Sunday, 29 April 2007

Democrats Looking to Alternatives

As reported in the Sunday Herald Sun:

Democrats leader Lyn Allison is claiming Australia can (and should) rely on renewables to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets.

She points to Denmark as an example. But as I've pointed out here, while Denmark's efforts are worthy of respect, they have failed to achieve adequate emission reduction results.

Similarly with solar. I have been unable to find an example where solar power has achieved anywhere near the results necessary to help Australia achieve any respectable reduction in emissions.

However, with respect to nuclear - have a look at the below table from this BBC article on Canada's recent announcement that it will miss its Kyoto targets:

Spain - 8 reactors producing about 25% of the nation's electricity

Austria - no nuclear power programme

Portugal - no nuclear power programme

Finland - 4 operating reactors producing about 25% of the nation’s electricity. A fifth reactor is under construction for operation beginning in 2011.

Italy - had 4 operating reactors, but shut them all down following the Chernobyl accident. Italy currently imports over 10% of its electrical power from nuclear power stations in surrounding countries.

Denmark - no nuclear power programme

Ireland - no nuclear power programme

Greece - no nuclear power programme

Luxembourg - no nuclear power programme

Belgium - 7 operating reactors generating more than 50% of the nation's electricity

Netherlands - 1 operating reactor generating 4% of the nation's electricity, also imports some nuclear

France - 59 operating nuclear reactors generating 78% of the nation's electricity. France embraced the nuclear fuel cycle early on and today is the world's largest net exporter of electricity. France gains over 3 billion Euro (4.9 billion $AUD) a year from these exports.

Germany - 17 operating reactors produce 33% of the nation's electricity

United Kingdom - 19 operating reactors produce 20% of the nation's electricity

Sweden - 10 operating reactors produce 45% of the nation's electricity. With hydro producing 47%, Sweden seems to be a Kyoto poster-child.

Looking at these real world examples; ALL countries above who are ahead of their Kyoto schedule rely on nuclear as part of their generating portfolios. Also EVERY country without nuclear plants is struggling to fulfil its Kyoto commitments.

The data and experience support nuclear power's role in any credible effort to address emissions - particularly to achieve the daunting targets being proposed by some in Australia.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

'tis the season...

Energy policy progress or political spin???

As reported in The Australian, the Daily Telegraph and in The West; John Howard is promoting an energy strategy that involves support for nuclear power deployment as well as enrichment technologies in Australia.

But is this real intent, genuine political will - or just another crack of the hammer down on the wedge? Obviously, the timing has been 'optimised'.

The plans are reported to also include regulatory streamlining as well as participation in Generation IV R&D.

At the same time, this report from the Sydney Morning Herald claims that Australia will exceed our Kyoto limits. Yes, the Howard led government has not signed up to Kyoto - but as reported in the article, Prime Minister Howard has claimed that Australia meets the targets in any case. This new data - combined with the next IPCC report to come out next week will apply further pressure on Australia to act.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Next IPCC report

From The Australian: Brawls loom on climate burdens - A sneak-peak at the third IPCC report due out next week - finds nuclear on the table.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Am I missing something?

Politics!... The 'Inconvenient Reality' of life in the developed world.

In this article John Howard is saying Climate Change is not the moral challenge of our time, and joins others in his party, calling advocates of climate driven policy changes - zealots.

He is accused of working hard to defend the coal industry, but, as reported here, Prime Minister Howard is throwing up his hands and resorting to prayer over the plight of farmers [many of whom are tragically resorting to suicide] facing dire environmental conditions - linked by many to Climate Change. A poetic justice of sorts may see Australia, the worst per-capita emitter, as the first developed country to be severely impacted by Climate Change.

And finally, this report finds Australian of the Year Tim Flanery getting cornered by the issues and his own knowledge and conscience. What would it mean to give back the award?

The articles speak of politicians’ probable reluctance to discuss firm issues, policies or plans until after the election. But physics does not respond to emotive rhetoric or dire economic forecasts. If the climate forecasters are even partially correct [their numbers, evidence and certainty continues to mount] delays will only worsen the impact, make mitigation actions hurt that much more or both.

I'd say Mother Nature is becoming rather upset; and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Another Report from Parliament

Another report was released in November 2006 called Australia’s uranium — Greenhouse friendly fuel for an energy hungry world

The release didn't receive much media fanfare. I actually stumbled on it at the Wilderness Society's anti-nuclear blog.

The report includes some interesting findings on Nuclear Power's potential role in both the world as well as Australia.

The committee of 10, responsible for the report, includes three Labour MPs and an Independent.

Could this be a sign of bi-partisan support?

Ziggy goes nuclear

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski was recently interviewed by Monica Attard on ABC Radio:

This is a fairly long interview and includes some relevant detail on the justification for nuclear, role of investors and assigning plant locations.

You can access the full text or audio files via the link above.

Some exerpts:

MONICA ATTARD: Can you put up for me the case: why do we need nuclear power stations?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: Well there are two reasons. Firstly, the demand for electricity in Australia will continue to grow, doubling by the year 2050. So we need to have new sources of energy and particularly of the base load of variety, steady, always on electricity, and there are only a number of alternatives. Coal, gas, perhaps hydro-electric, although that's at risk now with the water issues, and nuclear. There are no other sources of base load electricity.

Secondly, if we are going to provide for continuing growth in electricity demand, and that really goes with prosperity and economic growth, and we are going to do it in an environmentally responsible way, that is moving towards low greenhouse gas emitting technologies, frankly, the only points you can go to is nuclear power.

So that argues for having nuclear in the debate. Then you travel around the world and you find there are 31 countries already that are nuclear powered, another eight in the queue to put in their first reactor. In this part of the world, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, all have nuclear reactors. Vietnam and Indonesia are going to be next.

Australia, having nearly 40 per cent of the world's uranium and making a substantial business out of that, not being part of the nuclear fuel cycle, while being concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, appears to be inconsistent.
MONICA ATTARD: And they [Chernobyl type accidents, acts of terror and proliferation] are all valid concerns, aren't they?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: They are all valid concerns, and they are still there, but they have actually been overtaken in the last few months, I think reflecting the nature of the debate.

And now, when people challenge me in forums about the validity of nuclear power in Australia, they say things like, "well it's going to cost too much". Secondly, they say, "well if the first reactor is 15 years away, that's too far away to make a difference to our climate change challenges". And the third concern is, "well if we are going to have 20, 30 or 40 reactors, where will you put them"?

MONICA ATTARD: Exactly, where would you put them?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: Well, here are the criteria. You need to have, nuclear powers are big reactors, they are like big coal-fired power stations, you need to have them near the electricity grid, you need to have them near the markets they are going to serve, big population centres, and because they have to be water-cooled, as does coal, they need to near water. But it can be seawater. That points you to up and down the eastern seaboard.

MONICA ATTARD: Gee, that'll be popular.

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: And, what other countries have done is to collocate their nuclear power stations with the coal power stations.


ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: That becomes less controversial.

MONICA ATTARD: So that means we're talking about, in Sydney terms, for example?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: Oh, I don't know where the first reactor might go, partly because the questions are not appropriately directed to me or the Government, because the first or the early reactors will be the reactors that the energy utilities have built a business case for and decided that this is the best location for them in terms of their greater electricity generation strategy...

MONICA ATTARD: So they're the people who should make the decisions, ultimately, as to where they should be located?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: They will be the people that will present the business cases that will then be reviewed by whatever regulatory bodies are in place in terms of environmental impact and other considerations that will be put in place to oversee the industry, if we go that way.

MONICA ATTARD: Right. What about the community? Should the community have a voice?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: Oh absolutely.

MONICA ATTARD: But in what form, if there are determinants other than what the community wishes, in relation to where these reactors should be?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: What the experience around the world has been is that, once a country or community has a nuclear power station in their environment, that their acceptance to nuclear power progressively improves, and quite quickly.

And so it is that first nuclear reactor which is quite the big challenge, because the experience of the industry, which is now 50 years old, is that nuclear power is clean, it's efficient, it's not intrusive. In fact, when you tour a modern nuclear power facility, it feels like you are going to a semi-conductor fabrication plant - highly automated, very clean, relatively few people running it and with a small physical footprint into the landscape. So when people see that, in history or examples from overseas, suggest that they become comfortable with nuclear power.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Greens seeing the value of nuclear?

Green MPs in Victoria are being accused of undermining the State's strong anti-nuclear stance after they joined forces with the Liberals, Nationals and DLP (Democratic Labor Party) to kill off a Bracks Government initiative in the Upper House.

The Government plan was to send a message to Canberra by giving voters a say on whether nuclear reactors could ever be built in Victoria.

While the Bracks Government is now describing the Greens as a pro-nuclear party, the Greens say the State Government's plan was half-baked.

I don't want to get too excited by this. But I wonder if so much consideration whould have been given to such an initiative just a few years ago.

OPAL - Open for business

I am not certain how relevant it is to nuclear power in Australia - but the project is complete (at least the construction and commissioning phases). That is worthy of a tip of the hat to all involved. No matter how small, an operating nuclear facility where nothing stood just a few years before is a tremendous achievement.

Congratulations to all.

Brisbane Times article

The Age article (with some words about local protest activities - note the small number... only 20).

A few recent news stories...

First - as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, AGL CEO Paul Anthony is identifying a principal challenge to nuclear in Australia. Since he - or others like him - represent potential investors in nuclear power, I believe nuclear proponents should listen closely.

"Nuclear power stations are uninsurable so the insurer of last resort in all countries has to be the government. The government has to say we're going to underpin the uninsurable risk of the nuclear sector," he said.

He added that nuclear power stations worked on a much larger scale of economy.

"We're talking of thousands of megawatts of generation. It's a long-term investment and nobody really has effectively sorted out the long-term trailing costs of holding redundant nuclear stations for the next 300 years," he said.

So he is seeking bi-partisan political support (for long-term insurability), as well as other long-term assurances. I believe these represent the critical, relevant issue. Long term business security.

Next, Dr. Ziggy Switkowski predicts a decision on nuclear power in Australia by the end of the year in this Sky News report.

Lastly, a fairly generic story from UPI where John Howard and Werner Burkart of the IAEA promote nuclear power, but add no real substantive details (of 'how', 'when', or 'who' is to do 'what' etc.). I wouldn't really recommend it if it weren't so short.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Leave your two cents...

Democratic Senator Andrew Bartlett keeps in touch with his constituency with a Blog.

One recent item on this Blog involves nuclear power within Australia. There are some excellent points being made that all may find interesting.

Have a read and leave a comment if you wish.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Howard edges toward carbon trade scheme

As reported in The Age:

Better late than never??

Whether you support nuclear or renewables, this looks to be a step in the right direction.

Some quotes:
State Labor governments applied the political blowtorch to Mr Howard, decrying his lack of action on climate change. The premiers and chief ministers have threatened to go it alone on emissions trading if Canberra fails to develop a scheme.
But there is still great disagreement within government ranks on how or even whether an emissions trading scheme can be adopted. Treasurer Peter Costello accused anyone who put the environment ahead of the economy of zealotry.
I think this greatly depends on the timeframe of reference. Peter Costello's remarks do not appear credible (based on this scientific consensus) in the longer term (i.e. letting market forces prevail, as is the status-quo, is expected to put people out of work and home).

Friday, 13 April 2007

Are subsidies a good thing???

As reported in the Green section of the International Herald Tribune: Nuclear energy is making a comeback

Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International said another important reason to steer clear of nuclear power is its cost. Despite early promises that nuclear reactors would produce electricity too cheap to meter, Townsley said that the only plants under construction in Europe were receiving public subsidies.

"Nuclear power fails the market test and the carbon test, as in many cases both renewable energy sources and energy efficiency can deliver more for less," he said.

Fails the carbon test? Not according to this lifecycle analysis:

From the UOW Nukeweb's Nuclear vs. Coal Analysis

In Romania, a unit is now being completed, but only with a low-cost loan, said Townsley. in Finland, a French project is being investigated by European regulators for unlawful subsidies, he said, while in the United States much of the interest in nuclear power is because of energy legislation promising large tax breaks for new reactors.

Right.... so if I just page down a bit further on the Green page, I find an article on Denmark's wind poower. [NB Denmark has no nuclear power plants].

If a heavy reliance on fossil fuels makes a country a climate ogre, then Denmark — with its thousands of wind turbines sprinkled on the coastlines and at sea — is living a happy fairy tale.

But a closer look shows that Denmark is a far cry from a clean-energy paradise.The building of wind turbines has virtually ground to a halt since subsidies were cut back. Meanwhile, compared with others in the European Union, Danes remain above-average emitters of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. For all its wind turbines, a large proportion of the rest of Denmark's power is generated by plants that burn imported coal.

The Danish experience shows how difficult it can be for countries grown rich on fossil fuels to switch to renewable energy sources like wind power.

If higher subsidies had been maintained, he [Preben Maegaard, the executive director of the Nordic Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, a non-profit group] said, Denmark could now be generating close to one-third — rather than one-fifth — of its electricity from windmills.

Besides political hiccups, there have been technical setbacks, as Danish wind operators, hoping to bypass local objections and take advantage of stronger, steadier air currents, have tried to build giant turbines at sea. In one case, in 2004, turbines at Horns Reef, some 10 miles off the Danish coast, broke down, their critical equipment damaged by storms and salt water.

Vestas, a Danish manufacturer, fixed the problem by replacing the equipment at a cost of €38 million, or [US] $50 million. But Peter Kruse, the head of investor relations for Vestas, warned that the lesson from Horns Reef was that wind farms at sea would remain far more expensive than those on land.

"Offshore wind farms don't destroy your landscape," Kruse said, but the added installation and maintenance costs were "going to be very disappointing for many politicians across the world."

So which is it? Should government subsidies be used to offset emissions? And if so, shouldn't their use be optimised?

Please don't take this post the wrong way. I do not wish to set up some sort of renewables vs. nuclear comparison, only highlight the dichotomy of the current enviro-political struggles.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Reporting Nuclear Power

The World Conference of Science Journalists is to be held in Melbourne next week.

From a breakout session on Tuesday April 16, Reporting Nuclear Power.
In the past year, there has been a resurgence of interest in nuclear power in Australia and many other parts of the world, mainly as a response to climate change. This session explores how the media from different countries with diverse governments, climates, economies and power industries approach the topic of nuclear power. What drives individual nations to embrace nuclear power or reject it?

While some countries are still discussing whether they will ever need nuclear power, others are planning their first plant, and still others are shutting down existing plants. Then there are questions of getting involved in or opting out of uranium enrichment and/or nuclear fuel reprocessing. And everyone is still grappling with how to deal with high-level nuclear waste.

Traditionally, the debate over nuclear power in Australia has revolved around issues of safety i.e. potential contamination and waste disposal. Following the release of a recent government inquiry, those issues have been joined by argument over the speed and cost of development of a nuclear energy industry, and whether pursuing the nuclear option would preclude alternative sources of power.

But the issues and concerns are different in other parts of the world, particularly where nuclear power has become part of the fabric of society. This session brings the chair of a recent Australian inquiry (and now of the Australia’s nuclear research organisation) together with a long-term critic of nuclear power and a panel of non-Australian journalists to discuss how nuclear issues are viewed and reported around the world.

Another international trend

The blue curve is actual prices; the pink is adjusted for inflation.

If this trend continues, we will soon see Uranium prices higher than they have ever been (even after adjustment).

This is an informal indication of global nuclear demand [current and forecast], but more importantly, may result in more motivated U exploration in the not-too-distant future.

For the current spot price, look here.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Discussion Site -

I like this site.

Its contributors include some anti-nuclear campaigners (including Dr. Jim Green), but as a whole it works hard to remain objective, including numerous links to organizations actively promoting nuclear power around the world. The site also seems to come from the perspective that climate change is 'the problem' and nuclear power merely one of several possible solutions (within a sustainable mix) being considered/debated.

Good on them for taking a high road of sorts.

Pro-nuclear leaning readers would do well to review the documents and ‘fact sheets’ linked on the page. It's reasonable to assume potential investors in any future Australian nuclear infrastructure will expect answers to most if not all questions contained within, as well as final dispositions to the principal issues raised by the authors. [Watch out for ‘paralysis by analysis’ though; it may be a challenge to keep the discussion moving forward – not necessarily to a ‘Nuclear Australia’ but definitely toward a sustainable Australian energy solution.]

Reviewing the site has reminded me how scrutinised the nuclear power industry has been (and remains) - I'm confident, more scrutinised than all other energy sources combined. [I am not suggesting otherwise, but maybe some other sources should be subjected to examination at a similarly high 'resolution'.]

I would be grateful for detailed information on the renewable energy sources that are also being proposed to address emissions linked to climate change.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Dr. Jim Green & Friends of the Earth

I hear that Dr. Green and/or some of his colleagues are looking for a review of the above on this site, so here goes:

Dr. Green's site may be found here, that of Friends of the Earth, Melbourne is here.

As I interpret the two websites:

- Dr. Green received his PhD. from the University of Wollongong in 1998. Copies of his full thesis on "Reactors, Radioisotopes & the HIFAR Controversy” can be requested via his Email address and/or phone number, listed in the site linked above.

- There's no disputed words; Dr. Green is listed in several linked references on those pages as an anti-nuclear campaigner. He appears to have dedicated his life (or at least his professional life) to the defeat of the nuclear industry in any form. I was unable to find a single positive word about nuclear technology on the sites or links that I followed (but I admit that I have not been able to check them all).

- I did notice that some of the claims mentioned on the sites/links are no longer valid though. This is particularly true with respect to international trends. For example, in a linked 2005 summary report you will find the following passage under the section on solutions to climate change:

Worldwide, there were only 26 nuclear reactors under construction at the end of 2004, with only one in Western Europe and none in the USA. Nuclear power capacity in Europe is falling and is expected to drop 25% over the next 15 years. The projected growth of nuclear power in a small number of countries, such as China and India, will not substantially change the global picture of stagnation and decline.
Media reports of the past 12 months tend to contradict the above for many countries and regions around the world. As an example, see this link or just recently (and if you prefer video) try here.

Also with respect to trends, we should not disregard the trends of high profile environmentalists reconsidering their position on nuclear power. Not just those like Dr. Patrick More, Co-Founder, Former Leader of Greenpeace (often dismissed, because he is now advocating nuclear energy for a living. But apparently it is perfectly acceptable to be compensated for opposing nuclear power... but I digress), but also about Friends of the Earth's own Hugh Montefiore, environmental guru James Lovelock, James Martin, and Stewart Brand to name a few.

I am not aware of any recent trends in the opposite direction (e.g. pro-nuclear advocates moving to firm, anti-nuclear positions) but I am willing to read about any should they be made known to me.

I respect Dr. Green's passion and his considerable effort. However, I have to wonder if this work has been based on an objective quest for truth and knowledge, or if it began with one basic foregone conclusion... that all things nuclear are bad? I can find no evidence to support the former, but again, I'm willing to consider any should it be made known to me.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Europe wants to buy WA uranium

As reported in The West Australian:

In his first official WA visit, EU ambassador Bruno Julien will argue that nuclear energy offers the EU a way to slash its greenhouse gas emissions while meeting its future energy needs.

“We need more uranium because we are trying to green our energy supplies, to reduce our CO2 emissions, and it’s our view that we can work with WA.”
[WA Premier Alan] Carpenter has long cited environmental reasons for the ban and says WA would come under immense pressure to take nuclear waste if it sold uranium.

But last month he changed his stance, saying he was opposed to uranium mining because WA may need it to meet domestic energy needs in the future.

Mr Julien acknowledged that uranium mining and nuclear energy were as controversial in Europe as they were in Australia.

But he said it had to be considered as a solution to climate change.

Country of Nuclear Strategic Concern - Australia

Good background reading about potential opportunities for Australia with respect to the nuclear fuel cycle in an international context.

From the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Saturday, 7 April 2007

IPCC Working Group II

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II has released its report on the effects of climate change. This follows the February report from Working Group I detailing humanity’s impact on the planet.

Regarding our region, the WGII summary report says the following:

Australia and New Zealand

As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in southern and eastern Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and some eastern regions.

Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically-rich sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics. Other sites at risk include Kakadu wetlands, south-west Australia, sub-Antarctic islands and the alpine areas of both countries.

Ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Cairns and Southeast Queensland (Australia) and Northland to Bay of Plenty (New Zealand), are projected to exacerbate risks from sea-level rise and increases in the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding by 2050.

Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increased drought and fire. However, in New Zealand, initial benefits to agriculture and forestry are projected in western and southern areas and close to major rivers due to a longer growing season, less frost and increased rainfall.

The region has substantial adaptive capacity due to well-developed economies and scientific and technical capabilities, but there are considerable constraints to implementation and major challenges from changes in extreme events. Natural systems have limited adaptive capacity.

“Serious but not dire” as Dr. Martin Perry says at the WGII press conference.

If you’ve got an hour (and a lot of patience or high speed internet access), please consider watching the press conference. Dr. Perry does a good job explaining the report, the struggles to produce it, and more than hints that, if anything, the report understates the consensus of the scientists involved. Note the question from the AP reporter at approximately the 45 minute mark.

Also of potential interest is this feature page containing even more links from the BBC.

Leaked speech of Treasury secretary Dr. Ken Henry

As reported in The Australian:

I suppose in some ways it's a good thing the issue of nuclear power is being discussed in the context of a recently leaked Treasury speech from Dr. Ken Henry. However, I can not comprehend some of the logic.

Henry's thoughts on nuclear power will also, to put it mildly, be unhelpful for Howard. "Consider, for example, recent commentary in the press which argues that the Government should support a nuclear power sector because jobs would be created," Henry said. "Where will the nuclear scientists and technicians come from? Is it seriously being suggested that they come from the dole queue or from Indigenous Community Development Employment Programs?"

Please let me pull this comment back into the context of an array of initiatives to adequately address emissions while meeting increasing energy demand (and it will increase, even with the most aggressive conservation efforts). Jobs will be created/needed to build wind and/or solar farms, tidal power stations, geothermal power stations, run electric cables, etc. These endeavours will most likely have to occur in parallel to be effective. And this will be happening around the world – not just in Australia. Skilled labour looks to be in short supply in the coming years – with our without a nuclear renaissance.

Unless every nuclear industry recruit were a skilled migrant, the workers would need to be poached from other sectors in the Australian economy.

Why not educate and train young men and women coming out of school as well? Or perhaps tap service men and women emerging from (typically highly skilled) careers in the military.

"Every job created by the nuclear industry will be a job destroyed in some other industry," he said.

Again, I do not follow the logic here. Would every job created to build wind farms etc. be poached from somewhere else??

And while we are on the topic of jobs, is anyone worrying about Australian farmers? See my next post (above) on the IPCC report. They’re in for a bit of stress. [According to this BBC report, they're feeling it already.]

The argument about jobs might sound like a standard Treasury mantra against governments picking winners. But Henry is talking about a much bigger picture. The subsidised workers in the nuclear industry will be less productive for the economy than they were in the former, unsubsidised jobs. In setting up his anecdote on nuclear power, Henry explained that government spending at a time of near-full employment could raise national income only if it expanded the nation's supply capacity. Howard's nuclear agenda could fail the test if the industry requires a handout to get started.

The argument for nuclear (like the argument for other energy sources being proposed to reduce Australia’s embarrassingly high carbon dioxide emissions per capita) is not an employment or economic expansion based argument. It is an environmental one.

The transition of jobs and potential need for subsidies should not be the bases for ruling out nuclear, just as they should not be used to toss out the others (solar, wind, biomass, tidal, geothermal, etc.).

Friday, 6 April 2007

Anti-Nuclear Blog - Australia and the Nuclear Industry

See the full Blog here.

A rare find with the following attributes:

1. An anti-nuclear website that actually permits/encourages discussion and comments.

2. An anti-nuclear Blog that appears to be active (as of this writing, the last post was over a week ago – but I remain optimistic).

3. Australian based.

It’s a product of The Wilderness Society – who hosted the Australian tour of US anti-nuclear activist, Kevin Kamps.

The page is heavily one-sided, offering only anti-nuclear links and references. But we are allowed to comment and I encourage all interested in an Australian nuclear discussion to do so. But as the folks at the NEI Blog say… please be polite.

Engaging each other may help all move forward.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Hugh Morgan shares his vision...

As reported in the The Age:

(Hugh Morgan recently formed the company 'Australian Nuclear Energy' (ASIC) (ABR) with Fairfax chairman Ron Walker and fellow mining executive Robert Champion de Crespigny.)
Mr Morgan said the industry faced considerable practical and political hurdles, but he believed it was "just" possible to see nuclear power in Australia within 10 years, if there was the will to embrace more expensive energy sources.

But Mr Morgan conceded nuclear energy faced significant hurdles, the most important of which was a lack of bipartisan political support.

He said for Australia to embrace nuclear energy, consumers would have to accept that energy prices would rise as part of any policy change to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He said governments might have to review regulations governing Australia's electricity industry because there was no functional national electricity market and energy companies were reluctant to invest.

Mr Morgan endorsed the Switkowski review, which he said had started to focus the energy debate.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Objective Reporting

As reported in COSMOS:

Ms. Heather Catchpole has done some respectable homework, taken the time to visit the site and produced a report on Australia's OPAL research reactor that I am pleased to spread around.

Bio of Ms. Catchpole from this site.

Heather Catchpole is an artist and a poet, but her favourite occupation is writing about science because it involves learning about the amazing way the world works. She is a science journalist for the ABC and has several years experience at the helm of a popular children’s science magazine produced by the CSIRO.

Data on nuclear risk

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has studied nuclear risks and impact on human health within the context of other relevant risk factors.

General conclusions

The full report.

I'll show you mine, if...

From an IBN article:

Federal Adelaide Labor MP Kate Ellis has demanded the prime minister reveal his plans for the location of nuclear power plants in South Australia.

"Mr Howard’s own 'Nuclear Tzar' Ziggy Switkowski has detailed the federal government construct 25 nuclear reactor plants - to be located within kilometres of major centres of population - by 2050."

“This... plan will litter Australia’s major cities with nuclear reactors.”

Ms Ellis said the prime minister had to immediately tell South Australians where the nuclear power plants would be built.

“Mr Howard cannot keep tripping around the country telling all and sundry about the benefits of nuclear power – yet at the same time fobbing off questions about just where these 25 plants will be,” she said.

Whoa, now where are all the details from those advocating other methods to reduce carbon emissions??? Where – exactly – will all these wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and biomass plants be constructed? Where are the polls with people demanding these be built in their backyards? Where are the miles and miles of cable to be laid to connect all these little distributed power stations around the country? Where is the alternative… plan Madam MP (and I beg you not to mention research… my head may explode)?

This to and fro political shadow boxing would be embarrassing if it weren’t so disappointing; each side pointing out the flaws of the other, but neither demonstrating any tangible progress.

But don't take my word for it. Read what James Lovelock had to say recetly in Adelaide (or a more passionate article from February).

Again… lead or please step out of the way.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

More on Prerequisite Infrastructure – HELP Wanted!

From Chapter 10 if the recent review of Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy.

Significant additional skilled human resources will be required if Australia is to increase its participation in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The number of personnel required to participate in various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle are similar to those needed for many other industrial processes (Table 10.1). Although the required skills sets are not unique to the nuclear sector, their area of application is. Issues such as quality control and stringent safety standards also create a need for additional training.

Although lead times for the construction of nuclear fuel cycle facilities could be several years, it would be important to establish the appropriate skills for planning, regulation and design at an early stage. The establishment of a skilled workforce, including local training of personnel and international recruitment, would need to be considered at the same time that Australia’s policy decision about the nuclear fuel cycle is determined.

And similarly in the USA as reported here (sorry to keep comparing with the Yanks, but their information is just too easy to find).

The average age of a worker in nuclear power is 48, among the oldest of any industry. In three years, a quarter of those workers will be eligible for retirement forcing power generators to fill more than 15,000 highly specialized jobs at 104 reactors nationwide.

I invite all to attend an ANA meeting sometime and count the number of heads that are not silver (if there’s much hair left). I mean no offense - they are very wise gentlemen.

While I'm on the subject of the ANA, why not attend the 25 July, 2007 meeting. It looks to be about this very subject.

Back to the news article…

Twenty new reactors are scheduled to be built in the coming years…

Thomas Rumsey [GE Nuclear]: "We've hired about 300 people the last couple years in a row."

The starting salary for a nuclear engineer out of college is just over $54,000 [over $66,000 Australian], that's up 6.6 percent from last year.

And it's not just nuclear engineers who are in short supply. Electrical, civil, and chemical engineers are needed, as well as skilled electricians, plumbers and cement layers.

Note they are quoting 20 reactors to be constructed in the coming years within the USA. And Australia is supposed to be pondering 25??

One of the strategies mentioned in the above review suggests a wooing of science, engineering and technology (SET) resources away from other countries. Nuclear Engineers in Europe are compensated, on average, a bit better than in the USA (Eastern-Europe notwithstanding).

Australian regulatory agencies and utilities will have to compete for these resources if a serious nuclear endeavour is undertaken.

There may also be interest in this article.

Dr. Smith weighs in...

As reported in the Border Mail.

In the linked article, ANSTO Executive Director, Dr. Ian Smith, does a good job of refuting a letter from a fellow reader.

To supplement these statements, I’ve done some quick searches to find additional detail.

Information on the Belgian Report, and a quote:

The study concludes that to maintain the current policy of phasing out nuclear energy by 2025 would effectively undermine the Belgian economy and significantly increase carbon emissions, “Therefore, Belgium is advised to keep the nuclear option open and should reconsider the nuclear phase out,” the study says.

The Netherlands plan a new reactor by 2016.

Italy’s investment in the French plant.

The 1,600-megawatt reactor will be built by Areva, France’s state-owned manufacturer and cost euros 3.3 billion – euros 300 million more than initially estimated. EDF will have a partner in the venture: the Italian utility, Enel. It will provide 12.5 percent of the investment and get 12.5 percent of the reactor’s output. Italy, which has closed its nuclear reactors, has one of Europe’s highest energy costs and imports electricity from France.

An article on interest in the Philippines

Sweden’s poll.
03-April UPDATE: Info on the phase-out programme

Information on the plant upgrade may be found here [scroll down to Sweden].

And finally, the plans of Switzerland. [scroll down to Energy Policy.]

This is a fine example of how fear and conjecture tend to fill in voids resulting from a lack of information. I doubt Ms. Roberta Pollard intended to misstate so many claims in her letter. She probably trusted the people or sites where she received this information – at face value.

But again, we must look for the references… seek the truth, verify such claims objectively and then fill in those voids with factual, verifiable information.

Cooler heads must prevail.

Monday, 2 April 2007

From here to there

In an effort to look past the rhetoric coming from both sides, I’d like to begin to consider the Australian transition to nuclear power in a more pragmatic sense.

Let’s assume that each and every anti-nuclear Australian did a complete flop. The doors of public and political opinion are flung open to the idea – even in our own backyards. What else will it take to produce electricity from that first nuclear plant?

(My assumption above in no way erodes expectations that the plant be constructed and operated to highest safety and quality standards, or that the companies building and operating it be denied a favourable business case for their investment.)

A certain amount of prerequisite infrastructure is a must, if for nothing else to persuade electric utilities to invest in the plants. This infrastructure must convincingly reduce business risk to manageable levels.

Just one case in point can be found by comparing the nuclear regulatory infrastructure within Australia to the USA. I selected the USA because it has the most nuclear experience (from the perspective of plant operating years) and they have also learned the lessons of a significant nuclear accident.

First peruse the ARPANSA Act and the subsequent regulations.

Then as a comparison, see Title 10 of the USA Code of Federal Regulations (10CFR). This is how the nuclear industry is regulated in the USA. It is quite large compared to the ARPANSA Act. If you’re brave, here’s a link to the whole thing (15 Mb zip file).

10CFRPart50 deals with domestic licensing of production and utilization facilities (i.e. the requirements to license a commercial nuclear power plant).

If you compare the two, you will find the USA regulations significantly more robust and, in particular, very prescriptive. I’ve heard some very senior nuclear proponents in Australia speak critically of prescriptive nuclear regulation, but I disagree quite strongly with their opinion with respect to nuclear power.

Prescriptive regulations facilitate business confidence. Utilities and their investors must know their success paths to a fair degree of confidence (and hence be able to manage the relevant business risks).

The USA has decades of experience with various commercial reactor designs, has lived through some hard lessons and incorporated both into the current regulations. As we ponder our future energy options in Australia, I would beware of those who presume to know better.