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Sure, let’s debate nuclear power – just don’t call it “low-emission

Nuclear power is back on Australia’s radar. In its recent issues paper released as a preface to September’s Energy White Paper, the Abbott government reopened the debate thus: With environmental considerations…

Germany’s Philippsburg nuclear power plant. Is Australia preparing to follow suit? Lothar Neumann/Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear power is back on Australia’s radar. In its recent issues paper released as a preface to September’s Energy White Paper, the Abbott government reopened the debate thus:

With environmental considerations constraining the further development of hydro-electric sources, nuclear technologies continue to present an option for future reliable energy that can be readily dispatched into the market.

This sentence appears in a passage dealing with the “move to low-emissions energy”, and although nuclear is not explicitly described as a low-emission option, it certainly looks as if the government is prepared to consider embracing nuclear power as part of an alleged move away from fossil fuels.

Is nuclear energy really low-emission?

Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered. In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation. All of the other steps – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.

Several analyses by researchers who are independent of the nuclear industry have found that total CO2 emissions depend sensitively on the grade of uranium ore mined and milled. The lower the grade, the more fossil fuels are used, and so the higher the resulting emissions.

In one such study, the nuclear physicist (and nuclear energy advocate) Manfred Lenzen found that CO2 emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle increase from 80 grams per kilowatt-hour (g/kWh) where uranium ore is high-grade at 0.15%, to 131 g/kWh where the ore grade declines to low-grade at 0.01%.

Other experts, such as nuclear energy critics Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith, using assumptions less favourable to nuclear energy, have reported an increase in emissions from 117 g/kWh for high-grade ore to 437 g/kWh for low-grade ore.

For comparison, the life-cycle emissions from wind power are 10–20 g/kWh, depending upon location, and from gas-fired power stations 500–600 g/kWh. So depending on your choice of analysis, nuclear power can be viewed as almost as emissions-intensive as gas.

Making the grade

The quantity of known global uranium reserves with ore grades richer than the critical level of 0.01% is very limited. With the 2013 contribution by nuclear energy of about 10% of the world’s electricity generation, the high-grade reserves would at best last several decades. It doesn’t make sense to invest vast amounts of money in a technology that will emit more and more CO2 over time.

Are there alternative future pathways for obtaining nuclear fuel that could have lower emissions? Although there are vast quantities of uranium oxide in the Earth’s crust, almost all of such reserves exist at very low concentrations, typically 0.0004%. At this grade, 1000 tonnes of ore would have to be mined to get 4 kilograms of uranium in the form of yellowcake.

In this case the energy needed to extract uranium would be orders of magnitude greater than the energy output of the nuclear power station. There is a limit to how much the uranium industry can be expected to chase diminishing returns. For instance, seawater contains uranium, but at a concentration of about 0.0000002%, meaning that a million tonnes of seawater would have to be processed to extract just 2 kilograms of uranium.

The technology trap

Could new types of nuclear power station solve the problem? “Fast breeder reactors” produce more nuclear fuel than they use and so would theoretically have much lower life-cycle CO2 emissions than existing “burner” reactors. But in practice breeders are even more complex, dangerous and expensive than burners. As a result they have been stuck at the demonstration stage for decades and even some nuclear proponents admit that breeders are unlikely to be commercialized for at least another two decades, if ever.

The government’s issues paper mentions the possibility of nuclear reactors based on the thorium fuel cycle, but these are also more complex than uranium-based nuclear energy and there are no commercial systems operating as yet.

Advocates of another possible option, nuclear fusion on Earth, recognize that it unlikely to become a commercial reality for at least three decades, if ever.

To sum up, based on existing commercial technology, nuclear energy is not a solution to the global climate crisis, because it will soon become too emissions-intensive. It is also not a short-term solution, because it is a very slow technology to plan and construct. It is dangerous and very expensive.

So why bother? There is already a better alternative to fossil fuels: the efficient use of renewable energy.

* This article is an edited extract from Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change, published in Australia and New Zealand by UNSW Press in December 2013 and due to be published overseas by Earthscan in April 2014. References are included in the book.

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  1. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    No mention of thorium so this gets a thumbs down from me

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    1. Stephen McDonough

      Business Process Analyst

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Of thorium the article states: "these are also more complex than uranium-based nuclear energy and there are no commercial systems operating as yet"

      This does seem to be a misleading statement, because there have been commercial systems in the past: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THTR-300

      I'm not saying it's a good example of one, and it does point to the complexities highlighted by the article. But it did raise my eyebrows to say there are no commercial systems operating "yet".

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      No I hear where you are coming from, both India and china are building reactors now and the tech was proven in the 60's.

      It is still about a decade away even if we started today but I think most large scale projects require this sort of planning time

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      @Stephen McDonough

      The example you give was shut down a quarter of a century ago.

      From your link.
      "On September 1, 1989, the THTR-300 was deactivated due to its rising cost; in August 1989, the THTR company became almost bankrupt after a long shut down time due to broken components in the hot gas duct."

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    4. Stephen McDonough

      Business Process Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      That's right Mike. Hence why I queried the phrase used in the article, which to me gave the impression that no thorium reactors had ever been built for commercial purposes. They have, they just haven't been successful.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      " Australia, I believe (please correct me if I'm wrong), currently has no nuclear plants at all, and has a ban on construction of them, is that right? "
      Yes Jeff, no nuclear power stations and just a small nuclear reactor for research purposes and it may also be used in producing stuff for radiation processes though I may be wrong on that.
      It is not as though we have a ban on Nuclear Power Stations but any such initiative would have a series of hurdles to pass, not least being governments ( state and federal ) approval and they will be very cautious for fear of the NIMBYISM ( Not IN MY BACKYARD than you very much ) voter backlash.

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    6. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      Our only nuclear facility is the medical research reactor in Sydney. Interesting comparison though with life cycle CO2 emissions regarding nuclear, but only production emissions for gas . . . A reference figure for coal fired is roughly 1kg / kWh (there is a fair range here with super critical black coal at 800g / kWh, and brown coal somewhere above 1.3kg kWh). Again this is the instantaneous figure (no CO2 emissions associated with digging up the coal, nor the processing at the mine (washeries…

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris Harries

      " Yet we most likely face a serious financial crisis before we face a physical energy supply crunch. "
      I would say it is a neck and neck race for a dead heat finish line Chris for the lack of newer base load power stations is bound to have more and more power restrictions.
      Meanwhile, the extent of restrictions necessary has been somewhat lessened by both renewables and reducing manufacturing plants as well as an increased use of gas.
      It is not a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that our power generation…

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    8. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Arthur

      I think you raise some great points, I have no idea why we can't just get on with wind and solar...we sort of are but need to ramp it up. And at the same time start building nuke or hydro, or whatever.

      I Feel like as a society we have been asking this question of what power source we shoulds implement to replace fossil fuel (Gas and oil and coal) well, ever since I arrived in Australia maybe 8 years ago.

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    9. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      You are right, this is the same argument some use against renewables,

      IE> Building a wind turbine requires coal to be burnt....therefor do not build a wind turbine.....but keep burnign coal

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    10. Mark Duffett
      Mark Duffett is a Friend of The Conversation.

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Greg North

      Alas Greg, we do effectively have a ban on nuclear power stations. Australia’s Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) Section 140:

      140A No approval for certain nuclear installations
      The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following nuclear installations:
      (a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant;
      (b) a nuclear power plant;
      (c) an enrichment plant;
      (d) a reprocessing facility.

      http://decarbonisesa.com/2012/02/13/the-strange-tale-of-australian-nuclear-law/

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    11. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      Thanks Greg, I agree with your last point. But in their eagerness to do something positive the popular impulse is to run with what is available.

      In the long run we have no choice but to power down as our first priority. Meanwhile our society's obsession is supply side choices.

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      EPBC Act is readily changed, eg if it gets in the way of a coal development.

      I'd be happy to see Section 140 amended,perhaps to read as follows:
      140A No approval for certain coal installations
      The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following coal installations:
      (a) a coal mine;
      (b) a coal-fired power plant;
      (c) a coal transport facility;
      (d) a coal export facility.

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    13. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      Considering the large energy loss incurred by the grid, this seems to be a very energy inefficient solution.
      Wouldn't it be better to first solve the high inefficiencies of fossil fuel based power generation and grid supply which would make better use of what we already have?

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    14. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      THTR-300 was not a commercial system. Only an experiment hooked up to the grid. Oh, and a disaster.

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    15. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Michael Shand

      15 years to get a reactor on line from when the first ground is broken.

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    16. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to David Arthur

      I'd love to see an outline of how these steps can be made CO2 free. Particularly fuel rod production-Solar perhaps?

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    17. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      The best way to do this is through implementing smart metering, you pretty much have to do this anyway if you want wide spread adoption of intermittent decentralised generation - ie. solar, wind, etc

      it empowers the distribution companies, the guys that manage the grid, to manage the grid more effectively by having a breakdown of where power is generated and consumed in 15 or 30 minute intervals 365 days of the year, combine this with GIS systems and feeds from BOM and you can really start to understand exactly what is happening in reality during the day - this is what Victoria did, others will adopt but the sooner they do it the better

      Basically it enables the market to act by giving it certainty

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    18. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Elsewhere on this page is a comment by Alex Cannara.

      I think he's better placed than myself to answer your question.

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    19. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      Jeff, the problem - as stated in the article - is the energy return on energy invested. When the fuel extraction process consumes more energy than the fuel provides, it becomes a futile exercise. One of the processes difficult to undertake purely using electricity is the original mining and transportation of ore, but I'm sure technology may address this issue.

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    20. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Jeff Schmidt

      Jeff,
      A possible correction to a possible wrong.
      If you use cradle to grave methods for CO2 emissions re nuclear, then you should do likewise for competing technologies.
      This raises the vexed question of intermittency of both wind and solar. To the extent that backup is required if output is to be maintained, and given that backup for intermittent alt energy cannot be intermittent alt energy, you really should factor in the CO2 emissions of plant such as gas-fired cogeneration.
      When you do this, you find that vis a vis CO2, wind and solar are much 'dirtier' than nuclear.
      So, it is wrong to hold up wind and solar as goalposts for low emission, when they are patently not. Nuclear - maybe hydro as well - remains the gold standard.

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    21. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, NIMBYISM has an evil twin, BANANAISM - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. Sadly, we must disturb existing ecosystems in order to build our infrastructure, but the howls of protest will always sound.

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    22. Geoffrey Sherrington

      Surveyor

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy,
      Would it not be better to let experts do the planning and execution of our future power needs?

      This discussion on this blog could have been held in the 1970s.

      Experts know what is needed and it is not green energy.

      The nuclear delay is 100% the product of those who are unhappy when not opposing.

      Solution? Stop opposing nuclear. There are no significant grounds for continued opposition.

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    23. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      " well, ever since I arrived in Australia maybe 8 years ago. "
      Nuclear NIMBYism hasn't really raised its head too much in the past eight years Michael and you probably need to go back to the Howard government when there as any whispering.
      One thing for sure NNIMBYism is very alive and well in Australia even if it is a sleeping dog and we do have the saying here of " Do not disturb a sleeping dog ", that being as applicable in politics as anywhere.
      Politically, governments will always be between…

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    24. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Thanks for that Mark as I was not aware there was actually legislation not allowing it.

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    25. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Greg North

      I completely agree, if you watch john howard addressing his base during the gun control reform, he was booed and hated but pressed forward anyway, showing he was more concerned with doing the right thing than being re-elected and demonstrating true leadership on the issue

      This is why I get erked when people keep saying the greens need to tone down their message in order to gain votes

      I am not sure what you meant by "tits on a bull when there is a local grid disconnect for PV units automatically shutdown for safety reasons."

      I work for the distribution companies here in victoria and so I am pretty well versed on this stuff, what do you mean they will have to shut down PV units for safety reasons?

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    26. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      There has been ongoing research into power station efficiencies for many years Suzy, most efficient coal fired stations up around 33%% or so and that is a result of various factors like coal moisture content, typical Latrobe Valley brown coal in Victoria being up to about 75% moisture by weight I think though time out of the industry may have my recall a bit hazy, though it is considerably higher than NSW black coal.
      Burning coal is no picnic either with crushing and a combined pulverising and drying…

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    27. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Pardon me, Geoffrey, but are you saying that because i am not an expert i'm not allowed to ask questions or voice my preferences? If one left every decision to 'experts' this would likely not result in the best overall solution, mainly because experts focus on limited areas and aren't necessarily aware of complex issues due to myopia.

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    28. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Greg North

      Yes, greg, there are significant inefficiencies. Which leads me to think that my solar panels combined with a battery back up and little reliance on the grid will demonstrate not only taking personal responsibility, but also reduce losses incurred by any company burning resources and transporting power to me.

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    29. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Sure, there's no reason why Diesendorf (or anybody else) should not talk about the issue of whole-of-life-cycle analysis, it's valuable data to have.

      However, it should be done with accurate data, with similar data compared fairly across different technologies, and not presented in a way that is biased against any particular technology or in favour of any particular technology.

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    30. Glenn Schultes

      Bank Consultant

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      The key thing about Thorium Reactors vs Uranium Reactors is the waste product
      Thorium decays to safe levels after about 500 years. Uranium is toxic for tens of thousands of years.
      We build facilities to house the uranium but they are unproven and always a risk to future generations.
      However, mankind has already built many things that have lasted 500 years or more, so despite being more complex (was Reactor building ever simple?) it's clearly a win in this area.

      The second thing people in Australia over look is the COAL industry has killed more people than the Nuclear industry, and COAL is radioactive too.

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    31. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Glenn Schultes

      Is there an operational thorium reactor anywhere in the world at present? Seems to me that thorium reactors are not unlike fusion reactors, promising technology but unavailable at present when we really need action to combat climate change.

      I'd like to see the money spent on these things going towards updating the grid and on distributed systems and storage.

      I'd have no problems with nuclear except for the fact that storage of long-term radioactive waste is still not adequately addressed. And while the safety of many plants might be okay, when there are serious malfunctions due to negligence or natural disaster, the problems are severe. Fukushima is a case in point.

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    32. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Nuclear waste is collected and easily dealt with. There's plenty of methods ... take your pick ... (here's a 4 part series, but its best to start at 1).
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/08/01/nuclear-waste-series-p4/

      But I don't ever remember any environmental group trying to stop the building of coal plants on the basis of waste concerns and coal waste isn't collected (fully) and kills in the present tense. It isn't a possible risk, it kills flesh and blood humans, not to mention many other species via lead and mercury emissions ... and they have no half life.

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    33. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      You may need a closer read.

      When fully recycled to extract the masses of zero carbon energy, spent nuclear fuel only leaves behind fission products with half-lives of 30 years. Three hundred years returns them to the level of natural ore.

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    34. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Glenn Schultes

      Hi Glen,

      There are a couple of things worth correcting. Fast reactors have the same approximate waste output as thorium reactors in terms of time frame of waste management. It's unhelpful to play them off against each other. Uranium itself is not the issue.

      The long-term toxicity of spent nuclear fuel is not so much U, as Pu and other actinides, which are all usable fuel. The U is virtually all U-238 which is barely radioactive at all, and can be transmuted into fuel and then consumed for energy.

      I agree wholeheartedly, some centuries of storage represents little challenge at all to our engineering and institutions, particularly when the quantities are so very small.

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    35. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      I'm confused. Which part mentions 300 years? I've just looked in all 4 parts and can't find any reference to 300 years.

      P.S. The radioactive potassium in a banana has a lifetime of billions of years. Things with long lifetimes are LESS radioactive than things with short lifetimes. With an IFR you can use waste as fuel and what's left is very radioactive and storing it for a few hundred years is fine.

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    36. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I think it's not helpful to stereotype all environmentalists and / or groups. Most of the environmental concerns in Newcastle, for instance, revolve around health problems associated with coal in the Hunter Valley and also associated with coal transport and loading.

      Talking to folks within environmental circles I find an array of opinions regarding nuclear energy, some stridently opposed but a growing number who support it, even if with some reservation. Many others who don't know enough…

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    37. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Hi Chris. I grew up in Sydney and remember Singleton and such places before coal. How did we let this happen? We let it happen because we (I was anti-nuclear until relatively recently) trusted people who told us lies and we didn't bother to check. Now we have former heroes like Ian Lowe comparing 900 mega watts of roof top solar with a large nuclear power station. Lowe's not stupid, he knows he's misleading people by a factor of about 6. Similarly Diesendorf isn't stupid so why is he so transparently…

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    38. Alastair Leith

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Rubbish it was Tim Fisher's base Howard was dumping on. He had 87% support in the general population for his gun reform policy proposal. Hardly controversial in electoral terms. Fisher had to take the hit, since it was people on the land most inconvenienced by tightening gun controls. Those gun-nuts who really couldn't take it most likely vote so far to the right nothing would send a vote away from LNC after One Nation/National Front type preferences were distributed.

      Fisher was rewarded with the lions share of the Telstra sell off for his electorate.

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    39. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Maybe Victoria do it differently to Queensland Michael for up here if there is a power failure, PV units stop generating and I have been told that is because you cannot have linesmen or whomever going out to rectify something whilst the area down is still alive by virtue of household PV units still generating.
      That makes sense to me from a safety point of view and I would be surprised if it was not the same Australia wide including Victoria.
      I worked for the SECV up until my use by date came up and within the old SECV structure, safety was paramount, especially in regard to electrical isolations.

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    40. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Yep, you can do that Suzy, many people being off grid for as long as you remain connected, you may find you'll still have a service charge to pay without even importing power.
      I know of one chap locally, well out of town a bit and he gradually developed his own generation unit adding to panels as he needed/wanted more and has a battery bank as well as a small generator which he has hardly ever had to run but will do so once a month or so just to ensure it is still a goer.
      He was not connected to the grid from day one for depending on how far you are off the road, connection costs can be quite high and I suppose in being off grid, you ultimately have to accept that there could be times you'll have to get the candles out and cook using the BBQ but that happens anyway in power blackouts.

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    41. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair - with respect - I would ask you to question whether or not your view is logic or rational

      1) Nuclear Waste can be dealt with for a lot longer than 300 years - even using current technology
      2) Isotopes with half lives greater than 300 years tend to be low in radioactivity and hence easily dealt with
      3) You are trading a clear and present danger - Climate Change - against a fear of something that "might" happen 300 years from now.

      Is that really sensible? In essence you want us to gamble…

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    42. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      "When the fuel extraction process consumes more energy than the fuel provides, it becomes a futile exercise."

      This is not strictly speaking true. Different forms of energy do not all trade at the same price. In our power stations we invest three units of thermal energy from coal to get one unit of grid electricity, all the time. In the bitumen sands of Canada, where natural gas is available cheaply nearby, much of the energy expended in the extraction and refining of heavy oil is powered by…

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    43. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, check out your graphic on the link you provided.

      I am certainly no expert on nuclear energy but when I read casual dismissals of the problems of nuclear energy, and see cute but irrelevant analogies like your banana example, I have to wonder why people need to resort to sleight of hand to flog a technology?

      I'm not denying that bananas possess potassium, radioactive or otherwise, or that hot groundwater is the result of radioactive decay of elements deep in the earth's crust but equating…

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    44. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben, what you say may be so but when things go tits up, as Fukushima demonstrates, whole regions will be uninhabitable for far more than 30 years. I would really like to believe nuclear power has a future but the behaviour of various operators and government agencies around the world on cover-ups and cost overruns does not inspire confidence.

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    45. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, where have I refused to countenance nuclear energy? I could equally ask you to question whether you have cherry picked my earlier comments?

      Of course France was able to convert to nuclear in less than two decades because the government of the time decreed it and ensured obstacles were dismissed, ignored or legislated out of existence.

      We could do the same thing with renewables but times have changed and the nuclear and fossil fuel lobbies are not easy to dismiss, particularly when they have the ear of government while those same governments are doing everything in their power to inhibit meaningful development of renewables – at least in Australia.

      By all means, let's develop nuclear, but let's go it honestly and openly. Is that really too much to ask?

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    46. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Greg North

      I understand know, I didn't quite understand your original sentence, yes its the same in Victoria depending on your setup of course

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    47. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Alastair Leith

      Just a bit of context, 93% of americans support mandatory background checks.....and they still couldn't get it passed due to the political cost of doing so. The cost is not the cost to the party so much as the cost to the individual politician

      I believe Rob Borbidge paid a price politically for his stand on the issue

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    48. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Balir you said "I'd have no problems with nuclear except for the fact that storage of long-term radioactive waste is still not adequately addressed. And while the safety of many plants might be okay, when there are serious malfunctions due to negligence or natural disaster, the problems are severe. Fukushima is a case in point."

      I interpreted that as a refusal to accept that Nuclear is viable. If that was not the case - as you now clarify - great - I accept that. My comments were intended to be aimed not solely at you though so much as the many posters here who raise objections to Nuclear (like you did) that are not supported by the evidence.

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    49. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair you also said "Of course France was able to convert to nuclear in less than two decades because the government of the time decreed it and ensured obstacles were dismissed, ignored or legislated out of existence."

      What's your point? France was a democracy at the time. They did it. They now enjoy low emissions and low cost electricity.

      How is your comment "honest and open" consideration and contemplation of nuclear?

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    50. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      China is different. Australia and France are democracies - they cannot "take a course of action, regardless of consequences".

      I accept you had no ulterior motives - but the comment was still misleading. The reality is that France proves it is possible for a democracy to achieve a largely emissions free power generation system in a relatively short time (shorter than we have had to address the issue) - yet the opposition to it - because we have a democracy (which is good) has meant we have not made that progress. For which those who irrationally oppose nuclear bear some responsibility - for a warmer planet and Australia's somewhat disproportional contribution to it.

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    51. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      How do you judge danger? Button batteries have a much bigger health toll than nuclear waste, so why is it not reasonable to say they are more dangerous? Some things are clearly potentially very deadly and this can paradoxically make them much safer ... because people deal with such risks properly. So it is with nuclear waste. It's concentrated form is what makes it possible to deal with it very effectively. Not so button batteries or ladders or the waste from the preferred energy source of the anti-nuclear…

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    52. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Who Cares - the real question is this. Has France saved more lives that lost as a result of its conversion to Nuclear??

      If you are even vaguely intellectually honest you know the answer to this is many hundreds of thousand more.

      Perhaps you should read this

      http://www.technologyreview.com/view/518711/to-meet-emissions-targets-weve-all-got-to-be-like-france/

      Only one country, France, has ever reduced greenhouse emissions at the pace we’d have to keep up between now and 2050.

      http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_fra.html

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    53. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to account deleted

      Thanks for raising those issues. However power for industrial users?
      Please see my earlier post on Tidal energy from the Kimberleys and the use of UHV DC powerlines which reduce the transmission losses to 3.5% per 100Km.
      Hydro turbines are 80 to 90% efficient.

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    54. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, your failure or inability to answer two basic questions regarding storage of nuclear waste perfectly illustrates the quandary you and other proponents present. You gloss over genuine concerns many people (rightly or wrongly) have about storage and then run a diversionary argument in an effort to cover your lack of knowledge/inability to answer/avoidance. Is it any wonder people become sceptical or distrusting?

      This lack of transparency does nothing to put people's mind at ease.

      As for…

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    55. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Edit:
      As for asking whether France has saved more lives than lost as a result of switching to nuclear. I don't know but I could easily argue that radioactive markers used in medicine, produced by cyclotrons and/or Lucas Heights research reactor has saved many thousands of lives without a single commercial reactor existing in [this] country.

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    56. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      PS, I'm happy to have a discussion with you but your continual inferences questioning my motives, understanding or concerns tends to diminish the integrity of your claims/information.

      If you choose to believe I'm really antinuclear, go right ahead, but you'd be grossly mistaken.

      My apologies for asking industry proponents for some clear, concise and honest information. If some of those same proponents had refrained from dishing out the usual extravagant claims and quaint but misleading analogies…

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    57. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "Nuclear waste doesn't kill or cause health problems and it's extremely easy to ensure this is the case in the very long term."

      Now I've heard everything. Nuclear waste is a euphemism for contained nuclear pollution. Trouble is those containment vessels are not immune from shoddy workmanship, poor quality materials, terrorism or natural disasters. Once again you demonstrate my point that many nuclear industry proponents are less than upfront or objective when it comes to honestly discussing real-world problems pertaining to nuclear power.

      If you can point out where I have ever claimed coal waste is safe, go right ahead.

      It's a pity so much hopefully well-intentioned support for the nuclear industry sounds awfully like the same dismissive, contemptuous commentary we got to know and love from the tobacco industry.

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    58. In reply to Ivan Quail

      Comment removed by moderator.

    59. Alastair Leith

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Michael Shand

      The cost is a gun lobby that plays very, very dirty. They will target individual candidates and run millions of dollars in attack ads. They have the deep pockets to do it and a gullible enough populous to allow it to work. Many candidates are vetted for Republican nomination by NRA. But it's deeper than that even. USA is an empire in a constant state of war. Guns and gun ownership are central to that state of existence and polluted mindset.

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    60. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      1. Find me any record of nuclear waste hurting anybody ... it hasn't.

      2. It is indeed easy to ensure this in the long term a) burn it in fast reactors b) bury it in the same places that people currently extract million year old ocean sediment cores. No one wants to do that ... see a).

      The fact that you have a strong fear of all things radioactive doesn't imply that they can't be handled easily by competent engineers. Scary (to you) doesn't imply dangerous. Plane crashes kill about 1000 people a year ... but do you fly? Are you frightened?

      So why your fear of something that hasn't killed anybody? It makes no sense. Nuclear waste can kill, but it doesn't because handling it is easy. I call it "easy" because it's been done successfully for decades. I call handling button battery waste "hard" because it hasn't been done successfully and they do actually kill people. The fact that you think handling nuclear waste is difficult isn't relevant. The facts are as they are.

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    61. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "It is indeed easy to ensure this in the long term a) burn it in fast reactors..." Where is that happening now?

      "The fact that you have a strong fear of all things radioactive doesn't imply that they can't be handled easily by competent engineers."
      You are projecting and wrong. I used to work with radioactive markers with cell cultures in the 70's. I even eat bananas :) - but I guess the radiation badges we wore were pointless? Ditto for the iodine tablets lab staff had to take when someone accidentally spilled a drop or several of a radioactive marker, rendering one end of the lab hot and off bounds for several months - luckily i wasn't there then.

      "Plane crashes kill about 1000 people a year ... but do you fly? Are you frightened?" I busted my neck flying. Make of that what you will.

      If handling nuke waste is a doddle (isn't difficult) why all the excessive safety precautions?

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    62. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, you still haven't explained why waste is a problem given that you have acknowledged (or at least not contradicted me) that it's never hurt anybody. Where is waste being burned now? The Beloyarsk reactor is a fast reactor, so presumably they could process waste if the economics were right. It's no different from other recycling processes. While uranium is cheap there isn't much incentive. But the Chinese figure that by about 2030 they'll switch across to fast reactors and run them on waste…

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    63. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair that's utter rubbish -I did answer your question. I said " But to address your questions - France stores it's waste as I understand it both domestically and overseas and no not all French facilities are required to keep their waste on site."

      That's to the best of my knowledge

      But you've totally avoided the point. I do not know the precise answer to your questions about France's Nuclear waster repositories - if you do by all means tell us. Nor am am I going to waste my time trawling…

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    64. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      oops, I didn;t answer "with the claim that the waste is comparatively miniscule in comparison to coal-fired generation, and easily dealt with?"

      Really? Can't you look these things up yourself? That's what someone with a genuine inquiring mind would do.

      http://atomicinsights.com/waste-storage-at-nuclear-plants-versus-waste-dumping-at-coal-plants/
      http://www.thingsworsethannuclearpower.com/2012/03/real-waste-problem.html

      Also I never said nuclear waste is easily dealt with - I said it CAN be dealt with - and it IS minuscule in comparison.

      Before wasting my time with more questions - bolster your own ignorance

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    65. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      True. No mention of the later, very successful, Integral Fast reactor either. I do however take isue with Kirk Sorensen in that he encourages the unjustifiable dislike of synthetis transuranic elements like plutonium, claiming that their relatively tiny rate of production in the LFTR is a big advantage. The IFR consumes all of them, no problem.

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    66. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      I like it. But what's the significance of "commercial" anyway? I China is the first to deploy successful breeder reactors, it'll be a national, not a commercial enterprise - as was France's nuclear program, and Britain's before Maggie Thatcher. Incidentally, the French wer forced to privatise Electricite de France. It is now EDF... and now owns British Energy, which had purchased most of the reactors that Thatcher's government sold off.
      Another sign that th Sun Has Set Upon the British Empire.

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    67. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Arthur

      Yes indeed, when the actual quantity of fuel per gigawatt-year is atleast hundreds of thousands of times smaller than for the coal, or even the "natural" gas to produce as much energy, the emissions are in the same proportion. For breder reactors, the advantage of the nuclear is improved a hundred time!

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    68. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Two things wrong here, but also commonly believe.
      "The one thing that favours renewable energy over nuclear is its immediacy, being able to buy it off the shelf and install at short notice. "
      The thing that sun and wind don;t supply is response to demand. California's Governor Davis was recalled (sacked) (unfairly in my opinion( because the value of a guaranteed response to a sharp increase in demand is significantly more than the value of the electric energy would be to the consumers, if they…

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    69. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      "High inefficiencies" is a wonderful and exceedingly broad concept.
      Nuclear power the way the USA does it, throwing away ALL the spent fuel, gets about three tons worth of fission activity from every thousand tons of uranium refined. Even so, it supplies 20% of the USA's electrical energy demand.
      Hydroelectric power, when you compute the energy contained in every litre of water vapourised by the Sun, gets about one Joule per 2250 Joules of solar energy, from the water behind a head of 100 metres…

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    70. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      The trouble with experts is,: who chooses them? Comparedwith famous opponents of nuclear power, like Helen Caldicott and Amory Lovins, I am an expert.
      Lovins says, for example, that spent uranium, and even depleted uranium, remain radioactive for thousands of millions of years and even become more radioactive as the decay products build up.
      It may be that he knows the statement is misleading, but if not I could tell him this: The radioactivity from a ton of uranium refined and separated from its…

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    71. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Glenn Schultes

      To GlennSchultes
      It is not the difference between Thorium reactors and Uranium reactors that you are describing. It is the difference between thermal neutron uranium reactors and breeder reactors. A reactor that is being fed with thorium is actually converting it to uranium, and then consuming that.
      A Fast Breeder Reactor uses fast neutrons to convert non-fisssile U-238 into fissile Pu-239 (plutonium)
      The reactions are :

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    72. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Glenn Schultes

      The reactions are:
      Th-232 + n ->Pa-233 ->U-233
      and
      U-238+n->Np-239 ->Pu-239
      After that, theer is little difference in the radioactivity or the quantity of the waste products. The one advantage of the thorium input is that the fuel is a solution of actinide fluorides in lithium and beryllium fluoride, which means that more thorium can be supplied simply bypouring it in. I believe that the fission products can also be removed at some stage in the loop.
      The disadvantage of the LTFR is that fluorine is even more violently reactive than sodium, and that there is an isotope of lithium that has to be removed before making up the solvent, because it turns into tritium, H-3, under neutron bombardment. Hydrogen fluoride is very nearly the "universal solvent".

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    73. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Fukushima is NOT a case in point, if we're considering breeder reacors, which we must. Nor is "long term storage of radioactive materials".
      For a start, spent uranium is no more dangerous than what went ino the reactor. Plutonium is really a valuable resource, as natural gas could have been when oil producers considered it dangerous and burned it at the welhead in carefully controlled "flares".
      The problem is the Carter administration prohibition on "reprocessing". Without even separating the plutonium…

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    74. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben, it's better even than that. Sorensen argues that some of the fission product elements need not be wasted. For instance , stable isotopes of neodymium, a desirable component for permanent magnets in electric motors and generators, has only very short-lived radioactive isotopes, and could be removed chemically from the "waste". I conclude that the same can be said for the waste of FR type LMFBR reactors, whicch are said to need refueling only after 20 years. By my reckoning, for the entire current electrical consumption of the USA, there'd be 500 tons of fission products a year, and if EIA is right about electrical energy being 8% of total current consumption, let's be generous and say that we'd have to worry about 1300 tons of it, annually. I coould go so far as to design a greenhouse with an underflor accomodation for the gardener's share of that,in a suitably impenetrable cask with a GPS locator, renewable every five or ten years, for growing early lettuces or tomato seedlings.

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    75. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I believe the 300 years stems from the fact that cesium 137 is the longest lived of the fission products, with a half life of 30 years. The tenth poweer of 1/2 is 1/1024, so after 300 years, the quantity of Cs-137 remaining is less than a thousandth. I've not seen any suggestions of how to isolate itfrom the shorter-lived and even stable products

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    76. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Yeah Kirk obviously has his view and that's fine, you will find that CEO's of gas companies think Gas is the only answer and that lower emmissions is all we can do, CEO's at coal companies will think coal is the only viable option as everything else is "Unproven", etcetera, etcetera

      As far as Nuclear goes, as long as we are talking about Gen IV reactors, which includes both IFR, LFTR, then I am happy and excited of the propsect of having one in Australia

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    77. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I'm asking questions because I don't pretend to be an expert on nuclear power technology and it's hard finding credible information from reputable sources on the Internet given there is so much information out there. The IAEA, CSIRO are the main sources I refer to but they don't always have, or I cannot find answers to some of my questions. Hence my posts here.

      Unfortunately I find many nuclear proponents quick to draw conclusions or accuse me of having some type of agenda, or being in…

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    78. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, initially you answered my question about waste storage with "who cares" and then got all precious when I criticised your dismissal.

      I did not see the last part of your earlier response, I don't know why it was not properly displayed in the browser, if you choose not to believe me well there is not much I can do about it but that is why I made a follow-up post.

      "It is contributions like your that void these key issues to contribute to the FUD - you are therefore part of the problem with…

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    79. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Oh! I am so fed up with the furore about the nuclear reactors that failed in the most catastrophic pair of tectonic events Japan ahas experienced in .. how long is it? The death toll and destruction from the earthquake and the tsunami, before you count the actual deaths at the reactors (zero, I think, but some sickness) far outweighs the damage caused by the reactors. As for the subsequent damage from radioactivity released by the damage, it is and will be dwarfed by the atmospheric pollution from the fossil fuel burning to make up the energy difference. The most bizarre after-effect of the "reactor catastrophe" is the damage to Germany's air quality caused by their idiotic shutdown of reactors.

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    80. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Hi Albert, thank you for the clear and concise comments. Much appreciated. Regarding your radioactivity/half life comment. Does that also apply to isotopes used in nuclear medicine?

      I am halfway through a book written by Richard Rhodes called the making of the atomic bomb. Very interesting but some of the physics is beyond me. Have you read it and if so, how do you rate it as an authoritative history of the subject?

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    81. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      We could NOT do the same thing with "renewables", so-called. Their proper name is "unreliables".
      Is there anybody that knows how to build a wind-turbine-supplied ship that can outperform the tall ships that coal fed steamships ousted?
      Every major navy in the world has nuclear powered capital ships that totally outclass oil and coal. The most deadly of them can go where ther is no wind, underwater or even Arctic ice.

      If you do the arithmetic, there is not the slightest hope of reaching today's…

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    82. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      My worry is that as a liberal, I find so many of my fellow liberals and opponents of nuclear weapons have so nearly a quasi-religious view of the "wickedness" of all that is "nuclear"
      Blair, your comment that China can decide upon the Three Gorges Dam, which is reckoned an abomination by many who support all renewables EXCEPT Big Hydro, exeplifies my fear that the relatively democratic Europe, Australasia, and North America will be as much at the mercy of China's energy prowess as we are today…

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    83. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark,I agree with you heartily. Did you know that the EU demanded France privatise its nuclear power? Worse yet, the new EDF is one of the applicants for a proposal to uglify my home country's Pentland Hills with a wind turbine farm.

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    84. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Hi Albert, in fact the reliability and availability of renewables is pretty well known and availability is easily forecast as the AEMO demonstrates. Their intermittency is not really an issue, particularly when weather forecasting is at this stage it is these days. The biggest problem is the lack of any meaningful storage apart from integrating pumped hydro – and there's bugger all of that in Australia.

      Right at this moment the Hazelwood coal-fired power station has three of four units out of…

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    85. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      And again, thanks for your insights. I can give you one of my own, you can relax regarding any pending wind farm in your area, you will survive the event and in short order not notice its existence, just like thousands around here (South Gippsland) have done and millions in Europe and the US. Sure some people don't like the look of them but beauty is subjective and very difficult to quantify. If you believed the propaganda from some wind farm opponents, they are more deadly than any nuclear power…

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    86. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair

      Excellent point regarding the lack of teeth gnashing vis a vis coal pit fire. If no-one speak about it... current federral government most adept at not speaking about very much at all.

      As for nuclear power - only where it is the only viable source of power.

      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/mixed-greens-lockheed-martin-commits-vic-wave-project-41728

      Gas I see as a transitionary source.

      The big investment needs to be for the long term - this does not include nuclear any more than it includes coal, gas or oil. Besides we need these fossil fuels for other uses in manufacture - we won't ever be totally pollution free - humans never really have been. However we can certainly reduce a lot (of pollution) and remove our dependence on the 'grace' of monopolies.

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    87. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Here is one straight answer to the "problem" of nuclear waste storage.
      By my calculations from the actual data published by the US Energy Information Administration, the annual production of spent reactor fuel in the USA is 2500 to 3000 tons. Of that, not more than 50 tons is plutonium, and that isn't bomb grade even if it were separated from the uranium. The high radioactivity, and therefore short-lived stuff is fission products, rather less than 100 tons. Unlike the tens of thousands of tons…

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    88. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, spot on about the need for fossil fuels for manufacture, particularly food production. I cannot see any real replacement for fossil fuels in agriculture in the foreseeable future. Ethanol seems to be something of a fools paradise judging by what has happened in the US. And I don't see anybody developing nuclear powered tractors any time soon.

      I think one of the biggest problems is that everybody with an agenda looks for all sorts of faults in their nonpreferred energy source while they…

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    89. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to account deleted

      There is a difference of dimensionality between power and energy. It is the same as the difference between acceleration and velocity. So a pumped storage plant which pumps at three times the power it expects to generate, can nevertheles be 75% efficient in terms of energy required for what can be supplied. If you want, or are able to, fill the upper reservoir three times faster than you need to use it, you deliver the energy in a shorter time.

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    90. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Why all the excessive precautions? The computer programmer culture, and especially the free software folk (Free As In Freedom, Not As In Free Beer) have an acronym. FUD -- Fear, Uncertaiinty, and Doubt. It refers to FUD that is deliberately cultivated by companies that have an interest in Things The Way They Are Now.
      I am quite certain that there is a lobby dedicated to keeping nuclear power from ousting the current energy hegemony. They have, IMHO, co-opted tose of my friends who detested the…

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    91. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      People are too caught up in not 'losing'. If only many of the larger corporations had been prepared to start diversifying a couple of decades ago, we would be spared this dangerous contest.

      'If' a little word with great import.

      Another is 'hope' and when I converse with people who like to consider a problem from all angles (not just the personally favourable) I find that hope is ever renewable.

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    92. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Albert, some time ago I saw a programme about a research reactor in China called a pebble bed reactor. Do you know anything about them? It sounded like some new and much safer technology using helium rather than steam for heat transfer. I don't know if it is being developed anywhere else around the world. Any thoughts on this subject?

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    93. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I once heard an excellent quote about self-interest but I can't recall it now… Anyway I think more and more companies, read owners and directors, are recognising that the science is legitimate and the old ways of doing things can no longer be condoned.

      I can't help but smile when I hear people complaining about renewables, renewables in concert with energy efficiency and a not very drastic change to lifestyle can result in a quite large financial and environmental saving. In this case I'm talking…

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    94. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Albert, "we've enough bombs of the pure fission sort to blast Teheran[sic] and Pyong-Yang to smithereens" - yes, but would POTUS ever use that arsenal? It would require extreme provocation, such as a direct threat to the interests of the USA, I would have thought. If Tehran nuked Baghdad, would POTUS pull the trigger to wipe out Tehran? Perhaps tempting in some ways, but it is a step I hope would be too far for a civilised country to take.

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    95. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to account deleted

      "can the world keep using resources in such an inefficient manner...nope."

      Indeed nope. Apart from looking at the equation of effort that goes into obtaining energy versus what comes out; while our buildings and practices remain based around infinite - no energy source is efficient.

      Simple stuff like turning off lights in high rise buildings (except for those essential for safety and for air traffic) the way we build our homes (more insulation/recycling building materials) and lots more. Instead…

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    96. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      "Just about all the proponents of a meaningful march towards nuclear power tend to minimise the problems while they simultaneously inflate the alleged benefits."
      Like James Hansen saying nuclear power has *already* saved millions of lives by the amount of coal-dust-deaths that it has already prevented?

      "If nuclear power was as wonderful as people claim, it would be employed around the world much more than it is currently. "
      From my own experience of hating nuclear power: Ignorance breeds fear. I had no idea just how revolutionary the changes were in nuclear power, and had not heard of 'passive safety' or 'neutron leak' or even 'waste eating nukes'.

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    97. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, you do know that banning nuclear power because of Chernobyl or Fukushima is like banning aviation because of the Hindenburg? They were old Gen2 reactors. Have you looked at today's Gen3.5 reactors like the AP1000, let alone the waste eating reactors of tomorrow?

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    98. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      "Just about all the proponents of a meaningful march towards nuclear power tend to minimise the problems while they simultaneously inflate the alleged benefits."

      Actually both sides of this debate do this. If you look at all advocacy groups their natural inclination is to put their best foot forward, risking exaggeration, and and this almost universally entails finding the statistics and arguments that present the strongest case.

      That's why it's sensible to apply radical doubt to both sides of the argument. Find the best fit, between the opposing sets of figures.

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    99. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      I have an ongoing interest in all forms of energy production and associated developments but I won't pretend that I'm an expert on nuclear technology like some others here.

      I have asked one of the resident authorities here about the latest developments of pebble bed reactors in China but heard nothing. I understand that the design is modular, uses helium and if something in the system fails, the reactor can effectively shut itself down safely.

      As for the reactors you mentioned, I only know a little bit about them.

      As I have stated before, I think there is a place for all forms of energy production apart from coal and gas. If we are serious about combating AGW, we can't afford to be overly picky about alternative technologies to the fossil fuel systems used today.

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    100. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      Hi Eclipse Now

      You might have seen that we're making an even greater effort to improve our Community Standards under site moderator Cory - and one of the very basic rules copied below is using real names. So do come back but you'll have to re-register with your real name, as this alias account will be locked. It's all covered here: https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards

      Be you
      We require real names: they help us maintain a transparent forum. We reserve the right to delete comments made under aliases.

      If you've signed in via your Twitter account our site will use your Twitter handle by default. Please change it to your real name using your Conversation profile page.

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    101. Atomik Rabbit

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Stephen McDonough

      The first core at Indian Point 1 contained significant quantities of Th as a burnup extender (as a solid fuel component) in 1962, and the final Shippingport core also contained Th as part of the Light Water Breeder Reactor project in the late '70s.

      It's just that PWRs were better understood and more highly developed (by the US Navy) for these other designs to catch the imagination of conservative utility execs, many of whom were relying on the judgements of former Navy officers to lead their nuclear power plant fleets.

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    102. Atomik Rabbit

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to David Arthur

      The French use dedicated nuclear power plants at Tricastin to power their enrichment facilities. Since they have converted their energy-intensive gas diffusion process to centrifuges, the energy consumption is a small fraction of previous. When the GE laser enrichment facility in North Carolina comes on line, it will be possible for enrichment energy consumption to be reduced by another order of magnitude.

      Fuel fabrication and transport energy consumption is trivial compared with the massive amount of generation produced by energy-dense fuels.

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    103. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      @ Eclipse Now: " Have you looked at today's Gen3.5 reactors like the AP1000, let alone the waste eating reactors of tomorrow?"

      Has Eclipse been paying attention? I think not.

      Plant Vogtle Gen III+ AP1000 under construction:

      Massive cost overruns, defects, delays, litigation, technical problems, design change without NRC approval, stinky credit rating, consumer gouging.

      Eclipse's "waste eating reactors of tomorrow" are of course, non-existent. I peruse Eclipse's post and see silly. Nuclear remains a repository for stupid.

      http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/plant-vogtle-reactors-34-timeline-of-taxpayer-concerns
      http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1315/ML13150A405.pdf
      http://www.nonukesyall.org/Vogtle_loan_guarantees.html
      http://www.nonukesyall.org/Vogtle_profile.html

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    104. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Thanks Jonathan, I've only just seen this. A 1957 Soviet weapons facility. Does that count as evidence that we can't handle nuclear waste safely? I think not, but I'll keep it in mind. I'd be interested in how many people fall off ladders in connection with the solar industry, but I can't find any dataset ... any ideas?

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    105. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Compare what the UAE will have 11 years after beginning their nuclear program ... http://bit.ly/1c1jqaW about 44 TWh/yr of clean electricity. What does Australia have after 14 years of solar hype? About 1.4 million solar rooftops generating below 1/10th of that electricity. For anybody who cares about the planet, this is a tragedy. The big issue isn't money, its carbon, its climate change. The Beloyarsk 3 reactor is just one of the fast reactors Shirley claims is non-existent and its been pumping out about 7.5 TWh/yr of clean electricity each year for the past 20.

      Consider the German solar industry ... using the data here

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_in_Germany

      Then that single "nonexistent" fast reactor has generated about double the clean electricity in its lifetime that the entire German PV industry over the past 20 years (in Germany) has generated.

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    106. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      ”The Beloyarsk 3 reactor is just one of the fast reactors Shirley claims is non-existent “

      That claim is outright fallacious. I have never denied the existence of Beloyarsk’s BN-600 reactor. Meanwhile you obscure the environmentally destructive history of the Beloyarsk NPP to fool readers into believing its energy production is clean.

      And here is what I wrote:

      “Eclipse's "waste eating reactors of tomorrow" are of course, non-existent.”

      Russia’s BN-600 is not a "waste eating reactor…

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    107. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Yeah sure and a single OTC nuclear reactor slaughters 7 billion marine life in a year.

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    108. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      " Find me any record of nuclear waste hurting anybody ... it hasn't."

      Plutonium is a waste product. Plutonium has killed humans. Pu-239, a Group 1 carcinogen causes lung, liver, and bone cancer. Plutonium has been dumped in at least 16 of the US EPA’s National Priorities List sites (hazardous waste facilities).

      More than 47,800 drums and other containers of low-level radioactive waste have been dumped into the ocean west of San Francisco. When the 55 gallon, radioactive waste barrels floated…

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    109. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Australia is still pumping out 850 grams of CO2 per kwh compared to France's 80. Thanks in very large part to the anti-nuclear movement undermining the best hope we have of preventing a +6 degree future.

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    110. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, amongst the various fault lines in energy debates there's one that does baulk me, though I am otherwise open minded on nuclear prospects in the face of almost certain catastrophic climate change. That is, many who have analysed the larger global situation have arrived at a conclusion that civilisation as we know it faces a significant collapse in the coming century. Perhaps in the first half of this century. Books have been written on these lines, including that by Australian Paul Gilding…

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    111. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris Harries

      >"Geoff, amongst the various fault lines in energy debates there's one that does baulk me, though I am otherwise open minded on nuclear prospects in the face of almost certain catastrophic climate change. That is, many who have analysed the larger global situation have arrived at a conclusion that civilisation as we know it faces a significant collapse in the coming century. Perhaps in the first half of this century. "

      This doomsayer nonsense has been going on for 200,000 years, or since man could…

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    112. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, the biggest problem I see with climate change is food production and disease patterns. Moving food producing infrastructure isn't quick or simple but if rainfall moves and changes, then that's what will need to happen. But what do we do with malaria, dengue, lyme disease? And will we get more avian/swine flu mix and match diseases with more CAFOs in higher temperatures? Swine flu killed almost 300,000 people and mostly young people (unlike normal flu), so this stuff matters.

      One of the predictions of climate scientists going back decades is a destabilisation of the climate ... not just warming. We are used to working out where to grow stuff based on average rainfall, but if all your rain falls in huge bursts, that doesn't work.

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    113. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Lang

      As said, Peter, most nuclear proponents probably forecast a peaceful, prosperous and orderly world society that is well controlled and politically stable in the next century, and I too think that nuclear energy has tremendous scope in such a rosy future. But I wouldn't dismiss the prospect that the sort of social and political disruption we are seeing in Greece, Egypt, Syria (and various other places) may not conflate and become a much bigger problem globally.

      On the one hand, vastly expanded…

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    114. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff,

      I don't want to get off topic and start discussing impacts of CO2 emissions and increasing CO2 concentrations. But just quickly, I am not persuaded catastrophe is around the corner. And having been brought up on the land, I am of the opinion farmers are amongst the most ingenious, inventive and adaptable people of everyone.

      Furthermore, I see no problem with migration over the time scales we are talking about. People move all the time, and quickly. They sell a property in the Riverina…

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    115. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Chris,

      I am simply not persuaded by the doom and gloom and the doomsayers’ beliefs. Just about everyway you look at it the world is becoming better (Google at ‘Gapminder’ for an excellent easy to use charting of UN statistics). We are doing very well in lifting people out of poverty, extending life expectancy, and giving them more food, healthier, better education, and more freedom and security. Look how far we’ve come in a century and in the last half a century. It’s amazing what’s been and…

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    116. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, I looked at the Tol figure ... the Ag component (they say) is heavily based on one component ... CO2 fertilisation. That's way too simplistic. Let's wait for WGII's AR5 report which is due out soon.

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    117. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris,

      I replied to your comment. But I accidentally posted it as a reply to Geoff Russel instead of to your comment. You can identify it (about to comments above, as it I started it with "Chris".

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    118. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      France’s capital has had an air pollution crisis. Airborne PMs have reached the highest on the country’s index, putting Paris under alert. You see your atomic pin-up tart sets very low taxes on filthy, carcinogenic diesel fuel.

      President Hollande remains firm on his plan to reduce nuclear power from 75% to 50%. Meanwhile he is mobilising industry for a tidal energy future. Perhaps it’s because nuclear France has the second highest rate of cancer in the world? Hmm?

      Oh yes and this week…

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    119. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      This makes it pretty clear that you'd prefer a +6 degree planet to a nuclear powered one ... which is exactly where we are headed thanks to 3 decades of a preference of coal over nuclear from the anti-nuclear lobby.

      P.S. France's cancer rate is almost identical to Australia's ... but Ukraine's is about 50 percent lower ... so much for all all that radiation contamination.

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    120. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      True about the cancer rate Geoff. You see we had 12 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests at Montebello and Maralinga + 451 tests for leakage of radioactive material from weapons in warehouses caught in fires and the like, some of which did leak. Then some smart bloke granted 47 pastoral leases on the Woomera rocket range (which includes Maralinga) so the cattle and sheep could graze on the contaminated grass and we could then drink the milk and eat the meat. After 35+ years the authorities finally made an attempt to clean up the worst contamination. Are you surprised that we have a cancer rate similar to France. France has an official secrets act which protects all of their nuclear industry.

      Ever heard of the Tides of the Kimberly Geoff? and Hot rocks?

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    121. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Back for more punishment I see Geoffrey but did you know the Chernobyl Children International advised that:

      6,000 children in the Ukraine are born annually with the deadly condition known as 'Chernobyl Heart' - a defect in the heart caused by radiation from Chernobyl and which causes physical holes in the heart, along with a host of other conditions.

      Over 68% of all deaths in Ukraine are due to cardiovascular disease alone and more than 50% of children are not operated on because of lack…

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    122. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      When there are no changes in diseases caused by radiation, you just add in a bunch that aren't. I can understand people in the region doing this, but it doesn't alter the facts that decades of coal preference by the anti-nuclear movement has left a truly horrible legacy.

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    123. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      With regard to Ukraine
      When there are changes in diseases caused by radiation, you just don't count them!
      Did they look?

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    124. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Epidemiologists have done plenty of work on the outcome of Chernobyl ... look on the UNSCEAR website. But if you want the
      short version, just look at the age standarised rate of cancer in Ukraine (which is much more accurately measured than anything in the Soviet union in 1986). It's about 192 (globocan.iarc.fr). Our rate in Australia is 323. Do the math. If you look at Ukraine/Russia/Belarus, they have had about 14 million cancers over the past 25 years. If they'd had Australian cancer rates, they'd…

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    125. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I do not prefer coal over nuclear. I prefer renewable energy over both of them and particularly Tidal energy for on-grid industry!

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    126. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      For decades the anti-nuclear movement worked hard to ensure that Australia had coal ... I was a part of that. As long as we weren't nuclear we were happy ... which meant we got coal, without any protests or argument. We were so proud that we weren't nuclear. We (me and everybody else) were just plain ignorant. Just gullible trusting suckers. What do you do when you have been an idiot? I try to make amends.

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    127. In reply to Ivan Quail

      Comment removed by moderator.

    128. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to account deleted

      Not so Mike. Hydro Turbines are 85 to 95% efficient as compared to steam turbines which are 25 to 30% efficient.
      The Tides of the kimberley can generate power 24/7 365.
      UHV DC transmission losses are 3.5% per 1000 Km.
      Off peak power can be used to recharge electric vehicles, produce hydrogen or desalinate brackish water.
      Pumped storage can be 75% efficient.

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    129. In reply to Ivan Quail

      Comment removed by moderator.

    130. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to account deleted

      As you know time and tide waits for no man.
      Like you I am appalled at the low efficiency of fossil fueled pumped storage however if off peak tidal power was used for pumped storage I think that greater efficiency would be achieved.

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    131. In reply to Ivan Quail

      Comment removed by moderator.

    132. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to account deleted

      "what if a hybrid electric car battery was ripped out of a car and placed at each household (ie no solar panels, wind turbines etc) ?)
      $$$ However it has already been proposed that when you get back from work in your electric car you could plug it in to recharge. Three hours later when everybody jumps up to make tea during an add break and their is a demand spike the batteries could deliver power back to the grid for 3 mins or so.

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    1. Jack Smith

      Comedian

      In reply to Kyran Graham

      My thoughts exactly. This point is always lost in debates about changing sources of energy.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jack Smith

      Plenty of stuff here for your next stand up Jack, NIMBYS and all.
      Maybe comedy could be the vehicle for a white paper to be some good for other than in the toilet.

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    3. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Kyran Graham

      The energy required for the inefficient, and by now unnecessary (because breeder reactors do it better) process of shifting U-235 from 7/8 of a quantity of pure raw uranium into the "enriched" 1/8th is electrical. It is utterly nonsensical accounting to say that it contributes CO2 to the air. I believe that the least efficient technoque, gaseous diffusion, requires about 4% as much energy as the enriched product will produce. So instead of every 100 MWhrs that is claimed to be provided by nuclear, it would be 96 MWhrs.
      Kyran, as an evidently open minded fellow, let me recommend to you that you study the actual numbers proven and even claimed for wind, PV, direct solar, and biomass. Combine them with the all-important matter of response to demand, and recompute what it would take for these to replace coal and the fracturing of shale for gas.

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    1. In reply to James Mugg

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. James Mugg

      International Relations Student

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Contrary to what you might think, there are more nuclear plants being built per year at present than any time other than the 1980s. But they're all being built in Asia: India, China, Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan. Manufacturers in France, Korea and Canada (among others) are actually gearing up for a new surge in nuclear power.

      I agree that we'd be unlikely to see a nuclear plant on Australian soil, but Uranium is the next coal. By the end of this year, Australia will probably be the world's largest Uranium exporter.

      If manufacturers manage to standardise some aspects of nuclear plant construction (such as reactor vessels and cooling towers), the costs of manufacturing will plummet, as will construction times, which will FURTHER decrease the cost. This is the goal of their industry at present.

      When you say "then there is Germany" are you referring to the fact that Germany are closing down all their nuclear plants? I'm not clear on that.

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    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to James Mugg

      James, I don't think that there is a current nuke construction in India that isn't at the centre of vigorous and occasionally violent protest. I guess you know all about the issues in India? Let's face it: who do these ultimate NIMBYist peasanos think they are? Don't they know what's good for them. What's good for Milo Minderbinder Enterprises is good for the nation and all that stuff. Chin chin, old mate.

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    4. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to James Mugg

      "are you referring to the fact that Germany are closing down all their nuclear plants? "

      Yes. Like the one in the photo at the head of the article which ironically has already been closed.

      "Following the incident at the Fukushima plant in Japan reactor 1 was closed on 17th March,2011 for a three month moratorium on nuclear power. The outcome of this moratorium was announced on the morning of 30th May,2011 and Philippsburg-1 was named as a plant that would not be returning to generation at the end of the moratorium."

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    5. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to James Mugg

      James, you say:

      "I believe that nuclear power does have potential. Its implementation thus far has saved millions of lives that would otherwise have been lost due to carbon pollution."

      When dealing with nuclear power, the facts, only the facts, are important. established, verifiable, falsifiable facts. So your 'belief' that nuclear power is a radiant saviour of lives needs to be substantiated by a study containing facts.

      Otherwise it's just a belief, which you are entitled to hold, but don't put that belief forward without substantiation in a rational conversation. Believe what you want, prove what you assert.

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    6. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Actually what we need is more people like James, who are prepared to put aside whatever political bias they have and simply take a hard nosed, level-headed approach to making up their minds on this subject. It is too important to do otherwise and supersedes mere political allegiances (especially when all over the world the major political parties are about as different from each other as soft drink brands are).
      Facts are: nuclear can actually replace fossil fuels, for various reasons the other…

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    7. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Luke isn't spewing venom. I don't see it that way anyway. He does however continually feel like the only sane person in the asylum. I feel your pain, bro.

      And the similarities in the tags under our names are not a coincidence. Possibly that could give a few some food for thought. Or maybe someone with a similar degree of competence could argue your side of the debate? Now that would be fun, a fair fight even.

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    8. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      I am not a physicist, jonathan, but isn't uranium a finite resource, similar to fossil fuels in this way? Can one really replace fossil fuels with nuclear or should that be qualified as for ... amount of time/supply because supply will outstrip demand pretty soon if nothing else changes.

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    9. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to James Mugg

      There's very little viable in the way of solutions for the persistent deadliness of nuclear waste and the unreliability of reactors.

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    10. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I am a physicist. Uranium is a "finite resource" in the sense that everything is.

      Uranium is 40 times more abundant than Silver.

      One ton of natural uranium can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is equivalent to burning 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.

      http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/guide/facts/

      The Sun will die in around 4 billion years from now - but we don't think of it as being finite.

      The reality is that there is more than enough uranium…

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    11. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Yes, it is finite - but you are probably thinking of uranium (& other nuclear fuels) in terms of existing conventional nuclear, as opposed to fast reactors (read that as fast neutrons). The former gets us decades of energy - which should not be sniffed at, decades of fossil fuels has transformed human civilisation*, for good & ill, but overwhelmingly good surely - the latter gets us 1000s of years of energy. Enough breathing room to figure out dark matter & dark energy, maybe even figure out nuclear…

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    12. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Dear Mark, i did not argue against nuclear power, i asked a question to assess if a fair comparison was being made.
      As to your 'facts' that nuclear is low cost, low emission and safe is based on several unspoken assumptions of what these supposedly mean and i consider them therefore, using your term, hogwash. But thanks for butting into my conversation with your condescending remarks.

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    13. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Thanks for the reply, and yes, i'm aware the sun won't last forever yet renewable energy does not solely rely on it even now. The biggest difference i see between burning resources for energy and harvesting renewable energy is the impact of pollution and waste issues the former entails. And when it comes to nuclear energy, 1000s of years will produce incredible amounts of waste.
      But i understand now from your response that you believe technology will provide answers to our problems. This frames your posts to come from a technocratic standpoint.

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    14. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      ...and I was supposed to have done my last post for today.

      Conveniently labelling me as a pure technocrat is way too easy an out for you to take (I'm trying to remember the proper word we're supposed to be called ...someone help me out here). Most importantly how would that be different from those that are prepared to place blind faith in 100% renewables on technology that doesn't exist (yet ...but it will be). Some fabled energy storage device that will fix everything, and maybe that happens…

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    15. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hello Suzy - this is a public Blog so your comment about "butsting into a conversation" is somewhat odd.

      Also you did not ask a question - you made an assertion (disguised as as an interrogative) that uranium was a fimite resource. Implying that it was therefore not a viable option.

      I have pointed you at evidence to show that this is a logical fallacy in terms of consideration of the issue. It is, of course, entirely up to you what you do with that - if you have an open mind as opposed to an already formed (if perhaps ill informed) view on the matter.

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    16. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      ...wait, I remember now Cornucopian!

      ...so we give you your mobile phone, your tv and radio, the fridge and the washing machine, that internet thing too ...in short order there will be a self-driving electric car - exhibit 1 the new CEO of GM is an electrical engineer ...and is shutting down Holden, ok bad example

      But as soon as we tell you something you don't like, you smack us around. What the hell? Where's the love?

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    17. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      No, Mark, I was well aware of my non-physicist's understanding of the concept*, but questioned a physicist's interpretation of nuclear fuel as a finite resource as opposed to fossil fuels - it was a question, however you would like to interpret it and whatever meanings you associate with it are yours alone, so don't attribute them to me.
      I did believe that we cannot supply our growing energy needs with uranium for the long term and without impacting our environment increasingly - I may be wrong…

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    18. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      *i had the fortune to share a house with a highly qualified British Dr in nuclear science who worked at lucas heights reactor, it provided some interesting knowledge about medical and other applications, as well as in-house jokes. I don't believe I am completely ignorant on some of the issues concerning nuclear applications.

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    19. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      I totally agree that a reliance on renewable technology saving the planet in the future is also a technocratic view. I don't see this as a ready made solution to all our current problems and it does not represent my view on energy futures either, you may be interested to hear.
      I do try to use articles like this to further my understanding and it is only responsible, i believe, to ask questions and not blindly trust in someone's proclaimed titles and accept their 'facts' without understanding where…

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    20. Graham R.L. Cowan

      Researcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Actually the very long time horizons involved are one of the good things about nuclear energy. This Google Maps image -- http://goo.gl/maps/8hz6J -- shows why. It includes the Alberta tar patch, which mines and upgrades enough tar to produce 2 million barrels of synthetic crude each day. A very large energy-producing operation, about 60 gigawatts if I recall correctly.

      It also contains the world's largest uranium mine, around *80* gigawatts. It is larger than the tar mine in energy output, but…

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    21. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Cornucopian Johathan, new one on me!
      Just engineer would have been OK by me, perhaps a Futuristic Engineer or maybe we could invent Futuristgineer!

      But hey yeah, we have so many people using their computers and the internet to lambast all sorts of power generation and use whilst quite happy to still be using that power.

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    22. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Graham R.L. Cowan

      Because 'impact' has many facets and many time frames and cannot simply be limited to comparing just one or two known ones. In addition, there are other impacts apart from human-felt ones which can often be overlooked yet affect the outcomes nonetheless in unexpected ways.

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    23. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      My understanding of impacts -see above.
      On land use alone, car transport may also be a rather inefficient and destructive solution, yet we continue to flatten areas and ecosystems for roads and carparks...
      Many of these arguments are based on the assumption that nothing else will change and we will continue basing our economy/ lifestyle on continually growing energy use. This assumption will lead us only to one end eventually: the destruction of the environment that supports our lives as we convert more of it to electricity and heat. The change we need to face goes much further than replacing coal with nuclear or renewables or petrol with electricity - all of these have minimal impact to the eventual outcome (give or take a few years/decades) unless our understanding and requirements of energy change.

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    24. Graham R.L. Cowan

      Researcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy Gneist on why she believes renewable energies are lower in impact than tar sand energy or nuclear energy:

      "Because 'impact' has many facets and many time frames and cannot simply be limited to comparing just one or two known ones. In addition, there are other impacts apart from human-felt ones which can often be overlooked yet affect the outcomes nonetheless in unexpected ways."

      Obviously that applies to renewables too. "Why do you believe the defendant is guilty, rather than the prosecution's witness?"

      "Because 'guilt or innocence have many facets and many time frames and cannot simply be limited to comparing just one or two known ones ..."

      She'd do *very* well as prosecutor of an innocent party, with a guilty witness and the boyfriend of that witness holding the gavel.

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    25. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Graham R.L. Cowan

      Graham R.L. Cowan is great at making up stories at the cost of others.
      Renewables obviously have some impacts, but due to the fact that they are renewables, this impact is limited to establishment and disposal and there is no ongoing impact in between as fossil or nuclear fuels have. Therefore it is pretty logical that the impact is smaller over the useful lifetime.
      Graham, your question was?
      How do renewables pollute and continue to use resources over their useful time? Yes, a dam needs to be build, so does a nuclear/coal power station. Yes solar panels have to be made, yet once installed they don't require a constant supply of fossil fuel. In which way do you think renewables have higher impacts than conventional energy generators? Environmental? Land use? Air and water quality? Resources use? Which 'guilty verdicts' are you listing against renewables that conventionals do not surpass?

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    26. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    27. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    28. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy ... "once installed" is the clue. They require large amounts of land, trucks, steel, concrete ... please consider

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/03/14/81000-truckers-for-solar/

      and if you include biomass (as AEMO did in its 100% renewable proposal), then this is a renewable which spews large quantities of carcinogens into the environment (ie., wood smoke) and involves what is frequently the most dangerous industry in most economies ... forestry ... log/slash/truck/burn

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/06/11/renewable-electricity-nirvana/

      Wind/Solar/Biomass have much bigger environmental cost than nuclear.

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    29. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, but so do conventionals. Land, transport, storage, disposal... And in the case of nuclear waste, the environmental cost cannot be established until the waste has been restored to normal levels and safe sites comparable to the original deposits - until then, the impact potential continues and can have significant consequences.
      Are you saying that the establishment impact is higher for renewables, the ongoing running or the total?
      As you point out above, it really relies on what exactly you…

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    30. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to James Mugg

      "Uranium is the next coal" James, I've enjoyed your posts, but as an admirer of Bertrand Russell's "in Praise of Idleness", I am compelled to say that ideally, the people no longer employed by the oil and coal industries won't find much employment sucking uranium out of the ground either.
      There is a company that includes some of the physicists and engineers of the brilliantly successful (until Clinton killed it) Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project. http:://arcnuclear.com
      They actually do propose…

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    31. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Here's the simplest fact that the pro-nuclear, and even formerly anti-nuclear converts know. The energies binding the atomic nucleus are millions of times the strength of those binding the electronc. Chemical processes use the latter, whether they be motor cars or Molotov cocktails.
      Therefore, the quantities of fuel and of waste for a given energy output are very small compared with other energy resources. The reactors are also small compared with the space needed for collecting wind or sunlight…

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    32. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      The statistics for the reactors in the USA consistently report production of energy at a level of 90% capacity, which is higher per than any other technology. Nuclear waste is the only energy waste that is in fact not persistent. The more radioactive an isotope is, the sooner it disappears. Arsennic, mercury vapour, and heavy metals are infinitely persistent, and coal burning emits them. Carbon dioxide is frighteningly persistent,, and although not poisonous, it worsens hurricanes by supplying them from warmer seas, with greater destructive power.

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    33. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Jonathan has provided an excellent reeply to this, but I'm intrigued by the widespread ignorance about the origins of coal and uranium.
      Coal is fossilized solar power, vegetation that was first drowned and then fossilized by tectonic activities. Every coal seam is a record of a Terran tragedy.
      Uranium, and indeed every element further down the periodic table than iron, exists as a result of the catastrophic "death" of a huge star. Even in the 19th century, the greatest physicists were baffled by the energy output of the Sun. Kelvin got the Earth's age wrong by a factor of a hundred or more. The enrgy of radioactivity of thorium, uranium, and the rare radioactive isotope of potassium, are responsible for the amolten state of our planet's interior.
      No, uranium is not similar to fossil fuels. And ever since 1945, there has been known a way to create fissile isotopes to compensate for the rarity of U-235 relative to U-238.

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    34. Blair Donaldson
      Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher & Skeptic

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      "Carbon dioxide is frighteningly persistent,, and although not poisonous, it worsens hurricanes by supplying them from warmer seas, with greater destructive power."

      I wish you would try and get that into the thick head of our PM and his bunch of merry anti-scientists. They think CO2 is God's gift to mankind.

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    35. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Climate change requires us to decarbonise our energy supply, roll back deforestation and reduce non-CO2 forcings like methane. I take that as a given, so fossil fuels are out. So the choice is nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, tidal etc or some mix. Have you ever looked at a solar farm EIS? Perhaps the Moree Solar Farm? Or the Desert Sunlight Project in the US ... 2,200 pages for the EIS,
      http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/palmsprings/Solar_Projects/Desert_Sunlight.html

      There's plenty of…

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    36. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Sorry, Suzie, but you're wrong about pollution and waste from the so-called "renewables" For example, wood is theoretically renewable, but not at the rate that even the one billion or so people of the 18th century were consuming it. Solar PV cells don't last for ever, and they involve heavy metals and arsenic. As an expatriate Scot, I am horrified at the proposed visual pollution of the Pentland Hills by wind turbines. Also, those things have to be serviced with helicopters.Any attempt at harvesting…

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    37. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      "In fact, all the urination and moaning about Chernobyl and Fukushima..."

      Is "urination" to rumination

      what

      "suppository" is to repository?

      BTW

      Another good reason for sustainable energy technology is that smaller innovative competitive businesses also employ far more people than nuclear, just sayin'.

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    38. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      On the employment issue I think you would be correct, Dianna.
      Distributed energy provides distributed employment.
      The regional distribution of employment adds good social value to the numbers employed.
      But I think that's a lower order issue than energy supply.

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    39. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Dear Suzie, you really do need to look at the NUMBERS.
      The impact on the environment of trying to supply enough reliable megawatts to replace just one 1000 MW coal burner with wind power is prodigious. One 5MW wind turbine will produce, in most places 20% to 25% of its rated capacity. It will NOT do this in response to actual demand, a crucial failing, but I'll go on.
      These things have a peak height of about 200 metres, and enormous concrete bases.

      So to get the same output as a coal burner…

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    40. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Albert, I don't have a critical technical attitude towards nuclear power. Arguing with nuclear technocrats, as German sociologist Ulrich Beck commented, is 'like arm wrestling yourself across a table'. What concerns me is the lever of corruption, cover up, lies, corporate malfeasance and regulatory capture that characterizes the nuclear fuel cycle. If you don't know the history of the nuclear industry then your technical somersaults are meaningless.

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    41. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Albert scares readers by advising that Solar PV cells involve heavy metals. In a previous post Ben Heard scares readers by saying that coal emissions contain nasty heavy metals.

      Actinides ARE heavy metals - thorium, uranium, plutonium, cobalt etc. and victims receive the double whammy - metal toxicity and ionising radiation.

      No doubt about them nuclear yodellers - all hat, no brains.

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    42. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley that's a trifle vitriolic.
      Why not just agree to disagree?
      Interesting though. It's invariably blokes who use such pointed language.

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    43. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Hi albert, only just came across your comments.
      Just shows how selective thinking can be - i read your comment on ladder fall deaths 'due to solar panels' and wonder how many die while changing a lightbulb and if you attribute these deaths to coal fired power plants?
      Also, mentioning wind turbines serviced by helicopters without considering the constant helicopter traffic oil platforms require to run.
      There may be a need for some nuclear energy in places were people are unable or unwilling to use other technologies or change their habits. These areas can chose to go nuclear - as long as they are informed and happy to live next door to the plant, as i am happy to live under my solar roof and risk my life once a year to mop them down (luckily i can stand on my verandah roof for this, reducing the likelihood of death by ladder).

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    44. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      Aren't your reactors also at risk from the same weather and risk of long power outages due to storm/flood damage?
      What made you think i'm convinced wind power is the answer to our problems?
      I actually believe our usage and transmission loss can be significantly reduced to begin with. Renewables are a great option to use local advantages and supply power where it is needed. You can always chose to put a reactor in your basement to allow you to run your air conditioner 24/7 if so desired, as long as you are comfortable with that choice. I would prefer to see developments in solar that reduce the impact further and make it more efficient, until then i just use a lot less than the average person - my understanding of taking personal responsibility.

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    45. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      On the safety issues, nuclear power is very similar to that of flying in planes. On the onset of mass air transport many people were very fearful of flying, some totally paranoid. That phase has now passed and when looking at the statistics of travel safety, flying in jets causes far fewer deaths and injuries than any other form of travel, including driving cars, bicycles and walking – i.e. per kilometre travelled.

      When there is a rare flying accident it is very graphic and numbers are killed…

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    46. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Is your point also that wind and solar are more prone to weather disruption, as albert's point, or that they are also more dangerous than flying?
      How did it go from weather impacts to safety? Sorry, i'm not sure i follow how this relates, but maybe i'm missing something from earlier - i didn't bring up safety issues, i think albert listed the number of deaths by ladder related to roof PV, i asked him if number of deaths by ladder related to coal powered lightbulbs ever got mentioned as a coal power safety issue. Maybe this is what you are refering to - only extending this to nuclear and flying?

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    47. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Sorry, Suzy, these posts don't necessary turn up in chronological sequence. I was referring only to the safety issue that you had also commented on, not the weather issue.

      I was only pointing out that amongst the risks of nuclear power (many of them legitimate) the reactor safety issue if often overblown – this stemming from irrational fear, similar to what was once the case with fear of flying in aircraft.

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    48. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I was quoting a survey on safety per kWh of energy generated, which said that by applying reasonable statistics even to rooftop PV, it could be shown that the probabilities of death and injury per kWh generated by the available technologies were lowest for nuclear. The objective should be to get rid, as soon aas possible, preferably before world war breaks out over the dwindling resources, of the consumption of fossil carbon for any purpose other than the smelting of metals.
      I believe that if the…

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    49. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      FYI, i drive a Prius, I work from home or an office 5km away and if I hadn't previously been hit by a car on the road I travel, I would still ride my bike when the weather allows. Unfortunately it isn't safe to do so. I had considered a rechargeable car that would take advantage of my excess PV during the day, but availability was limited.
      In my regional situation, decentralised power - most likely renewables - would be a much more useful option to centralised power, whether coal, nuclear or otherwise. Extended power cuts due to storms, floods, line damage, etc would be limited as our supply repairs usually take the longest if other areas are also affected, so even if our power goes off first, it's likely to come back on next to last - sometimes day/s later.
      I don't think nuclear could solve our supply and infrastructure issues. In case of industry: let them locate and use nuclear if they must, maybe it will solve their issues.

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    50. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Chris Harries

      I wouldn't write off concerns as irrational fear, fear can be quite rational too and bring with it extra precautions and safety considerations.
      Even scientists/physicists can display irrational fears (spiders, elevators, etc.) because they are also human (at least i assume so) and it does not discredit their entire attitude or opinion on the subject of their fear. There are risks, however small they may be, they are real if you feel they are and it won't help much to call them overblown.
      I am wary…

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    51. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, "I would like to see safety and environmental protection enshrined in company law above profits and returns to shareholders, maybe i could develop trust in such enterprises". The only thing I trust business to do is pursue profits and if that involves breaking the law, then just try to follow the eleventh commandment: "Don'y get caught".

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    52. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Sure. It was widespread irrational fear of flying that forced airlines to adopt such strict safety standards and regulation. Ditto seems to have happened in relation to nuclear power plant. So, we can say it's all to the good. All the same, the fear does not correlate with the statistics.

      I'm not being an advocate, but see this as the weakest (but most popular) criticisms of nuclear energy. It's up to that industry to prove itself on other front, especially the economic one.

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    53. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Chris Harries

      You are right, and although all the safety gear is in every plane - a large investment for the company - it may only save a few lives in the event of an accident. It may not calculate as an efficient company expense, but those few people will be extremely grateful the option was available.
      So, catering to irrational fear may not look good on the balance sheet yet still save lives in a worst case scenario.

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    54. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      I know i'm an idealist, but i'd like to think humans can be better than that. In the end selfishness and ambition doesn't really make anyone lastingly happy. A social and environmental conscience is a much better tool to gain happiness - which i do hope most people strive for in life (maybe with the exception of some politicians or the extremely greedy ;) ).

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    55. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Chris Harries

      >"Sure. It was widespread irrational fear of flying that forced airlines to adopt such strict safety standards and regulation. Ditto seems to have happened in relation to nuclear power plant. So, we can say it's all to the good. "

      No. It's obviously NOT all to the good in the case of nuclear.

      1. Even without considering the CO2 arguments, nuclear is being prevented from avoiding about 1 million avoidable, fatalities per year (if nuclear replaced the coal in global electricity generation…

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    56. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy,

      You are totally wrong all that. It is a completely baseless dream. But you won't listen to the people that know, so how does anyone have a rational discussion with people like you. How can you get through to people like you?

      Are you interested in learning. You say you are a student. Has anyone taught you to be objective, or haven't you got to that part yet?

      If you are interested in learning about the subjects you pontificate about, could you take the time to read this excellent new book: "Energy in Australia" by Graham Palmer. It is just 80 pages, very well written, concise and covers the relevant information you are discussing. There is also an excellent review here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/02/09/book-review-energy-in-australia/

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    57. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Dear peter, what are you refering to or talking about?
      Statements like: "you are totally wrong", "completely baseless dream" "people like you" do not sound rational to me.
      I do listen to people "who" know something, but 'that' does not mean i have to agree because i may base my view on more than their limited field of expertise.
      Since you do not mention which of my comments has got you all worked up, i can't specifically respond or clarify my position.
      I suppose you consider yourself one of…

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    58. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      My mistake, I meant to quote the sentence I was responding to:

      >'In my regional situation, decentralised power - most likely renewables - would be a much more useful option to centralised power, whether coal, nuclear or otherwise."

      I replied "You are totally wrong all that. It is a completely baseless dream. .... "

      The rest follows. Hope this makes it clear.

      If you your are genuinely interested in trying to understand, I suggest you read Graham Palmer book "Energy in Australia".

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    59. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Ever wondered why Oncologists use radiation therapy to treat cancer? The reason is that radiation is so very, very good at killing and maiming living cells. They want the killing but not the maiming of cancer cells so they go to great trouble to try to target the cancerous cells only.

      From: Radiation Therapy for Cancer Item (9)
      Some types of systemic radiation therapy may temporarily make a patient’s bodily fluids (such as saliva, urine, sweat, or stool) emit a low level of radiation. Patients…

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    60. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Peter Lang

      It is not a baseless dream if it supplies my lower than average power consumption.
      I read the book review you posted and as good as his analysis of current supply/requirements may be, there is an underlying assumption that our society (current western developed countries) is the standard for future consumption for the rest of the world. What i would call a business as usual scenario and a future continuation which i personally believe to be pretty wasteful. Maybe it's your preferred future, but it isn't mine - but that difference isn't baseless. There is no single solution that works for everyone everywhere.

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    61. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Albert Rogers

      . But more to the point, the only hope of an alternative to the technologies and resources that already overcame sun, wind, and biomass, is nuclear."
      Really.
      What about gravity driving the tides? and geothermal?

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  2. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this article, A/Prof Diesendorf.

    How is emissions production affected if Roxby Downs is powered by with nuclear power, sited on the Nullarbor Coast west of Ceduna, using seawater cooling, also supplying power to the processing and enrichment plants, and to a seawater desalination plant?

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    1. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Great minds think alike. I just made the same point on another forum not having read the above article
      http://decarbonisesa.com/2014/02/06/business-sa-demands-a-nuclear-industry-for-south-australia/

      Former MP Alexander Downer once suggested our yellowcake exports more than compensate for our carbon profligacy at home. I must admit the idea of using 19 gigalitres of diesel to dig the Olympic Dam open cut is a bit over the top. Presumably that is for trucks, ANFO and auxiliary power. BHP now say they will use conveyor belts where possible rather than trucks.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Newlands

      Thanks for that, Mr Newlands. Let's not go overboard about great minds, however.

      decarbonisesa - that's the boosterist site where they're forever proclaiming Port Augusta as a site for a power plant, isn't it? I've been telling them for years that thermal power station at the head of Spencer Gulf will water temperatures for quite a way down the Gulf, with adverse consequences for its ecology.

      This is the light in which claims about environmental concerns should be considered. On the other hand, if they're arguing against thermal power at Port Augusta, then I'm relieved.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to garybass

      "Why wouldn't a solar plant(1year) be installed west of Ceduna in significant fraction of the time for nuclear(ten years!!) with no cost for safeguards on spent fuel(several thousand years!!)"

      Why not indeed, garyb?

      Let the optimal technology win, I say.

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    4. John Perry

      Teacher

      In reply to David Arthur

      I've never heard this argument before. Isn't the ecology around the existing (soon-to-be non-existent) power station already rooted? Surely a thermal plant could be no worse than what they've had to put up with for decades.

      As a side note, their coal-powered station was financed by the taxpayer in the middle of last century. Kind of puts a dent in the "if you want renewable energy, YOU pay for it!" line (not directed at you, David!).

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Perry

      That the ecology around the power station's 'rooted' is, in part, a demonstration of my point.

      Someone called K I M Robinson did a UNSW thesis on the impact of thermal pollution on inshore marine ecosystems, in that case on the effects of thermal pollution from Vales Point power station on Lake Macquarie: "Effects of Thermal Power Station Effluent on the Seagrass Benthic Communities of Lake Macquarie, a New South Wales Coastal Lagoon", http://ojs.library.unsw.edu.au/index.php/wetlands/article/viewFile/145/157.

      The Good News is, while marine ecosystems near Port Augusta have been cactused up, they should recover once the disruption ceases.

      Therefore, what's even better than a thermal plant continuing to affect Port Augusta is siting the thermal plant somewhere else, where it won't be as deleterious as at Port Augusta. My thinking is that the open coast west of Ceduna would be suitable - being open, there'll be more rapid more extensive dissipation of excess heat.

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    6. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Several commenters on DSA have said Pt Augusta is the wrong place for both desal and thermal plant. That seems to be saying Sundrop Farms and Northern Power Station shouldn't be there. I think they're right.

      The mothballed Pt Lowly desal a little further down Spencer Gulf was to have a 324 km water pipe to Roxby Downs. Swing a 350 km radius from there (RD) and you get Ceduna on the Great Australian Bight.

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    7. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Luke Weston

      That's over the mine life. The open cut would be bigger than Kalgoorlie I believe. A few years ago Australia used 9 GL of diesel a year now the figure could be bigger. When Rudd was PM there was a threat to pull the diesel rebate of about 18.5c per L if I recall. BHP did a dummy spit saying Olympic Dam wouldn't go ahead so the fuel rebate stayed.

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    8. Albert Rogers

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to garybass

      It is time to point out, yet again, that spent fuel -- the correct term BTW, well done --not "nuclear waste" -- ought not to be wasted. Spent LWR reactor fuuel is mostly the stuff that went in at the beginning. It contains not more than 4% of fission products, short lived, highly radioactive, and 1% of plutonium, not very radioactive, far too long-lived to store, and worth ten million kWh per kilogram, in a reactor.

      As for low maintenance and distributed, point of use energy supply, there are…

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    1. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      First of all thanks for this clear & perfectly reasonable post. I completely understand where you are coming from, so I don't want you to feel like anything that follows is a personal attack in anyway (I've deliberately been aggressive in most of my other posts ...there's a tactic to that though). There are a couple of themes in your post that I see time and time again, and that's what I need to deal with.

      First this cost-benefit argument & the significant amount of time it will take to get…

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    2. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      So, Jonathan, the AEMO, who have determined that it is technically feasible to power Australia entirely by renewables, and that this could be done within 20 years 'don't know what they are doing and merely have an opinion'?

      And you wonder why people like you and Luke, who love to bleat about ho wyou get attacked and are the only sane adults in the room, yet also love to post aggressuively and insultingly about you ropponents are judged to be arrogant or patronising?

      by the way, your little…

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    3. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Hi Jonathon, regarding your thought experiment about a small town going off grid. I'm keen to hear what you think about the King Island Renewable Integration Project.

      It seems like they're now about 65% powered by renewables. It's been about 13 years since that concept came into being, though much of it has happened in the last few years. With further development into the smart grid and battery technology, it doesn't seem too far fetched for this to continue to climb.

      http://www.kingislandrenewableenergy.com.au/project-information/overview

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    4. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Hi Jonathon,

      thanks heaps for your articulate and measured reply. I agree we need to displace fossil fuels by all practical means ASAP. And that may even include nukes.

      There are already good tech and engineering solutions to green or greenish energy production and distribution. There's more in the pipeline. And despite my remaining concerns about nuclear, I can consider it as one of the possible options in the energy portfolio - as long as it doesn't displace cleaner methods and continue…

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    5. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The AEMO study lost credibility with me when they started talking about "new load shape peak assuming flexible demand". I keep envisioning that if they actually got an engineer to write that down, that poor soul had to take a long shower afterwards. So yeah, it amounts to not much more than an opinion in my eyes - of nameless authors (possibly hollowmen?) that don't seem prepared to walk the talk. Others have more comprehensively critiqued this & Diesendorf et al's studies, but I'm big on the…

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    6. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      David, will do. But it wasn't a 'thought experiment', it was totally Jerry Maguire.
      I have however completely exceeded the time I was supposed to spend here today. Had a look at the link but my browser's set up for all sorts of javascript & flash blocking so I got a blank page. I'll investigate it & report back. Promise.
      For what it's worth Iceland could go totally geothermal powered, if they haven't already - but small population sitting on top of a junction between tectonic plates, sure the occasional volcano ...we should all be so lucky.

      An aside: (see I can't help myself) I've always wanted to see some kind of survey/poll of all the engineers working on renewable energy done to see if they think that nuclear should be part of the energy mix, or even that it is essential that it be part of the mix. I know what I think the result would be, and that it might surprise the usual suspects.

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    7. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      'The AEMO study lost credibility with me when they started talking about "new load shape peak assuming flexible demand"'

      Demand flexibility is something that comes automatically with thinking in terms of flexible demand.

      http://www1.eere.energy.gov/analysis/pdfs/alcoa_dewayne_todd.pdf

      http://www.build.com.au/panasonic-launches-new-air-conditioners-demand-response-technology

      http://www.institutebe.com/smart-grid-smart-building/commercial-demand-response.aspx

      I don't understand where credibility is lost here. The world is changing. It always has, always will. Nothing incredible about recognising the fact.

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    8. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Iceland's electricity supply is 100% renewable, but it's mostly hydroelectric, only about 20% is geothermal.

      One fascinating development is that Iceland is now able to export its geothermal energy in the form of synthetic liquid fuel, made from hydrogen from the electrolysis of water, powered by geothermal electricity, combined with CO2 sourced from the same geothermal vents.

      http://www.carbonrecycling.is/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49%3Aicelandic-fuel-from-geothermal-sources-sold-in-holland-&catid=2&Itemid=6&lang=en

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    9. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Yes. And I've heard of plans to build an undersea power line to connect them to Britain & mainland Europe so they can sell it directly into those bigger markets. All good & I'm all for it, especially since this renewable is not intermittent. Every little bit counts and is part of the 'do everything' strategy. The science & the engineering will tell if it is possible, and then if the financials also make sense, I'm sure it'll happen.

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    10. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Right. So let me explain first why I'm about to do what I'm going to do here. Take all the musings of a Lovelock, Hansen and Switkowski expressing the necessity of having nuclear (together with renewables) to make a new energy infrastructure - then all it takes is one off-the cuff comment from an Ian Lowe about nuclear not being essential and countless numbers of the general public take the easy option he gives them - why not? Nuclear scares them. End of. My problem is that what you are doing…

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    11. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Good discussion. Constructive. The line you present of being open to the idea of mixing nuclear with renewables, while still remaining sceptical is actually all I've ever asked for. Well I've done that here, now. But I'm new here. And when we start building nuclear plants, remain sceptical - an informed and vigilant public is almost more important than the actual nuclear know-how ...it is ultimately not enough of the former that got Japan in trouble & led to Fukushima. As long as it is not…

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    12. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Cheers, Jonathon. All good points. Re. the money, we're currently blowing it. We should be taking every cent we can from resource extraction and putting it toward the kind of energy plan you describe here. Also, taxes need to be higher, and we need strong and clear leadership from all sectors on pulling together for a common cause - ensuring the mitigation of climate change. People aren't evil or necessarily stupid, but they are trusting, and they believe the loudest most emphatic voices (them with the money) more than they do those with evidence.
      C'est la feckin' vie, mate. Bloody hell, I need to get to work. Over and out.

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    13. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      Flattered and patronised, Mr Sutanto, that you address this to me. Yes, since I don't earn a crust in the energy industry, I am indeed a spectator. You may pull rank all you like, but I will not salute you.

      You say you wish to look at first principles. You start with a discussion of electromagnetic force and the chemical valency of carbon, then proceed to compare fossil fuels and biomass productivity and have a little nark at the ludicrous idea of weeks' worth of thermal energy storage…

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    14. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      John, just putting the words "Personally I think" in front of a matter of physics and engineering *does not* turn physics and engineering realities into the subjective realm of your personal opinion! You continue: "that present-day economic competition among fossil, nuclear and renewable energy technologies has much more to do with psychology, politics and finance than it does with first principles of physics or even with energy budgets." That is your personal opinion, not backed by any peer-reviewed…

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    15. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      Echlipse, in objecting to my words "Personally I think" and "Links are so '90s", it would seem you are failing to observe the context of the long and unusual post I was replying to. My words were a direct reply to Jonathan Sutanto in a thread in which several people have already posted links to peer-reviewed work.

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    16. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan, "Global insolation today is roughly 174 petawatts continuous at the top of the atmosphere. It would have been somewhat higher, several hundred million years ago". I think you have the equation the wrong way round: from what I understand, the sun was actually cooler all that time ago. Have I been misinformed?

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    17. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Thanks, Jonathan. In my view, the fainter young sun is yet more evidence of the sensitivity of climate to CO₂e in the atmosphere, otherwise how was the climate so much warmer in the past, when the sun was cooler? (Discounting Climate Fairies as an explanation, of course ...)

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    18. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Jonathan Sutanto

      "For what it's worth Iceland could go totally geothermal powered, if they haven't already - but small population sitting on top of a junction between tectonic plates, sure the occasional volcano ...we should all be so lucky."
      The Tides of the Kimberley can generate 6 times more electricity than we currently generate.
      If your little town remains connected to the grid and gets it's electricity from the tides, surely that would be problem solved.

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    19. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Actually the interesting thing about Iceland is that its amply hydro electric power stations have no shortage of water, as climate change is causing much higher than average ice melt (this is all to the good for its new aluminium smelter) but that energy injection is like a short term binge, because down the track the opposite will happen, when the ice has melted.

      As it is, the whole operation seems to be running at a loss: http://www.savingiceland.org/2011/12/time-has-told-the-karahnjukar-dams-disastrous-economical-and-environmental-impacts/

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to David Rennie

      "Once we agree to remove the obstacles imposed by the anti nuclear lobby"

      Such as?

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    2. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Well for one, I believe the development of nuclear power and related industries are effectively obstructed by anti nuclear opponents in Labor and the Greens. If Labor and Liberal cooperated to legislate for development we would see every proposed site blockaded by the anti nukes.
      If however the Greens reversed their position and cooperated in the safe introduction of nuclear power we could replace all our fossil fuel power stations over a period of 40 years.
      If the Greens don't change their position, as many environmentalists have, we face decades of policy switches while Labor and Liberal fight over the best response to AGW, with the liberals maintaining their do nothing approach. The Greens are in the position that they will acheive small gains only to have them reversed under successive Liberal govts.

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    3. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to David Rennie

      Hi David,

      I'm a Greens voter open to the evidence on nuclear. But, as in my comment above, I've yet to be convinced on the economics, the engineering or the environmental aspects.

      This isn't political or ideological for me as much as it is pragmatic. Besides which, we tree-huggers are so powerless and down the political pole (no, we don't 'control' the Labour party - they hate us way more than you do), if both major parties wanted nuclear, they could have it. But does the market want it…

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    4. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      I am also a Greens voter, since the Liberals came out on the dark side in relationship to the environment.
      The market wants to stick with fossil fuels. we need to abolish that option. Once we acheive that I am sure you will find nuclear is a very attractive economic option compared to solar and other renewables, as such it will be very attractive to the market. So much so that it should not need subsidies at all.
      We are not big enough to develop experimental reactors which are typically…

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    5. Ben Marshall
      Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Writer

      In reply to David Rennie

      Thanks for this, David.

      Ban fossil fuels and, yes, perhaps nuclear becomes part of the suite of the new, sustainable energy production portfolio. I'm open to that.

      But, again, so far, the arguments, like yours that say here's the costs of wind and solar v all the rest are not only a bit long in the tooth but a tad beside the point. We need to act fast. If you and I vote Greens, great. If nuclear works in a specific time and place, I might even buy that option. If it excludes a more…

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  3. John a Clarke

    Designer

    "So depending on your choice of analysis, nuclear power can be viewed as almost as emissions-intensive as gas" ..or not... .

    I think this article falls short of the normal investigative benchmark from the conversation. As several have pointed out, there are a number of sources overlooked, or selectively used to prop up an argument.

    I tend to be pragmatic on this issue rather than ideological, but the information here is frustratingly nuanced, and leaves me no better off in my understanding of the vexed issue of " nuclear or not"

    .

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    1. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to John a Clarke

      I also found this article failed to make a strong case and its findings are effectively called into question by many of the posts following it.
      For my own part, it does not explain why a country such as France, which has a long established nuclear industry, has lower CO2 emissions per capita than Germany, which has strongly embraced renewables.

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  4. Fred Pribac

    logged in via email @internode.on.net

    Once again I refer to the analysis done by Ziggy Switkowski for the Government in 2006.

    Some of the most interesting parts of that report were the conclusions relating to scale and comparisons with other low-emissons technology.

    Low emissions tecghnology then included promising by the author were carbon capture and sequestration, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal. Of these despite an additional 8 years of research most are still in the "promising" category except…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      You wouldn't happen to have Dr Zwitkowsky's list of possible Australian sites for nuclear development, would you?

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    2. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to David Arthur

      No - I don't believe that it did. But ... they would have to be close to sites of industry and population if you want to avoid undue transmission losses.

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    3. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      If it were me, I'd go for one two types of location -
      1 at existing power plants. Cooling water is already solved, as is the transmission system.
      2 at the borders between states, and close to the ocean. Power can be sent to either state (despite a national energy market, there are still constraints at the interconnectors). On the ocean, because a) that's your cooling water, and b) that's where the demand is (up and down the coast is where people and industry are, and therefore demand).
      For…

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jeremy Culberg

      Of the two types of location, Mr Culberg, I argue that we should completely rule out the first ("at existing power plants. Cooling water is already solved, as is the transmission system")

      While transmission infrastructure is in place, the perception of cooling water availability will prove illusory as changing climate leaves all non-coastal Australia subject to ever-larger fluctuations in water availability.

      For this reason, Australia's future thermal power stations ("thermal" - those that…

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    5. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to David Arthur

      David, your argument has some merit, however I would temper that with the comment that simply replacing the inland power station with a dry cooling method (as per Kogan Creek), or hybrid cooling systems (some evaporative, some dry cooling) may be more politically achievable (and for that matter technically achievable for the lifespan of the power station) simply due to the fact that whatever community exists around the power station already accepts power generation.
      Again, due to the proximity of…

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    6. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jeremy Culberg

      Thanks for that, Mr Culberg.

      I'm a bit sceptical of "politically achievable" actions, since sooner or later they will run foul of unavoidable consequences of climate change; maintaining any water supply to an inland power plant may well come at devastating cost to its river basin.

      Dry cooling such as at Kogan Creek might be a suitable alternative, but I understand the cost of this to be decreased efficiency (kWh generated per MJ thermal energy released).

      Much of our discussion may be made moot, if technological progress sees distributed power generation (rooftop solar) being augmented with distributed/networked energy storage.

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    1. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Much of the truth about radioactive effects and data related to nuclear energy has been fudged, covered up, classified or buried. The strategy is to continue manipulating facts on a grand scale to keep Joe Public in a blissful state of ignorance so he can continue serving the mob as a nuclear waste repository/dump.

      True to form, Geoffrey Russell keeps mum about Beloyarsk's reactors’ 27 sodium leaks, 14 sodium fires, melted fuel rods, river contamination and that the scientifically unproven…

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      I posted a link to the Beloyarsky's 30 years of output. In 30 years time maybe you can post a link to Ivanpah's 30 years of solar output and someone will respond with a tale of dead tortoises and fluid leaks. The Chinese have rather a lot of nuclear expertise and have chosen to build some BN-800s. I've no doubt they'll re-engineer to make the design even better. People didn't throw out their mobile phones after a few fires, they just fixed the design and pushed on. That's what rational people do…

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Indeed, Shirley.

      Given the big end of the market's predilection for lies (starting with tobacco and continuing with pollutants in general) why would the massive money and power backing the nuclear industry suddenly diverge from playing with the truth?

      Would they not be serving their interests best by denigrating the small scale renewable industries?

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    4. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      “The Chinese are also building these (BN-800) in a joint venture.”

      There is not a shred of evidence supporting your fallacy that BN-800 reactors are under construction in China. Further, not a single contract has been inked. Kindly desist from resorting to nuclear propaganda.

      What is irrefutably factual is that China is binging on obsolete Generation II reactors which are currently under construction.

      “The environmental vandalism of the anti-nuclear movement has done profound…

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  5. Dan Fashaw

    Student

    I heard that Australia has somthing like 40% of the world uranium deposits, is that true?

    Also when you quoted the life-cycle emissions from wind power at 10–20 g/kWh I assume that was the low estimate, if so could you provide a higher estimate.

    Finally nuclear power doesn't have to save the world to be viable in Australia. With vast amounts of uranium to mine we could build and supply the nuclear power facilities just in our country.

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  6. Jonathan Sutanto

    Physicist/Electrical Engineer

    Here's the basic problem with the premise of this article - there are no Uranium mines. There is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Dam,_South_Australia#Operations">Olympic Dam</a> which is primarily a Copper mine. There's a lot of uranium there too, but much, much more copper. And it is the copper that is the primary reason for that particular mine. This is the rule, not the exception for all sources of uranium. In fact I don't think any uranium is sourced anywhere, without other…

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    1. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Like I promised, happy to have been corrected on that front. You are right and I got that wrong.
      The main article does however mislead its' readers that the uranium will tend to get dug up anyway, especially where the deposits aren't at the higher concentrations like the ones you have listed. Right? It isn't that difficult to recognise when the other side makes a valid point, there's nothing to be afraid of.

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  7. Joseph T McGrath

    logged in via email @outlook.com

    The same could be said of renewables then Mark. If one were to take peer-reviewed literature seriously of course...

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      >"This article should be withdrawn from TC on the basis it is patently false in its statements."

      I agree!

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  8. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    I just do not get the nuclear argument. The only thing it offers is – like coal – vast quantities of loot for the owners of the resource.

    It's not renewable, it's potentially dangerous, it provides a massive target for any enemies, it costs a fortune and it takes forever to install.

    And look up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it's the sun. And we are learning more about harnessing and storing its immense powers every day.

    Then there's wind and thermal and wave.

    Enough with the nuclear already

    Bring on the sunshine and the breeze.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Newton

      Nuclear or coal will always offer reliably vast loots of energy for consumers John and look up in the sky and if you cannot see a blue background and the clouds aren't scudding along, your renewables will be doing sfa when it comes to vast looting.

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Newton

      John, some of us are concerned about climate change and want to decarbonise our energy sources before 50 degree days become common. Germany isn't expecting to get 80% clean electricity before 2050. France got there before 1990. They built clean electricity about 5 times quicker than the current German roll out of wind+solar. Sweden did it even faster and that was without an existential threat!

      http://bit.ly/1c1jqaW

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, have you ever looked up and noticed that the sky actually extended a bit further than you can see...a bit like the power lines that form the national grid...and have you ever noticed that weather tends to be quite variable across a continent like Australia. In short, the sun is generally shining and/or the wind blowing somewhere.

      The weather is fairly predictable several days in advance these days and we have a large complex grid, operated by people who are used to coping wuith high variability of supply and demand - not least some caused by unpredicted breakdowns in baseload generators.

      So, yes, high renewable penetration does add a bit to the complexity of managing power supply and demand but not as much as many claim and not something beyond our capacity to manage.

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    4. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, many thanks for directing me to a fascinating article. I concede that nuclear power can come online remarkably quickly. But my original objections – and those of this article – still stand.

      It is not low emissions. It is not renewable. It does present a tempting target to enemies. And whether rational or not, public fear will ensure that no politician would be game to propose a nuclear future for Australia.

      As for the slow speed of solar, I’m reminded of a conversation between a visiting…

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  9. Andy George

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    Great article. Now do one on how solar panels aren't as 'green' as they're made out to be given the resources needed to produce them and the manufacturing process (silicon doping) has so much by product a single solar panel would need to operate for decades before it's ecological payback period has been met.

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Andy George

      Would you like to supply a source for your claims about solar panels "ecological payback"?

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    2. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Andy George

      Andy, what you say is simply not true. There are numerous life-cycle analyses on this. Here in Australia the energy payback time is of the order of a year. That is to pay back the energy in purifying the silicon, producing the wafers, assembling wafers into modules, and then sticking them on your roof. If you just consider one part of this process, the energy required to fabricate the module (solar panel), one MW of modules produced by Trina Solar takes 277MWh of electricity (see http://www.trinasolar.com/ap/about-us/Sustainability.html

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  10. keith williams

    self employed

    While I understand the relevance measuring CO2 emissions over the whole cycle in power generation, I find it hard to understand how nuclear power could be part of the picture in Australia for three reasons:
    1) Fukushima : a catastrophe that is still unfolding, which had the wind been blowing south would have caused the attempted evacuation of Tokyo (35 million people) ...think about it
    2) Cost : Look at the Finnish and British costings to get a sense of how expensive power generation would be with nuclear
    3) Time : the time frame for nuclear adoption is too long

    As to renewables, South Australia already gets 30% of its energy from wind and solar and this could be the case in Victoria, NSW and Queensland if it were not for political obstruction. I'm all for nuclear, but lets do it at a distance (ie use the sun).

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  11. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered. In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation. All of the other steps – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide. "
    If we are to be honest re low emissions, then most of the other steps equally apply to manufacture and construction of renewable energy generation.
    Then of course there is also the life and reliability issues to be questioned.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, measure the embodied energy and materials in renewable generation infrastructure like turbines and PV panels (not trivial) with those in a nuclear power plant (rather greater) then add in the ongoing implications of mining and managing uranium, against the zero implications of letting the wind blow and the sun shine, and I think it's pretty clear that, while renewables are not free of emissions, they stack up very well in comparison with other systems.

      You don't need to be perfect to win a race, merely better.

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  12. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    We could start investing the time and money to build a nuclear fuel industry in Australia.

    How much time for a fully operational system? In time to make a difference to CO2 levels?

    Or, we could start right now with renewables - a diverse range of alternatives suited to every variety of terrain in Australia and just skip nuclear altogether, saving time and money both on set-up and decommissioning.

    Of course, small independent energy suppliers does not suit big corporate interests.

    We can choose not to nuke - unlike some countries.

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    1. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Option 3, we do both, at the same time, to get rid of fossil fuels fastest.

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    2. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      We have already wasted a decade in Australia with renewables. Had we used that decade wisely we could have been building reactors now. The UAE will have 4 big reactors about 11 years from the start of their process. They will generate as much electricity as 10 million 3kw rooftop solar systems and not just during the day. So that's what we could have had! Instead we totally screwed up and are stuck with a costly investment in 1.4 million rooftop solar systems. We've wasted one decade, why screw up again?

      Globally the anti-nuclear 100% renewable movement has cost the planet a couple of decades and are still hell bent on deploying the same technologies that failed during the oil crisis of the 70s and are still stuck at the mickey mouse stage.

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    3. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, can't disagree with the basic thrust of what you are saying, but I think most people who put solar panels on their roofs did so because they could afford to do that and couldn't afford to put a nuclear power station up there. I didn't even contemplate it.

      We should be able to handle some private investment in renewable technology no matter what government and corporations decide to do in parallel.

      That said, I can fully understand the frustration felt by nuclear energy advocates who never seem to get past first base in Australia and who tend to be likened to drug traffickers in the mind-set of some.

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  13. MItchell Lennard

    Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

    Thanks Mark,

    Its good to start highlighting some of these issues.

    A related issue is the significant water use in the whole mining/refining/generation cycle for Nuclear plants. There is a significant link between water use and electrical power generation and different technologies and its reasonable that if we are looking at investments in new technologies this issues is examined.

    The main thing with Nuclear is that regardless of whether it is technically suitable or not it is just never going to economically or commercially viable in Australia.

    We are lucky that we have in Hinkely Point C an absolute statement from the Nuclear industry of what they need from customers to be able to deploy the technology… no need for any more studies, or economic modelling or guessing at long term costs…. Hinkley point and EDF have given us a hard number …… and its just far to high, there are many cheaper ways to replace coal

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  14. Paul Whyte

    logged in via email @gelworks.com.au

    This article does not look like a serious attempt to discuss nuclear issues.

    I've been reading about nuclear and advanced nuclear options for some years and none of what I've been reading gets a mention.

    For a start the issues raised in "Pandora's Promise" on iTunes at a low fee or on Brave New Climate web blog go way further than this.

    The excitement of pro-nuclear environmentalists at the prospect of low carbon power from using recycled depleted uranium and plutonium in IFR technology seem to be left out completely.

    There is no expansion of claims that advanced breeder reactors are some how more dangerous. How may I ask are they more dangerous?

    I find the article shallow.

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    1. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Paul Whyte

      Paul,

      Breeder reactors are inherently more dangerous than conventional reactors because you need a high neutron flux to get the doubling time down to an acceptable point. The high neutron flux means you have a very high power density, which necessitates the use of highly reactive liquid metals as coolant (eg sodium or potassium). The Japanese breeder at Monju suffered a coolant leak in 1995 and was closed for over a decade as a result. There have been minor incidents related to coolant problems…

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    2. Paul Whyte

      logged in via email @gelworks.com.au

      In reply to George Takacs

      So to take your claims one at a time.

      To paraphrase you "a high neutron flux is inherently dangerous". This sound plausible except when you consider that breeder reactors are designed to be small reactors that can replace the coal burning part of a coal fired plant while keeping the rest of the plant. GE Hitashi currently have an automated design ready to install that runs for 10 to 15 years with out human intervention. It's small so its not large enough to go bang.

      A high neutron flux means…

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    3. Paul Whyte

      logged in via email @gelworks.com.au

      In reply to Paul Whyte

      To correct a mistake please replace my comments about Pu 238 with Pu 239. It's Pu239 that is used for bombs. I should proof better.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to George Takacs

      George ... Paul seems to have covered most things but I'm interested in why you think proliferation can be a consequence of more power reactors. The list of countries who have flirted with nuclear weapons and canned their programs is pretty long: Switzerand, Yugoslavia, Taiwan, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt to name but a few. Once people understand what is involved they quickly realise nuclear weapons are too expensive and have no strategic value. With a big rollout of power reactors we'll have a more educated populace, including even politicians, and that will reduce the kind of gross ignorance which could persuade a politician that nuclear weapons are an easy bolt-on to a power reactor industry. But in an atmosphere of ignorance, its easy for a military hawk to spread such rubbish and perhaps even get their pet weapons project started.

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    5. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Paul Whyte

      Paul,

      The very reason for the existence of two sodium loops in a breeder reactor is because of the possibility of a sodium-water fire. If there was only one sodium loop, because that sodium would have acquired some radioactivity through neutron capture, then a sodium water fire and subsequent chemical explosion would release radioactive sodium 24. If coolant leaks leading to such fires were of no concern then there would only be one sodium loop. Coolant leaks leaking to sodium fires have been…

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    6. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I dunno, maybe you are right. Maybe I see this as an all world issue, and not just a first world issue. Apparently 2.6 billion people are living in countries where the majority don't have access to a toilet. I think it is crucial for economic development of poorer countries that we increase asap their access to energy, safe water, and sanitation. It has always concerned me that nuclear is a technology that you may need to restrict to countries with attitudes to governance that you can trust, and with stable politics and society.

      Countries that don't have this, need, if you will excuse a pun, energy systems that are bomb-proof. How do you tell them that nuclear is okay for us but not for them? Or will it work out just fine if we supply nuclear technology to a country where the populace are at each others throats?

      Thinking about this could drive one to drink, but I might go for a walk instead.

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    7. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to George Takacs

      I have a radical idea. Let's call problems we have been solving successfully and (perfectly) for decades "easy" and let's call problems which we haven't and which have been killing people by the thousands "hard". Sound reasonable? Avoiding nuclear terrorism and the like is therefore an easy problem. By comparison, stopping people falling off ladders is a hard problem. As such, I'm opposed to "betting the planet" on renewables, as Mark Diesendorf recommends, because of abstract concerns about problems we've been solving perfectly for decades. The total absence of nuclear terrorism isn't an accident, it's because such things are really really unlikely. Ditto rogue states dropping bombs on people. On the other hand, climate change and its adverse consequences is pretty much a certainty and the German experience has shown how slow and ineffective wind and solar are at decarbonising the electricity system ... to say nothing of every other damn thing we need to do.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to George Takacs

      Climate change is an all world problem, but 90% of current CO2 emissions are coming from countries which already have research reactors. It's bizarre to "let" them have exactly the kind of reactors needed for weapons development but prohibit exactly the wrong kind of reactors because of concerns about proliferation.

      I see "turn key" small reactors as being perfect for developing countries (some of which already have research reactors). Why would people be any more concerned about a reactor than…

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    9. Paul Whyte

      logged in via email @gelworks.com.au

      In reply to George Takacs

      The very long run times of the IFR type breeder reactors put us a long way past Teller's fears.

      "You rely on a combination of design and luck to prevent enough nuclei being converted close enough to each other to form a critical mass. This was enough of a concern for Edward Teller to argue against breeder reactors."

      It's now out of date. This fear is known not to happen.

      The massive size of the light water reactors put them in a different class of hazard than the small breeder reactors…

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    10. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Paul Whyte

      Outstanding. I can't express what a pleasure it is to listen in on the discussion from all 3 of you ...a bit inside baseball, but I enjoyed it. Feel that needed to be said. For what it's worth I'd actually gravitate towards George's position, only because I identify with the inherent caution he displays above. That is only after we get a consensus to use nuclear - then the really hard work begins.
      I think nuclear should learn from the mistakes of the Republic debate - first agree on the general principle of its' use, then get down to the real details of how & when & (the big one obviously) where.

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  15. Chris Harries

    logged in via Facebook

    Adding to my previous comments, obsession with electricity supply will ensure that the renewables versus nuclear debate will stay with us for a long time, but this dogfight ignores the fact that a significant amount of carbon energy is used in industrial infrastructure that doesn't primarily use electricity. Blast furnaces for steel production. Fertilizer production. Synthetic clothing. A multitude of industrial chemical processes that require the carbon that is held in the hydrocarbon molecules…

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    1. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris,

      Agree. Electricity should be the easy bit. Time to start talking about the other 65% of our emissions.

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  16. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    A 2006 report from an Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources reviewed this issue comprehensively, with submissions from a wide range of parties.

    Pgs 162-168 explore the issue "Emissions across the whole nuclear fuel cycle".

    The submissions of several anti-nuclear parties are referred to, including the studies they cite. Most of these parties concede that this is a clear environmental benefit of nuclear power and quote lifecycle figures near that of…

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Ben Heard

      >"The conclusion of the committee, paragraph 4.245 (pg 207) is : "The Committee finds that over its whole fuel cycle nuclear power emits very small quantities of CO2—orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels
      and quantities similar to, or less than, renewable such as wind."

      Dr Diesendorf is arguing from the fringes of this issue and relying on sources that are not credible. Literature review is a pretty basic academic skill. It is lacking here, deliberately I suspect.?

      I agree. Most authoritative studies that have been conducted since the 1980's (e.g. US EPA), show nuclear energy is low emissions electricity generator and lower than wind and solar power.

      Diesendorf has been an nuclear denier for at least 25 years. He has zero credibility on the subject.

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    2. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Generally agree Ben,

      I would only caution about reliance on any one particular Australian Government report … especially the one you quote.

      Your last sentence really highlights the key issue here….. we will not be getting now or any time soon 'intelligently planned decarbonisation'

      I am always fascinated by everyone who posts on this issue who seem to share a common view that the Government is going to make some big decision on the issue of future energy systems in some sort of thoughtful…

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    3. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Mitchell, I agree the probability remains low, though I was pleased to read the Business SA submission and the Energy Policy Institute submission calling for less politicization and more planning with regard to energy.

      The probability remains even lower when clean-tech advocates fail to work to their common ground, and that was the direction of the comment, not the expectation that positive response from Government was imminent.

      Your summary reading seems pretty astute to me, and entirely unsatisfactory. All the more reason we need to get working together and quit the stupid squabbles caused by pieces like this.

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    4. MItchell Lennard

      Researcher - Distributed Energy Systems

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Hi Ben,

      I am not totally despondent, I come across many intelligent and passionate people ( mainly younger) who are working in government
      (not politics) who do have some vision.

      I suspect another decade of policy failure, then a re-engament by government, I suspect a bit of 'Nation Building' style public investment …probably in transmission grid pushing west to where the good resource is. With the backbone in place the private investment decision is easier so you can view transmission investment…

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    5. Jonathan Sutanto

      Physicist/Electrical Engineer

      In reply to MItchell Lennard

      Mitchell (hopefully not to late to add my thoughts to this)
      The predictions you make about how things will pan out, in my eyes suffer from not leaving a lot of room for error. So if the distributed energy solutions you refer to don't materialise ...we have a problem.
      Also I agree with much of the sentiment you express about private companies, just with 2 provisos (that I can think of right now). They will operate within the values of the society they serve - so if we choose to have nuclear, they will find a way to meet that. The second point - operating in a market with structural deficiencies where supply regularly outstrips demand & spot prices skyrocket would be a dream come true for some private enterprises ala California & the Enron experience. Trust but Verify is a good way I think to deal with the free market.

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  17. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    Diesendorf says of fast breeder reactors: " But in practice breeders are even more complex, dangerous and expensive than burners."

    This is incorrect on each front. I suspect he is confounding his own lack of understanding of the technology with actual complexity, danger and expense.

    An integral fast reactor is metal fuelled and metal cooled. These two aspects of design underpin a device which is far, far simpler, safer and less costly. The metal fuel means an overpower event is a physical impossibility…

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    1. George Takacs

      Physicist

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben,

      Thanks for pointing out the PRISM site. This will give me something else to read on the weekend. I have had a quick scan of the technical resources on that site and could not find much mention of the performance of this reactor as a breeder. Do you have any info on that aspect? The paper by the GE folks mentions that the reactor can be configured to be either a burner or a breeder, but the focus seems to be on using the PRISM as a burner to consume plutonium stockpiles. The article by Hylko…

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    2. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to George Takacs

      Yes, no worries.

      I suggest you download the paper by Triplett et al available under the resources link, and from there the reference list of this paper has several useful papers describing the materials flow of the fuel under different operating regimens.

      Additionally, the book Plentiful Energy by Till and Change is now available as free download and talks at length about the different operating regimens that are possible.

      The purpose identified in the UK is the most rapid downgrade and disposal of already separated plutonium, so the breeding capability is not likely to be highlighted in this context. PRISMs conversion ratio is flexible depending on the nature of the fuel assembly.

      Best luck with your reading.

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  18. Martin Nicholson

    Energy researcher and author

    This subject was researched extensively by the 2006 UMPNER report from the Australian Government. Chapter 7 covered this topic including the controversial study by Storm and Smith. The ranges for nuclear and renewable energy sources reported in UMPNER were as follows in kg CO2-e/MWh:

    Solar photovoltaics 53–217
    Nuclear (light water reactor) 10–130
    Wind turbines 13–40
    Hydro (run-of-river) 6.5–44

    Here are a few quotes from that Chapter 7:

    "Taking into account full life cycle contributions…

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Yes,

      And subsequent studies showed that the ISA studies central estimate for nuclear was way to high for several reasons, including basing the figures on the old technology for enrichment, and on assuming values for old Gen II plants instead of Gen III. Gen III+ technologies. the UK parliamentary report studied this and concluded nuclear emits less emissions than Wind power over the life cycle.

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      I cant find the link to UK White Paper on nuclear power (or whatever it was called), but just found this:
      http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2061
      >"That this House notes the recent note by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post) in respect of the level of carbon emissions from nuclear power (Post Note 383); further notes that the report found that levels of emissions from nuclear power were approximately three times lower per kilowatt hour than those of solar, four times lower than clean coal and 36 times lower than conventional coal; and calls on the Government to press ahead with the construction of new nuclear power stations in order to directly address our climate change obligations and help reduce levels of fuel poverty."

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  19. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    The UK government White Paper explains why the ISA study for the UMPNER over estimated the emissions from nuclear power.

    UK Government white paper on nuclear power (2008):
    “Meeting the Energy Challenge
    A White Paper on Nuclear Power
    January 2008
    Department for Business,
    Enterprise & Regulatory Reform”
    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file43006.pdf

    “The Government believes that, based on the significant evidence available, the lifecycle carbon…

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  20. Alan Gannaway

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    Nuclear is the business replacement for coal because it is centralized and suitable for monopoly ownership. Renewables are open to decentralization on a very broad scale. This is already hurting big business bottom lines.
    Renewables can be deployed many times faster than nuclear and don't leave behind deadly, weaponisable waste.
    Ultimately the best solution to reducing Co2 is to reduce the population. We will eventually tip past the point where any form of technology can ameliorate the damage we do through sheer numbers of people. Perhaps we already have.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Exactly.

      Small competitive business threatens the big boys across the market place.

      We have the technology to set up independent renewable power sources across the nation - thus reducing the load factor on high use days which currently causes outages on the grid.

      That people would argue for something that requires huge investment from mining to processing to transporting to the reactor, and the still unsolved issue of toxic waste, never fails to amaze me. People who claim to be all in favour of the market place, yet argue against independents in support of monopolies - reveal the same narrow vision thinking that got us into our current environmental and economic mess.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Alan Gannaway writes "Ultimately the best solution to reducing Co2 is to reduce the population."

      Strange that those who profer this solution seem to be the last to volunteer to contribute

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    3. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna - you write

      "the still unsolved issue of toxic waste,"

      What is your evidence for this claim

      The industry says otherwise

      Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy-producing technology which takes full responsibility for all its wastes and fully costs this into the product.

      The amount of radioactive wastes is very small relative to wastes produced by fossil fuel electricity generation.

      Used nuclear fuel may be treated as a resource or simply as a waste.

      Nuclear wastes…

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    4. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Sigh

      https://library.thinkquest.org/17940/texts/nuclear_waste_storage/nuclear_waste_storage.html

      Also if you had read my post I am not comparing nuclear energy with fossil fuel energy.

      Solar/Wind/Thermal/Hydro simply do not have all the baggage attached that nuclear does - no matter how carefully it is managed.

      Besides as I have previously stated energy production does not have to be large-scale - we do not need another monopoly.

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    5. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      You are seriously offering up a student project post as evidence? I suggest you look up some of the actual science Diana?

      http://www.ansto.gov.au/cs/groups/corporate/documents/webcontent/mdaw/mday/~edisp/acstest_040440.pdf

      I also suggest you are committing a logical fallacy by framing the discussion as an either/or.

      IF you are serious about displacing fossil fuels (something on which i hope we can agree) because of the emission impact on Climate Change then there is room for all solutions…

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    6. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      We certainly did pass the point where humanity consumes more than the world can sustainably supply. But the world won't have to supply so many people indefinitely. The "population bomb" is defused, the world has passed the point of "peak child". The majority of the world's countries and the world as a whole now reproduce below the replacement rate. Further population growth is "locked in" due to ageing, but today's generation of parents is having fewer children than would be needed to replace them.

      http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html

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  21. Tom Keen

    PhD Candidate; Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

    Why no mention of the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation? Page 19 of the Summary for Policy Makers shows the results of a meta-analysis of lifecycle emissions from electricity technologies. It includes 125 studies that estimate the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power. The maximum emissions estimates for nuclear are about the same as the maximum estimates for solar PV, and the median estimate is substantially lower than for solar PV. Here: http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report

    Nuclear power is a genuine low-carbon energy source - there is no other conclusion that can be drawn from this.

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  22. Alex Cannara

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Remarkable to see the word "renewable" pop up in an article that seems scientifically and environmentally naive about power sources.

    Lets; start with this contrived paragraph of Mark's...

    "For comparison, the life-cycle emissions from wind power are 10–20 g/kWh, depending upon location, and from gas-fired power stations 500–600 g/kWh. So depending on your choice of analysis, nuclear power can be viewed as almost as emissions-intensive as gas."

    The phrase "can be viewed" is classic Murdoch…

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  23. Geoffrey Sherrington

    Surveyor

    Mark,
    You note "Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered. In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation."

    Again unfortunately, this does not really matter.

    Nuclear power has a very strong case that is quite independent of minor considerations like CO2.

    Many countries of the world are expanding their nuclear investment - look at China - and only a few…

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    1. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Geoffrey Sherrington

      Co2 a minor consideration? I smell a climate change denier.

      I do wish we'd all stop pretending to care about "poor" people. If they were ever really "considered" they wouldn't exist.

      It's the poor people getting fried by the shonky, corruption plagued reactors in China and India I'd be worrying about.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Care to provide evidence to back up this apparently racist statement? Who, exactly has been fried in China and India. It's this sort of emotive unsubstantiated fear mongering that does a dis-service to the discussion.

      Nuclear Safety is a serious issue as the technology is complex. Yet Nuclear power provides benefits that also need to be considered - since energy = freedom.

      Please be data driven in your discussion. The relevant consideration is to compare the safety of all power generation considerations in terms of deaths/injuries per unit of power produced over the life cycle.

      The available data shows that Nuclear actually performs well on this metric.

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    3. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      It's not racist to point at that developing and not so developing nations have appalling track records for the implementation of manufacturing and infrastructure due to rampant corruption and cavalier attitudes to the safety of the general population. This is stuff you can't mess with because it pretty much can't be cleaned up.

      I'd suggest your data is severely skewed by the tendency of all stakeholders to conceal and deny deaths and casualties in much the same way as the tobacco industry muddied the waters about cancer etc..

      Also, I'd suggest that anyone with access to all the "data" is very likely to have a bet on the nuclear horse. I wonder how many pros here earn a dollar from the industry?

      There certainly is zero being paid to opponents. Also, no opinion on the Co2 doesn't matter thing?

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    4. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      That is an evidence free ad hominem attack that brings into question the motives of someone who disagrees with you.

      Please provide evidence for your unfounded assertions that the safety data is somehow distorted - that seems to me much like a Climate Science Denier argument - that the temperature record is falsified.

      If you are not capable of being data and evidence driven in your discussion then you are not worth being part of a rational debate.

      http://unrforliberty.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Our-Discussion.jpg

      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/assets/FallaciesPosterHigherRes.jpg

      (Hint - you've broken all four of the basic rules as well as casting asperions on your oppnent's motivation - = ad hominem fallacy)

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  24. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    Sadly, it seems new technologies, like fast breeders and thorium, are always about 30 years away from commercial implementation and have been 30 years away for the past 20 years (or so it seems to me ... caution, no supporting data for this assertion).

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    1. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Doug, that's been largely true though nuclear advocates keep asserting that new nuclear technology is now viable and commercially available. I would really like to believe them, and so would many, but why then are they not being bought? Why can't you see any anywhere?

      There are probably good answers to that question but until such time as the glittering hardware is solidly out there in commercial production then the public and policy makers will remain forever doubtful. The new nuke industry has a way to go to prove itself.

      Virtually every major nuclear reactor now under construction is of the light water kind, albeit they are constructed now with much higher standards of safety than, say those at Fukushima. I think new nukes may be technically viable but their take up may still be a decade away.

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    2. Paul Whyte

      logged in via email @gelworks.com.au

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Chris, I understand the caution about breeder reactors but the reason that light water is being pushed is that it's got political momentum. Simple as that.

      It's not as safe according to Dr Till who worked at Argonne labs on EBR II and has written a book called Plentiful Energy the story of the integral fast breeder reactor.

      It's discussed at the below blog post that explains the politics.

      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/09/28/why-obama-should-meet-till/#more-5076

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    3. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Chris Harries

      Hi Chris,

      Several of the reactors in the new Russian build program are metal cooled fast reactors.

      GE-Hitachi's PRISM is a metal cooled, metal fueled fast breeder reactor with integrated fuel recycling. It is the commercialisation of the Integral Fast Reactor. It remains a contender for build in the UK to cut their stockpile of plutonium and they have found no barriers to licensing. You can read all about it http://gehitachiprism.com/

      So let's encourage the uptake of that PRISM design.

      Two reasons it can be slow is one of the major advantages of fast breeder reactors is dramatically extending the uranium resource, and that's not a big concern at present .The other is that the industry globally, and all the licensing, is incredibly conservative with regard to anything novel.

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  25. Alan Gannaway

    logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

    If Fukashima had been any other kind of power plant it wouldn't need a 30km no go zone around the rubble for an unknown number of years. 30 k's around Lucas Heights would see the whole Shire evacuated indefinitely and cut Wollongong off from Sydney.

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    1. Osk Archer

      Chemist/Maltster

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      It probably doesn't "need" a large no go zone anyway, and neither would Lucas Heights. The maintenance of the exclusion area around F Daiichi is almost entirely political, as a consequence of ludicrously conservative application of LNT-derived guidelines, which are in chronic need of review in light of modern evidence regarding low dose radiation.
      http://radiationeffects.org/2014/01/13/the-linear-no-threshold-radiation-dose-hypothesis/

      The Japanese evacuation expense, in both money and lives, is actually an horrendous lesson in why the best evidence must take precedence over old assumptions and outright antinuclear FUD.

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    2. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Horses for Courses, Alan ! One would surely not place a nuclear reactor on the most active earthquake belt in the world - would they? would the Japanese? Australia is known to be stable and subject to only minor quakes which could easily be nullified by good architecture. Just ask Christchurch.

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    3. Chris Harries

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Osk Archer

      Is it fitting that nuclear energy comes under close scrutiny because it comes with a lot of negative baggage, but the reactor safety aspect of nuclear energy is way, way overblown. If we were consistent we would certainly ban all cars – just to mention one technology that kills and maims millions. Yet we love our cars, regardless.

      Anyone who lived through the cold war years and especially those who remember Hiroshima tend to rank nuclear energy as synonymous with disaster. Much of that fear is…

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    4. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Nuclear safety requires %100 perfection and that is not possible. But the prevailing view amongst those in the know seems to be now that it's not actually dangerous. Can we suffer a nuclear accident and not worry about the radioactivity? This is new. What should the exclusion around Fukashima be? Did a number of people die from distributed radiation causing cancers at Chernobyl or not?
      Earthquakes happen absolutely wherever the hell they happen and not one square cm. of land on earth is immune. Maybe less likely but never immune.
      When there are 1000's of reactors some will fail; from natural causes or bad practice or human error or business saving dollars or something we haven't thought of yet. So land won't be lost ? Nobody will die or get sick?
      And you can guarantee that permanently deadly toxic waste will all, 100% be disposed of properly and safely with no malpractice or error?

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    5. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Osk Archer

      Solar PV is best deployed as a distributed network with power used at or close to site to avoid transmission losses. The Sarnia comparison is a bit fairyland and I would oppose such centralization for all the same reasons as stated in the comparison.
      But Fuk is still spewing rads into the sea and groundwater and the Corp suits are still struggling to make the problem go away. Don't expect a Quickimart built on the site anytime soon.
      There are billions of sq Ms of roof unused still. I haven't hung out on mine anytime recently. How about you?
      Perhaps I can put a small Fast Breeder up there? Safe as houses.

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    6. Les Wilesmith

      horseman

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mr harrigan, would you buy a car with NO brakes and pack your family in it and take off?

      And you are correct, there is no such thing as 100% safety. If we have nuclear power stations we will have an accident, only when and of what magnitude are the questions.

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    7. Alan Gannaway

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Jesus mark, put your shirt back on. You've bin trolled is all.

      99% of us aren't academics and your evidence and data is pretty much no different to whatever else is going in the way of info. You need to look at the holes in all these arguments. You're so convinced you're right that you don't see why any of us are suspicious. There is a real world out side and people lie, cheat , steal and sell each other down the river very day. When I talk about shonky China I've been there and seen it with…

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    8. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      If the radiation limit wasn't far too low there'd be little evacuation required and the basis for the anti nuclear fear would be far weaker. People would embrace the far greater safety and lower health risk of nuclear power compared with the viable alternatives (which does no include the non-hydro renewable energy technologies, and probably never will).
      http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf

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    9. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Les Wilesmith

      An irrelevant logical furphy. Of course we should always try and best the safest car we can afford - but no car is 100% safe. We should look at data like crash ratings and history of accidents per km traveled.

      Similarly we should aim to deploy the safest power generation technologies.

      But just like the car purchase decision this will be balanced by cost and fuel consumption (perhaps analogous with CO2 emissions.

      Do you know where Nuclear power ranks in temrs of a similar safety ranking? Deaths per kWh?

      I suggest you look it up. Then perhaps your posts will be informed by evidence

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    10. Les Wilesmith

      horseman

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Ok Mr Lang, "if the radiation limit wasn't far too low....etc"

      Tell you what i will do for you................. I will pay for a plane ticket to Japan, accommodation etc, if you will walk all over the Fukishima evacuation area, without a radiation suit. And take youyr kids and grandkids too,

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    11. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      Alan - I have no need to put my shirt back on. You have entered into public blog to discuss an issue. I have simply pointed out that such discussions are best served by being evidence based.

      Perhaps you should consider why you think making unfounded assertions is a useful contribution.

      To be "suspicious" is fine. Great - (though I prefer being skeptical) then seek data and evidence to inform your view. With respect so far I don't see any signs of you doing that but rather arguing for a pre-existing point of view that is not informed by the evidence. Do you think it useful or rational?

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    12. Les Wilesmith

      horseman

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Oh, I have looked it up, it's on brave new climate.

      I married a woman whose maiden name was kacarovska. Can you guess which part of Europe her family is from.

      Evidence? Would you like for me to organize for my wifes family from Europe to contact you via facebook? and chat about the displacement of persons from the Chernobyl accident?

      Nuclear power has No brakes if something goes wrong.

      And in your earlier post you were in error. There is 100% safety. Australia CANNOT have a nuclear power station accident, We do not have any nuclear power stations.

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    13. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Les Wilesmith

      Les, this is equivalent to arguing that you can have a 100% safe driving experience by not having a car.

      True but laughably silly.

      IF you actually wish to base your opinions on data and evidence I suggest you google

      "data on deaths per kwh"

      Unless of course you wish to live a life without reliable power generation

      As for Chernobyl - it was terrible - but if you going to base your judgement about Nuclear on a single reactor accident that was a flawed design, poorly managed and badly run you must therefore judge all cars by the death trap car the Ford Pinto.

      I take it that means you have no car?

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    14. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark, excuse my butting in. I have been following this thread with interest and believe you are talking a lot of sense. However, "a single reactor accident that was a flawed design, poorly managed and badly run" is significant if only because it was exactly those human failings that caused the accident. I have an unshakeable belief in the venality and corruptibility of people, not ignoring the ever-present elephant in the room: stupidity. I would be much more comfortable with nuclear plants if they were somehow beyond all this human frailty, but they are not. The degree to which this is a problem is debatable, but I have to confess a lack of comfort with humans being in charge of anything mechanical - the road toll is the perfect example.
      Nuke designs may now be fail-safe on paper, but I regret that nothing so complex in construction can be proofed against fools and rogues.

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    15. Les Wilesmith

      horseman

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      I have a horse, 100 times more dangerous. i have looked up deaths per kwh. Peter lang has extolled this virtue of nuclear power many times.

      reliable power generation is achievable with out nuclear power, we have it now, It always seems to come down to COST.

      Using your analogy of the motor car, if I could supply you a vehicle, that no matter what happened you would be unharmed, how much would you be prepared to pay for it?

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    16. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Les Wilesmith

      "I will pay for a plane ticket to Japan, accommodation etc, if you will walk all over the Fukishima evacuation area, without a radiation suit."

      Yep, done. Where shall I send you my account numbers for your deposit?

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    17. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      "Nuclear safety requires %100 perfection and that is not possible."

      This expectation is completely, bizarrely, out of proportion with every other technology and everything else in society in the real world.

      "And you can guarantee that permanently deadly toxic waste will all, 100% be disposed of properly and safely with no malpractice or error?"

      Permanently deadly? Perhaps you were sick on that day in high school when radioactive decay was covered?

      And used nuclear fuel has never hurt anybody or killed anybody in the history of the world! So how is that deadly?

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    18. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Alan Gannaway

      If a 30km depopulated radius was really important around a facility like Lucas Heights (it's not) then most of those people would have to have been banned from moving there in the first place. Almost all of that population came along later after reactors were already operating at that site.

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    19. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Will you pay for me also Les?

      If you watched the coverage at the height of the circus you may have seen Dr Robert Gale walking around the plant ... without a radiation suit. Everyone around him had one, but not him. Why? Because Gale is a real live radiation expert. He also runs marathons, so he cares about his health.

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    20. Les Wilesmith

      horseman

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      In october 2013, Reuters in tokyo reported that workers had been injecting chemicals into the ground, to harden it, in an effort to prevent contaminated water reaching the ocean. There have been several spills of contaminated water around the plant.

      Reuters also reported the radiation levels in the silt fenced area adjacent to the plant as cesium 134@ 370 bq/ltr ( six times the regulatory limit) and Cesium 137 at 830 bq/litr or almost ten times the regulatory limit,

      The effort to pump chemical into the ground has displaced (pushed out) highly contaminated soil close to the plant which emits. quote, strong gamma radiation that is harmful to the human body, unquote.

      So, maybe Dr Gale (and yes I know who he is) was walking around the plant, at the beginning of the circus, but I doubt he would be now.

      So to answer your question, I guess if you have the guts, I've got the money!!

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    21. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Les Wilesmith

      I accept. Just me an my wife. You pay all costs. If you want my sons and their families to come too, you have to pay all costs. You have to pay in advance. I'll go wherever you tell me to go. If you want, we can carry badges to detect the amount of radiation we receive over the whole trip. You arrange everything. You pay everything. I pay nothing, OK.

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    22. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Les Wilesmith

      You can pay for me too Les - very happy to go. No grandskids yet but happy to have my teenage daughter join me. Also happy to record all radiation doses received (including on the flight itself versus on the ground at Fukusima) and have the data published :)

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    23. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      Doug - this is a public Blog - so you can hardly "butt in" :)

      To some (limited) extent I agree with you - you have hit the nail on the head about human frailty. Indeed I have had some vigorous debated with Ben Heard about this very subject - that the "weakness" of Nuclear is not so much in the technology but in the FUD and unwillingness of (some) of those in control of the technology to confront and deal with (the rare occurrence) of serious issues when they do arise.

      Indeed this issue is…

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    24. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      >'Indeed I have had some vigorous debated [...] - that the "weakness" of Nuclear is not so much in the technology but in the FUD and unwillingness of (some) of those in control of the technology to confront and deal with (the rare occurrence) of serious issues when they do arise."

      I strongly disagree with this statement. No industry has done more and continues to do more to make it safer. In my opinion it has gone to ridiculous levels already and those levels are totally unjustified on the basis…

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    25. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter - I do take your points - but I suggest you read this link I provided

      http://npsglobal.org/eng/home-mainmenu-1/147-articles/1007-fukushima-mistake-challenge-responding-wisely.html

      Whether we like it or not and whether it is justified or not (I think not) the reality is that the public holds nuclear to a higher standard than others because of the Fear (irrational though it may be) of a catastrophe. As the article makes clear (I think) those in charge of Fukushima made a complete botch…

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    26. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      >"Whether we like it or not and whether it is justified or not (I think not) the reality is that the public holds nuclear to a higher standard than others because of the Fear (irrational though it may be) of a catastrophe."

      I agree with all that. I recognise that. I have recognised it for at least 30 years.

      But it can be changed. As I've suggested previously, raise the alloawble radiation limits to what is scientifically justifiable, or even half or 10% of what is scientifically justifiable…

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    27. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Yes Peter - agree. The LNT model for radiation safety limits has been thoroughly discredited - but the diehards won't let it go - aided and abetted by the fear mongering Helen Caldicottl types.

      But I'm not sure such a change would be accepted (rational though it may be - especially given what is normal natural radiation background that people are exposed to everyday - especially in a modern lifestyle). I just see the conspiracy ideation at work - that it's all an evil plot to get the masses to accept "dangerous" nuclear power driven by the secret corporate moguls behind the nuclear power industry - said by the same people who are blithely unaware that they are doing the dirty work for the fossil fuel industry which know the only threat to their oligopoly of energy supply is nuclear (and I don't discount the huge benefits fossil fuels have done for the increase in human wealth over the last century).

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    28. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Hi Peter - Yes the Hargraves brochure - good - short and succinct.

      http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf

      I especially liked the fact that it exposes the four myths and fear that are spread

      Misunderstandings
      • There is no safe level of radiation.
      • Radiation effects are cumulative.
      • Chernobyl killed nearly a million people.
      • Nuclear waste is deadly for a million years

      None of these is even remotely true

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    29. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Glad you liked the brochure "Radiation: The Facts". I also think it gets the important points across very well, in just a short brochure.
      You said:

      >"But I'm not sure such a change [allowable raising the radiation limit] would be accepted".

      That seems like an inconsistent argument.

      From previous conversations I recall you believe that everyone should accept the CAGW Alarmists beliefs, without proper due diligence, and we should implement high cost mitigation policies no matter how useless…

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    30. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      >"But I'm not sure such a change [allowable raising the radiation limit] would be accepted".

      So, we have the case of two immovable objects. Economic rationalists versus anti nukes who are, in the main, the same people who are the CAGW alarmists.

      The economic rationalists will not accept economically rational policies - such as those that will increase the cost of energy or impose more regulatory constraints on markets. We want to reduce regulation and reduce energy costs, not increase them.

      The economic rationalists will win. They always do. In the meantime, progress is thwarted/delayed/retarded.

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    31. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter

      I don't think it is an inconsistent argument at all. I did not say I wouldn't accept the change. I do - it is supported by the evidence. Alas that is not sufficient to change the public's mind. As much as I would like that not to be the case it appears to be so. Alas public opinion is not often swayed by rationality

      I also do not think it is helpful to label things as "CAGW Alarmists beliefs". There is ample evidence that the Planet is Warming - increased atmospheric temperatures…

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    32. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I think you mean "the economic rationalists will not accept economically IRrational policies"? A typo?

      I think I also know what you mean about two immovable objects and that progress is being thwarted.

      But I would argue that a TRUE economic rationalist would force force fuels to bear their full cost - which as I say above in relation to health and climate at the moment are exogenous - and hence socialised.

      So what you call "economic rationalism" looks to me more like special interest pleading…

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