Friday, 9 December 2011

Coal: 1 Fukushima every 600 years

[NOT EVEN CLOSE TO MY ORIGINAL CALCULATION WHICH WAS OFF BY A FACTOR OF  1,000 (not a million) - SEE COMMENTS AND CORRECTED POST BELOW - MY APOLOGIES FOR THE ERROR.]

In December 2007 Scientific American published a report on coal power plant radioactive releases and compared these with those from an operating nuclear energy station. To the surprise of many in the general public, coal station emissions are A LOT higher than an operating nuclear plant.
In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.
High coal radiation release rates were also reported in a study / report from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. In fact, the ORNL study found so much fissionable material (Uranium and Thorium) in coal station discharge, that consideration was given to recovering the material for use as fuel in nuclear energy stations.

But how much does a coal station release? From the ORNL report linked above:
According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), the average radioactivity per short ton of coal is 17,100 millicuries/4,000,000 tons, or 0.00427 millicuries/ton. This figure can be used to calculate the average expected radioactivity release from coal combustion.
Converting this to metric equates to about 0.174 MBq/ton (metric ton).

According to Wikipedia (and again converting to metric), about 6.14 billion metric tons of coal are burned per year.

Multiplying the two means that the radioactive release from annual coal combustion is 1.069 PBq/yr (peta-Becquerels or 1,069,000,000,000,000 Bq).

The nuclear accident in Japan has many reports of total radiation release. Several are listed in Wikipedia. To be VERY generous to the coal industry, lets take the largest airborne release I was able to find (Iodine and Caesium together) = 270 PBq. Then add the largest water release reported 27 PBq for a total of 297 PBq.

But the release continues... at a reported rate of 200 million Bq/h in September. At this rate the total release from the accident will double after 170,000 years. But clean-up and recovery efforts along with natural decay means that rate can not possibly be sustained.

But for my calculation, I will assume the release from Fukushima is double what has been reported or 600 PBq. This is totally unfair to science as well as the nuclear industry, but let's roll with it.

So to summarise:
Coal = 1.067 PBq/yr
Fukushima = 600 PBq (unjustifiably doubled by me)

Therefore: every 600 years worldwide coal combustion releases as much radiation as was released from the nuclear accident at Fukushima  (in reality, it's more like every 300 years). Or in one typical lifetime, coal use will result in the release of around 20% of the activity released from the Fukushima accident. In addition:
  • Coal stations are distributed worldwide
  • Coal emission are unregulated for radioactivity and imposing regulations onto them now is almost impossible
  • Fly ash is typically stored in open air basins that have been known to fail.
While the Japanese are taking action to clean up and recover from the Fukushima accident - granted, at great expense - applying a similar effort to clean up after coal is inconceivable.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

OECD-IEA World Energy Outlook 2011

Some tables, trends and projections. The bottom line:
  • Nuclear forecasts decrease as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but growth projections remain positive.
  • More action is required to reduce emissions (nuclear energy remains a relevant option with renewables)
  • With carbon pricing action well on it's way, Australia should also focus on its coal exports.
A collection of data
Regarding nuclear energy's projected future role:

(NB, this role increases in the 450 scenario. Any aspirations to achieve 350 ppm without nuclear are beyond my comprehension.)

First, what is the energy related contribution for anthropogenic (people-produced) greenhouse-gas emissions, now and in the future? This would include electricity, home heating, automobiles, industry, etc. Anything that involves heating, moving, illuminating, charging, computing, projecting, etc.. In the below table, you can see that energy is by far the largest contributor. Here, everything has been levelised to CO2 equivalent to make it easily digested.


Next, a representation of the 'Current Policies', 'New Policies' and '450' Scenarios. In the 450 Scenario, global cooperation and action maintain global atmospheric CO2 concentrations at or below 450 ppm. The vast majority of peer-reviewed scientists agree maintaining this objective is critical to avoiding widespread environmental disaster. A significant number are arguing for 350 ppm. [NB at the moment we're at 389 and climbing.]


Now the obvious quesiton; "Can't renewables get us there?" According to the OECD, the New Policies Scenario depends heavily on the expanded deployment of renewables. 7,000 TWh more annual, renewables-based generation by 2035. That is a large number, roughly equal to generation produced by 900 1,000 MW nuclear or coal stations. Considering the low capacity factor for wind and solar, the number of installations to be built is equal to at least 1.35 million 2MWe wind turbines - about one every ten minutes worldwide on average - from now to 2035. But not all of this will be wind; solar, hydro and others will have to generate their share. Global hydro and non-hydro generation in 2009 was 3,902 TWh. That value will have to more than tripple in less than 25 years. Considering the expected lifetime of the facilities (Wind and Solar ~ 20 years per the report), the required construction effort grows further still to compensate for the retirement of older facilities.

The challenge grows further still to achieve the 450 scenario.


We will certainly have to improve on our demonstrated performance over the past decade. The increase in generation by fuel type between 2000 and 2010 is shown below. If we are trying to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, I would say the data below supports an argument that renewables and nuclear must work together to achieve any credible goal. At the moment, efforts to position renewables against nuclear in environmental or public policy debates seem to be contributing to the on-gong expansion of fossil fuel - worst of all, coal.

So, how do we get there? What is the projected share for each? OECD's projection is shown below. [NB - Note the '2009 fuel mix' line at the top (aka business as usual scenario) will result in the near doubling of global emissions by 2035. If you doubt this, remember that just a few weeks ago, data was released citing record breaking, projection shattering, global emissions.]

The challenge grows further still to achieve the 450 scenario.


The below table quantifies the above graph.



So, can nuclear do it? The below graph is not new. To satisfy the 'New Policies' data in the table above, about 250 new 1,000 MWe plants will be required by 2035, that is about 10 per year or one every seven weeks. Looking at the statistics on the front page of the IAEA PRIS Database, this seems do-able. Five units were brought into service already in 2011, five in 2010 and the trend of project starts has been increasing over the past several years. Technically, this is a realistic goal. However, just like renewable-based expansion, retired plants must be replaced to achieve the required generation of 4,053 TWh. Still, this is not out of our reach.

The challenge grows further still to achieve the 450 scenario. (about 470 more plants)


The OECD conveniently considers the net effect by including retirements in a chart.



One final, dirty and embarrassing factoid from the report. Below are data on coal exports. Coal export capacities (how much can be exported) and utilisation rate (what percentage of that total is exported) by country. Australia's capacity tops the list. Looking at the second table, you can see we are the 3rd busiest (behind Colombia and Canada, whose capacities are about an order of magnitude below our own). This puts Australia in the top (worst) position. Australia's performance in this regard is expected to further degrade (coal exports to expand) for at least the next 5 years.

And the industry is worried about job security? Sadly not nearly as much as they should be. We can do better.

Their level of discomfort should grow further still to achieve the 450 scenario.



Saturday, 12 November 2011

TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Timeline - INPO

A report prepared by the North American Nuclear Industry peer group (INPO - Institute of Nuclear Power Operators) has issued a comprehensive report of the initial hours and days following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A detailed and agreed timeline was an important prerequisite to developing many significant lessons learned from the 1979 Three Mile Island Unit 2 accident in Pennsylvania, USA. Many of these lessons (symptom-based vs event-based emergency planning, re-mapped alarm panels and significant revisions to operator actions and training) developed as a specific result of the TMI-2 investigation are now standard practice in nuclear energy programmes worldwide.

In this earlier post below, I cautioned about the risks of early information, mostly because the best source of that information - TEPCO - had to direct their information and communication mechanisms to event management, transient response and accident mitigation; including addressing the immediate needs of their employees and members of the local public most affected by the accidents. At the time these were the only priority. Responsibility for communicating with the broader world - who had legitimate concerns - fell to support organisations and/or government ministries. They did their best with what details they could obtain. But it would be a stretch to call that information anything beyond preliminary and highly suspect to review and revision.

The INPO report may be downloaded here.

There's a good New York Times report on it here.
"The chronology does not draw any conclusions about the accident, or analyze the actions taken after the earthquake. It is intended, instead, to provide an agreed-upon set of facts that American companies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others can use in identifying lessons from the disaster for the American industry."

"The report also takes note of the human toll of the disaster among the workers, though the prose is more industrial than dramatic.

It points out that many plant workers had lost their homes and even their families in the tsunami, and that for days after the quake, they were sleeping on the floor at the plant, and soaking up radiation doses even in the control room. Because of food shortages, they were provided with only a biscuit for breakfast and a bowl of noodles for dinner.

Working in darkness and without electricity, even simple tasks became challenging. At one point, control room operators formed themselves into teams of two, to dash into high-dose areas to try to open a crucial vent. One would hold the flashlight, monitor radiation dose and perform other support tasks, and the other would try to get a valve to move. But there was no communication once the team was in the field, so the next team could leave only after the first had returned."
Their bravery and commitment to duty are to be commended. Had it not been for the TEPCO operators and engineers at Daiichi and other sites such as Daini, the results would likely have been considerably worse.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Country comparisons

Following on from the data below (which I admit is boring in list form), I generated radar graphs for select countries: The top 20 total emitters and the best of the best from below.

To generate the graphs, I ranked each country from 0 to 66 (0 being the best performer and 66 the worst) in the following categories: 2010 total CO2 emissions, 2008-2010 change in emissions (absolute), 2008-2010 change in emissions (%), 2010 per capita emissions, 2008-2010 change in per capita emissions, 2010 emissions per unit GDP, 2008-2010 change in emissions per unit GDP. Of course the populations and certainly GDPs will have changed over the 24 months. But I just used the most current information available to put the emissions data into some sort of semi-relevant scale.

I then created the graphs purely by rank. I considered graphing the data on relative terms (i.e. the USA total emissions are about 74% of China's so a relative graph would have China at 100 for that criterion and USA at 74 (and Australia much lower)). But the two are barely distinguishable in total emissions arm of the graph I made. Is this just? I thought so, even though it is in the number two slot, the USA's obligation to cut emissions - solely on absolute terms - isn't 74% of that of China. But still, I can't defend such an argument without the remaining context. Graphing China's and the USA's rank using multiple criteria presents a much clearer picture. Using the radar graphs, it's a bit easier to argue who should do more vs. who should try even harder still.

Below are the top 20 emitters in absolute terms followed by a few top all-around performers.

1.
2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.


And the best performers from the below post:





Sunday, 6 November 2011

Updated global emissions data: a closer look

Lots of buzz at the moment about data recently published by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The website for the report may be found here. The scope of the study includes carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from: coal, liquid fuels, gas fuels, cement production and gas flaring. Data are provided for 67 individual countries. Others are considered in aggregate regional sums.

Most media reports focus in two points:
  1. The data exceeds the worst case scenario of the IPCC 2007 report and
  2. Emissions in China, the USA and India have increased the most.
But the data reveal much more than this. I confess that playing with MS Excel spreadsheets is a guilty pleasure. So when the authors made the data available, I could not resist adding a little more info and exploring a bit deeper.

First, total emissions by country (in million metric tones CO2 during 2010). The greatest emissions were produced by:
  1. China (2,248)
  2. USA (1,498)
  3. India (564)
  4. Russia (461)
  5. Japan (310)
  6. Germany (208)
  7. Iran (157)
  8. South Korea (154)
  9. Canada (141)
  10. Saudi Arabia (135)
17. Australia (100)

WORLD TOTAL: 9,139 million metric tones CO2

Next, a list of countries whose emissions increased the most in absolute terms from 2009 to 2010 (in million metric tones CO2).
  1. China (212)
  2. USA (60)
  3. India (49)
  4. Russia (25)
  5. Japan (20)
  6. South Korea (13)
  7. Brazil (12)
  8. Indonesia (9.5)
  9. Saudi Arabia (9.1)
  10. Germany (7.9)
WORLD TOTAL (2009-2010 increase): 512.4 million metric tones CO2

Conversely, those who reduced their emissions the most in absolute terms from 2009 to 2010 are (in million metric tones CO2):
  1. Australia (-9.9)
  2. Spain (-4.1)
  3. Romania (-0.93)
  4. Azerbaijan (-0.694)
  5. Slovakia (-0.686)
  6. Greece (-0.605)
  7. Bulgaria (-0.586)
  8. Switzerland (-0.434)
  9. New Zealand (-0.418)
  10. Hong Kong - China (-0.292)
Expressed in percentage terms, the list of worst performers are: (greatest percent increase in emissions)
  1. Finland (13.5%)
  2. Brazil (11.642%)
  3. Peru (11.641%)
  4. China (10.42%)
  5. Turkmenistan (9.93%)
  6. India (9.43%)
  7. Kazakhstan (9.32%)
  8. South Korea (9.19%)
  9. Lithuania (8.15%)
  10. Kuwait (7.86%)
WORLD TOTAL (2009-2010 increase): 5.94% of 2009 emissions

And the best, again in terms of percent decrease from 2009 to 2010, are:
  1. Australia (-9.04%)
  2. Slovakia (-7.38%)
  3. Azerbaijan (-5.97%)
  4. Spain (-5.17%)
  5. New Zealand (-4.99%)
  6. Bulgaria (-4.94%)
  7. Romania (-4.16%)
  8. Switzerland (-3.92%)
  9. Hong Kong - China (-2.69%)
  10. Greece (-2.38%)
Realizing that total, global, absolute emissions are all that really matter; when trying to identify the best opportunities to reduce emissions, it is not entirely fair to consider nations on equal terms. The consideration of per capita emission (or emissions per person) and emissions per unit GDP (a measure of a national economy's carbon efficiency) adds a degree of justice to a broader review. In this case, the lists of worst and best performers become:

Largest per-capita emissions in 2010 (in metric tones CO2 per person).
  1. Qatar (12.03)
  2. Trinidad and Tobago (10.32)
  3. Kuwait (8.14)
  4. UAE (5.32)
  5. Saudi Arabia (4.96)
  6. USA (4.79)
  7. Australia (4.42)
  8. Canada (4.10)
  9. Kazakhstan (3.95)
  10. Russia (3.22)
19. Germany (2.54)
22. Japan (2.43)
26. UK (2.16)
27. Denmark (2.14)

WORLD AVERAGE: 1.31 metric tones CO2 per person

As an exercise, if global emissions were reduced by 80% tomorrow, this value would become 0.26 metric tones CO2 per person on average. As you read the list below, note that only 3 countries of 67 listed currently meet that goal.

Lowest per-capita emitters include (in metric tones CO2)
  1. Bangladesh (0.10)
  2. Pakistan (0.26)
  3. Philippines (0.26)
  4. Peru (0.43)
  5. Colombia (0.44)
  6. India (0.47)
  7. Vietnam (0.51)
  8. Indonesia (0.55)
  9. Ecuador (0.55)
  10. Brazil (0.60)
22. Switzerland (1.35)
24. Sweden (1.38)
27. France (1.50)
33. China (1.68)

Considering GDP, or the carbon efficiency of a country's economy, the worst performers (in metric tones CO2 per million US $ of GDP)
  1. Uzbekistan (828)
  2. Turkmenistan (672)
  3. Trinidad and Tobago (667)
  4. Ukraine (553)
  5. Kazakhstan (458)
  6. Iran (439)
  7. Vietnam (432)
  8. China (382)
  9. India (346)
  10. South Africa (339)
11. Russia (311)


WORLD AVERAGE: 145 metric tones CO2 per million US $ of GDP

Similar to the above exercise, if global emissions were reduced by 80% tomorrow (and GDP maintained at its current level), this value would become 29 metric tones CO2 per million US $ of GDP on average. As you read the list below, note that only 2 countries of 67 listed currently meet that goal - and both currently satisfy a considerable share of their energy demand using a combination nuclear and renewable (mostly hydro) generation technologies. Both supplied 38% of their 2010 electricity demand by nuclear generation.

Best performers or lowest CO2 emission per unit GDP (in metric tones CO2 per million US $ GDP) are:
  1. Switzerland (20)
  2. Sweden (29)
  3. Norway (33)
  4. Denmark (38)
  5. France (39)
  6. Singapore (44)
  7. Austria (46)
  8. Hong Kong - China (47)
  9. Spain (53)
  10. Italy (54)
12. Brazil (55)
14. Japan (57)
16. UK (60)
17. Germany (63)
22. Australia (81)
29. USA (103)

So what's to be concluded? Can any clarity be derived from this toil?

First, if the data for Australia are correct, that effort should be commended and continued. Did industry begin to move based on a suspected carbon tax? Not too likely being 2010 data. Is this the result of initiatives of the former government? Maybe. In any case, I'll be watching this space.

Next, it's obvious to see why emission reduction negotiations can be so ineffective. Any country can point to one of the given lists to show why someone else should be working harder to reduce 'their' emissions. How can one navigate the rhetoric and achieve some type of consensus? For example, if you rank each country in the categories I've mentioned above [total emissions, 2009 to 2010 total increase, 2009 to 2010 percent increase, emissions per capita and emissions per unit GDP] and assign one point for the worst performer, two points for second worst etc. to 67 points for best performer in each of those categories, then the best opportunities for emission reductions would appear to be:
  1. China (49)
  2. Russia (49)
  3. Saudi Arabia (49)
  4. Kazakhstan (53)
  5. South Korea (62)
  6. USA (76)
  7. India (83)
  8. Iran (95)
  9. Taiwan (97)
  10. Japan (102)
16. Germany (116)
19. Canada (121)
22. Finland (128)
25. UK (135)
28. Brazil (138)

And the best performers as evaluated this way (maximum possible points = 335):
  1. Switzerland (294)
  2. Hong Kong - China (281)
  3. New Zealand (276)
  4. Slovakia (272)
  5. Azerbaijan (257)
26. Australia (204)

But is it just to consider all criteria equally? For example, how will the list be impacted if greater weight, say twice as much, is placed on those countries with the most alarming trajectories. In this case, I'll double the points for total increase in emissions as well as greatest percentage increase. Now the list of opportunities becomes:
  1. China
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Russia
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. South Korea
  6. India
  7. USA
  8. Japan
  9. Indonesia
  10. Taiwan
13. Brazil
15. Finland
16. Germany
25. United Kingdom
26. Canada

The five best:
  1. Switzerland
  2. Slovakia
  3. Hong Kong - China
  4. New Zealand
  5. Azerbaijan
14. Australia

Similarly, if we reset the equation, but double the weight of per-capita emissions (individual responsibility), the list shifts to:
  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. Russia
  3. Kazakhstan
  4. South Korea
  5. USA
  6. China
  7. Kuwait
  8. Taiwan
  9. UAE
  10. Iran
12. Japan
15. Canada
16. Germany
17. Finland
20. India
23. United Kingdom
29. Brazil

The best here:
  1. Switzerland
  2. Hong Kong - China
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Slovakia
  5. New Zealand
33. Australia

Finally, if we reset the formula once more and double the weight of emissions per unit GDP (or economic carbon efficiency), that list is:
  1. China
  2. Russia
  3. Saudi Arabia
  4. Kazakhstan
  5. South Korea
  6. India
  7. Iran
  8. Turkmenistan
  9. USA
  10. Taiwan
22. Japan
23. Canada
24. Germany
27. Finland
30. United Kingdom
34. Brazil

and the five best performers:
  1. Switzerland
  2. Hong Kong - China
  3. New Zealand
  4. Slovakia
  5. Spain
24. Australia

These quick and dirty sensitivity analyses show certain countries appearing on each worst ten list - even when the weight of specific criteria are doubled. These include China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, the USA and Taiwan. India and Iran appear on all but one and Japan comes up on two of the four.

Switzerland is rock solid atop the best performers. Already at its carbon efficiency target, it need only work to reduce its per capita emissions by about 80% before declaring absolute victory. Hong Kong, New Zealand and 52% nuclear reliant Slovakia also appear on all top five performers list. Yet none have achieved the necessary per capita or per unit GDP goals.

There's only one clear conclusion, everyone's got some amount of work to complete. And lest we forget, increasing global population will only further challenge our collective responsibility.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Dangerous trends with hard evidence and supporting analysis

After one whole week on Twitter, a review of the information I chose to share may make for a blog post of potential interest. So here goes...

There's a concerning, hopefully short-term, trend back to fossil fuel use. Many surmise this is a reaction to events in Japan - and I see no reason to disagree. Specifically:






Based on the evidence above, I am confident that any significant move away from nuclear will result in an emissions increase. So if you agree with the vast majority of respected scientists and their peer-reviewed work; you should also agree that these are steps in a catastrophically wrong direction.

Rolling Stone published an article describing the perverse cosmic-justice faced by Australia. We will suffer greatly - as some say we should, due to our heavy reliance on coal leading to the highest per-person emissions in the developed world and being the world's top coal exporter.

A series of Washington Posts cartoons caught my eye.


Analysis continues to conclude that nuclear is likely to play a key and competitive role on any realistic effort to reduce emissions. And there is plenty of evidence to support the IAEA's recent projection for continued nuclear expansion despite this year's tragedy in Japan. Specifically, nuclear expansion programmes moveed forward in Argentina, Finland, South Africa and Vietnam.

Nuclear essential to cut emissions - UK chief scientific adviser




These trends are consistent with the findings of a recently published OECD report - Carbon Pricing, Power Markets and the Competitiveness of Nuclear Power (purchase required). A few quotes from the conclusions:

[all emphasis is mine]
"...economic competition in electricity markets is today being played out between nuclear energy and gas-fired power generation, with coal-fired power generation not being competitive as soon as even modest carbon pricing is introduced."
"The profit analysis showed that during the past five years, nuclear energy has made very substantive profits due to carbon pricing. These profits are far higher than those of coal and gas, even though the latter did not have to pay for their carbon emission permits during the past five years. This will change with the introduction of full auctioning of permits in 2013 in the EU ETS, which will further increase the relative short-term advantage of nuclear power plants. Operating an existing nuclear power plant in Europe today is very profitable."
"Nuclear energy is competitive with natural gas for baseload power generation, as soon as one of the three categories – investment costs, prices or CCS – acts in its favour. It will dominate the competition as soon as two out of three categories act in its favour."
But the report authors add some caveats to the 'rough and ready synthesis' above. Gas plants for example, may simply opt out of generation when electricity prices are low. Since gas-based generation profits are strongly linked to the cost of fuel as well as the price of electricity, low electricity prices tend to favour gas over nuclear.

But the report conclusions continue...
"The progressive exit from both fossil fuels and nuclear in Germany, Europe’s biggest market, will inevitably push prices higher, which in conjunction with carbon pricing opens opportunities for nuclear energy in other European countries."
However,
"It is thus not unthinkable that risk-averse private investors may opt for fossil-fuel-fired power generation instead of nuclear even in cases where nuclear energy would be the least-cost option over the lifetime of the plant."
So their final projection?
"Risk minimisation implies that utilities need to diversify their generation sources and need to adopt a portfolio approach. ... Such diversification would not only limit financial investor risk, but also a number of non-financial risks (climate change, security of supply, accidents)."
Nuclear has a future. Germany's decision to phase out nuclear there will, ironically, make the technology more appealing to others in Europe who will see increasing profits due to rising electricity prices and fixed generation costs.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Tumbling further down the rabbit hole...

Not that my abilities are all that great, but I'd like to think that one or two of my 333 posts have been fairly well crafted.

For what it's worth, I've gotten very busy over the past year. I no longer have time to research, digest, compile, compose, review and correct posts of any significant detail. But I will continue to do what I can.

I do, however, have access to some hefty research capabilities; an extensive library and an impressive media review and alert system. So I've created a Twitter account @NuclearAus. I will pass along information of interest as I come across it.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Redundant indication

Some key components of training in any nuclear energy facility I've ever been in (and principal lessons learned from the Three Mile Island accident) are the concepts of redundant indication, conservative decision making and maintaining a questioning attitude.

Nuclear Energy Station - Control Console and Panels

Redundant Indication
Nuclear Operators will seek multiple, independent sources of information before taking action. This is basic stuff, nuclear operations 101. One of the first simulator scenarios of any training program:
  • Display a false indication on a big, bright meter directly in front of the operator's face and watch the control room team zoom in on this (fake) problem, while some other (real) problem develops in some less conspicuous area of the panel or console.
The objective? Develop operators who constantly verify the equipment status via multiple readings while maintaining the big picture of the integrated plant. Any current or ex-operator will be yawning if they haven't already moved on to another webpage.

So today, a big, red light went on before me... but this one's not the first. Compare my quote from James Hansen's book 'Storms of My Grandchildren' found in this post with the information found in this press release from the World Health Organization. Some quotes from the latter:
"WHO estimates more than 2 million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution."
"In both developed and developing countries, the largest contributors to urban outdoor air pollution include motor transport, small-scale manufacturers and other industries, burning of biomass and coal for cooking and heating, as well as coal-fired power plants. Residential wood and coal burning for space heating is an important contributor to air pollution, especially in rural areas during colder months."
2 million gone per year. Roughly the population of Australia, dead every decade. And this is independent from the treats stemming from Climate Change.
Just this year: tens of $billions lost as a result of the Queensland floods; a budget impasse in America threatens to shut their government down, in part due to repeated, weather related, disaster relief expenses; icons of environmental science continue their calls for the immediate and significant reduction of fossil fuel emissions... For naught but the price of 2 million+ per year.

Shameful

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Australia-Japan: Energy Commerce

Australian Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and leading players from the LNG and coal industries have converged on Japan in recent weeks to promote Australia's wealth of resource projects as medium and long-term sources of extra energy.

In an interview with The Australian in Tokyo, Ferguson describes the present conditions as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for Australia's LNG, coal and coal-seam gas producers.

The International Energy Agency and Australia's peak commodities forecaster, the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics, have spoken of a "golden age" or "revolution" for the LNG industry, predicting Australia will soon become the second largest supplier behind Qatar.

Source: The Australian

Where's the renewable technology [especially geothermal]?

Whether Japan does or does not fully phase out its nuclear programme is yet to be seen. But it should be clear that any move in that direction would mean a greater reliance on fossil fuels. And there we will be, smack in the middle of it.

Dangerous and just a bit embarrassing [for whatever that's worth]. Profit at any price with little - if any - regard for environmental stewardship. I know, I know, "Japan's energy sources are Japan's sovereign decisions to make. If Australia doesn't sell energy to Japan - be it uranium or fossil fuel based - someone else will." Right?

Not completely; at least not to me. Within Australia, some good arguments have been made for not selling uranium to countries that may pose nuclear security and/or proliferation risks, even though in some cases 'someone else does'. Australia's decision to take the moral high ground on uranium lies in stark contrast to our fossil-based lust for the Japanese energy market.

Tell me again... why is the carbon tax so vital?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

One of the worst accidents ever in the country's energy sector

At least 61 people were killed earlier today - no, not as a result of the explosion at the French waste processing facility being splashed all over everywhere - but in Kenya, after a gasoline pipeline exploded.

My thoughts and sympathy go out - equally to both the Kenyans and the French - to the injured, their families, and of course to the friends and families of those who were killed.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Friday, 2 September 2011

A climate change skeptic for a Nuclear Australia

Terry Krieg, retired secondary school teacher of geography and geology from Port Lincoln, South Australia was recently interviewed for the ABC's Ockham's Razor. Terry describes himself as a climate skeptic but begrudgingly accepts the worldwide decisions and trends toward emissions reduction.

The teacher's done some homework and concluded the right path, the logical path, the only path, for Australia must include nuclear energy.

A few excerpts:
Currently around the world sun and wind contribute just .6% of world energy total. And that's expected to reach 2.8% by 2030. US energy experts wrote solar off in the 1980s suggesting it would never deliver more than a fraction of their energy needs. They've been proved right despite some continuing research. Germany today presents a very disturbing and confusing picture. Solar subsidies in 2007/8 totaled $4.3 billion US and for just .7% of its electricity.

...Now with wind power the Danish experience is instructive. They have the most expensive power in the EU, have stopped building wind farms, have been unable to reduce their emissions and have now closed five turbine manufacturing plants with a loss of 3000 jobs.

How can these technologies ever enable the necessary reduction in emissions from electricity production - in Australia or anywhere else for that matter? As I've said before, if anyone believes it can be done without nuclear, please point to an example - just one, anywhere on the planet. [Not fair to include large-scale hydro countries... not an option for Australia.]

For the rest of the report, follow this link.