Sustainable Nuclear

Below is a compilation of posts I’ve made on Brave New Climate (each with plenty of hyperlinks to external resources for futher reading) which refer to nuclear power and the Gen IV exemplar design, the Integral Fast Reactor Nuclear Power (IFR). Please be sure to also read through the comments sections that follow each posting, as there are many useful updates and Q&A exchanges therein!

Radio/TV interviews

Counterpoint ABC radio debate – Does being green mean going nuclear?

Backstory – Barry Brook on 4th Generation Nuclear Power

Is Our Future Nuclear?

Science Show – Nuclear power plants – now safer and cheaper

Counterpoint – nuclear power and the low carbon economy

Fast Reactor Radio

“Spooked” by IFR on TV

Newspaper articles

Nuclear Power – Yes Please! (why we need nuclear energy to beat climate change)

Clean future in nuclear power

Follow Britain’s nuclear lead

Brave new power for the world

An inconvenient solution

Integral Fast Reactors for the masses

Rethinking nuclear power

IFR Facts and Discussion Series

IFR FaD 1 – Context

IFR FaD 2 – fuel use

IFR FaD 3 – the LWR versus IFR fuel cycle

IFR FaD context – the need for U.S. implementation of the IFR

IFR FaD 4 – a lifetime of energy in the palm of your hand

IFR FaD 5 – the Gen III and Gen IV nuclear power synergy – why we need both

IFR FaD 6 – fast reactors are easy to control

Blog posts

Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) nuclear power – Q and A

The 21st century nuclear renaissance is starting – good news for the climate

Response to an Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) critique

The Integral Fast Reactor – Summary for Policy Makers (by Steve Kirsch)

Pebble Bed Advanced High Temperature Reactor at UC Berkeley – low cost nuclear?

A Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) deployment plan for Australia (by Alex Goodwin)

Nuclear century outlook – crystal ball gazing by the WNA

Carbon emissions and nuclear capable countries

Recent nuclear power cost estimates – separating fact from myth

Would 10,000 nuclear power stations cook the planet?

Should Gen III nuclear power precede Gen IV in Australia?

Hypocrisies of the antis

Al Gore’s blind spot on nuclear power

Why is the US ignoring the Integral Fast Reactor? (by Steve Kirsch)

Hansen to Obama Pt III – Fast nuclear reactors are integral (by Jim Hansen)

Total energy independence in 12 years

Radiation – facts, fallacies and phobias

From nuclear sceptic to convert (by Haydon Manning)

What is risk? A simple explanation (by Peter Lang)


This list of posts also include what will eventually be a 6-part review series of the book by Tom Blees, Prescription for the Planet, which, within its 400 pages, describes IFR and some related technologies (boron-powered vehicles and plasma burners for waste recycling) that together circumscribe the most practical and innovate energy and sustainability solution I have yet encountered. It also looks carefully at how to achieve the energy revolution required on an international scale. It is, in my opinion, the most important book ever written on energy and climate solutions.

Prescription for the Planet – Part I

Prescription for the Planet – Part II – Newclear energy and boron-powered vehicles

Prescription for the Planet – Part III – Renewable atoms and plasma-charged waste

Prescription for the Planet – Part IV – Show me the money!

P4TP chapter 4 – everyone can now read Blees on IFR

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112 replies on “Sustainable Nuclear”

Disappointing to read Barry Brook in The Australian today(8/6/08) saying that integral fast reactors “cannot be used to generate weapons-grade material”. The statement is false and Brook ought to write to The Australian to correct it.


Jim – “Disappointing to read Barry Brook in The Australian today(8/6/08) saying that integral fast reactors “cannot be used to generate weapons-grade material”. The statement is false and Brook ought to write to The Australian to correct it.”

Hi Jim – you might get some argument about this here however I also have concerns about the IFR plants being used to make weapons grade material. As I am about halfway through the book nothing so far has alleviated my concerns.

Have you read this paper?

Click to access 43534.pdf

“The key to objectively assessing the proliferation resistance of the IFR concept is to recall that much of what Bengelsdorf and Wymer said years ago still pertains in large measure today, i.e., that some elements of the technology still remain to be developed and demonstrated. The reactor aside, neither the recovery of transuranics from the molten salt system nor the remote fabrication of fuel has been demonstrated. Even the concept for transuranic recovery has evolved through two generations since those early assessments were done. For every chemist worried about degradation of proliferation-resistant characteristics, there is another worried about obtaining a product
sufficiently decontaminated to be useful in fuel fabrication. The assessment of this fuel cycle should be an ongoing analysis that keeps up with the research rather than one based on the presumptions of
either the advocates or the critics.”


Hi Barry – I don’t think anyone does dispute that IFRs can produce weapon grade plutonium. Why do you say in The Australian that IFR cannot produce weapon grade material when you appear to be acknowledging otherwise? I’ve read PFTP from cover to cover and my WMD concerns are heightened – to give one example, he proposes using the first fleet of IFRs to breed plutonium for the next fleet which raises proliferation potential by justifying the removal and transport of irradiated materials. Similarly, once the bean-counters have ditched Blees’ idea of on-site processing in favour of centralised processing, removal and transport of IFR-irradiated materials would become the norm.


Jim – I should point out that Barry did not reply to you – I did. I have disputed with Barry and Tom Blees about the IFR and was supporting your viewpoint as it seems to be approx the same as my own.

Both Tom and Barry did insist that I read the book before making anymore pronouncements so I have procured a copy and I am reading it.

Stephen Gloor
AKA Ender


What I said was quite correct. IFRs cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The integral fast reactor is a systems design with a sodium-cooled reactor with metal fuels and pyroprocessing on-site. To produce weapons-grade plutonium you would have to build an IFR+HSHVHSORF (highly specialised, highly visible, heavily shielded off-site reprocessing facility). You would also need to run your IFR on a short cycle. For a nation state that only has IFRs, the very acts of short cycle operation and construction of a HSHVHSORF or Uranium enrichment facility would immediately flag the intention of producing weapons material, since there would be no other reason for doing this. For other nation states that have other nuclear capability, they can make bombs if they really want to anyway, and wouldn’t bother trying to do it with an IFR+HSHVHSORF.

Jim, I accept that you are never going to let go of your anti-nuclear stance, no matter what technology or oversight is available or on offer. There are no conditions under which nuclear power will be acceptable to you. Everything will apparently ‘fail the crucial weapons proliferation test’. So be it. It is as pointless trying to convince you otherwise as it is trying to convince climate change deniers of the reality of human-induced global warming. So I’m not going to try. I’m happy to engage with those who are willing to look at the realities of the energy and climate crises in a more rational and holistic way.


If Jim Green and others who are ostensibly worried about proliferation due to the IFR would absorb what’s in P4TP they would see that their concerns have been more than dealt with in its pages. It is far easier to obtain weapons-grade material from a small research reactor. Ender’s quote about the remote fabrication of fuel never having been demonstrated is patently false. Thousands of fuel pellets were produced during the years of the IFR project.

In P4TP I readily acknowledge that there needs to be international oversight of fissile material in any case, if only to prevent the dirty bomb scenario. The on-site recycling of fuel would minimize that and any other proliferation threat, but of course we want to be as safe as possible, hence my proposal for the international energy consortium to build and operate the plants around the world. As for Green’s casual dismissal of on-site reprocessing as uneconomical, that assertion is baseless. A large IFR complex would need to recycle only several liters a day in a completely modular hot cell. Given that these modules would be produced by the hundreds and would require the same type of electrometallurgical equipment now in common use around the world, the assertion that it’s an economic non-starter is yet another futile attempt to undermine the viability of the IFR.


Barry, would a highly specialised, highly visible, heavily shielded off-site reprocessing facility, be the only way to make weapons material?

Is there, for example, a feature of such a plant that makes it impossible to to hide (considering that the USA have been confused in the past and bombed innocent civilian facilities thinking them to be weapons plants?)


Mark, we’re of course only talking about the hypothetical situation of countries that currently have no other nuclear technology than IFR. In those cases, there is no need for any off-site civilian nuclear facilities for any purpose. Further, as explained in P4TP, the ‘deal’ in sharing and managing the IFR system by something like GREAT is full inspection access.


Tom, Thanks for making chapter 4 available to read. It was written very well. And I’m pleased that readers like John Morgan have asked follow up questions.


Barry, you say that for IFR to produce weapon grade plutonium you would “need to run your IFR on a short cycle” and have access to off-site reprocessing – which is exactly what I say. Yet in the same post you assert that “IFRs cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.” You can’t have it both ways and you really do need to write to The Australian to acknowledge your error.


You didn’t read what I said. That’s not an IFR, Jim. That’s an IFR plus a whole bunch of infrastructure that you would need to build (and somehow hide) to try to turn the IFR into something it otherwise cannot be. You are the one who is in error.


To which I would add that the earth itself is a proliferation risk. And given its an easier route to a nuclear weapon from natural uranium than from an IFR, its a greater proliferation risk than the IFR.

Its a nuclear reactor Jim, but not as we know it.


Hi All,

Doesn’t this debate needs to move on from the talking of its potential to an actual feasibility for the construction and operation and waste disposal of the type of fast reactor that Barry is advocating.

Barry, just a response to the 10 years objective for a fast reactor in Australia. Realistically can we expect one to be built within 10 years in Australia, when no full scale plant as I understand has been built in any of the current nuclear industry countries?

Lets move this debate on and work out what the real figures of what it would take to build, and operate and fund.

Then we can examine if all the benefits economic and environmental are worth both the economic, waste, proliferation risks and environmental costs.

As a start Barry can you please state a breakdown of what your assumptions and time frames are for the various elements of getting the first reactor up and running here in Australia.

Here’s a start to some of the major project tasks.

Feasibility Study
Political Decision to proceed
Tender process
Tender review
Development of construction organisation
Site selection
Fuel Processing Site Construction
Reactor Site Construction
Waste facility construction




Thanks for the questions, Nick. Realistically, no, we can’t expect a fast reactor to be deployed in Australia until a fair number have been deployed in other countries. That doesn’t mean we can be building mostly fast reactors within 20 years. It just means that the first fleet of Australian reactors will almost certainly be Gen III.

As to your request for a breakdown, you’ve just requested 9 additional blog posts. I guess I’ll get to them all eventually (I’ve certainly thought a lot about all of the above). But here is a start (the vision thing):


Thanks for the reply Barry.

Hmmm. (me thinking)

I think the discussion around Gen IV is healthy as it is better regarding waste and proliferation than Gen III. But it then comes back to the discussion of whether any Gen III will be built in Australia prior to Gen IV. (I read through some of this discussion )

I would think that the gov would proceed with a first phase of 1 plant ~500MW (roughly?). Ie to prove the industry viability, then look at multiple role outs of additional plants. Would it want to do Gen III probably not because of the waste and cost issues, but it might if climate change effects ramped up.

Thus we then have 500MW nuclear to demonstrate the industry, yet 15 min years for the first IFS to be built here. That sort of initial 500MW can be put on fairly quickly in renewables once a CPRS is up and running, but even now without it the MW are ramping up.

I think the problem here is nuclear will only be really supported if we dont manage to reduce emissions in next 5 years. Possibly to late. But the realities for IFS are a little way off until one gets built somewhere.

Perhaps then the focus should shift to map out the proposal for an IFS, define what industry really needs to be built and forget the Gen III and focus on renewables and energy efficiency. If IFS seems feasible then we can proceed with it, but if renewables under a CPRS are on track then we dont need IFS.

I think perhaps what we should also be discussing is how to come up with solutions to shut down coal plants by some innovative financial measures. Eg those suggested on dertec site are quite interesting for South Australias situtation.

I’d like to see the economics, climate science and nuclear benefits and costs, renewables benefits and costs stacked up against one another for australia, segmented into say industry development cycles of 5 years to see if modelled what sort of choices can be made.

Until that sort of clear comparison is made (it may be exist) and is open to analysis (ie paid project) not just political sniping we arn’t going to get down to a scientific solution.

Good discussion. Keen to see where it heads. Still concerned about nuclear, but open to the science.



Barry Brook – “Jim, I accept that you are never going to let go of your anti-nuclear stance, no matter what technology or oversight is available or on offer. There are no conditions under which nuclear power will be acceptable to you. Everything will apparently ‘fail the crucial weapons proliferation test’. So be it. It is as pointless trying to convince you otherwise as it is trying to convince climate change deniers of the reality of human-induced global warming.”

I don’t think that is is correct to compare opponents of nuclear power to climate change deniers. Climate change deniers, the paid ones at least, use non peer reviewed science to back up their ideas. They also ignore or discount the peer reviewed science on the subject of climate change and our role in it. They also ignore or dispute the basic science behind the case for the enhanced greenhouse effect.

There is no peer reviewed science, at least as far as I know, that says that nuclear power is the answer to our future energy needs, nor is a renewable powered future contrary to the known laws of science.. There is however peer reviewed research that says that wind energy at least can replace baseload in certain circumstances.

Your position on nuclear power is your opinion only, equal but opposite to my opposition to nuclear power. Neither Jim or I are denying the science behind nuclear power only disputing that it is a reasonable and safe energy source to power the future energy needs of a technological low carbon society.


Stephen, I’m sympathetic with your drive for renewable power, but there are some factors which make some arguments in this mix, hang on more than opinion.

Barry and Tom have presented a clear case backed up to some degree with various forms of rationale, evidence, and calculations. If we can’t match that with a better case with renewables, than our opinions begin to look less based on logic.
I’d calculate you’ve to good reason to argue for renewables in preference to nuclear in some respects, but I’d prefer that argument to be in reference to more than opinions.
The appeal to opinions is trumped by data that changes people’s opinions.

For example, Barry has pointed to calculations from the WNA which are used to argue Gen II/III energy payback period in the range of a few months to at most a few years. This is at odds with the ISA calculations of 6 to 14 years. Barry thinks the ISA are overly pessimistic. But I believe the WNA calcs are overly optimistic. A rebuttal by a third party says that the WNA calcs are not based on a Lifecycle Analysis. If there is a strong push for Gen II or III, in Australia, then someone might be able change opinions based on clarifying these facts.

Australia is among the best placed to approx 100% renewable. We might be able to do it and remain economically competitive with other IFR fuelled nations. But we should also ask if that will be the least cost route for the environment. It might be, but we need good data for a good opinion.


There is one fatal flaw in the nuclear argument and it is disturbing that anyone who holds the chair of climate change should have not noted it.
One of the reasons climate change is so disturbing is that our various communities lack the resilience to cope with climate change. All that is meant by that is that communities depend on resources that are outside of their control in order to survive.
Solutions to climate change that are dependent on resources like uranium simply shift the problem from one unsustainable resource to another. World stocks of uranium are, at current levels of consumption, likely to run out in 40 years. So if we were to go down the nuclear path globally that would mean it would run out much sooner. Therefore to take the nuclear path would mean that at most we would have 40 years before we face the same problems again.
The attraction of nuclear lies in that it gives us the illusion that we do not have to make major adjustments to the way we live.
The reason renewable energy sources are not seen as a solution is because people bolt those on to our existing lifestyle and in that case they are right. But a low energy lifestyle and a planned zero carbon future do not imply that we have to give up the benefits of a 21st century lifestyle – infact a low energy, zerocarbon future based on renewable can be an infinitely better world than the one we are so reluctant to leave behind.


John Tons: I suggest you read the information posted here about IFR. There is sufficient uranium energy to last at least 50,000 years if the whole world was powered by nuclear energy, and potentially much longer. There is sufficient energy already mined to supply the whole world with energy for a few centuries. There is more than this again in thorium. With fast spectrum reactors, the problem of peak uranium becomes irrelevant for as long as we care to imagine.

The reason renewable energy sources are not seen as ‘the solution’ (they can be part of a solution) is that they require harnessing diffuse, intermittent energy [obviously there is a lot more to it than that, but that is the essence of the problem].

With respect, I suggest you read this blog more widely before making presumptions about ‘fatal flaws’ I should have noted.


John Tons: Jimmy Carter said we only had 30 years of oil left in the late 70’s. Advances in drilling and surveying techniques rendered his prediction utter nonsense. Barry Brook is correct. There is plenty of Uranium, and the world market will respond by exploring for more if we aim at a full nuclear electrical grid. Additionally, we will most certainly discover better energy sources and methods still if we all stop being so hyperintellectual about this and move on to the next best energy source–nuclear. It was General Patton who said, “A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.” My 73 year old mother told me just last week that when she was in her twenties she remembers President Eisenhower warning against dependence on foreign oil (1957 State of the Union address) This has been talked about for 50 years already!


Scott I could be wrong… but there is NOT plenty of uranium using conventional nuclear technology in use today, which is what I get the feeling you are implying – supply and demand will not create a never ending tim-tam packet of uranium for conventional reactors. As for carter… well late 70s plus 30 is today… and peak oil is a genuine concern so for a non scientist Carter was not too bad.


“John Tons” helps a number of fossil fuel revenue protection memes to propagate; if he is a real person, he needs to look into his own attitudes. What are his sources, and why does he trust them?

The attraction of nuclear lies in that it gives us the illusion that we do not have to make major adjustments to the way we live.

Obviously the cessation of billions in weekly fossil fuel revenue in favour of tens of millions in uranium miners’ revenue has required some of us to make major adjustments in the way they live. So it should have, for on that bargain has depended others’ opportunity to live at all.

As recently said elsewhere: if the Earth had come together from bits of space dust and had then just sat in the sky, unchanging, each dustmote would still be very uranium-poor, perhaps so poor that extracting the stuff would take more energy than could be gained from it.

But the Earth didn’t just sit, and now the inaccessible interior has mostly lost what little uranium it once had, because the stuff has risen towards our feet. Fiorentini et. al, in their paper, How much Uranium is in the Earth?, estimate the continental crust contains 30 to 40 trillion tonnes, and say,

“… The crust — really a tiny envelope — should thus contain about one half of the BSE prediction of Uranium in the Earth …”

That means just about anywhere miners can pulverize a rock, the uranium in the powder is enough to pulverize five rocks of that size.

They would not be able to compete on price with miners who pick spots where the stuff is even more concentrated, and one rock’s uranium gives enough energy to pulverize 400,000. But maybe, 100,000 years from now, all the concentrated deposits will be gone, and that competition will no longer exist; at that time, nuclear power plant operators will have to pay the higher cost, but will be able to continue with fuel extracted from random rocks.

(How fire can be domesticated)


Actually, no, I don’t think it’s worth discussing. Amory Lovins uses outdated and irrelevant arguments, baseless assertions, and whatever other devices come to hand in pursuit of an anti-nuclear agenda. I’ve tried to reason with Amory and get him to accept James Hansen’s eminently reasonable approach of simply building one IFR to determine once and for all the costs, time to build, and other relevant data, but of course that would give the lie to his arguments. But don’t take my word for it. I frankly don’t like to spend my time tearing apart the arguments of those with a doctrinaire and ideological anti-nuclear position. If you’d like to see a little fur fly in that regard, I would direct you here.


Thanks for the links, although it’s a bit weak to critique someone on a 30 year old publications.

I would be interested in specific information about fission isotopes such as Iodine-129 are they destroyed in IFR’s? It seems that this is either true or false, if Lovins has this wrong then he probably has a lot more wrong.


Well, that would only be true if Lovins had said anything new or useful in the subsequent 30 years. Lovins, of course, started out as a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth, and so was entrenched as anti-nuclear from the start (this is where I presume one of his proteges, Joe Romm, also developed his strong anti-nuclear bent). Amory Lovins will NEVER accept nuclear power in any form. Remind you of any other group, arguing a different point, that regularly trolls this forum?

Indeed, some claim that Lovins is a greenwasher for the gas industry. The post “A curious green gas attack” by Charles Barton is well worth reading:

This is also relevant:


Iodine 129 and Technetium 99 are the two long-lived isotopes that are cited. They’re both soft beta emitters that could potentially be separated and transmuted if it was considered necessary. I suppose it depends on whether it’s considered to be worth the hassle and expense. For example, if you would entomb them in glass with the rest of the fission products and bury them in the deep mud of the sea bottom in the location where the Seabed Working Group suggested (see Gwyneth Craven’s excellent chapter on that here.), it would make no sense to bother with them. Or if we decided to bury the glass in the deep salt deposits at the WIPP site, it likewise wouldn’t be of any concern. If you just want to bury the vitrified waste at some random location and are concerned about the extraordinarily slow leaching of a tiny amount of barely radioactive material that would commence thousands of years from now, then plans could be made to isolate and transmute these two elements into short-lived forms instead of entombing them in with the rest of the fission products as-is. This is hardly a deal-breaker. Amory is grasping at straws, as usual.


1. Where is your signup for email notification of new articles? I am using a 1996 Macintosh. I don’t have a cell phone.
2. Power reactors make the wrong isotope of plutonium for bombs. Bombs made with power plant plutonium won’t go boom. Proliferation is a red herring, a phony issue. Canadian “CANDU” reactors run on UNenriched uranium, making proliferation a doubly red herring, non issue.


cheongi, that’s patent, unscientific nonsense.

David Mackay of U Cambridge, estimates the result of 0.1 W/m2 (worst case) is relatively trivial in terms of climate forcing – total post-industrial GHG forcing is about 2.5 W/m2 (some of which is offset by aerosol cooling and OHC lags).

If we got lots and lots of power from nuclear fission or fusion, wouldn’t this contribute to global warming, because of all the extra energy being released into the environment?

That’s a fun question. And because we’ve carefully expressed everything in this book in a single set of units, it’s quite easy to answer. First, let’s recap the key numbers about global energy balance from p20: the average solar power absorbed by atmosphere, land, and oceans is 238 W/m2; doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration would effectively increase the net heating by 4 W/m2. This 1.7% increase in heating is believed to be bad news for climate. Variations in solar power during the 11-year solar cycle have a range of 0.25 W/m2. So now let’s assume that in 100 years or so, the world population is 10 billion, and everyone is living at a European standard of living, using 125 kWh per day derived from fossil sources, from nuclear power, or from mined geothermal power.

The area of the earth per person would be 51 000 m2. Dividing the power per person by the area per person, we find that the extra power contributed by human energy use would be 0.1 W/m2. That’s one fortieth of the 4 W/m2 that we’re currently fretting about, and a little smaller than the 0.25 W/m2 effect of solar variations. So yes, under these assumptions, human power production would just show up as a contributor to global climate change.

By email, George Stanford said this:

“Approx. global population: 7E9.
Average solar power hitting the earth’s surface at ground level = 1 kW / m^2 x pi x (6400 km)^2 = 1.3E14 kW.
That’s 18.4 MW per person from the sun.
– – – – – –
In 2007, the U.S. used 101 quads of energy = 101 x 2.93E11 kWh = 3.0E13 kWh, for an average power usage of 3.4E9 kW.
Pop. of US = ~3.00E8. Thus average power consumption per person = 3.4E9/2.0E8 = 11 kW.
– – – – – –
Thus if the whole world used energy at the per capita rate of the U.S., that would be adding 11 / 18,400 = 0.06% to the total energy input to the biosphere. (BTW, that’s about 6 times the rate at which geothermal energy reaches the surface.)”

Now, based on our best estimate of climate sensitivity, you get 0.75C per W/m2 of forcing, so Mackay’s estimate of 0.1W/m2 would predict a warming of 0.075C for the worst-case scenario. Currently, our thermal power would contribute ~0.01C to global warming, versus the observed warming of 0.8C. So it might explain 1-2% of total warming, not 75%.


Belief in modelled forcing numbers in climate models is patent unscientific nonsense. A scientist would debate the ideas described in the paper.


cheongi, irrespective of whether you accept the science on climate sensitivity (which is derived from fundamental physics, strongly supported by paleoclimatic studies [the strongest evidence] and supplemented by the emergent properties of models), a watt is still a watt. Nothing changes that.

Averaging total anthropogenic thermal energy across the globe results in a trivial W/m2 forcing (this is arithmetic, not climate models), which is orders of magnitude lower than the W/m2 trapped by additional greenhouse gases (this is core 19th century physics, the foundation upon which modern physics is built).

So it’s patent nonsense. A back-of-the-envelope calculation can show it.


There are varying views on climate sensitivity, which in itself says there is no right answer. More research reveal the true science. Arithmetic will not outweigh empirical research which supports or not any prevailing theory.

Nuclear fission is not natural. Combustion is a naturally occurring process. Bushfires have existed for centuries/milennia without firefighters. What if earth’s climate feedback systems are able to cope with combustion? Soot reduces warming. CO2 has a small effect on warming and IPCC data says its effect is near saturated. Forcing numbers are wrong. It’s just as feasible that “dirty” fossil fuels may not be so dangerous. Nuclear could be worse.

Scientists will continue a healthy debate. Try emailing Nordell and having a chat.


BTW, Nordell and Gerbet’s paper talks about energy. Joules, not Watts. Change in temperature is a function of energy, mass and specific heat.

W/m2 isn’t quite it.


Power (W/m2) is simply energy per unit time (J/s). Time in this case is arbitrary and the problem of forcing in this case is arithmetic (power per unit area of a planet). What are you trying to lecture me on here?

Nuclear fission is natural. Never heard of Oklo, I presume?


Natural nuclear fission in precambrian times several hundred million years ago or more. What was the temperature and CO2 then?

Power is measured in Watts. Electricty in kWh MWh or similar. Time is a required variable.

W/m2 is power per unit area.

What formulae do climate scientists use to compute changes in temperature from W/m2???


Although it reveals that I read CEC emails… today’s gem of a rant was on Coppenhagen… including a claim that it removes nuclear power from the tools available to reduce emissions:

“Page 83 of the 181-page treaty, section 50 states: [Nationally appropriate mitigation actions shall not include technologies that have adverse impacts on the environment, including, inter alia, nuclear power and large-scale hydro-electric power.]

I include the next bit as the CEC are also on the Promethean bandwagon:)

“Once again, the British oligarchy—the modern-day gods of Olympus—are chaining Prometheus,” Mr Isherwood said, referring to Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound, in which Zeus commanded that the Titan Prometheus be chained to a rock for eternity for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind, as technology for economic development. ”

Mr Isherwood observed, “Of course, that’s why genocidalists hate nuclear power, but that’s why we love it—it’s Promethean fire for the people.”


I didn;t read the document either, and would not be surprised if the CEC just made it up to be honest:) Hmm ok now I did – in the document the comment is in square brackets… lots are, and there is no explanation. So they may be unconfirmed bits, or bits being edited out or not agreed on etc? plus the draft was from earlier in 2009 Bangkok and Barcelona.


IFR Gen4 is worth supporting.
Suggest your photo labelled ‘Time to go fission’ be adjusted:
1. Nuclear logo could include of red zig zag arrows pointing inward representing energy in a sure and controlled direction and
2. tree on top representing a healthy green productive and prosperous scene .
3.’ Sustainable Gen 4′ printed around lower edge of logo
Logo can help us have good feelings about the venture.

Article on ‘Nuclear safeguards and Australian export policy’ could be followed up with article showing Gen4 has many easily monitored safeguards. Gen4 needs to be installed as soon as possible to reduce weapons proliferation risks as well as avoid further climate change.


Mark, that was actually something done up by the Adelaide Advertiser. I’d prefer a better image (without the biohazard symbol), but I’m not the guy to make it. If anyone wishes to do so, I’d be grateful.


THORIUM reactors are the answer.

In nuclear physics, an energy amplifier is a novel type of nuclear power reactor, a subcritical reactor, in which an energetic particle beam is used to stimulate a reaction, which in turn releases enough energy to power the particle accelerator and leave an energy profit for power generation. The concept has more recently been referred to as an accelerator-driven system (ADS).

Thorium: Is It the Better Nuclear Fuel? It may turn out to be a quantum leap in the search for economy and safety.

Cleaner Nuclear Power?

Click to access MIT_Cleaner_Nuclear_Power.pdf

Accelerator-driven Nuclear Energy

New age nuclear
The Thorium Reactor and possible tie to THOR is on the 4h page.

Reintroducing Thorium
A largely forgotten natural resource holds vast nuclear power potential

Is thorium the answer to our energy crisis?
It could power the planet for thousands of years, the reactors would never blow up and the waste is relatively clean. So is thorium the nuclear fuel of the future?

A Nuclear Reactor in Every Home

“Thorium-based nuclear energy” Interview with Professor Egil Lillest

Plan for Nuclear Reactor Without Nuclear Waste

Thorium: Is It the Better Nuclear Fuel?
It may turn out to be a quantum leap in the search for economy and safety.

Energy amplifier

Thorium reactor


Thorium Energy Alliance


Hi Barry,

how do you reply to these two points against Nuclear plant:

1. Cost. British experience says that without public funding they are not competitive. British Energy, that manages the British plants has been secretly funded with public money. Finnish reactor of Olkiluoto, 3rd generation though, still under construction, has become object of study in all world for all that can go wrong in the construction of a nuclear plant. Seems that the project will cost 50% more than foreseen. Same problems for French reactor at Flamanville.

And another problem to Australia is very vulnerable.
We know that a nuclear plant needs huge amount of water. Your comments on this?

And then the problem with the waste? How do we smelter it in a safe way?

I’m trying to form my own opinion and so far I have been against nuclear plants, but I like your arguments in favor. So if you could comment on what I said before it would help me a lot .


British Energy, that manages the British plants has been secretly funded with public money.

Really? Then how is it that you know about it?

Finnish reactor of Olkiluoto, 3rd generation though, still under construction, has become object of study in all world for all that can go wrong in the construction of a nuclear plant. Seems that the project will cost 50% more than foreseen. Same problems for French reactor at Flamanville.

These are the first two EPR reactors, a design that many even in France cautioned AREVA had been superseded by superior designs even before they broke ground on them. While it’s not uncommon for first-of-a-kind major engineering projects to experience big cost overruns, it’s a near-sure bet that the modular reactors like the AP-1000 currently being built in China will be a far different story. Anti-nuclear people love to point to the EPRs as proof that nuclear power is too expensive, but they usually avoid the realities of modular reactors like the plague because it shoots those arguments down.

We know that a nuclear plant needs huge amount of water.

A nuclear power plant that uses steam-driven turbines needs the same amount of water per MWh as any other type of power plant of the same size, whether coal or gas. In fact, air cooling systems have been developed that can operate effectively in temperatures as high as 55C. In areas where water is a problem, those could be employed. The cost is apparently higher, though, which is probably why they haven’t been used commercially yet.

As for waste, much has been written about that topic here on BNC, as well as in my book, Prescription for the Planet. With Integral Fast Reactors, the waste will only be radioactive beyond background levels for a few hundred years, yet entombed in glass or synthetic stone that won’t leach anything into the environment for thousands of years.


Hi Tom …

I was wondering if you had seen this paper

Almost all of it is unintelligible to me, and simply reminds me how little I know about nuclear physics, but it does seem to be saying that it is possible to ultimately get waste sequestration times down to about 200 years.

I this a fair inference?



Most of the physicists I know talk about 300 years as the amount of time necessary to get it below background levels. Figure the cesium and strontium have half-lives of about 30 years. Ten half-lives should do the trick as a rule of thumb.



What remains of spent nuclear fuel after reprocessing are some isotopes for which no important uses have yet been found, but which can be stored for future retrieval. France, which completely reprocesses its recyclable material, stores all the unused remains — from 30 years of generating 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy — beneath the floor of a single room at La Hague.

But the real question to ask, is what other power generation wastes actually get less hazardous over time? Certainly any mercury and cadmium in coal ash waste ponds will be as toxic in a thousand years as they are today.

Why isn’t there any hand-wringing over marking areas that will be used to sequester CO2 so that our descendants won’t inadvertently drill in those places 10,000 years hence?


One of the world’s biggest CO2 burial sites at Barrow Island WA is off the hook if any escapes
Up to 120 Mt of CO2 is planned to be held in place by a saline aquifer 2 km below the island. The operator Chevron has to manage it during its lifetime then they can walk away and it becomes the government’s problem.

I think this is potentially more fraught with danger than loan guarantees to NPP builders. CO2 escape is a physical hazard whereas possible loan defaults are a financial issue.


Actually, DV, France’s reprocessing system produces an awful lot of depleted uranium, and they’re not storing that, but paying Russia to take it. While I applaud the foresight of those French decisionmakers who started them on the road to energy independence with nuclear power, some of their more recent decisions strike me as considerably less than prescient. It seems almost ludicrous that they would pay Russia to take what is actually about 99% of the energy in their uranium (once Russia and others begin using more fast reactors). In this case it seems to be the Russians who have the foresight to stockpile a prodigious supply of future (very valuable) fuel for both domestic and export use, a perspicacity that will stand them in good stead as ever-increasing deployment of fast reactors phases out the oil and gas upon which Russia currently relies for the majority of their foreign exchange. All the better for them if they are in the forefront of fast reactor mass production. Meanwhile, the USA and Australia both hang back, oblivious to the virtual certainties of the world’s energy future.

It might not look so clear today, but ultimately the truly vast amounts of environmentally benign energy locked within all that uranium will be recognized as the key to an energy-rich future for the whole planet. Ponder the realities of energy density, and the picture comes into focus. There is simply no comparison. One cubic inch per person per life is all it takes.


Tom Blees,

Your last line is a good on-liner I hadnt seen before:

One cubic inch per person per life


Tom Blees, Check your sources, you should not take everything that comes from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research at face value. Nor should you confuse enrichment, re-enrichment, and reprocessing, these are all different things.

Uranium enrichment produces depleted uranium, any U-238 that comes from reprocessing would have been in the spent fuel anyway, there is no net increase in mass. The reprocessing of each ton of standard PWR fuel produces 960 kg of RepU; it is this material that is sent ether to Tomsk, in Russia, or at the Urenco d’Almelo factory in the Netherlands, for re-enrichment.

France, up until I believe November of last year, sent DU (not RepU) to Russia for upgrading of these enrichment tails, but had to stop due to a lack of capacity at the blending plants.


Why isn’t there any hand-wringing over marking areas that will be used to sequester CO2 so that our descendants won’t inadvertently drill in those places 10,000 years hence?

This is a good point. can this go into the double standards post?



DV says: Tom Blees, Check your sources, you should not take everything that comes from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research at face value.

OMG, DV, how could you insult me so harshly as to even use my name in the same sentence as the IEER, much less to imply that I pay any attention to their ravings? RepU or DU matters not in the point I was making, though you point out that both have been sent to Russia. Not a whole lot of difference between the two in terms of substance, only in terminology denoting how the uranium reached that stage (unless, that is, the RepU still contains fission products, which I don’t believe is the case).

Just to be clear, my source was a two-day conference on nuclear safety and environmental issues in St. Petersburg at which I was participating a couple weeks ago, not the clueless IEER.


Tom – my humble apologies, there was no insult intended, however they ARE the ones that have been bending the truth on these French shipments, and can often be found at the bottom of of these allegations that somehow the French reprocessing efforts are not what they seem to be.

At any rate the French are not sending their U-238 (whatever the source) to Russia for storage per se, they have sent it for down-blending, and are paying for storage only because the Russians don’t have the throughput to process it fast enough. They are also sending it to The Netherlands as well for processing by Enrichment Technology Company Limited, which is jointly owned by URENCO and Areva.

It’s the spin, that somehow something is being hidden in these transactions that I was objecting to, and which you seem to have bought into in your previous comment,


No problem, DV. Actually the subject came up when a member of Green Cross (Gorbachev’s environmental organization) at the conference was complaining that Rosatom was taking all this uranium from France. I frankly didn’t know about these transactions before that, but assured him that if Russia is taking uranium from France it’s a good deal for Russia.


The downblending market is somewhat opaque in its operations, and what goes on is not always that clear to an outside observer.

Downblending is done by the Russian company Tekhsnabeksport (“Tenex”).

Tenex downblends HEU from Russian weapon grade stock to LEU at Rosatom’s facilities. The customer then buys only the Separative work unit (SWU) component of this LEU, how would then be free to resell the SWU’s in compliance with relevant regulations and international laws. Tenex, on the other hand, retains title to the uranium component, and is free to resell it, subject to relevant international agreements and Russian statutes.

These circumventions, though contrary to common sense, are forced by the peculiarities of the uranium market: though there is only one actual product shipped out of Tenex – five percent low-enriched uranium hexafluoride – the buyer holds title only to the value of the services employed to enrich it; i.e., the SWU’s. According to the agreement, the actual material that has been produced remains in Tenex’s legal possession.

Obviously, it is impossible to physically separate raw materials from the work that has processed them into a finished product. Therefore, when the buyer resells the SWU component, it must provide its customers with the entire LEU product it received from Tenex. This leaves it in a barter debt: it owes the physical mass of the material to Tenex. The situation is resolved by the final customers shipping an equivalent quantity of natural or depleted uranium feedstock back to the buyer – which is then designated as Tenex’s component returned.

In addition, the original buyer would reimburse Tenex for the cost of the uranium blendstock that the latter used to downblend the original HEU. The reimbursement again in the form of a barter payment again in natural or depleted uranium, equivalent to the amount the Russians had used (even though Tenex uses 1.5 percent slightly enriched uranium (SEU), for downblending). Tenex is now free to resell this returned uranium as well.

So as you can see who owns what and when, and what is actually in whosoever’s possession, and what is apparently being traded, and what is really being shipped is somewhat complex.


gregory meyerson, on 2 May 2010 at 5.21 — Completely removing the CO2 via weathering mafic rock means there is no future problem:
Australia has nearby suitable formations in Papua New Guinea and the ocean north of there, New Caledonia and also in northern West Australia. Maybe other sites unknown to me.


DV82XL @ May 2010 at 7.39 Said:

These circumventions, though contrary to common sense, are forced by the peculiarities of the uranium market.

So as you can see who owns what and when, and what is actually in whosoever’s possession, and what is apparently being traded, and what is really being shipped is somewhat complex.

This is another example of the sorts of complexities we are forcing on nuclear power. It is another example of the many imposts that are greatly increasing the cost of nuclear energy above what it could and should be.

I imagine someone will tell me this is not significant for civil nuclear or some such point. But my point is this is another example of the many such regulations that are imposed on nuclear power that are not imposed on coal or gas – both of which emit much more toxic substances, in far greater quantities with the overall result that they cause 10 to 100 times more fatalities than nuclear per unit of energy output.

Your point about these regulations, and my brain seeing $$$$$$, is that I believe if we really remove all the imposts and get a level playing field – on the basis of health and environmental risks – then nuclear would be some half the cost of coal. I have no way of proving this, but it is my hunch.


I strongly believe that release of water vapor by human activities like agriculture,electricity production,creation of dark surfaces(roofs,roads), removal of trees etc to be the major reason for global warming and climate change.
So reducing energy use, promoting white roofs in all homes,reducing/modifying agriculture, increasing trees, storing liquid water on land(rain) etc will help to mitigate the problems.

As per Albert Bartlett “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” Water vapor follows exponential function. So we fail to understand its implications.

For producing each KWhr in a coal based thermal powerplant, we have to release 0.6 Kg of CO2 and more than 2 Kgs of water vapor. 13 moles of Co2 and 111 moles of water vapor molecules. Around 124 moles of greenhouse gases are released for producing 1 KWhr electrical energy.

For producing each KWhr in a nuclear powerplant, we have to release at least 3 Kgs of water vapor due to poor efficiency on account of safety. Around 166 moles of greenhouse gases are released for producing 1 KWhr electrical energy. So Nuclear power plants release at least 34% more greenhouse gases than a coal based thermal powerplant and also plenty of waste heat.

Water vapor stores huge amount of heat. It can absorb both incoming solar energy and outgoing energy from the earth across several wavelengths. Because of the above properties only Earth is a warmer planet. These water vapor molecules have the capability to liberate additonal water vapor molecules from water bodies (oceans lakes etc) due to its huge heat handling properties.Even if we assume 1000 water molecules can liberate one water molecule in a day, the total will be very much higher than all other greenhouse gas molecules.

Water vapor molecules can become liquid ONLY after rejecting heat to sky. Already heat rejection is the major problem for the Earth.So it becomes vicious circle.

In my opinion Nuclear energy should be reserved for Space,submarine applications only.

The permanent economic collapse which is underway now, is reducing global energy use and the corresponding dumping of water vapor into the atmosphere. This has led to very mild hurricane activities in the Gulf of Mexico region in the past two years and the trend will continue.

Rain does a better “carbon capture” than any man made technology. But the “storage” depends on the water temperature. Colder water stores more CO2 molecules. So if we reduce heat in the atmosphere by white roofs,reduced energy use,avoiding nuclear energy etc, we can easily achieve “carbon+water vapor capture and storage”.


Readers might be interested in a posting on the Computare website related to the potential for the development and use of nuclear energy in relation to Canada’s oil sands resource. It is on the “Guest” page and is dated June 1,2,3, 2009.


There are several articles and presentations posted there under “Western Focus Seminar”

Duane Pendergast


I look forward to the BNC updates, could you comment on the recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Elizabeth Farrelly, Thursday Jan 20th. It is very interesting, does it stack up as far as you are concerned, in terms of scientific accuracy?



Farrelly’s article doesn’t stack up because she doesn’t understand how to calculate energy measurements (a very common problem among reporters). She writes:

“Global energy demand is about 13 terawatts (a terawatt is a trillion watts; a watt is a joule per second). Eighty per cent of this is fossil-derived. For civilisation to survive, a California Institute of Technology chemist, Nathan Lewis, calculates, 90 per cent must be carbon-free by 2050. To do it with nuclear power would mean building a reactor every two days for the next four decades.”

Energy demand is not 13 terawatts, it’s 13 terawatt-years. So her calculations about how many reactors we’d have to build is completely haywire.

Without getting too far into the weeds with statistics, let’s just take a simple look at what was already accomplished with old-style (Gen II) nuclear power plants. Gen III and Gen IV plants are designed to be modular and mass-produced in factories, so one can safely assume that the pace of building could be (especially if we put our minds to it) accelerated considerably over what was accomplished with Gen II plants, which had a lot of on-site construction demands.

Even with that, though, France converted their electrical generation systems to about 80% nuclear in about a decade without even breaking a sweat. With a concerted worldwide effort and the far more efficient systems now beginning to be built (or soon to be built, such as the PRISM fast reactor), there is no reason whatsoever (except politics) that over the next couple decades we couldn’t convert virtually all the world’s electrical generation to nuclear, and the couple decades after that we could add at least that much more nuclear to provide liquid fuels and meet other energy demands not currently met with electricity.

But we have to commit to doing it. Therein lies the rub.


I still find the double standard here stunning.

Lewis is a big solar proponent, when not talking about beaming microwaves to earth from his space station solar plant.

if nuclear requires a “seemingly impossible” rapid build, what would that mean for other energy forms that are low capacity factor and unreliable?

perhaps L answers this since I didn’t read the article.


I suspect the calculation was done by the reporter, and that the quote from Lewis only had to do with what he considers necessary for civilization to survive in terms of reducing our GHG emissions.


Hi Kevin,

You might like to point to these two critiques of the study you are referring to:

The conclusions of the first listed above are:

• The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement such a plan.

• Our revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan: $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion. The cost estimates are highly uncertain with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.

• The wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to $500/MWh, not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.

• The total electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be 44% higher than proposed: 449 TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.

• The Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.

• The Plan’s implementation timeline is unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can be economically viable.

• The Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid; two of the most important are:

1. A quote in the Executive Summary “The Plan relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies.”

2. Solar thermal power stations with the performance characteristics and availability of baseload power stations exist now or will in the near future.



By the way, the $92 billion you mentioned is their estimate (too low) for jsut the upgrade to the transmissions system. Their estimate for their whole replacement electricity system is $370 billion. As the second dot point in the conclusions above says the $370 billion figure is far too low.

But actually, the cost estimates are irrelevant because the technology simply doesn’t exist and is unlikely to ever be financially viable.


2060 is really too far away for anyone to divine what the situation might be at that time. It should be apparent by now that the world is an extremely brutal place. There is no reason to believe our grandchildren will necessarily enjoy the cushy lifestyle citizens in rich countries have today, regardless of what we decide to do.

Where there is still life, there is still hope. That may be about the best we can do.


Barry: The level seven anouncement for Fukashima is very misleading in the public domain of course. Regretably however it is also pictoraly very misleading as well. The Iillustration of the fallout, now some 10 days or so old and reputedly from the IAEA, is poorly distributed data that has been auto-contoured. The result is very dubious beyond showing the general vector of the fallout and the hot spot centre. The auto contouring has spilled “fallout” well outside any logical plume pattern perimiter and contamination probably does not occur at all over 20-30% or more of the area indicated in the figure.

Your efforts are impressive and explanations are succinct as are your presentations. (mining industry geologist)


Too little, too late. Fission used to sound great, too. There will be more Fukushimas as we push these plants to the limit. Nuclear technology is a death science with unsolvable waste and pollution problems that are not compatible with healthy biological life.

A more successful approach would be a drastic powerdown to what can be supported by renewable sources. Sorry, no sale.
David – you are a new commenter so I let your post stand this time. Please read the Comments Policy before you submit another. BNC is a science based site and requires refs/links to support your contentions. If you wish to post your personal opinion, without substantiation, please do so on the Open Thread where this is allowed.


[…] hundreds of millions of years! For more see Dr Barry Brook, head of Climate at Adelaide University. Sustainable Nuclear | BraveNewClimate But desert crops from seawater? Now you're talking! Check this out. So well has Sundrop's […]


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