Nuclear Open Thread

Open Thread 20

The previous Open Thread has gone past is running of the recent posts lists and getting tough to find, 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.


A new temperature reconstruction by Foster & Rahmstorf (Env. Res. Lett.), which removes ENSO signals, volcanic eruptions and solar cycles, and standardises the baseline.

I’m currently in Auckland, New Zealand, attending the 25th annual International Congress on Conservation Biology. A 4-day event, it’s a great chance to network and catch up with my colleagues, hear the latest goings on in the field of conservation research, and also give a few presentations (me and my students). I’m talking tomorrow on the impacts of climate change in Oceania — this covers a co-authored paper I have coming out in an upcoming special issue of Pacific Conservation Biology (which was actually the first journal I ever published in, back in 1997), entitled: “Climate change, variability and adaptation options for Australia”.

A conversation starter: George Monbiot has written a superb piece on nuclear power and the integral fast reactor over at The Guardian. It is titled “We need to talk about Sellafield, and a nuclear solution that ticks all our boxes” (subtitle: There are reactors which can convert radioactive waste to energy. Greens should look to science, rather than superstition). My favourite quote:

Anti-nuclear campaigners have generated as much mumbo jumbo as creationists, anti-vaccine scaremongers, homeopaths and climate change deniers. In all cases, the scientific process has been thrown into reverse: people have begun with their conclusions, then frantically sought evidence to support them.

The temptation, when a great mistake has been made, is to seek ever more desperate excuses to sustain the mistake, rather than admit the terrible consequences of what you have done. But now, in the UK at least, we have an opportunity to make amends. Our movement can abandon this drivel with a clear conscience, for the technology I am about to describe ticks all the green boxes: reduce, reuse, recycle.

George’s essay includes details on the integral fast reactor and the S-PRISM modules that GEH hope to build in the UK (to, as a first priority, denature the separated plutonium stocks, and thereafter generate lots of carbon-free electricity). The fully referenced version is here.

Although the comments thread contains the typical lashing of misinformation and vitriol one would expect from such topics in a relatively unmoderated stream, it’s also clear George has created some converts — or at least people who are willing to reassess their preconceptions. Great stuff. Feel free to leave a few comments yourself on that post — Ben Heard has certainly weighed in a few times! This is becoming an inescapable reality for rational Greens now. I really feel some momentum, at last.

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.

436 replies on “Open Thread 20”

New article in German newspaper Der Spiegel (online edition)

Solar Subsidy Sinkhole
Re-Evaluating Germany’s Blind Faith in the Sun,1518,809439,00.html
Thanks for the link Paul, however, please be aware the BNC Comments Policy requires that you have read and analysed the piece yourself so that you can provide some commentary of your own. Please ensure that you do this next time. Thank you.


NREL considers thermal storage as enabling a greater penetration of solar PV:

Click to access 52978.pdf

The study is limited in scope but skillfully makes a case for the virtues of thermal storage. I doubt that 95% efficiency is obtainable but I doubt that using, say, 80% would change the major conclusions.

Of course, being NREL the thermal storage is supposedly energized by concentrated solar. Any sufficiently hot source will do and I see no obstacles to that source being nuclear fission. I suggested that already in


Well found. This paper nests fairly well with some of the analysis brought forward on BNC regarding storage and the unreliable nature of PV and wind, in particular.

I suspect that it displays a certain optimism on the part of the authors, but as a discussion in search of funds for an industrial-grade attempt at modelling, I accept its relevance and general fairness.

One issue not discussed adequately is the magnitude of the increased capital cost for concentrated thermal power stations in order to provide the large thermal storage and augmented turbine capacities which are envisioned to provide the triple goals of storage (essentially load shifting) and fexibility (providing for ramping up and down to meet demand) and extending these to provide compensating shedulable energy for variability of PV’s unschedulable unreliability.

I suggest that this article be added to the reference lists of the BNC threads devoted to storage and the unreliability of solar and wind generation capacity.

Of general relevance is the conclusion early in the article that at penetration of much above about 20% solar PV+CSP, in the absence of thermal storage, these generating plant will start to feel the impacts from curtailment – they will have to dump energy because the grid cannot accept it. (See Fig 4)

Interesting. I had assumed a rule of thumb of 10%, but perhaps 20% of annual energy is closer to the no-curtailment practical limit in this Californian example, with prospects to expand wind+CSP+PV to 50%, given sufficient capital cost for thermal storage and minimal curtailment.



John Bennetts — Thermal storage is well established and quite inexpensive. I attempted to address that in my prior comment linked at the end. What is expen$ive is concentrated solar; the price is almost the same with or without the thermal storage. I’ve seen estimates of LCOE in the US$0.20–0.25 range; ouch! So energizing with an NPP would be more economic [although I know of no such arrangements].

My own analysis (with the already linked comment) suggests an upper limit of around 30% solar PV, with the thermal storage, before curtailment sets in.


My suspicion is that PV/wind penetration will be governed somewhat by geography; pumped hydro is the best large scale storage, and can deliver huge MW on demand.

We’re running out of options for hydro in Australia though, and all pumped hydro is fairly dependent on ‘rain’.


Scenario: Australia bans all export of uranium tomorrow.

Can anyone provide a study on the net global CO2 emissions as a consequence of this hypothetical ban?



Don CM — Following World Nuclear News I have the impression that there are many alternate sources of minable uranium. A ban would only impact the Australiam economy.


Scenario: Australia bans all export of uranium tomorrow.

Can anyone provide a study on the net global CO2 emissions as a consequence of this hypothetical ban?

Ka$h for Kazakhstan! The impact on actual global CO2 emissions would be a matter of how the minor CO2 emissions from the alternative uranium sources stacked up against ours. A more speculative issue would be the political ramifications of such an act, and how it would influence the perceptions of the investing classes.


Germany’s 20 year energy plan is estimated to cost US$ 2.2 trillion (yes, thousand billion)! From
spending that fabulous sum on Areva EPRs plus supporting transmission, etc., would appear to come close to meeting Germany’s entire primary energy requirement and exceed the electical energy component by a factor of nine or ten.

I do hope others will do the elementry calculation themselves and post the results. Is a (largely) renewable plan actually that much worse than NPPs?


Anyone who believes Germany is going to replace its nuclear capacity with wind and solar is a fool. The recent PBS Frontline program on nuclear energy had a German representative say that they would use coal to replace nuclear plants being closed. Based on my experience as a transmission system planner, I think they will have to use the nuclear plant sites for the new coal plant. Maybe they can pull out the reactors and replace them with coal fired boilers to cut costs. if Germany doesn’t use coal to replace nuclear, then it will surely wind up being a member of the new PIIGGS group.


@Don CM, in his otherwise generally ridiculous and highly tendentious <a href="; piece riffing on the Olympic Dam expansion, Gavin Mudd calculated that Australian U exports in 2010 equated to 257 million tonnes of black coal combustion. Note, that’s a single year’s worth. Bizarrely, he apparently regarded this as insignificant.


Roger Clifton, on 17 January 2012 at 6:40 PM said:

@Eamon — more questions. I’ve done some homework for you already — perhaps you could, as a Japan resident, prepare a short summary for us here on the political dynamics after the Tohuku earthquake?

No problem Roger, though my call for info was because the people on this forum would likely be able to point me in the direction of scientific studies, rather than the dross that abounds on the Web these days.

The political dynamics are shaped by two factors: a deeply entrenched bureaucracy that is used to shaping policy-making, and the political-class that appreciates the figurehead position that this creates.

After the earthquake people expected quick movement on generating and approving finances to help rebuild the Tohoku area. This got dragged out immeasurably by political sniping (some from inside the ruling party) by those wishing to be the next at the reins of power. Also, many minor parties, often needed to form ruling coalitions, have become firmly anti-nuclear, which will complicate things in the future.

One of the consequences of the powerful bureaucracy is that it is used to sharing knowledge sparingly within its myriad departments, and there has been little need for the public or politicians to challenge this given the Confucian ethos that, until recently, permeated Japan.

This gave rise to some of the most damaging revelations during the disaster, though typically, an increasing anti-nuclear media is portraying this as an nuclear industry issue, rather than a bureaucracy issue. The revelations include:

* The Nuclear Safety Commission ignoring information from the SPEEDI System (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information, Department of Trade, Industry and Education). This lead to evacuees staying in an area of high radiation, which could have been avoided by consulting SPEEDI.

* The Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency asking TEPCO to assess the risk of Tsunamis to its Fukushima Plants. TEPCO reported back a few days before the tsunami that there was a risk of a 9-metre tsunami.

* The Agriculture Ministry banning the feeding of livestock with hay, as it could be contaminated by fallout. They forgot that Japanese farmers also use rice straw to feed livestock. Result – contaminated meat.

* Bureaucrats forgetting that gravel and other aggregates are stored outdoors. Contaminated gravel was widely used in construction in Fukushima Prefecture after the disaster, one condominium’s ground floor having two orders of magnitude more radiation than the local background.

* Prime Minister Kan ordering the halting of seawater injection into the damaged cores due to NRC quavering on its pros and cons. Luckily the site manager requested that his staff ignore the order and they did.

Please note I’m referring to public perceptions here – contaminated meat in small amounts will not have a noticeable effect (if at all) on a person’s health, though there is argument on the sensitive of young children to radiation doses. Also note that an increasing distrust of the bureaucracy (and with good reason) leads people to question what they hear from them – especially with regards to food safety these days.

One of the lessons learnt from the evacuation in Ukraine was how it damaged the health of hundreds and the quality of life of thousands of evacuees. Assuming the lesson had reached his advisers, why then did PM Kan order an evacuation from a 20 km radius of the damaged power station? Did competent authorities get excluded from the advice?

I will say first, that I agree with his decision, as a precautionary measure – though I think it should have also been bounded by probable contaminated areas (Using data from SPEEDI) rather than a simple radius. Until a good picture of the actual dangers on the ground are it seems sensible, and moreover, was a political necessity given the public pressures on the administration. There was also the additional factor of having to deal with the tsunami and earthquake damage across Tohoku

I will add at this juncture that my knowledge of that time is spotty – we were without electricity, kerosine and petrol, and low on supplies. We got general emergency updates over a battery powered radio. So apologies if this seems a broad summary.

As for competent authorities, it’s very hard to judge, given the bureaucracy’s secrecy and industrial ties (Amadukari#), but when we got our power back the experts consulted on NHK News seemed to be non-activist academics, though that changed as bureaucratic bungling came to light.

Alternatively, the Japanese Cabinet may have been misled by other advice, that more deaths would result if these people were left rebuilding after the tsunami than if they were evacuated. If so, he would have quoted an estimate of the net number of deaths averted. Please advise us of any official estimates of the consequences of action and inaction.

That kind of information is not available, as far as I know, and given the lack of solid information at the time of the evacuation order it might not have been reliable enough to accurately weight scenarios.

Or could it be that the order to evacuate was just a placation of a public made needlessly frightened ?

Given the advance to INES Level 7 (we really need a 6.5 here!) it probably was the right choice, solidly from a public relations viewpoint, and generally from a precautionary viewpoint. The partial melt-downs that occurred back up the latter, especially given that fact that jury-rigged systems were needed, fed by an erratic power supply, to fight to stabilize the plant in the days and weeks ahead.

Finally, sorry for the delay in my response. Family, work, and the need to combat anti-nuclear hype in the various fora I’m a part of in Japan kept me from it.

#Amakudari – the system where bureaucrats retire to cushy jobs in the industries they previously supervised. Serving bureaucrats must ensure they do not affect bureaucracy-industry links so much that they find themselves without a lucrative post-retirement position. This makes for ineffective oversight, and often out-and-out corruption.


Sand in the gears of GE-Hitachi’s bid to build an IFR in the UK:

Reuters: UK nuclear watchdog toughens stance on waste reuse

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has repeatedly ruled the multi-billion pound 600 megawatt (MW) reactor out of the running on the grounds that the technology lacks credibility for the purposes of plutonium disposal.

An email from Adrian Simper, the NDA’s strategy and technology director, to GE Hitachi on November 29, which was obtained by Reuters, cited as a reason that “the market did not expect to deploy them (the plutonium reactor design) commercially for several decades (until 2050).”

In that email, Simper also told an unidentified official at GE Hitachi that the NDA wanted to use “market-provided reactors” because the government “was not prepared to take technology risk on a new reactor.”

This despite GE substantially mitigating this risk by an effective money back guarantee if their reactor does not perform as advertised.


John Morgan, I was skyping with Tom Blees last night about this. The author of this piece wrote a lot — what shall we say — fantastic speculation, ignoring what GEH was actually saying. I wouldn’t read anything into this beyond the author’s wishful thinking. There may be a response coming up. You are right that GE are willing to take on the risk. The 2030/2050 date for fast reactors is common industry parlance for ‘oh, later, when we sort out all the socio-political details with Gen III’.


It think that means only one S-Prism will be built at a research facility in the US. Sellafield will convert their plutonium to mixed oxide instead.

I’d liken this to missing the turnoff on a country road. If you have to backtrack you’ve wasted both time and energy. A slight hiccup and you may never get to your destination.


John Newlands — Do you have a link to recent information regarding building the GEH PRISM at the Savannah River site?

An IFR design was proposed for the limited purpose of disposing off the Plutonium recovered in the UK by reprocessing the used fuel. In place of extending it to a complete IFR solution by asking for pyroprocessing at a later date (or outsourcing it), the regulators have abandoned it altogether.
In face of apprehensive view of the fast reactors, the best use of this valuable asset would be for nuclear power in accordance of Indian thesis given in

Click to access viewer

It can be used either in the reactors in UK or in Indian reactors with thorium as the fertile fraction of the fuel.


@ Gene Preston:

It isn’t feasible to out a nuclear steam generator and install a coal fired one.

Coal operates at much higher temperatures and pressures and thus efficiency. The steam piping would not cope. The turbines need for large volumes of low temp nuclear power plant steam are proportionately very much larger, as also the condenser losses.

Brownfield conversion from nuclear to coal fired requires complete new plant alongside where the nuclear plant once stood. I expect that, due to issues relating to demolition of the NPP’s, the result would probably be new coal fired generation and switchyard adjacent to the former NPP site, either a few hundred metres away or a few km’s. Remember, there is also coal handling plant to consider, as well as balancing the coal transopr requirements to the new site, versus construction of the coal fired plant in or close to the coal mine.

It’s a whole system thing – not just a transmission system.

If, on the other hand, solar thermal with storage was half way viable, then the NPP’s turbines and condensers would be close to ideal because the condition of the steam is similar or can be made similar, especially if gas boosted.


John you are probably right, also there is the ash pond. I didnt think about all the nasties associated with coal.


The life cycle time of UN agendas is 20 years:

First we had sustainable development (back in the early 1990s)

Then we had Global Warming

Then we had Climate Change.

Now that is dead and the new UN agenda is ….

Sustainable Development

And around and around we go :)


History doesn’t support this Peter. Climate change as a term has been around for a long while, I’m not sure there is any evidence that it post-dates ‘global warming’. The scientific journal “Climatic Change” was first published in 1979, and of course the IPCC, which stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was created in the late 1980s (associated with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC). Sustainable development has been around forever and not gone away.



I was referring to the linked article at Climate Spectator and filling in with the high level, main stream, policy titles of the various eras – such as Bob Hawke’s “Ecologically Sustainable Development” which was their spin on “Sustainable Development” to win the Green vote. The 1987 (or there abouts) Brundtland report advocated “sustainable development” which meant: “economically, environmentally and socially sustainable development” and had strong emphasis on what the developing world’s priorities were. (I may have the order wrong)


(Comment deleted.)
I was prepared to let this go on the Open Thread but, as usually happens, it prompted tit for tat ideological, political statements. Please leave personal politics out of the discussion.



That’s reasonable news about the proposed Prism for the UK. I was a bit skeptical when I read the Guardian report. For one thing, the emails were obtained by an FOI request from an anti-nuclear activist and the Guardian piece had the aura of mischievous quote mining about it.

A further reason to be skeptical is that the time to reasonably evaluate any GEH proposal would be remarkably short by the normal standards for evaluating any big project proposal, let alone nuclear based on “new” technology.

The Guardian is so partisan in it’s reporting on anything nuclear that I don’t believe a word they say unless confirmed from other more reliable sources.

In the end, the only thing that really matters is the official position of the NDA and DECC, which, it seems, is yet to be determined. If they are doing their job properly that could take quite a while. E-mails are just part of the process of arriving at that position.


I see that new excavations and rail tracks will only affect an area of 150 km by 100 km in Queensland’s Galilee Basin

Since in a few month’s time we’ll be paying penalties on every gram of coal burned in Australia you’d think there would be a coal slowdown but evidently not. Must be foreigners wanting our coal. Therefore I propose the Aussie Mateship Test. If we have to pay carbon tax they should offer to pay it on a voluntary basis, remembering it’s revenue neutral. We’re all in this carbon thing together.


As usual, the comment by Peter Lang initiated the usual tit-for-tat political statements leading to acrimony and insults. This has no place on BNC and violates the commenting rules. If you would all like to re-submit your comments on the Open Thread without the personal attacks and political biases, please do so.


@ Gene.

…also there is the ash pond.”

Dry ash and dust handling removes the need for slurry systems and ash ponds.

There is no need for ash ponds in modern coal fired PP’s. In many cases the ash is quite simply disposed of in the voids left by open cut mines or, probably better, mixed into selected zones with the overburden… or used in concrete production to reduce the need and energy consumption and CO2 emissions involved in making ordinary portland cement.

One area where the world could reasonably easily clean up its act is to reduce cement demand by substituting high fly ash and other classes of cement wherever possible.

Those who remember the 2000 Sydney Olympics canoe course have already seen high fly ash concrete. It was used for all primary purposes, eg the channel itself.

About ten years ago, small, scattered low tech operations in India manufactured high alkali concrete bricks by the billion (yes!Several billion) annually. Again, inputs include fly ash or similar and there is a much lower CO2 impact than for clay bricks or conventional concrete bricks. There is no need for on-site heat, although heating can accelerate strength gain.

Check also silica fume concrete – again, using a by-product. By-products are very rarely waste… until they have been wasted. Up to that point, they are resources.

I’d better stop now, before I deliver the whole sermon.


John you point a rosy picture of ash disposal. Thats in stark contrast with the horrendous problems utilities are having in disposing of they ash in the US. TVA and AEP must be going on the cheap in their disposal because they are wrecking the local communities with contamination, leaking and broken dams, etc. They are engaged in several lawsuits. You can say you can make bricks out of the stuff, but those bricks contain some nasty stuff that is toxic to the environment.


This Fukushima documentary (Nuclear Aftershocks) looks good, according to this review. The reviewer, Maggie Koerth-Baker (of whom I’ve not previously heard) also has an interesting-looking book coming out in April.

I daresay Australian readers will need to view the video streaming version of the doco; I’d be surprised if ABC or SBS gave it a run.


Mark: I would be curious to see what you thought of the video after you see it. I just viewed it and it’s pretty informative up to a point.

A radiation biologist, I forget his name, indicates that there are some spots in the “contamination” zone where the dose approximates “hundreds” of millisieverts per year. Given that earlier numbers discussed were much lower (20 millisieverts), and, even with LNT, increased cancer incidence went from 30 percent chance to 30.2 (there was some confusion in my mind whether it was 30.2 or 30.02) percent, there should have been some attempt to square these two discussions on radiation or at least relate them.


To continue a bit: I like that they interviewed Hansen and some of the MIT engineers were informative. with daichi, while they indicated how easy it would have been to secure the diesel generators, they did not mention that daichi six had an uprate that secured their generators and this saved the plant, at least that’s my understanding.


One more comment: I think the review you post was better than the documentary. I look forward to her book. I wonder about the accuracy of the Indian Point coverage. The doc leaves the viewer anxious, despite useful info about the security of their diesel gens.


Moderator, as is par for the course you allow comments that promote the the Labor-Green-Left ideology to remain; e.g. EN at 11:58 am
You are wrong again Peter. Two comments by EN, which were answers to yours, were in fact deleted. The comment by EN, to which you refer, makes no mention of politics.Certainly it supports AGW – which is the premise for BNC. We all know you do not support the science but that does not make it a Labor-Green-Left ideology. Re-phrase your comments in a similar fashion and they will probably get through.Your perception of persecution on BNC is becoming wearisome.


U.N. sustainable development summit shifts from climate change – Reuters

In an attempt to avoid too much confrontation, the conference will focus not on climate change but on sustainable development – making sure economies can grow now without endangering resources and the environment for future generations.

This argument contains the usual blame game – e.g. blame the oil industry for blocking cap and trade legislation in the USA when in fact what they are doing is pointing out that the world of consumers want cheap energy (Deleted pejorative and political attacks)

Since the 1992 summit, successive attempts to secure a new binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions have failed to produce concrete results, public interest in climate change has waned, and many world leaders are concentrating on upcoming elections and financial worries.

(Deleted political rant)
What we need to do is to get rational. Those opposed to open debate are blocking progress. CO2 tax is at the heart of the problem in Australia and the regulars here don’t want it even mentioned. What does that say about objectivity?


Peter Lang:

We have addressed this before.

You claim that using a tax mechanism to drive change is irrational (Deleted part which no longer applies to PL comment due to edits)
Some, such as I, consider that using tax as a mechanism to drive towards less damaging technologies is entirely rational.

I also consider that taxing polluters in order to establish a fund which is adequate to pay for the huge costs of living with the effects of climate change is rational.

Of course, this view is based on knowledge that anthropogenic climate change is happening and at an accelerating rate. The veracity of this body of knowledge is not for discussion on this site. If that is what you are after, I suggest that there are plenty of other sites on which (denial of the science) may be aired.
And yes, Mr Moderator, I understand that this message may have a short life expectancy.
Edited, as is PL’s, but not deleted. And that would be Mrs Moderator:)


John Bennetts:

The tax mechanism way of dealing with AGW appears to be failing – see:

Barclay’s closes US Carbon Desk

EU, UN Carbon Prices Could Fall ‘Close to Zero

If the threat of AGW was as great as it is being made out to be then don’t you think that Nuclear Power would be embraced as an interim solution ?


[German] Environment Minister Retreats on Solar Subsidies:,1518,811530,00.html

This article states that the excess cost of the solar PV feedin Tariffs are passed to other rate payers (who are probably not pleased with Germany’s escalating electricity rates). From elsewhere (I don’t recall where I noticed it) German heavy industry is demanding a subsidized electricity rate schedule backed by the threat of moving to other countries with lower industrial rate schedules.

So, to my current confusion, all this seems to have almost nothing to do with changes in tax rates. Do I have this properly understood?


Anti-nuclear types are attempting to mount a legal challenge, based on purported subsidies, in the EU to new nuclear power stations in the UK.

One their main gripes, it would seem, is the proposed carbon floor price in the UK implemented by a contract for difference mechanism. If the market price for carbon is less than the floor price, then the generators pay the government the difference. If it is higher, the government pays the generators. Current market price is about EUR 7 per tonne. Proposed market price is GBP 16. The intent seems to be to provide stability for investors in low emission plant.

Though some “green” groups back the floor price, it seems that the UK Green Party and Greenpeace do not and are actively opposing it:

This is an unedifying sight, exhibiting an extraordinary level of political opportunism in the anti-nuclear crusade. Was a $23 per tonne price in Australia (roughly equal to the UK proposed floor price) opposed? Of course not. I doubt that many seeking serious emissions abatement believe that a price on carbon is not necessary (though not sufficient) and I personally find the Greenpeace position contemptuous.

One further “argument” that appears to be doing the rounds is that nuclear fuel is not subject to tax (except in Germany) and this constitutes a subsidy. That’s easily fixed. How about $100 per tonne, regardless of fuel type in electricity generation? Investors would be falling over themselves to build nuclear.


Or spent fuel products must be held in a discreet container for inspection every year. Inspector to Hazelwood power station ‘can I see where you keep your 14 million tonnes of CO2?’.


DBB equating 1 mmbtu to a GJ a tonne (=1000kg) of LNG contains nearly 55 GJ heating value. Hence 1000/55 =18.2 kg


John Newlands — Thanks. So at US$100/tonne the surchange for natgas would be about US$1.82 per trading unit. The US spot price is currently almost US$3/MMBTU so the price would certainly go up; alas, not enough to deter much burning of natgas.


George Mobiot has an amusing and entertaining piece in the Guardian delving into the background of private “weather forecasting services” used by and quoted by some of the tabloids (and the Telegraph) in the endless pursuit of proving global warming isn’t happening.

A sample of the background of the purported personnel of one of these setups:

So who are they? A picture search suggests an impressive range of talents. Take “Serena Skye”, for example, listed by PWS as a “contributing weather forecaster”. She also turns out to be a mail-order bride, a hot Russian date and a hot Ukrainian date. How she finds time for it all we can only guess.

“Emma Pearson”, as well as working as PWS’s assistant weather forecaster, also features on 49,800 hairdressing sites, modelling an emo hairstyle. (Emo, m’lud, is said to be a form of music, popular with certain members of the younger generation).

“Kelly Smart” has a remarkably busy life: as an egg donor, a hot date, a sublet property broker in Sweden, a lawyer, an expert on snoring, eyebrow threading, safe sex, green cleaning products, spanking and air purification. Perhaps more pertinently, she’s also a model whose picture is available via a company called istockphoto.

Funny, but also serious because the crap from these outfits is used in a concerted campaign to undermine the credibility of the Met Office.


@ Gordon, on 27 January 2012 at 3:21 PM:

The tax mechanism way of dealing with AGW appears to be failing – see: Barclay’s closes US Carbon Desk [etc]”

Not necessarily so. Barclay’s carbon desk would not be in its current predicament if the real cost of carbon emissions, expressed either as a sinking fund to finance 100% abatement , which is of course impossible, or to provide for carbon harvesting from the atmosphere and its secure storage in sufficient quantities for ever and ever was the basis of the tax levied.

Of course, that is not so. To do so would upset the Captains of Industry and shake the very foundations of the world’s trade and monetary systems. Current winners would become future losers. Can’t have that, can we? So let’s set our tax rates at a figure which specifically and intentionally will NOT drive change, then complain while stifling our temptation to laugh.

If the threat of AGW was as great as it is being made out to be then don’t you think that Nuclear Power would be embraced as an interim solution ?

The nuclear power alternative, as an essential component of a response to the threat of anthropogenic climate change is already embraced by an increasing number of people in many countries. The pity of it all is that the tide of opinion is turning so slowly, but given the untruths, halftruths and delaying tactics which have been deployed against nuclear power and the truth about climate trends for the past 4 decades, this is hardly surprising.


@Eamon, thank you for your special view from inside Japan, confirming events and sharpening our picture.

“…powerful bureaucracy … sharing knowledge sparingly [with other] departments”

If the Japanese perceive that their rulers conceal crucial information from each other, that it is hardly any wonder that they believe that something horrible had landed all around them, and that the government was ignorant of, or wanting to keep them ignorant of, its terrible threat to them. We did get something of an inkling of that picture, when a historian, Matsumoto, spoke (in link) of an excited mood in the Japanese Cabinet, where they were aware of a terrible threat, fearsome and faceless. Factless too, it seems from outside, despite their authority to command expert advice. Matsumoto allowed us to gather that something terrible is yet to happen, but even now (Sept) he was loath to give details of his fears. Perhaps it would lessen the drama.

“… the site manager requested that his staff ignore the [PM’s] order and they did”.

Those people must be heroes, Japanese workers challenging Japanese authority, for the sake of the greater good.


@Peter Lang,

Quoting your article

In an attempt to avoid too much confrontation, the conference will focus not on climate change but on sustainable development

According to the BP Statistical Energy Review

Click to access coal_section_2011.pdf

The 100+ billion tonne coal club is very small. US,Russia and China.
The 50+ billion tonne coal club adds Australia and India.
The 10+ billion tonne coal club adds Germany,Kazakhstan,Ukraine and South Africa.

Of the ‘Big 9’ in coal reserves China,India and Germany are net importers.

For most of the world ‘sustainable development’ and finding alternatives to burning ‘expensive imported coal’ are the same thing.


(Comment deleted)
BNC no longer publishes or discusses comments denying the scientific consensus on AGW/CC.
How many times does it have to be said Peter. You are free to go elsewhere if you wish to pursue this theme but do not do so on BNC.


A Nature article says we’ve passed peak oil.

That has some pretty significant consequences. Of the 11 recessions the US has experienced since World War II, 10 have been preceded by a sudden change in oil prices. The US isn’t alone, either. Italy’s entire trade deficit, which has contributed to its financial troubles, can be accounted for by the rise in imported oil. The world, it seems, has allowed its economies to become entirely dependent upon fossil fuels. “If oil production can’t grow, the implication is that the economy can’t grow either,” the authors write. “This is such a frightening prospect that many have simply avoided considering it.”


More from that Ars Technica review of the Nature piece.

And it’s not just oil that poses problems. US coal production peaked in 2002, and the global peak has been predicted to hit as soon as 2025. The last time global coal reserves were evaluated, in 2005, the total was cut by more than half compared to previous estimates. Fracking has boosted the production of natural gas dramatically, but even here the authors find some reasons for concern. Recent reports suggest that shale gas reserves have been overestimated, and many fields that have been in production for a while have experienced large declines in production.

Here’s the question. If coal could peak that soon, and oil will be 20 years into decline by 2025, then … do we really have enough liquid fuel energy to build out the nuclear infrastructure we need? How quickly could we realistically replace both our coal fired power AND oil with nuclear power, especially given how *utterly* addicted we are to oil for everything we make (in the petrochemical industry), nearly everything we mine (in those enormous trucks), and everything we move (by trucks, with 97% of freight by truck in this country), and everything we build?

I know this question might sound a bit like some Doomer’s I’ve contested in the past, but when I see the general level of ignorance about peak oil in our society… I get really demoralised.


@Gordon seems to suggest that if AGW really is a threat, our leaders would have moved us all to nuclear power long ago.

The threat of AGW to (those)(personal comment deleted) making all the decisions is negligible. They will be all safely dead and buried by the time the ocean surface warms up to the temperature dictated by the excess CO2 already in the atmosphere.

At some point along the way, much younger people will be taking to the streets, demanding responsible action such as NP. However that time can be delayed endlessly while there is(personal opinion on other’s motives deleted) talk about whether or not the threat of AGW is real, or whether our leaders can be trusted to respond to scientific advice in the face of public opinion. Those leaders will only be politically capable of adequate action once a significant fraction of the voting public is focused and aroused.

You’re not splitting hairs about AGW, are you? Younger people will sit in judgement on us … sooner or later.


Eclipse Now

From your link
US coal production peaked in 2002, and the global peak has been predicted to hit as soon as 2025

Actually the ‘peak year’ for coal production in the US was 2008.
The peak year for ‘productivity’. I.E. Tons per miner was 2003.
71,000 US miners produced a bit more then 1 billion tons of coal in 2003. 88,000 US miners produced almost the same quantity last year.

The last 8 years have been a reversal of a very long trend in coal mine productivity increases.

Click to access c_trends_mining.pdf

Obviously more workers producing the same amount of coal creates upward price pressures.


Harry, coal prices (global demand) is up from a decade ago. The US has consequently exported more coal.

I don’t see any peaking behaviour here. It would be strange to see any hard resource peak with coal; its a mined ubiquitous commodity, unlike oil which is well based (geologically declining production profile) and not nearly as ubiquitous as coal.


Good prices for export coal may be a sign all is not well. Some analysts think that China, the world’s biggest coal user, is experiencing a domestic production peak about now, hence the global search for more input. Others think the world and Chinese production peak is about 15 years away

In Australia new developments in Queensland’s Galilee Basin are aimed squarely at supplying China. In my opinion if China does not drastically cut its coal use (3.2 Gtpa) other countries that are practising restraint are justified in slapping a carbon tariff on goods made in China. That shares the pain since we pay more.

It also gets around the anomaly that Australian coal goes to China to make goods then exported to Australia. Had those goods been made in Australia with the same coal the CO2 would have been taxed. The few murmurs will become louder and louder; a steel industry view


John Newlands, on 30 January 2012 at 7:42 AM said:

Good prices for export coal may be a sign all is not well. Some analysts think that China, the world’s biggest coal user, is experiencing a domestic production peak about now, hence the global search for more input.

IMHO The opinion hinges upon the ability of China to roll out nuclear in large scale. They were putting ‘shovel in ground’ on 8 reactors/year but the Fukushima safety review cost them a year plus some momentum. IMHO THe Chinese will continue a relatively slow pace until throughout 2012 and then begin accelerating when the CAP-1400 design is finalized.


This follows from my remark on the inevitability of carbon tariffs also since the carbon tax thread is inactive; both Australia’s steel makers are to get free candy bars in the form of cash since they evidently can’t keep up with the competition
Like renewables subsidies after a few years people will wonder if this is the correct approach.

While I think carbon pricing is a necessary first step the number of bribes, giveaways and disallowed moves (ie nuclear) will make it unworkable. I suggest it is crazy for Australia to supply both iron ore and coking coal to Asian steel mills and then be unable to compete. Same goes for alumina and thermal coal to make electricity for aluminium smelting. Surely we can’t have that many overpaid inefficient workers. The absence of CO2 penalties overseas using our C must be a major factor. Handing out lumps of cash for hurt feelings will never solve the problem.


(Deleted violation of the citation rule)

Please read the BNC Comments Policy (particularly the ‘Citing references and other sources’ rules) on the About page and re-submit your link with your own comments on it.


Interesting link. I’ve always thought that the next El Nino and $2/L petrol will hasten a nuclear rethink in Australia but a German backdown will really make people take notice. I understand much of their claimed emissions reduction can be attributed to the closure of East German heavy industry after re-unification. I note German GDP declined in the 4th quarter of 2011 so the signs are already there.

At least the Germans have NPPs to fall back on. We’re stuck with coal and gas for the foreseeable future.


The US NRC released the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analysis (SOARCA) research study. I haven’t read the entire thing yet, but it seems to confirm the view that a severe accident will have very little health effects and thus the primary concern with a severe accident is that land will have to be evacuated for some time.

Rod Adams commented on it here:

The complete report can be found by entering ML120250406 in the ADAMS public data base search engine on the NRC website here:

Still, I think that if nuclear power is to be mainstream, the possibility of a large release needs to be eliminated. Passive reactors seem to to be getting there as do LWR SMRs.


I attended an excellent presentation at ANU last night, by Roger Pielke Jr.

Presentation slides here (from a similar presentation from April 2011, but without the slides for the Australian audience):

Click to access 2010.36.pdf

Video to be published within a week.

My take on the main points are:

1. There is no point in continuing to argue a about ideological positions – warmist/Alarmist versus sceptic/denier. People come at this from different perspectives and all are equally valid.

2. Instead, what is important is what we would have to do to achieve GHG emissions reduction of any significant amount, e.g. 50% of 80% by 2050 or whenever

3. The “Kaya Identity” shows there are four factors that define the amount of world GHG emissions:

• population,

• GDP,

• energy intensity of the economy and

• carbon intensity of energy

4. We cannot have much effect on population growth. It is politically impossible to reduce GDP growth. In fact, every government is trying to implement policies to maximise GDP growth.

5. If there is a choice between environment and GDP growth, GDP growth will win every time. (IMO)this is just a pragmatic fact. See Slide 16 in his presentation. Note that most of the people arguing for policies that would cut or reduce GDP growth (like CO2 tax and ETS) are wealthy.

6. So we need policies that offer both economic growth and GHG reductions

7. The rate of reducing the energy intensity of the economy cannot be increased much.

8. The only factor of the Kaya identity that can be significantly changes id the carbon intensity of energy. That must be done with technology. Only fuel switching can reduce the emissions by the amounts we want

9. He pointed out how many nuclear power stations UK would have to build by 2050 to achieve the UK’s emissions targets. Or even to achieve the same CO2 intensity as France.

10. He did the same for Australia.

11. He also showed how many of the proposed Cloncurry sized solar thermal power station (now cancelled) would be needed to meet Australia’s demand (no mention of the problem of meeting night time demand). We’d need to build 1 Cloncurry sized CST plant per day. The estimated cost for the Cloncurry plant was $67 million. So we’d have to spend $67 million per day to achieve the targets (I am doing all this from memory) so may have it wrong.

12. The world would need to bring on line 900 MW per day of non CO2 emissions energy supply.

13. His key message is we need to stop bickering and focus instead on getting the technological solutions (with GDP growth).

14. He showed how the world emissions intensity had been decreasing at about 0.2% pa for the past 100 or 200 years (from memory).

15. He showed we’d need to reduce at 0.5% pa to achieve the targets.

16. But the decrease in intensity stopped when Kyoto implementation was running at its fastest. The trend of reducing world emissions intensity has reversed.

17. He said the Australian CO2 tax and ETS may or may not survive He said the Cap and Trade systems clearly do not work for GHG. He strongly opposed it. He preferred CO2 tax, but said it will have negligible effect.

18. I felt his (mild) support for the CO2 tax is a case of being politically correct so as not to raise hackles and get the audience off side so it would not hear his main message. From my perspective, the CO2 tax and ETS are exactly the opposite of what he is advocating which is that we must lower the cost of low emissions energy, not raise the cost of fossil fuels. He even said that at one point in the lecture (I think, or perhaps was that my interpretation of what he said).

19. All in all, I think it was an excellent and very pragmatic presentation


Peter, I object to point 5 on a technicality and false dichotomy.

No modelling has shown or suggested that the Australian carbon price will stop growth in GDP; it will reduce that growth, but GDP is still forecast to grow. Something like instead of 39 years until GDP doubles it will be 40 years.

And the choice is not cut and dry, smart people realise there is a balance between both current and future needs. There are many policies in place, which defer current GDP growth for future growth. An example, not implemented yet, is the Murray-Darling basin plan. Sure, it might hurt some farmers in the short term, but it increases the chances of more farmers being able to use the river in future.

So, no, I disagree, it is not pragmatic fact. It is short sighted opportunism in my view, and I am not alone.


Some people realize the data indicates growth remains stubbornly connected to energy intensity. It’s debatable of course … it’s just that the side debating that the coupling is in full embrace have data, such as the PwC report showing in 2010, all the most advanced countries saw increases in emissions/GDP, with the exception of Canada – who apparently extracted oil from sand somewhat more efficiently.
There’s also pesky IEA data.
No doubt there are ‘smart people’ realizing a balance is needed between both current and future needs, but there’s probably some idiots saying the same thing. The danger is that a decade and a half after the world managed to get the Kyoto deal none, all that has happened is tilting at windmills.
That’s not entirely true. Beyond Australia massive debts are also being acquired – debts that require, if they are to be repaid, a growth in the future that there is little indication will be significantly less carbon intensive than the past.

On the IFR side, here’s a financing idea to run past Peter Lang and other keen critics. Surely funding the development of operational units should come out of the long-term waste handling funds being built in many jurisdictions (my province alone it is over $10 billion). These funds are just wasting away on things like debt (see comment above), and seem ideal to put to work on engineering away the waste, while providing energy.


“His key message is we need to stop bickering about ideological beliefs and focus instead on getting the technological solutions (with GDP growth).”

I don’t know why Pielke Jr. and other similar commentators (e.g. Lomborg) keep pushing the R&D argument. The technological solutions already exist (i.e. existing and next-generation nuclear). It’s not a technological problem. It’s a political problem.


Scott Luft,

PwC report and Roger Pielke Jr. are saying the same thing. The PwC report says:

Achieving the 2 degrees Celsius goal will now require
reductions in carbon intensity of at least 4.8% every
year until 2050. This compares with a 2% per year
reduction in carbon intensity, to meet this goal, had
we started in 2000.

Roger Pielke says: -5% every year and the best the world has achieved over a 5 year period is -2% and mostly -1% to -2% per year. That had nothing to do with Climate policies or emissions policies.

It is interesting to note that the trend has reversed and is now positive since Kyoto tried to redirect how businesses should operate.

By the way, I should have made clear the distinction between:

– energy intensity per GDP
– emissions intensity per GDP
– emissions intensity per unit of energy

See “Methodology of Evaluation” here:

Click to access 2010.36.pdf

and for completeness here are the slides again:

Click to access Pielke.ClimateFix.Apr2011.pdf

When the video of the prresentation is released, I’ll post the link. He explains far better than I can, and there is obviously a lot I couldn’t say in my short summary of key items.


Yep, agree Keen, also from the renewables perspective. I have seen many people advocate for ‘more money for research’ as if more funding will result in some amazing, cheap, baseload renewable.

This will never happen. We know the energy gradients and how much energy is in them. We know how to exploit them and Carnot efficiency sets upper limits on how much electricity we will get from them.

A step change is not coming. Which ever direction we take with electricity generation, the time for talking about is long past. Stop waiting for a white knight and start changing things.


Next generation nuclear does not exist (it is not commercially viable – it is decades away from being so). If you think it does exist (commercially available and proven) then please give me authoritative costs, based on decades of experience, for:

– Discount rate (baseed on the ROI that investors would demand in order to invest
– capacity factor (average over plant life)
– capital cost ($/kW)
– plant life
– construction duration
– Fixed O&M
– Variable O&M
– energy efficency (or heat rate)
– fuel cost


Peter here are some good conservative numbers to use for starters:
– Discount rate (baseed on the ROI that investors would demand in order to invest 5% per year and they also get energy security
– capacity factor (average over plant life) 90%
– capital cost ($/kW) use 10,000 $/kw
– plant life indefinitely long, because once built, no cheaper options exist
– construction duration use 10 years as a pessimistic number
– Fixed O&M combine fixed, variable, and fuel as $2 cents/kwh
– Variable O&M
– energy efficency (or heat rate) use 10,000 BTU/kWh
– fuel cos already incluede in the annual O&M

Now I want you to include the cost of carbon capture and storage in your coal plant estimates Peter and you will find that the above costs are still lower energy costs than coal.


The GE link says they are ready to take orders on the PRISM. If I recall Sellafield was proposing to use two 350 MW units and pay no more than £3.8bn, call it $7bn for 700 MW or $10/w. I’m not sure of the plant life presumably Mackay has worked this out when he says Sellafield waste could power Britain for 500 years. Since the plutonium is already onsite presumably the fuel preparation cost is minor. As a government agency the effective cost of capital can taken as low.


If we don’t want to allow nuclear to be cheap, then there is plenty of gas. It can power the world for a very long time:

Energy policy in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is spurred by concerns that gas and oil are becoming scarcer and that fossil fuel emissions must be curtailed.

This view is being punctured by technology allowing massive new resources to be developed from shale and coal seam gas. Waiting in the wings for a technology breakthrough is methane hydrate, natural gas that is locked in ice, which is the world’s largest source of hydrocarbons.

So the message is, allow nuclear to be cheap.

The message is, also, don’t put taxes on fossil fuels. That is not the answer, because the only thing it will succeed in doing is damaging the economies of the countries that do put the taxes on. As EU and USA have demonstrated, restricting the ability of industry to compete makes the industries move to countries like China. Global emissions go up, not down. Which is exactly what has happened.


(Deleted violation of the citation rules)
Please re-submit your link with your own analysis. BNC discourages large “cut and paste” comments. In this case it was the whole article.


There have been several articles recently which show how EU countries, UK, USA and Canada are pulling back from their commitments to subsidise and mandate renewable energy. This article in the TorontoSun lists some with a short note as to what the changes are (so far):

1. Germany

2. Spain

3. Italy

4. Holland

5. UK

6. Canada

I take this as reality being to set in at the policy level. I also suggest that this is what economic downturns do. They force us all to take stock of our policies and take a new look at the economic realities.


As Peter says, the lure of money and cheap fossil fuel is keeping us locked into buring fossil fuels. Unfortunatley there are two brick walls humanity is about to slam into by staying with this policy. 1) Oil is getting in short supply as we round the peak oil world wide and the downturn in our economies is due to rising prices of oil, which are not avoidable. 2) Global warming will do us in eventually, first with huge ocean rises in the next centruy or possibly this century if acceleration from positive feedbacks continues, and God forbid what happens eventually with the climate. Fear of nuclear and denial of problems are working to make this situation much worse.


Here are the numbers again since they are hard to read in the above posting.

5% per year return and 5% loan interest, so 10% per year on capital and also the investors should get get a reliable supply of their own energy. If the investors are the receivers of the energy, then take off 5% per year return and use just 5% per year financing interest. The latest nuclear loan interest rate in the US is about 4.3% interest as I recall.

90% capacity factor (average over plant life)

10,000 $.kw capital cost ($/kW)

indefinite plant life, because once built, no cheaper options exist

use 10 years construction duration as a pessimistic number

use $2 cents/kwh for all fuel and O&M costs and put some inflation on it if you wish


James Hansen has posted the two-part Cowards in Our Democracies, slamming governments’ inaction and also personal attacks on himself from deniers:

Click to access 20120127_CowardsPart1.pdf

Click to access 20120130_CowardsPart2.pdf

He finishes with a stong statement in favor of nuclear:

Using the Fukushima accident as a reason not to build new reactors is as foolish as saying that an airplane accident killing many people is a reason to never build another airplane. A sensible policy is to check what went wrong and build a safer one.”

Please do not cut and paste large slabs of text from articles you link. In this case I have edited the passage but as this practice violates BNC Citation Rules, I may have to delete any similar post in it’s entirety. Please read the BNC Comments Policy on the “About” page before commenting again. Thank you.


Tom Keen, on 3 February 2012 at 2:13 PM said:

I don’t know why Pielke Jr. and other similar commentators (e.g. Lomborg) keep pushing the R&D argument. The technological solutions already exist (i.e. existing and next-generation nuclear). It’s not a technological problem.

The US DOE Next Gen Nuclear Demonstration Project has a $49 million budget for FY 2012.

Click to access 2012_NGNP_Factsheet_final.pdf

It’s a long and expensive road from conceptual design to ‘test reactor’ with a limited lifespan to ‘commercial reactor’ with 50 or 60 year lifespan.


Gene Preston @ 3 February 2012 at 11:52 PM

Now I want you to include the cost of carbon capture and storage in your coal plant estimates Peter and you will find that the above costs are still lower energy costs than coal.

Yes, if the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.

ExternE estimates the external costs of coal and gas generation at about $10/MWh $4.5/MWh respectively (see table at bottom of page 13 here ). That is excluding climate change costs which ExternE did not estimate because, as they say, the estimates have very high uncertainty. Instead they estimated the cost to implement the EU’s climate and environmental policies. *

I expect Australia’s external costs of coal and gas generation would be much less than Europe’s, and probably less than half Europe’s. The reasons I say that are because of our much lower population density and higher quality coal (e.g. low sulphur content).

If we are going to include the external costs of coal and gas we must also include the external benefits of low cost energy. I expect these are very high. Raising the cost of electricity does the following:

It reduces the country’s productivity – that causes us to force industries and jobs to move out of Australia to countries like China. Doing so does not reduce global emissions, it may increase them

It causes us to have a weaker economy than would otherwise be the case. The result is less funding available for Health, Education, Infrastructure, etc. When that happens more people die, people have a lower standard of living, there is more crime, etc.

These are some of the consequences of policies to raise the cost of electricity. The benefits of low cost electricity are the opposite. Therefore, if we are going to include the external costs of energy, we should also include the external benefits. I suspect that is why we are selective about what externalities we include.

I’d also argue, if we are going to include the external costs and benefits of one industry (e.g. energy supply), we should also internalise the external costs and benefits of all other industries. Otherwise we are being selective and further distorting the markets by our interventions. Such interventions have unintended consequences. The forcing of industry to leave USA, UK, EU etc and move to China is one example of the unintended consequences of government intervention.

*ExternE states (p 13)

this table, in addition to the damage cost estimates, avoidance
costs are given for impacts on ecosystems (acidification
and eutrophication) and global warming, where
damage cost estimates show large uncertainty ranges.
The costs for ecosystems are based on the political aim
(as stated in European Commission 1997) of reducing the
area in the EU where critical loads are exceeded by 50%.
For global warming a shadow price for reaching the
Kyoto reduction targets is used.


I know you’ve all probably seen it already, but in a discussion with (yet another) climate sceptic, I was forced to resort to the “Hungry Beast” rap, “I’m a climate f@#$%ing scientist!” It’s too true!

(Language warning applies).


I blog in support of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactore (LFTRs), which I hope will be the breeder reactor of choice before we reach the decades in which breeder reactors become the inevitable source of base-load power. This is in 2 or 3 decades time, as predicted in ‘Atomic Awakening’ when renewables will be relegated to the low, single figure percentage of total energy production – where they belong.

Currently, my humble efforts are directed towards persuading the 5 million combined membership of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, that a policy of Energy [R]evolution and the like is profoundly damaging to the environment and impacts badly on climate change.

The use of steel and concrete in the provision of energy from wind is 50 times greater than that of nuclear power generation, on a closed fuel cycle. See: These are the findings of a Berkley Professor and such is the magnitude of the difference, that the urgency for more effective action by we pro-nuclear advocates ramps up to near crisis level. We can’t let these deluded green activists keep spouting their tripe to our political masters.

Renewable energy needs to occupy only a low single figure percentage of total power generated and this leaves renewables’ supporters with the choice of opting out of the debate or deciding to support one of the breeder reactor technologies.

I hope for the sake of safety and affordability they choose the Molten Salt Thermal Breeder (thorium) technology over Liquid Metal Fast Breeder (uranium) technology. I would hope that a sizeable number of FoE and Greenpeace members get behind LFTRs – the best configuration of Molten Salt Breeder Reactor for civil power generation.

PS: how about adding ‘LFTRs to Power the Planet’ to your Blogroll?


Good luck Colin on convincing the greens to accept the need for nuclear power. I’ve been telling them that for quite a while but they are not buying it at this time. How far do we have to go into poverty and starvation before the world wakes up to the fact it needs more energy, not less?


I wonder why Peter Lang’s external cost figures are so low. Pretty much every study that you google will be in the 2-20 cents per kWh range for coal. In this graph for example the lowest external cost for fossil fuel is in the Netherlands, which has mostly natural gas for fossil fired generation, having a range of 1 to 6 EUROcents per kWh. Some countries apparently with more coal/dirtier coal/older coal plants, have up to 34 cents per kWh external costs.


There’s something I’d like to discuss about Germany’s non-transition to renewable energy. Of course we here, unlike most journalists and politicians that can’t do basic math and research, know it didn’t work, Germany is no renewable energy success story at all, it is a fossil fuel disaster (in fact, fossil fuel would have increased if it weren’t for nuclear). Recently there has been the economic crisis combined with the scare-away from high energy prices of industry to overseas imports, that reduced demand.

Click to access DETPES.pdf

However, there is one small success in the total coal consumption, which occured in the early 1990’s. Interestingly it has nothing to do with wind or solar; these were negligible at that time (and even today are too pathetic to explain this). So my question is, what caused the coal use to decline in the early 1990s? It’s not in the electricity sector since that only declined slightly at that time:

Click to access DEELEC.pdf

And it’s not in natural gas as replacement since that actually decreased from 1991 to 1992, and only grew afterwards:

So what could explain the lower coal use? Replacement of coal fired steel recycling with electric arc furnaces? Efficiency of the industrial coal users?


Cyril R,

according to my understanding, the major reduction in coal use was caused by the reunification of Germany: in addition to economic turmoil and closures in the manufacturing sector, this resulted to closing of much of old lignite-fired generating capacity.

The former East Germany’s economy was more than four times as carbon intensive as the West’s. The fall of the wall dropped this by more than 46% between 1990 and 1995 (but leveled after that), and the share of lignite in total primary energy consumption in the East decreased from about 69% in 1990 to 36% in 1995. Temperature-corrected CO2 emissions related to energy fell by about 43%.

There were also policy measures to improve energy efficiency, including support for CHP and modernization of existing buildings and heating systems.

The “wallfall profits” are estimated to be 105 Mt of reduced CO2 emissions, more than half of the Kyoto target for 2010.

This info comes from a report prepared on behalf of German Ministry of the Environment and the German Environmental Agency: Eichhammer et al (2001). Greenhouse gas reductions in Germany and the UK – Coincidence or policy induced? Fraunhofer institute, SPRU, DIW

PDF link:

It’s interesting that the report (which also considers the effects of the energy market liberalization and resultant fuel switch from coal to gas in the UK) concludes thus:

“The findings indicate that for both countries, a mix of policies at the national and regional levels added considerably to the reduction of greenhouse gases. For Germany and the UK, policy measures accounted for slightly more emission reductions in all greenhouse gases than unification in Germany or liberalization in the UK, respectively. For energy-related CO2 emissions, the contribution of these special circumstances was somewhat higher than the contribution of policy measures.”


Cyril R, similar CO2e reduction can be seen in adjacent countries formerly in the Eastern Bloc too.
The Kyoto protocol was signed late in 1997.
1990 is a negotiated base year, and changes between 1990 and 1997 should be viewed with a rock of salt.
That said, I was exchanging comments with somebody dismissive of my claims that ENTSOE data showed Germany’s net use of all fossil fuels in generating electricity up 12% between 2000 and 2011 (consumption up only 2%), and in rebuttal they sent this link:
I copied over the final .pdf, and translated it: the data shows a slighter increase between 2000 and 2011, but from 1990 to 2011, the totals (of lignite, hard coal, natural gas and Petroleum products) move from 358.4 (GWh) to 358.5.
Reductions in emissions would be largely from growth in natural gas, at the expense of both lignite and hard coal – I assume they cleaned up the emissions at the stack too.


Thanks guys for providing the historical context here. Kind of interesting that efficiency reduced coal use much more than the really expensive push for solar and wind so far. Too bad the financial crisis skewed the picture of fossil fuel use in Germany. However, the percentage of hard coal, brown coal, and oil in total primary energy supply have all increased slightly in 2011, according to this Excel file:

But notice that nuclear still provided 8.8% in 2011 versus 10.9% in 2010. So most of the nuclear capacity is still running in Germany!

Fossil fuels are up to 78.8% of total primary energy supply in 2011.
It was 78.2% in 2010. Brown coal has increased slightly in 2011, the dirtiest type of coal if you recall, an inconvenient truth to “green” Germany with its pretty pictures of solar panels and wind turbines.

In the last 20 years Germany went from 86% fossil to 79% – and most of that was due to the the economic restructuring not due to wind and solar!

Pretty depressing rate of change.


I dislike the percentage of production figures. Because intermittents are what they are, they generally drive up exports (in a jurisdiction such as Germany with the ties to import and export), and they drive down price. So coal and gas might go down as a % of total production, but that’s because production goes up as exports are subsidized (the feed-in tariff is recovered from only domestic users).
Germany managed to be a net importer from May to October, but returned to being a net exporter thereafter, most notably in a windy December.
If the goal is to reduce the use of coal and gas, it should be measured by reduction in the use of coal and gas.
Which they haven’t done – they’ve replaced some coal with gas. That’s true over one decade, and over two.
In the US, they seem to have an increasing share of the population noting if you are going to clean up by switching coal to gas, you can do that without using the ruse of renewables – and get far better results for the same money.


This morning the poll was running 60% Yes for nuclear and now is 57% No and 39% Yes. Are the spam bots out in force? I think we need one of our own:)


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