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.