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Weekend reflections

May 21st, 2011

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. In keeping with my attempts to open up the comments to new contributors , I’d like to redirect discussion, and restatements of previous arguments, as opposed to substantive new contributions, to the sandpit(s). As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

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  1. Chris Warren
    May 22nd, 2011 at 00:26 | #1

    Finally on 16 May, the nuclear industry comes clean(er) and TEPCO admits that a Fukushima nuclear reactor suffered a complete core meltdown in the first hours after the Japanese earthquake.


    The company said that most of this core melt probably occurred within 16 hours after the unit automatically shutdown when the earthquake struck on 11 March.



    This just shows how misconstrued those nuclear pundits infesting “Brave New Climate” were in their months-long project of denial, confusion and dissimulation.

    The BNC website provides a huge resource for those willing to deconstruct the false farragos rancid business interests always let loose on the public – be they chemical companies, oil companies, nicotine companies or nuclear dreamers.

    Of course TEPCO always knew their core had melted. If they did not have the necessary skill to even assess this, then they had no right running the technology. In fact one wise poster on BNC actually analysed the public information and correctly reached the obvious conclusion. It is a joy to go back now and replay the denials he was immediately hit with.

    BNC is now peddling the idea that radiation is relatively harmless, so the skullduggery continues.

  2. Nowun 2
    May 22nd, 2011 at 01:14 | #2

    As his sock puppet, I’d just like to remind everyone that Tony G is a troll, banned for idiocy among other things

  3. TerjeP
    May 22nd, 2011 at 06:31 | #3

    Speaking of BNC they have an article up that is rather devastating to arguments for more wind power.


  4. Chris Warren
    May 22nd, 2011 at 09:42 | #4


    If it is on the BNC website – its probably just junk. With all the uncertainties involved BNC is merely exploiting the paper – to run interference against environmentalists. Anyway the arguments have been exhausted now.

    Mark Diesendorf has exposed many of these “Greenhouse Mafia Fallacies” in his book:

    Climate Action A Campaign Manual for Greenhouse Solutions (UNSW Press:2009).

    It has been mentioned many times before – renewable power will cost more than fossil or nuke in the short-term, but not in the long-term when all costs are included.

  5. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 10:33 | #5

    All the more reason to suspect wind power actually has some value if BNC is pushing the article. Poor Barry, Fukushima really blew a hole in his one man and his pet true believers “nuclear is safe” crusade didnt it?.

  6. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 10:35 | #6

    Still I suppose Tepco needed dupes like those who frequent BNC to believe its lies at the start of the accident “the core has not melted down”, “the situation is under control”
    bla bla lie lie.
    I dont suppose Barry has gone back to congratulate the one poster who actually surmised the core had melted down long before Tepco let anyone know?

  7. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 11:08 | #7

    @Chris Warren
    Chris just to be precise about what Barry said at the time back in the early days of the crisis

    “There is no evidence that the molten fuel has melted through the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel. The latest TEPCO analyses suggest the molten fuel is submerged in water at the bottom of the pressure vessel.”
    Of course now Barry says in response to a commenters post (a particularly diligent poster called uvdiv)

    ” Thanks, as I noted in the post, I was reproducing there what my nuclear engineer friend had said — he may or may not be correct.”

    (Would that be a nuclear engineer employed by the nuclear industry? Perhaps someone in the nuclear industry is getting Barry all his information complete with industrygrownbias?)

    Oh and this from Barry “The reality, as I know you appreciate, is that none of this can be confirmed or denied in the near future.”

    It has been confirmed by Tepco, in case Barry hadnt noticed.

    The point was also made by an observant poster at BNC that Fukushima will result in an exclusion zone of a couple of hundred square miles….about 100,000 to 200,000 people (at the very very least)….and perhaps up to one million people.

    Time to join the environmentalists Barry and do something positive.

  8. iain
    May 22nd, 2011 at 12:31 | #8


    Terje, your acknowledgement that BNC is associated with “devastating” arguments made me smile.

  9. iain
    May 22nd, 2011 at 12:44 | #9


    Also, whilst you and Barry are still evidently confused, you may want to peruse what the real experts have to say about renewable energy:


  10. Ernestine Gross
    May 22nd, 2011 at 15:13 | #10

    Greece and the EU. According to a report in the week-end 21-22 May 2011 issue of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the European Investment Bank (EIB) is discussing a type of Marshall Plan for Greece with the aim of assisting the development of small and medium enterprises in Greece that are not linked to tourism. The time horizon for this policy is 10 to 15 years. There are also plans to privatise some government owned enterprises with the expectation of reducing the government debt by Euro 50billion.**

    The report brings out some issues that are totally unrelated to macro-economic policy debates regarding ‘austerity’ versus government spending and monetary policy. For example, the report notes that Greece has made least use of the EU funds for structural investment*. One of the reasons is that the administrative arrangements in Greece did not allow them to make claims. For example, the assistance of agricultural businesses (often small and medium sized) requires evidence of landownership. Apparently, in some regions of Greece such documents are not kept. The EIB has already sent staff to Greece to assist local government areas to develop the administrative structure.

    Source: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/geld/griechenland-marshall-plan-fuer-ein-marodes-land-1.1099950

    * Examples of structural investment projects for which funds are available are transport infrastructure and house and building insulation for the purpose of increasing energy efficiency.
    ** Perhaps those who tend to react against the word ‘privatisation’ may wish to talk with Greek-Australians who have some direct knowledge of the public sector in Greece before they verbally react. In this context, it may also be helpful to recall our host’s position on this topic – it depends …..

  11. Ernestine Gross
    May 22nd, 2011 at 16:20 | #11

    @Chris Warren

    The same information is reported in the week-end edition of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Is the smh asleep?

  12. Ernestine Gross
    May 22nd, 2011 at 16:21 | #12

    Germany: From 17 to 4 nuclear power plants. As at Saturday, 20 May 2011 there are only 4 nuclear power plants operating in Germany (7 permanently shut down, 6 under inspection). As a consequence, solar and wind power provide twice as much electricity as nuclear power.

    Source: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/atomkraftwerke-in-deutschland-da-warens-nur-noch-vier-1.1099891

  13. Hermit
    May 22nd, 2011 at 16:28 | #13

    So how many people died at Fukushima from radiation? Compared that to the 20,000 or more killed by the earthquake and tsunami. Most of the fuel stayed put despite a Richter 9 quake and tidal wave that reached 25 metres height in some places. That kind of punishment should be less damaging to more recent reactor designs.

    I’m in the unfortunate position that I can’t pretend renewable energy keeps the show on the road. I must keep my electricity use down to what a few solar panels provide and if I want heat I have to go out in the forest to cut wood. One day I’ll be too old for that sh-tuff so I hope it will all be sorted out by then. Cheap energy on demand that is.

  14. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 17:32 | #14

    @Ernestine Gross
    No the The Oz bogan papers are filling their dwindling sheets with celebrity antics, criminals antics and politicians antics as per usual. Claudia Schiffer is wasting away..the Ibrahim family has some nasty friends. Gillard says Abbott is the love child of Palin and Trump. Abbott replies play the ball not the man. Hockey claims Abbott hung him out to dry. Albanese says Abbott stands for nothing. Miranda is pleased that a socialist (DSK) got arrested. There must have been a boatperson article there somewhere..Did I miss anything else? the RBA must have said we have to look out for wages rises causing imminent inflation.

  15. Ernestine Gross
    May 22nd, 2011 at 18:04 | #15
  16. iain
    May 22nd, 2011 at 18:38 | #16


    Chernobyl – 1 million+ deaths (New York Academy of Sciences – Report on Chernobyl – 2009).

    Fukushima – potentially more.

  17. TerjeP
    May 22nd, 2011 at 22:26 | #17

    Alice you quote Barry Brook above as follows:-

    Chris just to be precise about what Barry said at the time back in the early days of the crisis

    “There is no evidence that the molten fuel has melted through the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel. The latest TEPCO analyses suggest the molten fuel is submerged in water at the bottom of the pressure vessel.”

    I’m not sure what early claim by Barry you are seeking to criticise but the claim of his that you quote is entirely consistent with what we now know. The fuel has melted (Barry said it was molten) and it now sits at the bottom of the reactor vessel (Barry claimed it did not melt through the bottom of that vessel). Nothing he said in the passage you cite has turned out to be anything other than accurate.

    Where Barry Brook and others (me included) were overly optimistic was in not paying enough attention to the cooling ponds where spent fuel was stored. Even so the nuclear accident remains a hiccup compared to the Tsunami disaster that initiated it. The nuclear accident has magnified the tsunami death toll by roughly 0.000%.

  18. TerjeP
    May 22nd, 2011 at 22:38 | #18


    No and no. The argument that nuclear power is safe in comparison to other means of electricity generation is not materially altered by what happened in Japan.

  19. TerjeP
    May 22nd, 2011 at 22:43 | #19

    It has been mentioned many times before – renewable power will cost more than fossil or nuke in the short-term, but not in the long-term when all costs are included.

    The argument put at BNC, which I suspect you did not read, is the opposite. It says that wind power starts off modestly expensive at abating CO2e emissions and then becomes extremely expensive as the penetration rate increases.

  20. Chris Warren
    May 22nd, 2011 at 23:16 | #20


    3 posts and three errors. The 3-strike rule should now apply.

    You are just rehashing old dead arguments, and spreading the same misinformation.

  21. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 23:38 | #21

    Terje you just cant help taking a deliberately denialist stance on nuclear and many other matters can you? I suspect you are more contrarian than libertarian.

  22. Alice
    May 22nd, 2011 at 23:45 | #22

    Oh and Terje – the damn thing is leaking isnt it ie Tepco is mooting that the moltern fuel created holes in the vessel which the radiative water is leaking out of. Wait another ten weeks to hear Tepco trickle out more facts about meltodwns and leakages.

    Anyway, enough. Brave new climate and its disciples nauseate me with the nonchalance that they yada on about costs of nuclear when 100K to 200K people will be displaced (at the least), the land rendered unproductive for god knows how long.

    A pox on pro nuclear fanatics and industry stalwart mouthpieces like Barry Brook.

  23. Ernestine Gross
    May 23rd, 2011 at 00:04 | #23

    Terje, I recall you use this blog-site to try out some of your ideas (or that of others before you accept them).

    You don’t seem to have read the link given in Chris Warren’s initial post because the news is that it was not the tsunami which caused the significant meltdown at Fukushima 1 but the earthquake. This is important news.

    Your argument that nuclear power is cheaper than renewabls cannot be empirically verified because, to the best of my knowledge, the costs of the former are incalculable (therefore no private insurance).

    The relative safety argument is akin to that of cigarettes – death is not imminent and not only smokers are affected. Tobacco is low-level radio-active. There is a substantial tax on cigarettes and there is prohibition of smoking cigarettes in many public places.

    The solution to the AGW negative externality problem is not to create a bigger one.

    Peddling the myth that the nuclear disasters in Japan have not affected risk assessments world-wide is not obviously compatible with promoting ‘freedom’. Isn’t it people’s choice as to what type of risk they are prepared to take on and when?

  24. Hermit
    May 23rd, 2011 at 08:26 | #24

    Ah Germany, the role model for clean energy aspirants. Renewables currently make up 17% of their generation mix. That only leaves 83% non-renewable. Solar subsidies will have reached 79 billion euros by 2013. The place isn’t even that sunny. Their electricity is still more expensive and carbon intensive than nearby France. Like Australia’s Latrobe Valley they can’t seem to shake off brown coal. How come they don’t shut down those power stations? Rather than running nukes with 2% imported fuel costs they think it is a good thing to get gas from Siberia, more like 50% operating costs from imported fuel. When Germany has 20c per unit retail electricity that is 80% carbon free other countries should take note. The evidence suggests they will never get close.

  25. Chris Warren
    May 23rd, 2011 at 10:46 | #25


    Presumably the Germans are aware that the 2% imported nuke fuel “costs” are current accounting costs only – not the real economic costs.

    The 17% is a snapshot. There real aspect is to have an increasing trend even if this costs extra money.

  26. Ikonoclast
    May 23rd, 2011 at 11:43 | #26

    Wonderful free for all on weekend reflections! Although. TerjeP looks isolated in his support for nuclear power. I did say I’d accept (not actively support) nuclear power in Australia if;

    1. We stopped exporting uranium except to non-proliferaton signatories who were rated democracies and very stable in both geological and political terms.

    2. The nuclear power stations were placed in the outback (probably outback Sth. Aust.)

    3. They were privately funded and fully privately insured with no subsidies of any kind.

    4. Strict safety and spent fuel regulations were in place and enforced vigorously.

    5. All CO2 emissions in construction, operation and maintenance were fully carbon taxed.

    NB: I doubt anyone would build a plant on those terms. Still, they are fair terms for that sort of power.

    TerjP never replies when I say something that applies logic and free market principles. His support of the free market always seems conditional on special deals for the businesses he advocates. That’s par for the course for right wing capitalists.

  27. Chris Warren
    May 23rd, 2011 at 12:28 | #27

    Without sounding like a Trot, I am a little bit more militant than Ikonoclast when it comes to nukes. Nuclear power plants (eg AP-1000) are anathema. The only way nukes can be considered is as breeders that chew-up existing waste. Even so this still creates some nuke waste and a nuke accident threat, plus breeders still provide a target for terrorism.

    However as we have this god-awful pile of radioactive muck to deal with, the breeder concept may have a temporary part to play.

    Ikon’s point 1) should be “We stopped mining or exporting uranium”.

    Point 2) should be “Nuclear power stations should be placed nowhere, however one or two breeder reactors could be built overseas to replace decommissioned existing nukes”

    Point 3) They be publicly finded and controlled (by international agency) with no involvement of commercial considerations. Whatever subsidy is needed should be paid as it goes to the defence of the environment.

    Point 4) The smaller quantity of highlevel waste is still a major problem.

    Point 5) The CO2 emissions for breeders be offset by the closure of, and cancellation of, several AP-1000’s.

    Provided a few breeders are constructed by a public agency, or an international agency, and the research and monitoring is run by public universities, research bodies including defence scientists, to cover costs – not produce returns, then the best environment for strict safety and environmental protections arises.

    I see no role for a free market or capitalism, in this issue whatsoever.

  28. Ikonoclast
    May 23rd, 2011 at 16:20 | #28

    The irony is that a true free market* with no subsidies, especially no military subsidies. would never build a nuclear power station.

    * A true free market is not a corporate capitalist, military-industrial complex, subsidised market by the way. The latter is what we have in the west.

  29. TerjeP
    May 23rd, 2011 at 17:03 | #29

    Ikonoclast – insisting that nuclear power plants must be in the South Australian outback may be your opinion but it is not an application of free market principles or logic.

    In some ways the logic of your opinion is a bit like saying that we should not have an airline industry unless airplanes never fly over land and airports are never built near cities and that airlines must have unlimited liability insurance. In short not that logical at all.

  30. Christopher Dobbie
    May 23rd, 2011 at 20:43 | #30

    Is this Terje for real?

    I think you should cease and desist discourse with this man as evidenced by his last post. This modus operandi is quite jejune to say the least.

  31. Alice
    May 23rd, 2011 at 21:04 | #31

    @Christopher Dobbie
    I agree Chris. There is not much point in giving air to Terjes continued denialism (quaint but terribly wrong and ongoing contrarianisms – I was rather amused when Terje referred to the “John Quggin style posters” in here recently – perhaps Terje does not recognise himself as one of the most frequent “john Quiggin style posters”??).
    Terje is well and truly self evidenced by Terje to most sensible souls in here.

  32. Christopher Dobbie
    May 23rd, 2011 at 21:21 | #32

    If he must be a muse then so be it. But be aware there is only so much time.

  33. TerjeP
    May 23rd, 2011 at 21:22 | #33

    I think you should cease and desist discourse with this man as evidenced by his last post.

    Yes let’s just make third person references rather than actually engage in conversation. That way we can appear sophisticated and refined without having to actually do any thinking. Bravo Mr Dobbie.

  34. Ken Miles
    May 23rd, 2011 at 23:38 | #34

    As someone who is lukewarm on nukes, Fukushima actually improves my confidence in them a bit. Despite pretty much the worse case scenario happening, combining with some obvious (in hindsight) highly significantly safety deficiencies and terrible management; the overall consequences are comparatively minor.

  35. John
    May 24th, 2011 at 02:45 | #35

    @Christopher Dobbie

    What was it like being in Harry Potter?

  36. John
    May 24th, 2011 at 02:45 | #36

    @Christopher Dobbie

    What was it like being in Harry Potter?

  37. Chris Warren
    May 24th, 2011 at 12:34 | #37

    24 May 2011 Last updated at 02:18 GMT

    Tepco confirms extra partial fuel rod meltdown at plant
    Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has confirmed that there have been extra partial meltdowns in fuel rods at its damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

    The company said that the fuel rods are in its Number 2 and Number 3 reactors.


  38. Ikonoclast
    May 24th, 2011 at 12:46 | #38


    The Sth. Aust. outback is where the uranium mines are TerjP. It is logical to site the nuclear power station near the uranium mines along with enrichment facilities and thus have the whole fuel processing cycle in one remote place. Thus uranium ore or fuel or spent fuel does not have to be railed or trucked long ditances on pubic trunk routes; a massive safety feature I would say. Frankly, I thought that was so obvious I did not need to spell it out.

    Power transmission is the lesser problem (compared to that above) and power could go into the S.A. , Victorian (where it would save brown coal use) and NSW grids. It is actually quite logical if you think about it.

    As I said, I am not in favour of it but would not oppose it if all the conditions I nominated above were met.

  39. Ikonoclast
    May 24th, 2011 at 12:51 | #39


    “Long-distance transmission of electricity (thousands of kilometers) is cheap and efficient, with costs of US$0.005–0.02/kWh (compared to annual averaged large producer costs of US$0.01–0.025/kWh, retail rates upwards of US$0.10/kWh, and multiples of retail for instantaneous suppliers at unpredicted highest demand moments).[7] Thus distant suppliers can be cheaper than local sources (e.g., New York City buys a lot of electricity from Canada). ” Wikipedia.

  40. Alice
    May 24th, 2011 at 21:36 | #40

    Terje I wonder that you object to the use of the third person? Sometimes I would swear there were a distinct two of you. I am not referring to sock puppeteering either. I am referring to how often one of you contradicts the other!

  41. TerjeP
    May 24th, 2011 at 23:32 | #41

    Ikonoclast – I think you have made a very respectable point. I think you are wrong but I at least the point is a good one and I think it deserves an answer.

    We can split your concern into two related considerations. They are not entirely independent considerations but it is helpful to think of them as such at least for a moment. One is the safety factor associated with moving around nuclear material and the other is the economic consideration relating to moving around fuel versus transmitting electricity. I’ll deal with the second of these points first.

    If we look at how the electricity industry in Australia evolved we find that historically power stations were built in cities close to the centre of demand for electricity. We still have iconic remants of this age in Sydney such as the inoperative White Bay Power Station which is heritage listed. However this era has long since passed and a major reason was the evolution of high voltage power transmission. Essentially you could move coal from remote coal fields to Sydney by rail, burn it locally and produce electricity or you could burn the coal remotely and move the electrity along a transmission line. In short for the same equivalent energy it is far more efficient to transmit electricity long distances than to truck coal long distances. There were of course other benefits such as improved air quality near cities but as ever the economic was a major driver.

    However the nuclear fuel used in a nuclear power plant is different from the fossil fuel used in a coal fired power station in one extremely important way. And that is weight. Whilst uranium is very heavy element, heavier than lead, the energy yield for a tonne of uranium is huge relative to the energy yield in a nuclear power plant.

    Consider two hypothetical power plants. Each with a power rating of 1GW and running continuously for a year at peak power. One is a coal fired power station and the other is light water reactor using nuclear grade fuel (enriched uranium). They both boil water to make steam and turn a turbine and generate electricity. Assuming they both have heat to electricity conversion efficiency of say 40% then over a year here is how much fuel they each consume.

    Coal = 2.5 million tonnes.
    Nuclear = 23 tonnes.

    If the nuclear plant was of the fast breedor variety then the fuel requirement would be radically smaller again at under one tonne. However even at 23 tonnes the nuclear power plant can be easily fuelled with a single delivery on 1 January and not need refueling until the end of the year. Whilst the coal plant needs a constant supply of fuel all day, day in day out.

    This change in fuel quantity requirement radically shifts the economics. Suddenly transmitting the energy as electricity down a transmission line does not have the economic advantage relative to trucking the fuel. In fact trucking the nuclear fuel avoids the massive capital cost associated with building the power line and the associated energy losses due to transmission line resistance.

    With coal fired power plants the rule is build them close to the mine that provides the fuel. With nuclear power plants the rule is build them close to the demand for electricity. At least if your primary concern is energy efficiency and economics.

    Your second point is one of safety. There is no argument that moving nuclear fuel entails some risks. In practice the risks are extremely low. We move far more dangereous materials by truck all the time. For instance we move highly explosive petrol and gas in trucks as a mater of routine. We drive personal vehicles that are filled with highly explosive petrol. Uranium isn’t explosive. Transporting uranium is more akin to moving around trucks that are carrying bars of lead.

    Transporting nuclear waste is more of a concern because of radioactive isotopes created during nuclear reaction. However nuclear waste is usually cooled for many years or decades before being transported. The risks are real but small and manageable. I don’t know of anybody that has ever died due to the transport of nuclear fuel but people die in the electrity transmission industry quite often and people die on the roads in car accidents all the time. People die doing mundane things like installing solar panels on roofs. Risks are everywhere but need to be kept very much in perspective.

    In summary nuclear power stations should be built near cities and major centres of demand for electricity. Building vast transmission lines to remote outback uranium mines is ridiculously uneconomical and a waste of money. If you really want them outside of the city then the logical place would be near coal fields where transmission lines have already been established.

  42. TerjeP
    May 24th, 2011 at 23:46 | #42

    p.s. In thinking about transporting uranium it is worth reflecting on what this would look like. The following picture shows what this non explosive and rather mundane substance looks like.


  43. Ikonoclast
    May 25th, 2011 at 09:36 | #43


    I enter this argument on a provisional basis only. I am not really in favour of nuclear power. I am just stating my position on the “rules of the game” if nuclear power were adopted in Australia. I won’t repeat arguments I made earlier but just reply to TerjeP’s last posts above.

    On balance, it would still be best to site the reactor in a remote locality near the mines and enrichment facilities. In my opinion, the immediate economic argument for siting near a city is not compelling. (Savings on transporting fuel versus transmitting electricity). The safety argument and the broader economic risk element is compelling.

    The safety gain from remote siting of the nuclear power station is highly significant. There are no chances of transport accidents with nuclear materials in inhabited areas. The broader risk reduction factor is also significant. If a nuclear power station near a major city does melt down then an area where millions of people live will become unsafe to inhabit perhaps indefinitely. This is an enormous cost as Japan is now discovering (albeit with regional population centres, not a major city).

    On balance, the slight overhead of higher transmission cost is more than offset by all other gains in remote-locating the actual power station. I would be baffled as to why a nuclear advocate would not accept this position which would promise the best chance of making nuclear power politically palatable whilst scarcely compromising it’s economic viability. In fact, such siting might significantly reduce insurance risk premiums and make the project more viable.

    Footnote: A photo of inert plastic explosive looks mudane too. You cannot judge safety issues by an appeal to a simplistic argument of the “it looks harmless enough” variety.

  44. Ikonoclast
    May 25th, 2011 at 09:50 | #44

    Double Footnote: In fact, I recall a nice passage from philosopher David Hume where he makes exactly that point; that one cannot judge the properties or propensities of a material or object by its outer appearance.

    By its outward appearance and going by previous experience, that round disc could be made of iron, lead, uranium or any solid painted with grey paint. If it is uranium it could be refined, depleted U238, pure, impure etc. etc.

    Without full provenance on that photo, I am afraid it is no evidence for anything at all and even with provenance proven it does not satisfy any test that goes beyond appearances.

  45. TerjeP
    May 25th, 2011 at 13:21 | #45

    Ikonoclaust – as I understand it there is currently no transmission line that will move electricity from South Australia to the eastern states. Yet all of Victoria could be powered for a year using around 200 tonnes of nuclear fuel in a conventional light water reactor. That is less than one ute load per day. If it’s a fast breader reactor than that becomes one or two ute loads of fuel per entire year. It would be economic madness to build a dedicated transmission line instead of trucking the fuel. Even if you decide you want the nuclear plants away from the cities you would still be better off putting it in a regional area within a few hundred kilometres of the electricity demand and where there is already transmission capacity.

  46. TerjeP
    May 25th, 2011 at 13:26 | #46

    p.s. Insurance risk premiums are not that big a cost component for nuclear power. It is a low risk technology.

  47. TerjeP
    May 25th, 2011 at 13:44 | #47

    p.p.s. New York city gets 30% of it’s electricity from the two reactors at Indian Point. These are just 60km north of New York city. The reactor are around 35 years old and not what you would build today but the concept of putting nuclear power close to a major city is a reality in many other countries.

  48. Ernestine Gross
    May 25th, 2011 at 13:54 | #48

    TerjeP :p.s. Insurance risk premiums are not that big a cost component for nuclear power. It is a low risk technology.

    Ha, ha, ha. Your statement is true if one looks at the P&L statements of nuclear power plants but it is not true when the question is asked from the perspective of the global economy. In particular, there is no evidence that without a ‘big’ government, the industry would exist at all.

    Your choice, TerjeP: Do you want ‘big’ government or renewable energy and ‘smaller’ government.

  49. Chris Warren
    May 25th, 2011 at 14:08 | #49

    TerjeP :
    p.s. Insurance risk premiums are not that big a cost component for nuclear power. It is a low risk technology.

    What insurance covers Fukushima?

    Seems to me that a huge cost has been borne by the community and Japanese government.

    What Japanese insurance covered all these…

    Japanese Nuke Accidents

    What insurance system is even conceivable to cover the cost of this latest development ….

    More Evacuations?

    Is there industry insurance against a terrorist attack?

  50. TerjeP
    May 25th, 2011 at 15:10 | #50

    Even if I conceded (which I don’t) that government subsidies (implicit or explicit) were necessary for nuclear power and that this is what we should do that does not necessitate a large government sector. So it’s a false choice.

  51. Freelander
    May 25th, 2011 at 18:46 | #51

    The important risks of a nuclear plan are uninsurable; therefore, no insurance cost. Therefore, they are not a big cost component. Conclusion: therefore, it must be a low risk technology? Tergian logic?

  52. Chris Warren
    May 25th, 2011 at 20:39 | #52

    I think Terje is trying to inject his anti-government recipe into places where it just doesn’t belong.

    I don’t see the relevance for ute-loads of nuke fuel when Australia is not ready for nuclear, and I do not see any possibility for breeders in Australia because we have no significant waste – just a few fuel plates plus other lower-level waste from a research reactor and medical/industrial enterprises.

    Transporting nuclear fuel is NOT like transporting bars of lead.

    Any nuclear society needs bigger, more powerful and intrusive government.

  53. Alice
    May 25th, 2011 at 22:12 | #53

    Terje says “nuclear is a low risk technology”.
    Ahem. Right. Whatever…cough, splutter…a much higher risk than the “safe” exploding CDOs in the GFC. Im am sure we can trust in Terje.
    Planet denial strikes again Terje. It seems to visit it quite often. What will your childrenm think of you when they are teenagers? (Pardon my Dad ..,.he has lost it?)

  54. John Quiggin
    May 25th, 2011 at 22:14 | #54

    At this point the issue isn’t worth arguing about. There aren’t going to be more than a handful of new nuclear plants in the developed world (Japan, US, EU, Canada, Oz etc) for at least a decade to come.

    China will do whatever the government there decides, but it won’t do more than keep the industry, or at least the AP-1000, on life support. Everyone but Westinghouse (and maybe the Indian NPC) is toast.

    Maybe it will be worth revisiting the issue in 2020, and maybe not.

  55. Alice
    May 25th, 2011 at 22:41 | #55

    Why did you close ‘economists for the price mechanism Prof’? Just when I was getting on so well with Peter Kirsop. Can we have more like that ie any any economists who are sick to death of the price mechanism???

    So much better than the pathetic attemopts of some here to swing a dead cat argument around about nuclear…I agree not worth arguing about with a silly minority. The demialism (individual truth is fine mantra no matter how you get it) thing is really losing its steam fast.

  56. Chris Warren
    May 25th, 2011 at 23:50 | #56

    @John Quiggin

    This is not the view of Martin Ferguson, and he is in the driving seat.

    I suspect China has grander ambitions than simply keeping the nuclear industry on life support.

    I am expecting developments like [this] to emerge in the mid-2010’s. They may play dead for a while, but will rouse as soon as the policy climate swings back.

  57. TerjeP
    May 26th, 2011 at 06:08 | #57

    According to the following website there were 65 nuclear power plants under construction world wide in January 2011. That is a lot give there are only 442 in current operation.


    The AP1000 is approaching approval in the US and there are a couple of utilities lining up to buy one once that happens.

    Listening to Tim Flannery the other day the business as usual case for Australia sees an increase in emissions of 24% by 2020. Both major parties say they will cut it by 5%. If they are serious then nuclear ought to be in the energy mix. Although bringing nuclear online by 2020 would be a tough timeline even if we had the political will. I predict emissions will continue to increase. If they start to fall from 2015 like Tim Flannery says they need to then I will eat my hat.

  58. Chris Warren
    May 26th, 2011 at 09:19 | #58

    But then sensible governments are moving their societies away from nuclear:

    eg: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/26/business/global/26nuclear.html?_r=1&ref=business

    Of course emissions will continue to rise – because:


    If one country maintains a competitive advantage by using cheap fossil fuel, then given free trade all countries must use fossil fuel. Obama has approved yet more oil exploration licences in US waters. Australia will do everything it can to reduce greenhouse emissions except close down coal mining, cement production and car usage and control population growth.

  59. Jeepers Creepers
    May 26th, 2011 at 09:32 | #59

    Terje nuclear is only viable in Asutralia if the is a carbontax/ETS.

  60. Ernestine Gross
    May 26th, 2011 at 11:34 | #60

    Honest error or a typical example of evidence in the alternative universe?

    @7, p 2, TerjeP uses January 2011 statistics to support his belief (see 18p1) that the nuclear March 2011 disaster in Japan has no effect on the risk assessment of nuclear power world wide.

    But the January 2011 data, contrary to TerjeP @7, p2 is not longer “current”. I can provide 2 errors in the data (there may be more). Firstly, Germany, had 17 nuclear power plants in January 2011 but “currently” 7 have been shut down permanently. Secondly, the reactors in Fukushima 1, Japan were operating in January 2011 in the sense of producing electricity in January. But “currently” they are polluting soil, air and water and the forecast is that it will take several more months until the shutdown process can begin.

    TerjeP, are you going to volunteer to withdraw your ‘articles’ or are you going to do a Wegman – carry on until retraction is enforced and published world-wide?

  61. John Quiggin
    May 26th, 2011 at 13:30 | #61

    China has already announced cuts to its program


    as have quite a few other Asian countries


    Looking at Terje’s list, China, India and Russia account for two-thirds of all plants under construction. Given its safety record and current state, Russia is pretty much irrelevant. So, to restate, China (and a handful of new plants in the US) will probably do enough to keep the AP-1000 alive, but nothing more. India might or might not expand a bit. Otherwise, nothing is going to happen for the next decade. So let’s wait for 2020 and see what’s happening then.

  62. TerjeP
    May 26th, 2011 at 15:21 | #62

    Ernestine – you seem to think I was using the article as if it was irrefutably authoritative and it proved some point of debate. I wasn’t. I was sharing it because it had some numbers which seemed better than no numbers. I’m here for dialogue which is broader than that concept called debate. I’m happy to use better numbers if somebody has them. However my current understanding is that there are lots of nuclear plants currently under construction and that 60 is in the ballpark of the actual number. If you have a better number or a list then I’m happy for you to table it. If my understanding is wrong then more than happy to have it corrected.

  63. haiku
    May 26th, 2011 at 15:46 | #63

    JQ – without wanting to tell you how to run your blog, wasn’t there a nuclear sandpit thread set up specifically for all this stuff?


  64. haiku
    May 26th, 2011 at 15:48 | #64

    Ah. It’s closed – perhaps it could be re-opened?
    (Now I am telling you how to run your blog. Sorry …)

  65. Alice
    May 26th, 2011 at 16:41 | #65

    Please no …dedirect that closed link and any other dead links on nuclear to BNC.

  66. TerjeP
    May 26th, 2011 at 18:39 | #66

    Alice given your opening salvo on the nuclear topic I thought you were keen to discuss it here.

  67. TerjeP
    May 26th, 2011 at 18:40 | #67

    p.s. I didn’t raise the nuclear topic. I was keen to talk about wind power.

  68. Alice
    May 26th, 2011 at 19:44 | #68

    Terje – if you are referring to my comment at 3, it wasnt actually an opening salvo but I suppose where there is a will you can continue to delude yourself.

  69. Ernestine Gross
    May 26th, 2011 at 21:12 | #69


    You are having a discussion with yourself @ 12, p2.

  70. Donald Oats
    May 26th, 2011 at 21:44 | #70

    No opinion, just a link to the Greenpeace investigation into radioactivity off the coast from Fukushima…

  71. TerjeP
    May 27th, 2011 at 02:43 | #71

    Donald – Bioaccumulation of radioactive iodine doesn’t seem that far fetched but radioactive iodine decays pretty quickly. You would expect it to be all but gone within a year. If caesium was bioacumulating that would be a larger concern because it will hang about for centuries. However what I have read previously regarding caesium is that it passes through the human body after a month or two. The point Greenpeace makes regarding open and transparent monitoring data seems reasonable.

  72. Alice
    May 27th, 2011 at 07:01 | #72

    Perhaps you would like to offer your opinions to science by way of a clinical trial Terje?

  73. Donald Oats
    May 27th, 2011 at 08:24 | #73


    LOL Alice…In terms of risk, if I had to eat something containing radioactive caesium I probably would think of a particular fast food and rationalise that if I can eat that burger and survive, Heck, my gut can handle anything. I’d want to load up on caesium pills beforehand though…

    As we populate further and spread along the best parts of the coast line, in whatever country we are in—assuming it has some coast line of course—we will meet with further conflict with electricity generation, nuclear in particular for some countries, desal plants, working ports, fish farms, and so on. Australia is pretty lucky in being so HUGE and a continent to boot. But some other countries are not so fortunate, so their coast lines are premium property.

    I do hope the nuclear meltdown fiasco in Japan makes for serious reflection on the truly significant risks that are mutable; building at the junction of two separate major fault lines *and* right on the ocean’s shoreline is just asking for trouble, but that is what Japan did with another nuclear power plant. Talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket!

    What it shows is that for the rarer types of risk, they probably ignored the severity probability distribution of the risks and only really thought about the frequency distribution component; since the empirical data for frequency demonstrated that each event, on its own, was very rare, they invoked the notion of independence and figured that two or three of the “separate, independent” risks occurring together was a vanishingly small probability, so don’t you worry ’bout that (as Joe Bjelke-Petersen might happen to say).

    Problem is, conditional on two or three of the rare risks eventuating, at what for all practical purposes is simultaneously, the individual severities are most definitely not independent for they each reinforce each other, enabling impact end points not possible if the risks eventuated a long time apart. With Fukushima, the earthquake cracks one of the containment vessels and knocks over spent fuel rods; then the tsunami hits and it isn’t pretty after that, not at all, for the generator equipment is extensively damaged, and getting replacements in through the total destruction—no passable roads—is only possible by air.

    Perhaps a single severe earthquake is manageable; even two along separate lines; but chuck in a tsunami and it is too much to bear. The (composite) joint event has its own much more expensive outcome that simply isn’t captured by ignoring joint occurrence of extremely rare events; that is the point where the system is most likely to have a significant nonlinear response, which in the case of Fukushima was an almighty “step” function :-(, it sure as Heck wasn’t merely additive.

    All things considered, I’d hate to be one of the guys that has to think these things through and make the call where to plop the next nuclear power plant, that’s for sure…

  74. TerjeP
    May 27th, 2011 at 12:40 | #74

    Do you want to pay for me to live in Japan for a while?

  75. TerjeP
    May 27th, 2011 at 13:00 | #75

    At this point the issue isn’t worth arguing about.

    I would agree if I believed either of the following was true:-

    i) we won’t do anything about emissions in the way of public policy such as carbon taxes, renewable mandates, trading schemes or “direct action”.

    ii) renewable energy is a scalable, reliable, affordable method for providing electricity on a large scale.

    However I don’t believe either proposition. Hence my support for nuclear.

  76. TerjeP
    May 27th, 2011 at 13:04 | #76

    Any nuclear society needs bigger, more powerful and intrusive government.

    Shifting from a ban of nuclear to heavy regulation of nuclear would entail government being less intrusive. At most the only increase in intrusion would be in the form of a carbon tax.

  77. Chris Warren
    May 27th, 2011 at 13:43 | #77


    Nuclear society needs nuclear regulators, inspectors, new standards, increased compliance checks, enhanced security fuctions, new transport provisions and enforcement, new training standards, and local government zoning, plus new oversight mechanisms for public accountability.

    Nuclear companies will want increased access to law making and into processes for the development of statutes and regulations under statutes.

    Should any incident be reported – public authorities will be tasked with a need for inquiry.

    A ban on nuclear for other reasons avoids all this.

    How does “shifting from a ban” then “increase in intrusion …in the form of a carbon tax”.

    The so-called intrusion from a carbon tax exists before and after, with little change.

  78. Ernestine Gross
    May 27th, 2011 at 20:54 | #78

    TerjeP :Do you want to pay for me to live in Japan for a while?

    Be careful what you ask for.

  79. Alice
    May 27th, 2011 at 22:23 | #79

    @Ernestine Gross
    So is Terje volunteering to put his body where his mouth is?

    Terje also says ”
    Shifting from a ban of nuclear to heavy regulation of nuclear would entail government being less intrusive

    So a total ban compared to heavy regulation is less intrusive? How so Terje? A total ban requires a lot less government resources to deploy than heavy regulation. I think you are tripping up on the size of government involvement here. If you want less government involvement in everything, you would back the total ban Terje.

    Once again you shoot your own argument for smaller government down in flames.

  80. TerjeP
    May 28th, 2011 at 06:16 | #80

    Alice – what are you talking about? Are you saying that marijuana, which is banned, is more lightly regulated than tobacco, which is legally sold? Of course regulation is less intrusive than prohibition. Prohibition is at the extreme end of regulation and is about as intrusive as a government can get. Or do you think book banning is a form of free speech? That black is white and night is day?

  81. Ernestine Gross
    May 28th, 2011 at 08:09 | #81

    Terje, give up.

    On several ocasions in the past, you identified ‘big government’ in terms of macro-economic variables (expenditure as a fraction of say GDP). Now you wish to wiggle your way out by substituting the word ‘intrusive’.

  82. Alice
    May 28th, 2011 at 11:39 | #82

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ah yes Ernestine….we see the shifting definitional sands of Terjes arguments as they run down the hour glass…

  83. TerjeP
    May 28th, 2011 at 11:41 | #83

    Ernestine – government expenditure as a percent of GDP is one measure of government intrusion. However it isn’t the only measure or the definitive measure. There are nations with lower government expenditure as a percent of GDP than Australia where the government is far more intrusive. For example I’m not sure if it is still the case but Ethiopia had tax rates of over 80% on some agricultural production against a certain threshold. The policy helped ensure agricultural shortages but did little for government spending capacity. A ban on agriculture would have been even more extreme but would not have shown up in government expenditure as a percent of GDP. In any case you are wrong to claim that I have defined big government in these terms. For more than a decade I have been saying to all who asked that government expenditure as a percent of GDP was a crude proxy at best. There is no single number that measures government intrusion in the economy although the Heritage Foundation does a reasonable job with its economic freedom index.

  84. TerjeP
    May 28th, 2011 at 11:46 | #84


    Alice – I don’t think you are attentive enough to understand my arguments let alone criticise them. You are too focused on point scoring. You ought to take differences of opinion as a learning/teaching opportunity and stop being so tribal and combatative.

  85. Ernestine Gross
    May 28th, 2011 at 13:06 | #85

    Terje, I don’t agree with the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom. I could agree calling the Heritage Foundation’s index an index of corporatists’ freedom. But you and I have different academic backgrounds.

  86. Chris Warren
    May 28th, 2011 at 13:30 | #86

    TerjeP :
    Alice – I don’t think you are attentive enough to understand my arguments let alone criticise them. You are too focused on point scoring. You ought to take differences of opinion as a learning/teaching opportunity and stop being so tribal and combatative.

    Are you going to post that advice on BNC where it is more needed?

  87. Alice
    May 28th, 2011 at 18:02 | #87

    Terje perhaps you should visit the Profs links on reality based journalism. It really is hard to pay attention to a monotone argument whereby the government always needs shrinking and taxes always need to be cut. You may call it a short attention span if you wish but I think you flatter my attention levels. Id call that argument, your arguments more tribalist, than that of which you accuse me.

    There is no line in the sand Terje. The government doesnt always need shrinking and taxes are best if left alone and not mindlessely cut and sometimes they are better increased if you wish to have an orderly society and orderly infrastructure and orderly budgets.
    The world is not ready for your world. Governments are too busy paying off the mess of budget deficits brought to us courtesy of the GFC.

    I suspect Ill have the last word on this when taxes go up in the united states for some, so lets leave it until then shall we?

  88. TerjeP
    May 29th, 2011 at 10:06 | #88

    It really is hard to pay attention to a monotone argument whereby the government always needs shrinking and taxes always need to be cut.

    Except we were talking about nuclear power. It wasn’t me that raised the size of government issue.

  89. Ernestine Gross
    May 29th, 2011 at 12:16 | #89

    In any case, neither governments nor private enterprise can be trusted with nuclear power:

    Three mile island 1979 (US version of regulated capitalism)
    Chernobyl 1986 (USSR version of communism)
    Fukushima 2011 (Japanese version of regulated capitalism) http://www.smh.com.au/environment/reactor-safety-based-on-memo-20110528-1f9dh.html

    And this is only the list of the big events.

  90. Alice
    May 29th, 2011 at 12:38 | #90

    In fact you did raise the size of government issue (yet again Terje) with this comment “Shifting from a ban of nuclear to heavy regulation of nuclear would entail government being less intrusive”

  91. Alice
    May 29th, 2011 at 12:59 | #91

    @Ernestine Gross
    Ernestine – latest on Fukushima. The Japanese government has announced that “Tepco” is “too important to fail” but they have to “find a way to help the victims”.
    Ive heard those sounds before. The reality is, the billion dollar losses the company is facing in claims for compensation will be hived off into a separate entity (designed to carry the bad assets…read bad liabilities into an entity outside the jurisdiction where it carried on its business and with very little money in its books to pay compensation to anyone – just an empty shell with a pile of “bad assets” and “bad corporate behaviour” behind its creation).

    When that happens the just claims for compensation by the victims will outlive the victims themselves. This is another James Hardie in the making.

  92. TerjeP
    May 29th, 2011 at 14:31 | #92


    No Alice you are full of it. My opening remark in this discussion was about the inadequacies of wind power. Not able to argue rationally on the point critics took me on over the issue of nuclear power. So I discussed nuclear power. Critics not being able to argue rationally about nuclear power decided to talk about size of government.

  93. Ernestine Gross
    May 29th, 2011 at 14:50 | #93

    TerjeP :@Alice
    No and no. The argument that nuclear power is safe in comparison to other means of electricity generation is not materially altered by what happened in Japan.

    You ignored all information provided on this thread to the contrary and then produced data preceding the March 2011 nuclear event in Japan on the number of nuclear power plants in operation and planned.

    Now you complain that you can’t discuss ‘nuclear power’ rationally. This is a problem only you can solve.

  94. Alice
    May 29th, 2011 at 16:30 | #94

    Terje – you are really not having a good time in this thread are you and the reason why not is very obvious. Anyone who can make the following comment and actually believe is not “overly optimistic” but actually hghly questionable in terms of having any credibility at all. Your comment?

    “Transporting nuclear waste is more of a concern because of radioactive isotopes created during nuclear reaction. However nuclear waste is usually cooled for many years or decades before being transported. The risks are real but small and manageable.”

    What part of “the nuclear industry has for the most part has NOT been transporting its nuclear waste anywhere AT ALL” …..dont you understand?

    They have been stacking their nuclear waste spent fuel rods inside the nuclear plants themselves for decades. You are right Terje – transporting it adds to costs, which companies like Tepco dont want, so stop living in dreamland. When they melt down and collapse like Fukushima they add the fuel from the uncooled spent fuel rods to the active rods making an even bigger disaster.

    I know who is full of it and it isnt me.

  95. Alice
    May 29th, 2011 at 16:52 | #95

    Terje – you may be interested to know that at the moment your guru Barry Brook at BNC is now peddling some pseudo expert on nuclear use “front and centre main blog page”
    who passes himself of as one of a “a group of meteorological academics” working out of an industry stink tank he apparently set up due to his “concern” (oh puhleese)


    But Mr Bless’s real background is this


    Yes – thats right. This so called “academic expert” skippered a ” seasonal fishing boat on the Bering Sea for twenty years, which provided the time and freedom to pursue his insatiable curiosity and his passion for travel.”

    Like so many charlatans working for the corporates in the industry.

    Yet another right wing looney on the loose.

    I do know who is full of it and that is the right generally and nuke spruikers absolutely.

  96. TerjeP
    May 30th, 2011 at 21:25 | #96

    Alice – I have read the book by Bless and I can assure you he is a left wing loon.

  97. Chris Warren
    May 30th, 2011 at 21:40 | #97

    TerjeP :
    Alice – I have read the book by Bless and I can assure you he is a left wing loon.

    People who use trash talk like that are only rightwing a***holes.

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