Nuclear Open Thread

Open Thread 21

The previous Open Thread has gone past is off the BNC front page, 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.


There are two very important articles now posted on The Guardian website. The first, by Duncan Clark, is titled New generation of nuclear reactors could consume radioactive waste as fuelThe new ‘fast’ plants could provide enough low-carbon electricity to power the UK for more than 500 years.

It talks about Britain’s options for plutonium (Pu) disposal, and the GEH proposal to build a pair of S-PRISM reactors (311 MWe each) to rapidly ‘spike’ the weapons-grade Pu inventory, and thereafter consume it and spent fuel for energy. The alternative option, a new MOX plant, is far less desirable.

Tom Blees wrote a detailed explanation of this plan on BNC here: Disposal of UK plutonium stocks with a climate change focus

To accompany this piece there is an excellent new essay by George Monbiot: We cannot wish Britain’s nuclear waste awayOpponents of nuclear power who shout down suggestions of how to use spent waste as fuel will not make the problem disappear.

As usual, George writes persuasively and gets to the heart of the matter. In this case, he poses a simple question for the critics:

So which of these options do you support? [IFR recycling, MOX fuel, or immediate deep geological disposal]. None of the above is not an answer. Something has to be done with the waste, and unless you have invented a novel solution, one of these three options will need to be deployed. But it is a choice that opponents of nuclear power are refusing to make – and that is not good enough.

The essay provides more details, and some examples of people who wish to shut their mind to reality. Which option would you choose?

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.

544 replies on “Open Thread 21”

Geoff Russell, on 14 March 2012 at 8:28 PM said:

I haven’t yet worked through his calculation of
these latter figures, but I’m surprised the per km2 figures are as high or higher than the Chernobyl figures

The Fukushima area is mountainous. You have wind-tunnels and eddy’s and all sorts of things making for very uneven distribution.

The radiation levels at the Fukushima NPP site range from 3uSv/hr to 300 uSv/hr.


The Climate Institute thinks there will be smiles all round if Australia pays Indonesia not to chop down its trees
I suggest it is not a globally new carbon sink and it sets the scene for blackmail by Indonesia and a copout by Australia.

If Indonesia was a grown-up country it would take responsibility for its own forests. In Kyoto protocol terms that means becoming Annex II. Suppose if Tassie seceded they could threaten to bulldoze the SW Wilderness and get a lucrative carbon credit for refraining. Apart from being misconceived the money could get out of hand. The recent report by Hunt suggests Australia could spend $757bn on foreign offsets by 2050 and Martin Nicholson estimates high figures as well.

All for nothing since the same forest is there right now for free while the Indos are not yet demanding cash to save it. I’d have to say the Climate Institute is about as relevant to the low carbon push as Al Gore, in other words not very.


Only a bureaucrat would come up with an emission trading scheme or a carbon tax to achieve lower co2 outcomes. In contrast, an engineer or scientist , or even a lowly technician like myself would just switch to nuclear . Then again, that would be rational and logical , something sadly missing in the political debate these days. I note also that during the debates in the US of A for their presidential campaign not much attention is being paid to climate change/mitigation. Having said all this . It must be said that emissions trading worked to curb nox (acid rain)


On the contrary, emission trading schemes were originally devised by economists. Bureaucrats would just order the phase out of whatever energy technology they deem undesireable.

IMO a market for electricity is redundant. Since there is only a limited number of ways to produce and distribute electricity, it should be relatively easy for a “council of engineers” to figure out the optimal way of producing electricity for a national grid, taking economic and environmental factors into account. No need for the sometimes shaky invisible hand of the market here (most recently speculative under-reporting of projected demand by electricity traders almost caused a blackout in Germany).


Exactly, the whole point about market schemes like trading or taxing is that you avoid bureaucracies. Just put a price (demand based) or a cap (supply based) on it so that the market has the correct signal and don’t interfere with the market.

It can work well, the devil is in the details. If not all major players are included it doesn’t work. If rights are given away freely it doesn’t work. If some players are exempt from taxes it doesn’t work. If there are no alternatives available or allowed it doesn’t work (eg making building nuclear plants illegal while fooling around with technologies that can’t go the distance, such as wind and solar). The latter is currently a major problem in many countries.

I’m not overly fond of technological bans. But in the case of coal, a moratorium on new build combined with a guaranteed phaseout plan for existing coal plants, IMHO is a good idea. But only if new nuclear build is allowed. Otherwise it will lead to great damage and blackouts.


This recent post on The Conversation seems a bit interesting.

A copy of my comment follows.
“It seems like quite a bad idea for these researchers to base their research conclusions (at least in part) on the claims made by non-scientifically-credible activist organisations such as Beyond Zero Emissions or Zero Carbon Britain instead of basing their research on literature reviews of credible peer-reviewed, published, scientific literature and/or conducting their own scientifically credible research and submitting it for scientifically credible peer-review and literature publication.

If we look at Beyond Zero Emissions, for example, their claims have been extensively criticised and de-constructed by many different Australian scientists and engineers and energy experts, and found to not stand up to scientific, economic and technological scrutiny. Even Mark Diesendorf, who is of course is a proponent of wind and solar energy and is no proponent of realistic coal-replacement alternatives such as nuclear energy, has criticised the BZE report for its scientific and technical flaws.

For example:

Click to access zca2020_critique.pdf

Click to access zca-critique-wind-timeline-v3.pdf

Click to access critique-of-zca2020stage12-solar-timeline.pdf

Click to access lang_renewable_energy_australia_cost.pdf

The Beyond Zero Emissions report is not a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

The fact that they prominently print the crest of the University of Melbourne on all their brochures and reports is a nice appeal-to-authority fallacy to try and give themselves additional apparent credibility – a strategy that probably works well with the intended media/public audiences.

What Beyond Zero Emissions does is they take their supposed revolutionary new scientific research and analysis, and instead of submitting it to credible scientific peer-review and scientific publication, they avoid credible scientific peer-review and scientific publication.

Instead, they package it up in slick brochures and slick press releases and slick websites and they go off and proceed to try to “sell” it to the media and directly to the general public.

In this respect, Beyond Zero Emissions is hardly any different from, say, the slick, polished press releases and carefully engineered media attention that accompanied the nonsense Steorn Orbo technology a few years back, or the excited mainstream press coverage we’ve seen over the last year or so covering the Andrea Rossi supposed nickel-protium “cold fusion” garbage.

We see exactly the same thing – going directly to the media and to the public, not to credible review and scrutiny within the academic community first – with various types of pseudoscience medicine claims for example.

This sort of thing is a classic well-known warning marker of pseudoscience.

If we simply head over to the above-linked recent article on The Conversation and read the whole comment thread, for example, we can very quickly see that certain prominent representatives of Beyond Zero Emissions do not respond maturely to scientifically informed, skeptical questions or challenges to their beliefs.”


I’m beginning to think that perhaps rational energy decisions will not be made until the cost of electricity becomes astronomical and the lights frequently go out. Even then, those who claim that renewables will probably claim that the real problem is that the transition to renewables was sabotaged.


The beauty of a CO2 cap is that coal and gas then become a 2-for-1 deal whereby the cheaper fuel cost of coal is played against the lower CO2 penalty for gas. Same goes for wind and gas. If we had a flawless CO2 cap system it would answer the question of how much wind power is ideal. That is everything would be based on the traded CO2 price and other direct costs, not subsidies or mandates. My suspicion is the ideal wind penetration is under 20% so places that are shooting higher will end up with too much wind capacity when subsidies are no longer affordable.

Whether the CO2 price will be high or low in future seems to be path dependent; for example a rich low carbon economy may be able to afford to make jet fuel out of coal. In contrast an economy that has stuck with coal will be severely constrained since they are bumping their heads on the CO2 ceiling. That assumes the international carbon police are doing their job which is clearly not the case with China.


Luke, I think your test of ‘peer review’ is misplaced in this case. This is an engineering analysis; not science. BZEs analysis would be no more appropriately peer-reviewed and put in a journal than an Access Economics report.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t be analysed and criticized by others. Just that this is not “science”. It is engineering and analysis and opinions can differ.


Mods, please delete if this has been done:

New Matilda running an analysis of some of Barry’s work.

It is fairly level-headed I guess, but I disagree with some of the leaps of logic. As an example, comparing number of radiation deaths between renewables and nukes is… disengenuous.

I did find the point that one *could* create weapons grade isotopes in a reactor not designed for the purpose.

Anyway, the debate seems to be headed on a more reasonable trajectory these day which I’m sure you all agree is welcome, and in no small part due to Barry’s persistent rationalism.
This link has been posted previously and BNC commenters have responded at “New Matilda”, however your input is appreciated so the comment stands. Thankyou.


Does anyone know anything about this?

This company, Twin Creeks Technologies, are claiming they will be able to cut the price of solar PV cells to half of what the Chinese are currently producing them for, to 40 cents per watt, by next year.

I’ll believe it when I see it, and obviously storage is still a major issue, but I’m intrigued by the implication that wasted silicon (in the manufacturing process) apparently doubles the cost of solar cells.



I can’t see any reason to doubt their ion implantation tool works as described. Ion implantation is a ubiquitous semiconductor processing technique, though the use of hydrogen is less common and using it to slice wafers is novel. They obviously have working tools, so the question becomes one of process yield and other process related questions. But these are the type of issues expected in new tools and improved by conventional process engineering.

The cost of silicon in computer chips is not so important because the cost is dominated by many – hundreds – of processing steps on top of the bare silicon. But solar cells are much simpler, so silicon cost will be larger. I don’t know the breakdown, but silicon cost is more important for solar cells so their cost reduction is not implausible.

Which is all good news if you want rooftop solar, like me. It doesn’t really change the equation for grid level power though, for storage and transmission reasons.


I’m beginning to think that perhaps rational energy decisions will not be made until the cost of electricity becomes astronomical and the lights frequently go out. Even then, those who claim that renewables will probably claim that the real problem is that the transition to renewables was sabotaged.

Indeed, this is exactly what happened in the recent California electricity crisis. The underlying reason is the push for the “soft energy path” – renewables plus efficiency and “small is beautful”. It didn’t work. The result was high electricity prices and in the end a serious blackout and brownout situation. Of course, everyone blamed “big business” and “big oil” and such. Renewables reputation was unblemished. It’s media and public favoritism towards wind and solar. We are still quite early on in our love affair with wind and solar.


Helium is currently extracted from certain natural gas fields, those with high abundance:
Despite the claim of high abundance, current supplies are quite limited:

Current supplies are based on low prices, for which helium cannot be economically extracted by dedicated air seperation units.

The notion that current supplies are limited is based on the assumption that we cannot pay several times more for our helium.

This assumption is false.

If child’s balloons cost 30 cents more a piece, do you honestly think people will stop buying them? It is the same for all other applications, including medical technology and Brayton cycles. The cost of helium isn’t a determining factor in the use of it in various technologies.


Tom Keen, on 16 March 2012 at 9:55 PM said:

This company, Twin Creeks Technologies, are claiming they will be able to cut the price of solar PV cells to half of what the Chinese are currently producing them for, to 40 cents per watt, by next year.

Marketing, Distribution and Installation costs have been the bulk of the costs for a while now.


In a previous California electricity supply shortage, it turns out the supply was manipulated by Enron ( Remember the good old days :) )
@harrywe2 I have noticed the inordinate amount of advertising and promotion of solar rooftop panels in my location (SE Australia), so your point about the bulk of the cost of solar seems on the money.


unclepete, on 17 March 2012 at 7:02 AM said:

In a previous California electricity supply shortage, it turns out the supply was manipulated by Enron

In a ‘regulated’ electricity market the incentives are for utilities to ‘overbuild’ as they are guaranteed a return on investment on ‘low utilization’ reserve resources.

In a completely unregulated environment no one wants to pay for ‘reserve resources’ where the only profit that can be made is a few days of year when the reserves end up being required.

If the incentive is the ‘price signal’ on the grid then it’s in the interest of the generator that is going to be ‘last on’ to hold out for the highest price signal.

In my simple mind we need to have an additional pricing on say 5 or 10 year contracts for. I.E. The grid goes out to bid for expected maximum demand over the next 5 years and that becomes part of a ‘capacity charge’ and then ‘actual usage’ is an additional charge.

IIRC correctly the UK is talking about such a system in order to encourage investment in ‘firm’ capacity. A straight per KWh fee favors building windmills which unfortunately may not work particularly well during ‘high load’ periods.


I’ve read complaints from physics research labs about the current unavailability of helium but that might have just been for a short time as I haven’t noticed such complaints recently. Perhaps the Russianss are producing more helium from their natural gas wells.


The table of readings from TEPCO has ambiguous units. If the readings in the basements are in the vicinity of 30 µSv/h, that is, microsieverts per hour, the area can be safely visited by trained workers, wearing dosimeters. If however the text references to “mSv/h” really do mean millisieverts per hour, then the place is downright dangerous. Surely they meant “micro”.

Much as I am vigilant for the correct use of International Units, I have to admit that the use of the Greek letter mu to represent “micro” is an unnecessary complication for people not drilled in Western affectations. I urge anybody needing to write the prefix for “micro” to use the humble ASCII character “u”, which always gets rendered correctly in e-mails, blogs and documents. Heck, we shouldn’t even be inflicting such pedantry on our own students. Use “u”, not “mu”, I say!

— Water at 150 uSv/h is nasty stuff, as those gammas have penetrated from its bulk rather than its surface, must have come out of the torus. But was the torus ruptured by the earthquake or by later overpressures?


Roger Clifton, on 18 March 2012 at 4:02 PM said:

The table of readings from TEPCO has ambiguous units. If the readings in the basements are in the vicinity of 30 µSv/h, that is, microsieverts per hour, the area can be safely visited by trained workers

I read the Tepco numbers as millisieverts.

The planned exposure was a total of 10mSV(millisievert) for a 20 minute job. The standard for workers is a total of 50 mSv/year.

There wouldn’t be any need to ‘budget’ a planned exposure of 10uSv.

Click to access handouts_120314_01-e.pdf


David B. Benson writes,

I’ve read complaints from physics research labs about the current unavailability of helium

That was probably helium-3. It is a stable, naturally occurring isotope, but its mole fraction in natural helium is so small that the decay of tritium in things that have large, immobile inventories of it — fusion bombs, principally, I think — is the only practical source.


Tom Keen,

The fact that they’re taking boring old ion implantation and dressing it up with “high energy particle accelerator!” rhetoric to make it sound sexy and high tech doesn’t really fill me with confidence.

Their technology sounds ostensibly plausible.

However, just like every other whizz-bang new “technosolar” photovoltaic technology we always hear about every other week, when are we actually going to see it installed on rooftops?

If you go around town and look at rooftop PV installations, or you perhaps consider buying one yourself, what do you see?

Do you see cadmium telluride or gallium arsenide thin films? Do you see organic semiconductors or dye-sensitised Grätzel cells? Do you see sliver cells or ultra-thin silicon wafers made with ion beam lithography?

No. You just see plain old wafers of polycrystalline silicon.

Essentially every single PV panel that goes up on a rooftop anywhere in the world is just made from plain old wafers of polycrystalline silicon.

Those whizz-bang new PV technologies that always get so much media attention just don’t make it out of the laboratory and to the commercial market and onto rooftops. Why not?

The only reason, as far as I can tell, is that they’re simply more expensive, and ordinary polycrystalline silicon wafers – as expensive as they are – is the cheapest photovoltaic technology available.

If there was a cheaper technology then everybody (in their government -subsidised photovoltaic household installation programs) would be using it.


Yeah, He-3 is incredibly expensive and rare.
Most of the world’s supply of He-3 does indeed come from the US and Russian governments, when they remove the aged tritium bottles from nuclear weapons and replenish them with fresh tritium and purify and sell the He-3 “waste”, since at the present time (with no fusion power reactors) the nuclear weapons industry is by far the world’s largest consumer of tritium and that tritium basically just sits in storage inside the weapons for years, decaying.


George Monbiot’s latest is well worth the read. Briefly, no fossil fuel or no NPPs; can’t have both.

I’d link to the article, but my mouse is partially disabled and there is no possibility of replacement before tomorrow at the earliest.


I think it was John Morgan who asked the question how much PV could we use even if it was free? That is $0 per watt capital cost. A related question is getting levelised battery costs down 80% or so.

Therefore PV enthusiasts who extol the latest materials and production processes are missing the point; capital cost and solar conversion efficiency are not the serious limitations. Time to work on lunar panels so we can harvest moonlight or maybe get energy out of clouds somehow.


Both helium and helium-3 are scarce (which recommends raising the market price 10x to discourage flaring gas off wasting the helium with it); that would make recovery equipment more attractive

Helium-3 is also suddenly scarce, partly because it’s being consumed in border security detection equipment


As Cyril already pointed out, helium is ‘renewable’, and the issue is not that we will run out, it is that it will become more expensive to obtain as we move from natural gas extraction to air separation units. As Cyril also rightly indicated, the difference in cost is trivial for the helium used in a high-capital-cost infrastructure like a nuclear power plant coolant system — $10 or even $50 million in a price tag of a few billion is rounding error.

The Earth’s atmosphere, which has a mass of ~5.5 quadrillion tonnes, contains 0.000525% He, which equates to roughly 30 billion tonnes. This is in equilibrium, with the amount being lost to space equal to that regenerated by radioactive decay. We will not ‘run out’ of helium any more than we’ll run out of uranium. It’s just the matter of cost of extraction. This is another of those peak-resource fallacies.


Luke Weston,

Some fair points, though the reason this captured my interest is that it’s not a whizz-bang new PV technology – it’s regular PV, but (apparently) with a fairly simple refinement in production technique which will (supposedly) halve the price.

I think the major test will be just as you state – if, when production eventuates, it is as cheap as claimed, then many more people will start using it.

This is really only an interesting side issue though. John Morgan’s point, that it really doesn’t change the equation for grid-level power, is the point we can’t lose focus of.


Thanks, harrywr2, for the correction – the readings in the basement are indeed in millisieverts per hour, correctly expressed as “mSv/h”. The confusion of units of a year ago has clearly been fixed.

Readings (of ~1.0 uSv/h) at Fuku Daiini are correctly typed with a “mu” on TEPCO’s website.

There was no breach at Daiini, many km from the now-famous Daiichi reactors.

One uSv/h equates to 8.76 mSv/a. Background is about 2.4 mSv/a but varies locally.

This map shows yesterday’s readings around the grounds at Fuku. Daiichi.

Click to access f1-mp-2012031812-e.pdf

Monitoring points on the east and north boundaries of the plant are ~10 uSv/h, while SE and closer points, presumably with more debris, are still reading as high as 257 uSv/h.


@ richard123456columbia I think ground source heating and cooling will be mostly for new buildings and determined individuals who are logistically and financially able do a retrofit. It’s hard to see it being retrofitted to the vast mass of suburbia with the spaghetti of cables near the surface. Also Australians probably wouldn’t share a communal underground thermal bank for long before disputes broke out.

In my case I leave in a heavily forested area at Lat 43S and have all the free firewood I want. That takes care of winter heating, The flipside is that I would be trapped in a wildfire so I built a firebunker 3 metres underground which doubles as a summer cool room just 18C when it is 40C at the surface. It has 12 volt lighting and internet of course.

I’m not sure what the solution is for most people in cold snaps and heat waves. Space suits? Simultaneously energy is getting more expensive while the weather is getting more deadly.


I’ve just been reading the (generally low standard) commentary on an ‘The Conversation’ article:

Jim Green has just coined in late with a critique of BNC:

His summary:
“Prof. Brook lives in a parallel universe where nuclear power is benign − the WMD connection is trivialised, nuclear waste is a multi-trillion-dollar asset, nuclear power is the safest energy source, low-level ionising radiation is harmless, Chernobyl killed less than 60 people, ‘integral fast reactors’ can’t produce fissile material for weapons, reactor-grade plutonium can’t be used in weapons, and problems such as inadequate safeguards and the (further) disempowerment of Aboriginal people are ignored.”

I’m astounded that an academic can be so misleading to the public.

I’m sure were all well aware that the energy debate has been a very touchy subject prone to a lot of misinformation for some time now, but comments like are taking it to a whole new level.


PaulQ, Jim Green is many things, but he is definitely not an academic, and as such, he has none of the academy’s accepted standards (accuracy, honesty, evidence, avoiding misrepresentation, etc.) to uphold.


@ Barry, thanks for the tip.

After looking into his aricles, etc. I think I’ll give his opinion a wide berth in future.


Whenever Jim Green writes an opinion piece or gives a talk or something like that and he’s asked to provide the usual sort of very brief biography to say what this author/speaker does for a living, it usually says “Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth.” or something similar.

So, in other words, it seems that telling people that nuclear energy is bad is actually his full-time professional occupation?


According to Jim Green Prof. Brook lives in a parallel universe.
If so he is in good company :) – James Hansen, Bill Green, James Lovelock, George Monbiot, Mark Lynas, and the governments of England, France, India and China to name a few!


Keith Orchison on Business Spectator

There’s no argument that will bring ‘em out of the trees faster than anyone suggesting that the peak oil contention is bunk or at least no longer valid.

Keith has a background in this subject. He knows a thing or two on the subject that most don’t. He probably remembers that in about 1960 we thought there was only 11 years of oil left. So little has changed in 50 years :)

I make the point again, if we want to reduce emissions, we have to make the low emissions alternatives cheaper than fossil fuels. In reality, it means we need to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear. The focus must be on cost of electricity, just as it is with all other technologies (all of which, by the way, cause more fatalities per MWh than nuclear). Excessive safety (on an objective basis) costs money and costs lives (because it forces us to stick with the cheaper plants that cause more fatalities per MWh).


Here are some LCOE estimates for the USA:

(1) Nuscale’s 45 MWe PWR @ US$4400/kW (assumed all-in cost) using a 100% 30 year term 8.0% loan with CF=93%, fixed O&M @ US$186, variable O&M @ US$0.005 and 0 fuel cost (included as part of O&M instead) gives LCOE=US$0.076/kW for the life of the loan. Thereafter LCOE=US$0.030/kW using the expected lower CF of 86% as the unit will require more refurbishment. Assuming a useful life of 60 years, the simple average is LCOE=US$0.053/kW.

(2) Recent wind farm contract with Idaho Power is for 20 years with LCOE=$0.091/kW.

(3) CCGT @ US$1100/kW (assumed all-in cost) using a 100% 20 year term 8.0% loan with CF=93%, fixed O&M @ US$12, variable O&M @ US$0.005, heat rate @ 12000 [hope that is about right for a CCGT], fuel cost @ US$3/MMBtu gives LCOE=US$0.056 but if the fuel cost is but US$2.75/MMBtu the CCGT has the same LCOE as the NPP 60 year estimate.

The current NGUSHUB spot price for natgas is US$2.14/MMBtu with the Nymex Henry Hub future higher @ US$2.35/MMBtu.

So Peter Lang is right: NPP LCOE appears higher than for a natgas burner. However, there is no serious possiblity of significant uranium cost increases while historically natgas prices are rather volatile (and currently at a low in the USA). One takes something more of a risk operating a CCGT to compete for the base load portion of the market.

Note: The calculations were done using
Fell free to form your own estimates.


Eventually piped gas prices will have to compete with LNG export prices which you’d think would only be 10% or so higher. However Asia notably Japan is prepared to pay over $15 per gigajoule for LNG. For the non-metric I GJ = 0.95 mmbtu.

We’re seeing piped gas vs LNG competition with the coal seam gas liquefaction plants near Gladstone Qld. I suspect there will eventually be a legislated requirement to meet domestic piped gas needs in eastern Australia. So far only in WA has this at 15% domestic set aside I believe.

However I suspect there is far bigger gas price shock in store with a wholesale shift to CNG as a truck fuel. So far few are discussing this. Some early indications can be seen on this commercial website here.


John Newlands — An LNG export terminal costs billions, which of course has to be recouped. I suspect the compression costs are also quite high.

AFAIK there is only one proposed LNG export terminal plan making its way through all the necessary approvals in the USA [and also, therefore, what is called the western hemisphere]. One terminal won’t make much of a dent in the otherwise available natgas supply.


Sad news:

Bernard L. Cohen, author of the wonderful book (free online) “The Nuclear Energy Option”:

Has died:
Bernard L. Cohen, of Pittsburgh, died Saturday, March 17, 2012. He was the beloved husband of the late Anna (Foner) Cohen; beloved father of Donald, Judith, Fred and Ernie Cohen; brother of the late Norman Cohen and Natalie Apple; beloved son of the late Mollie and Sam Cohen; also survived by 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, a large loving family and his beloved partner, Ann Ungar. Bernard had a long and distinguished career as a professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh. Services will be held at
1 p.m. Monday at RALPH SCHUGAR CHAPEL INC., 5509 Centre Ave., Shadyside, with visitation one hour prior to services from noon until
1 p.m. Interment at the West View Cemetery of Rodef Shalom Congregation. Contributions may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.


DBB yes Japanese LNG demand probably won’t drive up US gas prices anytime soon. Presumably gas liquefaction is quite efficient with multistage compression and cooling then re-expansion to -170C. I assume this takes just another 10% or so of the combustion value of the chilled gas.

On low US gas prices my reading of The OIl Drum is that drilling for oil in shale has created a must-sell glut of associated gas
Comments suggest this will be a short lived phenomenon.. Re-injecting the gas for later doesn’t appear to be an option. I gather some Australian oilfield operators now think if they drill more then there will be bonus gas with the extra oil. I bet 20 years from now selling gas for under $3/GJ will seem like burning Picassos for warmth.


A new paper has appeared in <Nature Climate Change addressing the question we would all like an answer to:

Do alternative energy sources displace fossil fuels?

The paper is behind the Nature paywall so I can’t read it, but there is a decent report on it at Ars Technica:

Study: alternative energy has barely displaced fossil fuels

The study uses GDP as a proxy for energy consumption, then looks at energy supply in 130 countries over the last 50 years by type – fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro, and non-hydro renewables like wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, biomass, and biofuels. The researcher, Richard York, then asks the question, how much fossil energy was displaced by each class of alternative energy, in both total energy used, and just electricity?

York found that each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated from non-fossil-fuel sources displaced only 0.089 kWh of that from fossil fuels.

York also looked at the different categories of alternative sources for electricity generation: nuclear, hydro, and non-hydro renewables. .. each kWh of nuclear displaced about 0.2 kWh of fossil fuels, hydro about 0.1, and non-hydro renewables essentially didn’t displace any fossil fuel electricity.

I’m surprised by the low displacement rate of nuclear, but I can’t access the paper to understand the analysis. On the other hand the failure of non-hydro renewables to displace any fossil fuel electricity is unsurprising.

If anyone locates an online copy of the paper please post the url here.


JM, I’ve not looked at that paper yet either, but I suspect they are comparing total fossil fuel displacement. So, in most economies, nuclear would currently only be ‘counted’ in the displacement of electricity sources — and stationary electricity is typically 20 – 30 % of a country’s total energy use. Hence the 0.2 kWh value for nuclear. This could only rise through wider use of BEVs, synfuels etc. Otherwise, the case study of France, Sweden, Iceland etc. shows that this calculation is wrong, e.g., nuclear and/or conventional geothermal, combined with hydro, can displace MOST fossil fuels (from stationary electricity).


Barry Brook — My interpretation is that an NPP (or wind) actually has to result in turning off a coal burner to count as displacement. NPPs clearly did so in France while wind clearly did not in Denmark. Averaging over all the countries in the study showed that 80% of the NPP energy was used for increased demand and only 20% displaced burning coal.


The Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) has released a report today, on Energy Prices in Australia: An International Comparison finding that Australian energy users (electricity) are paying some of the highest prices in the world.

The report is short and straightforward, concluding that prices have increased by 40% since 2007 and likely to increase further. It doesn’t go into much detail why.

On the radio this morning a rep from EUAA, offered network infrastructure upgrades as the reason for the big increase, and those upgrades we needed due to peak usage increases (although this last part is not in the report).


Also out today are the latest ‘resource’ export stats
with the press release titled ‘Resource and energy earnings projected to break export records’. It predicts coking coal exports will increase 47% and thermal coal 65% in the next five years.

Huh? Did someone have a memory lapse on the way home from the climate change conference? Starting in a few weeks we Aussies are supposed to bust our nuts cutting CO2 in line with international efforts. Somebody must have got an early minute from the teacher so they can enjoy a quiet cigarette behind the gym.

I’ll download the full pdf when my bandwidth allowance increases and try to estimate the amount of CO2 involved.


(Deleted political comment.)
Comments supporting the increased mining and usage of fossil fuels (without CCS – currently not commercially available), obviously demonstrates a denial of the scientific consensus on AGW. BNC does not post, comment or support such positions.The prime purpose of the blog is to displace all fossil fuels with non-carbon emitting sources.


Report released today:
“Electricity prices in Australia – an economic comparison”


Australia has the highest electricity prices of USA, EU, Canada and Japan. Our prices have risen 40% in the past 5 years and are projected another 30% in the next 2 years.

With policies like these there will be an enormous backlash and there will not be too many people supporting carbon pricing.

We are going the WRONG WAY! GO BACK!


Figure 3 in the EUAA report shows that, of the 91 states compared on the bais of average residential electricity prices the three highest are:

1. Denmark
2. Germany
3. South Australia

What do they have in common?

Highest wind penetration in the world!


@Peter Lang

With policies like these there will be an enormous backlash and there will not be too many people supporting carbon pricing.

As the carbon tax has not yet been implemented it has obviously, thus far, had no impact on any increases. Once initiated, people will be protected, from any rise in prices resulting from the tax, by increased benefits and/or lower tax from a rise in the tax free threshold.

The lift in prices to date have been as a result of the necessity to upgrade infrastructure which has been neglected for decades. Further upgrades are still necessary for yet more power stations and transmission lines. Surely the best policy would be to de-commission these aging plants and replace them with non CO2 emitting nuclear power.


Peter Lang & Ms. Perps:

The economic and consumer impact of a carbon tax is strongly dependent on what is done with the carbon tax revenue. If the revenue is given back to the public, say with a lump sum bank account transfer every month, the impact on consumers is obviously marginal.

There is still the problem of scaring off energy intensive industries overseas, resulting in an increased import of energy intensive stuff. I’ve been thinking that this can be solved by placing import taxes on the most energy intensive imported stuff, which obviously solves that problem, though it comes at some disadvantage of being more complicated (Peter might even say bureaucratic). The “free trade” advocates might disagree, as well, yet the “level playing field” advocates will agree.



To expand on the EUAA report, the following is a article from ABC News (note however, I don’t take the factors outlined as gospel):

“Mr Domanski says the price disparity is only likely to grow.
“The three key factors that will increase prices again in 2012 are firstly the network charges – these are the charges for transporting electricity across poles and wires,” he said.
“Secondly, the subsidies that are paid by people to support renewable energy.
“The third significant impact will be the introduction of a carbon price from July 1.”

The maintenance costs of networks alone is worrying. Add in the carbon tax, plus added subsidies for ineffective carbon abatement and it is worse. Do we really think this type of climate action will be as palatable to Australians with this high cost/low benefit burden?

I am not saying the carbon taxing itself is right or wrong, rather that the key assumptions of carbon prices, energy alternatives, timeframes and popular confidence in the tax that made up the legislation previously can change things.

In regard to lowering emissions, it has always been my view that Governments should aim for lower cost alternatives, and the way to achieve that is primarily through technological innovation. Politicians can tax, ban, regulate, restrict, persuade, advise, etc, etc. But they cannot do R&D, but they can incentivize it.

I don’t want a potentially poor designed carbon price to dissuade people from moving to a low C economy.


(Deleted attack on the moderator.)
Please desist from appealing/attacking my decisions as asked by Prof Brook. If you do not like the moderation on this site go away and shout at the wall. Further attacks may result in permanent moderation or banning.


Some up to date mineral export figures enable a comparison of domestic emissions with CO2 generated by Australian fossil fuels burned overseas. From Table 3 of March 2012 bulletin of the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics using 2011 data we have
LNG 20 X 2.8 = 56
thermal coal 143 X 2.4 = 343
coking coal 140 X 2.7 = 378
Total 777 Mt of CO2
The multipliers for coal come from a BHP Billiton website and the multiplier for LNG is from Engineering Toolbox.

In the year to September 2011 Australia’s net CO2 equivalent emissions including from imported oil, deforestation etc was 540 Mt. Therefore Australian coal and LNG produces 44% more CO2 overseas than what we create at home. Since our politicians tend to be lawyers they should consider the ethics of selling what they claim is a harmful product

The recent report by Hunt asserts that Australia’s 2020 emissions target is 527 Mt. I suggest that’s a pathetic reduction from 540 but at least we’re pretending to make an effort. However consider this; an x% cut in our coal and LNG exports has a bigger global effect than an x% domestic cut. I politely suggest it is insane to have a carbon tax at home while applauding other countries burning the same coal and gas. When we lose our steel and aluminium industries we’ll have to re-import these commodities made with our ores and our fuels except other countries get the jobs and profits.

Perhaps the ships could carry a cigarette pack style warning ‘smoking this product may be harmful to the health of the planet’. If we have to pay carbon tax on coal and gas then foreigners must do the same with a range of mechanisms available to do this.


“Coal seam gas and coal can bring huge opportunities – both in investment and job creation – but to do so community confidence must be maintained in these developments,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement.

Actually no Prime Minister the burning of coal is the single greatest contributor to greenhouse gases which your government has pledged to reduce. It follows that the coal industry must contract not expand. Some might feel annoyed at paying stiff carbon taxes if there are no emissions reductions.

We will get CO2 reductions if CSG replaces coal as a fuel without merely adding to it. Then again that raises many non greenhouse problems. Source of the quote


@PaulQ this link on Smart grids doesn’t have anything specifically Australian but the problems in some articles there are the same problems Australia faces and will increasingly face with the growth of green power generated away from where it is needed. Texas is an example of how half of wind-produced power is wasted because exisiting power transmission system is not adequate and how much ($5b) and who is going to pay for the new line

Similar problems with ageing power line infrastructure that requires lots of investments also exist in the US

I can’t refer to any specific cost analysis but from the discussion here it seems that having NPP’s in close proximity of where the power demand growth is forseen is a very attactive proposition as it would not require as much investment into the grid upgrade of lines running over long distances.


T Boon Pickens has a TED talk promoting fracking and natural gas as the main *transport* energy solution for America. He presents it as a national security issue of American gas replacing OPEC oil for 8 million trucks. He says he accepts the science of climate change, but then went on to discuss the *mammoth* amount of energy if we could learn to economically extract methane hydrates! (I shudder to think what an addiction to that stuff would do to this planet!)

He said he spoke with James Hansen about wind and solar being unreliable and that they both agreed on that “in 13 seconds flat”.

It’s interesting to hear this gas-man talk, but I don’t think he gets the fact that transport itself needs to be changed. America has the population and economy to support nuclear powered fast rail. Any other ideas for a clean transport future for America?


Eclipse Now — Burning boron has been suggested. The oxide is then later reduced via application of electricity to recover the boron for reuse. [I have no idea about the pratical feasibility.]


A lot of gas would be freed up for transport if less was required for baseload electricity generation. The problem is the millions of people in the ‘exurbs’ for whom public transport is not a realistic option for shopping or commuting to work. Plugin hybrid electric cars are too expensive which is why the supposed game changing Chevrolet Volt is not selling well. While Pickens himself drives a pure CNG car perhaps bifuel CNG/petrol car models would suit many. As petrol escalated in price CNG filling stations could increase in number. Either fuel will get people long distances unlike pure battery cars.

I realise the well-to-wheels efficiency of gas->electricity->plugin cars at about 40% using electricity alone is double the 20% w-t-w efficiency of cars that burn gas directly. However those cars can travel hundreds of kilometres without using liquids which is what people want.

In a bidding war between gas for transport and gas for stationary users vehicles would win. We pay ~$40 per GJ for liquid fuels whereas industrial piped gas users pay around $4. Recent record export LNG prices must also drive up the price of piped gas. This could explain the reluctance to build big new gas fired plants in Victoria or NSW. It could be simpler to pay the ‘introductory offer’ carbon tax on coal then beg for continued exemptions.


We’re just going to burn it all, aren’t we? It’s too hard to move to New Urbanism + clean nuclear power and electric trolley buses or trams or trains for transport. We’re just going to stick with the car and use CTL and GTL and gas and fracking and methane hydrates….


In theory we could make synfuels from nuclear hydrogen and biocarbon but what that might cost is anybody’s guess. The e-gas system of the Audi car company claims it will use windpower that would otherwise be curtailed. No country that is serious about emissions cuts can get into CTL so China and India will probably go for it while the West looks away. Perhaps aircraft will be the last major user of liquid fuels and we could afford some CTL jet fuel if coal wasn’t used for anything else.

I predict when petrol hits $2/L in the next few years the knee jerk reaction will be to cut the fuel excise. The best idea they could come up with after 20 years advance warning. Note the UK and US intend to tap strategic petroleum reserves to lower fuel prices as if now is as bad as it will ever get. Yet more Magic Pudding mentality.


//The best idea they could come up with after 20 years advance warning.//
Yeah, I guess we knew this was coming when our discovery of conventional oil peaked in 1965 and we started to burn more than we discovered in 1982/3. But here’s the real rub to a peak oiler like myself that in some ways dreads peak oil, but in other ways has been looking forward to society being forced to rethink how we build cities: fracking gives us lots of gas. *Lots*. And methane hydrates seems to dwarf coal… and you know what that means if we ever get hooked on that.


Something a bit off topic…

Bill Gates calls this the future of education! If your kids are having trouble at school, get them to watch Khan Academy! Try this introductory video. Teachers have set watching Khan Academy videos as homework and then use class time to do working examples. In other words, the kids get ‘taught’ at home and do their ‘homework’ at school with a professional teacher. Khan Academy sets work to test how students are going, and if kids are struggling it pops up on a teacher’s dashboard. You can even log in and track your kid’s progress. They have a mentoring system as well. You could even volunteer to become a ‘mentor’ to some other kid halfway round the world.


Symbolism vs cost. I’m not sure what Qantas hope to achieve running 50% biofuel in one engine of a two engined plane
If the biofuel is of the methyl ester type it will need thinning agents or fuel pre-heaters to avoid low temperature gelling. That’s the first problem. The second problem is there will never be enough of that type perhaps even if they can get algae lipids (fat globules) to produce consistently. The third problem is price.

Maybe they hope to get some sort of carbon credit under the EU airline carbon tax. After all household PV in Australia gets counted 5X towards the RET. Perhaps they are grasping at straws because they see fuel costs putting air travel beyond the budget of ordinary workers. If as I suspect the whole exercise is a greenwash the predetermined result will be that it is ‘encouraging’. However I think aviation must shrink when we start the Peak Oil downslope. Prediction; there will be fewer planes in the sky 5 years from now.


I wonder if a sense of unease over coal helped create the weekend’s landslide electoral result in Queensland. With a serious carbon tax just weeks away and devastating floods perhaps attributable to climate change it must feel uncomfortable to have an economy so dependent on coal. Queensland’s coal industry is already troubled
Note for example the inability to find another 1,000 workers for the BMA mine, the new airport for fly-in fly-out workers and the exodus of long term residents. It all seems manic.

Even if CO2 weren’t a problem the sheer bulk of coal shipments is. There are railway lines and loading ports with ships grinding their way through sensitive coral reefs. Worse than the physical cost could be the realisation that much of this coal is going to foreigners who have no real intention of carbon restraint. Meanwhile our own industries suffer and we will have to import products made with the same coal.

While the money seems good ($55bn a year for coal exports I think) the flip side is loss of social cohesion and troubling inconsistency. It can only get worse.


TEPCO finds only 60 cm of water in the containment vessel of the number 2 reactor at Dai-ichi, but water temperature at 50 degrees C.
(Large blockquote deleted)

See also for a similar NHK report:
BNC Comments Policy (Citation Rule) prohibits the cutting and pasting of large chunks of text without any in depth analysis by the commenter.
I have let the refs stand but please also be aware that normally, posting links, without any personal commentary/analysis, may result in the deletion of the whole comment and a request for a re-post which abides by the Citation Rule. Thankyou.


Ref comment on coal mining.
Coal mining is dirty, unhealthy and unpopular work. It may or may not be possible to discontinue it in the life of a working mine but it will help if in situ gasification is used to extract the energy from coal mines. The gas is easier to clean of components harmful to health. It also amounts to splitting the IGCC and leaving the ash in the ground.
If nuclear steam is used for gasification, it could add energy without any carbon emissions. The gas can be used directly as fuel or as input for liquid fuels and chemicals as is done in South Africa (Sasol).
As far as exports are concerned, value added liquid fuels can be exported.


Eamon’s link says this:

TOKYO — One of Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors still has fatally high radiation levels and hardly any water to cool it, according to an internal examination that renews doubts about the plant’s stability.

A tool equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter and a water gauge was used to assess damage inside the No. 2 reactor’s containment chamber for the second time since the tsunami swept into the Fukushima Daiichi plant a year ago.

You don’t need a lot of cooling anymore. The decay heat is about 0.05% of full power right now:

Click to access Ragheb-Ch8-2011.PDF

Of course, the continued scaremongering doom stories will continue from the media without as much as an excuse from earlier scaremongering. The media does not understand nuclear power so the journalists all have a vibe of “it will blow up any minute”. Of course, anyone who knows something about the situation knows that the volatile stuff is all decayed, settled somewhere, or processed out from the water treatment facility. And that 0.05% reactor power isn’t enough to cause serious trouble. And that reactor temperature and pressure being so low, even a garden hose would suffice to provide the little cooling required. But that is not worthy of media attention. It lacks drama.


Manufacturers such as Incitec Pivot and Dow Chemical have questioned the need to export large volumes of LNG both in the US and Australia

As seen on ABC Lateline Business they argue that domestic gas users will eventually have to match the high export price of LNG. For Japan that is up to $15 a GJ compared to less than $4 for domestic piped gas. My guess is that higher price would more than double the cost of local electricity produced by CCGT.

I don’t have up to date statistics but in 2009 Australia consumed 19 bn litres of diesel. If there was a wholesale shift to CNG in trucks that could nearly double Australia’s domestic gas consumption of around 20 Mtpa. Note our local oil production is in rapid decline and there is talk of cutting the diesel rebate to mining companies.

Wait there’s more. Natural gas from the Cooper Basin on which Adelaide depends will be used to top up coal seam gas liquefied for export from Gladstone Qld. They’re hoping fracking will improve supplies. So make that a trifecta
1) gas need for fertiliser and local value adding
2) gas as an oil replacement
3) gas to power south eastern Australia.

The chemical companies want a guaranteed percentage (I think they said 30%) of gas set aside for domestic use. The Productivity Commission should investigate.


Petroleum diesel is up to 40% aromatics like benzene.

Farm tractors, harvesters and grocery delivery trucks will eventually have to be CNG powered to maintain the food system. Urea, nitrate and ammonium salt fertilisers currently use natural gas feedstock though China uses coal. Every day there are more mouths to feed. Why the hell are we burning gas in baseload power stations?


The IPCC are now willing to concede that the upswing in natural disasters around the world can be linked to AGW/CC. They have just released this video and a new report.

“Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”

Click to access SREX-SPMbrocure_FINAL.pdf


I predict when petrol hits $2/L in the next few years the knee jerk reaction will be to cut the fuel excise.

That would reduce government’s incentive to sabotage gasoline conservation and substitution. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them at that time to increase the fraction of the motorist’s dollar they take, so as to increase his motivation to conserve?


Otto-cycle engines run just fine on CNG. However, the tanks are bulky and the range is reduced, which isn’t always a serous problem. But an engine cannot readily be converted from Diesel to CNG. The change-over from Diesel to CNG would have to be done gradually as vehicles or engines are replaced.


Wouldn’t it make more sense for them at that time to increase the fraction of the motorist’s dollar they take, so as to increase his motivation to conserve?

The government here has done just that. Right now gasoline is 1.76 euros per liter, AUD 2.26 per liter.

It doesn’t reduce consumption one bit. In fact, gasoline use is higher than ever. In the 80’s gasoline was cheap. We used less of it then.

It is not surprising. In developed countries with high wages, gasoline is a highly inelastic good. Taxing into conservation is massively ineffective. The slightest economic growth beats its pants off, increasing consumption.

In poorer countries they really suffer, and can’t afford the extra gasoline cost. So they reduce by painfully reducing their consumption, inhibiting their development to a better standard of living. This is the Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth way. Deprive the poor of a good standard of living, so we can all feel good.


(Fixed by Mod.)
In Australia owners of heavy vehicle fleets can get the cost of diesel down to about $1/L through bulk buying discounts and the 18c diesel excise rebate which under review for scrapping. Liquid diesel at $1 for 35 MJ thermal is about $30 / GJ. When taxed diesel approaches say $2/L within a few years my guess is that truckers will shift en masse to CNG. In lieu of the scrapped diesel rebate the govt could help with conversions for late model buses and trucks (say $2,000 apiece) while keeping any CNG excise low.

My guess is that the effect of major shift to CNG is that it could near double gas demand while making the price too high for stationary users such as power stations and fertiliser plants. I saw Daniel Yergin on TV last night and he said cheap natural gas changes everything. Not for long I suspect.


It seems that RWE and E.ON have abandoned the Horizon joint venture to build two new reactors at Wylfa in the UK:

This is quite disappointing in view of the UK’s potential leading role in new nuclear build in western Europe.

It seems that the nuclear shutdown in Germany would likely have hurt both partners financially. Apparently they were also squabbling over the choice between EPR and AP1000.

The UK government is trying to put on a brave face and suggesting that EDF will step in. That may be a bit optimistic.


You know Australian energy policy is in good hands when coal fired power stations get paid for hurt feelings
Perhaps this is because Treasury modelling says they are going to go broke. Maybe instead they will just keep spewing CO2 for decades to come. I think the theory is that the asset value of the plants is diminished. Geez they couldn’t have seen it coming, like 20 years ago.

From what I gather there are no strings attached such as having to spend the money on wind and solar. Note the Feds are spending a billion dollars of carbon tax money before they have received a cent. Businessman David Murray thinks we’ll go backwards under the carbon tax
I agree we need to plug leaks like sending our metals industries offshore using our metal and our energy sources. However I think that will be a gradual process with little immediate impact from the tax.


EN when we’ve exhausted NG and CSG we can make biogas and synthetic methane, no need to touch clathrates. For example—methane-powered

Advantages of the non-leaky methane economy include high net energy and non toxicity, shame about the GHG factor. Adding skunk odour might help. I can’t seem to to get a realistic price for alternative methane but it must be many times the 0.4c per MJ of natgas. If we didn’t get 20+% of our electricity from burning gas that would free up a huge amount as a vehicle fuel.

BTW despite claims that new combined cycle plant (gas + steam turbine) can achieve better than 50% thermal to electrical energy conversion an even better prospect is ceramic fuel cells with the exhaust heating steam boilers with claimed efficiency of up to 70%. Link. Gas with CCS appears to be a myth based on the struggling plant in Peterhead, Scotland.

Here’s why we shouldn’t export or burn so much gas in baseload power stations
1) the Japan factor with ridiculous LNG prices
2) fracked wells deplete fast
3) can never achieve 80% CO2 cuts
4) LNG and CNG can replace diesel as oil declines
5) parts of the world are running out eg southern Australia
6) nitrogen fertilisers carry an extra 2bn world population
7) best for peaking and load following.


Here is more on using boron or iron as a transportation fuel:
but as best as I can determine for the date no substantial progress has been forthcoming. I conclude this is another nogo.

My version of the elevator pitch. Implementation would be a real threat to governments’, and therefore national labs’, gasoline excise tax income. As someone, think it was Cyril, was saying, that’s a tax that people now-a-days compete to pay more of, so much so that I often see Avalanches on the streets of the small town I live in, and in that context, they don’t look large. Not the falling-ice phenomenon, the car-with-open-payload-bay in the photomontage.

The perversities of the Oak Ridge approach, if such it can be called, were discussed here before, I think “Ostwald ripening” as a key would find it. Wait, that phenomenon is mentioned several times. The relevant one is in


I think the billion dollars in sit-down money paid to the biggest polluters is a scandal
I suggest the correct approach is either
a) pay them nothing or
b) attach strings to how it is spent.

To my knowledge we didn’t compensate asbestos producers when their product was declared harmful. Most of these coal plants are decrepit so carbon tax will hardly affect their resale value. That billion dollars could have been spent towards a single NPP to act as a demonstrator for the rest of Australia.

If you look at the Dirty Dozen (actually 9) they burn poor quality coal and are not well located to be replaced by combined cycle gas plant. CCGT has an average working life of around 40 years I believe and south eastern Australia will have run out of gas well before then.

If the Feds think that carbon tax induced energy efficiency will cut demand they could be mistaken. People could simply pay more while skimping on good food or education for their kids. If emissions don’t change it’s all for nothing. It also seems stupid to fork out a billion dollars before any tax revenue has started coming in.

In my opinion this is one of several massive blunders with the implementation of carbon pricing which I agree with in principle. Other blunders will be the massive purchase of foreign offsets and the ‘carbon farming’ scam. Not happy Julia.


Has anyone ever watched Donald Sadoway describe his liquid metal battery at the TED talks? He’s claiming to have produced MW storage from cheap metals at a grid level ‘price point’, whatever that means.

Here’s his wiki.

He says his approach is different because instead of choosing expensive storage mediums and then trying to bring the cost down by scaling production, he wants to use cheaper materials and produce fewer but larger components. Operating at high temperature is also another major difference.

However, his PDF seems to finish on a less dogmatic note.

“Future work will include long-term corrosion testing of solid-state components, current collector optimization, and investigation of
alternative sheath materials. While the initial cell performance results are promising, exploration of other metal−metalloid couples with still greater cell voltages and lower operating
temperatures is warranted. If a low-cost, high-voltage system with sufficiently low levels of corrosion were discovered, it would find utility in a wide array of stationary storage applications.”

Click to access 141.pdf


Four posts upthread I said I can’t get a price estimate for alternative methane. Well Greenpeace Germany have obliged with a figure of 30 eurocents per khw thermal, see p.4 of

Click to access greenpeace_energy_windgas_english.pdf

Apparently the hydrogen generators and methanators they propose are less efficient under part load so that cost is a low estimate.

Using $A1.29 per € and 1 kwh = 3.6 MJ this works out around 11c per MJ, some 27X the price I suggest for wholesale piped gas. Note petrol at $1.40 for 35 MJ thermal is 4c per MJ.

I therefore conclude it would be far cheaper to backup intermittent energy with petrol engines than synthetic methane. I’m thinking the Corvette engine they use for various tasks in Top Gear. My second conclusion that natural methane in natgas and CSG is an irreplaceable gift and we shouldn’t squander it.


“Eclipse Now” writes,

[Sadoway] says his approach is different because instead of choosing expensive storage mediums and then trying to bring the cost down by scaling production, he wants to use cheaper materials and produce fewer but larger components.

“Fewer but larger” is scaling.

I recall reading about this a few years ago and at that time one of the materials was antimony. Like bismuth, it is cheap — or cheap-ish — only as long as it is a byproduct. Its intrinsic rarity means the price goes through an upward step as soon as the byproduct supply becomes insufficient.


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