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Anti-nuclear cartoon book, 1978 – anything changed?

A few weeks ago, Haydon Manning passed me an interesting book from the more dusty section of his shelf. It was called “Nuclear Power for Beginners“, and the edition I have was published in 1978. (If you do a bit of searching, you can still find old copies for purchase). If you’ve read this post from 2010: From nuclear sceptic to convert, you’ll know that Haydon was himself once anti-nuclear, but has since been convinced of the need for nuclear power. So I guess that when he bought this book, its contents aligned very much with his views (and those of the majority of environmentalists of the time). Like me, however, Haydon is now off the Christmas card list of Friends of the Earth!

Here is the book’s cover, freshly snapped from my iPhone (with the $2 price tag still clear):

Apparently, it was first published as “The Anti-Nuclear Handbook” but was then re-titled to fit with the popular “For Beginners” series. The cover says it all really — a death’s head in the word “Power”, the black and gloomy background vista, the corporate polluter with a nuclear power plant on his head, and the bright ALTERNATIVES! (with a happy, smiling sun).

It’s worth reading books like this to get a perspective on the roots of anti-nuclear activism, and to reflect on what, if anything, has changed. The best thing I can say about the book is that the format is great — cartoon books are terrific at explaining complex topics to a lay audience. (I also really like this series). Maybe I need to collaborate with an illustrator to write the new version…

The book covers all of the core anti-nuclear arguments — power plants are unsafe (and remember, this was published before Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima — so they relied on Windscale, Chalk River, SL-1 etc. and good old speculation), nuclear waste is intractable, the risk of weapons proliferation is enormous and growing, fast breeder reactors just make everything worse (and are theoretical anyway), and so on. But it’s the conclusion that interests me in particular, especially in the context of the arguments being presented by commenters in the Energy debates in Wonderland thread.

A succinct summary of the core argument of the book is given on p46:

The objections to nuclear power are numerous… some can equally well be levelled at the other big-scale, centralised energy technologies like coal and oil… but what distinguishes nuclear power from all else is a word: RADIATION

There is a description of a meltdown on p51 (with the fuel inexorably melting through the reactor pressure vessel, leading to a steam explosion that bursts containment, “while the molten uranium burns down into the earth“), a discussion of the French approach, p52 (amazingly, they were talking about ‘core catchers’ even then — it’s not just an EPR thing!), and throughout, an unquestioning connection between radiation and the inevitable consequence of genetic defects + cancer. There is also a lot of space devoted to the argument that as the fuel cycle stretches around the world, the risk of sabotage and nuclear terrorism will become immense (this starts on p85), and that once the fissile material is available, the ‘do-it-yourself’ bomb kit( in an urban guerilla’s cellar) is but a few steps away.

I could go with a description of the contents, but that’s not really the purpose of this post. History can judge the veracity or otherwise of these sorts of arguments, and you can read through the archives of BraveNewClimate for refutations of all of these objections. What I want to look at here is how well the authors’ claims on the alternatives have held up. This thrust is introduced on p 102-103:

Saying ‘no’ to nukes means saying ‘yes’ to something else. Little would be won if it meant saying ‘yes’ to ferocious consumption of coal, oil & gas… their risks are well know [various damages then listed].

Here is another choice (these decisions are far too important to be left to the experts):

— Either we move on down the hard technology road towards a high-energy society in a nuclear age based on a plutonium economy

— or, we take the soft energy path towards an equitable society based on ecological principles and an economy geared to people’s real needs

Remember, this was 1978 — yet it all sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? We’re still having these same debates today. Nothing has really changed. And the hard reality is, 32 years later, that coal, oil & gas HAVE won (so far).

[As a slight digression, I’ve always found the classic ‘libertarian’ view of nuclear power and ‘enviro-leftist’ view of renewables to be equally confusing. Nowhere in the world has nuclear power been built on a large scale without significant government co-support – actually, this seems to be true of ALL national electricity infrastructure, including coal (can anyone name any exceptions?).

Yet many free marketeers are strong supporters of nuclear power, whilst at the same time they dislike renewables and any subsidies given to them (including, of course, the carbon tax). Conversely, most people who argue passionately for the need for direct subsidies for renewable energy, carbon prices and mandated programmes for energy efficiency, also really dislike the fact that nuclear power has historically got similar type of support — and could continue to do so.

Why is this, I wonder?

I’m asking this question out of sincere interest, rather than try to say whether such ideas are inherently ‘good/bad’ or ‘right/wrong’ -– as BNC readers know, my evolved view is that whilst renewables are based on some fascinating technology, they remain essentially unable to support a large-scale move away from fossil fuels. Only a significant reliance on nuclear energy can permit this.

So I wonder if it ultimately comes down to a form of unavoidable ‘cultural cognition’, whereby nuclear power is generally equated to high energy density and industrialism/consumerism, whereas renewables is intuitively connected by many to natural landscapes and sunny/breezy environments.

Intriguing.]

Anyway, back to the book. The ALTERNATIVES! highlighted on the book’s cover, are naturally a reduction in energy use (conservation), anincrease in efficiency of use, and large-scale adoption of available renewable technologies, including solar PV, solar thermal and wind. Amory Lovins and his ‘soft energy pathways’ is quoted extensively (including his ‘fossil fuel bridge’, which should have apparently allowed renewables to gradually increase to about 40% of supply by the year 2000 and 100% by 2025).

In addition, some nations are held up as exemplars of the route we (the Western nations) should be taking:

China (p118): political and economic liberation, little foreign aid, many-sided development of industry and agriculture, emphasis on simple, small-scale technologies, no nuclear power, red revolution — union of peasant, factory worker and technician, more careful use of resources

Indeed, it’s called “The Benevolent Way” (p126) — “to promote the decentralisation of political and economic power, redistribution of wealth and the liberation of the individual… the struggle for a soft energy future must be linked with the struggle for political change“.

Question: Is this the China we see today?

So there we have it. We can reflect on why the soft energy path was not taken, and argue that this was because the concomitant socio-political shift didn’t happen (irrespective of whether you consider this pathway to be inherently good or bad). But again, I ask the question (trying here to take a completely apolitical position): if this shift failed to materialise in the past, why should we expect this to change in the future?

There is a cartoon on p129 that I’ll also reproduce:

What’s wrong with this? Well, the error of logic is that the scientist on the left is correct, and the one on the right is wrong. The problems of nuclear waste disposal are social and political, NOT technical. So there are no double standards here. Again and again, these issues are being confused.

Finally, to the appendix — which is all about the great potential of those ALTERNATIVE! energy systems.

On flat-plate solar collectors, they say “now they are in great demand in the US, where sales are trebling annually”.

Or this:

Solar cells turn sunshine into electricity. They are still extremely expensive but a major cost breakthrough is said to be imminent. In the US, government and private capital is being poured into solar cell technology, which lends itself to monopoly.

The same can said of solar [thermal] power towers, electric energy systems now being built in Sicily, France, Spain and the US. Ground mirrors provide the heat to turn a steam turbine in the tower….

British studies suggest that unit-for-unit windpower’s total cost is one-third that of nuclear power…

There are the descriptions of the 240 MWe La Rance tidal power system (presumably as an icon of things to come…?), the fact that ocean wave power (“under development in Britain, Japan and Scandinavia“) could supply 70,000 million killowatt hours of electricity in Norway — the nation’s annual consumption (the reality check is here and here); plus ocean thermal units exploiting the difference in temperatures between the surface and deep waters (so sorry Lovelock and Rance, nothing is really new under the sun). Oh, and don’t forget the huge potential of biofuels, methane digesters, geo-thermal energy and heat pumps, and so on. Surely, with all this potential, in 1978…

I sigh. It’s all so eerily familiar. The renewables dream of the 1970s are the same dreams of 2010s. All these ALTERNATIVE! technologies were ‘on the cusp’ of a breakthrough… and still are. Meanwhile, for 32 years and counting, many well-intentioned folk continue to block nuclear power, and the Earth’s environment goes to hell in a hand basket. Meanwhile, we burn more and more fossil fuels. Little really was won.

————

Footnote: There is a table on p164 of uranium reserves. Yield for global reserves at <$80/kg was 590,000 tonnes in 1978. For resources available at >$80/kg, the total estimate was 1,510,000 tonnes.  The argument, presumably, was to show that there was not much uranium available anyway. Now fast forward to 2010. On that point, I rest my case…

By Barry Brook

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

164 replies on “Anti-nuclear cartoon book, 1978 – anything changed?”

I gave up reading comics at least 50 years ago.They do have a useful function in helping children to gain literacy skills but by the early teens they should be reading books,books and more books.
My 2 children were read to from an early age and quickly acquired the reading habit.

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Dmitry Orlov’s statement in “Our Village” tells it all:

“There is an element to American culture that never ceases to amuse me. Even when grappling with the idea of economic disintegration, Americans attempt to cast it in terms of technological or economic progress: eco‑villages, sustainable development, energy efficiency and so on. Under the circumstances, such compulsive techno‑optimism seems maladaptive. ”

We, as humans, are not in a position either to create or to redesign a planet that is, in essence, nothing more than an accident of Nature. If anything appears on Earth that is of use to us, then we are fortunate. If such a thing does not appear on Earth, perhaps contrary to our expectations, then we must be resigned to the fact.

I sympathize with those who, since about the 1960s, have been putting all their money into the bottomless pit of the “alternative energy” industry, but my compassion does not extend to prevarication. There is really no sense in devoting vast amounts of time in trying to prove that 2+2=5. But the case is worse than that: unfortunately, so many people who get into discussions over “alternative energy” have simply never bothered to do their basic homework.

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Honest question: what authorizes you to say so definitively what is technical, rather than social, about nuclear waste debates?

Do you have any qualifications in Sociology of Science and Technology? Or law?

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Awesome Barry!
Not really an ‘oldie’ but a good representation of the times. I was already pro-nuke, and still in the Army when that was published.
Looking at the Greens of the world, not much has changed.

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Here is the result of California’s expensive soft energy path of reducing energy use:

Oops! The Californians didn’t save any energy, just had slightly less growth in energy consumption, and even that is mostly because their expensive electricity chased energy intensive industry away, increasing energy imports (which of course are not added to the balance – pollution elsewhere).

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dk.au, on 25 April 2011 at 4:10 PM said:

Honest question: what authorizes you to say so definitively what is technical, rather than social, about nuclear waste debates?

Well, if it’s not technical (and it’s obviously not, we are already storing nuclear waste, and we know we only need do so for a few hundred years) then social causes are all that is left. Not that that isn’t a significant problem in itself.

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dk.au, the engineering solutions to nuclear waste are well known, so the problem isn’t technical. The social commentary on the topic is not informed by the technical solutions, so the problem is social.

You don’t need a Masters in Sociology to see the nose in front of your face. Generally speaking.

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You don’t need a Masters in Sociology to see the nose in front of your face. Generally speaking.

No, but you may find such study useful if your objective is not to see it.

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dk.au, you might find this paper, Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus interesting. It is published by the Social Science Research Network and explores why people resist conclusions that have a scientific consensus – their examples being human-caused climate change and safe nuclear waste storage.

Section 5.3, Improving Risk Communication, is worth a read for everyone.

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“Sun power is now a fact and no longer in the ‘beautiful possibility’ stage[…] It will have a history like aerial navigation. Up to twelve years ago it was a mere possibility and no one took it seriously.” – Frank Shuman 1910.

Here are some newspaper clippings from an Egyptian newspaper article with a picture of his single-axis tracking parabolic trough plant in Maadi, Egypt from 1913: http://www.egy.com/maadi/solar-energy.pdf

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Barry,

You make some very valid points, but I am somewhat surprised that you admit to being confused as to why arguments which have been ongoing since 1978 haven’t been resolved.

In general, people don’t like receiving very bad news. If they can listen to other views that contradict the doom merchants, they will probably believe the latter, particularly as most will have neither the time nor the scientific training to be in a position to evaluate the case in an objective manner.

It was only after my retirement that, almost by chance, I started reading in depth about the problems we face. Before then, I had some vague concerns that we were gradually messing up and overpopulating the planet and that somebody (else) ought to sort this out while I got on either with my preferred research project or attempting to make more money. My post retirement reading led me into all sorts of areas and disciplines with which I was unfamiliar, but of which I had to have some sort of knowledge before a reasoned judgement could be made. Few have this opportunity and scientists, in particular, are renowned for knowing more and more about less and less. My reading led me to a near state of gloom/depression. I hadn’t realised quite how close to the “cliff edge” we were. To combat the depression, a sustained period of searching for solutions followed. Before too long, it seemed to me that nuclear fission was the last best hope of mitigating a disaster.

However, I would refer you to the posting by anon on 17th April at 5.29am on the Fukushima Philosophical Thread and, in particlular, to the point that demographic trends are such that we may have left things altogether too late to save ourselves. I think that too much focus on AGW is not necessarily helping the nuclear renaissance argument. (It encourages antis to argue over relatively trivial issues like a few dozen or even thousand radiation deaths as if they are of any significance relative to the scale of deaths we can anticipate in a generation or two if we don’t adopt nuclear power. We live in a death-denying culture.) Our primary problem is population overgrowth and the understandably rising aspirations of those in emerging nations. AGW is but one of the many planetary boundaries that we are approaching.

At the time of my majority, there were 3 billion people on the planet. Now, in half a century, population has more than doubled. In another half century, 3 more billion will, in theory, have been added even if female fertilty rate drops to replacement level. Over the same period, planetary carrying capacity will plummet unless we can replace fossil fuels with an alternative energy source that is reliable, cheaper than coal, supplies high net energy and is scaleable. I am unaware of anything other than nuclear that can come close to fulfilling these criteria.

Many pro nuclear and AGW believers attempt to deploy their arguments in a manner that reassures that there is a solution available to us that won’t rock the boat (a don’t frighten the horses approach – to change metaphors). Barry, as you mentioned above, this approach has been being tried since 1978 without obvious success. One might have expected that the nuclear industry, for example, would be screaming for a nuclear solution. Instead, they seem to be quietly lobbying to replace obsolescent plants and expand in a modest manner. Areva is even expanding into the renewables field. If nuclear were such an obvious answer, why aren’t the oil companies, knowing as they do that their reserves are under threat, moving investment funds into nuclear power?

The answer to the above quesion is not difficult to answer. It doesn’t make sense for companies in liberal democracies to invest in nuclear unless they are encouraged or directed so to do by governments. Unless governments realise in time that the future is so scary as to require strong interventionist policies and, in democracies, persuade their voters of this and of the necessity for, at least, short term sacrifices in order to implement a crash programme of energy transition, rapid nuclear deployment won’t occur until too late. At present, democratic leaders and their citizens are paying lip service to a problem that they don’t seem to anticipate will be of much greater consequence than Al Quaeda.

The West has been maintaining lifestyles by going into debt and running down its asset base. Assets have moved to the emerging economies in the East. I believe that the immediate implementation of a crash nuclear infrastructure deployment may be the only thing left that can save democracy. It’s too late for governments not to pick winners.

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Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear position has not changed much since the 1970s either. The construction costs will come down as we build more plants. We will convince the public that nuclear waste can be handled safely in the next several decades. Power companies will take a long term view rather than a short term view. Democracies will decide on the rational merits of the case that nuclear electricity is the best way to go.
What would it take to get nuclear electricity to be legal in Australia?
What would it take to get United States democrats to encourage nuclear electricity?
What would it take to get Canada to build its new reactor?
It seems to me that the entire future of nuclear electricity is based in China.
Do the construction techniques of the Gen III reactors really reduce costs when a fleet is built instead of just a plant. China will show us.
Do fast reactors burn up spent fuel effectively? China will show us.
Do liquid fueled reactors cost less to build and operate? China will show us.
May the Chinese operators be vigilant and successful, especially at Sanmen (AP1000).

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As part of my comment above was moderated,presumably for my use of a certain word which describes the intellectually challenged,I will try to explain my position more fully.

The use of sequential cartoons,otherwise known as comics,has been a propaganda tool for a very long time.The fact that they were/are judged to be effective on adult “readers” is an indication of the “thinking” processes of a large part of the population,perhaps a majority.

With electronic media now predominatiing the problem is so much worse.There is virtually nil interaction or effort required in viewing television,therefore no thought,let alone sceptical thought,is required.The potential for sublimal messages to be imparted by television is well known,particularly to advertisers.

Yet television is what a very large proportion of the population relies on for information as well as entertainment.

I don’t hold out much hope of influencing substantial numbers of the population to take climate change and energy provision seriously.As Douglas Wise says in his excellent comment above,it is time (well over time) for the government to pick winners.

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@Martin Burkle

We are in agreement. The important countries now are China and India. China will soon have technical parity with the West in nuclear generation from technology transfer. From then on they will be moving ahead of us. That will strongly motivate India (if it hasn’t already). China has already indicated it will investigate the molten-salt thorium reactor. We’ll see how that goes. The United States and Europe are of course not unimportant, but I think they will see what China is doing in the decades ahead and conclude: ‘We are idiots’. I think with sufficient will the West will catch up and it will only take a couple of decades to do it (look at France’s example).

So, I agree. China is critical. I am optimistic but we will have to see how it goes.

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@Podargus – I agree with you fully on the matter of comic books and other forms of intellectual pablum that have become endemic to our culture. However in this case we must note that as abhorrent as they are to us – they work. What we need is a pronuclear comics to delver our message to the masses.

Anyone with the talents out there willing to give it a shot?

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well: as I’ve said, in the winter, the graph of german solar pv often showed the system getting under one percent of its nameplate capacity.

and, as cyril points out more than once, solar cf is 11 %.

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Douglas Wise, on 26 April 2011 at 2:08 AM said:

You make some very valid points, but I am somewhat surprised that you admit to being confused as to why arguments which have been ongoing since 1978 haven’t been resolved.

At least in the US, the inflation adjusted price of coal declined from 1979-1999. In addition we overbuilt ‘baseload’ capacity in the 1970’s and 1980’s which meant our existing nuclear fleet was underutilized until around 2000.

Since the ‘baseload construction’ market in the US was virtually non-existent there was no point in engaging in public education campaigns.

Nuclear was substantially more expensive then coal and that didn’t appear likely to change. New nuclear had to be sold on environmental grounds or not at all.

Then around 1999 the productivity of US coal mines east of the Mississippi began to drop and coal prices began to rise. One can now make a ‘reasonable’ case to build nuclear in the US Southeast on purely economic grounds under some very specific circumstances..I.E. As a replacement for aging baseload coal fired generating capacity that has reached it’s full economic life.

In Asia China was exporting steam coal for $27/tonne in 2002-2003. China is now importing steam coal at $120-$140 tonne. The economic case for nuclear in Asia is strong as a result.

The same goes for most of Europe.

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“states that it uses measurements from 13% of the PV installations in Germay. That sounds OK, but the graph of power output versus time (through the day) is a perfectly symmetric curve (looks gaussian). That is a bit suspicious, especially if it is the same perfect shape every day.”

well, we had a rather perfect week for solar. the last day that really looked different was 16 april 2011. (just keep scrolling back days…)

as we switched off 7 nuclear plants, it is quite good to have solar support at the time when it is needed the most on “sunday” (holiday).

—————————-

Barry asked the question “anything changed?” and some things did change indeed. like solar, which s a real option today. and for example we had multiple massive accidents, as predicted by those who oppose nuclear power.

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harrywr2,

I believe that nuclear power has to be made cheaper than that from coal. I also think this can only happen if governments decide to make it happen. If, instead, they leave matters to the free market to determine the outcome, progress will, at best, be too slow. Barry has essentially made a similar point in his post that started the thread.

I am basically a free market capitalist, but acknowledge that this often forces the adoption of a short term rather than strategic view. It is supposedly governments that should be planning long term and considering major infrastructural needs. However, in democracies, this seems rarely to be possible where electorates tend to give primacy to immediate gratification.

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“I have only one project now, assessing future fossil-fuel supplies and the possible climate impacts. It has everything: geology, engineering, atmospheric science, politics, and scandal.”
— David Rutledge, CalTech EE professor

His article on TheOilDrum suggests that (economically minable) coal runs out far sooner than anybody previously thought.

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Douglas Wise, on 26 April 2011 at 7:59 AM said:

I believe that nuclear power has to be made cheaper than that from coal. I also think this can only happen if governments decide to make it happen

Me too, I have been tracking coal markets as a hobby for the last couple of years. 12 months ago $90/tonne for steam coal seemed like an insane price, but we are currently seeing $130/tonne for steam coal in Asian and European markets.

Obviously, some coal fired plants in the US Midwest and Australia have access to large supplies of coal at ‘mine mouth’ prices.

FOB and CIF prices can be substantially higher then ‘mine mouth’.

The mine mouth price of coal in Wyoming per MBtu is 76 cents. By the time is gets shipped by rail to South Carolina it’s almost $4.00/MBtu…add a boat trip to Asia or Europe and it’s up to $6.50/MBtu.

For baseload-
At 76 cents/MBtu nuclear doesn’t compete with coal economically at all. At $4/Mbtu it can compete if it gets ‘preferential financing terms’.
At $6.50 coal isn’t at all competitive.

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DB Rutledge, Aleklett and Heinberg are all saying most FFs are parlous but few are listening. We should ask why US coal exports to China increased 5-fold between 2009 and 2010. I believe Rutledge uses a general circulation model that says warming will top out at 2.6 C. Trouble is firestorms and Cat 5 cyclones are bad enough with 0.8 C warming.

Right now I think we have the concurrence of world peak oil and China peak coal. In Australia the suits tell us it’s all good but I think it could easily implode.

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Coal is being influenced by the increased price of other fossil fuels consumed in mining and transport. If you buy into the more all-encompassing claims about nuclear, the mining equipment and cargo trains could get their power from a reactor. Nuclear needs to close the harvesting loop with non-carbon energy, or it too will be affected at every step of the supply chain.

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Nuclear needs to close the harvesting loop with non-carbon energy, or it too will be affected at every step of the supply chain.

Very true! Nuclear will have some insulation due to itshigh EROEI, but the limitations of diminishing fossil fuels will bite sooner or later. I know many here think that a drive for complete electrification is the best path, but I think we should initially go down the synfuels route because the vehicle production and fuel distribution infrastructure already exists.

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China has become the leading producer and installer of wind and solar (thermal and PV) in the world by dollar value in 2010.

Click to access G-20Report-LOWRes-FINAL.pdf


They have invested 54.4 B$ in these technologies 2010, 45 B$ in wind specifically. They now have the worlds highest PV and wind turbine production. (same reference above, but also in IEA world 2010 reports) This, in a country that until just a few years ago was expected to not break from their carbon intense coal reliance. Predicting energy paths is perilous work.

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“well: as I’ve said, in the winter, the graph of german solar pv often showed the system getting under one percent of its nameplate capacity.”

I can do one better, every day solar gets ~0% of net energy output. Storage is key for baseload, and BTW this is how the debate has shifted we no longer talk of renewables being a possible solution but pretty much the best solution during peak loads.

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@Environmentalist

I fail to see what point you are making about storage and renewables being the “best solution during peak loads”, other than it’s relevance in a proagandistic or PR sense.

Storage would benefit any form of electricity generation in dealing with peaks. It probably favors coal and nuclear more because the sizing of the required storage is more deterministic and less probabilistic.

The fact that storage, other than pumped hydro, has thus far only been deployed on a trivial scale anywhere surely suggests that up to now it is too expensive. That may change, but until it demonstrably does so on large scale, betting the future of the climate on such vague promises is just a bit risky.

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Environmentalist says:

Storage is key for baseload, and BTW this is how the debate has shifted we no longer talk of renewables being a possible solution but pretty much the best solution during peak loads.

Storage is only ‘key to baseload’ if you have no control over the scheduling of your generation.

It is a testament to the uselessness of non-hydro renewables that while advanced or speculative engineering solutions such as economical power storage, or the mythical smart grid may well provide efficiency gains for reliable generation technologies, renewables such as solar and wind are absolutely dependent on them.

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As a self proclaimed libertarian who is supportive of nuclear power I feel I ought to respond to the aside given in the article. So I will. My support of nuclear power is qualified. If coal or gas or even solar is cheaper and succeeds in the open market place instead of nuclear power than so be it. My support of nuclear power extends to the following:-

1) I oppose misleading technical accounts regarding the technology, it’s safety and cost.
2) I oppose nuclear prohibition. However I also oppose most drug prohibition, the prohibition on paying people low wages, prohibitions on prostitution, prohibitions on euthanasia, prohibition on abortion. Opposing prohibition isn’t the same as being in favour of an activity. I can oppose nuclear prohibition without believing nuclear power plants should be built irrespective of cost.

On the issue of carbon taxes. I think a carbon tax is the right way to frame the policy response to AGW. However I think we have enough explicit and implicit carbon taxes already (fuel taxes & MRET etc). And I think the benefit of internalising the cost of CO2e emissions is very marginal. Clearly there is room for some serious tax rationalisation however. We should get rid of MRET and broaden (and lower) the fuel tax by including fuel used in electricity generation.

I don’t advocate making nuclear competitive via a carbon tax on fossil fuels. I advocate allowing nuclear power as an investment option and then leaving it to industry to innovate on costs. Let the cheapest energy source prevail.

I don’t think we should switch

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Sod, regarding the SMA solar data, you haven’t learned anything from our discussions at

The peak output of 11 GWe is only achieved for a few hours on sunny day. Its zero at night and near zero in winter.

Notice that the SMA website does NOT show nighttime in the graph. This is because it makes solar look better, hiding its zero nighttime output. Remember, SMA is a solar company, they sell things like inverters and need to make solar look better than it is. However that means that their data certainly won’t be expected to be too low. This worries me because the performance is pathetic.

If you add up each hour (GWhs) and divide that by ( peak capacity * 24 hours ) you will get the daily capacity factor. Please see previous discussion on this here:

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

If you actually show nighttime in the graph, you will see solar is mostly not there:

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And that last link, mind you, is for the Arizona desert!

Here’s another system, 1.5 kWp. Only it never generated 1.5 kWp. In fact it never generates even 1.3 kWp. It generates 1.2 kWp for a few minutes per day, the rest is low power, zero at night. Notice also the effect of a cloudy day (such as Monday here:)

You can’t power countries with this!!!

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steve lapp: Figures without perspective might win debates at the pub, but they should be avoided if you want to understand what is happening. Here’s China’s electricity by fuel type graph through to 2008.

Click to access CNELEC.pdf

Is wind or solar big enough to be visible? No.

17GW of wind in 2010 is maybe 120 GWh out of
a total of 3.5 million GWh = 0.000034

So please Steve, as an exercise, find out how much
of China’s electricity is produced by renewables, other than hydro and tell me when it is predicted to
hit … say 10 percent? Keep in mind that as oil runs out, everybody will need far more electricity than is being produced today.

So the prediction of coal dominance for China looks
rock solid for more than a few decades.

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“Notice that the SMA website does NOT show nighttime in the graph. This is because it makes solar look better, hiding its zero nighttime output. ”

i understand that they have an interest in making solar look good. but the obvious reason for not showing nichttime on that animation is, that it would be extremely boring to watch.

“If you add up each hour (GWhs) and divide that by ( peak capacity * 24 hours ) you will get the daily capacity factor. Please see previous discussion on this here:”

daily capacity factor makes sense, but it is not the only number that is important. pure pumped water storage should actually have a NEGATIVE daily capacity number. mots of the time it wont have an extremely good one at least.
but it obviously is a useful thing to have!

solar follows peak demand very well. it delivers electricity at a time, when people are willing to pay for it. as i showed you before, in France all that nightime nuclear power is sold at about “/3 of daytime cost.

so you need to give “weight” to the power produced, when forming an average. (and of course you need to evaluate how reliable a source is. but this is a question at net level, not at individual source level!)

the link that you gave above is completely useless. basically it is full of comments by you, posting morning solar output in november.

it also contains this picture:

it demonstrates, that nightime energy goes into pump storage, which, together with serious price reductions that support wasteful electric heating, is the reason why quite a lot of those demand graphs look flat.

———————–

simple rule: if you need electricity at 3am in winter, solar might not be your source of choice.

if, like the rest of the world, you worry about climate systems on sunny days, you should take a second look at solar.

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Sod, solar doesn’t match peak output even in a high sun area:

Solar output goes down just as the evening peak sets in. Not terribly useful.

In Germany, its just plain crazy. They need a LOT of nighttime power, about 70% of day peak usually:

They also need more power in winter, when solar is pathetic at 1-4 percent daily capacity factor.

I can see a use for standalone solar systems making ice or chilled water during the day, to power airconditioning, but not for Germany. Germany’s electric problem is coal pollution, they have some of the dirtiest plants in Europe, which kill many by lung cancer and other nasty diseases. Not to mention spew CO2 like there’s not tomorrow.

Nuclear can displace those coal plants 1:1. Solar is marginal in doing this.

Then there is China which is growing electric demand so fast its crazy. They have cheap reliable coal plants, they will not accept expensive unreliable wind and solar that are not there 70-90% of the time.

This is the dismal science. Get over it, and move on with us!

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sod, I agree that solar’s production profile is correlated to the typical daily demand peak – although, in Germany, not the yearly demand peak. And that does make it something that could contribute15-20% of grid electricity, at least in the less expensive solar thermal form. Unless there are (as there are today) other generators that can generate responsively, and will be needed anyway in winter.

On storage, I notice that you talk about the low price of French night-time electricity. Think about that for a moment – if storage was either easy or cheap on a grid-powering scale, that electricity would not be sold cheap, but stored and sold at peak. And shifting a regular supply to match peaks requires a hell of a lot less storage than shifting an intermittant supply for the same demand.

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Joffan, solar’s production profile isn’t that well correlated, not even to typical hot climate electrical peaks. Solar output is already headed to its nocturnal abyss just when the evening peak comes in:

For Germany, there is also an evening peak, matching even less to solar, in addition to the bigger problem that Germany needs most energy in winter, when its cold and dark (heating and lighting required, people are all snug inside watching their big screen televisions, etc.). Just so happens that solar output is not there 96-99 percent of the time in winter. Oops!

As for China, they are on track for doubling their electric demand to over 6000 billion kWhs, 50% more than the USA is using today. Total non-oecd asia is also on track of hitting 10,000 billion kWh by 2030. Oops!

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Cyril, i do not think i will convince you about solar better fitting peak demand than a flat line, even though everybody should be able to see it.

but on a different point you brought up above:

“Germany’s electric problem is coal pollution, they have some of the dirtiest plants in Europe, which kill many by lung cancer and other nasty diseases. Not to mention spew CO2 like there’s not tomorrow. ”

i completely agree with you about there being too many coal plants and they having bad effects, especially CO2. but “dirtiest plants in Europe”?

i searched only for a short time, but this article seems to disagree with your assessment.

Click to access 17-1jesa-blottnitz.pdf

(A comparison of air emissions of thermal power plants in South Africa and 15 European countries, for example Table 3 on page 76)

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steve lapp, on 26 April 2011 at 12:36 PM said:

China has become the leading producer and installer of wind and solar (thermal and PV) in the world by dollar value in 2010.

China is the worlds leading installer of all things energy except possibly natural gas.

They built more coal fired plants in the last year then the US built in the last 20 years and the price of coal in the US is cheaper then in China.

There is a substantial difference between throwing away something that is still ‘fully functional’ and replacing it with X,Y or Z or starting from scratch.

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@ sod. For the third time:

What do you consider to be the most important objective for environmental action, and which should take priority? Action to shut down nuclear power generation, or action to counter AGW by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other measures?

Ignoring this question will not make it go away.

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Cyril – solar is not perfectly correlated to demand, no, but I think well enough to be a positive point. I was not intending to overstate the corrleation if that’s how you read it.

The contrast is wind; this is not correlated to demand at all.

Barry – thanks for the review and correction. Perhaps I need new glasses – I misread the decimal point as a comma.

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Steve lapp/Joffan/Barry: Sorry for my wrong and cryptic post. The 17GW was the amount of wind installed during 2010 according to the Pew report Steve linked (page 7) and I made a silly mistake calculating GWh. The same report (p13) puts the chinese target at 150GW wind by 2020. The doe link isn’t working for me at present … maybe server is down. In any event, by 2020 they are targetting 150*0.3*24*365/3.5e6 = 11.2% at
a 30% capacity factor … assuming NO additional
growth in electricity production.

Assuming a modest
60% growth in total electricty by 2020 and we get
150*0.3*24*365/(3.5e6*1.6) = 7%

It’s just not enough. Compare this with what France did with nuclear between 1978 and 1988,

Click to access FRELEC.pdf

Renewables have serious problems scaling and nuclear has a serious image problem but scales brilliantly.

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@ sod, on 26 April 2011 at 10:06 PM

“If, like the rest of the world, you worry about climate systems on sunny days, you should take a second look at solar.”

Only a second look? Mate, I’ve looked at solar PV every which way yet all I am left with is huge subsidies out of my own pocket via feed in tarrifs, increased taxes to support capital costs and federal government recoverable energy certificates (REC’s), reduced safety outcomes with respect to some other options, eg nuclear, dreamed up price estimates of $1 per watt where more is left out than has been put in, manufactures making 40% loss on annual turnover (First Solar), manufacturing processes with environmental issues, materials supply constraints re Rare Earths, inability to be scheduled, unknown numbers of homes with leaking roofs due to the attachment methods, unfair sociological outcomes as those with disposable incomes and a private single occupancy dwelling PV panel owners feed at the trough of public largesse while those who cannot or do not own their own house, renters, unit dwellers, the old, those on minimum income, the young and the poor are forced, through skewed tarrifs to shell out.

Mate, I have looked at solar PV a dozen ways and more. What I see is too often a feel-good, expensive dream; a scam; a diversion from the real game which MUST be the provision of affordable and reliable energy to an energy hungry world in a way that does not destroy our climate and our species as a consequence.

By all means, solar pundits are welcome to solar PV dreams, but not to dress them up in untruths and mistruths or to demand that I and others change our ways to suit the foibles of their chosen energy source. If I want to get power during the 80% of the day when PV is asleep or missing in action, that does not make me inadequate: it shows up the inadequacies of the PV Dream. Morning and evening peaks are a fact which solar gurus choose to ignore at their peril. Summer mid-day peaks likewise.

Some solar pundits strike me as being like small children, throwing a tantrum in an effort to have their way and rejecting reasoning and patience.

So, solar pundits, love me or hate me, that is where PV fits into my world. Want to convince me cto change my mind? Easy, abandon public subsidies, promote an energy source which is safe, scaleable, cheaper than PV ever will be, has minimal demands on storage, is reliable and is based on proven technologies.

But please, solar pundits, do not demand that I must “take a second look”. That happened years ago and nothing has changed since.

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A great deal of investment is being made in PV technologies. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with Eli Yablonovitch of ALTA technologies recently. He has secured about $200 million from mainstream investment houses for commercialization of thin film technology that has achieved impressive above 25% conversion efficiencies. BP has a slide show with some experinece curve data for Si based technologies. http://www.lesker.com/newweb /news/jpg/BPSolarSidhu_4-13-2010.pdf that is encouraging.
Yablonovitch tells me that PV conversion efficiencies of up to 60% are possible with contunued progress in nanotechnologies. I am not going to bet my life on PV, and I am vary aware of research promise versus commercial success, but to count PV out amidst all the evidence to date of reducing costs and improved performance is a bit premature.

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Here in the UK, we just had what is pretty much a night of films about nuclear energy on one of the main television channels. The films shown represent somewhat a ‘cartoon’ image of nuclear power.

The first was ‘Into Eternity’ on the Finnish repository, which had some nice imagery and music. However, the director/narrator repeated the ‘100,000 is how long Onkalo needs to survive’ over and over. Way too dramatic IMO, and transmutation was instantly dismissed as unrealistic or even dangerous. None of the serious technical issues were discussed, and instead the narrator seemed obsessed with philosophical issues.

The second was ‘Heavy Water’ which was essentially an hour of poems and recantations about Chernobyl. Very sad, but again very overly dramatic.

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For some reason people shrug off fatal coal mine explosions eg the recent NZ event

while they are mortified by nuclear incidents with no fuel related fatalities. Or they like to think the nasty coal business will soon go away once a few windmills and solar panels are installed.

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Sod, did you miss the graph cyril posted?:

Solar output is ZERO at peak demand in California, so yes of course a flat line is a better match to peak demand if that’s what your peak demand looks like.

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Sod, solar does not match peak output well at all, this is counter-intuitive, but when it comes to matters of energy, you cannot trust your intuition. You need to check these things with real world evidence. Obvious things are not obvious. Nuclear may appear dangerous, but has the lowest death rate per TWh of any energy source, including Chernobyl. Nuclear is compact, energy dense, and highly productive. Because of these factors, nuclear can be made safer than other sources, and that’s exactly what it is. Solar in the desert may appear productive, but again the numbers show otherwise: it is not there 80% of the time. For example, the Springerville Generation Station is in the desert, and gets 18-19 percent capacity factor (not there 81-82 percent of the time and not dispatchable).

Being able to deliver electricity ‘on average’ is not important!!! Electricity must be supplied reliably always, every second, minute, hour, day, month, year, decade. It is hard enough with dispatchable and highly productive fossil fuel power plants, it is impossible with erratic, unproductive and non-dispatchable solar and wind.

Oh and Sod: South Africa is not part of Europe. (!)

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Now lets take a look at the biggest recent First Solar project, the 60 MW peak Sarnia Solar Expansion Project:

http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/enbridge-and-first-solar-to-expand-sarnia-solar-project-by-60-mw-initial-20-mw-achieve-commercial-operations.html

http://www.solaripedia.com/13/303/sarnia_becomes_largest_pv_farm_%28ontario%29.html

Costs 5 Canadian dollars per Watt peak, gets 17 percent capacity factor IF it works as well as designers claim. This makes for 29 Canadian dollars per average Watt, absurdly expensive for nondispatchable power that is not there 83% of the time. Not to mention the giant e-waste this is going to make: cadmium is very toxic, and will have to be guarded FOREVER as it has no half-life. Recycling of cadmium isn’t a pretty process, either – not perfect, some cadmium is lost and you need a lot of nasty chemicals.

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Oh, and did I mention that near the US-Canadian border, there ain’t much airconditioning loads for solar to (actually not very well) dovetail?

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“@ sod. For the third time:

What do you consider to be the most important objective for environmental action, and which should take priority? Action to shut down nuclear power generation, or action to counter AGW by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other measures?

Ignoring this question will not make it go away.”

sorry, i saw it once, but had more important things to answer. it is a strange question, for two reasons:

1. Fukushima is still leaking radioactive material into the environment. Japan was saved from a disaster that could have displaced 100s of Million people, by lucky wind directions.

2. the longer running times of nuclear power plants, which were ordered by our conservative government last year were BLOCKING the development of alternative energy. going out of nuclear and saving CO2 are not a contradiction, but can happen at the same time.

so i am all for going out of nuclear as fast as possible. but if another country decides to remove coal instead of nuclear power plants first, it is their decision and i am fine with it.

though the idea that people here constantly bring up the accidents in chines coal mines, while cheering them on when they build nuclear power plants feels a a little strange.

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“Sod, did you miss the graph cyril posted?:

Solar output is ZERO at peak demand in California, so yes of course a flat line is a better match to peak demand if that’s what your peak demand looks like.”

no, i did not miss that link. i think it is horrible.

it tries to confuse people, by placing the solar peak at the same level as the daily peak. people who understand capacity factor would not do this.

it also simply looks wrong. the solar output looks gausian (on good days), not like an upside down parabolic.

http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=156&month=7&year=2011&obj=sun&afl=-11&day=1

summer sunset in Florida is at about 8 pm.

looking at the sma link for Germany, i would expect about 20 to 25% of nominal power on a sunny day at 2 hours before sunset. (which seems to be the peak on that Florida link)

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

as i explained before, smart meters will switch on climate system at the cheap solar peak time. at the moment, people switch it on when they get home.

and all those graphs are flattened by cheaper prices at the low demand night time.

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Sod, you’re hopeless. What a giant waste of time you have been. I hope there are more reasonable people that have learned something from these threads, so not all is lost.

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@ sod:

I find your answer evasive, but I take it that you do in fact place a higher priority on eliminating nuclear power than on cutting GHG emissions. I quite understand why you don’t wish to state this more clearly.

as i explained before, smart meters will switch on climate system at the cheap solar peak time. at the moment, people switch it on when they get home.

Oh wonderful. The smart grid will swich on the air conditioning furing summer from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm while everyone’s at work, and the house will have warmed up nicely for them by the time they’re back home. And we’re going to build massive solar infrastructure to achieve this. Great thinking there.

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Cyril, you should at least read Sod’s links before dismissing them. The paper compares total emissions and emission intensity of plants in 15 EU countries + South Africa, for the purpose of determining how SA compares to EU best – and worst – practice. Germany has high total emissions because it has a lot of coal plants, but it is in the best 3 on every measure for intensity of pollution / kwh of the whole group. The lignite plants are only marginally worse, and better than most coal plants. The UK is terrible, nearly 10X worse for SOx/kwh, causing continued (and justified) complaints from our neighbours downwind.

Shutting down nuclear while keeping coal running is a poor environmental choice even in Germany, but not as much so as in most places – except for the CO2. The question for Sod – and anyone favouring the German nuclear phase-out – is how many millions of tonnes of CO2 are you prepared to dump into the global environment for the sake of easing your irrational fears? Whatever contribution renewables make to the grid, there is always a choice, shut nuclear or shut coal. In choosing to shut nuclear first, Germany is inevitably choosing to shut coal later than it could have been.

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“Sod, you’re hopeless. What a giant waste of time you have been. I hope there are more reasonable people that have learned something from these threads, so not all is lost.”

sorry Cyril, but i need to be shown facts. for example you made a claim above:

“Germany’s electric problem is coal pollution, they have some of the dirtiest plants in Europe,”

i gave a link, that contradicts your claim. (they find German coal power plants to be among the least “dirty” ones among about 15 European States.

Click to access 17-1jesa-blottnitz.pdf

(table page 76)

so your reply “South Africa is not part of Europe. (!)” didn t really convince me.

————————-

somebody else made this claim:

“Solar output is ZERO at peak demand in California,”

i simply can t figure out, why there would be ZERO solar output at 6 pm, 2 hours before sunset on a summer day in Florida. From the link above, you see that we get over 20% of solar nameplate capacity on a sunny day in Germany, 2 hours before sunset. That is way more than the capacity factor!

again, you will need to show facts, if you want to counter my argument.

——————————

“I find your answer evasive, but I take it that you do in fact place a higher priority on eliminating nuclear power than on cutting GHG emissions. I quite understand why you don’t wish to state this more clearly.”

my point was clear: we will move out of nuclear first. and we will reduce CO2 at the same time, as there is no contradiction there.

“Oh wonderful. The smart grid will swich on the air conditioning furing summer from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm while everyone’s at work, and the house will have warmed up nicely for them by the time they’re back home. And we’re going to build massive solar infrastructure to achieve this. Great thinking there.”

not a real problem, as of course buildings have to change a little as well. we all want to drive down CO2, don t we?

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thanks for the post Luke, i only saw it after i replied.

“Shutting down nuclear while keeping coal running is a poor environmental choice even in Germany, but not as much so as in most places – except for the CO2. The question for Sod – and anyone favouring the German nuclear phase-out – is how many millions of tonnes of CO2 are you prepared to dump into the global environment for the sake of easing your irrational fears?”

in Germany, the plan of our former red/green (Schroeder) Government to phase out nuclear (together with subsidies) started a massive investment by local suppliers of electricity (“Stadtwerke”) into alterantive energy. When the new Government changed this plan last autumn, by granting each nuclear power plant 12 more years, all those investments became problematic, as there wouldn t be a “electricity gap” to fill.

so there is a specific reason in Germany, to shut down nuclear instead of coal. there is already a plan for the shutdown, which gives security to those who are ready to invest.

i think that the additional CO2 production will be smaller than most here expect for this reason.

“Whatever contribution renewables make to the grid, there is always a choice, shut nuclear or shut coal. In choosing to shut nuclear first, Germany is inevitably choosing to shut coal later than it could have been.”

as i said multiple times now, this is a decision that i make and that Germany made.

if there was a country with extremely new and modern nuclear plants in very remote regions and it also is in the process of replacing extremely old coal plants, it might be a good decision to do it the other way round.

————————–

my personal reason for shutting down nuclear first is this:

the problem is NOT, that there was an accident in Fukushima. i was expecting this to happen sooner or later.

but i am really shocked by the reaction of the nuclear industry. i would have expected fast changes.

for example additional diesel back ups to be brought up all over the world immediately.

i would have expected the industry to clear roof top storage immediately. (apart from the stuff that is in an exchange process.

and i would have expected immediate attempts to improve flooding protection, for example with mobile walls.

do people here really believe that Fukushima is the only nuclear power plant in the world, with inadequate protection against a tsunami?

we also obviously need forces that are ready to fight a serious nuclear power plant accident. they need equipment and enough manpower.

all these changes should have been an automatic response by the industry, for pure protection of their business.

then later on investigations about errors could figure out ADDITIONAL specific changes learned from the accident. and commissions should think about DIFFERENT accidents with similar or worse results.

———————-

actually after this “anything changed?” topic a new one “what should change” would be a good idea Barry! (and not focused on new reactor designs, but with a look at how to keep the old ones running, as this seems to be what people here want!)

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Sod, what bothers me about you is that you ask for evidence already given numerous times in other threads, and then somehow post links which you do not completely read and do not at all support your contentions. Nowhere did I say Germany emits the most of Europe, I said its problem is fossil fuel pollution. It appears to me as part of a diversion from the main arguments, like Finrod said.

But lets get down and dirty. Let me show you what your link says. Table 1:

Germany is the third highest NOx emitter of Europe, at 221200 tonnes per year. This is not clean Sod. This is very dirty. Ecosystems do not like this eutrophication. It also lowers the human body immune system response.

Germany is the sixth highest SOx emitter of Europe, at 202500 tonnes per year. This is not clean Sod. This is very dirty. Does similar things as NOx.

Germany is the third highest emitter of PM10, at 7779 tonnes per year. This is not clean Sod. It is very dirty. It is highly carginogenic particulate matter containing various heavy metals including mercury and cadmium.

Notice that ALL of this waste gets into the environment BY DESIGN of the fossil plants.

When nuclear plants make every effort to effectively isolate their waste, less than 1/1000 of the coal waste (only 40 tonnes GWe-year LWR), from the environment and store it passively in dry casks, suddenly this is not acceptable, but throwing deadly carginogens into the air from coal plants is perfectly fine with you and should not be prioritised.

By the way, something did change since 1978 – we are emitting twice as much CO2 today.

Of course people like Sod will just claim that, uhm, relative emissions per kWh have reduced. Even Luke_UK seems to claim this nonsensical argument – the environment doesn’t care about relative emissions, wake up people. Is this so hard to understand?

Sod, you Germans better get ready to burn fossil forever. Well, at least the Russians will be happy with you, selling gas and making like bandits.

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Sod, regarding industry response: its never a good idea to run around like chickens with no heads. Better is to first find out what exactly happened at Fukushima Daiichi and then make definate plans based on all the facts gathered. This is how it works when there is an industrial or chemical accident. I know because part of my job is to do QRAs (or PRAs) and these disaster induced changes take a lot of time. There was a major petroleum storage explosion in Buncefield, UK in 2005. We are still working on implementing techical measures such as independent overpressure protection valves etc. 6 years later!!!

Now, when was the last time a 15 meter tsunami hit southern Germany? Oops southern Germany isn’t anywhere near the coast! Well done Merkel.

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Rest assured that the “what should change” process is already in full swing.

When questioned on the process that led to one of Thomas Edison’s greatest inventions, he famously said, “I’ve discovered a hundred ways how not to make a light bulb”. This was his homey way of saying what most self-aware people understand… progress/improvement is much more often a result of failure than success.

It is always the case in the aftermath of a massive event, be it natural or manmade (or in this case, both) that the armchair quarterbacks opine on how the response could have been better. But as, from their comfortable remove, they indulge in their schoolyard “I told you so’s”, serious people are busily going about the difficult business of picking up the pieces in an inherently chaotic situation.

The armchair types are prodigious “problem identifiers”… since they admit of no boundary but what human imagination and dread can concoct, they operate in a limitless field… and flatter themselves profound. But they are (self)deceived… They contribute very little, all the while casting aspersions on the “problem solvers”.

We will learn from this event, changes will be made, and though in the end they may try to take the credit, in truth it will be in spite of the silly armchair “problem identifiers” out there.

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@Cyril,
Emission intensity matters because economics matters.
Emissions = Population X (GDP/person) X (kwh/GDP) X (emissions/kwh)
Globally, we need GDP/person to go up, population is going up, though we hope not too far, so we need the energy intensity of the economy and emissions intensity of generation to improve, by a combined factor of well over 10, to avoid continued poverty and environmental degradation.

Germany is one of the larger polluters in Europe, but the UK is worse, for a smaller economy, and Spain is ~3X Germany on NOx, SOx and particulates, with a fraction of the economic output to show for it. The environment only cares about the total, but people have good reason to care about intensities too.

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Luke_UK, what you are saying is what I’ve been saying: energy use goes up worldwide, so the cut we need to make is going to be greater. The nuclear plant replaces the coal plant 1:1. The NOx goes down 100%, the particulate goes down 100%, the SOx goes down 100% (building power station NOx , particulate and SOx emissions are negligible) and the CO2 goes down 99%. Everything that you electrify get same emissions profile!

This is also why 50% renewable doesn’t cut it. Even 70% renewable doesn’t cut it. We need to electrify everything and get 95+% intensity reduction.

I don’t see the economics tradeoff here because nuclear is affordable. Even with 10x economic growth you come out good on absolute terms which DOES matter for the environment (its the ONLY thing that matters for the environment) with all nuclear.

What is more, the economy and the environment are usually not seperate: increasing emissions causes less agricultural produce, more healthcare costs etc. that are all negative economic effects.

Combining the economic and the environmental costs, we get fully internalised cost. Doing that for a fully powered world with energy source X turns out that nuclear is that energy source X.

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Luke_UK, Cyril is well aware of the fact, that “emissions” per kw/h matter.

just a few days ago, he wrote about deaths per kw/h in different technologies:

“That’s 5,000,000,000,000 kWh of low cost, reliable, clean nuclear production. This has saved 75,000 people compared to coal related deaths (assuming US coal deaths per TWh) or 20,000 when replacing natural gas.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/lifetime-deaths-per-twh-from-energy.html

of course wind and solar would have looked much better in that discussion, if we had looked at totals. (especially if we would look at a reality based number of deaths caused by nuclear energy, instead of just using the direct deaths caused by Chernobyl)

Cyril just made a minor error above, when he claimed that Germany has some of the dirtiest coal plants in Europe. and we should just consider this issue solved.
(i brought it up again, because i found it unfair that Cyril tried to end the discussion with me (and with support from Barry!), when i was so obviously right)

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Cyril did also post this link:

“By the way, here you can see that solar PV in Germany has almost 3x the external cost of nuclear in same Germany…

http://www.externe.info/externpr.pdf

which i think is one of the most misleading papers i ever saw. this study does indeed say what Cyril claimed, for example nuclear has a smaller health impact than photovoltaic in Germany. (pdf page 15)

the reason for this rather surprising effect is simple: radiation is NOT a health risk considered by this study. neither is any of the material used in nuclear fuel. (table on pdf page 9)

a completely useless approach!

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Overall,an informative comment thread – congratulations to all.

Speaking of comics,I have the 2010/194 page Beyond Zero Emissions report from Zero Carbon Australia on my computer.
I don’t know why I leave it there.Maybe it is because I need a quick reference for beyond wally world ideas. Although ,with the prevailing insanity in so many other areas of need I doubt if it is of much special use.

Actually,has anybody heard much of this report in 2011? Admittedly I don’t “do” the environmental wishlist sites much anymore as I wish to preserve my sanity,what there is left of it.

The same applies to the Desertec scheme in Europe.Maybe the Arab revolts have promoted a few second thoughts on that.

Meanwhile,our PM is lecturing the Chinese on this, that or the other.There is a long tradition of Australian leaders telling other nations what they should be doing while the home place is getting over run with feral flora and fauna.

Anyway,while giving due credence to the several commenters who have pointed out the gross inequities and inefficiencies of feed in tarrifs etc,I will continue to nurture my solar system while I continue to get some return on my investment.When that dries up as I am tipping it will,I will go off grid,at least so I can continue to read BNC.
Apologies for being flippant but that is part of the Maintain Sanity Program.

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Podargus, frequently in discussing nuclear power and emissions recently with environmental types the ZCA2010 report is thrown back as incontrovertible proof that we do not need nuclear. Its out there and its having an impact. Its an environmental travesty and criminally negligent, but its been well promoted, and its accepted at face value on its own terms by many earnest and well meaning people.

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@Cyril:

You claimed: “Germany’s electric problem is coal pollution, they have some of the dirtiest plants in Europe”

The link provided by Sod clearly proves you wrong. Germany has the most coal power plants in Europe but they are among the cleanest.

The interesting number is pollution per kwh of electricity produced. That is how you measure whether a plant is relatively clean or not.

With your argument I could make a dirty 50 Megawatt plant look ecofriendly by comparing it to a 1000 Megawatt plant…

Look at the paper again. Compare the numbers of big power plants and compare the emmisions of NOx, SOx etc. per kwh of energy produced.

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Bill, what is it about the phrase “clean coal” that does not strike you as profoundly oxymoronic?

If Germany’s coal plants were burning pure diamond they would still be an open sewer into the ecosphere.

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“Storage would benefit any form of electricity generation in dealing with peaks. It probably favors coal and nuclear more because the sizing of the required storage is more deterministic and less probabilistic. ”

Yes, but as already mentioned because of the well known externalities like GW and nuclear waste and black swans means coal and nuclear would not be legally permitted eventually.

“The fact that storage, other than pumped hydro, has thus far only been deployed on a trivial scale anywhere surely suggests that up to now it is too expensive. That may change, but until it demonstrably does so on large scale, betting the future of the climate on such vague promises is just a bit risky.”

Its trivial because baseload of coal and subsidized nuclear makes it trivial, there are no reasons why it can not scale up, again remember power is hard, storage is easy.

“cadmium is very toxic, and will have to be guarded FOREVER as it has no half-life”

This shows a considerable misunderstanding on how decay toxicity differs from chemical toxicity. Mercury is also quite toxic, but amalgalm it with silver and its so safe millions have large quantities of it in their mouths,

Metals tend to be recyclable, and in worst case scenarios can be disposed of in extremely stable compounds (zinc cadmium sulfide for example).

Nuclear waste on the other hand is with us for hundreds of thousands of years, there is no way to get rid of it, even mythical breeders only use up actinides, leaving the plethora of dangerous isotopes that cannot be recyclable.

As for Solar not following the peak curve, sometimes the easiest problems have a 18th century solution (Ben Franklin)… ever hear about daylight savings? its easier to conform schedules to the sun’s output than it is to get rid of nuclear waste.

Still storage is needed and is not that expensive. Soon I will offer a possible $/kWh for scalable solutions and maybe ally some skepticism.

Last but not least First Solar is a company, with shareholders, dividends, research and development, salaries, debts etc. Its survival is not relevant to scientists, but their manufacturing costs derived from their current technology means everything, we are not looking to INVEST in them but LEARN from them and information is not lost, if they fall anybody can pick up the torch just as easily as me typing this post.

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Aren’t discussions about how ‘clean’ coal plants are a bit irrelevant? The ‘cleanest’ coal plant is far dirtier than a nuclear power plant. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either ignorant or lying.

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sod, on 28 April 2011 at 3:21 AM — You written the wrong unit about three times now. The unit is kilowatt-hour, best abbreviated as kWh.

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@ sod

You said, “Luke_UK, Cyril is well aware of the fact, that “emissions” per kw/h matter.”

Surely you can understand the inherent hypocrisy of stating as a “fact, that “emissions” per kw/h matter.” and maintaining your anti-nuclear stance?

Know thyself, amigo.

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@ sod
CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity and heat generated. Figures below for 2008:

Click to access co2highlights.pdf

Iceland uses about 50/50 geothermal/hydro – 1gCO2/kWh
Norway, almost 100% hydro – 4gCO2/kWh
Switzerland, almost 50/50 nuclear/hydro – 27gCO2/kWh
Sweden, almost 50/50 nuclear/hydro – 40gCO2/kWh
France, almost 80% nuclear – 83gCO2/kWh

Germany – 441gCO2/kWh

Oh dear.

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“sod, on 28 April 2011 at 3:21 AM — You written the wrong unit about three times now. The unit is kilowatt-hour, best abbreviated as kWh.”

sorry, stupid error.

—–

“This is all very interesting. Please tell us more about how clean and eco-friendly Germany’s coal plants are.”

i do not think that they are clean. the claim was, that they are the dirtiest in Germany. from the data i have seen so far, they are not.

—————-

“Surely you can understand the inherent hypocrisy of stating as a “fact, that “emissions” per kw/h matter.” and maintaining your anti-nuclear stance? ”

not if you factor in all emissions. this is what the link i gave above does NOT.

Click to access externpr.pdf

so if you do not look at “emissions” from a nuclear plant, you can NOT compare it to other plants. the approach is plain out stupid!

————

“@sod: Please explain why radiation from a nuclear plant is a health risk. Under normal operation, there is no radiation health risk. Any radiation risks would belong under risks of an accident.”

there is a significant increase of cancer among children living close to nuclear power plants. (i assume that many of you are aware of the KIKK study in Germany)

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

(source is a German department for protection from radiation. so the assessment on that page is critical of the study result. there are plenty of additional sources on the web)

but even if you come to the conclusion that there is no risk from nuclear fuel, you need to include it in the data you look at. completely excluding it is a false approach that leads to false results.

ps: if you are able to speak German, the German TV channel Phönix is showing the first meeting of the new ethic commission to assess nuclear energy all day long. (link to live stream at the top)

http://www.phoenix.de/content/phoenix/start

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“Iceland uses about 50/50 geothermal/hydro – 1gCO2/kWh
Norway, almost 100% hydro – 4gCO2/kWh
Switzerland, almost 50/50 nuclear/hydro – 27gCO2/kWh
Sweden, almost 50/50 nuclear/hydro – 40gCO2/kWh
France, almost 80% nuclear – 83gCO2/kWh

Germany – 441gCO2/kWh

Oh dear.”

all of this does not provide any information about the question. which still is Does Germany have the dirtiest coal plants in EUROPE? (i made a stupid typo above)

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Ask yourselves people: are ecosystems bothered by emissions per kWh or by emissions total?

The latter is the the case. So yes, one dirty 50 MWe plant CAN be better than a clean 1000 MWe plant. What France is doing is closing down plants rather than trying to make them clean, and from the link Sod provided, France’s strategy is far more effective, whethere NOx or SOx or PM10 or CO2.

How would you guys like to sniff 7000 tonnes of PM10? How about 200000 tonnes of NOx and SOx? Think that’s clean?

I can’t believe how deluded some people here are.

Does “environmentalist” mean you dropped out of high school?

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@ Enviromentalist, on 28 April 2011 at 9:50 AM:

Quote:
“Last but not least First Solar is a company, with shareholders, dividends, research and development, salaries, debts etc. Its survival is not relevant to scientists, but their manufacturing costs derived from their current technology means everything, we are not looking to INVEST in them but LEARN from them and information is not lost, if they fall anybody can pick up the torch just as easily as me typing this post.”

Only yesterday I pointed out that First Solar are losing money. Their shareholder funds, after allowances for capital raisings, are falling and their business relies on government handouts.

Points from the First Solar current annual report, available from http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9Mzk2ODQxMXxDaGlsZElEPTQyMTkwNHxUeXBlPTI=&t=1 follow.

“First Solar aim to produce energy at 12 to 14 cents per kWh” This is still 2 or 3 times the current SE Australian average grid price, even before allowing for intermittency, cost of backup supplies and so forth.

Page 28: “Reduced growth in or the reduction, elimination, or expiration of government subsidies, economic incentives, and other support for on-grid solar electricity applications, including potential 2011 mid-year feed-in-tariff reductions in Germany and certain other core markets, could reduce demand and/or price levels for our solar modules, and limit our growth or lead to a reduction in our net sales, and adversely impact our operating results.”
this is the world leader of an industry which survives only because it is on the public’s teat.
The whole report is more than 150 pages, but

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“Ask yourselves people: are ecosystems bothered by emissions per kWh or by emissions total?”

ask yourself Cyril, are people bothered by deaths per kwh or by total deaths?

why do you use one metric when it suits your point (death per kwh makes the small number of “solar deaths” high) and another one (high total CO2 emissions make the big CO2 output of German coal look dirty, even though they have a lower Co2 per kwh than other countries in Europe) when it doesn t?

https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/21/energy-debates-in-wonderland/#comment-125489

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sod, thank you very much for your reference on the KIKK study.

To put it in perspective, it is worth noting that NPP are not the only industrial installations which have effect on Leukemia, see for instance the case for a refinery : http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=22053367 .

and of course there are the dreadful effect of coal mining http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080326201751.htm

Apparently, there is no free lunch in energy. We just have to find the cheapest in terms of health impact, and nuclear still looks go, despite (or because?) attracting considerably higher scrutiny that other sources of energy.
Of course, “negawatts” are the best, but there is a limit under which we can’t go without sacrifying goods and services that enhance our health. Read Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” and look at the mortality rate of the “sustainable” Borneo natives…

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