Time for a new open thread, since apparently the previous one is now loading a little slowly… I’ll close the old one to comments, so please continue discussion here.
As for the quiescence of BNC over the past few months, well, I’ve been travelling — what can I say? But I have a new post to put up tomorrow, and a few others in train.
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.
786 replies on “Open Thread 26”
Can solar PV work with nuclear, instead of against it, by taking the edge off ‘gold plating’ of the electricity grid? Or is solar PV always in direct competition of nuclear? I’ve been pretty hard on renewables on my blog, and am looking to throw a (small) bone to renewables fans.
Well, in most parts of the world, the grid is supplied with nuclear plus something else. Then when solar displaces the something else, the saving on its fuel leaves room for a net profit if the (amortised) solar cost is less. A carbon tax may be necessary to create that difference and justify the investment in solar.
However were nuclear to be displaced, the fuel cost saving for the displaced nuclear power would be utterly negligible, even compared to amortised solar power. For one thing, there has to be enough displaced to justify lengthening the fuel load cycle at all, and that would take one heck of a lot of solar generation.
Eclipse Now — Yes, solar power can work with nuclear power plants to provide a reliable and load following grid. This is simplified by equipping the nuclear power plants with thermal stores. The ThorCon proposal includes provision for a small one. Cal Abel, from Georgia Tech, and co-author have a paper explaining connecting a PRISM to a thermal store. From the paper the reactor generates everything but it is easy to see how to change the sizing to include solar power in sunny climates.
Since utility scale solar panel projects now have an unsubsidized price as low as US$29.10/MWh this looks to be an economic choice.
Solar should only be taken seriously when it can generate 29 $/MWh of baseload. That is, it should be the renewables believers that supply enough storage for solar to bid to supply steady power for 24 h, or 30 mins, or even 5 minutes. Jerking around the honest generators is just sabotage.
Well, I worked out an example some time earlier and posted it to a thread on the Forum. But the idea is clear enough. When solar contributes the nuclear power plant energizes the thermal store. Otherwise, the generator on the thermal store provides the power to the grid; the nuclear power plant keeps on dumping heat into the thermal store.
The exact arrangements depend upon the local situation. Nothing says that this is economic in all localities.
Yes. The EBR2 sat in a pool of hot sodium, supplying a heat store between the core and steam generator. But that was designed for a gently varying load. Power intrusion from solar punishes the system further downstream, cycling the pressurisation of the steamwork, the mechanical stresses on the turbine and generator etc.
Wouldn’t it be better for the power to be diverted to an alternate use? I have in mind heat pumps in a desalination plant, as it is easier to store lots of hot water than a smaller mass of hot steam and would tolerate intermittency. From the grid operator’s point of view, he has permanently diverted the solar to a desal plant, allowing the heavy duty nuclear to continue to steadily generate baseload without punishment.
The Cal Abel proposal, same as mine, generalizes to any heat source. Indeed, it is highly similar to a solar thermal project with the attached heat store. It is the heat store whose temperature varies depending upon the load being supplied and the rate of heat addition.
In particular, while the EBR-II and the derivative PRISM use a molten sodium pool as the primary heat sink for the nuclear reactions, that is not the operational heat store; it is solely for the reactor operation. The secondary sodium loop is to move the heat to a heat store instead of a steam generator. The heat store instead contains the steam generator. There are other variations depending upon the local situation.
The independent heat store might not be necessary in locations where the heat not needed for generating electricity can be beneficially used in desalination. But many locations have enough fresh water.
Yes, sodium woould be a good heat store, with its high temp conductivity averting temp diffs. Temp diffs would defeat any heat store working from low temp input, thus eve n lower output steam.
(Currently travelling and like you, finding response time too slow)
Freshwater? Most Australian cities are constrained . Drained by irrigation, our largest river fails to reach the sea most years. During droughts (you want ‘em, we got ‘em) lack of reserve water causes livestock kill/sell off, oscilatiing markets.
China is building a super-sized aquaduct from its south to north. The increasing variability of the asian monsoon will reduce the capacity of rivers to support the populations of south and south-east asia, as well as the aqueduct.
Groundwater depths are sinking all over the world. It is almost indelicate to mention africa.
As thermal power plants proliferate towards acarbon-free future, their license to cool with inland waters will decrease in hot weather, leaving their operators building/demanding reserve supplies of freshwater to spray for boost into their cooling towers.
Resynch required. Thread is too long.
David, you are quitecorrect. “Plentiful energy” says there was a primary sodium tank enclosing core and heat exchanger to thesecondary sodium tank outside, where steam was raised. Between them was an argon gap, curiously described as “opaque”, which puzzles me. Any clues to what is meant?
The President is reportedly considering the Easter Bunny as his new Apprentice Science Advisor
This graphic illustration
may be useful to some. Brave New Climate has an earlier post by a guest which estimates the continuing supply of uranium obtainable from seawater.
Dong energy submits zero subsidy offshore wind bid in German CfD (contract for differences) auction.
This means that Dong (a Danish company) is happy to take German grid market pool prices for offshore wind electricity with subsidy (which would be a guaranteed floor price for a CfD contract).
The linked article explains Dong’s reasoning. There are a few special factors below relating to this bid which are not necessarily typical, meaning zero-subsidy offshore wind bids may not become commonplace just yet.
The projects have until 2024 to complete installation.
Dong believes it will have 13-15 MW wind turbines by then, reducing the number of turbines required and the cost of the undersea infrastructure work (which is clearly a very major cost component in offshore wind farms).
The German auction prices exclude the grid connection (provided by the German grid) but includes the undersea transmission cables and equipment either end.
The locations are close to DONG’s Borkum Riffgrund 1&2 wind farms so operations and maintenance can use the existing O&M facilities, rather than set up something new.
The areas auctioned have average wind speeds in excess of 10 m/s.
The German authorities are (not surprisingly) happy to extend the (zero subsidy) contract period from 25 to 30 years, enabling Dong to finance the project over a longer period of time, though this only matters if the interest rates are pretty low.
Dong believes the project is feasible on a technical and economic basis with no subsidy based on its own projection of long-term German wholesale electricity prices, but does have until 2021 to confirm a final project decision.
Anyone here have a reddit account? Reddit is one of the world’s largest internet forums, and the various sub-forums you can subscribe are called subreddits. Some people use it as their ‘start page’ for the internet. I have subscribed to a bunch of subreddits around climate change, world news, Mars, and other subjects. Every time I click on Reddit, I see the latest posts on all these subjects, and if I want to close in on Mars, I just click the Mars subreddit button at the top of my reddit browser.
It seems to me that while the BNC blog users have complained that the BNC forum is yet another website to have a username and password for, many people already have a reddit account. It might be worth the moderator having a play with reddit and thinking about starting a subreddit for BNC? There’s already a nuclear power subreddit I visit frequently.
Moderator hints & tips
Here is a prediction that we will use more electricity and less petrol in the future:
I had to read this twice to fully grasp the implications of using resistance heaters just to raise steam:
I think this is done in order to regulate the grid frequency in the face of wind farms and solar panels.
I too am intrigued but more by the PV systems in Switzerland, I wonder what the CF for those systems are.
Roger Clifton — I found my copy of “Plentiful Energy” so if you will indicate the page to read about this strange remark, I will give it a try.
DBB, “Plentiful Energy”, page 109, has the puzzling remark about argon gas (between the sodium tanks of ebr2) being opaque.
Another faulty headline, but this article does include some interesting points:
View at Medium.com
Meanwhile, here’s an article published yesterday, my response to the Turnbull announcement on Tasmanian energy sector.http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/can-tasmania-be-turned-into-australias-peak-load-generator/
Thanks Chris, nice article. It would be great to get more of the costs of this system and compare how much (coal fired) energy is going to be stored compared to how much nuclear energy could be generated for 60+ years. That kind of bottom-line comparison usually either wins renewables advocates over, or at least reduces them to a sulky silence.
I think what is happening here is that the popular notion of storage is being used opportunistically by the PM and this is rapidly becoming a millstone around the neck of the renewables sector. I think renewables advocates see it this way too.
Pumped storage involves losses of approximately 20 percent of input to output energy. Add to that 10 percent transmission losses in both directions across Bass Strait and there’s a 40 percent loss of energy to provide national grid buffering.
Doesn’t make sense from any perspective, small volumes or big. Even gas peaking generators could do that buffering job at a lower carbon footprint.
Heavy duty electric trucking? How? I didn’t think the weight to power storage ratio allowed this? I thought this was an established fact, that the current laws of electro-chemistry (not that I’m pretending to understand those laws) just said, “Not in our lifetimes.” But it seems we’re expecting an announcement in September. This year. Huh? Maybe we won’t have to pollute our cities with “Blue crude” seawater diesel after all. All diesel fuels have dangerous carcinogenic particulates, after all.
Roger Clifton — In “Plentiful Energy” on page 109 the last sentence of the third paragraph should be the last sentence of the second paragraph. That is, sodium is opaque, not argon.
Argon is a blanket of the primary sodium cooling pool; the heat exchanger to the secondary loop is buried inside that pool.
CSP does not work well:
Climate change as genocide:
Thanks for that very powerful story, David.
Unfortunately climate change is most usually tabbed in the media as ‘environment’ and this has meant that welfare agencies and churches often don’t engage on the climate change issue… and sometimes there has even been negative reaction – on the grounds that climate policies, such as the carbon price, have been seen to result in greater hardship for poorer people in society.
If there were more stories like this African one the issue of intergenerational harm would come much more to the fore. Climate change could be successfully fought just on the issue of social justice, nothing else. The ramifications for future society are so stark whatever our contemporary concerns are they are to no avail if we don’t come to terms with that big one.
This remarkable paper, “On the causal structure between CO2 and global temperature”
uses a statistical notion I will call Liang causality, IF in the paper, to establish that, in the historical period since about 1950, CO2 Liang causes global warming. However, over the past 800,000 years, EPICA Dome C data shows that the Liang causality is in the opposite direction! Which shows we do not understand glacial cycling…
The paper is open access and not difficult to read.
Key relevant facts about energy sources to supply the world’s energy after fossil fuels
Nuclear fuel is sufficient to supply the world’s energy needs effectively indefinitely.
In contrast, renewables cannot supply a substantial proportion of global electricity – let alone global energy needs – so they are not a sustainable or economically viable solution.
Nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity – it has been since it began. Therefore, those who argue for market distortions – including regulation because of perceived risk – should really be arguing for subsidies for nuclear, or penalties for other technologies in proportion to the deaths and health effects they cause per TWh of electricity supplied.
There is no valid basis for the nuclear power scaremongering. The widespread fear of nuclear power has been generated by 50 years of misinformation and irresponsible scaremongering by the anti-nuclear protest movement, including the so called ‘environmental’ NGOs.
Without market distortions, including the exorbitant subsidies, renewables are many times more expensive than nuclear.
The current high cost of nuclear is not an inherent property of nuclear power. Nuclear would now be 10% of current cost of the pre 19070s learning rates had continued: https://cama.crawford.anu.edu.au/publication/cama-working-paper-series/9070/nuclear-power-learning-and-deployment-rates-disruption .
The root cause of the disruption to progress was the anti-nuclear power protest movement and the enviro-evangelists’ scaremongering over the past 50 years.
Nuclear power is inherently cheap with almost unlimited potential for cost reductions. But the world can only reap the benefits when the impediments to progress are removed.
The USA needs to lead the way to remove the impediments. IAEA and Europe and the rest of the world will follow USA’s lead, but they are incapable of leading.
Nuclear will become significantly simpler and cheaper when production and competition ramps up. This will happen once the irrational impediments to nuclear power are removed. But it will take a long time, because progress has been delayed by 50 years – see Figures 3, 4, 5 and 6 here: https://cama.crawford.anu.edu.au/publication/cama-working-paper-series/9070/nuclear-power-learning-and-deployment-rates-disruption
Only slow progress will be made until people get over their fears and beliefs that nuclear is unsafe, that renewables can make a substantial contribution to global energy supply, and that fossil fuels are evil. To achieve this, people like you need to become better informed about the relevant fact and then inform others.
If we assume, for simplicity, the global average value of a statistical life (VSL) is $1 million, the death tax per electricity generation technology in $/MWh is the same as the number of death taxes per TWh. Therefore, using Brian Wang’s figures for deaths per TWh by energy source http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html the LCOE of each technology would need to be increased by ($/MWh):
These are global averages. For electricity generated by coal in USA the death tax would be $15/MWh for (VSL of $1M per life; or $30/MWh at VSL of $2M per life).
The key point is that nuclear is the safest way to generate electricity. If we want to argue to penalise nuclear for its health and safety risks, then we should also argue for higher penalties for other technologies.
Peter Lang, I was with you all the way until you suggested we needed to get over the fact that a, then b, then “that fossil fuels are evil.” No Peter, just no. We do not need to get over that fact. That fact remains a fact for so many reasons, including the climate science that you despise for utterly ridiculous and obsessive fears about losing a completely free-market ideology. This isn’t about the market, but about physics, and I’m not going to debate you about your climate denialism and neither is anyone else on this blog, because it’s actually against the blog rules and you’ve been kicked off before for sprouting your nonsense.
I could just as easily reply “Nuclear power is not going to be appreciated for the wonderful technology it is until everyone gets over their free-market ideology and realises that fossil fuels ARE evil. You need to learn this and then convince others.”
However, I will archive your links about the price of nuclear power. Unlike your climate denialism, that is relevant to this board and, ahem, welcome.
Ah yes, sorry, should have removed that bit for this site.
Ya think? Your anti-climate religion shipwrecks your credibility and makes you a laughing stock, yet still you do it.
Paul Hawken interview about the book “Drawdown”
80 solutions for global warming. Nuclear power plants form a “regrets” solution.
DBB linked us to a statistical study of the Antarctic ice cores. It inferred cause from coincidence, then went on to conclude that the science fails to prove that CO2 is the cause of global warming. Science doesn’t purport to prove anything, so it seems the study is contriving a denial.
In my experience, statisticians restrain themselves from speaking about cause, rather saying that this or that hypothesis “explains the data”.
Their argument used the well-known ~500 year lag between ice oxygen isotope temperatures and CO2 concentration in bubbles in the Antarctic ice cores. If one assumes that the age of the CO2 samples is that of the adjacent ice, it would follow that past warming cycles were not caused by CO2 variations, but gave rise to them. Instead, respectable researchers attempt to assess the processes that separate the air from its original snow, and estimate the age difference between the air in the bubbles and the adjacent matrix. (Some explanations say that something else causes the warming and the subsequent CO2 release really is delayed.)
There is at least one process that inserts older CO2 in the ice as it grows. As the snowpack collapses under its accumulating weight, the air between the ice particles slowly breathes upwards into the newer ice pack above it. In my short-tempered reading of the paper, I saw no reference to this or any other such process.
These 5 reasons seem worth knowing:
The first is the most important.
David, that (methane leading CO2 during cooling) does sound interesting. Do you have a link for “the delta deuterium temperature proxy and the air data have been age adjusted”?
A paper by James Hansen wrote of the seabed O18 temperature (from fossil benthic foramnifera) reaching near-freezing, coinciding with the end of the glaciations. He seemed to be suggesting a turnover of the ocean layers. (Which would warm the bottom waters.) If the turnover reached the surface it could deliver a burst of CO2 into the greenhouse and end the glaciations. That would be a case of CO2 coinciding with temperature.
A fairly recent article in NS (or EOS?) referred to a study showing the lag differing between the rise and fall of the temperature, much as you have said.
Forget El Nino, here comes El Tio, the “Cranky Uncle”!
Roger Clifton, on the contrary the linked paper clearly states that the information flow, Liang causality is my term for the concept, is from carbon dioxide to global warming since about 1950; no ice cores involved in that part.
Some statisticians use the term Granger causality for a concept stronger than just correlation. The concept I call Liang causality is stronger still and does not suffer from the defects in Granger causality noted in the linked paper. Both are notions of statistical causality.
The ice core used to determine the Liang causality for the past 800,000 years was EPICA Dome C paleodata. The delta deuterium temperature proxy and the air data have been age adjusted already and is highly similar to the Vostok ice core record, similarly adjusted.
For the transition from the last glacial maximum to the so-called Holocene the bethnic forminifera record from the Pacific Warm Pool is clear. First the deep ocean warmed, then the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose and then the surface ocean warmed, almost at the same time as the carbon dioxide concentration change. EPICA Dome C and Vostok paleodata essentially agree with the later two.
However, the descent from an interglacial to the following glacial clearly shows from the Antarctic ice cores that first the temperature around the perimeter of Antarctica, the source of the snow for the ice cores, fell with methane falling at the same time, and then, much later, carbon dioxide levels falling. Note that it is the same air samples for both methane and carbon dioxide.
The linked paper uses all 800,000 years of glacial cycling to establish that Liang causality runs from temperature to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, offering a useful insight into glacial cycling, something which despite all the papers and books written about it remains poorly, nay, badly, understood.
Roger, unfortunately I can’t provide a suitable link readily from this mobile device with its limited abilities. However, unlike the Greenland ice cores and the ice cores from the perifery of Antarctica, the interior ice cores cannot provide annual data. So there are various ways of providing age estimates for the ice with depth. It is quite sophisticated but there are at least five different estimates for the Vostok paleodata; I assume something similar for Dome C paleodata.
I don’t know whether different age estimates are used for temperature and entrapped air or rather, how those are assigned to a common age scale. However, a graphic showing Vostok temperature, carbon dioxide and methane is adjusted so that at the end of the previous interglacial, the Eemian, methane falls right with temperature with carbon dioxide lagging by up to 8,000 years. This graphic should be easily found with the proper search; Euan Mearns has a copy which he frequently drags out on his Energy Matters blog.
“Mr Want said a renewable hydrogen export industry was nearing commercial viability, with the CSIRO technology an important development.”
This paper (link) argues that methane clathrates accumulate during the glaciations up to a tipping point, where bubbling syphons form to turn over the deep water and burp methane into the greenhouse.
There is another reservoir of organic carbon, source of methane, closer to the ocean surface. Below the warm cap (0-200 m) there is a oxygen minimum zone (~200-1000 m), where organic detritus continuously accumulates under a back-pressure of methane.
A surfacing of this layer (as off Peru during La Nina) would release methane. During glaciations, large areas of the warm cap, the “mixing layer”, may cool (and uncap) so far as to allow extensive overturn of the deeper, methane-releasing layer to the surface.
For those who are concerned about the possibility of a methane apocalypse…
According to report in Physics Today, the rising warmth has been penetrating down into the top layer of the ocean past 700 m depth since 1990. If the temperature gradient reduces between the top, mixing layer and the anoxic layer below it, then the frequency of upwelling will increase. It is of some concern as to how much of that organic carbon will reach the atmosphere as methane.
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Great Vox news summary piece on new nukes: 8 minutes, worth sharing around
Thanks Eclipse. Quite an honest summary. Pity they didn’t mention projected dates, I think, because most people tend to think of this sort of documentary a bit like science fiction.
Meanwhile, this current story from Yale paints a much less optimistic scenario for nuclear energy. Though it’s more a summary of the status quo re existing large reactors.
Chris, yes. Big reactors make big targets for those who would obstruct them. I am surprised at the absence of op-eds enthusing on visions of mass-produced small reactors.
Here are submissions made to an (almost unknown) inquiry process in the federal parliament on the issue of possible development and deployment of Gen IV reactors in Australia.
Er, no. GIF is the Generation IV International Forum, founded to R&D the development and deployment of Gen IV reactors worldwide, not in Australia. Our researchers benefit, and Australia’s case to retain a place on the IAEA is given substance. Founded in 2005, it is due for for renewal, hence the low-key committee. See also GNEP, now IFNEC, from the same period, which also involves Australia.
After some careful consideration of the paleoclimate record, we are on track for at least 2–3 °C of further warming and a sea level rise of about 25 meters higher than now. This is obtained by comparison with the paleodata for the mid-Pliocene with the above mentioned values with a carbon dioxide level of 400 ppm, similar to today’s value. There is a paper reporting on a GCM run with 400 ppm of carbon dioxide which at equilibrium agrees with the paleodata temperature.
So unless we rapidly eliminate all fossil fuel burning and begin serious negative emissions future generations will be forced to deal with ever rising sea levels as well as much hotter temperatures.
I am not optimistic.
Any more clues to find “a paper reporting on a GCM run with 400 ppm of carbon dioxide” ? I would be interested to read how long it took to converge on the equilibrium temperature.
Roger Clifton — Phil Hays reported on this in an earlier, but not much earlier, thread over at William Connelly’s Stoat blog. He copied out the abstract but the full paper is behind a paywall.
From other studies of running a GCM to equilibrium after a step function of carbon dioxide concentration I estimate a millennium or a bit, meaning a century or so, to obtain equilibrium. This is heavily dependent on the ocean portion of the GCM but from my understanding of oceanography about 1200 years should be more than enough.
However, the sea level rise might not require anywhere near so long, at least for the majority of it. The unknown is how fast WAIS, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet takes to collapse the half or more which is grounded below sea level.
Another article on the world’s rapid shift towards damming remaining untapped river system for base load hydro-electric electricity in the face of declining coal.
Closer to home, it’s the Mekong river system that is being comprehensively dammed along its length.
What needs to be said about this? One point needs to be made, I think, and that is there has been an unconscious decision by the global community to sacrifice its remaining wild river systems because no other alternative base load generation is acceptable.
This implicates nuclear energy because it is deemed to be a worse environmental risk. Or at least that’s what has to be presumed. Oddly the two environmental harms are never put side by side on a cost-benefit basis.
This damming splurge would be ok if rationally thought out, but I don’t think that trade-off is ever put in blunt terms. Environmentalists could be seen to be advocating, or turning a blind eye to, the damming of the world’s remaining river systems.
In defence it is usually argued that there’s no need because other renewables can do the trick, but there is that nagging problem of intermittency that is driving the search for base load. Hydro power is very attractive in that respect.
That’s absolutely right Chris. This is such an ecological and biodiversity risk that I’m horrified there hasn’t already been a huge backlash against it by so-called ‘Greenpeace’. It’s just sad how they’re turning a blind eye to this in the name of ‘green energy’ and their anti-nuclear ideology.
I am now suggesting Australians look into the new Allam cycle gas turbine generator. See the Wikipedia page. In principle it is as efficient as a CCGT but requires no cooling. Instead it produces a stream of hot water and a supply of high pressure carbon dioxide suitable for sequestration if no better industrial use can be found.
Of course one might wait for the results from the pilot plant under construction. Still, some study as to whether or not this will do better than a CCGT as backup for wind and solar is in order. I opine that it is better, provided that it works.
The Wikipedia entry for the “Allam power cycle” needs clarification. The concept is interesting – it cycles carbon dioxide as the working fluid, avoiding heat loss in condensing steam, as in the standard Stirling cycle, while burning the fuel inside the working fluid.
However, even if the efficiency is as high as 50%, the remaining 50% of the combustion heat must be dumped back into the environment either through cooling water or air, before the working gas can be re-compressed again. (Of course hot gas can be compressed, but it would cost more energy to compress it than had just been extracted, so it must be cooled before being compressed). The Wikipedia page does not specify the cooling, and allows us to get the impression that the heat is exchanged back (uphill) into the recompressed gas.
Roger Clifton, one of the links at the bottom of the Wikipedia page is to a graph showing the complete Allam cycle. The about 40% reject heat is removed by a heat exchanger which warms the incoming natural gas.
I agree that the Wikipedia page could be improved.
My post just prior is wrong. In the External Links section of the Wikipedia article there is a Mass Flow diagram for the Allam cycle. Indeed, the heat exchanger reheats the compressed carbon dioxide, as Roger Clifton stated.
Yes. The author did not account for the process of recompression to high pressures raising the gas to similarly high temperatures, too hot to cool the exhaust gas in the heat exchanger and too hot to be heated by it. A cooling stage is needed before the compressor.
Nice 5 minute summary of the problems with wind and solar by Prager University
While on the subject of comparisons between wind, solar and nuclear power, here is a particularly damning article from Forbes. The author skewers the subsidies, especially of solar power, over the period 2010 – 2019 for USA.
This image summarises the content.
Dr. James Conca’s article is a bit puzzling. In 2016 the production tax credit for wind power was US $23.00/MWh. His graph shows less. As for solar power, it could be that the study he is using mixes together solar PV with solar thermal. The latter is proving to be most disappointing; the former keeps dropping in price for sunny locations. Northern Chile, the Persian Gulf and India have all settled on unsubsidized prices less than US $30/MWh. By way of comparison, hydropower from BPA was nominally US $31.50/MWh in 2016.
there’s a little more on the Andrew Blaker’s study from Nov 2016.
Click to access andrew_blakers_-_anu.pdf
Basically backup comes from many smaller pumped hydro dams along the Great Dividing Range, often within 10km of a water source.
Oh, and here’s the punchline. ” cost of a 100% renewable electricity grid is about $90/MWh, the model tells them, split into a levelised cost of PV and wind generation around two-thirds that amount and levelised cost of balancing (pumped hydro, transmission lines and spilled PV and wind) about one-third.”
David Benson said “Dr. James Conca’s article is a bit puzzling. In 2016 the production tax credit for wind power was US $23.00/MWh. His graph shows less.”
Take a Texas wind project starting work in 2016 for tax purposes. The PPA price will be around $20 / MWh and the project will also receive REC income (less than $1 / MWh) and the production tax credit of $23. Unfortunately you don’t seem to be able to claim back tax of $23 on revenue of only $21 / MWh, on which the tax will be much lower.
So the wind project has to bring in an equity partner paying enough tax to be able to claim the full $23 / MWh. Such a partner will want more than its fair share (based on equity contribution) of the subsidy to provide such a valuable service. Exactly how much is likely to be a closely guarded secret. However, if you assume it takes 1/3 of the residual benefit (over and above what it is entitled to on a fair share basis) then that leaves the other equity partners with only 2/3 of the $23 / MWh subsidy, which is $15 / MWh.
There used to be an Lawrence Berkeley lab document at
https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6610e_1.pdf which gave such an estimate of the value to the rest of the project as $15 / MWh for a subsidy of $23 / MWh, but the document seems to have gone missing right now, hopefully temporarily.
The document “An Analysis of the Costs, Benefits, and
Implications of Different Approaches to Capturing the Value of Renewable Energy Tax Incentives” by Mark Bolinger, May 2014 moved to https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/lbnl-6610e_0.pdf (from the URL in my post above).
LBNL seem to have re-organised their document repository in the last couple of months.
Just out is the Finkel Review of energy security for Australia.
I see a significant change happening here. Previously wind generators would earn “renewable energy certificates”, which were tradable, and the grid operator had to collect enough certificates towards a “renewable energy target”.
The review recommends replacing this system with “clean energy certificates” to any system that achieves less than the CO2 threshold, suggested as 700 g/kWh. These too are to be tradable, and the grid operator has to collect enough certificates towards a “clean energy target”. The latter is to be set politically to achieve national targets.
Removal of the word “renewable” separates the ideological concept of thrift from the technical process of emissions reduction. (You and I no longer have to explain to unsophisticated people that the world really isn’t running out of coal, gas or uranium.)
The threshold is also politically set. The value of 700 g/kWh is likely to stand as a divider between coal generators, which all fall over the limit, and closed-cycle gas turbines, which all fall below the limit. However, it is close to the emission level of open cycle gas turbines, whose existence is needed by wind systems to keep generating when the wind stops blowing. Would anybody have an idea what that level for OCGT is?
Check out Clause 8.3 of this report, which was prepared by Worley Parsons 7 years back and is a review of generation options for SA, ie before the decision to close the last coal fired stations in that state.
The SA Governments of the past half dozen years certainly cannot claim that they weren’t warned.
Click to access arp001sagovtemissionlimitspaperrev2-final.pdf
For those with limited internet access, the relevant figure for OCGT is 700g/kWh or less, depending on what assumptions/allowances are made for fugitive gas, compression, upstream construction, etc, so OCGT just slips through but will be impacted by any incremental reduction of the limits.
Given the issues that accompany CCGT, eg the need to avoid frequent shutdowns and the associated energy losses in the steam cycle, the 700 g/kWh limit seems to be the lowest figure that is palatable in the short term… ie it is not challenging to existing OCGT. Whether 700 is low enough to justify commitment to new OCGT is beyond my ken.
Roger, the above SA report references one from Victoria of similar age. I had difficulty finding a copy on-line. No surprise, it was mainly waffle.
Here it is:
Click to access 1246-Victorian-Climate-Change-White-Paper-Action-Plan-July-2010.pdf
Thanks, SE. Your Worley Parsons report estimates OCGT emissions at 500-600 g/kWh, so a new OCGT would be classed as “clean” and could be converted to (cleaner) CCGT as its customers changed.
Agreed, RC – provided that the OCGT’s are of the industrial variety and not repurposed aircraft industry designs and thus above 50MW.
But since OCGT’s have a commercial life of perhaps 30 years, how viable they will be as the 700g/kWh limit of 700 is wound down by future legislators? Assume installation 2020. Will they still be valuable in 2030? 2040? 2050? In effect, they will always be only 2 steps away from a cliff from the date of first commissioning.
We will soon need to look beyond GT’s. Finkel won’t take us there.
I am encouraged. The Finkel review has taken us up to the point where we must think of what we will replace gas turbines with.
In fact he has cleared the way of several obstacles met here and overseas. In particular, the antonym of “carbon” is no longer “renewables”, so we can think wider for the replacement of carbon-based fuels.
He requires that all new large-scale renewables must provide (or contract out) their own backup, removing most of the problem of intermittency from the grid operator.
Further, he recommends a certain minimum of inertia and dispatchable power in each of the regions of the grid. This requires generation operations to be region-sized, rather than farm-sized.
He recommends day-ahead contracts for the provision of power into the grid. This protects baseload (steam) generators from intermittency.
On top of that, he requires that a major generator cannot be both attacked and shut down within three years, the time span of a single (Australian) government. Big investments are safer.
He is requiring us to converge on providing secure, reliable, economical, copious power by all non-carbon means by 2070. I think a lot of Australians are capable of looking into that future with answers in hand.
AFAIK, Finkel didn’t consider protection systems, which isolate damaged or malfunctioning parts of power systems and so protect personnel, public and plant. Unaffected portions continue to operate safely.
SA’s 28 September 2016 experience resulted in malfunctions of various kinds, for example:
1. Collapsed towers – short to earth, ie large increase in load.
2. Disconnected wind farms – thus large decrease in generation.
3. Short term disturbances eg phase to phase clashes of conductors due to wind.
4. Branches and other debris contacting conductors.
Ideally, each of these would be isolated locally and not permitted to propagate through the system.
Local isolation appears not to have happened reliably, thus the Heywood Interconnector tripped due to excessive overload, perhaps primarily following a combination of 1 and 2 above.
Disconnection of the interconnector should have been the last link in the chain. What about the others, which should have been graded progressively and thus result in multiple smaller localised blackouts and thus avoid the state-wide blackout and need for a black start?
Protection systems tend to be “other people’s problems”, because to protect the plant settings can be too fine, as reported at some wind farms. Or they can be too broad. Broad settings can reduce the number of nuisance trips while increasing the risk of propagation and/or of plant damage.
Here’s hoping that AEMO and the corporations involved in power generation, transmission and distribution are distracted from their responsibility for oversight of power system protection due to the Finkel Report’s contents, the scope of which was necessarily limited.
The Australian Energy Security Review is discussed on TV by its author, Alan Finkel, the Minister for Energy and Environment, and the shadow minister. A representative of the renewables industry also participates. See Q+A video. 200 MB, ~30 mins.
This appears new to me but I am somewhat skeptical of its origins – a site where rational examination of matters relating to electrical power generation is strong – they tend to focus on the shortcomings of the unreliables. However, the site also has a strong tendency to criticize the UNFCCC and towards the hypothesis that CO2 rise follows temperature rise, not the converse. And yes, I know that this notion has been around for more than a decade.
The above article is one such and I will soon re-read both the article and the references to get my head around it properly.
I’d welcome comments and/or references to articles discussing the opposing point of view – not to get into an argument about which I will never be an expert, but to be able to form a private opinion as an interested member of the public.
Given the current parliamentary kerfuffle about the future of coal for electricity generation, the term “Clean Coal” has been trotted out a lot.
More than 10 years back the Australian parliamentary definition of clean coal was explained in http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Browse_by_Topic/ClimateChangeold/responses/mitigation/emissions/clean.
The document includes the observation that it is a misnomer and should more accurately be known as “Cleaner Coal”.
What followed was a list of then-current demonstration, none of which AFAIK was ever completed or produced satisfactory results. It is a startling demonstration of how little progress has been achieved toward the stated goal of cleanliness.
So, “Clean Coal” is not now and never was meaningful. It is a smokescreen for something else entirely. (Pun intended)
Just as “Renewables” are better described as “Unreliables”, as initiated on this site, “Clean Coal” should be replaced by “Cleaner coal” at all times, as a reminder to the readers of the current unclean status of that energy source.
If the Finkel Review is adopted, the word “clean” becomes a powerful legal term, where the label can only be applied to an energy source emitting less than 700 g/kWh. (Initially 700, to be tweaked downwards as legislation draws Australia towards its Paris targets). Thus none of our coal generators qualify for the label.
The Review proposes replacing the RET with the CET. Yes, he proposes we do away with the special place assigned to renewables! On top of that, the measure of sanctity or wickedness of an energy source has been reduced to a cold scientific measurement of carbon content, to be declared by the label “clean” or “not clean”.
In the video linked above, Alan Finkel points out that of all the panellists, he alone is technology-neutral. A voice then interjects, saying “but you have rejected nuclear”. He replies, “no, we have discussed nuclear”. Indeed, the Review is wide open to the application of nuclear to decarbonisation, as I have implied above. However it is clearly irrelevant to the present challenge of getting the Review adopted.
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singletonengineer — There is a recent statistical concept which I call Liang causality, although Liang calls it information flow. Briefly then, causality.
A paper shows that during glacial cycling as represented by the Vostok paleodata, Vostok temperature proxy causes carbon dioxide levels. Whereas, during historical times carbon dioxide levels cause global warming.
The carbon dioxide concentration is now so high that the mid-Pliocene, with no glacial cycling, provides a good exemplar for what is to come; 2–3 °C warmer than now and sea levels about 25 meters higher than now. As carbon dioxide levels are likely to go well above the current 400 ppm, those are likely low estimates once equilibrium is obtained.
Today, or yesterday, ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, had a terribly confused and misleading article on utility scale battery storage. Maybe an Australian here might care to help clarify matters for the reporter?
Unfortunately, Australia’s publicly owned and trusted ABC is no more trustworthy, in part due to drastic funding cuts.
I guess that you are thinking of http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-16/how-does-battery-storage-work/8624378.
It is clear that the journalist consulted only one “expert”, a Mr Bhavnagri, about whom I know nothing except that he works for BNEF, an organisation that publishes global energy reports that entirely take the side of wind and solar power to the exclusion of all else, starting with coal and moving through to nuclear power, which didn’t even rate a mention in the current report.
See the summary here: https://about.bnef.com/new-energy-outlook/
Is it possible that an experienced journalist would write a piece on the basis of a single external opinion? Or that he, Matt Peacock, would be open to discussion about his credibility and the value of his article? The answers are, respectively, yes and no.
Those who are truly interested in this subject in climate change, sea level rise and ocean acidification and the role that future energy policy can have in dealing with these triple threats won’t be swayed by such a light-weight piece of work. Those who will be swayed by Mr Peacock’s article won’t be the decision-makers and opinion leaders that the world needs… Let’s not waste our time with small fish when there are plenty of larger ones waiting to be caught.
Mr Peacock will move on to the next subject in a week or so and leave no sign of his having tarried here.
I am starting something that I think is needed. An ‘Index of Anti-Nuclear Claims’ with rebuttals.
I was thinking I should give just the most sensible version of a claim, ie: steelman rather than strawman it:
but there might be some merit to giving both the silliest version someone has acutally claimed & the most sensible, hardest to rebut, version.
Please help fill in the blanks in my index & add claims & if possible links to rebutals of the claims.
So far I don’t have a website to put this on. Any suggestions for how to do this public service cheaply would be appreciated.
Here is the start I have made on this project
The oppostion to nuclear power is an example of this observation:
“The greater the hatred the less the reason”
Mark Humphrys only gives examples of groups of humans who are hated for no reason, but his observation applies to other things like hatred of a technology or an idea. Pseudoscientists tend to have intense hatred of the actual science & the people who point out the flaws in the pseudoscience. Creation ‘scientists’ on evolution & real biologists is an obvious example. (Note: This index is in part inspired by “An Index of Creationist Claims” http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/ )
The antivax & anti-GMO crowds also seem to be cases of virulent hatred based solely on lies.
In the case of nuclear power there are a few claims the opponents use to make their opposition seem reasonable, but which are somewhere between half-truths & lies, generally much closer to the latter.
Claim 1) Nuclear power is dangerous
[link to example of where this claim is made]
The minute grain of truth here is that the chance of injury or death from A nuclear power plant is greater than zero. What makes this for all practical purposes a lie is that every other energy source has a worse safety record.
Claim 2) Nuclear power leads to Nuclear Bombs
[link to example of where this claim is made]
The closest to truth this comes is that most nuclear power reactors use low enriched uranium ( a few % U235 vs 0.7 % U235 as it is mined) and the same enrichment machinery that makes low enriched uranium can be used in a modified fashion to make bomb grade uranium (90+ % U235). This is the only dual use (power & bomb) technology.
[ Find something about when various countries got nuclear weapons & when nuclear power]
It is often stated or implied that the plutonium in used fuel rods can be used for bombs.
[link to example of claim being made]
Nuclear power plants can be used to destroy weapons grade material & make electric power at the same time
Claim 2a) A nuclear reactor can explode like a nuclear bomb
[link to example of where this claim is made]
[Find the best debunking of this BS]
Claim 3) Nuclear waste is an unsolved/unsolvable problem
[link to example of where this claim is made]
[Find the best discussion how ‘waste’ can be a resource]
You may find there is a problem in highlighting these arguments, thus giving them more oxygen? But your idea is much the same as the annotated list of climate denials arguments and their rebuttals here: https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php
The other problem is that I think perhaps the main barrier to nuclear power globally is economic (unit price delivered compared to other generation sources) and if this aspect needs debunking it needs to head the list. (Adding complexity, price is related to safety concerns so it’s not a totally distinct line item.)
A very dominant meme out there at present is that solar can beat the pants off anything on a unit cost basis and this claim is generally being taken as read by most observers. The true part about that claim is that the unit price of solar has indisputably plummeted. There is the hoped for belief that lower unit prices plus storage costs will beat the pants off anything else in the near future and that’s much more questionable, but not so easily provable.
Problem is, once all these tangled arguments are thrashed out then most observers (including decision makers) have closed their ears and only devotees on each side of the fence are left standing and we are again left with raw sentiment determining policy. But your idea has merit, Jim.
Meanwhile, I wonder what’s happening to this BNC site. It seems to have fallen by the wayside somewhat having few story entries in recent times.
Jim Baerg — Searching on the phrase
free web hosting
finds numerous helpful resources, including two Wikipedia articles. WordPress is a popular choice although I can’t compare it to others.
I encourage you to progress to bring such a project to fuition. It would definitely be of service to those of us attempting to promote the proper consideration of nuclear power plants.
Jim Baerg and others seeking straight answers to common questions, this site offers a wide range of questions, most with answers graded into entry level, advanced and very advanced.
It has been around for yonks and has passed the test of time.
Hat tip to Chris H – you beat me to it re SkS.
National Academy of Sciences: Mark Jacobson’s 100% renewable model a lie. (My note: so it’s time to give passive safety, nuclear waste-eating breeder reactors another look.)
From a comment buried below the line in the Washington Post article mentioned by EN are two relevant source documents.
The new Clack paper.
An extract from the Jacobson letter.
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/06/16/17080, but the full text is subscription/paywalled.
Evidently Davidson decided long ago not to bother with peer review and has adopted a megaphone approach that ignores pesky details that would need to be addressed during the peer review process. Too many of the reviewers amongst his peers would not agree with him. In rude desperation and like a snake-oil salesman or a schoolyard bully, he follows a path that avoids balanced review, but which consequently carries no academic weight.
There are bands of locally active academics that do the same in Australia. The institutions that provide their status and podiums need to be called out for the damage that they are inflicting on the quality of the discussion. ANU and UNSW and the others: Where do you stand on the subject of your academics’ “right to be wrong”?
If anybody has reference to a peer reviewed study in reputable journal that supports 100% wind+solar for a western economy on a national scale, with or without pumped hydro and batteries, I’d be pleased to read it, but such “studies” appear to be only published as private vanity projects.
Chris Harries warns us to attend to the “too costly” meme. How’s this:
Challenge: Nuclear power costs too much…
Reply: Costs have come down to $100 per megawatt hour, that’s 10 cents per kWh. How much do you pay on your bill?
Challenge: I mean the things are just so darn big. At five billion bucks of bridging loan each, they are a sitting duck for delays, legal obstructions and er, sabotage.
Reply: Well they don’t have to be big. That’s why SMRs are called “small”.
Challenge: But they cost so much to clean up afterwards.
Reply: We have learnt in the past 60 years not to spill stuff. Anyway, how clean do you want it? A site that had a power station on it is a good site to put the replacement power station on.
Challenge: It still costs too much to dispose of the waste.
Reply: What, compared to dumping it in the atmosphere? Anyway, you store the stuff out in the backyard in a dry container, cross out the word “waste” and write “used fuel for reprocessing” and sell it to a speculator who can wait 20 years for the thing to be worth a fortune.
anyone here over on Reddit as well? I’ve got a problem I asked over there, and if there are any takers here that would be awesome. Although, this thread is becoming quite long and it might be easier to discuss it over there.
Woah, I only meant to link the REDDIT thread, not bring up all that ghosting of the actual post!
Eclipse asked, how fast should we build nuclear power stations to replace all our energy needs by 2050? If we assume the whole world wants to have the energy consumption of Australians, who consume about 1 kW/p, then ten billion people in 2050 would need a supply of one hundred billion kilowatts. That’s one hundred thousand gigawatts, thermal. If there are 33 years between now and 2050, that would require an extra 3000 GW(th) to be provided every year. In more familiar terms, that would be 1000 GW(e) to be brought online every year.
Bring on mass production!
(Correcting the above with the right source and arithmetic…)
Eclipse asked, how fast should we build nuclear power stations to replace all our energy needs by 2050? If we assume the whole world wants to have the primary energy consumption of Australians, who consume about 7.4 kW/p, then ten billion people in 2050 would need a raw power supply of 74000 gigawatts, thermal. If there are 33 years between now and 2050, that would require an extra 2420 GW(th) to be provided every year. In more familiar terms, that would be 750 GW(e) to be brought online every year.
Bring on mass production!
Ah, that second one is an interesting graph! Thanks Roger.
“This is a list of countries by total energy consumption per capita. This is not the consumption of end-users but all energy needed as input to produce fuel and electricity for end-users. It is known as Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES), a term used to indicate the sum of production and imports subtracting exports and storage changes (see also Worldwide energy supply). Numbers from 2013 and 2014 are from The World Bank – World Development Indicators”
So maybe it even includes the energy it takes to grow our food and maintain our roads etc? Anyway, nice find. But 750 GW / year is significantly more than 115 GW / year for electricity alone (Hansen’s figure). Also, an NREL study I’m fond of quoting says 86% of American light vehicles (about half the fleet) could be charged on the existing power grid, with about half those (a quarter of the whole fleet) being charged at night. If Elon actually announces some radical new long-haul heavy trucking vehicle in September as rumoured (maybe with quick battery swaps built into the truck and trailer vehicles to make it feasible?), then that could narrow it down to just maybe large harvesters and mining truck and airlines that need synthetic fuels from seawater. That would radically increase the efficiency of the transport fleet, so hopefully we can cut down that 750 1GW nukes / year figure.
What do others think?
Liquids from seawater? Surely ammonia is a better commercial option for many applications.
Hansen’s figure would provide 380 W/p by 2050. That is basic electricity – lights and motors. But it would exclude heating, transport, cement, smelting etc that we currently use carbon-based fuels for.
Synthesis of fuels for internal combustion engines is particularly inefficient of primary energy if it uses non-carbon energy to raise steam (dumping waste heat) and electricity which is then used to create synfuels that are used to raise the temperature of a working gas that pushes a piston (and dumps waste heat). That wouldn’t matter if the primary energy is non-carbon and dirt cheap.
Dealing with this guy has made me realise I don’t know that much about different cooling pond practices around the world. The current claim is that if a huge solar flare hit the earth with too many nukes, the cooling ponds would all boil off as the grid went down and it would be an ELE. (Extinction Level Event). Anyone on reddit for some backup?
EN, that solar flare story is nonsense.
Cooling water ponds are rare in modern power stations – freshwater lakes are in short supply and aren’t being created on a daily basis.
Here is a short run-down on cooling water systems as I know them.
Salt water. Coastal, perhaps lakes or estuaries. Drew water off, pass it through a heat exchanger which has demineralised water on the other side brings heat, in the form of steam at ambient temp and pressure, or close to. The waste heat is the latent heat of evaporation which is liberated as the steam condenses into water, before recycling to the boiler where it is… boiled. In nuclear power stations, that is also a heat exchanger, where the returning condensate is heated to steam at working temp and pressure and sent to the turbine, where it does work before it returns to the condenser.
So, the cooling water does not come into contact with either radioactive parts of the system or the core or high voltage components. It is not exposed to a large source of energy. Without energy it cannot be boiled off as suggested by the scare-mongers.
Other variants use fresh water drawn from a pond. That could be a natural lake or a man-made dam, a large body of water where the water returning from the condenser might be 7 or 8 degrees C above the temperature of the lake as a whole. That heat eventually is lost primarily due to evaporatuion from the pond’s surface, which started at say 22 degrees before water at 30 degrees was added. As for the salt water case, the pond is not exposed to large energy sources, so cannot be mysteriously and suddenly boiled off.
What about cooling towers? They are commonest. They contain only fresh water, which is sprayed inside the tower. The droplets lose some of their volume due to evaporation, before being returned to collect more heat from the condenser and going around again. Each cooling tower might need topping up with the order of 10,000 megalitres per year of fresh water, probably drawn from a dam or dams perhaps tens of kilometres away. This time there is no cooling water pond… the cooling towers do the job of transferring heat to water (condenser) and from water to atmosphere (evaporation).
That describes the complete role of cooling water systems in a thermal power station, whether using nuclear fuel, coal, gas, diesel, wood pellets or dried cow dung. There is no essential difference between the cooling water systems of any power station and the next one down the road.
So don’t worry about talk of boiling cooling water ponds – if the sun goes supernova and somehow boils the oceans we won’t be around to see what happens next.
Thanks Singleton, but I don’t think I was clear. The accusation is that spent fuel cooling ponds will dry off.
I’ll leave that for the experts.
I have seen this article. It examines the possibility of what would happen if the cooling ponds in which the spent nuclear fuel rods are stored were to dry out due to a failure of the power plant operator to keep them full or if a cataclysmic event were to occur.
What is the possibility of a solar flare taking out the world wide grid?
At Fukushima the power outage and the failure of the backup power supply did cause the levels of some of the storage pools to drop, but power and water supply were restored before any significant drop in water levels occurred.
It is difficult to imagine a more cataclysmic event occurring to a nuclear power facility than Fukushima. These possibilities include being struck by a meteor.
But it is also equally possible that a meteor could hit the Hoover Dam or the Three Gorges dam. If that were to happen the loss of life would be enormous but it is possible. The probability of that happening is so remote that we just ignore it. You have more chance of winning the lotto 100 times.
What an interesting way to end the world as we know it
Well that certainly is a hyperbolic evocative work of near fiction and could certainly form the basis of a good movie series.
I am writing this from memory because I have read about it but can not find the reference to it. So any one having any better information please feel free to correct me.
This design issue with spent fuel rods, from memory, comes from a group of physicists who have concerns with the storage of them.
This group has taken their concerns to the political powers in the US of A and requested that action be taken. The matter was then referred to the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission I think) who after examining it decided no action was required.
In relation to solar flares they can cause transformers to burn out and do cause power outages and depending on the transformer they can take years to replace. But transformers fail all the time and system controllers are able switch power from one part of the grid to another to get around transformer and power line failures. It is called system reliability.
If an enormous solar flare were to blackout the North American grid how long would the outage last for before the system started to be restored. If we use South Australia as an example it might be 24 to 48 hrs before partial restoration was achieved and essential services like diesel fuel supply would receive priority.
I just do not find it credible that a massive solar flare would cause an interruption of fuel supply to the extent that any nuclear reactor would run out of fuel for its emergency power supplies and thereby not be able to run its cooling systems.
The backup power systems at Fukushima failed because they were located in the basements and were flooded by the tsunami which also took out the mains power supply as well. If those diesel generators were located in the top of the structures instead of the basement none of us would ever have heard of Fukushima because the cooling water systems would have had power to operate.
Another point that is missed is that Gen2 reactors do not require backup power to shut down. They are gravity fed. Gen 4 reactors like MSR’s are walkaway safe. I have no knowledge of the other Gen 4 reactors.
The spent fuel storage pools are specially constructed for the storage of the rods. They are forty feet deep.
So what this group is saying is that an extreme solar flare is going to cause an outage of the North American grid to the extent that all of the Nuclear Reactors in North America which are mandated to carry a weeks supply of fuel for their emergency power systems will not be able to obtain more fuel before the end of that week and that depending upon the hotness of the pool some 4 to 22 days after they have run out of diesel fuel the pools will be dry and the Nuclear Reaction will recommence and catch fire and erupt from the pools into the atmosphere causing an ELE and every one in North America including Superman and Ironman are going to stand around and watch it happen.
EN I trust that you are able to deal with the rubbish about radiation effects at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
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Thanks Tony, much appreciated.
After a bit of light reading, this article tickled my fancy:
The bottom line: Much ado about (almost) nothing.
However, it is great background reading for the not-very-technical mind.
D’oh! That did not format well… but you can see the Charles Sturt reference here.
No problems EN
I am no expert either and a figure of 100 mSv would not surprise me. I would just point out that the Sievert is based on the LNT theory of radiation which is fundamentally flawed.
Here is a page with a few references that may be of interest.
I can also recommend ‘Radiation Exposure and its Treatment ‘
by Brian P. Hanley available on Kindle.
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Oops! The sharp eyed readers might have noted that the above link leads to page 9 of a 9-page document.
Here’s Page 1: https://www.informationweek.com/government/cloud-computing/emp-debunked-the-jolt-that-could-fry-the-cloud/d/d-id/1315481?image_number=1
So what if year-old used fuel rods were exposed to air? Survivors of the catastrophe that hit the world around them would surely have far greater threats to worry about.
Possibly the silliest folly of modern times is the recent requirement by the (US) NRC that new nuclear reactors must be able to survive a direct impact by a giant jetliner (loaded with 500 or so passengers) without a single soul being injured by radiation. Nope, not even a single soul. It’s good to know that the NRC have their priorities right.
In Australia too, our authorities forbid the building of any nuclear reactors at all. I guess they are trying to take care of us, one way or another.
Meanwhile, in both countries, coal mining continues apace.
What is going on here?
I can hear cheering from the climate science deniers who are claiming his scalp. They claim that Mann has refused to provide data to a court in support of his hockey stick graph and thus is facing both civil action for damages and other action for contempt.
And yes, I know that Principia Scientific isn’t an authoritative source, but this is the most detailed report that seems to be behind all of the hullabaloo.
Well, if it makes your blood boil, don’t read it. Since it starts off by referring to climate hero Michael Mann as a “prominent alarmist”, you know it is malicious propaganda, intent on justifying business-as-usual emissions. As a tekko, I don’t want to find myself arguing with professional spin doctors. Instead I would like to see lawyers of conscience conducting mock trials that put the writing on the wall for these guys.
Hi, Roger. I take your point about the irrelevance of attempting to argue with professional spin doctors.
The two article I found this morning cited each other and were fron Catallaxy Files and Energy Matters blogs, both of which are primarily useful but share a particular outlook re climate science. I have not found court or independent reports.
If Mann’s defamation action against a long-term antagonist has taken a hit, I’d like to verify that rather than to accept the word of those who have displayed their partisanship.
The legal opponent is a well known puppet of the Canadian FF industry who has been caught several times fudging his academic and employment record.
Hence my interest today.
Gentlemen, I remember some years back looking at websites that showed electricity production from the various wind farms located in Victoria and SA. I have been looking for them and can not find them.
Would any one have these links.
I am interested in reviewing the performance of these operations.
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Perhaps http://anero.id/energy/wind-energy, which contains a graph that was copied but not cited in “Stop those things” blog a few days back.
That is what I was looking for.
BIG wavepower machine, check the ladder for scale. But is it baseload? Denmark’s Wavestar.
I came across this very detailed discussion about the limits of lithium batteries in a post-ICE world.
It is extremely pessimistic that there is enough lithium to go around, as well as shortages in other essential elements.
It also includes a compelling discussion of the energy and CO2 involved in manufacture and operation of battery powered vehicles. Again, not good, at all.
I know nothing at all about the author, who clearly has a lot of time on his hands and loves complexity.
The world’s gunna run out of lithium
Uhuh, is that so? Is he one of these guys who still believes that oil is going to run out by 1980? And coal by the year 2000? Their delusion is not that the Earth is finite, but that industrial Man is eternal.
The Greenbushes mine is currently supplying most of the world market for lithium, which is mainly for ceramics, not batteries yet. Yes, once there is a stable market for battery lithium, miners will go out and develop some of the many lithium deposits around the world. As has happened before, the Australians have gotten there first and thus can harvest the early, high prices. Without leaving Western Australia, you will find several similarly big mines ready to go. See for example, Pilgangoora.
Geologists say we can never run out of any mineral, economists say the price goes up with shortage of supply. But it is a shortage of demand that has been creating uncertainty up till now. Currently the cost of production of lithium carbonate (from pegmatite spodumene) is about $8000/t so the trading price will soar upwards from there as EV production kicks in. Then new production streams will bring the price down again.
Fearmongers in search of a bogey should instead be asking if spilt lithium is safe in the living environment – we need that one answered. And what about spilt lead acid from tomorrow’s discarded lead acid batteries? As ever, the problem is what do we do with our wastes?
Rest assured, the miracles of solar panel production and radical new drilling techniques for oil and, in time, new nuclear reactor designs…and so forth… will also be matched by exponential production of batteries, whether lithium-based or some other battery technology.
That’s not to say all this will lead to the technological nirvana that some portray. But we can have confidence that, with its back to the wall, industrial civilisation will find every means possible to try to keep the train on the rails. Some of that technology will be worthwhile, some of it will create a new set of problems to solve.
I do think that autonomous vehicle devotees overstate the advantages and turn a blind eye to likely negative impacts, so I appreciated the above link on that subject, with thanks to whoever posted it.
I should have been clearer: 8 $/kg Li2CO3 is pretty cheap: that’s only 3.2 $/kg Li. As technology eventually develops, (such as extraction from brines), prices will drop further. EV’s have my confidence, especially autonomous traffic. And I would rather have lithium, rather than lead, batteries shattering during car crashes in my locality.
But the superstitious belief that the world is running out of mineral resources makes the climate movement vulnerable to dismissal as a religion. Use of the very word, “renewables” shouts thrifty use of resources, invoking virtue from fellow believers and ridicule from business-as-usual.
On the other hand, concern over waste, especially carbon waste, can be shared with both sides of society.
Let’s be clear, Roger. The world will never totally run out of any sources. Not oil. Not lithium. Not coal. Not phosphorus for fertilisers. Not fissile uranium. Not clean water.
You aren’t the first to misunderstand the peaking concept by any means. The problem of resource depletion is about diminishing returns (in both economic and energy terms).
The peaking issue is being played out dramatically on the oil front globally. Doesn’t matter whether oil prices are high or low, strife is rife wherever oil is produced from Libya to Venezuela to the Middle East to Russia.
Using pejorative words like ‘superstitious’ smacks of the very same jargon that climate change denialists throw around. What you are saying, in effect, is that we have a problem with the tailpipe (what comes out) but not the petrol tank (what goes in). The Club of Rome team sensibly looked at both limits in its calculations on where unsustainable growth is likely to take us and when. I don’t think it’s sensible to disregard either.
I’ve asked this question before, but what’s happened to this site. No new articles posted since September of last year.
There are probably good reasons for this, being a site manager myself. Am hoping that all is well with Barry.
Roger and Chris, what you say is certainly true. Lithium appears for now to be the best available electron-carrier by mass. If the shortage drives an increase in market price, then of course there are many, heavier, alternatives.
So the South Australian Giga-battery may well not be an indicator of future stationary batteries – after all, who really cares how much a lead acid battery weighs in stationary installations?
However, the long term equilibrium point for lithium carbonate may add significant costs for transport applications. Only time can tell.
Brief summary: BPA, Bonneville Power Administration, has requested that the only nuclear power plant in the region, Columbia Generating Station, do nothing to jeopardize the full output of 1150 MWe, in this heat wave with no wind.
Hi Chris. Most believers in the renewables movement really do believe that we are going to run out of resources. Suddenly and soon.
The economic theory of diminishing returns is, like most economic theories, beholden to the need to keep “all other things being equal”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the idea is that as a commodity becomes harder and harder to supply, the price goes up so that demand is forced down. In other words, the stash runs out. The factors that it assumes are held equal include the shrewdness of humans in finding new deposits and new styles of deposit, deeper and deeper, and the ingenuity of industry in extracting ever smaller concentrations from the ore and seawater, or find cheaper substitutes. When these are included, the stash can grow larger faster than the demand can grow. In fact the price of most minerals has gone down across the last century, even as consumption has ballooned. Here is the graph for copper. The renewables movement doesn’t like such graphs, because these are facts, and facts interfere with faith.
We do have a much bigger problem with what comes out of the exhaust pipe than what goes into the engine. It is simply because all of our mineral resources have come from the inexhaustible volume of the earth, whereas our wastes must be spread across the limited area of the biosphere. In the case of our carbon wastes, we have already run out of the latter. The greenhouse excess is increasing at 50 g/m² every year, leaving no room at all for a “sustainable carbon footprint”, a tenet of faith among those who believe in intermittent supplies backed up with gas.
Climate change denialists are able to hit home with disparaging words like “superstitious” and “religious” against the entire climate change movement, largely because our members in the renewables community keep conflating the scientific evidence of climate change with the faith embedded in concepts like finite mineral resources and wind-powered baseload.
I mix it with a variety of people across the environmental spectrum and have never come across anyone yet who believes we are going to literally run out of resources. Many of them are aware that modern society has gone over a peak in relation to a number of resources, and are concerned about the social and economic stress that this is starting to impose on sections of society.
In relation to lithium resources, I think that will become less less problematic over time because more suitable battery technology is almost certain to come into being within the next 10 years.
In relation to world oil production, the decline of large oil reserves is being responded to by drilling all over the world for much smaller pockets of hydrocarbons and for gas resources – thus world fuel production can be kept up for while (despite there being many aggrieved landowners), but this is a hedging operation.
It’s the sheer scale of depletion running against exponential population and industrial growth, along with the time factor, that will make it increasingly difficult to prevent the global economy collapsing before a massive transition to new technology can possibly be brought into being.
I realise many others (this is where the renewable sand pro-nuke cross are in rare unanimity) believe that this transition will be a piece of cake and with a nip and a tuck we will all live happily every after.
If we consider oil as a transient decay product of kerogens (such as coal or oil shale), it becomes clear that there is an indefinitely large supply for our fuel refineries.
I doubt that you can produce graphs of exponential decline of production of any mineral resource. However, there is one exponential graph that I can point to, the rise of atmospheric CO2.
The exhaustion of our dumping grounds for our wastes is a far more real and looming danger than the arguable decline of our resources.
Where there is common ground between the two arguments is that we must recycle our wastes instead of extracting fresh minerals. For that purpose, we must decide how we are going to produce the vast quantities of non-carbon baseload electricity required.
I contend that it is reasonable to contemplate the availability of materials – any material at all – that are essential to the success or otherwise of a proposed course of action and reject argument from authority that “she’ll be right” is the appropriate approach.
Data may be both flimsy and incomplete, eg as with lithium or cobalt futures. That does not mean that the discussion is invalid, only that better data is required. Current Li data seems to say that known reserves of Li are about 15MT and that this is potentially liable to be exceeded by global demand – within a foreseeable future of decades, not centuries. Further, available advice is that the lithium content of used Li-ion batteries, which comprise an increasing third or more of lithium consumption, are not recycled and are not likely to be recycled under business-as-usual scenarios.
For mine, the clearest data is the hand-in-hand rises in usage and price above the general rates of inflation during the past 15 years.
The upper possible resource limit is, of course, above the proven resource, but supply is limited, with only the upper limit in dispute. It is not rational to state that reserves are effectively unlimited, except as an article of faith, which I am short of at present.
It can certainly be demonstrated that prices are escalating at a rate far above that of inflation generally.
It is also simple to demonstrate that Elon Musk’s predictions of production rates for EV’s are grossly optimistic, but that’s another, though related, topic.
The Cornucopian view of global resources without limit is hard to accept. It makes more sense to at least try to “Do the Math”.
SE says, “do the maths” on the limits for this or that mineral resource.
Okay, but we have to get the starting point right, and “proven mine reserves” is the wrong place to start. Mine reserves are created with money, for drillholes and chemical assays, to extend the proven (by a quantity surveyor) amount of graded ore available to the equipment owned by that mine, to extract, mill, process and deliver. It is a report to the shareholders, usually asking for more money, so they will not waste money extending the reserves beyond the next few dividend cycles. The JORC code sets out the rules for reporting.
For the more distant future, where demand and technology are unknown, we would have to start with academic sources. For convenience, I settle for Wikipedia’s entry on abundance of the elements. Here, lithium is an average of 20 ppm of the crust. That makes it more common than lead, boron, beryllium, tin and uranium.
If you consider that the average square kilometre of the crust has 40 km below it for a total mass of 100 gigatons, then at 20 ppm, it contains two megatons of lithium per square kilometre. With over a hundred million km² of dry crust to pick from, that is oodles of lithium.
Bringing the cost of production down, requires the would be miner to seek out volumes of rock with the highest concentrations. Of course there are many ways for lithium to assemble in mineral crystals. Currently the most popular form is spodumene, which routinely appears when pegmatites form. Pegmatites are quite common rocks. I have already referred you to the Greenbushes and Pilgangoora pegmatite lithium mines.
Currently mineral explorers are only bothering with pegmatites that have more than 1% lithium oxide. As lithium consumption increases, more and more mines will open up in the more accessible places that have this high grade. But the early prices will be controlled by the rate at which mines open up, rather than cost of production.
Sorry to be long winded, but that happens when someone asks for the maths.
I appreciate that that’s your view, Roger.
I come across some who are in denial of climate change but who accept that resources are finite and becoming more costly to extract. Likewise some who are in denial on the resources front but who accept the reality of climate change.
Generally, those who are beware of resource limits tend not to be in the academic field so much as production people.
It’s good to be aware of both Limits, as the Club of Rome did so many years ago. The stresses we are seeing in oil and fisheries politics will stay with us now and become more troubling over time, and these are easily signs of similar stresses we will be seeing in water, fertiliser and multiple other sectors.
I think it’s think prudent, in managing resources, to cover both risks – global pollution and diminishing returns. Professionals who try alert society about either of these two risks are equally accused of as being alarmist.
It’s not a “view”, Chris. Those graphs are facts, facts dismissing the end-of-resources hypothesis. If you want to continue to defend that hypothesis to educated people, you will need to produce facts, graphs supporting it. And you can’t.
Your movement could defend the world from end-of-resources by promoting “non-carbon” energy, while serving the greenhouse at the same time. But no, the faithful insist that the word “renewables” instead be jammed up the nose of the complacent majority.
No wonder climate sceptics dismiss all of us as religious fanatics.
You’ve read me incorrectly, Roger. I don’t see a panacea in renewables. They have a place in the scheme of things. I’ve written many posts on the delusion that romantic advocacy of supply side remedies is creating in society. One of the reasons that I contribute to this site is that I would like to see a much less polarised advocacy and reasoned debate across the spectrum of world views in the energy field.
In relation to resource issues, the first demographic that suffers when prices go up as a result of scarcity or resource warfare are poorer communities. Like climate change, resource depletion is a social issue of huge proportions and will become ever more so over time.
BTW, I don’t think it’s good politics to verbally harangue those who don’t share your view to the last word. That’s the best way to push people away. That said, I do empathise with the frustration that nuclear energy advocates experience in these times.
Er, price of copper
Er, price of lithium during the past 15 years. https://www.metalary.com/lithium-price/
The current real (inflation-adjusted) price of copper might be similar to what it was 100 years back, but both metals increased by factors of 4 in the past 15. That’s 40% p.a.
The prospect of rising real prices for these and other metals is precisely the driving factor behind decisions to commit capital for new mines for both metals in recent years.
A discussion of the relatively small value of lithium in a Tesla is at https://electrek.co/2016/11/01/breakdown-raw-materials-tesla-batteries-possible-bottleneck/. Lithium is not the chief concern. But it is still 70+ kg/vehicle, for a proposed half million cars in 2018 and increasing from there.
So, over 35,000 tonnes of Li for Tesla alone each year.
If there are 2 billion cars globally, replacing all with EV’s will take at that rate 140 million tonnes. The current global known reserves are just over 10% of that and current markets are for 2/3rds of lithium to be used for other than batteries.
My point is that those who claim that EV’s are going to be scaled up to replace the whole or even a tenth of the existing auto fleet have either not done the maths or are basing their hopes on as-yet unquantified and unidentified scientific and engineering advances.
That is mere whistling in the dark.
Other inputs might be worse. The article referenced above and others suggest that there are 3 or 4 contenders ahead of lithium.
And your point was?
Correction: LiCO3, not Li. Divide metal requirements in a Tesla by 7: 11kg, not 70+.
Hi Singleton, they either can’t do maths or have different data to you. The picture seems more complicated and nuanced than the one you present, and might require reading some Berkeley or UC papers. From the wiki:-
“However, according to a 2011 study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, the currently estimated reserve base of lithium should not be a limiting factor for large-scale battery production for electric vehicles because an estimated 1 billion 40 kWh Li-based batteries could be built with current reserves – about 10 kg of lithium per car. Another 2011 study by researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company found sufficient resources to support global demand until 2100, including the lithium required for the potential widespread transportation use. The study estimated global reserves at 39 million tons, and total demand for lithium during the 90-year period analyzed at 12–20 million tons, depending on the scenarios regarding economic growth and recycling rates.
On June 9, 2014, the Financialist stated that demand for lithium was growing at more than 12 percent a year; according to Credit Suisse, this rate exceeds projected availability by 25 percent. The publication compared the 2014 lithium situation with oil, whereby “higher oil prices spurred investment in expensive deepwater and oil sands production techniques”; that is, the price of lithium will continue to rise until more expensive production methods that can boost total output receive the attention of investors.”
it depends. If national governments get involved, things can happen fast. 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%. (The other quarter is hydro). If governments outright ban the sale of ICE vehicles, then even just natural attrition would eventually replace all vehicles in roughly 16 years.
EN’s statement that ICE vehicles could be removed entirely within 16 years if outlawed by government ignores the maths involved.
Roughly, the quickest national government plan for ceasing manufacture of ICE light vehicles that I have read is 2040.
Add to that the median age of vehicles at end of life gets us to 2050 or so.
Further, consider heavy vehicles, which seem to be pretty much off the radar at present, with few or no emerging EV production lines for B-doubles and the like, and the time line stretches further.
Unfortunately, the best that we can do on present trajectory, ie on Planet Earth, is currently more akin to 40 years.
The appropriate response, it seems to me, is to develop larger scale, reliable electricity generating capacity in association with alternative sources of liquid fuels for transport including air, light and heavy vehicles and shipping. Step 2: ban extraction, use and trade in fossil fuels, starting with coal.
Of course, that implies that chemical feedstocks and other current uses for FF’s are switched to non-FF origin.
Certainly, mere legislation banning ICE’s is neither practical nor probable. Scrapping the global ICE fleet simply isn’t going to happen in anything like 16 years.
Some time ago you issued a challenge to put together an all renewables solution for BPA.
ERCOT (Texas) seemed the right place to start, rather than BPA, as Texas has excellent solar and wind resources. If an all-renewables grid can’t work economically there then it can’t work anywhere.
As you may remember, Gene Preston initially did a couple of simulation runs for this, including ERCOT solar, wind and battery storage. Following on from this I have picked up the gauntlet and produced an ERCOT simulation spreadsheet for an all-renewable grid from publicly available hourly 2010-12 data including ERCOT demand (scaled to 71 GW peak), actual wind power output averaged over all Texas and solar irradiance for 4 locations used to determine solar PV output. The simulation is a downloadable 20MB spreadsheet in .xlsx and .ods forms suitable for playing with different options. The results are used in a cost model spreadsheet using estimated 2030-40 prices.
See https://judithcurry.com/2017/08/06/electricity-in-texas-part-ii-the-cost-of-a-100-renewable-grid/ , which you may consider an unusual choice of site.
You may find it interesting to see what your BPA challenge has resulted in!
What does everyone make of this attempted save of the Mark Jacobson study, especially the claim that biowaste and sewerage could be biodigested into about 40% of the US natural gas consumption as a potential backup to renewables?
Hi Chris. I checked whether I had been too rough. But no, that was just procedure on this site. Your conjecture was put to the test of the evidence and was found to be incorrect. Normal procedure at this point is for you to either concede the point or produce evidence in support of it. When you did neither, I spelt it out for you.
I would much rather agree with you on your other point. The world really does seem to be running out of natural resources in the biosphere (that is, extending over the area of the earth). Sunlight, air, sky, water, land, ice, flora, fauna – all of them are under pressure from the activities of man. Solutions for many of the problems require power, a lot more power than today’s power stations produce.
Sorry, you’ve lost me Roger. We seem to be agreeing, not disagreeing. I dissented on your remark about “renewable energy being jammed up the noses of the public”. I’ve spent untold hours writing many dozens of posts questioning the renewables revolution as a panacea.
What movement do you think I belong to? I can’t name it.
Glad that you agree that natural resources are threatened by human activity.
Re your last sentence I’ve been predicting for a while, and saying it publicly, that if the EV revolution is a successful as its advocates want it to be that there will be an inevitable resurgence of political and commercial interest in nuclear energy. The only rider I would place of on that prediction is not knowing else may happen in the intervening time – the energy scene being so volatile.
EN, that Cleantechnica article adds very little of value to the discussion. The comments demonstrate precisely what is wrong with the debate about nuclear power.
On one side, we have the Greenpeace cheer squad, 100% anti-nuclear but unable to justify their anger, plus conviction that 100% renewables will somehow solve the energy problems of the world as well as the anthropogenic carbon emission issue.
The trouble is, that even if (and you know where I stand here), IF 100% WWS or geothermal or angel wing composting or poo composting were achievable, there would/will still remain a group of issues about which very little is heard.
Batteries, especially, but also wind turbine rotors, wind turbine footings, PV panels and more. These wastes are at least as intractable as anything that nuclear power leaves behind. NB I didn’t mention Sellafield and other weapons establishments in USA, Australia, China, sundry islands and the former USSR. We’re discussing energy here. What’s the plan for spent WWS materials?
Inadequacy in the western world.
3/4 of the CO2 comes from other stuff than electricity. Besides which, growth of zero CO2 is struggling to keep up with nuclear power shutdowns, let alone provide energy to replace liquid FF’s. We will need copious energy for EV’s and other land transport. We will need either small nuclear plant for ocean freight. We will need electricity to manufacture alternatives to aviation fuels. Not maybe. We will.
Yet the WWS folk choose to believe that demand management and energy efficiency will result in reduced, not increased demand. That’s BS. It will certainly continue to fail, as it is failing at present.
Inadequacy in poorer nations.
Obvious, really, but 2/3rds of the world’s population are entitled to share the fruits of civilization and the resources of the planet on equal terms with the other third. This will need copious energy… zero carbon energy. That can’t be sourced from WWS at the necessary scale and cost.
Scavenging CO2 from the atmosphere.
Goodness knows how CO2 is going to be reclaimed from the air and oceans, but it is a job that, if not done, implies very substantial loss of value for “the commons” and the services provided by nature. I might not live to see it done, but it will still need to be done. That will consume vary large quantities of energy, far beyond the ability of WWS.
None of this comes through the discussion or the article itself.
The writer seems not to be describing either Jacobson’s work or the criticisms of it. Instead, he seems to be justifying his own past minor contributions. He has, like Jacobson, demonstrated that he is not receptive to learning. He isn’t listening, except to the echo chamber of inadaquacy that is the cheer squad for WWS and for 100% renewables.
The article is trying, yet failing, to justify continuing expense, failures to meet dollar and physical and time objectives.
It’s all very sad. If I wasn’t now teetotal, it would be enough drive me to drink.
It is also a complete waste of time arguing with that line of unreason. The battle for sustainability in energy, as with everything else, will be won in the middle ground, not by jousting with extremists.
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Thanks Singleton. I especially appreciated the reminder that we’re after the middle ground. I sometimes wish I could still comment on Cleantechnica and link to contrary opinions promoting the benefits of nuclear power, just in case any lurkers are interested, but I have of course been censored from that site long ago.
Me, too. The list of sites I have been banned from is growing but I feel no loss.
Posting this out of interest. Here is a story on a geo-engineering conference that has been held recently:
Having spoken with Barry B some time ago I am aware that he is of the opinion that climate change may have gone too far into overshoot to be remediated by energy supply choices alone and use of geo-engineering solutions may pragmatically be our backstop salvation… and so a debate on such options should be embraced.
As for me, I think it is more useful at this stage to highlight these moves as a warning shot to humanity, pointing out what extreme measures may literally have to be undertaken if carbon emissions are not dramatically reduced in the coming decade.
If our climate is going to be redesigned by technocrats, I very much hope that they are the best on the planet.
Unlike Elon Musk, we don’t have another planet to work with when this one stops working properly.
“If our climate is going to be redesigned by technocrats, I very much hope that they are the best on the planet.
Unlike Elon Musk, we don’t have another planet to work with when this one stops working properly.”
Unfortunately, it already has stopped working properly, which is why we’re discussing geoengineering and possibly bleaching the skies white with sulphur particles for the next few hundred years.
Let’s hang back before assuming that the first “solution” that comes to mind is going to be ideal… or even workable.
The alternative is likely to be tainted and damned by turf wars between rival gangs.
Lack of impartial consideration and thoroughness has already resulted in Germany’s increasing expenditure coinciding with increasing CO2 emissions; with celebration of infinitesimal gains which in reality were the opposite (CCS comes to mind) and straight-out scams and waste of money on a grand scale.
The list of course includes Australia’s wind and solar subsidies and EV schemes that rely on carbon-heavy electricity yet claim to be pollution-free. That can and does result in minimal or even negative results whole-of-life outcomes, eg EV’s in Germany, where electricity has a carbon intensity of 550g/kWh and charging involves 20% for losses.
The doozy, of course, is closure of zero carbon emission NPP’s prematurely, eg Germany, Japan, Sweden, France, USA and proposed Switzerland. Possibly also South Korea. This is somewhere between criminally negligent and corrupt.
1. Options studies.
Project management approach.
Management of project scope – eg avoid installing batteries in SA, then discovering the need but still not costing them against the reason for their existence.
Whole of life analysis – no exceptions, regardless of political pressure or imagined beauty.
System analysis, as committing to pretty pet projects without consideration of side effects and the bigger picture. Again the SA battery situation. Inertia is not an optional extra in power systems. It should never have been overlooked.
Financial optimisation. E.g. SA again. It is said that there were 91 expressions of interest, 12 invitations to submit offers and still the “winner” knew far enough in advance what the result was going to be, to travel across the Pacific for a love-in photoshoot. I’m far from convinced that the best offer was on the table or that the best available offer was accepted. Indeed, does the Premier know what he has purchased, apart from a TV shoot and a few celebrity photographs?
Peer review. Technical review is not optional.
Otherwise there will be a repeat of the current slanging match about so-called renewables but which are doomed to become mountains of waste or, in the case of El Hierro’s Pumped Hydro/Wind operate at a reported eye-watering $1200/MWh. The real issue might be access to grants: certain universities and pop-star professors come to mind. Or subsidies: domestic solar tops this list, which is endless; shareholder ripoffs (Geothermal power did a bit of this in Oz during the past decade or two); tax scams; and the rest.
At the very least, any proposals in this area must be accompanied by detailed conflict-of-interest declarations which have been audited by forensic accountants with fraud investigation experience.
Then, and not before, we might return to the vision of sulfur-bleached skies.
Since all (betcha!) remediation schemes have trivial effect compared to any ongoing emissions, they are guaranteed to be useless.
No, worse than useless. Good-hearted people will want to be persuaded that they have solved the problem when they haven’t achieved anything more than a token. Already, all around us, preachers beam with false virtue as they thank us for our widow’s farthing reducing the problem. Reducing, my foot. We need eradication of all emissions, even if they have been blessed as backup to renewables.
If emitters are allowed to fund the schemes, they will claim a right to emit. And guess what – “We put some in a fizzy drink yesterday, so we can now emit as much as we friggin well like!”
Feel better now?
BTW, great piece of work.
I did point out in earlier posts on this thread that there is a environmentally sound way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “Irrigated Afforestation of the Sahara desert and the Australian outback …” by Len Orstein et al. is the reference.
In addition to stopping the use of fossil fuels and other sources of methane from the ground, start putting back the excess. Growing trees is one way to do it.
not only that, but we can grow all the kelp we need and biochar it and bury it or share it around to increase the sequestration rate of those afforestation schemes, or (after ALL our farmland has been completely regenerated with biochar), dump the excess in the ocean.
Both the kelp magic and the forests-in-the-desert biochar dream have been discussed and disputed here before.
Do we really have to go back over it all?
What’s actually new this time around?
The level of public interest.
What’s the same? The fact that biochar can remediate soils, remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and then (if there’s ever too much of it) be crushed into bricks and dropped into the ocean.
In addition to pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, President “Trump has reneged on $2 billion in unpaid commitments to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created in advance of the Paris Agreement to support projects to address climate change in the developing world” ((web)) And the rest of it, guilt money doomed to flow out pointlessly of the United States year upon year.
Apart from mounting prayer wheels on hilltops and whitewashing coal, that money was intended to fund plans just like you are enthusiastically proposing right now. Each loony* plan to remove CO2 from the biosphere and vanish it into something equivalent to one of the three thimbles being juggled by a conjurer, would require oodles of money to achieve nothing at all. But I bet before you could lay your hands on any of it, it would have vanished into the pockets of shady little men who have no more skin in the developing countries concerned than post office boxes. No wonder the Republicans want Trump to pull out of the Paris Accord.
So should the hungry man be given a fish (web), or should he be given a fishing rod?
As I see it, both sides of politics in the developed world would sympathise with the idea that a similar amount of money be spent in the developed world, on the R&D for the mass production of cheap, non-carbon power sources, to be bought by planners in the developing world.
One thing that history would credit a Trump administration for would be to instruct NRC to fast track the licensing of the NuScale reactor.
(* = Fails to achieve significant permanent removal of CO2)
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I think you’re suffering from a highly developed case of ‘either/or’ when it’s ‘together/and’.
The world GDP is $75,000,000,000,000. There’s enough money to both build out abundant clean energy and actually sequester CO2 in real storage mechanisms long term.
PS: We have to. It’s already too late. Waaaay too late. Prevention is better than the cure, but it’s far too late to prevent. We need the cure.