Friday, 23 October 2009

Fossil fuel waste vs nuclear waste

Joseph Romm's recent post at the Energy Collective references this report from the National Research Council on the impact of fossil fuel use. The report works to monetise the impact and Romm quotes US $120 Billion annual cost from the use of fossil fuel in America. And that does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize.

US $120 Billion annual impact - just in the USA. And it's supposed to get much worse by 2030.

Comparing this to - say - the cost of the Yucca Mountain project, or other back-end fuel cycle management options such as the Integral Fast Reactor or other Gen-IV designs being developed to consume rather than sacrifice the energy remaining in nuclear waste - the cost of nuclear waste management appears to be a much easier pill to swallow. This NY Times article quotes the current cost of Yucca Mountain at just over US $10 Billion and the entire nuclear waste fund at US $22 Billion (after 40 years of commercial nuclear power in the USA).

One can imagine the thought of 100% internalisation of waste costs to the fossil fuel energy industry is just a bit unsettling to a fair few boardrooms around Australia and around the World. Perhaps some corporate attention will be (is being?) invested to resist calls to internalise such costs.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

4,000 MWe Fossil for NSW

Hat tip to Rising Tide Australia.

Further evidence that saying no to nuclear, results in more fossil fueled power plants. The NSW Planning website contains project concepts for 4,000 MWe of electricity generation capacity in the form of:

2,000 MWe Bayswater B Power Station

2,000 MWe Mount Piper Power Station Extension

The above links will direct you to the online submission web pages. If you've got something to say, submissions close October 26.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dr Jim Green's reply

Precisely 30 months and 1 day ago, I published my thoughts about Dr Jim Green and Friends of the Earth. Today, I am very please to have received the below reply.

Jim Green said...

hi, the point about Patrick Moore is that his connections to and payments from the Nuclear Energy Institute are too infrequently acknowledged by Moore, by other nuclear advocates (e.g. Hore-Lacy/UIC) or by the media.

As for pro-nuclear environmentalists, I think you have named most of them. More on that at

I can think of quite a few nuclear advocates turned opponents - indeed there are quite a few in the EnergyScience Coalition alone.

As for trends in the industry, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Reports are

cheers, Jim

I decided to bring the discussion up to the front of the blog to more publicly thank Jim for his comment and in particular his willingness to engage in some type of dialogue. In the time that has passed since I began this blog in early 2007, no anti-nuclear campaigners or even people slightly skeptical of the technology have posted a reply or critique of a single post.

We still don't agree. I won't complain about that so long as we are communicating. Too often, issue based blogs and web pages are visited only by those who endorse the author's opinion. But without some sort of civil dialogue, the blog or site becomes a micro-culture's echo chamber of limited value. Barry Brook's BraveNewClimate blog has done an excellent job of avoiding this pitfall and I note that Jim has commented there as well.

So, on to Jim's comment.

Thanks for not highlighting me for going easy on Patrick Moore. I took what I think was a fairly hard opinion - similar to NNadir at DailyKos - that putting too much emphasis on Moore's current opinion gives unjustified credibility to Greenpeace. Rather than focus on one person, I prefer to note the more recent trend.

As for pro-nuclear environmentalists - several others have come on to my radar since my post in 2007. These include, Australia's Prof Barry Brook [mentioned above]; (UK) Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; (UK) Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency; (UK) Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society’s science book of the year; and (UK) Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate. [See this post for details]. Then there are the calls for nuclear from the AWU's Paul Howes and American author and former anti-nuclear campaigner Gwyneth Cravens, who now regrets her support of the anti-nuclear power movement. Ms Cravens describes her 10 year transition from anti-nuclear campaigner to nuclear advocate in a recent book and a related video linked here.

If anyone knows of others, please add them in a comment (with links please) so I may update the list.

I regret that Jim did not list any specific transitions in the other direction in recent years (say, that last 4). The energyscience website was not working (i.e. I was unable to access it).

I read the 2007 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. I was disappointed to see wind discussed with nuclear in terms of 'capacity' as opposed to actual energy generated (pg 6). I believe such discussions contribute negatively (i.e. add confusion rather than clarity) to policy discussions. There have also been a number of plant life extensions granted in the US alone to challenge the discussion of anticipated plant life on pg 9 and in the conclusion. However, I do agree with concerns expressed with respect to financing, human resource needs and supporting infrastructure / construction capability. However, none if these challenges significantly threaten the expansion of nuclear power's use over the coming decades.

I note the the OECD/IEA has just released an excerpt from the 2009 World Energy Outlook. In the excerpt, the IEA forecasts the required contribution from (and investment in) an array of technologies to achieve energy related emission reductions in support of a 450 Scenario. In this report, nuclear plays a significant role globally (obviously, to varying degree within different countries), despite being challenged to maintain the current level of generation in the context of an ageing worldwide operational fleet. This is shown in Figure 3 of the report by comparing the relative change in abatement between 2020 and 2030 (increase by a factor of 2.8) vs the required investment (an increase by a factor of 3.9). This reflects the need to build new plants to replace older facilities that will be shutdown at the end of their design lives. So the investment is necessary to maintain the same abatement level.

WEO 2009 Excerpt - Figure 3 World energy-related CO2 emissions abatement

Recent reports indicate more nuclear phase outs are being reversed. Belgium and Germany are now working to reverse their phase out programmes. Just in Europe, the list now includes these two countries plus Sweden and Italy. In the UK, a more indirect / passive phase out policy has been replaced by the investment of considerable resources into a new build program. Even a small training reactor at the Imperial College of London is being 'un-decommissioned' to support the development of human resources to support that effort. Those who doubt the reemergence of genuine interest in nuclear power are ignoring a constantly increasing amount of data.

I hope that Jim's comment reflects a more forward looking perspective; one that acknowledges an increasing role of nuclear technology over the coming decades as the marginal risks from nuclear power's use are weighed against those of other issues such as climate change, peak oil, and the threat of energy supplies being used as an instrument of foreign policy (e.g. Russia's repeated demonstration of their willingness to cut gas supply to Europe). There is an opportunity for Jim and other anti-nuclear campaigners to remain engaged on a proactive and productive level; contributing real ideas to ensure safety levels continue to improve, non-proliferation measures are made more resilient, acceptable interim and long term waste management programmes are implemented, transparency is enhanced, etc. Maybe I'm dreaming a bit here; but the opportunity is certainly there. Just look at the void Barry Brook as filled.