Open Thread

Open Thread 23

The last Open Thread is feeling a tad dated, 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.


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.

1,181 replies on “Open Thread 23”

I would like to paint a picture. It has been an extraordinary hot day
and the slightly cooler evening is coming, but no promise of anything but the mildest hot sea breeze. Still 40 degrees, with the sun setting in the west. An intense high system over eastern Australia promises more of the same tomorrow, another typically summers baking day. Back in the 2020’s the so called Environmentalists had finally got their way and most base load coal generators in Australia had been closed. Australia was relying on renewable energy, and the Environmentalists
were ecstatic. Hundreds died that night, the elderly in their homes, hospital emergency departments collapsed as they who could not call on reliable base load electricity. Backup batteries were exhausted, and no power was available for emergency power. The electrical distribution system collapsed, and stayed collapsed.
The above scenario just could not happen, could it?

Graeme Weber


I would paint a similar real picture. In 2003 thousands of elderly French people did actually die because there was not enough nuclear power to run the A/C systems and it is not possible to build nuclear or coal plants that only run a few days every few years. In the US and Germany some nuclear and coal plants have had to reduce output during heatwaves because of insufficient cooling.

Conversely the Australian people realised that whatever system we had whether it was renewables, nuclear or even USC coal, it would be more efficient, lower cost and have lower emissions if there was a significant increase is system wide storage, which absorbed demand peaks and allowed thermal stations to be run at their most efficient for longer periods of time..

The 2035 Australian grid in which home based batteries really started to take hold in 2016 and grid node batteries (which were installed to reduce the cost of grid upgrades) have been charged by vast amounts of excess solar during the said hot day. Together with ice storage for A/C the domestic demand is easily handled.

In the meantime due to the wonders of weather forecasting the gas plants which all agreed would be retained for peak load just as they are now have been fired up not just as peakers but to top up the pumped storage systems before peak demand hit.

Industrial/commercial demand is covered by pumped hydro together with existing hydro and some of the remaining gas plants which run a few hundred hours per year just as they do now.

Concentrated solar with storage has been implemented in strategic locations for grid reinforcement but also shares the load in extreme heat waves. All this generation carries on unaffected by high temperatures except for a few of the gas plants. The presence of significant amount of storage on the grid has improved the efficiency of these gas stations because they can be run at constant load for a few hours before dawn when they are most efficient because of lower air temperature.

Of course later in the day the very high land/sea temperature differential does in fact generate considerable coastal breezes and the new low wind turbines which have been introduced since late 2015 are able to run at almost full capacity even in mild breezes.

In practice the gas plants run for about the same number of hours per year but run more efficiently with less pollution and lower maintenance bills.

In the meantime all the coal plants have been closed and many of the coal pits have been closed. Those that can’t be refilled and turned into farmland have been turned into lakes and bird habitats. Those near hills have been turned into the lower reservoir for pumped storage. Other pits have been repurposed as sites for floating solar which generates about 10% more power per hectare than land based systems and the shade creates ideal conditions for aquaculture.

As most of the solar is mounted on existing roofs, carparks or waste lands while wind turbines are often located in the least productive farmlands and actually alienate very little land anyway, it has been found that the net land available for farming has increased. Water demand for power station cooling has been eliminated and therefore irrigation has been increased

Migratory bird populations have started to increase and 5,000 less people per year are admitted to hospital with lung and breathing problems.


I’d suggest it is not all doom and gloom (because it is not all battery storage, solar PV and wind). Fortunately as the capacity of wind installed increases in Eastern Australia in our present scenario to about 27000 MW (this is presently what is in planning or more advanced than that according to the Windlab business) the installation of open cycle and closed cycle gas turbine generation has to match this in capacity. While this is one of those abberations coming from dumb policy setting that this has to be, at least they will be there.
Pumped hydro could be one part of the scene to offset the problem with that installed capacity of variable wind power, though with low efficiency of conversion), but biomass-fuelled combined heat and power is out there filling some of the supply gap. In Germany the 8000 or so biogas fuelled electricity generators are capable of putting out about 4000 MW on demand.
Waste to energy is another area that would hopefully be in place. We produce up to 20 million tonnes of flammable municipal wastes and the waste to energy plants fuelled presently (in Germany) by a similar amount of MSW produce about 1200 MW of baseload power.
‘Conventional’ dry biomass fuelled plants in Australia of 15-25 MW-e capacity could be producing on-demand electricity into at least regional grids. For Victoria alone this could be of the order of 1500 MW of baseload power. Part of their feedstock will be the thinnings and harvest waste of the 5-10 million ha of multi-purpose tree plantings on farms in the more productive and well watered regions of rural Australia (1 million ha in Victoria across the 13 million ha of farming land) These will be progressively established to mitigate risks of warming and reduced rainfall on agricultural production and farm productivity. So rural Australia at least could be in fair shape.
Hospitals mostly have backup generators for just this situation but what will be fuelling them.
Biofuels? It is possible to produce substitutes for diesel and petrol from municipal wastes, and the biometane substitute for natural gas (so CNG) from putrescible wastes, and also liquid biofuels from refined pyrolysis oil. Supply of this would be affected by price, but probably no more than double present prices if adjusted to 2015 values.

At present some German institutes are looking at a methane-dominated system where excess electricity from wind is used to produce methane and this is stored – though again with energy loss in production and and reconversion (including though fuel cells). The Finns are also looking at this but with the methane also from biomass.
So the other bright spot in the Australian situation is that we can go and buy the necessary plant and equipment off the shelf from countries that have maintained long term research and a manufacturing industry.


I’m just wondering what Barry makes of the ‘Methane Bomb’ hypothesis over at the Arctic News blog, climatologists and deep sea & deep mantle geologists predicting an ELE (Extinction Level Event) by 2040 due to runaway deep mantle methane escaping via the Arctic sea floor. Have IPCC and other authors reviewed this material? What’s the backup plan if methane starts exponentially spewing out? Are we going to have to deploy the sulfur shield?


Graeme Weber,
“Hundreds died that night, the elderly in their homes, hospital emergency departments collapsed as they who could not call on reliable base load electricity.”

They wouldn’t need reliable BASE LOAD electricity.
They would need reliable PEAK LOAD electricity!

Keith Lovegrove put it best: “People made plants that weren’t very good at ramping up and down, looked for things to do with them and called them baseload.”

Solar thermal is very well suited to providing a lot of power in the conditions you described, so I think the specific problem would be easily avoided. But in the more general case, we do need some sort of contingency plan to maintain a reliable supply when the output from renewables isn’t enough.

So what can we do? I can think of five things:
Firstly, load balancing: encouraging heavy industry to take advantage of power price fluctuations and not start non time critical processes when the output from renewables is inadequate.
Secondly, more storage. And change the way the storage is used, so that it’s capable of producing a higher output.
Thirdly, methane (ceramic) fuel cells. These are far more efficient than turbines (or piston engines) but require a high temperature to operate; this could be achieved by colocating them with solar thermal facilities.
Fourthly, use of existing gas turbines: less efficient but they have the great advantage of already being there.
And finally, rather than decommissioning all the coal fired generators, we should keep a few on cold standby, and fire them up if and when all the other measures are predicted to be inadequate.


Storage? Really? Storage in northern nations like Germany could bankrupt any nation that tried it. You can either buy Tesla Powerpack batteries to back up one week of winter in Germany (at a hypothetical 30% penetration of wind and solar, and these wind and solar farms must still be bought), OR you can just buy safe modern nuclear-waste eating nukes that will do the whole job for 60 years. Again, backup a third of a renewable grid for just one week, or nuke the whole grid for 60 years! That’s the economics of renewable storage V nuclear.
Point 2 below


“Of course later in the day the very high land/sea temperature differential does in fact generate considerable coastal breezes and the new low wind turbines which have been introduced since late 2015 are able to run at almost full capacity even in mild breezes.”

Why is their capacity only marginally higher than what mild breezed produce? Wouldn’t it make more sense to build higher capacity turbines?


It would be a lot quicker and more effective climate change wise and for a more secure emissons-free supply of electricity if we reduced a lot of this experimental and wishful thinking stuff and just got stuck into building a fleet of appropriately sized and strategically located nuclear reactors. That’s what most of the world is currently doing. I just hope and pray that Kevin Scarce recommends in favour of an expanded nuclear industry in South Australia. That’s what we need to get our “rust bucket ” state off the bottom of the economic pile.


Well said Terry, A 500Mw Nuclear plant (Canadian Candu reactor) at the Northern Power Station. Enough to power SA and desalinate water for Olympic Dam so they do not extract even more water from the Great Artesian Basin.


In each of the scenarios above, there is a reliance on the availability of gas as backup power. However if we are to zeroise our emissions, we must eliminate our use of gas. It is methane after all. Let’s rethink our scenarios, with something else providing reserve power.


The available power from a moving stream of air is proportional to the wind speed cubed.  A wind turbine which produces its rated output power in a light breeze will have a pathetically low ouput in W/m² of turbine, and similarly miserable per unit of hardware in the tower and nacelle.

All this talk about fantastic new low-wind turbines is just hand-waving, trying to distract people from the fact that the wind just goes away of its own accord.  The problem is, the public is too ignorant to see through it.


Roger Clifton,

Eliminating our use of gas is one long term option. Another is to produce it from biological sources. Not only from bacteria breaking down waste, but also from pyrolysis of wood and leaves.

Producing it from water and CO2 may also become practical.

Eclipse Now,

I was referring specifically to the Australian context. Indeed I think Germany would be more sensible to expand nuclear than to phase it out, but that’s a matter for the Germans.

We certainly won’t need enough storage to back up a third of our grid for an entire week! It’s one of the range of options available to us, not something we should rely on exclusively.

Storage is not synonymous with batteries – there’s also pumped storage (which we already have some of and will probably use more in the future) and flywheel storage (though more suited to grid stabilisation than to addressing prolonged supply shortages).

And for the portion which is stored in batteries, we’re unlikely to rely on existing technology. Currently vanadium flow batteries (an Australian invention) are sometimes used in grid scale applications. But vanadium is expensive, so researchers are now trying to find a way to use iron instead. Similarly, for static applications where being lightweight isn’t so important, I’d expect sodium to eventually replace lithium.


To Engineer Poet, Aidan Stanger and others.

The point of a low wind turbine is to be producing reasonable levels of power most of the time rather than high levels some of the time. It is rather like comparing a truck engine to a supercar. The output per litre of displacement of the supercar is 3-4 times that of the truck engine but the truck engine is the workhorse. In practice the wind turbine fleet will be a mix of units some of which are designed to generate power for as long as possible (the NREL in the US predicts that some of these new designs will be producing at rated power for 60% of the time) and others which are designed to capture all the energy from high winds to recharge storage. The benefit of the low wind design is not only more total energy throughout the year but much less time with no wind and therefore drawing on storage.
To Eclipse Now and Terry Kreig and others:
a. Thorium has been a promising technology for 65 years. At the moment there is one Thorium reactor generating a commercial amount of power in the whole world. I hope it will eventually be a commercial proposition but realistically it is at least 20 years before sensible amounts of power could be generated in Australia from Thorium reactors.
b: Storage does not have to be batteries. In Northern Europe there is plenty of hydro and it is being expanded. The Norwegian grid has little pumped hydro so existing hydro is used as a backup to wind. However the Norwegian hydro grid is being modified to use excess wind to recharge the hydro reservoirs to capture more of the excess wind from Britain, Germany and Denmark. This will improve the economics and reliability of the grid and require fewer wind and solar generators.
c. Because an all renewable system or more realistically a 90-95% renewable system has dispatchable hydro, biomass, geo-thermal and waste to energy streams, the German government estimates it can get to 60% renewables before needing significant investments in storage.
d.As Aidan said above There is huge scope for demand management. In the Nordic grid it is 10% of peak demand and in some experiments in the US peak shaving is even higher. Simple things like grid controlled hot water storage and pool pumps. Grid control of air-conditioners so that each unit is turned off for 20 minutes in the hour. Ice banks for commercial cooling and airconditioning etc. not to mention turning down smelters for two or three hours. By 2040 it can be expected that peaks can be reduced by 20-30% as these technologies are expanded
e. A nuclear based system will need a lot of storage, probably more than an all renewable system, because nuclear plants are very slow to ramp up or down. That is why Japan has 29GW of pumped storage to support 55GW of nuclear, to absorb output when demand falls away and to ramp up quickly when demand jumps every morning faster than nuclear can ramp up.
f. Based on the costs of commercially available nuclear plants currently contracted/being built in the US, France, Finland and the UK, power prices from new Nuclear are in the order of US$150-200/ In the Australian case for a whole lot of reasons it will be 30-50% more expensive and will still need massive storage/backup. In the meantime wind is less than A$100 and large scale solar A$150 but both are falling by 5%+ per year. Given that we have to increase the storage anyway.

Isn’t it a better idea to start now installing more wind and solar (as well as wave and geothermal if they can be economical) rather than hope that in 15 years a) thorium will work and b) it will be a third of the current cost for nuclear

I have no doubt nuclear will be a long term part of the solution but in the meantime energy efficiency, wind and solar may in fact be the transition fuel to a “clean inexhaustible” nuclear breeder fleet


Hi Peter Farley,
1. LFTR’s might be some way off, but GE has the PRISM ready to go and it burns today’s nuclear waste.

Demand management is fine as long as not ridiculously expensive or inconvenient or crazily idealistic. Most of the ‘demand management’ or ‘efficiency assumptions’ I read in 100% renewable power papers, like BZE’s and Diesendorf’s, have just plain crazy assumptions about power. Like we don’t need night-time power! Really? How are we going to replace oil by charging all our EV’s at night?


Eclipse Now. I am not totally anti-nuclear in fact from an environmental point of view I am sure that Gen IV technology may be much better than coal seam gas, fracking and coal, particularly in the Australian context where water is such a sensitive issue.

Also I don’t yet expect a 100% renewable grid but 90-95% is doable. In Australia we need to cover about 30-50% of the roofs, carparks etc with solar and build about 12,000 wind turbines (Germany already has 25,000) and probably about 20GW (50-60GWhrs). of storage of all varieties. Remember too that when accounting for mining, processing and transport of coal plus the operation of the power station and cooling towers a coal fired power station uses between 10 and 20% of its output to operate. Thus closing down the coal stations will reduce power demand by about 5-10% by itself.

Demand management does work. Experiments in the US and Germany show 10-15% reductions in peak demand. This is without things like internet connected thermostats, ice storage for a/c etc. Requiring houses to have storage hot water tanks 200mm higher and 100mm bigger in diameter means that most people will have 3 days hot water storage, which can be topped up for half an hour in the middle of the night or at 11AM in peak solar. Integrating ice storage with fridges and AC means that the ice can be made a) with cheap power and b) before peak temperatures. If the chiller is making ice in the early morning in an ambient air temperature of 15-20C instead of at 5 in the afternoon at 40C, its COP is much better so that it uses about 20-30% less energy for the same cooling effect and the user can be saving on electricity rates, while the utility invests less in peak capacity, so that the real cost of the air cooling can be halved

Storage is also much more economical than it was. PG&E in California now says that batteries are cheaper than gas peakers because storing power when it is cheap (i.e. excess wind solar or thermal) makes the operation of the generators more efficient and saves the investment and running costs of rarely used gas plants

I haven’t read much detail about PRISM but the cost details seem to hang on the justification of burning Plutonium rather than straight out electricity production. If Australia could develop a market for processing other countries waste and burying it in highly diluted form in the outback then this could work but someone has to demonstrate the business case and safety and as yet this has not been even remotely fleshed out.

In all of the fuss about generation we seem to gloss over consumption.

If Australia was as energy efficient as the UK or Germany and we continued at the same low rate of renewable installations we have now, we could close almost all the coal powered stations and just use existing gas, hydro and the 15GW of Solar and 20GW of wind that would be expected to be on the grid in 15 years with very little change in generation investment trajectory.

So we are left with situation that energy efficiency then wind and solar are the current lowest cost low carbon generation technologies. It is modular it is quick to install and it works now. Like anything it can always be better but it is worthwhile today


As I said a nuclear system needs storage and based on the Japanese numbers we would need about 35 to 40GW of Nuclear to have 90% nuclear and therefore about 20-25GW of storage so as I have said earlier storage is a given whichever low carbon route we choose. Of course even in fossil fuel systems storage is essential.
Your point about being some optimal point between nuclear and wind+solar+hydro. I think that is probably right but at the moment a big problem is the lumpiness and time lag with nuclear makes that point very hard to find
I am sorry I did not make myself clear. The commercial and safety case for using Prism for nuclear waste disposal in Australia has not been calculated, published debated and agreed. I did not mean to argue about the reactor technology.itself.

However while I believe that as PRISM is most likely to be technically effective, having been involved in product development for 40 years, I know that even the simplest product brings surprises in performance, cost and delivery time.

In summary we should continue to research nuclear, install some new technology plants somewhere in the world and continue to refine that optimum point. However in the near term it is far too commercially risky and expensive to place most of our decarbonising efforts in Nuclear


Also, how do you justify the claim that the PRISM hasn’t been fleshed out? What do you mean by fleshed out? it’s a reactor that operates closer to normal room atmospheres, which allows the reactor core itself to be mass produced on the production line. That means massive price drops on the regular cost of nuclear power.


Peter Farley, do you have a link to expand on “batteries are cheaper than gas peakers”?. Would be a major breakthrough if true.


Peter Farley – I regret to say that that link doesn’t describe a technical breakthrough at all. Instead, it appears to be a press release from NextEra, including “NextEra is one of the leading producers of wind and solar power in the world”. Such people would like their customers to believe that battery storage is going to become very cheap, very soon, but fail to say how or when.

If renewables continue to require gas peakers to back up their supply, then the requirement to get rid of gas means that we will have to find something other than renewables to supply baseload.

You also say that nuclear requires massive storage because they cannot rapidly rise and fall. Presumably in response to variations in demand and variations in supply due to renewables. That’s not necessarily so – the rapidity of rise and fall is just a matter of design – military submarines are able to respond quickly. However bean counters want their nukes to run flat out for their whole lives. There is extensive discussion elsewhere on BNC, concluding that nukes are able to “load follow”, too, if they have to.



Next ERA is also a large supplier of nuclear and fossil fueled power. It is one of the largest utilities in the US but is more focussed on renewables than many others.

Re battery prices 3-4 years ago battery prices were between $800 and $2,000 per Next year GM is expecting to pay $145/ for batteries for the new Chevy Bolt

Re load following It is true nuclear plants can be designed to load follow however it generally means that a) they are less efficient and b) have a shorter life 25-35 years vs 50-60 years. However the big disadvantage is that the MW.hrs generated per year is less and the life is shorter. The main cost of nuclear is capital charges and fixed overheads so reducing the lifetime output severely increases the average cost of power. As has been discussed before, nuclear is already very expensive in Australia. Lower utilisation due to load following makes them even less affordable.


Roger Clifton – ‘Nuclear already very expensive in Australia’ – please explain. Apart from Lucas Heights there are NO other Nuclear Reactors in Australia. It appears to yet another FACTOID peddled by ignorance. Replace base load power (coal) with base load power, do it once, and do it properly.Regards,


Peter F, you say that $145 per kilowatt-hour of storage is cheap, well it might be for electric cars. But a solar home would require something of the order of one kilowatt-week, which comes out to $24,360. That is expensive.

A wind-powered city would require storage in the order of one gigawatt-week, at $24 billion. Considering that a 1 GW nuclear power station can provide three gigawatt-years between recharges at a quarter of the cost, it is clear that it is nuclear that is cheap and renewables baseload that is far too expensive.


Any thermal power plant can be equipped with a thermal store to balance a variable load from a largely steady supply. Concentrated solar power plants, such as the new one in Morocco, often have a thermal store. Nuclear power plants could as well.

However, modern nuclear power plants can and do load follow. This is adequate provided there are no must-take generators on the grid.


Graeme – it wasn’t me that said that! Rather, I would estimate that the unit cost for nuclear in Australia would be similar to that of USA. For example, NuScale estimates its capital cost at 5 $/W and a timescale of 28.5 months from first concrete to first electricity. Capital costs can be reasonably expected to decline once mass production of reactors begins.


Jens Stubbe asked me on another thread to explain the basis of estimate of the risk (expected monetary value) that renewables cannot meet requirements by 2050. Here is the basis of estimate:

Risk RE cannot achieve claimed CO2 savings by 2050

Estimate the risk renewable energy technologies, that meet requirements, will not be available by 2050 to provide 50% of electricity (economically).

Nuclear – already proven it can do the job (France for past 30 years), so say 5% probability nuclear cannot in 2050.

Renewables – not demonstrated it can do the job, EROI suggests it cannot do the job, many industry practitioners say it cannot; therefore, assume 90% probability it cannot.

Consequence = Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) of the emissions not avoided by the technologies. Assume the projected carbon price is equivalent to SCC. Weighted average carbon price (from Australian Treasury 2013 projections) is $60/tonne. Average projected Australian emissions intensity (for delivered electricity) is about 1 t/MWh. Therefore, average carbon cost would be about $60/MWh.

Risk renewables will not be able to do the job = $60/MWh x 90% = $54/MWh
Risk nuclear will not be able to do the job = $60/MWh x 5% = $3/MWh


Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable and Germany is already 30%. Tasmania, SA and Victoria as a group are over 25% today
The capacity factor of new wind turbines is about double that of the average German turbine and by 2024 is expected to increase by the same amount again, This means a) the cost falls further, b) the minimum output of the system is much higher.c) the storage requirement is less
The delivered energy from the average Australian solar panel is double that of the average German panel
Storage and load management technologies are advancing by the day. Premises storage (not grid defection) is economical for some customers today and that proportion will increase rapidly
The widely dispersed Australian grid means that there is some combination of wind, solar and hydro generating most of the time.
The installation of more storage on the system which will be necessary for renewables or nuclear means that existing gas on the system can be run as CC plants thus lowering emissions.

Given all the above while your assertion that a 50% renewable grid is not economical may have been true 5 years ago but is not substantiated based on current facts.

By contrast the A$70b investment in Hinckley point in the UK will provide the equivalent of 12% of Australia’s electricity demand or about 25TW.hrs. To generate 25TW.hrs of wind by 2030 will require about 12-1600 low wind 4MW turbines at about $8m each.or $13b. In both cases large investments in storage will be required but the operating maintenance and security costs of nuclear will be many times that of wind.

The French example is not relevant to Australia as
a) Much of the investment was justified on national security grounds and funded out of taxes rather than a commercial return on investment
b) France has the ability to trade power with neighbouring countries to keep the utilisation of their Nucs up but lately the trade prices are so low that they cannot even cover their marginal costs on some days
c) France has recently passed a law to move to 50% renewables, why would they do that if nuclear was such a good future option.


To Roger Re nuclear costs in Australia.

Based on the average lifetime costs of the 7 nuclear plants contracted/ being built now in France, Finland, the UK and the USA, the lifetime cost of power will be in the range of A$130-250/ + inflation. This does not include grid integration costs and from all available evidence does not include

a. Backup, whether spinning reserves, storage or fast start gas.
b. Catastrophe insurance
c. Adequate reserves for decommissioning costs
d Long term waste storage
e. The cost to taxpayers/customers of loan guarantees/tax breaks/ guaranteed prices above the market etc. a mix of which apply to every one of these so called private sector plants

Therefore the real cost to the economy is likely $250 to $400/

Over the life of a nuclear power plant the financing costs are between 1/3rd and half the total costs. Over the last 30 years borrowing costs in Australia have been 30-100% higher than in the Northern Hemisphere. This adds about 15-30% to the delivered cost of power from an Australian installation vs a northern hemisphere one
Cooling is a significant part of the operating cost, about 4-7%. in the northern hemisphere where they use cold ocean water or fresh water and in most cases peak demand is in winter when cooling water is 10-20C colder. In Australia we will be using relatively warm ocean water in summer which means that we need more water and larger heat exchangers and bigger pumps. Because the coolant is warm sea water, fouling will be faster which means yet bigger cooling system with more frequent maintenance and higher pumping costs. The net result is a further 2-3% increase in the delivered cost of the power.
While field labour cost is probably only 20% of the cost of the station. In our case as we will have to import and pay for a lot of highly skilled American and European labour and any power plant built here will be on a remote site and our local construction staff are highly paid and not experienced in Nuclear construction. Therefore you can expect labour costs at least on the first few units to be in the order of 50-100% higher than in Europe where experienced workers are largely living at or close to home. This will add 10-20% to the cost of the plant and therefore around 5-10% to the lifetime cost of the power.
Long skinny but isolated grid.

a) If for example we sited a nuclear power plant in South Australia, for about 70% of the time it would need to export power as far as Sydney or Melbourne and in some cases even further. This is a real cost as someone has to pay for the cost of transmission and someone has to absorb the transmission losses
b) The interconnectors between the states do not have the capacity to carry another GW and other states may not have the demand so we either spend literally billions on upgrading the grid and or storage or the power station runs well below rated capacity, whichever course you choose you add to the average cost of the delivered power
c) France claims 70% nuclear power but it is a net 70%. It imports coal and renewables at peak demand times and exports at others, it also has a good deal more hydro and pumped hydro than Australia which it uses to balance the nuclear plants. In fact it is a net importer from Germany and it is often exporting at very low prices because the nuclear is “must run” so other countries can use French nuclear to recharge pumped storage or turn off their own hydro or gas. We can’t export power to another grid so that the power plants will be turned down more often. This is a double whammy because there are less sales per unit of labour and capital and thermal cycling increases maintenance costs and shortens the reactor life. Overall depending on the reduction in utilisation this will increase average lifetime power cost between 5 and 25%

In summary. If in the next 10 years anyone can contract to build in Australia a commercial nuclear power station using technology available in 2015 and guarantee to deliver power for a fixed price for 20 years of less than A$300/ without subsidies and without significant co-investment in storage and grid upgrades I will donate a year’s pay to a worthy charity

I hope that answers your question why I think nuclear power is avery expensive option for Australia


Peter F,

Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable and Germany is already 30%. Tasmania, SA and Victoria as a group are over 25% today

The capacity factor of new wind turbines is about double that of the average German turbine and by 2024 is expected to increase by the same amount again

Apart from not agreeing with your figures, Europe has spent about EUR 1 trillion on renewable energy. Most of that is subsidised. That is not sustainable. (please read this and the referenced posts: )

The claimed capacity factor of wind turbines is irrelevant. What is important is the capacity factor of wind in the grid. The capacity factor of wind in the Australian NEM in 2014 was 29%. In Europe it is much lower.

The claims about future capacity factors and cost effectygiveness haven’t changed in the past 25 years. They are inevitable wildly optimistic.

Using the Australian Governments cost projections, nuclear is the least cost way to reduce emissions. CSIRO provides two calculators that used these figures.
My Power

The figures do not include grid costs, decommissioning or the expected monetary values of renewables not being able to do the job in 2050. Also, they assume optimistic (unrealistic) learning rates for renewables and zero learning rat for nuclear, to name just two of the many assumptions that favour renewables.


Correction: I have overstated the cost of Hinckley Point, it is about $40b but still more than 3 times the projected cost of wind by the time Hinckley point is commissioned


Peter F,
In relation to the deaths in France, I had a problem with the logic of your point that thousands died in the French heatwave as a result of insufficient Nuclear Power to power all the air-conditioners in France. I have researched this event and Wikipedia states that 14802 people died as a result of 7 days of over 40 deg C temperatures in July and August of 2003. The reasons given for the fatalities were that the buildings in Northern France were not designed for these temperatures and insufficient air conditioners were installed and also that August is the holiday month in France particularly Paris. There was no report of electrical blackouts causing air-conditioning systems to be inoperable. Incidentally 9000 heat related deaths were also recorded in Germany in the same period.

I am unaware of Nuclear Power Plants having to reduce output because of the Ambient temperature being too high. But the point is what is happening at the power generation side of the grid is irrelevant. What is relevant that the grid is able to supply, 24/7, the power demand placed upon it.

I also do not accept your argument in relation to storing energy generated by Nuclear Power. It is simply a question of economy. The most economic way to run any base load power plant is at full capacity 24/7 where possible. If at times all the electricity generated can not be used it may be more economic just to waste the fuel. The peaks can then be managed by hydro and/or gas or diesel.

I also do not see any similarities between Australia and Norway or Portugal and for that matter Denmark. The only thing Australia has in common with Denmark is the Princess Mary.

I will have to do some research on Brazil. one of the issues that I have with the definition of renewable’s is that it includes hydro. Well not all continents are created equal in hydro resources and Australia is the driest continent meaning that we have the least hydro resources so why do we benchmark off a country like Norway which has abundant hydro resources. France has more Hydro resources than Australia. China has more Hydro generating capacity than the total generating capacity of Australia.


Peter F.
I have just looked at Brazil’s energy production by source. In 2010 80 percent of energy was produced from hydro.


Tony I think both your points are valid.

My responses re the French disaster were along the line that exceptional circumstances can bring any system undone. Further in the Australian case no-one has seriously proposed just a wind and solar grid. There will be dispatchable power, initially hydro and gas, landfill and biomass probably some geothermal and wave and a fair bit of pumped storage and some batteries. How much natural gas is just a question of economics of more wind solar and storage vs cost of natural gas.
Re Norway and Brazil of course they have a lot of hydro and we don’t but we have much better per capita wind and solar resources. My point here is that Peter Long said you can’t have a 50% renewable grid. there are countries with considerably more than a 50% renewable grid. Obviously if there is wind and solar there will be more storage but that is what hydro is, stored energy and we have literally thousands of sites where we can build pumped storage in this country

While storage is sort of optional for nuclear, it is very much part of its practical operation and economics. A nuclear system with significant storage is much easier to operate and cheaper overall than a system built for peaks which has an average utilisation of probably less than 50%. Because of the relatively high capital cost of nuclear low utilisation typical of say a gas plant would kill the economics because most of the cost continues whether the plant is generating at 20% or 100% and as I have said before cycling will reduce the life of the plant. .

Re power availability. Every grid has excess generating capacity. (the Australian grid averages less than 50% utilisation of its generating capacity) and every grid has storage and almost every one has some sort of load shifting/demand management policy. The technology to manage storage and demand shifting is improving very quickly so that in turn reduces the need for storage or spinning reserves. At the same time the capacity factors for wind are increasing rapidly and the cost of solar thermal with storage is coming down while. geothermal is improving its cost effectiveness. The cost of solar panels is low enough that fixed arrays pointing East, North and West feeding a single inverter station with 60% of the nominal capacity of the solar panels can provide solar over a longer period of time at a reasonable cost so that overbuilding solar will generate reasonable levels of power for longer periods in the day. all these things reduce the need for storage and some US studies now show that the cost of backing up a renewable grid while not cheap is lower than that for a thermal grid and much less than for nuclear.
Re output restrictions due to high temperatures


I have just reviewed the the reference that Peter F has given above in relation to Nuclear Reactors being unable to run when Ambient Temperatures are high and I would like to know what some others think as to the technical reasoning given.

‘Nuclear reactors produce electricity through the heat
generated by splitting atoms. The heat is used to
create steam, which turns a turbine hooked up to a
generator that supplies electricity to the grid. Water
from nearby rivers or lakes is used to cool the steam.
Water used for cooling elements in the generators is
usually heated to 125 degrees Fahrenheit (ºF) and
then air-cooled in towers to 95ºF before being recirculated.
But when the air temperature outside
rises above 95ºF, the water in the towers cannot cool
sufficiently and the reactor cannot run at peak
capacity. Moreover, if the water is too hot, it cannot
be returned to the river or lake without jeopardizing
aquatic life.’

What do others following this thread think?


Tom Carden asked what to others think about the explanation, which can be effectively summarised by this excerpt:

But when the air temperature outside
rises above 95ºF, the water in the towers cannot cool
sufficiently and the reactor cannot run at peak

I think it is nonsense. The same issue applies to any thermal power station where cooling towers are used, including solar thermal. it is purely a design issue and a cost benefit analysis. If designers want thermal power stations to run without reducing power at rare extreme ambient air temperatures, they design for larger radiators – just like cars that need to run in hot climates and in the desert. There is a cost benefit analysis involved in deciding what cooling capacity is required and for what ambient temperatures how much of the time throughout their expected operating life. Furthermore, the cooling capacity can always be increased later, but at higher cost than including it in the original build. Again, it is just a cost benefit and return on investment issue.

However, far more important is that nuclear power stations can use seawater or lakes for cooling. This is the least cost option when available. This is generally not the case for coal or solar thermal power stations. Solar thermal generally need to be located in desert areas for high capacity factors. Coal needs to be located near coal mines to minimize transport costs.


Hi Andrew,
even if MSW could be burned for 20% of our energy (and I’m not agreeing with those statistics, I just don’t know), my question is should it? Why waste such an important resource? Western Sydney has a recycling centre that composts most organics, returning important nutrients to parks and farmers. We’re not at peak phosphorous yet, but I’d hate us to waste all those nutrients just going up in smoke.
Once they’ve pulled out all the organics, they separate out all the metals and batteries and plastics for recycling. A note on recycling plastics – and everything else like old pizza boxes etc, rather than have a line of people sorting every tiny little piece of plastic, throw it all into a plasma burner and that will recycle it into the start of the petro-chemical industry for us.


The cheapest way to cool steam is with water. For a rundown on the various methods of cooling, see the WNA info sheet: (link) One way or another, the heat ends up in the atmosphere as evaporated water. There are environmental rules on returning too much hot water into a living river, which has limited production during heat waves in North America and Europe.

The same sheet does go on to explain how to condense steam using air-cooling. Compared to water-cooling, there is an extra power demand of about 5% to drive the fans. Unlike systems based on river water, there is no restriction on the use of air during heat waves. Kogan Creek is in Queensland, Australia and supplies power throughout heat waves when the input air may be up to 45 C. (113 F).

IMHO, any proposal for a new power station should include a desalination plant, where the exhaust heat travels through several evaporating tanks before radiating out and conducting back into the atmosphere from the pipe farm.


That is probably true but the bigger the cooling tower the less water it uses but the capital cost and operating cost are higher Also we are talking 3-5% less water not step changes .

Cooling nuclear is harder than gas or coal. In a coal or gas plant a fair bit of the waste heat goes up the stack. In a nuclear plant it is all dumped into the cooling system so you need 20-30% more cooling water.
Further because of radiation embrittlement of the boiler tubes and the much higher costs of repairs means that nuclear plants operate at slightly lower temperatures thus reducing the thermal efficiency i.e. requiring more cooling.

Some of this extra cost is offset because you don’t need the energy intensive combustion air, fuel handling or exhaust scrubbing systems but overall a nuclear plant needs still 20-30% more cooling

In Australia this is almost certainly going to be seawater because we just don’t have the fresh water to spare. Water quantities are huge. The Latrobe valley coal plants which have combined annual output equivalent to two modern reactors use water equivalent to 1/3rd of Melbourne’s total consumption so two reactors would be more than 40% of melbourne’s fresh water supply.

If the cooling could be harnessed to produce desalinated water that could be good but flash distillation has fallen out of favour due to poor efficiency, the maintenance costs and brine handling issues. Also you need higher temperatures than the ideal cooling water temperature. I am oversimplifying but if you use high temperature water/steam from the reactor to make the distillation of water effective, that steam is not being used to make power so the electrical output falls as the desalinated water output rises. In summary nuclear assisted desalination works in some places but mostly it is not economical.


In practice the wind turbine fleet will be a mix of units some of which are designed to generate power for as long as possible (the NREL in the US predicts that some of these new designs will be producing at rated power for 60% of the time)

To produce at rated power 60% of the time, the rated wind speed must be low enough that the local wind meets or exceeds it… without exceeding the cut-out speed… 60% of the time.  This is going to vary greatly depending on the locale, but consider an example of a WT which goes from a typical 7 m/s wind speed to achieve rated power down to 3.5 m/s.  You will still have to withstand the same peak winds so you’ll need just as strong and heavy a tower, nacelle and blades, but the per-area available power per the Betz limit goes from 127 W/m² down to a trivial 15.9; a 100-meter diameter turbine which maxes out at that 3.5 m/s would be able to produce a theoretical maximum power under 125 kW.

Suppose you can go from a 30% capacity factor to 60%.  You need 8 times as many turbines, so your per-kWh capital cost is multiplied by roughly 4.

realistically it is at least 20 years before sensible amounts of power could be generated in Australia from Thorium reactors.

Who cares?  Australia has gobs of uranium, and thorium can be used even in light-water reactors.  Just build CANDUs or AP1000’s.

Because an all renewable system or more realistically a 90-95% renewable system has dispatchable hydro, biomass, geo-thermal and waste to energy streams, the German government estimates it can get to 60% renewables before needing significant investments in storage.

The tariffs forced in as part of the Energiewende have destroyed the economics of even the storage Germany had before.

Germany will burn shiploads of pelletized Georgia river-bottom forests and call it “renewable”, while spewing more carbon per kWh into the atmosphere than even coal produces and promoting itself as virtuous.

A nuclear based system will need a lot of storage, probably more than an all renewable system

A 100% nuclear-based system needs mere hours worth of storage, to deal with daily demand cycles.  “Renewables” can go off-line for days, even weeks in the case of BPA’s wind farms; you do a lot of handwaving about “biomass” and “waste” and “geothermal”, but all you’re doing is trying to distract from the fact that those are drawing on stockpiles of energy that nuclear has inherently.

There are other ways to deal with demand variability.  I like dump loads.  For instance, converting lignocellulose (the major component of both the municipal solid waste and “green waste” streams) into fermentable materials is very energy-intensive, but it mostly needs heat.  Excess nuclear steam diverted during the overnight hours would be ideal for converting MSW, tree chips, leaves and grass clippings into sugars and phenols, the raw materials for fuels and chemicals.  More nuclear steam can distill alcohol out of the fermentation products, with not one gram of fossil fuel burned.

Isn’t it a better idea to start now installing more wind and solar

Because it’s a waste of money that could be used to build systems that will actually work, and still be working for your grandchildren.

Requiring houses to have storage hot water tanks 200mm higher and 100mm bigger in diameter means that most people will have 3 days hot water storage, which can be topped up for half an hour in the middle of the night or at 11AM in peak solar.

So you have a square meter of PV panel at a future $1/W(p) installed, at 25% efficiency, doing the job of less than a third of a square meter of evacuated-tube collector costing a fraction of the amount per watt.  THAT is your answer to demand-side management.

When you actually tease apart the assumptions and implications of these schemes, they all turn out to be utterly insane.  The people who push them have to fall into two categories:  clueless and evil.  Which are you?

nuclear plants can be designed to load follow however it generally means that a) they are less efficient and b) have a shorter life 25-35 years vs 50-60 years.

France’s Westinghouse-derived fleet is mostly capable of (and used for) load-following and they’re almost all running to their full licensed lifespans, with no claim I’ve seen that they can’t go much longer.

But that’s really not the issue.  If the problem is thermal cycling on the NSS system, the solution is to run the NSS flat-out and divert steam that’s not needed for immediate generation to other purposes.  Process steam is one possibility.  Another is steam compression, to convert steam at 275°C to steam at upwards of 500°C which is suitable for feeding molten-salt storage systems (the same technology used for the solar-thermal plants you’re no doubt so fond of).  You use the hot salt to generate supercritical steam which, after a pass through a topping-cycle turbine, gets fed into the main power turbine along with the output of the steam generators.

The GE-Hitachi PRISM is only suitable for countries with excess plutonium to be consumed.

Nonsense.  The PRISM is capable of operation at a breeding ratio of 1.05 (axial reflectors) to 1.22 (axial breeding blankets).  With pyroprocessing to close the fuel cycle, one starting charge of fissiles is all you need; the rest can use DU, SNF or thorium.

Norway, Portugal and Brazil are already more than 50% renewable

Because they are chock-full of HYDRO.  Wind and solar are in NO WAY COMPARABLE to hydro.  You pull the same sort of crap talking about Germany’s power exports to France.  Germany over-generates with its wind farms and dumps (expensively subsidized) power on its neighbors at fire-sale prices.  Germany also dumps that power northward through Denmark to Sweden and Norway, which cut back their hydro.  They then sell power from the water they conserve back to Germany at premium prices.

Seriously, you come here and trot out every carefully-crafted lie and half-truth in the Green arsenal.  What is wrong with you?  Are you a professional propagandist (aka liar), or just a dupe?

Given all the above while your assertion that a 50% renewable grid is not economical may have been true 5 years ago but is not substantiated based on current facts.

So show us one that isn’t majority-hydro.  Especially show us where a fossil-fired grid has been converted to wind and solar and still supports a competitive industrial base sufficient to build more of it.

the same time the capacity factors for wind are increasing rapidly

I will consider that a deliberate falsehood until backed up by evidence that does not come from a Green group.


GE-Hitachi has only proposed the PRISM to the US and to the UK for the purpose of consuming excess plutonium. The Russians do that their own way.

Despite the claims of proponents, pyroproccessing is still expensive and sends quite a bit of plutonium to the waste stream. There has been an international effort to improve the situation for well over a decade with no progress worthy of pr.

Given GE-Hitachi has not attempted to place the PRISM elsewhere, I stand by my statement.


ok, all you experts. It is interesting reading though all this and seeing the ebb and flow of opinion, many interesting facts, and what is approaching intemperate abuse.
But I am after a few bits of information that can be backed up by authoritative data
1. the AEMO estimate is that by 2020 we will have over 8000 MW capacity of wind turbines installed (and the over 4000 MW in Victoria will significnatly exceed our nightime electricity demand. The Victorian government seems to see this as a perfectly reasonable situation and accepts all the statements that wind can avoid GHG emissions on essentially a 1:1 basis agains the fossil fuel sources that this power cause to be ramped down (and later up again). So what is the real cost of this electricity and the real avoidance of GHGs for the eastern grid.
2. There are two AEMO papers on the protocols and manual management of supply output from brown coal plants but it needs a password to access.. what actually happens at brown coal plants when AEMO instructs them to significantly reduce power output – assuming this is only for a period of minutes or up to 1-2 hours.
3. I assume you are all familiar with the great real time display of electricity in Denmark and the Nord Pool region. Other displays show real-time natural gas useage, and the movement of power between countries and the wholesale costing in Euros (and of natural gas within Denmark and into adjoining countries, and its pricing). If not see and
So the question, is what steps are actually being taken by eastern grid managers to deal with the intermittent and relatively unpredictable supply of wind as this increases within the coming few years to 2020.
4. I was recently in China listening to an expert from JANSI dissect the causes of accidents and incidents at nuclear plants worldwide, and the issue of how risk is assessed and the difficulty of eliminating the most common cause of incidents – human error and human nature. It was an interesting insight.
One suggested supply amount for Australia from nuclear reactors was 25% of current electricity. I have visited a number of waste to energy plants with the latest being 6 weeks ago near Helsinki. This has an effciency of 95% (of fuel to utlised energy), and output of 600 GW-e and 900 GW-th, and is reducing the province’s MSW to landfill to 2%. It was using 320,000 t/yr of mixed MSW and cost 300 million Euros. Payback time at our sort of landfill gate fees (and selling electricity at our sort of wholesale prices and also selling heat for all of the year) was under ten years. Australi produces over 10 million tonnes a year of suitable material and puts it all into landfill. Out of this this Finnish plant design could make 2000 MW-e. Other economically available volumes of putrescible wastes and flammable organic waste can provide far more energy of all forms and mostly are readily aggregated.
So the question is, considering that biomass (including biowastes and for the time anyway – municipal waste) can supply 20% of Australia electricity needs, plus heat and transport fuels, with low GHG emissions, major stimulus to regional economies, and utilsing only what residues and wastes we currently have available (and I am not including native forest material due to its economics if for no other reason, why is this ‘baseload’ renewable source of energy so comprehensively ignored in the debate?

Could it be as one Age journalist once explained to me ‘ it is complicated and hard to explain and it is just not high tech and sexy’. Or is it just theat the Greens and alied groups have made it their business to obstruct and villify it at every opportunity for the last 15 years in their anti-native forestry campaign.

Happy to get anything really useful on Q 1, 2 & 3 here or at Q 4 is more suited to this site.


I can’t answer your questions but I agree they are the right ones to ask.
Waste to energy is a great opportunity for all the reasons you mention. In addition to the municipal waste there are large volumes of crop waste from farms that can also be used for district based generation and the ash becomes quite a useful fertiliser. I don’t remember the quantities but I have a feeling that they are significantly larger than the municipal waste figures
Intermittency of wind and solar in a widely distributed grid is not as bad a problem as one might think. Output from a single solar panel or single wind turbine does change quickly but if there are thousands of panels/ hundreds of turbines over the thousands of square kilometres there are swings and roundabouts as one panel dips another rises etc. so the overall the ramp rates are easily handled by ramping gas or hydro.
On a longer term basis days or weeks in the current system if there is a forecast for an overcast week or low wind period you can fire up an extra coal generator or two and if you have too much coal you stop gas and hydro and worst case shed a bit of wind by feathering the blades of some turbines

Re forest timber for fuel. the objections are as follows.
a) It is very low value for the forest timber perhaps 1/10th of the value of furniture or construction grades
b) Wet wood often burns with even more pollution than coal
c) the harvesting and transport is more energy intensive than lignite mining and does more damage to habitat.
d) Water catchments have reduced flows but increased erosion which results in silting up of dams and lakes .
e) in the very long run it might be CO2 neutral but it takes about 100 years for a forest to sequester all the CO2 not only in the trees themselves that lost from the soil as the roots decay and in the diesel used for harvesting processing and transport.


Forestry & farm waste would probably do a lot more for the environment if we put it in a biochar cooker and converted as much as possible into biochar which is infinitely better for the soil than mere ash. Some have estimated we might sequester about one ‘wedge’ or 7th of our annual CO2 emissions this way! Check out just some of the video’s here and you’ll be amazed.

ABC’s Catalyst did a 10 minute episode here


to eclipse now – thanks. re MSW to energy I am only talking about the non-recyclable flammable mixed and usually soiled part. This material is usually up to 65% biomass (cellulose in disposed nappies, soiled cardboard and paper, woody material (broken chair, tree prunings) plus foods, textiles and so on. We are not talking about a utopian situation here but about current reality. I have visited the Danish recycling centres and seen how they divert for recycling about 60% of MSW, and in several of the WTE plants how the other 40% is used for energy.

Re woody wastes and straw to biochar, my experience of biochar is that is has been hyped up to a remarkable degree (so it is now a bit of semi-religious dogma), and though there is work on this and there possibly is a place for it, it is a very expensive way to turn this form of material into charcoal (and my understanding is that biochar from wood and straw is not of the same soil remediation value as from some other materials like poultry litter), and a hopelessly inefficient way to make electricity. And to get enough biochar to bring prices down and put the necessary 3 tonne/ha on ground you’d be talking about many millions of tonnes fo biomass as the source.

The ABC should be an authoritative source of info on the whole renewable energy sector but too often it appears to just be a mouthpiece for a non-science-based viewpoint.

To Peter F, thanks but I stated I was not including native forestry material in this. I know it is inextricably linked to bioenergy by the senior Greens and the Wilderness Sociaty but actually this forest to energy scare campaign is a furphy. It is an irrelevancy for Australia in all but the most rare of cases due to its hopeless economics (nearly as hopeless as wind and solar PV).

But of your points if related to plantation or farm forestry a) we use the timber for the highest value use but there is always a significant fraction (50-65%) that has no higher value use, b) wet wood burned in an efficient, larger furnace with a flue gas condenser is totally converted to heat energy with latent heat of the water content captured at the condenser, and there are no particulate emissions escaping the stack. c) not necessarily and certainly not always, and the woody biomass icnolved is a by-product of the harvesting operation, not the primary product. d) It can be the case if it is a large scale and badly managed clear fell. It is not the case with our systems, e) the tree is there because it sequestered carbon in the first place, any forest management is dealing with a mosiac of sites of different stages of growth, durable wood product lasts for decades and some times many hundreds of years (wood in landfill similarly is a carbon store).


Hi Andrew,
glad the Danes recycle that much material before burning the rest.
Sorry to hear your impression of biochar though, as my understanding is many soil Phd’s are excited about it, not just some biochar burner sales people or hippie types. If you have links to specific concerns, I’d be happy to forward it on to some of the biochar enthusiasts I know.
I’m also really sad to hear you’re willing to write-off nuclear as a tool to decarbonise the world. Why oh why would you do it? What are you afraid of? No country in the world has gone 75% wind & solar (the 2 most abundant and available sources of renewable), and the experience we have so far in Germany and other countries raises profound concerns. So what kind of negative programming are you suffering from? What do you fear? If your objective really is to shut down as much coal as fast as possible, there’s only one country that have shown us how to do that fast: that’s France.


To engineer poet:

Rather than get abusive just keep to the facts or at least reasoned opinions. In fact there are many things we agree on, For example transporting wood pellets across the ocean seems to be pretty wasteful to me.

As I have said many times I don’t believe that nuclear is evil and if the Gen IV reactors work we may in fact install some in Australia. However you seem to be misrepresenting a lot of the things I am saying

For example: Hot water. If you read my post I said “direct solar or PV powered heat pumps”. with a heat pump with a COP of 4 uses 5 to 6 sqm of roof vs 3-4 sqm for direct solar but the heat pump can draw power from the grid on cloudy days and still have its COP of 4 whereas the electric booster in the solar system has a COP of about 0.9. The PV electricity can be used for other purposes inside or outside the premises whereas excess hot water can’t so in my view either solution is suitable one is more compact the other is more flexible.

Re high renewable grids another commentator said a 50% renewable grid is not possible. I made the point that there are a number already. I agree that wind and solar is different but just as hydro only works because it has storage, wind and solar need storage but they don’t need years of storage like a hydro system they need days, worst case weeks depending on the amount of overbuilding of capacity.

Re 60% capacity factor I am only quoting people much more expert than me like the US NREL. I think we don’t need to reach full power at 3.5m/s. A class 3 wind site ( Class 1 being best) still has an average wind speed of around 6.5m/s at 100m. Using the cube law that will generate with an average power 6 times that of 3.5m/s example. Now that turbines are being offered with masts up to 140m tall, many previously uneconomic sites which had average wind speeds of 4.5m/s at 80m will have average speeds of 5.5m/s at 140m so again you will generate 50% more power for the same generator and blades. However as the blade technology is getting better you can either increase the cutout speed or make the blades longer. One course allows you to generate more power at high wind speeds, the other allows higher specific power at below rated speed. Either way the same generator will produce more power per year per rated MW than less. In fact one study shows that the annual output per turbine for a typical 2006 model 2MW class 3 unit is about 3.6GW.hrs. With the technology available today the optimum turbine has become 3MW but the expected output has risen to 9GW.hrs. by 2024 the size will be 4MW and the output 15GW.hrs

You dismiss storage but like dump loads. Where did I say that I didn’t like those things which can just as easily be supplied from excess renewables as from excess nuclear. Using nuclear as a steam generator for process heat makes using solar PV to run an immersion heater look good. You want to build a steam generator that costs $5-6b to build and about $0.5b/year to run to provide 4 or 5GW of process heat. Anyone can build a biomass system for about a third of that cost.

Of course renewables can go off line for weeks but nuclear plants can, and do, go off line for months or even years for major refits or unexpected breakdowns see Belgium and Switzerland today. All grids have excess capacity for exactly that reason

IF AP100’s or CANDU’s and Prism are such an obvious choice why are they not being built everywhere. If Prism is good without Plutonium why do GE not promote it as such but clearly GE doesn’t know what a wonderful product they have on their hands.

According to your post German exports of power are subsidised but French exports of power are not. Government subsidies for renewables are not acceptable but past and present subsidies for nuclear are. The fact that society has to pay for 10,000 years for storage and will pay a large fraction of the decommissioning costs does not enter your calculations.

Decommissioning of a 1GW nuclear plant has not been completed anywhere in the world and estimates are in the $3-5b and 10-20 year range with 10’s of thousands of tons of hazardous waste to store. Decommissioning of 3-4GW of old wind turbines (i.e roughly the same annual generating capacity) will take 2-3 years for 2 or 3 crews of 10-12 people and 95% will be recycled.

Re German power prices: Export and wholesale prices are not subsidised by the taxpayer. The costs of the Energiewende are paid for by a surcharge on power costs to small and medium users, but wholesale power prices to large German customers are set in the market and they do not pay the surcharges. The net result is that large German users pay lower prices for their power than large French customers.

Re Load following, it depends on the time scale, the fact is that France with a much larger fast ramping hydro system to balance loads (16% of power vs 6% in Germany) is often exporting power to other markets at very low prices because the ramp rate of nuclear is low and the fixed charges are high. By contrast it pays more for its imports and imports more power from Germany than it exports because the German generation mix is more flexible i.e follows load better.

In conclusion please show me an unsubsidised contract for nuclear at a fixed price for 20 years for A$100 per When you can do that I will believe that nuclear is cheaper than a mix of renewables.

My objective is to get as much fossil fueled energy off the system as we can, at the lowest cost both financial and environmental. I am not a green idiot nor liar as you suggest. I merely investigate the technical, environmental and economic facts. A few years ago I was keen to have combined cycle gas power plants and then Ultra supercritical coal, however the cost changes in wind, solar,storage and other renewables and the increase in power density is such that I believe the time has passed for either of these options to be a major part of the solution.

Similarly, as of today I believe that nuclear has little or no part to play in de-carbonising the Australian grid. Someone might actually produce a GenIV nuclear plant that changes the numbers, I will then be happy to change my mind. As the man said. “If the facts change I will change my opinion, what will you do?”


To Andrew Lang.
I should have explained myself better re forest biomass. I listed the objections but failed to say whether they outweighed the benefits, I don’t know and I bow to your superior knowledge


“Of course renewables can go off line for weeks but nuclear plants can, and do, go off line for months or even years for major refits or unexpected breakdowns see Belgium and Switzerland today. All grids have excess capacity for exactly that reason”
Yet how many backup gas or nuclear plants does it take to backup nuclear? What is the ratio of backup to working? Because after overbuilding renewables to cope with the lower capacity factor, after building a so called ‘smart-grid’ to help fit the supply to the work (instead of just upgrading today’s dumb grid to do the work), after getting the entire population to buy ice-box fridges that can store ice when the juice is on because we all know our food will go off overnight, AFTER doubling or tripling day time capacity so that we can also charge all our electric cars (instead of just charging them overnight on nuclear), we STILL have to overbuild the entire renewable grid (or overbuild storage) to cope with weeks of 10% or 20% supply of the ENTIRE GRID!
Or in other words, please show us where about 80% of French reactors went down at once! That’s the difference! Not a single GW solar farm going down, but an entire nation’s solar or wind weakening for the whole of winter, and struggling to hit 10% or 20% for weeks at a time.
OR we could just build a nuclear grid on today’s dumb-but-slightly improved grid, charge electric cars overnight, burn nuclear-waste in GenIV reactors that we know work (because of 30 years of the EBR2, let alone others!), and get the friggin job done with technology we know works. Climate change is just too horrific to contemplate, and events are running away from us. One would have to have an absolutely intense reason for ruling out nuclear power in the climate emergency we face.


To Eclipse Now
Thanks to the efforts of Germany, Denmark and then China the rest of the world can de-carbonise with renewables at much lower cost than you have had to pay. For example from memory the average wind turbine in Germany produces about per year

Now a new turbine will produce 9 GW for not much more investment. The average solar panel is around 270W now vs 160W at the peak of German installation and 400 W will be available soon. The cost per panel is about 20% of what you used to pay, so the cost per will be about 1/8th.

While I am sure that in some countries nuclear will continue to be part of the solution, the experience in Finland, France, the US and the UK is not encouraging


Is it possible to hyperlink?

I have inserted the link which displays the table. Is that what you wanted? If you want to post a simple link you can do it by copying the link address and pasting it on your comment. For other actions including posting images, you need to use the necessary code which is quite complicated. Check WordPress for a table of codes.


Further to your last post: I think we are talking at slightly cross purposes because my main interest is in Australia yours in Germany. I agree that Germany is a more likely candidate for nuclear than Australia.

The amount of storage required varies depending on a whole host of factors but the Japanese example says about 40% of the nuclear capacity whereas in France it is about 20% but France can and does import power at peak times.

On the other hand it seems that German research says significant seasonal storage is not required until renewables reach 60-80% of demand.

It seems to me that my earlier comment that storage for nuclear is similar to that for renewables +/- 20-30% is reasonable.

The difference again is the cost of excess generating capacity vs. storage but even then the type and quantity of storage is different for different generating regimes

Given that Germany installed about 6GW wind in its peak year and Italy installed 9GW of solar in a year and capacity per turbine or solar panel has almost doubled since then, a concerted effort could easily install 10GW of wind and 15-20GW of solar per year. That is roughly 25GW of renewables per year, Let’s say the equivalent of 8-10GW of nuclear. Since no country, even China has commissioned that much nuclear in a year it seems it would be quicker to build a renewable supply than a nuclear one.

So then it is a question of cost. Again renewables including “overnight solar” have just been contracted in Chile for around US$80-95 per Can nuclear come close to that.


“It seems to me that my earlier comment that storage for nuclear is similar to that for renewables +/- 20-30% is reasonable.”
When was the last time 80% of France’s nukes all went down at the same time for a week or so?

Did you read the first line of your link? “German renewable energy lobby organization AEE has published another meta-study”
Fanboi’s, not peer review.
Peer review by people who care about the environment but are willing to stare faults in the face and call a spade a spade is done by the folk here and at The Breakthrough Institute. I’ll hand you over to them now.

Germany’s intermittent power slumps are epic: total output for its wind and solar sectors combined can plummet to less than 5 percent of rated nameplate capacity for an entire week, and even lower for two- and three-day stretches. So let’s look at last year’s stats to see just how much battery storage Germany would have needed to back up its intermittent renewables sector during slumps.

Rather than ask batteries to cope with every supply-and-demand scenario, let’s hold them to the lower standard of simply making up the gap between average wind and solar generation and the reduced generation during slumps. In 2014, Germany’s wind and solar sectors produced a total of 90.9 TWh of electricity, for a daily average of 249 gigawatt-hours (GWh) and a weekly average of 1,748 GWh. According to data from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the lowest daily production of wind and solar power came on January 21, 2014, when their combined generation was 22 gigawatt-hours. To top up that figure to the daily average would have required 227 GWh of Powerpack storage, costing $56 billion. If we were also to ask a battery system to store the largest daily surplus of intermittent generation above the average (on March 16, when wind and solar produced 580 GWh), that would require 331 GWh costing $83 billion.

But wind and solar droughts last much longer than a day. According to Fraunhofer data, the deepest weekly slump occurred in Week 47 (November 17-23) when intermittents together produced 770 GWh. Compensating for that deficit below average production would have required 978 GWh of Powerpack storage costing $244 billion. But then after Week 48’s slight deficit, during which no net charging would have been possible, the batteries would have been completely empty for Week 49’s renewed drought, when a deficit almost as deep, 958 GWh, opened up. The batteries would not have made it through Week 47 anyway, because Week 46, with its deficit of 798 GWh, would have largely drained them before Week 47 even began. If it had had to rely on batteries to back up its wind and solar sectors, Germany would have endured a month of rolling blackouts.

These figures are for Germany’s current wind and solar sectors, which contribute just 15 percent of the country’s electricity production. The costs would rise dramatically for higher penetrations of intermittent power. At a modest penetration of 30 percent, one week of Powerpack storage — still woefully inadequate — would cost about $500 billion dollars. That’s just the (uninstalled) cost of the batteries, which will generate not one electron of low-carbon energy; the wind and solar generators themselves would cost hundreds of billions more. And that entire battery infrastructure would have to be replaced every 15 years or so. To put these expenses in perspective, $500 billion spent on AP1000 reactors at a capital cost of $6,000 per-kilowatt would build 83 gigawatts of nuclear power, enough to decarbonize Germany’s entire electricity supply for 60 years and more.


Duelling arguments. I have seen other charts which show that wind and solar are actually seasonally complimentary but i will stand corrected and accept the Fraunhoffer figures.however the Breakthrough Institute (not possibly fanbois for the other side) completely ignores hydro, pumped hydro and biomass and natural gas which are all dispatchable and can fill the gaps. Further it is based on the 2014 wind fleet. In 2015 YTD with the addition of a little, much higher capacity factor offshore wind and the continued expansion of the onshore wind fleet wind generation is 52% up on last year. Also over time old sites are being repowered and new sites are fitted with high CF turbines so that in the 15-20 years it would take to build the nuclear fleet the output of wind and solar will be much more consistent than it is now. So if you ignore almost all the winter contribution of other renewables and the changing composition of wind in particular and then assume that battery technology will stand still then you can come up with a very high figure for storage.Then you have to find the water to cool all the nuclear stations or if they are on the cost build even more North south transmission lines and you have completely left out the operating costs of the nuclear plants. If I have time I will do a little DCF for you to show that you have overestimated storage cost by a factor of 4 and underestimated nuclear by a factor of 2


Eclipse Now, fortunately Australia does not have the same weather conditions as Germany. We’re a lot sunnier, and importantly most of Australia does not get snow.

Ice box fridges are unlikely; instead we’re likely to get freezers that become a little colder than normal at times when electricity’s cheap. Conversely the food won’t go off at the times when the renewable energy output is low, but it will cost more to cool it at those times. And smart grids are not a separate thing; they’re merely a way of upgrading the existing grids.


Andrew Lang,
There are several aspects to soil improvement, including physical structure, absorbancy, microbiology, nutrient content and nutrient availability. Poultry litter primarily boosts the nutrient content, whereas biochar’s main contribution is to boost the nutrient availability and the physical structure.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say it’s “a hopelessly inefficient way to make electricity”. Are you referring to burning the gas it gives off? What is your source for the costs?

I think biochar has tremendous potential in Australia to reduce the amount of back burning needed to control the bushfire risk.


It’s always the future, the next development, the electricity imported from another country or state, the next thing. Just wait. Have faith. Believe.

But France have the cleanest electricity in Europe and export more electricity than any other nation. The Royal Commission into nuclear power in South Australia are finding that we could charge nations to process their nuclear waste and that alone would fund our nuclear industry in that state. “Nuclear power too cheap to metre” might be an old cliché, but incredibly cheap electricity revitalising SA’s economy from reliable baseload clean electricity is not. It’s possible. It’s doable.

We don’t have time to play around with hypothetical scenarios for wind and solar. Climate change is a clear and present danger. We must act soon. Nuclear can provide all the electricity we need, all the high EROEI baseload power that can charge other energy carriers (whether boron or synfuels or even the much overhyped hydrogen), charge electric cars at night, and be there on a cold quiet sunless winter week. Why should we muck about trying to make an unreliable source of electricity reliable when the French example shows us the way? I just don’t understand your fear of nuclear power. We should deploy AP1000’s immediately, and let GE build the PRISM prototype ASAP so the IFR industry can start rolling off the production line cheaper than coal!


“We” are not stopping more nuclear being built in France, the UK or the USA. The market is.
All the current fuel processing plants were built by governments primarily as part of their defence efforts and they are running below capacity and were written off years ago. You think somebody can stump up new capital and build a plant in SA to compete. I am sure there are droves of investors waiting for the chance.
Show me the costings for $100/ nuclear including decommisioning and waste processing/storage for Australia


Peter F challenges all comers to point to an LCOE of less than 100 $/MWh. NuScale provides one in just that ballpark. Apart from a FOAK installation, NuScale estimate 90 $/MWh. That’s for an NOAK, an nth-of-a-kind.

They are presently busy getting their nuke through the NRC process, but the FOAK is planned for 2025.


“The market” is not what is determining our lack of IFR’s, legislation is.
PS: As you didn’t really address a single point I made above, I’ll just repost it:-

It’s always the future, the next development, the electricity imported from another country or state, the next thing. Just wait. Have faith. Believe.

But France have the cleanest electricity in Europe and export more electricity than any other nation. The Royal Commission into nuclear power in South Australia are finding that we could charge nations to process their nuclear waste and that alone would fund our nuclear industry in that state. “Nuclear power too cheap to metre” might be an old cliché, but incredibly cheap electricity revitalising SA’s economy from reliable baseload clean electricity is not. It’s possible. It’s doable.

We don’t have time to play around with hypothetical scenarios for wind and solar. Climate change is a clear and present danger. We must act soon. Nuclear can provide all the electricity we need, all the high EROEI baseload power that can charge other energy carriers (whether boron or synfuels or even the much overhyped hydrogen), charge electric cars at night, and be there on a cold quiet sunless winter week. Why should we muck about trying to make an unreliable source of electricity reliable when the French example shows us the way? I just don’t understand your fear of nuclear power. We should deploy AP1000’s immediately, and let GE build the PRISM prototype ASAP so the IFR industry can start rolling off the production line cheaper than coal!


PRISM is fast reactor and I am all for fast reactors and IFR. Indians have a big 500MW prototype nearing completion. It is the next nuclear. Fast MSR could also be advantageously used in IFR.
I do not see a problem in load following by nuclear on hour to hour basis. Just store the heat in a pool of partly molten salt.
Some people may be going overboard in having costly wind or solar farms but renewable could fill an important niche with some change in priorities and technology.
1. Collect and store the intermittent at lowest possible in distributed small grids close to isolated points of use where the lines from central generation would be uneconomical. This includes islands.
2. Collect and store wind energy as compressed air. Windmills have big towers which can be clad and used as a number of storage spaces.
3. Compressed air is itself a useful energy form. Use it for water pumping, mechanical power for home and farm and best of all, for air conditioning. Compressed air, using 5m underground in a heat pump, can be expanded and further cooled for very effective air conditioning.
4. The compressed air can be converted to electricity but it should be kept to a minimum to control costs. PV panels could be mounted on the towers and power collected in batteries, lowest cost available, for electronic (TV, telephone charging or computer) use.


To Eclipse Now and Roger Clifton:

I will be pleased to see NuScale or anyone else achieve $90/ for Nuclear and then there will probably be a place for Nuclear. First unit in 10 years time say reasonable debugging time of 3-4 years so say 20th unit getting down to reasonable cost after another 2-3 years. I have been building complex machines for almost 40 years, trust me the cost curve takes 15-100 units to stabilise. Even Boeing has found that with the 787. That means we are talking 2032-2035 before we reach $90.

Solar with storage is being contracted now at $97 in Chile. Wind in the US before the production tax credit about $35/40 ($25 after). Solar in Chile, the Middle East and India $55/$70. Even slowing the learning curve from 8%+ over the last 10 years to 4% over the next 20 years those prices will more than halve. Storage costs are falling even faster. Therefore when nuclear eventually reaches $90 it will still be limited to a “must run” load function to limit the amount of storage and be less than 20-25% of the supply. Even paying a premium for higher availability it will have to get down to $50-60 to take a large share of the market.

Legislation is preventing the building of Nuclear in Australia but not in France, the US or the UK. In contrast nuclear is being encouraged with massive subsidies, loan guarantees and publicly provided infrastructure. In spite of all this assistance every nuclear project in the world is running years late and over budget.

In the meantime every official projection of future renewable installation has been an underestimate and every estimate of future costs has been an overestimate

If Prism is so good and a key benefit is burning plutonium which is irrelevant to us, how come the US and the UK who have a need to burn plutonium and have pro-nuclear energy policies haven’t jumped in and built a dozen.

Nuclear proponents have the ones asking for faith in future and after 60 years have still managed to deliver every reactor in the whole western hemisphere late and over budget.

I show you renewables at $50-90 now and you show me new technology with no commercial track record that will (might) be available in volume in 20 years and you say I am unrealistic.

I agree that storage is needed for renewables but point out that the few high penetration nuclear grids have very large storage and energy trading and you dismiss it. You say German and BC renewables have very low output for weeks at a time and but ignore the fact that the entire Swiss nuclear fleet is offline for months.

You tout France as an example and yet France has just passed a law to the effect that they reduce their nuclear dependence from 70% to 50% and the difference is to be replaced with renewables. According to your logic they should be pushing for 100-120% and capitalising on their expertise to export to silly non-nuclear countries like Italy and Germany.

I agree that the cost of long term waste storage/disposal can be reduced not eliminated but at the moment the nuclear power industry doesn’t include provision for this in their power costs and nowhere near enough for plant decommissioning. Show me the life cycle costs please.

In the Australian case lets just say we could make money storing other peoples waste. You say we should spend that money on a plant that needs massive investment in grid reinforcement and will deliver power for a total system cost of A$300 per MW.Hr. I will take the money and spend it on renewables + storage for about $135 per and if I installed solar panels at the rate Italy did in 2012 or wind turbines at about half the rate Germany did at its peak I will have a 90% renewable grid before the first nuclear plant even gets its financing organised.


“Solar with storage is being contracted now at $97 in Chile.”
How much storage? I doubt it deals with seasonal fluctuations.

“Wind in the US before the production tax credit about $35/40 ($25 after).
Solar in Chile, the Middle East and India $55/$70. Even slowing the learning curve from 8%+ over the last 10 years to 4% over the next 20 years those prices will more than halve.”
To be blunt — I just don’t care what the price-to-grid is! They only work a third of the time! When you can get back to me with a true cost for storage for seasonal fluctuations, let alone the 60% per day they’re offline, then we’ll have a conversation.

“Storage costs are falling even faster.”
Again, you can backup a third of a renewable grid in Germany for ONE WEEK or you can just NUKE the entire grid for 60 years! How much is that storage price point falling again? ;-)

“Legislation is preventing the building of Nuclear in Australia but not in France, the US or the UK. In contrast nuclear is being encouraged with massive subsidies, loan guarantees and publicly provided infrastructure. In spite of all this assistance every nuclear project in the world is running years late and over budget.”
Sure, but what reactors are they building? One-of-a-kind projects because I don’t know of a single nuclear factory in the world. Also, please don’t crow too loudly about nuclear delays. Antes at Greenpeace deserve most of the blame. (Or have you forgotten that France shut down its SuperPheonix breeder because Anties fired an RPG into the reactor site!?)

“If Prism is so good and a key benefit is burning plutonium which is irrelevant to us, how come the US and the UK who have a need to burn plutonium and have pro-nuclear energy policies haven’t jumped in and built a dozen.”
They ARE so good, but politicians aren’t.

“Nuclear proponents have the ones asking for faith in future”
You got that wrong. We’re arguing from history, not faith in the future. France has already shown us what regular once-through fuel cycles can achieve for an entire nation, and we’re also arguing from the history of 400 breeder reactor-years. Sunnies and Windies are the ones arguing for blind faith in the future of impossible cost reductions in storage technologies, and that some other mix of demand matching, smart grid, smart EV, oversupply, nationwide super-grid, or even contradictory micro-grid mumbo-jumbo stuff we’ve NEVER seen before anywhere in a first world nation is somehow going to save the world in mass deployment in the next decade or so. Um, faith much?

“and after 60 years have still managed to deliver every reactor in the whole western hemisphere late and over budget.”
1. Really? 60 years is a long time. The technology was just getting developed much of that time. Imagine I trashed solar PV based on 1970’s prices?
2. Mass production! What’s the thing driving solar and wind prices down again? Where’s that nuclear factory again? You just admitted how many units it takes to get a cost-curve coming down. Where has that ever been done before with nuclear power? It hasn’t, because water reactors are not really mass produced when the core flange vessel has to be a single cast piece of steel 2 story’s high at 15cm thick! There aren’t many forges on the planet that can do that! But IFR’s like the EBR2 that ran successfully for 30 years don’t use water. Neither do LFTR’s. So they’re not overpressure. The reactor can be mass produced, the containment dome doesn’t have to be as large due to the massive expansion of water flashing into steam in some containment situation, and the whole thing is cheaper. LFTR’s and IFR’s are estimating cheaper-than-coal. That’s reliable cheaper-than-coal. Baseload. Charging EV’s at night. Running reliably on a cold winter night in Germany.

“I show you renewables at $50-90 now”
Please don’t lie to this list. Prices to grid are irrelevant. We’re after BASELOAD prices to the grid, and until you can demonstrate that, any statistics you quote like this are an outright lie. You’re talking $50-90 WITHOUT BACKUP FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME THEY’RE OFF! Seasonal variations must be modelled or it’s fraud.

“and you show me new technology with no commercial track record”
AP1000’s are being built today. I never said we have to go IFR right now.

“that will (might) be available in volume in 20 years and you say I am unrealistic.”
You don’t do history, do you? France went to 75% nuclear in about 11 years on old tech that is really cheap today. (The rest is hydro). I’d prefer an AP1000, but there is an economic case for using older, cheaper technologies.

“I agree that storage is needed for renewables”
Except you don’t agree that you should price that SEASONAL storage every single time you quote renewable prices. Somehow you just wish the storage challenge away and lie to this thread.

“but point out that the few high penetration nuclear grids have very large storage”
Where? Define very large storage? Show me where a whole nuclear grid has shut down 80% at once?

“and energy trading and you dismiss it”
No, I quote it. France is the largest EXPORTER of electricity in the world. This is an undeniable fact.

“You say German and BC renewables have very low output for weeks at a time and but ignore the fact that the entire Swiss nuclear fleet is offline for months.”
An entire fleet of reactors? It must be some political decision, because there’s nothing in the technology that requires that!

“You tout France as an example and yet France has just passed a law to the effect that they reduce their nuclear dependence from 70% to 50% and the difference is to be replaced with renewables.”
So? Politicians do crazy crap all the time. They’re not engineers. Clinton closed the EBR2 phase when Japan was about to give $60 million towards the project because they were so interested in the results!

“According to your logic they should be pushing for 100-120% and capitalising on their expertise to export to silly non-nuclear countries like Italy and Germany.”
Exactly! As I said, crazy politicians.

“I agree that the cost of long term waste storage/disposal can be reduced”
Define long term? A 500 year bunker isn’t going to cost that much. Vitrification is expensive, but when spread out over a fuel cycle getting 60 to 90 TIMES the income of today’s once-through nuclear fuel cycle, the economic case is overwhelming.

“ not eliminated but at the moment the nuclear power industry doesn’t include provision for this in their power costs”
Please prove that statement. See, the thing is the original nuclear engineers at the dawn of the nuclear age ALWAYS imagined that we would be burning our nuclear ‘waste’ by now.

“and nowhere near enough for plant decommissioning. Show me the life cycle costs please.”
They’re built into the price. Reactors are closed down, put into SafStor mode for 50 years for them to ‘cool down’ a bit, then they’re much cheaper and safer to decomission. With a 500 year bunker on site, I’m thinking a nuclear energy park would ideally be crown land and a permanent fixture: a town out in some distant rural location (mainly for the psychological benefit of today’s largely Antie population) that runs a multi-plant breeder site basically forever, slowly cycling through various building and decommissioning phases on site over the centuries.

“In the Australian case lets just say we could make money storing other peoples waste.”
We can. It was submitted by Ben Heard into the SA Royal Commission. It may allow massively subsidised electricity.

“You say we should spend that money on a plant that needs massive investment in grid reinforcement”
Please acknowledge right now that any future renewable plan for Australia like BZE and Diesendorf require a continent wide SUPER-GRID full of HVDC lines stretching THOUSANDS of km’s to take wind where it is blowing to wind where it isn’t. It’s all part of their magic numbers to try and make us believe that an unreliable renewable grid will work, and that moving to power that is MOSTLY OFF is a good idea!

“and will deliver power for a total system cost of A$300 per MW.Hr.”
Where are you getting this from?

“I will take the money and spend it on renewables + storage for about $135 per”
What, you’re storing for one night or something? What about a whole rainy week where everyone’s solar PV is at 50%? What about seasonal variations?”
Your prices are fantasy.

“and if I installed solar panels at the rate Italy did in 2012 or wind turbines at about half the rate Germany did at its peak I will have a 90% renewable grid before the first nuclear plant even gets its financing organised.”
History is not your friend, is it? One word.


“France’s nuclear power industry has been called “a success story” that has put the nation “ahead of the world” in terms of providing cheap energy with low CO2 emissions.[11] ”

“The plan envisaged the construction of around 80 nuclear plants by 1985 and a total of 170 plants by 2000.[21] Work on the first three plants, at Tricastin, Gravelines, and Dampierre started the same year[15] and France installed 56 reactors over the next 15 years.[23]”


Interesting David Benson! It sounds like South Korea have been hamstrung by a non-proliferation treaty with American politicians when IFR’s + a few site inspections & video monitoring systems would render that treaty unnecessary! From World Nuclear:-

South Korea is a major world nuclear energy country, exporting technology. It is building four nuclear reactors in UAE, under a $20 billion contract.
24 reactors provide about one-third of South Korea’s electricity from 21.6 GWe of plant.
Nuclear energy remains a strategic priority for South Korea, and capacity is planned to increase by 70% to 37 GWe by 2029, and then maintain that level to 2035.
The country is seeking relief from treaty commitments with the USA which currently constrain its fuel cycle options.


Hi Jagdish, welcome back! (your previous post was off thread, so we could not reply to it there, but can here on the Open Thread).

Compressed air storage does seem feasible for house-scale storage of excess house-scale electricity production. Roughly half the energy of compression is given off as heat, which limits its large-scale use, but that heat could provide domestic hot water and house heating. Some of the same heat could contribute to the regeneration of electricity if the compressed air line passed back through the hot water tank, on its way to the generator.


Eclipse Now.

I will try to be more civil.

I agree with you that there are some crazy, ill-informed anti-nuclear antis out there.

We also agree that climate change is the over-riding issue

I also agree with you that some nuclear is probably a good idea in Germany because of extended low sun, low wind periods

We also agree that France has the lowest CO2 emissions per capita or of any large G20 country.

From a technical, environmental and economic point of view I am actually quite keen to see some of these new reactor designs come on stream

However having been deeply involved in manufacturing very large structures for almost 45 years, (ships, bridges etc.) there is no such thing as mass production for large power plants. Even in China there is no standard design for coal power plants which are currently being built at 5-6 times the rate we would need for a full nuclear system. Even France’s 58 reactors, built as you say in a relatively short time have built to 5 different designs. This is because we learn as we go and to apply those lessons there is often a need to change the design.

There are more efficient series production methods but different customers and different locations actually do need different designs, just as different customers need different trucks

I also agree that the EPR seems to have been a technological mistake. This is not uncommon, the old one step forward, two steps backward that happens every now and then in most types of technological progress

France planned to build 170 reactors but only built 58. France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s. However to pay for the life extensions which I agree are a sensible thing to do, it is expected that French power prices will rise 30%. The new Flamanville reactor was expected to be commissioned in 2016 and produce power at E70-90 per hour. This has since been overtaken so costs will be well north of E100/ This is on a brownfields site where almost all the infrastructure is in place and it has cold Atlantic seawater for cooling.

From the industry magazine World Nuclear News September 2015

Some 98% of the building civil structure has already been completed on the unit as well as 60% of the electromechanical work, EDF said in a statement today. However, a new timetable has been drawn up by the company and its partners for the remaining work to complete and commission the 1630 MWe unit.

The new timetable sets out three key milestones, EDF said. Installation of the primary circuit is now scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, while system performance testing will begin a year later after all electromechanical work has been completed. The loading of fuel and start up of the reactor is now expected to take place in the last quarter of 2018. The unit had previously been scheduled to begin operating by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, EDF said the project costs have now been revised to €10.5 billion ($11.8 billion), up from a December 2012 estimate of €8 billion ($9 billion).

Construction work began on the unit, adjacent to two existing pressurized water reactors, at the Normandy site in northern France in 2007, when capital construction costs were estimated at €3.3 billion (2005 values) with commercial operation pencilled in for 2013. The cost and completion of the project has since been revised a number of times. The dome of the reactor building was put in place in mid-July 2013, while the reactor vessel was installed in January 2014. EDF submitted its commissioning application file for Flamanville 3 to the French nuclear regulator earlier this year…………………….

This generator is 1.6GW, the AP1000 is 1.1GW. In South Australia today, minimum demand often drops to about 0.5GW. If we have one AP1000 in SA, At low demand times it will have to export between 40% and 100% of its power as the wind turbines will not stop turning. Of course you will need spinning reserves or storage equal to the output of the generator in case of an emergency trip and you will need a 1GW line to the Eastern states to distribute the power.

If there is a dual circuit 1GW line to Melbourne and Sydney it will cost about $1b on top of the A$20-30b for the power plant (Dominion Powers estimate for the North Anna 3 in Virginia August 2015, Flamanville current estimate, Hinckley Point current estimate). 1GW of pumped hydro storage is expected to cost around $3.2b.(Roam Consulting 2012) so now we are looking at $35-40b for 7-7.5TW hrs per year.

Operating costs of French nuclear plants are around E25-35/ Just lets say a round A$50 per being generous including the operation of storage and transmission.

Now I think a single technology system is silly so for example any realistic system might be 85% nuclear or 75% wind and solar so the analysis below is simplistic but it illustrates the different costs with current technology. AGAIN. in 5 years time it might all change

Utilities in Australia are allowed to earn 7-10% ROI on poles & wires which get a return no matter what the generating system is so I would expect that they will demand a higher return on a nuclear plant but anyway we will work on 7%.

While the plant is being built the interest on the progress draw-downs is being capitalised, so after 12 years or so you have about 25% of the capital cost of the project added to your debt. So we started out with a $35b investment which has ballooned to about $44b

Interest and depreciation on $44b over 50 years @7% is $3.2b per year. On 7,200 GW hrs per year that woks out at $440/ If the taxpayer provides loan guarantees. We might get the cost down to $300 plus operating cost of $50.

Now for the sake of argument your point about needing more storage for renewables is correct and duty cycle is lower so to generate 7TW hrs per year we need about 2GW (@35% utilization) of wind and 2GW of solar. Lets overbuild that by 25% as well as build 1 GW of pumped hydro with about 5 times the storage.

At current costs we are looking at about $3-4b for the solar and $5b for the wind and $10b for the storage, as well as $1b for the same HVDC links so the investment is $20b. It starts generating in about 2 years and is completed in 5-6 years so the capitalised interest is about $2b. Operating costs are about $5-10/ The wind and solar has a 20-25 year life but the pumped hydro probably 100 years so the average life is about the same as the nuclear system. Therefore the full system cost is around $200-250 per or $150 with the same government guarantees.

I hope that we are both being too pessimistic


“However having been deeply involved in manufacturing very large structures for almost 45 years, (ships, bridges etc.) there is no such thing as mass production for large power plants.”
From my limited layman’s exposure to this industry via youtube, there are dozens of plans for nuclear factories, but they are for medium sized modular reactors of around 300MW. Buy 4 and they’ll give you free fries with that.
That’s GE’s PRISM anyway.

But Thorcon have much smaller ‘blocks’ they build out fast, in a factory roughly the size of a shipyard. Thorcon is not a breeder, just a Molten Salt Burner reactor. Once-through fuel. But safe! It’s less about a plan for an individual power plants as it is a plan for a nuclear factory.
“The entire ThorCon plant including the building is manufactured in blocks on a shipyard-like assembly line. These 150 to 500 ton, fully outfitted, pre-tested blocks are barged to the site. A 1 GWe ThorCon will require less than 200 blocks….
….Cheaper than Coal
ThorCon requires less resources than a coal plant. Assuming efficient, evidence based regulation, ThorCon can produce reliable, carbon free, electricity at between 3 and 5 cents per kWh depending on scale.”

“This is because we learn as we go and to apply those lessons there is often a need to change the design.”
Then they’ll just retool some stage in the factory. From the Thorcon page above:

No complex repairs are attempted on site. Everything in the nuclear island except the building itself is replaceable with little or no interruption in power output. Rather than attempt to build components that last 40 or more years in an extremely harsh environment with nil maintenance, ThorCon is designed to have all key parts regularly replaced. Every four years the entire primary loop is changed out, returned to a centralized recycling facility, decontaminated, disassembled, inspected, and refurbished. Incipient problems are caught before they can turn into casualties. Major upgrades can be introduced without significantly disrupting power generation. Such renewable plants can operate indefinitely; but, if a ThorCon is decommissioned, the process is little more than pulling out but not replacing all the replacable parts.”

That’s the overall concept. Now if you want more, take a look at the following 2 links to get a sense of just how many different companies are already looking into mass producing clean nuclear power in this way:-

“France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s.”
Please demonstrate this statement. The following JPG has Germany at DOUBLE France’s electricity price.

“This generator is 1.6GW, the AP1000 is 1.1GW. In South Australia today, minimum demand often drops to about 0.5GW. If we have one AP1000 in SA, At low demand times it will have to export between 40% and 100% of its power as the wind turbines will not stop turning. Of course you will need spinning reserves or storage equal to the output of the generator in case of an emergency trip and you will need a 1GW line to the Eastern states to distribute the power.”
When electric cars arrive to displace oil, demand profiles will only go up. The ‘We don’t need baseload’ myth of Lovins and Diesendorf will finally be busted as the lies they are. NREL have shown that America can charge about half their car fleet overnight. HALF! That’s a lot less solar and wind farms you’d have to build if they were all charging during the day. The same NREL study then went on to say that about 90% of the car fleet could be charged on existing infrastructure: without building a single new power plant. Personally I like clever city designs and New Urbanism that reduce the need for the car in the first place, but we’re talking about a 1 for 1 swap of cars at the moment. See the lies we put up with? Lovins and Diesendorf and even Professor Ian Lowe have all had a go at the ‘myth’ that we need power overnight! What world are they living in: one with infinite oil and no climate change to worry about? Are these people even thinking?

So we could build out AP1000’s, or we could build out today’s technology in SMR’s. (Small Medium Reactors). Read the wiki’s and world nuclear pages above. Once a factory is set up, they can be deployed on an as-needs basis.

“it will cost about $1b on top of the A$20-30b for the power plant (Dominion Powers estimate for the North Anna 3 in Virginia August 2015, Flamanville current estimate, Hinckley Point current estimate).”
What are you talking about? What’s this $20-30B power plant?

“Operating costs of French nuclear plants are around E25-35/ Just lets say a round A$50 per being generous including the operation of storage and transmission.”
Do you want to source any of your claims? Also, I prefer kWh, as it’s the unit many wiki’s & sources refer to. This wiki says France is 19.39c and German is 32.04c per kWh. Go figure.

“While the plant is being built the interest on the progress draw-downs is being capitalised, so after 12 years or so you have about 25% of the capital cost of the project added to your debt. So we started out with a $35b investment which has ballooned to about $44b”
I don’t grant your prices or business model for a second!
First, build the factory.
Second, start pumping out ThorCon’s blocks or GE’s PRISMS or another groups 300MW LFTR’s.
Third, ThorCon/GE/LFTR groups sells units on an as needs basis straight to market. You can scrap your 12 years. That’s a ridiculously out of date model. Instead, I imagine the sales department having the following conversations. “Yes, we can sell individual units but we have a discount on 4, and much greater savings on any order over 8. We’re producing a 300MW reactor a day now, and orders are backed up for 4 months, but sometime after that we can deliver as many as you need…”
Or Robert Hargraves estimates nuclear factories where a 100MW LFTR comes of the line every day for just $200 million. Ten of these would equal a gigawatt of power at $2 billion dollars, cheaper than coal!

There would be financing for the factory and first few builds, and within just a few years the profits from SMR sales would be paying down the loan. I imagine that after 12 years, the loan would be long gone and the company making decent profits selling some of the cheapest reliable clean energy we’ve ever seen.
Financing for 12 years. Ha! Man, you need to get with the times!


just a couple of comments. One is that without knowing France’s per capita GHG emissions I understand that Sweden’s is the lowest in Europe at about 6 t/person, with some regions sigificantly less than that including Stockholm and Gotteborg.

It is unlikely that the french per capita emissions is close to this as while 80 % of their electricity may be from nuclear, electricity is only about 30% of their energy.

By contrast the Swedes are producing most of the 50% of energy that is heat from biomass and waste, and are working on the 25% approx of energy use that is transport fuels (aiming to have this fixed by 2030). So Sweden is getting over 34% of energy from biomass and heading for 39% by 2020. They are already getting over 50% of final energy from renewables about 6 years ahead of the target date of 2020.
This has allowed them to retire some nuclear plants and I visited the Barsebeck pair of reactors (either 1200 or 2000 MW, I got conflicting figures) a few years ago on the SW coast opposite Copenhagen, all closed up and cooling down

The Swedish municipality regarded as the ‘greenest’ in the EU is Vaxjo with under 3.5 t/person. This of due to production of most heating and cooling for the city and most electricity for the municipality from biomass, plus electricity and vehicle fusl from putrescible wastes, plus the MSW is converted into heating and electricity. So 80% of energy needs is presently being produced within the municipal bounday from biomass mainly produced within that bundary. All of this uses equipment off the shelf, and most of modular construction.
The oly need for storage with this renewble is some storage of biogas and of biomethane, and some of hot water as a 24 hour buffer to stabilise supply and demand. And of course some big piles of woodchips.
So the other comment was in relation to the statement that renewables require storage. There are five main renewable energy sources (so not including marine) and only two are intermittent needing some storage.


Hi Andrew Lang,
I grant that France is still addicted to oil for transport, but even so generally speaking European countries use half the oil per capita of America. Better cities, better public transport, and stricter car efficiency rules seem to be the key. Shutting down coal is our first priority, and France shows that there is no better way to do that than nuclear power. But oil? My hope is that state-of-the-art New Urban design will gradually reduce the need for cars in the first place as modern economies value workers sorting through email on iPhones on the tram and train and trolley bus. Eventually some EV’s will be in the mix, and maybe even some trucking. Trucking needs more energy density than suburban cars, so will probably head down some synfuel or even boron powder niche markets. Hopefully we won’t get hooked on hydrogen as it wastes too much power to split water, compress hydrogen, and burn it again only to get electricity again.

I love renewable energy where appropriate. But while the Swedes are surging ahead in their biomass industry, I would hate to see an attempt to apply that to the global energy crisis. That would be an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe!

So what I am interested in the rule, not the very few exceptions to the rule. Sure New Zealand and Tasmania have very large hydro per capita. Other countries just don’t. Sure Iceland has its surface geothermal. Other countries don’t. The general rule remains exactly as Dr James Hansen described it:

“Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


“There are five main renewable energy sources (so not including marine) and only two are intermittent needing some storage.”
Nice word game, but the 2 that need storage are the most abundant on earth, wind and solar. Try scaling up hydro and biomass to meet the world’s energy demands and you’ll not only fail, but chop down every last tree and convert every last scrap of arable land into biomass production and starve the human race.


Another SMR under development is a high temperature gas reactor, the Xe-100, from X Energy. They already seem to have a customer.


To Tony Carden.

Reducing output to save fuel is irrelevant for nuclear as you say. The problem for nuclear is maintaining output in the face of declining demand. On a mild evening or sunny weekend even now, there is more power on a number of grids than people need so big users are already paid to take power for some hours per year because coal and CCGT cannot ramp down.

For nuclear the problem is ROI. At the moment capital charges are $millions per day, if you are not selling power because you have followed the load down almost all the costs keep going so unless a nuclear plant runs at around 70%+ utilisation rate it is hard for it to make money.

Its the reverse of open cycle gas which can follow the load pretty quickly but fuel costs are high and capital low. At $30/ you just turn the gas turbine off but in a spike you might earn $500-5,000 per so you can run for 300 hours per year and make a bit of money. If you have a good year and run for 800 hours you can make squillions.

As Eclipse now and others point out, there are new approaches to nuclear that may cost a lot less per but in spite of (SCE&G)’s “we interested in buying it if it works” statement for X Energy there are no firm orders in the West for these new designs


To Eclipse Now

More things we agree on. Large scale Nuclear is a financial disaster as of course is offshore wind, however Hinckley is not the only one as I pointed out and there are a number of others that can be added to the list of late over budget nuclear plants.

In answer to your question about Chile I don’t know but as it is in the Atacama cloud is not a huge problem so seasonal storage is much less of a problem than in Northern climes

I think you made a good point about the speed of French nuclear deployment vs Germany’s renewables, however now French power costs at the grid level are higher than Germany’s and Germany’s are falling and France’s are rising so France’s short term success may be at the cost of longer term disadvantage.

Thankyou for the information on the strike price for renewables in the UK, I knew offshore wind was very high but I didn’t realise that the others were so high. However again in the Australian context prices in the order of $95 are increasingly common

I am not advocating for any existing plants to close before their time however in the US that looks like happening in a few cases

I suppose the main difference between you and I are

The the speed with which manufacture of small scale nuclear can be ramped up, which I think at best will be 5-10 years slower than you believe. As I said I have had a lot of experience with shipyards, product development and heavy machinery, it is what I have made my living from in almost 20 countries for more than 40 years.
The economics, I do believe small reactors will get cheaper or even much cheaper, but everything would have to go perfectly for the claimed costs to be achieved. In any case there is a lot of money to be sunk before those costs are eventually realised.
My assumptions about the speed of the learning curve on renewables is far more conservative than Hargraves uses for his learning curve for molten salt reactors. I am happy to acknowledge nuclear is getting better why can’t you believe that renewables do too.
Finally in an isolated grid, no matter what the technology, storage or fast acting spinning reserves is important, in 4 regimes a) seconds to minutes if big loads drop off/come on. b) Hours as evening peak comes on c) as you often point out, seasonal balancing and finally d) backup in case of trips. At current costs it is cheaper to build storage than power plants that are used 3-10-30% or even 50% of the time. In addition storage placed near the load can improve system reliability and reduce network costs, in some cases by so much that it is still worthwhile in a perfectly load following generator system. That’s why off peak hotwater has been encouraged for 60 years.
Even though we have spent much of this debate slinging off at each others favourite choice, In practice I am sure the world will not make a binary choice. There will be renewables, there will be geothermal, there will be biomass, there will be storage and there will be some nuclear. In some countries, there will be more of some sources than others. I just happen to think that in Australia with our low areal energy density and abundant sun and wind mean that nuclear will be very low on the scale.


“I am happy to acknowledge nuclear is getting better why can’t you believe that renewables do too.”
I’m happy to acknowledge that the price-to-grid of wind and solar has been falling dramatically as the technologies scale up. But as I have said many times above, the price-to-grid is a LIE! There’s simply no sugar coating it. Any trite ‘solar is cheaper than grid’ statement is an outright LIE of omission, a cherry-picked half-truth that is intended to deceive. I meet it all the time, and it betrays cliché superficial light-green thinking that makes me vomit! When, oh when, are these people going to admit that ‘price to grid’ omits the most important cost of all, STORAGE! I’ve even heard some say solar could be free and it would still be irrelevant because it is a power supply that is mostly off! STORAGE!


How does burning biomass or urban waste ( to reduce landfill) reduce GHG emissions?

One of the great advantages of Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) is that they use very little fuel. Theoretically a Thorium MSR of 1 GW (1000 MW) capacity uses 1000 kgs per year or at today’s prices $100,000 US approx. I do not have a figure for Uranium but I think a uranium MSR would use a similar amount or $100,000 US worth.

In this situation load following for the purpose of fuel economy is irrelevant. You would also then be in a position to offer very cheap off peak power. Once upon a time it was called selling electricity.


For the biomass to exist in the first place is due directly or indirectly to removal of carbon from the atmosphere. In the situation of deciding whether to convert it into energy, where the biomass is available and otherwise will rot or degrade to produce free GHG emissions, and the alternative source of the energy is of fossil origin then (considering that CO2 produced from burning biomass is classed as CO2-neutral due to this short cycle from the atmosphere and back to it) then the reduction of GHG by using the biomass about equals the GHG emissions that would have come from use of the fossil fuels that are then not emitted.
With MSW biomass content is of the order of 50-70% (depends where you are and how much food waste is still in it). The balance is classed as ‘non-renewable waste’, and now GHG emissions from the burning of this are normally regarded as fossil origin GHG.


Thanks Andrew. What does MSW stand for?
I understand the logic of Biomass. So it is really based upon the fear that we are going to run out of energy of some description and because it is GHG neutral it is ok.
I guess the Australian equivalent is bagasse from Sugar Cane.


Tony, this is a very polite query from someone who told the last person he was talking a load of fud (and an awful lot of that does go on).
MSW is municipal solid waste and in this context means non-recyclable flammable wastes after all toxic and problematic material is removed. But in the case of some Copenhagen waste to energy plants it can include seized shipments of marijuana, plus hospital flammable wastes (and I don’t want to know what that might include).
It’s not a case of ‘fear of running out of energy’.but a case of ‘it is here available and is being used in almost every other country (OECD, nation we trade with, or country that is not pure desert) and why the hell isn’t it being utilised here’. Seeing as it is cost-effective and with no downside i know of if it is done within sustainability guidelines.

I don’t see it as a matter of ‘running out of energy’ (after all we have 500 years of brown coal and 40% of the world’s uranium reserves or what ever it is, plus we are the biggest exporter of black coal and lining up to be equal biggest exporter of LNG). It is a matter of – ‘why not use this material if it is good for the triple bottom line – particularly the rural/regional TBL’.

Bagasse? No this is pretty much fully utilised. I’d be looking at the 10 million tonnes of MSW, the 20 million m3 of putrescible (wet organic) waste, and the 10-20 million tonnes of forestry and agricultural residues (not including native forestry harvest waste unless you really want to). This line up is an awful lot of energy of the three forms, and so 20% of final energy or more.


1. I don’t want to argue Sweden of France because they both are very low. World Bank says France 5.2 Sweden 5.5. (Australia 16.5)

The second point I agree with, hydro is storage. In Australia as opposed to Germany wind tends to blow stronger at night and in winter and our East Coast grid spreads over a lot greater climatic area than it does in Germany so the no wind, no sun periods are much shorter so while Germany might need a X amount of storage we probably need one half to one third.
I think biomass has a part to play in Australia as does geothermal, wave and possibly tidal in the Northwest all of these are more predictable/dispatchable than wind/solar further reducing the need for storage.
Your point about hot water/cold water storage is very valid. It is probably the cheapest form of energy storage, although excess ice or hot water can’t be converted into other energy forms easily so it has a lower value than say batteries or pumped hydro

To Eclipse Now:

Thank you for the links to the SMR information, some of which is new to me. I found that Robert Hargraves’ talk very interesting although using offshore wind as the basis for comparison is not a valid basis, nor is the 30% utilisation.

His comparison with Boeing aircraft company in is many ways valid but the technical challenge of developing and building SMR’s is much greater than that of building a new Boeing aircraft

From the start of the 787 project to the one a day rate it will take 15 years. The aircraft technology is widely accepted and required minimal government subsidies, so to put it mildly the timeline is somewhat optimistic. Further there is nowhere near enough detail in the actual costing of the reactors or cost of the factories to determine whether his costing is correct. Most importantly his delivered price after 15 years appears to make no provision for recovering the R&D costs, startup losses or investment in the factory.

You are rightly calling for the elimination of subsidies and market distortions generally. I agree. You are skeptical about all renewables, I am skeptical about offshore wind, forest pellets and most types of solar thermal but don’t demand that subsidies be eliminated from the competition but provided for my favoured source.

Summarising all the information you gave us If all goes well it seems we might see deployment start in 10 years or so

Re your more specific points

” “France’s current cost of generation is now already higher than Germany’s.”
Please demonstrate this statement. The following JPG has Germany at DOUBLE France’s electricity price.Re German and French Power prices”.

No problem: In the linked charts from the French Commission for Regulation of Energy you will see that Year ahead pricing in Germany is E32/hr. France about E39. You are confusing wholesale and retail. German energy taxes and price differentiation between different classes of customers is the difference. German prices have since fallen below E30.
This also provides the operating cost which by the way does not include transmission and storage.

Re current reactor costs. Just look them up. I gave you the info on Flamanville, there are hundreds of articles on the web from respected sources about Hinckley Point. North Anna is a bit harder to find but here is a secondary source

These 3 plants are all built on brownfield sites with experienced local contractors, a ready supply of cold water for cooling and existing grid connections so I am being very generous allowing Australian plants to be built for similar prices.

Re electric vehicles. Most electric vehicles in the US are charged on premises during the day when grid based or premises solar is available. This will change as penetration increases but it will still be a large fraction of the generation for vehicles

However the key point is most cars are not recharged from empty every night. In the Australian case if we assume that for the next 15 years the market for fully electric vehicles (not hybrids) grows at an unheard of 43% compound average growth rate there will be almost 4m on the road and they will be almost 100% of the new vehicle market. The average modern electric car uses about per km. At 15,000km.yr they will need about 8TW.hrs per year. If they were all charged with wind that is equivalent to the output of 750 current generation class 1 or 2 wind turbines or the annual output of one AP1000 Hardly a justification for a whole nuclear fleet

Re utilisation. The French nuclear fleet is running at 67% utilisation. New onshore windfarms in Australia are running at 40%+ and new windfarms in the Baltic are over 50% so nuclear plants are generating 35-60% more per installed MW not the 300% you suggest.

In conclusion I am not denying the attraction of small modular nuclear reactors I believe they are the only way a nuclear power industry will work for the world.

However in my professional engineering experience starting with modernising a shipyard 45 years ago and building some of the key machines that would be needed for an SMR factory today, very few of these new technologies arrive on time and on budget. Some will be delayed, most will die (like the Babcock and Wilcox and Westinghouse projects) some will work very well in niches like the Russian barge mounted reactors for the frozen north and a few will make huge strides like smart phones. Hopefully one or two of the SMR designs will cross the Valley of Death but in the meantime the world is installing 120GW of renewables per year today.

Let every available technology compete based on full life cycle costs and if nuclear wins I am happy but as of today I cannot finance or order a nuclear plant that competes


Hi Peter F,
You never answered how long the Chile solar + storage actually stored for.

You criticised France’s nuclear program for not meeting goals.

In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%. That’s 63% of the grid in 10 years. That’s… incredible! I wish Australia would do that! 2/3rds the grid in 10 years! WOW! Aren’t you amazed at those statistics? Now let’s see how Germany did.

In one decade (2001–2011) Germany increased the non-hydroelectric renewable energy portion of its electricity from 4% to 19%, with fossil fuels decreasing from 63% to 61% (hydroelectric decreased from 4% to 3% and nuclear power decreased from 29% to 18%). And now it has some of the most expensive electricity in Europe!

Despite Hinckley being the absolute antithesis of the kind of nuclear power most of us are advocating for, it still stacks up pretty well, especially considering it supplies abundant reliable clean electricity that can charge EV’s overnight and doesn’t require hundreds of billions in storage costs! Use cheaper renewables where appropriate, such as some waste and sewerage schemes. But they won’t SCALE! The only renewables that can SCALE because of abundant available resource are also the most troublesome and unreliable: wind and solar. So even dumb old Hinkley is still sitting pretty compared to the others! More on Hinkley below, but check this out for now.

“However, nuclear energy should also be compared with the strike prices guaranteed for other power generation sources in the UK. In 2012, maximum strike prices were £55/MWh for landfill gas, £75/MWh for sewage gas, £95/MWh for onshore wind power, £100/MWh for hydroelectricity, £120/MWh for photovoltaic power stations, £145/MWh for geothermal and £155/MWh for offshore wind farms.[38] In 2015, actual strike prices were in the range £50-£79.23/MWh for photovoltaic, £80/MWh for energy from waste, £79.23-£82.5/MWh for onshore wind, and £114.39-£119.89/MWh for offshore wind and conversion technologies (all expressed in 2012 prices).[39] These prices are indexed to inflation.[40] For projects commissioned in 2018–2019, maximum strike prices are set to decline by £5/MWh for geothermal and onshore wind power, and by £15/MW for offshore wind projects and large-scale photovoltaic, while hydro power remains unchanged at £100/MWh.[41] The strike price is agreed in ‘a contract between the generator and a new Government-owned counterparty'[36] and guarantees the price per megawatt-hour paid to the electricity producer. The strike price is not the same as the Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) which is a first order estimate of the average cost the producer must receive to break-even.”

But I note that you chose Hinkley, which I’m tempted to call cherrypicking data, which forces me (although I don’t want to) to question your honesty, even though I have appreciated the recent change in tone. For example, you didn’t talk about the Finnish Hanhikivi plant at 50Euros / MWh. Every Greenpeace Antie worth their weight in corrosive Antie-nuclear FUD knows about Hinkley, and crows it from the rooftops. They need to get a life. Ferrari’s are expensive too, but I don’t shout about Ferrari’s when asked about the price of family cars!

Even pro-nuclear advocates get stuck into Hinkley! EG:-
“Mr Ratcliffe said Ineos recently agreed a deal for nuclear power in France at 45 euros (£37.94) per Mwh.
The government has guaranteed that the new Hinkley station, being developed by France’s EdF and backed by Chinese investors, can charge the £92.50 minimum price for 35 years.
‘Not competitive’
“Forget it,” Mr Ratcliffe said in an interview with the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston. “Nobody in manufacturing is going to go near [that price].”
Mr Ratcliffe said: “The UK probably has the most expensive energy in the world.
“It is more expensive than Germany, it is more expensive than France, it is much, much, more expensive than America. It is not competitive at all, on the energy front, I am afraid.””

For this conversation to continue PeterF I need you to stop prattling on about Hinkley as some kind of typical example of nuclear power, and analyse SMR’s some more. Because they are the future. GE are ready to go with their 300MW PRISM. Others are ready as well, and once given the funding, I really doubt everything you claim about the time to build the factory and scale up. Considering Hinkley, don’t you think a single Small Modular Reactor factory churning out a handful of reactors a year would be a significant revolution in nuclear power, let alone one a day, which is the ultimate goal of the LFTR video you watched?


Thanks again Andrew. I think it is a waste of Marijuana. Could they not sell it to the Dutch?
Just wondering if you had a chance to view the video by Robert Hargraves referred to above.

It all depends on the true cost.
The MSW is not really free, it has to be treated to remove toxic and other undesirable compounds.. Also does MSW need its own dedicated facility etc.

In relation to the forestry and agricultural waste, presumably it has to be collected and transported to a facility. Transportation costs in Australia are a significant and sometimes prohibitive factor.

I am reminded of a story I read many years ago in relation to recycling. A remote community decided to commence recycling its rubbish to help save the environment or reduce its waste management costs. After about a year of conscientious separation and stock piling of the various types of waste they decided that they had enough material to sell. They duly received an estimate of how much the material was worth. Approx $1000. They then got a quote to deliver it. Approx $7000.
In short, considering they had no shortage of dump space, the best environmental and economic solution was to abandon recycling and just dig a bigger hole.


Yes the MSW is not free, it comes in with a receival payment of anything from $80/tonne upwards. Not too often an energy plant is paid to take a fuel.
Yes, the waste to energy plant has to be purpose-built for this use and one I visited 6 weeks ago in Finland cost cost 300 million Euros. It now processes 320,000 tonne/year of mixed municipal waste into 68 MW of electricity and 99 MW of heat (all of which was sold at a price equal or more than the av 45 Euro/MWh for electricity. The MSW into landfill fell to 2% and everyone was happy.
In relation to the agricultural and forestry waste, often it has to be taken off the site anyway, and the revenue from transporting it to a nearby energy plant, while only marginal economics is the best option for the owner of this material. Obviously the net economic outcome has to be better than revenue neutral for this to be an option.
In many countries for woody biomass the net return to the timber owner is better for sending to a local energy plant (which may be a small heating plant of 0.5-1 MW cap) than a long distance to a pulp and paper plant (obviously not applicable to Australia where this option is zero in either event and we get our paper from countries with a satisfactorily minimal level of governance and felling of rainforest in all directions).
Re your last paragraph it is all about the policy. And all about having good information. This situation if a real example should not be possible in a properly run country that makes claim to anything like good government. That being said, it could be anywhere in more remote (from that expletive-deleted capital city) rural Victoria.


Andrew do you know what kind of population base that the MSW plant in Finland is servicing. $80 per ton is the cost of dumping rubbish in Brisbane currently so I guess there is no issue with that. Although I do not know how this would work in India.

About my story I did read it in a newspaper, from memory it was the Australian, and I think that it may have been Western Australia. but you never can tell with journalists.
‘Nunquam corrumpo a bonus fabula per dico verum’.

Yes I agree with you it is hard to imagine the above happening in well governed country but unfortunately when it comes to governance it is all about winning the next election.


The Vantaa plant draws from the southern province that includes Helsinki, Espoo, Porvoo and Vantaa, so from about 1.5 million people. It works out at about 0.6 kg/person/day (but of course a significant fraction of this comes from business, institutions, commerce etc in that region).
The tax on landfill was 50 euro/tonne adn other costs may have been involved. But legislation to divert waste to energy rather than into landfill from the start of 2016 has been probably the main trigger for constructing this and shutting down a CCGT plant..'sWaste-to-EnergyPlant.aspx
This is the fourth or fifth such plant built in Finland (though the most efficient and with lowest emissions of heavy metals etc.) and I have visited another that gasifies dry sorted MSW to fire a furnace with the cleaned up gas to produce 50 MW-e and 90 MW-TH.
Come the day when policy people here wake up to the fact that this sort of plant can kill two birds with one stone – produce dispatcheable, at least 50% renewable electricity plus heat, plus cut the logistical issues and costs of filling distant quarries with city MSW. All for less than the overall capital costs of a windfarm with the same output. Three or four of such plants could utilise the MSW from Melbourne or Sydney, and one could deal with the MSW of the Newcastle region.
I understand that there are 6 WtE plants near completion in India and possibly more. I am involved in the pre-feasibility studies of one for Khartoum.


To Tony Corden.
Please explain what is FUD about explaining the importance of a high utilisation rate to the economics of high capital cost, low operating cost equipment.


Peter Farley, your estimates of nuclear costs are wildly inflated, by a factor of 3 or more.

The North Anna 3 project you cited is for a 1.47 GW ESBWR reactor, not an AP1000 reactor as you murkily suggested. Its yearly output at 90 percent capacity factor would be 11.6 TWh, not 7.2 twh as you reckoned. In any case the cost numbers on that are speculative and supplied by opponents of the plant in the source you cite. You have also treated total costs as overnight costs and inappropriately added an increment for financing costs, and additional inflations whose rationale is obscure.

For a sound worst-case cost estimate, let’s look at the twin AP1000 reactors currently under construction at the Vogtle plant in Georgia. The Georgia public service commission gives a worse-case cost scenario, assuming an 87-month delay, of $21.7 billion in total, including financing costs. (The current forecast is a 39 month delay and much lower cost. See Hayet’s testimony, Table 3, Note that the nominal costs, $9.9 billion, are for Georgia Power’s 45.7 percent of the plant. ) That’s AU$30.5 billion for total costs including financing costs, not the AU$44 billion in total costs you reckoned above. And that’s for a two-unit plant of 2.234 GW capacity, which at 90 percent capacity factor will generate 17.6 twh, not the 7.2 twh you assumed.

So a similar two-unit AP1000 plant in Australia would cost a third less and produce 2.4 times more electricity per year than you estimated. And those are worst-case estimates for plants suffering from serious FOAK setbacks and overruns. We can expect an nth of a kind Australian plant to be quite a bit cheaper, and much cheaper than the costs you have reckoned for a wind and solar alternative. (The twin-unit AP1000 build at VC Summer in South Carolina is running about 20 percent cheaper than the Vogtle build.)


I am happy to be corrected on the capacity of North Anna 3. and also that the quoted building costs include the financing costs up to commissioning

However generation at 90% is a dream. the world fleet averages 71% and France is currently running at 67% and as Eclipse Now constantly reminds us it exports huge amounts of power and has large hydro, both of which enable it to make use of excess power. Therefore it is highly unlikely that a plant in Australia would have a higher duty cycle than those in France.

1.All the plants you mentioned are on brown field sites with existing grid connections saving somewhere $0.5b and $1b.
2. Building 2 plants on one site also saves anywhere up to 10% of the cost of the two plants
3. Financing costs in Australia are more than 2/3rds higher than costs in the US and all the plants you mentioned have large loan guarantees from the US government and tax rebates from the state and local governments
3. Labour costs in the US vs Australia including large numbers of skilled expats
4. Cooling systems will have to be larger.
5. Transport costs of large components

On the first Australian plant this will increase costs by at least 35-45% if not more. Let’s say we can reduce that by 20% due the learning curve. so the US$22b x 1.4 x 0.8 /0.71/2 is about A$17.5b per plant.

The US plant running at say 80% utilization will run about 15.6TW.hrs. The finance and depreciation costs over 30 years at 4.5% interest work out at abit under A$0.95b per year not including maintenance operation or fuel. That works out at $123 per

The Australian plant reaching the French average 67% utilisation , (a heroic assumption given our lack of experience and grid conditions) would generate 13TW.hrs. At 7.0% interest that would be $230 per just for the plant. No grid reinforcement, no storage, no spinning reserves.

In addition you have a little over A$30/MW in operating costs (,-Operation,-Waste-Disposal-Life-Cycle) plus management and profits of say another $15-25. So for an adequate return on investment you have to get someone to stump up some billions in grid/storage/spinning reserve costs and then get around A$280 -$290 at the plant gate if you can instantly reach French levels of efficiency.

This I agree is lower than my previous estimates but it is more than double the price of renewables


you’re out of date again! Are you doing this on purpose? Are you just a troll? Can you try to strive for accuracy just once, just to help your credibility? Otherwise I’m going to start attacking solar PV prices based on quarter century old data!
“The USA has 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 different power companies. Since 2001 these plants have achieved an average capacity factor of over 90%, generating up to 807 billion kWh per year and accounting for 20% of total electricity generated. Capacity factor has risen from 50% in the early 1970s, to 70% in 1991, and it passed 90% in 2002, remaining at around this level since. In 2014 it was a record 91.9%. The industry invests about $7.5 billion per year in maintenance and upgrades of these.”–nuclear-power/


Grow up. I have pointed out differences, I haven’t abused you.

I didn’t quote US figures, I quoted world figures and official French figures published in August, they are not out of date. I agree that the US is achieving higher output. However the plants only supply 19.5% of US output and therefore can supply the residual load while everything else ramps up and down around them. They can also export power to Canada and Mexico.

You quote Korea where Nuclear is just under 29%, Well look what a success this is from Power Magazine. An industry magazine around since 1892 obviously a green left publication

……”South Korea’s difficult power supply issues have been aggravated by an ongoing documentation scandal involving its essential nuclear plants, and the future of its economy depends upon efforts to balance energy security and environmental concerns.

South Korea, the world’s eighth-largest trading nation, whose trade volume has surpassed $1 trillion for two straight years, barely avoided blackouts between June and August this summer after the country’s nuclear regulator was compelled to temporarily shut down or suspend resumption of six of its 23 reactors.

The cause: A wide-ranging documentation scandal that has since morphed into a political firestorm of corruption allegations traded between the state-owned nuclear company and the industry, and within the government itself. It began in November 2012 when investigators found thousands of substandard parts with forged quality warranties installed in reactors. This May, further scrutiny uncovered control cables used in emergency shutdown that failed safety checks but were still installed in several reactors with fake warranties.

And as temperatures rose this June, grid operator the Korea Power Exchange warned that reserve margins had dipped precariously low, and it was forced to slash power use by 6 GW to counter debilitating electricity supply shortages. The country’s energy ministry at the time also demanded that local conglomerates curb power use by 15% to avoid a grid failure. The problem now stands to worsen over the coming winter and through next summer, putting the country’s booming economy on hiatus.”

As the market penetration increases the amount of time that the power available from any given technology that cannot be absorbed increases. That is why France’s units only operate at 67%.

Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy

We Aussies can do anything. Having been heavily involved with a number of businesses that exported 90% of their high technology large industrial equipment I have a fair idea of Australia’s industrial strengths and weaknesses.

I also know that when you put new equipment in a new environment there are large adaption and start up costs.

As to my expertise, Every week $1-2m of heavy industrial equipment developed by me is sold around the world. I have helped build factories in Australia, China, the USA and many other countries. I also know that when I design a new factory or machine, the time and cost involved to get to the stage that Thorcon are at, takes about 2% of the cost and 3-5% of the manhours and 5-10% of the project time. I have been doing it for 40 years and my customers release 2-3 new products every year. I also know that more than half of the projects which get to the Thorcon stage stop at some time because there is some insurmountable barrier and most of the remainder suffer significant delays.

This is not to say that Thorcon et al should not be pursued but to think they are a short to medium term solution to the world’s problems is just fantasy


Peter F,
South Korea’s inspection regime needs some work. That’s a political and management issue, not an intrinsic issue with the technology itself. Also, as an expert in building factory systems, surely you have to grant that a production line involves the manufacture and supply of standardised safety systems and parts? Standardisation. Inspection. Management.

But even in this ‘catastrophe’ of South Korea having a few brownout issues, 6/23 is still pretty good compared to renewables!


Roger Clifton.
You don’t read information but you know it is wrong. I will try to be a bit more succinct but facts require explanations, insults not much.

Eclipse Now
Your point in the last two excerpts from my previous post? See 4 below for an alternative explanation

No, none, zero GenX reactors, Nuscale, Prism nor Thorcon or any of the others are licensed yet. GE Hitachi is progressing licensing in the UK not of PRISM, but their Gen III ABWR even though their promotional material targets the PRISM expressly at the UK.
Therefore currently available western nuclear designs are EPR, ABWR and AP1000. They are all supposed to cost US$6-8k per kW on brownfield sites but so far are 20-100% more expensive. I am sure that cost will come down.
Wind costs $1.5-2.5/kW or the equivalent of US$3-6 at equivalent output. Wind turbines can be placed throughout the grid reducing the cost of grid upgrades and smoothing the output from any windfarm, but still require storage. Wind power cost per delivered has been falling at 5-8% per annum for the last decade and capacity factors have been rising form 15-20% ten years ago to 35-50%+ for windfarms completed in the last 2-3 years. The operating and maintenance cost of nuclear is around $30/ The operating and maintenance cost of wind is $1-3/
Once the output of any power generator or class of generators is above the minimum demand in the grid they cannot sell power so by definition their capacity factor falls from whatever the theoretical maximum is. That is why American nuclear is at 90% because the output of the American Nuclear system is barely higher than the minimum demand on the system. In contrast France with a 70% nuclear system runs at 67%. Australia for many reasons which I have explained at length is unlikely to exceed France’s levels, particularly if we were to have a lot of nukes.
Re molten salt, the two projects with any real money behind them are the Indian and Chinese projects. The Chinese hope to have a commercial prototype running in 10 years, (their original plan was 25 years).
Therefore with any technology that you can actually contract for today, wind in Australia is cheaper than nuclear.

Wind has problems with
a) (big Problem) with storage
b) grid re-inforcement.

Nuclear in Australia has problems with
a) scale (excess local capacity),
b) therefore an even bigger problem with grid re-inforcement
c) short term spinning reserves.
d) skills
e) security
f) storage (not as big as wind)
g) cost and
h) delivery time.

Re storage there are dozens of types of storage most of which are cheaper than batteries however in Australia storage as backup is less important than in Northern hemisphere. We do not get weeks of overcast still weather. According to the BOM on 98% of hot days in Victoria there are fair or stronger winds in western Victoria. In the afternoon on hot days there is solar and as the day progresses the winds pickup and in the late afternoon as solar disappears, hydro can be ramped up as necessary. I am not saying we don’t need storage or even that we have anywhere near enough but we need days not weeks.
Re economies of scale most new products find a niche at a high price and use the funds from that to scale up production over 10-15 years during which time technology and scale allow price reductions of 5-10 times which is what has happened with phones, computers and dare I say solar panels and wind turbines. Where is the niche that will pay 4 or 5 times NOAK for SMR’s
When the SMR’s are actually available they will hopefully reduce the problems of cost, scale, and grid reinforcement but they will still need fast response backup and storage.
The numbers I gave you yesterday already included the lower costs of plant Vogtle not Hinckley Point. Allowing 90% utilisation for the US and 75% for Australia and 5% of sales for general admin, 5% for risk and a 10% profit margin Nuclear from new plants in the US will cost A$135/ (US11c/ a lot less than Hinckley Point and in Australia it will be A$245 (A24.5c/ vs 8.9c/ in the recent ACT wind auctions These costs do not include storage or grid reinforcement in either case.

In 10 years time who knows what will the optimum solution be. At the moment it is wind and solar backed up by gas and hydro.


PeterF gets the ‘Understatement of the year’ award for the following contribution!
Apparently nuclear power has “problems” with…

“f) storage (not as big as wind)”
Really? Nuclear power doesn’t have a overwhelming desire to be OFF more than it is ON? As in, OFF 2/3rds of the day, most days? Wow. I never knew! ;-)


In the 1970s Sweden donated a pair of Waste-to-Energy incinerators to India, where they failed. Waste arriving at the plants had already been depleted in combustibles by small workshops that made kindling and briquettes for family cookers. Are someone trying to do these guys out of a job, again?


PS: In case you try to play semantic games about ‘world’ nuclear capacity versus American, you’d have to justify why some very specific local circumstances in some specific countries are now intrinsic to the technology. In other words, justify why we are so dumb that we cannot build reactors as good as the Americans? I find it insulting that you play such cheap and dishonest games with statistics. Being Aussies, we’d shoot for the best technology and highest capacity factors for the highest economic returns.

“Considering 400 power reactors over 150 MWe for which data are available: over 1980 to 2000 world median capacity factor increased from 68% to 86%, and since then it has maintained around 85%. Actual load factors are slightly lower: 80% average in 2012 (excluding Japan), due to reactors being operated below their full capacity for various reasons. One quarter of the world’s reactors have load factors of more than 90%, and nearly two thirds do better than 75%, compared with about a quarter of them over 75% in 1990. The USA now dominates the top 25 positions, followed by South Korea, but six other countries are also represented there. Four of the top ten reactors for lifetime load factors are South Korean.”


Will Boisvert, thank you for your clear voice of reason.

Peter Farley, are you a religious preacher or something? Your rant is too voluminous to read. In case you would have the casual reader believe that renewables baseload costs half of nuclear baseload, may I say that that is a whopper.

Urging people to believe in renewables baseload dangerously misleads them from the only practical energy solution to the holocaust ahead.


Hi all,
Just look at PeterF’s claims here! Wow. What can you do when someone believes this? So many half truths smuggled into blithe assumptions that I hardly know where to begin?

As the market penetration increases the amount of time that the power available from any given technology that cannot be absorbed increases. That is why France’s units only operate at 67%.

Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy<<<


Hey, formatting on wordpress comments: three right facing arrows indents the text in a cool way! But it didn’t work for his second paragraph, so must need them for each paragraph. This was also his.

Peak demand in any power grid is usually double average demand therefore if all your plants are of one type the utilization will be around 50%. With a 10% reserve margin to cope with outages/maintenance etc. the utilisation will drop below 50%. That is why ALL GRIDS HAVE STORAGE, backup and peak generators. The idea of a 100% nuclear grid, the least flexible and most expensive backup of all is just economic lunacy


BNC Comments Policy requires that you do not stoop to personal attacks or name calling on any other commenter. Some of the new posters here may not be aware that this applies on all threads including the Open Thread. Further instances will be deleted. Thank you.


Peter Farley,

“Generation at 90 percent is a dream. The world fleet averages 71 % and France is currently running at 67 %…highly unlikely that a plant in Australia would have a higher duty cycle than those in France.”

Peter, wrong. The world fleet averages 71 percent capacity factor because 43 Japanese reactors were counted as operational but were not operating because of political shutdowns. France’s CF was 75 percent in 2014 (not 67 percent, see IAEA PRIS database), low because its reactors have to load follow because they provide 77 percent of total electricity. In countries where reactors providef baseload power without load following, as a first plant in Australia would, capacity factors average 90 percent—the US average. 90 percent is the right CF to use for a first Australian plant in baseload operation.

“All the plants you mentioned are on brown field sites with existing grid connections saving somewhere $0.5b and $1billion.”

Both Vogtle and VC Summer are making major grid investments, including new switchyards, substations and transmission lines, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. These costs are included in the total budget I quoted.

“Building 2 plants on one site also saves anywhere up to 10 % of the cost of the two plants.”

Right. That’s why Australia should consider building a 2-unit (or 3, or 4, or 6-unit) plant. Costs less and you get much more clean energy. That’s the whole point, right?

“Financing costs in Australia are more than 2/3rds higher than costs in the US and all the plants you mentioned have large loan guarantees from the US government and tax rebates from the state and local governments.”

Vogtle and Summer are borrowing at about 5-7 percent. (Are you sure Australian interest rates are that much higher than US rates? Do you have data on that?) Vogtle does have an $8.3 billion loan guarantee, about 50 percent of the capital cost. VC Summer has no loan guarantee and is budgeted at about 20 percent less than Vogtle. Neither gets tax rebates from state or local government, but they do get “construction work in progress” financing—customers pay interest on funds borrowed during construction—but those costs picked up by rate-payers are included in the capital costs I quoted above.

“Cooling systems will have to be larger.”

Doubtful. Both Vogtle and VC Summer have cooling towers and are cooled by smallish rivers that get quite warm in the summer. If an Australian plant is cooled by ocean water, it’s likely to use smaller cooling systems.

“Transport costs of large components.”

Nope. Both Vogtle and VC Summer have high shipping costs because they are located well inland of ports. Their components are shipped in from factories hundreds to thousands of miles away, and from overseas.

I just don’t see much substance behind your expectation of higher prices for an Australian AP1000 plant. And since the cost I quoted of AU$30.5 billion was a worst-case scenario for the Vogtle FOAK plant, Australian costs will likely be substantially lower. Worst-case Vogtle is AU$13,652 per kw, while the current mid-range estimate for the VC Summer sister plant is about AU$8,028 / kw, so there’s evidence that a NOAK Australian plant will be much cheaper than I have estimated.
Your estimate of $280-90 per mwh for nuclear is way out of line and based on inappropriate cost and capacity factor assumptions. Let me take a crack at my own calculation, using the US NREL LCOE calculator, for an AP1000 plant. (Australian dollars.)
For a twin-unit AP1000 plant, 2.234 GW, 90 percent capacity factor.
–Plant worst-case capital cost of $30.5 billion. $13,652 per kw
–Total O and M of 5.5 cents per kwh, including 2.5 cents profit, per PF.
–Discount rate of 7 percent, 30-year payback.

The NREL LCOE calculator returns a cost of 19.5 cents per kwh, $195 per mwh. But the plant has a service life of 60 years. During the last 30 years after the mortgage is paid, the costs drop to just the O and M costs of $55 per mwh; over the plant’s lifetime the average cost will be $125 per mwh. So your $280-90 per mwh is way too high. And I assumed worst-case Vogtle nuclear capital costs. At the mid-range estimate for VC Summer, the 60-year average cost would be $97 per mwh.

I won’t try to price the full transmission and storage cost since I only have your cost estimates to go on and I can’t vouch for them.


While I certainly enjoyed my 6 months in Australia some decades ago, that hardly puts me in a position to offer concrete advice.

But generally speaking, nuclear power plants are dispatchable and offer the prospect of a low carbon replacement for other thermal generators. In the USA anyway, grid operators state that they prefer a variety of generation types.

From comments on this thread but also earlier on Brave New Climate I gently suggest that Australian grid operators might well consider adding some SMR nuclear power plants. In the USA Nuscale will be the first with an NRC approved design. They already have a first customer. The South Koreans have an SMR design and interest in selling abroad.

The advantage of SMRs is starting small and working up to replacing all of existing coal burners.

(Just now I can’t readily advocate that here in the Pacific Northwest. Natgas is so inexpensive as to preclude all but mandated wind turbine and solar PV development.)


Why would you want to burn carbon rich waste to generate electricity. That strikes me as rather wasteful.

Most non-fossil energy sources are hard to use for anything mobile. Liquid fuel made from carbon rich waste is an exception (the only one?).

Use nuclear etc. to generate electricity & heat for stationary uses & to process organic waste into liquid fuels which would be used for transporation where such things as electric rail, trolley busses/trucks & ropeways aren’t practical.

Trolly busses
for cargo
and passengers


Jim Baerg says, “Why would you want to burn carbon rich waste to generate electricity. That strikes me as rather wasteful. [instead we should] Use nuclear etc. to … process organic waste into liquid fuels.”

Amen to that. Photosynthesis is good at extracting carbon from the air but hopeless at extracting energy from sunlight. However it is also good at polymerising carbon. Then, by adding energy to poly(HCOH) to get poly(HCH) we get greenhouse-friendly transport fuel.


Heat from compressed air can be saved and used in heating water but there is value in cooled compressed air. Most importantly, it could be expanded to cool air for daytime air conditioning. Mechanical can be more economically done by compressed air and pneumatic motors. This could be water pumping or operation of static machinery. It could, of course be converted to electric power but lighting and electronics are best done by photo-voltaic power for which panels could be mounted on the towers.


PeterF said: “In ten years … wind and solar backed up by gas and hydro”.

On the contrary. We must not install more gas when the IPCC says we must halve carbon emissions every 15 years. There is nothing temporary about gas installations, involving fifty or more years of real estate, gaslines, rights-of-way, and thousands of shareholders scattered through the suburbs, pubs, hate radio, party rooms and corridors of influence. Existing windfarms provide a green excuse for the survival of existing gas power.

Wind-backed-by-gas (OCGT, 35% efficient) saves little or no gas compared to 100% CCGT (60% efficient). In that perspective, the movement to renewables resembles less a protection for the greenhouse than a religious revulsion against nuclear.



I am sorry WordPress deleted my bullet points and confused the meaning a little

I did not mean that we should install much more gas, we have about 8 or 9GW (I think) on the grid now, most of it very little used. I also expect that there will be more storage which allows the CCGT plants to run for longer times not just load following but recharging storage.

I did not say that in 10 years, wind and solar will still be the right solution I said that is the right solution now. In 10 years who knows what the right solution is

No matter what you or I might want, coal will stay around for a long time, we can hasten the attrition but not do it in 5 or even 10 years.

I am keen to see action now and the best action today is wind and solar. If we increase that by 2-5% per year and your forecasts for nuclear come good we will have a 60/40% renewables/nuclear split or vice versa. I don’t care what the split is but opting for nuclear now means very little action for a minimum 3-4 years while the political process grinds on then 6-8 years construction and commissioning. If we are lucky the first GW flows into the system in 2026-28. In the meantime we can add about 10-30GW of renewables and retire 6-12GW of coal leaving nuclear to kill the rest.


“No matter what you or I might want, coal will stay around for a long time, we can hasten the attrition but not do it in 5 or even 10 years.”
What about 15 years? What about 20?
That one word from history that you keep forgetting!


To Will Boisvert.
There is almost no 30 year commercial bond market in Australia but 10 year bonds tend to be some multiple of the 10year government bond. Here the government 10 year bond about 3% in the US, it is a bit over 2%. This is an unusually low spread reflecting the current expectations for faster growth in the US than it is here. There is a risk margin which would also be higher for the first few plants in Australia.

To clarify my calculations I used 4.5% for the US and 7% for Australia. An analogue is that US mortgage rates are about 3% ours is about 5%

If as you say plant Vogel is paying 5-7% even with a government guarantee then that pushes both costs higher.

I agree that a nuclear plant should last 60 years but this usually includes a $3b or so life extension after 30-40 years. Adding this back in and spreading the total repayments actually means that the costs over 60 years are little different to the 30 year costs, better but not much

Re cooling, it is swings and roundabouts the problem with river cooling is the energy to run the cooling tower. The problem with seawater is fouling and corrosion. So that the cooling still works for a reasonable period of time without cleaning it every day and replacing the whole heat exchanger every few years.they are built with thicker tubes of higher cost materials and usually longer runs, which means more pumping losses and still higher maintenance than a fresh water system.

Re transport. In the US most of the transport of heavy items would be from barge dock at or near the manufacturer to the dock on the river. Here, as it will be politically impossible to build nuclear power plants in ports, serious infrastructure will be needed.

Construction costs in Australia in 2012 were claimed to be 40% higher than the US. This gap has reduced but it is still above US rates and they have an experienced nuclear workforce so I still believe costs will be substantially higher for the first few Australian plants


you’re talking about business as usual, but war-time-emergency thinking can achieve far more. What if society had some education and agreed to wean off coal ASAP? What if energy were nationalised? Have you figured out how many 1GW reactors, or even better, 300MW SMR’s it would take to replace Australia’s coal? Once again:

///In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%.///


I posted a reply yesterday but it seems to have disappeared into the ether.
We have about 58GW of commercial generation on the grid of which 8 is hydro and if memory serves me correctly there is about 1 GW of biomass, landfill gas etc. In Australia the wind is never zero across the grid so we can count on at least 1GW of wind in the afternoon peak and some far west solar. In a long drought you might be able to count on 5GW of hydro and 2GW of other.
At the grid edge there is an unknown amount of Cogen and about 4GW of solar.
It is a bit hard to track down peak system wide demand. Because of grid bottlenecks whole states can be at peak but generation underutilised in other areas but I think worst case demand is about 50-55GW.
So therefore the remaining thermal demand is 50-5-2 is 42-48GW

There are three big unknowns
One is how will increasing energy efficiency (the best low carbon option) intersect with increasing electrification of heating and transport and population growth vs lower industrial intensity. There is reasonable evidence to suggest that if the right policies are set and we approach the energy efficiency levels of other advanced countries, electrical demand will fall slowly over time.

The other is how will markets be re-arranged. The current moves toward higher fixed charges and excessive regulation of distributed storage and generation under the guise of protecting the grid are really efforts to protect the old guard. It is not an easy task to design an electricity system that is reliable, safe and economical but it is safe to say that current trends in pricing and regulation do not encourage the best outcomes.

Small amounts of local storage either at the premises or the local substation can have significant benefits in increasing reliability and reducing the investment in peak rated transformers, transmission lines and even generators, so I would expect that over the next 15 years that investment will increase but to what level I don’t know.

In summary if everything goes in an optimum direction peak demand will be anywhere between 35 and 40GW. If we get the policies wrong and the de-industrialisation trend reverses it could be 60-65GW

Now most grids want a 5-10% reserve margin and you can only be sure of about 90% of capacity due to outages, maintenance etc. In our case on really hot days a number of plants may be de-rated if the temperature is too high and finally the afore-mentioned grid bottlenecks might be significantly reduced but will never be eliminated, so in total you probably need about 120-130% of peak demand nominally on the grid to guarantee no power problems on a few hot days. In practice that is just overkill so you could cut it back to about 110% with a small risk of some load shedding for a couple of hours every 3 or 4 years

The scenarios below are both simplistic because it will never be an either/or solution. Whether its gas or whatever, there will still be FF backup. For example if we have 10GW of gas running flat out for 100 hours per year and at an average of half capacity for 500 hours a year it would only generate about 2% of our annual demand and reduce our GHG emissions from power by 97% but eliminate about $50-70b in investment in nuclear or $30b in storage

However if there is no fossil fuel capacity available and we muddle along in the middle of the above scenarios we would need to plan for somewhere between 45 and 55GW of nuclear.

Assuming the current figure of US$6-8k per kW falls by 25% over time we are talking about A$7-8 per kW that is between $320 and $420b.

Now if we build an additional 35GW ($2.50/kw) of wind and 35GW ($2.5/kW) of solar with 40-50 GW ($3.5/kW) of mainly pumped hydro storage and assume that the project is spread over the same time period and the solar and wind drop by the same 25% but storage only falls by 5% then we are looking at an investment $260-300b.

Coming to your point of a war footing, Either is doable, spread over 10-12 years it represents about 2-3% of GDP about 30-50% more than we currently spend on defence or between 30-40% of peak fixed capital expenditure in the mining and gas industry.

The final question is politics. With nuclear you have 5 big enemies (coal and gas miners, existing generators, GW deniers, debt and deficit hawks, most of the greens and the general population) and a couple of small friends (some greens and the nuclear industry). With renewables you have 3 big enemies (Existing coal and gas miners, most of the existing generators and GHG deniers) and some larger friends.

That means if every pro nuclear person did a fantastic job of converting everyone they knew it would take at least 4 years before tenders are called for the first nuclear plant. a year to award the tender and 6-8 years till commissioning so the first GW on the system in 2017 if we are very lucky. In the meantime if we just go back to 2-3GW of wind and solar that we were building 4 years ago (which is now much cheaper) in 2027 we would have an additional 25-35GW on the system producing 10 times the power of the first nuclear plant.

I am not saying don’t spend R&D money, don’t keep campaigning for nuclear. I am saying expand energy efficiency programs, keep going with current renewables and prepare for lower cost nuclear.

If in 30 years time the mix is 70% nuclear and 30% renewables or 20/80 the other way I don’t care. Start now, invest regularly and each year, award contracts on the basis of the best combination of reliability/ long term cost and safety. For all we know in 10 years time the best answer might be supercritical CO2 geothermal. My concern with advocating nuclear too strongly today is that it provides a wedge for all the anti’s (blue, red and green) to do nothing and we continue to be the OECD’s worst emitter.

I have enjoyed the conversation learnt a lot and I hope you have too but I have been neglecting my work and so I am signing off this thread


Do as the UAE has done: hire the South Koreans to build their IAEA approved nuclear power plants after the civil works are completed by local contractors.


Peter Farley,

–“In contrast France with a 70 percent nuclear system runs at 67 % [capacity factor]”

Peter, no, in 2014 France got 77 percent of its electricity production from nuclear with a 75 percent capacity factor. Look it up in the IAEA PRIS database.

–“To clarify my calculations I used 4.5 % for the US and 7% for Australia. An analogue is that US mortgage rates are about 3 % ours is about 5 %….If plant Vogtle is paying 5-7 % even with a government guarantee then that pushes both costs higher.”

Vogtle and Summer are financed partly by the utility’s equity, which will get a regulated rate of return of 10-11 percent. The weighted average cost of capital for the project is therefore probably about 7-8 percent. In short, the Vogtle budget does not reflect lower financing rates than you have reckoned for Australia.

–“Re Transport. In the US most of the transport of heavy items would be from barge dock at or near the manufacturer to the dock on the river.”

Nope. There is no barge traffic up the Savannah River to Vogtle. Heavy components come in by rail and truck. A partial exception was Unit 3’s giant deaerator, which made it a short way up the Savannah by barge but then had to be hauled the final 75 miles by truck.

–“I agree that a nuclear plant should last 60 years but this usually includes a $3 b[illion] or so life extension after 30 or 40 years. Adding this back in and spreading the total repayments actually means that the costs over 60 year are little different to the 30 year costs, better but not much.”

Where on earth are you getting $3 billion from? That’s in addition to the normal repair and replacement budget in O and M? And even if it were true, that barely changes lifetime nuclear costs.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that your $3 billion is correct. (Australian dollars.) That’s a cost of $1343 per kw, amortized over the last 30 years of the plant’s life at 7 percent, and added to O and M of $55 per mwh. Using the NREL LCOE calculator, that gives a total cost of $69 per mwh during the last half of the plant’s life. Averaging with the 30-year cost of nuclear power of $195 per mwh, lifetime cost would go up just a little, from $125 to $132 per mwh, assuming your $3 billion refurbishment charge. Even by your own faulty reckoning of $245 per mwh for 30-year costs (glad it’s going down!), the 60-year cost would be $157 per mwh. That’s a big difference.

Again, this is all assuming that worst-case Vogtle FOAK costs apply. Other FOAK AP1000 builds are coming in much cheaper, and costs will likely fall still lower for NOAK Australian builds. And of course, it’s for a quality and reliability of nuclear power that is incomparably superior to wind and solar.


I failed to mention why one ought to consider the South Korean reactors. The all-in cost for the 4 generator NPP being constructed for the UAE is close to US$4500/kW. All-in means that includes the civil works including the transmission lines.


Jens Stubbe said (since deleted or moved below) that Denmark extracts “natural gas and a lot of excess CO2. It has been suggested to use the CO2 together with excess electricity to produce methane that can be stored and sold as natural gas”. The Sabatier reaction requires elevated temperature.

Natgas (methane) plus CO2 plus wind electricity could also make methanol, a synfuel in a process that requires elevated pressure. But that process too, would have to function intermittently and still break even cost-wise.


It is appropriate that COP 21 is held in France as its CO2 emissions from electricity generation are just 40gms/kWh due to nuclear technology.

If the world had followed the French lead in 1975 and replaced fossil fuels with nuclear to generate electricity there would be no climate change emissions issue today.

Yet it is unlikely that any of the COP 21 delegates including the current French Government will promote nuclear technology due to their anti science, anti nuclear political beliefs and instead will promote Germany’s renewable achievements. As a result COP21, like the previous 20 climate conferences, will deliver no meaningful emission reductions.

Germany is replacing nuclear with renewables, and new coal burning power stations that load follow renewable intermittency to provide electricity when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.
As a result Germany’s CO2 emissions from electricity generation are 576gms/kWh or 14 times higher than France.

German CO2 emissions from power generation are virtually unchanged since 1997 at about 365Mt per year despite renewable production rising from 25TWh in 1997 to 155TWh in 2013.

Despite this evidence the French Government is also planning to replace its nuclear fleet with renewables.

No wonder prominent climate scientist, Jim Hansen has called on the global community to stop donating to anti science organisations that pay professional anti nuclear activists to spread misinformation about nuclear power. See page 14 of his 2014 paper.

Click to access 20140221_DraftOpinion.pdf


the facts are that electricity is only 25-30% of national energy use, and so making that 25% lower is not a solution in itself to rising GHG emissions.
It is countries like Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and yes Germany, that are working on the other 75% – production of heat for industry and for space heating, for transport, and in warmer countries for space cooling – that have got it straight.
Sweden with its 40-45% of electricity from nuclear and declining demonstrates how this can be done using biomass as its largest energy source. Sweden’s target is for final energy from biomass by 2020 to be 39%, and for all import of fossilf uels to have ceased by 2030.
In Sweden’s case this now means national GHG emissions per capita of below 6 tonne. It also means a strong forestry sector and healthy rural and regional economies, with increasing share of ‘energy spending’ retained in the local economies.
In the case of Germany biogas provides up to 5% of baseload electricity (never something we hear of), and other forms of biomass and waste provide another 5% of electricity, with significant contribution to heat energy and transport fuels from conversion of biomass and bio-wastes.
Australia could fruitfully go down this path instead of the present fixation with wind and solar PV with their intermittency, social, recycling and cost issues.
Bioenergy is scaleable, cheap, decentralised, the ash and residues returned to the production site, lots of jobs in supply chains, real contribution to national energy security and carbon sequestration, utilises the vast annual amounts of economically available wastes (not native forest residues as these are uneconomic to access), plus reduces GHG emissions/MWh of electricity and heat to near zero, and ditto per GJ of transport fuel. What’s not to like? So why are the Greens and other allied groups so silent on this option?


if the world had followed the French lead in 1975 – no pacific island atoll would not have been violated, the background radiation level would have gone off the scale, and the harbours would be full of sunken trawlers.
A visit to the museum at Hiroshima is very instructive not only to get a glimpse of the way people can be blind to outcomes of taking such a path, but because the City of Hiroshima keeps a careful record of every balls-up, accident and incident in the nuclear industry both peaceful and military.
Human error and human nature are responsible for most of them. Arrogance and stupidity for some. Simple mechanical failure for many. Pure unpredictable event or sequence of events for some. That’s before getting into the present period of international tensions, religious extremism, global jihad and 7.5 billion heading for 10 billion people wanting space.


I agree that we need to have a whole of Government and community approach to emissions reduction and in this regard I also see Sweden as a role model to follow. On this site it has been stated many times that no one technology will be the answer but compelling evidence shows that only nuclear can do the heavy lifting.
For example World Bank CO2 emissions from energy production in tonnes per capita for the countries you mentioned, plus some others are;
France 5.2
Sweden 5.5
Denmark 7.2
Austria 7.8
Germany 8.9
Finland 10.2
Australia 16.5
China 6.7
USA 17.0
If Denmark, Austria, Germany, China, USA and Australia copied the best of what France and Sweden are doing, real progress in emissions reduction will be achieved.
Rhetoric and emotion will not help reduce global GHG emissions, it will only be solved by data driven decision making.


Andrew, biomass for heating purposes is only possible in such large volumes in Sweden because of the high ratio of biomass per capita. Try installing that regime in China and India and you won’t have a forest left! Biomass CANNOT SCALE UP because it would create worldwide starvation.

You mentioned heating? Heat pumps, whether just reverse cycle air conditioners or underground pumping systems, can run on clean nuclear power.

Nuclear power can be the reliable cheap alternative to oil as well, especially with oil replaced by New Urbanism & eco-cities, trains, trams, and trolley-buses, and automated hydrogen and boron and electric cars filling in any transport gaps. Hydrogen requires a hydrogen highway: that’s the chicken and egg problem for any early adopters. EV’s have an electric grid, but even Tesla’s family car due out in 2017 is estimated to be around $40,000. That’s too much for me!

Boron cars would have a slightly different engine but should be around today’s car prices. The fuel would be much cheaper! So cheap you could buy the initial boron for your car (about $200, or over $400 for 2 lots), and then recycle that for ever by just mailing it to your country’s first boron recycler. Even with the cost of mail & de-rusting it would be cheaper than petroleum. It solves the chicken-and-egg problem of early adopter cars in a country without the fuelling system to run them.

As the boron economy eventually grew you would just swap the boron over at your local garage or shops, and eventually sell the spare tub back, or keep it in your garage for a blackout. Hydrogen leaks terribly and can explode. Boron only burns in a super-oxygenated environment. It’s safe, so you can store it for years. Your car could operate as a backup power station during blackouts, which is not that big a deal here but in Canada could be the difference between life and death in a snowstorm.
Nuclear power + boron (and a few synfuels for airlines) would solve energy security, climate change, air pollution and associated health costs, and deliver clean driving in clean cities with a far safer fuel.


the Swedes only have a high rate of accessible biomass per capita (not countring the heavily forested but more remote northern third and most of the western mountains) because after the mass emigration to the USA from the 1850s and through into the 1920s the landowners planted so much impoverished subsistence country back to forest.
Other countries not blessed with surplus land for production of food include Ireland and Denmark but replanting programs are going on there now with Denmark aiming for something like 20% under forest by 2100 (up from about 12% now). The reality is that it is overclearing of forest that in the end reduces food production – the ideal is to have both managed in a balance of say 30-40% forest and 60-70% agriculture (without being silly about it and you could take up to to 80:20 or down to 15-85 depending on the climate, terrain and soils).

China is a leader in development of a number of different bioenergy technologies and has the target to establish 40 million ha of newer forest plantings by 2030 (mostly into land that for various reasons are not productive regions to produce food, due to rainfall, slope, erodability…) and apart from plantings of indigenous trees and shelter belts of poplar already has among the largest plantings of eucalyptus in the world.
So with forestry you can have your cake and eat it too. It is about sustainable management and effective long term planning. It is also about efficient use and good tranport systems. More area under trees does not necessarily mean less food, and certainly does not mean less water flowing out of catchments – it is all about getting it right with species, placement and design of layout.

And it is not about the end of the world as we know it if we commence scaling up of biomass for energy as it is already scaled up – it is just that so much of its use is is inefficient. It is much more about the technology used and the move from inefficient systems to more efficient and interrelated systems and of producing the higher value products as well as heat and electricity.

And I am not advocating only one source of energy, just that it is idiocy to advocate a narrow few that are problematic for a range of reasons, in preference to others that are less problematic and are proven and economic.

For some reason people are attracted to the most high-tech option – methane fuel cells, hydrogen, boron – whatever is shiny, has flashing lights and goes beep – while ignoring the option of improving the existing systems. It is the 1970s Scientific Mechanic mindset that new (and preferably bigger) is always better. The salvation of the world in reality will probably prove to be improvements on the technology used by the Amish, not the cold fusion plant under every kichen counter.

The modern version of the Pritchard steam car using updated materials and management systems would be a fast start, low emission and silent thing, running on biofuels and with about three moving parts in the engine.
By the end of WW2 J.Kalle in Sweden had developed a small efficient charcoal gasifier that was also fast start and only weighed a fraction of the older gasifiers – the modern gasifier (combined heat and power plant) made by Spanner in Germany and Volter in Finland is an example of this approach. This sort of 35-50 kW-e 80-120 kW-th system genuinely allows a cluster of houses to go off the grid and be self sufficient for all electricity and heat needs (and cooling in summer) 24/7.
Similarly, Oekofen in Austria is one of the pellet plant makers that now can sell you a 15 kW-th pellet heater that has a 1 kW-e stiling engine driven generator built-in.

Meanwhile the Swedes, Danes and others are focussed on flattening out demand for energy (and have achieved this with heat and electricity) by business and households, and not just per household but on a national basis despite population growth. Here we do it by accident and are suprised to find ourselves in a declining power consumption period despite what was almost a government decree that electricity consumption will increase 2.3%/year (courtesy of Martin Ferguson). There they do it by policy and planning and smart market signals.

Recently there had been in this stream some brash statement that France had the lowest GHG emission in the EU (with the implication that this was due to nuclear production of electricity). And someone else said that the French emissions per capita from the world bank were 5.2 vs Sweden’s 5.5. However that was a CO2 measure only and not CO2-e.
By contrast Eurostat gives GHG/capita of Sweden as 4.8 and France of 5.7. but the surprise is the figures for Latvia 3.8, Lithuania 4.7, Hungary 4.6, Portugal 4.8, Croatia 4.5, Romania 4.2, Switzerland (yes I know it is not in the EU but anyway) 5.4.
Ranging further afield Wikipedia gives per capita CO2 emissions for Indonesia of 2.6, Mexico 3.9, Brazil 2.4, India 1.7, and China 7.4 (now that is a surprise)


Tom Bond, in regards to heavy lifting, nuclear is the answer only in some people’s eyes.
Obviously there has to be some solid ‘baseload’ supply but this can be from a combination of sources managed within a ‘smart grid’ and the R&D underway on a dozen different directions will yield new opportunity that is not presently obvious.
The work that is being done on the Danish island of Bornholm (and doubtless some Danes can provide up-to-date detail on this) is endeavouring to show what is possible. This is about 1% of both Denmark’s population and land area. I have not checked up on it recently though do see major power flows from the Swedish grid both onto and off the island of up to 20 MW, but electricity is only 25-30% of the picture in that region.
We are clearly in a period of major change and the state of play in 10-15 years will show which way it went, but now this direction is confused and there is a lot of noise.
BetterPlace change-over vehicle batteries are hyped and then disappear. Hydrogen fuel cells are hyped, storage batteries (i.e., Tesla Powerwall) are being hyped, the methane energy economy is hyped.

Meanwhile I’d suggest that Denmark, Austria etc are also aiming high (and with zero nuclear). Denmark for 100% of all energy from renewable sources by 2050 (50% from biomass, and working on electrified transport). Austria for all electricity and heat energy from renewable sources by 2030 (50% from biomass). Germany aiming for 80% of electricity from renewables by 2050, and doubtless similar fractions of heat and transport fuels. So these and many other countries are putting a lot of funding into R&D to provide real breakthroughs, plus investing in infrastructure upgrades.

China is not so easy to read but I heard when there a few months ago that they have about 24 nuclear plants in place and another 26 in construction or process (or the other way around), but a heap of other things going on including major spending on waste to energy and wind & solar PV.
But research going on in all directions, plus corproate plays and I heard that a chinese company has bought the Westinghouse plama torch business. I will be very surprised if there are not similar things happening with other areas of advanced biofuels.


“Obviously there has to be some solid ‘baseload’ supply but this can be from a combination of sources managed within a ‘smart grid’ and the R&D underway on a dozen different directions will yield new opportunity that is not presently obvious.”
All I hear from renewables advocates is that we must just “wait and believe”. Some countries are “aiming high.” But where is the 80% to 90% wind and solar nation? They’re the 2 most abundant forms of renewables, not every nation has decent hydro. So “wait and believe”. This is one of the most contentless posts on this thread.
In the meantime, while we “wait and just believe” coal spews out uranium and thorium and heavy metals and other toxins, the planet cooks, the Arctic summer ice melts, tundra methane is released, spring arrives earlier and the seasons are out of whack, and the seas rise. What planet are you living on? We don’t have time to believe in magic Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies fixing the grid. There is one answer, and one answer only: France already showed us the way, and did it in 15 years, and today we have access to far cheaper, far faster technologies once we build the nuclear factories. South Australia’s Royal Commission has submissions arguing that if we offered to store the world’s nuclear waste, we could charge nations for storing their waste and use those funds to deliver us a state-of-the-art breeder industry that delivered nearly free electricity to SA! But you have reservations. You fear an industry that neatly TRAPS all the nuclear waste and reuses it and then stores it underground for 300 years. You should be fearing coal that spreads radioactive heavy-metal pollutants by dumping it all in the air! Coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste, but you fear the nuclear industry? For Pete’s sake, why?
“ the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.”

Dr James Hansen’s quote applies again! “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”


there is a lot in what you say about trees and food and water compatibility and planning, taking a broader permaculture systems approach to forestry management. That’s all fine, and already on my blog.

But the ultimate ‘land efficiency’ measure is building several gigawatts energy in a complete bunker, putting them all underground, and running the world on old nuclear waste and warheads! That frees up some forests to … just be forests.

Your Amish commentary is quite revealing. I’m amazed you admitted to that. That is precisely what ‘economic refugees’ are fleeing from in Pakistan and Bangladesh and even rural India. They hate what you romanticise. Don’t recommend it until you live it. I might listen to you when you have had to cycle in to a friend’s house to use the internet, because you’re living Amish somewhere.

For the record, I love energy efficiency and simplicity where possible, and back the New Urbanism and Ecocity designs my sister-in-law (with the Phd in this stuff!) recommends. Build it, and then will come. Build trains and trams and trolley buses, and New Urbanism can creep in around it, as well as cycling pathways and good old fashioned walking. But boron robot cars can probably take up some of that slack as well. We’ll need something to keep us moving while we build out these new city systems.

Biomass cannot support the modern world. It cannot. There’s simply not enough land to grow enough fuel. You didn’t learn much from the 2008 grain price crisis. It caused riots in the streets in many poorer nations.

As the Australian Medical Association said:
“Whilst the AMA supports the use of ethanol and biodiesal from a human health perspective we recognise the potentially prohibitive environmental costs and conflict between land use for food and that for fuel particularly in so-called developing countries. Hence although we support the use of both ethanol and biodiesal great care is needed to ensure it is produced in an environmentally sustainable fashion and does not compete with food production capacity in developing countries.”

Also, we’ve just got to stop burning stuff, whether wood fires or charcoal gasifiers or whatever. The pollution is killing us. It’s over all the latest science podcasts. Particulates kill. Didn’t you get the memo?


OT: I have created a Greasemonkey script which eliminates the dark-green right sidebar and widens the text area to increase readability.  If you have Greasemonkey installed under Firefox it is a simple matter to install this script (you may have to de-munge the quotes if WordPress munges them to look prettier).  Here it is:

// ==UserScript==
// @name BNC format fixer
// @namespace
// @description Devotes the BNC window to content, not sidebars of pretty colors
// @include*
// @include*
// @version 1
// @grant GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==


function fixBNCformats()
GM_addStyle( “div.entry-meta.sidebar-bg { display:none; }”);
GM_addStyle( “div#comments.comments-area { margin: 0px 0px 5px 0px; }”);


Internet Explorer users are able to trash the formatting with three keystrokes:
Alt-View-stYle-None (alt-V-Y-N).

This drops the text into a full width, black-on-white, standard font.
(Then you can shout gotcha! but it is probably not necessary.)
PageUp and PageDown allows rapid scrolling to the list of recent comments.


I am posting a URL here for those who will take the time to read it.
There seem to be many who think that in the next twenty years Australia could not build 20 GW of Nuclear Power.
Well follow this URL and see what the Chinese program is–Nuclear-Power/

I am also reposting another reference to the Chinese program on MSR’s and other advanced Nuclear which they have forecast to have a commercial plant operating by 2030.


hi Tony,
love your China references. They’re serious about this! Heard any rumours about what they’re doing about tritium?

Also, anyone know if there is a plasma burner / pyro / chemical method of separating any useful radioactive particles out of medical gloves and syringes and plastics and cloaks?


Unfortunately, The Chinese do not appear big on releasing information. The information that I have found is all in the public domain. The fact that Technology Review has access to this information on the Chinese MSR project is extremely significant in itself.
I suspect that one of the major technical issues the Chinese are dealing with is the tritium issue.
Here is a link to a discussion where Kirk Sorenson discusses the tritium issue.

In relation to the second part of your comment, I would be against burning these low grade or any other grade of radioactive waste and think that the best thing to do with it is simply stick it in a deep whole in the ground. There is no shortage of fissile or fissionable material in the world with the exception of U238.

Indeed one of the great advantages of MSR technology is that the high grade wastes that are currently being stored can be used as fuel for the MSR.

Here is a reference to the five most radioactive naturally occurring places on Earth.

One of those places is the Paralana hot springs inside the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary located in the northern Flinders ranges of South Australia. Right in your backyard so to speak.

As the ambient radiation of this area may well exceed the radioactivity of the materials to be stored no expensive containment buildings would be required.

I suspect that the biggest problem to storing radioactive material here would simply be visual amenity.


Peter Lang asked for easier reading of BNC in Chrome. With ctrl-A, I copy the entire Chrome page and paste it into my text editor. Being a plain text editor, the contents instantly appears in full width, in black-on-white standard font for easy reading, scrolling and searching.


Here is a reference that may be of interest to a few
Rethinking Nuclear: Can We Change the World’s Cumulative Carbon Emissions Soon Enough?

Notice it takes a world view.


Above (Nov. 12), David B. Benson discusses an interesting article entitled, “Why the Best Path to a Low Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power.” Here’s another good one:

Using LCOE To Find The Cheapest Energy Mix For America

“It turns out that building a combination of new natural gas and new nuclear plants, while maintaining existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants as long as possible, gives us the cheapest and most reliable energy future.”


I recently posted a reference to a report about the Chinese progress in the development of Molten Salt Reactor Technology.
Here it is again

My contention is that this is the most important announcement of the 21st century and that it has the potential to change the Energy Industry in the same way that Nikola Tesla showed the world the future of Electricity in the 19th century.


The Costs of Solar Energy to the Environment

Possibly this discussion is useful but it is important to know that Ivanpah is losing money for the investors, generating only about 50% of what was promised. Even the contracted rate is quite high.


I have tried following your link but I can not find the information relating to Ivanpah’s financial status. Not that it would surprise me to hear that it has problems with performance.

I did read the report of the impact that Ivanpah is having on bird life and note that wind turbines also have large quantities of bird and insect life at the base of them.


Tony Carden — The financial failure of the Ivanpah solar thermal project is from memory and around 9 months ago. The basic problem is that there is no longer as much sunlight as was measured when the project was planned. I opine an increase in high altitude aerosols, possibly from China.

I fear you’ll have to search for the news articles but the general tenor is the same as solar thermal projects everywhere: quite expensive.


DBB: Thank you. Much relieved to hear that. We have a lot of work to do before COP21 starts if we can find a way to do it, disarming the poison pills. I don’t know enough about them or who to send email to.


Yes I have previously read this report and found it extremely simplistic. I think any peer review would tear it to pieces.

Here is the reference again.

It does not include any costs for the electricity to refill the pumped hydro system.
It says
‘ the production cost (which would consist of capital payments only as the renewable energy used for pumping would be zero cost) would be $14/MWh.’

You have in one of your posts quoted that the cost of wind energy is $77/MWh so that must be added unless you are going to defy the first law of economics. Which is:

‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’

The above estimate of costs ($14/MWh) by the way is for the best 38 sites (presumably with a capacity of 17 GW) and storing only 332 GWh

This report further says
‘In summary, if all identified schemes at this level of screening are built, then the maximum energy storage would be 516 GWh. Since the average demand in the NEM is approximately 25 GW, the energy stored would be sufficient to supply the NEM for more than 20 hours. 68 total schemes have been identified, with an assumed capacity of 500 MW each. If all these schemes are built, the installed capacity of new pumped storage would be 34 GW.’
The above refers to table 8.1 which I can not copy here. This table identifies 16 Polygons which are presumably combined sites. When you examine this table in conjunction with figure 8.2 it shows varying scenarios eg
Polygon 11 (1site) shows a storage capacity of 1 GWh and a generating capacity of 500MW. So Polygon 11 can run for 2 hours.

Polygon 39 (12 sites) shows a storage capacity of 162 GWh and a generating capacity of 6 GW. So Polygon 39 can run for 27 hrs
Polygons 39, 40, 41, 42 are located in Tasmania and account for 248 GWh which represents 48% of the total storage of the Pumped hydro system.
Polygon I (3 sites) shows a storage capacity of 26 GWh with 1.5 GW generating capacity but it is located in Far North Qld and to the best of my knowledge there is no significant Wind Generators within 2000 klms of FNQ.
Further the local area within 250 klms of this site would never need 1.5 GW of power.
Again this report makes no allowance for Transmission losses which will be considerable.
It further says
‘As stated previously, many of the schemes may not pass a further screening stage for various reasons, including:
– Some may be environmentally infeasible. In this assessment the current land use
categories are not considered as a basis for rejection, but are presented in the respective appendix of results.
– Some may be too expensive in stored energy cost to be justified, compared with other competing storage technologies.’

Further this report says
‘Capital storage costs of more than $1,000,000/MWh may be considered a reasonable upper bound on storage costs for grid based connections such as pumped storage. This would correspond with $1,000/kWh, compared with EPRI’s stated upper level of $430/kWh storage cost.
The upper limit of $1,000,000/MWh translates to an annual cost of approximately $100,000/MWh stored, which, if used on average 100 times per annum, would convert to a levelised cost of $1,000/MWh. Together with any operating costs, the figure of $1,000/MWh may
be a reasonable price to pay for shifting generation from a period of surplus to a period of shortfall using the pumped storage facility as the medium to achieve this, and thus avoid load shedding. The NEM Marginal Price Cap is more than ten times this level at $12,900 from 1 July 2012.’

So the cost of this system is $1000/ MWh to supply 512 GWh which at best is going to supply 25 GW for 20 hours.

This report further says that:
‘Pumped storage power stations typically achieve an average annual capacity factor of 8%, based on daily cycling between generation and pumping modes. Under these, more favourable assumptions, the cost of operations for an annual cost of $100,000/MWh would be $143/MWh.’

Now given this figure does not include any cost for electricity to refill the reservoirs but given that we will be using renewable Wind Electricity for this purpose and the figure which you have quoted for the cost of Wind is $77 per MW. Then the cost per MWh of pumped storage is $220.

Nuclear Power by your own admission is cheaper than this at approx $140 mw

In relation to your scenario of energy sources of 30 percent wind and 10 to 15 percent solar plus I presume the pumped storage system referred to above, can you name one fully independent grid anywhere else in the world which is even close to doing this?

Further having examined this scenario of pumped storage, in my opinion considerable fossil fueled electricity would be used to fill these storage reservoirs because of the intermittency of wind.

Also in relation to your scenario of sourcing 30 % of electricity from Wind, given that the NEM uses about 25 GW means Wind must provide 7.5 GW on average. Even with a capacity factor of 33% this will require an installed capacity of 22.5 GW of wind generation. This is over 5 times the amount of wind capacity that exists now.
I have no idea where you are going to find 2.5 to 4 GW of solar.



I fear we spend a lot of time misunderstanding each others numbers because we only include summaries of the calculations.

My calculation for wind and storage was based on capital charges for both the wind and storage plus O&M. So the figure I calculated already included the cost of the storage, If you have 55GW of current and future generation wind, it will generate about 190-220GWhrs per year so that plus existing solar will generate enough electricity to supply total demand either directly or via recharging the storage so the cost of the electricity for the recharge is already included

However I did use a higher cyclic rate than Roam used because the current pumped storage use case is mainly as a peak shaving rather than valley filling. This is supported by the more detailed study of the operating regime in the MEI study quoted below
Also my wind capacity factors were based on the newest windfarm technology rather than average of existing systems.

My Nuclear figure you quote was for a low penetration system. For a high penetration system where some of the plants are only used for peak and shoulder supply the average cost of Nuclear is close to A$200 even with economies of scale and favourable finance

On one hand on re-reading ROAM I think that I should have included higher unit cost for storage. On the other hand this study from Melbourne University….
suggests that about 10GW/200GWh of storage is required for a fully renewable grid so that will result in much lower total storage costs than I budgeted.

Re wind generation capacity. As I pointed out in another reply to you, to install 55GW of wind needs about 1% of the NEM. The actual land involved for the pads and service tracks for 22 GW of wind is about 2

Re solar we already have 4GW of solar. New panels generate about At 60% coverage another 4 or 5 GW of capacity would require 250 or .05% of the NEM or less than 1/5th of the area of wxisting roofs and paved carparks


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