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The nuclear option

June 28th, 2008

Unsurprisingly, evidence that the Rudd government is serious about emissions trading has produced a new round of calls for the development of nuclear power in Australia. There is certainly a case to be made that an expansion of nuclear power should be part of the global response to climate change. But the latest chatter isn’t part of a serious response to the problem of climate change; rather it’s an attempt to duck the issues raised by an emissions trading scheme.

The crucial points to bear in mind are these

* Nuclear power will never be viable in Australia without a high price on carbon and a clear commitment that the price is going to remain high. So, there is no point in raising the nuclear option as a cover for opposing emissions trading

* There is no way that Australia is going to lead the rest of the developed world (in particular the US, but the same points apply to most of Europe and Japan) on this. The US is attempting to restart its nuclear industry on existing brownfield sites. This process started with the passage of new legislation in 2002 and, if all goes well, construction on the first plants might begin in 2010 and (very optimistically) be completed by 2014. Given our lack of any regulatory capacity, construction and management expertise and so on, we won’t even be able to get started before the US industry shows the way on new greenfield sites and produces a significant number of operating plants, say by 2020. With a fast paced program, we might get plants on line by 2030

* It follows that whether or not the Rudd government (or whoever is in government for the next 5 to 10 years) changes its policy on nuclear power will make no difference to anything of substance

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  1. June 28th, 2008 at 15:01 | #1

    I agree that a calm evaluation of nuclear power is needed, but I expect that if this were done, and all the costs and risks fully evaluated, we would reject this option.

    Could I also recommend The Final Energy Crisis, edited by Sheila Newman and published by Pluto Press? The second edition is due to be released in September? It considers all energy options, including nuclear.

    The other question this raises, which seems obvious to me, but which, surprisingly, seems to escape the notice of so many reputedly critical minded commentators is: If we have to consider turning to such problematic energy sources as nuclear in order to provide for our needs, why are we increasing our population at such a rapid rate? Why aren’t more people questioning Immigration Minister Evans’ decision to raise our annual immigration quota to 300,000?

    For some further information visit candobetter.org/immigration, Will The Great Immigration Debate Take Place? on Larvateus Prodeo.

  2. Hermit
    June 28th, 2008 at 15:43 | #2

    The problem is that if we delay a decision our name goes further down the waiting list, particularly if the plant is to be co-located with a desalination facility. We also need to develop home grown expertise. Only now is the Australian laser enrichment process proposed some 20 years ago being implemented in the US. I think it is on the cards that despite domestic carbon penalties there will be a huge run on Australian export LNG and black coal, driving up local prices even more. Add to that electrification of transport eg light rail and battery cars. I think there will be a realisation that wind power tends to be add-on and not carbon displacing, and that solar is best suited to load following in hot weather, not for the winter cold. Enthusiasts will assure us there are hi tech ways around these issues but let’s wait and see.

    If nothing else we should select some sites and put in tentative orders for Areva or Westinghouse plants. The NIMBYs can get it off their chests and we’ll see if geothermal, wavepower etc can make a difference. It’s also possible in that time that reactor designs could become smaller and prefabricated. Our name has to be on the list though.

  3. Socrates
    June 28th, 2008 at 15:53 | #3

    I agree that nuclear is not a viable short term option, but I would like to see us improve our technical capability so that it is at least possible in the long term. I was never very thrilled that the former government’s view was that the only way to do that was tying us (once again) to US research. That is the sort of thinking that got our navy to buy helicopters that didn’t work.

    Without wishing to sound like Mark Latham, the US simply doesn’t have the best technology in the nuclear field. We would be far better off studying what engineers are doing in France, Sweden, Finland and even South Korea. They have a reliable, safe nuclear industry and are also grappling with the questions of decommissioning and whole-of-life cost.

  4. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 16:45 | #4

    Pr Q says:

    Unsurprisingly, evidence that the Rudd government is serious about emissions trading

    Rudd may be “serious” about his carbon trading regime (and reviews, inquiries, apologies et al). He is always serious about formal process.

    But I cant see much “evidence that the Rudd government is serious about emissions trading”, given the govts projections for net immigration, the driving force behind carbon emmissions growth.

    The immigration driven population boom will swamp our feeble attempts to curb emmissions with carbone trading engineered petrol price hikes. Not to mention other attempts to curb the disamenities of high population growth eg lenghthening hospital surgery waiting lists, black-board jungle infested schools, traffic jams, sky-rocketing accommodation costs etc.

    If you think that the LN/P were carbon-splurgers wait till you cop the ALP. The final year in office of Howard govt (scourge of Greenies!) which saw a net immigration level of 184,400.

    Compare this to Evans projections for 2007-08. Net immigration intake approaching 300,000 minus about 70,000 emigrants equals net immigration ~ 230,000. Evans trumps record-breaking Andrews with a 25% increase of extra carbon emitters!

    Such matters are now cloaked in a stifling blanket of political correctness. But some scientists are game to mention the problem, albeit sotto voce:

    Dr Jack Pezzey, a senior fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University, says

    “energy-based emissions in Australia have been growing at a rate of about 2 per cent per year since 1990.

    More than half of that comes from population growth , or rather 1.2 per cent per year to be precise.

    Dr Pezzey says there seems to be a bit of a taboo on talking about population control.

    “If you raise issues of controlling population growth, the accusation is very rapidly made of being an eco-fascist or a racist. But unfortunately population growth is simply there,” he said.

    Bringing up concerns about the adverse sociological and ecological impact of high immigration might be seen as politically incorrect. Fortunately, with the Greens taking the lead in curbing population growth there is no political correctness to see here folks. Just keep movin’…

    Ohh, wait a minute… Duffy points out that the liberal obsession with immigration boostering is wildly at odds with conservationist imperatives:

    Barry Cohen, the former Labor politician, noted recently that it is bizarre to hold apocalyptic beliefs about human-induced climate change while supporting near-record levels of immigration.

    So the nuclear Browns are not the only political movement who arent “part of a serious response to the problem of climate change”. The Greens “latest chatter” on immmigration is part of the problem, not the solution:

    With each revision the Greens altered their principles, lessened their commitment to limiting population growth … [and] replaced concern about population and environmental degradation with a social justice, global human rights platform.”…[policy] targets now openly encourage immigration”.

    OTOH at least with massive net migration we can enjoy the benefits of reduced class equity as workers wages are ground down and housing costs escalae. Not to mention the benefits of increased cultural diversity as we celebrate all the fascinating new customs eg polygamy, FGM, honour killings etc

  5. John Mashey
    June 28th, 2008 at 17:09 | #5

    Well, from outside, it would seem like Oz should be one of the best places in the world for wind farms solar power, both PV on roofs, as roofs, and utility-scale solar-thermal in the deserts.

    But if Oz wants to have nuclear plants, I’m not convinced of the schedule reasoning.

    IF it turns out that nuclear power makes a comeback anywhere, it’s hard to imagine it happening without a few companies (GE? Areva?) getting very good building standardized modular power plants.

    Anybody who doesn’t need to be early surely seems to be better served by:

    a) Selecting possible sites [water?}, reserving routes for transmission lines. Thinking about disposal.

    b) Waiting to see if cookie-cutter designs indeed happen, see how they work, and then pick a vendor and have them build some more.

    There is somewhat of an analogy with the computer business. Once upon a time, especially those who had to be early built most of their own software, one-off. Nobody sane does that any more, if they can buy what they need off the shelf. If Oz can’t buy it off-the-shelf in 2020, you certainly won’t want to build it yourself…

    But in any case: maybe people can educate me: to what extent do regulations in Oz encourage efficiency rather than just generating MW?

    As to why I ask, see slides 7-9 in Art Rosenfeld pitch on efficiency. Australia is included on the slides, and it is useful to compare CA and Oz there, given some similarities of climate, suburban design, and love of cars. For more, see Rsoenberg papers, or what the CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric says about efficiency and decoupling.

    Put another way, it sure looks like Oz, if it went at efficiency hard, could *save* enough energy to avoid building nuclear plants. Am I missing something?

  6. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 18:18 | #6

    Pr Q says:

    * Nuclear power will never be viable in Australia without a high price on carbon and a clear commitment that the price is going to remain high. So, there is no point in raising the nuclear option as a cover for opposing emissions trading.

    Agreed. But there is some point in raising the nuclear option for its own sake, okay? Lumping nuclearists and delusionists into the same class is committing some kind of fallacy – composition?.

    Its true that some people who support nuclear power are acting as stalking horses for delusionists and delayers “opposing emmissions trading”. But most nuclearists just think that all major alternative energies should be explored and exploited, even those ones that make big bombs.

    Sincere nuclearists, such as myself FWIW, are happy to load up the carbon price to the max. Just so we can get started and move on from ideological arguments of the last century.

    This may annoy armageddonists. But they are probably used to being annoyed, so are better fitted to worry warting than the more sanguine rest of us.

    Pr Q says:

    * Given our lack of any regulatory capacity, construction and management expertise and so on, we won’t even be able to get started before the US industry shows the way on new greenfield sites and produces a significant number of operating plants, say by 2020. With a fast paced program, we might get plants on line by 2030.

    No doubt the kind of high IQ talent reqd to become nuclear engineers does not grow on trees. But I dont see why we have to wait until 2020 to start building nuclear power plants. Twelve years sittig on our hands? Alternative energy is the number one priority to deal with ecological crisis, both on energy and food.

    Pr Q says:

    * It follows that whether or not the Rudd government (or whoever is in government for the next 5 to 10 years) changes its policy on nuclear power will make no difference to anything of substance.

    Maybe not for the next 5 to 10 years, which is supposed to be the critical window of opportunity to save the polar ice caps. But presumably the ecological problem will not just disappear one way or another at the end of that period.

    Looking at the longer term it makes sense to get cracking on nukes ASAP. Big deposits of uranium are being found with more likely to come.

    The problem I have with the Greens is that they have a lot of pre-existing post-modernist anthropological and pre-modernist technological agendas, which I have little respect for.

    They are now uncritical boosters for immigration. Despite the fact that mature population growth is the biggest single cause of carbon emmissio growth. Not to mention their philosophy points to introduced diversity as a major disrupter of the ecology.

    They are also instinctive opponents of heavy industrial alternative energy, such as nuclear, desal and clean coal. This makes me suspect that what they are really on about is opposing any heavy industry, rather than promoting alternative energy.

    Its way past time for the Greens to be focused on the ecological and drop their anthropological and technological prejudices.

  7. Joseph Clark
    June 28th, 2008 at 18:33 | #7

    jack strocchi,

    People will emit carbon whether they are living in Australia or not. Immigration is a completely irrelevant issue.

  8. swio
    June 28th, 2008 at 19:06 | #8

    The problems of nuclear power in Australia are so large and obvious that anyone advocating it is disingenious, ill informed or an idiot. I think they are able to get away with it because there is a widespread perception that you could build nuclear power stations well away from population centres out in the middle of Australia somewhere.

  9. swio
    June 28th, 2008 at 19:18 | #9

    I disagree with Jack Strocci on the social costs of increased immigration but share his dismay at the way it conflicts with reducing carbon emmissions.

    The fact that Rudd increased immigration so drastically and suddenly suggests that he is not really thinking through his policies very seriously. He increasingly looks like he is more concerned with short term problems and political perception over long term goals. Reminds me of Bob Carr.

  10. Peter Wood
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:10 | #10

    Immigration will not affect world population levels, birth rates do. A sensible policy on population would reduce perverse incentives to increase birth rates such as the baby bonus. Increasing access to birth control in the developing world is also very important.

    It is likely that climate change will lead to huge refugee issues. The last thing we need is governments regulating immigration more than they already are.

  11. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:41 | #11

    Joseph Clark Says: June 28th, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    People will emit carbon whether they are living in Australia or not. Immigration is a completely irrelevant issue.

    No, not at the same rate. Obviously you have been asleep for the past 11 years. Otherwise you would have noticed the daily denunciations of AUS as the world’s greatest per capita greenhouse gassers. This sort of thing was a staple of the the Greenhouse Gas wowser intellectual diet during the Howard years.

    So every time a foreigner, most of whom come from relatively low per capita carbon emitting nations, comes ashore and picks up on the AUS lifestyle they add to net carbon emmissions. Another death sentence for members of endangered species.

    You will at least concede that immigration to AUS, whatever the net effect of on global greenhouse gas emmissions, increases AUS’s total greenhouse emmissions. And probably increases per capita emmissions for those creating new houses and households.

    This means greater carbon taxes or carbon prices paid out of the national exchequer. Not to mention a greater real strain on AUS’s already rapidly dissipating ecological capital (water supplies, river systems, top soil, energy).

    But liberals would rather die than admit that conservatism is just as applicable to sociological as it is to ecological systems.

  12. P
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:42 | #12

    A question – can nuclear power totally and absolutely decoupled from nuclear weapons?

  13. P
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:43 | #13

    That is

    Can nuclear power be totally and absolutely decoupled from nuclear weapons?

  14. smiths
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:59 | #14

    nuclear had a brief window of hope and respectability, it was obliterated a long time ago,

    are people serious about a future on this planet or not,

    it is impossible to meaningfully cost nuclear power,
    it is inseperable from weapons and DU,
    it involves tying the populace to a centralised, system that looks like the past not the future,
    it represents the placing of a burden on people two to three generations into the future which is unfair and immoral,

    it is the in truest sense, a no-brainer

  15. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 20:59 | #15

    Peter Wood Says: June 28th, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Immigration will not affect world population levels, birth rates do.

    We are talking about AUS population levels. And massive immigration strains our fragile cultural and natural ecology. It also increases our greenhouse gas bill, swamping national efforts to substitute towards a less carbon-intensive economy.

    Peter Wood says:

    A sensible policy on population would reduce perverse incentives to increase birth rates such as the baby bonus. Increasing access to birth control in the developing world is also very important.

    The baby bonus turned out to be counter-productive or unnecessary. It seems to have encouraged a spike in teenage motherhood. The middle-aged mothers would have issued in any case.

    Otherwise the single most ecologically beneficial demographic policy over the past generation was the PRC’s single child family policy. A little Dry, even for my taste. But definitely effective.

    Peter Wood says:

    It is likely that climate change will lead to huge refugee issues. The last thing we need is governments regulating immigration more than they already are.

    Refugee component is about 5% of total intake. We are obliged to take on board victims of social persecution. Assistance to victims of ecological misfortune goes under the head of foreign aid.

    Also, most immigration boosters and refugee advocates are running an ideological agenda. One that has evidently run out of public sympathy.

    Open Borders are the last thing we need. Its time folk took responsibility for their own patch.

    Think global but act national.

  16. Hermit
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:12 | #16

    P to answer your question we must ask another, namely whether Australia is obliged or destined to participate in the full nuclear fuel cycle. With about 40% of the worlds easily mined uranium some say we should lease out enriched fuel and take it back for reprocessing or disposal. I believe Ziggy Switkowski disagrees with this. One argument is that countries which divert material for weapons could be blacklisted ie they only get one chance. I don’t know whether Rudd’s proposed Nuclear Commission encompasses this.

  17. Peter
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:19 | #17

    “We are talking about AUS population levels. And massive immigration strains our fragile cultural and natural ecology”

    Jack Strocchi,

    With all due respect you and many of your ancestors are responsible for destroying cultural and natural ecologies of the aborigines(the only original Australians)

  18. Joseph Clark
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:21 | #18

    “So every time a foreigner, most of whom come from relatively low per capita carbon emitting nations, comes ashore and picks up on the AUS lifestyle they add to net carbon emmissions.”

    I’m uncomfortable with depriving someone of the chance at a better life — the life we have — because they will emit less carbon if they stay poor.

  19. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:30 | #19

    swio Says: June 28th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    The problems of nuclear power in Australia are so large and obvious that anyone advocating it is disingenious, ill informed or an idiot. I think they are able to get away with it because there is a widespread perception that you could build nuclear power stations well away from population centres out in the middle of Australia somewhere.

    “The problems of nuclear power” have not been so insurmountable to some nations. France has been successfully developing nuclear energy for the past two generations. No serious safety or environmental problems. Lots of cheap energy, enough to export to the rest of USE. Lowest per capita carbon emmissions in the OECD.

    Sir David King, the UK chief science advisor and a noted Greenie, is full of praise for France’s nuclear strategy.

    France shut down its last coalmine in 2004 and now generates some 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power. While the nuclear option is anathema to many environmental groups, it has ensured that France has one of the lowest per capita emission rates in the industrialised world. Thanks to its nuclear plants, France is responsible for barely a fifth of the average European emissions per unit of electricity generated,

    Nonetheless the French are ineffably different others. So we can learn nothing from them about technology. We should sit and gawk at them for the next decade, just waiting for them to stuff it up like they always do.

    After all, it is well known that France has always been the country to promote obscurantism and ignorance. They were the first to try to stifle the Enlightenment, werent they?

    So I guess you will be the first to visit France and tell them what “disingenuous, ill-informed…idiotic” people they all are.

  20. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:45 | #20

    Joseph Clark Says: June 28th, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    I’m uncomfortable with depriving someone of the chance at a better life — the life we have — because they will emit less carbon if they stay poor.

    Well at least this debate has flushed one pinko out of his green camoflage. Greens need to make up their mind – are they going to be rainbow coalition building? Or are they going to focus on their ostensible program: reducing carbon emmissions?

    Also, you may be surprised to hear that some AUS citizens are “uncomfortable with depriving their [less well off] fellow citizens of the chance of a better life” which invariably accompanies lax immigration. The nation state is the proper accountable authority for citizens within its jurisdiction. (Do I have to re-invent the Hobbesian political wheel every time one set pixel to hyper-text?)

    If you want to ameliorate global poverty you should be investing in countries like IND or BRZ, which offer good prospects for hard working ambitious poor people. Or lobbying the AUS govt to lift its foreign aid budget.

    Otherwise you increase the suspicion that people like me harbour towards Left-liberal Greens, that they have post-modern anthropological and pre-modern technological axes to grind.

  21. jack strocchi
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:51 | #21

    Peter Says: June 28th, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    With all due respect you and many of your ancestors are responsible for destroying cultural and natural ecologies of the aborigines(the only original Australians)

    You dont have to be a disenchanted economist (like me) to realise that theres not point in crying over spilt milk.

  22. Peter
    June 28th, 2008 at 21:57 | #22

    I agree with Jack that Australia should do more trade with democratic(in relative terms) countries like Brazil, Mexico and India. The ALP seem to have fetish for China and they seem to be going to any lengths to satisfy China.

  23. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    June 28th, 2008 at 22:11 | #23

    It follows that whether or not the Rudd government (or whoever is in government for the next 5 to 10 years) changes its policy on nuclear power will make no difference to anything of substance

    Arguably it makes the difference between nuclear power in 2030 or nuclear power in 2040. Given that climate change mitigation is supposed to be a long term intergenerational project why wouldn’t this be of some substance?

  24. Ian Gould
    June 28th, 2008 at 22:41 | #24

    “But I dont see why we have to wait until 2020 to start building nuclear power plants. Twelve years sittig on our hands?”

    How long did the Badgery’s Creek debacle run on for?

    How long did it take us to decide not to build the VFT?

  25. Ian Gould
    June 28th, 2008 at 22:44 | #25

    “A question – can nuclear power totally and absolutely decoupled from nuclear weapons?”

    Pretty much – you switch to using Thorium rather than Uranium as a fuel.

    A critical mass of Thorium heats up but it won’t explode pretty much regardless of what you do to.

    So far every single country on the planet that has opted for nuclear power has used Uranium or Plutonium.

    Draw your own conclusions as to why.

  26. Ian Gould
    June 28th, 2008 at 22:48 | #26

    “Well at least this debate has flushed one pinko out of his green camoflage.” – Jack Strocchi

    So Jack only “pinkoes” care about the poor and want to help them improve their lot in life?

    Can I quote you on that?

  27. Jill Rush
    June 29th, 2008 at 01:15 | #27

    It is not only the length of time taken to build a power plant, nor where we buy the technology. It is the water required (not too much spare at the moment), the places for sites, the attraction for terrorists (or is this no longer a worry?) and the long term storage of waste. Why isn’t there greater debate on gas fired options?

  28. Hermit
    June 29th, 2008 at 08:33 | #28

    Jill apart from the fact that natural gas fired baseload electricity is already expensive it has 50% of the CO2 emissions of coal, not 5% or less like nuclear. There are also many higher priority uses for gas. These include ammonia and fertiliser production, compressed natural gas (CNG) as a diesel substitute, process heat and combined cycle peaking power. The Varanus Island problems in WA have brought on the restart of coal fired plants and there seem to be hints they’d like to keep it that way to free up gas supplies. I guess we could use gas as a coal substitute for decades, if necessary cutting back LNG exports, but the cost and CO2 savings would be unsatisfactory.

  29. Joseph Clark
    June 29th, 2008 at 09:19 | #29

    “Well at least this debate has flushed one pinko out of his green camoflage. Greens need to make up their mind – are they going to be rainbow coalition building? Or are they going to focus on their ostensible program: reducing carbon emmissions?”

    I’m not sure where your anti-immigration views come from jack, but I’ve always thought isolationism suited the greens just fine. It fits well with the misanthropy and conservatism that drives so much of their movement.

  30. Hal9000
    June 29th, 2008 at 10:22 | #30

    My thoughts on gas, Jill Rush… Gas is a lot less emissions-intensive than brown coal and somewhat less emissions-intensive than black coal using efficient supercritical combustion, but it still churns out the CO2. The good things about gas are that it lends itself to both base and peak load generation, and to small decentralised plants, and that it has less old-fashioned acid rain and smog-type pollution. It’s also easy and relatively cheap to transport, and can be used as a transportation fuel. We also have oodles of it in the form of coal seam methane, and quite a lot in the form of old-fashioned ‘natural’ gas. Even the notorious Gippsland brown coal deposits are chockablock with it. Switching to gas potentially extends the commercial viability of existing generation infrastructure. Finally, about 5% of Australia’s GHG emissions are in the form of ‘fugitive’ emissions where methane escapes from coal seams in the process of mining the coal (also some from landfills), and removing the methane can potentially reduce this source of emissions.

    The downsides are that the extraction of coal seam methane is technically problematic and produces vast quantities of water unsuitable for most other uses. Oh, and burning the stuff still emits lots of CO2. As an interim technological fix, however, there is certainly lots of potential with gas. Which is probably why the Queensland government is setting ambitious targets for gas generation (20% by 2020, from memory).

    Last, on Jack Strocchi’s ramble at 19 and elsewhere about how clever the French are to have so much nuclear generation, a couple of points. First, the French have far fewer options than Australia – cooler climate, fewer days of sunshine, less land, no hot rocks, higher population, more industry, no superabundance of cheap fuels. Second, they are a nuclear weapons power determined to retain this remnant of great power status. Third, they have a residual empire that gives them the capacity to ship their toxic waste abroad. Fourth, they made the decision to go nuclear well before the notion of AGW became an issue outside obscure scientific debate (obviously for reasons that had nothing to do with GHG emissions), and are world leaders in the technology. The fact the French see nuclear as working for them is interesting, but its relevance to Australia is surely questionable.

  31. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 13:02 | #31

    Ian Gould Says: June 28th, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    How long did the Badgery’s Creek debacle run on for?

    How long did it take us to decide not to build the VFT?

    Self-fulfilling predictions are the surest bet, as any ideologue-in-power will tell you. Obviously the more we talk down nuclear energy the less likely it will become and the longer it will take.

    By contrast, when the nation puts its mind to something it can get done eg Snowy Mountain scheme. That project, sad to say, was a relic of the modernist liberalism, when liberals of all parties believed in progress (productive engineers were the heroes). Freedom was a fount for getting things done.

    Those were the days when law-abiding individual autonomies willingly sacrificed for legitimate institutional authority. NIMBYism was considered immoral.

    We are now in the (degenerate and decadent) era of post-modernist liberalism in which post-modern liberals of all parties are obsessed by process (parasitic lawyers are the heroes). Freedom becomes a fetish for the do-your-own-thingers.

    By contrast FRA at least looks at the big picture and takes the longer view, both in sociological and technological matters. They have made the running on the USE.

    And they have made real progress on nukes. They commenced nuclear energy development in earnest in 1974. It took them about 15 years to get their nuclear sector to produce 30% of primary energy. Perhaps we could learn from them?

    We should take a leaf out of the FRA book instead of slavishly following the USA. (Funny how the Left are quick to cock a snook at the USA and “go continental” with the USE when it suits them.)

  32. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 13:22 | #32

    Ian Gould Says: June 28th, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    So Jack only “pinkoes� care about the poor and want to help them improve their lot in life?

    No. Just because all pinkos have a Left wing care for the low-status does not imply that only pinkos care for the low-status. Thats an obvious fallacy. (“all p are X therefore only p are X” does not follow.)

    Plenty of the blue-rinsed are nobless-obliged towards the less-well off. But it is not the primary or only ideological concern for them.

    But for sure died-in-the-wool pinkos will use every issue to promote the Leftist sociological agenda. That is a problem when ecological concerns become a priority.

    The suspicion lurks that the Greens have numerous Left-liberal social agendas. Most of which are dubious on their own merits not to mention deleterious to the ecology.

    Ian Gould says:

    Can I quote you on that?

    Any honest utilitarian machiavellian will tell you that if one wills the good end then one must will the bad means. If saving the polar ice caps means, relatively speaking, turning the screws on the poorer classes then thats the way it has to be.

    One may try to mitigate or ameliorate the equity issue in order to try and politically sweeten the bitter policy pill. But it is bad-faith to wish away the confict.

    You can quote me on that.

  33. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 13:37 | #33

    Joseph Clark Says: June 29th, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I’m not sure where your anti-immigration views come from jack, but I’ve always thought isolationism suited the greens just fine. It fits well with the misanthropy and conservatism that drives so much of their movement.

    I dont have absolute pro- or anti- immigration views one way or another. Although I am in favour of a demographic policy which raises the populations IQ, whatever the total intake quota.

    AUS’s immigration program should be pragmaticly adjusted according to national interest considerations. At the present juncture it is a no-brainer to see that immigration should be curtailed to conserve the ecological environment.

    Many Greens are misanthropic. That leads to ecological conservatism, favouring plants over people. But they are also prone to sociological constructivism, favouring fashionable experiments over traditional experience. Usually to the detriment of progressive civilization.

  34. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 13:45 | #34

    I see no one has seriously questioned my point that immigration boosterism spells doom for a coherent greenhouse gas emmission curbing policy. I am going to claim that point as made, unless someone wants to make a last ditch challenge?

  35. MH
    June 29th, 2008 at 13:47 | #35

    I noted the issue raised by the back-sliders in the LP/NP coalition in Canberra again as a form of wedge politics driven by polls (The Howard Method). More disconcerting is the real likelihood that this pathetic group of spineless delusionists will now run a spoiling campaign against any form of change or policy to deal with what ever the Rudd Government does on water energy or gas emissions and the need to change to non fossil fuels to the detriment of all of us. NO issue per se with the nuclear option but the development, construction, operational time lags are monumental against a background of intense competition for the expertise. I am going to hide somewhere I am starting to sound like a troll.

  36. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 14:12 | #36

    Pr Q is correct to point out the problems associated with a conversion of energy generation to nuclear plants. He is right to point out that decision to go nuke is likely to take a minimum of a decade to make a serious impact on energy generation, too late to save the polar regions.

    The problems associated with a nuke program are formidable, going by http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/the-reality-of-frances-aggressive-nuclear-power-push“>this bulletin of atomic science article.

    As mentioned above, nuke tecchies “dont grow on trees”. Also, there are substantial capital costs associated with starting up nuke plants. The depreciation on decommissioning nuke plants, which is substantial, should be factored into current costs. Also waste storage and safety costs are often hidden.

    What I question is his flat dismissal of the idea of starting a nuclear program anytime before “say 2020″, a number he appears to have plucked out of the air. This sounds suspiciously like his tragic seventies beard is doing the talking.

  37. Joseph Clark
    June 29th, 2008 at 15:10 | #37

    jack,
    You’re not making an argument against immigration per se, just immigration from poor countries. Presumably you would be quite happy if immigrants were already big carbon emitters back home.

  38. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 16:34 | #38

    Joseph Clark Says: June 29th, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    You’re not making an argument against immigration per se, just immigration from poor countries. Presumably you would be quite happy if immigrants were already big carbon emitters back home.

    Not necessarily. If we are serious about ecological (not to mention sociological) conservation then the total immigration flow should be drasticly curtailed. Irrespective of whether its from poor or rich countries.

    Ceteris paribus, immigration from rich countries is preferable because it would have minimal extra greenhouse gas emmissions. But immigration, per se, should be judged as regards the national interest, which is promoted by attracting fit, smart and nice people.

    Currently we are losing masses of high IQ professionals to the ex-British Imperial oceanic metropolises (NY, SF, LA, LO, HK, etc). In my judgement the national interest is best served by attracting high-IQ personnel of the kind who can solve the complicated logistical and technological problems posed by ecological crisis. So immigration at a minimum should aim at replacing high IQ personnel losses from whatever nations, whatever color or creed.

    Whether or not the immigrants are “already big carbon emitters back home” is not decisive criteria. If they were nuclear engineers who had a penchant for 4WD then I would be prepared to make an exception.

    Try for a change to go by what I actually say, rather than what you may fallaciously infer.

  39. Ian Gould
    June 29th, 2008 at 16:37 | #39

    “You’re not making an argument against immigration per se, just immigration from poor countries.”

    Well no, only the poor countries where the people are – according to Jack’s brilliant and totally neutral analysis of the science in question which we’re all too foolish and brainwashed to comprehend – genetically inferior and likely to contaminate our precious genetic heritage.

    You can tell them by them by their black or brown skins.

    Jack is, as usual, talking nonsense here. However based on my prior experience with him I don;t propose to waste my time in a futile attempt to get him to admit it.

    Were I to do so I’d start by pointing out that the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions are currently at 8% below 1990 levels and falling despite population growth since 1990.

  40. Donald Oats
    June 29th, 2008 at 16:38 | #40

    Nuclear power requires a lot of water. A lot.
    Nuclear power stations do not like being idle once switched on.
    Nuclear fuel and nuclear waste *are* dangerous to transport.
    Getting the uranium out of the ground requires a lot of water. A lot.
    Concentrating the ore to a fuel grade is energy and time expensive.
    Siting of the power stations must take into account climate change effects, earthquake, tsunami, future land use in the immediate area, and orange bellied parrots, if the site is in a Liberal seat.

    The big issues with nuclear power though are: prices of the raw inputs are subject to supply and demand (if everyone goes nuclear, it ain’t gonna be ‘cheap’ in future), and the capital costs are so high that nuclear power is typically heavily subsidised – by the taxpayer, natch.

    If people don’t want windfarms in their neighbourhoods, I don’t think nuclear power will get a guernsey either.

    Finally, the egregious^1 Professor Bob Carter has determined that the Earth entered a cooling trend in 2002 (letters, Sat Aus 2008-06-28), so global warming is no longer a justification for going nuclear :-)

    fn 1: I’ll leave it to others to decide on whether the archaic or modern definition best applies here.

  41. Alex Wadsley
    June 29th, 2008 at 22:12 | #41

    Talking about nuclear before there is clear carbon pricing is another call for corporate welfare, as are public investments in clean coal.

    What is interesting is the reference to the lack of a regulatory framework for nuclear power.

    Given the Howard government’s claim that nuclear was the way to go, combined with their control of the Senate, it is perhaps disappointing that they didn’t use it to put a clear regulatory regime in place.

    That is unless the whole nuclear kite flying operation was really about wedging environmentalists into shutting up about climate change. In which case it failed spectacularly.

  42. Hermit
    June 29th, 2008 at 22:34 | #42

    Howard did at least commission the 2006 Switkowski report
    http://www.ceo.com.au/fileadmin/CEO_files/Events/Nuclear_Energy_Taskforce_findings_and_outcomes.pdf
    Rudd’s brainwave while visiting Hiroshima was for a nuclear disarmament commission
    http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/rudd39s_nuclear_plan_39too_grand39_548892 It’s hard to take a line from federal resources minister Martin Ferguson. His recent pointless visit to Saudi Arabia raises doubts whether he has a coherent energy plan for Australia.

  43. jack strocchi
    June 29th, 2008 at 23:33 | #43

    On the web you come plenty of dishonest and stupid passages. Not so many which manage to combine the two qualities in such blatant form.

    I have better things to do than refute blatant lies. So I will try to keep editorial indignation down to background grumble, letting my own, emphasis added, words speak for themselves.

    Those who are a little squeamish about intellectual garbage disposal may wish to skip the following.

    Ian Gould Says: June 29th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Well no, only the poor countries where the people are

    Jack Strocchi said:

    If we are serious about ecological (not to mention sociological) conservation then the total immigration flow should be drasticly curtailed. irrespective of whether its from poor or rich countries.

    Ian Gould said:

    according to Jack’s brilliant and totally neutral analysis of the science in question which we’re all too foolish and brainwashed to comprehend – genetically inferior and likely to contaminate our precious genetic heritage. You can tell them by them by their black or brown skins.

    Jack Strocchi said:

    immigration, per se, should be judged as regards the national interest, which is promoted by attracting fit, smart and nice people…from whatever nations, whatever color or creed.

    It should go without saying, although I would not risk it in Ian Gould’s case, that IND and PRC are full of “people of darker color” that I am accused of despising. I must have prayed out loud on the internet a score of times for more such persons to grace us with their presence. But I understand that Ian Gould would not want to let straight facts get in the way of crooked tales.

    Ian Gould said:

    Jack is, as usual, talking nonsense here. However based on my prior experience with him I don;t propose to waste my time in a futile attempt to get him to admit it.

    I cant remember ever debating this topic with Ian Gould. Which is probably a small mercy. Still, even if I could remember I would hardly be blamed for failing to confess to talking “nonsense” with debating operators who express the morals of an alley cat.

    Ian Gould said:

    Were I to do so I’d start by pointing out that the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions are currently at 8% below 1990 levels and falling despite population growth since 1990.

    This is where Ian Gould’s disingenuity vies with his stupidity. Perhaps he should have started by quitting when he was behind.

    Obviously the post-1990 accession of the, relatively low per-capita carbon emitting, former Warsaw pact countries has reduced the contemporary EU’s per capita carbon emission levels. This does not have anything to do with national demographic policy or practice per se. Its just an accident of History.

    Also, since 1990 the USE has been adding plenty of low-carbon emitting nuclear plants to its base energy power generating stock. Which supports my original point, just to re-rail the thread back on topic for a fleeting moment.

    More to my present point, the USE’s overall rate of population growth in the post-1990 era has been well below that of AUS’s. Of course, it could be that this fact has nothing at all to do with the fact that USE’s carbon emissions have had a much lower growth rate than AUS’s over the same period. But we both know that this is not the case. Or does Ian Gould going to add another lie to his litany?

  44. observa
    June 30th, 2008 at 09:51 | #44

    Yes Ian, it is as disingenuous to quote EU emissions falls due to cleaning up Warsaw Pact countries as it is to say the Howard Govt was on track with our obligations, due to the land clearing sleight of hand when our emissions have gone up 31% since 1990. Net immigration has clearly contributed to that. That’s the macro point Jack is alluding to with an analysis of immigration here. Clearly the bigger picture is about per capita emissions, rather than jurisdictional sleights of hand, albeit those emissions must be actively controlled and policed within the jurisdictions we inherit now, which is problematic by and of itself. Nukes or whatever, all solutions must be on the table and assessed according to costs and benefits and if the impending costs of AGW are as horrific as claimed, then some prior unpleasant tradeoffs may easily be muted by the greater imperative. The more successful the claimants are about extolling costs of AGW, the more they ameliorate objections about alternatives like nukes. I see some polling shows GenY lack the hesitance of their Baby Boomer parents about the nuclear option already on that score.
    Clearly we must all keep our eye on the bigger picture of overall, global CO2 emissions reductions, bearing in mind the jurisdictional anomalies and original positions. It’s no good ignoring the obvious within jurisdictions (eg use of MDB water upstream of Adelaide has CO2 ramifications with Adelaide desal) nor across jurisdictions (eg we become the clean green university of the world whilst exporting coal to the dark satanic mills of Asia for traded manufactures and the no-nukes Saudi Arabia of uranium to boot) We all need to be careful about basking in warm inner and outer glows in that respect.

  45. observa
    June 30th, 2008 at 11:47 | #45

    Bearing in mind the macro picture alluded to here, I have no problem with nuclear power standing or falling on cost/benefit analysis. For me the fundamental question is whether or not current costs(ie prices) are adequately reflecting some notion of true social costs and on that point I am an avowed skeptic they do now and furthermore that misguided, emotional ‘metoo’ add ons will achieve anywhere near that purpose. For mine, our constitutional marketplace is flawed beyond repair and jumping on board international C&T is fraught with obvious difficulties and is simply more of the science of muddling through. Furthermore it is far too grand in undertaking and likely prone to large system failure, when a simpler, exemplary, jurisdictional approach would suffice. Personally, as an Australian, I have to say that if we as Australians, with all the resources and human capital at our disposal, can’t design such an exemplary approach to the overall environmental problem (biodiversity included), then no jurisdiction can. That said, I’ll be damned if I’m going to outsource our problem to others (not least gaggles of gangsters or international financial sharps) with some defeatist ‘metooism’, without a fight with those who lack any intellectual backbone and want to roll over and float with the international current. Here’s a glimpse of the rapids their soft ‘metooism’ is floating us all towards-

    Here’s international finance waking up to the new left/green gravy train and licking its lips-
    http://www.efinancialnews.com/usedition/index/content/2450714697
    http://www.efinancialnews.com/usedition/index/content/2449266665

    Here’s big corpora jumping out of the blocks and anticipating the left/green brave new world of international C&T-
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23919300-401,00.html

    But some support from unlikely allies expressing concern over the new direction shows I’m not alone-
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/bs.nsf/Article/Senators-block-carbon-sink-incentives-FYG8Z?OpenDocument

    Yes we’ve all reached the fast flowing river blocking our way to the promised land and Howard reckons we should stop here because the current is strong and there might be some pirahnas about while Rudd jumps in and reckons no worries, jump in and come with me folks, you can see I’m really going places. Me, I’m going to scout upstream for a better place to cross and the right angle of approach and effort needed to make the correct landing spot on the other side. You lot can please yourselves or wait for Garnaut and the cavalry.

  46. wilful
    June 30th, 2008 at 14:09 | #46

    God you sound like Gerard Henderson Strocchi. That is NOT a compliment. It’s effing tedious wading through your posturing over largely irrelevant, archaic or non-existent ideological differences. (And why can’t you spell a country’s name out?). Too much snark from you, drawing a snarky response from me.

    Point is, yes immigration to Australia does raise the net global emission profile right here and now. But to stretch that to saying that the current government has no commitment to climate change issues is bollocks (your comment at #34).

    We are taking lots of high IQ trained Indians and Chinese who already I expect emit at a much higher rate than their countrymen, they’re drawn from the urban middle class and not the rural poor that keep these countries per capita averages low. And of course we still take lots of immigrants from the UK and NZ, whose profile is not so very different, apart from the fact that we’re brown coal fired. Which brings us finally and welcomely to the actual point of Pr Quiggin’s post.

    Nuclear power is safer than coal, and has proven to be very safe over a very long period. Ausrtalia is excellently placed to deal with wastes, both from a domestic industry and also accepting wastes from our original exports. People who don’t accept that should provide an alternative, rather than letting the waste sit in rusting steel drums out in the open somewhere.

    As Quiggin identifies, timeliness and cost are massive issues with developing a domestic industry. While with appropriate carbon prices nuclear could definitely be economic, I would prefer to see these indirect subsidies spent on genuinely renewable baseload alternatives that are looking more and more feasible, such as geothermal, tidal and solar thermal (not wind, not solar PV, one too unreliable, one too expensive).

  47. observa
    June 30th, 2008 at 14:41 | #47

    In thinking about an Australian exemplary approach to the environment in general, which I perceive as the need for a rewrite of our CM, you need to be acutely aware of the challenges such a blueprint needs to overcome. Notice I’ve stated it’s necessarily an exemplary jurisdictional one, rather than some grand, international, esoteric pipe-dream. If we achieve it in our own backyard, I have no doubt the world will follow. As for the risk of systemic failure of the international vision splendid, we only have to look to the sum total of central banker’s efforts now, with the IMF looking hard at the biggest failure of them all(See Socrates link on Mon Mess Board). What a mess the temptation of the printing press has produced for us all now. As for signing on to international C&T, it has equal risk. We simply end up with big finance, big corpora, playing games around the globe with emission caps, they’re anticipating will grow sizably in value. Planting forest tree offsets or buying up LDC land for ethanol production or similar, is simply out of the frying pan into the fire stuff. C&T will have no countervailing power to this sort of counterproductive behaviour. Any new CM must have the inexorable incentive to protect and build natural environment against such ravages. Bear that in mind, just as the Greens and Nats are doing in the Senate now. As if the jurisdictional problem is not glaringly obvious with fiat money now, C&T coupled with international finance absconding with our rights and responsibilities re environmental externalities, is lining up with funny money to abscond with control over our resources. Here’s an increasingly daily sample-
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23944254-5006368,00.html
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23943986-5006368,00.html
    The opportunity for transfer pricing should be obvious, which jurisdictional reliance on resource taxing should largely overcome. To do that in any meaningful way means abandoning many other forms of taxation as I’ve already outlined. These challenges need to be borne in mind if we’re to get really serious about environmental outcomes.

  48. June 30th, 2008 at 15:41 | #48

    I am glad that at least one other contributor questions our high immigration policies.

    I won’t argue the issue extensively, except to restate my original point. The reason we are in such difficulty that we even need to consider nuclear is because of the reckless imposition of population growth by the present government and past governments to suit the selfish sectional interests of the property lobby.

    The economic case for immigration is utter twaddle. (Why else are our water charges, council rates and electricity charges going up? Why is this never taken into account, when immigration is discussed by those in control of our destiny?) and the supposed humanitarian case disregards the welfare of hundreds of millions who cannot possibly hope to ever immigrate to countries like Australia.

    A tour of online debates will reveal that the whole case in favour of high immigration has already been shot down in flames many times before. One of many examples is the debate at Larvatus Prodeo Will the great immigration debate take place?.

  49. John Mashey
    June 30th, 2008 at 15:56 | #49

    re: #46 wilful
    “I would prefer to see these indirect subsidies spent on genuinely renewable baseload alternatives that are looking more and more feasible, such as geothermal, tidal and solar thermal (not wind, not solar PV, one too unreliable, one too expensive).”

    I like all of these, but I think you’re writing off wind and solar PV too easily. Of course, their suitability varies by location, but some of what goes on in CA possibly applies to Oz.

    a) There have been good analyses about the statistical reliability of wind as you aggregate larger distinct areas. Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson is very sharp; I’ve heard him talk several times. His papers on wind power are useful.

    This one has global windpower maps, including oz, which shows that oz is well-blessed by good windpower sites that are not located too far away from population … although Tasmania is *really* blessed.

    Perhaps more important is to do statistical analysis of what happens when one interconnects windfarms, i.e., reliability goes up. See Supplying Baseload Power and reducing Transmission Requirements by Inteconnecting Wind Farms, 2007. This study was for US midwest, but perhaps there’s an equivalent for Oz. CSIRO?

    They say: “In conclusion, this study implies that if interconnected wind is used on a large sacle, a third or more of its energy can be used for reliable electric power and the remaining intermittent portion can be used for transportation (i.e., to power batteries or to produce hydrogen).

    b) Solar thermal for utility-grade sites. yes.

    c) BUT, solar PV: don’t be so quick to write this off, because it’s complementary to the others.

    People in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are frenziedly working on PV cost reduction, and the people saying they can do it aren’t just startups hunting funding, but big, serious, conservative engineering companies like Applied Materials (AMAT), whose solar strategy is here.

    I’ve heard their VP&GM of Solar, Charlie Gay, talk locally, and he’s quite good. In his presentation, see slides 11-16 in particular about cost reductions.

    This market probably splits into high-efficiency (like Sunpower) and low-cost like Nanosolar.

    A lot of businesses around here (with nice flat roofs) think they get 5-10-year payback from even current PV panels.

    Currently, a big chunk of the total cost for PV, especially retrofitted on houses, is installation. People are trying to do away with that via Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

    There turn out to be numerous less-obvious benefits from distributed generation, *especially* in warm places that have a lot of sun and not so much water (i.e., CA and Oz). See slide 7 of <a href=”http://www.energy.ca.gov/lng_docket/documents/2005-06-01_workshop/presentations_2005-06-01/Heckeroth_2005-06-01.pdf”California Energy Commission presentation from 2005.

    In particular, it saves money to not need more transmission capability, especially in summer (wires are hotter), and unlike gas/coal/nuclear plants, solar panels don’t use water.

    The pieces are just coming into place for massive application of BIPV, but I’m sure LEED and CA building specs will be incorporating it soon.
    Google: California BIPV OR LEED BIPV

    I know you do BIPV in Oz, but I don’t know the rules. Does anyone know the regulatory position?

    The real issue is policy, to help get the building stock to be be built/rebuilt efficiently, since it just doesn’t happen overnight.

    Of course, the US Southwest and Australia are two of the best places in the world for solar thermal utility + PV distributed power.

    As it stands, in 2001, Oz generated almost 2X the CO2/per capita, and more than 2.5X the CO2/GDP compared to CA. It’s not obvious that that has to be true…

  50. observa
    June 30th, 2008 at 16:32 | #50

    Relax daggett, there’s always Mt Gambier on the mainland before we all start crowding into Tassie and damming the Franklin for the front lawn, fruit trees and vege plot out the back-
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,23934420-2682,00.html
    Psst.. I gotta cousin who’ll do you a good deal on a green-change down the Mount.

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