Emissions Future GR Nuclear Policy

What price of Indian independence? Greenpeace under the spotlight

Two PWRs under construction in Kudamkulam, India

Guest Post by Geoff RussellGeoff is a mathematician and computer programmer and is a member of Animal Liberation SA. His recently published book is CSIRO Perfidy. To see a list of other BNC posts by Geoff, click here.


India declared itself a republic in 1950 after more than a century of struggle against British Imperialism. Greenpeace India however, is still locked firmly under the yoke of its parent. Let me explain.

Like many Australians, I only caught up with Bombay’s 1995 change of name to Mumbai some time after it happened. Mumbai is India’s city of finance and film, of banks and Bollywood. A huge seething coastal metropolis on the north western side of India. It’s also the capital of the state of Maharashtra which is about 20 percent bigger than the Australian state of Victoria, but has 112 million people compared to Victoria’s 5.5 million. Mumbai alone has over double Victoria’s entire population. Despite its population, the electricity served up by Maharashtra’s fossil fuel power stations plus one big hydro scheme is just 11.3 GW (giga watts, see Note 3), not much more than the 8 or so GW of Victoria’s coal and gas fumers. So despite Mumbai’s dazzling glass and concrete skyline, many Indians in both rural and urban areas of the state still cook with biomass … things like wood, charcoal and cattle dung.

The modern Mumbai skyline at night

Mumbai’s wealth is a magnet for terrorism. The recent attacks in 2008 which killed 173 follow bombings in 2003 and 1993 which took 209 and 257 lives respectively. Such events are International news, unlike the daily death and illness, particularly to children, from cooking with biomass. Each year, cooking smoke kills about 256,000 Indian children between 1 and 5 years of age with acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI). Those who don’t die can suffer long term consequences to their physical and mental health. A rough pro-rata estimate would see about 23,000 children under 5 die in Maharashtra every year from cooking smoke.

The image is from a presentation by medical Professor Kirk Smith, who has been studying cooking smoke and its implications for 30 years.

Medical Prof. Kirk Smith's summary of health impacts from cooking fires

The gizmo under the women’s right arm measures the noxious fumes she is exposed to while cooking. Kirk doesn’t just study these illnesses but has been spinning off development projects which develope and distribute cleaner cooking stoves to serve as an interim measure until electricity arrives.

The disconnect between what matters about Mumbai and India generally to an Australian or European audience and what matters locally is extreme. But a visit to the Greenpeace India website shows it is simply a western clone. In a country where real matters of life and death are ubiquitous, the mock panic infecting the front page of the Greenpeace India website at the death-less problems of the Fukushima nuclear plant seem weird at best, and obscene at worst.“Two months since Fukushima, the Jaitapur project has not been stopped“, shouts the text over one front page graphic in reference to the nuclear plant proposed for construction at Jaitapur. In those two months, nobody has died of radiation at Fukushima, but 58,000 Indian children have died from cooking smoke. They have died because of a lack of electricity. Some thousands in Maharashtra alone.

Greenpeace, now an obstructive dinosaur

The whole world loved Greenpeace back in its halcyon days protesting whaling and the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Taking on whalers and the French Navy in the open sea in little rubber boats was indeed worthy of Mahatma Gandhi. But the legacy of those days is now an obstacle to Greenpeace helping to fight the much bigger environmental battles that are being fought. As Greenpeace campaigns to throw out the nuclear powered baby with the weapons testing bathwater, it seems to have forgotten the 2010 floods which displaced 20 million in the sub-continent. The Australian Council for International Development reports in May 2011 that millions are still displaced with 913,000 homes completely destroyed. Millions also have ongoing health issues with rising levels of tuberculosis, dengue fever and the impacts of extended periods of malnutrition. The economic structure of large areas has been devastated along with food and seed stocks. Areas in southern Pakistan are still under water.

This foreshadows the scale of devastation which will be delivered more frequently as global warming bites.

Brown clouds, cooking and climate change

Regardless of what you think about nuclear power, you’d think breathable air would be an environmental issue worthy of Greenpeace’s attention, but biomass cooking is missing from Greenpeace India’s campaign headings.

Biomass cooking isn’t just a consequence of poverty, it feeds into a vicious feedback loop. People, usually women and children, spend long periods collecting wood or cattle dung (see image or full study). This reduces educational opportunities, while pressure on forests for wood and charcoal degrades biodiversity. Infections from smoke, even if not fatal, combine with the marginal nutrition produced by intermittent grain shortages to yield short and sickly lifespans, while burning cattle dung wastes a resource far more valuable as fertiliser.

In 2004, a World Health Organisation Report estimated that, globally, 50 percent of all households and 90 percent of rural households cook with biomass. In India, they estimated that 81 percent of Indian households cook with biomass. That figure will have dropped somewhat with significant growth in Indian power generation over the past decade but will still be high.

Biomass cooking isn’t only a health issue, but a significant player in climate change. Globally, the black carbon in the smoke from over 3 billion people cooking and boiling water daily with wood, charcoal or cattle dung forms large brown clouds with regional and global impacts.

Maharashtra’s nuclear plans

Apart from a reliable food supply, the innovation that most easily distinguishes the developed and developing world is electricity. It’s the shortage of this basic commodity that kills those 256,000 Indian children annually. Electric cooking is clean and slices through the poverty inducing feedback loop outlined above. Refrigeration reduces not just food wastage but also food poisoning.

If you want to protect forests and biodiversity as well as children in India (and the rest of the developing world), then electricity is fundamental. Higher childhood survival is not only a worthy goal in itself, but it is also critical in reducing birthrates.

Apart from a Victorian sized coal fired power supply the 112 million people of Maharashtra also have the biggest nuclear power station in India. This is a cluster of two older reactors and two newer ones opened in 2005 and 2006. The newer reactors were constructed by Indian companies and were completed inside time and below budget. The two old reactors are relatively small, but the combined power of the two newer reactors is nearly a giga watt. India’s has a rich mathematical heritage going back a thousand years which underpins a sophisticated nuclear program. Some high-level analytic techniques were known in India hundreds of years before being discovered in Europe.

India has another nuclear power station planned for Maharashtra. And much bigger. This will be a half a dozen huge 1.7 GW French EPR reactors at Jaitapur, south of Mumbai. On its own, this cluster will surpass the entire current output of the state’s coal fired power stations. The project will occupy 968 hectares and displace 2,335 villagers (Wikipedia). How much land would solar collectors occupy for an Andasol like concentrating solar thermal system? About 40 times more land and either displace something like 80,000 people or eat into India’s few wildlife habitats.

If Greenpeace succeeds in delaying the Jaitapur nuclear plant, biomass cooking in the area it would have serviced will continue together with the associated suffering and death of children. It’s that simple. Greenpeace will have direct responsibility no less than if it had bombed a shipment of medical supplies or prevented the decontamination of a polluted drinking well.

Jaitapur and earthquakes

In the wake of the reactor failures at Fukushima which killed nobody, Greenpeace globally and Greenpeace India are redoubling their efforts to derail the new Jaitapur nuclear plant. The Greenpeace India website (Accessed 9th May) carries a graphic of the Fukushima station with covering text:

The Jaitapur nuclear plant in India is also in an earthquake prone zone. Do we want to take the risk? The people of Jaitapur don’t.

The Greenpeace site claims that the chosen location for the Jaitapur power plant is in a Seismic Zone 4 with a maximum recorded quake of 6.3 on the Richter scale. Accepting this as true (Wikipedia says its Zone 3), should anybody be afraid?

“Confident” and “relaxed” are far more appropriate responses for anybody who understands the Richter scale. It’s logarithmic. Base 10.

Still confused? A quake of Richter scale size 7 is 10 times more powerful than one of size 6. A quake of size 8 is 100 times more powerful than one a size 6. And a scale 9 quake, like Japan’s monster on March the 11th, is a thousand times more powerful than a quake of size 6. The 40 year old Fukushima reactors came through this massive quake with damage but no deaths. The reactors shutdown as they were designed to and subsequent problems, still fatality free and caused primarily by the tsunami, would not have occurred with a more modern reactor. We haven’t stopped building large buildings in earthquake zones because older designs failed.

Steep cliffs and modern reactor designs at Jaitapur will mean that tsunamis won’t be a problem. All over the world people build skyscrapers in major earthquake zones. The success of the elderly Fukushima reactors in the face of a monster quake is cause for relief and confidence, not blind panic. After all, compared to a skyscraper like Taipei 101, designing a low profile building like a nuclear reactor which can handle earthquakes is a relative doddle.

Despite being a 10 on the media’s self-proclaimed Richter scale, subsequent radiation leaks and releases at Fukushima will cause few if any cancers. It’s unlikely that a single worker will get cancer, let alone any of the surrounding population. This is not even a molehill next to the mountain of cancers caused by cigarettes, alcohol and red meat. The Fukushima evacuations are terrible for the individuals involved but even 170,000 evacuees pales beside the millions of evacuations caused by increasing climate based cataclysms.

Greenpeace India haunted by a pallid European ghost

Each year that the electricity supply in Maharashtra is inadequate, some 23,000 children under the age of 5 will die. They will die this year. They will die next year. They will keep dying while the electricity supply in Maharashtra is inadequate. While the children die, their parents will mourn and continue to deplete forests for wood and charcoal. They will continue to burn cattle dung and they will have more children.

A search of the Greenpeace India web pages finds no mention of biomass cooking. No mention of its general, environmental, climate or health impacts. But there are 118 pages referencing Chernobyl.

At Chernobyl, 237 people suffered acute radiation sickness with 28 dying within 4 months and another 19 dying between 1987 and 2006. As a result of the radiation plume and people who were children at the time drinking contaminated milk, there were 6,848 cases of thyroid cancer between 1991 and 2005. These were treated with a success rate of about 98% (implying about 140 deaths). Over the past 25 years there have also been some thousands of other cancers that might, or might not, have been caused by Chernobyl amongst the millions of cancers caused by factors that Greenpeace doesn’t seem the least worried by, things like cigarettes, alcohol and red meat.

On the other hand, each year that India’s electricity supply is inadequate will see about 256,000 childhood deaths. As an exercise, readers may wish to calculate the number of Indian children who have died due to inadequate cooking fuels over the past 25 years and compare it with the 140 children who died due to the Chernobyl accident. Every one of those Indian deaths was every bit as tragic as every one of those Chernobyl deaths.

Greenpeace India is dominated by the nuclear obsession of its parent organisation. On the day when the Greenpeace India blog ran a piece about 3 Japanese workers with burned feet, nearly a thousand Indian children under 5 will have died from cooking stove smoke. They didn’t get a mention on that day, or any other.

Why is Greenpeace India haunted by this pallid European ghost of an explosion 25 years ago in an obsolete model of reactor in Ukraine? Why is Greenpeace India haunted by the failure of a 40 year old Fukushima reactor without a single fatality? This is a tail wagging not just a dog, but the entire sled team.

Extreme scenarios

It’s time Greenpeace India looked rationally at Indian choices.

Should they perhaps copy the Germans whose 15 year flirtation with solar power hasn’t made the slightest dent in their fossil fuel use? (Note 2) It may simply be that the Germans are technologically incompetent and that things will go better in India. Perhaps the heirs of Ramanujan will succeed where the heirs of Gauss have failed. Alternatively, should India copy the Danes whose wind farms can’t even half power a tiny country of 5.4 million?

India's current electricity sources. Cooking stoves not included! 'Renewables' are predominantly biomass thermal power plants and wind energy, with some solar PV.

India is well aware that she only has a four or five decades of coal left, but seems less aware, like other Governments, that atmospheric CO2 stabilisation must be at 350 ppm together with strict reductions in short lived forcings like black carbon and methane and that these constraints require her, like Australia and everybody else, to leave most of that coal in the ground. But regardless of motivation, India needs both a rebuild and expansion of her energy infrastructure over the next 50 years.

Let’s consider a couple of thumbnail sketches of two very different extreme scenarios that India may consider.

The first scenario is to phase out all India’s coal, oil and gas electricity generation facilities and replace them with nuclear. Currently these fossil fuel facilities generate about 900,000 GWh (giga watt hours) of electricity. Replacing them with 1,000 nuclear reactors at 1.7 GW each will generate about 14 million GWh annually. This is about 15 times the current electricity supply and roughly similar to Victoria’s per capita electricity supply. It’s a fairly modest target because electricity will be required to replace oil and gas in the future. I also haven’t factored in population growth in the hope that energy efficiency gains will compensate for population growth and also with confidence that electrification will reduce population growth. Nevertheless, this amount of electricity should be enough to catapult India into the realms of the developed world.

These reactors should last at least 60 years and the electricity they produce will prevent 256,000 children under 5 dying every year. Over the lifetime of the reactors this is about 15.4 million childhood deaths. But this isn’t so much about specific savings as a total transformation of India which will see life expectancy rise to developed world levels if dangerous climate change impacts can be averted and a stable global food supply is attained.

Build the reactors in groups of 6, as is proposed at Jaitapur, and you will need to find 166 sites of about 1000 hectares. The average density of people in India is about 3 per hectare, so you may need to relocate half a million people (3000 per site). This per-site figure is close to the actual figure for Jaitapur.

There are currently over 400 nuclear reactors operating world wide and there has been one Chernobyl and one Fukushima in 25 years. Nobody would build a Chernobyl style reactor again, but let’s be really silly and presume that over 60 years we had 2 Chernobyls and 2 Fukushimas in India. Over a 60 year period this might cost 20,000 childhood cancers with a 98% successful treatment rate … so about 400 children might die. There may also be a few thousand adult leukemias easily counterbalanced by a vast amount of adult health savings I haven’t considered.

The accidents would also result in 2 exclusion zones of about 30 kilometers in radius. Effectively this is 2 new modestly sized wildlife parks. We know from Chernobyl that wildlife will thrive in the absence of humans. With a 30km radius, the two exclusion zone wildlife parks would occupy 282,743 hectares.

If you are anti-nuclear, this is a worst case scenario. The total transformation of India into a country where children don’t die before their time in vast numbers.

This is a vision for India that Greenpeace India is fighting tooth and nail to avoid.

As our alternative extreme scenario, suppose India opted for concentrating solar thermal power stations similar to the Spanish Andasol system to supply 14 million GWh annually. Each such unit supplies about 180 GWh per year, so you would need at least 78,000 units with a solar collector area of 3.9 million hectares, equivalent to 13 of our hypothesized exclusion zone wildlife parks from the accidents. But, of course, these 3.9 million hectares are not wildlife parks. I say “at least 78,000” units because the precise amount will depend on matching the demand for power with the availability of sunshine. Renewable sources of energy like wind and solar need overbuilding to make up for variability and unpredictability of wind and cloud cover. The 78,000 Andasol plants each come with 28,000 tonnes of molten salt (a mix of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate) at 400 degrees centigrade which acts as a huge battery storing energy when the sun is shining for use when it isn’t. Local conditions will determine how much storage is required. The current global production of ordinary sodium chloride is about 210 million tonnes annually. Producing the 2.1 billion tonnes of special salt required for 78,000 Andasols will be difficult, as will the production of steel and concrete. Compared to the nuclear reactors, you will need about 15 times more concrete and 75 times more steel.

Build the 78,000 Andasols in groups of 78 and you have to find 1000 sites of about 4,000 hectares. Alternatively you could use 200 sites of 20,000 hectares. The average density of people in India is over 3 per hectare, so you may need to relocate perhaps 12 million people. If you were to use Solar photovoltaic in power stations (as opposed to rooftops), then you would need more than double the land (Note 4) and have to relocate even more people.


In a previous post, I cited an estimate of 1 tonne of CO2 per person per year as a sustainable greenhouse gas emissions limit for a global population of 8.9 billion. How do our two scenarios measure up?

A current estimate of full life cycle emissions from nuclear power is 65g/kWh (grams per kilo-watt-hour) of CO2, so 14 million GWh of electricity shared between 1.4 billion Indians is about 0.65 tonnes per person annum, which allows 0.35 tonnes for food and other non-energy greenhouse gas emissions. So not only is it sustainable, it’s in the ball park as a figure we will all have to live within.

The calculations required to check if this amount of electricity is sustainable from either solar thermal or solar PV are too complex to run through here, but neither will be within budget if any additional fossil fuel backup is required. Solar PV currently generates about 100 g/kWh (p.102) under Australian conditions, so barring technical breakthroughs, is unsustainable, unless you are happy not to eat at all. Solar thermal is similar to nuclear in g-CO2/kWh, except that the required overbuilding will probably blow the one tonne budget.

The human cost of construction time

The relative financial costs of the two scenarios could well have a human cost. For example, more money on energy usually means less on ensuring clean water. But this post is already too long. However, one last point needs to be made about construction time. I strongly suspect that while building 1000 nuclear reactors will be a vast undertaking, it is small compared to 78,000 Andasols. Compare the German and French experiences of solar PV and nuclear, or simply think about the sheer number and size of the sites required. The logistics and organisational time could end up dominating the engineering build time. We know from various experiences, including those of France and Germany, that rapid nuclear builds are physically plausible and India has demonstrated this with its own reactor program.

If I’m right and a solar (or other renewable) build is slower than a nuclear build, then the cost in human suffering will easily dwarf anything from any reasonable hypotheses on the number of accidents. Can we put a number on this? If we arbitrarily assume a pro-rata reduction in childhood deaths in proportion to the displacement of biomass cooking with electricity, then we can compare a phase-out over 10 five-year plans with one taking say 11. So at the end of each 5 year plan a chunk of electricity comes on line and the number of cooking smoke deaths drops. At the end of the process the number of deaths from cooking smoke is 0. It’s a decline in a series of 10 large or 11 slightly smaller steps. Plug in the numbers and add up the total over the two time periods and the difference is … 640,000 deaths in children under 5. Construction speed matters.

In conclusion

How do my back-of-an-envelope scenarios compare with India’s stated electricity development goals? According to India’s French partner in the Jaitapur project, Areva, India envisages about half my hypothesized electrical capacity being available by 2030, so a 50 year nuclear build plan isn’t ridiculous provided floods or failed monsoons don’t interfere unduly.

As for the safety issues and my hypothesised accidents, it doesn’t matter much what kind of numbers you plug in as a consequence of the silly assumption of a couple of Chernobyls. They are all well and truly trumped: firstly, by the increase in health for Indian children, secondly by the reforestation and biodiversity gains as biomass cooking declines, thirdly by the reduction in birth rates as people get used to not having their children die, and lastly, by helping us all have a fighting chance of avoiding the worst that climate change might deliver.

It’s time Greenpeace India told its parent organisation to shove off. It’s time Greenpeace India set its own agenda and put the fate of Indian children, the Indian environment and the planet ahead of the ideological prejudices of a parent organisation which has quite simply lost the plot.

Note 1: Nuclear Waste: What about the nuclear waste from a thousand reactors? This is far less dangerous than current levels of biomass cooking smoke and is much more easily managed. India has some of the best nuclear engineers in the business. They are planning thorium breeder reactors which will result in quite small amounts of waste, far smaller and more manageable than the waste from present reactors. Many newer reactor designs can run on waste from the present generation of reactors. These newer reactors are called IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) and details can be found on

Note 2: German Solar PV: Germany installed 17 GW of Solar photo voltaic (PV) power cells between 2000 and 2010 and in 2010 those 17 GW worth of cells delivered 12,000 GWh of energy. If those cells were running in 24×7 sunshine, they would have delivered 17x24x365 = 149 GWh of energy. So their efficiency is about 8 percent (this is usually called their capacity factor. A single 1.7GW nuclear reactor can produce about 1.7x24x365x0.9=13,402 GWh in a year (the 0.9 is a reasonable capacity factor for nuclear … 90 percent). Fossil fuel use for electricity production in Germany hasn’t changed much in the past 30 years with most of the growth in the energy supply being due to the development of nuclear power in Germany during the late 70s and 80s.

Note 3: Giga watts, for non technical readers.: The word billion means different things in different countries, but “giga” always means a thousand million, so a giga watt (GW for short) is a useful unit for large amounts of power. A 100-watt globe takes 100 watts of power to run. Run it for an hour and you have used 100 watt-hours of energy. Similarly, a GWh, is a giga watt of power used for an hour, and this is a useful unit for large amounts of energy. If you want to know all about energy units for a better understanding of BNC discussions, here’s Barry’s primer

Note 4: Area for Solar PV. German company JUWI provides large scale PV systems. Their 2 MW (mega watt system) can supply about 3.1 GWh per year and occupies 2 hectares. To supply a similar amount of energy to Andasol would need 180/3.1=58 units occupying some 116 hectares.

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.

170 replies on “What price of Indian independence? Greenpeace under the spotlight”

There is no “emission-free” energy technology.

I think the reference was to greenhouse gases, specifically. For all intents and purposes, nuclear is as “emission free” as is possible in a fossil-fueled world. And as soon as the world weens itself off of fossil fuels (transport and electricity generation) the embodied emissions disappear in any energy technology.


The hollow assertion that nuclear energy isn’t really emission-free is getting stale. It is not an argument, it’s an attempt to obfuscate.

Those extending this argument are not trying to make a valid point. Their only objective is to create an illusion to undermine one of nuclear energy’s greatest advantages. It is mud-slinging by those who have run out of real points to make.

We have put up with this for too long. The point is invalid and nothing more than sophistry. It should be dismissed as such.


Hank: Agreed, there is no free lunch.

The problem is a multi-variate minimisation problem with constraints. i.e., Choose a combination of levels of electrical generation technologies Nuclear, Solar Thermal, Solar PV, Hydro and Wind to minimise impacts A, B, C … etc while providing electricity to 1.4 b people for less then 1 tonne Co2 per cap per annum.

I examined a couple of feasible points that were easy to characterise without looking at all the impacts. The down sides of CST compared to nuclear that I considered were space, materials and build time. I figured emissions were roughly comparable, except for Solar PV which will have a
tough time being in any feasible solution except as a niche player.

Within the feasible set of nuclear solution points are some with Gen III+ technologies and others with Gen IV/Thorium. The latter aren’t in a mature state, so build times would be much tougher to even guess about. But the Gen IV points would reduce uranium mining impacts at the possible expense of blowing out build times.


I can’t see the bottom billion in China and India making it to Western middle class lifestyles this generation. World wide contraction and convergence may create a frugal global class which meets lower aspirations half way. This will be a threat to those currently in the upper echelons. For Chindia 2.5 bn X 5 kw = 12.5 Tw. The 5 kw average power comes from Mackay’s 125 kwh per day for the UK.

The practical transition time may be too short. Already China is finding high imported fossil fuel prices cancel the low wages and lack of pollution controls
It’s interesting how China and India ‘get’ the need for high fuel conversion NP while the pampered middle classes in Germany, Scotland and now Switzerland fantasise about a return to using less.. The reality will become blazingly clear in a few short years.


John Newlands,
I think you underestimate the dynamism of Chindia and the ability of the USA and western Europe to accelerate their “Post-Industrialization” with perennial double digit unemployment and sky rocketing debt.

A book I would strongly recommend is the “Sovereign Individual” by James Dale Davidson and Willam Rees-Mogg.


> emission-free is getting stale.
> It is not an argument, it’s an attempt to obfuscate.
> Those extending this argument are not
> trying to make a valid point.

I agree with you completely on that — from all points of view on it, arguing that just avoids real numbers.

Convincing those who can do arithmetic requires facts and numbers, not opinions and word claims.

Convincing those who can do arithmetic is necessary. It isn’t enough, of course.

“… a woman called out to him, “You have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back, “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”


@Hank Roberts – So you will reference Storm-Smith, then one of us will for the umpteenth time show in detail why this study, and others like it are worthless because of invalid assumptions, and around and around we go.

Nuclear energy does not produce significant amounts of GHG or any other emissions that are not minuscule compared to the combustion of fossil-fuels, life cycle or not with the possible exception of waste heat which is unavoidable in any thermal cycle doing work.

But more importantly, the argument, such as it is, makes the unstated assumption that wind and PV are equal to nuclear in all aspects but this. This assumption is unsupportable.

Consequently the assertion itself is pointless other than as a red herring, which is what it is used for.

But most of all its been done, over and over, and has been shown to have no weight. It should not keep coming up if the debate is to move forward.


John Newlands and gallopingcamel:

John stated it as his view that the majority of Chindians wouldn’t be able to attain Western living standards this generation. instead, he predicted worldwide contraction and convergence, implying significant improvements in developing country life styles with equivalent falls in western democracies.

Gallopingcamel, however, seemed to expect that developing and developed nations wouldn’t meet in the middle, but change places.

In other words, one of you expects a severe drop in western lifestyles while the other predicts a precipitate fall. In either circumstance, would each of you care to speculate on the consequences for democracy and free markets?


I understand the one point of the artivel, which is the nuclear power, and the sensibility in that. I agree, it’sa perfectly reasonable action and will improve the reduce CO2 and improve the lives of millions.

The problem I have is with the attack on Greenpeace in the article, as it isn’t really backed up. It assumes the people will somehow get electricity. india has electricity now, and has for some time. These people have the same access to that power now than they would if India developed nuclear power. So I just think the ‘Greenpeace is stopping people get electric cookers’ argument is a bit shallow.

I don’t want to hold up this thread or divert it, just wanted to say my piece.


@Nathan, then you miss the point. There are *several HUNDRED MILLION* without electricity in India. Even those with it don’t have it all the time, throughout the day or week. Thus, the millions who cook using charcoal and dried cow dung, causing 10s of thousands of deaths a year and perhaps millions of respiratory aliments later in life.

Greenpeace *fails* to address this at all. OK, that’s not fair totally…they propose an increase in solar cooking which works only during a few hours if the sun is shining but has the advantage of being relatively cheap and, outdoors. But the reality is that this is a ’boutique’ solution and doesn’t address the real issue which is lack of electrification.

Secondly, India, as a nation, is *trying* to address the problem by WAY of electrification. A huge plan that includes expanding distribution grids, rebuilding those in urban areas and…lots of new nuclear energy AND…coal and natural gas.


Douglas Wise,

My observations are mostly based on infrequent visits to my relatives who still live in the UK. Each return rubs my nose in new evidence of the decline of this once great nation.

For example, you can’t buy a British motor car unless you count brands that are subsidiaries of foreign companies such as the BMW “Mini”. British Steel is now owned by TATA. I could go on and on but I find it too depressing.

If there is a bright spot, Britain has been called a “Nation of Shopkeepers” and that has not changed although the British high street is mostly in the hands of first or second generation immigrants who still retain the work ethic that the native Brits have mostly abandoned.

Getting back “On Topic” I see industrialization moving in the opposite direction in India and in China. The political systems in those two countries present quite a contrast but I am not qualified to offer an opinion on how that will play out.

As a child I experienced pumping water by hand, oil lamps for illumination and the joys of an outdoor privee. Also a bath each month whether it was needed or not.

A significant proportion of India’s population lives that way today and will continue to do so if Greenpeace has its way. More likely, economist Manmohan Singh and his successors will ensure that Indian energy policy continues to make economic sense and electricity will reach every hamlet within 25 years.

OK, just for contrast here is my UK nightmare. Chris Huhne’s master plan is implemented. Huge investments are made in wind power. Within 25 years the UK is frequently shutting its few remaining industries whenever the wind stops blowing as it did last winter.

The UK has suffered major disruptions to its electrical supplies before. All too well I remember the miner’s strikes of yesteryear, which were political dynamite. Maggie Thatcher took advantage of North Sea oil and gas but that resource won’t be much help next time.

Let’s hope that the UK will still be a democratic country when the next electricity crisis hits so the leadership can be replaced by people who will build dozens of NPPs.


I’ve visited Java, Indonesia a few years ago, and was suprised to find very few solar cookers in the rural central parts of the island. When I asked the locals about it, they said they didn’t like the taste for many recipes they used, and they also had to wait too long for stuff to cook. The power in a solar cooker is limited. A hazy day and it doesn’t work at all. I wouldn’t underestimate cultural factors such as people liking the taste of burned charcoal meats. Its a huge carcinogen risk, but people don’t care. Barbeque tastes so good.

They had a lot of biogas cookers, and some biogas lighting, though. They did lack electricity. It was a horribly low standard of living without electricity. Solar going out for days when its cloudy is not acceptable. The only way to truely develop economically is to have reliable electricity grid connections.

(deleted personal opinion of motives)


I’m much less opposed to gas cooking generally and would be happy enough if this is all it’s used for, albeit even in Western homes, is one of the major causes of CO poisoning.

I love to cook with gas and tore out my electrical range top and put in a nice fancy 4 burner one. Cooking with flame is important for many. I suspect even in India opposition to cooking with electricity is going to be a small but real hurdle to jump over.

There are far bigger implications here, however, than “merely” the thousand who die from indoor charcoal and dung burners. It has to do with the wider implications for a population that has 24/7 access to electricity vs. those that live in the dark. It has to do with being able to have a small radio or TV to connect to the world, maybe internet access, certainly a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling in the hot and dusty/tropical climates of India, light, when you want it for your children to read, and so on.

None of this brings anyone to the “middle class” even by Indian standards but it should be the “national rights” of every citizen everywhere in the world to have *access* to this.


Douglas Wise I think there is partial evidence for global contraction and convergence of living standards. When large numbers of people illegally migrate from an overpopulated resource-poor country it somewhat shifts the burden. Thus poor immigrants to Australia suddenly become catapaulted into the 5 kw lifestyle and incidentally 900 kL of direct and indirect annual water use. That is almost certainly a massive increase from before. I expect the reception for illegal immigrants to harden over time.

A second convergence factor is outsourcing of sweat shop labour and unrestricted pollution. Provide the West remains affluent we will look the other way. If however Chindia looks to be catching up there will be calls to bring industry back home, as per the Jeff Rubin article linked upthread. The obstacle this time is that Chindia increasingly needs imported coal.

Thus I think we see contraction and convergence before our eyes but there are spanners in the wheel (resented immigration, fossil fuel depletion) that could bring it unstuck.


@John Bennetts, on 26 May 2011 at 9:33 PM
The CF of 51% was for 2007, and the 2012 forecast for nuclear generation was what I was comparing to expected wind generation using expected wind capacity.(18GW at CF27%), actual CF of wind farms operating > 1 year will be higher.

You have missed the point I was trying to make, diffuse variable renewable energy is actually contributing about X10 more power to India, than nuclear and even wind power is delivering similar amounts now and growing much faster. Many countries have rather low CF’s for nuclear, for various reasons, in India’s case part of the explanation is the connection of fuel with nuclear weapons. I was not trying to make an issue of this figure just using it to compare with wind power installed capacity and what power is actually delivered. I am sure India will be able to achieve the CF values that Japan was getting a few years ago(75%).

@John Bennetts, on 26 May 2011 at 9:22 PM
What you have not addressed is Geoff’s eloquent demonstration that large scale solar and wind require staggering land areas, concrete and steel resources and undreamt of tonnages of exotic salts

The point is that Geoff is choosing to compare nuclear with solar which is a very distant third renewable power source at present in India. Wind doesn’t require staggering land area, and the concrete and steel requirements are small compared to consumption for buildings and transport infrastructure.
India does have some suitable land to develop CST but this is unlikely to contribute as much as nuclear energy for decades. Na/K nitrate salts are hardly exotic, and can be used more sparingly by filling storage volume with crushed rock. Value of solar now is providing small amounts of off-grid power that cannot be provided by large power plants.
See @steve lapp, on 26 May 2011 at 10:24 PM


@harrywr2, on 27 May 2011 at 2:46 AM said:

In the US Pacific Northwest we have 33 GW of hydro capacity and 4 GW of wind and ‘grid challenges’ as a result.
The Pacific NW is part of the much larger western connector, lots of demand for hydro and wind power for instance in California, but as you said “grid challenges” are the issue. Where there is more than a few months hydro storage, the variation of wind over hours to days can easily be accommodated, but if a region is a net exporter of power additional wind ( or nuclear) would require additional transmission infrastructure and if the region is experiencing the wettest year in last decade some wind power would need to be splilled ( and some hydro power also). Run of river hydro would not be able to add any significant buffering of wind variability. because it generally has little or no storage capacity.


@Neil Howes – You are implying that because India has more installed wind than nuclear that it is superior.

The fact is India could not grow its nuclear sector for several decades because of fuel embargoes, and now that those have been rescinded, the Indians are planning to build NPP as fast as they can.

Wind supporters are fighting a rear-guard action now in many places. This is why Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is trash talking green energy.

With wind turbines sprouting like white mushrooms across the Ontario landscape and solar panels cropping up on homes, schools and factories, promising renewable energy for generations to come, his platform to scrap the Feed In Tariff program (FIT) which pays up to 80 cents per KwH for roof top solar electricity and to dismantle a $7-billion deal with global conglomerate Samsung C & T, would seem like political suicide.

Instead, the strategy appears to be resonating with voters and has sent the sustainable energy sector into speed wobble in that Provence. Green energy is not a sacred cow any longer, there’s been a massive shift in public opinion there and if wind and solar can’t make it in Ontario, they are dead in Canada as a whole.

Even groups which might be expected to align along green energy policy initiatives have diverged. Energy Probe, a long standing opponent to the growth of nuclear energy, has attacked the ditch-coal-for-FIT-scheme as a “disaster” because the net effect is more reliance on nuclear power for back-up on the days the wind doesn’t co-operate – which is more than 70 per cent of the time.

Its over. The truth is getting rubbed into the faces of those that didn’t really take the implications of putting non-dispatchable on the grid seriously, and it’s beginning to hit consumers in the pocketbook.

India doesn’t suffer from a Green Movement per se, and you can be sure that wind and solar will be judged on their merits alone, not on their political popularity – and be found wanting.


Neil Howes, on 26 May 2011 at 8:08 PM:

Wind power accounts for 6% of India’s total installed power capacity, and it generates 1.6% of the country’s power. Thats a capacity factor of 26%

No, it isn’t. Those figures tell you that the CF of wind is less than 23.9%. In fact a realistic whole-grid CF can never be more than about 70%, which would mean that wind’s CF would be 16.7%:

Wind_CF = Whole_CF *100/6 * 100/1.5
or use this
Wind_CF = Rest_CF * 94/6 * 98.5/1.5
for the theoretical (and unreal) case where the Rest_CF is close to 100 to get the limit I give above.


Sorry, the supply ratio is inverted above: should be
Wind_CF = Whole_CF *100/6 * 1.5/100
Wind_CF = Rest_CF * 94/6 * 1.5/98.5
and the 16.7% figure comes from setting Rest_CF to 70 in the second equation.


Ha, it works better if I use the source figure, 1.6% in place of 1.5%. Then wind CF is 17.8% if the rest of the grid runs at 70% CF.

I should say also that we are going the long way around to our conclusion, in any case (although the inferred CF calculation could come in handy). The forecast increase in installed wind is from 12GW to 18GW. A 50% increase in wind generation is not going to overtake a 100% increase in nuclear.


Neil Howes, on 28 May 2011 at 7:53 AM said:

. Where there is more than a few months hydro storage

Exactly where in the world is there more then a few months of hydro storage other then ‘snow pack’?

Grand Coulee is the 6th largest man made reservoir in the US.

It was spilling last June at the maximum legal limit and by August the fossil fuel plants had to be cranked up full bore.

2010 Bonnevile Power Authority Generation Statistics by type of fuel(wind,hydro,thermal)


Electricity: The Master Master Resource from Master Resource has a long series of quotations on the importance of electricity, from a wide range of authors.

For example:

“Studies show that in most villages people believe that electricity improves their standard of living more than any other change they have experienced. Women appear to appreciate the benefits of electricity more than men, since they generally spend more time around the home and electricity can help in household chores, while fans and radios make leisure time more pleasant. Many women report that they have more free time after getting electricity. Frequently, electric pumps are used to provide a reliable, clean supply of water from a village well for the first time, which makes life easier and improves health.”

– Christopher Flavin, “Electricity for a Developing World: New Directions,” Worldwatch Paper 70, Worldwatch Institute, June 1986, pp. 36-37.

India is right on track to improve their citizens’s lives.


@ Neil Howes:
If Neil thinks that “The point is that Geoff is choosing to compare nuclear with solar”, then he is wrong. Geoff compared nuclear with solar and dealt with wind as follows:
Renewable sources of energy like wind and solar need overbuilding to make up for variability and unpredictability of wind and cloud cover.

Geoff also indicates that renewables will blow the 1 tonne per person annual CO2 budget.

Neil has again chosen to avoid, rather than to address issues in his haste to spruik wind.

This is unfortunate because, as Geoff made abundantly clear that there are many millions of people whose existence depends on getting India’s energy answers right, regardless of personal (you and me), corporate (wind, etc industry) or organisational (Greenpeace or political parties)wishes and preferences.

Geoff’s article is about Nuclear power for India: Yes or No? By pushing for exclusion of nuclear power in the key role, Neil is advocating that real humans should be condemned to drudgery and early death. Wind and solar will continue to have have peripheral roles, but the key point is that nuclear power must not be excluded from becoming the main source of India’s future energy mix as proposed by Greenpeace India.


It is interesting to look at the list of the developed world’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century.

#1 is electrification and #4 is the supply of abundant clean water. Planes and cars are #2 and #3. To me it is no coincidence that #4 cannot happen without #1. Chindia needs #4 and #1


Neil: I don’t have a problem with wind as a niche supplier, what I can’t see is how it can be a major part of supplying the 14 million GWh that I postulated as
reasonable for 1.4b people. Can you paint me a picture? … how many wind farms, how much gas backup, etc etc. The rules are simple: 14e6 GWh/yr, 1t co2/yr/cap.

You don’t need to worry about
matching production with load or anything fancy. If wind can’t solve this simple hypothetical problem, then it certainly can’t solve the real-world problem.


@gc “India will use thorium because they have it” [ie, because they don’t have uranium].

In the 1950s and 60s, uranium looked rare and in dwindling short supply, that India had none of it, and that everyone would make sure they would never get uranium or access to international U-reactor technology. In those days too, bomb makers couldn’t as easily enrich U235, needing reactors instead.

None of those things are true now, so India no longer needs thorium reactors. That does at least give their politicians, a la Angela Merkel, something to throw away to placate people frightened by Greenpeace etc.


@Roger Clifton, – On the contrary Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. were all selling India nuclear technology in that time frame.

India’s first nuclear reactor was Apsara. It was also the first nuclear reactor in Asia. Apsara went critical at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay on August 4, 1956.

The Tarapur Atomic Power Station (T.AP.S.) was the first nuclear power plant in India. The construction of the plant was started in 1962 and the plant went operational in 1969, the first in Asia. The Tarapur Plant was originally constructed by the American companies Bechtel and GE, under a 1963 agreement between India and the United States.

Furthermore the choice of using plutonium over uranium is not just the availably of enrichment facilities. Pu makes a superior weapon fuel with better yields, and is more compact than uranium fueled ones. If a country has the technical ability to build Pu bombs, they will do so preferentially.

India’s first plutonium reprocessing plant started at Trombay in 1964.

However India still believes it needs to develop the Th fuel-cycle to guarantee energy security.


gallopingcamel and John Newlands:

Thank you for your responses.

gallopingcamel, given my status as UK citizen and resident, I share many of your concerns over the future of the UK, but think that there are many other democratic nations that are at risk, particularly in Europe and Africa. The US is an interesting case because, despite its huge level of indebtedness, it has access to a lot of natural resources and a lower population density than many other indebted states. Australia has even greater advantages.

John Newlands, I agree with your analysis so far as it goes. However, I am struggling to understand the importance of money, especially fiat money. It seems that it makes barter simpler and exists for the exchange of assets. However, as governments can and do debauch the values of their currencies and as nations become so indebted that they declare themselves bankrupt (Argentina in the recent past and most probably Greece and other peripheral EU States in the near future), I wonder whether there will be a domino effect and, if so, what new world order will emerge from the wreckage. Chindia’s growth is ,after all, to a great extent, predicated upon the West’s growing indebtedness. There may well be a time when the West welches on its debts. Then, IMO, what will matter, is who controls real assets.

As you may both gather, I am merely thinking aloud and make no claims to having any expertise in this area. I am merely interested to hear the thoughts of others on this somewhat baleful subject.


Greenpeace India is obligated to the global Greenpeace for its funds. Simple calculation – they can’t say anything that will upset their bosses.

They are also totally out of touch with reality, since hardly any from their cadre have come from villages. It is fair to say that they (or their family members) have hardly had the experience of cooking with a biomass fueled stove, or washing the entire weeks laundry on a stone, or performing hard agricultural labor in the blistering heat of the sun.. The list goes on.

India needs to break free from this global stupidity that Greenpeace is fomenting.


“If it wasn’t for ignorant greenies climate change wouldn’t even be on the agenda in this and many countries.” – MattB
In fact so called environmentalists largely ignored climate change for many years and supported the use of coal in electrical generation as opposed to carbon free nuclear power. Who was concerned about climate change? It was nuclear scientists. Edward Teller talked about the CO2 climate connection during the 1950’s, while Alvin Weinberg debated with Amory Lovins about the effect of Lovins’ coal bridge on climate during the late 1970’s. I first learned about the CO2/climate change problem at ORNL in 1971, long before Ralph Nader’s first statement on the problem.

The Greens have always favored coal over nuclear power and have a lot to answer for as far as global climate problems are concerned.


I can attest to what Charles is saying. I helped organize the 1981 Pittsburgh, PA “Labor Conference for Safe Energy and Full Employment” co-sponsored by the United Mine Workers (A union I sill highly respect despite the industry they organize). Our answer, worked out as a slogan “Coal Yes! Nuclear No!”. This is STILL the position of the UMWA, the National Union of Miners in Britain and the mining unions in Australia.

They are very upfront about this: nuclear, not wind and solar, represent a “threat to our way of life”. Indeed it does.


Absolutely right Charles Barton. Had authorities ignored the anti-nuclear brigade thirty five years ago and got on with developing nuclear instead of coal, then there would be NO CO2 problem facing the planet. Those misguided people owe the world an apology on that score. Our best chance now is to ignore their call for the dilute, discontinuous renewables etc and do our best to expose their half truths and lies and convince the people that nuclear is the way to go. For Australian bloggers, I had a letter printed in “The Greens are starting to sound just plain silly” Check it out guys.


printed in the Australian last Friday which was headed “The Greens are starting to sound just plain silly.” Sorry guys.

Link please Terry.


If The Australian newspaper article was about the Greens proposal to ban new coal mines even the China People’s Daily thought it was newsworthy

Someone must explain to me how come we’re supposed to be reducing carbon emissions but the government is doing everything possible to encourage coal and LNG exports. I thought it was meant to be illegal to sell harmful substances.


@harrywr2, on 28 May 2011 at 9:48 AM said:

Exactly where in the world is there more then a few months of hydro storage other then ‘snow pack’?
Hoover dam:
Active storage volume19.5km^3=19,500,000 ML
Head 180m, turbine capacity 2.08GW av power 4.2Billion kWh/year(4,200GWh/year) CF 0.25
Flow at max power calculated to be;1.2ML/sec(4,400ML/h). To generate 1GWh=2,200ML, hence energy capacity=19,500,000/2,200=9,000 GWh or 2years average production (six months storage at max power generation

Norway 27GW capacity, 84 TWh storage= 3100h at maximum output.

Click to access Statkraft_Lars_Audun_Fodstad_.pdf

Grand Coulee is the 6th largest man made reservoir in the US.
It also has about 10% of US hydro capacity.
The fact that it stopped generating power continuously in August doesnt mean the dam was empty, just no longer full, so water was being saved for peak demand as is the usual situation as most hydro dams operate at <50% CF. In 2010 there appears to have been very high precipitation in NW, so spring runoff was exceptionally high.


@Geoff Russell, on 28 May 2011 at 2:33 PM said:

Neil: I don’t have a problem with wind as a niche supplier, what I can’t see is how it can be a major part of supplying the 14 million GWh that I postulated as
reasonable for 1.4b people. Can you paint me a picture?

I dont see wind or solar energy supplying 14 million GWh in India by 2060, but its also unlikely that nuclear alone will supply even a fraction of this either.
Here is what world nuclear org has to say
India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power program and expects to have 20,000 MWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.

To go from 4GW to 63GW capacity in 22 years will require adding 2-4 GW/year but to then go from 63GW to 1700GW in another 28 years would require building 56 GW/year.
Now supplying 25% electricity from nuclear, 25% from wind and the balance from hydro, solar and FF is more realistic.
We need to look at a few realities(1) its taken 30 years for India to build 4GW of nuclear capacity (generating one tenth of renewable hydro), (2) wind potential in India( with present technology) is 48-100GWav). .It has a large wind manufacturing capacity of 9GW capacity/year so would be capable of building the 250-500GW capacity by 2032.

Click to access GWEO_A4_2008_India_LowRes.pdf

(3)India plans to build 20GW solar by 2020(ie about 10 years behind nuclear and wind expansion) but should have make a significant contribution by 2032 and beyond.(4)India’s nuclear weapons program is now taking resources from developing nuclear power(5)Every GWh produced by hydro, wind and solar (at least to 2050) will be one less GWh produced by FF, because nuclear is not going to supply anywhere near 100% of electricity.


Neill: regardless of whether 14 million GWh is economically feasible by 2050, the 1.4 billion tonne co2 emission limit is a hard constraint. So whatever mix and pathway you propose to head toward 14 million GWh, you still have to stay under that constraint. Does your 25% nuclear, 25% wind
with the rest from hydro solar and FF? Until you specify how much FF is in the mix, it’s impossible to know.


@Geoff Russell, on 29 May 2011 at 11:02 PM
I would love to see more nuclear built in India by 2050 than is projected by world-nuclear-org (ie 25% electricity) and hope that nuclear grows at a much faster rate than the anemic 1-2% per year that we have seem in last 20 years, after all this is less than hydro.
The reality is that while nuclear may eventually supply >50% of the worlds energy, we need to replace most FF use much faster in next 40 years than nuclear alone can do. This is not the fault of environmentalists or of renewable energy. Many visitors to the BNC site seem to think that if we just stop putting resources into diffuse, variable renewable energy more nuclear could be built. My answer to this is why not claim ” if we just put less resources into building FF generation more nuclear could be built”. Nuclear has real problems in rapid expansion in addition to opposition from environmentalists.
Renewable energy has been supplying more power than nuclear for last 50 years and it appears that this will continue to be the case for the next 40 years in spite of the limitations of biomass and hydro.
Any attempts to prevent more nuclear or more renewable energy are going to have bad long term consequences for the worlds climate, but unrealistic projections of growth in nuclear(or renewables) are hindering .a need to really reduce FF use now by improving efficiency of energy use and reduce energy waste.


@Neil Howes, As long as people like you keep telling the public that wind and solar can make a significant difference, and as long as groups like Greenpeace claim that nuclear energy isn’t needed because wind and solar can take up the slack and reduce FF use, we will fight back with the truth.

Your modes are a waste of time and resources. They have had plenty of opportunity to prove themselves in the open market and they have failed. It is that simple. We fight renewables because renewables are nothing more than Trojan horses for more FF use, a fact that has been show to be true over and over.

We will not leave you alone to lie and defraud the public with your useless technology, and it seem to me that your asking us to means we are making inroads.



Renewable energy has been supplying more power than nuclear for last 50 years and it appears that this will continue to be the case for the next 40 years in spite of the limitations of biomass and hydro.

This is only true if you define biomass and hydro as renewable, but not if you define it as solar+wind which is far more sensible. See …

Hydro has little scope for expansion and biomass is currently killing large numbers of people and creating a serious climate forcing. Some clean biomass may be possible, but again, it will just be a niche player.

Before we can find out how fast nuclear can be built we need to be satisified that it is the only feasible way of powering the planet for 1 t/cap/yr.
I’m still waiting for a scenario involving wind+solar+ff that powers the planet for less than 1 tonne co2 per person per year. If there isn’t one we can stop wasting time and resources on paths that won’t get to a feasible solution point.


Neil, well…it’s good you are here because we need this kind of point-counter-point…

When you raise 2 points I want to take up:

(1) its taken 30 years for India to build 4GW of nuclear capacity (generating one tenth of renewable hydro),

You know this is something that Greens use all the time? As it if represents *anything*? Vietnam has built zero nuclear power plants in the last 50 years…so…what? This means their plans to build 4 of them can’t happen? WHat kind of method is this? You have to look at WHY they didn’t not that they didn’t build more. Their plans were always for a low usage of nuclear based on heavy water reactors. They didn’t have the funds nor technical expertise AND they were a totally undeveloped country. Not so more. So not they HAVE plans to add dozens and dozens of new nuclear and your response is “well they’ve only built 4 GWs in the last…”? This kind of discussion point is totally irrelevant to the question facing india now, especially as NOW, unlike in the past, they have a *growing* nuclear components industry.

Second point:

(4)India’s nuclear weapons program is now taking resources from developing nuclear power

This is true. Specifially uranium. This is less of problem now that Russia will sell some fuel to them, they will breed their own and use thorium, which they are in no short supply of. But the bigger issue is that they should *not* have a nuclear weapons program. But I can’t do anything about that. Clearly though, from the planners point of view, it’s clearly NOT an issue as they *planning for major double digit GW increases in nuclear*. So it must not be that much of an issue.


@David Walters, on 31 May 2011 at 12:51 AM
I would agree with out that India can build a lot more nuclear capacity in next 20 years than they did in last, in fact projections are they will build 3GW/year. This is still 10 times slower than Geoff is projecting to get to 1700GW capacity in 50years, in fact its x4 present world capacity.
A rapid growth in wind capacity is realistic because India is presently manufacturing 20% of worlds annual capacity additions.
To get an idea of how Indias weapons program will slow future nuclear imagine what China would be achieving now if it was suffering same embargo as India- good-by AP1000’s even if fuel was not an issue. In spite of its more rapid nuclear build, China is also investing very heavily in hydro, wind and solar.


Geoff Russell, on 30 May 2011 at 10:47 AM — Hydropower has considerable scope for expansion, principaly in the developing world. From our experience with substantial hydro around here, one ought to seriously question the environmental costs however.

Biomass is certainly a renewable; it just needs to be properly burned and otherwise managed. There are many websites which illustrate appropriate tecnology biomass burners; find your favorite. My only objection to burning is that combustion in air is always incomplete and that creates other environmental problems. [This is alleviateed for wet biomass which goes into a digester; I currently know of no objections to anearbic digesters.] That said, the manin difficulty with b8iomass utilization is that humans already consume about 60% of NPP, way to high for the long term so more utilization will be even worse.


The problem with biomass as fuel is that eventually it is going to compete for arable land with food production.

Furthermore, the world’s topsoil is a limited resource that needs to be closely managed. As we are seeing with maize-based fuel alcohol, the upshot of using it is that we are scrapping up this topsoil and burning in our cars; hardly a good trade off.

Claims that only marginal land will be used for fuel crops is naïve to the extreme, and demonstrates little understanding of the business and politics of agriculture.

There are few ideas that have the potential to cause massive problems, world-wide as a significant shift to biofuels.


@ dv82xl “Furthermore the choice of using plutonium over uranium is not just the
availability of enrichment facilities.”

I hesitate to stir up discussion on b*mbs, believing it should not be the worry of electrical engineers or environmentalists. However, much of the blind antipathy towards NP is based on a belief that wannabe nuclear states rely on nuclear reactors to make b*mbs. Big ones I mean, don’t make me spell it out. It would help NP a lot if we could reliably reassure anti-war sentiment.

True, many of them did. As dv82xl points out, India started processing for plutonium in 1964. Other reactors started for this purpose in those days still continue. However, after the destruction of the Osirak in 1981, Iraq turned to ultracentrifuge enrichment . Subsequently, Pakistan developed bangers using enrichment, a technology which it has since spread to other nations. Iran, too.

After North Korea eventually committed to close down its plutonium reactor, it announced it had begun enrichment . Other nations including Argentina have announced intentions to move into enrichment.

Meanwhile, the big guys have been closing down their plutonium reactors – USA and Russia . China prefers HEU .

That indicates, but does not prove, that newer NPPs have been innocent. Is dv82xl in a position to provide harder evidence either way?

It would help our debating position if we were able to assert some level of evidenced military innocence for NPP’s.


@Roger Clifton – This is another subject we have done in detail in the past.

Beyond the technical difficulty of proving a negative, and the fact that by definition perverting a nuclear power plant reactor to a plutonium breeder would be a clandestine act, I do believe that the onus is on those that claim that this is being done, to prove it, not the other way around.

Nevertheless the fact remains that using a modern power reactor in this way is highly inefficient and would be difficult to hide. This is why those countries that have chosen to establish a nuclear weapons program have use special purpose reactors should they chose to build plutonium fuelled nuclear weapons.

While HEU fuelled warheads are somewhat easier to make from an engineering standpoint, the facilities needed to enrich uranium to the required level a complex, large, and power hungry. They also require a large amount of feedstock which can be problematic if there are no indigenous supplies.

But finally, proliferation is a political/diplomatic and military issue, not a technical one, and it is in those areas that it needs to be addressed.


@Geoff Russell, on 30 May 2011 at 10:47 AM said:

This is only true if you define biomass and hydro as renewable, but not if you define it as solar+wind which is far more sensible
Of course renewable includes biomass, hydro and geothermal for that matter. When wind energy begins to exceed nuclear will you be claiming that the only renewable energy is solar?

Before we can find out how fast nuclear can be built we need to be satisified that it is the only feasible way of powering the planet for 1 t/cap/yr.
This doesnt follow, we still need nuclear now even if in 100 or 200 years other methods ( such as solar ) are also feasible. If nuclear cannot be built fast enough we are going to need renewables as well even if they cannot reduce CO2 emissions to 1t/cap.

I’m still waiting for a scenario involving wind+solar+ff that powers the planet for less than 1 tonne co2 per person per year. If there isn’t one we can stop wasting time and resources on paths that won’t get to a feasible solution point.
this is a meaningless target if it doesnt have a time-frame and a value for total population.


Neil: I postulated a target 14 million GWh for India to live at a reasonable standard of living. Arguable sure but not out of the ball park. Suppose we say we
can meet that with x GW of Wind, y GW of CST,
z of PV and w of fossil fuel backup with an annual emissions of 1.3 t/yr/cap. We don’t need to work out the time frame because its just not a solution. Come up with a solution, and then it makes sense to calculate time frames and costs. But it makes no sense to calculate a cost or time frame if the solution isn’t feasible.

Since I wrote this piece I have found a Greenpeace plan for India … just not on the Greenpeace India website! Interestingly it proposes NO new hydro schemes but considerable use of biomass. I’ll
do a post about this Greenpeace scheme when possible. It is a feasible solution (1 tonne CO2 /cap/yr) so it makes sense to look further and consider build time and costs.

Here is the Greenpeace energy plan for India

Done by a group called EREC.


Geoff et al:

I just had a look at Greenpeace’s energy revolution for Japan: its plan depends upon a reduction in energy use (all while growth continues etc) from 22,000 PJ/yr. to 10,000 PJ/yr. Put another way, from 20 quad to 9 quad. Their start year is 2005 so they have 45 years to do this, though I suspect they have not gotten started yet, so they in fact have 39 years.

But with 45 years, they would have to reduce energy (primary) production by ~1.75% per year every year.

What is the basis for such dramatic efficiency gains?

There are no historical examples of anything like this kind of large scale energy reduction. Most greens point to california, but california energy use has increased, after their 2000 bout with blackouts. They had to build 12 or so GW of gas and import electricity.

I’m assuming this sort of plan relying on gigantic reductions in energy use would go for India as well.

at any rate, how feasible is this? after all this EE, it’s still not clear what provides basepower.


Okay: for India, energy use will triple under their plan (while their plan for Japan, energy use is more than halved) instead of quintupling under the reference scenario.

Nuclear will be eliminated by 2020 while coal diminishes gradually but still makes up a significant portion of energy use in 2050.

so, it does appear that greenpeace views nuclear as a lot more dangerous than coal–even given that it’s easier to eliminate nuclear given its low starting point.


excuse me: nuclear is eliminated by 2040. my mistake. heavy reliance on coal/crude oil and natural gas: looks to be 25-30 PJ worth.


Gregory: Yes, efficiency gains are easy with excel :)
I haven’t got far analysing their model yet, but the
biomass for heating is very large and its not clear
if biomass will still be used for cooking.


Geoff, i’m speaking as someone who doesn’t know much about energy technology, but what about solutions on a more individual level, like solar panels on houses and solar cooking?

These would also make homes more self-sufficient and probably cost a lot less than a bunch of reactors. It’s also technology i’m guessing that could be set up fairly quickly – again, in a lot less time that it takes to build 1000 reactors?


So, Indian tax payers should first pay for nuclear plant, then for electric cooking stove, then for regular electricity bills. Nice plan for contry where majority lives with less than 1$ per day.

I’m sorry for all indoor smoke -related deaths too, but nuclear is not a replacement for biomass fuel, which is free in many cases.


I’m sorry for all indoor smoke -related deaths too, but nuclear is not a replacement for biomass fuel, which is free in many cases.

Then what is? If electricity is the replacement than nuclear is usually the best option for generating that electricity.


“Then what is? If electricity is the replacement than nuclear is usually the best option for generating that electricity.”

How about biogas? It requires initial investment of $300-500 (before possible subsidies), but saves money from fuel wood, candle and petroleum costs as the input material is free. Usually funded by micro-loans. Payback period is usually around 1-2 years. More info here:


The problem with biogas is whether it’ll scale to the level needed (though where it can be used it’s a lot better than burning the biofuel directly or just leaving it to decay) and that if you are growing biofuels specifically for energy then you are also wasting crop land that could be producing food (or be returned to nature).

Biofuels in the west have already caused problems with food prices.


Low level biogas has nothing to do with biofuels. It uses dung and food waste as input, not energy crops. Thus, it improves local sanitation in process.


All biogas is a biofuel, whether it uses waste or crop specifically grown for the purpose.

Now it just so happens that it’s a good idea when it is using waste and a bad idea when it isn’t, but can the use of waste scale to a billion people (which is what India is going to need)?


India is so short of energy that it imports oil, gas, coal and uranium. Bio-fuels from have to be exploited to fill. Ultimately, all sources have to fill their niches.
nuclear power and underground coal gasification have maximum scope for scaling up.


Anon, potential depends if we are talking about helping India’s poor, or the rich. Waste biogas helps the poor. Nuclear helps the industry and the rich, due huge initial investment and cheap running costs. Poor cannot afford extra electricity bill from nuclear, and biogas doesn’t have capacity for industry’s massive needs.


So what are the poor going to do when they become rich?

How are the poor ever to become rich if they can’t transcend the limits of biofuels?

Nuclear won’t just help the rich, it’ll also help those who aren’t rich but still make more than a dollar a day.


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