Home > Environment > A few more observations on nuclear power

A few more observations on nuclear power

January 18th, 2014

I thought I should respond to the latest suggestions from Department of Industry and others that nuclear power is an option worth considering for Australia. While I’m at it, I’ll add some updates on global developments.

* The most striking feature of recent Australian discussion, beginning with the Australian Energy Technology Assessment from 2011 is the claim that “small modular reactors” represent an appealing option for Australia. AETA listed these as being one of the cheapest options for 2020. with an estimated levelised cost of between $75 and $125/MWh. That’s both ambitious and remarkably precise for a technology that does not yet exist, even in prototype form. Leaving aside niche technologies like the Russian proposal to adapt nuclear sub reactors as floating platforms, the only serious contender in this field is the US, where the Department of Energy has provided grants for the development of two pilot plants. The target date (almost certainly over-optimistic) for these to begin operation is 2022. To get any idea of economic feasibility, it would be necessary both to undertake commercial deployment (in the US, obviously) and to to accumulate some years of operating experience. To get this done by 2030, or even 2035 would be an ambitious goal, to put it mildly. Again assuming everything goes well, Australia might be in a position to undertake deployment of SMRs by, say, 2040. But obviously, if we are going to reduce emissions on anything like the scale we need (80 per cent by 2050), we need to phase out most fossil fuel electricity well before that. Obviously, all these points apply in spades to proposals that exist only as designs, with no active proposals even for prototype development, such as the Integral Fusion Reactor. As I’ve argued before, to the extent that nuclear power makes any contribution to reducing CO2 emissions on a relevant time scale, it will have to be with current technology, most likely the AP1000.

* Talking of the AP1000, the builders four plants under construction at two sites in the US have just announced another 6 months delay, pushing the operations date out to 2017 or 2018 (release from FoE, but links to originals)

* Most interesting of all are projections released by the International Atomic Energy Agency last year for the period to 2050. Currently nuclear power accounts for around 11 per cent of global electricity. The IAEA “low’ projection has that falling to 10 per cent by 2030 and 5 per cent by 2050. The “high” projection, which includes steady growth in both North America and Western Europe as well as spectacular growth in Asia, has the share remaining roughly stable. So, even on the most optimistic projections of the world’s leading nuclear agency, nuclear power won’t play any significant role in decarbonising the electricity sector, let alone the economy as a whole.

I’ve come to the conclusion that nuclear power advocates, like climate delusionists (virtually all climate delusionists are nuclear fans, though not vice versa) are essentially immune to empirical evidence. So, I’d prefer no comments from our usual advocates (hermit, Will B etc) unless they have something genuinely new to say.

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  1. Douglas Clifford
    January 18th, 2014 at 15:48 | #1

    What is the role, if any, of the Thorium/molten NaCl reactor in this debate?

  2. TerjeP
    January 18th, 2014 at 16:04 | #2

    Douglas Clifford :
    What is the role, if any, of the Thorium/molten NaCl reactor in this debate?

    Very interesting to watch. Highly dependent on somebody investing in the idea. Not commercially ready any time soon given current lack of interest.

  3. conrad
    January 18th, 2014 at 16:10 | #3

    I guess if you want to go zero carbon emissions, it’s really nuclear vs. renewables rather than nuclear vs. gas, coal etc., and I assume this is implicit in the post. I know you’ve argued it before, but I think other countries are more important than Aus for this sort of thing, and I’m yet to see any big cities going to only or at least mainly renewables (e.g., Beijing), especially those in places where you don’t have lots of space . So the pie-in-the-sky arguments about nuclear don’t seem a whole lot worse than pie-in-the-sky arguments about some types of renewables to me. So it might be bad vs. bad compared to bad. vs good.

    That being said, I don’t see why we (and indeed most countries) can’t substantially reduce carbon usage quite cheaply within the near future without worrying about grandious things. Things like electric cars seem just around the corner (GMs very recent concept car looked pretty good to me — who wouldn’t buy a slightly more expensive car that used no fuel?) and should pretty much kill a lot of carbon used in cars, and I don’t really see why a lot of other transport and energy couldn’t use solar (etc.) as it follows the path of all other technology (i.e., getting much cheaper).

    Given this, to me a lot of the more important arguments about carbon usage are how much these other technologies can reduce carbon quickly rather than getting to zero, and, apart from what I think are the obvious (e.g., electric cars) I’d like some real situations which show how low you can get things easily (i.e., examples where it really has been done). If you can get rid of 70% in the near future, for example, and just use 30% gas, that obviously leaves a lot of time to think about how to get rid of the other 30%, and you needn’t really worry as much about nuclear. vs others.

  4. January 18th, 2014 at 16:59 | #4

    The moment has passed now, but I thought there was one location that was ideal for nuclear power.

    At its maximum planned extent, the Olympic Dam project in South Australia was set to consume more power than the city of Adelaide. They had set aside $2b just for diesel to operate the machinery that would scrape away the surface layers to create the mine pits. Given that uranium was one of the key products of that project, a nuclear reactor would have made sense to create the energy necessary to run such a huge undertaking.

    The owners would have incentives to both be efficient and avoid accidents due to the fact that any mistake would shut down the project, and that efficiencies would boost their bottom line. They would have incentives to train people (the lack of an Australian workforce trained in nuclear technologies is a factor often overlooked). It would have been a great opportunity for a proof of concept, boosted by the commitment and credibility that comes from “eating your own dog food”.

    But, the Olympic Dam project is not going ahead. This means, as confirmed by the Switkowski review of 2005 or so, that the positives and negatives of nuclear power are pretty much where they were in 1970 when the Gorton government first floated the idea. When someone like Josh Frydenberg MP ‘calls for a debate’ on this issue, they are pretty much calling for a rehash of those proposals and a discount of projections that unit costs of solar and wind power are dropping fast.

  5. rog
    January 18th, 2014 at 18:21 | #5

    @conrad

    it’s really nuclear vs. renewables rather than nuclear vs. gas, coal etc

    I see it that it’s grid vs renewables and the grid has allies eg nuclear hydro coal gas etc. I include hydro as they seem to spend their time creating power during high $ periods and pumping the water back up the hill during off peak periods.

    Renewables are shaking the energy tree.

  6. alfred venison
    January 18th, 2014 at 18:42 | #6

    i would have thought it was a slam dunk after this week.

    data courtesy of ronald brak at monday message board indicate the south australian energy network, with a significant proportion of renewable energy sources in the mix, coped so well in unprecedented extreme conditions that they were in a position to export power.

    some consequences of nuclear power:-

    1/ more interference in gov’t decision-making by transnational energy corporations & investors -versus- no avenue for transnational energy corporations to pressure our gov’t.

    2/ an unprecedented security state for all parts of the cycle -versus- a state that administers things not people.

    3/ centralistion of the power supply in the hands of for-profit transnational corporations, so big & so crucial to the economy & so protected by treaty, they can stand over our gov’t even against our interests -versus- energy farms & self-service smart metered electricity for all australians collected from where people work & live, farms & backyards and distributed and billed for by coordinating offices. and don’t tell me its to expensive -v- nuclear power.

    they hate renewables because renewables lock transnational energy corporations & their corporate investors out of the future.

    they love nuclear because it locks us the people into dependence on corporations to supply – at cost to us & dividend to their investors – what the we the people could get for ourselves for next to nothing for ever.
    alfred venison

  7. January 18th, 2014 at 18:49 | #7

    I doubt we’ll ever be at a point where change seems so urgently necessary that we tackle the problem full on. And by full on, I mean the way you do in a war.

    And just for the fun of it, maybe we should start referring to coal reactors, gas reactors and oil reactors.

  8. quokka
    January 18th, 2014 at 21:20 | #8

    Douglas Clifford asks

    What is the role, if any, of the Thorium/molten NaCl reactor in this debate?

    It depends on what debate you are talking about. If it is the issue of research, development and pilot/demonstration funding, then it would be criminally negligent to (globally) not put significant resources into it along with other Generation IV nuclear technologies. In general such funding for all energy technologies is seriously deficient – by a factor of three according to the IEA. One would think that given all the multiple issues with future energy supply, that R&D funding would be going up, but it isn’t.

    If it is discussion of deployable energy technology scenarios, then the rudimentary state of MSR development precludes realistic inclusion of MSRs – at this time.

    Unfortunately, some (but certainly not all) thorium advocates conflate the two issues and wrap it in a crude and often very badly informed narrative demonizing uranium. They are fooling themselves if they believe they are going to gain political advantage from this.

    There is one and only one Western, passively safe reactor design with advanced fuel recycling available right now for construction of demonstration units and that is the General Electric – Hitachi PRISM. All it’s fundamental technologies are already proved at engineering scale at Argonne National Lab in the US in the largest nuclear US R&D program of it’s era. Nothing comparable has occurred with any molten salt reactors. As for the rest of the world, the Russians are saying that the demonstration BN-1400 fast reactor, now approved for construction, will be design to full commercial and Generation IV standards, but there seems little info available, at least in English.

    The Chinese are the only players in serious MSR development at this time and have published some very provisional timelines. Full blown LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) are well into the 2030s. There is a lot of very serious engineering involved. Not the least being the on-line recycling of extremely radioactive molten salt. This is going to be challenging and as far as I can see the Chinese are being realistic in their projections. Throwing more money at it may help, but we don’t really know yet. What we do know is that however long it takes, it is extremely likely that there will still be plenty of carbon emissions to abate.

    The other tack the Chinese are taking is a kind of hybrid with TRISO fuel particles or pebbles in molten salt. This will be less challenging and the projected time lines are shorter. TRISO fuel is uranium covered in layers of special grade carbon and silicon carbide. Among other attributes it withstands extreme temperature that might occur in a serious accident, thereby offering higher levels of safety. TRISO fuel will be available to the MSR researchers from the high temperature gas cooled project under way in China. This molten salt/pebble technology may prove to be very useful in it’s own right.

    It is important not to conflate any of this with small modular reactors which are (mostly) evolutionary designs based on light water reactor technology used in applications ranging from submarines to power stations for decades. Though at least one improvement claimed by NuScale (the recipient of one of the US DOE grants) is very significant. They now say their design is indefinitely passively safe in event of complete loss of electrical power. Fukushima style accident not possible. This is a first for light water reactors.

  9. Hal9000
    January 18th, 2014 at 23:49 | #9

    @alfred venison
    Exactly, Alfred Venison, exactly. It’s all about control by private interests of things and services we cannot do without.

  10. Megan
    January 19th, 2014 at 01:20 | #10

    We shouldn’t even discuss the proposition of creating more nuclear waste until we have a proven safe way of dealing with the nuclear waste we already have.

  11. Chris O’Neill
    January 19th, 2014 at 03:26 | #11

    @alfred venison

    the south australian energy network, with a significant proportion of renewable energy sources in the mix, coped so well in unprecedented extreme conditions that they were in a position to export power.

    I wonder why they would export power when it was more expensive in SA: http://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/Data/Price-and-Demand/Average-Price-Tables

    Seems a bit silly to export it when they could have got a higher price in SA.

  12. Ikonoclast
    January 19th, 2014 at 04:30 | #12

    We have a giant fusion reactor positioned safely at just under 150,000,000 km from earth. This fusion reactor is free, self-regulating and has about 5 billion years worth of fuel left.

  13. Brian
    January 19th, 2014 at 05:39 | #13

    Given that the primary issues of nuclear power are not technical, but extreme over-reactions to delusional ideas about risk – there is no real discussion to be had about it. Since the public started fearing nuclear power because of scaremongering, it is impossible to build or move forward on plants. But the reasons have nothing to do with engineering, they are legal and regulatory. My brother did surveys for the EPA of radiation levels in the USA. The highest levels, by far, were in hospitals because of medical use. If the wee nuclear plants, they would be shut down.

    You see discussions about how “one hot particle” in your body will cause cancer and kill you. This is just not true. The human body under normal conditions experiences 4400 disintegrations per second. (4400 Bq). Our bodies are very good at DNA repair. DNA is not that stable – that’s why it’s useful to us. If DNA was rock-solid stable, it wouldn’t be able to split, unwind, transcribe, copy, etc..

    A coal fired plant will cause roughly 90 deaths per year for its life span (typically 40 years). If we take the worst credible estimate for Chernobyl of 4,000 deaths, that’s pretty close to the casualties from a single coal plant. In other words, we could have a Chernobyl every year and not hit the casualties from coal. That’s leaving aside that only one cancer has been shown to have excess diagnosis from Chernobyl, and that is thyroid cancer at 43 diagnoses above baseline. Note that a diagnosis of thyroid cancer is not death. Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Why? Because most thyroid cancer takes up iodine. So radioiodine is used to treat it.

    Compare 40 some proven cancers from I-131 to the death toll from evacuation. At Chernobyl, the data is fuzzy. The USSR broke up, things went severely downhill. But estimates are in the tens of thousands dead from evacuation. At Fukushima we have a careful count. It was 1645 last I checked. That is more people dying from the stress of evacuation than from the tsunami itself. And nobody has died from Fukushima. At most a handful of people might get cancer.

    The linear no threshold model of cancer induction is not based on evidence, which most people are quite unaware of. Quite a few physicians don’t know this either. LNT goes against what we know, and against what we have learned from half a century of radiation treatment of cancer. http://radiology.rsna.org/content/251/1/13.full.

    LNT is also inconsistent with our data on atomic bomb survivors (a very well studied cohort). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22171960.

    Most people think that if they get dosed with radiation, they can’t have children because their children will have mutations. This is flat wrong. It comes from a 1955 estimate by JBS Haldane. He did the best he could at the time to come up with a safe figure. But he had next to no data, and estimated a mutation doubling dose of 0.05 gray. We now know the real doubling dose. It is at least 2 Gray, and probably 4 Gray or higher. In other words to get mutations in germline requires mortal doses. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9576899.

    People also think that “the ocean is pure” and any release of radioactivity into it is a terrible disaster. The ocean has 4.2 billion tons of uranium dissolved in it. What that means is that if you do the math, Tokyo Bay alone has enough U-235 in it to make 24 Hiroshima sized bombs. There’s enough U-235 to make at least one atomic bomb for every 15 people on earth.

    The math on wind and solar is worse than nuclear. We may find improvements to the energy cost of manufacturing solar panels. But today, if panels are installed and maintained optimally, it takes 2-5 years (latitude dependent) to get the energy back that went into them. If they are not installed optimally, (which is most of home installs) it can take 5-15 years to get the energy back out. What that means is that the choice to go solar forces massive consumption of fossil fuel.

    Circling back to thorium, India his moving on a thorium cycle system because India has lots of thorium. The USA had a thorium reactor going at Oak Ridge for years. Ironically, one of the reasons Nixon cancelled it is that it didn’t produce plutonium for weapons. Short-sighted, but that’s politics. Far-sighted politicians are pretty darn rare.

    It isn’t actually true that modular reactors aren’t available now. South Africa has them. http://www.pbmr.com/index2.asp

    There is a big problem with modular reactors. (And with reactor design in general.)

    The problem is the design-academioc-industrial-government complex. Each group of engineers/companies/academics in every nation wants to design their own new pet project. These government funded projects employ engineers, and they can make the reputations of academics involved with them. They will also generate lots of patents in the process, which will protect the investment of the companies. Those big companies employ high priced lobbyists to push for nuclear power construction – pushing for their own proprietary designs. I’m sure an academic can see how that motivation circuit works, both on the commercial side and the academic side.

    As far as the government funds are concerned it’s all about winning the construction bid. Those construction bids are far more lucrative for big, complicated LWRs of various designs. The construction of plants becomes primary, because the construction firms have zip to do with running the end product. (They can, but most of the big subcontractors don’t do anything except build.) So it’s the lucrative construction contracts that become a primary goal whenever nuclear power is involved. And lets not forget the law firms who stand to make beaucoup bucks representing the power plant and the inevitable plaintiffs wanting to stop it.

    Reality is, Australia could buy modular reactors now from South Africa, and start installing them in a few years. That Australia won’t do that has nothing to do with availability, and everything to do with politics, lobbying, and feeding at the public trough.

  14. Mark Duffett
    January 19th, 2014 at 07:55 | #14

    What happens to the climate if you apply the same ‘empirical’ standard to renewables that you want to apply to nuclear? Global renewables investment has fallen for two years running. Its emissions abatement track record is woefully inadequate.

    On the other hand, the only country to have demonstrated decarbonisation of the required magnitude remains nuclear France. The weight of empirical evidence for climate effectiveness thereby remains with nuclear.

  15. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 08:35 | #15

    To assume no modern economy could achieve what France did in two decades from the 1970′s, which was to build a fleet of nuclear power stations to almost eliminate their dependence on coal is curious. France saw an existential threat from the ‘oil shock’ of the early 70′s, decided they were at the mercy of imported energy, and went to war on fossil fuels. Unlike every other “war on [insert enemy]” France actually won that one!

    Currently, after spending many hundreds of billions of Euro on solar and wind, Germany still produces over 450g of CO2/KWh and it’s been rising for the past two years. Meanwhile, France has been producing 80g for each kilowatt hour for decades.

    The clear message is that diffuse energy forms (solar/wind) are very expensive to harness, are very intermittent, and need some form of base load or back up to keep a grid system balanced to the load which far exceeds the output from these sources. For example, Australia’s much lauded “one million rooftop solar PV” installations only produces about 1% of Australia’s total electricity output. How many billions of dollars did that cost? (And how utterly inefficient, even compared with a purpose built solar PV farm.)

    As for small modular nuclear reactors, they exist already. What powers the world’s fleet of nuclear warships? Hint: it ain’t hamsters! They’ve been around a long time, but improving the designs is not like inventing something completely new, like say…oh, for example mass storage of electricity to make renewable energy actually economic. We’ve had lead acid batteries since the late 19th century, and the improvements on that in terms of energy density/cost have been marginal to say the least.

    I’d put my money on improved, self-contained, non-refueled small modular reactors being in use way before any storage system ever gets out of a lab.

    Spain boasted a large wind component in its output last year and that it’s emissions actually went down. Germany’s did not, despite all that expensive wind. So why the difference?

    Simple, Spain has not turned off its nuclear reactors, and Germany’s are rising because they’re burning more coal to replace the lost clean nuclear electricity.

    It’s a hard world, and energy is the mother of all problems, but without nuclear, we will continue on the road to hell, even if it’s paved with pretty green intentions all the way.

  16. John Quiggin
    January 19th, 2014 at 08:54 | #16

    @Chrispydog France certainly managed a rapid expansion of Generation II reactors in the 1970s, and has had fairly good performance from them. It’s just about impossible to work out the economics of their construction in retrospect (a big government program, probably with cross-subsidies from the military program). But whatever France did then, the secret has been lost – Superphenix was a disaster and the EPR plant now being built at Flamanville is years late, and billions over budget.

    As for your silly snark about submarines, you obviously didn’t read the post where I mentioned that idea before dismissing it – the economics are hopeless, except where you absolutely need something compact and mobile (eg a submarine).

    On storage, are you really so ignorant as to suppose that the lead-acid battery is state of the art. Again, it’s optimised for a particular use and subject to particular constraints.

    Finally, given that California has just mandated over 1GW of storage, I’ll be happy to take your bet

  17. John Quiggin
    January 19th, 2014 at 08:56 | #17

    @Mark Duffett

    It’s silly to cherrypick stats like this. Solar PV installations are predicted to rise to 50GW this year. Not nearly enough, but (even allowing for lower availability) much more than we are going to see from nuclear any time soon, even disregarding closures. Wind is in a minor downturn, but still likely to be around 40GW IIRC. Both of these numbers are up from approximately zero 10 years ago

  18. Hermit
    January 19th, 2014 at 08:58 | #18

    I wonder if SMRs could influence the design of gigawatt reactors the way the latest desktop computers are ‘all in one’ like a laptop with the processor built into the monitor. That means majority factory prefabrication of reactors could greatly speed build times. I notice that Finland having experienced delays and cost overruns with a French reactor has now ordered their next reactor from Russia. What some see as dithering over SMR licensing by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission could mean Russia and China grab the market.

    It’s hard to say with or without renewable energy targets/obligations/portfolio standards around the world whether wind and solar will continue recent build rates. Tas Hydro say they will not build the 600 MW King Island wind farm absent the RET. Nonetheless when cheap nukes do become available they will need to complement an already existing stock of intermittent generation. SMRs are said to have better output variability as modules can be offlined.

    A slight overall decline in coal burning has been noted (maybe not last week, wait for the stats) but there will have to be a reliable replacement for the big coal baseload plants such as the Vic Latrobe Valley and NSW Hunter Valley. Maybe we can cut the need for baseload somewhat but as the limbo dancer asked ‘how low can you go?’. I think Australia needs at least 20 GW of low carbon price stable and reliable generation that can cover a week of rain or a continent wide high pressure system. Hamsters on treadmills?

  19. Hermit
    January 19th, 2014 at 09:17 | #19

    @Andrew Elder
    The OD expansion is a golden opportunity to use SMRs and thereby ‘break the ice’ on commercial nuclear power in Australia. The original plan was to build a gas pipe to Roxby Downs and run a 250 MW air cooled combined cycle plant. Another 400 MW or so would be drawn from the SA grid but they can’t spare it. In fact other states are grumbling SA lacks reliability..see yesterday’s SMH article. A reverse osmosis desalination plant was to be built at Whyalla and fresh water pumped 320 km to the mine. All of it now mothballed.

    It was to be SA’s biggest ever project. Holden close in 2017 and the air warfare destroyer contract finishes in 2018. Then what?

  20. aidee
    January 19th, 2014 at 09:46 | #20

    @Hermit
    Both the SMH and AFR articles re energy use and role of solar within the heat wave weren’t as nuanced as the following: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/solar-23763

    The big question for nuclear (and as per the coal-fired Loy Yang A) is what happens when it’s too hot and sufficient cool water is not available for use within the steam cycle? Particularly one centred in the middle of the SA outback.

    Economics of nuclear as discussed have never approached paper estimates; forgetaboutit… Concentrated solar with storage is here now, approaching generation costs of coal given unaccounted externalities.

  21. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 09:49 | #21

    @John Quiggin California can ‘mandate’ whatever it wishes, it just can’t mandate the laws of physics comply with them. Unlike pumped hydro, no battery storage system will scale to grid size. There’s not enough lithium on the planet to store more than a few days of US demand. The constraints in battery technology are not an economic issue, they are chemistry and physics limits.

    “Are you really so ignorant” (can I can use your own polite language back?) not to understand there’s no such thing as 1GW of storage? Sure, they can build storage for 1GWhr or 1GW day, but one is 24 times bigger than the other. Therein lies the problem with using meaningless terms like “1GW of storage”. An hour, a day a week? Horrendously expensive to do for any amount of time and with about 25% energy loss it’s looking like good money after bad to appease the renewables lobby.

    The efficiency of lead acid is not much improved by other technologies, it’s not orders of magnitude, and to make it economically feasible on scale, batteries need to be several orders of magnitude more efficient. It’s an energy density to cost problem, that has not been much improved for a very, very long time.

    So what France did is a “lost secret”? I understand it might be difficult to get the data to cost it, but let’s just note that Germany’s retail electricity prices are the second highest in Europe (after Denmark’s) and France’s the lowest.

    As for the economics of nuclear vessels, maybe you should do some reading on what it costs to keep liquid fuel pumped into conventional ships.

  22. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 10:17 | #22

    @Hermit Many experts in energy would agree with you, we need a mix of nuclear/wind/solar and some gas or sequestered coal fired power. (Forget concentrating solar, it’s LCOE is always at the high end).

    What economists don’t seem to realise is that it’s not numbers, it’s physics. If we can build 10% of our electricity generation from wind/solar, then it does not follow that 10 times more makes us independent of fossil fuels.

    Even allowing for the horrendous scale of the input costs, the vast areas of land, the long transmission connections, there is still the unreliability. And no, we are nowhere near being able to store more than a fraction of that energy at eye-watering cost.

    And then of course…hamsters for backup!

  23. Brent
    January 19th, 2014 at 10:36 | #23

    @Megan
    megan…We have solved the nuclear waste problem in the USA. It is called Yucca mountain. Completely built and codified in law as the place we( the US ) is to place spent nuclear fuel. All that is needed is to drive the stuff through the gate. of course Obama and Reid cut the funding for the NRC to sign off on it( they have been building it for 30 years yet they require a study to know if it is safe or not). The fed also have a place called WIPP which takes transuranic waste and stores it in a salt mine. One could be built just like down the road for other kinds of waste. Political challenges not engineer challeges

  24. Brian
    January 19th, 2014 at 10:47 | #24

    PG&E built a power storage facility in California about 20 years ago. It’s a reservoir in the mountains that they pump water up into. When they need the power, they run it back down through turbines. That facility was built to take advantage of off-hours generation capacity, and to provide surge capacity.

    It is 13% efficient. For 100 KWHr use to pump water up, 13 KWHr of energy comes back to the grid.

    They looked at batteries. But batteries have serious issues.
    1. Large scale battery farms are a very different kettle of fish than small scale. People have talked about lithium batteries here for large scale power storage. But, as Tesla is finding out, it doesn’t scale smoothly, and batteries that are merely the size to power an automobile are capable of going up in a fire. Lithium is highly reactive – that’s why its power density is high. At scales we are talking about, just dumping heat from the system would be a serious issue.

    2. Similarly, lead-acid batteries at large scale have corrosion and maintenance problems. The cost is huge.

    3. I have done the calculations for an engineering project to determine uptime of a system. That’s dependent on meant time to failure (MTTF) of each component. For any components linked together, it is the multiplicative product of the uptime fraction over some time period. If you are going to spend a billion dollars on something, you better be sure it’s going to work and be reliable.

    Put all those factors together, and that’s why PG&E went with a 13% efficient system.

  25. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 10:51 | #25

    @Brian That’s what I’ve seen elsewhere, which confirms that battery storage on anything like grid scale is a revolution away (as is fusion!).

  26. Brent
    January 19th, 2014 at 10:55 | #26

    I do not live in Australia, If I did I would support anything that did not use water. Take a look at salt cooled systems. yes molten salt reactors look good. But why not salt cooled gas plants or solar plants. Why not take advantage of the high tides in the northwest part of the continent? Hydro is the cheapest by far although it costs a bunch up front but it keeps giving and giving. Austria has a population the size of the state of Texas and no nuclear regulatory equivalent of the US or Europe. so much of the regulations would have to be imported or copied from other counties. But other countries with small population do nuclear. countries such as Finland or south Africa.

  27. January 19th, 2014 at 11:28 | #27

    The average wholesale price of electricity in Australia is around 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour. At today’s exchange rate that’s less than a third of the minimum price Britain’s Hinkely C nuclear plant will be paid once it start operating. When the sun is shining in Australia point of use solar outcompetes electricity from the grid from any source and the cheapest new utility scale generating capacity in Australia is wind. My state’s largest windfarm, Snowtown II, will be completed this year and at a 5% discount rate will provide electricity for under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. (The Australian Reserve Bank cash rate is currently 2.5%.) It is not economically possible for nuclear power to compete in this environment without the use of magic. And as Japan showed us not so long ago, nuclear power can suffer rare but extremely expensive accidents which may make the cost of insuring nuclear power in Australia higher per kilowatt-hour produced than the current wholesale price. So, barring the use of magic, Australia will not build any nuclear power plants.

  28. quokka
    January 19th, 2014 at 11:54 | #28

    #23 Brent,

    Why not take advantage of the high tides in the northwest part of the continent?

    Just for starters, if you had to pick the part of the continent most distant from the load centres, that would be the northwest. High voltage transmission lines are expensive. As I recall, at least $1 million per GW per kilometre. Perhaps more – somebody may have some accurate figures. Those costs will be inflated by construction costs in remote areas – construction costs always are. There is little prospect of cost reduction as they are just towers and wires with no learning curve.

    Put generation technology that only has moderate capacity factor at the end of those transmission lines and the cost problem escalates. If the capacity factor is 50%, then to transmit an average 1 GW you will probably need close to 2 GW transmission capacity to deal with the peaks. Transmission costs double.

    If estimates for the Severn Barrage are anything to go by, tidal barrages are very expensive. And they will be even more expensive in remote areas. Add all this up and the result would be eye wateringly expensive electricity. It’s not going to happen.

    So often when the topic of nuclear power comes up, such schemes are cited as alternates. They almost never are. Time to tackle energy in a hard headed and informed manner.

    There is also a problem of the merit of sticking vast industrial installations on what is basically pristine coastline. What has happened to traditional conservation values? All too readily thrown under the bus, as long as some project can be stamped “renewable”. Avail ourselves of the benefits of the very high energy density of nuclear power and such issues can be largely avoided. Tiny footprint.

  29. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 12:02 | #29

    @Ronald Brak That wind has a capacity factor of around 30%, while nuclear is typically 90 plus. It’s not that some wind in a grid isn’t feasible, it’s that beyond a certain amount, its cost effectiveness diminishes rapidly as its spikes in output cannot be used by the demand, and the long periods of much less than nameplate capacity must be made up by something, usually either coal/gas or of course nuclear.

    The other thing that is most often not mentioned in such numbers is that the typical modern reactor will have a life of 60 years, and both solar PV and wind are typically given 25yrs.

    Scale, reliability and longevity are very important factors in designing a grid if you’d like your electricity supply to be available 24/7 in all weather conditions.

  30. Jordan
    January 19th, 2014 at 12:04 | #30

    The real savings will be in proper optimizing of the energy use, not so much in creating new sources.
    Many people are taking their time and effort to learn about free energy systems. The drive to be independent of corporate powers is driving inovations of people to do something about it. Many internet communities are tinkering with HHO optimizing of their cars, using exces power of alternator for producing HHO and increasing MPG of their cars.
    Many are driving purely on water which requiers aditional tinkering with car electronics. Look for Joe Cell. Many are completely converting to water powered cars using Stanley Meyer resonant HHO cell and injectors.

    Many are investigating the Searl effect generators, Ottis Carr’s, Victor Shauberger’s inventions, Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle machinery, Keshe machines, Vietnamese water-electric stoves and much more.
    Johann Grander water is alredy making sales in treating water against pollutants and bacteria growth saving many bucks in treatmant facilities. A monk is selling contraptions without using any power that are reppeling moisture from walls in basements. Some new catholic churches are being built with Freemasons knowledge using resonances to control energy of underground water.
    All these are based on what is sometimes called zero point energy, using energy of the sun. ZPE iz coming, slowly but it will be here prety soon. Seeing milions of amateurs are working on it, give some 20 years and it will be here.

  31. Salient Green
    January 19th, 2014 at 12:30 | #31

    @chrispydog
    That wind Ronald is refering to has a cf of 43%.
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/snowtown-project-shows-wind-costs-below-80mwh-17727
    The average cf of all Australian wind is 33%.
    In any case, comparing the cf of wind and nuclear is irrelevant. The final costs are what is relevant.

  32. quokka
    January 19th, 2014 at 12:45 | #32

    #27 Jordan,

    If you want to put your faith in pseudo science and scams, go ahead. But could you please leave it out of serious discussion of the climate/energy problem.

    It is noteworthy that this stuff also rears it’s head when the subject of nuclear power comes up.

    Interestingly our former dear leader in Qld – Bjelke Petersen – was at one stage promoting this twaddle about water power cars.

  33. Brian
    January 19th, 2014 at 13:05 | #33

    @chrispydog
    I have a fairly detailed post up there with several citation links to papers that is still awaiting moderation. It discusses the false understandings of radiation dangers primarily.

  34. January 19th, 2014 at 13:22 | #34

    Crispydog, does the fact that wind is an intermittent source of electricity magically make nuclear power (plus insurance) cost less than 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour? No? Well then that’s not going to make nuclear power competitive in Australia. You’ve got to beat that 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour barrier, including insurance, before you can build a nuclear power plant here. Do you have the magical power to do that? It doesn’t look like it because if you had the ability you could have made a heap of money in the UK.

  35. Mark Duffett
    January 19th, 2014 at 13:25 | #35

    @John Quiggin

    It’s far more egregious cherrypicking to talk about constructed capacity without reference to capacity factor (~0.25-0.3 for solar and wind, not matched to demand; 0.8 for nuclear).

    The recent investment data is what it is. It signifies a trend that’s barely even in the right direction, let alone one adequate for the decarbonisation task. Particularly in the case of wind, the growth of the last 10 years has taken up much of the low-hanging best site fruit.

    In the end, the only stat the atmosphere cares about is how much emissions have reduced. On that score, it’s emphatically nuclear with the runs on the board. If we’re truly facing a climate emergency, it’s unacceptable that the ‘secret’ of effective nuclear construction is unrecoverable (or only privy to the Chinese).

  36. Hermit
    January 19th, 2014 at 13:30 | #36

    @Ronald Brak
    We should keep checking sites like WattClarity to see how much the existing stage one Snowtown wind farm helped out in last week’s heat wave. We do seem to be getting more winds in heatwaves; such conditions were once called ‘brickfielders’. I was emailed a phone photo of Wattle Point SA wind farm not moving a muscle in a hot spell a couple of years ago. We are still paying a premium price for wind if you include the 3-4c per kwh LGC subsidy for a service that lets us down when most needed.

  37. rog
    January 19th, 2014 at 13:36 | #37

    According to this article during the last heat wave energy providers redirected power to high paying customers creating blackouts for domestic users.

  38. January 19th, 2014 at 14:17 | #38

    Hermit, are you suggesting that nuclear power can meet peak demand during heatwaves? HAHAHAHA! Oh dear oh dear… Let me explain Hermit, you see, nuclear power plants cost a huge amount of money to build, but their fuel costs very little. As a result, if you only run a nuclear plant half the time, you more or less double its cost. This means that nuclear power, which is currently far too expensive to meet baseload demand, becomes even more far too expensive if someone tried to use it to meet peak demand. You know what they do instead in some countries with nuclear power? They build pumped storage because its cheaper than having idled nuclear plants sitting around. Nuclear power can only meet peak demand with huge amounts of energy storage.

  39. Greg vP
    January 19th, 2014 at 14:33 | #39

    That’s both ambitious and remarkably precise for a technology that does not yet exist, even in prototype form.

    You could have stopeed there, John.

    Of course belief in the technology fairy is far more widespread than belief in the confidence fairy.

    Regarding emissions reductions, I’m of a mind with Jorgen Randers (in 2052). Our political classes will do nothing material until the problems are completely undeniable, say around 2035. At which time we’ll be hit with all four of the costs of dealing with the damage and illness from ongoing extreme weather, the costs of beefing up the built environment to cope with the weather and sea level rise, the costs of replacing formerly ‘free’ ecosystem services, and the costs of trying to get rid of the root cause in a great hurry.

  40. Brian
    January 19th, 2014 at 14:36 | #40

    Look up EDGCM and run the models. See how long it takes to modify climate.

  41. Hermit
    January 19th, 2014 at 16:01 | #41

    @Ronald Brak
    I’ve seen figures of 5-15% for nuclear fuel as a proportion of average running cost as opposed to 50% fuel cost for combined cycle gas. I don’t think reducing the output of a nuke saves much so the average idled cost is about the same as full power. The problem is the ramp rate. The French seem to manage load following with ~80% nukes I presume they use hydro for a lot peak power. Their Alps being somewhat grander than ours. Australian hydro is already close to max but as mentioned in another thread it was a big helper last week. The French don’t use so much gas for home heating so their peak must be winter.

    A good question is what do we do for peaking plant circa 2030 when we’ve flogged our best gas reserves. ZCA suggest burning hay bales delivered by electric trains. Google Avedore 2 power station Denmark. Could be why their electricity is even dearer than Germany. Maybe SMRs or mini-nukes can help by quickly adding or subtracting increments say of 100 MW. Note eastern Australia needed 34,000 MW a few days ago even with some big users taking a voluntary power cut.

  42. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 16:31 | #42

    @Brian Likewise for a good analysis of the costs of Finnish nuclear versus German solar…the post is in moderation due to the link, but just do a search on Breakthrough Institute/german solar/Finnish nuclear.

    By the way, despite the cost overruns, the Finnish electricity will be four times cheaper.

    Reality really does bat last.

  43. January 19th, 2014 at 16:45 | #43

    So Hermit, then you understand that nuclear cannot provide peak power and that it basically provides the same portion of electricity generated during peak periods as wind does?

  44. alfred venison
    January 19th, 2014 at 16:46 | #44

    thank you Hal9000 at #9

    this tangential is for you!

    have a happy new year.
    a.v.

  45. John Quiggin
    January 19th, 2014 at 17:07 | #45

    “It’s far more egregious cherrypicking to talk about constructed capacity without reference to capacity factor (~0.25-0.3 for solar and wind, not matched to demand; 0.8 for nuclear).”

    Which is why I did refer to it. I can’t be bothered dealing with dogmatists who don’t even take the trouble to read what I wrote. Nothing more from you, Mark Doggett, or from Chrispydog, please.

  46. Hermit
    January 19th, 2014 at 17:40 | #46

    @Ronald Brak
    Don’t accept that at all. Nuclear is likely to perform near its rated capacity any time. Wind power could go as low as 5% of its nominal output. I seem to recall the summer capacity credit for SA windpower was just 3.8% in 2011. Reference SASDO2011. Admittedly the tall new 3 MW turbines should turn over in light winds.

    The cheapest way to deal with heat wave peak demand may be to give big users a special deal to cut back. By ‘cheap’ I mean so that pensioners can run an air conditioner until mid evening if needed. Strangely I agree with ZCA to assume inadequate gas in the long run. They say too much carbon and indeed some peaking plant (essentially bolted down jet engines) is nearly as CO2 intensive as supercritical coal. However I also say we’ll squander most of our cheap gas in the next 20 years. I think we can assume there will be no Gwh scale energy storage breakthrough.

  47. conrad
    January 19th, 2014 at 18:02 | #47

    @John Quiggin

    I think most people here (and elsewhere) seem to worry a lot about the price of commissioning new reactors. But to me a bigger worry is the price of _decommissioning_ them, estimates of which go up and up all the time (this is a problem for France), and so you should add this also. This is seriously problematic because if they are privately owned and had been forced to stick down a bond, then the bond ends up not being enough if they go broke (I believe there is a reactor which this happened to in the US), so that becomes a “people’s cost”. With governments, if your country happens to become poorer, then you can end up with a situation where the only power you have is a reactor that should be closed because it is dangerous and you can’t afford to close it and build something new. So you end up with dangerous reactors. It’s hard to estimate the cost of this, but it’s also a serious potential cost.

  48. January 19th, 2014 at 18:07 | #48

    Just in case anyone is confused about the cost of solar power I”ll point out that in Australia nuclear power, or any grid supplied source of electricity, would have to produce energy at below zero cents per kilowatt-hour to compete with rootop solar. To avoid further confusion I will point out that this does not mean Australia will get rid of grid generators and make do with just rooftop solar, but it does mean that Australians will continue to install solar on their homes and businesses and the electricity it produces will push down the wholesale cost of electricity in the daytime and make nuclear power even less economical than it is currently.

    High retail electricity prices and low solar feed in tariffs also mean that Australians with solar will start installing home energy storage as doing so will save them money. This is likely to happen quite quickly as the electric car industry has really pushed down the cost of high performance, high reliability batteries and they may now cost less than $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage. Unless retail electricity prices drop or feed in tariffs rise, this home and business energy storage will reduce the evening peak and lower wholesale electricity prices further. It also means we may see a shift away from fixed charges as a significant portion of retail electricity bills to prevent people with home or business energy storage buying a small generator and dropping off the grid.

  49. January 19th, 2014 at 18:21 | #49

    Hermit, generally speaking a one 1 gigawatt nuclear plant will run at its full capacity and generate one gigwatt of electricity all the time. Operators do not reduce the output unless they have to because their costs stay almost the same while losing revenue from selling less eletricity. So outside of scheduled down periods and unscheduled interuptions, nuclear power is constant.

    Wind power is variable because the wind is variable. A wind turbine will produce electricity about 80% of the time. While it is possible for morning and evening winds to match periods of peak demand, generally speaking the output of wind turbines will vary but if you average it over time you will see it provides about the same portion of the electricity it produces during peak periods as nuclear.

    If you don’t understand I have an anology with flipping coins I can tell you.

  50. BilB
    January 19th, 2014 at 18:54 | #50

    Ronald,
    There is a good agument for installing battery storage for charging at iff peak rates yo power the house during high peak periods. This will particularly attractive where smart meters have been installed.

    The UK has contracted the installation of 15 million smart meters for both electric and gas users. The contract amount suggests that these meters”

  51. BilB
    January 19th, 2014 at 19:02 | #51

    ….”meters” will be a display snap on which reads the output of the existing meters but records that against real time so that the power companies can charge penalty rates for peak consumption. “Smart” meters are only in the interests of the energy retailer.

    Well thought through domestic power storage is more attractive than people realise.

  52. Ken Fabian
    January 19th, 2014 at 19:16 | #52

    When mainstream politics and especially conservative Right politics chose to deny the seriousness of the climate problem (or not deny it but just carried on as if they had) they hurt the prospects for nuclear more deeply than anything a noisy bunch of fringe anti-nukers ever could. No climate problem, no need for nuclear.

    In a nation that floats atop a deep layer of coal, with an electricity industry that has no desire to replace any of it with nuclear except under extreme duress, there is no genuine mainstream political backing for nuclear. Even the most influential voices that would push for it – commerce and industry – have been successfully bought off by the simple expediency of being offered (by Abbott and team) the attractive option to do little or nothing at least cost. Acting like climate change is crap is cheaper and less disruptive to their businesses than doing the minimum necessary at some cost. And if they all go along with it, then no-one can get blamed when it all leads to an intractable mess. By this simple means the strongest and most influential Right leaning proponents of nuclear have been subsumed into broader political opposition to action on climate and their calls for nuclear have been successfully diverted and and muted.

    If mainstream politics really accepted the IPCC version of climate change and they really believed that nuclear was the best and only option then a noisy bunch of fringe anti-nukers would not stop them. Two decades ago, with commitment to act on climate, nothing would have, but renewables have exceeded expectations and still have ample room to keep doing so.

  53. Ben
    January 19th, 2014 at 19:22 | #53

    A 2013 update to the AETA data was recently released, as reported by RenewEconomy. The capital cost of nuclear power has been revised up significantly, such that it is estimated to have the highest levelised cost of energy among the options in 2050 (see bar chart in the article).

  54. January 19th, 2014 at 19:31 | #54

    BilB, I think smart meters can still result in things being pretty dumb unless they involve feedback more sophisticated than a minor coronary when the monthly bill arrives. Feedback could be as simple as a phone message that lets you know when the cost of electricity goes above say $1 a kilowatt-hour. That at least would let people take action to reduce their consumption.

  55. Chris O’Neill
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:10 | #55

    @Ronald Brak

    solar on their homes and businesses and the electricity it produces will push down the wholesale cost of electricity in the daytime

    This means the electricity that solar cells produce won’t be worth much and the price of electricity at other times (which has to come from other types of generation) will be much higher.

  56. TerjeP
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:29 | #56

    We have a giant fusion reactor positioned safely at just under 150,000,000 km from earth. This fusion reactor is free, self-regulating and has about 5 billion years worth of fuel left.

    Ikonoclast – we also have stellar fuel in the form Thorium and Uranium sitting in the dirt much closer to home.

  57. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:48 | #57

    France: 80g CO2/Kwh
    Australia: 850g CO2/KWh

    Take your pick.

  58. Chris O’Neill
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:49 | #58

    @Ronald Brak

    the cost of high performance, high reliability batteries and they may now cost less than $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage

    $150 per kilowatt-hour is about what lead-acid car batteries cost so I find the above very hard to believe. Deep discharge lead-acid batteries cost more per kilowatt-hour than car batteries because they have much greater longevity for storage purposes. I’ll start believing figures like $150 per kilowatt-hour when deep discharge lead-acid batteries are always replaced by something else.

  59. sunshine
    January 19th, 2014 at 20:49 | #59

    Smart meters can ,and hopefully will, do some good things apart from meaning that suppliers dont have to pay people to walk around and read millions of meters every 3 months .Now we pay them for the privilege of having a smart meter. They could put you on power rations until you pay your bill.
    Some green energy puts power in the hands of people rather than further concentrating it in the hands of the big boys -that may seem a bit counter intuitive and scary to some.
    For me to consider nuclear I need a good answer to the waste problem .Waste is an easy way for evil doers to render large areas of land useless for generations .I cant see how it could be kept away from people like that for 1000′s of years .

  60. chrispydog
    January 19th, 2014 at 21:18 | #60

    @Chris O’Neill At $150/KWh battery storage for just one MWh costs $150,000 and for one GWh it’s $150m.

    12GWh (half a day) costs $18B

    You can buy a lot of generating capacity for 18 billion dollars.

  61. Hal9000
    January 19th, 2014 at 22:06 | #61

    A lot of the storage burden can be borne by clever use of electric car batteries. Cars can be linked into the grid and supply as well as consume electricity, according to demand. I thought this was common knowledge, but perhaps not, particularly if your ideological bent insists on the assumption that V8s can only get bigger and thirstier into eternity.

  62. January 19th, 2014 at 22:50 | #62

    Chris O’Neil, currently I pay 46 cents a kilowatt-hour all up for electricity from the grid. If the wholesale price of daytime electricity fell to an average of one cent a kilowatt-hour then I’d only be paying something like 41 and a half cents for daytime electricity. I don’t think that’ll be enough to kill the solar industry. Nor the upcoming storage industry. Something bigger would be required.

  63. BilB
    January 20th, 2014 at 02:00 | #63

    Good grief , Ronald B, 46 cents per unit???? No wonder you are so up to date on power information. Tbat is out right robbery. I take it that you have calculated in your connection cost to the small amount of power you buy to suppliment your rooftop solar.

    I have nothing on the roof yet but I’m planning a 2 kw system that will also provide 3.5 kw of thermal energy, and track in 1 dimension to make this effectively a 3kw fixed system equivalent. I should be adle to get that done this year. I’m doing a bit of study on the ammonia cycle heat pumps for an air con system that can be either solar or wood powered.

    When that is installed the exercise will be to reorganise the household consumption to occur during solar daytime. There are some good Aussi products to help with that. The storage will come later. People with pools might consider changing to the LG ultrasonic algae suppressor (aus invention) yo save on pumping energy and chemical costs.

    In the longer plan changing to gas for cooking and with 2 kwhs of battery storage and my household will be mostly grid independent. My householb power bill is now over $2000 per year so that is a healthy budget to finance the transition to solar. I think at the 3 year mark I will have a total energy bill under $500. Thankyou greedy energy retailers.

  64. BilB
    January 20th, 2014 at 02:21 | #64

    Chrispydog you have yet to appreciate that rooftop solar and household level storage is readily affordable as it offsets the RETAIL rate of energy costs, not the production rate or the wholesale rate. So all of your arguments on costs are irrelevent to the home and small business rooftop solar power generators.

    The other flaw in the arguments of people such as youself is in the assumption that on cloudy days solar generation drops to zero. It does not. It drops to a third or there abouts. Still enough to power refrigeration and charge batteries for nightime lighting and computer and entertainment powering. It does not take very much storage at all for a reliable basic 24/7 system.

  65. Ikonoclast
    January 20th, 2014 at 03:52 | #65

    If I thought humanity could use nuclear power safely and wisely I might support it as a transition fuel. I mean as a fuel that could help in phasing out fossil fuels and in transitioning us to a full renewables economy. However, it is patently obvious that humanity cannot use nuclear power safely and wisely. Firstly, the temptation to weaponise it cannot be resisted. Secondly, the temptation to cut safety corners to increase profit cannot be resisted. Finally, major accidents are so dangerous and so dirty that wide tracts of land can never be used again. Witness Chernobyl and Fukushima.

    The argument that other power technologies are dirty and dangerous (which they are) is no argument to excuse nuclear power. How does this argument make sense? “We are doing several environmentally dirty and dangerous things so let us add one more to the mix.” Of course, this does not make sense.

    Industrial scale solar and wind power can and should be built. The technology has arrived and is safer and clear than anything else though of course not perfect. Everything we build at industrial scale will have unavoidable effects on the environment.

    Having been in Canada for some time now, I can see that Canada is as wedded to oil and dirty oil (tar sands) as much as Australia is to dirty coal. The politics of fossil fuels are such that the oligarchs of these industries are still in complete control and setting the agenda. But it is more than that. The expectations of the bulk of our populations are such that these expectations can only be met by continuing down the fossil fuel path. Even most of us who decry fossil fuel use, actually use as much or nearly as much of it as our more unaware neighbours.

    So far as I can tell, the political and military authorities of the powers that matter, USA, China, Russia and a few others, know that it is too late already. They are now planning adaptation to not prevention of global warming. We have probably passed a kind of tipping point where this makes a kind a mad sense. However, I think they are all underestimating how bad it will be. The issue will not be so much adaptation as a mad scramble to merely “crash-land” rather crash catastrophically.

  66. Brian
    January 20th, 2014 at 05:14 | #66

    A lot of the storage burden can be borne by clever use of electric car batteries. Cars can be linked into the grid and supply as well as consume electricity, according to demand. I thought this was common knowledge, but perhaps not

    I knew a grad student who was working on this idea of using car battery storage for the grid. It has issues:
    1. Connection to the grid is mostly during low demand period. (Nighttime charging in the garage.)
    2. Drivers of electric cars have zero interest in jumping in their car to find it drained of power. Imagine getting in your gasoline powered car to find that the oil company had taken your gas? Even if they paid you something to take their power back, what you want it for is transport. Electric cars already have serious range issues.
    3. Utilizing automobile batteries that way means that the utility will cycle the batteries more times than you would. Lithium battery cycles are commonly considered to be around 200 before serious degradation sets in.
    4. Efficiency of distributed batter storage is significantly lower than on a utility controlled farm. Why? Because of transmission losses that are higher. Low voltage transmission has higher losses, and transmission distances are longer. Also, the utility won’t be maintaining and monitoring connections and inverter equipment, the customer will. Those also degrade.

    Using electric car batteries for storage is a nice idea, but not a very useful one if you work out the details. What the grad student worked out that could work is to use hybrid vehicles and allow the utility to turn on the gas/diesel generator for the car on demand instead of using the batteries. But even then, you have to outfit parking lots with hookups into the grid, and people have to plug in their car after parking. Again, because peak demand is during the day.

  67. Hermit
    January 20th, 2014 at 07:34 | #67

    I can’t find the link but I wonder if Australia’s 1.2m solar roofs (PV) and I think half a million solar water heaters will level out. The main reason being feed-in tariffs dropping to about 8c per kwh Australia wide. If this is right it means centralised power generation is here to stay. Stinkers like Hazelwood will be with us to around the year 2030. Big Coal knows it and is not too worried by whatever else is going on.

    For home batteries to take off they would have to be cool temperature, compact allowing wall mounting and so people visiting in a van could speedily replace them after a few years. The battery replacement cost would have be affordable by retirees. I think the California Air Resources Board has a target of 4c per kwh for energy retrieved from commercial storage which may be unachievable by home batteries. In contrast I don’t see too much wrong with France’s model of electricity supply..it is centralised, low carbon and cheap. I repeat the words of sometime nearby who lives off-grid and is getting worn out from the constant struggle… ‘I’m getting too old for this sh*t’.

  68. January 20th, 2014 at 08:51 | #68

    Not sure what you mean by “nuclear fans being climate delusionists”. Most nuclear fans have reluctantly accepted climate change theory, because they see in this a way to win over genuine environmentalists. There is the exception of Barry Brook, who now enjoys a sort of “hero” position within South Australia’s fervent nuclear lobby, and who probably did start out as a genuine believer in climate change theory.

  69. chrispydog
    January 20th, 2014 at 09:07 | #69

    @Christina MacPherson If you download the film “Pandora’s Promise” from iTunes, you will see a number of environmentalists who’ve spent years railing against nuclear power who have recently re-evaluated their positions.

    It takes courage to stand up as a leading UK environmentalist and say, in public, sorry, but I’ve looked at this again, and hey, nuclear is actually the only thing that will do the heavy lifting to replace coal. This is what Mark Lynas did.

    In fact the film maker, Robert Stone, started his career in film, making a documentary about the evils of nuclear testing.

    Stewart Brand, who published the iconic counter culture book “The Whole Earth Catalogue” is in the film explaining why he too now understands that the risk of climate change is existential but the risks from nuclear power are very very low.

    To study the facts and change your opinion is not motivated by a desire to win converts, it’s to realise the truth: renewables on their own cannot replace coal.

    Think about it seriously, we either go the way France (and Onatario, btw) did, or we keep burning more and more coal.

    Germany is spending billions to subsidise ‘green’ technology while its emissions keep rising…does this look healthy to you?

  70. Megan
    January 20th, 2014 at 09:51 | #70

    @chrispydog

    I think the key to a lot of the arguments raised in this thread boils down to that word you’ve used:

    replace

    In the peak oil context, there is an argument that the worst possible thing would be to NOT run in to limits for our never-ending growth in energy consumption.

    There perhaps should be a side argument in this context about whether it is desirable to continue to grow energy consumption, regardless of the source. If we used LESS energy we would use less fossil fuels, more renewables and could avoid nuclear anyway.

  71. January 20th, 2014 at 09:53 | #71

    I paid 46 cents a kilowatt-hour all up including supply charges over the last three months, and since the start of this year I’ve been paying almost 48 cents a kilowatt-hour. While I’m paying more than average my experience is not that unusual and I’m sure that if people here worked out what they were being charged in total for electricity it would be over 30 cents a kilowatt-hour for most. (For Australians that is.) With these sort of retail charges for electricity it’s not hard to see why rooftop solar is popular, why home energy storage will become popular, and why supply charges result in there being a real risk of people buying home energy storage and a small generator and dropping off the grid. (Note the generator would only need to be very small as it could slowly charge the home energy storage sysem and with a properly sized system would not need to be used often.)

  72. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 10:18 | #72

    @Christina MacPherson
    I have no doubt at all that Professor Brook accepts the IPCC consensus. To the chagrin of deniers who used to post there, Barry devoted considerable space to climate science and eventually adopted a policy of not hosting commentary from those rejecting the science.

    I see Professor Brook’s positions as the result of informed reflection rather than some artifice as you imply.

  73. January 20th, 2014 at 10:22 | #73

    This is a type of home energy storage system that a lot of people may be installing soon:

    http://www.sma.de/en/newsroom/current-news/news-details/news/4283-sunny-boy-smart-energy-from-sma-distinguished-with-the-intersolar-award-2013.html

    It is a solar inverter with two kilowatt-hours of built in storage. It’s wall mounted just like a normal inverter and light weight as it has lithium-ion batteries. It’s design life is 10 years. These systems pay for themselves very quickly in Australia by preventing people from dipping into that expensive 30 cent grid electricity when there’s a cloud or a period of high demand during the day and by reducing the amount of grid electricity used during the evening. Many people will of course opt for more than 2 kilowatt-hours of storage.

  74. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 10:42 | #74

    Speaking as someone who is known in this forum and elsewhere as sympathetic to the idea of nuclear power in the energy infrastructure mix, I am rather disappointed with the contributions of some advocating nuclear power in this topic. There’s a lot of bagging of renewables, much of it IMO misleading instead of an account of the positive case for nuclear power.

    It seems to me that the strongest case for nuclear power is its potential for low footprint energy production in settings much less constrained by site considerations than is the case for renewables. Per unit of sent out power, nuclear plants demand far less steel, concrete and other materials than is the case for most renewables, particularly if one includes the transmission infrastructure needed to reticulate technologies such as wind and industrial scale solar or hydro.

    As PrQ points out though, nuclear power is not going to be cheap. That shouldn’t discourage those of is who put priority on the protection of ecosystem services of course. Those of us who take this view are entitled to be worried at the schedule feasibility questions of course. Even allowing that the ecological footprint of a well-designed, sited and maintained nuclear plant at improve somewhat on wind, indutrial or retail solar, or hydro, the unfortunate reality is that nuclear power cannot do the job humanity needs of it on the timeline we need most — between now and 2030. That’s not an argument for closing existing plants or abandoning actual or proposed projects, or R&D but it is an argument for a sober and pragmatic view of the contribution nuclear power can make when it is most likely to count.

    It seems to me that in he medium term (the next 20 years) the key decarbonisation infrastructure is likely to be what we call renewables, not only because they are cheaper, but because they are going to start producing output far sooner. They also attract far less political dissent which is germane in any democracy. Their potential to be seen as local assets allows them to appeal even to the right. Windfarms can be community held or generate income for rural landholders.

    It is often argued that the intermittency of wind entails more fossil HC as back up but as Spain showed last year wind increased at the expense of gas and coal and just tipped out nuclear power which remained stable.

  75. January 20th, 2014 at 10:57 | #75

    The figures are in: 2013 was an annus horribilis for the nuclear power industry − its third in a row − and the nuclear renaissance can now be pronounced stone cold dead.
    The most that could be said for the 2013 figures − four reactors connected to grids, four permanently shut down − is that they weren’t as bad as the previous year. Nuclear power suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 − nuclear generation fell 7 per cent from the 2011 figure.
    Nuclear generation fell in no less than 17 countries, including all of the top five nuclear-generating countries. Nuclear power accounted for 17 per cent of global electricity generation in 1993 and it has steadily declined to 10 per cent now.
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/1/13/energy-markets/nuclear-renaissance-stone-cold-dead

  76. January 20th, 2014 at 11:02 | #76

    Chrispydog, you were lying either intentionally or through negligence when you wrote, “renewables on their own cannot replace coal.” There is no reason why renewable energy cannot replace coal use. In Australia renewable energy has reduced coal use, particularly in South Australia which is the state with the most wind and solar power per capita where one of a total of two coal plants has been mothballed and the other switched to seasonal load following where it only operates for six months of the year. As the state’s renewable capacity expands the final coal plant will be shut down for good as it won’t be economical to run. Solar power will help meet peak total electricity demand and wind will lower the average wholesale cost of electricity until maintainence and fuel costs make the coal plant no longer economical to run.

    As for how renewables could eliminate fossil fuel use there are a number of studies that show how that could be done, or you could sit down and think it through yourself. But I will mention that the goal is to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, not fossil fuel use. The two things are very similar but not quite the same. At about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour or less Australia can use existing fossil fuel capacity if a shortfall in renewable output requires it and then extract the CO2 released from the atmosphere. This is still cheaper than Hinkely C’s minimum price plus insurance.

  77. alfred venison
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:02 | #77

    oh, rah-de-rah, ontario. new brunswick, too. but, what, nuclear power in ontario as counter-foil to mixed renewables from the start, now, for this country?

    well let’s all gather round & watch while the canadian tax-payer in one form or another funds the decommissioning of the pickering nuclear plant outside toronto; a plant that has in its life reached only 40% to 75% operating loads.

    meanwhile gov’t policy in quebec – with an economy & climate challenges comparable to ontario – is already committed to go carbon-free by 2020, while continuing to earn bucks exporting hydro-sourced juice to new england, which, 2020, is of course about the time ontario will begin to decommission its oldest pickering nuclear plant.

    we have options ontario didn’t have in the 1960s, and options – like vast tracts of land under sunlight – it will never have at the best of times. i know what i’d prefer my gov’t to back. -a.v.

  78. chrispydog
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:21 | #78

    @Fran Barlow I agree with almost everything you said Fran, except your last paragraph needs some expanding. Spain did indeed produce over 20% of its electricity from wind last year, and its emissions did fall, unlike Germany’s which also produced a lot from wind but saw emissions rise again.

    The only difference is unlike Germany, Spain has not turned off any of its nuclear power, which is still near 20% (from memory). (And lets not talk about how bankrupt the entire Spanish generating industry is…it’s a colossal financial disaster)

    If you want to decarbonise quickly, then Germany is a sobering lesson: spend hundreds of billions and do diddly squat, or spend hundreds of billions and replace coal with nuclear.

    Sure, pick the ‘low fruit’ with renewables, but the cost benefits roll off pretty quickly when you start putting a lot of it on a grid due to its inherent fluctuations.

  79. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:22 | #79

    Someone above quoted a round trip efficiency for pumped storage as 13%. In fact RTE for such systems is generally 75-85%. The larger the pipes the lower the viscosity so perhaps the 13% figure was some DIY job with a really long narrow pipe run. This isn’t a fair benchmark for industrial pumped storage.

    While Li-Ion has been a very important battery technology, new materials are coming on board all the time. Various types of flow battery materials are being developed which may prove as effective if not more so than Li-Ion. On the whole, the need for storage to deal with intermittency seems to me to be overstated. Plainly, in Australia, we have very significant hydro resources, and if a significant portion of our vehicle fleet was either plug in electric or hot swap battery then in practice we ought to have plenty of reserve. There is obviously plenty that could be done on the demand management side of the balance sheet. We can choose for example when water needs to be pumped to local catchments, and of course reuse of grey water in medium or higher density residential or industrial estates could cut some of this demand. And even where we are obliged to run thermal plants, biomass from ah waste or biogas are good options.

  80. Hermit
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:57 | #80

    @Fran Barlow
    These options are all limited. For example flow batteries were tried on King Island in Bass Strait but have been abandoned. In the case of biomass a bagasse burning cogen plant in Queensland had to buy in timber waste when the sugar cane harvest was low. Biogas is already done where practical. Most good hydro sites have been taken and mini hydro sites may have access or transmission problems; I know because I’ve been looking for them.

    These things can be expanded with effort perhaps a few times over but not by orders of magnitude. We need a a replacement for coal and baseload gas that has massive 24/7 grunt, say 20 GW or more. Otherwise we’re going to wonder why we’re not making big enough gains in emissions cuts. The former climate change department said the aim was 80% emissions cuts 2000 to 2050. Pro rata that means 32% by 2020 not the pathetic 5% that we’re already congratulating ourselves over.

  81. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 12:01 | #81

    Chrispydog

    The picture for Spanish nuclear suggests it’s a dwindling technology there.

    Spain has a total of 10 nuclear installations within their mainland, among which are six stations, which are a total of eight nuclear units: Almaraz I and II, Ascó I and II, Cofrentes, Trillo, Vandellós I and II. The José Cabrera, better known as Zorita, ceased operations on April 30, 2006. So did Santa Maria de Garoña in 2012. On the other hand, Vandellós I is being dismantled.

    It’s unlikely that the kinds of loans and guarantees needed for construction and the risk premium price would make new nuclear capacity a viable choice in Spain any time soon. That said, I’m not in favour of closing plants that are viable, but the track record of nuclear in Spain has been patchy and their plants are ageing.

    I’d say that if you had hundreds of billions to spend on energy infrastructure here in Australia, you could completely decarbonise the stationary energy system without nuclear power — indeed, you could probably do 95% of that in practice for well south of $100bn, even allowing for transmission and storage. Most importantly, you could do that within 15-20 years (maybe faster) rather than by 2050.

    Really, if our aim were to reduce global emissions, using nuclear power, it would make more sense to look at what we could do to support R&D, to foster modularity in plant components, to develop fuel fabrication, devise and implement effective hazmat storage, taking back spent fuel from our exports and so forth. Much of the opposition to nuclear power focuses on the hazmat or proliferation, and Australia is in an excellent position to make nuclear power more feasible in places emitting far more GHGs than do we. That policy could be used to allow us a quid pro quo on the mitigation policies of those jurisdictions. That IMO is a more productive discussion than endlessly saying that renewables can’t do the job.

  82. Ken Fabian
    January 20th, 2014 at 12:28 | #82

    @Fran Barlow
    I am mostly in agreement with your views. You are one of the commenters I always find most worth reading. I don’t have any ideological objections to nuclear and expect that globally it will be very important, but it is far from a perfect solution and not all it’s problems are activists’ exaggeration.

    Nuclear requires long term bipartisan commitment. It requires strong international regulation, oversight and policing. It will need governments either enticing or forcing energy companies to adopt it. If carbon pricing is steep enough they may choose it, except that renewables are increasingly attractive even in it’s absence. In every way the nuclear solution is one that needs State intervention as well as government financial backing – strange that the free marketeers imagine they prefer nuclear even as they refuse to contemplate the interventions required, whilst it’s those leaning green that want market based solutions.

    Meanwhile, in the Australian context, nuclear has no genuine mainstream political support, so arguing about it is mostly a distraction. The only mainstream party that might put it on the table is the LNP and then only if or when the climate science deniers and obstructors – and the resources sector – lose their stranglehold on the party. That is the bit that Brooks and others don’t want to address – the unfortunate alliance of politics in favour of nuclear for Australia with those most strongly opposed to forcing the issue on the basis of climate science.

    There is no doubt that Barry Brooks is sincere about tackling the climate problem but BNC nowadays avoids the issue of climate science denial and obstructionism in favour of fighting anti-nuclear activism and undermining support for renewables. Pre the last election I don’t think there was any post that criticised the LNP for their opposition to action on climate, only criticism of green preference for renewables and opposition to nuclear.

    I disagree with the BNC approach which seems to see the whole issue being about trusting or not trusting nuclear, and that all would be well if only we could love nuclear as he does. Unstated is the idea that the conservative Right are climate obstructionist as a consequence of popular opposition to nuclear, which seems naive in the extreme; it’s not green pro-renewables politics that keeps nuclear down, but pro fossil fuels politics. The pro-nuclear Right routinely lie about climate to protect coal interests but not even the truth about climate is sufficient to bring them to push back against the (convenient to the fossil fuel sector) public distrust of nuclear.

    I don’t think there is any better evidence of how shallow support for nuclear is within conservative Right politics than that of it’s aligned mainstream media and it’s favored commentators. They routinely push climate lies. But they don’t have more than mild objections to anti-nuclear stories. If that isn’t clear sign that the rich end of town doesn’t want to act on climate simultaneously with not wanting nuclear, i don’t know what is.

  83. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 12:35 | #83

    Hermit

    These options are all limited. For example flow batteries were tried on King Island in Bass Strait but have been abandoned.

    There’s been some interesting work done using organic compounds such as quinones by Harvard. If these came to commercial fruition over the next decade, they could be a far more sustainable option.

    In the case of biomass a bagasse burning cogen plant in Queensland had to buy in timber waste when the sugar cane harvest was low.

    Assuming it’s waste I’m not sure what your objection is. If such plants are purely for backup their footprint would be marginal.

    Biogas is already done where practical.

    So you say, and perhaps you’re right. We could keep doing it, or expand upon it using waste gas from landfill and sewage treatment. Again, it depends on how much ‘goldplating’ we want for the system.

    Most good hydro sites have been taken and mini hydro sites may have access or transmission problems; I know because I’ve been looking for them.

    Again, if one sees energy access as a basic good, then we can choose between the environment or our capex. I’ve no doubt that their are places at the seaboard where we could build facilities capable of storing useful tranches of the energy output of the grid.

    We need a replacement for coal and baseload {despatchable} gas that has massive 24/7 grunt, say 20 GW or more.

    I’m not sure that’s so. Maybe we’d want it for about 400 hours per year. It might make more sense to supply that 5% largely from biomass plants or vehicle to grid storage and scale the other storage with that in mind.

  84. BilB
    January 20th, 2014 at 12:38 | #84

    I’m amazed Chrispydog, how you represent Germany’s renewables generation as some kind of failure because their overall emissions still rose. Imagine how their emissions would have been without the CO2 emissions savings from the renewables.

    No one knows better than the Germans that there is a long way to go.

  85. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 13:12 | #85

    Interestingly, Germany’s wind turbines pushed the renewables share of energy output past there 2020 target of 35% back in December.

  86. Hermit
    January 20th, 2014 at 13:30 | #86
  87. Brian
    January 20th, 2014 at 14:19 | #87

    That’s right – quinones could change things. Very cheap. Let’s hope there aren’t critical issues that show up in terms of scaling up from the lab, durability or reliability. Let’s hope.

  88. Brian
    January 20th, 2014 at 14:22 | #88

    13% efficiency is what I remember from the article I read over 20 decades ago. I find efficiencies of 75%-80% hard to believe without a cite.

  89. January 20th, 2014 at 15:10 | #89

    @Brian

    Here’s a good, fairly recent summary by Ben Rose in RenewEconomy.

  90. January 20th, 2014 at 15:13 | #90

    @Brian

    For a different take on pumped hydro storage, try this from a Professor Heindl in Germany.

  91. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 15:46 | #91

    Brian
    13% efficiency is what I remember from the article I read over 20 decades ago. I find efficiencies of 75%-80% hard to believe without a cite.

    Wow … You were reading up on pumped storage RTEs before 14 CE! ;-)

    Actually the figures are pretty easy to find.

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

  92. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 15:48 | #92

    Oops you’re only 200 years old … So you were reading up on it around the Congress of Vienna

  93. Val
    January 20th, 2014 at 15:51 | #93

    @Ronald Brak
    I have to stop maintaining my rage against this blog (for sexism) for a moment to confess I’ve been lurking and seen this post of yours – wow that Sunny Boy thing sounds brilliant! Have you any idea if/when those things will be in commercial production and how much they will cost? I imagine something like this could supply most of my energy needs even in winter.

    A person (I think a pro-nuke type) further up the thread raised some issues about available lithium not being enough for these types of batteries to be made widely available – do you know if there is anything in that?

  94. January 20th, 2014 at 16:24 | #94

    Val, the Sunny Boy home energy storage inverter went on sale in Germany in the last quarter of last year. I don’t know if it’s available in Australia yet. But you can get something similar from a solar installer who does off grid installations, but be warned that home battery systems for off grid use still tend to be pricey in Australia so you might need to shop around. You might also find it worthwhile to cheap with people who install uninteruptable power supplies to see what they can currently do.

    As for how much the Sunny Boy system or something like will cost when it becomes available in Australia, the answer probably is expensive at first, but dropping rapidly in price. If the battery pack is made from a pile of small commercial lithium batteries that are currently in mass production, then the price for the batteries should be under $150 a kilowatt-hour but there will be an expense involved in wiring them up and getting them to work together as a unit. But I would expect the sale price to be $500 a kilowatt-hour or more when introduced since that competes well with whats available and still gives a reasonable return on the investment. And then a combination of competition and heading off the competition will cause prices to rapidly drop over the next few years.

    As for whether or not there is enough lithium in the world, well, I believe I worked out that there is about enough lithium in current known reserves for about a billion or so electric cars so there’s certainly no shortage now. And if we did start using large amounts of lithium more desposits would be found. And if we need to, lithium can be extracted from seawater and this has already been done commercially. And finally there’s the fact that home and business energy storage doesn’t need to be lithium based. It’s just that lithium batteries are light and so a lot of effort has been put into improving them so they can be used in electric cars and home energy storage is piggy backing on this. There are plenty of different chemistries that can be used for home storage and at some point I’m sure we’ll develop something that’s better than lithium batteries for electric cars anyway.

  95. Brian
    January 20th, 2014 at 16:45 | #95

    @Fran Barlow
    Oh, I am very old indeed. Pardon my Freudian slip.
    I am older actually. My mother, the gazelle, and my father, the wild donkey, engendered me, four wild asses raised me on their milk. ;-)

    Thank you. Delightful to be corrected!
    Google, “Technical Analysis of PS and Integration with Wind Power in the Pacific Northwest” for a better citation. That cite gives cycle efficiencies above 80%. (Sorry, I didn’t trust Wikipedia on its face.) I can only imagine the article I read 2000 years ago had a typographical error. ;-)

    @Val – Current battery technology is problematic at scale. With pumped storage having cycle efficiencies above 80%, it will be difficult for any battery technology to compete with it on life-cycle cost. But, since I have been corrected, this puts a significantly different spin on potential wind, solar and nuclear energy storage.

    Battery systems can run at 90%, but the inverters don’t. They operate at 50%-80%. (
    Solar-facts.com How Much of your DC Power Comes Out as AC Power) (I’m not going to dig for a stronger cite because this agrees with every other source I have read.) Do the math on that: 0.8 x 0.9 x 0.8 = 57.6% system cycle efficiency. It is common for subsystems to be presented standalone.

    Now, a higher efficiency can be had by improving the conversion efficiency to inverters. For instance, superconducting components should potentially raise the optimum efficiency of inverters to 98%+. But, the cost of replacing battery systems on a regular basis would still be prohibitive i think. Perhaps quinones will make it possible to build batteries with cheap enough materials.

    Again, Fran, thank you. I appreciate it very much!

  96. Val
    January 20th, 2014 at 16:47 | #96

    @Ronald Brak
    Thanks Roland most interesting. Since I have just installed a solar system, I am not really in the market for such a system, but as I am also one of those people whose electricity usage is normally very low, I do feel somewhat frustrated that I am paying so much for the service charges associated with being on the grid (even though they will be largely offset by the feed in tarrif for at least part of the year). It is also annoying that low users like me are effectively subsidising high users through the service charges and I think this may turn into a political issue eventually.

    Anyway relating this back to the subject of the post, this supports my growing belief that the most important factor in achieving 100% renewables is this question of storage, and in turn, that that issue is being rapidly addressed through research and development. Therefore I tend to feel that the nuclear advocates are at best misguided, and at worst deliberately trying to derail the debate and block the path to a low emissions future.

  97. Val
    January 20th, 2014 at 16:59 | #97

    @Brian
    Hi Brian thank you – however the question also relates to whether you want to be on or off the grid. I think many of us now would like to be off the grid, and for someone like me, living in an inner urban apartment, I don’t see pumped storage as being a very relevant off the grid solution (though feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this :) ).

    I’m interested in community solutions also (a la Hepburn Wind and the emerging community solar projects I’ve been writing about on my own blog), not just individual household solutions, but I am really over corporate models of energy provision. The old state systems had their good and bad points, but since our Lib/Lab governments have generally gone over to the corporatised, neo-liberal models of energy provision, being off the grid looks very appealing.

  98. rog
    January 20th, 2014 at 17:02 | #98

    @Fran Barlow That new battery using quinone is very much at the lab stage and they have yet to make quinone both + and – .

    Burning bio material is fraught with problems, at one stage in NSW they were burning wood chip to meet the renewable target but the losses incurred in burning wet or damp product made it a no goer.

  99. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 17:02 | #99

    @Val

    I don’t say that the nuclear advocates as a group have malign intent or are foolish. Some in that camp are playing a duplicitous game but people such as chrispydog and quokka above are as far as I can tell, speaking out of a genuine desire to see better environmental policy. They are not right of centre folk or deniers of climate science.

    I think they misapprehend the constraints on the implementation of NP in non-NP states and misidentify renewables as a competitor, when their principal enemy is the fossil HC movement which is using NP as a wedge against change, precisely because they grasp how destructive the debate can be to progress.

  100. Fran Barlow
    January 20th, 2014 at 17:04 | #100

    @rog

    I wasn’t suggesting it would be available tomorrow but if I arrives in time to cover the last 5%, that will do.

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