Friday, 29 June 2007

Running some numbers

Prof. Ian Lowe
Photo from ABC

In a piece for the Courier Mail, Ian Lowe vilifies nuclear power; but offers in it’s place the same hollow promises for a totally sustainable and purely renewable utopia.

Professor Lowe, doesn’t include many numbers in his essay, but what sort of message is delivered if we remove all the rhetoric and focus on the data that he – as “emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation” – has laboured to compile?

Here’s what we get:

“We have known for more than 20 years that burning coal, oil and gas is changing the global climate.” [What?! - you mean some other administration was involved??]

“…it would take about 15 years to build one nuclear power station if we started today.”

“…dotting 25 nuclear power stations all over the landscape, would only slow the growth in greenhouse pollution by less than 20 per cent. The science shows we need to make serious cuts, 60-90 per cent by 2050…”

The report A Bright Future showed we could get 25 per cent of our power from a mix of renewables by 2020
He is also critical of uranium mining’s economical benefit, but sadly ignores the volume of emissions displace by that uranium (which is enormous even after mining, processing and transport are factored in).

So, what have we here? Look closely how the article and even the numbers are spun.

Per the EIA’s International Energy Outlook – 2007 [reference case, Table 1A], the total primary energy consumed by Australia and New Zealand in 2004 was 6.2 Quadrillion BTU. In 2010 it is supposed to be 6.8. So that puts us and the Kiwis at about 6.5 in 2007. About 85% of that lies in Australia – so that leaves us at about 5.5 Quadrillion BTU (a bit over 1.6 million GWh or 5.8 million terajoules if my maths are correct).

In 2030 – the maximum projection available in the report – primary energy consumption is projected to be 8.4 Quadrillion BTU for Australia and New Zealand. But we can make it out to 2050 by continuing with the trend. Note that 400 Trillion BTU is added at each 5 year increment. So for Australia that leaves 0.85(8.4 + 0.4(4)) = 8.5 Quadrillion BTU in 2050

While it’s probably reasonable to assume the population will increase, efficiency improvements and conservation may work to stabilize the growth [although this is probably a bad assumption based on recent experience i.e. our consumption will probably be higher and I am being overly optimistic with respect to efficiency and conservation, but let’s go with it for now].

So, the 25 nuclear plants can address 20% of the growth in emissions? So that would then equate to 25% of 3 Quadrillion BTU or 750 Trillion BTU per year. This works out to be about 220,000 GWh per year.

To check my assumptions, let’s multiply 25 GWe (about 25 nuclear plants at 1000 MWe each) times 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and apply a reasonable capacity factor of say 90%. That works out to be a tad over 197,000 GWh – so it looks as if my logic and assumptions are along the lines of the professor’s argument.

Now the statement on renewables in 2020.

In 2020, ANZ primary energy consumption is projected to be 7.6 Quadrillion BTU. Repeating the above, that means the Aussie share is about 6.5 Quadrillion BTU or about 1.9 million GWh. So 25% of this equates to 475,000 GWh – or about 60 nuclear plants working year round with a capacity factor of 90% (~60 GWe with 1GWh = 1 GWe generated for 1 hour).

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2004 Australia’s renewable energy generation was as follows:

Biomass: 790 GWh
Biogas: 715 GWh
Hydro: 16,480 GWh
Solar: 5 GWh
Wind: 700 GWh
All others: 0

Total: 18,690 GWh (Equivalent to about 2.5 nuclear plants operating year round at 90%)

So within 16 years [from 2004] we ‘could’ install the missing 57.5 GWe of renewable capacity? That’s the equivalent of… you guessed it, 57.5 large nuclear or coal power plants. Keep in mind that within Australia, hydro is all but fully exploited.

Going back to the IEA [Renewables Factsheet], by 2030:

Global solar capacity is projected to increase by a factor of 60
Biofuels are to increase by a factor of 4
Wind is to increase by a factor of 18

Applying these factors within Australia [and being very kind in assuming we can get the job done here 10 years ahead of schedule] by multiplying them with the 2004 values above and holding hydro constant, gives a new total of 35400 GWh (about to 4.5 nuke plants operating as above). This falls well short of the 60 GWe necessary to arrive at the 25% of Australian power. In fact renewables look to be providing less than 2% of all Australian primary power by that time.

What a lot of people are saying is that the 25 nuclear plants could – by 2050 – do quite a job, maybe a bit less than a third of what is required to effectively manage emissions. Hopefully by then the renewables can pick up the rest with an installed and reliable capacity of perhaps another 50 GWe or so. But looking at the projections for renewables as well as their current contribution – I’m not confident in their ability.

But I fully support giving it one hell of a try – with a much needed helping hand from nuclear energy.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

BP Charting Tool

For all the armchair engineers out there - BP has developed and released an Energy Charting Tool. It's an effective communication tool and helps portray the magnitude of the challenge faced by people intent on reducing global emissions from fossil based energy sources.

(Thanks to NEI for finding this page/link)

I worked to generate a trend of the available fossil fuelled energy sources along with electrical energy demand. Notice the distinct course adjustment around 2001-02. This reflects concerns raised by science / climate monitoring groups that I (and others) mentioned before. One thing's for certain - there is no evidence to suggest conservation efforts are bearing significant fruit (i.e. helping emissions achieve 1990 levels). But conservation and efficiency have most probably helped keep the trends from looking even more dire (i.e. heading north at a faster rate).

Total World Consumption: Orange-Coal, Red-Gas, Blue-Oil
Total World Electricity Consumption - Green line

Clearly - if you are serious about emissions reduction - not enough is being done. I'll say it again - it is not all that productive to insist another country reduce 'their' emissions. The displacement of a large fossil emitter has the same impact on global emissions whether it is in China, India, Brazil, New Zealand or Australia. Since we are each most able to control our own destiny, the easiest place to begin is here at home. And because we are such an emissions outlier - we have an obligation to lead the effort.

Here's the nuclear trend (purple) for the same period - as you would expect in this blog. I've also included Hydro (red). It's the only other no/low carbon emissions energy source significant enough to make the BP web page.

We can do better, but we need large quantities of bulk, reliable no/low emissions power. And for that - there is only nuclear.

ANU - Solar Thermal Prototype

I've said before that I favour solar power.

The ABC is reporting on a demonstration project at the ANU in Canberra.

While I wish the involved scientists, engineers and technicians only the best of luck, my principal concern is that the technology is in its infancy (in technical terms, the prototype/demonstration phase). Issues remain to be address such as how much capacity (vs. a given unit/facility's rated power) can be reliably provided? How will energy be stored for cloudy days and/or nighttime?

It's unfortunate the writer ends the article with a quote setting up a comparison between solar and nuclear (on cost). Personally I look forward to cost competitive and reliable solar technologies that will work WITH nuclear and other sources of no/low emissions energy to help Australia achieve our energy goals.
Adelaide Now is reporting some recent statements from the South Australian Minister for Energy, Patrick Conlon. Basically Mr. Conlon is saying he will be long dead before Australia sees a nuclear power plant.

Patric Conlon
"I can give you an iron-clad guarantee that no-one is going to come to me to build a nuclear power plant in this state if there is a price put on carbon (emissions)," he said.

Asked why he supported the nuclear option in China, he said the Chinese coal industry was killing 7000 workers a year and was a major emitter of greenhouse gasses.

While there were "risks" associated with nuclear energy in China, Mr Conlon pointed out that there were also dangers of explosions in conventional power plants.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking??? That being, 'So Mr. Conlon... what exactly is your point?' I began to understand after looking at Mr. Conlon's web page / bio. He as an Arts degree and law background. Seems like the perfect man for the Energy Minister post. He, like too many others, is comparing nuclear's price to coal. WE KNOW coal is the cheapest. That's not the point. Nuclear must be considered - not in a vacuum side by side with coal - but alongside other no/low greenhouse gas emitters if one is serious about reducing Australia's embarrassingly high per capita emissions - which just happens to be far higher than, for example, those of China.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

More Polling

Adelaide Now is reporting feelings of confidence within South Australia - this is extending to nuclear were they report the following:

South Australian business owners appear much more supportive of the prospect of building a nuclear power plant in the state, with 70 per cent agreeing the State Government should consider the feasibility of building such a plant, and 38 per cent strongly agreeing. This compares with a May Newspoll which showed 47 per cent of about 200 surveyed people in SA supported the establishment of a nuclear power station in Australia, compared to the national figure of 36 per cent.

Solar powered billionaire backs... [wait for it...] Solar Power!!

SHI Zhengrong
(Shi sells Shi-cells, down by the sea shore?? - sorry couldn't resist)

To the bewildered amazement of this blogger – and I’m sure many readers out there – Dr. SHI Zhengrong, a Chinese billionaire and founder – and currently in possession of 40% of the shares of – the Nasdaq-listed Suntech Power, capitalised at $US5.5 billion ($6.5 billion) has come to Australia to ‘talk some sense into us’ about the justification for solar ‘over’ nuclear. [Oh, and then lure 300 of our best and brightest out to work in a probably much more lucrative Chinese energy market - but we're not supposed to focus on that. Remember my infrastructure post on resources?... ah-hem!].

What a shock!!

Mind you, I support solar – but I think we should all acknowledge two things. First the demonstrated capabilities of the technology; despite the claims of many solar advocates, solar is not displacing baseload power anywhere. It’s great for hot water heaters etc. but the heavy lifting will have to come from some other technologies – as international and domestic reports have repeatedly concluded.

Second, let’s get real about these pie in the sky claims regarding solar R&D. I can remember claims from solar enthusiasts back when I was at university – a long time ago indeed – stating that the ‘big breakthroughs’ were just around the corner.

I suggest we all take a deep breath, maybe even a step back, and look at the colossal problem that greenhouse gas emissions – carbon dioxide in particular – pose to us ALL in the coming decades.

Is it reasonable to assume the bulk of people around the globe will drastically alter their lifestyles? Take just a moment to consider what this means. Will even 10% of Sydneysiders be bicycling to work in 10 years time? Further afield, will residents of the developing regions of Africa be burning carbon depleted cow dung to cook their dinner?? [An example: I was dumbfounded when a former director of mine used to leave his office window open while his air-conditioner purred away [he was not a nuclear man by the way]. When I challenged him on it, he – being of an earlier generation – simply shrugged it off and made some comment about air-conditioned air being stuffy and his small impact would not kill the world [think again, mate]].

Is it acceptable to just continue to allow our electrical infrastructure to degrade to the point where brown-/black-outs are a periodic occurrence? This is happening as utilities wait for the manifestation of any carbon pricing and/or balk at new plant construction due to protests of the myriad environmental groups opposed to coal/gas [greenhouse gases], nuclear [? you got me], hydro [fish killers], wind [bird/view killers] as well as the others that I am sure are out there on the fringe. Will this or future generations accept less reliability than they have come to take for granted throughout their lifetimes? Without power, how long will it take for society to degrade into utter chaos? Think I’m being dramatic? Have a look back at the news reports following the 2005 Katrina hurricane in the USA. Not to mention that degraded electrical infrastructure makes any country more vulnerable to security threats.

But I’m not a total pessimist; in fact I have always considered myself more on the positive side. I do believe society in general can be counted on to make modest lifestyle changes. Maybe forgo the gas guzzling Ute for something more fuel efficient, getting in the habit of switching off the lights, or moving the A/C temperature up a few degrees, buying local produce, etc.

But if you look at the numbers, and the absolutely massive shift in energy generation technology required [or so say the experts at – for example – the IPCC]; it becomes painfully obvious that we will need – must have, in fact – an array of technologies and lifestyle changes to get the job done.

Simply put, this means: Solar AND nuclear AND hydro AND wind AND geothermal AND tidal AND biofuels AND lifestyle changes AND improved efficiency AND any bloody thing else that can be economically and safely thrown at this problem.

Of this list, nuclear – and only nuclear – can displace carbon based generation with existing, demonstrated and reliable capacity. Take nuclear out of the equation – and a credible solution is simply not technically conceivable.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Anvil Hill Mine Approved

Centennial Coal recently announced the NSW approval of their newest open cut mine in the Hunter. The Anvil Hill Mine will produce up to 10.5 million tonnes of coal per year [that's 1,200 tonnes an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week] for both export and domestic use, create an estimated 1,500 direct and indirect jobs and generate over $400 million in wages and royalties over the next 21 years of operation.

And then there's the recent announcement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, clearing the large queue of ships [sometimes reaching 70 vessels] waiting to relieve the area of their coal deposits. Demurrage costs were reaching $1 Million a day for heaven's sake.

No mention of the environmental impact of all that coal. But hey, we must feed the beast, right?

I decided to make this post - not so much because I am opposed to coal. In fact I understand significant quantities of coal generated energy will be around for centuries. My point here is to express concern regarding the reality of coal derived energy expansion while environmental fundamentalists preach renewables from a staunchly anti-nuclear position.

If nuclear takes too long to develop; then where are the windmills, solar cells, tidal turbines, geothermal plants, efficiency campaigns, etc. that should have made the above expansion unnecessary?

If nuclear is too expensive; then why has Western Australia found it necessary to introduce legislation making the deployment of nuclear power plants illegal? If there is in fact no credible business case, wouldn't the plans just wither on the drawing board? The hackneyed action by the WA government is - in a sense - acknowledgement that nuclear power is indeed an economically competitive source of no/low emissions energy.

If the risk of nuclear proliferation is too great; I'd like to know how many people have to die in Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere before the strife inherent to the fossil fuel supply chain is properly addressed.

If nuclear waste [safely reprocessed in several countries, safely stored for decades in the others] posses too great a risk; please tell me why society offers little more than lip service and a few catchy slogans on popular beaches while fossil wastes are indiscriminately dumped, by the millions of tonnes, throughout the globe - resulting in broadly distributed adverse habitats, death and increasing cases of extinction; realities that will remain for future generations to manage for centuries - if they're lucky.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Tips and Ash

The World Nuclear News is reporting that Sparton Resources of Canada has entered into an agreement with Akanani Investment Corp (AIC) to evaluate uranium extraction possibilities from waste coal ash in South Africa.

Rod at the Atomic Insights blog has gone into this issue in a bit more detail.

100's of tonnes of Uranium??? Crikey Rod - will this ash become a proliferation issue?? [Anyone with even a cursory understanding of nuclear technology should get the joke.] Everyone else... be afraid... very, very afraid! Just one more reason why the indiscriminate dumping of fossil power station waste will eventually lead to our demise.

On a more serious note, this is further evidence in support of Haydon Manning's paper where he discusses all the places one finds uranium [i.e. mixed in with other materials that are already being mined].

Further information

Climate chief: "No credible scenario without nuclear"

World Nuclear News is reporting what Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), had to say about nuclear's role in the battle against climate change. Specifically that he had never seen a credible scenario for reducing emissions that did not include nuclear energy.

Some other quotes:

Kurt Yeager, chair of the WEC [World Energy Council] Study Group and President Emeritus of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) said that there was no way the world would combat climate change without "a strong dose of nuclear power." He said that the technologies were available to address issues concerning waste management and proliferation and governments must get on with the job of developing nuclear power so that future generations can make use it.

The WEC Energy and Climate Change report concluded that "all governments should give serious consideration to the potential of nuclear power for reducing greenhouse gas emissions." The study showed that countries that have high proportions of nuclear in their energy systems had greenhouse gas emissions significantly lower than that of comparable nations with less or no nuclear contribution.

The report assessed the contribution of eight technologies for addressing climate change: nuclear energy; renewables; distributed power; energy efficiency; clean coal; combined heat and power; smart electricity control; and carbon capture and storage.
Further information
World Energy Council's Energy and Climate Change report
UNFCCC profile of Yvo de Boer
G8 Summit Heiligendamm: Growth and responsibility in the world economy
WNA's Global Warming - Policy Responses information paper
WNN: G8 reach agreement on climate and energy

Thursday, 21 June 2007

WA Political Move to Block Nuclear

The Western Australia State Government has introduced legislation to block the development in nuclear power there.

Penalties include a $500,000 fine and a state referendum should the federal government try to override the state's wishes.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Support for Nuclear

Ziggy Switkowski is providing some detail about government's ongoing role with respect to developing a domestic nuclear power programme. Basically, the government will have to develop some prerequisite infrastructure as I've mentioned in this post before. This includes a suitable regulatory regime, technically capable electrical grids and legal frameworks including indemnity [see the US's Price Andersen Act as an example]] as well as how to deal with differences in opinion between federal, state and local officials, etc.
"Government will need to be involved in some form, at a minimum in terms of setting up a credible, enduring regulatory regime, but it might go beyond that, in terms of some form of assurance around the cost of capital because this is the most capital-intensive form of energy generation."
However, over in la-la-land; the Australian Institute conducted a survey which seems a bit ridiculous to this blogger. Apparently - to whose surprise I do not know - most people in Australia would prefer to get their energy from the sun [50%] as opposed to nuclear [8%] or clean coal[1%]. This 'poll', as reported in the link above [the full report is in the second link], completely avoided including the demonstrated technical capabilities of the various options, real world costs, lifecycle analysis, etc. and by doing so results in complete farce. In addition, of the two [yes, two] whole questions in the survey, nuclear was lumped in with clean coal as a selection. Why not ask people if they would prefer to get their energy from that little 'Mr. Fusion' machine from the film 'Back to the Future'? If 90% of Australians favour such an approach - shouldn't government then pursue it?

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth:

Dr Switkowski was confident community support would start to emerge once a reactor was built.

"The experience overseas is that once you get the first reactor in place working well, community support follows quite quickly," he said.

Still, community attitudes towards nuclear energy had already shifted, he said.

"The attitudes we heard a year ago were shaped by the experiences of the '60s and '70s — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Cold War, upper atmospheric testing — deeply held but largely emotional."

"Today the objections are almost the elements of a business case."

Said Dr Switkowski: "Frankly, if a business case for any sort of energy, including nuclear, can't overcome those reservations, then we shouldn't make the investment."

In other news, Haydon Manning of Flinders University has posted a very interesting opinion about the 'Dogma and delusion over renewables'. In this opinion Manning provides a detailed critique of Mark Diesendorf’s new book on renewable energy, Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy as well as some discussions from last week's conference on nuclear matters hosted by Flinders University. I'll only post a few paragraphs, but highly recommend the whole article.
My problem with Diesendorf’s book, and for that matter with an organisation I’ve long been a member - the Australian Conservation Foundation - is that a very hackneyed 1970s style anti-nuclear rhetoric is employed in the vain hope that this will help bolster the case for renewable energies such as, solar, wind, bio-mass and geo-thermal.
On the 'nuclear lobby':
The nuclear lobby, last time I looked, was hard to find. It certainly pales alongside the power environmental NGOs (Friends of the Earth, Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, Wilderness Society, World Wildlife Fund, and so on). There is no nuclear lobby of consequence because there is no nuclear industry. All there is, is a rational case for considering nuclear power here and in countries where lower carbon options for energy security are difficult to come by.
And finally in Politics this day, LABOR'S candidate for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman is stumping up fears and playing the 'N' card to get ahead. Bringing in none other than Helen Caldicott herself to project mass local extinction within days of a nuclear power plants commissioning.

I wonder if Darren Cheeseman supports Labor's emissions reduction target - and more importantly the elusive and unspecific means to achieve this... Just as I asked another left leaning politico in this post - where are your detailed plans Mr. Cheeseman?

Friday, 15 June 2007

Feasibility of Enrichment (in Queensland??)

The World Nuclear Association is reporting a planed Uranium Enrichment feasibility study about to be launched by Nuclear Fuel Australia Limited.

Plans by the new company, Nuclear Fuel Australia Limited, which is headed by Clarence Hardy, envisage a 3 million separative work unit (SWU) per year plant using Urenco 6th-generation centrifuge technology. Hardy told World Nuclear News that Urenco's National Enrichment Facility (NEF) under construction in New Mexico, USA, made a "very good reference model" for the potential future plant.

Valued at around A$2.5 billion ($2.1 billion), the project could see a A$2.0 billion enrichment plant and a A$500 million conversion plant, which would transform uranium oxide into the uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feed required for gas centrifuge enrichment. Construction is envisaged in the report as starting in 2010 with full capacity being reached in 2015.

Hardy emphasized that NFAL as a company was solely concerned with the feasibility study, and had made no agreements with Urenco or any domestic uranium producer. He said the NFAL preliminary study does not discuss potential sites for the plants.
This work picks up where a previous effort in the early 1980's left off. Some media outlets are reporting that work as some sort of clandestine activity [I wasn't in Australia at the time, so I can't comment]. But I doubt that was the case. If you read the entire WNA article linked above you will see that the 1980's work had government support. Also, let's not forget SILEX [domestic Australian technology recently licensed to GE/America]. So enrichment technology is nothing new to Australia.

Considering the size and scope of the facility being considered... I'd say this is but another example of high end employment opportunities involved within the nuclear fuel cycle.

As one would expect. Kevin Rudd is denigrating this announcement and those behind it. At his side, I am not surprised to see Queensland Premier Peter Beattie. Between the two of them - you will hear the same tired anti-nuclear political rhetoric as I've already posted way too many times in this blog. Digging up the waste discussions while Australia's numerous coal plants continue to indiscriminately spew toxic, climate killing wastes into the air we all fill our lungs with - on average - 13 times a minute.

But the article linked just above also gives some airtime to Dr. Bruce Flegg, Member for Moggill. Dr. Felgg is accusing Peter Beattie of generating hysteria for purely political gains.
"I'm not sure Australians are so simple as Mr Beattie and others would like to portray them," Dr Flegg said.

"Why not at least look at whether this could be a future valuable industry for Queensland?"

Dr Flegg accused the premier of "selling short the future of the state". "We want to look at the science of it and make sure that if uranium enrichment were to be contemplated for Queensland that it can be delivered safely."

"Uranium enrichment is not an activity that should be tolerated in any of the residential or urban areas in the state of Queensland," Dr Flegg said.

I'd say Dr. Flegg is right. Especially when Mr. Beattie speaks of 'other options to address climate change' while his fingers quietly stroke the pen that approved new fossil fueled facilities like this one to be located near Braemar, Queensland.

Further information

WNA's Uranium Enrichment information paper

WNN: Australian uranium policy moves on
WNN: "Nuclear power is part of Australia's future"
WNN: Taskforce supports consideration of nuclear

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Australian of the Year; Tim Flannery (still) backs Nuclear

As requested in my post here; I was wondering why Tim Flannery was opposed to nuclear power. "Could he possibly think it's worse than climate change or fossil fuels?" I wondered. I was wishing for further information and now I've got it.

Turns out I was correct. He still supports nuclear as reported here at New Consumer and - I might add - to precisely the same extent that I have from the start.

To quote:

You talk about nuclear power in your book, saying one problem is it's slow to build. Do you think Gordon Brown's wrong to back it?

Do you know what I'd say to Gordon Brown if I could speak to him? I'd say if we look at this as a holistic problem, let's do the easy things first. Let's concentrate on energy efficiency, how much efficiency can you gain in the use of electricity in this country? I think there's enormous gains to be had. You might be able to halve your electricity use by focusing very strongly on efficiency, particularly it comes to retrofitting buildings, insulation and all that. So that's number one.

Number two, use local energy sources - the renewables. Wind, wave power, photovoltaics, combined heating and power, and then, if, after doing your utmost in those areas, you've still got a deficit in the amount of electricity you use, I'd then say if your choice is only between conventional coal-burning and nuclear power, I'd reluctantly support nuclear power.

My point here is when one takes the time to objectively consider the capabilities of other no/low carbon energy alternatives, realistic forecasts for increases in demand, etc.; Australia will find itself facing the very decision Tim poses above. I further believe that any reasonable consideration of that question and supporting facts will arrive at the same conclusion. It won't happen tomorrow, or in 5 years nor probably even 10; but Australia will adopt nuclear power if we are serious about achieving significant emissions reductions by 2050 (i.e. 42+ years on).

Ziggy Switkowski agrees,

[He]told Sky Business Sunday that a nuclear reactor on the eastern seaboard of Australia was inevitable.

"The first reactors are probably going to be found serving the major markets of the eastern seaboard," he said.

Good on for straight up reporting - or as they call it on their web-page... ethical.

Overview of a Gen-3 Reactor

AREVA's 3rd Generation EPR.

Nuclear Bloggers

Not long after I began this Blog, I posted links to different anti-nuclear Bloggers and websites and maintain these links in the right margin of this Blog to this day - even the inactive ones. I do this to encourage/enable any readers to consider the full range of the nuclear debate. I believe nuclear power is a valid energy option and further that when considered objectively can be easily defended as one of several reliable sources of safe and clean energy.

But I haven't done much to promote the pro-nuclear sites and Bloggers. Sure many links are also to the right, but I've never discussed many of them.

New on the scene is a namesake of sorts. He goes by the title of Nuclear Man and calls his Blog 'Nuclear Australia'. While it's a bit sad that he appears to not be aware of this Blog [poor communication on my part]; I am delighted another Aussie feels passionate enough to actively participate. Nuclear Man is just getting started & I wish him well.

Also in Australia is Robert Merkel - who doesn't manage a pro-nuclear Blog per se [at least that I am aware of], but my impression is that he is in favour of nuclear power in Australia, or he is certainly keeping an objective and open mind about it. Robert's Blog is called The View from Benambra. He is also a contributing Blogger at Larvatus Prodeo. Many of his posts are related to nuclear power. He is well researched and articulate.

Within Australian Politics you will find Blogger, and Democratic Senator, Andrew Bartlett. Senator Bartlett's Blog is called The Bartlett Diaries. To my knowledge, he is against nuclear power technology in Australia, but is generally willing to host/enter into civilised debate and has even linked this Blog into some of his posts. He is also a fellow fan of Robert Merkel - who visits the Senator's Blog regularly.

Venturing outside of Australia we have Ruth Sponsler, NNadir, Rod Adams, Stewart Peterson and the professionals at NEI. All are well researched. Being an Industry group, NEI is stacked with information and statistics. Rod also runs the Atomic Show. Stewart features frequent 'Anti-nuclear quote of the day' posts. Ruth's posts are typically packed full of links/references for the detail deprived. NNadir is - from my perspective - a legend. Again, all links may be found in the right margin.

An informed, objective and open minded community will make the right decision.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Blogger NNadir on Patrick Moore & Greenpeace

I know that "Doctor" Moore is popular with the nuclear industry, but I would submit that continuously talking up the support of the "Founder of Greenpeace" for nuclear energy affords Greenpeace environmental credibility it has neither earned nor deserves. If the nuclear industry were listening to me, it wouldn't be awarding that credibility.

See the whole post here

NNadir has submitted another Diary [post] in the DailyKos Blog, rich with passionate, well researched arguments in favour of increased nuclear deployment as part of the solution to many of the world's current problems.

The post above is his reply to a comment on his Diary. See the whole Diary here. Be warned, it's long and the comments are approaching 130.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Australia and the nuclear fuel cycle

We have a considerable number of nuclear related decisions to make in the near future.

First, we can remain - quite simply - a uranium supplier. With their recent decision to kill the antiquated and irrelevant 3-mines policy, Labor has pretty much assured this will be Australia's minimum involvement in the global nuclear fuel cycle.

Or, we could supply the world [or rather those parts of it that we get on well with] with uranium and construct some nuclear power plants ourselves. Others would complete the enrichment and fuel fabrication for us. As we so often allow to happen, we would be purchasing back a finished product principally derived from resources shipped from our shores.

In taking on these options, we would have to develop a high-level [i.e. used fuel] strategy. Several countries, including Japan, the UK, France and Russia reprocess their waste. There are also talks of advanced 'burner' reactors to consume the worst fission byproducts - but these are still in the development stage. Research, however is accelerating. Nevertheless, while recycling/reprocessing technologies greatly reduce the activity and heat burden of the waste, they do not - currently - eliminate it entirely requiring some sort of final repository.

Next, we could develop enrichment technology. As is currently being at least contemplated if not whole heartedly pursued. This decision is a complicated one as it involves due consideration for Australia's domestic and global responsibilities.

As the world shifts its support in favour of nuclear power, concerns over nuclear non-proliferation as well as technology and fuel access by all interested countries must be addressed equitably and in a mutual context. I believe this is the principal selling point for both the GNEP as well as Valdimir Putin's equivalent initiative from within the Russian Federation. A main aspect of these programmes is a multilateral fuel cycle where enrichment, fuel fabrication, fuel utilization, and final disposal may or may not occur within the same country. The multilateral programme advocates and potential participants [sensitive to, for example, Russia's apparent willingness to use fuel as an instrument of economic policy] seek a nuclear fuel bank to ensure the security of fuel availability from multiple participants. If such a programme is not developed, then crises similar to those in North Korea and Iran will continue to occur as countries justify their pursuit of enrichment as a means to energy security. With possible results similar to the [thankfully mostly botched] nuclear detonation in North Korea in late 2006.

Ideally I would love to keep the enrichment process confined to existing nuclear weapons states. But considering all states with demonstrated or suspected nuclear weapons capability USA, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel [not admitted], North Korea [? debatable], I am not convinced they represent a completely desirable set of contributors to an international nuclear fuel suppliers network - at least from the perspectives from many nations around the world. There are some countries without weapons, but capable of enrichment that may also be considered. These include South Africa who had weapons but gave them up as well as Brazil and possibly others. But still I believe many nations are looking for any international fuel centre to acquire further capacity without sacrificing security. I've already discussed Russia above. France can be economically fickle and the UK - while looking to build more nuclear power plants - has been recently working to back out of the nuclear, commercial infrastructure game.

To provide more confidence, the programmes are looking to broaden their bank of suppliers, while keeping the list of weapons states to a minimum. This is probably why Australia has been invited to join the GNEP and a principal reason our representatives are taking trips to Russia.

All this leads us ultimately back to waste. Countries who supply enriched uranium may [yes I said may] be asked to take the high level waste back. But further than this, we must consider Australia itself - vast, geologically stable with huge, uninhabited stretches of land. This continent is a resource that - if properly managed - could serve a significantly greater good.

Therefore if we wish to engage further in the nuclear fuel cycle, a high level waste repository is one of several desirable prerequisites. Hence the government's pursuit of it.

Keep in mind though that these options/decisions are not firmly tied to each other. For example, Australia could embrace nuclear power without enrichment or, possibly, the need for a final waste repository [if one argues that we may have to accept the waste of others, they must therefore concede that our waste may be accepted elsewhere]. We could enrich without generating nuclear electricity or we could become an international, high level waste repository state without generating power or the pursuit of enrichment.

Because of Australia's positive relationship with the IAEA, history of smooth and compliant inspections etc. We have gained a broad and positive international reputation. I believe this is why we are getting nods from a variety of stakeholders as we go around the world dipping our feet in the proverbial nuclear pool. The key players know us and consider us trustworthy.

Australia's options are - for the moment - completely open.

Kevin Rudd & Ziggy Switkowski on climate change and nuclear energy

In a speech on the climate and nuclear power's relevance within his party's political agenda, Kevin Rudd commented on what is becoming an often heard theme about emissions reductions via some sort of cap and trade scheme.
Mr Rudd said once the target was set, the emissions trading scheme and the market could establish the most cost-effective means of achieving that target.
I agree with this, but more importantly so does John Howard and the Liberals as was outlined in their recent report from the Task Group on Emissions Trading. It's great to see some consistency and agreement between the two parties - being an optimist, I'll interpret this as a high probability that some tangible action is on the horizon.

Not much further down in the article however there is another quote from Rudd [emphasis is mine]:
"On the question of nuclear ... our position on that is for Australia, with this rich array of other alternative energy options available, we can achieve our overall carbon target without taking on the extra safety and environmental risks which the nuclear option for Australia would represent.''
There's nothing new here. But it does not appear to be consistent with the first quote above. If nuclear is ruled out in advance, wouldn't Labor be open to the accusations regarding 'picking winners'?

Additionally, I'm not certain what Mr. Rudd means by 'available' but I doubt it has much to do with the demonstrated, technical capabilities of those 'other options'.

Most nuclear advocates believe all no/low carbon energy options, including nuclear must be subjected to life-cycle comparisons. Such comparisons include all cost, risk, capability, reliability, waste, etc. associated with each technology. This data has been derived and well publicised for nuclear, but sadly not so much for other technologies. Furthermore, the comparisons must be based - to the extent possible - on real world experiences [from prototype, demonstration or actual full scale commercial facilities]. A thorough consideration for them all is indeed justified. Anything else would be irresponsible, inefficient, ineffective or some depressingly perverse combination thereof.

My optimism gets strained, however, when I hear Ziggy Switkowski continuing to move away from Australian emissions reductions. Take for example this recent speech. He - like others so aligned - continues to beat the tired drum of Australia's minuscule contribution to global emissions - pointing instead to the USA and China.

As I've said here, I do not - in the slightest - understand the rational for this argument. If 1000 MWe of carbon based energy capacity is displaced by a no/low carbon technology, please tell me why the global climate is better off if that reduction takes place in the USA, China, India, Brazil or Australia? Obviously, locations and technologies must be selected based an a multitude of other factors including some that are fairly objective; cost, energy security, physical security, capacity and reliability as well as those that tend to be a bit more subjective; impact on economy, public acceptance and impact on the environment.

I claim economic impact is subjective because some [typically the 'haves'] tend to interpret this as maintaining their standard of living, or even maintaining consistent GDP growth; while others [typically the 'have nots'] interpret it as their right to achieve a standard of living equal to that of the 'haves'. [NNadir, a left leaning pro-nuclear advocate has a fair amount to say with regard to nuclear power's ability to address the latter.]

Public acceptance is often linked to environmental impact - but not always. Some people loath wind-farms for example because of the simple fact that they don't like the look of them [not me though, I can't stop looking when I am lucky enough to be within sight].

Typically the environmental impact is almost totally subjective. Nuclear is criticised for its lack of an operational waste strategy [despite the recycling/reprocessing taking place in many countries around the world] and the 'risk' this poses to the perhaps millions of people that live within a few hundred kilometers of a power station. However, since the dawn of the industrial revolution fossil plants - mostly coal stations - have been indiscriminately dumping their waste which has lead to the premature deaths of countless people and continues to poison the atmosphere and change our planet. Current predictions are that 30% of all species will face extinction by the turn of the next century and billions of people will be adversely impacted by climate change. To many this reality dwarfs the 'risks' associated with nuclear - whose safety record is second to no other energy technology. So in calling it subjective, I think I'm being fairly generous. See this NEI post for more.

One final quote from Ziggy:
"And, frankly, if we're going to have a nuclear industry in this country you really need to have alignment between the federal government, the state governments and the broader community and we're a fair way away from achieving that."
We sure are, but I remain optimistic.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Solar Thermal Plant startup

Rod at the Atomic Insights blog has some information on Nevada Solar One, a 64 MWe solar thermal plant that commenced operation in the American southwest this week.

See the post for the full story.

Meanwhile, NEI found an interesting Wall Street Journal article asking if Environmentalists are really in favour of anything???

Elections, Emissions and Econs

The Sydney Morning Herald has produced a status report, detailing how things stand with respect to an Australian emissions trading scheme, what the politicos from both sides are saying (or more accurately not saying) and who the big winners and losers may be when the dust settles.

Don't expect much for now. Regardless of the election outcome, business will be the prime mover in any significant transition in energy production - and they aren't budging without some confidence in any eventual carbon price, how any system will be applied [i.e. different rules for different industries, different facility 'vintage', etc.] and when the whole thing will get underway.

So, to give themselves political wriggle room, both sides are leaving business, and voters, in the dark about the most important aspect of the new regime, one that will have a crucial bearing on the nation's economic future. [all issues I have bracketed above]

Combined-cycle gas turbines, which at $38-$54 per MWh are already commercial for peak and shoulder load generation, could become viable for base load supply with even a low carbon price, making the natural gas industry, and companies such as Origin Energy and AGL, which are already in gas-fired generation, some of the biggest potential winners. [nothing new to this blog]

"This includes both the economics of investments in new gas-fired generation plant and also expanded output from existing gas-fired generators." [says CommSec's Paul Johnston]
Clean coal is discussed, but noted as being in the pilot stage and fairly expensive ($64-$108/MWh).

Renewables are also mentioned but face some technical challenges (they are fairly well know so I won't repeat them - check the main article if you're curious.) One notable quote:

Renewables would probably do better under a Labor government because of its support for mandatory targets.

Remember that tired argument so often heard from environmental romantics... "renewables would thrive if only they received better financial support"... well they touch on this as well.

California's Silicon Valley, once the hub of IT and Internet entrepreneurship, which is now transforming itself into a hotbed of alternative energy, as venture capitalists pour billions of dollars into wind power, solar and ethanol technology and into energy start-ups with names such as SunPower.

And finally...

Nuclear power, at $40-$65 per MWh, is likely to be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce than power from a new coal-fired plant at current fossil fuel prices. It would need a carbon price of $15-$40 per tonne to be competitive and require 10 to 15 years before the first plants could be operating, even assuming coalition governments are in place to approve them.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Experts Begin In Adelaide

In Adelaide this week, experts are meeting to ponder the future of nuclear power. From ABC Radio:
The Adelaide meeting has certainly drawn some big hitters from the Australian and international nuclear scene. Experts from China, the United States, India and Japan as well as Australia will be looking at the potential nuclear energy has to reduce greenhouse gases, and at what a sharp rise in the number of reactors in Australia and worldwide would mean for global agreements on non-proliferation. The chairman of the meeting is arms control expert Professor Richard Leaver of Flinders University. He says the Switkowski recommendations are unlikely to be fully implemented in Australia.
Listen to the entire interview with Professor Leaver.

Australia, possibly the world is at a nuclear crossroads. Where the nuclear renaissance meets modern concerns about proliferation. Proliferation is indeed a challenge, but not a show stopper according to most experts. This is being discussed on ABC Radio by Australia's Defence Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson; Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for Non-Proliferation, International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Also The Economist is discussing the modern 'China Syndrome' [as in pointing to China as an excuse to continue the indiscriminate dumping of toxic fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere]. Turns out China's per-capita emissions stand at 3.6 tonnes per person as opposed to Australia's reported 19.4 or the United States' 20.2. [Why should I be entitled to spew out over 5 times the emissions than Joe 'Chin' Bloggs in China?]

But what is China doing about this...? continuing to deploy a diverse array of low/no carbon emission energy technologies including... you guessed it, nuclear.

Much of [the planned deployment of renewable energy production technology] will come from hydroelectric power. But China is also the world's fifth-biggest user of wind turbines, and the biggest consumer of the sort of solar panels used to heat water.

Greater use of nuclear power should also help reduce China's emissions. The government is building four new nuclear reactors, and earlier this year placed an order for another four—a far more ambitious construction programme than any other country save Russia.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

More on Ziggy Switkowski's message

Adelaide Now is reporting some details on Dr. Switkowski's speach.

He said that while some countries had endorsed the 60 per cent target "no country knows how to get there".

He is calling for the consideration of all available forms of no/low emissions energy (solar, wind, gothermal, nuclear etc.).

He does not see a nuclear plant in Australia within the next 15 years, with geothermal coming in 20 to 30.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Sometimes it’s like drinking from a fire hose…

Whether Peter Beattie in Queensland, Alan Carpenter in Western Australia or Peter Garrett in Canberra… they all seem to be sending the same message…

The Task Group on Emissions Trading report is flawed…

Howard’s continued support for nuclear is stuffed…

And ‘modern’ [mystical] technologies will allow Australia to achieve a 60% reduction in greenhouse gasses with Labor at the helm.

Nothing specific though. Yes there are the common warm-fuzzy words we all know and love – renewables, wind, solar, geothermal etc., but nothing specific; no plans, no siting of examples of stations or capacity in other locations anywhere on the planet; no demonstration of such technologies on an industrial level. Are they serious? Who’s supposed to believe this?

Without nuclear on the table, any substantial goal for emissions reductions are no more than pipedreams.

Sure there’s gas – better than coal, but still not an emissions darling, and the long term price projections, I believe, are anything but stable. Reading the bottom of this We Support Lee post, along with this quote from the International Energy Outlook pg. 46:

Although Australia has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, several of the government’s environmental policies have been put in place to help stimulate increases in natural gas use for electric power generation and to moderate growth in the use of coal, of which Australia has large reserves.
And we can see why Mr. Carpenter is so down on nuclear. The sale of all his State’s gas, will earn them big-bucks – I imagine he is reminded of this frequently.

Also Dr. Ziggy Switkowski’s recent remarks (reported in no less than 402 linked news articles!) are being trumpeted as something significant… an admission of sorts(??). I guess those who are against nuclear are much more willing to defer to his expertise when he is saying something they can use to support their arguments (pathetic). Basically he is saying that the path to nuclear power in Australia will be a fairly long one. On that I agree, at least as I’ve said here and here, there is a hell of a lot of work to do in order to even think about constructing a plant. But the three mines policy is finally dead and Australia is seriously considering a long term used fuel store and becoming more involved in the nuclear Fuel Cycle. So from a 'consider what they do as opposed to what they say' point of view – there is reason to be optimistic.

Not being one to feel the need (or, for that matter, justification) to force anything on anyone, I advocate a patient but steady approach for those in support of nuclear power in Australia. Despite all the headline-grabbing, election year crap being tossed out at the moment – in particular by the same old group of anti-nuclear activists we always see muddying the technical waters – I see shortcomings on both sides.

To me, the Liberals are overly sensitive to the economy, but in general I like the idea of looking forward and progressing via a well thought, measured process. However, I think their targets need to be a bit more in line with Labor. Speaking of which, Labor’s unjustified, fear-driven dismissal of nuclear with no credible alternative technology (other than the fantasies that exist only on report pages from the deep dark world of academic theory) is a type of wishful thinking that will draw out and ultimately kill any hopes of achieving anything close to their stated targets.

We have the resources and capability to do so much better than this, but for nothing more than fear and ignorance – we remain, for the moment, a humiliating stain on the world.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Nuclear push gains momentum

I am pleased to pass on this great post (yet another) from Ruth at the We Support Lee blog.

In a nutshell, it's about current legislation blocking Australian nuclear power plant construction and some plans to amend/overturn it (with plenty of well researched supporting information - as is typical of Ruth).

I am glad Ruth is there to support me on this post. I admit to being immersed in NNadir's Diary ; where one sees the result of a left-leaning activist who takes the time to look well beyond the rhetoric and become familiar with the relevant facts associated with nuclear energy production.

I've also enjoyed Rod Adams' The Atomic Show as he mentioned in a previous comment to this Blog.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


I came across this 'definition' - if I may call it that - from blogger NNadir at the DailyKos blog.
The "antinukes" are a subset of people who believe that nuclear power operations are worse than climate change - which is driven by the indiscriminate dumping of dangerous fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere - worse than fossil fuel wars, worse than the acidification of the oceans and worse than the impoverishment of billions of people. Since I am hard pressed to find a single instance of a person killed by normal (or even accidental) operations of nuclear power in this country [the USA] - and there aren't that many people so killed on the entire planet - I am somewhat mystified by the existence of this devoted cadre of Helen Caldicott devotees and acolytes.
Blogger NNadir is a very articulate pro-nuclear blogger. By clicking on his direct link above you will be directed to his diary. I plan to stop by regularly and am adding a permanent link in the margin to the right.

Report of the Task Group on Emissions Trading

Get the entire report in Rich Text Format, MS Word or as a PDF image. Or see this page for specific sections.

In [extreme] summary, the report endorses a 'cap and trade' scheme to be started sooner rather than later. In such a scheme, government sets the cap and issues some sort of emissions certificates. Issuing fewer certificates over time has the desired effect of reducing emissions. The price for the certificates is set by the market leading to competition by all technologies. The least cost abatement technologies would then be deployed and thrive in a sort of economic Darwinism.

I am pleased to see an objective consideration of nuclear as well as a discussion of renewable technologies within the context of their development status and capabilities. A few quotes:
Low-emissions technologies – such as clean coal, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal – should compete on an equal basis.

...displacement of Australian production could result in lower global emissions if the additional production were to occur in jurisdictions with lower emissions profiles (for example, because they use electricity generated by hydro, gas or nuclear power).

Large-scale emissions abatement will be dependent on the wider use of existing low-emissions technologies (such as nuclear and wind), the development and diffusion of new and currently immature technologies (such as carbon capture and storage, geothermal and large-scale solar), and widespread take up of energy efficiency and demand reduction opportunities.

...the ‘take off’ of the Clean Development Mechanism has not met the expectations of many [due to] the exclusion of some activities from eligibility, notably nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage projects

The Energy Supply Association of Australia (2006) found that to achieve a reduction of 30 per cent of electricity-related emissions from 2000 levels without nuclear and carbon capture and storage technologies would approximately double total electricity production costs compared with the scenario where these technologies were available.
And there are numerous references to our 'vast reserves of uranium'.

If one considers just the above statements... 'nuclear and wind are mature', 'nuclear and carbon capture required to achieve a cost effective 30% emissions reduction' [let alone anything larger - say 60%], 'excluding nuclear and carbon capture is why current emission reduction progress has been disappointing', etc; the conclusion appears to be that nuclear is the only available, mature technology capable of significant and cost effective emissions reductions. I would certainly say that we can't get 'there' without it.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Nuclear power a must, says PM's report

As reported at

Nothing too surprising... the carbon trading scheme is to start moderately (nothing to rash before 2012) and build to become much more intense over time. Any other approach would damage the economy and Australia's energy-intensive [carbon-intensive] industries.

The article doesn't quote anything as definitive as its headline with respect to nuclear power, merely that it - along with the other usual suspects - be kept as an option.

I look forward to reading the report. As of this posting there is no link yet. But eventually readers may be able to find the full report here.

US / Bush Proposal: A New International Climate Change Framework

You can find the Fact Sheet from the White House web page here. NEI's post on this topic is here.

I found some news stories quoting there are to be 15 major greenhouse gas emitting nations involved, but not much more detail on the related participation criteria.

I am very interested - and I think we all should be - on how a 'major emitter' is defined. 'Emissions per person' [i.e. per-capita] and/or possibly 'per unit of gross domestic product' (GDP) seem much more reasonable than country 'A' compared with country 'B' [despite the rhetoric of some politicians to that effect].

Comparing, for example, Australia with China is ridiculous in the nation-to-nation sense. But look at the two from a per-capita or per unit GDP perspective and the comparison paints a more relevant picture [referred to as the carbon-intensity]. I recommend a read of this report from from the EIA, and in particular Table 12 and Figures 85 and 86 along with the surrounding text. Note that some of the 'bad actors' frequently bashed by politicos [China, India and Brazil for example] not only have low per-capita emissions, but are also 'on or below the trend line' and projected to remain there or shift further below in the coming decades [i.e. they have low carbon-intensities]. This trend line is described as follows within the report:

In the figures, countries and regions that are plotted on the trend line produce roughly the average amount of carbon dioxide emissions per-capita relative to income per-capita. Countries and regions that appear above the trend line are more carbon-intensive than average, and those below the trend line are less carbon-intensive than average.

Who is above the trend line? Russia appears to be furthest away, then South Korea, 'Middle East', Australia/New Zealand [a gift from the US DOE to be combined with the Kiwis as they improve our average], followed by 'Other non-OECD in Europe and Eurasia' and finally Canada. We'll say the US is on the line - to be expected since they drew it.

So any way you slice the table and figures referenced above Australia is definitely one of the 15 major greenhouse gas emitters. In fact the only way to make our contribution appear irrelevant is to revert back to the simplistic [and to this blogger completely unjustified] nation-to-nation analysis.

As an international outlier on trends of this nature, one hopes there is even more incentive for some tangible action within Australia in the near future.

One word of warning about using carbon-intensity; I believe there is a risk that by focusing on individual intensities, one may lose the big picture - that, in absolute terms, global emissions must be stabilised and then subsequently reduced. Looking at carbon-intensities only helps identify which countries to focus on first.

Finally... note the data point furthest below the trend line [as well as very low with respect to per-capita emissions] - OECD Europe [with the highest installed and operational nuclear capacity of the group]. Is it any wonder?