Monday, 16 April 2012

Are generation technologies equally considered?

I'm curious about your opinion. Please tick an answer in the poll to the right and share your thoughts below.

Are those who we trust to lead us properly considering the risk burden from spent nuclear fuel, unabated release of carbon dioxide, hydro station dam failure, and wind turbine installation and maintenance?

What about the risk of a nuclear accident vs. the failure of a fly ash storage pond?

Do those considerations justly and completely consider likelihood as well as consequence? Is this based on real events or estimates and calculations?


  1. Sir,when the common man thinks about the word nuclear,he looks at images of atom bombs and defiant countries like iran and north korea.ironically,nuclear energy can be very positive having high potential to generate electricity and power for cars.scientists like you are bringing the benefits of nuclear energy to the common man through blogs are really praiseworthy.

  2. Thanks. An effort to educate seems to make sense. Conceptually speaking; what are risk, likelihood and consequence? How can a lay person come to really know and understand quantified risks (i.e. likelihood and consequence) from different energy generation technologies? I see a lot of tunnel-vision and it's a serious part of the problem.

  3. Sir,a risk is the potential of a substance or thing to be dangerous to man.a likelihood basically is the predicted result of a development like nuclear energy.a likelihood though certain in many cases can be said to have only is open to the interpretation of new scientific technology of every new day.a consequence however,is more concrete with proofs,i believe.a laymen can understand this by closely following science,by developing a genuine interest and with help from scientists especially getting a simplified explanation on scientific terms and processes.hope that australia would follow the likes of france in nuclear energy.

  4. Fukushima has shown the world that nuclear power is NOT an option.

    We will have a Chernobyl, TMI or Fukushima every 11-15 years.

    The world has lost 1,000 square kilometers of land FOREVER because of Chernobyl.

    Thorium is as deadly as uranium when dug up. Leave it in the ground.

    Base loads can be attained as in Spain and we must put all our knowledge and research into renewables.

    Australia has said NO to nuclear.

  5. No to nuclear.

  6. You can be optimistic after Chernobyl but you would have to be stupid after Fukushima.

    No to Nuclear.

  7. Us common folks may understand more than you think. Some of the worlds Scientist are changing their minds about nuclear energy. They are saying it is, to quote, "inherently dangerous". There are too many risks and the size of the risks are too large to consider nuclear energy at this point.

  8. Fukushima is not over yet. Chernobyl is not over yet.

    Why would we want more?

    And we are hoping to see some comments from the other side?
    At least four have been registered.
    If you don't accept Anonymous then say so.

  9. First and foremost, I am not a fear-mongerer. I just want to know the truth and facts. I like to be aware of everything that goes on. If you perceive the following words as fear-mongering, then you're in denial and trying to escape from reality. We can't all run forever. There comes a time when we have to take a stand before it's too late, or we'll be forced to watch as the world around us burns.

    Percentage of risk aside, nuclear energy is a disaster waiting to happen. It's only a matter of when. I would only support nuclear energy if we had reliable methods to neutralize and balance out any problems that might ever result from its use. As things are now, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WE CAN DO in the face of a nuclear disaster. This has been proven several times already. Clearly, it is not "safe". We should not be using technology that we can't handle responsibly or reverse the negative effects of.

    Here's an analogy: Nuclear energy is very much like playing Russian Roulette. You might be able to avoid the bullet for a while, but when your luck runs out, the bullet will kill you and you can't bring yourself back to life. That's not even including an analogy to the slow poisoning of the environment through radioactive waste. Now, imagine this on a massive scale that could potentially affect millions to billions of lives and render large areas of the planet unusable for hundreds to thousands of years. That is the scale of danger we are risking by using current nuclear energy technology. Is it REALLY worth that risk? Personally, I don't think so.

    Don't forget that this technology is not even a century old. People think we've survived for thousands of years, but they forget that none of this technology existed in the past. We are living in unique times and virtually everything we use on a daily basis is uncharted territory. In the past few decades, there have already been several nuclear accidents. Only people with a very poor scope of reality would seriously think that humans can responsibly maintain such a technology for long periods. We are playing with powers we can't fully control.

    Here are some points to refute uneducated and ignorant claims about radiation. Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
    - Internal radiation exposure is far more dangerous than external exposure. You cannot compare X-rays or UV rays to nuclear contamination.
    - There are many kinds of radiation. The radiation we're exposed to on a daily basis is non-ionizing radiation, which is relatively "safe".
    - Our understanding of radiation is still limited. There are unlimited numbers of ways for radiation to irreversibly contaminate us, and it is difficult and expensive to detect and protect from. It doesn't help that industries turn a blind eye to all of this to protect their profits.
    - Radiation damages DNA and results in mutations. Think of it like a scratched CD or a damaged hard drive. The data might be recoverable, but it's forever corrupted. That's what radiation does to the genetic information of us, our children, the environment and the creatures around us. Our bodies will forget what organs to grow, where they should go, how many there should be, what size they should be, etc. As you can imagine, this results in grotesque deformations, and is already happening. Google the images if you want.
    - As far as I know, even if you can cure cancers or illnesses you might get from radiation, there's no way to repair damaged DNA. We're effectively corrupting the blueprints of life on a worldwide scale.

    Again, are the benefits of nuclear energy really worth all of this risk? I don't think so. I would seek alternatives.

    tl;dr - It's been proven that humans can't responsibly control nuclear energy, or reverse any of its negative effects. Accidents are waiting to happen. The short-term benefits simply aren't worth the risks of long-term worldwide contamination and genetic deformation.

  10. Sorry for the delays, I was out of town on business... with NO access to the Internet.

    I've never shied away from the risks associated with the application of Nuclear Energy. I just believe other risks are likely to result in more severe consequences should Nuclear Energy continue to be rejected in Australia and elsewhere. Regarding the aftermath of Chernobyl and Fukushima; the vast majority of Scientists are, for example, projecting far greater devastation from climate change if emissions are not cut to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

    Does anyone really care?

    Many weep for ~100,00 Japanese displaced by the nuclear reactor accident at the Daiichi plant; but do not seem so concerned for the ~200,000 others displaced by the tsunami alone.

    No deaths have been linked to the release of radiation in Japan, yet few 'activists' worldwide seem concerned about ~20,000 killed or missing from the tsunami there, the thousands who die every year mining coal in China alone, or the even greater number of deaths attributed to particulate and mercury emission from the burning of coal.

    'Environmentalists' worldwide claim combinations of renewables, conservation and efficiency are enough to manage global emissions and provide secure energy supply; while no country has proven their ability to do so without massive hydro-power resources or routine energy backup/import potential from a neighbour [neither being an option for Australia].

    Australia may go nuclear, we may not... All I am saying is that if we don't, the likelihood of us cutting our emissions to any sustainable level are nothing more than wishful thinking. Emotive rhetoric and wishful techno-esque reports from academia (based on pseudo-science and cherry-picked data) are all I've every seen to the contrary.

    And yes, I'd love to have a nuclear energy station in my backyard (again).

  11. There are many in Japan that would swap your house for theirs. I would suggest then you buy a house in the contaminated area and test your theory and move to Fukushima. Children need to relocate to other places so please volunteer to swap houses.

    "Such catastrophic accidents can be expected to occur every 12–15 years."

  12. "Such catastrophic accidents can be expected to occur every 12–15 years."

  13. Nuclear Energy: Toxic, Expensive and Not Carbon Neutral

  14. House-swap? Deal. The dose limits for those zones are set pretty conservatively. If you can make that happen, I'd do it... provided you agree to work in a Chinese coal mine (equal hours and conditions to local employees).

    I'll wager I'd outlive you by decades...

    I don't understand why I must keep repeating this. I accept the risks associated with nuclear. Why won't you accept those linked to coal? Coal is more dangerous; freely emits unregulated, invisible, tasteless, toxic particles and chemicals; and results in tens-, if not hundreds-, of thousands of ACTUAL deaths worldwide every year. Yet, as Prof. James Hansen said, "There are no 'No Coal' marches". I am as unable to comprehend this as he was. The hypocrisy is excruciating and so obvious to those who make a minimal effort to examine that data more broadly and objectively.

    I'll continue to post your comments, should you choose to make them (unlike anti-nuclear sites that systematically reject anything contrary to their doctrine - more hypocrisy). Coal projects are in progress here... and, by campaigning against nuclear, you are indirectly helping them succeed as well as advocating for more projects in the future. If I am wrong, please point to a single developed, low per-capita emission country without a reliance on nuclear energy where hydro or energy imports don't take up the slack [neither option is relevant for Australia]. I suspect (i.e. have no proof but think it would be a bloody good idea if I were a pro-coal politician or coal executive) that fear of nuclear technology is manipulated to manage the opposition to new coal projects.

    I could care less whether another nuclear energy station is built or if they are all shutdown tomorrow. My chief concern is the ongoing expansion of coal-based generation worldwide, since every one of those plants will impact us both and many generations into the future. However, here's the rub; I've found no credible energy strategy to solve that issue without an increasing reliance on nuclear energy as part of a broader no/low emission energy strategy (including significantly more renewables, conservation and efficiency). And we've run out of time for technology development.

    Every coal station project that succeeds is another nail in our collective coffin.

  15. Thanks for the forum firstly.

    I agree with your concern about coal-based generation but cannot agree that nuclear is the way we should be going. There are other ways to intelligently tackle power generation. Given the billions of dollars that go to the nuclear industry (and coal industry) Solar and wind could be up and running in Australia, as it is in Spain where the first base load has been obtained. As long as the billions are taken from the Solar and Wind industry there will be no clean renewable energy in Australia. And as far as time goes, there is not enough time to build nuclear plants as the process to have them approved in Australia already rules them out. Before and after TMI, Fukushima and Chernobyl, Australians don't want them in their back yards.

    The fact that Chinese coal mines and not Australian coal mines are dangerous does nothing for the argument other than acknowledge that there are safety issues in that country's mining industry that need to be addressed. Uranium mining is inherently far more dangerous than coal mining when the equivalent safety procedures are not taken.

    Swapping coal for nuclear in Australia is like exchanging emphysema for cancer when we have the cure which is Solar and Wind.

    If you are serious about a house swap then please list your house here for people wanting to evacuate Japan.

    And Fukushima and Chernobyl were not organized by the coal industry, they happened because of nature and human error. Something we have no control over it seems.

    Your last statement is very true and I agree with it wholeheartedly. "Every coal station project that succeeds is another nail in our collective coffin." And Solar and Wind are the way to go but sooner rather than later.

  16. Out nuclear money in Solar money.

    Canadian Solar reviewing candidate sites in Fukushima Prefecture to use government-backed incentives to build solar panels

  17. The wind direction and the tsunami happening on a weekday are the only things that saved Japan.

    Please watch this.

  18. Spain also relies on nuclear energy (8 reactors in operation, generating 20% of the country's electrical supply) and is a fine example of nuclear working with renewables to produce low emission energy.

    I am disappointed you trivialise that Chinese miner and note your not-unwise reluctance to venture into their mines. You are able to separate Chinese mine safety practices from Australian practices; but seem convinced that nuclear safety practices and controls are universally applied. Seems like some convenient cognitive dissonance to me.

    You still have not shown me that low emission, nuclear free, limited hydro and non-energy importing example. Meanwhile, I can easily produce 3 to support my claim. Coal stations are being build in Australia, in Germany and in Japan.

    Congratulations, looks like you and your colleagues are winning the nuclear debates there...

  19. Spain is definitely leading the way with the first Base Load Solar and why Australia is not leading the world in this I don't know? Our smart people are obviously not being supported by the industry. As you say too much money going into coal. But that money will also go into nuclear if we let it. Japan spent billions on their nuclear plants and still it is the people who are the ones paying for it now. TEPCO was going broke because of the disaster so the government has bailed them out. It is not the IAEA or NRC bailing them out. It is tax payers money that will compensate tax payers needing relocation and farmers with radioactive crops.

    Work practices are a problem in all industry and the potential for a nuclear disaster has been clearly shown by TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Risk management should be about the possibility of something going wrong. If Lucas Height goes like Chernobyl or Fukushima, there is the possibility of an area 1,000 square kms being lost FOREVER. No more Sydney. Fukushima was a human error in that they new about the possibility of an earthquake and tsunami hitting the coast. There have been earthquakes in Sydney. It is a worst case scenario which is what risk management is. If you don't apply it then you are running the risk every time you build a nuclear power plant. It's not the building that is the problem it is the people running it.

    Fukushima has won the debate in Japan.

  20. And it's also tax payers who foot the bill worldwide to recover from severe weather events, crop failures, reduced availability of water and to accommodate climate change refugees.

    Global population is projected to climb to 10 billion; this will impact energy demand as will our ever increasing thirst for water. The use of energy-intensive desalination technology will apply additional upward demand pressure. The deployment of renewable technologies and demand management programmes to encourage efficiency and conservation have totally failed to even reduce the speed of coal expansion; let alone actually reduce emissions. Yet I still support each of these strategies as they can help displace coal/fossil use. Thinking they can do it alone - now or in the future - is completely without demonstrated technical basis... a dangerous pipe-dream.

    My training in risk management considers two factors, the 'possibility' or likelihood of an occurrence and the consequence. Nuclear comes with risk, but so does trying to go it nuclear free. The combination of likelihood and consequence is more dire, more costly and more global without nuclear; even after factoring in TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Rejecting nuclear helps to lock in,... to guarantee the likelihood of the most severe consequences of climate change.

    Spain is wise to have taken a diverse approach to low carbon energy generation. Sweden is another fine example (10 nuclear energy stations, generating ~40% of their electricity demand).

  21. Tax payers are paying for nuclear disasters at this very moment and in many other ways than fiscal. If we continue to build more nuclear power plants the probability of a world wide catastrophic disaster increases. If you are factoring in TMI, Chernobyl and now Fukushima then your risk assessment must factor in a global nuclear disaster if we have global nuclear plants. America was on alert for the Japan disaster because they new it could be the end of farming in America. There could have been 3 Chernobyls and the end of food production in Japan, the US and Canada. The risk is just too possible. Likelihood of a nuclear disaster is now considered to be every 12-15 years. The more there are the bigger the risk. The consequence is too disastrous to take the risk.

    Nuclear power produces Carbon emissions during mining, milling, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication stages. We can stop that Carbon being produced by not building nuclear disasters and putting that money into clean energy.

    "People, corporations and even some environmental groups want to ignore the carbon emitted from nukes because to do otherwise makes the challenge of reducing carbon harder. Ignoring the facts, however, fixes nothing."

    America, with all their nuclear plants, is still the sixth biggest polluter in the world.

    The road to carbon neutral energy is not through Nuclear energy. Germany, Japan and Denmark have stopped the use of nuclear power and yes, they still use coal, but so does Spain and Sweden who have nuclear plants.

  22. People (those who pay taxes and those who don't) are paying more right now for the use of coal than nuclear; much more. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands die each year as a direct result of the world's reliance on coal. You're kidding yourself to think otherwise or to suggest the impact of nuclear is more severe; TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima considered.

    Sweden's coal consumption is about 4 million short tons per year. Australia's by comparison is around 150 million short tons. To criticise Sweden for their use of coal is laughable. [Spain's by the way, is a little less than 20 short tons per year, Denmark's is nearly 7 million and Germany's is a whopping 250 million]. Japan's was about 190 million tons per year in 2010. This number is expected to rise following their nuclear exit. Expecting renewables to drive their industrial economy is a not much more than wishful thinking. Sure they will build some renewable stations, but coal use will rise; as will other fossil fuels such as natural gas.

    Expand your sources and you will find that nuclear's lifecycle emission are minimal. [You think there are no emissions from mining and hauling all that coal??].

    America, without its nuclear plants, would emit a lot more.

    An attempt at carbon neutral energy that rejects nuclear is nothing more than a fairy tale. No one's been able to demonstrate otherwise. Germany and Denmark both enjoy the luxury of being able to import power from their neighbours. In many instances this includes nuclear energy. Not an option for Australia.

    I accept you do not 'want' nuclear energy, but I assure you that you have no choice - especially in Australia. Here, considering all options currently available, we must either include nuclear energy or accept that we will remain tied to coal, and its global consequences, for the foreseeable future.

    Coal station projects continue to move forward here and elsewhere. That's the bottom line.

  23. The people of Chernobyl are paying more for Nuclear power than anyone in the world. Chernobyl will happen again. You will have deformed babies as your grandchildren. Growths from your head to your toes. You will get used to people dying around you as if it is normal. That is what happened in Chernobyl. Even scientist now recognize this. I don't think anyone 'wants' this.

    Nuclear power provides only 2 percent of the worlds power at this moment. We can turn it off now, but as you say, it will be harder to do with the proliferation of nuclear power around the world.

    Turn them off now and our DNA may survive. Every time a nuclear power plant emits radiation our DNA changes permanently. It is not publicised every time this happens.

    "We have identified 33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power stations since the first recorded one in 1952"

    Kick the coal industry out but don't replace it with nuclear. Put the billions needed in compensation for future Chernobyls and Fukushimas, into Solar and Wind now.

    Fission was a pipe dream once, but to have Solar running as a base load was also a pipe dream once. Now we see it is obtainable we must attempt to save our DNA, by building Solar farms and Wind farms wherever we can.

  24. ... Still can't provide any data / examples as I requested. And yet you continue to spew the anti-nuclear rhetoric, baseless as it is.

    Sadly, everyday coal impacts remain orders of magnitude larger than nuclear on a bad day. Coal's been linked to birth defects too... the normal, fully regulatory compliant use of coal. This isn't just happening in one location or based on extreme events in the past. The global coal addiction comes with a continuous and increasingly dire impact. More coal mines and power stations are coming into service almost daily. Your opposition to nuclear energy is partially responsible for this.

    I believe your statistic (nuclear = 2% of global energy) considers ALL energy, not just electricity production - oh and it is wrong. As of 2009, nuclear's share of total, global energy production was 5.8% (see pg. 37 of the linked file). In this data, transport (air, non-electrified rail, road and non-wind sea transport), heating, cooking, industrial/steam applications are all in that mix as well. Renewable technology contributions can also be found on this same table. They are:
    hydro (2.3%),
    bio-fuels & waste (10.2%), and
    wind, solar electric, solar heating and geothermal combined (0.8%).

    0.8%! Annual global energy demand is forecast to increase at twice this amount, and you're hanging our collective hat on wind and solar? There is no basis for your advocacy. This data reflects actual energy generated, not the smoke-and-mirror metric of 'capacity', so often used to sell generation technologies as something they are not.

    I support the idea of building no/low emission facilities wherever possible. But coal mines and coal fired power stations continue to be built, so we can not afford to take nuclear off the table.

  25. Anti-nuclear rhetoric? Do you deny Chernobyl? Fukushima?
    Did you look at this study? Did you not see the effects of radiation for yourself.

    Japan has shut down its nuclear plants? A 2009 report will not have envisaged the global reaction to Fukushima.
    Germany is off your nuclear grid and there are more plants going offline as the safety measures they put in place after Fukushima will make it impossible for old reactors to start up and new ones will take much longer to be approved. At the moment 2 percent is probably a more accurate figure than your 2009 figure.

    Yes, we do need to increase rapidly in our use of renewables but I still see no reason to inflict a Chernobyl on any human. If I am 'responsible' for the scrapping of nuclear power and the investment of that money into renewables then I would be chuffed.

  26. Yes rhetoric, as in trying to be persuasive, but lacking genuine context.

    I don't deny Chernobyl, Fukushima or the impacts they've had. I read the report when it was issued. Have you bothered to study the global impact of coal use?

    You seem unwilling to accept two of my main points; that the impacts of normal, everyday use of coal are far more severe than from the use of nuclear energy - all accidents included and two, that reductions in nuclear energy capacity (or resistance to its future expansion) means more coal and more impact. You seem determined to 'believe' you're correct, yet I'm baffled at your inability to cite any examples supporting your notion that success can be achieved without nuclear energy.

    Before March 2011, Japan had 54 operable reactors. Daiichi 1-4 have been declared officially shutdown. Germany shutdown 8 reactors in the aftermath and 9 continue to operate. Neglecting all of Japan's and Germany's reactors, there are still 377 operating today. So the plant shutdown's in those countries might bring nuclear's share down to 5%.

    I'm beginning to see a pattern here. It's disappointing to see, yet again, such shoot-from-the-hip anti-nuclear bunk. Try checking your numbers or broadening your perspective... or you can continue to support an increased dependence on coal. I'd also be chuffed if coal and/or nuclear could be swapped for renewables. Trouble is... it's impossible (too expensive and too intermittent just to name a few reasons). Disagree? Cite an example that's relevant to Australia.

    Coal stations continue to be built, in Australia and worldwide. Meanwhile a growing number of scientists are sounding the alarm for a moratorium on new coal stations and drastic emissions reductions. You are not helping either cause.

  27. Germany and Japan turned off their nuclear plants. Why?
    Because they are dangerous and people are not willing to take the risk. Your 5.8 is dwindling and by 2022 more will be off line.
    "Germany to shut all nuclear reactors"

    Do you have a reason not to care about the effects of Chernobyl?

    Yes, I have studied the global impact of coal use and it is a catastrophe for the future and already destroying the earth. No argument there.

    My point is, you are replacing a catastrophe with another catastrophe. The logic of this is what I can't see.

    Nuclear energy can never be clean. Why would you wish another form of pollution on the world. The only thing you have to offer is the your fear of global warming which has the same end product as a global nuclear disaster. It nearly happened at Fukushima. We have now seen, how it will happen in the future.

  28. Germany turned of some of their plants and Japan has suspended all plant operation because they are perceived as dangerous and both countries are a democracy. That perception is disproportionately skewed within the population and considered in a vacuum. The application of any technology involves demonstrated risk of injury, death and adverse environmental impact. I am not so sure those plants will remain shutdown in Japan.

    You can't focus on these two countries only; the Czech Republic will build. USA is building more and Korea too... not to mention China. All projects continue despite Fukushima and Chernobyl. I'm glad someone is making the hard decisions.

    Why do you claim I don't care about Chernobyl?

    I am replacing a guaranteed catastrophe with a risk of plant accidents whose consequence is much less and certainly neither continuous nor global. Your proposition is not feasible and will result in more coal / fossil fuel use and the guaranteed global impact that comes along with them... and yet you claim to have no argument of coal's impact. I don't understand how you reconcile those two concepts in your mind.

    Clean is not a binary concept, nuclear need just be cleaner and safer than other options. Unfortunately, we can not power the world in bunny fuzz and kitten purrs. And we can not delay the difficult decisions. For now, it's either renewables + nuclear + conservation + efficiency; all of the above - nuclear + fossil; or darkness. You are opting for the second. Your dream of a nuclear and fossil free, renewables based energy supply is just that, a dream - especially for Australia.

  29. More on Spain's energy situation.

    Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy in Spain has been uncertain, but is firming up as the cost of subsidizing renewable resources becomes unaffordable.

  30. Another case of taking subsidies from renewables and throwing it into nuclear disasters.

    To much money going into nuclear disasters.

  31. I guess you didn't follow the last link I posted above. There you would see Spanish subsidies for solar were 30 Euro-cents per KWh, about three times those reported for nuclear by the UCS. Don't you think it odd that reports critical of nuclear only report nuclear statistics in a vacuum, without comparative numbers from other technologies?

    Some relevant quotes from Prof. James Hansen of NASA, found in his book, Storms of my Grandchildren and an earlier post on this blog found here.

    “Coal is exceedingly dirty stuff. Its mercury, arsenic, sulfates, and other constituents are a major source of global air and water pollution, leading to increased birth defects, impaired intelligence, asthma, and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Coal’s effect on air and water pollution is global—nobody escapes its reach. Mercury and other pollutants are deposited on land and in the ocean, infiltrating the food chain and building up in the bodies of long-lived animals and fish.”

    Leading world air-pollution experts at our workshops at the East-West Center in Honolulu agreed that there are at least one million deaths per year from air pollution globally. It is difficult to apportion the deaths among different pollution sources—such as vehicles and power plants—because people are affected simultaneously by all sources. But to get an idea of the numbers, let’s first assign 1 percent to coal-fired power plants. That’s ten thousand deaths per year—every year.

    Actually, all experts agree that coal is responsible for far more than 1 percent of the air pollution. In fact, recent data show that more than 1 percent of some air pollutants in the United States comes from Chinese power plants! I point this out to emphasize that pollution and climate change are global problems—we must work together with other countries to solve them. Assigning 10 percent of global air pollution deaths to coal is probably still conservative—that’s a hundred thousand deaths per year, every year.

    Yet there are no two-hundred-thousand-person rallies against coal, no nightly “No Coal” concerts. Death by coal is probably not as sexy as death by nuclear accident. Perhaps we have greater fear of nuclear power because it is more mysterious than that familiar black lump of coal—even though we know coal contains remarkably bad stuff.


    Germany provides useful empirical evidence about progress in quitting the fossil fuel addiction. Germany is making a major effort to improve energy efficiency. It is also trying hard to promote renewable energy, with large subsidies for wind and solar energies. Wind provides up to 20% of the country’s electric energy in winter, but on annual mean [yearly average] the wind and sun produced only 7.3 precent of Germany’s electricity in 2008. That renewable fraction is still growing, but at a cost—some industries have cited increased electric rates as a reason for relocating outside Germany.

    But what is disturbing about the empirical evidence from Germany is that, despite technical prowess and strong efforts in energy efficiency and renewable energies, there are no plans to phase out coal. On the contrary, there are plans to build new coal-fired power plants, which the German government claims will be necessary once the country closes its nuclear power plants. The bottom line seems to be that it is not feasible in the foreseeable future to phase out coal unless nuclear power is included in the energy mix.”

    Coal stations continue to be built. Your opposition to nuclear energy will result in a prolonged addiction to coal and the subsequent negative impacts on us all.

  32. Low dose ionising radiation IS harmful to health.

  33. Nuclear power is only required to pay a small fraction of the cost of insuring fully against
    claims from a Chernobyl-style disaster, or worse.

  34. Real impacts and true costs from coal are far worse, more global and expanding... thanks, in part, to you.

  35. The impacts from coal addiction are uninsurable. Far, far worse than nuclear power. And our coal addiction is expanding... thanks, in part, to you.

  36. "Ministers planning 'hidden subsidies' for nuclear power"

    Energy giants ditch UK nuclear energy plans for being too costly.

  37. I think you have a problem with your links above.

    Renewables can not do it alone. Coal stations continue to be built. Coal's impacts on the environment and human health are far worse than nuclear; are distributed around the entire planet; and are expanding... thanks, in part, to you.

  38. Energy IQ’s third annual Wind Farms conference, taking place in Melbourne on 29th & 30th May 2012, will address these issues to help your wind project move from planned to operational.

  39. That should read, "Mark Lynas promotes nuclear energy again."

    Do a google search. All pro nuclear when it boils down to the truth.

  40. Mark Lynus is a former anti-nuclear campaigner who broadened his mind and considered the risks and global impacts of all energy sources. He changed his mind... and he's certainly not alone. He agrees that, even with all risks and impacts considered, there is no justification for taking nuclear off the table when it comes to energy policy.

    Good news about the renewable/wind conference in Melbourne. Sadly it's just not enough since coal station projects continue in Australia and abroad. Much more action is need to stop that trend, let alone remove currently operating plants from service. Ongoing rejection of nuclear energy and your advocacy, in part, stand in the way of such progress and lock-in the much more severe, global impacts from our coal addiction for the foreseeable future.

  41. Exactly, he is pro nuke. Hardly an unbiased reporter. Nor is he independent. Of course he is 'not alone', he has the backing of the nuclear industry. They just love him. Lots of investment potential there. There goes another wind farm.

    Sadly it is your insistence on the proliferation of nuclear plants that is stifling the much needed investment of renewables.

    We have already seen that a global release of radiation is possible and human error makes it probable. Japan's nuclear reactors are still on fault lines.

    Money that should be going into renewables is wasted on nuclear folly. In our last ditch effort to ward off the disaster of global warming you are promoting another disaster.


    A comparison of the McKinsey (2008) and Switkowski (2006) reports shows that energy efficiency
    can deliver reductions in greenhouse emissions much more quickly than nuclear power, much more
    cheaply, and without unwanted by-products. These two scenarios are comparable in that they reduce
    annual CO2-e emissions by 66-70 million tonnes (Mt):

    McKinsey report:
    * Energy efficiency largely responsible for an annual 12% (66Mt) reduction in emissions by 2030
    compared to 1990 emissions.
    * Cost savings from energy efficiency are such that overall emissions can be reduced by 35% (191
    Mt) below 1990 levels by 2030 at no net cost.

    Switkowski report:
    * Nuclear power has no capacity to contribute to emissions reductions in Australia by 2020 and
    limited capacity to reduce emissions by 2030 (except in the unlikely event of a near-term decision to
    build reactors).
    * Building 12 power reactors by the year 2050 reduces annual emissions by 8% (70 Mt) compared to
    business-as-usual if all the reactors displace black coal. (In a 'fast build' scenario 12 reactors could
    come on-line sooner.)
    * Capital cost: A$48-72 billion (Switkowski, 2009)

    Over a 50 year lifespan, the 12 reactors in the nuclear scenario would:
    * Produce 18,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (spent nuclear fuel).
    * Be responsible for 430 million tonnes of low-level radioactive tailings waste at uranium mines
    (assuming that it is sourced from Olympic Dam).
    * Produce 180 tonnes of weapons-useable plutonium (sufficient for 18,000 nuclear weapons). "

  42. "Did you ever consider the absolute madness of thinking we can store highly toxic nuclear waste for thousands of years, but we cannot even think about using wind or solar because we are unable to create batteries that can store power overnight?"

    Think outside the square. Solar and wind.

  43. I note you stopped short of criticising Jim Hansen. A wise move.

    I favour renewables and, like you and many others, wish they were adequate to serve the world's energy needs. Sadly they are not. This brings me back to my earlier question - please cite one example where your ideas have been implemented that is relevant to Australia. Several governments have both rejected nuclear power and invested heavily in renewables. Again, I can easily cite 2: Denmark and Austria. Both are falling well short of their Kyoto commitments (and import a lot of nuclear generated electricity from their neighbours), while most countries opting for a blend of renewables and nuclear have made their targets (page down on this link).

    The McKinsey report is an Australian-ised report based on a comprehensive global report completed by the same consulting firm. If you take a bit of time and look into the figures and data of both reports, you'll see nuclear comes out looking pretty good. But you really have to look to find the nuclear data in the Australian report. An excellent example of facts being buried to serve a political agenda at the expense of credible energy policy advice. Shameful.

    Madness? Again, it's not either-or for me. I advocate for the use of all options, together. Renewables, efficiency & conservation programmes and nuclear energy. Humanity has demonstrated our ability to safely store nuclear waste on a time-scale of decades. Of the accidents referenced so far in this exchange, none of the activity release was from stored nuclear waste. That being said, there's no real rush to develop a long term solution. We can take our time to develop robust solutions that will lower the risk of harm to human health and the environment.

    But here again, nuclear is considered in a vacuum. Not one molecule of nuclear waste may enter the biosphere (I have no problem with that objective) yet all kinds of "nasty stuff" to quote Hansen, is continuously spewed into our atmosphere from our addiction to coal.

    Pardon me while I choke on the hypocrisy.

    Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people continue to die each year and the atmosphere continues to be devastated from coal. And, thanks in part to you, coal projects continue to move forward in Australia and worldwide. Renewables, efficiency and conservation alone are not enough to stop that trend despite the efforts and investments of several governments worldwide. You are advocating for an infeasible dream that is costing lives and killing the planet.

  44. Fukushima's spent fuel rods are responsible for the release of radiation in 2011. They blew up because they were stored on top of a nuclear reactor. That is why they are worried about reactor 4. You cannot blow up spent fuel pools without releasing radiation. They can still blow up again. What's left of the fuel rods is still there. Still hot. And not able to be moved a year after the nuclear event. It is still ongoing.

    They already know how to store the rods once cooled and they continue to ignore the need to bury them because of cost. Spent fuel from reactors is still not being stored safely, as they cannot adequately cope with the amount being produced. Once cooled it is still stored on site. Nuclear reactors always have stored waste containers on site. The trouble being that it is cheaper to do this and take the risk. Humanity has not demonstrated an ability to store nuclear waste even the NRC are saying this needs to be addressed. They need to be maintained. Continuance for safety procedures for thousands of years is another issue for storage. Do we know where the worlds next war will take place or if those countries while trying to protect lives, can protect and maintain their nuclear storage facilities?

    Even Lucas Heights is going for the cheap "put it in a shed" method. This is not safe and should not be happening in a place like Australia even temporarily. If you can't find a safe place to put nuclear waste then you should not be making it. If you care about Australia you should be insisting on safer storage of nuclear waste and if it is not achievable, who cares what the reason is, you should not be promoting that industry.

    Nuclear waste should not be stored next to a nuclear power plant. Especially in a bushfire prone area like Australia. Please sign the petition to stop onsite waste storage.

    "The Chernobyl accident was the first accident in which, when the reactor core was destroyed, aerosol of the dispersed spent nuclear fuel became a significant source of internal and external exposure for a large group of people." They have still not removed the spent fuel rods at Chernobyl. They are still stored onsite. If it goes up in a fire, and they are worried about this, there goes Europe.

    Your nuclear dream is really a nightmare. Hypocrisy is nuclear safety. Australia does not want more areas like Chernobyl or even another Maralinga to try to cleanup.

    Look at the UK's new solar farms. Australia has more sun and more wind. Australia needs to build more renewable energy projects and we need to build them quickly.

    "A solar farm, said to be one of the UK’s largest, is being assembled shape behind the hedge rows of a New Forest estate."

    I'm afraid your pro-nuclear power stance is stopping many projects for renewables from getting off the ground.

  45. Mr Hansen's push for 'next generation' nuclear is destroying the possibilities of 'next generation' solar and wind.

    We are tired of hearing about the future of nuclear when we are confronting the realities of current nuclear disasters.

  46. How is Professor Hansen having such a negative impact on solar and wind? These technologies are being deployed right now. Spain's plant was referenced in the beginning of this discussion. In the text I quoted from his book, he advocates renewables, but concludes (rightly based on all available evidence) that they are simply not enough to cut the word's addiction to coal.

    Fukushima Daiichi units 1 and 3 reactor buildings exploded because of hydrogen build-up from a zirconium-water reaction that occurs when zirconium clad fuel rods are uncovered / un-cooled. This was never the case for the fuel in the reactor spent fuel pools or the common spent fuel pool to the west of unit 4. Even the spent fuel in the dry cask storage area closer to units 5 and 6 was undamaged. Evidence (photos) are available on TEPCO's website to prove this.

    I fully support new renewables projects. I've never come out opposed to a single one. The only technologies I oppose are coal and other fossil fuels. Because, as you say above, "if you can't find a safe place to put [fossil] waste, then you should not be making it. Or am I wrong?

    Sadly, renewables are inadequate to cut our addiction to coal. Coal stations continue to be built in Australia and I can not see any link here to a nuclear industry sucking away financial or other resources as you claim. But we do see a lot of renewable projects going forward and being celebrated here... yet the coal projects continue.

    Simply throwing more money into renewables has been shown not to work. I've cited Austria and Denmark already. Germany and Japan are also turning to other generation technologies to compensate for the nuclear capacity removed from service. These include renewables, conservation, efficiency, coal and other fossil fuels. Some may laud this and I will not deny that removing those plants from service also reduces the nuclear component of risk. But by turning to coal and other fossil fuels, they are increasing the overall risk to the world. Not just that, they are locking in the negative impacts related to coal/fossil fuel use, including thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of deaths per year -guaranteed, no 'ifs' about it.

    Citing individual renewables projects is a distraction. Yes, I agree each is a small victory; but each coal station that is built is a much more significant defeat and a massive reminder that much more action is required.

    The UK is trying to move away from coal. Their effort includes the consideration of both renewables and nuclear projects. I agree with that wisdom and thank you for citing this example.

    Why not join this campaign? It and others like it pose a very real and significant threat to your life and environment.

  47. Some sad stories...

    Yarwun coal terminal gains 'significant project' status
    A $2 billion coal terminal planned in Gladstone in central Queensland has been declared a "significant project" by the state's coordinator-general.

    This is in addition to a 20 April story...
    Comment sought on $10b coal terminal plans
    Plans for a proposed $10 billion coal terminal project in north Queensland have been released for public comment.

    Margaret River shire fights coal applications
    The Augusta-Margaret River shire may appeal to the Mines Minister Norman Moore to dismiss the 25 pending applications for coal exploration licences.

    Another coal export record for Newcastle
    The Port of Newcastle has set a new monthly record for coal exports.

    And that's just the reports so far during May.

  48. "The move came a few hours after the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission testified that spent fuel rods in Unit 4 of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been exposed, resulting in the emission of "extremely high" levels of radiation.
    "What we believe at this time is that there has been a hydrogen explosion in this unit due to an uncovering of the fuel in the fuel pool," Gregory Jaczko told a House energy and commerce subcommittee hearing Wednesday. "We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool, and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.""

    The explosion caused by heating of uncovered spent fuel rods released radiation that is now in tea, rice, mushrooms, pork, .....

    Crops affected by a Lucas Heights explosion would be wheat, oranges, grapes, olives, .....
    Japan didn't think it would happen either. Don't let it happen in Sydney.

    Making more money available to renewables is what this is about. If it is not working, then make it work through more investment. Don't give up and say the world has to accept radiation contaminated food as the norm. We are still eating Chernobyl and Fukushima.

    Wasting money for compensation and measures to cleanup areas is a complete waste of finances that could have gone into renewables. This is happening now and is what you are promoting.

    Nuclear energy is an absolute waste of resources, time and money.

  49. You're getting some poor quality info.

    The events alleged by Jaczko (just days after the earthquake, and with no visual evidence) have since been proven wrong. The damage to Unit 4 had nothing to do with the spent fuel there. And Jaczko just announced his resignation from the NRC.

    Campaigns for additional funding for renewables will result in more renewable power stations. It will not cut our addiction to coal and the related negative impacts. If you dispute that claim, then cite an example. Many nations have tried and I've cited several that demonstrate my claims (both that a non-nuclear renewable strategy falls short and that a combined strategy including renewables and nuclear has been shown to work).

    The health and environmental impacts from coal are guaranteed for Australian wheat, orange, grape and olive farmers as well as everyone else. And the imacts of coal are much, much worse; no matter how you slice it. Considering just some of the external (i.e. impact related) costs of fossil fuel, the cost to the USA in 2005 is estimated to be 120 billion dollars.

    Market Externalities of Fossil Fuels
    "The report found that, in 2005, the hidden costs of energy production with fossil fuels in the United States amounted to $120 billion. This includes the negative impact of air pollution on health, but doesn’t include the effects of mercury emitted by coal-fired plants on wildlife and people, harm done to ecosystems by air pollution, or the climate-warming effects of carbon emissions (which the Stern Report estimated to be a drag on global GDP of 20% by the turn of the Century, a very conservative estimate)."

  50. Japan farmer harvests hope in our soil.

  51. Excellent story. Interesting to note that the impacts of such a severe nuclear disaster are somewhat recoverable. They should be commended for their courage.

    Unlike the impacts of coal - where so many victims are dead.

  52. Speaking of the UK...

    New York Times: Britain Says It Will Add Reactors for Energy
    Britain announced plans Tuesday to finance a new generation of nuclear power plants and renewable energy facilities, in a move that illustrates the differences in energy policies among European Union countries as the bloc grapples with the challenge of reconciling economic and environmental objectives.

  53. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko acknowledged Wednesday that it could be a while before he steps down as head of the agency, despite announcing plans to resign this week.

    "Other reasons include Jaczko’s decision to close out a review of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and the chairman’s opposition to recent approvals of new nuclear reactors. "

    A very brave man after Fukushima. When he leaves they may as well give out the rubber stamps to the nuclear industry.

  54. Hear is real courage.

    Mothers gathered in Kitakyushu city hall to protest against their accepting disaster debris.

    The sign says, "Adults should protect the future of children. We're against disaster debris burning. Protect Kyushu for Japan."

  55. Mums? I love Mums. Here are some more.

    Meet the Moms who will Climb (Mt. Rainier) Against Coal
    Their voyage up Washington's iconic Mt. Rainier will be a protest of sorts to call for the closing of the TransAlta coal plant by 2015. TransAlta is the state's largest single source carbon dioxide emissions. Besides global warming pollution, the plant also emits toxic mercury that fall directly on Rainier's snowfields which feed the entire Puget Sound watershed.

    Mothers Against New Coal Rally
    Xcel’s new Unit 3 coal plant would emit over 4 million tons of CO2 and 100 pounds [45 kg] of mercury every year! Demand they keep the plant offline, and instead invest in clean energy!

    Top Ten Reasons Clean Coal is Dirty
    Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human-generated mercury pollution in the U.S. Mercury emissions from electrical generation continues to rise. Mercury in mothers' blood and breast milk can interfere with the development of babies' brains and neurological systems and can lead to learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, problems with coordination, lowered IQ and even mental retardation.

    ... and this comes from the normal, perfectly legal, everyday combustion of coal to produce electricity. No accidents, oversights or natural disasters required.

  56. Wow. Mothers united to save the planet. Respecting the concerns of these women and the fears they have for their children's future should be respected.

    Nuclear disasters will happen whether they are from 'accidents, oversights or natural disasters' every 12-15 years.

    Lots of advancements in science for solar but very little subsidies coming from governments. All going to your nuclear mess.

    "Subsidies for new nuclear reactors are a “bet the farm” investment"
    "Until building new nuclear power plants becomes economically viable without government subsidies, and the nuclear industry demonstrates it can further reduce the continuing security and environmental risks of nuclear power —including the misuse of nuclear materials for weapons and radioactive contamination from nuclear waste—expanding nuclear power is not a sound strategy for diversifying any nation’s energy portfolio and reducing global warming pollution."

    "Solar Power Breakthrough: New Inexpensive, Environmentally Friendly Solar Cell"

    "Taking Solar Technology Up a Notch: New Inexpensive, Environmentally Friendly Solar Cell Shines With Potential"

    And where are you going to put your disaster waiting to happen? Newcastle?
    A 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck HOBART, Tasmania, Australia 24th May 2012, so that rules out Tassy.

    Solar advancement is what you should be devoting your time to, not the next nuclear disaster.

  57. Cancer in children residing near nuclear power plants.

    "The stronger evidence from the KiKK study suggests there may well be such increases at least in children regardless of the country in which nuclear reactors are located."

    "The KiKK's findings have been confirmed by two meta-analyses. Baker and Hoel analyzed data from 17 research papers world-wide covering 136 nuclear sites in the UK, Canada, France, the United States, Germany, Japan and Spain [11]. In children up to nine years old, leukemia death rates were from 5 to 24 per cent higher, and leukemia incidence rates were 14 to 21 per cent higher. These findings were statistically significant. Körblein carried out a meta-analysis of leukemia near most NPPs in Germany, France and the UK [12]. He also found a statistically significant increased risk of child relative risk of leukemia deaths in residents in the surrounding areas of nuclear reactors."

  58. There are no subsidies being diverted from solar to nuclear in Australia. Furthermore, the arguments claimed by the authors in your linked reports do not hold up to even simplistic scrutiny. I linked the report above showing how Spain had to baulk at its solar subsidies because it was bankrupting their country (and not resulting in much electricity production), not due to pressure from any nuclear industry group. There are several countries out there trying hard to find a nuclear free path to low-emissions energy security. Sadly none have succeeded, certainly not in any context relevant to Australia, where we produce most of our electricity by burning toxic coal.

    Communities near coal plants need to know health threat
    Studies show people living near coal plants have a higher risk of cancer and asthma and the children are at risk of brain disorders that result in learning and behavioral disorders. Particle pollution that can get into the lungs and bloodstream, as well as acid gases and mercury are just a few of the concerns of residents living near coal plants.

    Perhaps the most dangerous pollutants, radioactive substances, have been ignored in TXU permit filings and by the news media. Coal plants are the primary human activity responsible for the release of cancer-causing radioactive substances known as radionuclides. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radium-226, radium-228 and thorium-232, and their decay products, as promoting cancer in human beings – all of these radionuclides are present in coal. They become more concentrated when they are burned and emitted as gases and particles.

    So if one is really concerned about limiting human risk of radioactivity exposure, one should immediately protest their local coal station.

    Nuclear energy comes with identified risks and challenges, but coal has a much greater impact - guaranteed. I strongly support the consideration of nuclear generating capacity in Australia and worldwide until:

    1. there is a binding moratorium on the construction of new coal stations that do not capture >95% of their emissions and >99% of particulates, mercury and other toxins,

    2. there is a binding moratorium on the construction of new gas or other, non-coal, fossil fuel based power stations that do not capture >95% of their emissions,

    3. adequate no/low-emission generating technologies are deployed such that there is a legally binding, clear path to achieving an 80% cut in carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions below 1990 levels - worldwide by 2050 and

    4. the above three conditions factor in global population and energy demand growth for at least the remainder of this century and beyond, and ensure worldwide economic sustainability and energy security.

    Despite a limited number of renewables victories, the world's nowhere close to any of those goals. Ergo, the introduction/expansion of nuclear energy worldwide is justified; with accelerated investment in renewables, conservation and efficiency programmes.

  59. Subsidising the wrong energy
    Despite the logic behind encouraging businesses to switch to renewable energy, governments still provide much larger subsidies for fossil fuels...

    ...Despite the logic of encouraging the switch, and despite quite a lot of noise about subsidies for wind, solar and biofuels, governments still perversely provide much larger subsidies for fossil fuels, especially oil...

    ...In Australia, the coal industry has received indirect support through funding for coal-fired electricity generation...

    ...The IEA estimated that global subsidies to fossil fuels were around $400bn in 2010, and that was one-third higher than in the previous year because of rising energy prices...