Open Thread 18

The previous Open Thread has gone past 550 comments, so it’s time for a fresh palette.

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

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

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


Some possible conversation starters:

  • Here is an interesting lecture on the theory behind nuclear fusion — short, and interesting for a scientifically literate audience
  • A provocative article by John Cameron from University of Wisconsin Madison, entitled: How to ignore data that contradict the LNT hypothesis (on radiation health physics)
  • A comment made on an energy mailing list to which I subscribe, talking about technosolar:

    I am reminded of a Johnny Carson show many, many years ago when he had Dixie Lee Ray as a guest. I think it was around 1973, and she was the new chairman of the US AEC, and Carson engaged her in a discussion about energy. Carson clearly favored solar and wind. She posed a question to him about the value of nuclear energy which went something like this—If you had several hundred freshly cut very tall and heavy trees at the top of a mountain, and you needed to get them down to the river, what would rather have: a couple of bull elephants or several million ants? Which would you chose? He was nonplussed as I recall to say the least. I never forgot that story. For small jobs, the solar/wind sources can be useful. For the really heavy lifting—nuclear is your winner. There simply is nothing else waiting in the wings.

  • The previous quote reminds me of the PBS TV Frontline interview with Dr Charles Till:

    Q: What will be our energy source, then? 

    A: I think that many engineers would agree that there is limited, additional gain to be had from conservation. After all, what does one mean by “conservation?” One simply means using less and using less more efficiently. And there have been considerable gains wrung out of the energy supply and energy usage over the past couple of decades. We can probably go somewhat further. But you’re talking, you know, 10% or 20%. Whereas over the next 50 years, it can be confidently predicted that with the energy growth in this country alone, and much more so around the world, it would be 100%, 200%, or some very large number.

    And so what energy source steps in? There is only one. It’s fossil fuel. It’s coal. It’s oil. It’s natural gas. Some limited additional use of the more exotic forms of things, like solar and wind. But they are, after all, very limited in what they can do. So it will be fossil.

    Now the question, of course, immediately becomes, well, how long can that last? And everyone has a different opinion on that. One thing that is certain, and that is that the increase in the use of fossil fuels will sharply increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another thing is certain. You will put a lot more pollutants into the atmosphere as well, in addition to carbon dioxide, which one could argue the greenhouse effect exists or doesn’t exist. One can point to natural gas. Well, natural gas has fewer pollutants, and it gives you some considerable factor of perhaps two–more energy for the amount of carbon dioxide put into the air than does coal. But if you’re increasing the amount of fossil fuels by a large number, like five then the use of natural gas is not any long-term answer. It simply somewhat reduces what may be a very serious problem.

    Q: What about Solar and Wind?

    A: No. Small amounts. Small amounts only. The simplest form of pencil calculation will tell you that. But you know, energy has to be produced for modern society on a huge scale. The only way you can do that is with energy sources that have concentrated energy in them: coal, oil, natural gas. And the quintessential example of it is nuclear, where the energy is so concentrated, you have something to work [with]. With solar, your main problem is gathering it. In nuclear, it’s there. It’s been gathered.

    Q: What about the rest of the world? What will it do for energy?

    A: Well, parts of the rest of the world are very much powered by nuclear electricity today. France, of course, is the principal example. But all of the Western European countries. Japan will continue an orderly increase in the amount of nuclear power. There’s no question about that. There will be a tremendous increase in China and in Asia of both the use of coal and the use of nuclear energy. I hope that most of it’s nuclear.

I happen to think Ray and Till are fairly close to the mark, but you may well disagree. Either way, I look forward to the always entertaining conversation that ensues.


  1. “Japan will continue an orderly increase in the amount of nuclear power.”

    Bwahahahaha. When was this interview? 1970?

    The comments about efficiency are staggering for someone based in the US. What is the comparative carbon intensity of that country compared to say, Germany. Carbon intensity is a good proxy for WASTE.


  2. > “Japan will continue an orderly increase in the amount of nuclear power.”

    Actually this may no longer be true. The Japanese PM made a public statement a few weeks ago Financial Times July 14

    “Our nation should aim to become a society that can manage fine without nuclear power,” Mr Kan said on Wednesday.

    Also from the same article:

    Seiji Maehara, one of the most popular figures in the ruling Democratic party, said construction of new nuclear reactors should “basically be stopped”.

    In typical Japanese fashion though these statements are rather fluffy and the implications unclear, but given the majority in Japan are now against nuclear power, favouring either abolution or reduced use, it seems pretty clear there has been a change in direction that will only be announced when the required “consensus” has been reached. ie. when the change is well under way.


  3. And the announcement from yesterday which has been anticipated for several weeks now: Japan PM ‘sorry’ over Fukushima no-go zones

    Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Saturday said he was sorry that some areas close to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will remain uninhabitable for a long time.

    “In reality, I cannot deny the possibility unfortunately for residents not being able to return and live in some places for a long time even after taking decontamination measures,” Kan told Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato.


  4. And while the Fukushima evacuation announcement makes headlines, nearly a thousand children died in India today because they don’t have access to electricity. And it will happen again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And these children will not make news headlines. And they will continue to die until something is providing them and their families with energy.

    Wind and solar won’t be providing a nation of a billion people with sufficient energy. Coal and other fossil fuels probably could, but at a huge cost to the planet. So where’s the energy going to come from?

    (And before someone labels me insensitive for trivialising Fukushima, I am just trying to provide some perspective).


  5. What will be the future of nuclear in the US???

    It depends a lot on the review of existing Nuclear plants design level of earthquake resistance relative to a new awareness that there is a potential for earthquakes that exceed the design value for existing reactors.

    There is currently some very interesting data being reviewed relative to the magnitude that Virginia’s North Anna reactor actually received compared to it’s design value.

    Quote from:

    “The NRC requires each nuclear reactor to be able to shut down safely if it experiences a certain level of ground motion, known as peak ground acceleration. At North Anna, a rocky part of the site is built to withstand 0.12g and a softer part of the site is built to withstand 0.18g, according to the NRC.”

    However, a request for a 3rd yet to be built reactor resulted in a NEW design value of almost twice that:

    “Experts hired by Dominion for the proposed North Anna project pegged the peak ground acceleration that should be factored into a new reactor’s design at 0.535g”

    In another article contained here:

    An interesting thing to note is that this (and probably other reactors) have “scratch plates” located in various part of the plant that record the magnitude that the plant actually received.

    “Once the Unit 1 reactor was shut down, the utility sent in workers, wearing gloves, who carefully removed special “scatch plates” that record earthquake data. That process took eight hours. “We had guys up all night extracting them,” said Mr. Heacock.

    Dominion was so eager to get the plates analyzed that it flew the first batch “to California on a private jet,” said Dominion’s Mr. Heacock.”

    So we are eagerly awaiting the results from these “scratch plates”

    1)Did this reactor go thru an earthquake significantly higher magnitude than it was designed for??

    2) What kind of “fixes” will be required to upgrade all these reactors to be able to withstand the higher design level requirements??

    and thirdly:

    3) How large of an earthquake above its design value does it take to cause a failure of the control rods to insert????….and ,what is the failure scenario when the control rods fail to insert for the following cases: a) backup power comes on line successfully and b) backup power fails as in the case of Fukushima.



  6. George Bower, on 29 August 2011 at 12:32 AM said:

    “3) How large of an earthquake above its design value does it take to cause a failure of the control rods to insert????….and ,what is the failure scenario when the control rods fail to insert for the following cases: a) backup power comes on line successfully and b) backup power fails as in the case of Fukushima.”

    In that case soluble neutron absorbers are injected in the cooling water. Took this information from Wikipedia:

    “In the PWR, these neutron absorbing solutions are stored in pressurized tanks (called accumulators) that are attached to the primary coolant system via valves; a varying level of neutron absorbent is kept within the primary coolant at all times, and is increased using the accumulators in the event of a failure of all of the control rods to insert, which will promptly bring the reactor below the shutdown margin.
    In the BWR, soluble neutron absorbers are found within the Standby Liquid Control System, which uses redundant battery-operated injection pumps, or, in the latest models, high pressure nitrogen gas to inject the neutron absorber solution into the reactor vessel against any pressure within. Because they may delay the restart of a reactor, these systems are only used to shut down the reactor if control rod insertion fails.”

    Then you can always come up with an even WORSE scenario and all that fails to. Well, then the water would soon boil off, moderation would stop and the reactor will shut itself off. I guess this would mean some release of radioactive steam though, and a fuel melt down if the decay heat can not be taken care of.


  7. This recent article by John Peterson discusses how non-ferrous technology metals are far more volatile in price than energy, and that the limited supply of these materials will prevent the deployment of batteries for vehicle electrification, as well as solar and wind production at any kind of relevant scale. It is fascinating that these alternative energy industries are proceeding gung-ho powered by government subsidies and investment capital in the billions, yet are incapable or unwilling to see the brick wall of rare earth constraints looming ahead. The author speaks of investors not thinking critically, and being affected by their “hopium induced hallucinations.”

    While this topic is fascinating in and of itself, I am mainly interested in the vehicle electrification conundrum for this post. Let’s assume that Peterson is right, and battery technology will never be able to scale adequately. What about the boron energy carrier fuel concept explored by Tom Blees in his book “Prescription for the Planet” ? Is anyone privy to recent developments in this technology? Venture capitalists and automakers should be all over this.


  8. I would like to poll people here if they believe that the prohibited zone around Fukushima is total BS or if there is some validity to it based on the high(er) levels of Cesium found around the area in the soil.

    Are people saying it’s *totally safe* and that only the area OF the plant is dangerous?


  9. good question, dave. I don’t know how to answer it. It would help if BEIR would deal honestly with criticisms from radiation experts who questions its omissions and distortions.

    One problem here is that the “consensus” around LNT is not analogous to the consensus around climate change. this puts ordinary people in a bind. The consensus is supposed to stand for the opinion of peer reviewed science. Yet, according to its critics, BEIR leaves out much peer reviewed science.

    You get some sense of this from the Cameron article linked above, but there are better rebuttals than his. Still, explaining away the DOE nuclear workers study by attributing the superior health of nuclear workers to the healthy worker effect is sickening. Sanders has a nice chapter in his book on the use of the HWE to “explain” evidence inconsistent with LNT.

    John Morgan: thanks for Jackson link.


  10. I would like to poll people here if they believe that the prohibited zone around Fukushima is total BS or if there is some validity to it based on the high(er) levels of Cesium found around the area in the soil.

    Are people saying it’s *totally safe* and that only the area OF the plant is dangerous?

    Living in an adjoining prefecture to Fukushima, and thus being a wee bit interested in the situation there I’d have to say that there is little way of knowing, based on the lack of reliability of government statements. The Japanese government, which is actually the bureaucracy is compartmentalized, with heavy ties to industry – to which the bureaucrats look to for post-retirement jobs. Reports tend to be vague, and will not incorporate much in the way of original work from the ministries – and most importantly will not incorporate much, if any work from related Ministries.

    Case in point: The Ministry of Education and Science have a computer system called SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information). This provides for quick predictions of the dispersion of radioisotopes into the environment in case of an accident. However, the Nuclear Safety Commission ignored the data it generated – leading to evacuees being directed into areas of possible high contamination.

    Another case: The Farm Ministry instructed beef farmers to stop using hay to feed their cattle. They were unaware that rice straw can also be fed to cattle, and thus radioisotope contamination entered that particular branch of the food chain. Apparently none of the agricultural organizations or farmers queried this.

    Other sources of information are, of course, the press – but much of what is out there is either tabloid, or rehashed anti-nuclear activist material.


  11. David Walters, on 29 August 2011 at 1:51 AM — The probited zone is ultra-conservative; in place until thorugh radaition monitoring is finished, I think.

    As best as I can tell, there are only a few so-called hot spots which cannot quickly be remediated.


  12. @David Walters: Pasted from my blog (22 August):

    Yomiuri says the government plans to uphold parts of the evacuation orders for a couple of decades.

    That is because recent measurements found dose levels of up to 508.1 millisieverts per year, based on the assumption that people spend 8 hours a day outside.

    Under a reasonable standard of 100 millisieverts per month this is of course still less than half of what would be needed to cause even a slight increase in cancer risk.

    But since the government is following the bogus benchmarks of the ICRP, which at 20 millisieverts per year are too low by at least one order of magnitude, we might well see another involuntary natural park as around Chernobyl, where wildlife will be thriving in the absence of humans driven out by irrational fear.

    While that would be good news for plants and animals in the area, it would seem to be a significant victory for the irrational fear campaigns.


  13. David: Evacuation is a serious business. Why evacuate an area when the risk of cancer from contamination is still very much less than that due to average consumption of alcohol or red meat? Possibly one could include tobacco. With 36% of Japanese men still smoking (Wikipedia), it might be reasonable to mandate no evacuation until risks equal those of tobacco. Assessing the risk to children is obviously best. My understanding of the data available is that this criterion would imply no evacuation areas.


  14. The technical answer to the question lies in measurement. It is easy to measure and map the distribution of caesium using low-flying aircraft. The resulting map (on p4 of link) is a rough guide to where the particles of dust landed. Cesium itself is not particularly threatening to health, however it is relatively long-lived and the most easily detected of the fission products. What we have yet to see is detailed ground monitoring. Depending on how big the particles were, the areas of deposition may well be quite localised, and such concentrations therefore locally hazardous. It would then be cleaned by shovels or bulldozers or isolated with fences, as the surveys indicate. Areas in between could then be declared safe for normal business.

    However it is easy for technical people to forget the overwhelming political imperative here. All of these orders were given not by the Japanese health or civil emergency departments, but by the Prime Minister himself. Even the most frightened or mis-informed of Japanese citizens would have to admit that there have been no more tsunamis since the Prime Minister’s evacuation orders showed him to be decisive, knowledgeable, powerful and effective. It might be seen as weakness if he were to allow people to return to their homes.


  15. David Walters: the prohibited zone around Fukushima is total BS. Google “Natural Background Radiation.”

    Is there anybody out there who could translate into Japanese and send information to Japan? Translate and send them the following, please:


    contains Japan’s “funniest” “home” video. The Japanese are trying to reduce their exposure to radiation to LESS THAN THE NATURAL BACKGROUND!!!!!!!   You did know that there is natural background radiation didn’t you?   How else would we date Egyptian mummies with the radioactive carbon they ate thousands of years ago? Of course it is not possible to be exposed to less radiation than the natural background where you live.

    Since they did not check everywhere with geiger counters before the tsunami, they don’t know how much radiation was always there. Mothers are panicking because, naturally, the geiger counters find radiation everywhere. Here are some natural background readings:
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Denver, Colorado 1000 millirem/year

    A not entirely natural reading:
    Chernobyl: 490 millirem/year

    Some background reading:

    62% of Japan’s electricity comes from coal fired power plants. Coal contains so much uranium and thorium that we could get all of the uranium we need from coal cinders and ash. Coal fired power plants put all of it either up the stack or into the solids that are hauled away.


  16. Read it and weep, from today’s Independent.

    I couldn’t help myself, and let fly with the following (yet to clear moderation, if ever):

    Disgracefully tendentious scaremongering. Why compare the radiation from Fukushima with Hiroshima (an invalid and misleading comparison in any case) when the point of the article is ‘worse than Chernobyl’? Could it be because TEN TIMES MORE terabecquerels (I131 equivalent) were released at Chernobyl ( Moreover, most of what was released at Fukushima went offshore, where it is being diluted and dispersed to the point of harmlessness.

    “Some scientists”? Helen Caldicott has not been a scientist for decades. A well-known hyperbolist (, she has zero credibility (see also among many other examples.)

    The mention of “hundreds of animals have died and rotted in the sun” mischievously left hanging by the author leaves him enough room to deny the intention, but I’ll bet a large proportion of readers took this to mean they were killed by radiation. They have nothing to do with radiation, and everything to do with running out of water and food after being unattended.

    “still boiling its radionuclides all over Japan” is utter tosh. There has not been a significant release of radionuclides since March 19 (

    Apart from Mousseau’s bird study being highly suspect (, “we don’t have sufficient data to provide accurate information on the long-term impact” isn’t true. 25 years on, the data are coming in, and have been sufficient for the the likes of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation ( to pronounce the radiation effects on human health to be not even a thousandth of the numbers claimed by Greenpeace, who have as much credibility as Helen Caldicott.

    Finally, people shouldn’t get fixated on radii, much more meaningful to look at actual maps of the fallout such as the one at

    And that’s just a selection of what I could have taken issue with in this egregious piece.


  17. >…Probably bad news for the fish.

    Godnose what rubbish and toxins were deposited on the seabed by the retreating sea. What chemicals do any of us accumulate in our back yards and cupboards? Let alone in the shops, warehouses and depots. Swept away to join the fishes. Minamata Bay would be clean by comparison.

    We could guess where they will lay the blame. After all, the journos have yet to find a reason why they call the tsunami “a nuclear disaster”.


  18. Hmmm, there seems to be a view that the only problem with these accidents is media scaremongering?

    Let me ask a question. Do you remember the Soviet Union? Do you remember Chernobyl?

    Did the Soviet Union have a free press? No.

    When were the people in the region evacuated, before or after the release of news of the accident? Before.

    So my question is this:- where was the media scaremongering?

    What led the government to evacuate the people if it was not prudent policy?


  19. Gary Kahanak, on 29 August 2011 at 1:30 AM

    Let’s assume that Peterson is right, and battery technology will never be able to scale adequately.
    Gary why assume Peterson is right? from his own words:

    So with the exception of lithium, which is a plentiful resource that only represents 5% or 6% of the metal content in Li-ion batteries, the world cannot produce enough technology metals to permit a widespread transition to alternative energy or electric drive.

    So why assume battery technology will never scale? What other limitations are there for Li batteries?

    His major argument against PHEV and EV’s is that ICE vehicles are less expensive at gasoline prices below $6/gallon! I for one are prepared to risk prices not rising above $6/gallon, come to think of it in Australia they are already at $6/gallon, who really thinks prices of a rapidly depleting resource are going to decline.

    His links to the article “Chinese wind stalls..” are even stranger, Chinese wind growth ONLY increased by 37 % in 2010 while in previous years it was >100%.! If nuclear could ONLY grow at 37% in 2010 or 2011..


  20. David B. Benson, on 29 August 2011 at 11:26 AM :

    What happens when one moves from NPPs to LNG + coal in Japan:
    The rate hikes don’t seem to be due to FF costs, which are automatically adjusted, but to compensating victims of the nuclear accidents. From the link you provided:

    Tepco eyes 10% rate hike for springAlthough utilities have a system that automatically adjusts monthly rates based on fuel costs, Tepco’s plan represents a full-scale revision of its pricing regime, which will require government approval, the sources said.


  21. Asteroid Miner, on 29 August 2011 at 1:55 PM :

    62% of Japan’s electricity comes from coal fired power plants.

    I think that’s close to the total of all fossil fuel plants in Japan, Coal sits at around 27%.


  22. Neil Howes, on 29 August 2011 at 8:02 PM said:

    The rate hikes don’t seem to be due to FF costs, which are automatically adjusted, but to compensating victims of the nuclear accidents.

    We’ll probably be able to work out some cost for switiching to FF once we hear what Tohoku Electric charge for next year is. They also have NPPs that are offline.


  23. The nuclear shipyard worker study is interesting, as all of the dose is from cobalt-60 in steel, a high energy gamma emitter. Basically external, whole body radiation dose. Just like the Taiwanese apartments, that contained steel contaminated with cobalt-60. And just like the shipyard worker study, the Taiwanese study found very large reductions in cancer incidence.

    This is also relevant for Fukushima, as almost all of the dose is from cesium, and that is almost all external gamma radiation (even if you ingest the cesium it is flushed through the body at a rate that is 100x faster than the radiological half life). Basically almost all the dose from the Fukushima areas is external gamma dose.

    Linear no threshold is just silly. The effects are never linear and the idea of no thresholds ignores simple biological protection systems (immune system). The idea that the dose rate is not dominant is absurd. Dose rate is everything. You can take 52 aspirins at once and almost certainly die, or take 1 aspirin a week for a year and have no health effects (possibly even beneficial health effects) at all.


  24. Not sure if this is correct place to bring up this question but recently it came to my attention that Mark Jacobson was able somehow to get his infamous Wind, Water, and Solar (WWS) plan published in Energy Policy as was his plan.

    It appears the article was published in March 2011 so I am a little late in bringing this up.

    My question is if there will be, or has there been, an updated critique of the recent WWS plan posted here on BNC?

    Here are the links for the reports:

    Part 1:

    Click to access JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf

    Part 2:

    Click to access DJEnPolicyPt2.pdf

    Have been a long time reader but have been wrapped on projects lately. So if an updated critique has already been posted and I missed it can someone point me towards the link?



  25. harvey: I was pretty excited about EESTOR about 5 years ago. They are now the butt of a lot of jokes. Capacitors would be great, if they can get them to work. In the meantime there are also a ton of ideas being discussed out there regarding battery improvements (LG Chem, A123, Prof Cui at Stanford, Planar Technologies, etc., etc.). Given the impetus of electric cars, batteries are going to finally see rapid improvement. Capacitors might see some use as an addition to batteries for transient high-power needs, but it’s beginning to look like the batteries won’t need the help.

    Nuclear Energy + Electric Cars = Future


  26. Electric car enthusiasts might not be encouraged by last week’s ‘Top Gear’ program in which the hosts had to interrupt their journey for a 13 hour recharge. They concluded that hydrogen cars were the way to go.

    If natural gas cars (e.g. Honda Civic NGV) become popular that will place further cost pressure on gas as a stationary electricity fuel along with its vital role in load balancing. In simple tonnage terms oil is already twice as big as gas so the shift could have major implications. The days of happy motoring could be fading fast.


  27. The risk from radiation exposure is highly age dependent; therefore mandatory evacuation zones should be age dependent. There would be a very small evacuation zone for seniors, a larger zone for middle aged folks and a much larger zone for infants and children.

    In fact I think adults should be able to decide what level of risk they take, so the only mandatory evacuation zones I support would be for infants and children.

    In this way nearly all the land around the Fukushima plant could be occupied and maintained. The value of the land would be reduced, and that could be measured by market prices as property is bought and sold, but the value of the property would not go to near zero as happens with a total evacuation.

    Colorado has the lowest obesity rate. The low cancer rates in the Rocky Mountains could be a function of obesity as much or more than radiation. The suggestion to do a double blind study of low level radiation using volunteer seniors is a good one that should be funded immediately.


  28. It is worth keeping in mind that the Fukushima accident is not the only reason that agricultural land will be unproductive for some time. The inundation from the tsunami has done widespread damage. The Japanese government has announced a recovery plan with a target of three years for restoration of agricultural land:

    Also, the agriculture ministry has released a map based on soil surveys showing locations outside the 20 km zone where Cs contamination of soil exceeds regulatory limits. I haven’t been able to find the map on the web, but the NHK report is here:


  29. A comment from a colleague on the comparison between Fukushima and Hiroshima:

    They are comparing Cs-137 release numbers. Once I estimated that in Fukushima about 3-4 tons have fissioned to give the fission products inventory. Hiroshima bomb may have fissioned 50(?) kg. Most of Cs-137 released from Fukushima would still be tied up in the contaminated water and a very small fraction would have been airborne. I don’t know how they estimated 15,000 tera Bq, but it is consistent with earlier reported values. Several percent of the entire Cs-137 had to be released airborne, which seems a pretty high fraction, but then I am not sure what the correct estimate should be. The report says Cs-137 release from Hiroshima bomb was only 89 tera Bq. Since 100% was airborne, this number seems to be at least a factor of 50 too low. The real damage from the bomb was due to heat waves, neutrons, and very strong short half-lived fission products. Cs-137 would have inconsequential impact. So this comparison is meaningless and most misleading.


  30. That comparison is meaningless anyway, since we don’t measure impact on humans in Hiroshima Bomb Equivalents (HBEs), but in sieverts, or rather microsieverts in this case.

    Who cares how much was released? The question is what is the dose rate right now, and where.

    On the other hand, mixing up nuclear power and nuclear weapons is an obviously effective method to drum up fear, so it is no surprise that the professional radiation fear campaigners are using it all the time.

    Our side should learn from this. One recent example is this:

    “And the radiative forcing of the CO2 we have already put in the atmosphere in the last century is a staggering 13 Hiros. The equivalent in energy terms to almost half a billion Hiroshima bombs each year.”

    Mike Sandiford, 16th June 2011,


  31. Uranium bombs only fission a few percent of their fissile mass, was that accounted for?

    My readings leave me the understanding that the fireball initially flashed ultraviolet as the only ionising radiation to penetrate 2000 feet plus of atmosphere, causing the ugly sunburn wounds we still see in photographs. The impulse from the expanding fireball delivered the blast that flattened wooden walls and tatami onto the lunchtime stoves. Persisting infrared radiation from the cooling fireball ensured that flammable surfaces became tinder-dry to sparks. The resulting firestorm was then driven by the burning city rather than the fading fireball.

    Atmospheric turbulence arising may well have brought fission products down to ground level, but they would have to have landed downwind of the burning area.


  32. Don’t hot spots in the fallout zone present an opportunity to increase the bang you get for each buck invested in decontamination efforts? By hitting the most radioactive areas, you’re getting rid of the maximum radioactive material as quickly as possible. They’re pointers as to where to concentrate first and get the radiation levels down more rapidly than could be done if it were all evenly distributed.


  33. @Finrod “hot spots in the fallout zone

    Quite! It isnt as though the FPs were volatilised. As I understand it, they travelled from the sweating fuel on steam – water droplets – to accumulate on the outer walls of the building in a damp film. The hydrogen explosion would have fragmented the wall panels and then scraped them off the fragments as turbulence sheered the boundary layer above them.

    That argument does allow for fine aerosols, but a weak surface may have sheered off with them, as dust particles. Bigger particles have faster terminal velocities, so would have formed “sheets” of falling dust that would reach the ground as hot spots. Heck, in the TV’ed footage of the explosion/s, we see sheets of crap falling out of the dust cloud. It must have continued to drop out in finer and finer sheets as the dust cloud travelled.

    A sufficiently hot patch of ground of 50 -100 m would be detectable (Cs137 emits 660 keV gammas) from the air, and mappable on the ground using hand-held gamma spectrometers.


  34. The killer from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs was the direct energy release from the bomb itself. Fission product contamination isn’t an issue. The amounts are small (“little boy” fissioned 1 kg which gets you only 70 grams of radiocesium) and anyone close enough to them to worry about it is dead in just seconds from the nuclear blast.

    This is like comparing the CO2 emissions of a cruise missile to burning coal in a coal plant and then trying to estimate how many would die due to the emissions. Its the bomb blast itself that kills, of course!



    It has started, folks.

    Surprise, surprise, Germany is now a net importer of electricity and some of the effects from abandonment of half of the nation’s nuclear power generation capacity are becoming clear, in the form of unemployment, power insecurity, threatened industrial disruption and cost.

    Let’s hope that the German Experiment leads to a more measured and rational response to fears of nuclear power, worldwide and very soon.


  36. I also hope that the soft energy innumerati such as Germany and California would become examples of “how not to reduce emissions at vast cost” but so far it seems the are celebrated by others that want to follow in their footsteps. The more expensive and ineffective their schemes are the more they are lauded.

    The world’s gone mad.


  37. From the NY Times article John Bennetts posted:

    New coal and gas plants will use the cleanest technology available and should not aggravate climate change, government officials said, because they will operate within the European carbon-trading system in which plants that exceed the allowed emissions cap have to buy carbon credits from companies whose activities are environmentally beneficial, thus evening out the environmental ledger.

    The mind boggles how anyone, let alone a government, can think that it works like this. “Don’t worry about all the new dirt burners we’re building, they’re being offset!” Er.. did you pass primary school maths?

    I’m horrified.


  38. The EU is emitting just as much carbon as it did decades ago so it does not appear to be very effective. After all that effort, no reductions. Meanwhile the rest of the world has increased its CO2 emissions, so the clean development thing doesn’t seem to help CO2 emissions much either.

    A major problem in deception seems to be that many advocates and politicians like to talk about reductions of CO2 this and that, but these are compared to the ‘business as usual’ scenario which involves a bigger growth in CO2 emissions. So emissions still grow, just slightly slower.


  39. John Newlands, on 30 August 2011 at 7:38 AM said:
    Electric car enthusiasts might not be encouraged by last week’s ‘Top Gear’ program in which the hosts had to interrupt their journey for a 13 hour recharge. They concluded that hydrogen cars were the way to go.

    I think these guys are well-known for hating electric vehicles. I can’t seem to find the article now, but I believe that prior to the test you are referring to the Top Gear guys drove the EV around in circles to run down the battery before they took off.

    It’s become an open joke. Here is a video you might want to watch that spoofs their anti-EV bias.


  40. One other comment. ‘Hydrogen’ has been, is now, and always will be one of the dumbest ideas ever. Most articles 10 years ago made it sound as if hydrogen were a source of energy. Even publications like C&E News used to make this blunder. It is merely an energy transmission system. One with no infrastructure. We have an infrastructure for delivering energy. It is called the electric grid. The car companies have finally figured this out, but apparently the word hasn’t reached ‘Top Gear’.


  41. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 30 August 2011 at 5:17 PM said:

    Open Thread, I guess this is OK to go in here??

    “Quake-prone Japan looks at geothermal energy”

    Another figure being bandied about is 23.5 GW of Geothermal Power being available (a third of the 80,000 MW figure in the article you linked) . The former does have a reference: “2010 Country Update for Japan,” by H. Sugino and T. Akeno, presented at the 2010 World Geothermal Congress. The dose of reality in the paper is usually ignored, where they they identify many problems with accessing this geothermal potential, including lack of techniques for fully identifying the geothermal structure in the exploration phase; the time and investment needed to bring a geothermal development to fruition; and the fact that the easiest areas for geothermal power development have already been developed. They say a technical breakthrough to develop unused geothermal potential is necessary.

    The fact is that Japan has never developed large-scale geothermal power plants, and adding that to the list of problem Sugino and Akeno identify makes a commitment to rely on Geothermal for a large slice of Japan’s energy needs seem very risky.


  42. I love Top Gear. Its entertaining. Its science value is near zero, and everyone knows it. That’s one of the things that make Top Gear so funny – you have these arguing pedants living in their own little world, and they get all sorts of bizarre things to do, it is very much entertaining.

    Rest assured that no one takes them seriously when it comes to clean transport or any sort of realistic energy analysis.


  43. What about the boron energy carrier fuel concept explored by Tom Blees in his book “Prescription for the Planet” ? Is anyone privy to recent developments in this technology? Venture capitalists and automakers should be all over this.

    So they should, but venture capital isn’t available for research.

    I was involved for a while with a venture capitalist who was inspired by Blees to try to get some money for me, but this proved impossible. The difficulty, he concluded, is that — in the opinion of all the potential investors he talked to — an alternative fuel, even one with safety advantages, no emissions at point of use, and no compromise in on-board raw energy cannot be much more expensive than gasoline, and there’s no way for it to be anything else at the outset.


  44. @G.R.L. Cowan, thanks for your remarks. This points out so well that entrenched industries want nothing to do with disruptive technologies. The cost and risk are too large for private interests to take on. Despite the fact that $600 to $700 billion can leave the U.S. economy annually for oil, as an example, there does not seem to be funding, interest or incentive to explore an alternative that might actually be a real solution.

    So what will it take, a protracted global oil supply disruption, or oil creeping up to $300/barrel? At that point, economies may be less able to respond and commit the resources necessary to develop truly alternative technologies such as boron for vehicles.


  45. Batteries again: The proof will be in the pudding, but I think momentum behind batteries is huge now and electric cars will be practical before people expect (that is with adequate charging times, and total storage). Maybe in as little as 10 years.

    I really admire the engineering design and the amazing speed of development of the Chevrolet Volt which is a concept that will be practical (average fuel savings versus up-front cost) within another couple of years. The presence of the on-board generator is what makes this work, but it is expensive and complicated. This will be an important transition to a full battery electric vehicle.


  46. There appears to be an earlier comment relying on today’s front page TNYT article (by Rosenthal) on Germany’s electrical power situation. I recommend it, if only for the change in international power flows. Well, also the cost of building north to south transmission capacity in Germany.


  47. SteveK9, on 31 August 2011 at 4:39 AM said:

    Batteries again: The proof will be in the pudding, but I think momentum behind batteries is huge now and electric cars will be practical before people expect (that is with adequate charging times, and total storage). Maybe in as little as 10 years.

    I really admire the engineering design and the amazing speed of development of the Chevrolet Volt which is a concept that will be practical (average fuel savings versus up-front cost) within another couple of years.

    “Maybe in as little as 10 years”… “within another couple of years”

    I hope you’re right Steve, but this “10 years from now” happy talk has dominated the “alternative” energy dialog for… umm… decades upon decades.

    Personally, I think the obvious and current (technologically speaking) solution to transportation fuels is nuclear/H20 derived hydrogen as a feedstock to manufacture portable synthetic fuels. There will be a carbon price, but it can be reduced with hybrids, or perhaps it can be made neutral (10 years from now? ;o). At the end of the day, this ever repeating mantra for non-existent techno-solutions is tiresome and prone to wasting precious time.


  48. @ Graham Palmer, on 31 August 2011 at 6:25 AM:

    Many thanks for that link. It is far and away the best explanation of the limits of battery storage that I have ever seen.

    The takeaway message seems to be that the best that can be expected from batteries is one or two percent of the energy density of liquid hydrocarbons, ie the mass of batteries needed to equal 60 litres/50kg of liquid hydrocarbons is of the order of several tonnes.

    Anyone in favour of three tonne battery powered cars with 1000km range? My wife and I regularly drive 700km in a day on one tank of fuel to visit my daughter. Such a trip in a car with 100km range would take a week (6 recharges), so I guess that batteries will never be up to this challenge.

    Does anybody see a pathway to a battery powered car with 500+ kilometre reliable range and capacity for two adults plus luggage?


  49. @ Tom Keen derides “Don’t worry about all the new dirt burners we’re building, they’re being offset”

    These guys know their arithmetic alright – and the complicity of their audience. They reassure their sinners that they can emit as much as they darn well want , as long as they buy a balancing quantity of negative emissions from a nice man in a foreign country. Hey presto! The balance sheet is even, our sins are forgiven and we can all lie to our grandchildren that we did our bit when we should have.
    This is exactly where we need the environmental zealots to do their bit for the world. If every claim to have purchased negative emissions (“offsets”) is checked out and identified as fraudulent, excessive emissions remain exposed to judgement.


  50. John and John: I think most of the ‘happy talk’ on batteries is fairly recent. Companies like LG Chem and A123 are not selling ‘non-existent’ pipe dreams.

    A Tesla Roadster will go 400 km miles on a charge, and this is really a crude initial effort (and very expensive). I’m aware of the 10-years-away promise on a variety of ‘techno-wonders’ that did not pan out. It’s just my judgement (I’m not in the field, but I am a scientist) that battery technology is very close to being practical whereas transporting hydrogen around the country is not — by the way a friend of mine was working on hydrogen-storage technology in grad school, in 1977.


  51. So-called spent nuclear fuel [its not spent and its not fuel, doesn’t burn to produce heat] contains enough palladium, rhodium, ruthenium and maybe even silver, platinum and gold that DoE awarded chemistry researchers here funding to simulate extraction techniques. Don’t expect industrially viable methods for some years.


  52. John Newlands & German synfuel:

    Nice video, but it answers one question (Electricity into synfuel? Yes.)

    Left undiscussed are a huge number of elephant sized issues, including:
    Given that solar and wind are, in Germany, good for one fifth or one sixth of the time (ie capacity factors 16 to 20%), the inference is that for a given load, 5/6th of the solar and wind energy is flowing towards the synfuel plant over the cycle, for conversion into synfuel. The remainder of the time, the synfuel must provide a flow back to the consumer.

    The transmission link to the synfuel plant will need to be upgraded to carry this peak load. I understand that transmission constraints have already emerged in Australia, resulting in electricity retailers refusing to connect additional PV to existing distribution systems. A limit will be reached.

    The energy efficiency of conversion of CO2 plus H2O to synfuel is not stated – I suggest that a loss of 30% would be a very generous assumption in the absense of real figures.

    Energy losses due to transmission and stepup transformers, etc to the synfuel plant will be another 10% or so.

    The energy cost of compression of the synfuel as it is pumped in to the storage vessel needs to be considered. Is 15% reasonable?

    The energy losses as the synfuel is used in either a CCGT or an OCGT will again be significant. Round figures: CCGT returns say 66%, OCGT 40% to the grid.

    The energy budget starts to look very sick, because on these admittedly wild guesses, each kWh of surplus electricity will be diminished by the above factors, which compound to 29.6% to 17.1%.

    The renewables overbuild needed to provide a steady kW of power is thus only 17 to 30 percent effective, say 25%. We need to multiply the initial figures of 5 or 6 by a further factor of 4 to supply continuous power feed back via the synfuel process… an amazing 20 to 24 times factor for the PV collectors.

    The rooftop PV installations of German homes supplied by this process will need to be huge. Instead of say 10 sq.m of panels for a 5kW nameplate system, the actual panel area required to supply 5kW average will be in the range 100 – 150sq.m, which is several times the total roof area of most free-standing homes.

    Put another way, there simply aren’t enough roof-acres in Germany to support a synfuel operation at the required scale, even if every roof was fully covered with PV panels.

    Two final points:
    1. The synfuel will still be contaminated with unconverted CO2, so this is a pathway for CO2 to enter the atmosphere.
    2. The CO2 feedstock comes from somewhere, presumably FF plant fitted with CCS. Is this whole project simply a trojan horse for FF?

    Note: The synfuel plant will only be operational for a fraction of the time, due to intermittency. There is no guarantee that it will ever, at large scale, be able to get fully warmed through and operational within the small windows available for PV and/or wind to provide power to run the process. I guess that the proponents will rely on non-existent pumped hydro (and its 30% energy loss penalty) to provide security, but isn’t security what this synfuel story is all about? Add a couple of dams, more hydro generators and so forth to the cost estimates.

    I have not considered the costs of this immense overbuild of transmission systems, renewable generation plant, chemical engineering works, gas pipelines and storage, CCS and more. The proposal seems to be to start with extremely expensive power (renewables) and then to add a multiplier to that cost, simply to provide another fig leaf for FF via CCS.

    It is one thing to install PV or wind as an opportunistic (parasitic?) energy source within an existing power system. To propose add-on systems such as the synfuel transformation process in an attempt to use the very highly variable peaks only of PV or wind to feed a baseload via two further stages of generation (hydro and then GT’s) is simply ludicrous. Perhaps, a niche exists somewhere, but as base load? They must be kidding.


  53. SteveK9 the Germans are at pains to emphasise that synfuel, in the Youtube clip it is synthetic methane made from CO2 and H2, can be used in existing supply networks and vehicles.

    Another consideration is that western countries could face large numbers of working poor. Low paid shift workers who live way out of the business district can’t afford $40k battery cars that need a workplace recharge to get home. I just can’t see pure battery cars becoming more than a few percent of road traffic. That’s why I think we should prioritise natural gas for transport not for burning in power stations.


  54. Correct me if I am wrong, but while you can make H2 by electrolysis, making methane will be relative high temperature continuous process chemical engineering for which you need reliable uninterrupted energy input. Is powering this from solar/wind in any way feasible?


  55. Nissan Leaf: Official range 117km (what about with the air conditioner or heater on??)
    Cost : Australia?, but USD 50-60,000 elsewhere (without subsidies)
    Battery life : warrantied for 8 years, cost USD 18,000

    Even if fuel cost $3 per litre (assume $250 to $300 per barrel at USD/AUD parity), assume equivalent small vehicle, say a Ford Focus diesel or Peugeot 308 1.6 XS HDi of 5 l/100km, over 100,000 km, equals $15,000 of fuel, for a vehicle with a 800 to 1,000 km range for a AUD 30,000 vehicle

    On these quick calculations, the EV battery replacement is going to exceed any fuel cost savings. By my reckoning, the battery density is going to need to be tripled together with a halving of cost to enable these to be anything other than an interesting niche.


  56. Even so, enough of the gammas reached the ground to give significant doses to survivors at Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

    In a review of mortality vs acute dose of bomb survivors: including an exercise in vanishingly small but real effects:
    “excess solid cancer risks appear to be linear in dose even for [small] doses in the 0 to 150-mSv range.”
    “There is no direct evidence of [noncancer] radiation effects for doses less than about [500 mSv]”

    Dose rates revisited;
    Fig 2 shows neutron vs gamma dose as less than 1 %.
    Fig 4 shows measurements of patient doses up to 2000 mSv


  57. Graham – you’re just making me feel even better about buying a diesel-powered car! :-D

    Financially, anyway (and it *does* use about half the fuel of the petrol-powered car I had previously).

    I assume the cost of the battery pack for an EV would come down substantially with mass production, but that may still not come close to offsetting the cost difference.

    GHG-wise, what’s the difference in lifetime emissions? The EV obviously has the battery pack, but it also doesn’t have the big & heavy cast-metal ICE. After that, it comes down to overall fuel efficiency, so I think the EV would win by a hefty margin, even if recharged from brown coal derived power.

    On the other hand – if the game becomes all about GHG emissions, then the additional cost may be just something we have to wear, although there would be plenty of incentive for people to come up with low- or zero-carbon alternative fuels. EVs also have the side benefit of reducing atmospheric pollution – especially when combined with clean electricity generation such as nuclear.


  58. Roger Clifton – if I’m reading the tables from that paper correctly, it seems that even for people exposed to ~100 mSv of radiation within just a few seconds (the prompt radiation from the bombs), the increased risk of cancer is less than 1.5%. Over a 50-year period.

    Not insignificant, but it doesn’t seem to deal with the difference between acute and chronic exposure (i.e. how does 100mSv over a year compare to 100mSv over a second?) (didn’t have time to read the full paper, unfortunately).


  59. @Bern, re EV’s

    I ran the numbers for the Chevy Volt a couple of years ago on Wikipedia with the following (the page has since changed)

    Assume greenhouse intensities:
    Victoria: 1.22 kg-CO2e/kWh, NSW 0.890 kg-CO2e/kWh, Tas. 0.120 kg-CO2e/kWh.

    Assuming a charge requires 8.8 kWh allows 64 km (Chevy Volt); 167 g-CO2e/km for Victoria, 122 g-CO2e/km for NSW, and 16 g-CO2e/km for Tasmania.

    For comparative purposes Toyota Prius 115 g/km (5.1 l/100km combined cycle), Toyota Yaris 1.3 manual is 141 g/km (6.0 l/100km combined cycle), and the BMW 120d is 162 g/km (6.1 l/100km combined cycle)

    Therefore, unless you live in Tasmania, the greenhouse implications may actually be worse. Of course you could pay for “green energy” but you are still completely dependant on coal fired power although you are encouraging the build of more renewable energy. I’ve heard of people in the US actually going off-grid with older EV’s but this would cost big dollars – feasible in a sunny climate, but not economic.

    I drive a family-sized Passat wagon diesel and fill up after 800 kms for a mix of city/suburban/freeway.


  60. The calcs on the Nissan Leaf are actually quite encouraging, me thinks. EVs are getting cheaper fast. EV1 had a price tag of a million dollars, Tesla Roadster is 10x cheaper and has 2-3x the range and performance. A factor of two reduction on a Roadster like sports care (50k) and the small practical urban car model (25k) is quite reasonable, almost business-as-usual I would say, during this decade.

    However this also shows the merit of the serial plugin-hybrid. Chevrolet’s Volt (it is called Ampere here) is cheaper than the Nissan Leaf and is a bigger car without the range anxiety.


  61. As for the German PV capacity factor, 16% is impossible. In Southern Germany an optimally installed and maintained system gets 12%. Northern Germany, optimally installed and maintained, 10%. It is a hugely generous assumption to think all systems will be optimally installed and maintained.

    11% capacity factor for a German PV average fleet performance is realistic. In the future it might be 12% averaged due to improved efficiency in the inverters and better diffuse light harvesting cells etc. And that’s all you can ever hope to get for a PV fleet average in Germany.

    For some reason, the Germans keep believing that they can power their country with non-dispatchable energy sources that are not there 88% of the time.


  62. @Bern pointed out that the relationship above doesn’t say much about chronic exposure.

    Hiroshima survivors’ linear relation between solid cancers and low (acute) dose may simply be that ~100 mSv of cellular damage was inflicted in the space of a single heartbeat. And as Bern implies, only statistically significant in such a large sample and time span. Low, too. I for one have little knowledge – or worry – about the risks that I face at the 1.5% per lifetime level.

    For the protection of nuclear workers, considerations of acute dose would be over minutes, or hours, time for a healthy metabolism to kick into shock recovery. So the correlation has rather academic interest. However the fact that the correlation has been known for many years may have given rise to the LNT. The LNT or linear non-threshold hypothesis is the basis for the tight standards currently held against the nuclear industry.


  63. Yes the LNT is based on mostly bomb survivors and medical procedures, both groups, though doses vary, are all high dose rate type of exposures.

    The supposed mechanisms for radiation hormesis all have to do with stimulating the immune system and the capability of the body to repair damages. With the above bomb survivor and medical exposure statistics, the immune system and repair capilities are completely overwhelmed by the high dose rate, whether the total dose is high or low.

    This is such an obvious and serious flaw that the LNT doesn’t even try to adress in any scientific way. Yet it is absolutely relevant, in fact critical, in cases such as land contaminated with radiocesium (Fukushima, Chernobyl, Hanford etc).

    A decent compromise would be to use LNT or LT (linear-threshold) for high dose rate exposures such as atomic bombs and try to see how hormesis fits with low dose rates & high total dose exposures (low dose rate, low total dose exposures such as regular background radiation can be safely ignored altogether).


  64. cyril: not sure you are exactly right about LNT and high doses, in the medical context.

    Fractionated doses (often significantly higher per dose than 100 millisieverts) for tumor treatments are distributed in time the way they are with repair mechanisms in mind. and distributed spatially with repair mechanisms in mind: which is why, in a non-linear picture, there is a difference between high (with higher local energy deposition) and low LET doses, characterized by greater spatial uniformity of dose.

    The high/low LET distinction is itself a breach of linearity, btw.

    Allison says this about medical dose for cancer treatment: the success of dose targeting “relies essentially on the non-linearity of the dose-damage curve–while the difference in dose between the tumour and healthy tissue may be less than a factor two, the ratio of cell mortality is much greater….”

    Linearity does not make sense for higher doses either.


  65. SteveK9, on 30 August 2011 at 10:36 PM said:

    Even publications like C&E News used to make this blunder. It is merely an energy transmission system. One with no infrastructure. We have an infrastructure for delivering energy. It is called the electric grid.

    The electric grid is not very good at delivering portable energy. The amount of energy expended in ‘suburban’ driving is almost totally a function of the weight of the vehicle. (Highway driving is a function of aerodynamics). A 1985 Chevy Sprint/Suzuki Swift which was priced as an ‘entry level’ automobile got almost the same MPG as a ‘Top Tier’ Toyota Prius does now, about 50 MPG.

    The Sprint/Swift weighed in at 1,500 pounds and a Prius weighs in at over 3,000 pounds as does the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

    The attractiveness of Hydrogen is in how much energy can be stored per pound.


  66. Gregory, while what you say is true, I prefer to not use irradiative cancer treatment as an example of beneficial or zero health effect!

    While I am glad that irradiative treatments such as boron neutron capture therapy exist (my uncle is still alive because of it), its effects on a persons health are severe. Nausea, vomiting, and of course the stereotypical hair falling out, all signs of bad health effects. (though often the chemical treatments accompanying the radiation treatment can be worse).

    These are clearly bad health effects, and are only acceptable because the alternative is dying due to cancer!

    More interesting to us is the case of contaminated areas, where much lower dose rates, but possibly very high total person doses (if you live for decades near Fukushima for example). I don’t want people to live in areas that would make their hair fall out!

    We are in particular concerned with the exact dose response curve for cesium-134 and 137. It seems to me as not much worse than cobalt-60 (cesium doesn’t bioaccumulate and actually has a lower energy gamma than cobalt-60 and no alphas). If it is not much worse than cobalt-60 then 99% of the evacuated area around Fukushima makes no sense at all.


  67. right, cyril. I wasn’t actually making a point about zero health effect but about whether medical radiation treatments “totally overwhelm” the immune system. small point allowing an additional way of seeing the invalidity of LNT.

    The linearity assumption is breached as a matter of course in radiation treatments.


  68. SteveK9, on 31 August 2011 at 4:39 AM said:

    I really admire the engineering design and the amazing speed of development of the Chevrolet Volt

    38% of the powered vehicles in the US were electric in 1900.

    I really admire the determination of the folks who believe the future will belong to battery powered cars. 100 years of failure and they are still cheering.


  69. Battery powered cars failed because they couldn’t cut it in range and general performance (long charging etc.).

    Plugin hybrids are a different story. They don’t have the range anxiety issue or long charging issue (just charge overnight whenevery you can and if you can’t, you still get to drive efficiently on a serial electric drive) Combined with better batteries such as lithium-iron-phosphate it is looking pretty good. A bit on the pricey side yet (IIRC 25-30k for the Volt) but not by a large factor.


  70. Cyril R., on 1 September 2011 at 4:27 AM said:

    A bit on the pricey side yet (IIRC 25-30k for the Volt) but not by a large factor.

    In the US the Chevy Volt is $43,000 before Tax incentives.
    Individuals making less then $50,000 a year don’t make enough to take full advantage of the tax incentives.
    The median personal income for persons aged 18 and over in the US is $25,000 according to Wiki.

    A Mercede’s C300 at $38,000 costs less then a Chevy Volt.

    According to Motor Intelligence there have been 138,000 Mercedes sold in the US in 2011 thru July.(Not including 2,000 Smart cars)

    There have been all of 2,000 Chevy Volts sold.

    It would appear that people with $40,000 to spend on a car prefer a gas guzzling Mercedes Benz to a battery powered econo-box.


  71. @harrywr2

    Sobering statistics for the Volt and GM – I would have thought they would have sold at few more. But even more sobering is the Beyond Zero Emissions plan which wants to force Australians to buy and build EV’s and plug-in hybrids and ban the entire current fleet of conventional vehicles by 2020.

    page 16, replacement of the present petroleum-fuelled fleet with electric vehicles, comprising ‘plug-in, battery swap’ models and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, using liquid biofuels to extend the driving range;’

    page 17, At the beginning of World War II, Holden was transformed from a struggling automotive manufacturer to a producer of high volumes of cars, aircraft, field guns and marine engines. Increased production to 900,000 vehicles per annum across the three existent auto plants is certainly achievable in the twenty-first century, and would allow the production of six million plug-in electric vehicles by 2020.

    Click to access ZCA2020_Stationary_Energy_Report_v1.pdf


  72. harrywr2, on 1 September 2011 at 10:09 AM said:
    There have been all of 2,000 Chevy Volts sold.
    If you read some of the comments to the article you quote from “thenewamerican ” you will find this comment:

    A few other facts:
    1. So far, the Volt has been sold in only 6 out of 40 states. In the next few weeks the Volt will be sold nationally as a 2012 MY vehicle. For most of the US, the car is just now being made available. We just now at the STARTING LINE for EV sales nationally.

    2. The GM plant has been shut down for 5 weeks to retool. They did this to ramp up to eventually get to 5K units per month starting in January. Obviously, if they are shutdown, there are no cars to sell, so no cars will sell.

    3. GM has publicly stated that they intend to sell 10,000 Volts in 2011 and 45-60K in 2012. There is nothing in the data so far to refute that claim. They will likely hit the 2011 number easily.


  73. Graham Palmer, on 1 September 2011 at 12:56 PM said:
    But even more sobering is the Beyond Zero Emissions plan which wants to force Australians to buy and build EV’s and plug-in hybrids and ban the entire current fleet of conventional vehicles by 2020.

    If the world starts to run out of oil what other options are available? Conversion to CNG,vehicles? expanding mass transit ?, bicycle to work?, car pool.? For a lot of Australians living in cities, EV and PHEV looks like a good option, but the others will also be needed. If petrol is selling for >$10/liter I dont think much “force ” will be required for Australians to move away from the current fleet of conventional ICE vehicles.


  74. Checking
    it appears that hydrogen can substitute for natgas in a gas turbine [although possibly some exhaust gas recirculation would be required]. So assuming nil cost for the hydroysis, LCOE for a CCGT fired that way would be about US$0.031/kWh. SO there is room to pay for the hydrolysis equipment and the wind power to energize it.

    Might work. First halfway practical use for excess wind energy I’ve seen.


  75. Neil, even if you take an extremely high crude price of, say USD 500 per barrel, this works out to around $5 per litre Australian. Even at this high price, an ultra efficient small diesel at say 3 or 4 l/100km (15 cents a km) costing less than $20K is still going to be a much better proposition than a $50K EV with a 150 km range with electricity at more than 30 cents/kWh.

    Fuel calculation:
    USD 500 per barrel equals AUD 3.15 / litre at USD/AUD parity.
    Add 71 cents refining and margin, 38 cents excise, 4 cents freight, 9 cents retail margin, 44 cents GST


  76. quokka, on 31 August 2011 at 4:59 PM said:


    I don’t know if Greenpeace is likely to get much joy from Noda. According to the BBC he supports restarting the shutdown reactors

    And if he sticks to his guns all well and good. However, public opinion in Japanese Society is a much stronger factor in influencing politics – once it gets going, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls a Merkel to stay in power.


  77. @ Eamon:

    And if he sticks to his guns all well and good. However, public opinion in Japanese Society is a much stronger factor in influencing politics – once it gets going, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls a Merkel to stay in power.

    Japan doesn’t have the sort of coal reserves enjoyed by Germany. This will likely constrain their freedom to ignore reality to the extent the Germans exercise it.


  78. Graham Palmer, on 1 September 2011 at 3:01 PM:
    All sorts of high fuel efficient vehicles are options in a future very high priced oil world, including very efficient petrol and diesel vehicles, scooters and electric bicycles etc. Diesel will probably go up in price faster than petrol because farm tractors, rail and truck transport cannot easily reduce consumption, and it may be rationed.
    Present domestic electricity prices in Sydney are 18cents/kWh, a similar size and performance vehicle to the Volt gets about 7.5l/100km, petrol costs $1.50/l so $11.25/100km. The Volt apparently uses 13kWh/100km, or $2.34/100km. If petrol goes to $5/l and electricity 30cents/kWh, the costs will be $37/100km for a similar sized ICE vehicle and $3.90/100km for a Volt. Even a Prius at 4l/100km will cost $20/100km, so a plug-in Prius would be 5 times less expensive to operate in EV mode. The real savings will be in convenience if petrol and/or diesel are rationed, good insurance against oil running out sooner than later.


  79. Neil, agree that the ‘fuel’ cost of EV’s is well below that for petrol/diesel, the point being that the additional $20 to $30K purchase price plus $10 to $15K battery replacement every 100,000 or so kilometres is going to kill the economics. A $150 a barrel oil price triggered the first GFC – how high can oil go before the next GFC is triggered? Diesel and petrol will always track approximately together because their feedstock is the same, the primary difference being the refinery configuration – a large price differential will drive refiners to invest in more of the premium product.


  80. Graham, I believe that replacement PHEV battery pack will cost no more than 5k, by the time you need it (mostly Asian mass manufacturing and scale economy). And PHEVs itself no more than 30k by that time (quite possibly widely available 30k PHEVs before 2015).

    Nano-lifepo looks like it may last longer than 100,000 km. You also have to take into account the competing ICE car’s major and minor maintenance on the engine, fuel filters, injection system etc. Those are higher for the ICE car.

    The Volt’s 100 kWe engine is quite sporty. Lots of torque with these electric motors means its faster accelerating than a 150 kW ICE. It will appeal to the high end market, I think. Lots of people here have >30k euro cars. Government subsidies will initially bridge the gap I think, then phaseout of subsidies to lower priced PHEVs. Looks entirely reasonable to me, this decade.


  81. Cyril, the Australian RACV guide to running costs provides a good overall perspective of the components of running a car. At 134 cents per litre, fuel is about 15 to 18 %, and servicing is about 12 to 14% of the total cost of owning a small car. Depreciation and interest make up around 50 to 55% of the total cost. If fuel doubled in price, the total cost of ownership would increase by 15 to 18%. Agree that ‘in theory’ the electrics should require less maintenance but do you think dealers will really charge you any less for servicing a high-tech car because its easier?? Most servicing nowadays consists of oil/filters, plugging into a diagnostic computer and ticking a page of list boxes for $300.


  82. Alas for using otherwise wasted electric generation (e.g., wind power) to produce hydrogen,
    indicates only 50–70% efficiency and seems to suggest that the lower value is the more realistic.

    Now fuel cells still seem much too expensive, so assume a CCGT with 50% thermal efficiency burning pure hydrogen in air when the capacity factor is CF=67%. To achieve an LCOE of US$0.105/kWh then requires buying electricity for the elctrolysis at no more than US$0.02/kWh. With a typical (slightly in the future) LCOE of US$0.075/kWh for wind power [after including all incentives, etc.], the wind farm operator appears to be losing quite a bit on money. But wait! Around here the state pays the wind farm operator to generate, irrespective of the price he can sell for. So to meet ongoing fixed O&M costs, the wind farm operator receives the payment from the state plus the US$0.02/kWh. Maybe this isn’t completely insane, just not free market economics; the tax payers subsidize (in effect) the rate payers.

    [Hope I haven’t made gross errors regareding the CCGT.]


  83. Finrod, on 1 September 2011 at 4:21 PM said:

    Japan doesn’t have the sort of coal reserves enjoyed by Germany. This will likely constrain their freedom to ignore reality to the extent the Germans exercise it.

    I agree, and more importantly they have no electricity interconnections to their neighbors, and their bad relations with the aforesaid neighbors preclude starting such a project.

    I’m worried about years and money, lost (and fossil fuels burnt) hunting a renewables utopia in Japan – and the influence this might have on other nations in the world.


  84. David B. Benson, on 2 September 2011 at 9:31 AM said:

    For comparison, using USA financing and an inflated capital cost of US$4130/kW, the LCOE for new nuclear is US$0.104 when CF-70%.
    It appears that building additional reactors in Florida is going to cost about 9-11 Billion per unit. I guess that would increase LCOE to >$0.2 /KWh depending upon the capacity of planned reactors.


  85. The Guardian reports that a paper in the Lancet estimates that firemen and other emergency workers who responded to the 9/11 WTC disaster have a 19% increased chance of developing cancer due to the pollutants released. A figure of 27,000 individuals is mentioned in the article, but it’s unclear if this estimate applies to all of them.

    I could not help but compare to the health risk to the Fukishima Daiichi workers where perhaps a couple of hundred individuals with the highest radiation dose may incur an increased cancer risk of 1% or so.

    Keeping things in perspective matters.


  86. Certainly perspective is important. Here’s some more perspective: living in a major city or near a major road is far more dangerous than living in Fukushima province:

    (NaturalNews) Living with a smoker or in a major city places a person at greater risk of early death than living in the radioactive exclusion zone around Chernobyl, according to a study conducted by scientists at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Great Britain and published in the journal “BMC Public Health.”

    Researcher Jim Smith calculated the increased mortality risk of emergency workers who responded to the 1986 explosions at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine, as well as the people who continued to live in the 19-mile exclusion zone in the years following. The study group was exposed to the radiation equivalent of more than 12,000 chest x-rays.

    Smith found that increased cancer rates among this group led to a 1 percent higher risk of premature death. By contrast, residents of central London were 2.8 percent more likely to die from pollution-related heart and lung disease than residents of Inverness, the United Kingdom’s least polluted city. People who lived with a smoker had a 1.7 percent increase in mortality risk.

    “Populations still living unofficially in the abandoned lands around Chernobyl may actually have a lower health risk for radiation than they would have if they were exposed to air pollution in a large city, such as nearby Kiev,” Smith wrote.


  87. @ Neil Howes

    I can’t immediately remember where I heard it, but there was a transport proposal suggesting very rapid computer controlled mag-lev 2-4 person “pods”.

    The basic argument (a-la Amory Lovins) was that an enormous amount of energy is used pushing around essentially armoured crash structures because humans control them (ie cars).

    It would involve ripping up all the roads which, by selling/redeveloping the real estate, funds the changes.


  88. Ms.Perps writes,

    I thought you guys discussing future car options might be interested in this: …

    That link seems to have been deliberate baiting of the competent and technically grounded. Or at least, it reports such baiting.

    For a nuclear car in an oxygen-free or nearly oxygen-free atmosphere, Robert D. Woolley has answered many of the questions. In particular,

    Q. What is the minimum mass of the gamma-and-neutron muffler in a nukemobile?

    A. 47 tonnes.

    He considers lithium hydride as the best possible neutron stopper. Hafnium hydride might be a little better, on Mars, and on Earth would definitely be better because lithium hydride is rather too easy to set fire to. But on Earth, the 13.75 microSievert per
    hour that Woolley presents as safety-optimal — section 6.8 — for a driver or passenger to get from an automobile propulsion reactor would not be allowed, so the superiority of hafnium hydride — if it is superior — would most likely be used to improve the shield’s effectiveness while keeping it at a constant mass on the order of 50-100 tonnes, rather than keeping the dose rate constant at 13.75 microsievert per hour while reducing shield mass.

    A compact 50-to-100- tonne lump doesn’t imply a 51-to-101-tonne car. Probably it would not be below 150 tonnes.

    Indirect nuclear powering of cars has long been my hobbyhorse, with a fuel whose combustion has fission-style docility.


  89. Graham, what is the cycle efficiency of boron oxidation? Isn’t it worse than hydrogen?

    Solving the energy density problem by making the efficiency problem worse wouldn’t make boron much of a contender to replace hydrogen.


  90. But I don’t want to replace hydrogen. I want to replace gasoline.

    The idea of boron cars is that their onboard energy, compared to that of a gasoline car, is uncompromised. Some of the people the VC had me dealing with had a hard time with this, and at times seemed to be trying to pretend the idea was something else; inviting me to target a small car as the basis for a prototype, for instance, because the eco-set, they said, likes small.

    Not after that eco-set, which probably doesn’t exist. That Tesla vehicle is the size it is because only thus can it spend as little as 32 hours plugged in to a 115-V wall outlet for each 2-3 hours it spends at highway speed, or each one hour doing donuts. That more than a thousand Teslas have been sold demonstrates that highly energy-compromised zero-emission vehicles can find that many buyers. When billions get the chance to buy energy-uncompromised ones, they will.

    Getting hydrogen down to only four times the V/E of gasoline involves large energy inputs in addition to those used getting it out of water in the first place, so the cycle efficiency advantage you mention probably doesn’t exist. But what if it did? I’m not after vehicles that sit efficiently in labs.


  91. Neil Howes, on 2 September 2011 at 5:49 PM said:

    It appears that building additional reactors in Florida is going to cost about 9-11 Billion per unit.

    Florida Power and Light has a briefing sheet here.
    They estimate total project cost to be $12-$18 billion.
    With the cost of the nuclear plants being between $3,100 and $4,500 per KW. Who knows how much concrete and steel will cost 6 or 7 years from now when construction actually begins. An interesting point is the estimated $93 billion in fuel cost savings over 40 years.


  92. David B. Benson, on 1 September 2011 at 2:09 PM said:
    it appears that hydrogen can substitute for natgas in a gas turbine [although possibly some exhaust gas recirculation would be required]. So assuming nil cost for the hydroysis, LCOE for a CCGT fired that way would be about US$0.031/kWh. SO there is room to pay for the hydrolysis equipment and the wind power to energize it.
    Might work. First halfway practical use for excess wind energy I’ve seen.

    Im a bit sceptic about storing excess wind energy in some form of gas and then burning it with in a turbine. Looking at EROI for wind power, typical numbers seem to be about 20. But, what is the EROI for the entire system?

    Theoretical efficiency of electrolysis is around 85%, but somewhere around 50-70% seems to be more accurate in real life. If the gas turbine is supposed to backup wind power (large variations), efficiencies around 35-40% could be expected. So total efficiency of electrolysis + turbine is somewhere around 0.2-0.25. This brings the EROI of the system down from 20 to 4-5. And then I havent even taken into account the EROI of the electrolysis plant and the gas turbine. I have no idea what they are, but the total would be even lower.

    When you have such low figures for energy return, the costs for the energy will be huge. And I guess that this is the reason why nobody is doing this. Its too expensive, and technology improvement will not help much since. The flaw is built in to the energy equation.


  93. Graham, you need to get the energy to run your boron cars somewhere. This energy doesn’t really exist. We use almost all of it already. Plugin hybrids are efficient and are not range-compromised so they can charge up at night when there is some excess energy. You can charge up almost 80% of these vehicles with the excess power at off peak nighttime. If the efficiency of boron is 4x worse you can only get 20% of the vehicles charged with boron. And I suspect the efficiency with boron is going to be worse than that factor of 4.

    If we build nuclear plants to meet peak load we can then use the excess off peak – a lot more than today because everything is baseload – to power plugin hybrids. Then you’d only need a few more power plants for some dedicated charging.

    It is going to be hard enough to replace existing fossil electricity with nuclear, so if you need a lot more for boron then it will be hard to eliminate fossil fuels at all.


  94. Carl H, on 3 September 2011 at 2:32 AM — The matter of what might be done with excess wind power. It seems that some German wind farm company is looking to matters similar to what I approximately costed. In any rational microeconomic sense storing as hydrogen cannot possibly pay. However, with market distortions [taxpayers $] than perhaps the scheme makes some profit for the wind farm owner.


  95. harrywr2, on 3 September 2011 at 1:12 AM said: … the cost of the nuclear plants being between $3,100 and $4,500 per KW. @US$3100/kWh, LCOE = US$0.069/kWh for CF=93%. @US$4500/kWh, LCOE = US$0.089/kWh for CF=93%. [I doubt US construction casts can be less than US$3900/kWh, so LCOE at least US$0.080/kWh.]

    A quick check show that the Florida company is correct in stated these prices compete with buring natgas and are not subject to the flucuations of the natgas market.


  96. Using excess wind to make hydrogen… that won’t work because you need to get a high capacity factor on the hydrogen and related equipment for it to be affordable. Excess wind would be a low capacity factor (lower than the actual wind farm capacity factor itself, which is already only 16% in Germany). Solar is even worse. You can’t make a chemical factory and operate it only 10% of the time, that’s not economical. You couldn’t compete with imports.

    If the idea works it might work for excess baseload such as coal or nuclear since excess is reliably available (ie every night). But coal, well you might as well make synfuels from the coal then. That leaves nuclear as the only possible candidate.


  97. David B. Benson, on 3 September 2011 at 4:32 AM

    Of course it can pay off for the wind farm owner. With market distorsions like subsidies and taxes anything can be done. Then you can make money even from a negative net energy return. But that requires a rich country, like Germany, that can afford to waste billions of Euros on subsidies.

    And that German wealth comes from the fossil+nuclear powered industry. If solutions like wind+hydrolysis+gas turbine should amount to a significant proportion of the energy system and offset CO2 emissions, then they have to provide large positive energy returns. But they dont.

    The economy at large cannot be fueled by systems with minute net energy returns. It would be too expensive.


  98. Even for nuclear excess powering from nighttime nuclear power to the electrolysis and synfuel plant, it is questionable this will be economical. You just can’t run these things at a low capacity factor (only during the deep hours of the night) and expect good returns. There’s a reason why heavy industrial installations like this run in shifts, 6000 full load hours a year. You need all the equipment and overhead staffing anyway so you want to run the equipment whenever you can.

    Nighttime charging of plugin hybrids is a different story. This fits well with nuclear, since there will be an excess every night reliably, that can be used to charge the plugins overnight.


  99. David B. Benson, on 3 September 2011 at 4:32 AM said:

    In any rational microeconomic sense storing as hydrogen cannot possibly pay

    IMHO Transportation energy currently commands a 2X to 4X price premium on a simple BTU inputs basis and isn’t likely to improve in my lifetime.

    Plan C for transportation energy in the event the expected battery cost breakthroughs don’t occur may possibly end up being conventional internal combustion engines running on some combination of natural gas and hydrogen.(Fuel cells also have a cost issue).

    The US DOE is spending money of ‘Plan C’.

    Obviously, the energy in – energy out numbers look quite poor…but if the Chinese petroleum consumption curve ends up looking like their coal consumption curve then something will have to be rolled out quite quickly.


  100. David B. Benson, on 3 September 2011 at 4:45 AM said:

    harrywr2, on 3 September 2011 at 1:12 AM said: … the cost of the nuclear plants being between $3,100 and $4,500 per KW. @US$3100/kWh, LCOE = US$0.069/kWh for CF=93%.
    These are overnight costs(6.8-9.9Billion/2,200MW capacity), isn’t the cost of electricity is based on the final cost when they begin generating in 2022-23? and should include cost of fuel and cost of “temporary”
    storing spent fuel.


  101. David B. Benson, on 3 September 2011 at 4:32 AM
    It doesnt make sense to burn hydrogen while NG is being used to create hydrogen for ammonia synthesis. Using off-peak nuclear or wind to replace NG used in ammonia synthesis seems a better option, especially in US corn belt. A hydrogen ICE is still horribly inefficient compared to an electric engine, and since EV and PHEV have batteries it would seem that all off-peak power could be used directly avoiding most losses.


  102. Neil Howes, on 3 September 2011 at 6:25 AM — The LCOE calculation using so-called constant dollars in which the inflation (less stuff per dollar over time) is adjusted to current, 2011, prices. The LCOE calculation also figures in the price on consumables [not strictly ‘fuel’ for an NPP] and also the storage costs; together these add US$0.02/kWh and for several reasons [that I won’t go into] are most unlikely to change [for a very long time to come], except of course for the inflation adjustment to 2011 dollars.


  103. harrywr2, on 3 September 2011 at 6:16 AM — Thanks. I haven’t attempted to look into projections for transportation energy sources. Under the right circumstances planting Jatropha and havesting the oil seed pods is price competative with diesel fuel, which the Jatropha oil replaces. Of course it would take considerable (poor quality) land to make much of a dent in the diesel fuel market, but pays off in Myanmar (Burma) for example.

    [Incidently it should also pay fairly well in northern Australia if the various state govenments would stop treating Jatropha as a noxious weed to be poisoned and instead encouraged plantations. But I don’t live there either and so I suppose that will have to wait until the pric of dieel goes way up.]


  104. A sudden shift to CNG as a transport fuel could cause a crippling price shock for stationary users of NG. Road users are happy to pay say $1.40 for a litre or 35 MJ of liquid fuel. 4c per MJ is $40 per GJ a lot of which is fuel tax but in heating value terms still several times what gas customers are paying. Those customers include gas fired power plant operators, ammonia producers and users of process heat like laundries, bakeries, ceramics and food canning. Conceivably the resultant gas price could double or triple.

    A second round of gas price increases could come from the 20% renewables target. If the wind farm build continues more gas balancing will be needed. Yet economic commentators are cock-a-hoop about exporting liquefied gas from offshore WA and Qld coal seams. We’ll need a lot of that gas locally not only to partly replace oil but to make possible the renewables ‘miracle’.


  105. What happened to the wind-ammonia experiments that the late Matt Simmons was promoting? Off Maine I think.

    It was to be H2 from the water, and N fixed from the air, then to liquid ammonia.

    If anyone could come up with a seawater to Methanol process powered by nuclear I’d support it tomorrow. Methanol would enable much of the current liquid fuels transport infrastructure to remain (unlike electric cars for example). Combined with some good geo-sequestration science (agriculture, soil-carbon) and net CO2 could begin to come down


  106. Open cycle turbines are deprecated for their low efficiency. For example, an open cycle gas turbine converts about 35% of its calorific energy into electric output. That’s from methane or avtur flame temperatures. Systems with lower temperature at the compression stage have proportionately(*) lower efficiency. Where the heat input is a fast neutron reactor, the cost of heat (as fuel) is so low that efficiency is much less concern than the cost of closing the cycle.

    Inland from the coast, cooling water is expensive or unavailable. Since a hotair turbine does not need water at all, NPPs using air as their working fluid should be considered by electricity planners.

    In the terms of the current discussion , hydrogen generated during low demand could be stored for a few hours, to be used during high demand to boost the heat in the same turbines.

    (In case it isn’t obvious, a turbine which runs on heated air has no steam to be condensed, and therefore no need for cooling water. Examples of such turbines are jet engines and open cycle gas turbines, both of which have air as their working fluid and hydrocarbon for their heat.)

    (*) max efficiency = (T_hot – T_atm ) / T_atm


  107. @Roger Clifton,
    max efficiency = (TH – TC)/TH with temperatures in Kelvins.
    For a power plant the working fluid is irrelevant what
    matters is getting TC as low as you can.
    You can cool steam with air in a cooling tower,
    its just a lot cheaper and easier
    with water.


  108. @ Dino and Roger:

    Dino said that you can cool steam with air in a cooling tower. It appears to me that there is a basic misunderstanding here. Cooling towers are needed to lower the temperature of cooling water, which is, in turn, used to re-condense steam in another place, so that it can be pumped in liquid phase back into the boiler. The steam never gets to the cooling tower. Cooling water is different stuff than boiler feed water. They never mix.

    Cooling towers, in a steam cycle, act as a heat sink enabling recapture, through condensation, of the demineralised boiler feed water. This is essentially to avoid wasting the feed water, in vapour form, to the atmosphere – as in most locomotives. Locomotives use their feed water once, then blow it up the chimney. Power stations condense and re-use their feed water many times. Both start by boiling wet water and using the resulting energy. Cooling towers may be either wet or dry. Dry cooling towers are akin to the radiator in a car, acting to take heat from the cooling water (not the spent steam emerging from the last stage of the turbines) and cooling it by transferring the heat to the surrounding air.

    The steam cycle thus involves disposal of energy equal to the latent heat of vaporisation of water, which takes place in the condenser, where steam (gas) at close to atmospheric temp and pressure is condensed into water (liquid) at ATP.

    There is no such phase change in GT’s, so comparison of GT’s with steam systems on the basis of basis of differential temperatures and pressure without adding in a factor for the LHV is incorrect. The whole of the LHV is lost to the cooling water. This represents roughly a third of the energy in the coal, gas, woodchips, sawdust or bagasse or whatever the fuel is and is the reason why the thermal efficiency of steam cycle power generation is never better than 60% and tends to be near 40%. Note: nothing said about delta T, absolute (degrees R) or relative (degrees C or F).

    What you said is not adequate to describe the energy flow through a steam turbine – high T&P steam in, low T&P steam out. The energy differential in a steam turbine is a function of both T&P, not T alone.

    Roger, in his last paragraph, was correct.


  109. Efficiencies of up to 85% are thought possible using solid oxide fuel cells with the exhaust gas used in a turbine or a heating application

    For megawatt scale applications I presume the cells would be arranged in banks and the membranes would need changing every few years. Some wealthy corporations like Google have fuel cell banks up to 100 kw output

    When cheap gas is gone by mid century I think we should work on more resilient systems like nuclear + pumped seawater hydro.


  110. Pumped seawater hydro… there’s a possibility.

    I have commented previously on my optimism re developments in this area.

    Possibly the best first step could be of a pilot scheme at Manly (North Head), drawing on the expertise of Sydney’s universities and the Manly Hydraulics Labatory (or whatever it’s called these days), coupled with parts of Sydney Water Corporation’s facilities and the availability of reasonably high cliffs. Maybe it would be a treated sewage holding pond plus discharge/intake pipe to deep water… who knows? If treated water is used, the pump part of the equation could be minimised, because a substantial continuous supply of water is already present and elevated.

    OTOH, if a full scale start is desired, how about constructing a lined dam behind the Illawarra escarpment and tunnelling from there to the coast via an underground pump/turbine hall? Again, the landform is appropriate and the facility would be close to universities and Australia’s largest city and hence biggest loads. With 1000 steelworkers coming off shift for the last time soon, finding a workforce should not be too difficult.


  111. Good point about the Illawarra… I picture the escarpment where the hang gliders jump off. I doubt a carbon tariff (of 1.7 X $23/t) will save Bluescope Steel so the workers are there. I’d expect extreme NIMBYism troubles with cliff tops generally. The large octagonal tanks proposed could be eyesores and capable of bursting.

    If carbon tax will raise $8bn or whatever in the first year give some funds for a seawater pumped storage project of at least 1 Gwh capacity. It has to test efficiency, reliability and community acceptance.


  112. “…[B]ehind the Illawarra escarpment…”

    Not on the eastern side or the skyline. Go a bit further west and build a decent sized dam, complete with cutoff trenches and seepage return systems, so that full linings are not required. Perhaps grab a bit of land from the Army. There must be a place where the thing won’t become an eyesore. Then tunnell down to install the turbine hall, then east to an undersea outfall. Who knows? Perhaps there’s even an old mine tunnel that could do part of the work for us and saline water is not exactly unheard of in mine workings.

    If the outfall is large enough, the velocities will be well below 1 metre per second, so sea life will be flushed out rather than mashed during the generation phase. The pumped phase would be even less vigorous. The screens could be immediately before the pumps, in the underground cavern, thus avoiding the need for huge undersea engineering works and divers to clean them – just stout bar screens to prevent entry by curious humans. The coastline would be virtually untouched.


  113. John N, do you know anything about the “Phill” household natural gas filling devices that permit the reticulated gas to be used in vehicles?
    I’ve seen costs from $5,000 to $8,000. They often crop up in senate submissions for anything to do with carbon, alternative fuels, peak oil etc. At a current cost of around 1 cent/MJ, household gas is around the cheapest form of household energy.

    Click to access 37333.pdf


  114. GP off the top of my head I think the maker of that product went broke. One person in Geelong Vic has a unit to fill a Honda Civic on town gas overnight. I’ll delve further.

    IMO the way to go for distance vehicles is petrol/CNG or diesel/CNG bifuel of which several compatible car makes exist. That way the number of filling stations can increase gradually. If you run out on the highway you can get out of trouble with a small container of expensive liquid fuel. Conceivably when there is no oil we could get by on biofuel/CNG. It’s hard though to see a cheap vehicle having two hydrocarbon fuel tanks as well as a traction battery.though an LPG hybrid Hyundai has been made.


  115. GP it appears the Phill wall mounted home gas compressor has been discontinued but another floor mount model is available in Australia

    That’s for overnight home gas refuelling. In service stations on the gas grid a large compressor will continuously refill a 220 bar master cylinder which in turn can fill a typical CNG car in around 6 minutes I believe. When oil is gone I’d guess large farms off the gas grid could use master tanks brought in by truck.


  116. JN, thanks for the info. The links don’t provide a cost but I assume the cost for filler plus conversion is going to be a $7K plus. I would have thought the CNG route was the obvious next choice for fleets once LPG price escalates – that is, providing NG doesn’t rise as fast as LPG.


  117. Neil Howes, on 3 September 2011 at 6:25 AM said:

    These are overnight costs(6.8-9.9Billion/2,200MW capacity), isn’t the cost of electricity is based on the final cost when they begin generating in 2022-23? and should include cost of fuel and cost of “temporary” storing spent fuel.

    Yes, the price of electiricty is based on ‘final’ cost. But one doesn’t just add 2 GW of generating capacity without incurring significant addtional costs. A 2022 final cost estimate will include inflation escalators as well as construction financing cost as well as whatever necessary grid improvements are necessary.

    At this point Florida Power and Light is heavily exposed to natural gas price risk(which is at historical lows at the moment) and demand risk. The habit of financing a second winter home in Florida using the equity in ones primary residence is kind of ‘up in the air’ given the current US real estate market, in addition the energy efficiency of central air conditioning has increased substantially in the last 20 years so there could be substantial demand destruction as 20 year old central air conditioners get replaced.

    IMHO The Turkey Point 5 & 6 project at this point is ‘banking a construction permit’ until such time as the future looks more certain.
    WIth a construction permit in hand time from decision point to startup will be in the 5 or 6 year range. Being a regulated utility FP&L of course want’s to pass the costs associated with getting a construction permit onto the ratepayer now.

    As far as ‘temporary storage’, dry cask storage isn’t all that expensive.
    According to homeland security it is In the range of $10 million per year which for a plant that produces a million KW in an hour ends up being a small cost.

    IMHO The discussion related to temporary storage costs has more to do with the fact that the utilities are currently paying a waste disposal fee to the Federal Government and the Federal Government hasn’t been sending the truck around to pick up the waste.

    If I look at the Columbia Operating Station as an example they are paying the Federal Government between $7 and $8 million per year in spent fuel fees.

    Click to access Final%202011%20Columbia%20Generating%20Station.pdf


  118. What a wonderful thing the overseas carbon black hole is turning out to be. Instead of an event horizon it has a scrutiny horizon whereby awkward questions are sucked into the void. This week we have new coal mines, rail tracks and export facilities
    Doesn’t this kind of make domestic carbon tax pointless? Slurrp that question gets sucked into the black hole.

    Next Treasury Dept tell us that if carbon abatement falls short we will buy foreign offsets
    Is it likely that foreigners can both create more CO2 and save CO2? Whoops that question also gets sucked into the black hole. It seems those carbon credits could cost us as much as
    159 Mt X $29/t = $4.6 bn Money well spent. Good thing we don’t need to spend anything on hospitals.

    The overseas carbon black hole has something for everybody
    delusion 1 – Australia is blameless for CO2 on exported coal and LNG
    delusion 2 – foreign carbon credits are genuine CO2 cuts.


  119. Cyril R., on 3 September 2011 at 3:01 AM said:

    … need to get the energy to run your boron cars somewhere. This energy doesn’t really exist. We use almost all of it already.

    That would make sense if for “energy” it said “power”. Terawatt-centuries of coal lie in the ground, waiting for oil and gas prices to get high enough that coal-derived gasoline is cheaper. When that happens, terawatts of steam-coal reaction, and of Fischer-Tropsch gasoline production, can be conjured up easily enough.


  120. Alberto R., on 7 September 2011 at 9:11 AM — Thank you for the link!

    The BREST is a fast reactor. It is based on a design the Russians used in submarines, so there is experience with using lead cooling. It appears to offer several advantages, but is unlikely (in my rather humble opnion) to demonstrate a significantly lower construction cost than other designs.

    Nonetheless, using lead cooling appears to be the fastest route to a commercially viable fast reactor. Hyperion
    is taking a similar approach is developing a small modular nuclear so-called battery.


  121. Eamon, I agree it sounds depressing, but is it really? It’s all talk right now. The hard fact is that Japan has few options — import more coal, import more gas, or build more nuclear? Talk is cheap, power plants and fuel are not. Reality bats last, but right now, we’ve still got the Wonderland hitters coming up to the plate.


  122. One advantage of the IFR over the BREST is the use of metal fuel rather than a nitride fuel. The consequence of this is that the fuel cycle can be simply and cheaply closed, possibly even in a small module on site at the reactor, by using pyroprocessing.

    A metal fuel is readily reprocessed in a simple electrolysis step and new fuel easily formed by casting. The reprocessing of a ceramic fuel is a much more complex process using aqueous chemistry a la PUREX, and reformation of the ceramic fuel. For cheap large scale reprocessing the metal fuel is far superior.


  123. Eamon, like Barry I’m just waiting to see how the pieces fall in Japan and more or less ignoring these kinds of pronouncements. At the end of the day Japan has little choice but to continue with nuclear power. The need for power has the force of gravity and may be delayed for a time but will not be denied.


  124. “NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher gave the national solar power industry still more cause for indigestion when he told a Sydney business
    lunch that small-scale PV supply is “hideously expensive.”

    From today’s Coolibah Comment, Page 10 of 14, ie 2/3rdsa of the way down.

    The author, Keith Orchison, is one of the most knowledgeable people anywhere regarding Australian energy matters.

    Other items in this month’s newsletter throw serious doubt on the prospects of the wind power build meeting expectations.


  125. I’ve got this idea about pyroprocessing metal fuels, but so far the nuclear chemists I’ve talked to couldn’t say whether it will work.

    The idea is simple. Put the metallic fuel in a very high temperature distillation unit. Heat it up, and let the volatile fission products boil away. Then the distillation residue is your reprocessed fuel! Ready to be injection cast into new fuel rods.

    You see, all the actinide metals have very high boiling points, higher than almost all fission products. So the actinides will stay behind when you heat them up a lot.

    This is potentially even simpler than the IFR pyroprocessing, as no chemical or valence change is involved, and even more proliferation proof since the fissile is never separated from the fertile (ie uranium and plutonium always stay together).

    The high operating temperature is about the biggest disadvantage I can see with this idea. I don’t know what material to use for the distillation unit.


  126. JB, good link to Keith Orchison’s commentary, always a good antidote to some of the fairy stories. It would be interesting to ask him how he came to offer a ‘sort of’ endorsement in the opening pages of the BZE plan, along with others such as Robin Batterham.


  127. Barry Brook, on 7 September 2011 at 11:30 AM said:

    “…. Japan has few options … ”

    John Morgan, on 7 September 2011 at 12:47 PM said:

    “…. more or less ignoring these kinds of pronouncements. At the end of the day Japan has little choice but to continue with nuclear power … ”

    I’m sorry, but you are both seriously misjudging the Japanese. If they are saying these things in public – and by two PM’s no less – then they mean it. You know those nostrums about the Japanese? That they work for consensus before commitment? That public policy is determined less by politicians than by the bureaucracy with the politicians as mere spokesmen? Join the dots.

    Cyril R, on 7 September 2011 at 6:29 PM said:

    “… and let the volatile fission products boil away….”

    And where do those products boil away to? What do you do with them? All you’re proposing here is another version of externalising waste products a la CO2 and coal.


  128. BJ, on 8 September 2011 at 3:12 AM said:

    I’m sorry, but you are both seriously misjudging the Japanese. If they are saying these things in public – and by two PM’s no less – then they mean it. You know those nostrums about the Japanese? That they work for consensus before commitment?

    They’ve had an accident. Public opinion in now strongly opposed to nuclear power as a result. The same is true in Germany. A consensus for more nuclear in Germany or more nuclear power in Japan is not possible to achieve at the current time.

    The impacts of cost prohibitive energy are a lagged response. At the moment it is not being felt on the individual level. It will only be after the remaining Japanese Energy intensive industry relocate that this will be felt.

    What the consensus will be in the event of a wholesale abandonment of Japanese manufacturing are not yet known.

    Honda already produces almost as many cars in the US as it does in Japan.

    Click to access honda-2010.pdf

    Honda is also talking about shifting more production overseas due to a strong yen…


  129. BJ, the fission products are boiled away to a product line where they are collected and bound up in stable non-volatile forms for intermediate storage such as dry casks. After the heat load has diminshed they can be further partioned and sold or stored in geologic repositories.

    Everything happens in a closed loop. The distillation is in a hot cell, completely hermetically sealed off from the environment. The fuel is then re-cast into new fuel rods. Everything is automated with robots. Such hot cell technology is commonly used today for a variety of highly toxic (eg cyanides) and radioactive materials (eg medical isotope production). There is no boiling off waste to the environment, unlike fossil fuel plants that do this by design.


  130. @CyrilR opened discussion on the possibilty of separating fission products from uranium metal by heating…

    Because the purpose of the exercise is to purify the fuel, we need only be concerned about the properties of that metal. Each impurity atom in the metal lattice will have a defect energy associated with distortion. Because the fission products are one third to two thirds the mass of the uranium ions around it, they will have a higher diffusivity. Heating allows the defect, which is to say the distortion of the lattice as well as the ion, to migrate to the grain boundaries.

    The mobility of the defect is determined by how fast the the matrix can heal its structure as the defect diffuses past. This effect is greatest within about 10% (absolute) of its melting point, which in the case of uranium is 1132 C, so the ideal diffusion temperature is around 990 C. Soaked near this temperature, the fuel needles anneal while retaining their original shape, while the fission products migrate along grain boundaries to the metal surface.

    The drawback here is that there diffusion is slow, so would not be practical for massive fuel. Similarly sintering occurs rapidly at these temperatures, so the needles would have to be suspended in a fluid bed, probably of alumina granules. Abrasion by the fluid bed would remove some of the FPs from the needles, which would probably still require a visit to an acid bath before being repacked and returned to the reactor.

    There is no need to speak of boiling points, volatilisation or distillation. We don’t need to get that hot to do the job.


  131. Amazing! Nuclear electricity may have just gotten even safer. Miraculously, they did it without using computer models and actually tested the theory in the real world before announcing it. Too bad they aren’t doing climate research. Ron P.

    Uranium munching microbes

    Excerpt: Details of the process, which can be improved and patented, are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The implications could eventually benefit sites forever changed by nuclear contamination, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist. “Geobacter bacteria are tiny micro-organisms that can play a major role in cleaning up polluted sites around the world,” said Reguera, who is an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “Uranium contamination can be produced at any step in the production of nuclear fuel, and this process safely prevents its mobility and the hazard for exposure.” The ability of Geobacter to immobilize uranium has been well documented. However, identifying the Geobacters’ conductive pili or nanowires as doing the yeoman’s share of the work is a new revelation. Nanowires, hair-like appendages found on the outside of Geobacters, are the managers of electrical activity during a cleanup. (…) Their effectiveness was proven during a cleanup in a uranium mill tailings site in Rifle, Colo. Researchers injected acetate into contaminated groundwater. Since this is Geobacters’ preferred food, it stimulated the growth of the Geobacter community already in the soil, which in turn, worked to remove the uranium, Reguera said.


  132. @CyrilR >”So the actinides will stay behind”

    I can see the value in a process that never separates Pu etc from the U fuel. Am is volatile, so would join the vapor in a distillation process.

    In a diffusion process, the higher actinides (Z>92) would have similar mass to the uranium host matrix, thus small mass defect. However their distortion of the lattice due to different electronic size would mean some migration (ie out of the fuel) would occur. Perhaps good timing would make for adequate cleaning of FPs with minimal sweating out of Pu, Am, etc.


  133. Hi Barry,

    Eamon, I agree it sounds depressing, but is it really? It’s all talk right now. The hard fact is that Japan has few options — import more coal, import more gas, or build more nuclear? Talk is cheap, power plants and fuel are not. Reality bats last, but right now, we’ve still got the Wonderland hitters coming up to the plate.

    I agree totally with the general gist of this comment – and it is true that Japan will have to eventually face up to facts on their energy supply – the problem is this: When?

    Japan is an incredibly conservative culture, and one with a very strong group mentality – it’s drilled into people from kindergarten up: play for the team, with the team and everything will be harmonious. That’s another key word, Harmony, or ‘Wa’ as they say in Japan. Whilst the people at the top, the bureaucrats and politicians have a lot of leeway, once things become too unpopular with the populace then changes have to be made. Current reports on opposition to nuclear power are running in the 70% range in Japan*. With that kind of opposition, coupled with a fractious political scene (parties have been jockeying for power over the past 5 months instead of sorting out an aid plan for Tohoko, for example) then we could be set for an endless series of unrealistic energy plans eating up Yen and precious time before the reality of the situation finally percolates down to the general public and then up the chain to the top again. How much of an influence will a “Japan leading the world in renewable energy” wield along with Germany – how much damage to our climate will they cause before reality bites?

    What Japan really needs right now is an open letter from pro-nuclear climate scientists warning of the dangerous road that Japan is embarking upon, with a large amount of Japanese Nobel Laureate Scientists adding their voices to the mix (if they are so inclined). I can’t see much else halting this race to disaster.

    *In the 5 months from the disaster there’s been forum astroturfing from power companies, government slip-ups, news reports becoming addicted to fantasy (one featured a famous film director urging us to go back to simpler times, like the time of steam trains – as they can be understood, unlike nuclear power – according to him). Nobel Literature Laureates have been hailed for coming out against nuclear power, and most recently we’ve had ex-PM Kan opining on “what if the Fukushima evacuation zone encompassed Tokyo.”:

    “Japan wouldn’t stand as a country if the uninhabitable zone (around the crippled Fukushima plant) had to spread out to 100 or 200 kilometers. Evacuating 100,000 or 200,000 people is a really grave situation, but if 30 million people were to be subjected, evacuating them all would be impossible.

    “When I think of safety not being outweighed by risk, the answer is not to rely on nuclear.”

    I’m unsure if it’s even physically possible for the evacuation zone to extend that far, given the design of the plants – but this is the kind of rubbish that is reaching the Japanese public now.



  134. Roger Clifton, how do you remove the fission products from the grain boundaries once they are there? Moving stuff to grain boundaries is usually a good way to greatly weaken a material. I was thinking that you need to melt the uranium anyhow if you want to make new fuel. IFR would melt it in a crucible and then inject it to molds, cool it, and then remove the mold and put it in fuel rods with sodium binder for loose tolerances and good fuel performance.

    Given this necessity to melt the fuel anyway, I was thinking about a higher temperature distillation at atmospheric pressure in a argon hot cell environment. The temperature would be lower than americium’s boiling point, which is 2600 degrees Celcius. It looks like the most important neutron poisons except neodymium would be on the fly at 2000 degrees Celcius and you’d keep almost all of the americium this way.

    If we are lucky, the fission products bromine and iodine will take some of the neodymium with it, though most would go to the slightly more stable fission products (perhaps barium). But in a fast reactor having only neodymium, promethium, zirconium and a few others would allow you to run the life of the plant (60 years) before it starts to build up to unacceptable levels, so you would not need any other online fuel reprocessing technology present.


  135. Eamon, on 8 September 2011 at 8:15 PM said:

    What Japan really needs right now is an open letter from pro-nuclear climate scientists warning of the dangerous road that Japan is embarking upon

    Achieving public consensus is a difficult thing. At this point no amount of ‘convincing evidence’ will convince the Japanese Public.

    Japan will have to make a ‘good faith’ effort at meeting it’s energy needs with windmills and solar panels just as the UK did and the US is doing now. It all seems quite wasteful but in the reality of public policy trying and failing will convince more then just lecturing that ‘it won’t work’.

    We still don’t know how much decontamination is going to cost and how effective it will be. It is hard to argue supposition with supposition.

    At the moment the best the Japanese political class is going to be able to do is make the case that nuclear is a necessary ‘temporary evil’.


  136. Barry

    I fear we might disagree on the meaning of the word ‘reality’. You seem to be using it in the sense of TINA ie. “There Is No Alternative”.

    This is also known as opinion or advocacy. Meanwhile in the real world there is what is actually happening. Japan is in the process of abandoning nuclear power. They’ve shut down about a third of their reactors and are not restarting them. (And despite the power shortages, the sky hasn’t fallen in).

    They’ve evacuated people from contaminated zones and not going to return them for decades. They have announced a public policy of “aspiring” to a nuclear free future.

    That’s reality. Not opinion. Not advocacy.

    What you or I think about the matter is irrelevant. Neither of us live or vote in Japan.


  137. “The only reason why wind/solar are being build now is that they can make a case to offset fuel/carbon taxes for utilities. If there are no fuel/carbon taxes to offset then the financials for wind/solar sink like a brick.” is an extremely interesting thought from Jason Kobos
    September 7, 2011 | 8:49 PM at This means that if the electrical power supply of a nation was already carbon-free without wind/solar, etc, then it would not be rational to burden the consumer with these green expenses, like carbon taxes, FITs or installation subsidies. Such a country would only have to offset transportation and industries directly emitting carbon themselves. Wouldn’t that be some competitive advantage? Is that what it is like in France, Iceland, Norway or New Zealand? No upward pressure on electricity prices. Why is this not the logical footing to adopt?


  138. BJ,

    Do you think it is irrelevant to me if I live in a zone contaminated by haze from fires burning in another country? Even if I do not live or vote there? What if I am affected by CO2 contamination from Japan or China or India or Australia or USA or Germany or in any other country I am not living and voting in? Can I sue them for the “escaped nuisance”?


  139. BJ, in the real world Japan is already using more fossil fuel from the lost capacity. In the real world Japan is a fossil fuel addict from the international dealers.

    Some of us don’t like that reality and want to know the best ways of changing it.

    I’m not sure what your point is. Defeatism perhaps? Solar and wind naivity mixed with anti-nuclear sentiments?


  140. BJ, on 9 September 2011 at 2:36 AM said:

    They’ve evacuated people from contaminated zones and not going to return them for decades.

    The time frame for return at this point is purely supposition.

    The decontamination plan is still being formulated –

    Here is a map put together by someone at comparing the radiation levels around Chernobyl to Fukushima.


  141. @CyrilR >”how do you remove the fission products from the grain boundaries…?”

    As the metal anneals, the uranium crystallites grow across the grain boundaries, squeezing the light impurities out of hiding. The process of cleaning fuel by annealing, that is by diffusing out the fission products, could only be practical for small metal particles or needles. However there are a various types of fuel in that category.

    I must retract my assertion that americium volatililises from an actinide-FP mix, as I haven’t found a reference that says so – or why.


  142. Regarding gas replacing coal, what is the risk of poisoning ground water with chemicals used in hydrofracking to produce coal seam gas?

    How could pollutants be removed from ground water once introduced?

    How long would it take to remove the pollutants (eg from the Great Artesian Basin)?


  143. @Peter Lang

    I’m sure I don’t know, but last night on the telly I saw one ad proclaiming the wonders of what CSG will do for Queensland, another proclaiming the wonderful employment benefits to be had from renewable energy and a third predicting dire unemployment from the carbon tax. Great entertainment. A real three ring circus.


  144. Harry, Cyril and Ng

    The point is that decisions regarding long term evacuation have already been made, a move away from nuclear has been announced (twice), and reactors have been shut down and are not being restarted. That is what is really happening, reality.

    On the other hand assertions that Japan “has no alternative” to nuclear are clearly opinion, perhaps well founded, but opinion nonetheless and are based on a particular balance of considerations and trade offs. However, it is now apparent that the Japanese do not share the same assessment of the balance and the trade offs and are making a different decision.

    It’s their right to do so, no matter how much you may disagree with them.


  145. Sure Japan has alternatives to nuclear – more fossil imports. Lots and lots more fossil imports, forever.

    Make no mistake BJ. Unreliable unproductive nondispatchable energy sources that are not there 80% of the time will not power Japan, and should Japan try to do so, and they have been trying for decades it will use more fossil, and it has done exactly that for decades.

    Its nuclear or its fossil. Take your pick.


  146. BJ, that Japan has no alternative to nuclear is merely taking the medium term view. A country with a high population density of high per capita energy consumers and an energy intensive high tech manufacturing base is locked in to high energy consumption.

    There is no renewable resource available. Its nuclear or fossil, like Cyril says. But it can’t be fossil for too much longer. Shipping in gas and shipping in coal is expensive, and will just become more expensive. Building new fossil capacity to offset fifty three nuclear reactors is expensive.

    Turning their back on nuclear is walking down a hard road for the Japanese, and at some point questions about how dangerous nuclear power is will be replaced by questions such as “how can I feed my children when I don’t have a job because my factory closed?”.

    This juncture is inevitable. At that point 53 reactors (minus 4) will be restarted and the Japanese nuclear technology providers that all continued to serve their overseas markets will start taking domestic orders once more.


  147. It is once again brought home to us that the standards for nuclear are unreasonable in that nothing else no matter how dangerous has to meet these standards.

    When there is a major highway accident, no one suggests to stop making highways or cars. In stead they suggest to make highways safer and to make cars safer.

    Even when a technology is deliberately misused in acts of terror, such as the 9/11 attacks with passenger airplanes, we do not stop using airplanes to whisk people all over the world. In fact we use more airplanes but we do try to make them safe against such acts of terrorism in various ways.

    This goes for everything in our society, except nuclear. When there is a nuclear accident, everyone talks about closing the nuclear plants and how many alternatives we have to nuclear. Yet we have no alternatives except more fossil fuels. There are very simple changes that can be made to existing and new nuclear plants, that will prevent flooding damaging critical equipment. The Japanese should focus on this and move on with building many new reactors. It is an issue of education. Only education can put an end to the fear, ignorance and superstition and bust the myths surrounding the N-word.


  148. BJ, on 9 September 2011 at 8:33 PM said:

    The point is that decisions regarding long term evacuation have already been made, a move away from nuclear has been announced (twice), and reactors have been shut down and are not being restarted.

    And not very long ago there was a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and the shrimp industry there had been destroyed ‘for at least a generation’.

    The point being that in a crisis, until the crisis is contained and cleanup efforts are shown to be effective it’s not possible to have a rational discussion. On one side of the discussion is a group alleging an almost infinite cost , on the other side is nothing more then very rough estimates.

    There is just no way to counter argue articles like this with solid facts at this moment in time.
    The area in need of cleanup could be 1,000 to 4,000 square km, about 0.3 to 1 percent of Japan’s total land area, and cost several trillion to more than 10 trillion yen (80 billion pounds)

    Here’s another article about stress tests

    Governor Hirohiko Izumida has said conducting stress tests will not lead to the prefecture approving of the resumption of such reactors. He has indicated that his prefecture will not make a decision on the matter until the results of investigations into the Fukushima accident are published.

    The Governor is clear…he doesn’t have sufficient facts to make a rational decision and lays out what facts he requires.

    The absolute facts have not been established at this point in no rational decision can be made.


  149. Scientists at SLAC have just reported the longest half life yet measured for any decay process, the two neutrino double beta decay of Xe-136, at 2.11×10^21 years. Thats 100 billion times longer than the age one of the universe.

    So kids, if you find a cylinder of Xe-136, RUN FOR THE HILLS ITS RADIOACTIVE!!!!!!!!


  150. So Xe136 is 132 microbecquerels per kilogram, according to my scribbling. Wow! I’ve never seen a microbecquerel before.

    Aviation rules would forbid it being carried in an aircraft. Once, I and my luggage were taken off an aircraft, because an instrument included a tiny radioactive reference source. It’s trivial, I said, but nope, it’s radioactive, so ditch it or hitch-hike. I was allowed back on, light, despite the fact that its radiation must have excited some radionuclides in my own mass, an unnatural radioactivity – adding to my K40, blasting away at my neighbours.


  151. David B. Benson, on 9 September 2011 at 1:03 PM said:

    What happens to (part of) a grid without sufficient local reserves:
    Major Power Outage Hits California, Arizona, Mexico

    There is no suggestion that a lack of local reserves was the problem, but the failure of a major transmission line. None the less I am sure some will be looking to blame wind power for the blackout.


  152. David B. Benson, on 10 September 2011 at 1:25 PM said:

    Power outages may have unforseen consequences:
    In San Diego, power is on, but many beaches are closed

    If sewerage treatment plants dont have adequate back-up power its hardly unforseen that beaches will be closed following a blackout. If they do have back-up power and it failed then that would have been an unforseen consequence.


  153. I usually discuss nuclear topics but I have a few questions regarding climate.

    Does warming of the ocean and warming of the atmosphere come under the same topic? Same causes? Coming in late to conversation sorry. Just realized that the oceans are becoming more acidic without the assistance of cosmic rays.

    Acidity and pollution are closely related obviously but how about air
    temperature and pollution?

    The ocean is a moderating influence on air temperature because it
    takes much longer for water temperatures to change. So if the water is
    warmer and the ice caps are melting then can we blame the sun, cosmic
    rays, chemicals in the water, chemicals in the air, green house gases?
    I have to wonder about chicken and the egg.

    It seems to me that water pollution is a more significant factor than
    air pollution in affecting climate change.
    Any thoughts on that?



  154. Neil,

    Sewerage systems near the coast commonly have dozens of pump pits at their low points. They generally have significant surge capacity, both in the pump pits and the pits and pipes further upstream. A day or two of surge capacity is not unusual.

    It is impractical to have diesel generators on standby at every pit, so overflow is relatively common during extended blackouts.

    Some systems also intercept quite a large flow from rainfall, either by design or due to damaged pipes and unofficial cross-connections, so they could overflow during and following high rain.

    There’s no need to defend wind power this time. Sewage pumps are, in some ways, better suited as loads for wind and solar powered systems than are loads which have no time flexibility.


  155. For disaster proofing, we may actually prefer autonomous power in the (er..) backup systems of the sewerage of a modern city. As sea levels rise (currently 3 mm/a and accelerating) around the world, sewerage systems designed for a lower sea level will suffer more frequent flooding. We must expect that cities built on floodplains (such as Brisbane) must be retrofitted to survive the increasing frequency of floods.

    Similarly areas of increasing population (with paving and roofing) become decreasingly porous, that is, more stormwater run-off gets diverted into ageing sewerage. That probably includes every growing city in the developing world, as well as many long-established cities.

    The sumps that John Bennetts refers to can only protect us from the first wave of a flood, but at least that would protect us from the foulest of the sewage. As a flood recedes below street level, before full power resumes, we need at least a trickle of pumping to be removing the ongoing (normal) sewage influx.

    Although all the shrill voices after the Fukushima tsunami made us aware of a power station without passive defences, we might also look for the evidence of how all the other utilities responded to the loss of active power.


  156. Water pressure is perhaps a little easier. Gravity pressure from elevated tanks – eg on hill tops – never fails, at least till the reservoir empties after a day or a week.

    OTOH, sewerage systems tend to have many low points requiring pumping stations and sewage spills are somewhat more unsavoury than are water spills. Interestingly, there was little in the press following the Brisbane floods about public health issues related to raw sewage. Perhaps this risk was well managed.

    It’s only when we lose it that we realise the immense value of reliability and availability in our power distribution networks, the so-called five 9’s target: 99.999 supply availability, or 5 minutes per year loss of supply per customer.

    I’ve been told that in many parts of India, even in cities, residents hope for one 9, ie power supply 90% of the time.

    Some (eg my engineer friend who has lived and worked in India and other Asian countries for a decade) suggest that two 9’s are enough.

    Does anybody know what difference in capital cost is implicit in the difference between systems achieving two 9’s and five or even six 9’s?


  157. John Bennetts, on 11 September 2011 at 11:31 AM — In Karachi, Pakistan, the electricity goes off 5 times a day, each time for precisely one hour. This is appearantly quite tolerable provided one has access to the schedule for the outages; visitors quickly learn to obtain such access.

    While only available 87.5% of the time, it is highly reliable in the sense of being predicable. Not the situation I’ve been informed of for parts of India.

    As for your question, it is not just capital cost but also whether adequate maintenance is performed. The push to many 9s reliability is occasioned by and for computers and communications, in the USA at least. Appropriately done computer codes (unlike the recent outage in San Diego which appears to be the result of bad code) can compensate for less capital investment in reserves.


  158. I made a mental note to read an item in the News website. Minutes later I checked back and it had gone to the archives
    If the Murdoch press is going to keep up the line that we shouldn’t do anything about climate change it will have to reconcile that with newsworthy weather events that seem to say the opposite. As in: more extreme weather events…not a problem.


  159. Suggested reading.

    Here’s another authoritative opinion that the cost of renewables is far too high, this time in the editorial of USA’s Powermag:

    Quote 1: “The renewable energy development path we’re now following is not sustainable. It’s a mistake to continue to invest in technologies that produce expensive power with no tangible benefit to the economy or the environment.

    Quote 2: “The National Academy of Science (NAS), in a report published in early 2007, agrees. The authors of the ‘Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects,’ concluded that ‘Wind power will thus not reduce carbon emissions; it will only slow the increase by a small amount.’ Several subsequent independent studies have confirmed the NAS assessment.”

    In a related article in Powermag, the authors express concern that renewables, while now being asked to support their share of transmission line upgrades (in USA) are avoiding paying their share of the cost for backup generation.

    Australia has witnessed recent collapse of one of the largest local PV operators in the past weeks. Powermag, in a third article, points to several such collapses in USA in the past month, as well as some plant closures.

    Are PV and wind doomed by commercial realities? What then? CCGT’s and locked-in carbon emissions for at least 3 decades?


  160. Correction.

    Thanks to David Benson’s reference, I have been able to track back the reference I cited as #2 above. It appears that Powermag took liberties when they prepared the “quotation” for publication.

    On Page 84 of the NRC’s publication the following appears.

    …the committee concludes that development of wind-powered electricity generation using current technology probably will not result in a significant reduction in total emission of these pollutants from EGUs in the mid-Atlantic region. Using the future projections of installed U.S. energy capacity by the U.S. Department of Energy, we further conclude that development of wind-powered electricity generation probably will contribute to offsets of about 4.5% in emissions of CO2 from electricity generation sources in the United States by the year 2020.


  161. If quick fix is needed to reduce greenhouse gases in atmosphere?

    A good place to invest environmental taxes could be making Sahara etc deserts green again?

    Costs of turning parts of Congo -river (40 000 m3/sec average) north are quite reasonable- because that river’s huge energy potential could be used also.
    Search: Inga rapids Congo river

    Sahara ( 10 million km2 or 10 *10^12 m2) has been green for most of time during last millions of years.
    If about 100 kg of biomass is buried on average in forests, lakes, swamps, then about 10^12 tons could be drawn from the atmospere?
    Lake Chad ( about 1-2 million km2) has been as large as the Caspian Sea, but has dried up to a small patch since 1960′s

    Huge benefits would result from green Sahara:
    – Greenhouse gases would drop to safe levels
    – ekological rebirth of this vast area
    – people could return to regiona nd get good jobs in agriculture etc
    – big part of the world population could be feed by food from green Sahara
    Local politicians have made preliminary studies of the subject.
    Search: Lake Chad Parliamentary Committee

    Oil and coal companies could use their carbon-taxes to this project?

    Other desert areas in Australia, Saudi-Arabia, SW- USA,.. could be irrigated by local big rivers or nuclear powered desalination plants?
    Now it takes about 3 kWh to get 1 m3 of fresh water from seawater by reverse osmosis. But there are nanotube-, etc technolgies which could make the desalination proceses 100 times more effective?
    What do you think?


  162. Zvyozdochka,

    LCOE estimate for PV-diesel hybrid power station, Geraldton, Western Australia

    From the figures in the press release you linked, and making a few assumptions I calculate the LCOE of the solar component of the Geraldton PV-diesel hybrid station is about $280/MWh. That is for a plant with about 18% capacity factor. However, I wonder if the stated capital cost is the total cost or does it the cost excluding subsidies?


    Capital Cost = $200,000,000
    MWh per year = 80,000
    Capacity (MW) = 50
    h per year = 8,760
    GWh at 100% = 438,000
    Capacity factor = 18%

    Capital cost per kW = $4,000
    economic life = 25
    discount rate = 8.50%


    1. the solar component generates 80% and the diesel component 20% of the 100,000 MWh per year

    2. So the capacity factor of the solar component is 18%

    3. The capital cost of the diesel component is negligible in the $200 million total cost

    4. So the capital cost per kW of the solar PV is $4000/kW (this seems to be far too low. I suspect the capital cost does not include subsidies)

    5. Fixed O&M = $20/kW-y (average for utility scale solar PV according to NREL calculator)

    6. Variable O&M = $0.02/kWh


    LCOE of PV component is roughly $280/MWh (but are all costs included?)


  163. @ Peter Lang

    Given the project is commercial, I’m not sure what I should/can comment on much beyond saying your CF is too low* (this is a tracking/concentrating system) and also that we never prepare projects based on subsidies of any kind**.

    * The project has 5 years of minute-by-minute private DNI data at the location in question.
    ** To my knowledge, this project was not eligible for subsidies anyway.

    I also have not been involved with this project for more than 2 years unfortunately.


  164. Peter, some more detail on the Geraldton solar plant here in the Australian.

    Its funded by Investec, a South African merchant bank.

    The bank’s local head of project and infrastructure investment, Mark Schneider, said the solar plant, which would be backed up by a diesel power plant, would not be economic under current conditions.

    Investec sees it becoming economic due the carbon tax, federal renewable energy certificates, sale of capacity credits, rise in electricity prices due to increasing energy demand at the same time as domestic gas is chasing export markets.


  165. @ John Morgan

    They are not eligible for RECs, and the project performance is not based on the carbon price.

    We did some work on the way gas prices were changing in Western Australia, but working out how that might effect the economics of likely competitive tenderers for peaking power.

    I’m not sure The Australian’s reporting is accurate, or when Mark said what he did or why. I’m told the project is already going ahead. I suspect more information will be made available shortly.


  166. BJ, I hope you saw the following two articles in Barry’s twitter stream:

    After Fukushima: Japan’s energy crisis

    Post-tsunami Japan sticking with nuclear power:

    I have extracted a number of quotes that directly support what I said two days ago, namely that it is inevitable that the Japanese nuclear fleet will be restarted due to the immediate personal, family and economic impacts of their closure, and that government statements to the contrary can be safely ignored.

    If these quotes are representative, the Japanese people are aware of their situation. Only 3% support closing all reactors. The government is preparing a path to backpedal from earlier statements.

    These are the visible outward signs of the social sphere starting to conform itself to the underlying physical constraints, lofty aspirations to unreality responding to a force akin to gravity.

    Sacrifices [at Nissan] like starting work at 5:30 in the morning to avoid peak energy hours, working most weekends and taking two days off during the week ..

    [Nissan’s COO SAYS] I think this is not sustainable. If mothers and fathers go to the office or factory at the weekend they can’t talk to their children. It is such a pity. We cannot continue this working situation.

    .. another sweltering summer for Japan’s millions of office workers, and continued weekend work for blue-collar workers.

    The real threat to corporate Japan, though, is unstable energy supply. If that happens, one Tokyo think tank says it will send Japanese industry offshore with losses of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

    Takashi Yamada would prefer life without the nearby nuclear power plant. But the 66-year-old retired electronics retailer says, “It is also true we all need it.”

    “What is the alternative?” asks Fumiko Nakamura, a flower arrangement teacher in Tokyo. She worries about nuclear safety in earthquake-prone Japan but says it will take time to develop other types of energy. “Japan is a resource-poor nation, and we need electricity.”

    A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that 55 percent of Japanese want to reduce the number of reactors in the country. .. Roughly a third said they want to keep the number of nuclear plants about the same, while 3 percent want to eliminate them completely.

    Power shortages since the tsunami, coupled with an unusually sweltering summer, have helped business and its backers in government win the argument that Japan can’t afford to shut down its reactors.

    In the half year since the tsunami, commuter trains have often been dark inside, dizzyingly hot and more packed than usual because of reduced schedules.

    Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged to reduce Japan’s reliance on nuclear power and develop solar, wind and other sources. But he later played that down as his personal view

    “The panic is starting to calm down,” says [talking head].
    He predicts all of Japan’s reactors will eventually return to service, with the exception of Fukushima and possibly Hamaoka

    “We want to restart them,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yoshio Hachiro said recently.

    Hiroshi Kainuma, a sociologist who has researched Fukushima, said residents of what he calls “nuclear villages” fear life without a plant.


  167. John,

    Thank you for that. It actually is the same press release. I’ve just relaised that it is another project in the planning, promotion and seeking funding stage. The cost of Gemasolar (solar thermal) in Spain increased by a factor of four between 2007 and when construction was complete in 2010; the final cost was $23,000/kW). Solar PV stations are costing well over $10,000/kW so I am suspicious about the claimed capital cost. Windora, Queensland, , recently commissionmed, cost $35,000/kW. I suspect Geraldton will cost much more than $4,000/kW if it ever proceeds.

    The press release also makes me wonder how high the carbon tax and renewable energy certificates will have to go to justify investment in renewables. All of these higer energy costs are being forced on us by government intervention. None of it is a “market” mechanism. They are the opposite of “market mechanism”. Oh, what a mess we are in.


  168. According to this source, Amonix has an installed cost of USD 6.82 per Watt of peak rated DC capacity. In a sunny location you could get 25% capacity factor so that is USD 27 per Watt.

    I don’t know what the maintenance cost of the trackers, motors, inverters, etc. will cost. I don’t know the lifetime either. But the capital cost alone makes it prohibitive, especially considering its a marginal energy source (still need expensive batteries or fossil fuels).


  169. The link Zvyozdochka provided originally to the Investec press release said the hybrid plant (i.e. both the solar and diesel components) are expected to (i.e. hoped will) generate 100,000 MWh per year. That is 23% capacity factor from the 50 MW plant. Since the diesel component will generate some of that, I expect the 18% capacity factor is a reasonable ball park figure to use for the life of the project (there will be breakdowns, and problems as with all such plants; e.g. these beauties: )


  170. Using solar to replace expensive diesel deliveries to remote locations seems like a good idea to me. But this is for small remote power needs. 50,000 kW is not remote power needs anymore, this is the power demand of a small city!

    Much better to use a grid with such higher demands. Definately not diesel.


  171. The original press-release is here;

    You’ll see it reads slightly differently to the slant from The Australian.

    @ Peter Lang

    100,000MWh is the minimum contracted amount in the PPA expected to be supplied by PV-only.

    I understand I won’t be able to convince you otherwise.

    @ Cyril R

    The most recent plant approved for construction ( is US$5 per watt.

    They have an endorsement from Stephen Chu and $90m DoE loan guarantee also. (Not that Goldman Sachs need, or deserve it).

    The 30MW plant is expected to generate 75,000MWh in Colorado with ~5.7 kWh m2 (

    Geraldton is more like ~6.3 kWh m2 (

    (Posts not appearing??).
    Which posts? If a comment is edited or deleted the author is advised of the reason why, unless the post was offensive, libellous etc when it may simply be trashed. I don’t recall any comments of yours fitting those categories.


  172. Section A2 here,877592/MRCP_Transmission_Cost_Estimate_for_2013_14_Capacity_Year_V4.PDF illustrates one of many issues with the regulations we have imposed to force the electricity industry to accept renewable energy in the grid.

    It begs the question, what is the total cost being added to electricity because of the many disparate regulations we are forced to implement to appease the renewable energy advocates. A few years ago NREL estimated the average added cost across the US grid as $15/MWh. However, NREL is a renewable energy advocacy group and commonly understates costs of renewable energy. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the costs of all the extra enhancements and constraints on the electricity grid – like those mentioned in Section A2 of the linked report – add more like twice the NREL figure; i.e. $25/MWh.

    The NREL figure makes LCOE of wind power about $175/MWh. If the NREL figure should be $25/MWh, the LCOE of wind power is about $185/MWh.

    Here are some figures from these sources:


    Average capital cost of wind farms in Australia (ABARE, October 2010): $2,742/kW. This figure does not include the average cost of grid enhancements needed to manage wind intermittency, but does cinclude the cost of grid connection.

    EPRI report for Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism

    Click to access AEGTC%202010.pdf

    Capital cost ($/kW) from EPRI report:
    CCGT = $1,173 (Table 7-11)
    OCGT = $801 (Table 7-15)
    Wind = $3,763 (Table 8-11)

    LCOE ($/MWh) from EPRI report:
    CCGT = $97 (Table 10-5)
    OCGT = $227 (Table 10-5)
    Wind = $160 (Table 10-10)

    To wind add approximately $1000/kW capital cost for grid enhancements (not connection to the grid as that is already included), and $15/MWh to the LCOE.

    Thus LCOE is about $175/MWh. This LCOE was recently stated by the head of AEMO as the true cost of wind energy.

    For comparison, the current (since the GFC) average wholesale spot price of electricity is about $35/MWh, and pre GFC was about $45/MWh. The baseload component of those prices is significantly lower.

    Solar is far more costly than wind, so is even less viable, much less.


  173. Again not seeing the forest for the trees; a corn ethanol plant to capture and bury CO2
    I suggest this back to front. What they should do is
    – run all the tractors, trucks and harvesters on ethanol not diesel
    – make the urea fertiliser without using natural gas
    – capture the nitrous oxide from that fertiliser
    – return a lot of the plant carbon back to the fields
    – ensure the pumps are not run on coal fired electricity.

    After all that then do the burial ceremony.


  174. David Benson,

    Well done getting the NREL calculator corrected.

    Perhaps you could make another suggestion. The NREL Calculator requires BTU as inputs for some fields. Could you suggest they allow a toggle so US can use the old british units and the rest of the world can use the calculator without having to convert from SI units to BTU. I’ve suggested they allow input in SI units (without the sarcastic comment), at the B release stage, Version 1 and the new version but received no reply.


  175. Tom Keen, interesting that the article talks about the end of modern life, radiation from Fukushima didn’t kill anyone, and is about as dangerous as living in a major city (those have lots of fossil burning cars, powerplants and factories causing particulate matter kills). I’ve never heard people suggesting that major cities would put an end to modern life, rather the opposite is claimed.

    As a matter of fact, it is considerably more dangerous to live in London than to live almost everyone around Chernobyl (with the exception of living inside the reactor and ancillary buildings themselves, I wouldn’t advise it). Ironically Chernobyl has become an ecological sanctuary with no stinking cars and factories and people to destroy ecosystems. It brings home to us the danger of large populations of humans exploiting the ecosystems and burning fossil fuels in a concentrated area.

    But lets look at how plausible the 500 reactor meltdown scenario is. Now if we look at the nuclear plant and its diesel generators, it is inside rebar cages (in concrete) which are Faraday cages, effectively protecting against electromagnetic attack. Rebar is always grounded in tall buildings (it must be for protection against lightning etc.).

    However it is a good idea to have large quantities of diesel fuel on site in underground diesel tanks. Say half a year worth of decay heat cooling diesel pumping power. This would solve logistical problems whether the calamity is an earthquake or a solar flare, or otherwise.

    It is true though that a global electrical blackout would kill millions easily in riots, war and unrest. And that’s the main danger in such a scenario. You wouldn’t want to rely on solar and wind and find out that a freak weather event or volcanic eruption puts you in that same continental or even global blackout condition.


  176. Tom Keen, on 13 September 2011 at 5:09 PM said:

    So apparently a solar flare will cause a nuclear holocaust in the next couple of years

    IMHO The article extrapolates some facts without taking time to understand the underlying cause.

    In a surge event or a rapid load shedding event some transformers and substations are going to fail. This was a significant cause of the blackouts in the recent US East Coast big wind/hurricane. I was there and got to experience it. The town I was in, Wethersfield, Ct, had all of 1 tree fall down, yet the three substations that served the town all failed as the trees falling down in surrounding towns caused a rapid load shedding. It took the power company 36 hours to get two of the three substations back up and running.

    In a Carrington event or an EMP event the load surge is coming from the lines themselves. So we will almost certainly loose plenty of pole mounted transformers and substations. Some of those transformers serve relatively few customers and will be very low on the priority replacement lists. I.E. It will be a long time before the utility companies restore power to Farmer Jones who lives a long way down a gravel road and is the only customer on a transformer.

    Spare parts and available utility crews will have an initial limit.

    To get to the ‘nuclear holocaust’ the author of the article envisions restoring power to the local NPP would have to be on the same priority level as Farmer Jones.

    The other point the author misses is the amount of cooling a NPP needs for an extended period of time.

    The big water requirement is in the first few days.

    If I use Fukushima 1 and 2 as an example, the current flow rates are at about 3.5 meters per hour at 6 months out which works out to be around 1,000 gallons per hour or 16 gallons a minute. It’s entirely possible to pump that much water with pumps connected to a series of stationary bicycles.



  177. In the absense of data, I hazard a guess or two.

    Directions to boil water are intended to counter a disease threat – perhaps most probable is where chlorination or other treatment plant was off-line, thus some partially treated water mixed with the fully treated supplies. It’s not an indicator that something major has gone wrong. Perhaps an hour’s supply of partially treated water was pumped into a distribution reservoir holding a fortnight’s supply. Until that reservoir has been bypassed, emptied and replenished or until its contents had been tested demonstrated to be OK, boiling drinking water makes good sense.

    Regarding water conservation, as I posted above, it is common practice for local water reservoirs to be good for one or two days’s supply. They are refilled daily, commonly via remote controls and avoiding peak hour energy rates.

    If small local reservoirs miss even a single refill, it might take a day or two before they are replenished. That’s common enough. If a water main has been drained dry, it might take another day or less to refill it and verify that the air has been released from the high points, thus ensuring that it is safe to operate normally again.

    There is nothing unexpected or unprecedented about these two issues taking a few days to settle down after a 16 hour outage affecting 6 million people. Southern California appears to have done well.


  178. “Aging nuclear power plants”

    The anti crowd is using this meme to stir anxiety. I have little success in attempting to point out that the US NPP fleet is enjoying ever higher capacity factors of late. That line doesn’t appear to penitrate. So I welcome suggestions for how to appropriately counter the above quote.


  179. @David B Benson, just off the top of my head, you could invite the anti crowd to peruse the latest post at Robert Rapier’s blog ( This contained the following startling (to me, anyway) stat, among several others: “Panels degrade anywhere from .5% to 9.5% a year, depending on the manufacturer…”. And the problems multiply with the size of the array, as the article describes.

    Then compare and constrast solar vs nuclear performance with time…


  180. DBB, the age of the plant is somewhat irrelevant when it is the reliability and safety of the existing plant, of whatever age, that is so far above that of competing technologies.

    Two examples:
    Liddell Power Station, NSW, Australia, achieved its best energy sent out results about 30 years after construction. Interesting to note, this same large (2000MW) power station, now 40 years in service, has very recently completed 4 years without lost time injury to any employee.

    That’s 900 person-years without a single full day lost due to injury.

    It’s not the age of the power station which matters most, it is the maintenance and safety culture. If there is one thing which the ESSO-BHP’s explosion and gas fire in Victoria a decade or more taught us, it is that workplace culture trumps corporate wishes when it comes to availability, safety and reliability. The age of the plant/workplace is almost irrelevant, the issue is that it is attitudes of worker and management alike which determine whether risk taking is tolerated and thus what the outcomes will be.

    These attitudes, at best, are deeply held and culturally founded.


  181. David B. Benson, on 14 September 2011 at 2:22 PM said:

    “Aging nuclear power plants”

    Aging is a word we use to wear or degradation of some mechanical property of an item.

    Some of aging varies depending on how something is operated.

    As an example I get 40K miles on a set of brake shoes, my wife gets 80K miles on a set of brake shoes and my 80 year old mother gets 10K miles on a set of brake shoes.

    Manufacturers of automobiles include ‘service limit’ data,(the point at which the part is no longer capable of performing it’s function) in their technical manuals for most of the parts in an automobile subject to wear/aging.

    Obviously, no one throws away an automobile because the brake pads need replacing. They replace the brake pads because it’s cheaper to replace a part that has ‘aged’ then it is to replace the whole car.

    Nuclear power plant manufacturers also publish service limit data in their technical manuals.

    Some nuclear power plants never reached their initially estimated ‘design lifetimes’. Some part of the reactor reached it’s ‘service limit’ and the operator opted to close the plant rather then replace the necessary parts.
    Most notably Zion and Millstone 1.

    Millstone 1 was shut down after only 25 years when it had an initially estimated design lifetime of 40 years.

    Other reactors, most notable Calder Hall 1 and 2 in the UK have lived well beyond their initially estimated design lifetimes. Calder Hall 1 and 2 had initially estimated design lifetimes of 25 years but ran for 47 years.

    The decision to repair or close is dependent on the the cost of repair and the likelihood that other major parts will need replacement.

    DOE has a relatively informative primer on ‘reason for closures’ here –


  182. BBC Horizon just had a good 1hr documentary on Fukishima: Is nuclear power safe? Presented by Prof Jim Al-Khalili. Was precisely the kind of information you can find on this blog. I hope the ABC will purchase this program and show it in Australia as this is what we need to help enlighten debate in Australia; The seperation of fact from fiction and a clear explanation of the history of nuclear power.
    Thank you Sean, for the information. Do you have a link direct to the documentary?


  183. @“Aging nuclear power plants”

    It is one thing to say that a 100-year-old NPP is functioning as well as the day it was designed. The statement glosses over the fact that the society in which it is embedded will certainly have evolved across those hundred years.

    The void-positive RMBK reactors at you-know-where required operators that were fearful of Stalinist discipline. Perestroika, and the freshly-experimenting society, was just not part of the design.

    Perhaps we should be designing plant which has a similar design life to the industrial equipment that consumes its power. Then we would have increased confidence that its timescale matched that of the values of a society shaped by its means of production.


  184. Thanks for the thoughtful comments on “Aging nuclear power plants”. I think I’ll try “NPPs, like wine, improve with age.” If then curosity is aroused, I’ll mention that additional operator experience has demonstrably improved reliabity. And continue if the correspondent is so inclined.


  185. I have a new paper out in Nature today:

    Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity
    Human-driven land-use changes increasingly threaten biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests where both species diversity and human pressures on natural environments are high. The rapid conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, timber production and other uses has generated vast, human-dominated landscapes with potentially dire consequences for tropical biodiversity. Today, few truly undisturbed tropical forests exist, whereas those degraded by repeated logging and fires, as well as secondary and plantation forests, are rapidly expanding. Here we provide a global assessment of the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests using a meta-analysis of 138 studies. We analysed 2,220 pairwise comparisons of biodiversity values in primary forests (with little or no human disturbance) and disturbed forests. We found that biodiversity values were substantially lower in degraded forests, but that this varied considerably by geographic region, taxonomic group, ecological metric and disturbance type. Even after partly accounting for confounding colonization and succession effects due to the composition of surrounding habitats, isolation and time since disturbance, we find that most forms of forest degradation have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on tropical biodiversity. Our results clearly indicate that when it comes to maintaining tropical biodiversity, there is no substitute for primary forests.

    Corey has written more about it here:


  186. Nice try, Sean. Unfortunately, BBC’s iPlayer is limited to locals only.

    The message is “Currently BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only, but all BBC iPlayer Radio programmes are available to you.”

    I suppose that I could go via a UK proxy site but I am not sufficiently cluey to do so.


  187. Barry,

    Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity

    This has been the underlying presumption of the conservation movements for many decades. It was the motivation behind, for instance, the rainforest battles in the eighties, the drive to preserve “old-growth forests” (or primary forests as you call them), the idea that was asserted against promises from the logging and mining industries (inter alia) promises to replant and remediate sites, and against superficially trivial intrusions like road building and partitioning, and against the very high value placed on true undisturbed remnants of primordial forest. Its the operating assumption behind the idea that “wilderness” is a concept that is more than aesthetic.

    I’ll email you for a copy of the paper.


  188. I tweeted a link to Barry about what is about to occur in WA;

    Deliberately burning 660,000ha of grass. I wondered if there is anyway to calculate the net GHG impact of such a decision?

    Surely there are better ways to protect transport links than burning such an area? In a grass fire, are the railway lines going to melt, and surely the cutbacks need to be bigger if they’re worried anyway.


  189. The railway lines won’t melt. The primary goal is to reduce the risk of uncontrollable grass fires over an even greater area than 660,000 Ha or posing a hazard to life and/or property.

    These wild fires can start from sparks from steel wheel on steel rail, so some degree of hazard reduction is probably appropriate.

    There is a possible small additional benefit – a fire on a very hot day might increase the probability of rails expanding and buckling due to thermal expansion.

    660,000 Ha seems to be quite excessive, though. If the length of rail corridor to be burned is 250km (the press release is ambiguous), then the average width of burn is more than 25km, which appears to be mightily excessive to this active firefighter of 20+ years.

    There must be more to this story than meets the eye.


  190. Starting from the sLCOE formula in
    an equation linear in the capacity factor of either solar or wind can be derived which settles whether or not it is economic to replace thermal generation (for simplicity just NPPs) by the variable (solar or wind) component when the latter is available.

    I’ve already worked out one example of NPPs + wind to conclude that not building the wind farms is the most economic choice (under reasonable assumptions but which favored wind). But with this formula I’ll be able to determine just how inexpensive wind & solar have to become to be competative (without subsidies) on the utility scale.


  191. That was easier than I first thought. For a variable source such as wind or solar with a sustained capacity factor of 25% and for reasonable (biased high) assumptions for the NPP costs, the variable component must have an sLCOE of less than US$0.02/kWh to be economic.

    Any predictions of when that will happen?


  192. Electricity price drivers? Transmission in WA with our “Western Power” requesting a surprise $8.5b over 5 years for expansion and the first stages of replacement of the aging customer distribution poles.

    There are no Government owned renewable energy projects in WA (they’re all commercial operations) who have a contracted supply price. Use/provision of renewable energy is not driving our price rises.


  193. A link to Barry’s paper can found via the BBC website
    I’ve had cause to ponder the subject of forest regrowth and biodiversity a few times. I now believe that some old growth forests that haven’t had a hot fire or bulldozers for a century or so becomes devoid of cute critters. That is because closely spaced fallen tree trunks, so called ‘horizontal scrub’ and tangled thickets of debris don’t suit many birds, reptiles and mammals. Example the iconic lyrebird needs a cleared or recently burned out area to do its dance routine. Therefore I think a forest disturbance can sometimes help cute critters even though soil carbon per unit area is reduced.


  194. “there are no government owned renewable energy projects in WA”

    Sure, there are also almost no government owned PV installations in Germany. 100,000,000,000 in subsidies plus market distorting legal obligations make it work. This does not make them cheap. Quite the contrary.


  195. @ Cyril R

    I think the Australian readers will understand what I meant. In most states of Australia, until quite recently the energy utility companies were owner and operated by the Government.

    In Western Australia, the State Government is still the owner of the majority of generation and all of the distribution network.


  196. Harry on 10 Sept.

    And not very long ago there was a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and the shrimp industry there had been destroyed ‘for at least a generation’.

    When was there a “moratorium on drilling”. Reference please.

    And when was the shrimp industry destroyed? Reference please.

    And when did it resume? Reference please.

    And how did any of these events – if they actually happened, as will be proved by your references if you can come up with them – relate to your imputation (not stated but there) that they are related to the recent oil well leak?
    BJ – please note that, although always compelling and useful to any argument, references are not mandatory on the BNC Open Threads where commenting rules are more relaxed.


  197. Zvyozdochka, it must be that I’m not Australian, but what are you trying to prove here? If your suggestion is that wind and solar are affordable then you have failed miserably. They are expensive as proven here on this thread and many others on BNC and elsewhere. It is because wind and solar are not widely used in Australia that we don’t see a big impact on electricity costs. Wind and solar are a total failure. Most just don’t realise it yet.


  198. It seems that in some locations in the USA one can pay some operator to install and maintaint rooftop solar PV. The monthly fee is less than the savings in the electric utility bill, so the operator and the homeowner are both happy.

    My studies of actual costs suggest than this business model cannot work unless the electric utility rates are exceptionally high. Is there a gimmick (i.e., tax-payers $$)?


  199. Z:
    I don’t understand your logic. The reference you cited, at Table 2 “Volume weighted wholesale market prices…” shows that the value of wind power was severely reduced because wind, region-wide, tends either to flood the market or be absent. It isn’t there when the best prices are on offer. Another way of looking at this effect is to say that the failure of wind to produce when needed results in higher average prices for the othe 80% of the electricity.

    Thus, consumers are penalised through the meter because of wind, which m akes up about 20% of the total. The tail has wagged the dog.

    For 2010/11 ($/MWh):
    Wind annual: 22.8
    Wind summer: 29.8
    Thermal (Oil and coal) annual: 50.8
    Market summer: 91.7

    The true value of wind power in SA stands for all to see. It is a second-rate product and is worth only a second-rate price, well under the prices for thermal power.

    Ignoring the additional costs of capital tied up and of the additional transmission route lengths and capacities necessitated by wind, at these prices it is obvious that South Australians are paying much more for their power because of the wind component. They are built now, so they will remain in service, however each additional unit added will accentuate the price disparity noted above, which is apparent from your own cited reference! More wind => lower prices off peak but much higher peak prices => higher average prices => higher average wholesale energy costs.

    Have you an example in the NEM where wind power has resulted in lower average energy prices?

    Peter Lang, on 13 September 2011 at 8:34 AM, provided us with some LCOE prices which demonstrate that wind costs much more than CCGT and even OCGT.

    How wind proponents build a business model based on high input costs and lower unit returns from the market is beyond my comprehension. It is clear that the legislated support via mandatory renewable energy targets are what substitutes for a business plan – a legislated monopoly, if you like.

    The price to consumers is both hidden and huge – hundreds of dollars per household per year, plus similar for industrial and commercial customers. Real economic damage is being done to our society by the market distortions which keep wind and solar power in business.

    The question is: “When will we wake up and do do something to stop this waste?”


  200. @Zvyozdochka, I left out the bit pointing out that Germany is now also importing wodges of brown coal-generated electricity from Poland as well. As for Merkel’s plan, she’s already said it’s likely to include 20 GW of new fossil generators. The upshot is that unless Germany reverses direction on nuclear very soon, they will trash either their economy or their emissions targets, and quite possibly both.


  201. @ John Bennetts

    “Real economic damage is being done to our society by the market distortions which keep wind and solar power in business.”

    If there was no other issue than cost to do so, one might power the nation with CCGT; it’s cheaper than wind, solar, coal and nuclear.

    Instead we are paying to avoid carbon emissions with the tools we have available both technically and (importantly) politically. Further, the SA wind example appears to be at odds with the Inhaber claims and succeeding in carbon abatement.

    I propose “Inhaber Syndrome” as the failure in analysis of complex systems.

    Meanwhile, the costs of refurbishing a parlous customer distribution network are the driver of electricity prices in many states (especially WA now).



    I wanted to cross the Brazilian jungle and this question was posed: What is the risk from dinosaurs when making such a crossing? I personally have an opinion that the risk is zero, and this opinion was reinforced by discussions with paleontologists. However I wanted to be conservative so I did two things. I reviewed all the literature and find that the paleontologists want to be conservative so they will only say the odds are a million to one against.

    The members of my expedition feel that risk is too high. To obtain more information I send out low flying planes and scouts on foot. They return with stories from natives about strange beasts being seen—but always by others. Is it safe to proceed? I cannot convince my members to accept the risk so the decision is made to go around by ship.

    (Editors note: The above letter was found in the effects of the expedition leader who died in a storm at sea, along with all members of his expedition)


  203. @Zvyozdochka,
    If this discussion was about maintenance and upgrading of existing transmission and distribution systems, we could include WA’s problems in this area.

    However, let’s stay focussed on the market price of power generated by wind wrt other options.

    I am continually frustrated by arguments which favour uneconomic options on the basis that the better options are ruled out politically. This is just an excuse for not seeking to ensure that politicians adopt rational platforms. Worse than that: uncritical acceptance of political distortions actively condones and supports irrational attitudes amongst politicians.

    My opinions are not determined by others’ impressions of political whims and fancies.
    I have used data from your example in the thread “CO2 avoidance cost with wind energy” to demonstrate that wind uneconomic in this thread also.

    Whether CCGT is desirable as an alternative to the high carbon routes of black and brown coal is debatable. It may turn out to be merely decelerating the velocity at which we approach the top of the cliff, when what is needed is reversal.

    A further quote, from the footnote to Table 2 of the reference which you provided:

    Click to access findings.pdf

    “The lower price received by renewable generation is partly due to the significant portion of time where all the wind
    farms experience similar conditions, which tends to depress the South Australian regional price at those times. The
    relative gap between the volume-weighted earnings price received by thermal and renewable generation reflects
    the higher price received by thermal generators during periods when wind output is lower.”

    This clearly indicates what AEMO thinks of wind generation’s role in the NEM.


  204. I redid my analysis of the breakeven point for wind assuming a 20 GW grid with 3 GW of NPPs in reserve+replenishment. It is economic to add 1 GW from wind, i.e., 4 GW [nameplate] of 25% wind provided the wind farms’ LCOE is less that US$0.031.

    Not likely to ever happen; build modern NPPs (which are cyclable) instead.


  205. Invited guests weigh in on Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project – September 16, 2011

    Here was my contribution:
    Barry W. Brook, director of climate science, Environment Institute, University of Adelaide, Australia

    Overall, I don’t think this initiative will do much good. For one thing, Al Gore is now as much a hinderance as a help on climate change advocacy, as he’s been characterized (probably unfairly) as a highly partisan figure, and so immediately gets about half of all folks offside. Second, there has been a campaign to paint him as a primarily self-interested advocate (trying to promote renewable energy etc.) rather than an unbiased observer.

    My personal opinion is that he was an easy target for politicization of the science, and so can’t really be blamed any more than any other high-profile political figure could be for talking out on this issue. But my gut feeling is that he’s now in the situation that a certain X-wing fighter pilot was during the assault on the Death Star, when Luke Skywalker called out over the intercom: “Pull out Wedge, you can’t do any more good back there!”.

    I think the climate change debate is over. It’s like a snow mobile slipping on slush — it isn’t moving forward any time soon. The problem we face is instead getting a sensible public dialogue on energy futures. Something inspiring, something to offer real hope. The key is to get all our options on the table, and focus on treating the cause (fossil fuels) rather than the consequence (global warming). Advocates should be calling for (for example) a multi-lateral demonstration of the 10 most promising non-fossil technologies, ideally replicated across a few countries, embedded in full technology sharing agreements. This might include a few different variants of next generation nuclear power, solar thermal, enhanced geothermal, carbon-capture and storage. Set up an IMF equivalent to fund and run it. Keep it as technology neutral as possible (provided the technologies meet certain fit-for-service criteria), but invest to build and demonstrate directly, rather than appealing to indirect market mechanisms.

    Before we can shoot the bulls eyes, we need to build the targets. Let’s, as an international and globalized community, do that now. There’s still time and hope.


  206. AEMO disagrees with Windlab Systems. Regulator Vs partisan. No surprise there.

    Windlab makes astounding conclusions from irrelevant or no data, eg:

    “AEMO’s data indicates that net electricity flows between SA and VIC has reduced by 47% in the last 5 years. Thus the peaking capacity has not been imported from Victoria.”

    (Emphasis added.)

    Annual energy flows between states have declined: so what? If annual flows had stayed constant or even increased would also say precisely nothing about flows during peaks in energy demand and whether those peaks are met by wind or otherwise. The comment by AEMO at the foot of the table, which I quoted above, indicates that Windlab’s conclusion is not supported by AEMO.

    The Windlab author would have access to peak demand data. That Windlab base their conclusion on irrelevant data leaves me wondering why the authors avoided presenting data presenting peak hour energy flows. There must be a reason.

    This is called, in some circles, Greenwashing. In others, Spin. It certainly is not irrefutable logic, despite being dressed up in engineering-speak.

    I’m sticking with AEMO’s interpretation of the role of wind in the SA wholesale market.


  207. @ John Bennetts

    “… arguments which favour uneconomic options on the basis that the better options are ruled out politically …. My opinions are not determined by others’ impressions of political whims and fancies.”

    That is to say that you prefer paralysis over action?

    “I’m sticking with AEMO’s interpretation of the role of wind in the SA wholesale market.”

    That wind operators got paid less and the thermal generators got paid a bit more when the wind was not blowing? Is this supposed to be startling?

    Prices were lower than the year before, possibly a 5-year low. More peaking plant was added to cover the higher peaks but ultimately operated less often (hence the higher prices). In the meantime for 20% wind contribution South Australian’s got ~20% CO2 emission reduction from generation inclusive of demand growth, fewer imports and intend to proceed to 33% wind contribution*.

    I’m sorry, but I am totally at a loss as to what you are complaining about.

    * with the Heywood interconnector upgrade required.


  208. Barry, @ 16 September 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I think the climate change debate is over. It’s like a snow mobile slipping on slush — it isn’t moving forward any time soon. The problem we face is instead getting a sensible public dialogue on energy futures. Something inspiring, something to offer real hope.

    Good point.

    I understand BNC policy is to focus on solutions. I presume that means practicable solutions that can work.

    So why isn’t the majority of the posts and discussion on BNC about the most important policy issue confronting Australia now – the carbon tax legislation?

    Step 1 should be very clear. Come out strongly and clearly against the carbon tax legislation. It is very bad policy. Advocate the alternative. Argue the case simply and clearly. The cost: $120 billion over 30 years, of which about $20 billion would be from the taxpayer (far less than we are paying for the NBN).

    Do we really want this:


  209. @harrywr2 We should question whether Moriguchi really is a “expert” if he asserts that soil from areas of one µSv/h (8.7 mSv/a) “must be removed”. One might also wonder if there is an army of opportunists with front-end loaders in the background, with their eyes on 160 billion yen in the pockets of a frightened public.

    If he really does push such targets on an “Environment Ministry Panel”, we might also worry that the departments of Japan’s government are being distracted by trivia.


  210. John Bennetts, on 16 September 2011 at 3:41 PM
    Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 16 September 2011 at 6:49 PM.
    It seems that two things have been happening in the SA electricity market; (1) peak demand has been rising rapidly-this is being supplied by local coal and NG and sometimes by wind and the balance from imports(a mix of coal, NG and hydro) (2) overall yearly imports of GWh has declined and replaced by mainly wind. Since peak prices are much higher than non-peak prices we should expect that overall prices would have increased, but they have been stable at about $45/MWh. I conclude that wind power has both lowered CO2 emissions and kept prices from rising as much as they would have in the absence of 1000MW of wind capacity.

    Click to access findings.pdf


  211. David B. Benson, interesting analysis. Did you take into account that almost all of the O&M for nuclear are fixed, not variable? In fact, even fuel costs are mostly fixed, not variable costs as with say a natural gas turbine. This is because cycling the reactor involves either the use of control rods (gray rods, in PWRs and PHWRs) or varying flow rates that cause less efficient burn throughout the length of the fuel (recirc pumps, in BWRs). The resulting fuel savings from lower output are far from proportional. Though if you had a MSR or IFR with fuel recycle then this would not be the case.


  212. More evidence that failing to go with the nuclear energy option results in more use of coal. This time, in South Africa:

    “Nuclear dithering makes third coal plant inevitable”

    I also note that this article states that 62 % of the French now want a progressive halt on nuclear power, while 15 % want an immediate halt (they don’t state the source of the poll, though).

    I’m sure future generations are going to consider the current nuclear mass-hysteria, and abject failure in risk management, to be the Salem Witch Trials of the 21st century.


  213. Thanks for the link Tom, and I agree with your prediction. Of course, the reality for France is little different to that for Germany or Japan — what other choice have they got? There was a reason the French chose to build nuclear from the 1970s, and those reasons haven’t gone away — indeed, they’ve amplified. What would the French use, if they started backing out of nuclear?


  214. @Roger Clifton:

    We should question whether Moriguchi really is a “expert” if he asserts that soil from areas of one µSv/h (8.7 mSv/a) “must be removed”

    I’m pretty sure Moriguchi qualified his statements by saying ‘without regard to land use’.

    Here is a link to an expert on cleanup from the US Hanford Nuclear Reservation –

    He also cites an ‘ideal’ of less then 1 microsivert/hr.

    He thinks mitigating the woodlands would be problematic…I.E. you would have to cut down the trees to ‘save the forest’.

    So if I use Marguchi’s number of 60%-70% woodlands that probably won’t be mitigated, or won’t be mitigated as a matter of ‘urgency’, the short term mitigation area drops to 600-800 km2.

    I don’t know enough about radiation health to comment, but at least Mariguchi is quantifying the scope. I.E. If 1 microsievert/hr is the desired standard then this is how large the area is.

    This Reuters article from a few weeks ago estimated the area needing to be cleaned up at between 1,000 and 4,000 km2 and implied a cleanup standard of 20 millisieverts per year or if I do the math 2.5 microsieverts/hr.


  215. Cyril R, on 17 September 2011 at 5:32 PM — Thank you. Yes, I used the fixed O&M rate suggested as average for NPPs in
    For the consumables, I used a variable O&M rate of US$0.02/kWh and didn’t bother with the nonlinearities of consumption when the NPP is cycling.

    I’m certainly open to suggestions as to how to more accurately treat the cost of consumables. (Note that the US$0.02/kWh includes the so-called spent fuel maintenance charges.)


  216. The consumables – variable O&M and fuel – are essentially zero for a NPP. You need to do your scheduled maintenance on pumps, steam generators etc every once so often, and it doesn’t help if you are cycling your equipment, so you may well end up with higher variable O&M. In any case it will be tiny, as fixed O&M dominates. Fuel may appear to be variable but it actually isn’t much, you need to put in new fuel every 12-24 months depending on design rather than how much you load follow the nuclear fuel. Load following for a PWR just means absorbing neutrons from your fuel, so you have less power but you use more uranium per kWh to make up for the absorbed neutron losses. The turbine is also less efficient at <75% output. So oddly enough, fuel, and everything that comes with it (enrichment, fuel fabrication and spent fuel storage) is mostly a fixed cost rather than being mostly variable.

    We're probably looking at roughly 1.5 cents/kWh fixed O&M and fuel and less than 0.5 cents/kWh that is really variable (ie what you save by throttling down). In pure economics, the solar panels or wind turbines would have to sell for under 0.5 cents/kWh ($0.005/kWh) for the nuclear plant to force output down. It ain't gonna happen. We won't have a solar-nuclear grid. Solar is a chronical subsidy patient. There are two scenarios. It is a bit of solar, lots of fossil and a lot of subsidies, or its nuclear, little fossil and very little subsidies.

    Solar might be useful in off-grid, possibly also in airconditioning standalone units (make ice when its sunny).


  217. Cyril R., on 18 September 2011 at 8:45 AM — Interesting. That’s US$132/kW-yr for fixed O&M and US$0.005/kW for variable O&M with 0 “fuel” cost in

    Assuming a 30 year 10.8% loan and overnight capital cost of US$4680/kW with CF=92% the sLCOE is US$0.087.
    Further assuming a one unit reserve, so 23 GW of nameplate generation to power a 20 GW constant load the CF drops to 87% for an LCOE of US$0.092. Adding 1 GW nameplate wind is economic if the wind has an sLCOE of less than US$0.016/kWh.


  218. As Barry says in his Twitter update: “Pragmatic but gloomy – Climate change: who cares any more?”

    I have my reasons to explain why this has occurred (many will not agree with me, but these are what I see as the reasons). They are:

    [Deleted – all numbered points were either contrary to the BNC commenting rules, or irrelevant to the purpose of this blog and hence not even suitable for an Open Thread comment]


  219. Peter Lang, very good, I will add to your list, an irrational love towards solutions that don’t actually work, in particular wind and solar, combined with an irrational fear of solutions that do actually work, particularly nuclear and hydroelectric.

    Wind and solar as CO2 mitigators are going to be big disappointments to everyone in retrospect. So I think this will cause major defeatism that will further lead to less people caring about climate change.


  220. Could we please be spared a repetition of the slanging match of 10 weeks back on a previous thread?

    Accusation and counter accusation have been done to death regarding the subject of carbon tax and regarding perceptions of others’ political biases.

    I, for one, would prefer to accept that anthropogenic climate change has been demonstrated to be following, with increasing detail, the trends modelled during the past couple of decades.

    With that as a given, the issue of what and how and how much our responses could be is OK, but more point by point interpersonal confrontation will get us nowhere.

    In particular, Point 7 above has a whiff of pot-kettle-black about it.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9 are essentially addressing issues emotional rather than substantial.

    That leaves Point 5 for someone else.


  221. Yes, things look gloomy for the environment. If I may outline the impasse, the left understands the problem but doesn’t understand the economic and technological solutions very well; the right understands the solutions but doesn’t much believe in the problem.

    But if we can just find a little common ground, solving the impasse may be child’s play.


  222. @Mark Duffett,

    Siemens abandoning nuclear power

    Without a ‘home country’ certification nuclear parts are hard to sell.

    I.E. On a Westinghouse AP1000 the Chinese regulators just have to ‘double check’ the work done by the US NRC rather then start from scratch which is more costly and time consuming.

    At the moment Siemens has no domestic reason to seek certification by German Authorities. Even if they did others might question whether the German Authorities were vigorous in there certification reviews as the components aren’t going to be used in Germany.


  223. The Germans say they will get from 17% renewable energy in 2011 (much of it being 20th century hydro) to 35% by 2020. After the revelation by KF Lenz that some of that ‘renewable’ energy is coal bed methane which is paid a feed in tariff I think this will need to be thoroughly checked.

    In addition to the Siemens nuclear stoppage the BBC website also has a story of pollution from solar panel manufacturing in China
    It seems the ‘miracle’ of cheap PV involves billowing smoke and fish kills down river from the plant.


  224. The Guardian has an interesting piece on one of the challenges for off-shore wind in the UK – seasickness. It seems that in the further off shore locations, the weather is so bad that the turbines are inaccessible for maintenance for 155 days per year. Maintenance workers simply can’t do their job because they are too ill from seasickness.

    A nuclear power plant must surely be both a safer and more pleasant working environment.


  225. @ Quokka:
    If waves of 5 metres are so common around British off-shore wind turbines, why not devise a wave riding generator to work in tandem with the wind turbine’s structure? Done imaginatively, it may solve half of the problem by providing a semi-stable landing point.

    On the topic of industrial safety, more and more stories are emerging about the risks involved in manufacture, erection and maintenance of wind and solar. As I have said here before, a 2000MW power station that I used to work at has very recently completed four years lost time incident free – about 1000 man-years without a single day lost due to workplace injury or illness.

    It appears that offshore wind will never come close to this result.

    The sheer scale of operations required to harvest low intensity energy such as solar and wind tends to compromise safety. Perhaps, in the case of offshore turbines, robots may provide at least part of the answer.

    I’d be interested to read analysis from the perspective of a safety professional with a reasonable grasp of the statistics applicable to all forms of electricity production. Any suggestions as to where I might find it?


  226. @Huon

    On some level you are correct about the left/right dichotomy, but it’s not really that simple. Take for example this letter from Friends of the Earth to the Guardian:

    It rails at the big nasty energy companies in the UK that are “ripping off consumers”. A genuinely left or socialist response would be to call for some form of public or collective ownership of energy production or at the very least tougher regulation.

    But instead they go for a “techno fix” of calling for more feed-in tariffs. In other words a state subsidy for the more well heeled who are fortunate enough to be in a position to take advantage of whats on offer. This sounds neither left or socialist to me. Essentially it individualizes what is a collective problem – and if ever there was a collective problem, it is the damage being done to the environment.

    All this is about as sensible as imploring the population to grow their own vegetables to avoid being “ripped off” by the greedy supermarkets – with state subsidy, of course. And about as likely to succeed in a world of ever increasing urbanization and higher housing density where the mean capacity and opportunity to be “self sufficient” in just about anything is ever decreasing – energy included. We are in fact ever more dependent on the “collective” – regardless of economic system.

    Some portions of the nominal left have simply lost the plot and now fall well outside the socialist tradition.


  227. @John Newlands

    There were only about 1200 GWh from coal bed methane paid by the feed-in tariff in 2009, which is only about 1.5 percent of all renewable, and that percentage is sinking, both because wind and solar are expanding and coal bed methane is shrinking. Table on page 12, look for “Grubengas”.

    All renewable energy has already passed 20 percent in 2011.


  228. KFL roger that. I still think we need to verify claims by any country or province of non-hydro renewables exceeding 20% as it seems to get a lot harder from that point onwards.

    Elsewhere I see India is buying coal mines, railroads and loading ports in Australia
    I keep thinking of that line favoured by characters played by John Cleese ‘what’s the bleeding point?’. As in Australia having a domestic carbon tax that is.


  229. A recent episode of the BBC’s famous Horizon science series, presented by British nuclear physicist and science communicator Jim Al-Khalili, took a look at the Fukushima incident and concerns about the safety of nuclear energy.

    Somebody has taken the entire episode and put it up on YouTube, which is nice.

    I think the show is pretty good, but some anti-nuclear activists have responded hysterically to it.


  230. I’m going to speculate that a possible motivator for Seimens exciting nuclear participation was the realisation that Rosatom has terrible technology (especially compared to what Seimens left behind at Areva).

    Anyway, I’ve heard this said casually over the years from Seimens people I’ve worked with. They were pretty annoyed at the ending of the Areva partnership from their own professional perspective. The Areva partnership problems were mostly to do with the disastrous Finnish NPP for TVO.

    Do the Rosatom offerings have anything going for them compared to Areva/Westinghouse???


  231. I don’t agree that the finnish NPP, the new Olkiluoto unit, is a disaster. It’s a big succes. Sure it took years longer and the project is over budget, but still very much affordable electricity. 1600 MWe of clean power coming online over the next 1-2 years (depending on how much more delays are coming).

    I’ll gladly take 10 Olkiluoto’s for my country. It would mean 90% nuclear power for us, at far lower cost than any other low carbon option, even if they are all over budget as horribly as Olkiluoto is. (no, natural gas is *not* low carbon). 10×6 billion euros is only 60 billion euros. No other low carbon option is available for 90% of power supply at that price.


  232. David Benson:
    If lots of PV means less peaking gas, then, yes. If it means you have to throttle down your coal-fired generators during the day, then I think that the answer is still probably yes, though I don’t recall seeing any figures for efficiency loss in throttling coal-fired thermal. But if there’s a drop in fuel consumption *at all*, then the PV has saved some emissions.

    Whether it’s worth the cost, however, is a different question entirely. PV for supplying peak (or near peak) load is cost-effective in monetary terms, because of the high wholesale prices during that period. But $$ per tonne CO2e? Perhaps not so good…

    Personally, I agree with Cyril R – nuclear is one of the best options for plentiful emission reductions at a lower LCOE than even some coal.

    BTW, I think solar thermal is a better option than PV, because just a few hours of storage is sufficient to push the generation right through to the end of peak demand in the evening. You still need backup or overbuild to cater for those cloudy days, though. And it’s not as cost-effective at this time as PV, because of the crash in PV prices and the fact that solar thermal is still a relatively undeveloped technology.


  233. Bern, on 19 September 2011 at 7:54 PM — Thank you. I prefer to work with a hypothetical grid, but one which approximates actual load curves. Assume a 20 GW baseload (24/7, 52 weeks per year) and on top of that an 8 GW day load. For simplicity the day load switches on at 6 am and switches off 17 hours later, at 11 pm. This is a good (enough) approximation to the BPA balancing authority non-export load.

    I previously worked out upthread that using NPPs similar to the Atmea1, 1 GW units, 23 NPPs are required to produce for the base load. Assuming a slightly higher maximum CF per NPP than seems comfortable, 31 NPPs could meet the total load. The levelized cost is

    (7/24)x0.123 + (17/24)x0.089 = US$0.099/kWh.

    Now suppose that 1 GW of dayload is supplied by a combination of solar PV, solar thermal and biomass fired thermal for backup on cloudy days. So we build one fewer NPP and the leelized cost of power from the 30 NPP fleet becomes

    (7/24)x0.119 + (17/24)x0.086 = US$0.096/kWh.

    For the solar option to be cost effective, the 1 GW combination has to bring the average cost of all generation up to no more than US$0.099/kWh. So the breakeven point is the solution to

    (27/28)x0.086 + (1/28)xX = 0.099,

    an astounding X = US$0.450/kWh! [So we might do better to build even more of the dayload generation via the solar option. That’s an exercise for another time.]


  234. A nicely even-handed overview of medium term energy possibilities has appeared at The Conversation: Stepping stones: the slippery path to a clean energy future, by Roger Dargaville.

    Though optimistically expecting a reduction in baseload requirements, and talking up coal-to-gas as a ‘transition fuel’, at least it doesn’t dismiss nuclear out of hand. Good to know there’s more to the Energy Research Institute at the University of Melbourne than Beyond Zero Emissions.


  235. Bern:
    Solar thermal also means peaking gas, even with your couple of hours of thermal storage. Otherwise, the morning peak goes unsupplied, because power is not available from a coolish start for about 4 hours after dawn – say 10am.

    In the winter, the start will be later than 10am and the morning peak greater, so solar thermal is problemmatic. Similarly, in winter, PV at high latitudes such as Germany, becomes virtually useless also at 1% capacity factor or thereabouts.

    Any combination of ST and PV must account for winter loads or a 100% backup using OCGT and CCGT. Rely on wind at your peril, regardless of the season.

    IMHO, without about 24 hours’ storage operating at say 50% of nameplate rating, ST will be part of the problem at least as much as it is part of the solution. Even then, plans need to provide for a string of day after day of overcast or rainy weather, perhaps combined with low wind speeds. This rules out combinations of wind and solar as the backbone of any acceptable power supply.

    But, you might say, I have not allowed for hydro, pumped hydro and batteries. I will allow for them when I see the cost of them appearing in the economic justifications for PV, ST and wind, proponents of which typically seek a free ride based on assumptions that reliability and availability are OPP – Other People’s Problems. They are not.


  236. Using the hypothetical grid from my just prior post, if there were a way to store the generated heat until necessary to make electricity, the diurnal average is

    (7/24)x20 + (a7/24)x28 = 25.67 GW

    so 29 NPPs suffice, running full out @ CF=(26/29)=90% for an SLCOE of US$0.094 + the cost of storage and the extra 2.33 GW of steam turbines and generators.


  237. Fortuantely associated with the NREL sLCOE calcualtor are various figures from which one can calculate that the SLCOE for the last 2.33 GW is but US$0.020/kWh. So assuming something akin to molten salt storage is possible for the heat from the NPPs for, say, US$0.005/kWh, then it seems impossible to beat an average sLCOE of

    25.67×0.094 + 2.33×0.025 = US$0.088/kWh.


  238. I’ve looked into the cost of a molten nitrate storage system (NaNO3-KNO3 eutectic) for a high temp nuclear powerplant. It would be used for daily peaking, about 8 full load hours per day, so 1/3 capacity factor, but it won’t be used much in winter or in summer depending on your grid type (hot or cold climate) because of seasonal load variations. Especially with heat pumps providing space heating. So the yearly capacity factor would be slightly over 20%. I’ve assumed 2000 full load hours, with a thermal storage system cost of $20/kWh thermal. It may be possible to make them cheaper with thermocline storage and cheaper salts, but lets use $20/kWh thermal for now. If the lifetime of the storage system is 40 years, the efficiency of the turbine is 40%, then the cost of the thermal storage system is $50/kWh electrical. If we use a capital recovery factor of 0.11, we get a levelised capital cost of only 0.2 cent per kWh. Including maintenance and salt replacement brings us to around half a cent per kWh. That’s pretty good for a peaker plant; the nuclear plant can keep producing heat so that’s ‘free’ compared to throttling the nuclear plant that would reduce capacity factor of the nuclear reactor. Of course we still need the peaker steam or gas turbine, itself, which pushes our total levelised cost up to around 1 cent per kWh. I don’t think a natural gas peaker could deliver for that, even with ultra cheap natural gas and no carbon tax!

    For further information about this, and links to molten nitrate salt storage documents, see this discussion:


  239. (Comment deleted)
    BNC Comments Policy prohibits the posting of links to files/refs etc where the commenter has made no attempt to read, digest and critique the document. It is lazy to expect others to wade through a PDF of nearly 200 pages unless you can demonstrate the reasons why it would be worthwhile. You failed to do so. PLease re-submit with your analysis.


  240. @ Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 20 September 2011 at 10:50 AM:

    I cannot agree with the assumption that NPP’s must be backed up by GT’s in similar manner to the need to do so for wind and solar.

    The difference is stark.

    NPP’s are able to follow load, within reason. Loads are already shiftable, also within reason – eg commercially negotiated load reductions from aluminium smelters and other large loads.

    NPP’s are reliable, predictable and don’t take holidays just because the sun has set or it is raining or a big fat lazy high pressure zone has settled over an area the size of Europe.

    Sure, there may well be a place for GT’s, at least in the short term, but at far lower scale than for flimsy, unpredictable, unreliable renewables.

    Who knows? Maybe the (smaller) needs of NPP for gas support will be achieved via one of the reluctant performers, low temperature geothermal, pumped saltwater hydro, even batteries. If so, NPP’s will require very much less support in the first place and is thus obviously much better situated to reduce its reliance on GT’s as soon as more appropriate technologies are available.

    If Z’s point is that NPP relies on GT’s and so do renewables, thus making both equivalent at all points, then it fails, due to the relatively much greater proportional task confronting wind and solar, pending revolutionary progress in other technologies – which simply aren’t available yet, at any price.

    Or, perhaps, Z is saying that he really does think that support required by, say, 90% wind+solar is no greater than the support required by 90% NPP.

    He would only be correct on sunny days, between the hours of 11am and sunset, with a favourable wind. David Benson’s many posts of real time system data on this thread and others indicate that this situation is far from common.

    Perhaps Z places a personal value of $zero on reliability and availability. I do not.


  241. Z@z, I have to agree with JB. Continuing to use OCGT in peaking mode in conjunction with a fleet of baseload coal or nuclear, and only running some units a few days a year is qualitatively and quantitatively a completely different proposition to eliminating baseload and using high-fuel use OCGT in continuous load following for non-dispatchable renewables. 75% of Australia’s electricity is currently supplied by baseload. Dispatchable baseload offers much greater opportunity to shift demand to off-peak for say, space or water heating, or possibly EV’s, and reduce the need for peaking plant while providing the community with affordable energy.


  242. @ John Bennetts @ Graham Palmer

    Obviously the system needs a ‘base load like’ plant, which would be CSP w/storage (~CF 70%).

    So my point is, that unless the pro-NPP position is to build NPPs to match the peak, a baseload design will always need peaking equipment. In Australia that means gas.

    In a renewable supply scenario, gas is used to top up to demand and/or backup (probably onsite with the CSP w/storage plant – very cheap to add a massive ‘gas booster’).

    If you’re wanting to start talking about demand management, then obviously a renewable supplied grid could do that to. Actually, WA will be doing a version of this using our new desal plant to “smooth” wind input with dynamic demand management (it will notionally be ‘powered by wind’).


  243. With a nuclear power grid, such as in France, you have 80% nuclear, 10% hydro, you’ll figure out something for the other 10%. So what if it is natural gas. It is only 10%. But there are some solutions that may interest people here.

    Now the thing with a nuclear grid is that you have excess nighttime capacity. If you want 100% nuclear then this is a bit of a problem as you must shut down a bunch of nuclear plants every night or run them at reduced capacity.

    Fortunately there are these things called plugin hybrids and electric vehicles, and most will be charged overnight, slowly to take it easy on our grids. So you’ve got a demand filler for nighttime excess nuclear capacity.

    For example for the Netherlands I’ve calculated that approximately half of the car fleet can be plugin hybrids/EVs nighttime charged with the excess of a theoretical 100% nuclear grid. So that’s pretty good. If you want more cars electrified then build a few more nuclear plants.

    As a final note, I’ll echo what others have stated here: if we electrify industrial uses currently filled in by natural gas and petroleum then that adds mostly baseload to your grid. So baseload dominates even more. So for the forseeable future I don’t think this discussion is going to be a serious issue.


  244. Zvyozdochka, “So my point is, that unless the pro-NPP position is to build NPPs to match the peak…”

    If you want to talk 100% solutions, then that is exactly what I’m proposing, while dealing with most of the personal vehicle emissions problem simulatenously.

    You could not do this with solar since solar is not available when people come home from work and want to charge their electric vehicles.
    And wind is too unreliable. You’d have to burn loads of natural gas every night when its not very windy. Happens a lot.


  245. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 21 September 2011 at 12:17 AM said:

    Obviously the system needs a ‘base load like’ plant, which would be CSP w/storage

    CSP with storage irons out ‘daily peaks’. It doesn’t address seasonal peaks.

    Presumably if an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 is to occur my natural gas central heating system will have to be replaced with a heat pump which will have the effect of shifting when ‘peak’ seasonal electricity consumption occurs.

    In the US Pacific Northwest as with other high latitude locations, peak demand is already winter.

    CSP with storage could be an interesting option in locations with high correlation between sunshine and energy demand.


  246. As a follow up to harrywr2’s point about seasonality, CSP is currently a “summer only” technology (despite marketing claims from promoters) without running the plant almost continuously on natural gas, and cannot reliably use solar to meet winter heating loads. A CSP plant would represent a grossly expensive and inefficient use of natural gas to provide baseload outside of summer.

    According to the IEA CSP roadmap,

    In arid and semi-arid areas suitable for CSP production, sunlight usually exhibits a good match with electricity demand and its peaks, driven by air-conditioning loads. However, the available sunlight varies somewhat even in the sunniest places… In the regions where CSP plants can be installed, peak and intermediate loads are more often driven by air-conditioning than by electric heating demands, corresponding to the optimal daily and seasonal operation periods for CSP plants.

    CSP requires direct sunlight – any cloud cover or mist reduces output to zero.

    Good DNI is usually found in arid and semi-arid areas with reliably clear skies, which typically lay at latitudes from 15° to 40° North or South. Closer to the equator the atmosphere is usually too cloudy and wet in summer, and at higher latitudes the weather is usually too cloudy..On clear days, direct irradiance represents 80% to 90% of the solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface. On a cloudy
    or foggy day, the direct component is essentially zero.

    and in regard to the “threshold problem” outside of summer,

    below a certain threshold of daily direct sunlight, CSP plants have no net production (Figure 1), due to constant heat losses in the solar field.

    Ted Trainer provides a interesting discussion of CSP’s weaknesses in meeting winter demand:

    Although solar thermal systems are likely to be among the most significant renewable energy contributors they are best suited to the hottest regions and it is not clear how effective they can be in winter, even in the most favourable locations…solar thermal developers are not primarily concerned with this question, being mainly interested in maximising summer and annual output, and therefore they tend not to report winter performance. Secondly commercial developers (understandably) rarely make publicly available the key data on performance.


  247. It seems to me that regions which are both populous and year round sunny have some kind of atypical water supply. They require exotic streams (ie distant catchment), groundwater, desalination and water recycling. Examples could be Adelaide SA, Phoenix Arizona and Riyadh Saudi Arabia. If they don’t have oil then solar electricity makes a bit more sense because they can afford to pay for food.

    In most cases it seems population has grown in rainy food bowl areas that don’t suit any form of solar electric energy, example Germany. Thus many green optimists live in cloudy areas but seem to have convinced themselves they are really in semi desert. That includes me with PV in Tasmania despite not seeing blue sky for weeks at a stretch.


  248. Cyril R, on 20 September 2011 at 6:14 PM — Thanks for the infor on a molten salt storage possibility. IS there an alternate available whih could make use of current PWR temperatures? If so, then my 29 NPP scheme for my reference grid will certainly work.


  249. @ Graham Palmer

    The statement about winter DNI is false. It’s easy to check at the correct locations. Try this example;

    For a project we’re working on, we have 5 min DNI over 5 years. Tuning the field size then becomes the question and how “often” the gas booster is likely to run. Again, we’re not doing this analysis in isolation of other daily patterns from other renewable contributors.

    We have the 4 year performance data from Areva for Kimberlina (yes, even in WINTER – shock horror). We’ve used our client’s own wind farm performance data.

    Our results are that you could replace the entire fleet of fossil fuel systems in WA with the right combinations of wind, solar PV, CSP w/storage (obviously the major component) and use ~15% of the fossil fuel (yes, completely backed up).

    So the question then becomes, what fossil fuel use exists in the alternative; NPPs plus peaking?


  250. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 21 September 2011 at 9:34 AM — As I read it, a fleet of units such as the Atmea1 which cycles at 5% per minute, would need essentially no support from peaking units. If some OCGTs are required, run those on biogas. No fossil fuel.


  251. Z@Z

    So the question then becomes, what fossil fuel use exists in the alternative; NPPs plus peaking?

    No. The question is what is the cost of electricity in your option.

    This shows that your proposed option is not achievable; however even using optimistic assumptions about future technology advances, time scales, learning curves and future costs, your proposal would be some ten times the cost of doing the job with nuclear.

    France shows that nuclear provides 75% to 80% of a major industrial socienty’s electricity at near least cost in Europe, is being depended on by most of it s neighbours to supply low cost base load power and has the lowest emisisons from electricity generation of all countries in Europe and all major economies in the world?

    Regarding fossil fuel back up for nuclear, you might like to check on how much France needs.


  252. @ Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 21 September 2011 at 9:34 AM:

    … Our results are that you could replace the entire fleet of fossil fuel systems in WA with the right combinations of wind, solar PV, CSP w/storage (obviously the major component) and use ~15% of the fossil fuel (yes, completely backed up).

    So the question then becomes, what fossil fuel use exists in the alternative; NPPs plus peaking?

    So much for the hypothetical technological possibility.

    There are more than one question remaining.

    The second question is about capital cost for a completely backed up hybrid do-everything-twice-or more system of wind, PV, CSP, thermal storage and GT, presumably OCGT, on the basis of capital cost and at the environmental and operating cost of efficiency.

    The third question relates to carbon emissions during construction and carbon emissions during operation – still admitted to be of the order of 15% of the BAU situation. In a world with an inexorably growing energy demand curve, is even 15% acceptable in the long run, when NPP’s are cheaper and have lower carbon footprint?

    What we have presented here is a complex, capital and resource intensive, perhaps reliable and dispatchable but still carbon-reliant blend which is modelled on the climate of a part of the world which is not representative of the places where population and hence loads are concentrated.

    How much public money is envisaged, in order to get this scheme to the starting gate? How much feed-in tariff? What legislated percentage of green power via REC’s? These are all imposts on the public purse which are totally out of the question for more than half of the world’s population, who cannot afford the luxury of energy, let alone FiT’s, REC’s and the like. The naked price is the only one that matters.


  253. To pull the key quote from the aforelinked piece by Mark Duffet,

    ”Carlson stated flatly that there was no way to get to a workable cap-and-trade system without nuclear energy, a point he had made directly to Prime Minister Rudd,” the cable says.

    John Carlson was for 20 years director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, and retired last year. This advice was given in 2008, presumably during the period of preparation of the CPRS white paper.

    As Mark says, Carlson is to be commended for his frank and fearless advice.


  254. To finish the question I set on this open thread a few days ago, (i) some sort of thermal storage appears practicable for use with PWRs and (ii) the cost of solar PV would have to drop dramatically lower before distributed generation becmes economically able to compete with utility supplied power from NPPs.


  255. @ Peter Lang

    “The question is what is the cost of electricity in your option.”

    No, the question would become, what is the relative cost to your proposed abatement option? We believe, cheaper than NPP and falling with no problems with regards public acceptance.

    “Regarding fossil fuel back up for nuclear, you might like to check on how much France needs.”

    We’re talking about Australia. France is clearly a different animal, with substantial hydro resources and massive interconnectors with neighbours.

    @ John Bennetts

    “do-everything-twice-or more system”

    Not really. The CSP power block’s have to be larger than their field size suggests (which has a peak advantage in summer actually). Gas-firing or storage use is slowed when wind is available. In that respect there is “overlap” of possible generators, but this is already reflected in their LCoEs.

    “GT, presumably OCGT”

    We don’t use any gas turbines in our design. Gas use is fired into the CSP’s thermal storage. We have done some work on modifying existing OCGT units to exhaust into storage as well, should they be required (we don’t think so).

    “The naked price is the only one that matters.”

    In comparison to the available alternatives, yes I agree. Not in isolation.


  256. David B Benson, there is a lower temperature salt that can be used for PWRs. LiNO3-KNO3-NaNO3 eutectic melting around 120 degrees Celcius. With a PWR you can couple this to the steam loop. However HiTec salt is probably cheaper (everyone wants lithium for batteries these days). Here’s information about the HiTec salt:

    Click to access MSR%20-%20HITEC%20Heat%20Transfer%20Salt.pdf

    You can use this at an inlet (low) temp around 200 Celcius, and high temp slightly under the peak steam temperature. 280 Celcius maybe, depends on how hot your PWR runs. THis could operate in parallel to the steam turbine of the PWR: bleed off steam to go to the thermal store in low demand periods, and in high demand periods you use a special peaking turbine that makes steam from the thermal store. The peaker turbine will be less efficient as it uses cooler steam. If it is big enough (like the normal PWR turbine is) you could still get 31-32%.

    The cost is likely similar to this system described here:

    Click to access 21032.pdf

    In table 3. Costs $ 20-30 per kWh.Thermocline storage would be cheaper, but the HiTec costs more, so using 30 per kWh and an efficiency of 0.31 gives a cost around $ 97 per kWh electrical. Which is still only about 0.4 cents per kWh levelised capital costs for the thermal storage system.


  257. Zvyozdochka, “In that respect there is “overlap” of possible generators, but this is already reflected in their LCoEs”

    Nonsense, this is *not* costed into the levelised cost. That’s the whole point. Solar enthusiasts think they can sell all their power, but that’s nonsense in a solar powered grid. In a solar powered grid, most of your energy has to be dumped. Of course we won’t do that – what we’ll do is, we’ll use a little of the expensive solar and a lot of natural gas. Which is the lock-in we’ve been warning for. Make no mistake. Unreliable unproductive energy sources such as solar will not be backed up by other unreliable unproductive energy sources such as wind. If you introduce non-controllable variability in a grid you must have reliable dispatchabe generators to make up for that. In electricity systems, you can never do just one thing.

    CSP is outrageously expensive. Wind is outrageously expensive. All recent projects show this. Considering they are also marginal (eg not there during entire seasons) that makes them more expensive still.


  258. @ Cyril R

    “Unreliable unproductive energy sources such as solar will not be backed up by other unreliable unproductive energy sources such as wind.”

    That’ll be why we aren’t doing that then …..

    “CSP is outrageously expensive.”

    Compared to what alternative? I can’t see how you can make that comment for Australia when there is no costed NPP proposal for this country.


  259. Z@Z

    No, the question would become, what is the relative cost to your proposed abatement option?

    I gave it to you and a reference. Nuclear is in the order of ten times cheaper than your proposal. Did you read the reference.

    You can say “you believe” something, but such a statement has no credibilty if you don’t have authoritative figures to back it up.


  260. Meanwhile, while everyone is flapping their gums, things like this are happening;

    “Brisbane-based power generator ERM Power has gotten the nod from the Western Australian environmental watchdog to build a $500 million power station and gas pipeline at Three Springs in the Mid West.

    ERM chief executive Phillip St Baker said the 330 megawatt, low emission open cycle gas turbine facility was intended to serve growing demand for energy in the emerging iron ore province.”


  261. “Brisbane-based power generator ERM Power has gotten the nod from the Western Australian environmental watchdog to build a $500 million power station and gas pipeline at Three Springs in the Mid West.

    Of course more gas plants are being built in Australia – new coal is now politically contentious and nuclear is still banned. Yet building gas instead of coal makes not one iota of difference when it comes to climate.

    Without nuclear this is what we get.


  262. @Zvyozdochka,

    You wind find the reported LCOE for all major technologies in the IEA 2010 Projected Costs of Generating Electricity:

    Click to access Projected%20Costs%20of%20Electricity.pdf

    Go to Section 3.2 (Page 59) and cast your eye over nuclear, coal, gas and renewables. It quickly becomes clear that nuclear is highly competitive on grounds of cost. If you take the 2010 estimate for the Flamanville EPR that you apparently think is so expensive and add on 25% due to recently announced delays, it’s still cheaper than wind in Europe and far cheaper than solar.

    But if you want to talk really expensive, the Moree PV farm, reported to cost $920 million, with 150 MWe nominal output and 30% capacity factor and scale that up to produce electricity equivalent to an EPR, you would get a capital cost of ~$30 billion. Makes the Flamanville EPR cost look like beer money.


  263. Z@Z,

    You provided a link to the critique of ZCA2020 which talks about the current cost of electricity

    No. So you didn’t read it did you? It shows that reneables, if the technoloogy existed which it doesn’t, would cost about 10 times the cost of nuclear to provide our electicity demand, based on optimistic assumptions about learning curves for renewables.

    Renewables are not economically viable withoug huge public funding. No matter how you tryy to ignore the bleeding obvious you cant. (Deleted personal comments)


  264. @ Peter Lang

    Not once in the critique do you make the claim that 5.5c/kWh is anything other than the CURRENT (fossil fuel) cost of electricity.

    The word NUCLEAR does not appear in the text.

    To check that I was not going mad, I downloaded the PDF (again) v2.1 and used a text search for NUCLEAR and got ZERO results.

    To confirm, are you claiming 5.5c/kWh for NPP in Australia??? You must be joking.


  265. @ Graham Palmer

    The DoE solar thermal LCoE at $312/MWh is referenced with a CF of 18%. A small increase in costs (to add storage) to even double or triple the CF would near halve or third the cost/MW.

    Gas boosting to storage adds about $8/MWh (or less) capital cost.

    CSP w/storage is the going to put massive pressure on nuclear. It’s one of the motivators for Areva to be involved.


  266. @Zvyozdochka,

    If you add storage to CSP, you need more mirrors to heat the salt up – or take heat from the mirrors you already have, thus reducing the peak output. What you are suggesting is a perpetual motion machine.


  267. Zvyozdochka (deleted personal opinion of another)

    Doubling or tripling the capacity factor occurs when you double or triple the solar field. Cost of storage is roughly similar to the cost of the turbine-generator so you’re going almost proportionally up in costs. Twice the capacity factor, twice the costs. There is talk by CSP enthusiasts of cheaper storage that would then make the costs per kWh slightly lower. Actually in real projects we don’t see this. It is because CSP plants do not use the energy storage as efficiently as nuclear would. Any storage that will work with CSP will work better (less storage needed) with reliable productive nuclear plants.

    CSP does not put pressure on Areva. Their CLFR that they’ve bought from David Mills and his team is much more expensive than David Mills claimed. Several times more expensive per average Watt delivered, than the Flamanville EPR. And not nearly as reliable. One day of clouds and you’re stuck with burning natural gas.

    You remind me of myself years ago when I was still innumerate about basic energy analysis.

    I’ll recommend you look at real big recent CSP projects to get a sanity check.

    Wind and solar are pathetic. Together they don’t even make 1% of global electricity. Your suggestion that ‘we are doing it already’ is nonsense. We are not doing it 99%. That is not at all in my book.

    Make no mistake. We will not power our countries with energy sources that are not there most of the time. If you don’t have a plan that adds up, you end up with a plan for more fossil.

    You should read the many posts on renewable limits and TCASE here on BNC. It should take you a while to figure it all out. I know I did.


  268. Z@Z,

    OK. I understand where you got that the “10 times current price”, not 10 times the price of nuclear.

    I acknowledge my error in working from memory. So I’ll say your proposal is 4 to 5 times the cost of current, first-of-a-kind nuclear.

    However, I’ll mention for the benefit of those new to BNC, I’ve been arguing for two years that nuclear can be cheaper than coal in Australia if we would remove the impediments to low cost nuclear. Here is one of my comments on that:

    So I expect, in reality the technology for the renewable energy option does not exist to meet our electricity demand and will not exist by 2020. Our cost estimates were conservative and used very generaous assumptions. So, IMO, your proposal would cost at leat ten times the cost of nuclear by 2020, but isnb’t possible anyway at any cost, so its alla bit irrelevant.

    Another point is wort making. There is a big difference between 10% and 10 times (or 4 times). At 50% higher cost we wouldn’t evn think of it, let alone 4 times or more. It makes rational discussion difficult when trying to compare options with people who have little concept of costs and orders of magnitude.


  269. Z@Z

    Just for interest, as I write this, France is at 14:00 and at about the time of peak demand. Demand is 55 GW. Nuclear is generating 78% of the power, gas 4%, coal 4%, oil 1%, hydro 7% and renewables 1%. It is also exporting 5%. You can see that it has been exporting about 3000 MW to 5000 MW throughout the day. That is a pretty good indication that France’s electricity is cheap. Otherwise other countries would not be buying it.

    France’s electricity generators are emitting 4,416 t CO2 per hour, or about 80 kg/MWh, which is about 8% of Australia’s emissions from electricity generation.

    We could be doing that too if not for 50 years of anti nuclear activism.

    The answer is bleeding obvious. It is staring the renewable energy advocates and nuclear deniers in the face.


  270. @ Z@Z:

    The DoE solar thermal LCoE at $312/MWh is referenced with a CF of 18%. A small increase in costs (to add storage) to even double or triple the CF would near halve or third the cost/MW.

    You’re dreaming. If you’re heating up storage salt, you’re not using that heat to directly produce power This immediately cuts your output during the hours of the day the CSP plant can utilise sunlight (if it’s there). Adding storage basically means greatly increasing the size of the plant and decreasing its efficiency. This is a slippery slope to nowhere. Just look at the figures for Gemsolar. They’re already pathetic, and they haven’t even demonstrated yet that they can keep O&M costs under control.


  271. @ Cyril R

    @ Peter Lang

    “So I’ll say your proposal is 4 to 5 times the cost of current, first-of-a-kind nuclear.”

    Well, I wish it were possible to say more. But I expect that within 2 years you’ll be seeing these plants and the configurations that we have been working on for nearly 3 years start to materialise.

    I’m confident the first plant will be outside Kalgoorlie or in SA. It will immediately replace equiv OCGT while providing dis-patchable peak response power. The long term goals are to drive down the delivered cost, increase the storage, expand the field, reduce the gas contribution and compliment existing wind.

    Our target (with partner Areva) is a lower delivered cost than nuclear without subsidy.


  272. @ Finrod

    “If you’re heating up storage salt, you’re not using that heat to directly produce power.”

    I’m not following you there. The thermal arrangement is such that the storage temp could be raised or near direct heating/re-heat prior to exchange to turbine if immediate power is needed. Ultimate efficiency to best-of-breed boiler suffers a little, yes.


  273. Z@Z,

    Well, I wish it were possible to say more. But I expect that within 2 years you’ll be seeing these plants and the configurations that we have been working on for nearly 3 years start to materialise.

    Pardon my scepticism but your claims are simply not credible. They are similar to the claims we’ve been getting from the renewable energy advocates for well over 20 years. For example, for over 20 years, RE advocates like David Mills have been saying ” solar thermal is basload capable now, it is cheaper than nuclear, it is economically viable now, if the government would just give us some more money“. This has been going on for 20 years at least. The NEEDS analysis projected a 30% decrease in solar thermal LCOE from 2007 to 2010. Instead it went up by 30%. Gemasolar’s cost increased by a factor of 4, in real terms, from 2004 to 2009.


  274. Zvyozdochka, there you go again making up data. The cost of CLFR reflectors is $2/Watt and they get 0.2 capacity factor in the desert. This is $9/Watt just for the mirror field of an equivalent nuclear plant.

    Then add the turbine and thermal storage system.

    Actually I’m being optimistic because the more recent CLFR projects are even more expensive rather than cheaper (no learning curve).

    CSP is expensive. The Gemasolar plant, a recent project with large scale energy storage, costs $33/Watt.

    I’m sorry but the costs quoted by enthusiasts are not evident in new projects, even big ones. They said bigger projects with energy storage would get cheaper but the reverse is true.

    I’m sorry the figures are as bad as they are. I actually like CSP, and had hoped that the development effort in nitrate thermal storage would benefit future high temp Gen IV nuclear and industrial processes as well.


  275. Politicians tell us the world must decarbonise yet somehow Australia’s coal industry keeps expanding with new mines, railroads and loading ports. Even Queensland legislation to protect prime farmland from mining seems to have escape clauses

    If Australia truly has 180 years of coal reserves why do they need to dig up farms? There must be hundreds of alternative sites to drill or mine. In my opinion the coal industry has to go into reverse gear after 2015. That is because Australia must act as if there is an international CO2 cap. Evidently those who are spending billions on coal mining expansion have had assurances they will be OK.

    Also on ABC this time the Four Corners program there was a suggestion that fugitive methane from gassy mines should not be carbon taxed if the coal is exported. That’s because it’s really the foreign buyer’s responsibility and if they don’t have carbon mitigation that’s not Australia’s problem. A similar argument suggests gas burned to run LNG plant is not really Australian emissions. Now we have export coal, export gas and foreign embassies all with diplomatic immunity.

    The double standards on overseas carbon could reach fever pitch in a few years. If hundreds of millions of dollars are spent buying foreign carbon credits there will be an outcry. Same goes when Australian coal consumers are forced to use less while foreigners are encouraged to consume more. That coal could come from the very same mine. It’s insane.


  276. John Newlands,

    Very well said. Perhaps a more reasonable policy would be to have a small but steadily rising carbon price. Exports would initially be excluded, but the government could negotiate with other major exporters to have a common carbon price on exports, set at Australia’s domestic price. This arrangement would be to the competitors’ advantage because they would make more money.

    Then the pressure would mount on importers such as China and India, to have their own, harmonized carbon pricing system and thus capture the carbon revenue for themselves.


  277. Published Dec 2 2006 by Energy Bulletin, Archived Dec 2 2006
    “Energy resources and our future” – remarks by Admiral Hyman Rickover delivered in 1957
    by Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy
    FOR RELEASE AT 7:00 P.M. TUESDAY, MAY 14, 1957
    Remarks Prepared by

    Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN

    Chief, Naval Reactors Branch
    Division of Reactor Development
    U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
    Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ships for Nuclear Propulsion
    Navy Department

    For Delivery at a Banquet of the Annual Scientific Assembly of
    the Minnesota State Medical Association
    St. Paul, Minnesota

    May 14, 1957
    Energy Resources and Our Future

    I am honored to be here tonight, though it is no easy thing, I assure you, for a layman to face up to an audience of physicians. A single one of you, sitting behind his desk, can be quite formidable.

    My speech has no medical connotations. This may be a relief to you after the solid professional fare you have been absorbing. I should like to discuss a matter which will, I hope, be of interest to you as responsible citizens: the significance of energy resources in the shaping of our future.

    We live in what historians may some day call the Fossil Fuel Age. Today coal, oil, and natural gas supply 93% of the world’s energy; water power accounts for only 1%; and the labor of men and domestic animals the remaining 6%. This is a startling reversal of corresponding figures for 1850 – only a century ago. Then fossil fuels supplied 5% of the world’s energy, and men and animals 94%. Five sixths of all the coal, oil, and gas consumed since the beginning of the Fossil Fuel Age has been burned up in the last 55 years.

    These fuels have been known to man for more than 3,000 years. In parts of China, coal was used for domestic heating and cooking, and natural gas for lighting as early as 1000 B.C. The Babylonians burned asphalt a thousand years earlier. But these early uses were sporadic and of no economic significance. Fossil fuels did not become a major source of energy until machines running on coal, gas, or oil were invented. Wood, for example, was the most important fuel until 1880 when it was replaced by coal; coal, in turn, has only recently been surpassed by oil in this country.

    Once in full swing, fossil fuel consumption has accelerated at phenomenal rates. All the fossil fuels used before 1900 would not last five years at today’s rates of consumption.

    Nowhere are these rates higher and growing faster than in the United States. Our country, with only 6% of the world’s population, uses one third of the world’s total energy input; this proportion would be even greater except that we use energy more efficiently than other countries. Each American has at his disposal, each year, energy equivalent to that obtainable from eight tons of coal. This is six times the world’s per capita energy consumption. Though not quite so spectacular, corresponding figures for other highly industrialized countries also show above average consumption figures. The United Kingdom, for example, uses more than three times as much energy as the world average.

    With high energy consumption goes a high standard of living. Thus the enormous fossil energy which we in this country control feeds machines which make each of us master of an army of mechanical slaves. Man’s muscle power is rated at 35 watts continuously, or one-twentieth horsepower. Machines therefore furnish every American industrial worker with energy equivalent to that of 244 men, while at least 2,000 men push his automobile along the road, and his family is supplied with 33 faithful household helpers. Each locomotive engineer controls energy equivalent to that of 100,000 men; each jet pilot of 700,000 men. Truly, the humblest American enjoys the services of more slaves than were once owned by the richest nobles, and lives better than most ancient kings. In retrospect, and despite wars, revolutions, and disasters, the hundred years just gone by may well seem like a Golden Age.

    Whether this Golden Age will continue depends entirely upon our ability to keep energy supplies in balance with the needs of our growing population. Before I go into this question, let me review briefly the role of energy resources in the rise and fall of civilizations.

    Possession of surplus energy is, of course, a requisite for any kind of civilization, for if man possesses merely the energy of his own muscles, he must expend all his strength – mental and physical – to obtain the bare necessities of life.

    Surplus energy provides the material foundation for civilized living – a comfortable and tasteful home instead of a bare shelter; attractive clothing instead of mere covering to keep warm; appetizing food instead of anything that suffices to appease hunger. It provides the freedom from toil without which there can be no art, music, literature, or learning. There is no need to belabor the point. What lifted man – one of the weaker mammals – above the animal world was that he could devise, with his brain, ways to increase the energy at his disposal, and use the leisure so gained to cultivate his mind and spirit. Where man must rely solely on the energy of his own body, he can sustain only the most meager existence.

    Man’s first step on the ladder of civilization dates from his discovery of fire and his domestication of animals. With these energy resources he was able to build a pastoral culture. To move upward to an agricultural civilization he needed more energy. In the past this was found in the labor of dependent members of large patriarchal families, augmented by slaves obtained through purchase or as war booty. There are some backward communities which to this day depend on this type of energy.

    Slave labor was necessary for the city-states and the empires of antiquity; they frequently had slave populations larger than their free citizenry. As long as slaves were abundant and no moral censure attached to their ownership, incentives to search for alternative sources of energy were lacking; this may well have been the single most important reason why engineering advanced very little in ancient times.

    A reduction of per capita energy consumption has always in the past led to a decline in civilization and a reversion to a more primitive way of life. For example, exhaustion of wood fuel is believed to have been the primary reason for the fall of the Mayan Civilization on this continent and of the decline of once flourishing civilizations in Asia. India and China once had large forests, as did much of the Middle East. Deforestation not only lessened the energy base but had a further disastrous effect: lacking plant cover, soil washed away, and with soil erosion the nutritional base was reduced as well.

    Another cause of declining civilization comes with pressure of population on available land. A point is reached where the land can no longer support both the people and their domestic animals. Horses and mules disappear first. Finally even the versatile water buffalo is displaced by man who is two and one half times as efficient an energy converter as are draft animals. It must always be remembered that while domestic animals and agricultural machines increase productivity per man, maximum productivity per acre is achieved only by intensive manual cultivation.

    It is a sobering thought that the impoverished people of Asia, who today seldom go to sleep with their hunger completely satisfied, were once far more civilized and lived much better than the people of the West. And not so very long ago, either. It was the stories brought back by Marco Polo of the marvelous civilization in China which turned Europe’s eyes to the riches of the East, and induced adventurous sailors to brave the high seas in their small vessels searching for a direct route to the fabulous Orient. The “wealth of the Indies” is a phrase still used, but whatever wealth may be there it certainly is not evident in the life of the people today.

    Asia failed to keep technological pace with the needs of her growing populations and sank into such poverty that in many places man has become again the primary source of energy, since other energy converters have become too expensive. This must be obvious to the most casual observer. What this means is quite simply a reversion to a more primitive stage of civilization with all that it implies for human dignity and happiness.

    Anyone who has watched a sweating Chinese farm worker strain at his heavily laden wheelbarrow, creaking along a cobblestone road, or who has flinched as he drives past an endless procession of human beasts of burden moving to market in Java – the slender women bent under mountainous loads heaped on their heads – anyone who has seen statistics translated into flesh and bone, realizes the degradation of man’s stature when his muscle power becomes the only energy source he can afford. Civilization must wither when human beings are so degraded.

    Where slavery represented a major source of energy, its abolition had the immediate effect of reducing energy consumption. Thus when this time-honored institution came under moral censure by Christianity, civilization declined until other sources of energy could be found. Slavery is incompatible with Christian belief in the worth of the humblest individual as a child of God. As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire and masters freed their slaves – in obedience to the teaching of the Church – the energy base of Roman civilization crumbled. This, some historians believe, may have been a major factor in the decline of Rome and the temporary reversion to a more primitive way of life during the Dark Ages. Slavery gradually disappeared throughout the Western world, except in its milder form of serfdom. That it was revived a thousand years later merely shows man�s ability to stifle his conscience – at least for a while – when his economic needs are great. Eventually, even the needs of overseas plantation economies did not suffice to keep alive a practice so deeply repugnant to Western man’s deepest convictions.

    It may well be that it was unwillingness to depend on slave labor for their energy needs which turned the minds of medieval Europeans to search for alternate sources of energy, thus sparking the Power Revolution of the Middle Ages which, in turn, paved the way for the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. When slavery disappeared in the West engineering advanced. Men began to harness the power of nature by utilizing water and wind as energy sources. The sailing ship, in particular, which replaced the slave-driven galley of antiquity, was vastly improved by medieval shipbuilders and became the first machine enabling man to control large amounts of inanimate energy.

    The next important high-energy converter used by Europeans was gunpowder – an energy source far superior to the muscular strength of the strongest bowman or lancer. With ships that could navigate the high seas and arms that could outfire any hand weapon, Europe was now powerful enough to preempt for herself the vast empty areas of the Western Hemisphere into which she poured her surplus populations to build new nations of European stock. With these ships and arms she also gained political control over populous areas in Africa and Asia from which she drew the raw materials needed to speed her industrialization, thus complementing her naval and military dominance with economic and commercial supremacy.

    When a low-energy society comes in contact with a high-energy society, the advantage always lies with the latter. The Europeans not only achieved standards of living vastly higher than those of the rest of the world, but they did this while their population was growing at rates far surpassing those of other peoples. In fact, they doubled their share of total world population in the short span of three centuries. From one sixth in 1650, the people of European stock increased to almost one third of total world population by 1950.

    Meanwhile much of the rest of the world did not even keep energy sources in balance with population growth. Per capita energy consumption actually diminished in large areas. It is this difference in energy consumption which has resulted in an ever-widening gap between the one-third minority who live in high-energy countries and the two-thirds majority who live in low-energy areas.

    These so-called underdeveloped countries are now finding it far more difficult to catch up with the fortunate minority than it was for Europe to initiate transition from low-energy to high-energy consumption. For one thing, their ratio of land to people is much less favorable; for another, they have no outlet for surplus populations to ease the transition since all the empty spaces have already been taken over by people of European stock.

    Almost all of today’s low-energy countries have a population density so great that it perpetuates dependence on intensive manual agriculture which alone can yield barely enough food for their people. They do not have enough acreage, per capita, to justify using domestic animals or farm machinery, although better seeds, better soil management, and better hand tools could bring some improvement. A very large part of their working population must nevertheless remain on the land, and this limits the amount of surplus energy that can be produced. Most of these countries must choose between using this small energy surplus to raise their very low standard of living or postpone present rewards for the sake of future gain by investing the surplus in new industries. The choice is difficult because there is no guarantee that today’s denial may not prove to have been in vain. This is so because of the rapidity with which public health measures have reduced mortality rates, resulting in population growth as high or even higher than that of the high-energy nations. Theirs is a bitter choice; it accounts for much of their anti-Western feeling and may well portend a prolonged period of world instability.

    How closely energy consumption is related to standards of living may be illustrated by the example of India. Despite intelligent and sustained efforts made since independence, India’s per capita income is still only 20 cents daily; her infant mortality is four times ours; and the life expectance of her people is less than one half that of the industrialized countries of the West. These are ultimate consequences of India’s very low energy consumption: one-fourteenth of world average; one-eightieth of ours.

    Ominous, too, is the fact that while world food production increased 9% in the six years from 1945-51, world population increased by 12%. Not only is world population increasing faster than world food production, but unfortunately, increases in food production tend to occur in the already well-fed, high-energy countries rather than in the undernourished, low-energy countries where food is most lacking.

    I think no further elaboration is needed to demonstrate the significance of energy resources for our own future. Our civilization rests upon a technological base which requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels. What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be supplied by fossil fuels: The answer is – in the long run – none.

    The earth is finite. Fossil fuels are not renewable. In this respect our energy base differs from that of all earlier civilizations. They could have maintained their energy supply by careful cultivation. We cannot. Fuel that has been burned is gone forever. Fuel is even more evanescent than metals. Metals, too, are non-renewable resources threatened with ultimate extinction, but something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy 500 million years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume.

    In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one respect: the longer they last, the more time do we have, to invent ways of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift.

    Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.

    Engineers whose work familiarizes them with energy statistics; far-seeing industrialists who know that energy is the principal factor which must enter into all planning for the future; responsible governments who realize that the well-being of their citizens and the political power of their countries depend on adequate energy supplies – all these have begun to be concerned about energy resources. In this country, especially, many studies have been made in the last few years, seeking to discover accurate information on fossil-fuel reserves and foreseeable fuel needs.

    Statistics involving the human factor are, of course, never exact. The size of usable reserves depends on the ability of engineers to improve the efficiency of fuel extraction and use. It also depends on discovery of new methods to obtain energy from inferior resources at costs which can be borne without unduly depressing the standard of living. Estimates of future needs, in turn, rely heavily on population figures which must always allow for a large element of uncertainty, particularly as man reaches a point where he is more and more able to control his own way of life.

    Current estimates of fossil fuel reserves vary to an astonishing degree. In part this is because the results differ greatly if cost of extraction is disregarded or if in calculating how long reserves will last, population growth is not taken into consideration; or, equally important, not enough weight is given to increased fuel consumption required to process inferior or substitute metals. We are rapidly approaching the time when exhaustion of better grade metals will force us to turn to poorer grades requiring in most cases greater expenditure of energy per unit of metal.

    But the most significant distinction between optimistic and pessimistic fuel reserve statistics is that the optimists generally speak of the immediate future – the next twenty-five years or so – while the pessimists think in terms of a century from now. A century or even two is a short span in the history of a great people. It seems sensible to me to take a long view, even if this involves facing unpleasant facts.

    For it is an unpleasant fact that according to our best estimates, total fossil fuel reserves recoverable at not over twice today’s unit cost, are likely to run out at some time between the years 2000 and 2050, if present standards of living and population growth rates are taken into account. Oil and natural gas will disappear first, coal last. There will be coal left in the earth, of course. But it will be so difficult to mine that energy costs would rise to economically intolerable heights, so that it would then become necessary either to discover new energy sources or to lower standards of living drastically.

    For more than one hundred years we have stoked ever growing numbers of machines with coal; for fifty years we have pumped gas and oil into our factories, cars, trucks, tractors, ships, planes, and homes without giving a thought to the future. Occasionally the voice of a Cassandra has been raised only to be quickly silenced when a lucky discovery revised estimates of our oil reserves upward, or a new coalfield was found in some remote spot. Fewer such lucky discoveries can be expected in the future, especially in industrialized countries where extensive mapping of resources has been done. Yet the popularizers of scientific news would have us believe that there is no cause for anxiety, that reserves will last thousands of years, and that before they run out science will have produced miracles. Our past history and security have given us the sentimental belief that the things we fear will never really happen – that everything turns out right in the end. But, prudent men will reject these tranquilizers and prefer to face the facts so that they can plan intelligently for the needs of their posterity.

    Looking into the future, from the mid-20th Century, we cannot feel overly confident that present high standards of living will of a certainty continue through the next century and beyond. Fossil fuel costs will soon definitely begin to rise as the best and most accessible reserves are exhausted, and more effort will be required to obtain the same energy from remaining reserves. It is likely also that liquid fuel synthesized from coal will be more expensive. Can we feel certain that when economically recoverable fossil fuels are gone science will have learned how to maintain a high standard of living on renewable energy sources?

    I believe it would be wise to assume that the principal renewable fuel sources which we can expect to tap before fossil reserves run out will supply only 7 to 15% of future energy needs. The five most important of these renewable sources are wood fuel, farm wastes, wind, water power, and solar heat.

    Wood fuel and farm wastes are dubious as substitutes because of growing food requirements to be anticipated. Land is more likely to be used for food production than for tree crops; farm wastes may be more urgently needed to fertilize the soil than to fuel machines.

    Wind and water power can furnish only a very small percentage of our energy needs. Moreover, as with solar energy, expensive structures would be required, making use of land and metals which will also be in short supply. Nor would anything we know today justify putting too much reliance on solar energy though it will probably prove feasible for home heating in favorable localities and for cooking in hot countries which lack wood, such as India.

    More promising is the outlook for nuclear fuels. These are not, properly speaking, renewable energy sources, at least not in the present state of technology, but their capacity to “breed” and the very high energy output from small quantities of fissionable material, as well as the fact that such materials are relatively abundant, do seem to put nuclear fuels into a separate category from exhaustible fossil fuels. The disposal of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants is, however, a problem which must be solved before there can be any widespread use of nuclear power.

    Another limit in the use of nuclear power is that we do not know today how to employ it otherwise than in large units to produce electricity or to supply heating. Because of its inherent characteristics, nuclear fuel cannot be used directly in small machines, such as cars, trucks, or tractors. It is doubtful that it could in the foreseeable future furnish economical fuel for civilian airplanes or ships, except very large ones. Rather than nuclear locomotives, it might prove advantageous to move trains by electricity produced in nuclear central stations. We are only at the beginning of nuclear technology, so it is difficult to predict what we may expect.

    Transportation – the lifeblood of all technically advanced civilizations – seems to be assured, once we have borne the initial high cost of electrifying railroads and replacing buses with streetcars or interurban electric trains. But, unless science can perform the miracle of synthesizing automobile fuel from some energy source as yet unknown or unless trolley wires power electric automobiles on all streets and highways, it will be wise to face up to the possibility of the ultimate disappearance of automobiles, trucks, buses, and tractors. Before all the oil is gone and hydrogenation of coal for synthetic liquid fuels has come to an end, the cost of automotive fuel may have risen to a point where private cars will be too expensive to run and public transportation again becomes a profitable business.

    Today the automobile is the most uneconomical user of energy. Its efficiency is 5% compared with 23% for the Diesel-electric railway. It is the most ravenous devourer of fossil fuels, accounting for over half of the total oil consumption in this country. And the oil we use in the United States in one year took nature about 14 million years to create. Curiously, the automobile, which is the greatest single cause of the rapid exhaustion of oil reserves, may eventually be the first fuel consumer to suffer. Reduction in automotive use would necessitate an extraordinarily costly reorganization of the pattern of living in industrialized nations, particularly in the United States. It would seem prudent to bear this in mind in future planning of cities and industrial locations.

    Our present known reserves of fissionable materials are many times as large as our net economically recoverable reserves of coal. A point will be reached before this century is over when fossil fuel costs will have risen high enough to make nuclear fuels economically competitive. Before that time comes we shall have to make great efforts to raise our entire body of engineering and scientific knowledge to a higher plateau. We must also induce many more young Americans to become metallurgical and nuclear engineers. Else we shall not have the knowledge or the people to build and run the nuclear power plants which ultimately may have to furnish the major part of our energy needs. If we start to plan now, we may be able to achieve the requisite level of scientific and engineering knowledge before our fossil fuel reserves give out, but the margin of safety is not large. This is also based on the assumption that atomic war can be avoided and that population growth will not exceed that now calculated by demographic experts.

    War, of course, cancels all man’s expectations. Even growing world tension just short of war could have far-reaching effects. In this country it might, on the one hand, lead to greater conservation of domestic fuels, to increased oil imports, and to an acceleration in scientific research which might turn up unexpected new energy sources. On the other hand, the resulting armaments race would deplete metal reserves more rapidly, hastening the day when inferior metals must be utilized with consequent greater expenditure of energy. Underdeveloped nations with fossil fuel deposits might be coerced into withholding them from the free world or may themselves decide to retain them for their own future use. The effect on Europe, which depends on coal and oil imports, would be disastrous and we would have to share our own supplies or lose our allies.

    Barring atomic war or unexpected changes in the population curve, we can count on an increase in world population from two and one half billion today to four billion in the year 2000; six to eight billion by 2050. The United States is expected to quadruple its population during the 20th Century � from 75 million in 1900 to 300 million in 2000 – and to reach at least 375 million in 2050. This would almost exactly equal India’s present population which she supports on just a little under half of our land area.

    It is an awesome thing to contemplate a graph of world population growth from prehistoric times – tens of thousands of years ago – to the day after tomorrow – let us say the year 2000 A.D. If we visualize the population curve as a road which starts at sea level and rises in proportion as world population increases, we should see it stretching endlessly, almost level, for 99% of the time that man has inhabited the earth. In 6000 B.C., when recorded history begins, the road is running at a height of about 70 feet above sea level, which corresponds to a population of 10 million. Seven thousand years later – in 1000 A.D. – the road has reached an elevation of 1,600 feet; the gradation now becomes steeper, and 600 years later the road is 2,900 feet high. During the short span of the next 400 years � from 1600 to 2000 – it suddenly turns sharply upward at an almost perpendicular inclination and goes straight up to an elevation of 29,000 feet – the height of Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

    In the 8,000 years from the beginning of history to the year 2000 A.D. world population will have grown from 10 million to 4 billion, with 90% of that growth taking place during the last 5% of that period, in 400 years. It took the first 3,000 years of recorded history to accomplish the first doubling of population, 100 years for the last doubling, but the next doubling will require only 50 years. Calculations give us the astonishing estimate that one out of every 20 human beings born into this world is alive today.

    The rapidity of population growth has not given us enough time to readjust our thinking. Not much more than a century ago our country � the very spot on which I now stand was a wilderness in which a pioneer could find complete freedom from men and from government. If things became too crowded – if he saw his neighbor’s chimney smoke – he could, and often did, pack up and move west. We began life in 1776 as a nation of less than four million people – spread over a vast continent – with seemingly inexhaustible riches of nature all about. We conserved what was scarce – human labor – and squandered what seemed abundant – natural resources – and we are still doing the same today.

    Much of the wilderness which nurtured what is most dynamic in the American character has now been buried under cities, factories and suburban developments where each picture window looks out on nothing more inspiring than the neighbor’s back yard with the smoke of his fire in the wire basket clearly visible.

    Life in crowded communities cannot be the same as life on the frontier. We are no longer free, as was the pioneer – to work for our own immediate needs regardless of the future. We are no longer as independent of men and of government as were Americans two or three generations ago. An ever larger share of what we earn must go to solve problems caused by crowded living – bigger governments; bigger city, state, and federal budgets to pay for more public services. Merely to supply us with enough water and to carry away our waste products becomes more difficult and expansive daily. More laws and law enforcement agencies are needed to regulate human relations in urban industrial communities and on crowded highways than in the America of Thomas Jefferson.

    Certainly no one likes taxes, but we must become reconciled to larger taxes in the larger America of tomorrow.

    I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendents – those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age. Our greatest responsibility, as parents and as citizens, is to give America’s youngsters the best possible education. We need the best teachers and enough of them to prepare our young people for a future immeasurably more complex than the present, and calling for ever larger numbers of competent and highly trained men and women. This means that we must not delay building more schools, colleges, and playgrounds. It means that we must reconcile ourselves to continuing higher taxes to build up and maintain at decent salaries a greatly enlarged corps of much better trained teachers, even at the cost of denying ourselves such momentary pleasures as buying a bigger new car, or a TV set, or household gadget. We should find – I believe – that these small self-denials would be far more than offset by the benefits they would buy for tomorrow’s America. We might even – if we wanted – give a break to these youngsters by cutting fuel and metal consumption a little here and there so as to provide a safer margin for the necessary adjustments which eventually must be made in a world without fossil fuels.

    One final thought I should like to leave with you. High-energy consumption has always been a prerequisite of political power. The tendency is for political power to be concentrated in an ever-smaller number of countries. Ultimately, the nation which control – the largest energy resources will become dominant. If we give thought to the problem of energy resources, if we act wisely and in time to conserve what we have and prepare well for necessary future changes, we shall insure this dominant position for our own country.

    Editorial Notes

    Contributor Rick Lakin writes:
    Admiral Rickover was considered the Father of the Nuclear Submarine. As an employee of the US Atomic Energy Commission, later Department of Energy, he had great influence on the development of our country’s civilian Nuclear Power Generation Industry.
    This speech, given almost 50 years ago, sheds an important light on our current discussion about the future of energy in our country. In the 1970s, Admiral Rickover worked closely with President Jimmy Carter on energy issues. I served on Navy Nuclear Submarines as a Nuclear Reactor Operator for 8 years.

    I would like to give special thanks to Theodore Rockwell, author of The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference for searching his files and sending me a copy of this speech so that I could convert it for digital publication. Mr. Rockwell has a more recent book, Creating the New World: Stories & Images from the Dawn of the Atomic Age. Both are available on

    Biography of Hyman G. Rickover from Wikipedia:

    Many thanks to Rick Lakin and Theodore Rockwell who have made this historic document available. Rickover’s speech was covered in an excellent 1957 article in the Christian Science Monitor that EB just posted: Admiral Rickover: The future of fossil fuels.

    This document is also posted at

    UPDATE (July 1, 2007) Admiral Rickover’s speech has just been reposted on The Oil Drum by Gail Tverberg. There are some interesting comments in the thread that follows.



  278. Cyril R., on 21 September 2011 at 5:22 PM — Thank you again. It turns out the efficiency of the thermal store and its turbine are not that important, so your figures are fine. The result is that it is possible to energze my simplified reference grid to deliver sLCOE of less than US$0.088/kWh for all new NPPs. But once paid off after 30 years and assuming an average useful life of 60 years, the long term average sLCOE drops to US$0.057/kWh. Hard to better that.


  279. You’re not going to argue that it’s hard to model these devices are you?????

    Where are these models which paint such an amazing picture of CSP?!

    They’ve [France] overbuilt their system such that their power is so cheap I’m sure they’re giving it away

    I’m not sure what to say?

    By the way, earlier in the year a commenter asked the following question about CSP, which I haven’t seen an answer for yet:

    If you’ve got a bloody great tank of thousands of tonnes of molten potassium nitrate at 500 degrees C and you hit it with an extremely strong magnitude 9.0 earthquake, what happens?

    I’d really like to know if those who claim that solar thermal can and should replace all fossil fuels in the exclusion of all nuclear energy can give me any kind of answer to that.

    In the absence of any better analysis, I would estimate the answer is that it will set everything for miles around on fire and burning extremely aggressively, releasing an enormous plume of very toxic nitrogen dioxide.


  280. Z@Z:
    Have you completed the acceptance tests at Liddell yet? Are the results available publicly?

    Last I heard, about March 2011, the answers were No and No.

    I am very familiar with both of the Mills creations at Liddell and oversaw the demolition of the trial plant in February, to make way for a new, larger, plant which is now nearing completion.

    I have high hopes for solar thermal power, but please – keep the discussion factual, preferably based on verifyable data which is in the public domain.

    If the test results are not released, on what should we rely to form our opinions?


  281. @ John Bennetts

    I don’t see the problem. If you are an Areva Renewables partner you can request the data for Liddell and Kimberlina.

    We’re not talking about academic toys here, these are commercial devices.

    Areva have agreed that data from SolarDawn will be released via UQ in due course.

    “keep the discussion factual”

    What would suggest is non-factual?


  282. Z@Z,

    You seem to chat total nonsense. What is this nonsense:

    They’ve overbuilt their system such that their power is so cheap I’m sure they’re giving it away 3am till 6am (hydro stopped). Lucky Germany.

    That’s just total sillyness or ignorance. Surely what we want is low cost, high quality, reliable electricity supply, on demand at woth ow emisisons. Exactly waht France provides. How can any intrelligent person complain about that – unless they are just a renewable energy zealot.

    Curious that fossil fuel is indicated as a peak of ~1900MW when this Wackypedia page lists a single plant of 868MW;

    What is your point? Is it that you think France has only one coal fired power plant?
    (Deleted personal comment)


  283. @ Peter Lang

    “Surely what we want is low cost, high quality, reliable electricity supply, on demand at woth ow emisisons…..unless they are just a renewable energy zealot.”

    What I was referring to (very poorly, clearly) was the idea that something is overbuilt, at great capital expense, only to see the excess given away. I’m sure the investors/owners of those plant are delighted.

    You are clearly focused on COST as the only driver in energy investment; it’s not real and the debate is poorer for it.


  284. At the risk of continuing a painful exercise akin to banging my forehead against a brick wall…

    Z: “I don’t see the problem. If you are an Areva Renewables partner you can request the data for Liddell and Kimberlina.”

    I never said that I am now or ever was an Areva partner. I have been involved at various stages with either the Client or another ST provider, on three ST projects, two of which were driven by Solar Heat & Power, which morphed into Areva renewables.

    We’re not talking about academic toys here, these are commercial devices.

    The first exercise at Liddell was definitely and openly an academic exercise – it was a demonstration plant, never intended to be connected to generating plant, only for raising steam which was discharged to atmosphere immediately after it was measured.

    The second was also a demonstration plant, connected as a supplementary source of steam in the black coal fired power station on the other side of the dividing fence. My enquiry was fair dinkum… if there are results worth reporting, where are they? If not worth reporting, I am not surprised to be told that they are under wraps, in-house.

    I do not know of any evidence available to the public that would substantiate a claim that the second, ie current, array is a “commercial device”. For this statement to be substantiated, an outline of costs, sources of funds and actual operating data would be a good start.

    So, Mr Z: present factual evidence or stand accused of making unsubstantiated, ie non-factual, claims.

    Eventual release, via UQ, might be a goal. It is of no use at all in the here and now.


  285. @ Peter Lang

    Dear me. Which bit Peter? The one about Rob Oakshott making sense in parliament today or the banter with Rod Adams? Or the perhaps it’s the Fremantle Football Club stuff, or the bits about Wikileaks or the media?

    Too bad for you that the international company I work for is advising investors who want their billions in clean energy projects then.

    Not one of them comes to us asking to invest in a nuclear Australia.

    I’ve got an idea, why don’t you get on the phone to Industry Superfunds and ask them if they’ve considered what return they will get on a FOAK Australian NPP and could they spare some change.

    You’ll see in short order that the reality is very bluntly misaligned with your haranguing ‘critiques’.


  286. Tom Keen (and Luke Weston),

    If you’ve got a bloody great tank of thousands of tonnes of molten potassium nitrate at 500 degrees C and you hit it with an extremely strong magnitude 9.0 earthquake, what happens?

    This video shows what happens when you drop various things into molten potassium nitrate. Closest proxy to human flesh would be the gummy bear at 2:32 s. I used to do this stuff when I was a kid. Great fun on a small scale. Things could get a bit exciting at a kiloton scale. Molten KNO3 is hypergolic with anything organic – wood, plastic, test engineers, small dogs, etc.


  287. Nitrate salts are oxidisers. They are not fuels; they can help combust fuels, but you need to have enough fuel nearby. Nitrate salts do not explode in and of themselves, though considerable gas can evolve in reactions with fuels (but this is the case anyway, since fuel burning also releases toxic gas).

    Certainly you would not want to have tons of 500 C molten nitrate salt falling on your head. But anything that’s 500 degrees Celcius is not nice to have falling on your head or your house.

    In addition I want to point out that almost anything that is 500 degrees Celcius can start a fire with anything that can burn.

    The nitrate tank is an industrial facility, requiring industrial safety, if for no other reason the high temperatures involved. Nitrates do not explode and are thermally stable in and of themselves. They are very low in toxicity as well, so a major spill could be cleaned up fairly easily.

    I should tell you my occupation. I work in the design of ancillary components for very large scale storage of petroleum products (hundreds of millions of liters of the stuff). I also do HAZOP and other safety related consultancy work for plant operators. Now I can tell you, a major loss of containment in a gasoline storage tank holding millions of liters of fuel is a lot more risky than a nitrate storage tank. Google “Buncefield accident”.

    The nitrate salt tanks can be build partially below grade, with the maximum liquid level at ground level, so that a major catastrophic spill is impossible.


  288. Zvyozdochka, it is not allowed to build a nuclear plant in Australia.

    Imagine if there were laws against CSP and no big subsidies for it. No one would be building a single Watt of it. That is the situation for nuclear power.

    It is a situation that is not carved in stone. Some things we can change.


  289. @ Peter Lang

    You’re right, I did forget about subsidies. As I mentioned before (when you were busy dismissing our client’s Chapman Solar plant here and here*), our projects are never worked up with subsidies – they’re either commercial or they don’t proceed. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s prudent.

    * Investec expect fossil fuel energy production costs to continue to rise, not that their plant will get up-front help.


  290. Thanks for that Cyril. I want to emphasize I don’t have particular concerns about being able to safely engineer containment structures for molten salts. This is a solved engineering problem. Still, people do want to play “what’s the worst imaginable accident” with other energy generators. Molten nitrates are something to be respected.


  291. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 22 September 2011 at 8:52 AM said:

    Sunlight in -> hot water out. What would that be? Year 12 physics at worst.

    The metallurgy of containing high tempurature molten salts and the long term impact of thermal cycling while doing it aren’t that simple to work out.

    It is one of the reasons a commercial thorium reactor does not yet exist despite a 5 year successful demonstration more then 50 years ago.

    Figuring out the metallurgy of containing high temperature molten salts without container failure for 40+ years is one of the goals of the Gen IV Nuclear project.

    I would speculate that using solar as the heat source for the demonstration of the metallurgy is almost as good as using thorium as the heat source without all the licensing delays and public questioning as to whether the metals will hold up long term.

    GE,Areva et al like to invest in technologies that have applications across multiple lines of business.


  292. Just googled Buncefield. That must have been quite an explosion to be heard in the Netherlands from England.

    Not quite as large, but I did have a front row seat when these 100 tonne LPG tanks went up in huge BLEVEs in Sydney.


  293. Z@Z,

    I find your posts simply blabber. You don’t address the points. As John Morgan has pointed out, without subsidies and mandating of renewable energy no solar would be considered. It is far too costly. It is total nonsense to say your company can make solar thermal evonomically viable when noone else in the world has been able to go anywhere near doing so (remember the subsidies and those forced by mandating). The key point is that nuclear is the only electricity generation technology that can provide most of electricity we demand at a economically viable price with low emissions and delivering the power reliability and quality we need. It is proven and has been for about 50 years. Solar has been making claims like you make for over 20 years, but still is not even close to being able to deliver whats needed, let alone at an economic price. You are in dream world, like the BZE team.

    Thank you Miss Perps for revealing Z@Z’s connection with BZE. It makes sense now.


  294. @ harrywr2

    That’s an interesting point but are you assuming that the Areva CLFR runs the salt through the receivers? It doesn’t.

    It’s also not under pressure in storage.

    @ Peter Lang

    “It is total nonsense to say your company can make solar thermal evonomically viable”

    I have not said that. We make the observation that in any kind of base load plus peaking grid, gas is still used. Is that so difficult? You can’t possibly disagree.

    We have then modelled a combination of renewable sources that head down to ~10-15% of fossil fuel use including occasional backup based on real performance data and real demand data.

    The economics are then the difficult bit. Any fossil fuel replacement project is going to result in more expensive electricity than currently, certainly in the short term, are we agreed there?

    The question is then the cost difference between the approaches. We see solar CSP w/storage diving right under nuclear and probably finishing it off in Australia.

    Our client’s agree via their investment dollars and are making a start picking off the peak power delivery with projects like Chapman Solar (“damaging Australia” according to you).

    “Thank you Miss Perps for revealing Z@Z’s connection with BZE.”

    We’re not associated with BZE, try again.


  295. @ Cyril R

    Your post about molten salt storage compared to petro storage was very interesting.

    “it is not allowed to build a nuclear plant in Australia”

    True, but that really isn’t the primary problem for NPPs in Australia.

    I think this paper gives an interesting discussion of the issues;

    Click to access McNeil.JAPE.pdf

    I apologise if that paper has already been pulled apart on BNC previously – I did a quick search.

    I suggest any Australian FOAK NPP cost suggestions below $7500/kW are optimistic guesswork and impossible without absolutely massive subsidies.

    So, here’s how I see this sort of debate dynamic in Australia at the moment as witnessed via my learn’d friend above.

    It’s like that scene from Apollo 13 (the movie) where they discover they have to adapt a square filter cartridge into a round receptacle.

    Two Earth based groups set out to solve the problem; one is devising a way to adapt the tools/bits available to make it work. The other group has decided to grab the round filter and set off in another space vehicle to rendezvous with the troubled craft.

    Before the second group can even get their equipment organised, the first group delivers their solution and begins to get the situation under control. The second group, obviously disappointed, takes to abusing everyone in ear-shot for being So Stoopid™.


  296. When great undertakings are launched, it is only appropriate that the great and the good publicly bestow their blessings upon those endevours. Such occasions make for entertaining viewing after the dust settles, provided you don’t think too hard about the consequences and wasted opportunities, or somewhat more painful viewing if you do. Anyway, here’s what Vice President Biden, Governor Schwarzenegger, DoE Secretary Chu and the CEO of Solyndra had to say on the auspicious occasion of the granting of the federal loan guarantee to that worthy firm. Enjoy!


  297. Zvyozkochka. With FOAK CSP load followers with nitrate storage at $33000/kWe average, $7500/kWp (about 8000-9000/kWe average) for FOAK nuclear would be pretty good.

    Your analogue with Apollo filters is exceptionally poor, as is the content and quality of your posts. Like others have stated, you don’t answer actual questions or do simple (and devastating) apples to apples comparisons like we do. It’s very Amory Lovinesque of you, but you’ve picked the wrong site for that. Try Greenpeace.


  298. That’s alright, Lovins won’t mind, people have been ad hom’ attacking him for decades.

    Have they? I’m only really familiar with the rational and numerate criticisms levelled against him by pro-nuclear observers. As I recall, Lovins projected that coal consumption would be in massive decline by now as renewables and negawatts took over its market share because of their superior economics and the general scaling back of energy demand from its peak in the 70s and 80s.


  299. Peter Lang, on 22 September 2011 at 10:37 PM

    Sorry Peter – I can’t recall linking Z@Z to BZE. Either I am having a memory glitch or it was someone else. Could you supply the comment time and date please?


  300. @ Finrod

    Would that be the same industry that has an interest in ensuring lots of kWs are purchased and wasted???

    I think his policy work and advocacy for energy efficiency has been invaluable. Could (can?) the US continue their wasteful ways, just in terms of how much money is sunk into wasted energy.


  301. Would that be the same industry that has an interest in ensuring lots of kWs are purchased and wasted???

    Given the non-dispatchibility of technosolar renewables, coupled with mandated renewable energy quotas, that description fits your side in this debate far better than the pro-nuclear side, but I understand you are referring to energy that actually makes it to consumers in the first place, and subsequent inefficiencies following that. Can you provide some details about just where this waste is happening, and what the magnitude is? Does it happen in commercialuse, in residential use, or is it perhaps industrial users who are wasting all that power you are claiming to be wasted?

    This claim that a significant fraction of power fenerated is wasted is a common one from people trying to sell unreliable and/or expensive generation systems, but it’s rarely quantified and explained in detail.


  302. @ Finrod

    Have you read about the work done at the Empire State Building? (Thinking specifically about RMI & Lovins).

    Have you read about the work done replacing traffic lights and street lights in Pittsburgh with LED systems?

    The DoE trying to encourage the uptake of ground-loop geothermal heating systems with loan programs?

    The work done by Toyota reducing the length of component travel required on their production lines, or the reduction of paint use (and electric drying)?

    The work of the Association of Energy Engineers ?

    Come on, honestly, are you attacking efficiency as bad now in the nuclear world?

    (And I get accussed of poor post quality?)


  303. @ Z@Z:

    So what are the figures? Seeing as you are familiar with the literature, you should be able to give us a good summary of the numbers involved. This is your case to make, Z@Z. Don’t be shy.


  304. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), @ 23 September 2011 at 8:14 AM

    I’ve been getting “Inhaber Syndrome” going, myself.

    Inhaber Syndrome: the failure in analysis of complex energy supply/demand systems

    I suggest you’ve also been doing a good job of getting the “Zvyozdochka Syndrome” going too.

    Zvyozdochka Syndrome: the failure in analysis of complex energy supply/demand systems


  305. At this point it would be good to remind Z@Z that the build cost for the South Korean AP-1400 in the United Arab Emirates is but US$3800/kW and for the Westinghouse AP-1000 is a comparable US$3900/kW. And yes, at least in the US one must multiply by about 1.25 to cover the rest of the costs the project must eventually pay off. So I see no reason that building a established design such as either of the above or the Atmea1 [my favorite] should have to bear total construction costs of greater than US$5000/kW in Australia.


  306. This has become sad, folks… nothing to see here… let’s move on.

    I’m all for free and public examination of opinions, but what we are seeing is a spam generator avoiding discussion while spewing opinion, most of which is unintelligible, all of which lacks substantiation.

    Z: Many of us have asked you for substantiation. You have offered precious little. Is there any chance of factual and rational responses to the issues discussed in the past several days, or are you going to offer insult and diversion where honest examination of facts is appropriate?

    A list:
    1. (Finrod) Explain the weird statement about an industry which purchases and wastes energy.
    2. (Cyril and others) Engage productively on the subject of cost, especially of comparative cost of your favoured technology mix wrt NPP ($7500k/Wp for CSP+, Vs NPP).
    3. (Z) “We see solar CSP w/storage diving right under nuclear and probably finishing it off in Australia.” Please provide justification for this statement.
    4. (Z) “…our projects are never worked up with subsidies – they’re either commercial or they don’t proceed.” Have you any example of a completed project which exhibits all stated attributes? Unsubsidised. Commercial. Completed. Unless unsubsidised, profitable and functioning, your projects are simply conjecture, dreams, unreal.
    5. (Z, addressed to self) “…the results are owned by Areva. You want to believe it’s a conspiracy, there’s probably not much I can do.” No, Zvyozkochka, I did not say that there is a conspiracy or that I believed that there is. I said that you have not justified your opinion. The facts which might otherwise support your opinion are simply not available, and your hinted references to them are at the level of analysis of “the dog ate my homework”. Mr Mills, CH&P and Ariva I have worked together. I am not surprised that you are unwilling to place the demonstrated outcomes of the plant constructed at Liddell on the table. I will not, either. However, I will assert that, at Liddell, Ariva experienced severe difficulties regarding design, safety (especially re pressure vessels) and commissioning, extending beyond that which is commonly expected even for a FOAK project. These problems were not resolved when I was last in touch with the project, earlier this year.

    Hence, my request that you table data to support your assertions of commercial success is reasonable.

    The above list only goes back a day or so. More could be added.

    So, Z: Here is your chance to add value to this thread. Deliver some facts, some substance. As they say in the classics “Talk is cheap”. It’s time to play the game, if you can.


  307. @ Finrod

    The Empire State Building Efficiency Project is the headline item on the RMI website; ~40% energy savings auditted and now finished.

    “The City of Pittsburgh estimated that, per year, replacing HPS lamps with LED streetlights would save Pittsburgh $1 million in energy costs and $700,000 in maintenance, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 6,818 metric tons.”

    The DoE on ground loop geothermal heating;

    “geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption—and corresponding emissions—up to 44% compared to air-source heat pumps and up to 72% compared to electric resistance heating”

    I can’t immediately find the Toyota announcement. By re-arranging elements of the newest plant, they reduced component travel by about 20%. By using different processes in body painting they reduced the drying energy needed eliminating 3 passes to 1.


  308. Finrod,

    Thank you for the video clip of another “commercial”, massively subsidised, solar power, “green jobs” manufacturing facility.

    It shows how we keep repeating the same mistakes. We just don’t learn. We were giving out the same huge subsidies for solar 20 years ago and the politicians of the day were making the same BS speeches.

    Watching this video, and thinking about the history of posts on BNC like those of Z@Z, BilB, Stephen Gloor (Ender) and others. I am convinced we will never learn. We’ll continually fall for such nonsense at the hands of spin merchants who are good at convincing politicians to give them taxpayers’ money. There will always be the young, idealistic, optimists like Z@Z spinning their nonsense. And many gullible people and politicians will fall for it.


  309. @ Z@Z:

    Insufficient detail and context. To assess the practicality of these measures we need to know what sort of site-specific issues there may be (are heat pumps always the best option anywhere in the world, for instance), what the costs of rollout are (was the Empire State project funded by the building owners because it made good inancial sense, or was it a subsidsed showcase project? Does the replacement of Pittsburg’s streetlights with LED lights stand up when you include the cost of initial rollout, rather than just the O&M and energy savings and the consequent CO2 abatement?) What will be the actual impact of all these measures combined when it’s all said and done? I have not looked closely at the energy conservation case (mainly because I consider it to be an excuse to sell continued fossil fuel reliance and energy penury to the public when nuclear power makes this completely unnecessary, but I could be swayed by a well-reasoned case).


  310. @ John Bennetts

    1. Answered above. Are we really debating the value of efficiency? No energy system could cope without efforts in efficiency as well.

    2. I have not made a claim for the cost of CSP w/storage. I have tried to explain that increasing the CF via storage drives the cost of the delivered electricity down. Are you debating that?

    You say Australian NPP of $7,500/kW is too high, David B Benson suggests $5,000/kW might be more likely. There isn’t even a costed attempt in Australia; hence the cost for an Australian NPP is completely mythical.

    More will come from the SolarDawn I expect and our client’s Kalgoorlie project which will be available for critique soon enough. We are not at the figures above, and I have no idea where Cyril R’s $33,000kW comes from.

    3. OK, you got me. I can’t without resorting to quoting pricelists from Areva, which is not good enough for you. I think the proponents of NPPs in Australia are in the same position; claims from promoters.

    4. Our Chapman Solar plant does not rely on subsidies. It has been accepted by the developer and investors. It has a PPA in place. It will be going ahead. It is part of the larger project design that combines sources (wind, PV and CSP w/storage) that will demonstrate dramatically lower fossil fuel use. No-one is subsidizing it, you won’t pay.

    “Unless unsubsidised, profitable and functioning, your projects are simply conjecture, dreams, unreal.”

    I’ll be using the above quote when discussing the Australian NPP then. You see, it’s a silly game.

    5. Data is available from Areva. Kimberlina has excellent data and supported technical history. I don’t have a problem with them keeping the data supporting their commercial products internal. You seem to think it’s unfair somehow?

    SolarDawn will be using the Kimberlina design elements/experience.

    Maybe we do have to wait a couple of years yet unfortunately.

    So the upshot is, I come from the commercial world trying to move energy/abatement projects ahead and your approach is something akin to academic paralysis.


  311. @ Finrod

    The Empire State building owners have said they expect payback in ~3 years, it was funded by a levy on tenants (who then take the benefits).

    Heat pumps aren’t suited to Australia (for example), no. It suits most colder-clime US states and most of Europe, yes.

    The Pittsburgh case was a life-cycle cost comparison. The roll out has started.


  312. @Zvyozdochka

    Nothing wrong with heat pumps, but it should be acknowledged that in places like the UK there is no option to install ground source or for that matter any heat pump for a significant portion of housing. The UK Climate Change Committee discusses this in it’s excellent “The Renewable Energy Review”. You should read it.

    In any case, electrification of heating will require quite a lot more electricity to displace gas central heating. It is needed but it will be costly and take quite a long time.

    As for replacing sodium lighting with LEDs, you won’t get much love from astronomers because of the emission spectrum. The light pollution is substantially worse. Astronomers rather like sodium lighting. A small example of why things are not always so simple.


  313. Finrod @ 23 September 2011 at 10:02 AM

    @ Z@Z:

    So what are the figures? Seeing as you are familiar with the literature, you should be able to give us a good summary of the numbers involved. This is your case to make, Z@Z. Don’t be shy.

    Good question. I await the answer (but don’t expect any).

    In the meantime, at the total economy level, energy efficiency is always improving. We cannot improve the overal energy efficency of the economy much faster than it is already improving without a very large waste of public funds – with results like the ‘pink bats’ home insulation program. Energy efficency can be improved a little faster, but it will make only small difference to the emisisons avoided by 2020. We should avoide wasteful government programs. We’ve done that before and the waste was enormous.

    For those who haven’t read it before you may be intered in this ABARES report: “Energy Inentsity i the Australian economy

    Click to access RR10.08_energy_intensity_REPORT.pdf


  314. Starting from
    NREL claims solar thermal has an overnight capital cost of around US$4500/kW and from a companion page a fixed O&M of US$60/kW-yr. [I’ll point out that the two new solar thermal projects in the US southwest that I know a little about indicate an overnigt capital cost of more like US$6000/kW.]

    I suspect that investors will find these rather risky projects so I’ll use 100% financing for 30 years @ 10.8%, just like NPPs in the USA. I’ll use the Mojave desert capacity factor of 25%. So without a thermal store, the sLCOE is US$0.260/kWh, vastly higher than for an NPP. Adding a thermal store (almost no more expense) to obtain a capacity factor of 67% [except for those pesky cloudy days] gives an sLCOE of US$0.097 which is then directly competative with NPPs.

    Maybe Z@Z would care to do an illustration of sLCOE using
    more applicable to Australia?


  315. Adding a thermal store (almost no more expense) to obtain a capacity factor of 67% [except for those pesky cloudy days] gives an sLCOE of US$0.097 which is then directly competative with NPPs.

    Yeah, I don’t get that. Adding a thermal store doesn’t actually intercept any more solar energy than before, it just gives you a bit more flexibility about when you move it on. The improved capacity factor necessarily decreases the nameplate capacity of the plant. I’m also not convinced that adding storage is a minor expense. Can someone illuminate these matters for me?


  316. For those who like to suggest that large energy efficiency gains in lighting can be extrapolated to electricity use overall, a reality check is the simple fact that 43%-46% of world electricity end-use is for electric motor driven systems. And 84% of that is industrial and commercial.

    Well run large scale industry and commerce tend to already be interested in energy efficiency and have in fact been interested for a rather long time. Implying there is some pending quantum leap in efficiency is quite unrealistic. In particular many countries already have national standards for electric motor efficiency.

    The IEA has an interesting report on potential for improving efficiency of electric motor driven systems:

    Click to access EE_for_ElectricSystems.pdf


  317. Finrod, What Benson has missed is that you have to increase the size of the solar field if you want to store energy for later use while generating at up to peak power (which of course happens once in a blue moon). The cost per average kW for plants like Andersol 1 and Gemasolar are in the order of $20,000 to $26,000.


  318. Finrod, on 23 September 2011 at 12:37 PM — Yes, the thermal store just changes when the heat is converted into electricity. With a thermal store the CSP can generate for most of the dayload demand, hence the CF of 67%.

    With a thermal store the steam turbine is smaller than without (for a fixed size solar field); thus the thermal store is almost for free in comparison to the expen$ive solar components.

    Peter Lang — I gave my reference for the cost, which in turn links to further information about how these capital costs were determined. Given the source (NREL) I’m inclined to use their average until/unless they are shown to be wrong.


  319. @ Finrod @ David B Benson

    Regarding storage, where have I gone wrong here;

    In an Areva (CLFR) design, the solar field represents between 22-30% of the capital cost, with storage approximately 9-18% (7 to 14hrs).

    Keeping it very simple; a sample plant of $2b would require field enlargement (let’s double it), so that’s another $600m, and 14 hrs storage let’s say $400m is $3b total. On our work, a CF for a sample plant just outside of Kalgoorlie would be around 72%.

    With a 50% increase in costs, the $2b plant with a CF of around 20% has jumped to 70% or 3.5x the output.

    (Previously posted here:


  320. Z@Z — A fixed size solar field collects a certain amount of energy. If there is no thermal storage that energy must be converted upon collection into electricity. That established the size of steam turbine required. Adding storage costs something, say enough the double the time generation is possible. But there is no additional energy, so the size steam generator supportable is approximately halved.

    Irrespective of the costs for these two alternatives, the number of kilowatt-hours generated is almost the same [losses might be different in the two cases.] So the total billable electical energy is the same; same output.


  321. Finrod, Peter Lang & Z@Z — Yes, thank you; I see where I went wrong as well. The solar field operator sells heat to the heat customer at the equivalent of US$0.260/kWh. The heat customer can either store to generate later or generate now; in either case the electricity he sells has an sLCOE of US$0.026.


  322. With a thermal store the steam turbine is smaller than without (for a fixed size solar field); thus the thermal store is almost for free in comparison to the expen$ive solar components.

    So you’re saying that the extra expense of thermal storage is compensated by a smaller and less expensive steam turbine and ancilliary gear?


  323. @ Finrod

    It was just an illustration of the way the component costs affect the capital total. The actual output doesn’t matter for the purposes of showing the decrease in delivered electricity cost by adding storage (which was the only point I was trying to make for the moment).

    The 250MW Solar Dawn is believed to be a $1.2b development. I’ve requested the complete development documents for Solar Dawn from our Areva contacts – they should be made public given the Solar Flagships money, perhaps it will only be December however. Operation is 30 years.


  324. Such details as are available for Solar Dawn are here:

    This is a CSP gas hybrid plant, so does not demonstrate thermal storage, or fossil fuel-free baseload generation. The capacity is 250 MW, so that presumably is the capacity of the CSP part of the hybrid plant at noon on a good day. Most of the output is going to come from the gas plant. This is presumably OCGT rather than CCGT to allow ramping of gas power up and down in response to rises and drops in solar output.

    This facility will in no way be a guide to the cost of baseload pure CSP. That would be necessarily much more expensive. And this thing is already over $4K/kW output according to the developers. How much would a straight 250 MW CCGT cost? Such a plant woulf likely release less CO2 than the hybrid being proposed, because CCGTs are much more efficient than OCGTs.


  325. @ Finrod

    It’s a gas boost boiler with reheat steam turbine;

    Solar only target CF is 23% and the valuable output is during the demand peak. The plant can contribute solar only output during the day.

    The project will have no trouble displacing peak OCGT power.

    It will also be used to more efficiently (than pure OCGT) demand follow and wind shadow.

    A second field with storage is Stage 2.


  326. @ Finrod

    My understanding is the plant will primarily be operated as peak replacement, but could be called on to suppliment supply which would necessitate gas use.

    CS Energy’s contribution was going to be otherwise spent on new OCGT capacity. I’m unsure as to Wind Prospect’s interests.

    I do not have a copy of the PPA which might show how revenues are divided up. It should be released in December with further detail on the data sharing and build timeline.


  327. The discussion has been masterfully diverted into side issues and FUD to avoid looking at the costs of electricity generation.

    We were getting there, Peter. Sometimes it just takes a while to run the quarry to ground. But I had no doubt the end result was going to be something of the nature of what you’ve linked to. It can hardly be any other way with solar.


  328. @ Peter Lang @ Finrod

    Can you please run your calculator over this most recently announced power plant for me;

    $500m for 330MW OCGT, plant life expected to be ~25 years.

    I discovered today the CF for these units in the mid-west of WA is 32%. This plant is commercially developed and advocated, so one must assume the proponent expects to receive a return on investment.


  329. @ Z@Z: It’s probably being proposed as a peaking plant, a role often filled by OCGTs because of their capability of quickly altering power output. It can provide reliable power when the prices are highest, demanding a premium for its services. The power is highly dispatchable and reliable.


  330. Z@Z,

    Your question displays you really don’t have much of a clue about electricity system, do you. Yet, you continually try to imply you do. Why don’t you calculate the LCOE yourself and post it here, along with the assumptions. It seems you don’t understand how because you haven’t even provided the required information. And as Finrod has pointed out, the CF is not the issue for fossil fuel and nuclear plants. They are diapatchable, so they operate to meet demand, as and when needed. OCGT are peaker plants. This cannot be compared to solar which are mandated as “must take” – thus seriously distorting any genuine market.

    Instead of posting all you nonsense advocating support for renewable energy, I’d urge you to support the removal of all market distortions, especially remoavl of all the impediments preventing us having low-cost nuclear power in Australia.


  331. Z@Z, this is a standard sort of open-cycle gas turbine plant. Nothing to do with solar thermal at all. So what’s your point?

    Given a handy gas supply, OCGT is indeed about the cheapest in capital cost. Running costs are totally at the mercy of gas prices.

    A CF of 32% in this case simply means that the owners run it as required for peaks etc, on average 32% of the time. Dispatchable, on-demand, summer or winter, day or night, rain or shine. If they wanted, they could run it round the clock (with allowance for maintenance of course).

    You cannot compare this with a putative 70% CF of a CST plant, which is actually at the whim of the weather and seasons.


  332. I’m happy for y’all to assume I’m an idiot that doesn’t even know why OCGT’s are used. No problems.

    Firstly, the Solar Dawn project I cost as $271/MWh. I used a 30 year life, 8.5% discount rate, CF 23%, $60/kW fixed O&M and $0.02/kWh for variable.

    Secondly, a 2010 ACIL Tasman Report placed OCGT peakers in WA as anything up to $300/MWh and rising depending on gas price and site/pipeline spur storage ability. Gas prices are rising everywhere in Australia, worse in the Eastern States.


    Thirdly, the work we did on Chapman Solar directly addressed this point. Peter’s $280MW/h is too high. Projected gas price movements in WA already have our client’s small version of the plant profitable without subsidy.

    Fourthly, given part of the motivator of the exercise is to reduce GHG emissions, in choosing between an OCGT plant with likely rising fuel costs and no emission saving verses a solar hybrid with emission savings and similar cost performance which one is chosen??

    Yes, the plant are price takers, however the demand peaks and output peaks correlate well but ultimately the plant can be commanded to provide power.

    Now let’s see your workings/assumptions on an Australian NPP. Let’s see if it isn’t at LEAST “five times NEM” or worse.


  333. Yes, the plant are price takers, however the demand peaks and output peaks correlate well but ultimately the plant can be commanded to provide power.

    Which plant are you talking about now? You keep jumping around between different projects and technologies, just like another CSP enthusiast, BilB, used to. These evasive jumps always seem to take place whenever someone gets a little too close to exposing the truth about performance.


  334. Actually, we are slowly making progress. Z@Z’s LCOE estimate for solar thermal agrees well with NREL supplied data. That this is cost competative with OCGTs is interesting. (I will point out that in the US everybody is building CCGTs; I know now of yet another in the region.)

    For a cost comparison, I’ll use US figures for a cyclable NPP, the Atmea1 at an assumed overnight capital cost of US$5000/kW. I’ll run it for both nightload and daytime load following for an assumed CF of 84%; sLCOE = US$0.105/kWh.


  335. @ Finrod

    “You keep jumping around between different projects and technologies”

    Sorry, I was trying to make a point about a project in WA (Chapman Solar). We know that it was marginally dearer (per MWh) than the WA-based 330MW OCGT that has just been given the go ahead.

    @ David B Benson

    What assumptions are you using there please?


  336. Z@Z

    Secondly, a 2010 ACIL Tasman Report placed OCGT peakers in WA as anything up to $300/MWh and rising depending on gas price and site/pipeline spur storage ability. Gas prices are rising everywhere in Australia, worse in the Eastern States.

    Ah yea, the old favourite “anything-up-to” way to exaggerate and mislead. For an equivalent statement, the critique of BZE’s “Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 Plan” estimated the cost of electricity at anything up to $1200/MWh.

    The gas price is an important variable, but not the most important. The most important variable is the assumption about how much how much electricity it will it generate. When you say “peaker” the assumed capacity factor on which the $300/MWh LCOE is based could be anywhere between 1% and 20% (I don’t know the upper figure, I am guessing. But you need to say the assumptions if you are going to quote figures like this).

    And just a reminder, the important point is that gas responds to demand. Solar is ‘must take’ by regulation and cannot respond to demand. So it is nonsense to compare the costs of solar with OCGT peaker plants.

    Intermittent renewables also cause higher grid costs as this shows:,877592/MRCP_Transmission_Cost_Estimate_for_2013_14_Capacity_Year_V4.PDF . These extra costs should be attributed to solar and wind, not carried by the back-up and the baseload generators that are being displaced. As a rough rule of thumb, I’d suggest you add $1000/kW and $15/MWh to the cost of the intermittent, non-dispatchable, renewable energy generators.

    Projected gas price movements in WA already have our client’s small version of the plant profitable without subsidy.

    Unsubstantiaded, proponent marketing and promotion spiel.

    Fourthly, given part of the motivator of the exercise is to reduce GHG emissions, in choosing between an OCGT plant with likely rising fuel costs and no emission saving verses a solar hybrid with emission savings and similar cost performance which one is chosen??

    I don’t accept the premise of the question for the reasons outlined above.

    I get the impression you are advocating that renewables should be the long term solution for our energy supply. I get the impression that comments posted here and elsewhere are because you want to keep in place and even increase government intervention and regulatory support for renewables while maintaining the impediments to nuclear.

    My position is a stark contrast to what I believe yours is. I believe renewables can have little impact on Australia’s or the world’s CO2 emissions in either the short or long term. However, arguing for them and keeping the focus on them delays us making progress on implementing nuclear. I am persuaded that nuclear will be needed and will need to provide the bulk of our energy supply if we are serious about cutting emissions. Anti-nuclear people, like you, over the past 50 years have managed to delay the development of nuclear. As a result world emissions are about 10% to 20% higher than they would have been if nuclear development had not been blocked for the past 50 years. This government has already delayed its introduction to Australia for another 5 years and counting. I see your contributions as part of the anti-nuclear protest movement that is the main cause of the continuing delay. That is why I argue, big picture, you are not helping Australia or the world. You are encouraging the government to pass laws that assist renewables and make it ever more difficult for the real solution – nuclear.

    Now let’s see your workings/assumptions on an Australian NPP. Let’s see if it isn’t at LEAST “five times NEM” or worse.

    Here is my analysis showing that nuclear is by far the least cost way to reduce Australia’s emissions substantially:

    Here is Martin Nicholson’s and my critique of the BZE’s ‘popular-with-renewable-energy-advocates’ analysis of the cost to power Australia with renewable energy . As mentioned previously, it is over ten times (up to twenty five times) the current average NEM cost of electricity and about five times (up to twelve times) the cost with high-cost nuclear. Low-cost nuclear would be cheaper than coal, as I’ve said to you in an earlier comment (with links provided) at that time.

    (I added the “up to” figures because I sense you prefer that sort of language)


  337. @ Peter Lang

    At some stage you actually have to introduce at least one NPP to begin your proponent marketed, spiel based solution. What will be the cost per MWh for that and what effect will it have on the baseload average cost? Let’s try a state like SA, often suggested as a good location to begin the process.

    Average price paid to generators for electricity in SA during the past month ( is 2.8c/kWh.

    How do you go about introducing David B Benson’s 10.5c/kWh Atmea1-based unit? Who is going to pay nearly 4 times the price?

    We’re trying to attack the other end (very expensive, high emission peak provision) for the moment, and commercially.

    “Intermittent renewables also cause higher grid costs (which should) not (be) carried by the back-up and the baseload generators that are being displaced”

    In the case of CPV or CSP, we’re configuring the “backup” onsite with the plant as per Solar Dawn or Chapman Solar.


  338. Z@Z,

    You certainly did not read, understand and digest the “Emission Cuts Realities” paper in that time.

    I suggest you read the pdf version rather than the online version because the pdf version has the footnotes and appendicies.

    I’d urge you to read and understand that paper as a first step. Otherwise I can see this discussion continuing as a succession of meaningelss one-line-ers. It’s pointless. It’s like BilB used to do. You asked the question, I’ve provided the answer. So I suggest you read it. You might also want to check the comments, because most of your points will probably have already been addressed.


  339. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 24 September 2011 at 9:40 AM — Here is what I plugged into the NREl sLCOE calculator:
    Periods (Years): 30
    Discount rate: 10.8%
    Overnight capital costs: US$5000/kW
    Capacity factor: 84% [low due to load following]
    Fixed O&M cost US$170/kW-yr [includes all aspects of nuclear rod replacement and storage, also decommissioning fee]
    Variable O&M cost: US$0.005/kWh
    Fuel cost: 0

    so sLCOE is US$0.105/kWh.

    Running flat out for baseload @ CF=90%, sLCOE is US$0.098/kWh.


  340. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 24 September 2011 at 11:40 AM — Cyril R. pointed out that replacement of the nuclear rods has to be done periodically no matter how much or how little the NPP is run. He suggested the value I used for variable O&M costs. With that and using the actual busbar costs of a fully paid for BWR nearby, I determined the fixed O&M costs as given.


  341. Earlier this week I read
    “Microwave Ovens a Key to Energy Production from Wasted Heat”
    and not knowing a thing about thermoelectric matrials, found
    “Filled Skutterudites as Thermoelectric Materials”

    So while the actual waste heat capture in the form of electricity might not be so efficient, if the filled skutterudites are now inexpensive enough this may become a useful technology.


  342. Last one for me, I can feel the frustration and I’m keen for my critics not to pop a valve.

    This is the position of our State Government, expressed here;

    In the real world, and as we are pragmatic, with exactly zero approaches to invest in NPPs, we had already worked up and outlined two plants for Western Australia, both raising money now.

    Each are a 250MW Areva CLFR with 7hrs storage, CF 37% with gas boosting/backup for $1.5b.

    Each are possibly a gas price rise away from being viable. No subsidies are expected or requested.

    We think these plant can directly target soon to be retired peaking capacity for ~$210/MWh (30 years, 7.5%).

    Gas use is less than 9% of the equivalent OCGT capacity with further thermal efficiency improvements expected from demand-following/wind-shadowing.


  343. Zvyozdochka (@Zvyozdochka), on 24 September 2011 at 1:27 PM — Thank you. The position and possibilites in Western Australia are now clear.

    Just for reference [and becuase I’m interested in understanding some of the possibilities of the Atmea1 NPP], suppose it is run at 30% of maximum (minimum possible) for (1-0.37)= 0.63 of the time and the power is simply given away, creating no income. This gives a CF of 37% towards income so the sLCOE is US$0.232.

    Vestly more efficient would be to include a so-called low temperature thermal store with an associated auximilary steam turbine and generator. Assuming now an overnight capital cost of US$6000/kW due to the additional equipment, the NPP can run at a CF of about 90% to compete for such a peaking load requirement with an sLCOE of US$0.113. [Of course nobody has built such a combination yet, so this remains conjectural.]


  344. I should point out that WA has nothing like the gas issues the rest of Australia has
    – it has or had the world’s largest Haber ammonia plant at Burrup
    – Darwin NT’s next gas source (offshore Icthys, replacing centralian Amadeus) is actually in WA
    – Rex Connor wanted to pipe WA gas back east. That caused a kerfuffle back in 1975
    – they don’t have the same fracking and groundwater issues
    – the world’s biggest ship will process gas offshore
    – 15% must stay in WA ie more exports means locals must keep up
    – sun doesn’t always help .. Saudi Arabia now wants to conserve gas.


  345. Z@A

    In the real world, and as we are pragmatic, with exactly zero approaches to invest in NPPs, we had already worked up and outlined two plants for Western Australia, both raising money now.

    That is the difference between what you and I are arguing about.

    You are making decisiosn about how to make money in in a country where the electricity supply industry is massively distorted by regulations, subsidies for some and impediments for other technologies. You are not really interested in whether you have a solution to cutting Australia’s CO2 emissions. You are simply interested in the commercial opportunity ands using CO2 as a marketing ploy.

    On the other hand, I am interested in the most economically viable way to meet energy demand, reliability, quality requirements, long term energy security, and cut CO2 emissions massively.

    We are miles apart in out approach.


  346. I share Peter Lang’s enthusiasm for shale . Shale is one of the most plastic rocks, so much so that tunnels and mines close in on workers unless the walls are reinforced. A repository in shale would be quickly sealed in once the supports were removed.

    Worriers say that if a fault forms in such soft rock, all the nasty stuff will escape. On the contrary, Shale tends to deform plastically with a minimum number of faults. When faults do form, Shale, as partially dehydrated clay, rehydrates, expands, and the gap closes over.

    Moreover, an effectively limitless amount of surface area is available in those clays to adsorb any escaping FPs. The evidence from the Oklo natural reactor shows that its fission products were retained in the surrounding shale.


  347. @ John Newlands

    WA domgas supply has price pressures and local supply constraints. Are you saying it doesn’t? I don’t remember a time when the price wasn’t rising.

    “Finding 10: Based on data published by the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the average price of all domestic gas contracts in Western Australia in 2009/2010 is calculated to be $3.70 per GJ. However, prices for gas under new contracts have recently been reported to be in a range of approximately $5.55 to $9.25 per GJ.”

    Click to access DGP+Report+%5BFinal%5D+20110324.pdf

    One of the many reasons our State Government has been supportive of our interest in targeting the old Pinjar OCGT facility is that it will help release gas supply capacity for the South West network. It is one of the largest gas consumers in the WA when operating.

    @ Peter Lang

    “You are simply interested in the commercial opportunity ands using CO2 as a marketing ploy.”

    It’s a business. Electricity supply in Australia has long since departed being provided as a State operated utopian “utility” and would be somewhat difficult to unravel now.

    If we can pick-off gas devouring peaking plant for the same price commercially then what is the distortion? We’re not asking Government to help, we’re not asking the population to pay. The long run price will be lower because there is much less inflatable variable fuel cost compared to the alternative (OCGT).

    Besides that, CO2 should be a driver, yes.

    @ David B Benson

    So molten salt storage (like pumped hydro) might offer an integration advantage for NPPs as well? Interesting stuff.

    I predict many of the objections to molten salt storage on this site will now quietly disappear.


  348. Z@Z

    @ Peter Lang

    It’s a business. Electricity supply in Australia has long since departed being provided as a State operated utopian “utility” and would be somewhat difficult to unravel now.

    If we can pick-off gas devouring peaking plant for the same price commercially then what is the distortion? We’re not asking Government to help, we’re not asking the population to pay. The long run price will be lower because there is much less inflatable variable fuel cost compared to the alternative (OCGT).

    Besides that, CO2 should be a driver, yes.

    Yes electricity supply is a business and so it should be. I do not support returning to the state owned electricity industries of the 1970’s and before. The world has changed since then and we won’t be going back there.

    In a commercial sense you are right to propose and offer the least cost way to meet all the requirements, one of which is CO2, but it is not the most important requirement.

    If we can pick-off gas devouring peaking plant for the same price commercially then what is the distortion?

    If that was true it would be excellent. But it is not true. It’s not even close as I and many others have explained to you on this and other threads. You have made many assertions but to me they are mostly BS. You have not substantiated your assertions. And you have continually avoided addressing direct questions and comments put to you. So I for one don’t believe much of what you have argued.

    We’re not asking Government to help, we’re not asking the population to pay. The long run price will be lower because there is much less inflatable variable fuel cost compared to the alternative (OCGT).

    I don’t accept any of those statements. You have not substantiated any of that. The comparison should be on the basis of LCOE, not components of LCOE selected to suit your case.

    I believe you are asking the government and the population to pay a higher price. You’ve made it clear (on BNC threads and on your twitter feed) you are anti-nuclear and support a regime in which the government encourages renewable energy in always possible.

    The long run price will be lower because there is much less inflatable variable fuel cost compared to the alternative (OCGT).

    That is not correct. You have not substantiated the statement and it flies in the face of all the figures available to us from authoritative sources. You made a misleading statement about this in a previous comment, I replied and you did not address the reply.

    Besides that, CO2 should be a driver, yes.

    Yes. CO2 is one of many drivers. But working, as you do, to maintain and encourage opposition to nuclear as the main solution to cutting CO2 is reprehensible in my opinion.

    Therefore, I do not consider you are doing positive for Australia. You are working for yourself and your employer, IMO. But helping to block what is good for Australia.

    My efforts are focused on trying to change bad government policies.


  349. The low storage cost for CLFR is based on the capability of pressurized water storage in excavated caverns. Thermodynamically the most efficient storage method, but there is no evidence of this system being developed. This is what David Mills proposed, but it is entirely theoretical with no indications that Areva is working on it.

    There are no CLFR plants with storage operating right now. There are no projects indicating underground pressurized water storage developments. It’s kind of a disappointment. I read a thesis on it. Very interesting, very cheap. Dig out tunnels in deep bedrock, line with metal, put in pressurized water (=working fluid for the CLFR). $100/kWe only for a day’s storage. But entirely theoretical. An academic death it seems. I had hoped to use this for PWR thermal storage. Would have been great.

    Anyone know what I’m talking about? More recent info available?


  350. Cyril R, on 26 September 2011 at 2:40 AM — #What is CLFR? What are you writing about?

    Z@Z — I have no objections to a thermal store. It seems to have many advantages compared to pumped hydro for short term storage [less than one day].


  351. When it comes to the development of energy storage, it seems the greatest industrial effort is being made to improve storage per weight for electric vehicles.

    As the number of electric vehicles out there grows, so too will the availability of distributed storage. Considering the number of cars presently on the road, the total amount of energy in the fuel tanks across a city of commuters is much larger than its power station would need to store. (1 million vehicles storing 30 L fuel at 40 MJ per litre amounts to 14 GW-days, whereas a 4 GWe power station would need less than 1 GW-day)

    I rather like the idea that just before I leave my carport of an evening, I tell my electric car what my risk profile is and the minimum kilometres of range I want it to have in store by 7 AM. Then I leave it to gamble on the energy market all night.

    If the smart grid reaches out to the park-and-train parking areas, cars can resume gambling during the day. The power station need only generate baseload, then trade the excess or deficit with the cars parked around the grid.


  352. RC wouldn’t it be easier if commuters rode their bicycles not cars to the station and the energy saved (say liquid fuel) was kept at the power station? I don’t like the chances of millions of low paid workers each getting a parking spot with a two way connector.


  353. John Newlands:
    Bicycles are not universally available. For example, the very young, the infirm, those who are sick or with disabilities, may be unable to use cycles. Do you propose a solution for only part of the transport requirements of the population and then, somehow, to wave a magic wand and apply it universally?

    I, for one, am approaching my post-cycling years. I’m not quite there yet, but my wife is. When we travel to the capital city, we are thus obliged to use a mechanised form of transport for at least the first leg of the journey.

    I, too, am somewhat attracted to Roger Clifton’s gambling battery proposal. Our journey into town for shopping or to the station is less than 10km each way… ideal, I would imagine, for a compact electric car.

    To enlarge the concept: imagine what proportion of Australians live within 10km of a station. Roger’s concept could be expanded to shared ownership of some of the compact EV’s. People may choose to retain but not to replace their old gas-guzzlers for those longer range trips, or for when they have more than 2 passengers or must carry heavy or bulky loads, etc. At present I wear out my primary gas guzzler each 10+ years. They are well capable of lasting double that, if used less.

    Hypothetically, replace one of these and keep the ute. The EV would do well over three quarters of my miles and the now ten-year-old ute will last up to 20 more years, by which time a viable alternative to ever-higher oil prices will have emerged to satisfy my occasional need for the ute, which would then be scrapped.

    Presto! No need for arthritic geriatrics, even (in my case) ones who have, over the years, owned a dozen bicycles, to be forced to pedal into town.

    I never did enjoy cycling in the rain or when the temperature is above 30 degrees or below about five degrees, in any case. That’s another plus for the EV.


  354. RC I don’t disagree. The problem will be that of the non-sprightly and even the young and fit who have to get 20kg of groceries home up a steep hill. When I last looked PHEV sales (the Chevrolet Volt) were underwhelming as was London electric parking. Seems we really want hydrocarbon fuelled behemoths to take us everywhere.

    Since many people can’t afford, are too far out of town nor have suitable parking for the ute + EV option I wonder if natural gas cars might suit. Example . If they became popular the US and Australia would have to rethink how much gas was burned in power stations.

    What worries me when petrol is $3/L is that leafy inner suburb residents will have their EVs but outer suburb battlers who work city night shift will be stuck with their gas guzzlers.


  355. @DBB: I once owned a tiny 3-wheeler. Stability, or lack of same, on corners was an issue, but nowhere near as scary as the experience of having a German Shepherd dog gently but firmly bite my wrist when I extended my arm signalling a turn while stationary at traffic signals. The dog was as startled as I was – he grabbed my arm as a reflex action, perhaps thinking that I was about to whack him on the nose. The dog was as embarassed as was the owner holding his lead.

    I’m hoping to acquire a battery car with reasonable performance, because the trip to town includes a couple of steep pinches and some 100kph (60MPH) country road – not the kind of place to linger at low speed or without reasonable crash protection.

    I have hopes that competition will force the Volt, etc, down by 50%.

    For just over $50k this little beauty is available in Australia. 200km range, 100kph. Unfortunately, it is about the price of a 2-tonne SUV or a pair of conventional cars.