Sunday, 27 January 2008

Environmental Performance Index

International criticism of Australia continues in a high profile report released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Media Report at The Age

The report is the Environmental Performance Index, completed by Yale and Colombia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Some quotes [emphasis is mine]:

From the main report

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the 2008 EPI is the weight placed on the new Climate Change category, which absorbs the 2006 EPI’s Sustainable Energy category, and the additional data included in its calculation: Emissions Per Capita, CO2 Emissions Per Electricity generated, and Industrial Carbon Intensity. Because of the greater recognition of climate change as one of the most pressing environmental challenges, the 2008 EPI weights climate change much more heavily in the ecosystem vitality objective. As a result, countries with otherwise advanced environmental regulatory and enforcement systems such as the United States and Australia, dropped in this year’s EPI in part because of this expanded category.

From the web page on climate change scoring

"The laggards on climate change are typically countries with particularly carbon-intensive industry and electricity generation sectors, such as United Arab Emirates and Australia..."

Among wealthy nations, the US and Australia rank lowest with regards to climate change performance. They have very high emissions per capita due to relatively high fossil fuel energy consumption and their failure to implement ambitious GHG emissions reduction policies.

Provided one agrees with anthropologic climate change theory and subscribes to emission reduction targets recommended by many scientific bodies; clearly Australia must do more to achieve our fair share of global reductions.

One way - a demonstrated, safe and reliable way - to sustain Australian economic growth and prosperity through no/low carbon emission electricity generation is the deployment of nuclear power generating stations in low population coastal regions of Australia over the coming decades. Nuclear power plants - as part of a diverse energy policy including efficiency improvements; conservation; and a considerable deployment of credible, demonstrated and available renewable technologies - is the only way Australia can conceivably achieve the targets being discussed at, for example next week's conference in the US state of Hawaii mentioned in the Age report above, without significant negative impact to our industry and economy.

Australia's complete EPI Score

Emissions per capita scores

Emissions per unit electricity generation

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Australia: where too much wind will never be enough

Online Opinion has an article from Tom Quirk refuting claims made by Mark Diesendorf with respect to non-thermal baseload power [in this case wind]. Coal and nuclear power are both 'thermal' power sources.

While I do not like to criticise wind as an energy source - it must be a part of any credible solution to carbon emissions, with nuclear power - I must object when it comes to technical arguments promoting wind as a form of baseload power.

Tom Quirk references numerous objective and diverse datapoints to show - again - how Diesendorf has got it wrong.

The starting point is the broad brush statement in [Diesendorf's] paper that no power supplies are perfectly reliable. This is correct provided you don’t ask about the details. If you did, the devil would point out that there is a difference between a naturally intermittent supply and a supply which trips or goes off line unexpectedly. There is a difference in scale and time. Contemporary distributed electricity systems have devised ways of insuring continuity of supply for the latter events but are struggling to deal with the former. This is not comparing like with like.

...the final point on reliability of supply is that perhaps a geographical dispersal of wind farms will smooth out supply. In principle this is correct as the wind will be blowing somewhere but remote sites require expensive connections.

But the data recorded by NEMMCO for four wind farms in South Australia from north of Port Lincoln to the Victorian border, a distance of about 500km, shows strong correlations for wind output and no significant smoothing of supply. The reliability factor is less than 10 per cent. Even more interesting the Victorian wind farms also show a response correlated to the South Australian wind power output. It is no better in heatwaves which are times of peak demand.

Wind power has, so far, been the front runner for renewable power. But it can be seen that wind power is inappropriate for base load power. Policy makers should proceed cautiously gathering information. Theory should not be allowed to get in the way of experience.

Tom Quirk is Chairman of Virax Holdings Limited, a biotechnology company. He is on the Board of the Institute of Public Affairs. He has been Chairman of the Victorian Rail Track Corporation, Deputy Chairman of Victorian Energy Networks and Peptech Limited as well as a director of Biota Holdings Limited He worked in CRA Ltd setting up new businesses and also for James D. Wolfensohn in a New York based venture capital fund. He spent 15 years as an experimental research physicist, university lecturer and Oxford don.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Taxpayers face $15b power sale sting

NSW taxpayers could be forced to pay more than $15 billion to indemnify private companies bidding for NSW's power assets, a report has found.

Full report from the Sydney Morning Herald

Would you purchase significant fossil based power production assets in the context of a Labor's recent electoral 'mandate', Australia's entry into Kyoto and the coming carbon cap / emissions trading scheme?

...certainly not without some financial guarantees. Looks like these fossil stations may be a bit of a hot potato and the utilities want to make certain they buy a dog with plenty of 'hunt' left in it.

The way I interpret the article, plants may have to shut down due to carbon/emissions caps. This would lead to the utility's financial recovery through the aforementioned indemnity. This would leave the taxpayer $15 billion short AND without adequate power production [and/or failure to meet emissions targets]?

Is this so?

EPA gives green light to uranium mine

Uranium One has received full approval for its mining operations at the Honeymoon mine, north of Olary in far north South Australia, near the western New South Wales city of Broken Hill.

Full report from the ABC.

The Honeymoon Uranium Project is an advanced in situ recovery (ISR) project. The Board of Directors of Uranium One approved the development of the Honeymoon Project in August of 2006. Production is expected to begin in 2008 with a ramp-up to steady state production of 880,000 pounds U3O8 per year. Planned technical processes for uranium extraction have been confirmed through the operation of a demonstration plant and a field leach trial over an 18 month period.

Extraction Method

The basic wellfield design will be based on “7-spot” patterns, which consist of six injection wells arranged in a 20 – 60 metre hexagon, with a centrally located production well. Local variations in pattern size may occur on wellfield margins and where low-permeability ore zones require closer-spaced patterns.The wellfield requires conditioning prior to the commencement of leaching operations to achieve optimum uranium production. Conditioning involves lowering the pH of the ground water in the ore zone to a range of 2.0 to 2.5 (equivalent to the pH of lemon juice). Leach solution will then be introduced into the ore zone via injection wells causing the uranium minerals to be extracted (creating pregnant leach solution).

Approximately 30 production wells will be required to be in operation at any one time in order to meet the process plant design feed requirements. The selected production rate is 400 tonnes per annum U3O8 equivalent which will result in a mine life of between 6 and 7 years.

Processing Method

Pregnant leach solution will be pumped back to surface for processing via the production wells. The process plant will utilize solvent extraction (SX) technology to recover uranium from the pregnant leach solution. The uranium product will consist predominantly of uranium peroxide and will be precipitated from aqueous strip solution from solvent extraction. The uranium product will be de-watered and dried prior to packaging for transport.

More information

In-situ leaching (quicktime video)

In Situ Leach (ISL) Mining of Uranium (UIC Briefing Paper)

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Quantifying a renaissance, what a difference a year makes

The UIC does an excellent job tracking the global nuclear industry. Just one of the may things they do well is produce and trend quantifiable data.

From the UIC reactor page.

Looking back at January 2007 data and comparing that to this month's update, I am encouraged by the global and across the board gains seen by nuclear power.

Specifically in one year, the number of:
  • operating reactors increased from 435 to 439 (just under 1% increase),
  • reactors under construction increased from 28 to 34 (over 21% increase),
  • planned reactors increased from 64 to 93 (over 45% increase) and
  • proposed reactors increased from 153 to 222 (over 45% increase).
Also, for the first time in several years, 2007 saw no [zero] final reactor shutdowns as reported both by the UIC and the IAEA's PRIS database. 2006 had five final closures, there were two in 2005 and another two in 2004.

But we can do better and many would argue that we must.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The wind, the sun—and the atom

A boost for renewables, but nuclear power takes centre stage.

Full article from The Economist

This is another excellent report on, not just nuclear power, but nuclear power's role - with renewables - in the UK's energy future. From a broad perspective, the report efficiently address different attributes to a reasonable degree of detail.

This magazine is quickly becoming my favourite, independent media source for the world-wide consideration of nuclear power.

A few quotes:

Local opinion of nuclear?

"When [Colonel George Smythe, chairman of a nuclear-power discussion group at Dungeness in Kent] asked residents what should replace the closed [nuclear] power station, the most popular answer was a new one."

Impact on renewables?

"Not all the news was nuclear. The bill also sets rules for building more natural-gas storage (as imports replace dwindling domestic supplies) and for developing technology to capture and sequester carbon emissions from fossil-fuel plants. Britain has much potential: natural salt caverns and depleted gas fields could store decades of emissions from Europe.

There was some good news for renewable fans, too,... [see the article].

Gordon Edge, an economist at the British Wind Energy Association, dismisses talk of crowding out. “Building nuclear power plants doesn't have to mean less money for renewables,” he says. “After all, we have a common enemy.”"

UK - Firms get set for new build

Companies involved in the push for new nuclear power in the UK reacted favourably to the government invitation of 10 January to submit their plans for new build.

Full report from World Nuclear News

One whole day after the government's announcement, and companies (yes that's plural) are expressing serious, well developed interest in nuclear new-build in the UK.

Of particular interest:
Shadow business and enterprise minister Alan Duncan welcomed his opposite number's announcement and explained his party's view on nuclear power: that the planning system must be refined; a price for carbon is required for long-term investment; clarity is required on waste and decommissioning; and there should be no subsidy for nuclear power.

Duncan assured business that the investment climate would remain stable under a possible future Conservative government.

This marks a major change over several months, since Conservative leader David Cameron enlisted Ecologist editor Zac Goldsmith as an advisor, resulting in a rash of anti-nuclear sentiment. Goldsmith is now expected to part company with the Conservatives.
Considering there are many parallels with some of these issues and any Australian consideration of nuclear power (bi-partisan support, no subsidies, carbon pricing, etc.) I would not be surprised to hear Rudd making some type of reassuring announcement in the near future. If it happens, fear not, for it is just another step in our own journey from an unjustified and unsustainable energy policy.

Friday, 11 January 2008

UK - Consultation on the Future of Nuclear Power

The consultation is described below along with a link to review the full process.

Nuclear Consultation website

The consultation began on 23 May and ended on 10 October 2007. There were a number of different strands: written and online responses; stakeholder events and deliberative events with the public.

[They] received about 2,700 responses from people or organisations. Some responded to the consultation questions via the website; some completed a paper response form; and others emailed, faxed or sent their views in the post. All these responses can be read on this website.

The only responses not available here are those where the participants specifically requested that their responses be kept confidential.

Thanks to R. Leavitt for the link.

New uranium mine gets go ahead

The South Australian Government has given final approval for construction of the Honeymoon uranium mine, near the state's eastern border.

Full story from ABC.

The mine - expected to begin production in 2008 - is expected to produce up to 400 tonnes of uranium oxide annually, generate about $40 million a year in exports and create about 60 jobs

Thursday, 10 January 2008

UK - New nuclear plants get go-ahead

A new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK has been given formal backing by the government.

Full story from BBC.

The 'greens' are making the same tired claims of too little, too late. However they totally fail to explain France's performance just across the channel.

France has the "lowest carbon footprint in Europe" because of its use of nuclear power.

Pop the champaigne, sparking wine, Crown Lager, or whatever you've got!

Yet another country realising the value of clean, safe, nuclear power as part of a realistic, sustainable, diverse and environmentally friendly energy strategy.

Govt expects nuclear reactor to restart this month

Federal Science Minister Kim Carr has told the operator of Australia's only nuclear reactor he expects them to meet a timetable for restarting it.

Full report from ABC.

Mr Carr has made it clear he expects ANSTO to fulfil the plan to restart the reactor this month.

The report goes on to say ARPANSA (Australia's nuclear regulatory body) is in the process of reviewing OPAL's safety submission for the redesigned fuel. ARPANSA did not provide any indication of an expected completion date for their review.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

British nuclear plans likely to help sway others

Britain is expected to back a new generation of nuclear power plants, adding to the gathering momentum behind atomic energy as part of the solution to the world's energy problems.

See the full report from the ABC.
"Both for CO2 targets and the growing electricity needs of a major OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] country, there are serious gaps unless nuclear power remains an important feature of the UK energy mix," London-based World Energy Council secretary-general Gerald Doucet said.

"It is this belated conclusion which will impact the debate in places like Australia, Italy, Germany and even the USA."

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Recent IAEA report on nuclear power's past and future


2007 IAEA - This report is based on the annual IAEA publication, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2030. It reports on the current status and estimates of energy use, electricity generation and nuclear power generation in various regions of the world for the medium to long term. The estimates are prepared in close collaboration and consultation with several international, regional and national organizations dealing with energy related statistics, such as the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA), the World Bank, the World Nuclear Agency (WNA), the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), as well as several international energy experts. The latest issue is the 27th edition, reporting estimates for the next 24 years using 2006 as the base year.

Friday, 4 January 2008

More nuclear deployment - we're getting closer

The expected launch of a new wave of UK nuclear power plant deployment is sparking acts of desperation from anti-nuclear critics and activists.

Dan at Idaho Shamizdat has an informative post on the anticipated UK announcement regarding a renewed nuclear energy programme.

Almost just as fast, over at the Oil Drum: Europe, Chris Vernon submitted this post about anti-nuke David Fleming's 'concerns' about 'peak uranium'. I gather from this post and the subsequent comments that Fleming is referencing 'Storm and Smith', a uranium / energy balance analysis that has been discredited by, among others Australian, Professor Martin Sevior. There's plenty of economically recoverable uranium out there. For details, see the links below.

These posts and this argument are more good news for nuclear power for a variety of reasons:
  • First, the world is progressing still further through anti-nuclear rhetoric and what I see as pretty much 'junk' science (or at least poor quality / biased science) by, for example Storm Smith. First it was safety. Then following decades of operational excellence, that was grudgingly conceded. Then it was cost and construction time, but now with the true capabilities of renewables becoming better understood, the undefinable lead time of 'clean coal' and the ever increasing costs of gas and oil; nuclear plants on a 10 to 15 year horizon are looking more desirable. So now we have the 'peak uranium' argument. Recall my 'stages of grief' post? This is bargaining, simply a stage in the process.
  • Next, I note the quick rebuttals from the scientific and engineering community. I'm not so certain this would have been as swift or thorough in previous decades. Maybe the Internet has provided a medium where scientific information can be presented fully, without interruption, to a broad and interested audience. If so, this change seems to have liberated individuals who would have previously shared their ideas in papers buried in scientific journals, to close fiends over dinner or via brief chats at cocktail parties. In any case, this is another tick in the 'good' column.
  • Finally, I note the interest level in general. For good or bad, a rapidly growing number of people are interested in nuclear power again and are seeing fit to actually discuss different issues. I look forward to a day [I don't think we're quite there yet] where indignation, and arrogant, dismissive attitudes are, themselves, no longer considered valid anti-nuclear arguments by the general public.
Charles Barton at Nuclear Green shared some information about the further debunking of Storm and Smith [not on his blog - yet. I received it semi-directly]. The below links are courtesy of his research.

For more information:

Storm and Smith debated by Prof Servior and Dr. A. Flintly

Another Oil Drum Post - M. Sevior

U of Melbourn article

Lifecycle of Nuclear Power

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Thorium - addressing non-proliferation and waste management

Thorium Power Ltd. has been working for years to develop a solution to what are often sited as the two remaining challenges facing the global nuclear industry, waste management and non-proliferation.

Thorium fuel is interesting for Australian nuclear ambitions. Not only could it help mitigate the issues above, but it could enable India to achieve it's own nuclear ambitions without the pressure on Australia and other Uranium suppliers. Thorium is about three times more abundant and can be used directly without enrichment - India has plenty of its own [estimated at 13% of global thorium resources].

Thorium does have its own challenges to overcome in the short term. For example, the very features that make it so proliferation resistant [a number of highly radioactive, short lived byproducts] also make processing and recovery of the U-233 fuel difficult. Hence a lot of research in being conducted into developing long life, self breeding fuel assembly designs where processing is not required.

A recent press release of interest.

MCLEAN, VA, Dec 31, 2007 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX News Network) -- Thorium Power, Ltd. (OTCBB: THPW), the leading developer of low-waste, non-proliferative nuclear fuel technology for existing and future reactors, today announced that a new formal agreement has been reached with Russia's Kurchatov Institute relating to the irradiation testing program for the Company's fuel designs, which has been ongoing since 2002. The agreement assigns to Thorium Power Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Thorium Power, Ltd., the worldwide rights, title and interest in and to the technical data generated from the ampoule irradiation testing of seed and blanket fuel samples in the Kurchatov research reactor over the past two years.

Andrey Mushakov, Thorium Power's Executive Vice President for International Nuclear Operations, stated: "The agreement reconfirms our strategic development relationship with the Kurchatov Institute, one of Russia's premier nuclear research institutes. Ampoule irradiation testing is a critical, long lead-time activity in our comprehensive program of technology testing and demonstration activities and it is a vital process that new fuel designs must perform as part of a fuel qualification and regulatory licensing process. The ampoule irradiation testing work continues as expected at the Kurchatov Institute, and this agreement formalizes our rights to valuable technical data necessary for regulatory licensing of our commercial fuel designs."

Seth Grae, Thorium Power's CEO, added: "This agreement continues the excellent working relationship that we have had with the Kurchatov Institute and the Russian government for over a decade. The work under this agreement is an important step towards the demonstration of our fuel designs in a full scale commercial reactor."

About Thorium Power, Ltd.

Based in McLean, VA, Thorium Power, Ltd. is a nuclear energy pioneer and the leading provider of low-waste, non-proliferative nuclear fuel technology for existing and future reactors. The Company's technologies include nuclear fuel designs optimized to address key concerns about traditional nuclear power, including nuclear proliferation and nuclear waste. Thorium Power plans to license its technologies to commercial and government owned reactor operators and nuclear fuel fabricators aiming to benefit from thorium-based fuels. The Company is targeting new reactors in countries without a nuclear industry today, as well as currently operating and new reactors in countries with an established industry. Thorium Power is also leveraging its nuclear technology, business and regulatory expertise and relationships by offering services to commercial entities and governments looking to establish or expand nuclear industry capabilities and infrastructure. In addition to leveraging its International and Technical Advisory Boards comprised of key national and international leaders in the fields of nuclear energy, finance, government affairs, non-proliferation and diplomacy, the Company maintains long-standing relationships with leading Russian nuclear entities, providing expert resources and facilities for its nuclear fuel development activities. To support the implementation of its business model, Thorium Power has plans to form partnerships with various types of participants in the nuclear industry, allowing the Company to address multiple nuclear reactor types internationally.


This press release may include certain statements that are not descriptions of historical facts, but are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements may include the description of our plans and objectives for future operations, assumptions underlying such plans and objectives, statements regarding benefits of the new agreement with Kurchatov and other statements identified by forward-looking terminology such as "may," "expects," "believes," "anticipates," "intends," "expects," "projects" or similar terms, variations of such terms or the negative of such terms. There are a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements made herein. Such information is based upon various assumptions made by, and expectations of, our management that were reasonable when made but may prove to be incorrect. All of such assumptions are inherently subject to significant economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies beyond our control and upon assumptions with respect to the future business decisions which are subject to change. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that actual results will meet expectations and actual results may vary (perhaps materially) from certain of the results anticipated herein. Reference is made to the risk factors contained in our latest annual report as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These factors may cause actual results to vary from the forward-looking statements contained in this release.

Further Information:

ANA / UIC - Thorium briefing paper

WNA - Thorium

Energy from thorium