Nuclear power and Australia

There’s been a bit of discussion about nuclear power lately, but it tends very much to the abstract. I thought I would look into the question of when, if ever, nuclear power might be a reasonable option for Australia to consider, and how we should go about it.

An obvious starting point is the Switkowski report commissioned by the Howard government, which I’ve uploaded here. There are three main points which allow me to provide an answer to the question, at least for the next decade or so.
(i) In the absence of a substantial carbon price nuclear power is not competitive with coal
(ii) First-of-a-kind (FOAK) nuclear plants are likely to be very expensive (above $80/MWh), not competitive with wind or gas (even with CCS)

The estimate is that ‘settled down’ long run costs could be $40-$65/ MWh, which is competitive with wind and cheaper (for the moment) than other renewables.

Let’s take “settled down” to refer to a design with at least 5 examples completed and operating in developed countries, at least some of them built on greenfield sites (that is, not next to existing nuclear power plants which already have a lot of the necessary infrastructure). It seems clear that these minimal conditions can’t be met before 2025 at the earliest. The US, which has been attempting for a decade to restart its nuclear industries is still at the pilot stage, exploring a number of technologies, and offering to subsidise the construction of three plant designs for each major option. Most of the proposals are on existing sites, only six have reached the point of a plant actually being ordered, and none is anywhere near starting construction. Given a sharp acceleration in progress, the emergence of a highly successful design and a lot of new orders towards the end of this decade, the 2025 date might just be reached.

That suggests that Australia should forget about nuclear power entirely for at least the next five years. If things are going well for nuclear, and not so well for renewables, that would be the time to start setting up regulatory structures, looking for sites and so on.

96 thoughts on “Nuclear power and Australia

  1. Query

    What assumptions are built into the costings in terms of shut down and decommissioning costs, time horizon for managing sht down reactors?

  2. John, as I understand it, the prices quoted in the Switkowski Report do not factor in the long term waste storage, security and management costs, particularly for high level and long-life waste.

  3. You haven’t mentioned geothermal power. Geodynamics (GDY) has a plan to develop a 500MW geothermal power station in the Inaminca area, but the timing seems to depend on funding.
    From a technical point of view, geothermal should be the cheapest non-polluting source of power in the medium term – certainly cheaper and sooner than nuclear plants. All it needs is holes in the ground.

  4. I’m not sure about the costs either. Wind requires a lot additional transmission as well as backup plant to deal with poor capacity factor. These costs are often omitted.

    We don’t have an explicit carbon cost today but we still get wind farms due to MRET. There is no good reason to continue the prohibition of nuclear or to exclude it from MRET if permitted.

    Delaying the reform process is much the same as supporting prohibition. If you think nuclear should be prohibited then just say so. If you think it should be permitted with qualifications (ie specific regulations) then state the case. Obviously we all care about cost but so long as these are in the ball park there is no reason to prohibit entry on the basis of cost speculation.

    Nuclear power is safer than coal and when construction and operation are included it omits less CO2 than any comparable alternative.

  5. Mike Smith, the costs of long-term waste storage are essentially lost in the noise. Yes, it costs a lot of money, but the revenue accrued from running a power station for 60 years easily covers the cost.

    PeterS: Geodynamics (and the other geothermal entries in the geothermal power sector) have been promising for a long time, and haven’t actually delivered much yet. The technology is not proven.

    But back to our blog host’s main point, the question of whether nuclear power becomes necessary in Australia depends a lot on the availability of carbon credits from overseas, and the consequent level of pressure on our domestic emissions.

  6. PeterS – I wish geodynamics all the best. However attempts to commercialise hot dry rock style geothermal have been going on since the early 1970s. It remains speculative. I certainly wouldn’t want it excluded from the market but I wouldn’t bank on it either.

  7. PrQ, you say:

    Given a sharp acceleration in progress, the emergence of a highly successful design and a lot of new orders towards the end of this decade, the 2025 date might just be reached. […] That suggests that Australia should forget about nuclear power entirely for at least the next five years. If things are going well for nuclear, and not so well for renewables, that would be the time to start setting up regulatory structures, looking for sites and so on.

    In a political sense, I’d readily agree that we are unlikely to see nuclear power in Australia much before 2030. There’s absolutely no incentive for either party to take up this issue regardless of the feasibility of nuclear power relative to other options. It’s high risk low return politics, especially for the ALP. Since the ALP is likely to be in power until 2013 and probably 2016 federally and even the Liberals would be unlikely to try this first term or even propose it when the election was in the balance so it would seem 2030 would be the earliest date we would get any such facilities, allowing for the most likely approval cycle.

    With that in mind it really wouldn’t matter if someone with credibility could persuasively show that nuclear power’s fully levelized costs could deliver a steady 25GW 24/7 at 1/3 the cost of coal. It wouldn’t be on the agenda. As I’ve said elsewhere, that probably doesn’t matter (except to those here harmed one way or another by combustion of coal) because Australian GHG emissions are small. It’s open to us to choose expensive means to reduce emissions and play the role of international laggard.

    That said, we have plenty of brownfield coal and industrial sites on which nuclear power stations ought to be capable of being installed in a fairly minimal time with minimal extra ancillary cost whioch would immediately improve local amenity. We are talking of doing desal pretty much everywhere and again, nuclear + desal is a pretty good fit.

    One can easily foresee the day when installed costs of nuclear are similar to that of coal — the AP1000 series being rolled out in CHina probably will make this plausible. If we do LFTRs then we can probably talk other states wondering what to do with their HLW to send it to us, for a fee, and then not only produce cheap power but reduce the colume of weaponizable materiel.

    Lastly, CO2 really ought to be priced at closer to $100 per tonne. If renewables really can compete in that cost environment, then let them do so, without MRETs. Gioven my remarks above, if we could see a regime in which from 2013 all coal plants would begin phase-out by 2030 in favour of renewables + some NG + pumped storage I wouldn’t be at all miffed.

    Early expensive but substantial reductions in CO2 emissions are better than larger cheaper ones two generations later. I’d prefer nuclear power to start replacing coal by 2013, but if I can’t have that because not enough share my view, then let’s have the next best suite of options.

  8. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    The MRET (about which I am somewhat dubious, I must say) is supposed to help the developed of new kinds of energy, which are just beginning to be developed. Nuclear power has already benefitted from massive subsidies – no more are justified.

    In any case, there is no chance of getting a nuclear power plant up and running by 2020, which makes this point academic (in the pejorative sense of the term). The MRET will expire long before it would be relevant.

  9. Pr Q said:

    Let’s take “settled down” to refer to a design with at least 5 examples completed and operating in developed countries, at least some of them built on greenfield sites (that is, not next to existing nuclear power plants which already have a lot of the necessary infrastructure). It seems clear that these minimal conditions can’t be met before 2025 at the earliest.

    Although it is against my technophilic religion to admit it I have to acknowledge that it will take a long time to set-up and embed workable nuclear power plants to our main grid. Thats not just ole’ nay saying Quigginism, its the French who say this. Whats more they exactly agree with Pr Q’s estimate of 15 years to get proper regulatory status. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists quotes French authorities in “testimony against interest”:

    But despite France’s best efforts to the contrary, it’s unlikely that the wannabe nuclear players will implement nuclear power programs any time soon–if ever. None of these countries have the necessary nuclear regulations, regulators, maintenance capacity, or the skilled workforce to run a nuclear plant.

    The head of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority has estimated that it would take at least 15 years to build the necessary regulatory framework in countries that are starting from scratch. (The French government is well aware of this problem; last month, it created the Agence France Nucléaire International within its Atomic Energy Commission to “help foreign states to prepare the institutional, human, and technical environment necessary for the development of a civil nuclear program.”)

    The question remains: why the enormous delay in writing up a bunch of rules? It only took the Jefferson a couple of weeks to knock together the US constitution. Is the constitution of a nuclear power plant hundreds of times more complicated?

    Its a pity the French cant just export pre-fab nuclear power plants like the do pret-a-porte fashion.

  10. The assumption seems to be that some forms of non-hydro renewables can substitute for base and intermediate load power now supplied by burning coal and gas. Evidence from several countries does not support that , nor do I see convincing evidence that dry rock geothermal will ever be able to provide that quality of supply. In discussing capital costs it made be prudent to divide cost per watt by capacity factor, example PV solar $6/.16 = $36, prime onshore wind $2.50/.33 = $7.50, Gen III nuclear $5/.92 = $5.43. Multiply by 1000 for costs per MW.

    Some advocate a major switch from coal fired generation to gas fired on the basis of apparently large gas reserves which is what the Brits thought during the Thatcher years. That may limit CO2 cuts to only 50% versus coal but it would support more showpiece wind and solar in conspicuous locations, a political plus. However the gas price is certain to move with LNG export parity and increasing demand from the transport sector, thereby making gas fired electricity quite expensive despite a carbon advantage.

    Without waiting for Gen IV nuclear some major Gen III developments are in the pipeline. The Chinese may be able to get construction time down to three years and the South Koreans will demonstrate large scale nuclear desalination in the massive project for the UAE, a country which has plenty of sunshine yet it recognised the limitations of solar. That desalination uses free waste heat from the cooling system not so much the high pressure pumping of the reverse osmosis plants now springing up around Australia. Reactors may also get smaller and modular through offsite prefabrication. I suggest that Australia should put its name down as soon as possible for a proven combination of Gen III with integrated desalination. Meanwhile bureaucrats should work on smoothing the path for a number of suitable sites.

  11. Thank you, JQ, for the link to Dr Switkowski’s 2006 report.

    According to Box 1.1 Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle in the 2006 report, there cannot be radioactive contamination in Hunters Hill, Sydney due to a nuclear facility, however small, because there was none!

    This is a minor point on record keeping, except for those who have bought one of these contaminated properties in Hunters Hill and those who try to convince others that no record keeping problem can occur in waste storage systems that involve many generations into the future.

    Lets see how the renewables and electricity demand develops in the near future.

  12. When the fuel runs out the sunk costs will be enormous, as there is a limited supply of fuel, sell the fuel to some other sucker, take them to the cleaners and save the sunk costs.

  13. @Hermit
    As I’ve pointed out quite a few times now, the while idea of “baseload power demand” is a nonsense. What the argument comes down to is that if you want a generating technology that has the same characteristics as coal (always avaiable, hard to turn off) nuclear is the best choice. And, since our current pricing and distribution systems are set up for that, it’s also true that, if you can’t change anything but the generation technology, nuclear looks good.

    But what we actually want is power that is mostly on during the daytime and early evening, which suggests that solar + some storage option is likely to be a better match. And, if supply is variable, prices have to do more work in matching it to demand.

  14. The core arguments against nuclear power are not economic.

    There is no point basing public policy on simplistic arguments whether nuke-power is “competitive” with coal and other renewables.

    The concerns with nukes exist irrespective of a price comparison of energy output with other options.

    It is hard to see that economic theory has any useful role in this issue.

    Economic arguments only proceed after social standards have been set (eg no slavery).

    If society did not outlaw slavery (for political reasons) the Australian Productivity Commission would have already published papers seeking greater efficiency through increased slave labour.

    Slaves working in Australia would be better off than slaves working in Ethiopia so everyone is better off – so argues the economist.

    The same applies to all social, environmental, and generational issues. At least for those who choose to look.

  15. JQ I have to disagree and by the way I have eliminated my home electricity bills. That’s because the fluctuation in my near trivial electrical output is easily absorbed by the much larger grid. That grid would become unstable if all the contributors had irregular output. Wikipedia opines that 40% of peak electricity demand can be considered the minimum requirement which has to be produced 24/7. Industries like aluminium smelting also work around the clock and can’t cope with the vagaries of irregular output. Hospitals have back-up generators but prefer to use them infrequently.

    You may be right that off-peak electricity pricing for water heating is an artefact of baseload power. Then again negative pricing (paying to take it away) is an artefact of feed-in tariffs for wind power in Europe, that is to keep the subsidy happening even when windpower is not wanted. Energy storage could greatly increase household electricity prices. An estimate for energy retrieved from lead-acid batteries is 11c per khw (on top of the production cost) due to rapid depreciation and interest on high capital cost. I doubt there is more than about 5 GW continuous average pumped storage in the hydro schemes of eastern Australia and that would also require major new transmission. We want at least 20 GW of continuous low cost low carbon generation, not an expensive 5 GW.

    As for more elaborate time-of-day pricing schemes using smart meters or plugged in battery cars I’ll await further results as they come to hand. So far the evidence is uncompelling. From my POV I’m convinced by the ‘baseload truism’.

  16. @Chris Warren
    “If society did not outlaw slavery (for political reasons) the Australian Productivity Commission would have already published papers seeking greater efficiency through increased slave labour.”

    Sounds like you have a gross misunderstanding of labour economics and productivity calculations. But on to your substantive point:

    “The core arguments against nuclear power are not economic….The concerns with nukes exist irrespective of a price comparison of energy output with other options.”

    I’m not so sure. The concerns are capable of translation into monetary values, therefore are quantifiable and amenable to economic analysis.

  17. Jarrah

    If I can get the same unit of output for:

    (option 1) an Australian wage, or
    (option 2) for one tenth (through oppressed labour),

    then your;

    “translating this into monetary values” and

    “quantifying it” with

    “amenable economic analysis” still produces the same conclusion.

    Faced with this scenario, the Australian Productivity Commission would still publish a paper recommending greater efficiency through increased oppressed labour.

    They would still argue that imported oppressed workers in Australia would be better off than in their homeland, so everyone benefits. They may even say that the increased efficiency will fund labour market adjustment programs for any Australian workers who need to change industry etc etc.

    So if you think you can explain how “labour economics” and “productivity calculations” contradicts this – please go ahead.

    However it is hard to see how productivity calculations are relevant as precisely the same product is being produced in both scenarios – the only change is the politically determined wage.

    So it seems to me – you are a prisoner of your own dogma.

  18. One challenge that pro-nuclear activists have is that so many people in the discussion are focused on short term effects. When talking about constructing power plants that will most likely last for 60 years, they want me to prove that their will be a positive – and generous – financial return on their investment in just 5-10 years.

    They want nuclear energy plants to be immediately competitive with highly refined, large scale coal plants that have been granted free access to the world’s shared atmosphere as a waste dump. They have little understanding how incredibly attractive it is to think about generating as much energy by fissioning a tiny 6 gram pellet of Uranium Dioxide as burning an entire TON of coal – and that comparison is made while using our primitive method of once through then out rather than a closed, recycling fuel cycle.

    I am here to tell you that investing the time, labor and human ingenuity that is required to build nuclear energy facilities of all sizes and shapes is worth the effort for the future of humanity – as long as your view of the future lasts more than 30-100 years. In that short amount of time, there is every evidence that the world’s accessible fuel supplies will become increasingly inadequate for the task of providing useful, reliable, affordable power that enable humans to live without slavery or backbreaking labor for all. Oil and gas are becoming increasingly difficult to find and extract. While coal boosters claim hundreds of years of supply, they neglect to mention how long the supply will last if coal has to assume the burdens currently supplied by those less available fossil fuels.

    The ONLY people who benefit by delaying and deferring the resource investment required to deploy fission power systems are those folks involved in selling the fuel for existing power systems and those wasting our time and money by deploying inadequate and unreliable systems that depend on energy that we all know is weak and very unpredictable – the sun and the wind.

    If you like fossil fuel addiction, keep fighting or passively resisting nuclear energy developments. Discourage your children, beat down those people like me who speak up and try to share what they have learned from a lifetime of association with the amazing gift of fission, which is clean enough to seal inside a submarine and powerful enough to supply that 9,000 ton submarine with all of the fuel that it needs to operate for several decades.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show (available on The Podcast Network, an Australian owned company hosting independently produced shows by passionate, knowledgeable producers.)

  19. Robert Merkel
    January 21st, 2010 at 16:08 | #12
    Reply | Quote

    Charles, we’re not running out of uranium.

    The stuff is so energy-dense that we could extract it out of seawater if we needed to.

    And why would “we needed to”, several suckers and a shortage of cheaper supplies. If the suckers are forced to extract uranium from sea water Australia will have sold what it has
    and made a lot of money.

  20. Chris – nuclear power isn’t human slavery. There isn’t a comparable moral issue.

    Tax is like slavery. We could make a moral argument about tax along the lines you suggest. However not with nuclear energy. Happy to do the tax discussion if you want but maybe not under this article.

  21. @Chris Warren

    Chris Warren @14. If you were to substitute ‘financial’ or ‘business economics’ for ‘economic’ then I’d concur with you.

    IMO, economics is not limited to one institutional environment. My preferred description of the boundary of economics is: Economics is concerned with the study of the material welfare (as understood by natural scientists) of humans under alternative institutional environments (which reflect the dominant philosophy of a society). It was a change in beliefs about what is right and what is wrong that led to the abolishion of slavery in law.

    The statement:
    “When talking about constructing power plants that will most likely last for 60 years, they want me to prove that their will be a positive – and generous – financial return on their investment in just 5-10 years.” (Rod Adam @ 18 above), supports the idea that there is no ‘free market’ (in the sense of voluntary exchange) for nuclear energy production.

  22. @jquiggin

    Well, 1 argument for nuclear subsidies is it is exposed to much higher sovereign risk. Because of its high capital costs, investors will be banking on govts maintaining carbon policies for a long time to recoup returns. What’s to say a govt won’t turn around in 10 years and remove or reduce the carbon price?

    So, perhaps there is a rationale for govts entering into, or underwriting, some form of long-term, take-or-pay, type contracts to encourage nuclear development.

  23. I have a question to the technologically informed:

    As I understand it, there is no need to go to zero CO2 and other GHG but there is an urgent need to reduce these emissions successively during a period of time in the life of the current generation.

    In the context of Australia, what is wrong with having coal fired power generation for a specified limited set of activities (eg aluminium smelters), use gas sparingly to cover essential services and have the rest renewable?

  24. @Ernestine Gross #21

    You wrote:

    “The statement: “When talking about constructing power plants that will most likely last for 60 years, they want me to prove that their will be a positive – and generous – financial return on their investment in just 5-10 years.” (Rod Adam @ 18 above), supports the idea that there is no ‘free market’ (in the sense of voluntary exchange) for nuclear energy production.”

    I am not sure if that means you agree with the idea that it may be worth doing anyway or not. There are many facets of our modern society that we all take for granted that would never have been constructed under a pure “free market” ideology. So what? Does that mean that you would have been happier if there had never been airports, roads, bridges, and sewer systems?

  25. France has 80% of her energy requirements supplied by nuclear sources.

    So why not Australia as well ?

  26. @Louis #25

    “France has 80% of her energy requirements supplied by nuclear sources.
    So why not Australia as well ?”

    There is a big difference – France famously choose nuclear power because some said that it had “no coal, no oil, no gas, no choice”. After many years of research, I will have to add to that – France also had no profitable coal and freight railroad interests who worked hard to protect their markets from the onslaught of new nuclear power plants that competed with them.

    Here is a link to a short blog post I wrote a while back about an advertising campaign run by coal miners in Australia:

    http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2008/08/better-than-smoking-gun-straightforward.html

  27. @Chris Warren
    Chris, I don’t want to derail the thread, but you need to learn a bit about slave economies and the systemic problems they face. Then it will become obvious to you why the Productivity Commission (as currently constituted) would not recommend more slavery (assuming it was legal). Though of course a world where we have both is highly unlikely! But you’re trolling, not arguing, aren’t you? The switch from “slavery” to “oppressed labour” is telling.

    “It is hard to see that economic theory has any useful role in this issue.”

    It has tremendous usefulness. You are yet to provide any reason as to why not.

  28. @Matt C
    Matt C, that’s no reason for a subsidy, unless you’re primarily concerned with the welfare of nuclear power plant builders and operators.

    Regulatory risk is a fact of business life. Better to reduce it with credible promises and institutional structures that give an incentive to keep them, rather than bribe businesses to offset risk.

  29. @Jarrah

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Chris Warren. The abolition of slavery has created great economic distortions and inefficiencies, and even before the abolition significant inefficiencies existed because slavery was limited to only a portion of the population.

    Restrictions on the transfer of property rights in labour is just another example of government interference and red tape in the free flow of commerce. One more example of the nanny state trying to restrict the invisible hand and to place limits on individuals making decisions about what is best.

    If scope for the transfer of property rights in labour were reintroduced there would be numerous benefits. Property right holders would find it worthwhile to educate their labour units as it would increase their productivity and, hence, value. Productivity would also sky-rocket because you would be able to introduce more comprehensive performance management systems. Old or otherwise useless units would no longer crowd our streets asking for handouts or become a drain on the public purse because they would simply be decommissioned.

    I am sure the Productivity Commission has already done work on the topic, that this research has not been released to the public. With the numbers of green communists troublemakers conspiring to attempt to introduce a nanny world government with concerns over a nonexistent threat from global warming, they probably considered that releasing the research, at this time, would probably give these radical greens something else to protest about.

    But don’t worry, I am sure the topic is on the long term microeconomic reform agenda.

  30. Jarrah

    You are missing the point. Having slave or oppressed labour (or export zone conditions or any similar variation) in Australia does not make Australia into a “slave economy”.

    Again you make a vague reference to some hypothetical problem that you propose will determine the Productivity Commissions response – but you don’t say what this is?

    This is useless.

    My point was that if the same output could be obtained for

    (option 1) an Australian wage, or
    (option 2) a much cheaper slave or oppressed wage

    then the Productivity Commission would recommend slave or oppressed labour based on the rationality I posted earlier.

    Commission economists would take the “good” economic effect without looking at the “bad” social and moral aspect.

    This is my point about nuclear power, and why economists have no real role in this issue.

    Economists take the good economic effect and ignore the bad social, environmental, generational, and moral issues. Whether slavery or anything else illustrates this point, is beside the point.

    Nuclear economics (particular megawatt-price-comparison simple arguments) are an example of dimwitted economists filling their heads (and think tanks) with such false public policies and associated limited considerations.

    The issue is not about slave economies, but the general uselessness of economic logic, that argues for nuclear power based on it providing a cheap “good” ignoring the social “bad”.

  31. @Fran Barlow
    Fran says

    ” It’s high risk low return politics, especially for the ALP. Since the ALP is likely to be in power until 2013 and probably 2016 federally and even the Liberals would be unlikely to try this first term or even propose it when the election was in the balance so it would seem 2030 would be the earliest date we would get any such facilities, allowing for the most likely approval cycle.

    Great – hopefully by then they will have some better ideas than nuclear. Rehash Fran. Rubbish in…nuclear out.

  32. @Freelander
    LOL, Freelander. Not a bad effort, especially “comprehensive performance management systems”.

    @Chris Warren
    “Commission economists would take the “good” economic effect without looking at the “bad” social and moral aspect.”

    What purely moral aspect is there in power generation? Also, social aspects are routinely considered by economists, starting with Adam Smith’s classic works. You don’t know very much, do you?

    “some hypothetical problem”

    Try the Roman empire, and the US southern states before their civil war. But it’s late – time for you to stop trolling.

  33. @Jarrah
    Pardon me Jarrah but the Roman empire fed a city bread on the construction of aqueducts. T

    Ill try the Roman empire method of power generation (and job generation I have no doubt). Keynes was alive and well in Roman times.

  34. @Louis Hissink
    hissink – you have no idea “when the parasites in society dictate their hosts”

    Now who do you label the parasites Hissink? (let me see…de guvmint?)

    It muts be nice to belong to a club where you dont have to think because someone else wrote the thinking for you.

  35. If its not too off topic:
    What do people think of the Greens offering the Garnault interim deal to the other parties?

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/01/21/2797559.htm

    “The Greens are attempting to break the political deadlock over emissions trading by suggesting an interim two-year scheme with a fixed price on carbon.

    Greens Senator Christine Milne is writing to the Government and the Opposition proposing a carbon price of $20 a tonne…

    …….Dr Frank Jotzo, a leading environmental economist from the Australian National University and an adviser to the original Garnaut Review, believes the Greens’ plan will deliver business the certainty it wants and start cutting emissions.

    “This is a very sensible proposal,” he said.

    “It was first suggested by Professor Garnaut to start the emissions trading scheme system with a fixed price and I believe that it’s even more relevant now in the political deadlock that we’re finding in Parliament.”

  36. Fred – I think the Greens proposal is very interesting. They would need to change three things to win my backing.

    1. Limit it to electricity and transport.
    2. Use the revenue for tax cuts (eg payroll tax, a higher tax free threshold for income tax) instead of spending it on handouts and subsidies.
    3. Remove the suggestion that it is a temporary measure that will be replaced by an ETS.

    As it stands I think it is an interesting idea. I’d suggest that in political terms Rudd would be wise to leap at it.

  37. “Yes, it costs a lot of money, but the revenue accrued from running a power station for 60 years easily covers the cost”
    .
    That’s true Robert, but you need to either force whoever builds and will run it to put down a massive bond to start with, or you end up taking the risk that the company that owns the plant (or country in some cases) will not be able to afford to get rid of it at the end of it’s life cycle, so someone else is left with a huge bill (generally known as the tax payer, or when the country can’t afford it, generally known as the neighbour that doesn’t want a dangerous reactor next to them). I personally quite like nuclear power even ignoring climate change (no smog, relatively cheap), but I think the first would be politically unpopular because it adds what appears to the general public to be a huge amount to the initial start-up price.

  38. Hissink,

    In Finland people ski to work, so why shouldn’t we here. Obvious answer is we don’t have snow.

    France would have 100% Concentrated Solar Thermal Power if they had the climate and the suitable land to place the collector arrays, but they don’t so they have Nuclear electricity, and nuclear weapons too.

    Australia does have endless solar opportunities, so that is what WE will be doing. And France will envy Australia for the eternally free fuel powering our national growth as their nuclear power becomes steadily more expensive and the maintenance of their nuclear machinery becomes ever more problematic.

    There are those who feel that Australia should be hunting and killing whales because the Japanese do it, and that every Australian should carry guns because the Americans do that, also that our farmers should grow opium because the Afghanis do. Yes?

    There is one thing that that we all should really do, and that is drink tea. Not because the British do, but because it tastes nice and it is healthy. So I’m going to have mine right now.

  39. Rod Adams :@Ernestine Gross #21
    You wrote:
    “The statement: “When talking about constructing power plants that will most likely last for 60 years, they want me to prove that their will be a positive – and generous – financial return on their investment in just 5-10 years.” (Rod Adam @ 18 above), supports the idea that there is no ‘free market’ (in the sense of voluntary exchange) for nuclear energy production.”
    I am not sure if that means you agree with the idea that it may be worth doing anyway or not. There are many facets of our modern society that we all take for granted that would never have been constructed under a pure “free market” ideology. So what? Does that mean that you would have been happier if there had never been airports, roads, bridges, and sewer systems?

    1. Nuclear power plants may last 60 years but the waste lasts much longer and so do the consequences of accidents and leakages. While the nuclear lobby is trying to exploit – shamelessly – the GHG emission problem, it interestingly does not lobby for a contingency levy for future generations, expressed not in money but in real resources (eg areable land, water, …). A real resource levy would be a transfer of ownership rights to future generations that are affected by nuclear waste and contamination.

    2. I don’t advocate a ‘free market ideology’. However, the theory of a market economy does provide some helpful insights to distinguish between democratic governments whose involvement in the economy is for the benefit of the people in its jurisdiction versus a government that is acting on behalf of corporate interest groups.

    3. As for France, beside the lack of fossil fuel one may also remember that France had a policy of military independence from the then existing nuclear powers. That is, France developed atomic bombs and nuclear power plants.

    4. Finally, I can’t see how nuclear power is going to help to mitigate the serious unequal economic development (in particular technologically) in the so-called ‘globalised economy’.

  40. Actually we should carry guns because the kiwis do not because the Americans do. We shouldn’t try and be like the kiwis in everything but on firearms they have a superior set of policies and attitudes. We could try grass skiing to work. And there our damn whales so we should shoot them and sell them to the Japanese instead of letting them poach them for free.

  41. John, thanks for a post that has stimulated an already interesting and occasionally hilarious discussion! … and will go on for many more days, I’m sure.

  42. Rod Adams@19,

    “those wasting our time and money by deploying inadequate and unreliable systems that depend on energy that we all know is weak and very unpredictable – the sun and the wind”

    Gosh, Rod. It is understandable that people can package up Nuclear Fission into a tidy problem free mental image because nuclear radiation, free neutons, are invisible. People do not know that their dna has been altered by the bombardment of high energy particles that pass right through their bodies like tiny bullets, that their shortened future will certainly contain a battle with cancers of various sorts. Nuclear proliferation would guarantee that we all become affected by the insideous leakage of the ultimate toxins that the nuclear industry produces.

    Nuclear fission is the cane toad of energy systems. Yes it works to some degree. Yes it is safer than it was. But no it is not completely safe, nor is it necessary. And to make the statement above, you clearly must live where the sun does not shine.

  43. Terge, why are you in Australia, when you could be living in Hong Kong where they pay almost no tax at all.

  44. Alice, you don’t actually add anything to the discussion by being nasty about people. Why don’t you direct your obvious passion at the post and the debate, rather than slagging off Fran? or you could just call her a secret rightie again…

  45. Does the fact that nuclear plants have higher upfront capital costs compared to coal, wind, etc, make them more vulnerable to interest rate and currency instability?

  46. @BilB
    That is a big simplification. Hong Kong is not quite the full libertarian thing – it’s got a lot going for it though, as long as you aren’t poor, sick or unlucky. I thought Estonia and Somalia were supposed to be the libertarian wet dreams 🙂

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