Friday, 30 November 2007

Holier than thou - Aussie Catholics join the debate

Two Australian Catholic social services and justice groups [not generally known for their technical insight, but I'm in a forgiving mood] have put out a report opposed to nuclear power. Nothing new - the same unjustified [from the perspective of risk, among others] 'concerns' about safety and waste management are there [despite no data on any impact on real people in recent history] as are the false claims of high cost etc. In fact, I'd swear I've read some of the paragraphs before - verbatim. My guess is that this 'report' was to come out about a week or more ago to influence voters, but got stalled in the review process. Since they put in all the work, why not issue it now?

However, Prof. Camilleri and friends had better be careful, because the Pope has fully endorsed nuclear power in the name of the Church. And just last month the Church affirmed this view by issuing comments about nuclear power's global expansion. I'm assuming that, as one of the wealthiest institutions on earth, the Holy See has access to considerably more resources than our friends above. However, I'm also confident that the former are within earshot of considerably more nonsensical anti-nuclear babble.

Any Catholics out there care to comment? What's in store for a Catholic who contradicts the Pope in open literature? Are we talking eternal damnation, a few millennia in purgatory or perhaps just a stern look and a slap on the wrist from Sister Mary-Margaret?

Independence needed for emissions trading

Professor Ross Garnaut, Australian State and Territory equivalent to Sir Nicholas Stern, made some interesting points, referenced in this Sydney Morning Herald report. One in particular caught my eye.
[H]e dismissed the suggestion that Australia should slow its rate of economic growth to immediately reduce emissions.

"When you have lower economic growth you start to get a lot of pressure to get economic activity going at any cost. I think it would be more difficult [to reduce emissions] in that situation than the current one," he said.

It would be better to use Australia's wealth to break the link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions.
Nuclear Power is one currently available means to help sever the aforementioned link. It's certainly a major player in several significant, green economies around the world.

In the report Professor Garnaut stresses the importance of keeping any carbon/emissions trading body protected from political pressure. A big ask from my perspective but a MUST nonetheless.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Kevin Rudd - Names Minister(s)?

Kevin Rudd has named Peter Garrett minister of the environment, but appointed a second minister, Sen. Penny Wong, to take responsibility for climate change.

More from this report from the Canadian Press.

The reporter sees this as a rebuke for Garrett and I can't seem to find much on Sen. Wong beyond that she is a South Australian [one of our more pro-U export States] and has a history that includes mining union work.

In this report from AFP, Sen. Wong is said to have responsibility for negotiations such as Kyoto and those occurring at the upcoming meeting in Bali. The report lists other cabinet appointments as well.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Australia - UN Turns up the heat

Jacob Saulwick filed this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Emphasis is mine.

IF EVERY person on Earth created as much pollution as the average Australian, we would need another six planets to cope, a United Nations' report says.

It [The Human Development Report, released yesterday] lashes the argument - advanced by Labor and Liberal parties at the election - that there is no point for rich countries to set reduction targets if big emitters in the developing world do not set them.

The report argues that, per person, rich countries remain the biggest emitters, and it is unfair [I would say unethical and immoral] for the developing world to pay the costs of emissions generated by the developed world's growth.

It is an excellent report and highlights the current goal of, not 60, but 80% reduction in emission by 2050 as well as reductions by 30% by 2020. Not only has Australia had a late start, but we are losing ground.

The report also suggests the economic impact will be 60% worse than just recently predicted in the Stern Review.

I couldn't have put it any better myself, but anyone who is current with this blog knows I certainly have been trying.

Of course nuclear power could help solve this dilemma - with huge power capability, 24/7/365 52 [tip o' the hat to Joffan] reliability, demonstrated safety performance and competitive costs. It's not likely that many could be built here before 2020, but then again, at that point, assuming we meet an already aggressive international goal - we've still got another 50% to go!!

No time to waste.

Emissions - An indicator of interest

Tom Tarpey in Canada forwarded a report from providing examples of the conservation paradox. Basically what it details [through numerous US examples] is the tendency of consumers to reap the benefits of efficiency improvement by buying bigger automobiles, larger homes, more AC units, etc. so that the net effect on energy consumption is nil [actually energy consumption, and emissions along with it, have continually risen].

Closer to home in Mosman - 'Australia's wealthiest suburb', Monsters and Critics reports a reluctance to give up the posh life in the name of emissions reductions.

The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace are already Rudd-bashing about Labor's [in]ability to tackle Australia's emissions dilemma [3 days into his term, whoa]. I do not give much technical credit to these organisations. Their quantification of the nuclear pro-con balance sheet for example is, to be polite, VERY misleading as well as technically wrong. However, I'll include their comments to provide a general 'feel' for domestic climate change opinions.
'Both major parties have credibility problems on climate change because of their failure to commit to the sort of deep cuts to greenhouse emissions in the next decade that are necessary to help prevent dangerous climate change,' Wilderness Society national campaign director Alex Marr said.

Greenpeace Australia climate change campaigner Steven Campbell notes that even with a target of 20 per cent, there will be no overall reduction in the amount of electricity generated by burning coal.

'If we have a renewables sector growing alongside an ever- expanding coal sector, we won't stop climate change,' Campbell said.
Interested parties should monitor total Australian emissions. Currently, just due to power production, Australia cranks out 226,000,000 US tons [204,982,000 metric tons] of CO2 per year. Per their website, CARMA plans to update the data quarterly.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Election 2007 - Rudd, good for nuclear in Australia?

Was it a mandate on the environment? On nuclear power in Australia?

Before you answer that, consider the following:

Now that the election is over and done. Labor has a formidable task – to demonstrate their energy related rhetoric prior to and during the campaign can be put into practice. Since nuclear is – ‘they’ say – too expensive, too risky and takes too long, can we expect that within a very few years, Australian emissions linked to climate change will noticeably plummet through some other technologies? I certainly ‘hope’ so – and furthermore I would like to ‘hope’ it can be done without nuclear, but I’m not so sure – when one examines the maths involved – we should pin our collective future on ‘hope’. Because in reality, as a nation, we can’t manage to stop building new CO2 belching plants, let alone shut down any existing ones.

Efficiency improvements, wind farms, solar, tidal, geothermal are great. I’ve always been in favour of them [with nuclear, not in lieu of] and believe they will have a significantly increasing role in the future of energy generation in Australia and elsewhere. This opinion is supported by expert organisations around the world.

But, because NO single country - not ONE mind you - on this diverse world of ours has demonstrated the ability of any technology other than hydro or nuclear to reliably displace significant fossil power generation, I believe we must keep nuclear on the table until we can demonstrate our ability to meet emission reduction targets in some other way. [By demonstrate, I mean something more than a theoretical analysis from the deep, dark depths of academia.]

Labor’s victory is, in a way, good for the development of Australian energy policy. There’s not much of the nation, states, etc. that Labor does not now control. The political alignment should be nearly ideal. There should be no barriers to fully implement the most green of green energy policies. I really do expect a full on effort to cut emissions, including efficiency improvements, renewables, etc. This will either be successful, or [and I expect the more likely] provide an opportunity for the nation to learn the realities associated with the costs and capabilities of available non-nuclear, solutions to Australia’s emissions related challenges.

Otherwise we will remain an embarrassment to the world.

UPDATE: A similar view from World Nuclear News

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Media and Nuclear Power

From a review of Gwyneth Cravens' book Power to Save the World on the New York Times Freakonomics blog: Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy.

Mrs. Cravens sent an Email to the blog author, adding the below information, explaing how the media is responsible for what her colleague Rip Anderson refers to as the profound 'second-hand ignorance' among the genreal public with respect to nuclear technology:

In the book (p.184) there is a graph based on a study by Bernard Cohen, Prof. Emeritus, U. of Pittsburgh, about stories by the New York Times of different types of accidents between 1974-78 (prior to Three Mile Island). He compared their frequency with the annual fatalities caused by these accidents. Cohen writes:
On an average, there were 120 entries per year on motor vehicle accidents, which kill 50,000 Americans each year; 50 entries per year on industrial accidents, which kill 12,000; and 20 entries per year on asphyxiation accidents, which kill 4,500; note that for these the number of entries, which represents roughly the amount of newspaper coverage, is approximately proportional to the death toll they cause. But for accidents involving radiation, there were something like 200 entries per year, in spite of there not having been a single fatality from a radiation accident for over a decade.

Another problem, especially in TV coverage, was use of inflammatory language. We often heard about “deadly radiation” or “lethal radioactivity,” referring to a hazard that hadn’t claimed a single victim for over a decade, and had caused less than five deaths in American history. But we never heard about “lethal electricity,” although 1,200 Americans were dying each year from electrocution; or about “lethal natural gas,” which was killing 500 annually with asphyxiation accidents. (Bernard Cohen, “The Nuclear Energy Option,” pp. 58-59.)
Again, I'll say she's definately done her homework.

Nuclear's Future in Europe

The European Commission has announced plans to speed up energy technology developments including Generation IV reactors. Meanwhile, a cross-party group of 56 members of the European Parliament have signed a declaration calling for nuclear to be maintained and developed in the European Union.

More information from World Nuclear News.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Kogan Creek, the reality of Australian energy policy

Despite the compact florescent bulbs in the shops and homes of Australia; Chinchilla, in Peter Beattie's, Kevin Rudd's and now Anna Bligh's Queensland, is about to become home to the Kogan Creek power station with the following statistics from the CS Energy and CARMA websites:

Generation capacity: 750 MW (about the same as a medium size nuclear power station, or maybe about 300* large wind turbines). Kogan will be the largest single generating unit in Australia!!

*[NOTE: To actually 'produce' the equivalent of a 750 MW coal station, one would require approximately 1,250 large [2 MW] wind turbines to account for the fact that the wind doesn't always blow as well as the limitations of existing storage technology].

Cost: $1.2 billion

Anticipated commissioning date: late 2007. Construction and commissioning timeline has been about three and a half years.

Anticipated operation: 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, devouring coal at a whopping rate of 2.8 million t/yr [or nearly 7,700 t/day].

CO2 emissions: 4,339,799 tons [imperial] per year

This one station will INCREASE Australian emissions from electricity generation by nearly 2%.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

CARMA's big Greens

I am enjoying the new CARMA database that I recently discovered and posted just a few days ago. Apparently I'm not the only one, database access all but stooped the day of its official launch. That's great news, and the development team has done well to quickly restore performance.

Just one of the MANY interesting data slices - for me - is an examination of the 'big greens', those [typically developed, or otherwise quite large] countries that generate a significant quantity of energy without significant emissions.

Countries sorted by MWh energy [generated]

1. France - No surprise, the first on the list, generates 565 Million MWh of energy using 75.9% nuclear, 9.16% hydro and 1.76% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 162.

2. Brazil - generates 423 Million MWh of energy using 2.34% nuclear, 84.73% hydro and 5.36% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 113.

[By the way, Australia fits in here on the list at 195 million MWh, just ahead of Sweden. We are the world's 18th largest electric energy producer, but we are not even in the top 50 by population. Our energy carbon intensity? 2,318.]

3. Sweden - generates 170 Million MWh of energy using 40.32% nuclear, 42.35% hydro and 3.38% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 41.

4. Norway - generates 137 Million MWh of energy using 0% nuclear, 98.82% hydro and 0.77% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 3.

5. Switzerland - generates 55.8 Million MWh of energy using 39.43% nuclear, 55.76% hydro and 0.38% other renewables. Energy carbon intensity: 11.

This again demonstrates what many have been saying for some time. The only credible, demonstrated technologies capable of displacing fossil generation on the scale required to significantly reduce the relevant emissions are hydro and nuclear.

We can also see what a significant outlier Australia is when it comes to emissions per-capita or even emissions per unit GDP. We are on shaky ground at best.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Nuclear Renaissance

In this article from, Josh Wolfe files an Emerging Tech report on the status of the Nuclear Renaissance.

Josh follows the money, which clearly shows that 'Nuclear Renaissance' is far more than a simple soundbite or pathetic industry battle cry. It is a bona fide industry trend.

Non-nuclear alternatives don't add up to enough

A very interesting, informed and insightful article from the Canberra Times by Professor Leslie Kemeny.

Obviously Prof. Kemeny understands the difference between 'generation capacity' and actual generated Megawatt-hours [a subtle technical difference often incorrectly utilised in many a 'pale-green' anti-nuclear argument].

As strong arguments often do, this article is packed with objective data and sites demonstrated examples of the technology as well as recent, high profile policy decisions around the world.

Good read.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Australia's bad CARMA

It's finally starting to get orgainsed... the effort to make emitters accountable, to point fingers at them, and hopefully shame those responsible into action.

In this article from the AP, an online database has been launched. The CARMA database link is here.

And a relevant corresponding quote may hit home to some of us:

Australians produce 11 tons of CO2 for each of its people from their power plants — the highest anywhere — compared to 9 tons per person in the United States and 2 tons per person in China.

But the United States has the most CO2 emissions (2.79 billion tons), followed by China (2.66 billion tons). China, which soon is expected to pass the United States, is home to three of the world's five most CO2-polluting

Such information provides a "a vivid illustration that rich countries and developing countries must work together to overcome the challenge of climate change," said Wheeler, an expert on environmental economics.

The site/database is excellent. For example, compare the nuclear poster-country France to say Australia, New Zealand, the USA or China; or dig deeper to your local area.

A GREAT information tool. Thanks to David Wheeler, Kevin Ummel and the rest of the team at CARMA.

FYI... the five worst Australian emitters are...

1. ERARING, Dora Creek, New South Wales, 20,200,000 tons CO2 per year

2. BAYSWATER, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, 20,200,000 tons CO2 per year

3. LOY YANG A, Traralgon South, Victoria, 14,700,000 tons CO2 per year

4. LIDDELL, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, 14,500,000 tons CO2 per year

5. GLADSTONE, Gladstone, Queensland, 11,800,000 tons CO2 per year

South Australia says 'maybe'

They're not voting to build plants, but the South Australian government has wisely voted to at least keep nuclear power on the table.
"The Government and the Opposition joined forced in State Parliament last night to defeat a bill from the Greens to ban nuclear power in South Australia."
More from ABC here.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Diesendorf - gets it wrong again.

In this Sydney Morning Herald article, Mark Diesendorf is recommending Aussies swap from electric to gas to battle emissions linked to climate change. In theory this may sound wise - but in practice, due to the leakage of gas systems country-wide, this policy would result in no improvements and would probably be even worse for the climate. [See this post and video for more.]

In time, any mechanical system will probably develop leaks if allowed to operate unchecked.

Modern, nuclear power plants incorporate diverse systems, [liquid, gas, and activity detection] incorporating redundant instrumentation, to monitor for leakage so that repairs or system shutdowns can be undertaken to address any identified issues. Add to this a battery of non-destructive examinations (NDE) and in-service inspections (ISI), and the vast majority of would-be leaks in nuclear plant systems are repaired long before the first drip emerges from the pipe.

This is just one example of what a few billion dollars will buy us. Where did you think all that money went?

Do you have any leakage detection systems in your home gas system? Are there any on the pipes running down your street or to the local gas power stations? There may be some monitoring in larger plants, but the leakage - in the real would in which we live - is considerable and causing more climactic problems than the expanded use of gas will solve.

This is not just poor advice - it is technically shallow.

Standardised, multinational licensing

As reported in this article at World Nuclear News.

What a great idea - particularly for a country like Australia! Multi-lateral cooperation and standardised designs to avoid the complete re-licensing of every reactor in every country. This could significantly reduce the time required to expand nuclear power around the world.

Also, take a look at the countries involved - some of those key indicator countries that I like to keep and eye on.

With our limited nuclear infrastructure and regulatory experience, such an approach could provide much needed assistance!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Fuel Prices

The price of oil is often in the news... hitting records almost weekly, if not more often.

But what about other fossil fuels?

Australian coal hits record.

World Energy Outlook - 2007

I've started to digest this 670-plus page behemoth. Per the publication copyright terms and conditions, I am permitted to copy / share up to 15% (about 100 pages) without prior written approval of the IEA. Be sure, I'm not going to do that, but here are some relevant data that I found of potential interest.

(all emphasis is mine)

From the executive summary

Urgent action is needed if greenhouse-gas concentrations are to be stabilised at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. The Alternative Policy Scenario shows that measures currently being considered by governments around the world could lead to a stabilisation of global emissions in the mid-2020s and cut their level in 2030 by 19% relative to the Reference Scenario. OECD emissions peak and begin to decline after 2015. Yet global emissions would still be 27% higher than in 2005. Assuming continued emissions reductions after 2030, the Alternative Policy Scenario projections are consistent with stabilisation of long-term CO2-equivalent concentration in the atmosphere at about 550 parts per million. According to the best estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this concentration would correspond to an increase in average temperature of around 3°C above pre-industrial levels. In order to limit the average increase in global temperatures to a maximum of 2.4°C, the smallest increase in any of the IPCC scenarios, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would need to be stabilised at around 450 ppm. To achieve this, CO2 emissions would need to peak by 2015 at the latest and to fall between 50% and 85% below 2000 levels by 2050. We estimate that this would require energy-related CO2 emissions to be cut to around 23 Gt in 2030 – 19 Gt less than in the Reference Scenario and 11 Gt less than in the Alternative Policy Scenario. In a “450 Stabilisation Case”, which describes a notional pathway to achieving this outcome, global emissions peak in 2012 at around 30 Gt. Emissions savings come from improved efficiency in fossil-fuel use in industry, buildings and transport, switching to nuclear power and renewables, and the widespread deployment of CO2 capture and storage (CCS) in power generation and industry. Exceptionally quick and vigorous policy action by all countries, and unprecedented technological advances, entailing substantial costs, would be needed to make this case a reality.

Clearly, exceptionally vigorous policy action – entailing substantial costs – would be needed to make the 450 Stabilisation Case a reality. Such action would need to start immediately: each year of delay would reduce substantially the likelihood of achieving the target.

The below trend reflects the required energy supply changes required to satisfy the 450 stabilisation case. These changes are to be made IN ADDITION to aggressive changes (which already include significant increases in nuclear power) required to satisfy the 'Alternative Policy Scenario'.

And for those of you worried about the future of coal - fear not. You'll notice that the overall demand for coal doesn't change too much (add the brown and the red) - even within the most aggressive scenario as shown below. Anyone claiming any differently, is just promoting a culture of fear to get votes.

And there is much, MUCH more. Their message is clear - urgent, global action is required 'immediately', and that action will include - among many other changes - the significant deployment of additional nuclear power generation technologies around the world.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Recent comment on

I submitted the below comment on this article. However, the powers that be decided not to post it on the website. Are you surprised? I guess it doesn't add to the debate as much as pubescent slams against Turnbull and Garrett.

Forget socially responsible investing; how about some socially responsible reporting.

My post (submitted at 23:10 on 09/11/07)

Ethical considerations are a noble and just prerequisite to any investment. Anything less is inherently non-sustainable.

Regarding the comments on uranium / nuclear power, I feel it is a must for Australia if we are serious about an ethical approach to addressing emissions linked to climate change.

Many will wave the populist banner – that Australia only emits 1.4% of global emissions, so what difference can we make and why should we even try. However, as one of the world’s top per-capita emitters, we are setting a shameful example, that if followed globally, will see us all in a dire situation within a very short time. That – in and of itself – is embarrassingly unethical behaviour.

Until a credible and objective plan is presented by someone, implementing the deployment of available and demonstrated technologies to address these emissions, nuclear must remain on the table as an option. To dismiss it so casually is not only unethical but flat out irresponsible.

For more information
Related Blog
A specific post of interest

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Professor James Lovelock - 2005

Professor James Lovelock

Click here to go to a new webpage to see the movie using Flash Media. Sorry wasn't able to embed this one. Try here if you can't get the video to play or go to the site linked below.

The video is from the Canadian Nuclear Association's video archive.

This video is was made by Professor Lovelock and presented at the 2005 Canadian Nuclear Association annual seminar. Within, Professor Lovelock discusses some history of the green movement and why current 'green' endorsed energy policy is not just wrong, but quite dangerous.

Like this blogger, Professor Lovelock takes a critical and objective approach to defining the problem as well as evaluating alternative solutions - looking hard at the demonstrated performance of different technologies around the globe.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Australian Labor - "Committed to Coal"

For those of us concerned about the environment, irrespective of where we stand on the issue of nuclear energy, one thing is clear, and is agreed upon by anti-nuclear energy activists and nuclear energy proponents alike, and that is that the use of coal combustion for energy generation is not only one of the single biggest contributors to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, but is also a major source of environmental pollution of other forms, including particulates, heavy metals, and organic pollutants, with very significant impacts on the environment, and on human health.

Governments and environmental groups worldwide are today beginning to realise how unsustainable continued reliance on coal combustion for energy generation is.

With this in mind, one may be quite dismayed to hear that the Australian Labor Party is, according to an official media statement, "Committed to Coal".

I'm not trying to make too much of a political statement here, but I really believe that environmental responsibility must take precedence over securing the future economic viability of Australia's coal industry.

As the world grows increasingly concerned over the potential impact of anthropogenic forcing of climate change, the coal industry, worldwide, will suffer an economic downturn, and other systems of energy generation will take its place - Australia must be prepared for this, and can be prepared for this, given we have the capacity to offset the losses in the coal industry though expansion of Uranium and Thorium mining, without the environmental concerns surrounding coal combustion.

A typical "clean" coal-fired power plant, assuming capture and geosequestration of carbon dioxide with 90% efficiency, is responsible for the emission of 300 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electrical energy, 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions of conventional coal plants without CCS technology, assuming a typical coal-fired plant to emit 1000g CO2e/kWhe, which is in the same league as a combined-cycle natural gas plant, at around 500 gCO2/kWhe, compared with around 100g CO2e/kWhe for solar photovoltaics, and far less than that again for wind, nuclear, hydro and geothermal energy.

Gambling our future clean energy development on "clean coal", which may or may not ever actually develop to the point where it is competitive, and environmentally equivalent to, nuclear energy and other clean forms of energy generation is an environmentally dubious move, given that nuclear energy, and other clean technologies are more mature, and arguably far less polluting. After all, "clean coal" still produces fly ash and other hazardous wastes which are usually isolated from the environment in a sub-optimal way.

The ALP's talk of a target of 20% "renewable" energy generation is certainly a good idea, an achievable target, and is do-able, as Sweden (26% renewables, 44% nuclear) and Finland (about 23% renewables, 27% nuclear), for example, demonstrate, but it will make essentially no difference when the remaining 80% is coming from coal - the single most dangerous, environmentally destructive way of generating electricity there is - and it's quite clear that that's what the ALP, for whatever motivation, is interested in seeing to. I hope that, in time, they'll come around, and look fairly at the case for nuclear energy.

Australian Emissions - one of the world's worst

As reported in The Age.

Between 1994 and 2004 Australia was the ninth largest contributor to increases in global emissions linked to climate change. We managed to bang out a 38% increase while many are struggling to achieve targets below 1990 levels. [Those countries who are meeting their goals all rely on the atom for at least part of their energy portfolio.]

The report, Growth and CO2 Emissions: How do different countries fare?, released in October, examined the trends among the world's 70 biggest producers of greenhouse gases. Australia was almost unique in being a developed country whose emissions are not only very high but growing rapidly.

In carbon-dioxide alone, Australia ranks 6th in the world per-person. If everyone on the planet strove to be like us, our situation would quickly become quite dire.

Switzerland, Sweden and France, which are as rich as Australia or richer, all produce only a third as much carbon dioxide per head as Australia. All rely heavily on nuclear and hydro power for their electricity.

Hydro is essentially fully exploited in Australia. That leaves nuclear.