Monday, 31 December 2007

Nuclear energy to be a top Australian issue in 2008

Craig James, chief equities economist at CommSec adds Nuclear Energy to the list of Big Economic Issues - 2008.

A look a the entire list will show why. Of the 10 items listed, 4 [other than nuclear] are related to climate change - the principal driver for the consideration of nuclear energy in Australia.

Craig James
To date, attention as tended to focus on ‘green’ energy rather than more efficient sources such as nuclear energy. But conservation and public interest groups and political parties are re-assessing views on nuclear energy and we expect that debate to accelerate in 2008.

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace in the 1970s, has dropped his opposition to nuclear energy, encouraging the environmental movement to do likewise, “because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change”.

While views on nuclear energy are firmly held, they could change quickly if oil prices continue to soar and the process of climate change is shown to be moving at a faster rate.
More may be found in the report from the Business Spectator.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Efforts to accelerate for uranium mining in Queensland

Former Queensland Mines Minister Tony McGrady has become a lobbyist for a putative uranium miner in the state, in the face of widespread belief that there will be no early change to the Government's anti-uranium mining policy.

More information reported in The Australian.

There is estimated to be about $20 billion in proven deposits in the state and global energy demand is expected to double by 2030.

Queensland Resources Council executive director Michael Roach said, ""A government that has such a sound economic grasp as that of Anna Bligh, we believe, will see a more constructive attitude to uranium mining over time."

He said, however, that he did not believe the anti-uranium mining policy would be overturned in the short to medium term, considering the strength of old-fashioned opposition in the Queensland Labor Party.

"Anna Bligh may have to do what NSW Premier Morris Iemma has done in staring down union opposition to electricity sector reform," he said.

Pro-nuclear video from the USA



Any comments?

As for me, I don't really care for the left-bashing.

I posted it because of the emotive nature of the presentation. Personally, I've been waiting for this for some time. I wasn't sure if it would be a dramatic disruption of an anti-nuclear rally or someone chaining themselves to Caldicot's car to prevent her delivering an anti-nuclear presentation - but I assumed it would begin.

I can't say I'm disappointed that it has.

Sarkozy offers French nuclear help to Egypt

France stands ready to help Egypt develop civilian nuclear technology, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told an Egyptian newspaper ahead of meetings in Egypt with President Hosni Mubarak.

Further detail from the Reuters report.

I'll be watching these developments with interest because Egypt has some similarities with Australia. For example, Egypt has limited nuclear infrastructure [no power reactors and only two research reactors [one of which being the now 10 year old big brother to our own OPAL reactor at ANSTO]].

Egypt recently announced the construction of several civilian reactors to help meet its growing energy demand. If these projects come to fruition, they - and the overall effort to introduce nuclear power to a country with no power reactors - could serve as desirable case studies for Australia's own nuclear future.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

WA turns to coal in an energy pinch

Western Australia's gas supply crisis has hit power retailer Synergy which has been forced to sign a supply deal for coal fired energy.

Details reported by ABC.

According to the CARMA database, Western Australia's carbon intensity [Pounds of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour of electricity produced] is slightly better then Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

However to meet growing energy demand, Synergy has signed deals for 200 megawatts of coal capacity from the proposed Bluewater Two project in Collie and another 330 megawatts of electricity from a proposed gas fired power station to be built in Neerabup, north of Perth.

Synergy's Managing Director Jim Mitchell

"We basically went to coal because it provided our customers with the most cost effective solution from both a security of supply point of view, a price point of view and an environmental point of view" he said.

I wonder what, exactly, was the less environmental option being considered?

The WA government has been quick to back up the utility. Saying greenhouse targets will be met.

The Energy Minister Fran Logan
"Our footprint here in Western Australia is far better than it is in the eastern states," he said.

"Sixty per cent of all power generated in Western Australia is generated by gas. Eighty per cent of power generated in the eastern states is by coal."
I wouldn't say it is 'far' better, WA's carbon intensity is nearly 90% that of Victoria and Queensland and 99% that of New South Wales. Building more coal plants doesn't sound like a path to improvement.

Chris Tallentire of the Conservation Council also thinks this move is a backwards step.
"This power station is old technology," he said.

"We should not be going ahead with a new coal fired power station when we can possibly wait for newer technology to come online in say five to ten years."
5 to 10 years is in the neighborhood of feasible nuclear power deployment in Australia.

These decisions highlight a basic contradiction. While renewable targets will be met - golden halos all around - the quality and reliability of renewable sources alone fail to provide the security of supply required to satisfy increasing demand. [And yes, demand continues to increase albeit at a somewhat slower rate in the best case implementation scenarios for conservation and efficiency improvement programmes.] Over reliance on renewables, conservation and efficiency, along with increasing natural gas prices as mentioned in the report, means more coal power stations. Taking nuclear out of the discussion ensures WA and Australia will remain on this path for the foreseeable future.

Friday, 28 December 2007

CSIRO will not seek government approval of information

Following up to Luke's post below. The CSIRO has rejected the censor demand by the newly empowered Labour government as reported in The Canberra Times.

CSIRO scientists have also threatened to disclose any examples of interference or censorship by the Government. CSIRO and Government sources told The Canberra Times there had been "a bit of standoff" over the issue, with CSIRO executives reminding the Federal Government it had been a vocal critic of "science censorship and government spin" while in opposition.

The Government has since agreed most CSIRO statements, including those on climate change, are likely "to be pedestrian" and will not need vetting. Scientists told The Canberra Times they would make public "any substantial changes" requested by the Government to media statements or scientific reports.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

ANSTO's OPAL reactor - up in January

After a 6 month shutdown to diagnose and correct fuel design issues, OPAL is expected to be operational again in January according to this Sydney Morning Herald report.

The article speaks of losses due to radiopharmaceutical production. It should be noted that these losses are due principally to Mo-99 production, the very same isotope responsible for the recent issues between the government of Canada, the Canadian regulator and AECL.


In the report, ANSTO predicts it will take another 3 months before radiopharmaceutical production will begin. Recall it took AECL about a week to resume production following their restart. ANSTO must still fully commission and receive proper regulatory approvals for their new radiopharmaceutical plant [also CNEA technology purchased through INVAP] - hence the additional time.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

South Korea to embark on advanced nuclear development projects

South Korean scientists have been looking into the pyroprocess since 1997, with concerted efforts starting in 2002. These efforts are about to be accelerated.

South Korea has recently jointed the GNEP and participated in a recent GNEP steering meeting held during December in Vienna, Austria. As was the case for Canada's recent entry into GNEP, Korea's is also accompanied by some interesting news.

As reported by the Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology has announced an investment of 3 to 4 trillion Won (~ AUD 3.7 to 4.9 Billion) in the next year to transform Korea into a technological leader in the field of advanced nuclear fuel cycles including the next generation fast reactor and pyroprocessing. The investment above includes monies from non-government sources.

Specifically Korea is looking to develop sodium cooled fast reactor (SFR) technology - with an eye on an increasingly lucrative export market.

The report includes a rough schedule
  • 2011 - Initial design work for the SFR should be completed,
  • 2012 - A mock-up testing facility to check the feasibility of the recycling of pyroprocess fuel is to be built,
  • 2025 - A semi-commercial facility to actually make fuel for SFRs to be completed and
  • 2025 - Detailed blueprints on the reactor to be finished.

The source of the article has highlighted the scalability of the SFR reactor technology [ranging from 50 to 1,500 MWe], their lower temperature and pressure operation [improved safety] and also the non-proliferation advantages and shorter decay periods [400 - 500 years] associated with pyroprocess based fuel recycling.

Also mentioned is the system integrated modular advanced reactor [SMART] capable of generating electricity as well as desalinating sea water. The first SMART reactor is due on the street within a decade.

FURTHER INFORMATION

UIC - Fast Reactor Page
WNA - Processing of used nuclear fuel for recycle

Friday, 21 December 2007

Rudd government to censor Australia's scientific and research agencies?

The Sydney Morning Herald is today reporting news that I, at least, find a little concerning.

SOME of Australia's major institutions will have their media releases vetted by the Rudd Government to make sure they reflect Labor's "key messages".

Recipients include the CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Australian Research Council, the Co-operative Research Centres and Invest Australia. Even the Questacon science museum in Canberra was sent the directive.

It says the Prime Minister's office has instructed that "all strategic media releases which relate to the Government's key messages" must be forwarded to the department which will then submit them to the office of the minister, Kim Carr.

If necessary, Senator Carr would send the release to the Prime Minister's office. The department would contact the agency "regarding required changes".


...

One former Liberal minister called the Rudd Government "control freaks".

"The CSIRO sent out a lot of things that were quite contrary to our position on climate change. We just gritted our teeth and wore it," he said.


I'm quite confident that this is, ultimately, one of the main things this is about. It is these agencies who are likely to product research which is, ultimately, critical of the Rudd government's committment to coal-fired electricity generation.

Mr Paterson said statutory authorities should not be immune.

"There's a mindset with some that statutory authorities are independent for all purposes. They're not," he said.


If this is the mindset that the goverment applies to scientific researchers and scientific research organisations, then they've just destroyed the scientific usefulness of these organisations.

This is concerning news, indeed.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The scarcest resource humanity has is time

According to Ian Dunlop, a former senior executive in the international oil, coal and gas industries, who chaired the Australian Coal Association from 1987 to 1988 and is now deputy convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, "it is morally indefensible and unrealistic to expect the developed world can continue to emit at these levels, with the developing world absorbing the bulk of the climatic impact and being asked to constrain its own growth".

It his report, Davidson says, "It is now widely accepted that the solution to this conundrum is for each nation to agree to converge towards equal per-capita emissions".

[In Bali,] Australia was reluctant to sign up to intermediate targets before it receives the Garnaut report in May. If the Garnaut report is serious, it will attempt to tackle three issues: whether the science has moved on since the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made its 2007 report, the prospect that Australia will have to make cuts at the 40% end, given it is one of the highest emitters, and what policies have to be adopted to achieve the cuts.

In a speech at Sydney University this month, Dunlop said: "The political and corporate structures we have created render us uniquely ill-equipped to handle this emergency. Our ideological preoccupation with a market economy based on short-run profit maximisation is rapidly leading towards an uninhabitable planet. As inconvenient as it may be politically and corporately, conventional economic growth and rampant consumerism cannot continue."
He quotes Aristotle on what is known as the tragedy of the commons: "What is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest."
The article also discusses the advocacy for putting the science first [ahead of politics and economics]. Very interesting perspectives, but I don't believe the implied 'choice' is really there. Humanity can choose to ignore the data for now, but not indefinitely.

If the climate scientists and their associated 'growing consensus' are anywhere near the mark, the world is being driven to a very undesirable state. The laws of science are - in a sense - the vehicle through which our collective decisions will manifest themselves over the coming years. It is ultimate accountability.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Canada - quick changes at AECL following isotope fallout

As reported at the Globe and Mail.

Most interesting to me is the hast with which this change was made, the new appointee and the links to Ontario's nuclear future [not whether or not the plants will be built, but rather AECL's interest in the contracts - their justification now a foregone conclusion].

Bali's over

"No one got all they wanted, but everyone came away with something" is a theme of most media reports following the conclusion of the Bali conference to initiate some type of post-Kyoto emissions reduction plan.

Reporters are frequently highlighting Australia's potential pivotal role, but my favorite is from this BBC report.

Halfway through the year, the Australian government will hear back from its hastily-assembled expert committee on what it should commit to.

Though arriving at the Bali meeting bearing papers ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, incoming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd disappointed some observers by refusing to back firm targets.

The committee's report and the government's response to it will decide if Australia re-enters the Kyoto camp with the zeal of a reformed smoker or the reluctance of a cat forced to bathe.

Many eyes are on Australia, and they should be.

The coming decisions to be made under the Rudd administration, amplified by the action or inaction that follows, could significantly contribute to the fate of billions. Australia seems set to tip the balance toward [or away from] the more aggressive emission reduction targets advocated by the EU and many scientific bodies within Australia and around the world. Australia could even influence the US election by either siding with the Bush administration [stall, little tangible action, etc.] or alongside other, more environmentally aggressive American policy bodies such as Schwarzenegger / California as well as other US States and candidates so aligned.

All to be revealed in the fullness of time.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and the anti-nuclear movement

As world temperatures continue to rise and available resources [other than coal of course] continue to spur discussions of exactly when we will reach supply peaks [or when exactly that milestone was passed], attitudes are changing.

I began thinking about my own opinion - that the anti-nuclear movement will, over time, essentially die out. It has to, unless some magic technology is developed or humanity is willing to return to the dark ages - as frightening as that bad pun may be.

So what does this mean? How will it be manifested? Will there be a 'point' at which all will become informed and enlightened energy custodians? Na, it will be more analog than that, in fact it has begun already.

But how can this be? Can't we claim the anti- movement is as strong as ever and it's simply a case of governments being twisted by the industry, utilities taking advantage of subsidies, etc.? After all, many prominent anti-nukes have invested their lives into killing the atom. For their movement to die, a significant piece of them would also have to give up the ghost.

Then I thought of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Surely if something is dying out - the signs of Kübler-Ross' popular process or 'Stages of Grief' would be there. Specifically they are:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Obviously, the anti-nuclear movement, even within Australia, does not move as one block or entity. Some - search enviro-conversions - have moved all the way through Acceptance and are now supporters of nuclear power. Many remain in Denial claiming, for example, nuclear takes too long, while defending the construction of more coal power stations because carbon-capture technology will eventually be there to save the day.

Anger? [Er, need I say it... 'election']

Even Bargaining has been around. Recall the pre-election films opposed to nuclear 'we don't need nuclear, we can get all we need from 'this' technology or 'that' energy reduction/saving program. I also see the elimination of the three mines policy as a form of Bargaining. Australia will support further nuclear power expansion elsewhere. But here? "No thanks mate." Eliminating 3-mines was a wise and helpful move indeed - but it only allows for partial implementation of a viable solution technology [just one of many that humanity needs].

I see other stages on the horizon. There will be Depression and - I expect - significant blame flying about as Australian emissions continue to rise, domestic coal stations continue to be built and/or climactic chaos intensifies; all despite the claims of complete fulfillment of all related election promises [i.e. significant government investment in reduction / mitigation programs].

Eventually there will be growing Acceptance and I'd like to add a 6th in this case.

Advocacy!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Canadian government to overrule independent regulatory body

The need for radio-pharmaceuticals (specifically Mo-99, the world's most in-demand diagnostic medical isotope), produced by the NRU reactor in Chalk River (producing about 60% of global Mo-99 supply) look to be put ahead of the opinion of Canada's regulatory body.

The government is voting to suspend CNSC's authority on this matter for 120 days.

This is a fairly significant event to say the least, not really so much for nuclear 'power', but for the commercial application of nuclear technologies in general.

Further detail from WNN

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Mo-99 (UIC)

Mo-99 Spec sheet - MDS Nordion

Risks and Realities: The “New Nuclear Energy Revival”

A well balanced and highly informative piece from Sharon Squassoni from the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . Her report also includes numerous references.

See the full report here.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

More from Bali and the feasibility of 25 cores in Australia

Kevin Rudd has arrived in Bali. See the below ABC reports:

Rudd arrives in Bali amid obstruction accusations

Emissions must be halved, say scientists (video)

Rudd stands firm on emissions target announcement

Australia/Rudd is still accepting raps on the back for signing Kyoto, but it looks as if our 15 minutes of enviro-fame have nearly expired. I hope I am wrong - but it doesn't appear Australia will be doing much about emissions for the next half year - at least not from a policy perspective. Without policy direction, the big changes such as where utilities invest to address increasing demand, how they mitigate the resulting business risks, etc. are essentially stalled.

What are the scientists, IPCC, UN, etc. saying about inaction???

But some action is still possible. Along with the continued support of renewables, efficiency and conservation; we can continue the expansion of domestic uranium mining, aggressively support innovative nuclear technology developments and even accelerate work on our own list of relevant nuclear infrastructure prerequisites. New nuclear capacity doesn't have to be built specifically in Australia to have a positive impact on the global energy to emissions ratio. Australia must support the efforts of other, well positioned countries to reignite/accelerate their nuclear programs. After the first few dozen have been constructed and commissioned, we will be ready for a few of our own.

Is it inconceivable that Australia could have 25 commercial nuclear power reactors in 43 years?

Ponder this: prior to 1954, just 53 years ago, humanity hadn't generated a single electron from nuclear generated heat. Today the world has 439 operable reactors with another 34 being constructed. 1984, seeing the most connections to the grid [that are still operating today] at 33 worldwide.

But while technically feasible, is it likely? Yes, but not anytime soon, unless Australia ceases to be a democracy. Public opinion may have shown recent signs of warming, but there are some loud anti-nuclear voices here that seem to spawn in an environment of colossal public misinformation and ignorance. But there is hope in Bali [and by that I mean the ongoing process that has begun in Bali]. Kevin Rudd has just been elected, but is coming off as somewhat right of the current enviro-political centre. Already Rudd's been leapfrogged by the very environmental groups that were lambasting Howard just a few weeks ago.

Ongoing change is a certainty. We haven't even begun to solve the problem yet [emission levels not only continue to rise, but at an increasing rate!!]. Dramatic action is only a matter of time. Eventually the laws of physics will have asserted themselves to an adequate degree and the more flexible 'laws' of economics and politics, not to mention the omnipresent public opinion, will have to abide. It never works the other way-round. Australia may have to waste a bit more time and resources to develop an understanding of the concept, but we will get there.

Ol' King Coal

I read a news article recently where the author equated selling coal to dealing drugs or pimping a prostitute, "If I don't sell it, they'll just get if from someone else." I wish I could find it to give them credit - but for now I can only admit the metaphor belongs to someone else.

Averaging 100 tonnes each, running day and night

The point is, planet earth is addicted to fossil fuels - and coal is our vice of choice. Quick, cheap and easy, always giving us exactly what we need - the way we like it. Australia is the, "How can I fix you up tonight?", Pimp-Daddy, King of Coal. We are the world's 4th largest coal producer [behind China, USA and India] and top-dog at dishin' it out, exporting 231 Mt [I believe that's million tonnes] in 2006. Our closest trade competitor is Indonesia, who pushed barely half our weight at 129 Mt. Our per-capita impact on the world coal market and subsequent emissions generation is [should be]... sobering.

I invite all to peruse the World Coal Institute's web page, in particular Coal Facts 2007. It's interesting information - 8.8% worldwide increase in hard coal production from 2005 to 2006 [to 5370 Mt]. I wonder where humanity will end up for 2007.

Finally, have a look at this map. Is it any reason Australia is painted black? Look at how exports are predicted to change over the next quarter century.

How much energy is involved just to move that material around the globe?

One uranium fuel pellet, contains the equivalent energy to a 100 tonne rail car full of coal (considerably more if reprocessed)

By contrast, according to the AUA/UIC, Australia exported 7593 tonnes U [or 0.007593 MtU] in 2006. These exports contributed significantly [19% of worldwide uranium production in 2006] to emissions free, safe and 24/7 reliable electricity generation from nuclear power.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Renewables being given their shot and news from Bali

According to this ABC report worldwide investment in renewables will achieve a record breaking $114b this year.

Despite this, participants in the ongoing UN climate conference in Bali are [depending on their representation] calling for much more significant cuts and again here [science, environmental groups] or taking a more cautions approach in consideration of economic and political fallout [trade ministers and other politicians]. The ABC alone is rife with articles from all perspectives.

Of local interest, New Zealand has already sided with the EU in calling for mandatory cuts of between 25 to 40% of 1990 emission levels by 2020. This call was echoed by non-politically affiliated Australian representatives at Bali, but pushed back by Crean and Rudd along with Canada, the USA and Japan.

But this is the beginning and hopefully just some initial posturing for future negotiations. The diversity of perspective and interest certainly justifies why the negotiations have commenced now for an agreement to take affect in a bit more than 4 years. They've certainly got their work cut out for them.

It would seem, again despite the investment sited above, the world needs something with a bigger punch to meet the emission cut targets while preserving economic security.

Nuclear power packs a wallop.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Fatih Birol Presents the IEA World Energy Outlook 2007

A very informative post at The Oil Drum [link below].

Fatih Birol Presents the IEA World Energy Outlook 2007

Emphasis on conservation and efficiency having an effect

Albeit not the effect hoped for by many.

In a previous post I included a link about the paradox of efficiency etc.

In practical terms, when an uninformed and misled public protests the construction of new generation facilities - while maintaining or increasing state/national energy demand - something has got to give.

This phenomenon would seem to be manifesting itself in another recent post on energy price increases in South Australia and Victoria as well as this article from the Australian on the current energy squeeze in Queensland.

This time it's not just higher prices, but decreasing reserve capacity [meaning the energy being generated beyond the 100% needed by all of us to run our AC units, not to mention all the heavy industry loads, etc.]. Per the report, the reserve dropped to record lows and the wholesale price for electricity reached the maximum of $10,000 per megawatt hour for supplies into the national electricity grid from Queensland. This, despite the recent start-up of our latest coal munching, carbon spewer, Kogan Creek.

Look for ongoing pressure for added electrical capacity and further utility pressure on the government to get decisive on climate change related regulations. This of course will be running parallel with ongoing international and domestic pressure for Australian emissions cuts.

Yet another perspective on the modern energy crisis where doing nothing / waiting involves considerable risk.

Have I mentioned that one AREVA EPR can reliably generate 1650 MWe, with one of the lowest lifecycle carbon emissions around?

Oh, and AREVA has just initiated construction of their second EPR - this one in France. Italy - buying a 12.5% stake in this project has found an innovative way to get around a 1987 anti-nuclear referendum.

AREVA's also sold a couple more EPRs to China in the largest nuclear sale ever.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

2020 Targets not looking good for Australia

As reported in the Australian.

25 to 40% reduction targets [by 2020] are being thrown around in Bali. If undertaken, Australia would have to endure significant stress to achieve them, including, among many things, significant price increases for energy and energy intense products.

Yeah, it's starting to seem like there's always another 'report' just around the corner that will contain the long anticipated climate change elixir. However, like many others I'm sure... I eagerly anticipate the report from Ross Garnaut and the array of reactions [including, I hope, so tangible actions] that follow.

As always, nuclear power could help achieve emissions reductions. Waiting, however only compounds our problems.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Kyoto Ratified

Unless you've been living under a rock, you will already know Kevin Rudd has committed Australia to Kyoto. (more from WNN)
This is the first of many steps - not only for rationalising Australian emissions to a justifiable level in the context of global development, but also towards the education of many that Australian goals can not be reached without nuclear.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Ethics, accuracy and Ziggy Switkowski

Ziggy Switkowski penned this piece for the Age. In it Ziggy asks a lot more questions then he tries to answer and in so doing, puts forth a passive argument for Australia's technology development and export in lieu of working to decrease domestic emissions linked to climate change. He also uses a very poor analogy - population increase - to frame his argument. Sure population increase is a significant challenge in many countries. But it is principally a local problem. It is sometimes difficult to find the linkage between overpopulation in sub-Saharan Africa and life on an Australian beach. However according to the climate experts, it is nearly impossible to break the link between the world's coal plants and bleaching coral in the Whitsundays, increasing Australian farm failures and ever tightening water restrictions.

This argument, that Australia could help the most through high-profile technology development, may be 'technically correct' - any country that cracks the code for clean-coal technology will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on global emissions. Ditto for any other cheap, no/low emissions form of energy production. But the global confidence in this is not high as indicated by the lack of its projected deployment in the recent World Energy Outlook report. Ziggy also repeats a somewhat common argument about Australia's small population and relatively small emissions [which aren't really 'that' small - only 6 countries on the planet crank out more CO2 from electricity production]. But is this argument - and the actions/in-actions associated with it 'right'? Is it moral? Is it ethical? Is it sustainable?

As I have said repeatedly, I believe the clear answer is a certain and obvious - NO. How can we expect other countries [big or small] to take actions, pay costs, endure risks, make sacrifices that we, Australia, will not? As it stands, we are the international poster-society for good living through low cost, high emissions based power. For those seeking our lifestyle, why would they consider any tactics other than our own?

Furthermore, Australia has motivation beyond occupancy of the moral and ethical high-ground to lead the effort to reduce emissions. Unlike many of the other top emitters [such as USA, China, Russia, India, Japan, and Germany] Australia is already seeing the effects of climate change and, according to many, the situation only stands to get worse. In this case, as in most others, leadership means going first, assuming the point and motivating through courage, action and achievement.

At the moment, I think this crown can not be claimed by Australia, but rather California in the USA. Arnold et. Co. have committed to attain 1990 emission levels by 2020 and further reduce them by a staggering 80% [of 1990 levels] by 2050 [ref UN 2007 Human Development Report, Table 3.1, pg 114 and box 3.1, pg 116].

Australia must make a difference globally - and this means driving the herd.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Energy Squeeze for SA & VIC

Electricity prices in South Australia will rise nearly 7% from January 1 according to this report from ABC.

The drought has reduced hydro generation and is impacting power stations that use rivers / fresh water for their cooling.

In Victoria, prices could increase by up to 17.6% as the more expensive gas plants are fired up to cover losses in hydro generation.

This can't be good for emissions reduction efforts. Gas is better than coal, but far worse than hydro or - dare I say it - nuclear.

Nuclear news from around the Commonwealth

Canada has agreed to join the GNEP (WNN article). This could be a boost to the GNEP programme. Perhaps with Kevin Rudd's crushing defeat of Howard, Canada was able to negotiate the deal they wanted for entry. The real item of interest is the 'review' of AECL. It appears AECL may be getting itself caught up in the furry of sales and mergers occurring within the industry. CANDU reactors are positioned well to 'digest' nuclear waste products and could become very popular in the future. I guess it [buying, selling, changing hands, etc.] comes with the territory of such an industry and I really do hope things work our for them.

Meanwhile in South Africa, the local utility, Eskom is reported here to be running on 5 to 10% reserve margin [not a lot, this results in load-shedding, or turning people's lights out for them]. They are considering MASSIVE nuclear expansion, ~20 plants in 18 years!

When accused of not considering other no/low carbon alternatives, the utility argued:
...while nuclear is expensive to build, it is vastly cheaper to operate, and, at this stage, provides the only true low-carbon alternative to coal.

For this reason, rightly or wrongly, its attention is now shifting strongly from the debates about nuclear to strategies that will ensure that these new facilities are delivered on time and budget. A job made doubly challenging by the fact that few nuclear facilities have been built globally over the last few decades, but the appetite has certainly grown, which has the potential to divert the attention of the vendors involved.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Holier than thou - Aussie Catholics join the debate

Two Australian Catholic social services and justice groups [not generally known for their technical insight, but I'm in a forgiving mood] have put out a report opposed to nuclear power. Nothing new - the same unjustified [from the perspective of risk, among others] 'concerns' about safety and waste management are there [despite no data on any impact on real people in recent history] as are the false claims of high cost etc. In fact, I'd swear I've read some of the paragraphs before - verbatim. My guess is that this 'report' was to come out about a week or more ago to influence voters, but got stalled in the review process. Since they put in all the work, why not issue it now?

However, Prof. Camilleri and friends had better be careful, because the Pope has fully endorsed nuclear power in the name of the Church. And just last month the Church affirmed this view by issuing comments about nuclear power's global expansion. I'm assuming that, as one of the wealthiest institutions on earth, the Holy See has access to considerably more resources than our friends above. However, I'm also confident that the former are within earshot of considerably more nonsensical anti-nuclear babble.

Any Catholics out there care to comment? What's in store for a Catholic who contradicts the Pope in open literature? Are we talking eternal damnation, a few millennia in purgatory or perhaps just a stern look and a slap on the wrist from Sister Mary-Margaret?

Independence needed for emissions trading

Professor Ross Garnaut, Australian State and Territory equivalent to Sir Nicholas Stern, made some interesting points, referenced in this Sydney Morning Herald report. One in particular caught my eye.
[H]e dismissed the suggestion that Australia should slow its rate of economic growth to immediately reduce emissions.

"When you have lower economic growth you start to get a lot of pressure to get economic activity going at any cost. I think it would be more difficult [to reduce emissions] in that situation than the current one," he said.

It would be better to use Australia's wealth to break the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions.
Nuclear Power is one currently available means to help sever the aforementioned link. It's certainly a major player in several significant, green economies around the world.

In the report Professor Garnaut stresses the importance of keeping any carbon/emissions trading body protected from political pressure. A big ask from my perspective but a MUST nonetheless.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Kevin Rudd - Names Minister(s)?

Kevin Rudd has named Peter Garrett minister of the environment, but appointed a second minister, Sen. Penny Wong, to take responsibility for climate change.

More from this report from the Canadian Press.

The reporter sees this as a rebuke for Garrett and I can't seem to find much on Sen. Wong beyond that she is a South Australian [one of our more pro-U export States] and has a history that includes mining union work.

In this report from AFP, Sen. Wong is said to have responsibility for negotiations such as Kyoto and those occurring at the upcoming meeting in Bali. The report lists other cabinet appointments as well.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Australia - UN Turns up the heat

Jacob Saulwick filed this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Emphasis is mine.

IF EVERY person on Earth created as much pollution as the average Australian, we would need another six planets to cope, a United Nations' report says.

It [The Human Development Report, released yesterday] lashes the argument - advanced by Labor and Liberal parties at the election - that there is no point for rich countries to set reduction targets if big emitters in the developing world do not set them.

The report argues that, per person, rich countries remain the biggest emitters, and it is unfair [I would say unethical and immoral] for the developing world to pay the costs of emissions generated by the developed world's growth.

It is an excellent report and highlights the current goal of, not 60, but 80% reduction in emission by 2050 as well as reductions by 30% by 2020. Not only has Australia had a late start, but we are losing ground.

The report also suggests the economic impact will be 60% worse than just recently predicted in the Stern Review.

I couldn't have put it any better myself, but anyone who is current with this blog knows I certainly have been trying.

Of course nuclear power could help solve this dilemma - with huge power capability, 24/7/365 52 [tip o' the hat to Joffan] reliability, demonstrated safety performance and competitive costs. It's not likely that many could be built here before 2020, but then again, at that point, assuming we meet an already aggressive international goal - we've still got another 50% to go!!

No time to waste.

Emissions - An indicator of interest

Tom Tarpey in Canada forwarded a report from Globeandmail.com providing examples of the conservation paradox. Basically what it details [through numerous US examples] is the tendency of consumers to reap the benefits of efficiency improvement by buying bigger automobiles, larger homes, more AC units, etc. so that the net effect on energy consumption is nil [actually energy consumption, and emissions along with it, have continually risen].

Closer to home in Mosman - 'Australia's wealthiest suburb', Monsters and Critics reports a reluctance to give up the posh life in the name of emissions reductions.

The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace are already Rudd-bashing about Labor's [in]ability to tackle Australia's emissions dilemma [3 days into his term, whoa]. I do not give much technical credit to these organisations. Their quantification of the nuclear pro-con balance sheet for example is, to be polite, VERY misleading as well as technically wrong. However, I'll include their comments to provide a general 'feel' for domestic climate change opinions.
'Both major parties have credibility problems on climate change because of their failure to commit to the sort of deep cuts to greenhouse emissions in the next decade that are necessary to help prevent dangerous climate change,' Wilderness Society national campaign director Alex Marr said.

Greenpeace Australia climate change campaigner Steven Campbell notes that even with a target of 20 per cent, there will be no overall reduction in the amount of electricity generated by burning coal.

'If we have a renewables sector growing alongside an ever- expanding coal sector, we won't stop climate change,' Campbell said.
Interested parties should monitor total Australian emissions. Currently, just due to power production, Australia cranks out 226,000,000 US tons [204,982,000 metric tons] of CO2 per year. Per their website, CARMA plans to update the data quarterly.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Election 2007 - Rudd, good for nuclear in Australia?

Was it a mandate on the environment? On nuclear power in Australia?

Before you answer that, consider the following:

Now that the election is over and done. Labor has a formidable task – to demonstrate their energy related rhetoric prior to and during the campaign can be put into practice. Since nuclear is – ‘they’ say – too expensive, too risky and takes too long, can we expect that within a very few years, Australian emissions linked to climate change will noticeably plummet through some other technologies? I certainly ‘hope’ so – and furthermore I would like to ‘hope’ it can be done without nuclear, but I’m not so sure – when one examines the maths involved – we should pin our collective future on ‘hope’. Because in reality, as a nation, we can’t manage to stop building new CO2 belching plants, let alone shut down any existing ones.

Efficiency improvements, wind farms, solar, tidal, geothermal are great. I’ve always been in favour of them [with nuclear, not in lieu of] and believe they will have a significantly increasing role in the future of energy generation in Australia and elsewhere. This opinion is supported by expert organisations around the world.

But, because NO single country - not ONE mind you - on this diverse world of ours has demonstrated the ability of any technology other than hydro or nuclear to reliably displace significant fossil power generation, I believe we must keep nuclear on the table until we can demonstrate our ability to meet emission reduction targets in some other way. [By demonstrate, I mean something more than a theoretical analysis from the deep, dark depths of academia.]

Labor’s victory is, in a way, good for the development of Australian energy policy. There’s not much of the nation, states, etc. that Labor does not now control. The political alignment should be nearly ideal. There should be no barriers to fully implement the most green of green energy policies. I really do expect a full on effort to cut emissions, including efficiency improvements, renewables, etc. This will either be successful, or [and I expect the more likely] provide an opportunity for the nation to learn the realities associated with the costs and capabilities of available non-nuclear, solutions to Australia’s emissions related challenges.

Otherwise we will remain an embarrassment to the world.

UPDATE: A similar view from World Nuclear News

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Media and Nuclear Power

From a review of Gwyneth Cravens' book Power to Save the World on the New York Times Freakonomics blog: Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy.

Mrs. Cravens sent an Email to the blog author, adding the below information, explaing how the media is responsible for what her colleague Rip Anderson refers to as the profound 'second-hand ignorance' among the genreal public with respect to nuclear technology:

In the book (p.184) there is a graph based on a study by Bernard Cohen, Prof. Emeritus, U. of Pittsburgh, about stories by the New York Times of different types of accidents between 1974-78 (prior to Three Mile Island). He compared their frequency with the annual fatalities caused by these accidents. Cohen writes:
On an average, there were 120 entries per year on motor vehicle accidents, which kill 50,000 Americans each year; 50 entries per year on industrial accidents, which kill 12,000; and 20 entries per year on asphyxiation accidents, which kill 4,500; note that for these the number of entries, which represents roughly the amount of newspaper coverage, is approximately proportional to the death toll they cause. But for accidents involving radiation, there were something like 200 entries per year, in spite of there not having been a single fatality from a radiation accident for over a decade.

Another problem, especially in TV coverage, was use of inflammatory language. We often heard about “deadly radiation” or “lethal radioactivity,” referring to a hazard that hadn’t claimed a single victim for over a decade, and had caused less than five deaths in American history. But we never heard about “lethal electricity,” although 1,200 Americans were dying each year from electrocution; or about “lethal natural gas,” which was killing 500 annually with asphyxiation accidents. (Bernard Cohen, “The Nuclear Energy Option,” pp. 58-59.)
Again, I'll say she's definately done her homework.

Nuclear's Future in Europe

The European Commission has announced plans to speed up energy technology developments including Generation IV reactors. Meanwhile, a cross-party group of 56 members of the European Parliament have signed a declaration calling for nuclear to be maintained and developed in the European Union.

More information from World Nuclear News.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Kogan Creek, the reality of Australian energy policy

Despite the compact florescent bulbs in the shops and homes of Australia; Chinchilla, in Peter Beattie's, Kevin Rudd's and now Anna Bligh's Queensland, is about to become home to the Kogan Creek power station with the following statistics from the CS Energy and CARMA websites:

Generation capacity: 750 MW (about the same as a medium size nuclear power station, or maybe about 300* large wind turbines). Kogan will be the largest single generating unit in Australia!!

*[NOTE: To actually 'produce' the equivalent of a 750 MW coal station, one would require approximately 1,250 large [2 MW] wind turbines to account for the fact that the wind doesn't always blow as well as the limitations of existing storage technology].

Cost: $1.2 billion

Anticipated commissioning date: late 2007. Construction and commissioning timeline has been about three and a half years.

Anticipated operation: 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, devouring coal at a whopping rate of 2.8 million t/yr [or nearly 7,700 t/day].

CO2 emissions: 4,339,799 tons [imperial] per year

This one station will INCREASE Australian emissions from electricity generation by nearly 2%.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

CARMA's big Greens


I am enjoying the new CARMA database that I recently discovered and posted just a few days ago. Apparently I'm not the only one, database access all but stooped the day of its official launch. That's great news, and the development team has done well to quickly restore performance.

Just one of the MANY interesting data slices - for me - is an examination of the 'big greens', those [typically developed, or otherwise quite large] countries that generate a significant quantity of energy without significant emissions.

Countries sorted by MWh energy [generated]

1. France - No surprise, the first on the list, generates 565 Million MWh of energy using 75.9% nuclear, 9.16% hydro and 1.76% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 162.

2. Brazil - generates 423 Million MWh of energy using 2.34% nuclear, 84.73% hydro and 5.36% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 113.

[By the way, Australia fits in here on the list at 195 million MWh, just ahead of Sweden. We are the world's 18th largest electric energy producer, but we are not even in the top 50 by population. Our energy carbon intensity? 2,318.]

3. Sweden - generates 170 Million MWh of energy using 40.32% nuclear, 42.35% hydro and 3.38% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 41.

4. Norway - generates 137 Million MWh of energy using 0% nuclear, 98.82% hydro and 0.77% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 3.

5. Switzerland - generates 55.8 Million MWh of energy using 39.43% nuclear, 55.76% hydro and 0.38% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 11.

This again demonstrates what many have been saying for some time. The only credible, demonstrated technologies capable of displacing fossil generation on the scale required to significantly reduce the relevant emissions are hydro and nuclear.

We can also see what a significant outlier Australia is when it comes to emissions per-capita or even emissions per unit GDP. We are on shaky ground at best.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Nuclear Renaissance

In this article from Forbes.com, Josh Wolfe files an Emerging Tech report on the status of the Nuclear Renaissance.

Josh follows the money, which clearly shows that 'Nuclear Renaissance' is far more than a simple soundbite or pathetic industry battle cry. It is a bona fide industry trend.

Non-nuclear alternatives don't add up to enough

A very interesting, informed and insightful article from the Canberra Times by Professor Leslie Kemeny.

Obviously Prof. Kemeny understands the difference between 'generation capacity' and actual generated Megawatt-hours [a subtle technical difference often incorrectly utilised in many a 'pale-green' anti-nuclear argument].

As strong arguments often do, this article is packed with objective data and sites demonstrated examples of the technology as well as recent, high profile policy decisions around the world.

Good read.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Australia's bad CARMA

It's finally starting to get orgainsed... the effort to make emitters accountable, to point fingers at them, and hopefully shame those responsible into action.

In this article from the AP, an online database has been launched. The CARMA database link is here.

And a relevant corresponding quote may hit home to some of us:

Australians produce 11 tons of CO2 for each of its people from their power plants — the highest anywhere — compared to 9 tons per person in the United States and 2 tons per person in China.

But the United States has the most CO2 emissions (2.79 billion tons), followed by China (2.66 billion tons). China, which soon is expected to pass the United States, is home to three of the world's five most CO2-polluting
utilities.

Such information provides a "a vivid illustration that rich countries and developing countries must work together to overcome the challenge of climate change," said Wheeler, an expert on environmental economics.

The site/database is excellent. For example, compare the nuclear poster-country France to say Australia, New Zealand, the USA or China; or dig deeper to your local area.

A GREAT information tool. Thanks to David Wheeler, Kevin Ummel and the rest of the team at CARMA.

FYI... the five worst Australian emitters are...

1. ERARING, Dora Creek, New South Wales, 20,200,000 tons CO2 per year

2. BAYSWATER, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, 20,200,000 tons CO2 per year

3. LOY YANG A, Traralgon South, Victoria, 14,700,000 tons CO2 per year

4. LIDDELL, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, 14,500,000 tons CO2 per year

5. GLADSTONE, Gladstone, Queensland, 11,800,000 tons CO2 per year

South Australia says 'maybe'

They're not voting to build plants, but the South Australian government has wisely voted to at least keep nuclear power on the table.
"The Government and the Opposition joined forced in State Parliament last night to defeat a bill from the Greens to ban nuclear power in South Australia."
More from ABC here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Diesendorf - gets it wrong again.

In this Sydney Morning Herald article, Mark Diesendorf is recommending Aussies swap from electric to gas to battle emissions linked to climate change. In theory this may sound wise - but in practice, due to the leakage of gas systems country-wide, this policy would result in no improvements and would probably be even worse for the climate. [See this post and video for more.]

In time, any mechanical system will probably develop leaks if allowed to operate unchecked.

Modern, nuclear power plants incorporate diverse systems, [liquid, gas, and activity detection] incorporating redundant instrumentation, to monitor for leakage so that repairs or system shutdowns can be undertaken to address any identified issues. Add to this a battery of non-destructive examinations (NDE) and in-service inspections (ISI), and the vast majority of would-be leaks in nuclear plant systems are repaired long before the first drip emerges from the pipe.

This is just one example of what a few billion dollars will buy us. Where did you think all that money went?

Do you have any leakage detection systems in your home gas system? Are there any on the pipes running down your street or to the local gas power stations? There may be some monitoring in larger plants, but the leakage - in the real would in which we live - is considerable and causing more climactic problems than the expanded use of gas will solve.

This is not just poor advice - it is technically shallow.

Standardised, multinational licensing

As reported in this article at World Nuclear News.

What a great idea - particularly for a country like Australia! Multi-lateral cooperation and standardised designs to avoid the complete re-licensing of every reactor in every country. This could significantly reduce the time required to expand nuclear power around the world.

Also, take a look at the countries involved - some of those key indicator countries that I like to keep and eye on.

With our limited nuclear infrastructure and regulatory experience, such an approach could provide much needed assistance!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Fuel Prices

The price of oil is often in the news... hitting records almost weekly, if not more often.

But what about other fossil fuels?

Australian coal hits record.

World Energy Outlook - 2007

I've started to digest this 670-plus page behemoth. Per the publication copyright terms and conditions, I am permitted to copy / share up to 15% (about 100 pages) without prior written approval of the IEA. Be sure, I'm not going to do that, but here are some relevant data that I found of potential interest.

(all emphasis is mine)

From the executive summary

Urgent action is needed if greenhouse-gas concentrations are to be stabilised at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. The Alternative Policy Scenario shows that measures currently being considered by governments around the world could lead to a stabilisation of global emissions in the mid-2020s and cut their level in 2030 by 19% relative to the Reference Scenario. OECD emissions peak and begin to decline after 2015. Yet global emissions would still be 27% higher than in 2005. Assuming continued emissions reductions after 2030, the Alternative Policy Scenario projections are consistent with stabilisation of long-term CO2-equivalent concentration in the atmosphere at about 550 parts per million. According to the best estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this concentration would correspond to an increase in average temperature of around 3°C above pre-industrial levels. In order to limit the average increase in global temperatures to a maximum of 2.4°C, the smallest increase in any of the IPCC scenarios, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would need to be stabilised at around 450 ppm. To achieve this, CO2 emissions would need to peak by 2015 at the latest and to fall between 50% and 85% below 2000 levels by 2050. We estimate that this would require energy-related CO2 emissions to be cut to around 23 Gt in 2030 – 19 Gt less than in the Reference Scenario and 11 Gt less than in the Alternative Policy Scenario. In a “450 Stabilisation Case”, which describes a notional pathway to achieving this outcome, global emissions peak in 2012 at around 30 Gt. Emissions savings come from improved efficiency in fossil-fuel use in industry, buildings and transport, switching to nuclear power and renewables, and the widespread deployment of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) in power generation and industry. Exceptionally quick and vigorous policy action by all countries, and unprecedented technological advances, entailing substantial costs, would be needed to make this case a reality.


Clearly, exceptionally vigorous policy action – entailing substantial costs – would be needed to make the 450 Stabilisation Case a reality. Such action would need to start immediately: each year of delay would reduce substantially the likelihood of achieving the target.


The below trend reflects the required energy supply changes required to satisfy the 450 stabilisation case. These changes are to be made IN ADDITION to aggressive changes (which already include significant increases in nuclear power) required to satisfy the 'Alternative Policy Scenario'.



And for those of you worried about the future of coal - fear not. You'll notice that the overall demand for coal doesn't change too much (add the brown and the red) - even within the most aggressive scenario as shown below. Anyone claiming any differently, is just promoting a culture of fear to get votes.


And there is much, MUCH more. Their message is clear - urgent, global action is required 'immediately', and that action will include - among many other changes - the significant deployment of additional nuclear power generation technologies around the world.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Recent comment on News.com.au

I submitted the below comment on this article. However, the powers that be decided not to post it on the website. Are you surprised? I guess it doesn't add to the debate as much as pubescent slams against Turnbull and Garrett.

Forget socially responsible investing; how about some socially responsible reporting.

My post (submitted at 23:10 on 09/11/07)


Ethical considerations are a noble and just prerequisite to any investment. Anything less is inherently non-sustainable.

Regarding the comments on uranium / nuclear power, I feel it is a must for Australia if we are serious about an ethical approach to addressing emissions linked to climate change.

Many will wave the populist banner – that Australia only emits 1.4% of global emissions, so what difference can we make and why should we even try. However, as one of the world’s top per-capita emitters, we are setting a shameful example, that if followed globally, will see us all in a dire situation within a very short time. That – in and of itself – is embarrassingly unethical behaviour.

Until a credible and objective plan is presented by someone, implementing the deployment of available and demonstrated technologies to address these emissions, nuclear must remain on the table as an option. To dismiss it so casually is not only unethical but flat out irresponsible.

For more information
Related Blog
A specific post of interest

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Professor James Lovelock - 2005


Professor James Lovelock



Click here to go to a new webpage to see the movie using Flash Media. Sorry wasn't able to embed this one. Try here if you can't get the video to play or go to the site linked below.

The video is from the Canadian Nuclear Association's video archive.

This video is was made by Professor Lovelock and presented at the 2005 Canadian Nuclear Association annual seminar. Within, Professor Lovelock discusses some history of the green movement and why current 'green' endorsed energy policy is not just wrong, but quite dangerous.

Like this blogger, Professor Lovelock takes a critical and objective approach to defining the problem as well as evaluating alternative solutions - looking hard at the demonstrated performance of different technologies around the globe.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Australian Labor - "Committed to Coal"

For those of us concerned about the environment, irrespective of where we stand on the issue of nuclear energy, one thing is clear, and is agreed upon by anti-nuclear energy activists and nuclear energy proponents alike, and that is that the use of coal combustion for energy generation is not only one of the single biggest contributors to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, but is also a major source of environmental pollution of other forms, including particulates, heavy metals, and organic pollutants, with very significant impacts on the environment, and on human health.

Governments and environmental groups worldwide are today beginning to realise how unsustainable continued reliance on coal combustion for energy generation is.

With this in mind, one may be quite dismayed to hear that the Australian Labor Party is, according to an official media statement, "Committed to Coal".

I'm not trying to make too much of a political statement here, but I really believe that environmental responsibility must take precedence over securing the future economic viability of Australia's coal industry.

As the world grows increasingly concerned over the potential impact of anthropogenic forcing of climate change, the coal industry, worldwide, will suffer an economic downturn, and other systems of energy generation will take its place - Australia must be prepared for this, and can be prepared for this, given we have the capacity to offset the losses in the coal industry though expansion of Uranium and Thorium mining, without the environmental concerns surrounding coal combustion.

A typical "clean" coal-fired power plant, assuming capture and geosequestration of carbon dioxide with 90% efficiency, is responsible for the emission of 300 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electrical energy, 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions of conventional coal plants without CCS technology, assuming a typical coal-fired plant to emit 1000g CO2e/kWhe, which is in the same league as a combined-cycle natural gas plant, at around 500 gCO2/kWhe, compared with around 100g CO2e/kWhe for solar photovoltaics, and far less than that again for wind, nuclear, hydro and geothermal energy.

Gambling our future clean energy development on "clean coal", which may or may not ever actually develop to the point where it is competitive, and environmentally equivalent to, nuclear energy and other clean forms of energy generation is an environmentally dubious move, given that nuclear energy, and other clean technologies are more mature, and arguably far less polluting. After all, "clean coal" still produces fly ash and other hazardous wastes which are usually isolated from the environment in a sub-optimal way.

The ALP's talk of a target of 20% "renewable" energy generation is certainly a good idea, an achievable target, and is do-able, as Sweden (26% renewables, 44% nuclear) and Finland (about 23% renewables, 27% nuclear), for example, demonstrate, but it will make essentially no difference when the remaining 80% is coming from coal - the single most dangerous, environmentally destructive way of generating electricity there is - and it's quite clear that that's what the ALP, for whatever motivation, is interested in seeing to. I hope that, in time, they'll come around, and look fairly at the case for nuclear energy.

Australian Emissions - one of the world's worst

As reported in The Age.

Between 1994 and 2004 Australia was the ninth largest contributor to increases in global emissions linked to climate change. We managed to bang out a 38% increase while many are struggling to achieve targets below 1990 levels. [Those countries who are meeting their goals all rely on the atom for at least part of their energy portfolio.]

The report, Growth and CO2 Emissions: How do different countries fare?, released in October, examined the trends among the world's 70 biggest producers of greenhouse gases. Australia was almost unique in being a developed country whose emissions are not only very high but growing rapidly.

In carbon-dioxide alone, Australia ranks 6th in the world per-person. If everyone on the planet strove to be like us, our situation would quickly become quite dire.

Switzerland, Sweden and France, which are as rich as Australia or richer, all produce only a third as much carbon dioxide per head as Australia. All rely heavily on nuclear and hydro power for their electricity.

Hydro is essentially fully exploited in Australia. That leaves nuclear.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Election 2007 - Year of the Backflip


Whether you're talking about the Liberals' reluctance to discuss nuclear technology or Labor admitting to a Kyoto-2 boycott without developing nations, it's obvious the election is upon us. That said, there's little value in trying to objectively discuss Australia's nuclear options any time soon.

Regardless of who 'wins', it appears that concerned Australians [the vast majority of us at the moment] will continue to keep a close eye on our contribution to [as well as impacts from] the related energy issues. These may include Australia's contribution to emissions linked to climate change, newly proposed fossil fueled generation plants, the price of petrol, our ever increasing coal exports, new mines, port expansions, the cost of electricity, lingering drought, severe weather, etc.

Can we wave our meager 1.4% of global emissions banner and honestly expect to get away with it? Is there a shred of moral or ethical justification to support the average Australian's HUGE contribution to global emissions vs. say the average Indian or China-man?

Eventually, Australia will become serious about implementing changes that amount to more than a 'drop in the ocean'. It won't happen soon, but - considering all technologies currently available - Australia can not and will not get there without considerable nuclear power capacity.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Gweneth Cravens & Rip Anderson - Video



For the past week or so, I've had the above video parked at the top of the blog. I'll leave it here for posterity.

ABOUT THIS VIDEO Another Long Now seminar. This one is from September 2007. In this video Gweneth Cravens and Rip Anderson preview the history and details relating to Gweneth's new book - "Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy". It's 1:43 long and worth every second. Much about the ten year journey that transformed Gweneth from a passionate anti-nuclear activist into an informed nuclear advocate can be seen from this sneak peek into her book. Enjoy.

Considering the progression of the nuclear argument from the first video - saved in a post below [from a nuclear debate in early 2006], we can see how fast the world's minds [some very interesting minds] are changing. In this presentation, the issues are given proper time and consideration. KUDOS to Long Now!!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Korea - Asia Pacific's up and coming nuclear player

While the politicians use the topic of Australian nuclear power to pull attention away from our domestic coal industry and embarrassingly high per-capita carbon emissions; I'd like to highlight the ongoing accomplishments of Korea (that's South Korea).

Korea has designed, built, commissioned and continues to operate their own nuclear facilities. They are into fuel fabrication and are developing and deploying their own domestic technology. Now they are moving forward with work on a waste storage facility.

Way to go Korea!

Safety, energy, security, and low emissions. Watch this space.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Bloggers Wanted


As some of you may have noticed... I have been getting busy. My posting frequency has decreased from a peak in the second quarter of this year - but I assure you it's not due to a lack of interest or enthusiasm.

Nuclear news and related developments are coming fast and furious around the world, including Australia. I've been trying to focus on 'aspects other than the political' because that's not my field of expertise and experience. But I grudgingly admit that those issues must also be addressed if tangible progress is to be made in the two principal thematic areas of this Blog - reduction of emissions being linked to climate change and energy security.

To serve the dual purpose of keeping pace with current events and covering the full spectrum of nuclear related issues and discussions, I invite you to consider becoming a co-author of this blog.

As a co-author, you will be given access to generate posts containing topics you find interesting and relevant to either global nuclear power generation or better, nuclear power in the context of serving Australian interests. You may be pro-nuclear, anti-nuclear or somewhere in the middle; a technical professional, an artist, a student, a pensioner, or a stay at home parent; a professional writer or someone who often forgets exactly how many u's are in the word nuclear. All are welcome. You may post opinions [containing, or supported by, objective references please], links or other references to external information, or pose questions to me, other authors [provided I get some help] or the general audience of this Blog.

But I am the moderator - and the ultimate decisions with respect to content will remain with me alone. Opposing opinions are welcome, but principally emotional rants [for or against] add - in my opinion - no value and will be purged the moment I become aware of them, as will all the standard no-nos such as personal attacks, etc. Posts that have nothing to do with topics relevant to the Blog will obviously be deleted.

How? You may either:
  • Comment to this post using the 'comment' link at the end [if you don't want me to post your comment publicly because, for example, it contains personal information, just let me know and I will take the action to add you and then delete your comment].
  • Send an Email to me at [the name of this Blog - with the space removed, i.e. 'nuclearaustralia'] at or '@' and then 'Gmail' and finally dot or '.' 'com'. Is decoding the Email address a prerequisite for becoming a Blogger? No. I'm just trying to keep the spam to a minimum.

What you will have to do:

  • I believe you will have to create a Google account [I recommend going for a Gmail account right away] to blog here.
  • I will need your Email address to send out an author invitation. If you create a Gmail account per the above step, just forward me that address.
  • If you want to let me know a little bit about yourself [location, background, interests, etc.] that would be helpful and interesting, but it's not mandatory.

I will then initiate the invitation.

Privacy: I will share none [as in zero] of the information you provide with any individual or organisation - not even other authors within this blog.

Grateful for any help you are able to provide.

Last week's video - Tim Flannery interview



From an interview Tim Flannery did with the WWF-Australia in February 2007.

Considering the WWF is conducting the interview, Tim does a good job promoting the role of nuclear power to reduce Australia's embarrassingly high per-capita emissions. He's advocating it be done properly, but it's obvious that - at least for him - nuclear remains on the table.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Yet still more on GNEP - recommended reading

Steve Kidd has prepared another fine article for Nuclear Engineering International.

This one is on GNEP - in the global context of many ongoing, techno-political activities.

I agree strongly with the articles points and conclusions.

Beef & aluminium cuts

Cattle graze in the shadow of a US Nuclear Power Station

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald

Mark Diesendorf has released a study showing what his data predicts it will take to achieve a 30% reduction in Australia's emissions linked by many to climate change. [What, exactly happened to the 60% target, I do not know - but let's leave that for now. This particular piece of fruit is hanging low enough.].

The report found that greater energy efficiency in residential, commercial and industrial sectors, using the cheapest forms of renewable electricity, such as wind, an increase in generation and co-generation with natural gas, modest improvements in public transport and a shift to hybrid and all-electric vehicles would, by 2020, cut emissions to 13 per cent below 1990 levels.

Even with a report commissioned by Greenpeace [implying all assumptions regarding renewables are somewhat rosy], still only 13%. Additionally, to achieve a 30% reduction - according to Dr. Diesendorf's study - Australia will have to:

  • eliminate or offset emissions from aluminium smelting "One possible response for the aluminium industry would be to move offshore," says Diesendorf,
  • 20 per cent cut in beef production,
  • 50 per cent cut in business and professional immigration and
  • end land clearing

[NB - are we trying to solve a global problem here or just make Australia feel less culpable? To this end, how would moving aluminium smelting offshore address the former? I guess these facilities will be relocated to a country where the energy is not derived from coal... say Russia? However, as the industry departs, so will our GDP. This will have little impact on Australian carbon intensity - i.e. tonnes carbon per unit GDP.]

And we've got another 30% to go after this to reach the 60% goal currently being promoted around the world. May we infer that the proposed cuts will just continue until a goal is achieved? Is this a sustainable approach to emissions reduction? Is it at all consistent with human nature?

Am I to take this report seriously?

Or Australia could adopt nuclear power, keep our comfortable lifestyles, make some significant cuts to emissions and - with efficiency and renewables - meet the targets mentioned above.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Responsibility and accountability

According to this Phil Mercer [same report in mp3] report for VOA News, a recent Sydney conference on climate change where CSIRO has - once again - shown that Australians [and Australian coal and coal power stations] are having one of the greatest per-capita impact on the climate. We are also headed for some dire consequences as a result.

Scientists there told an environment conference in Sydney that average temperatures across Australia will rise by about 1 degree by 2030, and possibly by a further 5 degrees by 2070.

Rainfall patterns are likely to be affected too, making droughts more severe.

Australia pumps out more so-called greenhouse gases per person than almost any other country in the world.

The country's emissions come principally from electricity generation, the majority of which is produced by coal-fired power stations.

There were calls for 'dramatic' reductions in emissions.