Nuclear Open Thread

Open Thread 22

The Open Thread 21 has passed 500 comments and is getting a little bloated, so time for a new one.

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 was quite a bit of discussion in the previous OT on radiation levels and the Fukushima evacuation zone. Relevant to this is the recent announcement that Japan will lift the entry ban on some cities within the prefecture. To quote:

In areas where annual radiation measurements are below 20 millisieverts per year, a government safety guideline, residents will have free access to their homes during the day and will be allowed to return permanently at the earliest opportunity post-decontamination. Where readings are between 20 to 50 millisieverts annually, evacuees will also have unrestricted access during the day although their permanent return will come later. In areas where measurements top 50 millisieverts, residents will not have free access and they will not be allowed to return for a minimum of five years.

A past BNC guest poster, engineer Chris Uhlik, analysed the situation a private email distribution list, and I thought his summary with respect to LNT (linear no-threshold hypothesis of radiation damage to living organisms) was very useful. With Chris’ permission, I reproduce it below:


The official position of every regulatory agency & scientific body, and even the people who will tell you “we don’t know what’s going on under 50 mSv”, the weight of the evidence favors LNT.

Here’s what I think is going on:

Under 50mSv/year we can’t find any epidemiological data to support LNT. There is simply too much noise and other effects to see sub-0.5% changes in cancer rates in populations where the variations from other effects (smoking, stress, chemical exposures, etc) are in the range of 20–45%.

The rates of different kinds of cancers are affected differently by radiation. Some kinds appear to increase while others decrease. Some kinds of cancer are more treatable than others and thus result in different mortality rates, even if the occurrence rate increases. Simple statements like “cancer death rates show a LNT response to radiation exposure” are way too simplistic to be true, but such statements are easy to base regulations around. When regulators feel a need to support a regulation with some math, they’d rather choose simple math than more-correct, but difficult to understand and explain math.

We can find biological data from cell culture experiments that DNA disruptions are linearly related to exposure. However, most of these experiments are not with healthy, normal, human cell cultures. Bacteria and yeast might have different DNA repair mechanisms than humans. Some human cell culture experiments show hormesis. (example)

In the absence of unambiguous scientific evidence for a simple dose response model, regulators choose a conservative, simple model. They (and the scientists) agree that the model is simple and conservative, i.e. over-estimates the number of deaths. But what gets me riled up is that we ignore the opportunity cost of being excessively conservative. For example, we’ll spend $billions to avoid tens of theoretical deaths counted by the conservative model while not spending similar amounts on things that would much more reliably save thousands of lives. And, at the same time, we take the opposite point of view with global climate change. There, we have good models that show massive disruption, but we take business-as-usual actions because changing would be inconvenient. We are totally inconsistent about what sort of inconvenience is acceptable.

All risk-avoidance regulation should take a years-of-life-lost approach where the best available model (not simplest model) of years of productive life lost are counted against a standard value for a year of productive life. If we did this consistently, we’d spend lots of money developing cures for disease and less money treating disease because treating saves just one person’s life while a cure saves thousands or millions. Likewise, coal air pollution takes thousands (maybe millions) of years of life from asthmatic children while an accident like Fukushima requires extreme assumptions to reach ~1000 years of life lost and where the evacuation has already claimed >500 lives which is at least 5000 years of life lost.

Local optimization results are often extremely sub-optimal relative to global optimization, especially for complex systems. These piecemeal regulations that ignore the greater context can be extremely harmful. The conservative LNT assumption is one such unfortunate local optimization that protects the regulator while harming the populace.


Footnote: More here from Depleted Cranium blog: Evacuation Policy Versus Radiation Level Measurements In Japan

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.

285 replies on “Open Thread 22”

Where I can find an estimate of what the compliance cost of the CO2 tax and ETS will be when fully implemented to the standard that will eventually be required? (I have not been able to find such an estimate, including on the Treasury, DRET or DCCEE web sites).

Expansion of my question and some thoughts follow:

What would be the compliance cost for the ETS once it is fully implemented and running at the level of accuracy required for trading the commodity (CO2-e) and at the level of financial security from fraud that will be expected? For example, what will be the annual cost for:

– Public servants in DCCEE, Treasury, ATO, Australian Federal Police, state police forces, state bureaucracies, Attorneys’ General Departments, Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, ABARE, BREE, the equivalent state departments of energy, resources, agriculture, forestry, environment, Prime Minister and Cabinet, State departments of Premier and Cabinet, the law courts, High Court, goals, any others I haven’t thought of?

– The businesses that have to report their emissions – what is the cost to implement and maintain the monitoring equipment and to report? What is the cost to update and replace equipment, reporting systems and legacy data each time the rules change (as they do every few years)?

– Farmers and all the upstream and downstream industries (farming will be included eventually if the tax and ETS remain)

– Accountants, lawyers, accounting firms, law firms, courts?

– Firms that use the data, analyse it and report? What is the cost for them to have to maintain and continually update their systems and legacy data?

– What about the compliance cost for purchasing overseas carbon credits?

I understand some of the costs involved in doing what the US legislation requires the US EPA to do (clearly we would have to move to that level of accountability and beyond it eventually), would be in the order of $21 billion per year. These two links provide some insight into the current requirements in the USA
We can only guess what the costs would be for the businesses involved and all the organisations who take this data and analyses it. Notice that the rules have been changing (for emissions other than CO2) every few years for about the last three decades (roughly); think of the compliance cost that imposes.

The EPA recently stated in a court submission that the cost to the EPA alone to implement and manage in accordance with the existing laws would cost $21 billion per year. That is not a typo. They estimated they would have to increase their permanent staff numbers from 17,000 to 233,000 permanent employees. The cost to business could be expected to be at least ten times the EPA’s cost, and the other departments who have a role to play would probably double the EPA’s cost.

What does this mean for Australia? Well, initially Australia does not intend to monitor or measure its emissions. It will simply estimate them (very crudely). The system set up by AEMO to estimate electricity system emissions is very crude. It is nowhere near the standard the USA or even the Europeans are doing. I am sure we will have to get up to best practice eventually. That means big increases in compliance cost as time goes on. And this is for electricity emissions only. What happens when the compliance requirements are extended to all businesses emitting CO2 emissions, as will be required eventually.

To repeat my question, where can I find an estimate of the compliance cost for the ETS and for emissions monitoring at the level of accuracy and accountability that will ultimately be required for trading CO2-e emissions?


Gotta watch those assumptions, indeed! In fact, there’s one you might like to check on of your own. Seems that coal emissions are not at all correlated with childhood asthma, nor is air quality. Asthma has been rising while air quality improved.

Oops! WCS!! (Wrong Cause Syndrome)
Although not essential on the Open Thread, refs support your assertions and enable others to check out what you claim.


Peter Lang compliance vigilance has been studied for the US NOx and SOx trading schemes
As I said in a comment federal govts are as tough as a TV wrestling referee in that they will probably look away when dodgy behaviour goes on. In fact they almost seem to invite fraud as in the case of our Carbon Farming Initiative. For example if a carbon sink woodland catches fire the offset sold for cash doesn’t have to be refunded just noted for later. It follows that they probably won’t measure Hazelwood’s CO2 emissions to the last gram. Bear in mind they just gave them a cheque for $266m. Put it this way, Hazelwood are not trembling with fear.

A tough compliance scheme would have frequent flue stack sampling cross checked against coal tonnages. If carbon tax was underpaid serious penalties could be imposed under threat of plant closure. That seems unlikely I agree. Yet the the renewables regulator ORER apparently has no hesitation in slapping a ‘shortfall charge’ of $65 per Mwh on electricity seller who doesn’t buy enough RECs.

The upshot of all this is that carbon tax may be in effect semi-voluntary whereby big emitters pay what they feel like. I’d put a military man like Cosgrove in charge. Another serious glitch to add to the list.


According to this page there are various areas in the world with high chronic natural radiation levels, but it doesn’t lead to increased cancers.

Areas in Brazil, Ramsar and India have natural radiation rates of 35 to 260 mSv/year. According to Japan’s evacuation criterium, these areas should be evacuated. Yet that seems absurd without any evidence for bad health effects!

People actually go to beaches in Brazil and sit right on source 265 mSv/year sand, to bask in the sun.



Brian H:


Here is one on asthma:

They have tons of references and studies they can steer you too. In fact, the challenge here is for YOU to find a single study that doesn’t link coal to and of the mentioned respiratory disease you noted (hint: they all do).


More important than asthma is lung cancer. Fine particulate matter from coal combustion is the real killer. More recent findings are that nitrous oxides, which form also in high temperature combustion, increase the effect. Since coal plants produce lots of both they are very dangerous. Even with modern deNox and baghouse filters they still fling tonnes per year into the air. Brian Wang from Next Big Future keeps track of the size of the killzone:

Compared to burning stuff (including biomass) Fukushima is a joke. In fact compare it to road accidents death rate: 1.19 million deaths/year. Indeed pretty much anything you can imagine is more dangerous than nuclear accidents. Drinking, smoking, being fat, using stairs, cars, trains, and even eating peanut butter is more dangerous than a nuclear powerplant.

Combusting stuff kills over a million a year – from the normal operations of such combustion. Nuclear plants can kill betwen 0 and 100 – and even that only when they have accidents. When fossil plants have accidents they can kill many more. Thousands of coal miners die every year in coal mines. Working on roofs, say to install solar panels, is more dangerous than generating electricity with nuclear plants. Mining for iron and cement and such is not safe either, and solar and wind use 5-20x more of those mined commodities than nuclear on a per kWh basis.


Chris Uhlik, on 2 April 2012 at 4:48 PM said:

Here’s a rational proposal for a very limited, voluntary exclusion zone in Fukushima

A very pragmatic approach. I wonder why the Japanese government doesn’t do something like this. It would cut costs to the government and at the same time result in a happier citizenry.

Also, if some citizens wanted to reoccupy in a high radiation zone why not just distribute dosimeter badges??


Also, if some citizens wanted to reoccupy in a high radiation zone why not just distribute dosimeter badges??

If citizens want to remain in fossil fuel polluted Tokyo and greatly increase their risk of lung cancer and related diseases, ashtma, infections etc, they can. So why are they removed from Fukushima?

If we were more rational we would recognize the scientific fact that there is no evidence for bad health effects from cesium-134 and cesium-137 in people that live in and around Chernobyl. And that evacuation zones for cesium make no sense.

The most rational criterium for evacuating an area is: does letting people stay kill more than evacuating them? So far 500+ have died from the evacuation (if you are in the intensive care of a hospital and the hospital has to evacuate… you consider your chances!). Would letting people stay have killed more than 500? No. Based on the scientific evidence, it would not, if milk was banned for 3 months and people were given small doses of prophylactic iodine pills in stead of evacuating them.


Sorry for off-topic post: could someone please recommend a good book on climate change? What I am looking for:
— something objective and without agenda (from any point of view), i.e., nothing that either supports c.c.denial or has something like “Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming” in the title qualifies
— focused on the science of climate change and its consequences, not on politics of dealing with it or the debate surrounding it
— as technical as possible (i.e., I am not afraid of differential equations) while still self-contained


Regarding the issue of the linear no threshold (LNT) adoption, here’s what I think is one of the most important errors.

The data to support the LNT is almost exclusively based on the Japanese bomb survivors. The nature of this radiation is very prompt. You receive almost all of the radiation in 1 second, and afterwards its barely above background.

Sure, I’m willing to believe that receiving 100 mSv in one second is not good for you.

This does not mean 100 mSv neatly divided over the course of one year is equally bad for you. That is like saying, taking one aspirin a week gets you a dose of 52 aspirin a year, which is just as bad for you as taking 52 aspirin in one hour.

The strange thing about LNT is that they use an anti-science fudge factor to handwave this grave error away. They call it the dose and dose rate effect factor, DDREF. Basically divide chronic exposures by 2 to compensate for the damage being healed up by the body immune system. Now apart from the fact that this is completely arbitrary and a rather pathetic attempt to frame a complex issue, there is also the point that assuming anything like a DDREF means admitting the effects are NOT linear !!!

In the aspirin analogy, it is saying that taking 26 aspirins in one hour is just as bad for you as taking one a week for a year. Fundmentally flawed conclusion; what we see here is no arbitrary fudge factor, it is a scientific (even biologic) variable. The body has various enzyme repair mechanisms. We know how fast these can work. We know they can’t work as fast as to deal with 100 mSv in one second and damage will be done. We know that they make mistakes when pushed for speed. We know they work well if the damages per second are low. We know they can repair chronic exposure of 100 mSv a year.

It is very much like Einstein’s cosmic constant. The bias of the time required this constant, but it was nonsense. The universe really is expanding; Einstein’s original formulae were correct. It was the bias of his time – that the universe is never growing or shrinking – that conceived the cosmic constant. Einstein later repented, and referred to the cosmic constant as his biggest mistake.

It is time the LNT users start pondering like Einstein.


@seth South Australia gets 26% of its Mwh from wind power but also 44% from gas. Their gas baseload plant (Torrens Island) is Australia’s largest gas user. Allegedly they have the world’s third highest electricity prices behind Denmark and Germany if I recall.

The problem is that both SA’s developed coal and gas are fast running out. One estimate gave their Cooper Basin gas field 12 years production left. That was in 2009 since then the miracle of fracking promises to extend that. If there is any anxiety it is being hushed up.

The other egregious fact about SA is that it is has huge uranium deposits with Olympic Dam mine able to produce 19,000t a year of U3O8 when expanded. Without a dispatchable power source that’s not going to happen nor will SA wind power get its needed backup.


John Newlands @ 2 April 2012 at 6:42 PM

Thank you for your comment.

It seems that neither Treasury, DRET, DCCEE or anyone else has looked seriously at what the compliance cost for emissions monitoring will be when it is implemented to the standard that will be required for emissions trading or taxing or regulation. That is a disgrace, IMO.

What level of precision and accuracy will ultimately be required for measuring CO2-eq emissions? Will we need to measure all emissions caused by man to a level of precision of 1 t or 1 kg (value say $50 or 5c)? If not what level will be required? And to what level of accuracy, e.g. +/- 1%, 5%, 10%? At 10% accuracy the total amount readily available for fraud would be 10% of 600 Mt/a @ $50/t = $3 billion per year.

I am influenced by recollection of many inquiries into the petrol distribution and retailing industry. Petrol station owners and consumer groups were both concerned they were being ‘ripped off’. For example, there was concern that the petrol delivered at the petrol bowser was less dense (and therefore contained less energy per litre) than when it was loaded into the petrol tanker because it would warm up along the way. So people reckoned they were getting less than they were paying for. There were many inquiries over the years.

This suggests to me people will become concerned about the accuracy of measuring CO2-eq emissions once trading is well established. That implies we will be forever having to tighten the regulations on emissions monitoring. That suggests ever increasing cost of compliance at a rate well above inflation.

And all sources of emissions will eventually have to comply. It strains credulity to believe only some sources (businesses, people or organisations) would have to participate in emissions trading while other sources of emissions will not. We can foresee the fuss and cries of “Why me, but not him?” if that situation was allowed. Eventually, emissions measurement and reporting will have to apply to all sources, even down to cow farts. How can this be done sufficiently accurately from all emissions sources? What will be the total cost of compliance ultimately?

If we assume Australia’s compliance cost would be 10% of USA EPA’s cost (eventually) that means $2.1 billion per year for DCCEE. If we assume the cost for the other government departments involved is roughly the same, we add $2.1 billion. I’d expect the total cost to all businesses and industry would be say ten times DCCEE’s costs – i.e. about $21 billion per year.

Total about $25 billion per year.

I realise this is a very high number. But, what is the correct number? Where has it been estimated and documented?

Given that background, what I really want to know is whether or not there is any official estimate of what the compliance cost will be ultimately? Has anyone done the estimating properly? I am beginning to suspect it hasn’t because if it had someone would be able to point me to some official documentation.


The reason I am pushing the issue of the compliance cost of CO2-eq pricing is because I believe there may be a better alternative. I believe those who follow BNC may recognise this alternative is worth serious consideration.

CO2-eq pricing is pushed by economists, finance industry, banks, etc. The alternative is an engineering and technology alternative. Engineers do not have the same influence with policy makers as economists, financiers, banks, NGOs, etc. So the alternative does not get as much play where it counts.

Economists genuinely believe CO2-eq pricing is the least cost way to reduce emissions. They are not being dishonest, they just genuinely believe it

CO2-eq pricing necessarily requires accurate measurement of CO2-eq emissions and will eventually require it for all countries and all organisations that emit CO2-eq. It will be required all over the world (think of the practicalities of implementing it, to the standard required, in Eretria and Mogadishu for example).

So what is the alternative to pricing CO2-eq emissions?

The alternative is to remove the impediments to low-cost, low-emissions energy sources. I am particularly thinking of removing the impediments to nuclear power to allow it to be cheaper than coal.

Once we do that, nuclear will replace coal and gas all over the world (over time of course).

That is what needs to be done to make real progress on cutting global emissions.

I suggest the solution is technological. It is a matter of removing the impediments we’ve placed on nuclear power as a result of 50 years of anti-nuclear scaremongering. The scaremongering has caused widespread radiation phobia. Radiation phobia is mainly a disease that inflicts rich people in western democracies. It can be fixed. Education is the key.


PL I don’t know whether compliance cost will be onerous or not for CT but I suspect the public’s respect will diminish for several additional reasons. These include
– coal export hypocrisy
– double dipping by renewables
– questionable offsets such as carbon farming
– spending billions on foreign offsets
– the manufacturing exodus and loss of jobs
– throwing cash at big emitters
– prohibition of nuclear.

All predictable in my opinion so if it blows up the architects have themselves to blame. A quite plausible scenario is that CT is repealed with a change of government at the same time Blind Freddy can see low carbon is the way to go. The public will say in effect we know we should have carbon pricing just we don’t like the way it’s done.


Zdenek, it’s not off topic. Try Climate Change: Science and Solutions for Australia.

But really your best source is the IPCC. The Fourth Assessment Report and others. They’re kinda the gold standard.

tialsedov, I would imagine that asthma, cancer etc rates would be very easy to study in Victoria. All of the power plants are concentrated in one area. Traralgon and Morwell would have easily distinguishable rates compared to the general country Victorian population.

Not saying I know where this data is, but the fact that two decent sized towns are smothered in brown coal exhausts means that if a signal exists, it would have to be found there.


What Peter Lang said – “The EPA recently stated in a court submission that the cost to the EPA alone to implement and manage in accordance with the existing laws would cost $21 billion per year. That is not a typo. They estimated they would have to increase their permanent staff numbers from 17,000 to 233,000 permanent employees.”

The actual truth – “Sources needing operating permits would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million as a result of application of Title V to greenhouse gases, a 400-fold increase. … Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in the Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year.

Based on this analysis, EPA found that applying the literal statutory thresholds (100/250 tpy [tons per year]) on January 2, 2011, would ‘overwhelm[] the resources of permitting authorities and severely impair[] the functioning of the programs …’ After considerable study and receipt of public comment, EPA determined that by phasing in the statutory thresholds, it could almost immediately achieve most of the emission benefits that would result from strict adherence to the literal 100/250 tpy threshold while avoiding the permit gridlock that unquestionably would result from the immediate application of that threshold. This phase-in process would also allow EPA time to develop streamlining measures that could eventually ease administration at the statutory thresholds. Thus, EPA promulgated the Tailoring Rule to ‘phase[] in the applicability of these programs to GHG sources, starting with the largest GHG emitters.'” [EPA brief, 9/16/11]”

The actual truth is that the EPA estimated the cost of not bringing in a tailoring rule to avoid regulating each and every greenhouse gas emitter. As our carbon tax ONLY applies to large emitters then the administration charge would be in line with the estimated EPA costs with a tailoring rule.

Peter Lang is repeating a distortions of the truth.


Clearly the administrative costs of regulating every small-scale emitter of CO2 is large. But doing it that way is unnecessary. The number of fossil carbon extraction sites is much smaller than the number of fossil carbon users/emitters. Just tax the carbon extraction at the source and let the costs flow to the users/emitters. The number of coal mining companies, oil pumping companies, gas drilling companies, and ports where these materials are imported are very small compared to the number of automobiles, stoves, industrial furnaces, home heaters, etc, etc. The EPA’s approach is stupid. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a better, much more practical way.

If and when large scale sequestration gets going, you can use the same tax in reverse to pay for re-fossilizing carbon atoms. Until then, essentially all fossil carbon ends up in the atmosphere eventually, so the excess tax collected at the source will be an insignificant cost on things like plastic synthesis. To the extent that plastics can be made from bio-sourced carbon, they won’t have to pay the fossil carbon tax and relative to fossil carbon source plastic, they will enjoy the same advantage as carbon sequesterers.


Zdednek “Sorry for off-topic post: could someone please recommend a good book on climate change? What I am looking for:”

Not a book however there is a tremendous series of lectures by David Archer teaching a basic class on climate:

I have not read the accompanying book however I have watched the lectures and while they are technical, if you have high school maths you can easily follow them.

They are free from politics as the science is non-political it is just science. What to do about climate change is political. There is no science in majority of the denier ‘case’ as it is usually cherry-picked and distorted climate science so I cannot recommend a science book for you to read. There are a couple of fantasy books available by people like Plimer or Ball.

In a science book there is only the science and that is clear.



The public will say in effect we know we should have carbon pricing just we don’t like the way it’s done.

You comments suggest you may have misunderstood the implicatiosn of a potentially high compliance cost. The latest Nielsen poll shows the public reject CO2 pricing 60% ‘against’, 39% ‘for’. If they realised what the compliance cost may grow to, I expect the proportion ‘against’ would be much greater.

Compliance cost is a cost with any type of CO2 pricing or CO2 tax. Changing the scheme would not avoid the compliance cost (nor the many other major practical flaws in the concept).


Chris Uhlik,

GHG emissions come from many thousands of sources (or millions of sources if you count each domestic animal as a source) in a country like Australia, not just from coal mines, oil wells and gas wells.

Eventually, we will be required to measure the emissions from all of the sources, and to a level of precision and accuracy that is good enough for trade (as pointed out in a previous comment). Furthermore, the whole world will have to doa so. Is it really practical? What is the cost?

The costs may be very large. It is incumbent on government to have analysed this and tell us before implementing schemes based on partial analysis. We depend of governments to tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what we are getting ourselves into before the legislation is passed. It appears this has not been done.


PL my guess is Joe Public will want carbon pricing yesterday when we have $2 petrol and a severe El Nino. I suspect we’ll get both within 2-3 years. Carbon pricing has to be done in a way the public respects. I dread the return of the TV ads with the happy people wearing yellow hard hats walking next to solar panels. Perhaps the panels weren’t bolted down properly. It’s irrelevant and the public knows it. Alas the politicians don’t.

It can’t be too hard to police the 500 biggest emitters. Where I think they’ll stuff up is getting the principles wrong. For example I recall a major company wanted a carbon credit for a secondary heat recovery system. If it saves emissions it saves carbon tax which is exactly how it’s meant to work. If the CO2 saving gets credited elsewhere the net effect is zero.

The carbon cops are going to work themselves into a tizzy with all these irrelevant side issues. Meanwhile I strongly suspect genuine villains like Hazelwood will continue to spew the same 14 Mt a year of CO2. If the carbon cops are hard on them the cheque for $266m they just got from the Feds must ease the pain.



You keep repeating on thread after thread:

It can’t be too hard to police the 500 biggest emitters.

And I keep stating, clearly, it will not be just 500 emitters. That is the honeymoon rate to suck us in. Eventually it must expand to include all emitters. You cannot have some emitters included and others not. That is not fair. People will complain “why me, but not him/her?”.


Emission trading… well let’s look at Europe’s experience.

According to UBS Investment Research the system has cost $287 billion till 2011 with “almost zero impact” on overall emissions in European Union and the money could have result in over 40% reduction if used in targeted way, e.g. to upgrade power plants

Almost zero impact is too kind; Europe’s EU ETS traded emissions actually INCREASED by 3%!!!

That’s what you get when people think that we can close nuclear plants and not worry about the growing economy, because “we have an emissions trading system”. Gee whiz. Don’t worry about the dirt burners, it’s traded.

Just imagine what 287 billion dollars in nuclear plants, LED lights, building insulation and heat pumps would have bought. It would actually reduce emissions and infuse the installation and energy sector with big investments, rather than creating subprime mortgage type bubble hysteria.


This reference has a nice graph (figure 1) that shows Europe’s complete standstill on CO2 emissions reduction, while Asian and South American countries rapidly increased CO2 emissions.

For some reason the European Comission isn’t bothered by the utter failure. In stead it keeps setting ever more ambitious CO2 reduction goals!!!

The disconnect from reality is stark.


An interesting thing to note about the early returning residents in the evacuation zone:

In the area that has 20 msv/yr or less they are allowed total access but they CAN”T STAY OVERNIGHT. I wonder what the logic is on that.


Cyril R, on 3 April 2012 at 11:54 PM said:

“That’s what you get when people think that we can close nuclear plants and not worry about the growing economy, because “we have an emissions trading system”. Gee whiz. Don’t worry about the dirt burners, it’s traded.”

Just imagine what 287 billion dollars in nuclear plants, LED lights, building insulation and heat pumps would have bought. It would actually reduce emissions and infuse the installation and energy sector with big investments, rather than creating subprime mortgage type bubble hysteria.

I’m sure wall street would LOVE this system. Think of all the money they could make!!

I’m glad we are not doing it in the USA!


Cyril R I understand the poor performance of the European ETS can be attributed to the over issuance of permits and generous use of offsets. Permits were ‘grandfathered’ or given for free on the basis of historical patterns. Offsets under the questionable Clean Development Mechanism are used to ‘neutralise’ up to 50% of emissions in some EU countries. Problems easily solved by auctioning all permits and disallowing offsets.

Of course mandates and feed-in tariffs cost more and have negligible CO2 impact. They also contravene the very point of carbon pricing of not picking winners. With carbon tax we have additional issues with partial exemptions and phase-in periods. There needs to be some kind of carbon tariff on goods imported from Asian countries that are getting a free ride on the carbon restraint of the West.

Thus if carbon pricing fails here and isn’t fixed in Europe we have ourselves to blame for not being tough enough. Already I have major problems with giving $1bn to brown coal generators before CT has even started. While we are supposed to be ashamed of our domestic emissions of 540 Mt of CO2e for some reason we should be proud that exported coal and LNG creates 780 Mt.

An ideal situation would be if renewables subsidies were dropped and nuclear began here as a result of carbon pricing with no giveaways. The public will see that it evolves naturally without being dictated. Until that happens we will just muddle along like Europe.


I want to introduce a new topic, not yet discussed in detail in BNC.

This is the topic of urban slums, that are growing rapidly in the 3rd world. A good reader will be the book by Mike Davis “The planet of slums”. The massive expansion of 3rd world urban population, often into poorly serviced shanty towns, is also a critical environmental problem.

Although cities are generally good for the environment than suburbs, malfunctioning cities without infrastructure may well create severe environmental problems and health hazards – often due to poor sanitation, drinking water availability and electric power availability. Industrial pollutants like smog (very often from coal-fired power plants) severely endanger the health of the occupants of these shantytowns.

This issue has largely escaped discussion in the global environmental circles due to the relative remoteness of the problem, but this is becoming more and more a severe issue as the world’s population is urbanizing, but without any planning.


n the area that has 20 msv/yr or less they are allowed total access but they CAN”T STAY OVERNIGHT. I wonder what the logic is on that.

There is no logic at all in the entire evacuation business. It’s not risk based, and its arbitrary (the contaminated zone is NOT shaped like a circle at all!!).

Requiring people to not stay overnight increases car travel. Car travel is very dangerous. Much more dangerous than 20 mSv of ionizing radiation. 1.19 million people died last year from car accidents. Evacuating an area is dangerous business. It has already killed over 500 people, far more than would have died if the area hadn’t been evacuated.

It is, sadly, another example of the radiophobia and risk-delusion. With the best of intentions, the proponents of the evacuation say – but some of the worst things in history have been done with the best intentions. I blame the Japanese government for snapping to the drum of fear in stead of using an alternative risk based model. Even today, the Japanese government and regulatory agencies are using rediculous area decontamination standards like 1 mSv a year targets – which is less than the natural variation in natural background levels, for Pete’s sake! It is currently also illegal to export ordinary granite from Fukushima region. That is because granite contains over 1000 Bq/kg of naturally occuring radioisotopes, while only 100-500 is allowed. Ordinary brick is still allowed but you must ask a radioactivity exemption from the government (!).

It seems that we haven’t reached the bottom of the radiophobia pit we’ve flung ourselves into.


@Cyril R.

Do you have a direct reference for the limit of 100-500 Bq/kg for materials shipped from Fukushima?

This is all getting beyond ridiculous. The Japanese authorities are making big trouble for themselves in what could at best be described as attempting to be responsive to public concerns by setting absurd limits that will be both impossible and unreasonable to achieve.


From Tom Blees:

GE’s Eric Loewen is back in the UK pushing the PRISM, and this article in The Independent from yesterday sounds really good.
Here’s the money quote that I think the UK public will find hard to ignore:

Daniel Roderick, senior vice president of GE Hitachi, said that if given the go-ahead the company will form a consortium that will build and operate the plant at no up-front cost to the UK taxpayer. “We will only charge for each kilogram or tonne of plutonium we dispose of. We’re not going to build a several billion pound plant that doesn’t work,” Mr Roderick said.

After too many years of GE treating the PRISM like a red-headed stepchild, this is a huge step for them, for which I applaud Eric and all the guys who worked hard to put together the UK plan. This could be quite a game changer. We shall see. Certainly encouraging.


It’s too early to tell if Germany can sustain this. They are currently in a GDP dip
Virtually the whole of 20th century economics shows strong correlation between GDP and energy consumption. A minor exception was the 70s oil price shock when people drove their gas guzzlers less but kept working away.

Rather than GDP which is essentially the sum of all transactions new economic measures are being proposed such as ‘genuine progress’. That is you have fewer dollars but more cancer cures. My guess is that Germany will have lower total economic activity and higher energy costs. That needs another year or so to gel.


Solar energy is used by nature and farmers for growing bio-mass for food and other uses. It may be useful to develop it further just like past generations did for farming. The greenhouse effect of CO2 and higher temperature can be used for higher and faster growth of bio-mass for food, fuel, fiber and other uses by selection and development of crops to match the conditions. In off-grid places, solar energy can be stored in molten salt/metal eutectics and used when required through thermo-electric devices.
Wind energy can be used to compress air mechanically without going through electric route and used for forced ventilation with or without heat pumps for climate control. Later, pneumatic domestic devices and pumps could be developed to use compressed air. Gaint windmills and related transmission lines spoiling the environment should be avoided.


Following on from my comment about the UK PRISM build, here is the press release which has more details:

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Signs MOU Agreement with National Nuclear Laboratory to Work on Tackling UK Plutonium Stockpile
WORKINGTON, U.K. —April 4, 2012—With the U.K. government looking at ways to address its growing stockpile of civil plutonium, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd. (NNL). NNL will provide expert technical input to the potential U.K. deployment of GEH’s innovative PRISM reactor, which would be specifically designed to disposition the U.K.’s plutonium while generating 600MW of low carbon electricity. GEH also spent the day meeting with a number of the skilled nuclear workforce in West Cumbria to learn how they could work with GEH on PRISM’s potential deployment.

The country is currently storing more than 87 metric tons (and growing) of plutonium at the Sellafield nuclear complex in West Cumbria, England. The U.K. Government has confirmed its intention to reuse this plutonium in December 2011 declaring that it “remains open to any alternative proposals for plutonium management that offer better value to the U.K. taxpayer.” The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has recently announced in February 2012 that it is seeking proposals for alternative approaches to manage the U.K.’s plutonium stocks.

“We are excited for the potential opportunity to utilize the expertise of NNL and help the U.K. continue to take a leadership role in the reuse of plutonium,” said Danny Roderick, senior vice president of new plant projects for GEH. “We believe that PRISM is the best way to manage the U.K.’s plutonium stockpile efficiently, securely, and safely while generating low-carbon electricity at the same time.”

“With our recognized technical capability and long experience in fuel cycle analysis, we are pleased that GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has looked to NNL to provide independent and authoritative input to the potential U.K. application of a PRISM reactor,” said Paul Howarth, managing director of NNL, which operates a number of research facilities in the U.K. including the flagship Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site. “We look forward to working with GEH as they develop their approach to helping the U.K. address its plutonium legacy.”

Today, GEH along with leading U.K. engineering firms Costain, Arup and Pöyry, (GEH’s “CAP Alliance” partners), met face-to-face with the number of highly talented and experienced nuclear sector suppliers in West Cumbria at the ENERGUS centre in Lillyhall, Workington. GEH is committed, to the greatest extent possible, to utilizing U.K. companies and workers. Currently, General Electric Company, one of GEH’s parents, has approximately 18,000 U.K. employees countrywide.

Should PRISM be approved for construction, in addition to creating about 900 permanent jobs and thousands of expected indirect jobs for the local community, this multi-billion pound investment would stand to create a range of opportunities for suppliers while continuing to develop the country’s nuclear energy skills base and reaffirming Cumbria’s position of nuclear excellence with “Britain’s energy coast.”

GEH is convinced that its PRISM technology provides an innovative solution to the objectives set forth by the NDA – the quickest disposal of plutonium at the best value – while providing substantial environmental and economic benefits. GEH is currently working closely with the U.K. government, including NDA, to detail why it believes PRISM technology is the best choice for the U.K. taxpayer.

About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.

About NNL
NNL provides the experts and technologies to ensure the U.K. nuclear industry operates safely and cost-effectively today and for the future. The company is owned by U.K. Government and managed by an appointed contractor (a consortium of Battelle, Serco and the University of Manchester). NNL is run as a commercial business and receives no funding directly from U.K. Government. It has an annual turnover of around £80M and employs around 750 people (mostly professional scientists and engineers) across six U.K. locations. NNL’s Central Laboratory includes state-of-the-art facilities which can handle plutonium and other highly radioactive nuclear materials, and these could play an important role in future fuel cycle work on PRISM or similar systems.

PRISM is based on technology that was demonstrated in a fast reactor in the U.S. called the EBR II (Experimental Breeder Reactor) that operated successfully for 30 years. Last year, GEH completed the commercialization of PRISM, which began in 1981. Calculations have shown that PRISM technology would use practically all the stored plutonium at Sellafield. This is very different from other competing proposals, including turning the plutonium into mixed oxide fuel. Mixed oxide fuel (also known as “MOX”) simply puts the plutonium into a complex form that is highly radioactive while not actually eliminating any plutonium. In contrast, the PRISM reactor consumes much of the plutonium as a true fuel.


I did a very cursory investigation of the UK’s fast reactor program at Dounreay. My principle question was : What is different technically between the IFR and UK’s fast reactor. The UK cancelled their fast reactor program………but why?? One reference said it was because of cost.

Is their something about prism/IFR technology that makes it superior to UK’s fast reactor design??

There must be,, or the UK would not be considering the Prism.


@Cyril R.

Thanks for the reference.

NEI Nuclear notes reports on the findings of a study by a NOAA survey vessel of contamination in the waters off Fukushima. The quick bottom line: No appreciable biological significance, with activity due to Cs levels in fish 10-1000 times less than from natural radionuclides. They also unexpectedly found Silver (110mAg). Any comments on that?

And the full study is here:

Click to access 1120794109.full.pdf

The true picture is slowly emerging.


@ Cyril R

I would assume, then, since you did not answer the question :

“Is their something about prism/IFR technology that makes it superior to UK’s fast reactor design?? ?

You do not know the answer.

I was hoping someone here might know why the IFR /Prism design is better than UK’s fast breeder design.



One obvious area of superiority is the use of metal fuel and passive safety in the event of complete station blackout and failure to SCRAM.

I doubt that the UK design could match PRISM for passive safety.

There’s lots of info under the “Sustainable Nuclear” tab here.


Research in the Dounrey Fast Reactor (DFR) in the 1960s experimented with metal fuels:

DFR was a loop-type FBR cooled by primary and secondary NaK circuits, with 24 primary coolant loops. The reactor core was initially fuelled with uranium metal fuel stabilized with molybdenum and clad in niobium. The core was later used to test oxide fuels for PFR and provide experimental space to support overseas fast reactor fuel and materials development programmes.

However, as explained in “Plentiful Energy”, they suffered from the issue of burst cladding due to the the metal fuel swelling. They never came up with the simple (and obvious in hindsight) solution of the sodium bond — this was revolutionary for the use of metal fuels. Without that innovation, it was no wonder the DFR metal fuel research stalled. Those were the early days of FR research, when so much was unknown.


@GeorgeS: I don’t know much about the Dounreay fast reactor experiments. Looks like the last reactor ran for almost 20 years. But no mention of why it was shut down; perhaps they felt the design goals were achieved. Barry mentions a technical issue they had with fuel swelling. But I think there’s something more important, which is that they used PUREX reprocessing which is difficult and expensive. Especially later on they used the more expensive MOx fuel. No way such fuel cycle – fast reactor with PUREX and MOx – could compete with simple thermal once through cycle. Too bad they switched to MOx and kept the PUREX – according to the IFR people those are fatal flaws, making the fuel cycle very uneconomic.


With those sorts of articles and the attempted hatchet-job on Barry Brook, it seems like the anti-nukes may have reached a tipping point. They are now unable to casually dismiss nuclear power as a climate-change solution and now must actively try to trash it and the people that support it. As more people realise that nuclear power isn’t a big scary problem, they must make their criticism more shrill and resort to less evidence-based arguments.

I think that BNC and other sites have made progress, if only for making the anti-nukes desperately resort to these sorts of tactics.


Barry Brook, on 5 April 2012 at 11:57 AM said:
quote from “Plentiful Energy”:

“However, they suffered from the issue of burst cladding due to the the metal fuel swelling. They never came up with the simple (and obvious in hindsight) solution of the sodium bond — this was revolutionary for the use of metal fuels. Without that innovation, it was no wonder the DFR metal fuel research stalled. Those were the early days of FR research, when so much was unknown.”

Also important is the air cushion that allowed for additional thermal expansion of the fuel.

Sounds like the IFR metal fuel metal fuel design (final iteration) and the electro-refining parts are probably what makes the Prism better than the UK fast reactor….Thanks for the input!!

I really hope the UK goes ahead with this design. It looks like GE has stepped up to the plate as far as funding goes.


The UK PRISM would operate in a once-through cycle, am I right?

How long would the residual waste be dangerously radioactive?


Max — Once through would consume less than 1% of the actinides. If the goal is to consume ‘almost all’, as the news release indicates, pyroprocessing is required.


If a pair of PRISMs get built at Sellafield, it will be a foot in the door and serious questions are going to be asked about disposal of LWR spent fuel. Current suggestions include geological disposal at a site in the Lake District. This is bound to be highly contentious, and pyroprocessing may well get more sympathetic consideration.


Max & David B. Benson. It seems like the UK PRISM once through is just to get started; the pyroprocessing being the least developed part of the system. The spent metal fuel isn’t waste; they can add the reprocessor later on when it is scaled up and tested thoroughly. Seems like a conservative way to go and still get started.

The EBR-II has some of its fuel tested to over 10% burnup, 100 GWd/t. So you fission more than 10% of the fuel away. Possibly a once through operation would attempt an even higher burnup.


I don’t know if this has been posted before but I came across a two month old video about the EBR-II (The IFR reactor) which is pretty interesting if you can get over the sometimes bad production (the music track alone is atrocious).

Making a Contribution: The Story of EBR-II (Full Version)


Historical reprocessing has already separated Pu in the UK. Pyroprocessing is not on agenda yet. A better solution would be a thorium-PuO2 Ceramic-metal (CERMET) fuel, for PRISM or other present AGR or future EPR reactors. It could be used for VVER design, if and when built. This will produce more power by burning some of U233 created in situ.

Click to access viewer

Building the First Of A Kind reactor just for disposing off Plutonium by once through use is not a cost effective solution.
A more cost effective solution without anxiety of of a fast reactor built only as incinerator of Plutonium would be to outsource it to Indians. . They will use it to burn it as fuel in their fast or thermal reactors. Indians are keen to improve their skills with thorium fuel but are held up for want of sufficient fissile feed for thorium.


in the light of recent events, i wanted to make a short comment on the topic of this open thread.

I would strongly advice proponents of nuclear energy to NOT argue for any relaxation of security standards, like smaller evacuation zones. Instead, security standards should be increased after Fukushima. this is the only way to win back trust lost by the accident.

so the new guidelines (most of them should have been in place for decades!) are a good idea, trying to rush Plants back without fulfilling them is not.

smaller evacuation zones are a no-go, while TEPCO is still leaking nuclear contaminated water into the sea, with completely unknown consequences.

and the way in which EDF handled the extremely serious accident in Penly will also do serious damage to public opinion about nuclear energy.


@sod: That is a slippery slope. Once regulations are in place, it is very hard to get them relaxed. It is unreasonable to assume that there will be no more nuclear accidents (there will eventually be an even bigger earthquake, …), and if each time the regulations are strengthened, each time the energy gets more and more expensive. Any PR victory you get by that is a loss in long term.

So, the question one needs to ask is where to stop. Actually, I think we have already passed that point, as the Fukushima incident shows — even under rather extreme circumstances in question, there are no casualties on the spot, few hundreds extra cancers at worst (by extremely pesimistic estimates; compare with the tens of thousands deaths by the earthquake and tsunami) and the costs of dealing with the accident being a small fraction of the costs for dealing with the natural disaster that caused it.

Also, as far as I can tell, the “extremely serious accident in Penly” consisted of some leaked oil catching on fire, which got prompty extinguished.


well, a new generation of nuclear power plants could be a reason to relax security levels. The existing plants need security plans that can handle different versions of what happened to Fukushima. and this means we need much higher security standards.

Th japanese governments seems to agree with this and “has decided to designate the area within a 30-kilometer radius of each nuclear power plant as an urgent protective action planning zone.”

We must not only look at what happened in Fukushima, but must also take into account different wind directions. And we have to consider what would have happened, if similar damage was done to a plant that was not positioned next to the pacific. Putting the same amount of radioactive contaminated water into a river would have been a disaster that would cripple countries!

apart from that, nuclear power plants should not be positioned in zones that are prone to seeing serious quakes. I would strongly advice all these plants to be shut down and future plants to be build to a standard at least at 3 points over the biggest earthquake in the area. (a direct hit by this earthquake might have simply torn the plant apart)


Sod, you´re completely wrong. Evacuation zones should be based on risk. Living in central london or tokyo is far more dangerous in air pollution risk than living anywhere in fukushima. So it is not reasonable to evacuate fukushima while not evacuating central london or tokyo. Evacuation causes stress and it kills. Evacuating hospitals kills. So far more than 500 have died from the evacuation, far more than would have died without the evacuation.

It is people like you who are spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt that are hurting and distorting the debate. Chernobyl has proven that fear was the biggest health risk. But do you, and Greenpeace, take responsibility for the spread of fear? Are you taking responsibility for all the fossil powerplants that were built in stead of nuclear when nuclear plants were feared out of the equasion? and the 1.3 million people that die from air pollution each year. The regulations for nuclear power are so tight that it is safer than eating peanut butter. You want to increase regulations. You want to make people afraid of a picocurie, so that the nuclear plant is increased in cost and we get the fossil plant in stead. I want to make people understand that pico means nothing. I want people to understand that fossil kills. I want people to start thinking in alternatives. No nuclear plants means more fossil which is a sure killer, 1.3 million a year. Even without climate change. I want people to understand risk. You want to delude them into thinking that if there is more radiation than the laws allow it must be dangerous.

As a result of the extreme radiophobia, Japan now has regulations that make shipping ordinary granite illegal. That require that we clean up areas to much less than background levels of radiation. The Japanese are refusing to face up with the fact that radiation is natural and chronic exposure to cesium and other nonbioaccumulating radionuclides is not detrimental to health.

Meanwhile Japan is using more fossil fuels, and is not concerned about the alternative death toll from these fossil sources. Here is the truth we must all face.


Lol, the Penly story is especially ironic. The reactors shut down as designed after fire and smoke was detected in the building.

Are coal plants designed to shut down when deadly particulate matter is flung from their chimneys?

No. Indeed; coal plants are DESIGNED to spew tonnes of such deadly smoke, and store it in our lungs.

Coal plants work as designed; killing 1 million a year with their deadly proceeds.


Cyril, the problem is that it doesn t matter what I think, nor does it matter what you think. Japan is trying to restart nuclear reactors, but the local people and authorities oppose it. and even the energy minister wants to phase out nuclear power.

to convince people, you need to build trust. and you don t do that, by smaller evacuation regions or with dubious statistics.

you do gain trust by being honest, by increasing safety standards and ultimately by not having massive accidents.

so the problem with Penly also is not the actual accident. (though a fire in the pumps of the primary cooling system is pretty serious) The problem is the reaction by EDF and the perception of that reaction.

comment reactions on the news were interesting to read. people were already “quoting” the routine replies, before the company was using them (“there has been no danger to the population”, “everything is under control”, “no radioactivity did escape” and “this was a minor incident”).

the reports spoke about a couple of square centimeters of oil catching fire, then we saw the pictures with pretty massive smoke.

the leakage of contaminated water came later and we only got the information together with the message that it was contained somewhere within. the claim that no radioactivity was leaked is a guess, as simply nobody knows what was among the smoke. (obviously we couldn t measure any release) the declaration of category 1 INES was pretty fast, for the little information we have.

don t kill the messenger. I simply doubt that this is the way to gain support for nuclear power.



The fire at Penly is a level 1 incident on the INES scale
So it’s a low level safety risk. No one was killed, the real risk was the fire, one worker was slightly injured. Not that it’s particularly satisfying: one should always prefer a plant that runs smoothly.

By the way, there was a fire at a coal plant in Le Havre this winter. It barely made the news here in France, despite the fact that it generated some amount of unwanted smoke. And it’s a coal station that must close by the end of 2015 because of EU pollution regulations.


Anders, on 6 April 2012 at 10:11 PM said:

I don’t know if this has been posted before but I came across a two month old video about the EBR-II (The IFR reactor) which is pretty interesting if you can get over the sometimes bad production (the music track alone is atrocious).

Making a Contribution: The Story of EBR-II (Full Version)

Great Video. I read the book and this makes the book even better!!


I’m not confident the start of carbon tax in 11 weeks will go well. Already the govt has thrown a billion dollars at brown coal generators seemingly on the strength of Treasury’s prediction they will face a downturn. Maybe CT won’t make much difference to their bottom line due to lack of baseload competition. Odd they didn’t do this when asbestos was on notice. They spent nearly $17m on TV ads for CT a year or so ago. That included non-English and indigenous version. This time spare us the happy people looking as though they are about to start singing ‘Kumbaya’ because wind and solar are saving us.

The correct message I think is that carbon restraint is a moral issue. I disagree with James Hansen that it should be a fixed price as I think FFs will get expensive regardless but too slowly. Since I now suspect China and India cannot get the coal they want without help from Australia I think our leverage is greater than we realise. No doubt FUD merchants the Institute of Public Affairs will weigh in having just mailed Plimer’s AGW denial book to schoolkids. Recall they insisted that Australia wasn’t a carbon villain because other countries had carbon intensive imports. Yairbut they didn’t get billions from carbon exports.


Interesting to hear you guys discuss the carbon trading scheme.

I am glad we don’t have this in the US.

Looks like Obama just got a new limit on CO2 for electric plants that is just above the CCNG plant’s CO2/kwh . The wave in the US will be NG w/o a doubt.

The electric companies are thinking they can do a CCNG plant w/ solar backup (down to 1$/wt from 5 when I bot my system).

My guess is that this system will be lower cost than a new Ap1000.


Cyril R. — Thank you. I suppose GEH will go for as much once-through consumption as is possible.

John Newlands — Francee has a renewables commitment to the EU as NPPs are not included in the renewables scheme. I suppose these are off shore as providing better availability.

GeorgeS — You have the backup in the wrong place. The CCGT is the balancing agent for the solar PV component. And yes, provided natgas prices remain low enough that scheme will have a lower LCOE than an AP1000. But for the NPP there is essentially no risk of price increases for the consumable and that is certainly not the case for natgas.


“don t kill the messenger. I simply doubt that this is the way to gain support for nuclear power.“

That´s because you have little understanding of the psychology of risk. It is also because you absolutely do not read my comments or others, so I suspect you are simply trolling. But I´m going to feed you one more time.

The more stringent your regulations, the more scared people become, not less.

Evacuating people is a travesty. It should only be done if the health effect of staying is almost certainly much worse than evacuating. At Fukushima, this was clearly NOT the case. 500 people have died from overstringent regulations. This is a fact. Many more will die due to the stress caused by the evacuation.

Make no mistake Sod. You can always invest more in safety. One airbag in a car. 10 airbags. 100 airbags. Where does it stop. For cars these investments actually make sense since last year 1.19 million people died. For nuclear more investment makes no sense, and is in fact counterproductive.

We need risk informed policy. If we do not evacuate Tokyo for its air pollution, we should certainly not evacuate Fukushima.

I do believe in pushing for an honest, fact based debate. That revolves around numbers and about explaining how nuclear technology works. You seem to disagree, thinking that being fuzzy, not trying to explain how the technology and science works, and in stead taking blame for every picosievert is going to build trust. It doesn´t. It does the opposite. Most people don´t even know how a nuclear plant work so being fuzzy is counterproductive and keeps the debate as it is.

So far my experience is that the fact based debate convinces most people, and people like Sod are the exception, not the rule.


Cyril R;

Upthread, you have discussed the proposed use of the PRISM to deal with the UK’s plutonium stockpile. I think most IFR proponents would agree that a once through approach would normally be regarded as uneconomical. Thus, ultimately, when pyroprocessing is technically ready, the reactors should change from converting to breeding mode.

If you agree, could I raise a few questions pertaining to the economics of fuel cycle closure and pyroprocessing?

1) Purportedly, the IFR has the potential to breed at about 1.5/1, indicating, as I understand it, that one can double one’s fissile inventory every decade or so. I also understand that a 1GW fast reactor will turn approximately 1 tonne of heavy metal/annum into non actinide fission products every year. I assume that, in converting (burning) mode, relatively more plutonium and less uranium will be destroyed than is the case in breeding mode. Questions: a) Does power generated differ between modes or is it the same? b) How does one configure the fuel or alter the operation of a reactor such that it can operate in the two different modes?

2) I believe that the IFR typically operates with a fissile/fertile ratio of 1:4. What happens if one changes this ratio, either with relatively less or more fissile? (I appreciate 20% is top of currently allowed fissile level, but please ignore this when answering -that is, if you can be bothered to answer at all!)

3) I understand that, to maximise breeding efficiency, fuel will have to be recycled five times on the basis that there is a burn up of 20%/cycle. Successive recycles will presumably give yields of differing composition and, before casting the metal fuels for each cycle, it will be necessary to analyse the recycled material and blend it, either with more fissile or fertile, depending upon whether one is operating in converter or breeder mode?

4) Because of its initial higher fissile loading, I assume that fast reactor spent fuel will be much more worthwhile to pyroprocess than spent LWR fuel, given that fissile material is far more valuable than fertile? Are the possibly greater costs of reprocessing LWR spent fuel likely to be offset by savings in their disposal costs? How does spent MOX fuel relative to conventional spent fuel affect this question? Is it likely to be more expensive to pyroprocess spent oxide as opposed to spent metal fuels?

5) What are the cost implications of separating fission products from the molten salt used in the electrorefining process? Presumably they are not left in combination to be disposed of?

6) In the case of the UK, presumably one would construct fuel from reduced plutonium oxide powder, depleted uranium and zirconium? Jagdish has suggested using plutonium oxide/thorium as cermet fuel. If one attempted to reprocess such a fuel, would the thorium travel with the plutonium or follow the fission products? In any event,would successive recyclings result in declining levels of P239 and increasing levels of U233, such that, ultimately, one got rid of plutonium altogether and started relying on U233 as one’s main fissile?

Sorry for all these questions – I only have a layman’s half grasp of the subject from a technical perspective and almost none at all for the economics.


John Newlands:

You ask why France is building offshore wind farms and received a partial answer from David Benson.

Might I suggest that France is not building such farms. They are being built by energy companies, some domiciled in France, which are responding in the manner you would expect from from free market capitalists in a liberalised energy market. They are responding totally logically to the signals, subsidies and guaranteed market available to them. Who wouldn’t print their own money, given the opportunity?

I’m sure we’d agree that construction off shore wind farms is not in the interests of the French taxpayer. However, it is inevitable, given current French Government and EU Policy, determined, supposedly, by democratic voters. I’m not sure what this tells one about the abilities of democracies to take sensible long term decisions.


Hello Douglas. You ask a lot of questions. I´m no expert on IFR but here goes.

1).A. Does power differ between burner versus breeder modes. Well this is not easy to answer. In general a higher burnup means lower power density but with an IFR you are not bothered much by fission product poisoning and have the neutrons in the fast U/Pu cycle.
The high breeding ratios require large cores and breeding blanket fuel elements and not too high a burnup. The blanket fuel elements produce much less power than the seed fuel elements. So the breeder produces less power than a homogeneous burner core. But a burner core could also have depleted uranium blanket fuel elements, which produce more power with time.

One of the issues with blankets is that the proliferation people will cry a lot; the blanket produces fresh Pu239, easily seperated from the U238. If it is a problem, thorium/U238 can be considered as blanket fuel elements. The U238 dilutes the U233 from thorium to low enriched uranium levels, while the Pu238 from the thorium chain denatures the Pu239 bred.
B. How does one configure the fuel. Well that is not so hard, control rods and fuel shuffeling deal with reactivity, the burnup and linear heat rating depend on what the fuel and clad can take. From the EBRII experiments the metal bonded metal fuel can take it all, though higher burnup would probably require vented (open to coolant) fuel rods.

2). The fissile-fertile ratio. More fissile means the reactivity goes up and some of the reactivity coefficients become positive. Also you cannot breed anymore with too much fissile; the reactor will become a plutonium destroyer. At the other side of the scale, too much fertile means the reactivity becomes lower. At some point it won´t even be critical anymore. But you do get a higher breeding ratio because there is more fertile around that can be bred into fissile. The downside of that is that you may have to increase the fissile loading to keep the other reactor parameters such as power, burnup, etc. constant.

3. Yes, this is one of the disadvantages of the solid fuelled cycles. Especially later on the higher actinides like curium build up, these have different reactivity profiles, having too much in one fuel element would lead to excessive power production or unacceptable local reactivity coefficients. Larger batches and mixing solves some of the problems. For a converter it uses only fresh fuel of one composition so it doesn´t have this issue. For a higher burnup though there is some reactivity swing. Thorium can help, because it has a lower reactivity swing, allowing higher burnup for a given allowed reactivity swing.

4. Valuable spent fuel from the converter IFR. Yes, absolutely. And the fuel is already in metal form that is easier to pyroprocess. If the reactor system has some extra hot cells for the future reprocessors additions, the fuel can just stay at the site. I would not worry overmuch about the cost of disposal, it is not an important part of the cost of any fuel cycle. PUREX has high capital and operating cost, and also a large cleanup cost. Easily 2 cents per kWh added if you want to do it properly, vitrify the aqueous wastes etc. Spent MOx fuel is nearly useless for a thermal reactor, because of the low fissile plutonium that is left in it, and mediocre startup fuel for a fast reactor, where plutonium of any type will do okay.

5. I don´t know how they will remove the fission products from the molten salt processor. Having their heat is useful during operation. After that I suppose that a vitrification step will be used where the fission products are exchanged into phosphate or borosilicate glass. For myself I prefer to keep the processed wastes at the reactor, put them in casks at the bottom of the reactor pool. Just more useful heat, and the shielding and passive cooling are already present.

6. Cermet fuels have the primary advantage of stability, that could be nice for plutonium. I don´t know if PuO2 Th fuel will work, some of the oxide may travel to the thorium. Cermet fuels can be processed in the same pyroprocessing manner, except that you have to add an oxide reduction step. Since IFRs are supposed to be able to take spent LWR fuel, that technology would then be available. Some of the lanthanides produce oxides that are more stable than PuO2 so you can add those. I don´t think you would want a lot of zirconium for thorium metal fuel. It´s not beneficial, and likely detrimental, eyeballing the system thorium zirconium. Thorium doesn´t swell much at all and has a high enough melting point without zirconium.

If you only put in thorium as the fertile and use plutonium as the starter fissile, then yes you get more U233 as you go, and you have a Th/U233 cycle. There are also hybrids as I´ve suggested before, add a lot of depleted uranium. U238. That dilutes the U233 to low enriched uranium levels.


Douglas Wise ask how to reconfigure…

Replacing the blanket with a reflector would convert the breeder to a burner. As the proportion of uranium fissions decrease, so too does the proportion of delayed neutrons . This makes the reactor more agile, that is, with faster rise time and faster shutdown, so the control system may have to be adapted too. Burners can be designed much smaller, as they can tolerate more neutron loss. For costs, see adjacent thread.


I have a couple of unrelated questions.
1. Are we more likely to first see significant sea level rise from reversible or irreversible things? Of course significant sea level rise means something that affects the Hamptons, not Bangladesh, since it’s only when it affects the Hamptons that some globally effective response might be contemplated, since no-one in the Hamptons wants a sea wall that would spoil the view. I define reversible as sea level rise caused by thermal expansion or glacier melting, and irreversible as caused by for example the breakup of the WAIS per WALSE.
2. Does the IFR produce any long lived waste that would need to be put in a 100,000 year repository, or can it all be reprocessed.


Douglas Wise — A proper LCOE calculation for a modern NPP assumes a 60 year life (which I opine is conservaatively short). For example, the AP1000s being constructed at VC Summer have an all-in LCOE of US$0.076/kWh. The only way to obtain this figure is in a more complex LCOE calculation than is possible to easily do with the NREL simplified LCOE calculator. Assuming a 30 year loan then after that there is increased O&M but only operating expenses.


Lawrence — (1) Even WAIS loss is reversable; just make it globally cool again. (2) No IFR waste needs be stroed longer than about 250 years.

David B. Benson, on 9 April 2012 at 11:37 AM said:
“Lawrence — (1) Even WAIS loss is reversable; just make it globally cool again. (2) No IFR waste needs be stroed longer than about 250 years.”

Followup clarification questions:
1. Eventually, yes. But I thought once the sea got under the WAIS i.e. past the grounding line, it would take a long long time for making it cool again to reground the WAIS.
2. So that means the IFR burns up absolutely everything leaving only short lived fission products? I wasn’t sure if that was so.


Lawrence — A goodly portion of WAIS can, it seems, come or go in a millennium or three.

Basically only cesium-137 has to be kept away from the environment. In principle all the actinides are fissioned and the other radioactive fission products either have a quite short halflife or else one so long that the actual radioactivity is negligible.


Thanks David, but operationally, is that size difference readily detectable by the kind of equipment used in routine food inspection?

But those decay schemes show that 94% of Cs-137 decays are followed by 0.6 MeV gamma, while 10% of the K-40 decays are 1.5 MeV gamma … so are 9 x 0.6 MeV gammas significantly worse than a single 1.5 MeV gamma? … given that most potassium containing foods are considered safe.


Geoff Russell — I’m confident the Japanese can afford sufficiently high quality radiometers for food inspection. [Locally there is a crystal growing operation which makes the detectors of the very best radiometers. The bigest advance has been in the electronics; small and inexxpensive now.]

I’m not sure just where the 9 in 9 x 0.6 MeV comes from, but to the extent I understand this low dose BEIR I suspect almost 9 times worse.


Thanks David … I’ll assume they have equipment which can tell the difference but I was a bit cryptic about the rest. Let me spell it out more clearly to see if I’m making sense.

Potassium 40 decays with 90% 1.3 MeV beta and 10% 1.5 MeV gamma.

Cesium 137 decays with 94% 0.5 MeV beta and 85% of these is followed by a 0.66 MeV gamma release. i.e., for every 10 decay events there are 8 x 0.66 MeV gamma releases.

So if there are two iso-becquerel samples, one of cs-137 and the other of k-40 then there will be about 1×1.5MeV gammas from the k-40 for every 8 of the 0.66 MeV cs-137 releases. So if damage is proportional to total energy, then the cs-137 is about 3.5 times more damaging than the k-40 (8*0.66/1.5). I’m assuming both samples have the same activity, which means that the k-40 amount is much, much larger than the cs-137 amount.


Geoff: for internal exposure (ie food) the hard 1.3 MeV beta from Potassium 40 is much more damaging than gammas. Gammas will largely pass through your body and won’t concentrate damage to a small area like betas do.

Neither K-40 nor Cs-137 have long biological half lives, so it isn’t even an internal exposure in the first place…

There is no evidence whatsoever (nor factual reason to believe) that Cs-137 is dangerous, even in several hundred mSv chronic dose.

It is just more radiophobia from Japan, in line with the absurd 100-500 Bq/kg gravel shipments limit (ordinary granite contains 1000 Bq/kg worth of uranium, thorium, daughters, and potassium).


Cyril: I’m a little confused … or perhaps more than a little! On external exposure, the gammas from Cs-137 can penetrate far enough to mutate blood cells … hence the leukemia risk. If you swallow Cs-137, and it hands around for 1-4 months (Wikipedia), why doesn’t the same apply?


I’ve never heard of any confirmed leukemia risk from Cs-137 in the dose rates present at Fukushima.

Yes they can penetrate to mutate blood cells whether inside or outside the body. As can the K-40 in your body, and, being always present naturally and concentrating its energy to a few millimeters of tissue around its decay, to a greater degree than Cs-137 does, the K-40 would be expected to cause a lot of damage.

Which is certainly not equivalent to saying it poses a leukemia risk. There’s no evidence for this, to my knowledge. If you have any empirical studies (not models) I’d like to read them.


Cyril R., on 9 April 2012 at 4:31 PM said:

Now the next step in the radiophobia of Japan could be to ban fertilizers, which are very radioactive:

Click to access Radiation%20exposure%20due%20to%20agricultural%20uses%20of%20phosphate%20fertilizers.pdf

Farmers will be deprived of lifelihoods and many will starve to death, but hey, we’ll have reduced the “collective dose” which LNT says is good.

In the Punjab state in North-Western India, there are no uranium mines or Nuclear power plants. Yet a number of people, mainly childern, have been diagnosed with radio-active damage.

The only two ways the uranium could get into their system are:-
1. From the ash of thermal power plants.
2. From phosphate fertilizer.
Unfortunate company to the Japanese!


Hmm, and what about this? A website called “nuclear-news”. Providing the “latest news on the uranium/nuclear industry”. Sound objective, but then… read through the articles. One massive strain of lies, propaganda, ad hominem attacks, half-truths and general falsehoods without perspective.

There’s an amazing number of articles. Those people must spend all day writing lies, propaganda and half-truths.

With nuclear “news” websites like that, we don’t need enemies.


Annex J of the UNSCEAR 2000 covers more than a few studies on the Chernobyl clean up workers:

Click to access annexj.pdf

There are certainly some leukemia increases, but real methodological difficulties preclude certainty about causes … similar to the increase in prostate cancer cases after the introduction of PSA tests. But I wouldn’t go quite so far as you in placing the risk at zero. My reading of Annex J is that the risks are tiny compared to other much bigger normal daily risks. I think that much is clear. But I’m more trying to understand the processes underlying the models and your comments have been very helpful. Thanks.


The UNSCEAR gives no indication that Cs-137, or even Cs-134 is to blame for any leukemia. The cleanup workers were walking in a cloud of dozens of fission products, many of whom are bioaccumulating unlike cesium. Sr-89, a bone-seeker, comes to mind; despite its lower volatility the temperatures in Chernobyl were more than enough to throw large amounts into the air. Barium is even more volatile and bioaccumulates. Some of the noble metals have volatile oxides and bioaccumulate in (I think) the lower gastrointestinal area. Even plutonium, not normally volatile in either metallic or oxide form, is estimated to have escaped from the graphite burning/sizzling, about 2.5% of the core inventory (which is very large). Plutonium and importantly, neptunium-239 (extremely energetic) are also strongly bone and major organ seeking.

It would be quite disingenious to blame a non bioaccumulating moderately long lived radionuclide like Cs-137 on worker leukemia, when there were so many more energetic (short lived) bioaccumulating, even alpha sources like neptunium and plutonium, and fission products that are more intensely emitting gamma sources floating all over the place. One would demand extraordinary proof for such illogical claims.

So far we’ve established the iodine link to thyroid cancer, which makes perfect sense, since it bioaccumulates there unlike all other fission products.


Cyril: My mistake. Rereading Annex J, it isn’t making such a claim … this was just a wrong inference on my part. They are using Cs-137 as a general proxy for levels of contamination for a variety of reasons. They were looking for leukemia, but not making a causal claim with regard to Cs-137 in particular.


Geoff: Kirk Sorensen has a spent nuclear fuel Java applet:

Showing that cesium is really no big contributor for fresh spent fuel, and only starts to show up after weeks. Wikipedia also has a graph that shows this:

Cs-137 contributes to almost all the remaining dose today (about 99%), but at the time of the accident and the following weeks, when the cleanup workers got almost all of their dose, Cs-137 contributed only a few percent. Iodine, tellurium and barium were much more important (and all of these are volatile and bioaccumulate when breathed or ingested).

This is important because not all radiation is equal. Fukushima is still evacuated due to legal limit of 20 mSv of cesium. But there is no evidence of such levels, even 10x such levels, being harmful. Since it’s only cesium that’s lying around the countryside, unlike Chernobyl, the evacuation of Fukushima makes no sense.


John Newlands,

you asked (some time ago) why France is building offshore wind turbines. The first part of the answer is, as was told by David Benson, that it is included in France’s stupid renewables targets. Other reasons include: less problems with neighbors and industrial hubris. France has no real onshore wind turbine industry. Yet Areva & Alstom recently bought or acquired some expertise in offshore wind turbines. Hence the need…

In terms of costs, it is a rip off. Here are a few hints why:
* there has been a feed in tariff of €130/MWh for offshore wind since at least 3 years. No one turned up.
* the call for tender included scoring points up to a price of €200/MWh for certain zones
* the prices have still not been disclosed even if the winners are known
* a zone was left for another call for tender, as it would have been too expensive.

In terms of reliability vs onshore, the gain appear to be questionnable as per previous experiences (especially when taking costs into account)


France is roughly 10% hydro and 80% nuclear. Significant wind on such a grid makes no sense at all; it doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions and in stead has to compete with energy sources that cost 0.5-2 cents per kWh. Wind gets little capacity credit, so it’s a marginal energy source whose total levelised cost must compete with the marginal cost of running dispatchable generation.

Of course with high enough subsidies any of these market realities can be distorted. But the French are not as gullible and deluded in their energy policy as the Germans, thank God.


@Cyril R.
I know the problems of wind power in an already low carbon electricity generation mix.

But you are deluding yourself if you think that people in France are not as gullible as somewhere else. They are just as gullible as anywhere else, if not more. To put things in perspective, there is an anti-techno trend here in Europe and especially in France, where things like wind are seen as nice, and others including nuclear are seen as dirty. People also have beliefs. They believe that ‘the wind is always blowing somewhere’. They prefer to ignore that PV production is inversely correlated with demand here, north of 45th parallel. And they do not know how this renewable build up is paid for and how much it costs. They also think that energy conservation is always the best way to go, when in fact it is a trade off between investments in production and in conservation.

By the way, if a referendum were to be held right now, I think nuclear power would be beaten. Hence, proposals to lower its share in the generation mix, coming from the favorite of the polls.

One more thing: there is also a target to rise hydro production by 3TWh. It’s a small increase (0.5% of total production). Yet, the only consequence of this target — which comes with eco friendly strings attached — is the demolition of small run of mill dams. So hydro production is in fact poised to decrease by 2TWh because of this. So really, if you think that electricity generation policy is lead by reason in France, you will be disappointed.


complete dependency on a single source of power is not a good idea.

it is also possible, that France wants to move into an expanding technology and not stick to a shrinking one.

France reactors require significant improvements after the lessons learned from Fukushima.

finally a nuclear power plant like Fessenheim (vulnerable to both quakes and flooding) is a serious danger to the nuclear industry, and not only to the people living close to it.


I wondered if anyone had proposed offshore wind for Australia and sure enough Diesendorf has
I see elsewhere that his no-need-for-baseload views are being quoted in the US

I wonder if French company Alstom who got most of the offshore wind contract have a cosy relationship with the government perhaps akin to Siemens in Germany. Even with GE’s S-Prism I wonder if there is implied US govt backing.


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