Emissions Nuclear Policy

CEDA report on Australia’s nuclear energy options

Today I was in Melbourne, joining a panel of five who are the chapter authors of a new policy monograph called “Australia’s Nuclear Options“. This event was to formally launch the 61-page report, which was commissioned and published by CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia), edited by CEDA Chief Economist Nathan Taylor (who also writes a blog, The Naked Ape,  and provided a terrific lead-in essay to introduce the report), with the chapters written by five independent Australia-based experts.

It was a very interesting event, with over an hour of questions and commentary after some opening remarks from each of the five panelists (me [Barry Brook], Tony Irwin [Visiting Lecturer in Nuclear Science, Australian National University and University of Sydney, and Chairman, Engineers Australia Nuclear Engineering Panel], Professor Tony Owen [Academic Director and Santos Chair of Energy Resources, UCL School of Energy and Resources], Tom Quirk [Ex-Oxford Don, Physicist and Director, Institute of Public Affairs] and Tony Wood [Director – Clean Energy Program, Clinton Foundation and Grattan Institute]). There will be a similar launch in Adelaide on 29 November.

Here is the summary:

Australia is at a critical moment in determining its energy future. Energy demand is forecast to rise substantially with continued economic and population growth, while policy makers grapple with how to decarbonise the economy. Meanwhile, global growth in energy demand is causing ongoing price rises in commodities. Given the long lifecycle of energy investments, policy decisions made to address these challenges will determine Australia’s economic competitiveness for decades to come.

The need to decarbonise the economy, and technological changes, have the potential to fundamentally alter the economic and engineering issues of nuclear power deployment, making it far more relevant for consideration in Australia.

This policy perspective is part of CEDA’s major research project on ‘Australia’s Energy Options‘ which examines a range of issues associated with Australia’s energy sector that will be released throughout 2011/12.

Join CEDA at the launch of ‘Australia Nuclear Options’ policy perspective and engage with a range of Australia’s leading thinkers on nuclear energy. We invite you to participate actively by contributing ideas and exploring how Australia can exercise its nuclear option.

If you are interested in some of the policy and technical issues around nuclear energy in Australia, then the report is worth taking the time to read — you can download the full-colour report here as a PDF.  (Disclaimer: As always, I contributed the chapter, and my time for the events, gratis, as a fiercely independent academic).

There are also some snapshot summaries of the report here, which covers the following FAQs: (i) What should Australia do? (ii) Nuclear waste: Environmental problem or opportunity? (iii) Australia as the world’s disposal site? (iv) Weapons proliferation. (v) Nuclear safety. (vi) Environmental Opportunity. (vii) Economics of Nuclear Power – expensive to build, cheap to run. (viii) Construction and Nuclear Power. (ix) Nuclear renaissances in command and control economies. (x) The opportunities associated with Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. (xi) The economic opportunities in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The report got some media coverage, including two articles in The Australian newspaper (here and here — the latter provocatively titled “Nuclear back-up for renewables”!) and a media release from CEDA. So what is in the report? Here is the table of contents, to whet your appetite:

CEDA will follow up with two further reports, on renewable energy and on technological options for moving to a low-carbon economy. All in all, I think it’s great that an organisation like CEDA is willing to take a leadership role in bringing tough public policy issues to the fore, and getting core information to the business community and politicians (who were sent the report).

There is a lot of useful information in Australia’s Nuclear Options. Although the material in my chapter will be mostly familiar prose to regular BNC readers, I was asked to focus on what environmental ‘opportunity costs’ Australia would forgo by not pursuing nuclear power. One of the points I made was this (pg 17):

In 2010, nuclear energy was used to generate commercial electricity in 31 countries, providing 74 per cent of total supply in the case of France, and a global total of 2,628 terawatt hours. Based on standard emissions intensities for nuclear (20 kg CO2-e/MWh) and coal (930 kg CO2-e/MWh), this is an effective saving of 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. Only hydroelectricity displaces more fossil fuels than nuclear (3,250 TWh). By comparison, wind generation in 2010 was 14 per cent that of nuclear, while solar generated just 1.5 per cent as much. In 2009–10, Australia exported 7,555 tonnes of uranium, all of which was used to fuel nuclear power plants. If this electricity had instead been generated from brown coal-fired sources, an additional 370 million tonnes of CO2 would have been released. Clearly, foregoing nuclear means overlooking an already significant global contributor to low-carbon electricity.

I’m sure you’ll get a lot that’s new out of the other four chapters, which cover many key issues (economics, options for value-adding to the nuclear fuel cycle, energy policy planning in government, and the significant opportunity for small modular reactors as a first entry for fission in Australia) in a rational, logical and evidence-based way. As good public policy documents should.


By Barry Brook

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

88 replies on “CEDA report on Australia’s nuclear energy options”

I’ve just the read the section on the nuclear fuel cycle. It seems to opt for laser enrichment in an integrated operation that includes fuel reprocessing possibly for foreign customers and some waste disposal. It suggests a capital cost for a sizeable facility which by implication would get much of its power from nuclear generation elsewhere or nearby. There is scant mention of thorium of which Australia is expected to generate 20,000 tonnes a year as a rare earth byproduct.

Not discussed were siting issues, security and timing in relation to generating capacity but there’s plenty enough to chew on. Alas I fear many critics won’t even get that far.


You write, on page 16:

“No country to date has displaced its fossil fuel fleet by using these sources, for a number of practical engineering and economic reasons. One has to be an extreme optimist to imagine that this reality – this lesson of history – is going to miraculously change in the coming decades.”

Count me with the optimists. Photovoltaic solar will be the cheapest generation method in less than a decade, which is just about no time for energy questions. That changes things somewhat.

I still agree that Australia should build nuclear power stations. I just don’t think it is in any way necessary to argue against renewable energy to make that case. I think this weakens your appeal, a strategic mistake in messaging.


KFL, it changes very little because energy storage is more expensive than today’s electric generating cost by a large margin. Energy storage is not getting cheaper. The opposite, in fact. Performance goes up, along with it the cost. Good for cars, not useful for raw grid energy storage.

There is a difference between being optimistic and simply not having a plan that adds up.

I’ve argued this various times, much more elaborately, before. You just keep repeating the same mantra without running the numbers on a solar powered future.

This is exactly the kind of attitude we don’t need right now.


“Photovoltaic solar will be the cheapest generation method in less than a decade…” Red herring. Cheapest cost doesn’t mean it can feasibly provide the necessary _capacity_.


There were many good points made at the launch, but I thought the main one was that even with the regulatory impediments to NP removed, the current privatised electricity market arrangements are going to continue to favour low-capital cost/short build time gas generation – hence the discussion on the possible role of SMR’s. The obvious conclusion is that carbon pricing will simply drive electricity prices up with only marginal abatement. State electricity commissions had the role of formulating the optimum mix of generation assets, and in the post-privatisation era, new arrangements need to be developed – perhaps we need to follow the UK’s lead in looking at a “capacity mechanism” as part of market reform,

Stephen Martin and Nathan Taylor discussed the role of CEDA in promoting debate within the political class, but I think the bigger challenge is promoting wider debate within the media generally – Fairfax and the ABC (with a couple of exceptions) have an institutional opposition to NP – the only media outlet that seems to promote discussion is The Australian. It is hard to see the ABC running a documentary like the PBS “Chernobyl’s Radioactive Wolves”


On reading the full report I see a basic dichotomy
1) SMRs with fuel handling outsourced
2) large units with fuel processing in Australia.

Perhaps a mine or desal could run on SMRs to break the ice politically. At the same time baseload replacement plans could be made for capacity currently in Hunter Valley NSW or Latrobe Valley Vic, neither of which is on the coastline. By the time the first large reactor is built plans could be underway for an enrichment and reprocessing plant somewhere in Australia. That would eventually serve a number of large reactors.

At the moment our political leaders are like kangaroos blinded by the headlights of the semitrailer that is about to crush them. The gas/renewables nirvana is not going to save us if we are serious about carbon cuts. Let’s hope politicians at least acknowledge the report.



This looks to be very interesting (I haven’t read it yet). Some excellent authors. What a contrast to ZCA2020. The BZE response will be interesting :)


This is an excellent step in the fight to change the political climate in Australia vis-à-vis nuclear power. We need to show the benefits of nuclear power as scientifically based and the concerns overstated and manageable.

Graham you are right that CEDA is more focussed on the political class but this is a good starting point. Get some of the politician to openly support at least considering nuclear power and the media will run the story – even if cautiously initially. This will get the debate going.

We also need a public campaign to convince the general public it makes good sense and is in their interest. This is much harder but needs to be done along side the political campaign. The one organisation that seems very successful at this is GetUp! but given their “green” bias this might be a big ask for some years to come.


(Comment deleted. )
Comments such as your initial remark and PL’s response lead to acrimonious tit for tat which is not productive and which BNC tries to limit.


(Deleted off topic comment)
This comment violates the BNC Citation Rules and is also off topic on this thread. Please re-post with analysis of your link demonstrating that you have read and digested it’s contents and give us your appraisal. Re-post in either an Open Thread or a thread which discusses green energy options.


Good one Barry. I look forward to reading the report. I’ll try to get to the Nov 29th launch in Adelaide. Make sure Tom Koutsantonis gets an invite, and Tom Kenyon and Chloe Fox as well. They’re all nuke supporters. I sent a pile of my writings of the past 6 years to Koutsantonis yesterday and asked him to get me an invite to address the State Labor MP’s on the role nuclear should play in our future energy supply. There are nuke supporters in the Coalition as well. Perhaps we could all write to our local MP’s and others and urge them to develop a bipartisan position to help get the nuclear show on the road. Forget Get Up for a campaign. I’m a member and tried to get them to consider nuclear during one of their CC programs. They’re like the Greens on that score. Their minds are closed. Since 2003, I’ve had a few goes on ABC Radio National including debating Professor John Veevers on Phillip Adams LNL [March 2003 for goodness sake] I suggested Australia could make sufficient cash to finance the salvation of the Murray/Darling were we to develop an international high level nuclear waste dump in the Officer Basin of SA Veevers told listeners that we could make just as much money going into wholesale Heroin production. True story, ask P. Adams. On Sept 4th I gave an Ockham’s Razor talk on Robyn Williams show of that name. I pointed out the inadequacies of the renewables and said we need to include nuclear in our energy mix. The producer informed me that my talk had received more comments than any other in the history of the programme. Lots of them were positive. I’m doing a follow up talk [recording it on Nov 23rd here in Port Lincoln]. I’ll be exposing some of the nuclear myths that the antis have been circulating for the past 30 years. I’ll let you know when it will go to air. By the way, in my submission to BHP Billiton I suggested that a desal plant at Whyalla was a bad idea and that it should go near Ceduna and be nuclear powered. And that they should also power their Olympic Dam expansion with two or three PBMR’s thereby negating the 275Kv gas fired power line from Port Augusta. So, I’ve been on the nuclear case for quite a while and am of course delighted that things are really starting to move. Keep it going Barry.
Cheers, Terry Krieg


Terry the report’s section on the nuclear fuel cycle screams ‘South Australia’ but doesn’t quite say so. I don’t believe a big gas fired power station at Pt Augusta will be feasible with gas at $9+ per gigajoule. I note some are asking for transmission upgrades to Eyre Pensinsula presumably to help flog MRET mandated wind to the east

The article also says the Whyalla rare earths plant will help make wind turbine components. Maybe but there’s also the slight matter of 20,000 tonnes of thorium oxide byproduct as I’ve mentioned upthread. Some SMRs could supply the 700 MW needed for the Olympic Dam expansion. I note in the report some models are optimised for desalination.

What I would suggest to SA politicians is to drop the Whyalla desal and the Pt Augusta gas plant. Build an SMR complex with desal on some open coastline (lower Spencer Gulf or the Bight) to power and water OD. Wangle a low interest deal to BHP so it doesn’t imperil their $23bn profit.

That’s to cover the next few years. Later on worry about uranium enrichment, fuel rod preparation, spent fuel reprocessing and linking to the bigger electricity and water grids.


@Cyril R.

I would be rather hard pressed to put up the numbers for a whole energy plan in a blog comment. You need a book (like that of David McKay) for that:

I do appreciate the occasion to add a reference for my statement that solar will be the cheapest form of electricity generation shortly, since I forgot about that in my last post. Sorry about that:

Article by Kees van der Leun,

@Cyril R. and seamus

You don’t seem to think that getting prices for solar down below any competition is a big deal. Let’s just say I disagree.


We’re on the same page John Newlands. Your vision for our future energy and state development is excellent. If Koutsantonis replies positively, would you like to join me as we take a delegation to him and /or the State ALP caucus? Please call me on 86821571 or email Thanks John. If the ALP knocks us back, we could try the Liberals. I met Isobel Redmond the other day and she’s pro nuclear and so is my local Liberal member, Peter Treloar. I’ll keep the pressure on him as well.


By the way Barry, Is Tony Owen the guy who seemed to write nuclear off in yesterday’s Australian. Santos = gas=back up for wind. I accept that they’ll be important for coming decades but that MUST NOT negate a move to nuclear. Three generations from now, gas will probably be on the way out. Nuclear will be OK for at least 30 generations as you know.


TK, Tony Owen got misquoted, as you’ll see when you read his chapter. He was not particularly happy about the newspaper article in the Advertiser that put what he said out of context.


TK probably not as I’ve voted with my feet and now live in SW Tas. In my SA days I stayed in Whyalla, Cleve, Karcultaby, Minnipa and Pt Lincoln a number of times hence the interest in the region. The politicians you mention have expressed different approaches
Redmond – has said gas fired trigen is the way to go
Koutsantonis – wants enrichment/Gen 3 but I think prefuelled SMRs first.
In the next 6 months I think the priority must be to persuade politicians that major gas plant and Whyalla desalination are both bad ideas because that locks in limits. The concept of an energy park at Ceduna resonates as it creates the possibility of massive future expansion. It could start with a cluster of SMRs and end up with Gen 3, reprocessing and Gen 4. At the same time the region becomes independent from precious river and ground water.

An alternative to Ceduna could be Ardrossan who seem positive towards a proposed 600 MW wind farm. They’d need underwater cables to connect to major customers. I’d push the idea of a clean energy hub taking population pressure off Adelaide with hydroponic vegies, electric cars and so on. Also plenty of work for eggheads in Adelaide’s submarine factory and defence contractors. I won’t be at any meetings but I can contribute ideas.


Thanks Barry. Yes, it was the Advertiser,not the Australian who misquoted Tony Owen. Sorry you’ve left us John. What occupied you during your Eyre Peninsula days?


From the SMR section of the report:

Fast neutron SMRs have outlet temperatures of 500˚C, and hence
improved thermal efficiency (compared to thermal reactors). This outlet temperature is also suitable for hydrogen production.

I think this is too low a temperature to produce hydrogen directly. The sulphur-iodine process requires 830 C for its H2SO4 dissociation step.


turnages, the Copper-Chloride cycle is within range:

The copper-chlorine cycle (Cu-Cl cycle) is a four-step thermochemical cycle. It has a maximum temperature requirement of about 530 degrees Celsius.[1] The Cu-Cl cycle is one of the prominent thermochemical cycles under development within the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). Through GIF, over a dozen countries around the world are developing the next generation of nuclear reactors for highly efficient production of both electricity and hydrogen…

Advantages of the copper-chlorine cycle include lower operating temperatures, the ability to use low-grade waste heat to improve energy efficiency, and potentially lower cost materials. In comparison with other thermochemical cycles, the Cu-Cl process requires relatively low temperatures of up to 530 °C (990 °F).

Another significant merit of this cycle is a relatively low voltage (thus low electrical energy expenditure) that is required for the electrochemical step (0.6 to 1.0 V, perhaps even 0.5 if lower current density can be achieved).[5] The overall efficiency of the Cu-Cl cycle has been estimated to be just over 43%,[6] excluding the additional potential gains of utilizing waste heat in the cycle.


Copper chloride is extremely corrosive at elevated temperatures. In fact, its one of the best chlorine donors you could have in a reaction process.

Isn’t that a big materials problem?


As for KFL’s remarks, here’s a nice reference for Karl to check:

Solar power in Germany, from all solar PV, in real time.

Currently Germany has 19 GWp electric PV installed. This is 19000000000 Watts of peak photovoltaic capacity. Impressive, no?

Currently Germany is producing 0 Watts from this 19000000000 Watts of PV. From 16.30 hours it has been producing this 0 Watts and will continue produce 0 Watts until 7.30 tommorrow. And even then, on mid day, it will briefly produce 30-35% of its peak at noon, and after 13.00 hours it will go down quickly again.

Not so impressive, huh?

If you scroll through the other days you’ll quickly come to the conclusion, that PV comes and goes with the flowers.

What is the point in free PV if your electricity storage costs much more than conventional power? Germany needs most power in winter and in the evening. Just when PV is out.

PV in Germany doesn’t produce, on average, 90% of the time.

What is Karl’s plan for this showstopper problem? Ignore it and try to steer attention towards keeping repeating how cheap PV will be.


Terry I particularly enjoyed one Pt Lincoln trip sailing around in a 54′ sloop looking at the haunts of the great whites. As I’ve just said on Decarbonise SA I think the condensed message to SA politicians is this; both a Pt Augusta gas fired power station and a Whyalla desal are plagued with issues. Combine water and power production in a SMR complex on open coastline somewhere like Ceduna.

Admittedly the transmission easements don’t yet exist for this. The proposed water pipe from Whyalla to Olympic Dam is 320km long but using the Google Earth ruler tool I make it 350 km from Ceduna. The other problem with SMRs is that part of the world may need over a gigawatt of power, particularly if it includes the enrichment plant proposed in the CEDA report. However this proposal kills two birds with one stone and gives Australia a quick intro to NP.


Yes John, you’re right about 1GW needed for the region. Just wondering if a bank of PBMR’s established over time at Olympic Dam would be feasible/sensible. In my vision statement printed in the Adelaide Review two years ago I had major nuclear fuel cycle development at Whyalla using OD yellowcake. Give me your email address and I’ll send you a copy. I sent one to Koutsantonis with other stuff yesterday.Cheers John. Terry


Terry since the desal is needed anyway and water cooling is more efficient I think they should be co-located on open water coastline, not Whyalla which is an oceanic backwater. Some of the SMRs mentioned in CEDA may integrate thermal desal with cooling. Whyalla will be be very much part of the nuclear fuel cycle with the Arafura rare earths plant using railed-in NT ore.
That plant is expected to produce 160t a year of U3O8 and 20,000t of ThO2. At full tilt Olympic Dam will produce 19,000t of U3O8.

This is why I hope SA politicians see what I call the ‘big picture’ of how everything could slot in together Here’s a check list of issues
CO2 mitigation, OD expansion, low carbon energy, thorium, gas depletion, marine conservation, regional development, national grid, river water conservation, stranded wind

Spammers ignore this but my email is which is satellite based. The nuke connection is they could find the cash by knocking $20 bn off the fibre cable rollout.


John Newlands — For one alternative to acquire 1 GW eventually, a possibility is 23 NuScale units. Or 8 B&W mPower units. Or to obtain it all at once, one Atmea1.


DBB I think they should kick start the Olympic Dam expansion with just enough prefuelled SMRs. The CEDA report doesn’t say so but I think that region or adjoining coast is also the logical site for enrichment and reprocessing, possibly flow-on industries like zirconium metal smelting. There were post WW2 A-bomb tests out that way (by the Brits) before they knew any natural uranium was there so I’d throw in high level waste disposal as well. They’ve also found uranium in a separate military rocket range area. That whole region is radio-isotope central so anti-nukes are being precious if they object.

A single coastal site could initially combine SMRs and desalination with a water pipe and power lines direct to OD. That could be done quickly so the public didn’t have time to time to overreact. Later when nuclear had proved its chops a more monolithic Gen 3 could be built alongside the SMR. That big unit could connect the currently separate eastern and western Australian grids, perhaps in stages. Thus the SMR and probable LWR would operate side by side.

Later an adjoining site would do enrichment, fuel rods and reprocessing. Later again a Gen 4 and pyroprocessor could consume most waste products as well as thorium from the Whyalla rare earths plant. The RE/thorium ore would be railed down from the Northern Territory passing Olympic Dam. Note OD does its own ore processing just they lack sufficient water and electricity to expand. This could all be done before the SMRs were sent back for first refuelling.

Thus the sequence would be
1) coastal SMR and desal dedicated to Olympic Dam
2) large Gen 3 connected to national grid
3) enrichment and reprocessing, auxiliary industries
4) Gen 4.


(Comment deleted,)
Steve – this comment is off topic on this thread and also a violation of the BNC Citation rules. Please re-post on either the Open Thread or the “Depressing climate-related trends – but who gets it?” thread and as per BNC policy, please add further comments to demonstrate you have read the link. Your own interpretation of the contents is also required.


@Cyril R.

As David McKay points out here, storage is a problem that is the same order of difficulty as problems already solved:

Maybe you won’t be able to solve that problem. That does not show that nobody can do it in the next couple of decades. For more discussion on this meta-question see “Schneier’s law and renewable energy” on my blog:


To sell the introduction of nukes on the basis of their capacity to produce cold hydrogen for a remote user is to surrender our negotiation at the first step. After all, hydrogen is hard to make, difficult to store, and cheap to sell.

Why not propose a nuke as part of a “chemical reactor”? Now, it has a wide range of possible uses. The generic design need only have the capacity to pipe copious heat into whatever facility needs it at the time. The client then designs whatever reagent stream is to go through the heat bath. For example, a coal slurry could be hydrolysed here, for subsequent refinement.

Similarly, a nuke might be proposed as part of a “electrochemical reactor”, designed to produce copious DC current at low voltage. A large number of potential applications spring to mind here, particularly the reduction of metals from their oxides.


Karl-Friedrich Lenz — Solar thermal is rather mature and so the price is unlikely to fall as significantly as for solar PV. The advantage of solar thermal is of course the thermal storage possibilites but even the most optimistic estimates are for an eventual LOCE of US$0.14/kWh. That is, of course, much more expensive than NPP supplied electricity at around US$0.10/kWh.

Not to metnion the reliability advantage during a long period of dense clouds.
References please.


@David B. Benson

Do you have a reference for those estimates at hand? Thanks in advance.

One result in Google I found with “CSP LCOE estimate” is this article at “greentechsolar”, which estimates costs to come down to 10 to 12 cents per kWh by 2020:

At scale, everything becomes just about as cheap as the needed raw materials. I don’t see that mirrors should cost much more than silicon.

I disagree that solar thermal is rather mature. Desertec is a couple of years ahead of schedule, but has not even actually built the first plant in Morocco. And recently concentrated solar power is hit hard by the steep decline in photovoltaic solar prices.


Karl-Friedrich Lenz — Not mature? Raed about Archimedes. :-)

I can easily generate LCOE figures for NPPs. Estimating improvements in solar thermal costs is too difficult for me but let’s use the ones from your link. At US$3800/kW, assuming generous financing terms and because of thermal storage a CF of 39% the NREL calculator gives an LCOE of US$0.120/kWh. Not bad except that one still needs backup for extended periods of heavy clouds (or dust storms in the Sahara).

And not enough thermal storage even for diurnal cycling either. Assuming a generous 25% CF for actual sunshine, one still needs ‘daytime’ capacity for another 7 hours, giving a CF of 50% less downtime for cloudy days. That is an LCOE of US$0.095/kWh which is certainly a competative rate despite the requirement for backup.


John, I thought my vision for SA energy future and development in general was pretty good but yours is much better. Even so I’ll send you a copy of my now 3 year old piece. Thanks for your email address.

Barry, imagine my delight in reading The report [excellent by the way]and reading Tom Quirk’s suggestion that there are huge opportunities for SA and Australia once we’ve had the good sense to offer the world our Officer Basin for an international high level waste repository. I’ve been saying that since 2003. That waste [storage] dump would be the obvious first step for Australia as it embarks on the development of the full nuclear fuel cycle over the next 25-30 years.Access Economic figures of 1998 put earnings through royalties etc from user countries at $2.3 billion per year if I remember correctly. That’s the money I thought we could use to save the Murray/Darling system. And, going on today’s Australian, we’re still a hell of a long way from achieving that. As a nation we’re not all that bright are we??


To keep various LCOE estimates in perspective, recall that harrywr2 found and linked to the VC Summer NPP justification analysis. In that mountain of information, the two Westinghouse AP-1000s, all up costs [except possibly for some planning and permitting costs but including the transmission and financing] has an LCOE of US$0.076/kWh.

I opine to achieve that requires running the NPPs as just baseload, going full out as much of the time as possible.


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The comment to which you refer has been deleted as off topic on this thread. Please re-post in a carbon tax specific thread.


KFL you’re avoiding the question. I’m not saying “it can’t be done”. I am saying, do the calculations on how much energy storage you need to truely get rid of fossil fuels – as climate change mitigation requires. I’m not talking about a 20% renewables plan, I’m talking about a 90% renewables plan.

Your analogues are very poor. Information technology, encryption etc. is fundamentally different than bulk energy storage. You can’t make a pumped hydro scheme smaller or radically more efficient. You need the mass of water to store energy. You need the mass of chemicals to store energy in a battery. We are talking about something far more fundamental, where simple physics provide a barrier to the resources – and thus cost – required to make energy storage schemes on a grand scale. You can make encryptions and security systems a million times more complicated simply by using more data, but you can’t reduce the mass of a battery a million times. Batteries have not come down in cost, they have gone up over the years. Pumped hydro has not come down in cost, they have gone up with more recent projects. There is no learning curve for cheap enough bulk energy storage, and it is way too expensive.

You cannot make some randon analogue and expect it to be sound. The mechanisms behind the analogue must be similar and they simply aren’t, fundamentally.

How the analysis should be done is with numbers, numbers, numbers. This has been calculated on this site, recently.

It has been calculated on other sites as well, see e.g. this article on how much battery capacity you’d need for the US to convert completely to renewables:

What I want is for you to run the numbers on how much energy storage would be needed for a German PV/wind/ system. It is not sustainable to run 30% wind/sun and 70% mostly fossil. In a developing world with rapidly increasing energy demand, we need close to 100% solutions or we will fail in solving the CO2 emissions problem. Simple as that. For wind and sun this means bulk energy storage at ultra low cost and low environmental impact.

I’ve ran the numbers and read other people’s attempts at quantifiying the problem. After reading it, it is clear we are simply not going to do this. I was reluctant to accept such conclusions as I was once a strong supporter of wind and solar. After running the basic numbers, it makes no sense at all except in niche applications.

Let’s see some numbers Karl.


On re-reading the section of the CEDA report on SMRs I see that most models are not drop-in ready for metropolitan or remote mining applications. Generally the capital cost is over $4 per watt. A mining company could more quickly and cheaply build a $1.50/w gas power plant and a long gas pipeline. Since the gas industry itself says to expect to 5% annual price increases the cutoff point would come after a few years. However business is all about the short term.

If SMRs were allowed in Australia it seems certain they would need US NRC approval. There would be no chance of getting a Russian lead cooled reactor on a floating barge. Some of the smaller units (<50 MWe) with copious steam production seem more suited to the Arctic than the Australian outback. Specifically on the 700 MW Olympic Dam expansion an array of 70-150 MW modules seems feasible. That would be water cooled on the coast with a reverse osmosis desalination plant or hybrid thermal/RO plant alongside.

Assuming the Federal govt were to allow nuclear how long would it take to switch on a SMR after committing? My guess at least 5 years. The bureaucrats would need a gazillion meetings and reports, the self appointed anti-nuclear saviours would need need their stage managed hissy fits and so on. Nonetheless I think it is the way to go to get the nuclear ball rolling.


@Cyril R.

Your reference to the “oil drum” post by “Rembrandt” gives me a great occasion to again explain the meta-idea of “Schneier’s law”.

Just because “Rembrandt” is not able to solve the problem, that doesn’t show it can’t be done by anyone else.

The other post at this site you referenced was not talking about storage, but about the need for storage, or lack thereof because of a large grid. But even if the poster joined “Rembrandt” and you in the belief that he himself is not able to solve storage, again, that does not quite prove it can’t be done yet.

Please note that this is independent of what technology one is talking about. I can easily name millions of problems I am completely unable to solve. Proving that it can’t be done requires expertise and actually trying to do it for a couple of decades.

“Rembrandt” doesn’t seem to try very hard. Limiting your analysis to batteries and requiring them to provide all energy for a week is a rather unrealistic assumption.

A somewhat more realistic approach is found at McKay’s book, where he calculates with lots of numbers that one car battery matches beautifully the amount of storage needed for one person:

I personally also watch other alternatives, like the quicklime cycle, hydrogen hybrid wind plants, smart grid, and market forces. Since this is already rather long, please refer to my post “Just do it: Discussing Trainer’s defeatism” for explanations and references:

And writing this has given me yet another idea for easily solving the storage problem. I am going to write it up for my blog right now.


This is clarify my suggestion on how SMRs could enable the expansion of Olympic Dam mine. I put this here since SMRs and mining are canvassed by the CEDA report.

The original specs were for 690 MW additional power supply which presumably covers the power requirement of a 187 megalitre per day desalination plant on the coast some 300 km away. Current proposals include
– a desalination plant at Whyalla SA and 320 km water pipe
This idea is widely opposed as it is next to a marine sanctuary and provides limited flushing of hypersaline exit water.
– a gas fired power station at either Pt Augusta or Roxby Downs
The first option would need beefed up transmission while the second needs a long (~400 km) gas pipe. While moderate capex upfront the gas price is likely increase strongly in a few years.

My suggestion is to do neither but combine them in an alternative coastal site. An array of SMRs together with desalination could send water and electricity some 350 km directly to OD. The reactor cost alone is likely to be $3 bn or more. To put that in perspective BHP Billiton the owner of OD mine made over $23 bn profit last year.

When the SMR array-desal is up and running a large Gen 3 reactor could be built. If this was done at the same site it would need to be connected to the east Australian grid with transmission enhancements, but possibly also joining to the WA grid. Then a uranium enrichment and fuel processing plant could be built. Again same area. Note that at Whyalla (the original desal site) both uranium and thorium will be extracted from Northern Territory ore. That’s in addition to the OD uranium. Finally build a Gen 4 plant that can use the Gen 3 waste and the thorium. All of this while the SMRs are still on their first load of fuel.


@CEDA , p47: “mPower …[includes] air cooled condenser for remote locations” as part of the potentially mass-produced modules. This is particularly attractive to planning an installation in Australia, as anywhere away from the coast lacks the generous water supply usually assumed in nuclear designs. The report does point out the water problem (p30), and says the coast is not particularly accessible either, but I didn’t read of anyone pointing to the mPower unit as offering a special solution.

Air cooling is already done in Australia, but not on the potentially cheaper modular basis of the mPower design.

A power station which does not require a water supply can be placed in a discreet location, away from the river or coast and the gaze of passers-by.

The potential for desalination and water recycling (p41) should make SMRs particularly attractive for the same reasons. There is a synergy there too, because water which has been heated for efficient reverse osmosis, or from flash distillation, will carry away waste heat conveniently. An above ground pipe carrying away near-boiling water at 3 L/s would dump 1 MW into the air. At the very least, the sheep would enjoy the above-ground pipe in winter.


KFL, regarding your night time solar power comment, your link to Mackay concerns concentrating photovoltaics, not concentrating solar thermal. I don’t think its relevant.

Without going through the minutiae again, the costs of CSP incorporating any useful quantity of storage certainly do not support optimism for solar becoming the cheapest form of (useful) energy in currently visible technology families. See for example TCASE7 using Andasol as an example, or for a more rigorous review, Nicholson M, et al., How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies, Energy (2010), doi:10.1016/


Roger Clifton, thanks for the link to Kogan Creek Power Station. This is a 750 MW air cooled coal plant. I didn’t realize air cooling had been implemented here at this scale – its the largest single unit generator in Australia. It provides a useful existence proof to answer objections to thermal power plants on the basis of water consumption.


John Newlands, @ 13 November 2011 at 12:38 PM

Olympic Dam mine, or any mine for that matter, has next to no baseload component of demand. Mines and their associated towns have highly variable demand, sometimes near zero when the plant shuts down. You cannot pay for a nuclear power station with such a highly variable demand. You cannot make the desalanitation plant economically a viable either with a highly variable power supply.


@Peter Lang says that the demand of a mine site is too variable to pay for a high-capital NPP.

The mining industry and its workforce are particularly well attuned to the high-capital, low-downtime requirements of a fleet of trucks, excavators, massive crushers and a non-stop metallurgy plant. The workforce for a remote mine is particularly expensive, too. While the price of the commodity is anywhere near the costs of extraction, a mine site tends to work flat out, 24/7. That is pretty close to baseload !

However, the cost of diesel fuel for a remote mine site is also particularly expensive. Having a nuke on site would allow the pit to be dug with electrical excavators and electric conveyor belts. That saves an awful lot on very expensive ore trucks. However yes, such an operation can be interrupted by accidents, maintenance and rain storms.

For a certain period a desalination plant could take up the load, its storage consisting of the big tank up on the hill. However, rather than spend much capital on a big desalination plant to stay idle most of the time, a mining financier may prefer to have a nuke that stands idle some of the time.

When the cost of production exceeds the price of the commodity, the entire mine and its town goes into mothballs. Transportable modules, such as trucks and generators are sold to other operations elsewhere. Other heavy plant is simply written off as having already paid for its installation. That is where you need a reactor design that has a design life similar to the other equipment on a mine site – perhaps five years. A compromise might be a design that allows you to remove a still-rich core and reinstall it in a similar reactor elsewhere.


Peter I can’t see how the Olympic Dam expansion can go ahead without a non-gas power source. When they say they need 690 MW I presume that is peak demand. The controversial RO desalination plant would draw perhaps a steady 45 MW of that. However that region has major freshwater needs due to economic growth, salinity, groundwater depletion and possible future restrictions on ‘imported’ river water. Therefore every spare bit of energy could go on desalination, with reverse osmosis needing 2-4 kwh per kilolitre of water I believe. Then there’s the effort of pumping water 300 km over low hills through a 12″ pipe. Large hilltop holding tanks may be required.

Note the pipeline easement also provides an electrical transmission corridor from the coast to OD. If SMR electricity with desalination were to be done out that way a deal could be struck between BHP and the SA govt. Temporarily surplus electricity would go on desalination to boost regional water. Even under a private electricity supply arrangement excess energy would be embodied in the water pumped from the desal to the public system.


@John Morgan

From the link cited:

“The reason that people nevertheless make concentrating solar power systems is that, today, flat photovoltaic panels are very expensive,
and concentrating systems are cheaper.”

That says exactly what I gave the reference for (CSP cheaper than solar only a couple of years ago).

You may be right that at the time of TCASE 7 concentrating solar power was not yet cheaper than coal. But that is only driving by looking at the back mirror. It won’t tell you what will happen a decade from now.

Again, some estimates I found were at 10 to 12 cent per kWh in 2020.


Karl-Friedrich Lenz —
He who does not learn to store
shall have no power after four.

If solar thermal with sufficient storage can possibly cost only an LCOE of US$0.12/kWh and operate after the sun goes down until about 11 pm and then again from about 6 am until sunny enough, then there is going to be a market in locations with enough sunshine.


Roger Clifton,

Sorry, you are dead wrong. Mines stop and start. Olympic Dam virtually stopped for a while because one of its shafts stopped operating. Mines have virtually no baseload component of their demand.

Miners are very concious of cost. They have to be. They will not invest in a high cost electricity generation plant if they can generate more cheaply with oil or gas.


John Newlands,

IMO, for a nuclear plant to be viable in SA it will need to be loacated near the major baseload demand centre, Adelaide. Yes, it will send electricity to Olympic Dam and also desalinate water. Olympic Dam demand will be a small component of the total demand so its power fluctuations will be manageable by the peaking plants in the grid. Water storage at the scale needed to allow the desalination plant to operate on a ‘when-power-is-available’ basis would be huge. You can think of the water storage requirements as a parallel of the energy storage capacity needed for unreliables compared with nuclear. The desalination plant would cost much more than if run on a constant basis (when water is required); it would have to be higher capacity (just like a wind farm needs much more capacity than its average output because of its low capacity factor), so higher capital cost. It would also have higher O&M costs.


Peter there reasons to locate the power supply nearer to OD even if the economics are not strictly optimal
1) possibly integrating cooling systems with desal
2) non-mining demand for more water and power
3) FOAK public perceptions.

What I mean by latter is that the public may think there is some kind of poetic justice in returning the nasty nuclear fuel close to where some of it may have originated. The people of Ceduna for example have come to terms with mildly radioactive zircon sand at the loading jetty and perhaps with the A-bomb tests at Maralinga in the 60s. Suggested NPP sites like Pt Stanvac south of Adelaide will have NIMBYs in fits. I know some of them.

Sneak in some SMRs and desal on a patch of coastline close to OD. Have it built quickly and run it glitch free for a few years. Then the scene is set for large NPP in the Hunter and Latrobe valleys.


@ Roger Clifton, on 14 November 2011 at 9:13 AM and various other efforts by JN and Peter Lang:

I must support Peter regarding power consumption by mines. Several mines adjacent to the Upper Hunter power stations, Liddell and Bayswater, are excellent real world examples. The ones which I have in mind are fed via a 33kV power supply which occasionally struggles and fails, entirely due to the magnitude of the power swings associated with such machinery as draglines.

Presumably, the proposed OD expansion will include several such loads.

I won’t re-quote my previous words on BNC regarding SA, but is seems to me that there is already existing clapped out brown coal capacity, fully connected to the grid, just waiting on an existing site to be replaced by something. Also, there is a significant and increasing desalination need and desal is in an ideal position to provide a load which can be time-shifted to suit other users or turned off entirely in an emergency.

Yes, an NPP at Torrens wouldn’t suit everybody, but it wouldn’t preclude either the proposed solar farm or mooted GT installation either. The site is large enough and sufficiently close to loads to be asble to handle expansion along these lines. The only strike against it seems to be that it isn’t at beloved Ceduna, which matters to some but not at all to me.

Anyway, the point of this was to say that a mine site certainly does not have steady power demands. There is no reason to believe that OD is any different from the examples I quoted, apart from being larger even than the Hunter’s open cuts.


Anticipating that the cost of remote diesel will increase with time while the capital cost of nuclear power decreases, there must come a point where an operator (e.g. remote mine site) would prefer to pay for a small nuke that idles some of the time.

That probably would require mass production to eventuate first. May that happen while there is still a decent climate to save…


While we’re worrying about finding 690 MW for Olympic Dam perhaps we should worry about replacing 1280 MW at Torrens Island. Note when the gas pipe to Moomba seemed vulnerable they built a second pipe to Victoria. If OD some 600 km away were to run successfully on SMRs for a couple of years that might help acceptance of large NP in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

A lot of the infrastructure in South Australia is a historic accident not the result of very long term planning, but that’s probably true everywhere. The Playford and Northern coal stations were built near the rail line to Leigh Ck coal field. Mangrove swamp may not have been the best source of cooling water but it was handy. I note the current plan is to make the older site a solar steam source for the newer station. A bit further down Spencer Gulf at Whyalla BHP owned real estate as the former incarnation of OneSteel. It was also reasonably close at ~300 km to Olympic Dam. This is not to say Spencer Gulf is a good place for either desalination or thermal plant, just historically and economically convenient.

Getting back to two key chapters in the CEDA report, namely SMRs and enrichment, in my opinion SA is the place for both in an adaptive sequence. Find a coastal site with ocean currents not too far from OD. Build a cluster of SMRs and a desal plant using the same easement to send power and water to the mine. Build that up to connect to the larger grid while becoming Australia’s national enrichment facility since by then it will have gained public acceptance. . If there is still resistance to metropolitan sites for large NPP perhaps that pioneer site could expand to that role as well.


@ Ken,

This site moved on from fighting climate science deniers some time back. It was and is fruitless because those who won’t listen are not listening.

I see no reason to re-open that debate.
(Deleted inflammatory remark)

I truly feel deeply offended by policies and actions of some wind and sun supporters who overstate the capability of their chosen technologies whilst understating the limitations and costs. What is the synergy between this site’s objective and continuation of business as usual renewables and the need for low carbon widescale energy solutions, right now? How can it be logical to support the unbelievable unreliables?

There are hopes that energy from the sun and the wind could someday be cheap and effective. The problem is that at this stage it is, in today’s circumstances, as nonsensical to advocate unreliable energy sources as it is to side with those who reject the clear implications of climate science.

Just today, Ditlev Engel, the CEO of Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, has been interviewed in Climate Spectator. This man has seen his company’s share price tumble 90% and his workforce heading downwards rapidly as his market share shrinks and as he closes manufacturing capacity worldwide, including his two Australian factories. He has been obliged to report corporate losses to the stock exchange and to his sharholders.

He is also quoted as saying:

“Oil and gas is [sic] going to be the base load for decades to come for the world. We all know that.”

This man has chosen to ignore coal and nuclear for one reason alone: commercial reality of the link between unreliables and the backup which peaking power from oil and gas provides. He, on behalf of his corporation, is advocating expansion of fossil fuel power generation in order that Vestas’ small slice of the energy cake may prosper. He has chosen to mislead about what the true base load generators of the world are and is prefers corporate PR spin over carbon emission reality.

I fail to see how effective action to reduce atmospheric emissions of CO2-e to below zero, which must be our target, can be founded on such alliances.


My dreams are crushed. I thought SMR’s were the key for reducing the nuclear power’s up front cost.

Now I see on page 44 of the pdf that:

“Projected cost is US$4,000 per kW installed which compares with the
$3,400/kW quoted for the Flamanville EPR (1650MWe) and approximately
$3,000/kW for the Westinghouse AP-1000 (1200 MWe).”

Seems to me these plants should be cheaper based on lower financing costs, shorter construction times.

What gives??? I don’t get it. There must be some wrong assumptions being made to come up with these numbers.


bowergs I think it will take SMRs to break Australia’s nuclear virginity. The political climate is not conducive to lengthy build times and bickering as we’ve seen with Finland’s large Olkiluoto project. During a long build time project we’d have endless court injunctions, political grandstanding and the usual nonsense about CCS and geothermal about to save us. The higher unit cost may be part of the price we have to pay for that.

A leading candidate for SMRs would seem to be the 700 MW needed for the Olympic Dam expansion in the outback, but also needing a desalination plant on the coast ~300 km away. An array of several modules optimised for desalination could be built on the coast with power and water lines to the mine. Some have said
– with reverse osmosis the desal could be built anywhere
– a mine has too variable power demand.
I suggest the electricity supply could be private but any excess power output could go on public water supply of which there is a great need. At $5/w we’re talking $3.5 bn just for the reactors.

If Australia could get a project like that up and running inside 5 years based on SMRs and have it run smoothly the scene could be set for larger NPP in metropolitan or coalfield regions.


In table 4 on p 28 it shows the LCOE of combined cycle in the US of 7.7 and 8.3 cents/kwh. The footnote says this is based on a natural gas price of 7.4$/GJ….. arggg now you have forced me to convert GJ to therms!!

If I have converted correctly 7.4$/GJ = 7.8 $/therm. I just checked at WSJ commodities prices and it looks like natural gas is down to almost 3.5$/ therm. So the quoted numbers for LCOE of CCNG in the US could be way higher than current NG prices would reflect.

Anyone agree or disagree w/ this??


JN, thanks for the response but what about the 4000$/kw upfront costs?? Doesn’t that seem high to you??

GSB (formerly GeorgeS)


In the case of Olympic Dam $3-4 bn is small change for BHP Billiton who made $23 bn profit last year. The semi-govt water authority can raise its own cash for a share of the desalination business. As I predicted the $36 bn outlay on the NBN fibre cable rollout isn’t getting enough customers. Cut their budget in half and lend it on low interest terms to SMR buyers
Australia will pay dearly for its first commercial nuke, either top dollar for quick install SMRs or a long drawn out site build with delays due to inexperience and political obstruction.



There are nearly 10 therms in a gigajoule. From wikipedia:

Therm (US) ≡ 100,000 BTU59°F[2]

= 105,480,400 joules
≈ 29.3001111 kWh.

Therm (UK) = 105,505,585.257 348 joules[3]

≈ 29.30710701583 kWh

So it looks like your calculation is a factor of 10 out. 7.4$/GJ would be 78cents/therm.


I have to say that I love the photo used at the beginning of ch 3. It is probably one of the best I have seen to promote nuclear power. . I like how you can’t see the GT. It is in the background.


turnages, on 22 November 2011 at 8:01 AM said:


So it looks like your calculation is a factor of 10 out. 7.4$/GJ would be 78cents/therm.

Then how can the numbers quoted on WSJ commodities be that wrong. They are quoted in $/ therm. and the quote is 3.5$/therm??

I could be wrong of course.


@ John Newlands, on 22 November 2011 at 05:37:

“An array of several modules optimised for desalination could be built on the coast with power and water lines to the mine. Some have said – with reverse osmosis the desal could be built anywhere – a mine has too variable power demand.”

On the coast, agreed about desal. “[B]uilt anywhere?” – I think not. Away from the coast, especially in dry South Australia and for the Olympic Dam project, where does the input water come from and the resultant brine get discharged? Desal away from the coast is a prohibitively expensive proposition, because the salt must be removed via brine concentration and evaporation ponds and then trucked to disposal, as has happened for the past 25 years at NSW’s Bayswater Power Station.

Yes, a mine has a variable power demand, but the processing facilities – crusher and smelter – may provide a base load to buffer that
variability. Electrification of the rail line between mine and Adelaide would also be rational. The power station should ideally serve loads other than just Olympic Dam. The power station, smelter and desal
would all benefit through being sited on the coast (not “anywhere”, with piped water and transmitted power to the mine, several hundred km inland.

I cannot understand why BHP-Billiton or anybody else would choose to construct the power station at the mine, when there are other industrial and residential loads which are not well served at present, in the SE of the
State. Perhaps BHP is blinkered. Perhaps they are scared of any approval process involving full integration with the SA grid and the approval processes for the transmission lines.

BHP’s gas turbine and water proposals appear to be the minimal options.

This only makes sense if the proponent, BHP, is scared of regulatory entanglement. I infer that doing business in SA is just as difficult as anywhere else in Australia. Planning comes second to short-termism, and thus we end up locked into second-rate outcomes every step
of the way.

Congratulations, SA! You have not solved your water problems, you have not enhanced energy security, the mine is very much reliant on local gas fired GT’s with inadequate connection to external backup, the state is locked into more gas fired generation, the top of the Gulf will receive saline brines from a dedicated desal plant and transport to and from the mine is deisel fired trucks and trains, instead of electric rail.

Who wins?


John Bennetts, @ 22 November 2011 at 11:34 AM

I cannot understand why BHP-Billiton or anybody else would choose to construct the power station at the mine, when there are other industrial and residential loads which are not well served at present, in the SE of the State. Perhaps BHP is blinkered. Perhaps they are scared of any approval process involving full integration with the SA grid and the approval processes for the transmission lines.

BHP’s gas turbine and water proposals appear to be the minimal options.

I fully understand why BHP would choose to have its own generators, under its own control at the mine. I also understand why they would be gas.

The mine is an enormous investment. It is high risk. It also has high sovereign risk because of its uranium component. The mine managers could not predict when a future government might change the rules.(Personal political inference deleted.) Or other rule changes that make it unprofitable to continue, such as: Minerals Resource Rent Tax, Resource Super Profits Tax, the next environmental tax after the CO2 tax, and other impediments to productivity like winding back the industrial relations reforms implemented over the past 30 years.

With all these risks, as well as risk of the electricity unions holding the mine to ransom, you can understand why the mine owner would want to have control of their electricity generation.


There is a difference between sovereign risk (the possibility that states will be unable to pay their bils as and when they fall due) and regulatory risk (the probability that regulatory changes will impact upon a business model). Remembering that OD is primarily a copper mine and that uranium is a side issue, is it really conceivable that a future government will demand its closure?

What I do see is a relatively unreliable but certainly adequate proposal for on-site gas turbines to power a mine with limited backup, as opposed to an opportunity for similar amounts of more reliable energy to be available if only the SE Australian energy regulator was on top of the game. Of course, on-site emergency power was always going to be needed. The operational requirement for 24/7/52 megawatts is different. Running a couple of GT’s and the associated fuelling plant is relatively simple, but not as simple or as reliable as a pair of HV transmission lines.

Unmet demand has been a concern for a decade at least in SA, as also the prospect of gas shortages beyond a decade and/or gas price hikes. I suppose that if you happen to be BHP and gas prices hike, you win much more from the Bass Straight gas fields than you lose at the mine, so they aren’t too concerned.

I’m primarily interested from an engineering perspective and how the engineering and approval processes have resulted in the announced arrangement. I remain convinced that BHP, with lots of money to be made, has decided to go for the KISS solution, not necessarily the most elegant or efficient one. By comparison, the former Western Mining Corp, in WA, some years ago decided that they were not best suited to running a string of power stations which require expensive fuel and expensive electrical staff and argued for a transmission line running NS through Lenstra, where I was working at the time, over a distance of more than 1000km from the Pilbara to the Southern Ocean. I don’t know what transpired.

Similarly, BHP’s Newcastle plant decades ago abandoned its substantial power station and concentrated on its core business.

South Australia’s government negotiators around the table with BHP-B may have something to answer for here, because it is not part of the core business of a miner in a desert to provide base power.
(Deleted personal political opinion)
So, Peter has said that he understands BHP’s decision, based on non-engineering considerations. I still view Olympic Dam’s power and water arrangements as being opportunities lost and as being environmentally suspect, especially in the case of the desal plant at the head of the Gulf. It’s bad engineering, showing no style and leaving the proponents open to public criticism for setting low environmental standards.
I think the conversation is veering off-topic. Continue on the Open Thread.


There was an expensive diesel generator at Roxby Downs in the early days until they built a line to Pt Augusta, 132 kv if I recall. Also from memory they extended electricity to Prominent Hill mine where the uranium is sub-economic. However other deposits like Carapateena in the Woomera military area are U-rich and will also need power and water if they go ahead.

Now I live in Tas this issue will repeat with the possible re-opening of the King Island scheelite (tungsten) mine. It will need either new diesel generators or an underwater AC cable. At the township the big battery to store wind power was an abject failure and couldn’t cope with light demands.

The gas option for OD is a major gamble. The pipe from Moomba goes past the Pt Augusta coal stations under Spencer Gulf to Whyalla. There’s talk of OneSteel and its coke fired blast furnaces closing shop which could free up the gas currently needed by the town. To extend dwindling Cooper Basin gas Santos is talking of fracking but early results aren’t good from my reading of Crikey. To power the OD expansion with gas plant either at the mine via new pipeline or at Pt Augusta would require a long term gas contract at low rates. BHP could say since we’re paying this new tax could the Feds step in to guarantee gas supply. Otherwise I’d say it’s SMRs or hamsters on treadmills.


As happens all too often, the discussion has moved far away from the CEDA presentation.
Agreed – let things go for a while and it happens. Off topic comments are now being deleted.


One politically-palatable (in Oz) transition sequence from coal to nuclear could be to put a nuke alongside an existing coal burner, with a coal-to-liquids operation. This reassures all those people making a living from extracting coal that their livelihood can continue, while politicians can collect praise for reducing emissions.

The scale of power throughput by a CTL plant is similar to a hefty power station. Located to the north of Roxby Downs, the Arckaringa Coal-to-Liquids and Power Project is proposed to output 10 million barrel per year of liquids with a 560 MW (e) of co-generation power facility. That is equivalent to an output of ~1.7 GW (th) of liquids and a similar amount of thermal power to create the exported electricity, implying the extraction of about 3.5 GW of coal. On top of that, the electricity used by the CTL plant would imply more coal being extracted, presumably more than 4 GW, all destined for the greenhouse.

Considering that the power station is probably primarily there to provide power to the liquefaction, adding a nuke to the process stream would allow the conversion of all the carbon extracted, as well as allowing the exported electricity to be labelled “low-carbon”.

Currently, of course, such an operator would be planning on very cheap coal, and no risk of having to pay for CO2 emissions. If those two factors were to change, and the value of the liquids to rise, the cost of a nuke might be justified.

Wherever that accounting applied, coalfields could remain active on the basis that they were now producers of transport fuel for export.


Your right 7.4$/GJ=.78$/therm

I believe quotes in WSJ are in $/MMBTU not BTU/ therm as I stated.

so if NG is quoted at 3.50$/MMBTU =.35$/therm

this is not delivered price to the plant but I still think the author used gas prices for CCNG that were too high.

The current LCOE for CCNG should be lower than the authors stated 7.7/8.3 cents/kwh.



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