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:
A partially constructed nuclear energy station will likely be converted to a coal station in the Philippines.
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."
"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.