Friday, 31 December 2010

Neither entertaining, nor helpful


Subsidies for nuclear are bad, but support for renewable energy generation technologies is fine; even if instances of certain renewable technology deployment result in less generation, less reliability, more lifecycle carbon emissions and greater cost per megawatt of GENERATION than nuclear. Is that the point being made here?

Funding? Nonsense! In Germany, nuclear plant operators will enjoy a completely bogus ‘tax’ as a price for their newly approved life extensions (reversal of phase-out policy). Why don’t they just shutdown??? Can’t be that they have a winning economic model that can endure such malarkey and still turn a carbon-free profit…

Oyster Creek?? Spend a few years living in the area and you will discover the local communities fear few things more than the plant’s closure; the loss of many local jobs; the shuttering of many spin-off business that support the plant; and not least of all, the tax revenue supporting local public services. A heavily outnumbered minority of outspoken opponents do not represent the views of the community and it is a farce to represent them as such.

…and that’s just the first paragraph. I can’t bear to continue.

I keep reading Greenpeace articles, looking forward to the day they stop pandering to their quasi-fundamentalist base and produce a contribution to energy/climate issues worthy of serious consideration.

in reference to: Nuclear News: Nuclear Energy Suffers Another Big Blow Greenpeace International (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Renewables AND Nuclear

At its beginning, I found this report frustrating. “Yet another example of a renewables VS. nuclear report,” I thought. But that’s not quite the impression I had at the article’s conclusion. Yes, the two are compared in a tit-for-tat way throughout the past few decades; and yes, there is no mention that most of the ‘renewable’ generation comes from hydro.

However, carbon emissions – and in particular coal – are justifiably portrayed as the bad guys and the report focuses on electricity generated as opposed to the very misleading metric: installed capacity.

The report also mentions the expansion of non-carbon generation in US States with ‘…favorable policies such as renewable energy portfolio standards.’ This highlights the need for responsible and pragmatic policy action and supports the notion that policy action resulting in a price on carbon emissions will accelerate the transition of generation away from carbon intense technologies.

There is no reason to suspect the same is untrue for Australia. And there is certainly no reason to exacerbate a nuclear vs. renewables debate. Considering the amount of carbon-based generation that is to be replaced, as well as the time within which this transition must occur; renewables AND nuclear must both expand considerably.

A price on carbon is the prerequisite mechanism to achieve any credible target.

in reference to: Renewables Share of Energy Rises, Almost Catching up with Nuclear Power (Energy Priorities) (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Diesendorf's Dichotomy

Diesendorf claims that, “talk about the benefits and cost effectiveness of future generation nuclear reactors is still just talk” should be considered when this paper so willingly prints his unfounded praise of renewable power as near-gospel.

Over 30 countries worldwide rely on over 440 operating reactors, while 65 reactors are being built in 15 countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Nuclear energy has provided these countries with affordable energy without the carbon emissions currently challenging Australia’s embarrassingly high per-capita emission record.

Germany tried hard – arguably the best effort worldwide – to rid their economy of carbon emitting energy generation technologies with renewables (while at the same time initiating a phase-out of their nuclear energy stations). With their demonstrated technical ability – they failed. The nuclear phase-out legislation was recently reversed.

Ditto for Denmark and their allegiance to wind. An objective investigation of the facts will show that – on an annual basis – the Danes still rely heavily on fossil fuel compared to their nuclear neighbors in Europe.

Shame on this paper for permitting such unchecked liberty on just one side of the story.


in reference to:

"...while talk about the benefits and cost effectiveness of future generation nuclear reactors is still just talk"
- Nuclear Debate on the Agenda for 2011 Australia Epoch Times (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Regional Update: Korea to displace coal with nuclear and renewables

SEOUL, Tuesday 7 December 2010 (AFP) - South Korea said Tuesday it plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors by 2024 to help meet growing energy needs and cut dependence on fossil fuel.

South Korea, which currently has 20 operational nuclear reactors, will build 14 new facilities to make atomic power the biggest source of energy by 2024, state-run Korea Power Exchange said.

As a result, nuclear energy will provide 48.5% of the nation's energy consumption by the target year from the current 32%, KPE said in a long-term national energy development plan.

Coal is currently the biggest source of energy in South Korea that meets 42% of the nation's energy needs.

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power will also provide 8.9% of the nation's energy needs by 2024 compared with the current 1.3%, it said.

Asia's fourth-largest economy imports 97% of its energy needs from overseas and has moved to cut dependence on fossil fuels and to diversify energy sources.

In October Seoul unveiled a five-year plan to spend 36 billion dollars developing renewable energy as its next economic growth engine, with a goal to become one of the world's five top players in the sector.


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Regional Update - Vietnam

The December 2010 issue of Nuclear Engineering International [NEI] includes a brief update on nuclear energy infrastructure developments in Vietnam. In May and June 2008, I blogged about Vietnam's nuclear ambitions and legislative activities [an early prerequisite to the introduction of nuclear energy within any country]. These posts included some early timeline forecasts and capacity projects for the related projects. Well, what's happened in the past two and one-half years?

Quite a bit.

According to NEI, Vietnam has penned agreements with Atomstroyexport of Russia and a Japanese consortium. Atomstroyexport has been awarded a four-unit, 4,000 MWe site - Ninh Thuan 1. Reactors there are planned to commence operation in 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2024. The Japan won Ninh Thuan 2, similarly four units totalling 4,000 MWe to commence operation in 2021, 2022, 2024 and 2025.

Also reported by NEI is the use of the Vietnam project as a test case within a feasibility study of a new Vietnam-Japan, bi-lateral carbon credit system for nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy projects are not currently recognised for inclusion within the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Labor to debate nuclear? I smell a rat.

Recent news stories have been highlighting some calls from within Labor to debate Australia's potential adoption of nuclear energy.

While this may appear to be delightful news to those who are keen for a nuclear debate. I am reluctant to let my hopes soar.

Nuclear energy lends itself to be a very effective tool of the coal industry when it comes to defending itself from climate change related threats. A price on carbon will - by design - threaten the use of fossil fuels in Australia. Since Australians fear nuclear power even more then escalating electricity prices (something the coal industry would not mind by the way), it's introduction into the national narrative just after government begins making noise about a price on carbon is, to me, too coincidental to be overlooked.

It is too easy for the coal industry and/or the politicians who represent them to stoke national nuclear fears by linking a price on carbon to the deployment of nuclear energy stations 'in your backyard'. But in the end, if there is no price on carbon, all no/low carbon energy sources will continue to suffer deployment delays or significant limitations compared with action required to achieve the emissions reductions deemed necessary by global experts.

Then there's potential political benefits, such as getting the Greens to snuggle up to those in Labor who are 'not quite convinced' of the benefits of nuclear energy.

Whether Labor discusses nuclear energy or not is unimportant. It's being discussed already, albeit not openly. What is critical for Australia's future; including our economic as well as environmental security, is a price on carbon to shift energy production away from the use of carbon emitting energy sources.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Australia's penultimate carbon emissions

It's been over three years and two elections since John Howard pushed for a Nuclear Australia. Since then, we've listened to myriad high profile Australians tell us 'other means' exist to reduce our emissions that are, among other things, every bit as effective and faster than nuclear energy.

A Maplecroft report just released pegs Australia's CO2 emissions due to energy use as an 'Extreme Risk', in the next-to-worst position behind only the UAE. The UAE's recent emission spike due to desalination put them on top; foreshadowing a dire, negative feedback link between climate change and energy demand. Australia's growing reliance on desalination could similarly result in emissions increases from increasing demand.

The UAE is in the process of constructing its first four nuclear energy stations.

Australia, last year’s worst performing nation, remains ahead of USA on per capita emissions with 20.82 tCO2 per person against 19.18 tCO2 per person for the USA. A vast majority of Australia’s electricity is sourced from coal (44.5%), which is a key factor in Australia’s per capita emissions and the carbon intensity of energy in the country, which is 20% higher than the global average. USA (3) and Canada (4) both achieved decreases in emissions per capita of 3.13% and 8.92% respectively, as well as reductions of 1.2% and 7.12% in their annual emissions from energy use. However, both countries remain extreme risk in the index.
Consider nuclear energy.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Green Opposition To Nuclear Has Led To More CO2, Say Environmentalists

4 Nov (NucNet): Green opposition to nuclear energy has led to one billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) being pumped into the atmosphere, according to environmentalists who have changed their minds over nuclear power.

In a documentary being broadcast on UK television network Channel 4 tonight, a number of high-profile activists have spoken out in favour of nuclear energy.

Like other green campaigners including James Lovelock, author of ‘The Gaia Theory’, Mark Lynas said the necessity for a constant supply of clean energy has led him to “come out” as a supporter of nuclear technology.

He said in the past the conservationist movement “blindly opposed” nuclear because of the link to nuclear weapons, meaning that the world has continued to rely on dirty fossil fuels.

“Green anti-nuclear campaigning has already added to the atmospheric stock of carbon dioxide, probably to the tune of more than a billion tonnes,” he said. “Why? Because nuclear plants, which were opposed by greens in the 1970s and 1980s, were replaced by coal plants.

“In hindsight that was obviously a mistake, but it is one that today’s environmental lobby groups seem determined to repeat.”

Mr Lynas said: “The documentary follows me as I visit Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, and discover that wildlife in the area is thriving, and that the effects of the radioactive contamination on people are much less serious than previously thought.

“That is what the science says, yet many green groups continue to spread myths about tens of thousands of people dying because of Chernobyl when the actual death toll so far – according to a major UN report published in 2006 – has likely been only around 65.

”He added: “My view, as one of the contributors to the film, is simple: the greens can dish it out, but they can’t take it. This is a real debate and the environment movement needs to tackle it head-on rather than asserting that all challenges must be part of some imagined evil conspiracy.”

According to Channel 4, the main protagonists argue in the film that the advantages to nuclear energy of it being a low-carbon or zero-carbon technology now outweigh the disadvantages, that the risk from nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl have been overstated and that greens should accept nuclear power as part of the UK’s energy mix.

Mark Lynas’ blog is at

Source: NucNet

I believe the episode will be viewable on the web after it broadcasts via the below linked page.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Comparing emissions performance

I found a detailed statistical report [data up through 2007] that some may find interesting.

Without going too deep into statistics [a topic I enjoy, but understand if others do not]; lets just compare Australia to the USA with respect to emission performance. The report contains data going back to the 1970's; but is framed to compare data from 1990 through 2007 as a measurement against the Kyoto Protocol.

So, where to start? "How can a nation of just over 20 million be compared to another with a population 15 times greater?" One way is to level the data. Comparing emissions per unit GDP [per $ made in our economy], per unit of energy supplied, or per capita [per person] are fair means to level the pitch.

So, just looking at total emissions; how did both nations perform?

In 2007, the USA released 5,769 million tonnes of CO2 to Australia's 396 million tonnes. This doesn't sound too bad for Australia, right? But compared to 1990 data, the USA's emissions increased 18.6% while Australia's leapt by 52.5%; not so respectable.

"But, Australia's economy was booming then, population was growing and, while we were building coal and gas stations during that time, the energy industry told us they were super efficient, designed to reduce emissions, right?" Let's see.

The USA's total primary energy supply in 2007 was 97,969 petajoules, up 22% from 1990. Data for Australia is 5,194 petajoules, up 43.9% from 1990. "So what? Australia's energy demand grew faster, but this was necessary to keep pace with the economy, etc." We must compare emissions per unit of energy supplied to determine if this growth was managed responsibly.

So, the USA cranked out 59 tonnes CO2 per each terajoule of energy supplied in 2007. Australia produced 76 tonnes CO2 per terajoule; not good at all. Looking at performance since 1990, Australia's emissions per unit energy supplied grew by 6%,. The USA beat us here as well, cutting their emissions per unit energy supplied by 3%. This means the USA is installing new capacity that generates less emissions to make the same amount of energy, while Australia headed in the opposite direction, actually getting worse. In my opinion, Australia fails the responsibility test.

"Okay, we've lost the efficiency battle, but what about the growth of our economy?"

The USA's 2007 gross domestic product [GDP] was $11,468 billion while Australia's was $667 billion [US dollars equivalent to the value in 2000 - for data of both countries]. Growth from 1990 was 63% for the USA and 81% for Australia. Looking at emissions per unit GDP is a measure of enviro-economic efficiency, i.e. "Can we make money without generating emissions?" The good news is that both nations improved in this area, the bad news is the USA's emissions per unit GDP fell by 27% while Australia's came down only 16%. Bested again.

The final metric for this post is a simple, man-to-man, toe-to-toe size up. Divided into equal shares for each man, woman and child; what is your share of emissions? Sitting in the USA, you were responsible for 19.1 tonnes of CO2 in 2007 [a large number] - down 1.8% from 1990 [but headed in the right direction at least]. Watching the footy in Australia, you cranked out 18.8 tonnes in 2007, up a whopping 23.9% from 1990. Shameful.

I could have cherry-picked a comparison between heavily nuclear France or Sweden. Had I done so, the results would have been even more embarrassing.

Complete details may be found in the OECD/IEA report - CO2 Emissions From Fuel Combustion.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Political Party - Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy Australia

Reportage has posted a very balanced report on a non-aligned, pro-environment, pro-nuclear and pro-renewables Australian political party. Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy - Australia is linked to the international environmental organisation - Environmentalists for Nuclear (or EFN-International).

Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy - Australia

If you have your doubts about Australia's current tack with respect to emissions, you may wish to have a read of the Reportage page and then the EFNE-Australia web page.

Any real chance to significantly deploy (or accelerate the deployment of) no / low carbon emission technologies in Australia will be driven by a continuing shift of public attitudes to the point where they impact the actions of policy makers. Based in the information linked above, EFNE-Australia seems committed to taking tangible, pragmatic action to achieve that end.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Paper reactors, real reactors - Rickover

I imagine I've frustrated a nuclear advocate or two with a few posts and/or comments in this blog and elsewhere. I further guess that this post could very well fall into the category, but that is not my objective; nor is my intent to point a finger at any person or group in particular other than those specifically called out below. I only wish to point to some wise advice from a very accomplished man. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but from my perspective, tangible accomplishments (i.e. building something from nothing to solve a significant problem or provide for a great societal need) goes a very long way toward earning my respect and admiration.

That being said, I’d like to share the words of Hyman Rickover. Many US Nuclear Navy servicemen (active, or particularly non-active/retired) love the guy. I’m not that far out on the spectrum, but I do respect his accomplishments as well as his respect for demonstrated achievement.

One of Rickover’s letters (or possibly a congressional testimony) is copied below, word for word and reflects my own experience as an Engineer with a few decades of nuclear industry experience (reactor O&M and capital projects management).

But its relevance goes far beyond the nuclear industry. One can apply academic-practical tests to a number of energy related issues of the day (i.e. the projections / promises of a number of renewable energy advocates vs. the experiences of Germany; clean coal efforts in the USA; etc.).

Next, try to imagine the introduction of politics (i.e. the political low carbon energy deployment plan vs. the practical low carbon energy deployment plan).

Finally, please bear in mind that this letter was written at a time of general nuclear optimism - especially within the general public. In today's context, the same academic-practical disconnect applies equally to those who repeatedly over-inflate nuclear related risk a la Caldicott, Lovins, etc.

June 5, 1953

Important decisions about the future development of atomic power must frequently be made by people who do not necessarily have an intimate knowledge of the technical aspects of reactors. These people are, nonetheless, interested in what a reactor plant will do, how much it will cost, how long it will take to build and how long and how well it will operate. When they attempt to learn these things, they become aware of confusion existing in the reactor business. There appears to be unresolved conflict on almost every issue that arises.

I believe that this confusion stems from a failure to distinguish between the academic and the practical. These apparent conflicts can usually be explained only when the various aspects of the issue are resolved into their academic and practical components. To aid in this resolution, it is possible to define in a general way those characteristics which distinguish the one from the other.

An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose (“omnibus reactor”). (7) Very little development is required. It will use mostly “off-the-shelf” components. (8) The reactor is in the study phases. It is not being built now.

On the other hand, a practical reactor plant can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of the engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.

The tools of the academic-reactor designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone can see it.

The academic-reactor designer is a dilettante. He has not had to assume any real responsibility in connection with his projects. He is free to luxuriate in the elegant ideas, the practical shortcomings of which can be relegated to the category of “mere technical details.” The practical-reactor designer must live with these same technical details. Although recalcitrant and awkward, they must be solved and cannot be put off until tomorrow. Their solutions require manpower, time and money.

Unfortunately for those who must make far-reaching decisions without the benefit of an intimate knowledge of reactor technology and unfortunately for the interested public, it is much easier to get the academic side of an issue than the practical side. For a large part those involved with the academic reactors have more inclination and time to present their ideas in reports and orally to those who will listen. Since they are innocently unaware of the real but hidden difficulties of their plans, [t]hey speak with great facility and confidence. Those involved with practical reactors, humbled by their experiences, speak less and worry more.

Yet it is incumbent on those in high places to make wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is consequently incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forthrightly as possible. Although it is probably impossible to have reactor ideas labelled as “practical” or “academic” by the authors, it is worthwhile for both the authors and the audience to bear in mind this distinction and to be guided thereby.

Yours faithfully,

H. G. Rickover
Naval Reactors Branch
Division of Reactor Development
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Dr. James Hansen in Melbourne

''I don't intend to be telling Australia what they should do for their energy source except that they can't continue to burn coal without screwing everybody..."

''And exporting coal, and increasing exports of coal, is almost equivalent to being a drug dealer to the world.''

James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies

source: the Sydney Morning Herald

Friday, 15 January 2010

Videos on Ionizing radiation

Today, I received a kind Email from a Mr Georg Herlitz, a Swede, who has just completed a project to develop some nuclear information, education and instruction videos of potential interest.
Swedish version
English version

Thanks for the Email Georg. Your embedded video is also included below.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

ROK-on! South Korea

In a recent speech, ANSTO CEO, Dr. Adi Paterson, suggested the global nuclear industry is passing Australia by, and in permitting it to do so, Australia is missing a significant opportunity.

Based on Ian’s comment in the post immediately below, I began to dig around for information on Korea’s nuclear industry. I stumbled upon an August 2009 report, Nuclear Technology and Economic Development in the Republic of Korea. It details the results of Korea’s investments in nuclear infrastructure and human capacity development. Winning recent bids for US $20 billion (possibly $40 billion) in nuclear power plant contacts in the UAE and a research reactor in Jordan are the latest tangible outcomes of their efforts.

A few quotes:

…Over the past four decades, the Republic of Korea has become one of the world’s leading nuclear power countries, with 20 nuclear power plants in commercial operation at the end of 2005, comprising a total generating capacity of 17.5 GW(e). Increasing national participation in the nuclear industry has meant the steadily increased use of locally produced material and domestic staff resources. Meaningful national participation in nuclear power plant construction requires the existence of a capable construction industry; medium and heavy manufacturing including cement, steel, machinery and equipment and chemicals; as well as competency in other services such as civil engineering, quality assurance control and testing; and specialized manpower training including engineering and managerial skills. Domestic industries gradually became the main suppliers to and main contractors for the nuclear power programme…

The industrial sectors that benefited from nuclear power plant construction changed over time as the commercial nature of the construction evolved from imported turn-key plants to greater technological self-sufficiency. For example, before 1990, only two major industrial sectors received significant value added from nuclear power: electric power plant construction, and finance and insurance. After 1990, as the Republic of Korea approached technological self-sufficiency in nuclear power plant construction, the number of sectors affected increased to include primary metal products, general machinery and equipment, electronic and other electric equipment, and business services. The general machinery and equipment sector was the most affected for the years 1990 and 1995, reflecting large expenditures in this sector for new plants.

There are four nuclear power plant sites in Republic of Korea. Each of the host communities has benefited from the construction and operation of these plants. These benefits include tax revenues, financial contributions in terms of local expenditures by the plant for salaries, social contributions and investments, and infrastructure development.

External benefits, like the more familiarly known external costs, are those that the public incurs but that are not included in the cost of production (in the generation cost in the case of nuclear power) and hence are not in the price of the product (electricity). External benefits of nuclear power are thus in a sense by-products of nuclear power generation. Many external benefits often occur in the form of avoided external or even internalized costs. Nuclear power generation, for example, to the extent that it replaces thermal generation, significantly reduces the external costs of air pollution and GHG emissions associated with fossil fuel combustion.

Similarly, nuclear power generation creates benefits in terms of enhanced security of energy supply, and in terms of electricity price stability. Although private investors will make their decisions based largely on internalized costs, government investors and policy makers may wish to make and to affect decisions based on both internalized and external costs. Government decisions can include both public investment and regulatory decisions. With increasing pressure on the environment and human health, regulatory measures increasingly incorporate these externalities in such a way that the external costs are appropriately internalized, i.e., reflected in the cost of production. Governments can thus indirectly affect private investment choices.

No form of energy production or use is without an environmental impact on a life cycle basis. This is true for all energy chains: from extracting resources, building facilities, and transporting material through the final conversion to useful energy services. The traditional air pollutants associated with fossil fuel combustion are principally sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and suspended particulate matter (PM); GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion include most notably CO2 and methane (CH4). Trace elements and heavy metals, like arsenic and mercury are also associated with coal combustion. Nuclear power plants emit virtually none of these air pollutants associated with fossil fuel combustion. Hence, a major environmental benefit of nuclear power is a significant avoidance of the costs associated with both air pollution and GHG emissions.

These avoided external costs can be difficult to quantify and convert to monetary values; any valuation process remains subjective, and results vary across countries. Despite the uncertainties and the national differences in valuation of externalities, however, several major studies have sought to estimate the external costs of air pollution associated with different electricity generating technologies. Perhaps best known is the ExternE project (providing global and standardized assessments) sponsored by the European Union and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. A comparison is provided of the external costs estimated by ExternE over time and for different electricity generating technologies. [see report for graphical data]

…nuclear electricity generating costs are less sensitive to changes in fuel prices than are the costs of fossil fired generation. Although the benefits to the economy of the Republic of Korea of the opportunity for lower electricity prices from nuclear power were not estimated, it was noted that insulation from price volatility — another avoided cost — is a positive benefit of nuclear power. The trebling of uranium prices in 2006–2007 resulted in only a 6–8% difference in nuclear power generating costs, while a doubling of international fossil fuel prices translates into generation cost increases of about 35–45% for coal fired electricity and 70–80% for natural gas. Since the competitiveness of nuclear power depends in part on the economics of fossil fuel alternatives, such rising fossil fuel prices tend to improve nuclear power’s competitive standing.

Conversely, Australia opted not to pursue nuclear technologies at about the same time (~1970s). Based on public comments, there seems to be little chance of policy changes in the near future.

How has that decision worked out for us?

Thrust a spade into Terra Australis and you’ll probably be able to sell the contents. This has led to the development of a wombat economy (dig/sell). Our top 25 Exports in the fiscal year 2008/09 are listed below.

Rank, Commodity ($ billion, % growth from 2007/08)

1 Coal ($54.7, 123.9%) – Fossil Fuel
2 Iron ore & concentrates ($34.2, 66.9%)
3 Gold ($17.5, 42.7%)
4 Education-related travel services ($16.6, 22.7%)
5 Personal travel (excl education) services ($11.7, -2.8%)
6 Natural gas ($10.1, 72.3%) – Fossil Fuel
7 Crude petroleum ($8.3, -14.0%) – Fossil Fuel
8 Aluminium ores & conc (incl alumina) ($6.1, 3.3%)
9 Aluminium ($5.3, -3.9%)
10 Beef, f.c.f. ($5.0, 14.4%)
11 Wheat ($4.9, 71.0%)
12 Professional services ($3.7, 12.2%)
13 Passenger transport services ($3.7, -11.3%)
14 Medicaments (incl veterinary) ($3.6, 1.8%)
15 Copper ores & concentrates ($3.6, -13.4%)
16 Technical & other business services (3.4, -2.6%)
17 Copper ($2.8, -13.9%)
18 Refined petroleum (2.8, -23.3%) – Fossil Fuel
19 Business travel services ($2.7, -0.4%)
20 Passenger motor vehicles ($2.7, -20.8%)
21 Alcoholic beverages ($2.6, -6.9%)
22 Other transportation services ($2.4, -5.7%)
23 Meat (excl beef), f.c.f. ($2.3, 14.1%)
24 Telecom, computer & information services ($2.1, 12.1%)
25 Wool & other animal hair (incl tops) ($2.0, -19.2%)

With respect to our technical / industrial capacity, what does Australia manufacture that significantly contributes to our economy via large scale exports? Where is there evidence of sustained technological innovation or engineering excellence (large production volumes at sustained high quality and competitive cost)? Apparently, not much. Removing services, agricultural products, basic and raw materials leaves:

14 Medicaments
18 Refined petroleum
20 Passenger motor vehicles
21 Alcoholic beverages

Looking beyond our wombat like export tendencies, the Australian economy is heavily service oriented. Professional and Technical Services ranks very high in the value added list of Australian business sectors. Examine Australian business data (MS Excel) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics; not much requiring cutting-edge global technology leadership or robust industrial capacity; not much to counter the points made by Adi Paterson.

Australia is a country with many people who 'know', whereas the Koreans are a people who 'do'. Coincidentally, humanity stands at the dawn of a period in our collective history where an unprecedented amount of complex and highly technical work needs to get 'done'. With 40 years of demonstrated nuclear expertise, Korea seems well positioned to take advantage of a sizable opportunity.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Options for Australia's first NPP

Should Australia decide to price carbon emissions at a level where power producers begin to shift significantly away from fossil fuels, nuclear power will become economically competitive in Australia. Assuming this shift begins within the next five years and Australia does opt for nuclear power, we will construct an established Gen-III/III+ design, imported from a long time ally.

Why import?

For the same reason the HIFAR research reactor was imported fifty-some years ago (British DIDO design), the OPAL reactor was imported about ten years ago (INVAP / Argentina) and ANSTO's PETNET design was imported more recently. Australia does not have large-scale nuclear (NSSS, and nuclear A&E) design capability. Such capabilities are developed over decades. It could be done in Australia (or most other countries for that matter), but if energy supply and emissions reductions are the goal - such development is not on the optimised path.

However, Australia has recently and repeatedly demonstrated our ability to manage and implement large-ish nuclear projects with regard to project implementation and independent regulatory oversight. We have also demonstrated our ability to safely, reliably and efficiently operate and maintain nuclear facilities.


When nuclear power is cost competitive with other generation options, our uniquely Australian political challenges will remain. Opting for a design that has been built and operated several times in different countries provides a necessary degree of assurance against politically motivated claims of unknown costs, safety risks, or questions about operational reliability. Attempting to develop an unproven design here would expose would be investors to the associated unknowns of schedule delays, cost overruns or performance uncertainties. It is for this reason that nuclear design endeavours are usually scaled up through a series of increasingly larger demonstration projects.

An established design also brings with it prior regulatory approvals. This is not to imply a guarantee of Australian approval, but does provide added confidence in the review process.

Why an ally?

Consider the political baggage if Australia selected a Russian reactor design. Add to this the history of Russia using energy security as an instrument of foreign policy (every reactor requires a secure supply of highly technical spare parts for decades).

Furthermore, regulatory review and approval experience with a given design in the USA, Canada, the UK, Japan, Korea, etc. could reassure potential investors of our ability to adequately manage project implementation risks (i.e. schedule and cost control).

Why Gen-III/III+?

First, I've listed it as "III/III+" because the line between the two can be blurred depending on where you look. The designs I refer to include (not meant to be exhaustive and listed alphabetically by company):

Some are operating today, others are being built and the rest are being marketed. The list may grow as other companies / countries enter the international nuclear power plant supply market (AECL's ACR-1000, B&W's mPower, China's CAP-1000, etc.); but these GenIII/III+ newcomers will take some time to pass the 'established' test and therefore are beyond the scope of this post.

Next, as I've explained above, the design must be established. I fully support advanced nuclear research and development. I believe Australia should waste no time increasing its involvement in such efforts. However, the scope of this post is directed and the near-term displacement of fossil energy generation. And therefore, established, shovel-ready designs are required.

With respect to fast / Gen-IV reactors; the OECD produced an excellent report - Nuclear Development Strategic and Policy Issues Raised by the Transition from Thermal to Fast Nuclear Systems (88 pages, ISBN 9789264060654). In this report and several others, 2040 is projected as an estimated time frame of fast reactor deployment. The report details other challenges such as prerequisite infrastructure requirements that make Australia seem unlikely as a location for early Gen-IV deployment.

Gen-IV's likely time-line strengthens Australia's case for Gen-III/III+.