Weekend reflections

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

97 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

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

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

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

    Transporting nuclear fuel is NOT like transporting bars of lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  6. @John Quiggin

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Of course emissions will continue to rise – because:


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

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

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

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

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

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

  11. China has already announced cuts to its program


    as have quite a few other Asian countries


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

  19. @Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  22. @TerjeP

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

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

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

    A ban on nuclear for other reasons avoids all this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  25. Terje, give up.

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

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

  27. @Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  34. @Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Click to access Tom_Meteorological_mag_5-11.pdf

    But Mr Bless’s real background is this


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

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

    Yet another right wing looney on the loose.

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

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

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

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

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