Friday, 23 March 2007
"... there are already 31 countries that are nuclear powered. The industry is 50-years-old. It's had one serious accident, but in the last couple of decades it has been a very high-performing, cost-effective, and very clean from an environmental point of view.On siting of reactors...
So the presumption is, that given the importance of a strategy for clean electricity generation, that nuclear must be in the mix.
The issue confronting Australia is that there's been a pause in investment in the next generation of electricity production. And utilities have to make those commitments. And those commitments, once made, will survive for 30, 40 and 50 years.
So there's a tension… it's one of the reason why Australian business wants clarity around the rules for the future cost of pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
[A] reactor needs to be close to the energy grid, the transmission grid. It needs to be close to its markets, population. And the current generation of reactors needs access to water; seawater is preferred, so probably near the coast.On decommissioning costs...
Most of the Eastern Seaboard qualifies, and therefore I expect that the early reactors will be found up and down our Eastern Seaboard. On the other hand, you can be 100 kilometres away, and in Australia 100 kilometres away from any population centre puts you in a pretty isolated area.
What are often publicised costs are the remediation and rehabilitation costs associated with the earlier… the earliest reactors, that were designed largely for weapons-grade productions, and often designed without any attention to the environment. And so you see these costs mount to be monumental numbers in the US and in the UK. In Australia, we'd be deploying new reactors that are designed to be environmentally friendly, and that are designed to be able to be decommissioned in a very cost-effective way.
Thursday, 22 March 2007
It's over 2 1/2 years old, and there have been some developments since then in several technical areas as well as with regard to who thinks what about the need to reduce emissions linked to climate change. But still it's worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.
For a table linking you to all wedge summaries, click here. Or if you're not all that technical try here for their teacher's guide - where I'm happy to see the red wedge for nuclear has been put on the table.
Dig into the details a bit. Look at the relative challenges of all the technologies. One thing they emphasise, no need to wait for research, we can act right now. This is not a technical problem.
To me, this is the clearest case for consideration of nuclear power in Australia. While others are battling for energy security - this isn't so much of a concern for us. Assuming you believe the IPCC predictions and related warnings (UK Government & an environmentalist), we must consider doing our share to cut our embarrassingly high per-capita emissions.
Wednesday, 21 March 2007
This appears to be a high impact, militantly anti-nuclear Blog at first glance. I mean there are no less than 4 mushroom clouds on the top of the main page behind a few people fishing on a pleasant looking lake.
And then there’s this picture near the top with the heading “Do we want this?”
Well… take a look at the full video from the event the photo comes from.
Since you are witnessing the demolition of a cooling tower from a prematurely shutdown nuclear plant in the US State of Oregon, I’d predict that most anti-nuclear activists would probably answer a resounding ‘yes’. But I suspect that’s not the emotion the author is going for.
What I've pointed out above certainly gives the impression the author is going for the emotive (as opposed to the factual and objective).
But then I read the posts. Not so much the media quotes, but what the author was really writing. Her opinion is currently anti-nuclear, but she hasn’t closed her mind to the idea entirely.
I found what I read refreshing and a bit inspiring. She seems to struggle between what I think she sees as the evil of two lessers. Coal vs. nuclear… etc. In paraphrasing, she is leaning to coal but putting faith in the ability of research to solve current issues related to the technology. She admits her own technical limits... siting a lot of "gobbledy-gook" in the relevant technical pages. But she is looking, and asking for someone to boil it down for her. This is GREAT! And she deserves sound information.
I differ in that I do not believe there is time to accomplish significant research. As I say here, Australia needs to act and by that I mean the deployment of feasible, existing technologies.
One final comment. The text below the cooling tower photo says the Blog is a place to discuss the issues and invites the visitor to comment. But I’ll be buggered if I can find a link to make a post.
Maybe word of the scrutiny has gotten out, or perhaps a different media outlet makes a difference, but Kevin Kamps’ tour of Australia is being covered a bit differently since he last popped up on the Nuclear Australia radar.
Mr. Kamps is no longer referred to as an expert, but a title I am much more comfortable with
“…a US anti-nuclear campaigner…”
“…the public's primary concern should be where the governments planned to store nuclear waste.”
“US experience showed reactors, generally located near cities, had been forced to store toxic waste while the argument of where to build a national dump continued.”
American nuclear reactors produced up to 30 metric tonnes of waste each year, which posed serious health and environmental risks.
Nuclear power is still a very contentious issue in the US with most people asking where do we put the waste.
If reactors are built, they will serve as waste storage sites for many years in the future and there is a massive risk for accidents.”
Mr Kamps pointed to the Yucca Mountain proposed dump in Nevada that had now been delayed as a groundswell of opposition grew.
He said nearby residents and environmentalists did not want the dump because of the site's location on a fault line, near drinking water supplies and on volcanic land.
He argued that the same problem would happen in Australia if nuclear energy was developed.
Mr Kamps dismissed the argument put by Prime Minister John Howard that nuclear energy was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal.
“The creation of a nuclear power industry to decrease emissions trades one ecological disaster for another.
Kamps goes on to say
The government should concentrate on improving energy efficiency and renewable energies to solve global warning.”
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
While not stating it explicitly, the site implies people should seek factual information.
On that, I could not agree more.
However, I have found the following ‘oversights’ on the first post I looked at (Radioactive waste).
The waste quantities and facility mentioned in this post (Fernald) are the result of the United States’ nuclear weapons programme and the arms race of the cold war. They are totally out of context for any discussion of nuclear power. [NB Fernald is in the US State of Ohio, not Florida as mentioned in the Blog.]
I am assuming the 108 sites referenced are the power reactors… but there are not 108 sites as there are many multi-unit sites within the USA. And none of these are contaminated and unusable. But without a reference, I can not be certain this is even what the Blogger is writing about.
The Wikipedia link on Radioactive waste is fairly well detailed and worth a look.
For additional information on waste please refer to the knowledgeable University of Melbourne staff (see Challenges of Nuclear Power).
If this is any indication of the rest of the site, I advise caution. Look for the references, and if/when you find them, check their credibility and integrity.
Please, scrutinise, scrutinise, scrutinise (me as well as them). Seek objective facts.
OK, John Howard says, if panic-merchants want to cut carbon dioxide emissions we'll have to do it with nuclear power. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island notwithstanding, that's perfectly safe these days, even though rogue states and Osama bin Laden franchisees are desperate for bombs.
As for that pesky radioactive waste, it can be safely accommodated underground for the next million years barring accidents or earthquakes. Remember that nuclear power plants only become dangerous when the wrong people want to build them. So Iranian or North Korean nuclear plants may need to be nuked.
So we can see from both cases that one does not need nuclear power to obtain weapons capability. Linking nuclear power deployment to current non-proliferation concerns in this way is unjustified and a distraction to the overall discussion.
But when it comes to the PM's preferred solution to Australia's greenhouse emissions the greatest danger isn't a big bang or radiation leaks. It's time, money and the not-in-our-backyard factor. Apart from no one wanting a plant in the neighbourhood, they cost a motser and don't come on-stream for decades. By then Australia's coastal and harbourside residents will need submarines for public transport.
My opinion is that this number depends heavily on an individual country's regulatory and political atmosphere and experience. That being said, Australia's first, second, or even third nuclear plants will not go up quickly. But decades? I find no justification for such a claim.
A review of the economics may be found here (industry) and some information here (U. of Melbourne).
"My view is you are doing the wrong thing if you are a state or federal government if you don't have the [nuclear] debate," Greg Rudd told The Age yesterday [19-March].Greg Rudd, a former political adviser who is the managing-director of Open Door Consulting, said he had no current clients with any interest in the uranium industry
The challenge of climate change meant policymakers would need a "portfolio mix" of energy resources, and that would, in time, include nuclear, Mr Rudd said.
"In terms of climate change a portfolio mix is the way to go forward," he said.
"To me this is a 40-to-50-year journey. We won't have nuclear power plants popping up all over Australia in the near future."
I support the views expressed above and am glad to hear them from someone so close to a potential future PM.
Sunday, 18 March 2007
- The nuclear power plant reactor core,
- The plant control room,
- Electricity generating turbines,
- Plant cooling system,
- Nuclear power plant refueling process,
- Used nuclear fuel dry cask storage and
- A review of the range of jobs at the nuclear power plant.
I am adding this to give an idea of what goes on inside a typical plant. Yes, it is produced from within the industry and should be viewed as such. But I thought there may be some interest in seeing the actual systems, hearing about the jobs, etc.
Friday, 16 March 2007
Gellibrand MP Nicola Roxon
“It is too expensive, too dangerous and not the right solution,” Ms Roxon said.
Williamstown MP and Premier Steve Bracks said he was extremely concerned at the thought of nuclear power in the area.
“Victorians do not want nuclear power,” he said. “I’m sure the people of Newport do not want nuclear power and Canberra should not be forcing this on anyone.”
Hobsons Bay mayor Leigh Hardinge said it did not make sense to build a large baseload power station in a residential area.
“I would be very surprised if it was ever built in a metropolitan area,” Cr Hardinge said.
Spotswood Ward councillor Bill Baarini said he would fight any nuclear proposal for Newport like “(Anthony) Mundine in a championship fight”.
“If Newport qualifies for a reactor by the (Australia Institute) criteria then I can’t understand why the rest of Australia doesn’t,” Cr Baarini said.
Hobsons Bay Community First co-convenor Tony Briffa has urged residents to speak out early in opposition of any proposals.
“Silence implies consent,” Mr Briffa said.
“I fear if we are not concerned or active about this it will end up being here.”
Mr Briffa said he was concerned about siting a nuclear plant so close to a highly populated residential area as well as the effects of dispersing nuclear waste.
“And I guarantee 100 per cent of
residents would feel the same way about it,” Mr Briffa said.
If not nuclear, then what? Inaction is certainly no solution. Instead of rallying around what we are NOT going to do (or so say the most powerful leaders above); why not chart a course to some feasible end-game?
To put it another way; please lead, or get out of the way.
Australia Institute deputy director Andrew Macintosh
“Politics is the only thing that will write it off.”
Ok this last bit is encouraging. More communication and information is a good thing. I only hope they move away from the rhetoric.Cr Baarini said he would seek more information on Newport’s potential as a nuclear power site from the Australia Institute and contact the Federal Government.
Mr Briffa said he would consider holding a community forum on the issue to get the full story from policy makers and environmental groups.
I encourage all to seek objective facts about these issues. The comments above - for the most part - are certainly neither objective nor factual. Considering what is at stake, cooler heads MUST prevail.
So please, seek better information, stay cool and just chew on it for a while. We will make the right choices, but only if we are well informed.
Wednesday, 14 March 2007
As for which is the best or which is the most promising of the new alternate sources of energy? Well, we’ll leave that to others. Unfortunately, physics and chemistry were not two of your correspondent’s strong points at school.
As we are on the subject of uranium, nuclear power would seem likely to be one of those solutions, if only it was not so uneconomical at the moment. In addition, out of all of the possible alternative fuels, it is without doubt the most controversial.
The recent hysteria over the non-construction of a nuclear power station was testament to that. It is worth remembering that nuclear power stations have been in operation around the world for years. The two countries that rely on nuclear power the most, Japan and France appear to have had little problem with them.
Yet even so, the length of time that it will take for nuclear energy to become mainstream in Australia means that at least one other additional source of new energy will need to be produced over the next few years if we are to avoid the devastation of a real energy crisis.
This is probably a bit redundant. Bloggers everywhere (NEI) (J.F. Beck) are already sounding the alarm on Mr. Kevin Kamps.
But this is part of the nuclear discussion occurring within Australia, so I'll add it here.
Please read/listen, but before you form any concrete opinions please also consider his credentials. To me he is an anti-nuclear activist for sure, but his background lacks any noteworthy technical qualifications or experience (However I see he's done a considerable amount of walking). So I am more than a bit leery of his advice, and certainly see no reason to acknowledge him as a specialist.
I would have expected the ABC to dig a bit deeper on this one. Considering what is at stake, this type of emotive reporting is not all that constructive.
There are many very qualified, genuine specialists right here within Australia. As I find them I try to add their links (or those of a relevant organization) to this Blog.
Grateful for any suggestions.
Tuesday, 13 March 2007
Spent nuclear fuel cask tests were performed by Sandia National Laboratories in 1977. Although older casks were used, they meet the same regulatory standards as modern casks.
(In) the first test, a truck carrying a 22-ton spent fuel cask impacted a 690-ton concrete block at 60 miles per hour. It was cleaned up and impacted a second time, but at 84 miles per hour.
The cask also survived this more violent crash with only minor damage.
In the third test, a diesel locomotive crashed into a truck at 81 miles per hour. The stalled truck carried a 25-ton shipping cask. Cask deformation was minimal and the ability of the cask to contain and shield its radioactive contents was not compromised.
The final impact test had a 74-ton shipping cask, carried by a cask rail car, crash into the concrete block at 81 miles per hour. The same cask and rail car were then positioned over a pool of jet fuel and subjected to an engulfing fire, much more severe than the fire that might occur in a train wreck. After 90 minutes – three times the duration of current qualification test criteria – surface temperatures exceeded 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. But inside the cask, where the spent fuel rods would be contained, temperatures were below 300 degrees – not enough to melt the spent fuel rods.
"AUSTRALIAN politicians who wish to minimise the risks of international nuclear proliferation should first promote their nation's full involvement in the international nuclear fuel cycle and endorse the development of an Australian nuclear power industry.
Their main objective should be to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and the compliance mechanisms of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The first five decades of the 21st century will see extensive growth in nuclear power generation worldwide. By 2050 Australians could find that up to one-third of their nation's energy supply will come from nuclear power stations. As well, Australia, already the world's premier coal exporter, will be called on to become the planet's primary suppler of greenhouse-friendly uranium and perhaps thorium. It may also be fully engaged with the global nuclear fuel cycle industry and may join the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations."
THE Westinghouse Electric Company, a manufacturer of nuclear power stations, has had talks with the Federal Government on "near-term opportunities".
The company also revealed it has been approached by Australian groups looking to establish nuclear power facilities.
"Westinghouse recently visited Australia to discuss near-term opportunities with the Government and regulatory authorities.
"We have also had inquiries from individuals and/or groups within Australia pursuing the establishment and development of commercial nuclear power plants for electricity generation.
UPDATE : 15-03-2007
The Herald Sun has provided some detail on discussions between ANSTO and General Electric.
ANSTO's corporate communications manager, Craig Pearce, said GE " did visit ANSTO last year and made a presentation on their technology.
"We initiated contact with a number of suppliers of nuclear technology including General Electric and General Atomics."
Opponents of nuclear power generation have cited emerging carbon capture technologies as likely to enhance the viability of coal-fired stations in coming decades.
However, Dr Switkowski believes that nuclear power would still be viable because of the costs associated with capturing coal emissions.
"Just about any attempt to clean up coal will not compromise the case for nuclear," he said.
Saturday, 10 March 2007
I give this report 4 (of 5) Fuel Assemblies...
Some excerpts of interest:
... It's like a perfect storm building in disparate Atlantic nations. Nations with inimpeachable social progressive agendas, such as Sweden and Finland, are choosing to expand nuclear power; the British Labour Party, under greenhouse zealot Tony Blair, is considering renewing its nuclear power stations; neutral organisations such as the European Union are promoting safety in the former Soviet states; long-term nuclear nations such as France are providing waste treatment; and nuclear holocaust threats such as Russia and the US are moving towards recycling nuclear waste. ...
... In France, where 80 per cent of the domestic electricity comes from nuclear plants, there is now a PIMBY effect - Put It In My Back Yard. One of the key reasons to build a new, third nuclear plant at Flamanville in Normandy was positive lobbying from local councils, business and people wanting to add to the more than 10,000 direct jobs in the area dependent on the nuclear industry. ...
... If you accept the need for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gases a lot by 2050, you have to consider the options of expanding renewable energy sources, taking advantage of "low-hanging fruit" by lifting energy efficiency, developing clean-coal technologies, using more natural gas and using more nuclear energy. ...
Friday, 9 March 2007
"In France, the people were originally somewhat resistant (to nuclear power), but they became convinced it was the right path," she told The Australian yesterday on the sidelines of the Global Foundation's Australia Unlimited Roundtable.
"The reason was that the debate in France and the process to nuclear power was open, it was transparent, and the people came along."
Asked how quickly the Australian public might be persuaded away from its negative views about nuclear power, she said itcould happen rapidly if the casefor nuclear power proved compelling.
"I think Australians are quick to adapt to changing circumstances. They have proven that in the past, they are proving it at present with their attitudes to climate change," she said.
Dr Switkowski told a sustainable energy conference in Canberra that while the initial serious concerns - such as how to deal with nuclear waste, the possibility of a catastrophic Chernobyl-style accident, and terrorists getting their hands on nuclear material - were still held by the public, other considerations were becoming more prevalent.
He said the biggest concern he now heard was about nuclear power being too expensive.
"Second is the challenge that 15 years out is too long.
"The third is: if you are going to go to nuclear energy, where are you going to put the reactors? To me that's an interesting shift."
Dr Switkowski said commercial concerns moved the issue in the realm of business, which either would or would not proceed on the basis of profitability. "They're frankly the sort of issues that most business cases confront, and therefore are amenable to rational resolution."
Wednesday, 7 March 2007
As debate rages over a nuclear energy industry for Australia, the University of Sydney is putting on a postgraduate diploma and a masters program for nuclear scientists from next year. It is the latest swift sector reaction to the demand for specialists in emerging and contemporary fields.
Sydney's new courses will teach nuclear physics and its applications, nuclear instrumentation, radiation physics and reactor physics among others, according to medical physicist Clive Baldock.
"It is in response to the current political situation in Australia," Professor Baldock said.
"We realised early on, before the Government released its uranium review, that there was going to be a need for more nuclear-educated engineers and scientists."
Professor Baldock expected 10 to 15 students would graduate in the first year, which would fit well with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's aim to employ 15 graduate nuclear scientists each year from next year.
Tuesday, 6 March 2007
For more please have a look a the University of Wollongong's Nuclear Power & Australia website. There you will find interesting information on Nuclear vs. Coal and many other discussions.
If - like me - you prefer information that is more quantitative and objective, you may want to bring something to nibble.
FEAR of global warming has dramatically reversed Australians' attitude to nuclear energy, with more people supporting nuclear power for the first time.
In the past four months, support for nuclear power has risen from just 35 per cent to 45 per cent, and opposition has fallen in the same time from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. But people are still overwhelming opposed to having a nuclear power plant in their backyard.
Sunday, 4 March 2007
The article makes some very interesting points with sited references. The same post can be found at the NEI Nuclear Notes Blog, but it was so relevant that I decided to waste some space and place it here as well.
NUCLEAR power has two paradoxes. The first is that an energy source that has proved itself over decades to be safe, clean and economic should be perceived as being dangerous, dirty and expensive.
The second is that a technology that is so well understood and on which information is so easy to obtain should be the subject of such wild ignorance. Andreas Späth's article, "Six Reasons to Ditch Nuclear Power" (News24, February 27) neatly illustrates both. I shall answer each point in favour of nuclear power and add a seventh.
An opinion as reported in The Australian:
“It's time we in the ALP gave up pretending that nuclear energy is Satan's power supply of choice, because it's not working. It's time we stopped repeating the myth that waste is an issue that can't be dealt with. Some countries such as Sweden are dealing with it. It's time we stopped saying that nuclear power is bad for the environment. It's just not true. Name one species that has been made extinct by nuclear power. You can't, can you?
Now have a think about the environmental effects of global warming. The whole Great Barrier Reef - gone. Whole biosystems - wiped out. And with them species after species after species. Are we really going to let an ideological hangover from the Cold War stop us from fixing this thing?
It's time we accepted that in some countries nuclear power is the solution.
Nuclear power is not an environmental problem, it's an economic problem. The Prime Minister's political attempt to wedge the ALP over nuclear power will cost the average family between $500 and $1000 a year. If you have a $1000-a-year electricity bill, the Switkowski report says nuclear power means you'll be paying $1500. That'll be $3000 if you already have a $2000 bill.”
"Geothermal energy is emission free, cheaper than nuclear, not much more expensive than our present coal and definitely cheaper than coal if allowances are made for geo-sequestration.
...there are some technical areas where processes employed in Australia would differ from those used overseas and these need to be dealt with quickly.
The federal Government could be doing a lot to help. For instance, it should develop a drilling subsidy for geothermal similar to the South Australian PACE initiative which is for minerals).
This would put in one government dollar for every private dollar incurred in the very expensive drilling required. It should also introduce a flow-through share scheme for geothermal.
This would pass the tax deductions for exploration and development costs incurred by geothermal companies on to their shareholders, thus increasing investment in a risky sector.
A national emissions trading scheme, furthermore, would help."
Am I reading this correctly?
Fitch's associate director of Asia-Pacific Energy and Utilities, Gavin Madson, said nuclear-powered economies generally have a regulatory body dedicated to dealing with nuclear power issues.
"We currently do not have such a regime in place," he said. "The development of such a watchdog in Australia will alleviate some of the problems potential investors currently face, and will prove to be a prerequisite for any investment in domestic nuclear generation."
The major issue curtailing any serious consideration of investment in nuclear generation was regulatory uncertainty.
"The current uncertainty surrounding the treatment of greenhouse gas obligations has hindered investment in any base-load generation, let alone nuclear power," Mr Madson said.
He said the considerable up-front cost and lengthy construction times for nuclear power generation meant there was the need for regulatory clearance before investment.
Only if one measures the 'cost' of other options in dollars alone.
“If you were to set up nuclear power today, you would put up the price of electricity. What would be the point of that?” Mr Costello said. “Now, in 10 or 15 or 20 years, maybe it would be a cheaper form of electricity so I could see a point in it. “But I can’t see the point in it today. “There would be no point in doing it unless it was cheaper than the form of electricity that we have today, which it isn’t.”
I enjoyed this editorial from the Geelong Advertiser. It contains some frank statements - that if properly considered and addressed by a variety of stakeholders could really progress some action on the issues involved.
Greens senator Christine Milne has raised the issue of future nuclear power plants, home insurance policies and general risk.
She links this risk (risk of loss due to some type of operational accident) with corporate reluctance to build new plants (which is principally due to business schedule and regulatory approval risks during planning, construction and commissioning). I think that's a bit of a stretch on her part, but the general point is an interesting one.
"Dr. Ziggy Switkowski, who headed the prime minister's inquiry into the viability of nuclear reactors in Australia, has been appointed chairman of ANSTO, the national body in charge of nuclear research and development."
I have not seen evidence to suggest we will get there via the first three steps.
Therefore I feel we should progress to option 4 and deploy nuclear power plants within Australia.
1 Continue to encourage/mandate conservation
2 Deploy existing renewables, as possible, to the maximum extent (wind, solar, tidal, hydro, biomass, etc.)
3 Initiate existing carbon sequestration and other mitigating technologies as feasible
4 Deploy Gen3+ and innovative Gen4 nuclear plants as base-load facilities – taking advantage of advanced designs, breeding and fast flux technologies to maximize nuclear safety, sustainability and minimize volume and energy content of highly active waste.