total electrical generating capacity in the form of
    pumped hydro, or about 21 GW.

    Interestingly, most pumped storage in the US was built during the two decades
    from 1960-1980, and this construction was mostly done in association with the
    construction of nuclear power stations.

    It was done for the purpose of balancing base load generation relative to peak
    and off-peak consumption. For this purpose, the storage time scale required is
    not very long: on the order of several hours to a day. Associating a pumped
    hydro facility with a nuclear power plant can improve the overall capacity
    factor, since nuclear power plants tend to be either 100% on or 100%
    off. Pumped hydro storage is a rational, if a high capital cost, solution, to
    the very real problem of maintaining a stable electrical grid.

    Much newer state of the art pumped hydro systems have been installed and are
    currently employed in the EU (amounting to 5% of total generating capacity)
    and in Japan (amounting to 10% of total generating capacity) and these systems
    are far advanced over those installed in the US.

    I can’t speak to the costs in Japan or in Europe.

    An example of a more recently constructed pumped hydro plant in the US is the
    Bath County pumped storage station, located in Bath County Virginia. This
    plant is built on the eastern continental divide: which means that it makes
    use of the naturally constructed Allegheny mountain range, so it didn’t
    require the construction of an artificial mountain
    .

    http://www.dom.com/about/stations/hydro/bath-county-pumped-storage-station.jsp

    The plant has two reservoirs; the head between the upper and the lower
    reservoir is 380m. The upper reservoir has a surface area of 265 acres (1.07
    km^2), and the lower reservoir has an area of 555 acres (2.25 km^2). In
    operation the water level drops 30m in the upper reservoir and rises 20m in
    the lower reservoir. From those numbers, we can estimate the total energy
    storage: 1.28 x 10^14 J, or 35.5 GWh. With the generating capacity having been
    upgraded to 2.772 GWe in 2005 and assuming an efficiency of 80% (such a number
    is possible for pumped hydro) that’s enough storage to run the plant for 10.25
    hours.

    Other pumped hydro plants no doubt have differing storage capacities, but if
    they resemble Bath County in scale, then a reasonable quick estimate for the
    total pumped hydro storage in the US would be 21/2.772 * 35.5 GWh or about 0.3
    TWh. This should be compared with annual US electrity consumption on the order
    of 4000 Twh (2009). That is: we have enough pumped hydro installed to store
    about 40 minutes worth of total US electricity consumption. And that came at a
    cost of probably something like US $20 Billion in 1960-1980 averaged dollars.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states

    The original cost of construction of the Bath County facility was US $1.6
    Billion when the plant went on line in 1985. Inflation since 1985 is about a
    factor of 2, based on the CPI. So an amount of pumped hydro storage sufficient
    to hold the total US electricity consumption for 10 hours would be 4 TWh and
    it might be expected today to cost the nation $40 Billion * 4 / 0.3 = $533
    Billion, or about 4% of US GDP.

    I consider such numbers to be very unforgiving to the notion, as much as I
    would like to see that happen, that unstable energy sources such as solar and
    wind will be able to provide large fractions of the absolutely astronomical
    and continuous US electrical demands any time soon. Certainly not at current
    usage levels and with the current growth in population (about 1% per year).

    Pumped hydro storage doesn’t work on unobtanium, it is quite real, and it has
    its place. But it can’t avoid the laws of thermodynamics: it is a net energy
    sink.

    In the US, energy losses due to the use of pumped hydro storage amount to on
    the order of 7 TWh per year, or about the generating capacity of a single
    1.2GW nuclear reactor.

    The real decision is how to provide the underlying energy, and here in the US
    it seems clear enough that we’re going to be relying almost entirely (70%) on
    coal and natural gas, with nuclear probably gradually dropping from its
    current level (20%) due to extreme public opposition to the construction of
    new plants and to reprocessing. Hydroelectric has an opportunity to grow
    certainly.

    The prospects for wind and solar on the scales required don’t seem very good
    to me. But I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

    Like

  104. @David Kahana, 22April 3.38am,
    Thank you for keeping an open mind about prospects for future pumped hydro as possible back-up for wind and solar.
    As you have pointed out the amount of pumped hydro storage(GWh) is generally small but was built to back-up 100GW of nuclear capacity for <12h. Where pumped hydro is built using large reservoirs the cost is for the pumping capacity(GW; turbines and connecting pipelines ) not storage capacity, so very large storage could be built, but hasn't to this date because the US has 78GW of hydro capacity with a lot of long term storage, and 400GW of gas fired peak capacity.
    The building of a lot more wind and solar capacity with improved grid connections across US and Canada is likely to require additional medium term storage capacity( 12h to 100h) for periods of widespread cloud cover or lower than average wind output, as well as present short term storage.
    It should not be necessary to build enough storage capacity to back-up 100% average wind output and 100% average solar output because some solar and wind will be available and existing hydro and NG used for short term peak demand can be extended for at least a few days operation once or twice a year. CST with a few hours thermal storage will actually reduce the need to use as much NG and hydro for daily peak demand, but require additional NG use during continental wide low solar and low wind events, or additional hydro storage. If wind capacity approaches off-peak (less nuclear) then more pumped hydro would be an advantage to avoid spilling wind, but we seem to accept occasionally spilling excess rainfall over existing hydro dams, so spilling some wind may be the cheapest option.

    Like

  105. Nuclear energy in Canada is going to have a rough time for the next few years. The federal elections have returned a majority Conservative government which is in the pockets of Big Carbon, and an Opposition of rabidly antinuclear New Democrats. The Liberal party, once supporters of nuclear energy, have been reduced to a powerless rump in the House and may well not survive as a national party unless it can attract a dynamic leader to help rebuild it.

    Like

  106. Barry – The PhysOrg story Why nuclear power will never supply the world’s energy needs announces an upcoming publication by Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide in the Proceedings of the IEEE. The paper’s title is “Is nuclear power globally scalable?” .

    The press release outlines the paper’s contents and I find it pretty appalling. I looked at Prof. Abbott’s U of Adelaide wiki, even to the extent of giving his opinion piece video How to solve the world energy crisis a look. He’s got his numbers right but obviously hasn’t done the research he needs to, even with the Environment Institute close at hand. (His solution in the video is solar and wind generated hydrogen fuel. Enough said.)

    I sincerely hope you and/or your colleagues will give this paper the critical attention it needs, IMO. I’d also question the Proceedings of the IEEE as a place for publication of a climate paper, and possibly the journal’s refereeing process.

    Like

  107. david walters has begun doing this, with Abbott.

    I’m sure he’ll contribute his sense of the piece to this point.

    Abbott’s criticisms appear to be the usual stuff. It will come across as a joke to many here.

    I second the call to critique it in detail, along with the IPCC report and its popularization.

    Like

  108. Enrichment as a condition of the OD expansion? There seems to be a clash looming between BHP Billiton and the SA government. The company wants to send mixed concentrate via the Darwin railway to China. That country gets first dibs on the U3O8, gold, copper and silver
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/bhp-a-step-closer-to-approvals-for-olympic-dam-expansion/story-e6frg8zx-1226055598466
    However the SA Mines minister Tom Koutsantonis wants a local enrichment industry
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/21/3169530.htm
    I agree it is shortsighted to use up a major deposit while other countries get the best jobs, easiest profits and security of supply. We’re left with the hole in the ground.

    The other news is that the nearby Woomera military area will be opened up to uranium mining and that will require even more water desalination and electricity for future mines. I’ve forgotten the power requirements for enrichment (centrifuge, laser?) but it would require a massive boost to SA’s power output ie
    – 5 or 6 uranium mines
    – coastal desalination
    – an enrichment industry.

    Since politics usually means following the path of least resistance I guess the Chinese will get both the raw and enriched uranium. A long gas pipeline to Qld will probably supply the power for the mines and desal.

    Like

  109. More questions than answers on the Olympic Dam expansion in today’s press. Much of the additional energy we are told will come from a new gas pipeline or beefed up transmission. Both the nearest gas field and the currently mined coal field are in decline. There has been major criticism of the preferred site for the coastal desalination plant. Some suggest relocating it from landlocked Whyalla to ocean fronted Elliston which appears to be 100 km further from the mine.

    I agree with Greens Party objections to overseas processing of ore concentrate. However I think they want the uranium to go back in the ground. It would be crazy both to burn more fossil fuels to power the mine expansion then hand the best jobs, profits and product access to another country.

    Like

  110. I just finished V. Smil’s book “Energy Transitions…”

    Has anyone here, especially the energy analysts, spoken to Smil about his views on nuclear power?

    In this book, they are negative, more in the sense of dismissal of nuclear power rather than careful critique.

    He treats fast reactors in one sentence as a utopian scheme, on the order of many other (renewables) utopian schemes that he rejects. He uncritically treats nuclear waste as a serious problem, indicating that he knows little about the literature on nuclear power.

    The book is very good in many ways, with his critique of renewables bearing significant similarity to what is said here. Yet because he rejects nuclear power as an energy form that would play a significant future role, he is forced into being “hopeful” about a non fossil fuel energy transition based on renewable energy. His views do not quite add up and his long term optimism is I think at odds with his many critiques of the limits of renewable energy.

    His overall main criticism of renewables transitions is that it will take much longer than the greens think it will take. but he thinks the transition will come and will be enabled by significant efficiency gains and a redefinition of human happiness based on less though adequate energy use–even as he accepts Jevon’s paradox.

    Like

  111. China faces energy crunch according to the BBC
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13435392
    This seems to support rumours that the country’s domestic coal production of 3.2 Gtpa has peaked. Reduced hydro is exacerbating the situation. I note elsewhere US west coast ports are slated to export more coal but that country’s coal output has also peaked. Australia’s paltry but world leading coal exports of 260 Mtpa won’t make up the shortfall for long. The short term high export coal price will be hailed by the suits as proof that Australia is indeed the lucky country. That’s until Asia stops buying iron ore etc.

    Coupled with world Peak Oil in 2006 (perhaps net energy rather than volume) China’s coal peak has profound implications
    – global emissions may shrink with or without political intervention
    – affordable fossil fuel replacements have to be found asap.

    In my opinion the perceived salvation in natural gas will last only a few years. Reading Crikey and other forums I think there is little appetite for more help for underperforming renewables.

    Like

  112. Speaking of China BHP aren’t. Half way through this article http://uraniuminvestingnews.com/7743/potential-expansion-of-australian-uranium-asset.html
    it says copper-gold-silver-uranium concentrate will railed from Olympic Dam to Darwin. What happens then; does it get bulldozed into the sea?

    They say the deposit is so big it will only be half dug by 2050. Where will they get diesel for mine trucks and ANFO for explosives given that oil had peaked half a century earlier?

    Like

  113. John, re Olympic Dam and enrichment… the energy cost of the centrifuge enrichment of its fuel is roughly 0.1% of the energy produced by a LWR. So there’s an easy answer to powering enrichment, powering the mine and undertaking desalination too.

    Like

  114. An energy park on open coastline could combine electricity production, desalination and enrichment. Leave space for a Gen 4 unit down the track. BHP Billiton are persevering with unpopular ideas like locating the desal next to a marine reserve and getting the Chinese to extract the U308.

    Of course this could be a ploy for the govt to front up for NP. A former Roxby Downs based geologist told me two years ago it was generally believed that only NP could adequately power the OD mine. expansion.

    Like

  115. Barry – thanks for the above video. We all need some humor, and it can help make our points.

    I’ve been working to learn more about the grid and grid operations, and have found the site GreenTechGrid. There are two connected pages I especially like:

    Electricity Grid Quiz: Test Your Electron Wits – 13 mostly tough questions about the electrical grid Scroll the pages down to see the answers.

    Grid Realities Versus Greentech Startup Dreams – The Jim Detmers electricity dispatch blues. He’s blue because the transmission system operator’s job is to Keep The Lights On! and that job’s getting harder as the grid gets more complex.

    I’ve even posted a couple of comments on the latter page, and gotten very polite responses. They’re really helping me along – I started my research on Wikipedia but than doesn’t go too far. I really need a first course textbook.

    For another part of my research and a reality check I searched for videos posted that have an electrical grid theme. There are a lot of them, including accidents – even a few fatal accidents. They’ve helped me appreciate the levels of power the linemen work with every day.

    Here’s a routine operation: a 500KV switch opening. The modern version of the good ‘ol knife switch, as found in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab!

    Jacob’s Ladder: 500kV Switch Opening (With luck the video will embed.)

    An accident in the distribution system. That’s a powerful genie confined in those cages…

    Power Plant Substation Explodes

    And here’s an example of what’s required when you’re working on a transmission system line. I think you’ll agree that the helicopter pilot is pretty amazing as well.

    Dead-end transfer of spacer cart

    There are linemen posting multiple videos – they are justifiably proud of their work. Search YouTube for indylineman, gooseskinner, and flying lineman. They KTLO!

    Over at GreenTechGrid, WOV replied to a comment of mine by saying, in part:

    But more of what I hear from Detmers (and from Pedram) is a very understandable frustration that the Silicon Valley types think that it is unnecessary or small-minded to try to understand the extremely complicated machine they’re trying to be a part of. There’s a real institutional arrogance on both sides – on the one treating the grid as though any new technology is an unwelcome interference to the “real work” of dispatching fossil baseload generators, and on the other acting as though you could just put a power plant on the grid the same way you’d sell your latest gadget in Fry’s. That rude awakening happens at a troublesomely late part of many power technology companies’ development.

    I want to practice humility as well when I discuss things that I only know a little about and make suggestions to the people on the floor and at the consoles.

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  116. @Andrew Jaremko That Electricity Grid Quiz: you linked to, is somewhat biased as is the rest of that GreenTechGrid website. There is much that is being left unsaid in the articles I read there, and some very broad assumptions are being made, that are not backed by fact or reference.

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  117. @DV82XL – thanks for your reply. Yes, I do tend to enthuse over my discoveries; it’s a weakness of mine that I have to be much more aware of. I will do my best to sort out the facts, and I did see some nonsense over there – I wasn’t sure if the Tornadoes, Otter Pops and Other Unlikely Energy Technologies post was serious or a joke. There’s stuff in it straight our of Amory Lovins and most of it would be fodder for Depleted Cranium, IMO. Nobody has made any comments on the unlikely technologies post as I write this – but calling them ‘unlikely’ rather than ‘silly’ seems to show that the post is semi-serious.

    Like

  118. Know Your ‘Enemy’ department – I visit The Oil Drum regularly; it’s fascinating to read what the fossil fuelers think. Some comments on the post Tech Talk – American Stripper Well Production talk about stripper wells being candidates for powering by renewable energy!

    Ghung on May 22, 2011 – 10:13am

    Any use of solar or wind to power these wells? It seems that intermittancy wouldn’t be a problem. Also, offshore strippers could be powered by wave/tidal action… (more)

    Paul Nash on May 22, 2011 – 2:07pm (reply)

    An “off grid” stripper well would seem to be a good candidate for solar and wind power, but then, you can always run the pump with an engine powered by the wellhead gas or even the crude oil produced! (more…)

    And just to demonstrate that fossil fuelers are as imaginative as any of our fellow BNC regulars:

    still-wind on May 22, 2011 – 5:37pm

    Good example Paul:

    How about another idea? Along the same vein…

    Think oil sands. Unlimited supply. No need to look for it.

    He goes on to discuss renewable electricity providing heat to liquefy tar sands bitumen and pump it to the surface, and sums up:

    No tailings Ponds, no added water, no Nat gas, no Emissions.

    I live in Alberta and this hits home; I wonder why the majors haven’t thought of these things? [/sarc] To be fair, there are some level headed comments as well. But one of the best comments has a truly eye-opening map of active and shut in wells in Huntington Beach:

    Debbie Cook on May 22, 2011 – 10:52am

    Scroll down a bit for the map and a production graph. I found the area on Google Maps and the pump jacks in Harriet Wieder Regional Park are clearly visible. That’s definitely in Debbie Cook’s backyard!

    I’m sure there are parts of Alberta that look much the same, but mostly on farmland, not in a residential district. Just thought I’d share this with BNC.

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  119. Looks like the desalination plant proposed for the Upper Spencer Gulf to support the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine is back in the media: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3222191.htm

    I’m in two minds about this: I want the expansion to go ahead, to promote further use of nuclear energy and stabilise fuel supply, but the cost of impacting on Australian Giant Cuttlefish and other benthic and mangrove ecosystems is pretty much intolerable. The water has to be sourced some other way.

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  120. I’m not sure what BHP Billiton’s game is insisting on the Whyalla site for the desal
    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/rooted/2011/05/23/the-point-lowly-desal-plant-thats-got-sa-squabbling/
    We saw a brief glimpse of the adjoining site in the stupid planking video at the Santos propane separation plant. There the NG pipeline goes under the gulf since it is narrow and protected from wave action.

    To make the PR disaster even worse the company wants to send the copper-uranium concentrate to China, thereby killing off any local enrichment industry. They say the mine will still be in fill swing mid century. Some minor problems include
    – a coastal desal site that doesn’t upset everybody
    – drawing 50% of the power from the State grid
    – diesel for mine trucks long after oil is prohibitive
    – nixing value adding jobs.

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  121. Via http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/ I see supporting evidence for my view that south eastern Australia simply does not have enough natural gas to convert from poor quality coal fired baseload to IGCC.

    Anecdotal evidence came from the fact that the Moomba gas pipe to Adelaide’s 1.28 GW closed cycle plant had to be replicated by another pipe from Victoria. Tasmania’s gas also comes from Victoria via seabed pipe, used by fur seals to navigate Bass Strait. There are two IGCC stations near Launceston.

    Now SA needs to find 700 MW to power the Olympic Dam expansion and more if there is ever an enrichment industry. Their Pt Augusta power stations use poor quality black coal from a dwindling deposit. Victoria needs to replace Hazelwood, Yallourn and Loy Yang brown coal stations for starters then some others. There just ain’t enough gas in the south east unless we go to WA or cut Qld liquefied coal seam gas exports.

    Funny thing is R.E.X. Connor prophesied this 30 years ago and the financial shenanigans brought down the government of the day. As Barry says renewables and efficiency won’t cut it.

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  122. I just read the Crikey article you linked to, John.

    Dean Dalla Valle, BHP’s Uranium President said:

    “There have been calls for us to find another location, but we’ve remained firmly convinced that from an environmental perspective, we have found the best place on the coast at Point Lowly”

    This really irritates (to put it midly) as it is a blatant lie. It flies in the face of the criticism, including in the peer reviewed literature, that the Upper Spencer Gulf is the absolute worst site for brine discharge.

    What bugs me almost more than anything is that this type of crap does serious damage to the general population’s perception of the integrity of the whole nuclear industry.

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  123. A bit of a stretch but I can link the desal to the Wiki article on Rex Connor, first line of the Minister paragraph. I think the desal should be on the Great Australian Bight, not a narrow gulf. Rex wanted a national energy grid back in the 1970s. I suggest an energy park combining NP, desalination, enrichment and future Gen IV somewhere like Ceduna, only a smidgin further from OD. Think of the new transmission as the 1st stage of the later completion of the east-west link.

    BHP get their desal and their 700 MW, the cuttlefish don’t get overheated, the gulf doesn’t get saltier, the SA mines minister gets his enrichment plant, the State’s dwindling and dirty baseload gets replaced with clean energy, uranium ore doesn’t need to be sent to China, fresh water doesn’t need to be pumped from distant River Murray, the NIMBYs are out of range and Rex gets his wish.

    I might add Ceduna has lost its nuclear virginity through the Maralinga A-bomb tests and the fact 25% of the world’s zircon (mildly radioactive) will pass through their port of Thevenard.

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  124. Mmm. I don’t think I’d be promoting the link between Maralinga and nuclear power too much. But I agree, Ceduna, or Elliston, would be much better places for a desal plant – anywhere but the gulf, really.

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  125. From Google Earth Elliston looks to be another 100km further from OD and any water pipe might have to climb hills and skirt salt lakes. The logical corridor for any E-W transmission link would be the Nullarbor rail line and Elliston is too far south. Some Whyalla people want to move the desal down the gulf to a place called Murninnie Beach or similar. Unsurprisingly there is yet another uranium deposit nearby. There is talk of an iron ore loader even a bit more south in the gulf (Cowell) but this must mean more megawatts of pumping effort. to distant OD.

    The angle on Maralinga is that if people say ‘how dare you contaminate our lovely coastline’ then the response will be that it’s already been royally done over. Not only fission detonations but a balloon launched dirty bomb with 22kg of plutonium.

    BTW I’ve stayed with relatives in several towns out that way and I maintain an interest even though I live in SW Tas.

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  126. Foolishness in Switzerland:
    Swiss cabinet goes for nuclear phase out //www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_Swiss_cabinet_goes_for_nuclear_phase_out_2505113.html”

    A decision was taken to review energy policy as a direct reaction to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, said the cabinet, which decided that a worsening of public opinion combined with an expected rise in commercial costs of nuclear power would make it unviable for commercial operators in future.

    In my opinion what is more likely to make nulcear power unviable is exactly this kiind of political interference based on short-term thinking and crisis-mode actions. It is, in short, a self-fulfilling prophecy of the worst sort.

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  127. > expected rise in commercial costs …
    > political interference …

    Who expects this rise in commercial costs?
    Is it a political claim?
    Is it an industry projection?
    Is it expected particularly in Switzerland?

    (I’m asking hoping someone reading has the background information — Joffan appears to assume politicians made up the notion, but I wonder if the fission power industry, or the insurance industry, said they expect costs to go up)

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  128. Still failed on html writing… one more try:
    Swiss cabinet goes for nuclear phase out
    Triple check… looks OK.

    Next two paragraphs after the one I quoted above:

    This came despite a February referendum that supported replacement reactors, and a report this month from Switzerland’s Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) that found no immediate danger for Swiss nuclear plants in light of the Fukushima accident. Being landlocked, Switzerland is notably isolated from tsunami risk, and Swiss nuclear operators were instead warned to prepare for the failure of nearby hydroelectric dams.

    On 23 March reports were ordered from the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications on three future scenarios: The early replacement of older nuclear plants to ensure safety; the non-replacement of current plants; and the early decommissioning of current units. Today the cabinet chose the second option, aiming for the end of nuclear power generation in 2034, based on 50-year operating lives for the country’s five reactors.

    So, by ordering studies into three scenarios and not the fourth scenario of nuclear build-out, the politicans biased the study right from the off, and poisoned the market for the commercial operators who were already pursuing that option.
    MODERATOR
    I substituted your first amendment as you asked but that failed too. You are right – this one works. Thank you.

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  129. Australia was out of step with the world when we signed the Kyoto accord and is out of step again with carbon pricing:

    “Global market for carbon pricing has stalled”
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/global-market-for-carbon-permit-trading-has-stalled/story-fn59niix-1226068965797

    “Assertions fly thick and fast”
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/commentary/assertions-fly-thick-and-fast/story-e6frgd0x-1226068216319

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  130. Federal Treasurer thinks carbon tax will cause a renewables boom
    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8257612/carbon-tax-to-boost-clean-power-swan
    I think not. Without 5c a kwh subsidies and 20% quotas new renewables will grind to a halt. That’s zero growth. $20-$30 carbon tax isn’t enough on its own, nor will Victorian brown coal baseload be replaced with gas.

    Swan tells us Treasury modelling indicates hydro will be among the technologies to boom. Huh? A quarter century ago the saga of the Franklin dam project ended all hydro bigger than a megawatt or two. I think carbon tax will lead to some general belt tightening, increased recycling rates and so on but no major technology shifts.

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  131. John Newlands,

    In general I agree with you. I am convinced the carbon price is very bad policy for Australia at this stage, despite what the Europeans would like to try to forces us to do for the EU’s economic advantage. A carbon price in Australia – before we have removed the impediments to nuclear and before the main emitting nations have agreed a workable international agreement on how to internalise the externalities of energy use – will not reduce world emissions, in either the short of the long term. But it will seriously damage Australia’s economy if it is ramped up sufficiently to achieve the 2020 targets. That is the problem and that is what we are not being told. We are being seriously misled with a ‘honeymoon rate’ to suck in the unaware. The carbon price politics is largely about trying to save the Prime Minister’s political neck. It is not good policy. It certainly is not good economic reform like the reforms of the Howard – Hawke – Keating – Howard – Costello eras.

    John, what you have done with your comment is to raise on BNC what is the most important policy issue that BNC should be discussing right now (IMO). Australia will be deciding on Carbon Pricing policy over the next few months and the Labor Party will be deciding whether or not to overturn its 50+ years of opposition to nuclear power.

    If Labor doesn’t change its anti-nuclear policy at its National Convention this year, it is unlikely to do so for many more years. These are critically important policy decisions for Australia.

    I suggest these policy decisions are the most important thing BNC should be discussing right now. I’d also suggest the conservatives view should not be shut down or neutered. It needs to be discussed and considered.

    The long discussion about which is the best Gen IV technology, and the difference between Tc99 and Tc99m and much more of such arguments should be seen as minute side issues from what is important right now. Such discussion is not informing the broader population about the important policy issues. It is not providing them with information they can use in discussions over a barbecue with their friends. All it is doing is pointing out that these possible future technologies have masses of fundamental problems that will have to be sorted out with very many different types of demonstration plants – probably over the next 50 years. When I watch the discussion on the threads about the Gen IV reactors I am left with the impression there are half a dozen competing technologies each of which will take as long and cost as much as the Gen I – Gen II – Gen III have taken so far. I get the impression it will take 50 years and 400 reactors for each variety of Gen IV to get it to being commercially viable. That is the impression the discussion about the Gen IV’s leaves on me.

    How do we get past this distraction on the discussion of minute details about a possible future technology?

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  132. I think the time frame should be along the following lines
    this decade: (fossil fuels still cheap)
    What will c.t. actually achieve? Backup plan in case renewables disappoint. Repeal of ARPANS Act to allow nuclear. Policy white paper on gas reserves, markets and conservation. Build decisions on Gen 3 and enrichment.
    next decade: (growing energy shortages)
    Policy decision on uranium reserves and Gen 4. Electric transport and synfuels. Food and water security.

    I think the honeymoon metaphor is apt because after a year or so of carbon tax we will be wondering why the magic didn’t last. Clearly a lot of people are going to be very disappointed with carbon tax. Hazelwood will still be there it will just cost more to run. Wind farms won’t be powering aluminium smelters. It seems we have to go down this path to see it in realtime.

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  133. John,

    I think many people are making the argument for Carbon Pricing that you made here:

    It seems we have to go down this path [carbon price] to see it in realtime.

    I strongly disagree with this statement.

    This is arguing for bad policy (for whatever reason). It is the same sort of argument that has led us to many very bad policies in the past. Some that come to mind are: Kyoto Agreement, blocking the development of nuclear for half a century, mandating renewable energy, renewable energy targets, Green Loans, Green Car subsidies, “pink Bats” home insulation program, and many more examples.

    Surely we should be trying to define what is good policy, irrespective of political allegiance.

    I’d change your timeline substantially, and propose this instead:

    2011 – Labor dump its anti-nuke policy. Change it to one that strongly endorses nuclear as the energy source of the future. Labor’s new policy should state: Australia must move rapidly to implement low-cost nuclear electricity generation (cheaper than coal) with the first power plant to be commissioned within a decade.

    2011 – BNCers, with their contacts in the Greens and environmental NGO’s, will work to persuade the opinion leaders in these groups that nuclear is essential to achieving their policy objectives.

    2012 – The federal Budget will include budget line items (funding) to establish faculties in at least one university in each mainland state for the purposes of researching and educating Australians on what must be done to implement nuclear at LCOE less than coal. Secondly, a budget line item for establishing a nuclear regulatory regime for nuclear electricity generation in Australia. Thirdly, a budget line item to begin setting up “Energy Australia” (see this thread and the many comments on this matter for background: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/ )

    2012 – Begin the genuine reform of the Australian economy to remove the unnecessary regulations and constraints on business that prevent them being as efficient and internationally competitive as they could be (at the moment we add about a thousand new regulations on business per year and remove almost none. These are choking business with red tape and green tape. They force businesses to add unproductive staff for monitoring and reporting. The taxpayer has to pay for ever increasing number of bureaucrats, public servants and departments to police the regulations and handle the data that comes in.).

    As part of the removal of unnecessary regulations, the distortions in the energy markets would be removed. All subsidies, tax breaks and mandating of some types of energy would be removed and the penalties against others would be removed. That would be the first step. The second step would be to decide what needs to be done to give investors confidence that the old paradigm has been removed, the new paradigm is in place and wont be reversed. We’d also need to overcome the problems caused by 50 years of bad policy. Decisions would be made on the basis of what is the best way forward from here. That is which energy forms will give the best return on investment. (Experience gained over the past three decades demonstrate clearly that the solution will be nuclear, and definitely not renewables).

    This decade establish the education facilities outlined above determine the best ways to implement nuclear at lower LCOE than coal, educate the Australian public, implement the nuclear regulatory regime, set up “Energy Australia”, and begin implementing the policies with the aim that the first NPP is commissioned by end of 2022.

    If and when the main GHG emitting nations reach an international agreement on how to internalise the externalities of energy production and consumption, then Australia should be an active and willing participant in such an agreement.

    Next decadeContinue building NPPs in Australia with focus always on achieving least cost electricity generation and competition to achieve least cost electricity generation. The vision is to progress towards the sort of low cost, low emissions electricity generation France has now, but even lower cost electricity so that electricity will more quickly replace oil as the energy source for transport.

    Leveraging our natural advantages, including our demonstrated ability to implement low-cost electricity generation, Australia assists developing nations to implement low cost, reliable electricity generation tailored for their needs (we did lots of this throughout the developing countries in Asia and Africa throughout the 1970’s to 2000’s. We are good at it, and our capabilities and approach are liked by the developing countries. We leveraged off the expertise we gained on the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme and applied it in many countries in Asia and Africa for four decades and still are. We should aim to set up to do this again. That is how we can genuinely help the world to cut emissions.

    Carbon Pricing is exactly the reverse of this. It is exactly the wrong policy.

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  134. hotrock companies frozen in Green plan

    HERE’S an energy story with a particularly nasty twist: the only renewable technology with the ability to provide base-load power gets king-hit (inadvertently) by a decision from a pro-renewable-energy federal Labor government.
    And this sector’s revival would be possible only if the Greens get their way and the proposed carbon tax is somewhere north of $40 a tonne, which is not going to happen.

    That, in a nutshell, is the sad predicament in which geothermal companies find themselves.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/hot-rock-companies-frozen-in-green-plan/story-e6frg9ex-1226069759411

    How long until we stop the nonsense. Carbon pricing will preserve this nonsense. If the Carbon price starts at $25, the pressure will be intense from the Greens and RE advocates to ‘ramp it up a bit more to make them viable’, while continuing to ban nuclear. It will go on for ever.

    It’s time to bite the bullet. Clean out the mess of favouratisms and disadvantages that energy policy has accumulated over 50 years in Australia.

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  135. Perhaps the Switkowski article will come out in Crikey as a freebie. We need to see if indeed it sticks to the rule of not playing favourites.

    Carbon tax at $20-$30 and nothing else will have two conspicuous failings
    1) the wind build stops dead
    2) brown coal won’t get replaced by gas.
    The likely fix for 1) is to continue RECs and the fix for 2) is billions in compensation for brown coal generators. According to Garnaut neither should be necessary.

    I think it will take a year or so for this to sink in, same way we now know geothermal won’t deliver. That takes us to mid 2013 which I think Barry suggests will be clearly as hot or hotter than 1998.
    We’ll have a progress report from Germany on their plans which I think will have been reviewed. Petrol could be $2.50/L at least in average income adjusted terms.

    However $20-$30 carbon tax should put the kibosh on new coal generation which is a step in the right direction.

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  136. @ John Newlands

    Some very interesting predictions/observations there. I look forward to seeing how they pan out. I also agree with your last comment.

    Meanwhile, as Australia quibbles over a carbon tax, and the media world wide is still in a semi-frenzy over what happened in the Fukushima prefecture, geologists are pressing for official recognition of the Anthropocene epoch. Given the world’s apparent collective inability to address the multiple problems we are imposing on the environment (and therefore ourselves), I wonder how long it will be until we collectively realise just how stupid all of the current hysteria is – over a carbon tax and a nuclear accident that killed no one for gods sake.

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  137. Just saying you want it because you want it isn’t very convincing.

    I wonder how long it will be until we collectively realise just how stupid all of the current hysteria is

    Yes, I wonder this too, but probably not for the same reason. Any policy that will intentionally damage the economy for no benefit is certainly “stupid”.

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  138. Peter,

    How do we get past this distraction on the discussion of minute details about a possible future technology?

    I agree that the top priority topic is energy policy – specifically how do we help China, India et al shift to a low carbon but energy-rich growth path. If Barry agrees he could open a targeted new topic.

    Personally I think Australia’s carbon tax policy is a similarly low priority. It doesn’t really matter what Australia does. The game will be won or lost with the developing countries.

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  139. Hi all,

    This slashdot had some classic comments on why putting capacitors in the side panels of your EV might be a ‘bad’ idea. (As Bill Murray might say).

     

    Does anyone fail to see the problem of having what would likely be several Farads of high voltage stashed away in the body panels? I would expect if fully charged the capacitors if shorted, in a fender bender or whatever, they would leave little trace that they or anything that touches them ever existed. Just a spot of charred metal and the smell of electrolyte.

    And what about the aging of capacitors or capacitor failure? It’s certainly exiting when a small capacitor goes POP! Imagine when one of these suckers blow your doors off while you’re driving!

    And this…

    Besides mechanics, please recall that EMS and police often face the issue of getting through metal to reach injured passengers. The 200 volts typically in a hybrid battery is one issue, knowing the location of batteries and how to disconnnect them another, but the thought of potentially still charged capacitors in the body frame sounds like an issue that could hinder response to emergencies.

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  140. @ John N,

    ///I think it will take a year or so for this to sink in, same way we now know geothermal won’t deliver. ///

    Really? Did something come out recently? I’ve been listening to the Science Show on and off and I thought they were making progress on using compressed Co2 (or was that methane) as a more energy efficient heat exchanging fluid pumped down into the well to get into all the nooks and crannies and then not require as much energy to shoot back up the pipes etc. Last I heard anyway — I haven’t been following a lot of this stuff as closely as before.

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  141. EN following all your ideas. I like some dislike others.

    Capacitor shock in an EV collision. I’ve mentioned before Adelaide’s ‘solar’ bus has a molten sodium battery. What if it were T-boned?

    Granite geothermal was going to be the next big thing in 2009. If an idea has legs like Blu Ray or flash drive it takes off quickly. Hence the scepticism.

    Pumped seawater hydro. A 300 MW plant is to be built in Lanai Hawaii but they have mountains close to the sea to get elevation. I think a bit of the $11 bn carbon tax revenue should go on a similar sized demo plant here.

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  142. An interesting report was released yesterday on the effect the carbon tax will have on mining jobs, authored by Bruce Chapman, president of the Economic Society of Australia. The conclusion is that job losses resulting from a carbon tax (based on the mining industry’s own projections) will be virtually statistically insignificant.

    http://www.apo.org.au/research/how-many-jobs-23510-really-recasting-mining-job-loss-debate

    Of course this certainly doesn’t address all of the objections to a carbon tax, but it’s probably been the loudest argument so far.

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