With George Monbiot on the debating warpath against Greenpeace and in support of nuclear power as a serious mechanism for tackling climate change, and Mark Lynas’ new book on planetary boundaries and techno-fixes, “The God Species“, now out (despite some weird problems on the launch day), it really is time for environmentalists to get serious about starting (and sustaining) a pro-nuclear movement. Not just arguments of logic, science and engineering and not just appeals for people to ‘do the numbers and figure it out’ (although these are still important) — no, we need a real ‘can do, must do‘ movement. What do I mean, and how do we achieve this? I’ll let my friend Ben Heard explain, in the brilliant guest post below (which is also up on DecarboniseSA.com).
p.S. I’m reading The God Species right now (it’s excellent) — will do a review in due course.
Why pro-nuclear has failed when anti-nuclear has succeeded
Guest Post by Ben Heard. Ben is Director of Adelaide-based advisory firm ThinkClimate Consulting, a Masters graduate of Monash University in Corporate Environmental Sustainability, and a member of the TIA Environmental and Sustainability Action Committee. After several years with major consulting firms, Ben founded ThinkClimate and has since assisted a range of government, private and not-for profit organisations to measure, manage and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and move towards more sustainable operations. Ben publishes regular articles aimed at challenging thinking and perceptions related to climate change and sustainable energy at decarbonisesa.com.
There is no point denying it. The anti-nuclear movement in Australia has been remarkably effective. Combined with abundant cheap coal, Australia’s anti –nuclear movement has kept us the only one of the world’s top 16 economies not to employ nuclear power. It made people like me grow up anti-nuclear without ever really being asked to think about it. The result is some of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world; in South Australia around 720g CO2-e/kWh (which is one of the lowest levels in the country I might add. NSW, Victoria and Queensland are all much higher), compared to a mere 90g CO2-e/kWh in nuclear dominated France.
Meanwhile, the pro-nuclear position has, to my observation, failed to ever really gain much traction, and has evidently failed to deliver change. This is said with all respect to the many smart and passionate people who have worked on the issue for much longer than I.
Why has the anti-nuclear movement succeeded? It is easy and tempting to write-off its success to dishonourable actions from the leadership of the movement which:
- Distorts information
- Grants itself the luxury of being single-issue, and ignores the rest of the world’s problems when they don’t suit them
- Uses fear-mongering freely and to great effect
- Never, ever feels obliged to correct the record when their fear-mongering is subsequently shown to be completely false
While these points and things like it are arguably true (I have certainly encountered all of the above myself), it grants the anti-nuclear movement all the power by taking the focus off the shortcomings of the pro-nuclear approach. It’s also clear that we can challenge these things when the opportunities arise, but we can’t change them. This makes it all largely beside the point.
We also should be honest and acknowledge the genuine shortcomings of nuclear power technology through its history, such as:
- The inarguable association with weapons development programs in the early days
- A period of escalating costs and increasing design complexity
- The catastrophe at Chernobyl; an absurd basis for decision making today, but something that has had profound influence on perceptions of the technology
- The intractable “problem” of high level nuclear waste
Well the essential weapons link is well and truly of a bygone era. Designs are now standardised, simplified, modular, factory made, and super safe. The “problem” of high level waste has always been something of a beat-up compared to the mountain of polluting toxins we routinely ingest from fossil fuel and myriad other industries. I don’t really regard it as a shortcoming that the industry needs to feel bad about. In fact, nuclear power distinguishes itself from fossil fuel by actually capturing and containing the pollution. How novel. But whatever the case, it is now becoming broadly known that in Generation IV designs, the technological answer to that problem is well and truly in the development pipeline.
Yet despite all this, plus the fact that the need for zero-carbon energy has never been greater, the pro-nuclear position is still way off the pace. So surely the better question is: What positive things helped the anti-nuclear movement succeed that we should replicate?
I believe the reason the anti-nuclear movement has basically succeeded in Australia where pro-nuclear has basically failed is simple. It’s staring you in the face, written into my text.
One is a movement. The other isn’t. Movements are incredibly effective things, and the anti-nuclear movement has been an incredibly effective example. The only way to compete is to turn pro-nuclear from a position and a shared interest into a movement. That, dear readers, is what Decarbonise SA is all about.
Here are a couple of three-point descriptions, with thanks to Seth Godin, that will help us know if we are creating a successful movement. Firstly, pro-nuclear will become more effective if we can do the following:
- Transform our shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change
- Provide tools to allow subscribers to tighten their communications and be more effective
- Leverage the movement to allow it to grown and gain more followers
I have highlighted first point above because that was the missing ingredient that made me start Decarbonise SA: the goal. Without a goal, we are just intelligent, passionate and opinionated. With the goal, we can become directed, targeted, effective. The anti-nuclear movement has always had a goal: “No Nuclear Power”. I realise how obvious that sounds, but do you realise how empowering it is? Those three words have brought people into the streets, had them give up their time, lobby their politicians, for a goal. Absent the goal, efforts are harder to coordinate, and members of a movement are harder to motivate. The movement inevitable downgrades to a shared interest.
Well, now we have goal; zero carbon electricity for South Australia as quickly as possible.
To reach that goal, we demand the simple, commonsense maturity from our government and fellow citizens to consider all zero-carbon generation options on a level playing field basis. That includes the one that has been delivering for over 50 years, currently provides 15% of global electricity across 30 nations, has an outstanding record of safety and environmental performance, and has a strong future of even better technology. As my friend Barry Brook often remarks, he doesn’t actually care what does the job, only that it is done, and done quickly. He just happens to know, based on his research, that nuclear will perform extremely well if only it is given the chance for a fair fight.
The other great thing is that when you have a goal, you can start envisaging it and bringing it to life. Most of you have read Part I and II of the Decarbonise SA Energy Plan. I am beginning to take that table with me to my conversations and presentations. You may not appreciate how amazingly empowering it has been for such a ridiculously simple exercise. For one thing, most South Australian’s have pretty much no idea how they get their electricity and from where. Nuts when you think about it, since we all use it every day. People really, really enjoy knowing. Secondly, it makes it clear that from a technological and investment point of view, decarbonising SA’s electricity is almost stupidly easy. A program of three major infrastructure investments that we need to make anyway and the job is 90% done. Suddenly, the goal is not pie in the sky: it is in fact an achievable outcome that is easy to name, describe and fight for. Soon, with a little more work, it will have a pathway to actual delivery. This will help our movement gain momentum.
Here’s the next three points on the elements that define a movement. These are also borrowed from Godin, who quotes US Senator Bill Bradley. A movement neeeds:
- A narrative that tells the story of who we are and the future we are trying to build
- A connection among those in the movement
- Something to do- the fewer limits, the better
I have once again highlighted what I regard as the main shortcoming of pro-nuclear that makes it a position and not a movement. What has ever been the narrative that binds those of a pro-nuclear disposition? What does is mean, in terms of shared values and life experience, to be a pro-nuclear environmentalist? The anti-nuclear movement has leveraged a long and “glorious” history of protesting against the establishment and of working in the interests of global peace, all to further that goal: no nuclear power. Pro-nuclear on the other hand… again, apologies to those upon whose shoulders Decarbonise SA stands, but there hasn’t really been a narrative at all. Nothing for people to relate to. No clear sense of values and ethics to entice newcomers to a common ground that they can feel good about. We have seen some discussion about this in a recent Decarbonise SA comments thread. When we ask people to become pro-nuclear, we are not asking them to change their minds, we are asking them to change their identities. For that to happen, they have to look at the other crowd and like what they see; they have to like the narrative and like the values it represents.
Again though, that is changing, and our narrative is forming, thanks largely to climate change. So who are we? I want to know what you think. Here’s what I think.
We are the people who hit the late 20th and early 21st century and fully accepted that the planet had a suite of urgent and interrelated problems. We are the ones who actually mean it when we use the expression “climate crisis”. We are the ones who have the courage to be open to all solutions in the face of seemingly intractable problems, and to recognise when fear rather than fact is driving the decision making. We are the ones who are prepared to stand against the Australian societal norm, including the friends we leave behind in Australia’s powerful mainstream environmental movement, and say “No, we have been mistaken”. We are the ones who value every human life equally; so logically we value saving hundreds of thousands of lives every year through re-stabilising the climate and cutting air pollution above saving no lives by protesting nuclear power. We are the ones who can see a path to dramatically less mining, pollution and pressure on our forests and wildlands, through bringing energy for development from the densest energy source on earth. We are not energy hedonists nor are we consumption junkies; but we acknowledge the benefits of the energy-rich modern world in the health, safety, security and prosperity it provides. We’re not trying to solve all the problems of the world… the top five or so will do. We are the true environmentalists for the 21st century. This is something to be very proud of.
We need to acknowledge and value our history and articulate our present; create our own narrative and make it known. This gives people who will consider making the change to pro-nuclear something to hang their identity from with pride.
The best part though is to write our own future. That means growing. Building our numbers. Planning. Acting. Making change. Winning the damn fight because we can’t afford to lose.
I can’t wait.
136 replies on “Why pro-nuclear environmentalism has failed when anti-nuclear has succeeded – and how to change this”
An excellent start. It is a very important point that we are asking people to change their identities, or at least the beliefs and values they identify with.
An additional suggestion for who we are: We are those who would like to believe the global economy can be run exclusively on renewables, but have examined the evidence in detail and found the proposed scenarios thoroughly unrealistic, and the overall financial and environmental costs unacceptably high.
I totally agree. It is time to start the “can do,must do” – movement worldwide and start it now.
I’ll be ‘devils advocate’ for a moment in order to provide an ‘alternative narrative’ as to why the anti-nuclear movement was successful.
The anti-nuclear movement had two helper issue’s on it’s side.
Inflation adjusted coal prices in the US and I suspect in Australia as well as our coal resources are similar dropped from 1979 to 1999.
It was in the interest of the Soviet Union that Western Europeans remain energy insecure. A strong Germany was especially worrisome.
IMHO As a result the anti-nuclear movement had the support of the hard left due to geo-politics as well as the capitalist right due to economics.
A hard combination to beat.
The pro-nuclear movement needs to resort to ‘new economic realities’ as well as ‘nationalistic pride’.
As a non-Australian I would recommend…The economics of clean nuclear power is competitive and Australians need to make decisions about our sources of power based on what is best for Australians, not what is best for the Danish , Spanish or Germans.
(Comment deleted. Relevance no longer applies as Barry has decreed that pro-nuclear denialists of AGW are not welcome on BNC and will not been given air in the future.)
This is a website for people who are concerned about climate change, first and foremost. It is not set up to pander to any other subset, and frankly, if you don’t care about solving climate change (or at the very least if you’re not neutral on the matter), then BNC is not the website for you. If you are pro-nuclear but consider climate change to be some alarmist conspiracy, then you are welcome to frequent other energy blogs that are populated by denialists – there are plenty of them. Go ahead, it’s a free internet. But don’t darken my virtual doorstep again.
I don’t mean to break the mood here, but I think that’s this comment will be all about.
First a note: I’m not at all an environmentalist. And here is a second: I write from France, you know, the only sizeable country where nearly all the electricity comes from nuclear power stations.
You say the pro-nuclear movement lacks a narrative. That’s true. In France, the nuclear program started with a narrative (only partly true as with all good stories). The nuclear program started just after the first oil shock. At that time, we had coal and oil based power stations. Reserves of coal had dwindled over the 20th century in France to the point of making them look uncompetitive from the beginning of the 70s. Them the oil monarchies punched us with the price hike. So in the course of 1974, the minister for industry came out of a meeting saying: we’re gonna be independant for our electricty production and for that we’re gonna build a lot of nuclear stations. Very good narrative at the time. Remember this was just after de Gaulle, the paragon of french sovreignty, and that the oil monarchies had just shown us how reliable they were. This was hugely successful, even the left bought it and made it complete by finishing the reactors. This first narrative was then joined (after amortization of the first stations) by the narrative that we got the cheapest electricty or so in Europe.
If you do not trust me, that’s partly the story told on wikipedia (for what it’s worth) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_energy_in_France#Messmer_Plan
And this is not just bullshit:
– while there is now no uranium mine in activity in France, we get ours from sources that do not look like they will stab us in the back such as Canada, Australia and some former African colonies.
– We have the 2d cheapest electricity in the EU after Finland, adjusted from purchasing power. With nominal prices we’re only 7th after some very rich countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, etc.
Click to access KS-QA-10-046-EN.PDF
You think everything is ok? Well not quite.
First the green movement has seen some huge gains. They now hold the moral high ground, even if they have told documented lies.
Second, despite the huge success the nuclear program has been, there is now serious talk of abandoning it. That’s following Fukushima, but not only. There has long been talk of a decreasing share of nuclear in electricity generation even from non green politicians. They were talking of putting an end to the all-nuclear policy. As every regular reader of this blog knows that means more greenhouse gases generation. Now, even the staunchest supporters have said that they favour a dimishing share of nuclear power generation.
Third, it is more and more clear that it will be impossible to reach any target of greenhouse gases emission worldwide, because of the politics in the US, in China and other emerging economies.
To summarize, my take is that, if the nuclear choice was put to a popular vote now or in the near future (1-2 years), the nuclear path would be trounced.
So I am afraid that having a good narrative, connections, things to do, are not going to be enough. This is truly an uphill battle.
For those who favour direct action the pictured Playford B coal station has been mentioned for federally funded replacement by gas. Maybe it will be referred to in the PM’s speech later today. I guess the gas plant would be air cooled combined cycle plant of around 250 MW. Gas company Santos already has a nearby pipe that goes under the gulf. Santos seem to think fracking will revive their ageing gas fields to the northeast. The plant operator is the US owned NRG Energy.
This exercise should highlight how inadequate and expensive this approach will be. South Australia needs at least a gigawatt of new generation to avoid summer power imports and allow mining projects to expand.
(The comment to which you refer has been deleted for several violations of the BNC Comments Policy.)
(The comment you refer to has been deleted for several violations of BNC Comments Policy icluding those to which you alluded.)
(Comment deleted. Violation of the Citation Policy. Please re-submit to the Sceptics thread where peer review references are not required for personal opinions.)
Great article Ben. But I’d argue that a couple of other small things have given the anti-nuke movement huge leverage. Signage. Whoever chose the radiation warning sign as the symbol of the
movement pulled the ultimate marketing coup.
The “Nuclear power, yes please” symbol can’t compete. We need to find some warning sign to coopt … warning climate change … and make fear of global warning greater than fear of nuclear.
A second problem is that we end up being aligned with climate change denialists (deleted pejorative) Many anti nukes will flinch at joining a movement
alongside people who think climate change is a fraud. (deleted opinion of other’s motives) The anti-nuclear movement isn’t just a movement but thinks of itself
as a MORAL movement. They have turned energy generation technologies into an ethical decision.
(Comment deleted. Personal opinion of other’s motives unsupported by references.)
Peter this is not the thread for your sceptical position on AGW. Please post those comments on the appropriate thread, which is the Sceptics thread, where your opinion does not need to be supported by peer-reviewed references.)
(Comment deleted. Peter’s comments have been deleted for the very reasons you gave.)
Personally I can’t see change happening without challenging the current political landscape. We need to replace adversarial politics and start working together as a society to identify the main issues and to develop strategies to address these.
I think there has to be a new movement, but it has to happen outside of the current politicians and media. We need a ‘start again’ approach were people start this process and get so much momentum that the politicians and media will find themselves left behind with their petty squabbling and reliance on misinformation.
We need to give up the hope that strong leadership will solve our problems. If we identify the most important issues, their solutions often become immediately apparent.
Our society prides itself on being educated but we are fundamentally ignorant on local issues. We should all know about the rationality behind fast breeder nuclear reactors before making decisions not to even consider them. We should know about threatened species in our vicinity and not leave this to small volunteer organisations to battle against the odds. We should know about our local wildlife. We should have readily available material on solutions such as those provided on http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/; we should all be aware of options for better urban design and should be thinking about car-barns for each new suburb and in place of the individual driveway and garage. Instead of people defending plagues of white cockatoos, they should be concerned about declining woodland birds. Instead of preventing appropriate management of plagues of western grey kangaroo and koalas in the Adelaide Hills, we should have strategies in place to protect the habitat they threaten to destroy. Most people are unaware of the threats of weed and other invasive species in their vicinity.
I find it encouraging that most people I know are opposed to government goals of increasing our local population in Adelaide. There is potential to work together and start a new movement.
Perhaps we need a new narrative of working together to find solutions rather than working against each other in adversarial politics. Democracy needs to change from playing the man to playing the ball and start managing real issues.
To reach that goal, we demand the simple, commonsense maturity from our government and fellow citizens to consider all zero-carbon generation options on a level playing field basis.
Good goal. However, I do not trust that it is genuine. The reason I do not trust the motives is because of the continual avoidance on this web sit of addressing the fundamewntal questions I’ve been asking for over a year. It is avoidance of the questions people don’t ant to address. So why should anyone trust the motives. The fundamental question I’ve been asking is:
What do we need to do to get nuclear implementd in Austrlaila so it has an LCOE less than coal.
No one wants to go near that question.. Or at least, no one wants to seriously consider it.
(The comment to which you refer was deleted as Off Topic and demonstrating several violations of the Comments Policy.)
Robert: To the contrary, far too many people are concerned with local issues and don’t see how their lifestyle choices have much bigger non-local impacts. I gave an extended example in
In short, conservationists trying to save 7 acres of Kelly’s bush in
NSW while munching on beef produced from the clearing of 50,000 acres of tropical forest in Qld.
Similarly with energy. All kinds of people advocate electric vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions without considering the power station emissions.
Conservationists are great at the “act local” bit, but many aren’t too
good at the “think global” part of the slogan.
This is a profound and moving piece of oratory, and I hope and expect Ben will deliver it to small and large groups around his state, and perhaps beyond.
This is an issue of values. What do I value? Briefly, the continued integrity of our present natural endowment, and human life, wellbeing and happiness within that. The antinuclear movement paints nuclear power as being antithetical to these values. I see nuclear power as being fully aligned with them. A foundational statement such as Ben has crafted is critical for establishing and communicating the values the movement is based in.
Jim Frederick, in the first comment above, wrote,
I understand the point you are trying to make, but I can truly say that my beliefs, values, and identity remained constant through my transformation into a Promethean environmentalist. I wouldn’t ask greens to change their values, but rather their tactics. Tactics can be dropped or changed when they no longer serve the values they were meant to, and no-one’s identity need be threatened. Perhaps this is the way to approach the broader environmental movement, and the great majority of people who want to do something about climate change.
Just for the record I nearly came to a sticky end in a weather related incident this morning. I was standing on the bank of a flooded earthen dam when it collapsed, scrambling clear in the nick of time. That earth dam has been trouble free for 20 years. The anti-CC thought police will disallow any attribution to more extreme weather. Ditto those people who’ve lost relatives and property in unprecedented fires, floods and storm surges. You mustn’t think anything is amiss.
That’s one reason for Australia to do its fair share of decarbonising. The other is that fossil fuels may be running out faster than price signals can convey, but still not fast enough. I don’t think $23 carbon tax with giveaways is the answer but it’s a start. After a year or so it should be clear what works and what doesn’t so it’s a learning exercise.
Talk about spamming!
I had so very much looked forward to discussion along the lines of how a pro-nuclear movement may be formed and what it might look like.
Thanks, Ben, for a thoughtful article. I agree that there must be a movement and a narrative. A movement whose primary message is “You are all wrong!” will get nowhere.
This article demonstrates that there are plenty of positives. These include cleaner skies, less mining, reduced solid waste, healthier communities (as against wood or coal burning), improved personal outcomes (as against forcing the female half of the population to spend huge slabs of their time gathering firewood, dung or water), national and international security (as against resource wars, multi-million person displacements annually), a believable pathway to improved standards of living for those who currently do not have access to energy supplies, hugely reduced capital requirement (as against wind and PV) and the list goes on.
(portion deleted as the violations of policy you comment on have also been deleted)
Ben’s article explains with clarity and purpose, why a negative, aggressive or backwards-looking approach cannot win support for nuclear power options. So, thanks, Ben. I look forward to seeing a pro-nuclear community movement grow and prosper, with its basic philosphy rooted in a belief that the future can be better than the current rational prognosis indicates.
JB – I have been away – what is the saying about mice playing? The take-over of this thread by Peter Lang and others has been removed as off topic – that is besides violating several other BNC Comments Policies, including not supplying references to support his personal opinions. The Carbon Tax 2011 in Australia thread was opened to address that particular topic so comment there is consistent with the thread.
(The comments to which you refer have been deleted as being Off Topic and directed to the Sceptics thread where no references are required for personal opinion on the science.)
This thread has been deliberately diverted by sceptics of the accepted science on AGW/CC which forms the backbone of BNC and the need to move to alternative clean energy including renewable and nuclear power. Sceptics are warned that their comments attacking the science and those who accept the science, will only be posted on the Sceptics thread, where personal opinion on this matter need not be supported by peer-review scientific references. In future, further instances of this trolling/spamming on any thread other than the Sceptics thread will be deleted without comment.
(The comment to which you refer has been deleted as off topic and requested re-post on the Sceptics thread where you might wish to reply if it appears there.)
Sorry Robert – I inadvertently deleted your answer to JB as well. Would you kindly re-post that please.
Peter Lang, after looking through the tirade of messages sitting in my “Trash” folder this morning (kindly put there earlier today by the moderator), I see that I made a grave error in letting you back on BNC again. Your behaviour today was frankly appalling (building on the momentum of the last few weeks), and I’m sick of the insults you cast at me and others here. I don’t want to listen to you any further, and I don’t want my comment threads polluted by your ideological rants and personal aspersions. Go back to shouting at the wall of your living room. You’re banned — this time, permanently. Good riddance.
This is a website for people who are concerned about climate change, first and foremost. It is not set up to pander to any other subset, and frankly, if you don’t care about solving climate change (or at the very least if you’re not neutral on the matter), then BNC is not the website for you. If you are pro-nuclear but consider climate change to be some alarmist conspiracy, then you are welcome to frequent other energy blogs that are populated by denialists – there are plenty of them. Go ahead, it’s a free internet. But don’t darken my virtual doorstep again.
Proteos, yes, I suspect as much as well from the little French I’ve been reading before Fukushima. Seems the industry there, meaning EDF, hasn’t been doing a good job in touting nuclear.
I would say this to those that want to lower nuclear’s share of energy there: why not start with the remaining fossil plants. Gas, mostly, I think. See if solar and wind can in fact reduce and eliminate this relatively small percentage of gas *first* to prove what they have. Then we can have a real face off.
Peter Lang: What is an LCOE?
What we need is 4 million tons less of carbon in the air per gigawatt year.
The previous BNC article at:
did a great job on the renewables. The links provided are really excellent.
Problems with average people:
1. They did not major in engineering or science in college. In fact, they wouldn’t have been admitted if they had applied. They are “innumerate”, at least compared to those of us who have degrees in engineering or science. Numeracy and mathematicality are important to understanding what we are saying. They may have degrees in humanities, and if they do, they are good at pulling people’s emotional strings. We are not so good at that.
2. They lack the knowledge that wasn’t taught to them in high school because they didn’t take the non-required physics course, simple as it was. For example, they have never heard of Natural Background Radiation. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation
Calculate your annual radiation dose:
The Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.
3. They didn’t know that coal contains uranium, thorium and arsenic and all of the decay chain of uranium:
in such large amounts that coal ash and cinders contain enough uranium to fuel our reactors.
All natural rocks contain most natural elements. Coal is a rock. The average concentration of uranium in coal is 1 or 2 parts per million. Illinois coal contains up to 103 parts per million uranium. Coal also contains the radioactive decay products of uranium. A 1000 million watt coal fired power plant burns 4 million tons of coal each year. If you multiply 4 million tons by 1 part per million, you get 4 tons of uranium. Most of that is U238. About .7% is U235. 4 tons = 8000 pounds. 8000 pounds times .7% = 56 pounds of U235. An average 1 billion watt coal fired power plant puts out 56 to 112 pounds of U235 every year. There are only 2 places the uranium can go: Up the stack or into the cinders.
4. They don’t know how to make a nuclear bomb or a reactor, so they don’t understand that they are different.
Teaching would be a good place to start. Read “Living in Denial” by Mrs. Dr. Kari Marie Norgaard, 2011. This book is a good place to start on Global Warming.
@ gjrussell – “We need to find some warning sign to coopt ”
A familiar cliche/image is that of a weather god, a fringed sun nestled in a cloud, blowing gentle breezes down on us.
This might be transmuted into an angry weather god, in a wind-torn cloud blowing a hurricane down on us.
A suitable caption for it – on a poster or T-shirt – would then be “better we go nuclear”.
John Bennetts is right. We should look forward “to discussion along the lines of how a pro-nuclear movement may be formed and what it might look like” or what an informed decision making process would look.
(Deleted off topic. Please take this discussion of LNT etc to the Open Thread.)
I’ll be brief. I’m neither an academic nor a scientist but I know lots about the global nuclear power generating industry and I’ve been speaking for it loud and long over the past 12 years. I’m claiming at least 2000 converts to nuclear over that time. That’s been achieved by persisting with writing letters to editors, politicians, business leaders, various journals and making many speeches and getting reasonable exposure along the way. I’ve had a pro nuclear narrative going now for 12 years, have taken some flak along the way but have gradually got the message out to more and more people. I’m 73 and feel OK about continuing the cause into the future. It would be nice to think that there were others like me out there who are having a go and maybe Barry and Ben are two who are doing just that. I hope they are.You could usefully invite me Ben to be guest speaker at one of your meetings. I’ve had 50 years of teaching experience Ben and I know that I can make a compelling case for nuclear power. 2000 converts to nuclear is testimony to that fact. Try me.
Great stuff as usual, Ben Heard. It’s going to be a tough battle, but persistence is an absolute must. Your enthusiasm is great, and breeds optimism.
Also, just downloaded The God Species on my Kindle, am looking forward to reading it (thanks for the recommendation, Professor Brook).
@Asteroid_miner on the innumeracy of “average people”
Allow me to rush to the defence of all the intelligent laymen who avidly read this blog, and competently scribble our arithmetic – arising from the comments – on the backs of envelopes etc.
It is quite true that many readers are not electrical engineers, and are not au fait with engineers’ jargon units. We are entitled to your respect, and for that regard we need you to use international units, and SI in particular. Hang it, we learnt SI in school, they are the official units of almost every peer-reviewed journal, and the official units of almost every civilised country in the world.
Thus, in SI, “the average American gets 3.6 mSv/a, smokers add 2.8 mSv/a … radon accounts for 2 mSv/a” . That said, may I applaud your use of the SI-associated term term “gigawatt years”, as it is much more meaningful than the obscure “billions of kWh”.
Now, please let no one protest that CGS units are okay because they are “metric”. They wereobsolesced in 1960 . Rather, many engineers continue to use what their long-dead teachers taught because they themselves are too er, “innumerate” to update to SI.
If we are to provide technical backup to a world wide nuclear-savvy movement, we ought to use terms and units that our youthful public already understands – SI.
@ John Newlands, on 10 July 2011 at 7:01 A M.
“… Playford B coal station … [may be replaced by an] air cooled combined cycle plant of around 250 MW.”
Sure about air cooling? With a body of salt water at the doorstep, salt water cooling represents cost savings to capital and operating budgets of the owner. It’s sure possible, but perhaps not probable. Besides which, 250MW will be nowhere near that which will be needed to make SA self-sufficient for electricity.
One discussion paper was prepared for ElectraNet and AEMO and can be found at http://www.aemo.com.au/planning/0173-0015.pdf. Over the range of scenarios studied, generation in SA was expected to be augmented by OCGT and CCGT in roughly similar amounts during the period 2014 – 2050. Note that this study may not be the most appropriate available – others may be able to provide better references. One purpose of this study appears to be to study the need for transmission interconnector upgrades due to the proposed Green Grid for development of wind resources in the Eyre Peninsula.
Back to the Playford Power Station. I do not have a detailed knowledge of SA’s electicity infrastructure and planning, however it appears to me that this site would be a worthy candidate for a NPP, due to the existing transmission system connections and salt water cooling capacity. If the site’s owners proceed to a least-cost OCGT and/or CCGT facility which does not leave open the option for a future NPP, this would be most unfortunate.
Perhaps Ben’s proposed pro-nuclear community movement could use this issue to raise public awareness of the values of this and similar sites and of nuclear power in general.
Congratulations on having survived a rough spell today. Without your considerable efforts, this site’s standards, and hence value, would be diminished.
JB I understand the Playford site has worse seawater circulation than Pt Lowly over in the distance where BHP wanted to put the desal. I had a friend whose job was to monitor the health of the mangroves and saltmarsh and I recall this was a concern. I understand the apex of Spencer Gulf needs tidal flushing to induce currents. Someone told me that swimming at Pt Augusta feels like Israel’s Dead Sea as you become noticeably more buoyant. I can’t give numbers though as in grams of salt per litre.
That’s why I suggest the Great Australian Bight eg Ceduna. Desal could be combined with NP perhaps using waste heat in flash distillation on seawater of standard salinity. That region needs more desal than just Olympic Dam mine. If they ever built the HVDC cable across to WA then Ceduna is well on the way. Other reasons to build at Ceduna include lack of NIMBYs and radiation ‘pre-toughening’ of the locals through Maralinga A-bombs and zircon export at the loading jetty.
Several carbon committee members spoke today on the 2,000 MW brown (perhaps ‘poor quality’) coal replacement issue. Didn’t hear nuclear mentioned once though even Bob Brown said he admired the UK.
Point taken. Tidal flushing is relevant. I’d still like to see the site preserved because of its other attributes.
If there is one thing which will be essential to the success of a pro-nuclear movement, it is the need for pro-nuke activists to transcend the left-right divide on this, and establish a solid support base which recognises our common interest in supporting nuclear power. If we allow the dialogue on nuclear power to remain a political football, there will never be the political consensus needed to move it forward. Arguments for nuclear power should be mainly tailored for the left wing of politics, addressing the concerns of those who are traditionally opposed to it, and arming them with reasons to support it which they can spread swiftly.
no, EDF has not been so bad at advertising its nuclear successes. People tend to reckon that it’s true we have close to the cheapest electricity in the EU and that there is little alternatives to nuclear power. One has also to realize that support for nuclear power used to include all parties except the greens: support for nuclear extended from the communists on the left to the gaullists on the right
But as I said, the green gained the moral & political high ground by saying a few things:
– the nuclear sector is a bunch of liars. They scored a huge success after Chernobyl by arguing that the radioprotection agency of the time lied and said ‘the radioactive cloud had stopped at the border’. The agency never said anything like this. That’s an example of successful media campaign based on nothing. (for reference, see http://www.dossiersdunet.com/spip.php?article750 but it’s very long and in french)
– Their general stance is that we should have an energy comsumption as low as possible, and in short that we should live a bit like modern monks. This modest way of life tends to be seen as most admirable.
– They also say that an another way of producing electricity is possible that renewables will one day be cheap if only we invest more in it. This is a meme that is a staple of this blog, but very hard to debunk. People do not realize we must act now. It is also very tiring to answer to all the energy mixes that are proposed. People keep dreaming that another way is possible even if at the time they are using something that is working very well.
– It is now a widely held belief (in all parties) that renewables creates jobs. It is not true (see for example the piece by Bjorn Lomborg http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/lomborg69/English ) but at the same time, the politicians see that with renewables they will inaugurate many more facilities than with nuclear with visible job creation to boot.
It is true that nuclear has a very strong case in its favour, especially in ressource rich countries such as Australia: independence, low & constant price, possibility to continue to expand supply for many years, etc. Australia do not face some sort nuclear fatigue as it may be described as something new there. But I think this is not enough and at some point, it will be needed to end the moral dominance the opponents of nuclear energy enjoy. It is especially hard to do because nuclear power has always been a practical solution to a practical problem. (Deleted personal attribution of motives of others.)
Roger: We can play on nuclear medicine which has positive connotations … so some slogan ideas … “Nuclear medicine for the planet” … “nuclear power for planetary medicine” … or “nuke global warming” … “Nuking climate change”
I have and will continue to enjoy reading these comments, (that is once the appalling spamming was pulled in). A follow up post will be crafted within two weeks for DSA after a much needed rest. I will let Barry know when it is ready if he wishes to notify through BNC. Otherwise feel free to visit DSA and subscribe.
Proteos, thank you for your comments. We don’t actually have enough discussion on French nuclear here so it’s good you are participating. (I’m actually a Yankee, not an Aussie).
I’ve been to France a lot, and I have union brothers in FO-CGT who work as nuclear engineers there. I’ve had a lot of discussions about their view of nuclear. It was refreshing to hear what they have to say, quite a ‘Gaulic point of view’ very different from American nuclear.
I even got an earful of how the privatization of EDF has held back the work of Flamesville EPR due to the massive use of sub-contractors (the French industry I was told was built wholly by EDF and some suppliers) who don’t know really what they are doing in many cases.
France appears to be building 2 EPRs. Can you tell us about the model Suez wants to build? That is the 3rd nuke there.
Well, you guys have your work cut out for you. I started researching and reading heavily about NP due to the Entergy Vermont Yankee situation. I grew up in Massachusetts and spend considerable time in Vermont each winter so it was personal though not entirely local for me.
I was surprised at what I found. The numbers just didn’t add up on the anti side. (I still believe the people of Vermont should be able to determine whether they want a nuclear plant in their state or not, especially one run by an untrustworthy entity like Entergy.)
My point, however, is that I still have to fight myself NOT to take an anti-nuclear position when reading blogs or news stories. I have to remind myself what I have discovered and why nuclear power is an important tool for eliminating coal and gas plants and for offering the promise of better lives for 100s of millions of people in the developing world.
Decades of blind acceptance of the anti position and cognitive dissonance are powerful forces. And I’m not there entirely yet. (I did just buy some stock in a uranium mining company, which was a huge step.)
Best of luck, it’s going to be a hard fight with a lot of work.
What does Stephen Lacey try to say here:
I’ve read the post several times, but I don’t really se a message, other than possibly a reluctant admission thee renewables (besides hydro) is still far behind nuclear.
Barry, I hope you get to see this.
David Lewis’s piece was good advice for “pro-nuclear” people whether or not they think they’re “environmentalists” — how to make a convincing scientific case and omit the rhetoric and exaggeration. Even if they want to believe the wacko stuff, they need to learn not to repeat it in public while trying to sound like they understand science. And the practice might do them good eventually,
It was right on point for the topic, and it needs to be taught.
Telling the septics* “never darken my doorway” is appropriate.
But most of them, you know, don’t believe they’re septics.
Tell them what not to _post_ and they might learn to think better.
I will just throw this in as my reaction to the article before I go back and read all the comments.
One thing that is not mentioned in “the plan” is :
If you have that the rest will follow. Even if you lie and cheat you can still win if you have the MONEY.
Secondly, A little lying and cheating is not all that bad. The competition does it so do it back. Maybe you don’t need to lie and cheat as much as SMEAR the competition. It should not be that tough when the competition is coal fired generating plants.
Thirdly: I would suggest that you eliminate the words “climate change” and “Global Warming” (Too many people will be alienated by those words)
——-just use the words “air pollution”.
The coal lobby certainly has money, and the renewables industry have probably just been handed a big tax payer funded one also.
One other thing:
I love the argument on nuclear waste that: “at least we have already contained the waste products”
I’ll use that one in the future.
Just a suggestion relative to the MONEY aspect. You guys need to get GE backing. Certainly they have money for advertising…and certainly they must see the potential for selling you lots of Gen3 Nuclear plants.
It would be good to have somebody like Mark Lynas or George Monbiot carry out a ‘gap analysis’ of communication by the nuclear industry. Ben’s analysis is very good the only thing I would point out is that mass movements are built around ideas, not technologies. The anti nuclear movement has used negative associations around ideas very successfully. I don’t think nuclear will ever be able to present itself as an idea for a mass movement to rally around. Instead I think it will have to always be subservient to an overriding narrative e.g. AGW and hence decarbonising the economy. I wouldn’t ever expect mass marches on Hazelwood or Drax in the UK with people thrusting their fists collective in the air shouting, “We want nuclear now”!! Its perhaps going to be a slow burn of acceptance and a lot of shoe leather (like Julia Gillard at the moment) as people like Barry Brook is doing now.
PS. I wish I had known about the the Monbiot vs Green peace debate at the R.Soc of Chemistry in London last week as I would’ve attended
Why has the nuclear power lobby failed to succeed? Well, it started off with an immense handicap, the early days of nuclear = Hiroshima and then the Cold War with its thousands of ballistic missiles. Deemed to all be part of the ‘nuclear fuel cycle’ and inseparable. It wasn’t a good start.
Okay, we are 30 years beyond that period, so why is the nuclear lobby still in the very same space now? Well, people have taken some convincing that it is possible to have a safe nuclear power industry and as there are competing arguments the average person-in-the-street genuinely finds it hard to know what to believe. The arguments need to be stupendously convincing to overcome the above hardened mind set.
An example: I have a technical background and have been following this site for a long while with an open mind and have articulated in environmental debates that environmentalists should keep an open mind when it comes to the possibility of fourth generation nuclear plants becoming viable. In some audiences that’s sticking your neck out.
And then this morning I am sent this, from an old colleague: http://www.rmi.org/rmi/Library/2009-07_NuclearSameOldStory
I can read this with an open mind too, knowing that Lovins has been pushing demand management and renewables for a long time, and so has a barrow to push, but he does have acknowledged expertise.
So… short of going back to university to study up on these things and become a nuclear expert myself, I am left with uncertainty. Who to believe? The cautious side of me says to act with caution and not believe anything until it is 1) proven up and 2) commercially operating and 3) demonstrating its purported attributes.
Logic tells me that renewable energy resources are too dilute to be able to feed an industrial society that has gone into serious overshoot. As stated in my previous comments on BNC, it’s a darned pity that those trying to deal with climate change have to be at warfare with each other, I can only see the future in terms of a mix of energy technologies, underpinned by deep cultural change. Bottom line: We can’t go on as we are.
Why? We don’t need to lie or cheat. The facts and reality are on our side. I think above all we need to remain honest in this debate. Though admittedly (as Ben more or less said), we do need more effective ways of pitching our argument, in the form of a somewhat unified narative.
Also – if a little lying and cheating weren’t that bad, would we even still be having this “debate” about renewables being a realistic energy option for the future?
“”Why? We don’t need to lie or cheat. The facts and reality are on our side. I think above all we need to remain honest in this debate. “”
Of course we need to be honest!!
We just need to beat them at their own game…… with politics and money……
and use science as a LAST resort.
Stating that pro-nuclear environmentalism has failed may be a little harsh and a little premature. As a distinct political tendency it is still quite young. Twenty or even ten years years ago, it would have been quite hard to find for example, environmental scientists or environmental journalists with a public presence strongly advocating nuclear power.
Of course progress on nuclear power is insufficient, and the atmosphere is not going to hang about waiting for humans to sort out their squabbles, but one could also observe that all environmentalism has “failed” to deliver the needed outcomes and the techno-solar brigade has also failed in terms of tangible results as distinct from generation of a lot of political noise.
I think it’s important to think through the time lines of how the political economy and politics of energy may play out. Renewables are in the spotlight and are also on the spot over the coming few years/decade. If they deliver, then that’s fine. If, as seems much more likely, they don’t, it is inevitable that nuclear power will come to the forefront. An important role for pro-nuclear environmentalists is to promote clear thinking about energy to hasten that process.
The point about the use of sub-contractors, and especially sub-contractors without specific nuclear experience certainly seems to have some solid basis. If you haven’t read it, Engineering the Future: Nuclear Lessons Learned produced by the UK Institution of Civil Engineers and the Royal Academy of Engineering looks at some of the issues with contractors. The whole report is a very good read.
It can be downloaded here:
@ Ben Heard “we are … passionate and opinionated”. Such style is more characterististic of young movements concerned for the common good. They feel driven by a shared sense of rights and wrongs.
It could well be that a nuclear-inclusive movement will be more effective if it categorises the actions and in actions of industry in ethical language, viz “common good”, “custodians of the environment”, “sinful”, “crimes against the climate” etc. However it is not our forte, at least, not of the more frequent writers in these columns.
Rather, we stand to be the technical advisers to nuclear-inclusive movements. As desperation arises in the wake of this or that climate-related disaster, nuclear will be only one of the straws to clutch. We are not the orators who will lead their followers in the streets, but we may be consulted when the speeches are being written.
The problem France has is the mandatory EU renewables target which it agreed to. France is supposed to increase renewables grid penetration to 23% by 2020, which will most likely lead to a reduction of nuclear’s share of electricity production. From a emission reduction point of view this is silly, since you substitute one low-carbon technology for another. The problem is that the EU commission doesn’t count nuclear as “renewable”, otherwise France would have already met the target.
I thought French hydro was about that much, doesn’t that count?
From what Max says above, it would seem that a EU requirement for 23% renewables is more intended to conserve dwindling supplies of fuel than to reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere. That wouldn’t be a decision based on scientific advice (global supplies of carbon are effectively limitless), but may be guided by European fears, in which coal comes from Poland, oil supplies from North Africa and gas supplies are dependent on being polite to Russia. But outside of Europe environmentalists have no such excuse.
Every time we use the word “renewables”, we are reinforcing the fantasy that the world is limited by its non-renewable resources. If instead we said “non-carbon” when we are talking about energy and climate warming, we would be just that much closer to getting our listeners to ponder non-carbon baseload sources.
If we consider that the greatest risk the world should fear is a decaying climate, then it becomes an issue not of resources but of waste. Carbon waste. Perhaps waste is the issue we should grind when we get the ear of leaders and activists… after all, there is a certain non-carbon energy source that leaves only a golf-ball of waste (per capita, per annum), buried deep underground.
Barry – may I add my support and willingness to help with Ben Heard’s plea. I am a keen 77 year old still active engineer. I was privileged to work on the Switkowski (UMPNER) report in 2006 and since then have given over 60 invited talks to a huge range of social and community groups and conferences – with several more ahead. I have thus addressed some 3,000-4,000 young and old decent lay people with a willingness to listen and make informed personal judgements.
To date only one individual has seriously attacked me; the great majority have appreciated an honest factual exposition – and nearly always say so, never having heard our side of the story. I do not lie, cheat or avoid tricky questions. I am careful to support my opinions with peer reviewed texts and well established facts. I am not ‘one eyed’ on nuclear; I have indeed run a cooperative research centre (CRC) for renewable energy and I take a keen professional interest in all proven and realistically prospective supply and demand technologies that can contribute to reducing carbon and other undesirable pollutants (eg noise, smells, dust, etc). I focus on technologies that have a reasonable prospect of delivering economic and secure supplies of energy to growing and developing populations, some far less fortunate than us. All of us will share in the impacts of climate change in the many forms it may take, both good and bad.
All that said; I would like to offer you and Ben Heard my fullest support in working towards helping to create the positive, hopefully simple, economically rational and environmentally literate and unified message that is so needed.
With Julia Gillard and her advisers (bless them all!) now advocating an 80% carbon reduction target by 2050 from the 2000 base, but with an apparent vacuum as to what technologies, at what cost, can meet this heroic challenge (apart from the vague, oft repeated but infrequently costed ‘renewables’ mantra), the challenge to us rationalists to ensure that nuclear energy is at least evaluated as part of the 2050 generation portfolio, along with solar, wind, geothermal and energy management, has never been more urgent.
I may not be around in 2050; my children may be and my grandchildren certainly will. I don’t want to let them down. So I am happy to help you if together we can make a difference.
The break down of capacity for France is this:
There is a full 26GWe of fossil, mostly gas. The target, which “we could endorse” I believe politically, would be for EDF to use wind and solar (as opposed to the weezel word, “renewables”) to replace and bulldoze that fossil. If they can do THAT, and do so, or plan to, that is buy into it, as cheaply as nuclear, then we can say “go for it!”.
It seems that pro-nuclear *activists* which there appears to be few in France, unfortunatly, and the EDF PR dept., ought to *push* this and do so strongly “Débarrassez-vous des fossiles restantes avec le vent et le solaire!”. Then we’ll see, nes pas?
One of the key things that the anti-nuclear lobby has in its favour is powerful imagery, both negative and positive. The radiation hazard symbol is super in that respect – bold yellow and black, impossible to misunderstand, and omnipresent (I’m sure it’s difficult to find a first-person shooter game that doesn’t have that symbol in somewhere).The “Atomkraft? Nein Danke” Sun is cheesy-breezy and evocative of the burgeoning green movement of the 1980s.
So – the pro-nuclear (anti CO2) movement also needs its symbols. What do I suggest? Hmm, I don’t know. Black and yellow CO2 clouds? Trees? Greenhouses? There are I am sure designers about who could visualise such things in two minutes – I’m just not one of them.
Barry, guys like Martin Thomas could be very valuable in developing a strategy to promote nuclear power. As he rightly points out, the new 80% reduction target by 2050 for Australia could be the catalyst for such a strategy. As our analysis showed, we cannot reach that target with fossil fuels in the mix even with CCS. So Australia either takes a punt that renewables will come good or it plans for a contingency in case it doesn’t.
I believe Martin Ferguson is of similar mind (he is the Australian minister for energy for those not resident here) and I suspect could supply tacit support for a well structured campaign.
Perhaps you should form a committee of willing and able individuals who could coordinate a structured campaign targeting the Australian public. We only have 39 years to 2050. It could take 10 years to change public opinion so the time to start is now.
The sequence of interviewees (including Barry) on last night’s ABC mostly seemed to be at pains not to use the N-word. The PM strayed into the realms of fantasy talking about wave power. While not interviewed it appears Martin Ferguson has been sidelined. Since he gave geothermal $294m (I think) and has nothing to show for it perhaps he is now regarded as a non-believer.
The much used term was ‘cleaner energy’ which I suspect is specifically meant to include gas fired plant with some solar thermal tacked onto the side. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. I suspect this is where the money will go for the next few years. Ziggy Switkowski expressed doubts about renewables but I thought the Origin energy CEO put it best. If I recall he said there was little point in throwing around huge amounts of money and not getting reliable power.
Martin Nicholson said:
This puts me in mind of this project:
We’re not quite ready for prime time. I’ve got to fix the paypal account so we can accept payments, and the email contact needs tweeking as well. I can currently recieve emails sent to it, but not reply using it yet. I’ll sort those issues out over the next week, and add some more essays on various nuclear power-related subjects. Sorry this is taking so long, but we’re nearly there.
On the French power system, its worth re-linking the excellent RTE website which displays the real time generation mix, consumption, and emissions data for French electricity:
They have made this available as an iPhone app. I highly recommend having it on your phone if you have one – telling people about the near zero emissions grid is one thing but showing them in detail the moment by moment operation of that grid is quite eye-opening:
I’m with Proteos (except I think I’m an environmentalist) – I like France’s simple reasons – energy independence.
We should be able to say it is carbon free – everyone says it’s as good as wind, I can’t understand why it isn’t much better.
The big argument is with the people who purport to be green touting a low-energy future – I guess it could be correlation not causation but I’m pretty convinced high energy availability has a lot to do with emancipation. A high energy future does make it possible to use that energy to concrete over the environment, but I’d like to think that’s not what people would want to do.
I first learnt about nuclear because I needed to believe we were not necessarily doomed by peak oil – now I think it represents the best possible way forward to a green high energy future that creates the most possibilities for everyone.
Correction – that should read : “only a golf-ball of waste (per capita, per lifetime)”
‘Not really green’. ‘Green but misguided’. ‘So-called environmentalists’. Those sorts of remarks (not necessarily yours) are repeatedly tossed at people who hold a world view and a way forward that may not match our own. Such pejorative labels seem to be flung in both directions.
For many people it is hard to reconcile that a nuclear energy advocate can be earnestly environmental, and that stigma understandably sticks in the throat of BNC folk, so much so that they tend to cast aspersions on the motives of the other side to get back at them.
There has to be space for more than one legitimate world view. Let’s start from a premise that the many earnest folk who champion the causes of either wind power or new generation nuclear (and various exotic new technologies) generally have equal status with regard to their genuine concerns about climate change and the future. Denigrating the motives of nuclear enthusiasts is largely the same as denigrating the motives of renewables advocates.
I have a colleague who is very earnest about beaming down concentrated solar power from space-based stations and he is sold on it, reckons its the bees knees. Much though he doesn’t convince me I still respect his science based judgement and also his authentic concern.
Unlike you, I look forward to a green energy-efficient future, enjoying a comfortable lifestyle on perhaps a quarter of our present wasteful energy consumption rates. My family home now uses less than half of the energy that it used to and it is so much more comfortable.
The world still needs to attend to supply-side solutions, even high-tech ones, but our obsession with these tends to camouflage what we really need energy for: So that we can continue to import inefficient TVs and fridges that are banned elsewhere in the world? So that all people in the world can aspire to and achieve our levels of material consumption? And so forth.
From that viewpoint I tend to lump all supply-side devotees in the one big basket, though they think they are miles apart. All the same, I respect where most people, of whichever colour, are coming from.
I would like to get some attention here for the recent extremely successful move by the other side (in this case the Japanese Communist Party) to silence the nuclear industry.
Kyushu Electric company has sent some e-mails to employees pointing to an open Internet channel and asking to speak up for the pro-nuclear viewpoint.
That is seen as a big scandal right now in Japan, with the president of Kyushu Electric possibly resigning, and a very angry public rebuke on the website of the Economy Minister. It also was a factor for the Genkai village mayor to retract a previous permission to restart the nuclear reactor there. This might be a tipping point to permanently shut down nuclear energy in Japan.
What can be done against this wildly successful censorship campaign? Can we use this script (e.g. publish message coordination on the other side and say their message needs to be dismissed as fake, and they have to apologize for having any opinions)? If not, why not?
Chris Harries, on 12 July 2011 at 11:42 AM :
I’m not much for unsustainable consumption. My reference to those who purport to be green included those who really think going off the grid can work for everyone (I don’t think it can) and those who Rod Adams was talking about who purport to be green but are really most interested in selling you more fossil fuels.
I’m inclined to think we could generate so much power from nuclear that we could waste quite a bit of it and still be ok. I think that’s a selling point. Like I said, I hope people don’t want to use the power to do anti-environmental things.
Fracking hell. Not one but two unrelated energy projects in South Australia may depend upon hydraulic fracturing. First up is a geothermal project in the Flinders Ranges that will supply 13 GW of renewable baseload power. Yes that’s what they reckon.
The other is a gas fired replacement for the Playford B coal station at Pt Augusta. Maybe there will be some solar thermal collectors added so it meets all the criteria. The trouble is the gas field from which it will draw is looking at lean times ahead if fracking doesn’t work out
My guess is they will have to eventually connect to coal seam gas from Queensland. That’s it, no other baseload options for SA.
Let me assure you that the consensus at this blog is very much focused on clean (i.e. low CO2e-intensity, low footprint) solutions. Professor Brook has made plain his interest in finding the best mix of options for achieving as close to zero emissions as can be had. That remains the case whatever we do with demand.
While this blog is especially exercised by the potential of nuclear fission-based technologies to underpin decarbonisation, this largely reflects the rather pessimistic inferences that current data suggest should attach to the other non-hydrocarbon energy technologies. If some breakthrough, or more likely, some combination of breakthroughs, were to substantially alter this picture in ways that would make much larger deployment of renewables technically, financially, operationally, environmentally and schedually feasible I don’t doubt that we here would all be celebrating, not the least because the hard reality for this country is that the politics and culture attached to nuclear energy suggest we aren’t going to adopt that here any time soon.
Yet we can’t simply hope. We here take public policy seriously, and we fear that diversion into technologies that don’t scale up, that can’t meet load curves reliably or at acceptable cost will force prolonged reliance on fossil HC combustion. The desire of most people to hang onto their existing lifestyles has an even greater grip on their imaginations than does the fear of nuclear power. We have seen how even a structural reform as modest as that proposed last Sunday has caused enormous angst the semi-educated population at large. A proposal to swap coal and gas for whatever renewables are to hand now would pas a far higher bar than carbon pricing. It would not take much imagination to see how the politics of that would play out. Even an entirely plausible renewables-led push would probably encounter stiff opposition.
There is nobody in public space keener than are we to see global decarbonisation but we need to have a viable plan to make it occur, for to will the end is to will the means. Outside of nuclear right now, there are no means to accomplish the heavy lifting, at least on a world scale.
In 2050 there will be, perhaps 9-10bn people and a large tranche of the nearly 7bn people we have now already, quite reasonably, to live no worse than we do now. No paring back in our consumption is goiung to free up the energy needed to make that possible. Fixing the supply side problem is indispensible.
It’s unfortunate if frustration here sometimes spills over into disparaging comments about those who favour renewables. I was one such for a very long time, and am currently an active Green, notwithstanding my remarks above. I respect my fellow party members who are as earnest as I am in their convictions. Yet on this issue, the majority of Greens and earnest environmentalists are wrong. It’s a shame because unwittingly, their efforts will prolong the usage of fossil hydrocarbons.
Thank you Fran, you explained my perspective very well. It is also reflected in some scenarios I’ve been developing (which needs further visitation from me in due course!), as explained here:
SNE 2060 – assessment of energy demand
SNE 2060 – a multi-source energy supply scenario
This includes a projected 40-fold increase in new renewables (solar, wind, wave etc.) by 2060 and a 20-fold increase in nuclear (once-through and recycle reactors). It also includes liquid fuel replacement, large amounts of energy efficiency/conservation, etc.
As the great late M. King Hubbert put it, “until you change money you change nothing.” The way our growth and debt based economies are set up, more nuclear power will just lead to more economic and population growth. Just as how efficiency has gone entirely to more growth and has done nothing to reduce consumption (i.e. Jevons Paradox) the same is true for nuclear power. We must wait for peak oil and peak coal to cause enough economic contraction that we are forced to switch to a gold standard and a steady-state economy. Otherwise, nuclear will do nothing to reduce fossil fuel consumption. “Until you change money, you change nothing.”
Without arguing at all that we could enjoy as happy a lifestyle as as we currently do using 1/4 of the energy, with all due respect…. dream on. Ain’t gonna happen.
Rather than wasting time and resources (sorry, but I do think it’s a waste) advocating against the inevitable, wouldn’t it be better to direct our attention to ways we can use energy to minimise or eliminate our destructive influences on earth systems?
Some options come that mind: plasma arc recycling, vertical farming, growing synthetic food, replacement of wood products with plastic, ceramics, cement, metal, etc. Perhaps not all will work, but the possibilities are pretty much endless.
@ Ted Trainer,
While peak oil may well and truly be upon us, if we wait for peak coal to happen before we do anything, I expect there will be little left for humanity to salvage on this planet. There doesn’t appear to be any clear evidence it is going to happen soon – quite the contrary, in fact.
@ Ted Trainer “We must wait for peak oil and peak coal to cause enough economic contraction ”
Every time we even use the words “peak oil” or “peak ice cream” without laughing, we give credence to the mantra that the world’s “non-renewable resources” are running out, and the logical cure is to use “renewables”. Sure, oil prices might rise so that we increasingly turn to alternatives — such as coal. However a little thought shows that the world’s sedimentary basins are not going to run out of coal etc any more than the world’s oceans are going to run out of water.
What we are running out of is places to put the waste. The atmosphere is full!
Roger, your confidence in the world’s ability to keep up supply of fossil fuels in a growing economy is not shared by Goldman Sachs: http://theenergycollective.com/sklowem/61012/saudi-arabia-has-reached-peak-oil-output-commodities-rise-goldman-sachs
But before we get off topic, whether the world is constrained by the size of the fuel tank or the exhaust pipe (I would say very much both) we have a serious problem in that the whole of industrial society’s infrastructure is geared around those commodities and if we are hitting a brick wall in the very near future how can various energy alternatives possible fit into the picture? It is generally argued that a timescale needed for wholesale infrastructure change is approximately 20 years, by which time the show may be over.
With an increasing number of analysts predicting financial and political chaos and instability in the coming century, as a consequence of serious overshoot, there ain’t no easy pathway forward. Energy supply is one factor amongst many critical factors, and can’t be viewed alone. That’s why I question both the BZE and nuclear lobby’s optimism that there is an easy fix.
All the more reason that proponents should not, at this stage, be locked into warfare with each other.
My reading of lack of public confidence in nuclear solutions is that many people may always suspect this alternative because it is deemed to be a technology that can only be developed by very large corporations, and a leftist view is that this necessarily means exploitation rather than servicing real human needs. A difficult hurdle to breach.
As if at odds with this, most renewables projects are now of such a large scale that they can only be developed by large corporations, and therefore possibly should be subject to the very same criticism, yet there is an abiding cosy mindset that a little turbine on the roof is where that industry can go, and therefore it is deemed to be inherently much more human in scale and preferable.
That’s an observation, I hasten to add. Funny how we hold onto our quaint ideas from childhood!
Chris Harries, on 13 July 2011 at 7:58 AM:
I took a look at your website – it’s a very good go at the issue.
But I have some buts. I know Heinberg has said nuclear power is no good. I’m convinced he’s wrong, and it bothers me, because it diminishes my evaluation of his otherwise good work. I also know of a very senior scholar who has thought the solar reflectors in space is a better idea than nuclear, presumably out of concerns about proliferation, but I cannot see how it’s feasible.
I’m hoping that Charles Barton is right and that when the pinch arrives we can quickly build almost throw-away reactors. The Australian government top scientific advisor has said we should give away all the technology to the Chinese (and everyone else in the developing world) because they need it and we need it developed asap, and it appears that outsourcing works faster these days than doing it ourselves, if only because the powers that be won’t permit that kind of work to be done onshore.
I’m all for community action, only my idea of community, perhaps unrealistically, is all of us. There’s too many people for us to go back to cantons. The world has to see the issue and act on it. I can’t see it any other way.
What I think I can see is that decades ago extremely brilliant people like Wigner saw all this coming and worked hard to develop the technology, probably knowing it would be put away by the corrupt power-mongers until the hard day came that fossil fuels had to be left behind. I just can’t believe we will get out of this on a community at a time basis – we have to employ the technology that works for the world and the world has to see that. Until that day comes, we are going over the cliff. When that day comes, there had better be enough people around with the skills to implement the few technologies that really offer hope.
According to the International Energy Agency, the world already passed the point of peak oil back in 2006. The global economy is in shambles because oil could’t grow fast enough for the economy to expand and pay down debt and support monetary loans. And according to world famous petroleum engineer Ted Patzeck, who was an early cassandra on biofuels when they were popular a decade ago, Peak Coal will be in 2011. What’s left is mostly lignite, which is brown in color and basically dirt with specs of coal in the dirt.
Thanks for feedback Lawrence.
You will note that our site, to date, has not focussed on technology so far, there being a prior need to focus on the complexity and scale of the dilemma facing everyone. Also because technological solutions are too often talked up in the absence of an understanding about the complexity of that dilemma.
In terms of EROEI (energy return on investment) of various technologies – traditional nuclear power ranks higher than wind, however the fossil-fuelled energy investment needed in both cases (in order to significantly reduce greenhouse emission) would probably be self defeating. We would end up using all of remaining reserves of cheap hydrocarbon energy in their development. So these promising technologies can only be a real ‘solution’ when (or if) we get to the point where they are able to fuel their own development, and that’s quite a Catch-22. We are a long way from that now.
That’s not a defeatist argument, but it does add weight to my premise that supply-side ventures have to be undertaken only as a backdrop to serious demand management, which, in turn, can’t be done in the absence of deep culture change. Otherwise we will keep painting ourselves into a tighter and tighter corner.
Off topic – see my comment to Lawrence.
I’d like to believe the world was in a shambles only because of the encroachment of sustainability upon us all (for example simply because of our increasing numbers), but I don’t think so. I think there are two main issues facing the world today – sustainability and corruption.
Want to guess which one came first, and which one is the chief causal agent?
Far back in time, corporations were assemblages of the common capabilities for the common good. No longer. Therein lies the most concentrated capability to remove sustainability. Now corporations are infinite assemblages that have the most power of any individual entity to influence things – and what they chiefly influence is the government – for example the repeal in the US of the Glass-Steagall provisions so that commercial banks could become too-big-to-fail and therefore take unloseable bets which, when they fail, throw 20% of the US workforce out of a job and a something like 5% out of their homes, along with their families.
Don’t tell me the world is in a shambles just because of resource problems. The first issue is corruption.
This conversation is veering off topic and should be moved to the Open Thread which is designed for these type of philosophical prognostications and personal opinions. AS per BNC policy, future comments in the wrong thread may be deleted and you will be asked to re-post in the correct thread.
(Deleted as off topic – please re-post in the Open Thread.)
This thread is running off-topic.Here we are discussing why the anti-nuclear movement has succeeded and how to move the pro-nuclear argument to public acceptance. Chris Harries, Lawrence et al please move your technical and philosophical discussion to the Open Thread.
Some professed “leftists” deserve a good talking to for spreading this kind of nonsense. We mostly live in capitalist societies where the means of production are mostly privately owned and that goes for energy production too. Large renewables projects are absolutely no different in this respect. Meet the new boss – same as the old boss and in fact in many cases the same boss where large energy companies hold a portfolio of assets including fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables.
Nailing a few solar panels to one’s roof yields only illusory independence because we are all utterly dependent on consumption and production of energy in society at large in a multiplicity of ways. If one wishes to discuss the social relations of that, then by all means go right ahead, but it is much more a matter of political economy than technology selection.
As somebody on the left, I sometimes despair of some of the confused nonsense that purportedly represents left wing thinking. Really, you could stick some of the individualism that is exhibited in some of this stuff, in the Tea Party and it would not be out of place.
Issues of public vs private ownership or mixes thereof have very real implications for mitigating emissions and are deserving of very serious attention. Trivializing them by nuclear == capitalist, renewables == not really socialist, but maybe slightly pink – is just nonsense.
There, I’ve sounded off. I feel better.
Most of this comment is veering off topic. Please move to the Open Thread as I have advised those to whom your comment is directed.Thank you.
I remeber a post a while back that Barry mentioned he was given a picture book by Hayden Manning from Flinders Uni about the negatives of nuclear. There was a comment made back then with regards to “how much of the anti-nuclear argumetn has changed since then?”. Looking at Twitter with a #nuclear search, and general comments on blogs/articles, highlights that not much has changed. For some reason the argument that 4th Generation fast breeders do not exist is misguided, simple wiki search disproves that, and so on. It’s as if they advocate Solar with Storage as an option that will help now, but don’t realise that it is at the same level (there abouts) as commercialised FBRs. Stuck in the 70s…
The irony for me lies in their opposition to newer, safer, more efficient Gen 3 reactors because of older Gen 1 failures. While not understanding that this opposition enables coal and gas to prosper when these older plants are replaced not by newer reactors, but coal and gas. Once these contradictions are made public, it will show how much of the anti-nuclear debate is based in ideology with no connection to reality.
Another point is the conomics. That it is convenient to protest against a plant, cause a disruption, increase capex costs of the plant, and then turn around to point at its high costs. I wonder if anyone has studied how much these actions cost companies and governments? It’s the same situation with the AP-1000 license and FOE’s form email spam. If the Japanese think the 50 emails sent by Kyushu employees advocating a pro nuke stance is a scandal, what would they think of the 14,000 from FOE!? (side note: withdrawing those 50 pro-nuclear emails still yields a 45% approval vs 31% anti for restarting the Genkai Plant)
Unless the anti-nuclear (not weapons) movement pulls itself out of the 1970s, they will fail under counter-arguments relating to current available tech. It doesn’t take much effort. Which is the benefit of the pro-nuclear movement. Starting fresh now, using current knowledge, the movement will succeed. It may have failed in the 1970s-80s but now it’s much better off as the nuclear industry has been proactive in learning from past mistakes.
Arguing that we don’t have enough non-renewables left, Chris Harries gave a link which says —
“the peak date for all liquids – that would include … oil from … CTL (coal-to-liquid) … could actually be in the past”
Run out of coal! Tom Keen has already given us a link that allows the reader to dismiss such claims as hopelessly ignorant. Clearly the author wouldn’t know kerogen from clay, but is confident that his audience wants to agree with him.
How many people read such junk without comparing the facts? That it gets published at all means that there is a significant audience of people who start their day believing that the world is running out of non-renewables, then find confirmation of their worldview in some cheerleader’s assertion that it’s all true.
Perhaps we should accept that as the nature of our naysayers and argue to that mentality. We could warn them, that if they persist in using fossil fuel, that we will reach peak oxygen before we hit peak coal.
Their fears of nukes may pale in comparison.
You are off topic – please move to the Open Thread. Others have been advised the same up-thread.
(If I was deemed to be off topic then you should be too?)
On topic… I am wondering why it is so vitally important for the pro-nuclear lobby to argue against fossil fuel depletion with such outrage. That’s a genuine question. Is that issue somehow central to the debate about public support for nuclear power? I would have thought that for most lay people the idea that we may be starting to run out of one energy source would mitigate strongly in favour of developing alternatives, including nuclear.
Roger has also been advised to move threads to continue this discussion. I am not on-line permanently so moderation often occurs retrospectively.
Lawrence and others,
This thread seems to be about how to best put a pro-nuclear case, rather than what that case may be.
It is based on a thought that a community movement, centered on simple concepts, may succeed where rational and passionate debate has not.
Perhaps we could consider “Stop the Waste” as our slogan, if only the Federal Opposition had not already claimed it.
Stop the waste…
…of money on high cost renewables.
Stop the waste…
…of time playing around with experimental and display projects when industrial scale nuclear power solutions are already available.
Stop the wastes…
…both solid and gaseous, which are the unavoidable end products from burning coal. (or oil, or gas, or animal dung, or trees, or peat, etc)
Stop the waste…
…of energy in the form of concrete and steel in wind power, when far less is needed for nuclear powered options.
Stop the mining waste…
… caused by mining of rare and expensive minerals needed to manufacture solar panels, to make generator components for wind turbines and for batteries and panels for solar voltaics.
Stop the waste…
… of land, locked up and permanently spoiled by solar thermal arrays and wind towers and coal mines and coal seam gas frakking, all of which have lifetimes of not more than a few decades, when a solution for hundreds or thousands of years is needed.
Stop the waste…
… of lives and hopes, due to melting ice, rising seas, ocean acidification and oceanic temperature rise.
Stop the waste…
… of hundreds of thousands of lives annually due to air pollution from carbon fuels.
Stop the waste…
… of species doomed for extinction, whether living on land or in the water, due to humankind’s unfair poisoning and despoilation of their habitats.
Stop the waste…
… of human lives lived in misery in places without access to a reliable power supply, such as most of rural Asia, India and Africa, where daily unpaid labour collecting dung or firewood for fuels and water for homes often locks in poverty through lack of access to education, to good health and to communication. Give the other half of humanity a real chance, through access to those things which we take for granted and consider to be essential.
Stop the waste…
… of climate change in all of its manifestations, because none of them are benefitial to our only world and its future.
Stop the waste. Start building nuclear power stations. Now.
Turn the subject of waste back onto the anti-nuclear apologists. Nuclear wastes can be so very much less damaging to our world than the alternatives.
Remember, nuclear options are much more powerful than all of the renewable alternatives, which can never achieve the reduction in waste that this world demands and is an essential major component of any minimum carbon solution to the world’s waste problems.
STOP listening to Bob Carter and Christopher Monkton and their ilk.
STOP giving air to the arguments of climate change prevaricators.
STOP the waste.
@ John Bennetts,
@ John Bennetts “Stop the waste” ( – go nuclear! )
Bravo! The phrase is readily dropped in to heated debates.
It also seizes the initiative, which might be exactly the answer to the question (what to do about it?) at top.
Anyone taking the initiative in an argument invites the standard jibes, for which answers would have to be ready. However, John has just riposted many of them.
It is brave, in that it poses to dismiss popular fears of the obvious “waste”, so a particularly bullet-proof answer would have to be ready for that one !
Your comment with the phrase “stop the waste” is brilliant. I think Ben Heard and Barry should adopt these quotes as part of the push to promote nuclear energy and DeCarbonise SA.
Please also post the comment on Ben’s website – I am sure he would be very taken with your approach.
The bullet-proof answer?
Something to do with nuclear waste having not ever been the root cause of a life-threatening incident (am I wrong here?). Perhaps the golfball analogy, but that means post Type IV reactors… too far distant.
I realise that this question obviously needs a snappy riposte, then decided to leave that to others to play with.
Just a quick post, as I haven’t time to read this essay yet. What we need to challenge the anti-nuclear environmentalists is a common thread – what our grandchildren will face if we fail to decarbonise is one of them: famine, pestilence and war. I prefer to risk some radioisotope releases over that.
Another useful thing would be to organise a fact-correcting site, akin to John Cook’s Skeptical Science. There are a lot of lies and half-truths out there regarding nuclear energy, and more regarding the bountiful future that awaits us if we just make the leap to renewables. It’s hard to sift through them all, especially given the commercial secrecy surrounding most energy enterprises.
Where I live, Japan, there is a massive hype campaign on in the media regarding renewables, lauding them without trying to understand the difficulties faced in maturing the technology. The flip-side is happening too – nuclear power is being demonised across the board, and pundits are calling for a return to the earlier times of steam locomotives (I kid you not). Some kind of fight-back is needed or we all face a very uncertain future.
Eamon, good thoughts. It would take a lot of effort to set up a website like that, but could be worthwhile. Perhaps a community effort.
Steam locomotives? Powered by coal, no less. *sigh*
@JB I have had plenty to take away from this thread, but that tops the lot. Great bit of work. @Mrs. Perps, I will be using it.
BTW way all see latest DSA post, our state oppososition has made a clear gambit to position themselves in front of the nuclear issue. NOW is the time, esp for South Aussies, to speak up and let them know there are a lot of us who want to see this happen. Otherwise it may slink back to where it came from and never been seen again.
Nuclear advocates are handicapped also by the power of language, especially regarding connotations that are associated with the word itself: ‘nuclear’. Because that word is commonly and historically associated with negative words such as ‘waste’, ‘weapons’, ‘proliferation’, ‘accident’ there is an automatic carry over, whereby it is difficult to project nuclear in a positive light. Even the term nuclear family is generally considered to be unhealthy.
Imagine trying to sell a food product whilst always having to associate your hard sell with the word poison, then see how you get on.
By way of comparison, the forest industry in Australia has long recognised the power of language and thus developed a lexicon of soft terminology so as to avoid negative connotations. Thus ‘logging’ or ‘clearfelling’ is always referred to by the industry as ‘harvesting’. Forest burning is referred to as ‘regeneration’. And so forth.
How can nuclear power be fostered without using the perennially prejudicial ‘N’ word? Hard to imagine. Perhaps just minimise its use wherever possible. In addition, you could coin a nice comfortable label instead of ‘Integrated Fast Reactor’, which doesn’t conjour up anything positive in most people’s minds.
Faking language too hard would draw justifiable accusations of ‘greenwashing’, but these are tried and true corporate strategies that are know to work.
I often refer to coal reactors and gas reactors. Not softening the nuclear language, but hardening up the fossil fuel language. eg. a coal reactor releases far more nuclear waste than a nuclear reactor, because the nuclear reactor is designed from the ground up to be, you know, nuclear.
John Bennets, that approach is exactly what John Howard used in his “Who do you trust”? campaigning speech when everyone thought trust was his great liability. Be encouraged; it worked for him.
@ Chris Harries. In my new book “The Power Makers’ Challenge” (due out next year) I have used the term fission energy rather than nuclear power for the very reasons you raise.
Another tip that can be learned from other industry sectors:
Most large corporations – especially those that have difficulty with projecting a humane, responsible image – deliberately choose women to occupy key public relations positions. They do this knowing that (rightly or wrongly) women are generally perceived to be nurturing, caring creatures, whilst males are always a bit suspect. Also, in any hard debating context it is much more difficult (for males in particular) to take a combative line against a woman than it is against another man.
The energy supply industry is decidedly male dominated (across the board) so nearly all the argy bargy is carried on by men versus men.
Do a check of PR positions around the country – including the Australian Chamber of Commerce – and you will find an inordinate number of women holding key PR positions.
Such marketing strategies may be considered to be rather devious, and they are, it all depends on how strongly you wish to win your case, and what steps you are prepared to take in order to get there.
Speaking of language, it doesn’t hurt than “clean” and Green rhyme.
Also, the symbols for nuclear are red and yellow, both of which signify danger. In China, yellow stands for sickness, though red is for good luck.