Home > Economics - General, Environment > No nuclear renaissance

No nuclear renaissance

March 17th, 2011

That’s the title of my piece in today’s Fin, an expanded version of my post here earlier this week

No nuclear renaissance

As the crisis in Japan continues to worsen, advocates of nuclear power have hastened to offer reassurance that their preferred power source is still a viable option in the race to replace carbon-based sources of energy. The earthquake and tsunami represent an extreme worst case, unlike to be observed in less seismically active areas than Japan.

So far at least, the worst case outcomes of a core meltdown and Chernobyl-style release of radioactivity have been avoided. Although some radioactive steam has been omitted, the total health risks remain far below those of coal-fired power, even disregarding CO2 emissions.

As Ziggy Switkowski observed yesterday, “We will learn from the tragic Japanese experience how to build more robust reactors, how to ensure multiple layers of protection work properly, how to better contain radioactive gases,”

All these points are valid, but, unfortunately, irrelevant. The attempt to restart the nuclear industry, sometimes optimistically called the ‘nuclear renaissance’ was already on the edge of failure before this crisis. Even with the best possible outcomes from the current crisis, nuclear power is off the agenda for a decade or more, at least in the developed world.

The nuclear renaissance was launched in the United States by George W Bush with the Nuclear Power 2010 program, unveiled in 2002. This was followed by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which authorized $18.5 billion in loan guarantees. All of these initiatives were carried on and extended by the Obama Administration, which proposing to triple federal loan guarantees.

The initial reaction was highly positive, with dozens of proposals being announced. By the end of 2008, 26 proposals had been received by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But by the end of 2010, more than half of these had been abandoned, and ground had been broken on only two sites, with a total of four reactors. In October 2010, Constellation Energy pulled out of a joint venture with French firm EDF, saying that more loan guarantees, with less stringent conditions, were needed. Similar problems have emerged in France, Finland and other developed countries, where construction projects have encountered delays and massive cost over-runs, with the result that plans for expansion have been scaled back sharply.

Even assuming the best possible outcome from the Japanese crisis, the economic case for nuclear power, already fragile, has been severely, and probably fatally, damaged. At least eleven reactors have been taken off line. Three of the reactors at the Fukushima site have already been rendered permanently inoperable by the pumping of seawater into the storage pools and three others may follow. The evacuation of 200 000 people, at a time when the earthquake and tsunami have already stretched resources to the limit, will have massive costs, running into the billions unless the situation is resolved rapidly.

Doubtless, as Switkowski has argued, the failures in cooling and containment systems that gave rise to the present crisis can be overcome and reactor designs modified to improve safety. But safety doesn’t come cheap, and redesigns mean delay. With no prospect of any further increases in subsidies and loan guarantees, it seems likely that most of the proposals for new nuclear power plants in the US will be abandoned. And, if only for reasons of diversification and speed of construction, the lost Japanese reactors will probably be replaced by gas-fired plants, with some renewables.

But why are the economics of nuclear so bad? In part, it is simply a matter of technology. Nuclear power has turned out to be more expensive than its advocates have expected, while alternative sources of energy, particularly gas, have become cheaper. Even solar photovoltaics, long seen as impractical, are now cost competitive with nuclear on some calculations.

But the crucial problem for nuclear power has been fear. Fears about safety have meant that nuclear power plants have been held to much higher safety standards than alternatives like coal, which routinely spew pollutants of all kinds into the atmosphere.

More important than these fears, however, is the fear and ignorance displayed by those who have obstructed the most important single factor needed for nuclear power to become viable – a price on emissions of carbon dioxide. Some claim, like Lord Monckton, that climate science is a plot to restore the fortunes of global communism. Others like Cardinal Pell, who apparently believes that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, say that, having ‘studied this stuff a lot’, they are qualified to overrule the experts.

Ironically, many opponents of climate science pose as defenders of nuclear power. In reality, they are its deadliest enemies.

Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:
  1. Donald Oats
    March 17th, 2011 at 12:50 | #1

    From the Australian, reporter Peter Alford, Mar 17th 2011:

    The threat of a further spread in radiation appeared to increase today when US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in Washington that all the water was gone from the spent fuel pools at reactor No 4 at Fukushima, resulting in “extremely high” radiation levels.

    “We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures,” Mr Jaczko said.

    Japanese officials denied the water had all gone,…

    Okay now…this is serious.

    I don’t usually rely on the nOz for my news but this writer has been calling the disaster correctly as it unfolds, so I have chanced it, so to speak.

    If nuclear power station developers have to now take into account the further costs of new containment mechanisms, building on high ground away from the naturally easiest water source, building back up reservoirs for existing (old) nuclear plants and possibly for newer, constructing higher level containment facilities for spent fuel rods, low level waste that is generated daily, and on top of all that, having new designs that can be further adapted to tighter safety regulations during their long working life. All those factors, as if that wasn’t enough, will most likely cripple the financial case for future investment in nuclear power. Finally, is it really wise to have multiple reactors housed together, or multiple stations in the same localities: that has proven to be a recipe for magnifying the magnitude of disaster when exposed to common causes, eg placing stations on the same patch of coast exposes all of them to the same tsunami one happens, or having them on the same faultline, etc. On the other hand spreading them out increases the likelihood of other risks eventuating.

    No doubt a rash of “research papers” from self-labelled thinktanks will pepper the interweb with lovely propaganda; we’ll have to wait quite a while later for the more cautious and well throught through academic articles to come out the other end of peer-review. I’m confident that academic articles will be amply provided with data supporting the case for burying nuclear on financial considerations alone; environmental issues, which includes the psychological impact upon people living near them (the human dimension is not insignificant), I wager will make it a slam dunk for diverting money away from nuclear and into renewable energy resources.

  2. rog
    March 17th, 2011 at 13:14 | #2

    There are at least as many opinions as pundits, maybe more. The poor quality of reportage by the govt and private operator has led to a lot of second guessing which doesn’t instil confidence.

  3. rog
    March 17th, 2011 at 13:28 | #3
  4. may
    March 17th, 2011 at 13:52 | #4

    @rog
    thanks for that Rog.

    wouldn’t it be good if there was a news industry that took the what/why/when/where /how and who (verified,updated and with mistakes immediately corrected) as a given.
    and any opinion clearly defined as such.

    sigh.

  5. Aidan
  6. Chris Warren
    March 17th, 2011 at 14:27 | #6

    This piece is a bit damp. People really do not want to hear the usual (and obvious) criticisms they probably agree with. They want an alternative.

    Unless strong light is shone on the need to resource development of various sustainable alternatives, and the nexus with population pressure, the nukaholics will simply get their way by default.

  7. Ikonoclast
    March 17th, 2011 at 14:56 | #7

    JQ, Your article is actually far too kind to nuclear power than the merits of its case deserve. I wonder if this reflects your real views or if felt compelled to understate or omit certain of your objections to nuclear power in order to ensure publication in the Fin Review or at least not alienate its readership?

    I recommend you read Michael Dittmar’s report at;

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/24414/

    Go the bottom of this linked article and find the links for the four chapters of Micheal Dittmar’s report. Once you follow these links you can then look at the PDFs by clicking one more link for each.

  8. Uncle Milton
    March 17th, 2011 at 16:38 | #8

    I suspect (on no evidence, but this is the internet) that not only will be there be no nuclear renaissance, but public support for GHG mitigation will fall too. The public will say that they will prefer to take their climate chances with coal-fired electricity (indeed, not even their chances really; more their children and children) than get cancer from nuclear power. The logical and factual fallacies with this line of thinking are obvious but that won’t stop a populist politician, someone like Tony Abbott, saying “the lesson from Japan is that we should leave our electricity generation just as it is”.

    Preposterous, illogical, dishonest? Of course. But it is simple and easily swallowed.

  9. paul walter
    March 17th, 2011 at 16:47 | #9

    Uncle Milton, you could have added that they’ll eventually get back to pushing nuke as well, once they feel the public’s attenuated collective attention span and limited capacity for recollective memory has let Sendei slip into history.
    They wouldn’t admit they were wrong over Iraq, Climate change and other environemtalmatters, over the GFM in 2007 and recently events in the middle east, even when caught redhanded, so the best we can hope for is to make enough noise now, while the light of day is still shone on them, to force into place some sort of rudimentary planning to cope with the more obvious risks in ecological and pol economic matters, alike.

  10. Uncle Milton
    March 17th, 2011 at 16:51 | #10

    I see that the Fin didn’t print the sentence about Pell.

  11. BilB
    March 17th, 2011 at 17:55 | #11

    I wonder if Switkowski is goig to try to get his old Telstra job back?

  12. TerjeP
    March 17th, 2011 at 18:40 | #12

    Are Lord Monckton and Cardinal Pell really representative of nuclear advocates? Are they even nuclear advocates?

    I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational. Those that recognise this (looking at you JQ) and who regard themselves as being above irrational positions (looking at you JQ) should articulate the case against fear rather than accepting irrational fear as a rational reason to oppose. Those of us who argue against irrational fear may still fail but that doesn’t mean we should refuse to even make the case.

  13. Alice
    March 17th, 2011 at 18:57 | #13

    @TerjeP
    Lookin at you Terje P and Fran Barlow for the irrational positions you accuse JQ of having with regards nuclear when both of you are irrational pro nuclear advocates despite the very best evidence to the contrary. I suspect if it was you running away from one, you wouldnt be above changing your mind Terje P so until that day comes I doubt you would.

    ..but personally I dont have much respect for deathbed catholics.

  14. iain
    March 17th, 2011 at 19:30 | #14

    @Alice

    Alice, Terje and Fran will just repeat what Barry Brook says without expending a lot of critical thought inbetween. You are basically wasting your time.

    Brook has provided these pearls of expert advice this week;

    “there is no credible risk of a serious accident‘”

    “The only reactor that has a small probability of being ‘finished’ is FD unit 1. And I doubt that, but it may be offline for a year or more.”

    “There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity. By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation”.

    It is the blind optimism tinged with what can (quite fairly) be described as a slight touch of arrogance, that is the main problem with the nuclear industry.

  15. rojo
    March 17th, 2011 at 19:37 | #15

    Maybe it would be best to build the plants under the sea.

  16. Alice
    March 17th, 2011 at 19:41 | #16

    @iain
    Barry Brook is a dangerous zealot.

  17. Freelander
    March 17th, 2011 at 20:08 | #17

    No nukes, is good nukes.

  18. Salient Green
    March 17th, 2011 at 20:20 | #18

    Hi Alice, I agree with you about Barry Brook. I wish people with his intellect would apply themselves to finding solutions to creating a sustainable society.

    Most nuclear zealots are more concerned about maintaining their own creature comforts than the well being of the ecosystem as a whole, including the Human race.

    I loved Paul Watson’s comments last night. ” Worms are more important then Humans because worms don’t need us but we need worms”

    At 55 yrs old I could be an ecowarrior. If I was single.

    A truly sustainable society may resurrect research into more benign forms of nuclear power in the future, such as Thorium reactors. It’s much more likely that true renewables with storage will be our future energy sources.

  19. Ernestine Gross
    March 17th, 2011 at 20:32 | #19

    Setting aside the experience of some or thousands or millions of people in Japan under present circumstances in north-east Japan, fear doesn’t seem to be a problem for anybody except those who banked on a nuclear renaissance.

    “Are Lord Monckton and Cardinal Pell really representative of nuclear advocates? ” Not necessarily all of the nuclear advocates, IMHO, but definitely those who believe they were ‘authored’ – ie the people of ‘the book’.

  20. Freelander
    March 17th, 2011 at 21:19 | #20

    @Donald Oats

    “No doubt a rash of “research papers” from self-labelled thinktanks will pepper the interweb with lovely propaganda; ”

    I can’t wait for the obligatory ‘research paper’ explaining how the whole problem was caused by over-regulation in the industry and everything would have been just fine if the government had butted out completely and it had been left totally to the market.

    Of course, to be followed by one of those papers explaining that over-regulation and gold-plating of the safety aspects of the facilities resulted in too few casualties – that is, fewer casualties than they deem would have been optimal in their alternative market Nirvana. I must admit I haven’t seen one of that species of paper coming out recently. They used to be so plentiful.

    Those folk in ‘think-tanks’ are such lazy fellows. Same monotonous predictable tunes played over and over and over again.

  21. Alice
    March 17th, 2011 at 21:40 | #21

    Anyway its almost worth watching the sequence through to the increasingly alarmed posts in bravenewclimates blog on the disaster,

    eg
    Stephanie says “Barry.You did not answer the question in the video. “If the core is exposed, how far can the radiation spread?”

    No answer.

    Barry says ““They are not, Ron — the repositioning would have nothing to do with the trace levels of radioactivity they might be able to detect.”

    http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=59065
    Seventh Fleet Repositions Ships after Contamination Detected

    Ron says – “Note – I’m not an alarmist but facts are facts.”

    * Greg Campbell says “Radiation 33 times normal level measured in Utsunomiya, Tochigi. This is ~50 miles SW of the site. (How long till this whole page gets pulled?)”

    * Fallingwater says “Uh oh… I’m hearing news of a 400 milliSievert (not microSievert) reading somewhere. Not sure where it’s coming from, if the reactor vessels are still intact. The pool?”

    Its also frankly alarming to see Terjes comment (and I am lookin at you)

    “The design criteria isn’t “nobody gets hurt in worst case scenario” but “core remains contained” and public isn’t harmed. From a design perspective it isn’t unreasonable that some people get hurt under this scenario or that some parts of the building get’s damaged. Although both those things are obviously regrettable”.

    Bravenewclimate is falling apart.

  22. rog
    March 17th, 2011 at 21:57 | #22

    Barry Brook has had a significant change of heart In sum, this accident is now significantly more severe than Three Mile Island in 1979..

    ..My initial estimates of the extent of the problem, on March 12, did not anticipate the cascading problems that arose from the extended loss of externally sourced AC power to the site, and my prediction that ‘there is no credible risk of a serious accident‘ has been proven quite wrong as a result.

  23. TerjeP
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:01 | #23

    for the irrational positions you accuse JQ of having

    Alice – I did not accuse JQ of being irrational. I accused him of pandering to the irrational fears of others and suggested that he should instead uses his energies to dispell irrational fears rather than accommodating them.

  24. Ikonclast
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:13 | #24

    @TerjeP

    Terje, you say, “I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    With this statement you have created an almost haiku-like compression of meaning. Unfortunately, it is not a compression of wisdom.

    Your statement implies all of the following.

    1. Fear of something harmful is irrational.
    2. The call for safety rules against possible harm is irrational.
    3. The major cost barrier to nuclear power is the requirement for safety and this requirement is irrational.
    4. No other major cost barriers to nuclear power, economic or technical, exist. Only the requirement for safety raises a major cost barrier.
    5. Even the rules that allowed poorly designed reactor and cooling pond complexes to sit in a severe quake zone on a shore near the deepest fault marine trench in the world, are rules that are too strict and costly and we whould relax these rules even further.

    Actually I am beginning to suspect you are an undercover anti-nuclear agitprop. Really, you couldn’t produce better propaganda to discredit the pro-nuclear position if you tried. The sheer Poe’s Law-like beauty of it is awesome! Love your work m8! :D

  25. Ikonclast
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:25 | #25

    One issue that I have not heard canvassed yet in any media is the issue of local sea contamination and littoral zone contamination. Given that sea water is being indiscriminantly pumped and dropped all over the site, all of this must be running to the sea. Much of this will wash up and down the coast and contaminate the littoral zone. The local seas and sea bottom will also be highly contaminated. The Japanese can probably forget about fishing along this coast for the next decade or two at least. Given that many of the villages hit by the tsunamis were fishing villages this implies further great problems down the track as any re-built villages could not rely on resuming the fishing industry.

  26. Ikonclast
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:27 | #26

    Correction. I should have said “all of this (seawater) that is not steamed off will run to the sea.”

  27. rog
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:38 | #27

    I have a fear that is rational; that the safety of this plant is beyond the control of the government and the operator and this lack of control can be applied to any other plant in the world.

  28. sam
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:38 | #28

    @Ikonclast
    Lol! More seriously, you have to give pro-nuclear advocates on this site 10 points for chutzpah. It’s been amazing to watch the intellectual implosion. If they can’t be right, at least they’ll be certain. How these people could allege irrationality on the part of opponents during a major nuclear catastrophe is beyond me. This isn’t a silly thing we’re all getting worked up about. This isn’t an irrational public over-reaction, this event is what scientists technically call a data point. As a result of this new piece of information, we should all now revise downwards our beliefs about the inherent safety of the nuclear option. To do otherwise is truly irrational.

  29. Ben
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:42 | #29

    @iain

    Yes, Barry Brook et al provides an excellent example of why we cannot go down the nuclear path.

    All they can muster is an endless chant proclaiming safety, based also on a in-house industry/government mindset that provides only miniscule information to the public. Brook has started censoring contributions to guide consideration of issues on the BNC blogsite.

    The nuclear society and nuclear culture is just as toxic as is coastal Japan north of Tokyo.

    If they cannot design safe space shuttles (2 blew up), safe oil wells, airline engines that don’t disintegrate midflight, how on earth can they pretend they can design safe nukes?

    When nukes go wrong they wipe-out huge swathes of society and jeopardise the health of large sections of the community. When the space shuttles blow-up they only kill 7 [NASA has well earned its tag "Need Another Seven Astronauts"]

    We have had 3 major nuclear calamities since 1979 and we always hear how future nukes will be safer. If the safer nukes emerge but in greater number the net risk stays the same.

    So there is no reason why we should not expect once nuclear calamity every 7-10 years on average. This cost as an insurance premium needs to be put into the cost comparison with the massive deaths and costs to society when a wind turbine falls over or a solar hot water heater ruptures.

    So the question is: what is the cost to Japanese society of the nuke calamity, including the cost of the emergency response, rebuilding 3-4 units, cleanup and the evacuation of 20 km zone? What happens when this is added onto the $per KW calculation for this cheap and clean energy source ????

  30. Ikonclast
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:43 | #30

    @sam

    I couldn’t agree more, sam.

  31. Chris Warren
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:45 | #31

    No – not Ben.

    Just the software playing tricks.

  32. TerjeP
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:54 | #32

    Your statement implies all of the following.

    It really doesn’t you know.

  33. Ernestine Gross
    March 18th, 2011 at 09:02 | #33

    As has been widely reported, various countries in the EU have announced a general review of their nuclear power industry, including cancellations of new plants.

    China has done the same:
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/17/3167082.htm?section=justin

    These reactions are rational in the sense made clear by sam @28 above.

    On this occasion, the behaviour of shareholders corresponds to the notion of rational in sam@28.

  34. Donald Oats
    March 18th, 2011 at 09:03 | #34

    @Freelander
    LoL! Free market rules, ok? :-P

    Seriously though, these few nuclear reactors have shut down parts of Japan that were not particularly affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis, greatly compounding the scale of the disaster there. At some point they may have to have to bite the bullet and order some potentially suicidal missions to refill the pools, pull some spent fuel rods out of there (like, where would they move them to) or to concrete over the whole thing – just like Chernobyl – what a complete farce wrapped in tragedy.

    Apart from the military, I can’t think of any other industry where you could go to work in the morning to be told to die for the company (except it will be couched in much more patriotic language than that). Apart from breaking all manner of OH&S rules – or is it Health and Wellbeing, in today’s lingo – it should be the TEPCO executives and their top tier of management, the Rethuglican-style talking heads, and a few ministers to boot, who get to go on the one-way trip to seal of the reactor(s).

    Meanwhile, the New York Times is painting a bleak picture:

    Mr. Nishiyama also said that radiation of about 250 millisievert an hour had been detected 100 feet above the plant. In the United States the limit for police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers engaged in life-saving activity as a once-in-a-lifetime exposure is equal to being exposed to 250 millisieverts for a full hour. The radiation figures provided by the Japanese Self-Defense Force may provide an indication of why a helicopter turned back on Wednesday from an attempt to dump cold water on a storage pool at the plant.

    Finally, the question I keep asking: where has the low level waste gone? Did the earthquake and tsunamis disperse it, or is it safe and sound on site at the badly damaged nuclear power stations?

  35. Ikonoclast
    March 18th, 2011 at 09:12 | #35

    Somehow a misspelling of “Ikonoclast” as “Ikonclast” has appeared in the thread above. I assure JQ that this is me, it is inadvertant and clearly is in no way a sock puppet attempt.

  36. Ikonoclast
    March 18th, 2011 at 09:32 | #36

    On the positive side for nuclear science we must note the following.

    1. Nuclear research pure and applied should continue. It would be anti-science to shut down nuclear research and I’m sure nobody is seriously advocating this anyway.

    2. There are many applications of nuclear technology other than stationary electric power generation. Risk – benefit analyses should proceed on a case by case basis.

    3. Research reactors and/or reactors for the production of radioisotopes will continue to be required for the foreseeable future.

    4. The world’s current fleet of commercial power nuclear reactors will take 20 or 30 years to decommission. In this period, they can be employed to “burn” and deplete military grade stockpiles.

    Realpolitiks also tells as that (unfortunatley) military applications of nuclear technology will be with us for the foreseeable future.

    The reality is that, without very major advances (which appear unlikely given the fundamental and intractable nature of problems in this field), nuclear power generation and the associated fuel and waste cycle is spectacularly unsafe and uneconomic compared to other stationary power generation solutions. The physical, economic and political realities of this situation will enforce the only logical and feasible outcome despite all pro-nuclear vested interests and crackpot lobbying.

  37. Chris Warren
    March 18th, 2011 at 09:52 | #37

    Now we get the recognition by one of our active nukaholics – Barry Brook [BNC blogsite]:

    …my prediction that ‘there is no credible risk of a serious accident‘ has been proven quite wrong as a result.

    This should put to bed any claims from the nuclear proponents that they have the information and others do not know what they are talking about etc etc. Our nukaholics have rolled-out their usual and well-practiced slanders of hysteria, but have yet to provide any substantiation.

    Remember the Tsunami + earthquake disaster has always been predicted by the Anti nuclear activists [see for ex. Caldicott, Nuclear Power is not the answer to global warming…., MUP, 2006, p87)

    Now we must consider the flow of information.

    If at 6:55 on 16 March the water level inside the reactor cores of units 1, 2, and 3 were all at least 1.4 metres below the top of the fuel rods, according to Brook, when was this information provided by TECO, the Japanese government or IAEA?

    Anyway, it is all over now, I suppose the only useful thing we wait for now is news that power has been connected to all pumps and all pumps and pipes are functioning.

    Notice too, how we get reports of radiation readings but never accompanied with wind direction. Of course you will get low readings by moving your monitoring west, if the breeze blows east.

    Again the access to, and flow of, information is the key determinate and one of the key reasons (along with commercial competitive pressures) this form of energy production must be closed down.

    The BNC website initially practiced tactical censorship and other tactics to try to contain the political meltdown washing over their heads, but this may have ceased now ?????

    The Japanes earthquake sent a destructive Tsunami onto Papua New Guinea, destroying a hospital and causing 2 consequential deaths of feeble patients during evacuation. Presumably their are other instances throughout the Pacific but our media seems not to be concerned or bothered.

  38. jakerman
    March 18th, 2011 at 10:17 | #38

    Terje, you say,

    “I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    [...] Your statement implies all of the following….”

    Terje:

    It really doesn’t you know.

    Terje, could you explain what you do actually mean with your claim:

    I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    I seems like you are refering to the safety regulations, and that you think they are irrational regulations. Please clarify what you actually mean.

  39. jakerman
    March 18th, 2011 at 10:22 | #39

    That should read as:

    “I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    Your statement implies all of the following….”

    Terje:

    It really doesn’t you know.

    Terje, could you explain what you do actually mean with your claim:

    I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    It seems like you are refering to the safety regulations, and that you think they are irrational regulations. Please clarify what you actually mean.

  40. Chris Warren
    March 18th, 2011 at 10:54 | #40

    O dear, I spoke too soon.

    I thought the BNC censorship was relaxed, but I was wrong. The reference to anti-nuclear activists long predicting the earthquake-Tsunami scenario, was censored.

    BNC – bloody nuclear censorship.

    But they need such strategies to foist their industry onto society at large.

  41. jakerman
    March 18th, 2011 at 14:44 | #41
  42. Ernestine Gross
    March 18th, 2011 at 16:16 | #42

    @jakerman

    Thank you for the link @41. The behaviour of the share price for wind farm companies, relative to other companies, in Japan is again logically consistent with rational (Bayesian) decision making. (Whether the resulting prices are ‘efficient’ in the sense of Fama is another question.)

  43. Alice
    March 18th, 2011 at 17:22 | #43

    @Chris Warren
    Well it seems Dear Professor Barry Brooks has really done a Greenspan put and an about face

    First he says (per Rog’s post above..

    “..My initial estimates of the extent of the problem, on March 12, did not anticipate the cascading problems that arose from the extended loss of externally sourced AC power to the site, and my prediction that ‘there is no credible risk of a serious accident‘ has been proven quite wrong as a result.”

    Then he censors his own site per Chris Warren at post 40.

    He is just working out how to do an about face on the “mistake”…just like Greenspan. If this isnt evidence of an arrogant zealot I dont what is.

  44. Alice
    March 18th, 2011 at 17:27 | #44

    Selective information for you from bravenewclimate for Barry’s little proteges in the blogosphere. As long as you keep telling him how fantastic he is (and note – professor Brook is not a nuclear scientist. He is an environmenatal scientist).

    Thanks for the environmental help (not).

  45. TerjeP
    March 18th, 2011 at 18:08 | #45

    Jackerman – designing and constructing with the inclusion of safety features probably adds little to the cost of nuclear and is in general quite rational. But irrational fear that leads to political interference during transition from paper to operation, or the mere risk of such interference, can in my estimate be a killer. It is reasonable to regulate but make sure the regulation delivers certainty for both the public and the investor rather than disrupting it.

  46. rog
    March 18th, 2011 at 19:11 | #46

    Terje – name the unreasonable regulation.

  47. jakerman
    March 18th, 2011 at 19:34 | #47

    TerjeP, re:

    I think the major cost barrier to nuclear is the barriers erected in response to fear, much of it irrational.”

    And

    designing and constructing with the inclusion of safety features probably adds little to the cost of nuclear and is in general quite rational. But irrational fear that leads to political interference during transition from paper to operation, or the mere risk of such interference, can in my estimate be a killer.

    Are you saying that “political interference during transition from paper to operation, or the mere risk of such interference” is”the major cost barrier to nuclear”? Or am I still misreading your claim?

    Perhaps some examples would clarify.

  48. BilB
    March 18th, 2011 at 20:33 | #48

    Terje @ 45,

    You clearly don’t understand the chaos of failure and human inability to cope with it. Its what makes economies collapse, aircraft fall out of the sky, and nuclear reactors to spew their guts out occaisionally. Proceedures and regulations only work when everything is predictable and undercontrol. Humans solve complex problems at a slow pace. Adding more humans tends to slow down the problem solving pace when everything is spiralling out of control. Exactly what we have just witnessed.

  49. Alice
    March 18th, 2011 at 20:39 | #49

    @rog
    The unreasonable regulation Terje is fumbling around for and cant or state, was the regulation that allowed the power companies to build it in Fukushima in the first place. The second unreasonable reglation was the one that permitted the firm to operate the damn thing beyond its decommission date. Its the same unreasonable regulation Merkel is trying on in Germany (extend the life of the nuclear power plants past their decommision dates). There is plenty of unreasonale regulation but dont expect Terje to recognise whats unreasonbale and what is not.

  50. Freelander
    March 18th, 2011 at 20:57 | #50

    @Donald Oats

    Looks like nuclear power not only requires significant government subsidies to be viable but requires significant personal personnel subsidies as well. I don’t think it would be easy finding employees willing to be so expendable in France, the UK or US nowadays. Maybe still in Germany. Heroic efforts, but a horrible death.

  51. iain
    March 18th, 2011 at 21:29 | #51

    @TerjeP

    Terje,

    Fukushima 1 was built just one decade after the 9.5 magnitude Valdivia earthquake, which caused tsunamis over 25 metres. These tsunamis reached Japan at the time. Yet they only designed the Fukushima facility for a much, much lower 8.2 magnitude earthquake rating.

    If you state that “designing and constructing with the inclusion of safety features probably adds little to the cost of nuclear”, why could they not even design this plant to meet an earthquake/tsunami scenario that had occurred just a few years previously? Why did they design such appallingly inadequate contingency cooling systems in the face of this scenario?

    If it wasn’t cost, what other reasons? Blind optimism? Over arrogance in the face of prudent risk analysis? Lack of humility to the possibility of failure, perhaps ? An inability to take on constructive criticism?

    The nuclear industry needs to pull it’s head in.

  52. iain
    March 19th, 2011 at 07:10 | #52

    @iain

    And here is more unhelpful comments from Barry Brook:

    “Why wasn’t the earthquake design basis set high enough?, some people ask. What if the next earthquake is magnitude 10? Magnitude 12? Magnitude 20? But where does it stop? Where do you set the design basis? What if the reactor is attacked by Godzilla?

    No matter where you set the design basis, you will always exceed it one day, eventually. And when you do, the anti-nuclearists will complain that the design basis is not set high enough.

    There is always some really extreme, really catastrophic situation that you can imagine, but what is its probability in any given year?

    It’s all about Probabilistic Risk Assessment.”

    Indeed, Barry.

    Fukushima 1 was built just one decade after the 9.5 magnitude Valdivia earthquake, which caused tsunamis over 25 metres. These tsunamis reached Japan at the time. Yet they only designed the Fukushima facility for a much, much lower 8.2 magnitude earthquake rating.

    This isn’t some fantasy playland with Godzilla running around. This is a reality that the nuclear zealots don’t live in.

  53. Ernestine Gross
    March 19th, 2011 at 07:44 | #53

    Checkmate in 2 moves, Iain.

  54. Alice
    March 19th, 2011 at 07:51 | #54

    @iain
    There is one other reason Iain – regulatory capture and corruption – per todays smh a wikileaks cable suggests the Indian govt made payments to MPs to secure their support for a nuclear deal between India and the US. The cash available for “bribes” was $11million.
    Now where exactly did the money come from – which firms?, with the help of which foreign government??

    You cant even rely on government processes, safety and risk measures when this sort of insidious money stream pollutes all and we know we cant rely on nuclear firms or the nuclear industry to do the right thing so in short despite all the noise ….adequate safety measures and real risk costing and real risk prevention are never going to happen in this industry.

    When Barry Brook talks about Godzillas – he means the ones running the nuclear energy firms.

  55. Ikonoclast
    March 19th, 2011 at 08:01 | #55

    Godzilla functions as a triple allegory for earthquake, tsunami and nuclear destruction. It’s part of a long tradition of cultural response to the “existential instability of their island life”.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/14/land_of_disaster?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full

  56. Alice
    March 19th, 2011 at 08:30 | #56

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikono
    The nuclear plant chief has cried following a media conference and they have admitted there may be no alternatives but to bury the reactors under sand and concrete and that they have no idea if their water bombiung techniques are working. The fire is growing so obviously its not. Radiation from this mess has now been detected in places as far away as the UK and the US.

    They may have only rated the disaster as five as at today, but this is a Chernobyl. Enough with the downplaying of the risks by the stream of so called experts, the Japanese government and the media of this disaster.

    Lies, lies and damn pro nuclear liars.

  57. Donald Oats
    March 19th, 2011 at 09:17 | #57

    @iain

    Thanks Iain, for posing the rhetorical question that puts the lie to the “unknown unknowns” argument floating around the ether. Unknown unknowns might be a defence where it is so; hardly a defence when one of the unknowns is known (ah, Rummy-speak, gotta luv it; pity about the original context). It’s a guess but they probably felt that a 9+ earthquake was rarer than a one in a hundred year event so they could ignore it.

  58. iain
    March 19th, 2011 at 10:01 | #58

    @Donald Oats

    A key challenge in the future is the concept of a “one in a hundred year” event. At present it is “past calculated”. Climate change, necessarily, requires that “one in a hundred years” events be recalibrated.

    For example:
    “It’s not your imagination: Disasters keep rising”
    http://www.businessinsider.com/rise-of-natural-disasters-2011-3

  59. iain
    March 19th, 2011 at 10:04 | #59
  60. Ernestine Gross
    March 19th, 2011 at 12:01 | #60

    TerjeP :

    for the irrational positions you accuse JQ of having

    Alice – I did not accuse JQ of being irrational. I accused him of pandering to the irrational fears of others and suggested that he should instead uses his energies to dispell irrational fears rather than accommodating them.

    True, you did not accuse Professor Quiggin of being irrational. However your advice to him that he should use his energies to dispell irrational fears makes no sense to me. A rational person would not spend energy to dispell something which is not there.

    Only you can dispell from your head the belief that there is irrational fear in others.

    Incidentally, you wrote a lot in favour of “freedom”, I recall. It seems to me the defence of individuals’ freedom from the imposition of further significant negative externalities in the production of electricity is left to those who feel more comfortable with a social-democratic perspective than with a libertarian.

  61. Alice
    March 19th, 2011 at 15:28 | #61

    @Ernestine Gross
    Like me Ernestine?
    Ive had enough of the freedom of the firm (freedom from taxes, freedom from regulation, freedom to abuse) to last me a lifetime.
    Make no mistake the position pof pro nuclear activists is a distinctly political one and its another denialist position and its a conservative right position and its a pro vested interest position and its a pro paltry inadequate regulation position and its just plain wrong and every bastard who gets in here spouting the dear Professor Barry Brooks (Dr Evil) makes my blood boil – just like the spent fuel rods cooling pool has boiled away.

    Not only that those spent fuel rods were blown to smithereens in the explosion – its not even a matter of the fact that their water boiled dry and they are all nicely sitting in a circle in place waithing for more cooling water to be connected – they were blown up and could be anywhere in the mess releasing plutonium

    – not that Barry bloody Brooks would tell the truth.

  62. Alice
    March 19th, 2011 at 17:40 | #62

    Here is the last post I can find on bravenewclimate on the nuclear catastrophe in Japan – while Barry is hawking himself all over town to get television interviews..does he get paid for that?

    “Womensplaywow, on 19 March 2011 at 5:30 PM said:

    LAST POST! Clearly no straight talking here, I’m going back to WOW. BTW the kids are asking questions and they will remember if they are lied to.”

    Not pretty Barry. (Dont ever make me be polite to this so called learned academic ever again Prof. I have my dignity. He has not one ounce of credibility or integrity left).

  63. quokka
    March 19th, 2011 at 21:18 | #63

    @Alice

    If you have evidence that “spent fuel rods were blown to smithereens in the explosion” why don’t you produce it instead of engaging in personal attacks?

    I think fact free scare mongering is bloody irresponsible. There are a substantial number of people worldwide who have absolutely no idea of what health risks they or the population of Japan may or may not face. Fueling wild speculation just pointlessly adds to their distress.

  64. March 19th, 2011 at 23:44 | #64

    this seems to be the most comprehensive but brief historical summary I have seen so far of the risk involved in the nuclear industry. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/2011317104344324144.html#

  65. Alice
    March 20th, 2011 at 06:46 | #65

    @quokka
    google it Quokka

  66. rog
    March 20th, 2011 at 06:49 | #66

    Now that it has been established that all designs have the potential to fail I guess the question will be, what would be a safe exclusion zone for existing and proposed nuclear powered facilities?

  67. Alice
    March 20th, 2011 at 07:40 | #67

    For anyone interested in discovering too late that the nuclear industry is completely unsustainable and cannot even handle or deal with its own waste – let alone fix this mess – see the below – There are safety concerns here there and everywhere (huge ugly blatant safety concerns) and you dont have to be a nuclear scientist to realise the industry, like most industries is about short term profits and not safety.

    http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/03/16/6281333-whats-the-deal-with-spent-nuclear-fuel?pc=25&sp=25

  68. Hermit
    March 20th, 2011 at 09:25 | #68

    If new baseload generators are gas fired it means even higher electricity bills and very little prospect of ever cutting CO2 by 80%. Australia courtesy of coal seam gas and the US courtesy of ‘fracking’ of shale both believe they have decades of assured gas supply. Several factors could derail this including aquifer damage compensation, rapid depletion of ‘fracked’ wells and a massive shift to compressed natural gas as a diesel substitute in heavy vehicles. Therefore the price of gas must escalate rapidly.

    As it stands a $25 carbon tax is just enough to favour gas over coal for new baseload in NSW. The next question is whether the administrative CO2 price will rise faster than the market based gas price. However in Victoria the cheapness of brown coal ($6 a tonne) enables it to afford a higher carbon tax burden and still work out cheaper than gas for many years to come. On its own a politically affordable carbon tax will lead to some short term belt tightening eg Victorians will still burn brown coal but use less electricity. After that I suggest the early gains will peter out if there is no large scale technology switch.

  69. Ernestine Gross
    March 20th, 2011 at 09:40 | #69

    @Hermit

    Well, you are making a good case for the further development and deployment of renewables – solar, wind, geothermal, biomass … , depending on the local conditions. This program, together with an application of insights from the second fundamental welfare theorem (the Federal Governments proposals are consistent with this) makes the future look much less worrisome than what you paint. I would go as far as saying the future looks much more promising and interesting than the present.

  70. Fran Barlow
    March 20th, 2011 at 09:56 | #70

    @Hermit

    As it stands a $25 carbon tax is just enough to favour gas over coal for new baseload in NSW

    It may well be enough to ensure that more CO2-efficient coal plants displace capacity supplied by older and less efficient ones. If this occurs it could lead to an accelerated program of closures of this old capacity, since many of these were/are approaching the end of their useful life. It could make super-critical coal more viable. It might also push down the value of plants like Hazelwood and make it possible to close this plant at relatively modest cost.

    Another interesting possibility is resort to geothermal technologies in areas where there are significant seams of lignite. AIUI, some feasibility work has been put into this and while the heat is not as abundant as in the Cooper Basin HDR project the fact that it is relatively shallow and of course in areas handy to the grid improves its potential utility. I’m not sure exactly how much this stands to contribute to capacity, but last I heard, the installed costs for 50MW (yes it’s not much) being bandied about put it at least in the ballpark — about $5m per MW. If this is close to being right, and we could get to a price closer to about $50 per tonne on CO2, this would surely be in the frame.

    Has anyone heard anything more recent than mid-last year about this?

  71. Ernestine Gross
    March 20th, 2011 at 10:23 | #71

    @Hermit

    There is another positive development in progress, which our host addresses in his latest post, titled “Howled-down-in-a-pomo world” and filed under the category name ‘boneheaded stupidity’.

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2011/03/19/howled-down-in-a-pomo-world/

    Professor Quiggin uses the term ‘vulgar post-modernism’, a quite meaningful characterisation as far as I am concerned and a term that might become even more popular than ‘spin’. Imagine how pleasant life will be when this pomo nuisance is gone.

  72. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 00:58 | #72

    Good analysis. Thanks, John.

    ~~~

    Alice :
    Barry Brook is a dangerous zealot.

    I presume Brook is a good climate scientist – but he really should have stuck to his area of expertise. He’s an ideologue when it comes to energy and incites a lot of flawed, dangerous beliefs – both pro-nuke and anti-renewable. We clearly see it with some of the regular commenters on this blog, regurgitating the nonsense.

    ~~~

    Chris Warren :
    BNC – bloody nuclear censorship.

    That’s my experience. They need to control the message, because facts and reality spoil it.

    ~~~

    iain :
    It is the blind optimism tinged with what can (quite fairly) be described as a slight touch of arrogance, that is the main problem with the nuclear industry.

    Hubris, arrogance, imperviousness to evidence. And all underpinned by a belief that everyone outside the Nuke Fan Club is an anti-science, anti-progress, hysterical Luddite. It’s a curious and dangerous affliction.

  73. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 01:48 | #73

    Ironically, many opponents of climate science pose as defenders of nuclear power. In reality, they are its deadliest enemies.

    I’ve argued for quite a while that nuclear is a kind of Trojan Horse for ACC deniers / fossil defenders. As long as we bicker over nukes – or attempt to deploy them (come back in a decade, maybe we’ll have one completed!) – then fossil fuels continue to be burnt.

  74. Fran Barlow
    March 21st, 2011 at 06:03 | #74

    @BlueRock

    As long as we bicker over nukes – or attempt to deploy them (come back in a decade, maybe we’ll have one completed!) – then fossil fuels continue to be burnt.

    That’s almost the complete opposite of the truth. Renewables are largely a sandbag for fossil HC here, since they can pretend to a job they can’t actually do.

  75. Hermit
    March 21st, 2011 at 07:40 | #75

    I doubt the combination of a $25 carbon tax and an aspirational 20% renewables target can deliver the required CO2 cuts. Population growth 2000-2020 means that even a 5% CO2 cut is a huge task. When we get extreme weather events some will say it is not enough. Despite the generous REC mechanism and State feed-in tariffs wind and solar remain show ponies, not work horses. It’s hard to see that changing around anytime soon. Serious geothermal and biomass energy appear to be wishful thinking at this stage.

    Some energy belt tightening may do us good but beyond a certain point it will be apparent others without carbon constraints (hint: China, India) are forging ahead. We will be paying more for energy, green or not, without the commensurate CO2 cuts. Thus apart from market based price increases the additional taxes and subsidies could mean we are paying say 25% more for energy while getting less than 5% CO2 cuts. Obviously a major way to achieve real CO2 cuts would be to require that new baseload generation using known technology is not fossil fuel based.

  76. Ken Fabos
    March 21st, 2011 at 08:07 | #76

    I’ve pretty much avoided this debate; I think we need to get to the aftermath stage to get a clear picture and I admit to considerable ambivalence. But I don’t think this marks the end of nuclear – not in Japan and not in China or India where the most new construction appears to be. Maybe it will be enough to prevent nuclear in Australia for the foreseeable future but it won’t be renewables that are the winners, it will be fossil fuels.

    Unlike Bluerock I think the fossil fuel industry is happy to have heated battles between pro and anti nuclear advocates because ultimately they feel more threatened by nuclear than by renewables as they hold views closer to those on BNC and can see nuclear slotting straight into the existing electricity grids, able to deliver 24/7 power in quantities equal to coal. Having strong anti-nuclear advocates and sentiments independent of fossil fuel business as usual advocacy is allowing them to put off having to engage in anti-nuclear advocacy themselves; as long as nuclear is as-well-as and not instead-of, fossil fuel interests can pretend they share a free market low regulation ideology. Anti-environmental pro-nuclear advocacy predates the climate issue and that crossover of ideology is why IMO we see so many pro-nuclear opponents of carbon pricing despite it being the most effective way to undermine public opposition to nuclear energy.

    Now, I want to say I’d prefer not to go the mass nuclear route to limit emissions and, if ever governments are brave and sensible enough to implement carbon pricing at levels that are effective it would advantage of nuclear, but less so if this crisis results in more regulated and costlier nuclear. There are other reasons besides emissions to think that excessive consumption as a human right cannot be sustained and some of the pro-nuclear arguments seem to studiously avoid consideration of the consequences of unrestrained growth of energy use, preferring not to examine the ways it links to other global problems and instead link to a cornucopian view of the future.

    Nuclear is going to be part of the world’s energy mix, like it or not and should not be prevented from ongoing R&D to develop better and ever safer technologies but it needs strong international regulation and oversight that I’m not sure an absolute anti-nuclear stance can deliver a positive contribution – an absolute opposition to long term waste storage facilities for example will not give us better safer waste disposal facilities. I don’t think nuclear should get the lion’s share of R&D either – large scale energy storage and distribution to support renewables are worth pursuing, way ahead of Carbon Capture and Storage which is the worst example of greenwash I’ve seen. And Renewables have shown a strong trend of improvement in efficiency and cost, enough to make me doubt the ‘renewables can’t do it line and have earned their place as genuine alternatives to fossil fuels.

  77. jakerman
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:01 | #77

    Giving renewables orders of magnitude lower subsidies than nuclear or fossil fuels is sand bagging fossil fuel. Despite these lower cumulative subsidies, renewables still produce more energy than nuclear.

    Between $US43-46 billion of subsidies were granted to renewables and biofuels in 2009, either through direct grants or market-based mechanisms such as feed-in tariffs, renewable energy credits or certificates, tax credits, and other direct subsidies.
    Hundreds of Billions is the estimated Economic cost of the Chernobyl accident. Add this to the super subsidees of Military spending that have pushed developmont of nuclear research for 6 decades.
    http://www.earthtrack.net/files/uploaded_files/nuclear%20subsidies_report.pdf
    The recent International Energy Agency estimate of $US557 billion that world governments spent on subsidising fossil fuels in 2008. The G20 group has pledged, but not yet acted, to reduce those subsidies.
    http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/energy-subsidies-funding-renewables-cleantech-oil

  78. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:50 | #78

    Fran Barlow :
    That’s almost the complete opposite of the truth. Renewables are largely a sandbag for fossil HC here, since they can pretend to a job they can’t actually do.

    Wrong. It’s exactly as I said.

    Want a nuke? Find billions of dollars in capital – good luck with that because no private investors will risk their money. Spend years on the *necessary* planning, safety, licensing process. Start building. Hope there aren’t massive delays and cost overruns – but it’s very likely there will be. If you’re lucky you’ll have one new nuke in 10 years. If you’re lucky.

    Want a wind farm? Arrange finance – easy to do because there’s lots of private capital available. Get the necessary surveys and licensing done. Build your wind farm – easily and reliably done in *months*.

    Want solar? Phone a firm and they can have it on your roof in a day or two.

    This not a complicated concept to grasp.

    * Nuclear Power Cannot Solve Climate Change. Nuclear power plants cannot be built quickly enough and in a safe and secure manner to be a major global solution for climate change. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=nuclear-cannot-solve-climate-change

    Anyway, it’s all a moot debate – nukes can’t compete economically with renewables and the public have just had another excellent demonstration of the horror they can unleash when things go wrong. You should find a new obsession – nukes are dead.

  79. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 13:05 | #79

    Ken Fabos :
    …it won’t be renewables that are the winners, it will be fossil fuels.

    If the public remain confused, ignorant and mute about the terrible urgency of climate change. How bad will the floods get or the droughts or killer heatwaves before enough people wake up?

    Unlike Bluerock I think the fossil fuel industry is happy to have heated battles between pro and anti nuclear advocates because ultimately they feel more threatened by nuclear than by renewables…

    Have you actually looked at what the fossil industry puts out? You should. Koch Industries’ network of propaganda mills are strongly pro-nuclear, anti-renewable. Why? Because they know nukes cannot be deployed quickly enough to offer any threat to their toxic industry. But they support nukes because they know they will impede deployment of renewables.

    Nuclear is going to be part of the world’s energy mix…

    How much? Even the pro-nuke IEA predicts they are going nowhere fast: “The share of nuclear power increases from 6% in 2008 to 8% in 2035.” http://www.iea.org/publications/free_new_Desc.asp?PUBS_ID=2308

    Nukes are and will remain a niche power source. Given the cost and technology trajectory for renewables and the increasing costs for nuclear, it will become increasingly difficult to justify nukes – no matter how much a government tilts the playing field in its favour (as is happening in the UK right now).

  80. jakerman
    March 21st, 2011 at 13:27 | #80

    no private investors will risk their money.

    I just watched ‘Inside Job” and highly recommend it: http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/

    One of the key points were the perverse incentives behind the Ponzi scheme finance bubble. Traders and investment bankers were taking huge risks knowing that the upside for them was on one scale while their downside risk were socialized.

    It struck me that this was similar to the problem with nuclear financing. Nuclear investors also get to privatize profits but socialize losses with loan guarantees and public picking up the insurance costs for disasters that can have reached hundreds of billions of dollars in the case of Chernobyl.

  81. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 14:01 | #81

    jakerman,

    I watched that last week – most of it with my mouth half open. I’m still stunned at how brazen these ****ers are and still walking free and still paying themselves multi-million bonuses.

    It reminded me of the Eddie Izzard skit: “You kill one person, they lock you up and throw away the key. You kill ten people, they lock you in a padded room and doctors spend time talking to you. You kill 100,000 people, you receive a state invite and have dinner with the Queen!”

    But, yeah – very similar to the nuke game. They take the profits, we take the losses – and those losses can be huge… as the Japanese are now finding out.

  82. Hermit
    March 21st, 2011 at 16:25 | #82

    While the PM is rejigging the income tax and social welfare system to accommodate carbon tax I think it is an opportunity to sort out fossil fuel subsidies. That can include fuel excise indexation, the diesel fuel rebate, FBT on company cars and coal infrastructure capital assistance. However some ‘subsidies’ such as low electricity prices to aluminium smelters go back to State rivalries to attract new jobs. Both the Commonwealth and State need to get their heads together on this eg if Big Al has to pay more for electricity maybe a Federal customs tariff is needed.

    I don’t buy the line that two wrongs make a right i.e. because fossil gets help then renewables should get it also. How about feed-in tariffs and 20% quotas for nuclear power? As Garnaut says just have CO2 limits in place and let the market sort it out. Nuclear critics complain of loan guarantees and damages indemnity but these have now been extended to commercial solar and carbon capture projects as well. Whatever kind of ‘help’ is on offer (additional to CO2 constraints) I suggest everybody gets the same deal. For starters nobody gets subsidies or quotas.

  83. Ken Fabos
    March 21st, 2011 at 17:17 | #83

    Bluerock, I see the support by those like Kochs for nuclear as fairweather friends; any genuine program to phase out fossil fuels in favour of nuclear will see them turn on nuclear as strongly as they currently oppose a carbon price. Except they don’t have to as long as opposition to nuclear is strong enough that such a program is politically impossible. Currently both the fossil fuel and nuclear industries see environmentalism as their main enemy and an enemy of their enemy is their friend which is why I think we are seeing this alliance of convenience. Why pro-nuclear advocates appear to be strongly opposed to a carbon tax, which would favour it over fossil fuels seems to reflect the primarily anti-environmentalist ideology they share. So, for now “…they support nukes because they know they will impede deployment of renewables.” Fossil fuels are, in spite of what’s known about climate, booming both in production and in profitability; they can afford to give the nod to nuclear for as long as it remains a niche energy source and the groundwork is not laid for their phase out.
    Meanwhile renewables are making up ground and I sincerely hope they can step up and do they job.

  84. Alice
    March 21st, 2011 at 17:27 | #84

    @jakerman
    Inside job – the movie – comes highly recommended. I just dont know how to see it ie where ? when?

  85. jakerman
    March 21st, 2011 at 18:00 | #85

    Alice I can point you to a venue in Adelaide: http://www.google.com.au/movies?hl=en&sort=1&ei=5ASHTYKzHIHGvQOj5sXTCA&near=adelaide,+sa,+aus&mid=362c7b320625e90a

    otherwise, you can find in as a torrent file.

  86. Freelander
    March 21st, 2011 at 18:03 | #86

    I think I wouldn’t mind have an Andrew Bolt type column and getting lots of money for talking nonsense…. Maybe I should audition?

    Now the Japanese nuclear power plant ‘accident’ scare is over, and the hysteria has died down to only fever pitch, lets reassess the situation. Seems, the nuclear power experts had things under control all along, despite the media beat-up about risks, the drama of a massive exclusion zone, thousands fleeing Tokyo and its surrounds, a few hot bits of metal, a bit of steam, and slightly raised levels here and there. The only casualties seem to be a few glow in the dark spinach plants and some drinking water with an extra bit of sparkle. If the locals have any qualms about drinking the water, they can use it to wash their clothes. I am sure they will come out extra bright.

  87. Alice
    March 21st, 2011 at 18:09 | #87

    @Freelander
    Glowing in the dark even Freelander

  88. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 23:30 | #88

    Ken Fabos :
    Bluerock, I see the support by those like Kochs for nuclear as fairweather friends; any genuine program to phase out fossil fuels in favour of nuclear will see them turn on nuclear…

    But that’s the point. They know full well that a “genuine program” to make nukes a reality would mean effectively socialising them – a la France. They know that could never happen in the US so they know that support for nukes is support for doing nothing except continuing to burn fossil fuels.

    Whereas, they know very well that renewables can be deployed very quickly and erode their market share.

    Meanwhile renewables are making up ground and I sincerely hope they can step up and do they job.

    To say they are “making up ground” really underplays the reality:

    * Renewables Global Status Report: Renewables accounted for 60% of new power capacity in Europe in 2009; China added 37 GW of renewable power capacity, more than any other country in the world; Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable capacity was added, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity; Solar PV additions reached a record high of 7 GW; 83+ countries have policies to promote renewable power. “China’s wind power capacity surpassed the country’s installed nuclear capacity in 2009, with just over 13.8 GW added to reach a total of 25.8 GW.” http://www.ren21.net/globalstatusreport/g2010.asp

    Renewables are being deployed at a massive rate. New nukes are barely keeping up with old ones going offline – and it’s really only China, India that are responsible for that because the governments have decided to bankroll them.

  89. BlueRock
    March 21st, 2011 at 23:37 | #89

    Freelander :
    Seems, the nuclear power experts had things under control all along…

    Yeah, they intended for the containment buildings to explode, for radioactive material to vent in to the atmosphere and to write-off multi-billion power plants.

    The level of denial from the nuke fan club is always a thing of wonder….

  90. Ken Fabos
    March 22nd, 2011 at 10:40 | #90

    Bluerock, it’s the 24/7 on demand thing that’s the issue for solar and wind. During the past summer we saw weeks in a row when most of Eastern Australia was cloudy, including inland regions. I don’t recall it being that windy either. Thus solar would have struggled without input from much further west ie a very large redundancy, which, of course, makes it much more expensive. Large scale energy storage is effectively non-existent – hydro is geographically constrained and is there primarily to make efficient use of relatively smaller amounts of high elevation water storage for it’s own purposes, not provide large scale storage of energy. If any area of energy technology deserves serious R&D efforts it’s energy storage but we’ve seen the lions share go to fossil fuel companies for Carbon Capture and Storage. And it’s gotten us zero CCS capacity whilst depriving more promising and deserving programs like geothermal of funding.

    In Australia the carbon price Labor is trying to get through is effectively intended to give certainty to investment in Gas fired power plants in place of Coal, not investment in renewables ie give certainty to the same fossil fuel companies to produce coal seam gas whilst they keep digging up more coal to be exported. I’ve heard that ‘low emissions climate friendly gas plants’ line again and again recently. Yet Gas can only achieve the easy initial emissions targets like the pitiful 5% governments are struggling to get through. ie we will get a lot of investment, with government support, for a kind of fossil fuel infrastructure that can’t achieve longer term necessary emissions reductions and, once built, will not get ready support for early replacement or closure. Yet even this inadequate policy response is being vigorously opposed and will probably lead to it’s failure to get up. And Australia is abundantly endowed with renewable energy options! We are going to fail to make any inroads on this issue for the foreseeable future. Fossil fuel interests are winning, big time and I think they’ve still barely shown the extreme lengths they are prepared to go to to prevent the necessary decline of their profitability.

    In spite of this crisis in Japan I think nuclear will have a major role around the world in reducing emissions and the risks of nuclear accidents having to be weighed against the certainty of climate change. I don’t think it’s as readily expandable and safe as the proponents claim but nor do I think it’s risks are as extreme and unmanageable as it’s opponents want me to believe. And I don’t think renewables, as they currently exist and with our existing usage patterns, are able, yet, to reliably do the job required.

  91. Ernestine Gross
    March 22nd, 2011 at 14:10 | #91

    @Ken Fabos

    Not convincing, Ken.

    The nuclear power plant in Fukushima 1 wasn’t even able to produce power for itself when a bit of water splashed at it. Someone forgot to put a windmill on top, it seems.

    Neither the elimination of profits of the nuclear industry’s competing energy providers, nor zero ghg emissions, nor polluting air, water, soil with radioactive elements are the policy objectives.

    In Australia and in many places in Europe, there is a ghg emission reduction policy objective and there is a renewable energy development policy. Makes sense to me.

  92. Ken Fabos
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:01 | #92

    The most we can seriously expect from Japan is that they’ll try and do nuclear better in future and will maybe take older, vulnerable to tsunami coastal plants offline sooner. And I have no doubt this disaster will see older fossil fuel plants kept going longer. They may, if anti-nuclear sentiment is strong enough, build more fossil fuel plants. Australia will be pleased to sell them more coal or gas to do so. What we won’t see is either nuclear or fossil fuels replaced by renewables there any time soon, not to replace the lost nuclear capacity. Nor to provide a backbone of future capacity.
    Australia’s ghg reduction policy? The Coalition is going all out to kill it and there’s a strong likilihood they’ll succeed; the shock jocks are on their side, promoting Carter and Plimer and attacking the scientific basis for climate change. They will entrench climate science denial for another few electoral cycles; the apparent popularity of their current campaign will reduce any chance of a shift towards being rational about it.
    Right now the fossil fuel industry is winning hands down. And they’ve barely begun the fight for the future of their industry.

  93. jakerman
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:15 | #93

    @Ken Fabos

    Right now the fossil fuel industry is winning hands down. And they’ve barely begun the fight for the future of their industry.

    Its a serious worry. I hope that their pattern of opperations,exposed somewhat during the mineral rents tax debate, will waken people to their tactics and false claims of ruenation.

  94. rog
    March 22nd, 2011 at 16:24 | #94

    The (only) argument in nuclear’s favour is that they are essentially zero carbon emissions during operation. There is some opinion that this is negated by the energy required to dig up and process the uranium as the ore is being more difficult to access and the quality is diminishing. The energy required during construction is also considerable and the energy required with the disposal of waste has yet to be defined (the onsite storage of nuclear waste was one of the problems at Fukushima)

    For the nuclear industry to establish confidence they will have to make available independent analysis of GHG emissions from all parts of the nuclear chain. Blanket statements about being clean and green wont cut the mustard, anymore.

  95. Ken Fabos
    March 23rd, 2011 at 11:48 | #95

    Rog, the ghg emission for all aspects of the energy supply chain is needed. Like with the whole climate issue, what the experts say depends very much on the experts you trust. With nuclear the scientific community itself appears to be far more divided than it is over the reality and seriousness of climate change.

    There are other issues than emissions and Energy Return On Investment, including reliability of supply, toxic waste disposal, decommissioning and, of course, costs. They apply across the board. Better cheaper batteries for example, could be a great boon but if they involve large quantities of long lived toxic materials spread across the world we could regret their widespread deployment.

    I say again that I am ambivalent about nuclear, that I think it’s problems are greater than vocal proponents admit but that they are not so unmanageable as it’s vocal opponents want me to believe. I would prefer that we not be forced to rely upon it, yet I have concerns that renewables still have significant issues (intermittency mostly) that are not easily resolved without a truly integrated program on a scale that looks politically unobtainable. That kind of large scale makeover of infrastructure will be strongly opposed by powerful interests and will actually get harder as the economic costs of climate change eat away at the economic discretion to take bold actions.

    I am not going to get drawn into protracted arguments about nuclear versus renewables but continue to believe that it’s a fight that primarily benefits fossil fuel interests, and that fossil fuel interests are, behind closed doors, happy to see it continue.

    I’ve expressed my opinions (and don’t think they are unreasonable even if sometimes speculative) and I do take note of the variety of views and arguments encountered here. I am deeply grateful for Pr Quiggin for providing the opportunity for people like myself to do so.

  96. Alice
    March 23rd, 2011 at 21:48 | #96

    @rog
    Rog says “For the nuclear industry to establish confidence they will have to make available independent analysis of GHG emissions from all parts of the nuclear chain.”

    Rog its clear they need to do more than that. The nuclear industry needs to stop lying about a) costs and b) risks. They dont have much credibility around here right now (around a lot of people right now – the entire industry has become suspect. Just one example in how many?????
    see below

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/vp/42222780#42222780

  97. Freelander
    March 23rd, 2011 at 22:17 | #97

    Nuclear power is the way to go. Who’s attacked North Korea since they’ve been a nuclear power?

  98. Freelander
    March 24th, 2011 at 00:09 | #98

    But for electricity? F’get about it!

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