Powering Finn’s Land:  No Nukes Required

Nuclear power vs renewable energy in Finland

I have no idea what the badge says but Finn insisted on adding it.

During our 15th SolarQuotes vodcast filmed on Friday, Finn tried to get my goat by pointing out greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably higher without nuclear power.

Fortunately, my goat was agile and able to avoid his grasp because that sounds right to me.  Without nuclear power, emissions would be higher.

Seeing he wasn’t about to get a Ronald goat dinner that way, he changed tack and said he believed countries in the far north of Europe, such as Finland, would need nuclear power to get off fossil fuels because of long dark winters where the sun might only rise for a few hours a day.

This did manage to get a little bit of my goat.  Maybe just enough for a goat taco.  My gut feeling was, given the immense expense of new nuclear generation these days, even in Finland renewable energy should be cheaper than nuclear power.

But I didn’t argue with him because it was just a gut feeling.  I didn’t actually know.  My ability to not argue about something solely based on my feelings and being content to wait until I have real evidence is a superpower of mine.  Before the internet I didn’t realize this was a unique gift but now I know I walk a lonely road.

So I decided to look into whether or not it would be cheaper to use renewable energy than nuclear energy in Finland.  Or since he came from there — Finn’s Land.

Nuclear Power Makes No Sense In Australia

First I’ll state Finn and I are in 100% agreement that nuclear power is not economically viable in Australia.  Our renewable energy resources are so vast and the cost of wind and solar power so low, there’s no way it can pay here.

Helsinki’s Hellish Winter Solar Resources

Finn is right to be leery of solar power’s ability to power Finland.  It doesn’t look too bad if you compare the annual output of 1 kilowatt of optimally positioned solar panels in Sydney to Finland’s capital:

  • Sydney: 1,420 kilowatt-hours per year
  • Helsinki:  932 kilowatt-hours per year

That’s only one-third less, so it looks like it might only increase the cost of solar power by one-third, which isn’t too bad considering how cheap it has become.  But if we look at solar output during the worst month of the year we get:

  • Sydney:  May — 86 kilowatt-hours
  • Helsinki:  December — 4 kilowatt-hours

That is not a typo.  In the worst month the Helsinki solar panels will only produce 4.5% as much as in Sydney with an average output of only 0.13 kilowatt-per day.  The energy produced in the worst month as a percentage of what’s produced in the best month is:

  • Sydney:  May output compared to December — 61%
  • Helsinki:  December output compared to July — 2.8%

Clearly this makes powering Finland with solar power in the wintertime a difficult proposition.  It’s not very practical to store summertime solar energy for use in winter.  I suppose you could grow trees in the summertime and burn the wood in the winter, but how primitive would a country have to be to use wood as a major energy source?

The Cost Of Nuclear Power In Finland

I am going to look at the total likely cost for Finland to commission and build a new reactor right now or in the near future.  I’m not going to worry about what nuclear power may cost in 10, 20, or 50 years.  The best indicator should be what it costs to build a nuclear reactor in developed countries now or, better yet, how much Finland’s newest reactor costs.  Looking at their latest nuclear energy project, the 1.6 gigawatt Olkiluoto Reactor 3,  I see…

OH MY GOD!

What a shit storm!

Construction started in 2005 and it’s still not finished1 14 years later.  It was supposed to enter operation in 2009 but now that doesn’t look like it will happen until 2020.

We don’t know how much it costs as figures have not been released.  We have an estimate of $13.7 billion from 2012 before it ran into a whole new set of cost overruns and delays.  A similar nuclear reactor was started in Flamanville, France in 2007 and it’s still not finished yet either.  It’s estimated cost is $17.6 billion.  As the Finnish Okiluoto reactor has taken even longer to build, its total cost may be even higher at around $20 billion.  As it is a 1.6 gigawatt reactor that would be $12,500 per kilowatt of power output.

If the reactor operates at an average of 90% capacity for 40 years then to get a 5% real return2 on a $20 billion dollar investment they would need to get 29 cents per kilowatt-hour produced.  They’ll also need extra on top of that to cover fuel, operations, maintenance, disposal, security and decommissioning.  I’ll be kind and say that only comes to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.  So to get a 5% return this nuclear reactor would have to sell its electricity at an average wholesale price of 32 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This is insane.

One good thing is the Finnish people are only on the hook for the original $4.8 billion that was budgeted.  But the companies involved might still go bust or claw some money back in court.  I wouldn’t know, I’m not a Finnish lawyer.  I don’t even know if they have lawyers in Finland.  Maybe they just settle everything with Viking fights.

Now I see why the Hinkley C reactor in the UK required a minimum payment of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money for its first 35 years of operation in order to go ahead.  The cost of modern nuclear power is absolutely nuts.  It’s nuttier than a knife wielding Mr Peanut bowling with the severed head of his defeated enemy.

Do not fuck with Mr Peanut. He will cut you.

Maybe the nuclear industry has learned from the disasters of the French Flamanville and Finnish Olkiluoto reactors and will be able to build another one for less, but after seeing what can go wrong would you offer to go round again for a significantly lower price?  Once all costs are included I think new nuclear power could cost Finland 20 cents per kilowatt-hour of wholesale electricity generated.  If I was being very optimistic I would say maybe they could get it for 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.  But even if fortune smiles on the Finns and they can get it for only 8 cents a kilowatt-hour, it still doesn’t look good compared to other options available.

Option 1:  Use Gas & Offset Emissions

Gas burned in a 50% efficient power plant in Europe will have a fuel cost right now of around 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour and releases 370 grams of CO2.  It’s possible CO2 could be agriculturally removed from the atmosphere and sequestered for as little as $70 a tonne, but I will use a figure of $100 a tonne3.  That would come to 3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour generated.  If we throw in another 2.5 cents to cover the relatively low cost of building, operating, and maintaining gas power stations it comes to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour.  That’s equal to my optimistic estimate of the cost of new nuclear with the advantage that gas generation is a lot more flexible.

I’m not saying this is a sensible way to generate clean electricity, but if nuclear can’t beat this it clearly has serious problems.

Option 2:  A Long Extension Lead

The distance a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission line would need to be to reach from Finland to the following countries is very roughly:

  • Spain:  3,500 km
  • Tunisia:  3,100 km
  • Turkey:  3,000 km

Both Spain and Tunisia are sunnier, but Turkey is closest and the terrain on the way is a lot flatter, so I’ll consider building a transmission line from Finland to there.

Losses for a HVDC cable over 3,000 kilometers would be around 10%, so to provide as much power as a 1.6 gigawatt nuclear reactor its capacity would need to be 1.8 gigawatts.  An estimate for a 600 megawatt HVDC line from Robertstown in South Australia to Wagga Wagga is $655,000 per km.4  Tripling its capacity would not triple its cost, but I’ll assume it’s more expensive to build transmission lines in Europe and use a figure of $2 million per km; so a 3,000 km cable will cost $6 billion.

In reality all countries connected to the transmission line would be willing to contribute to its cost or at least pay to use it after it was built, but I’ll assume Europeans are really bad at building transmission lines and $6 billion is Finland’s share.

Assuming the transmission line does nothing but supply Finland with 1.6 gigawatts of power and they need a 5% return on their investment to build, operate and maintain it, it will cost 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour it supplies.

Wind power in Turkey is currently being built for under 5 cents per kilowatt-hour while, according to official figures, solar power is still expensive at around 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, but I expect its price will fall rapidly.  If Finland has to pay 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable Turkish electricity, then after transmission losses it will be 5.5 cents.  Adding 2.1 cents for long distance transmission will bring it to 7.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  This is half the cost of my optimistic estimate of 15 cents for new nuclear.

Option 3:  Finnish Wind Power

The average price bid for new wind power in Finland in March this year was 4 cents per kilowatt-hour while the cheapest bid was 2 cents.  As its cost is still falling, home blown wind power should cost an average of under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The wind doesn’t always blow when you want it.  But it does tend to blow more in winter in Finland, which is when the sun doesn’t really rise into the sky but instead stealths around behind clouds and hills for a few hours.  To cover shortfalls in wind output, energy storage such as pumped hydro and/or batteries or other sources of electricity will be required.  Looking at where Finland gets its electricity now I see it is:

  • Hydroelectricity — around 17%
  • Wood — around 13%

This has to make Finland the most wood powered developed nation in the world.  It mostly uses waste from their lumber and paper pulping industries.

This means Finland already gets around 30% of its electricity from dispatchable renewable energy resources that can ramp their power output up or down depending on how much wind power is being produced.  Their hydropower should be very flexible as it all comes from dams and not run of the river hydro, while wood power would, in general, be less able to respond to supply and demand.

Finland also currently gets around 25% of its electricity from nuclear energy, but this is very inflexible.  Because nuclear fuel is so cheap, running a reactor at half power costs almost as much as running it at full power — which is a lot.5

Unlike their neighbor, Norway, which is firmly wedged against Finland’s butt, around half of new cars sold this year won’t be electric.  But Finland does have more electric cars per capita than we do and they’re planning to get more.  If Finns could charge their electric cars for cheap when electricity demand is low and wind output is high — and vice versa — it should be a convenient way to accommodate large amounts of wind power.  Electric vehicles could also supply power to the grid when needed, but it’s not clear at the moment if that will be common.

But even if Finland has to build a large amount of expensive new energy storage and this doubles the cost of using electricity from wind, it will still only come to around half my optimistic estimate of the cost of nuclear power.  And the cost of renewables and energy storage are certain to continue to fall in price.

Option 4:  Reality

You’d think after the immense cost blowout of the new Olkiluoto nuclear reactor Finland wouldn’t want to touch nuclear power with a 10 kilometre exclusion zone.  But in 2010 they planned to build the 1.2 gigawatt Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Station.  After several years of delay it looks like construction will begin in 2021 and it is planned to be complete in 2028.

On the bright side, it’s a Russian design that may be less likely to explode in cost like the Olkiluoto and Flamanville nuclear reactors.  But even if everything goes to plan — and I’m willing to take bets it won’t — its electricity will cost around 8 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money.  That’s double the current cost of Finnish wind and at best it will be 9 years before it’s supplied.  By then renewable energy and storage will cost much less.  The Hinkley C reactor in Wales will get a minimum of around 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, so it will be interesting to see if the Russian design can come in at 40% of that.  It will make the Brits look super stupid if it does.

Since construction hasn’t started yet I definitely think it would be a good idea to cancel the nuclear reactor, but at the moment Finland is giving the impression it’s going ahead.  Regardless of if it gets built or not, Finland’s international electricity transmission capacity will increase, as is happening throughout Europe.  They will also expand wind generation which currently provides around 7% of their electricity.

Will Nuclear Power Get Cheaper?

Nuclear power may get cheaper in the future.  After all, it’s hard to see how it could become more expensive than the cost of the small number of reactors currently under construction in the developed world.  But I don’t see it ever becoming competitive with renewable energy, even in countries with long dark winters.

While nuclear power is super pricey now, it has never been cheap.  You may hear examples of low cost nuclear power touted, but those are successful projects and if it was possible to tell if a project will successfully remain in budget before it starts then there would be no such thing as cost overruns.

Also, many costs are often left out of estimates.  These can include insurance6 waste disposal, decommissioning, real costs of capital, and increased need for spinning reserve capacity to cope with a large reactor going offline.

This means there is no magic way to suddenly make nuclear power competitive with renewable energy.  While new technological developments could lower its cost, if nuclear power is going to be a significant source of energy in the future, someone is going to have to build and operate a reactor that can beat renewables on total cost.  And I don’t see that happening given how cheap renewable energy is.

Footnotes

  1. Or maybe I should say it’s not “Finnished”?
  2. This is not a high figure as EDF uses a 9% figure for cost of capital for the Hinkley C reactor in the UK.
  3. This would generally involve sequestering carbon in agricultural waste.
  4. Page 5 in this report.
  5. This means a reactor that shuts down costs its owners almost as much as one that operates normally.  Sure, they could save money by sacking the workers, but if it’s not properly maintained it will eventually turn into a very large and very expensive to get rid of lawn ornament.
  6. While a modern nuclear reactor is very unlikely to release dangerous amounts of radioactivity into the environment, they should still be insured and if they aren’t insured the cost doesn’t disappear, it just gets pushed onto society.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. If each of Australia’s 2 million or so home solar installations were valued at $5000, the total would exceed $10 billion. The result is perhaps a 20 year, 2% (fair weather ) contribution to the >250,000GWh annual generation.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Keep in mind rooftop solar displaces grid electricity that can cost 30 cents or more. This makes it a very good investment for almost anyone with an unshaded roof. Of course, the average household won’t see the 9% return on capital EDF will get for the Hinkley C reactor, but we can’t all get our dosh from British households.

  2. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Ronald

    I wonder if you are comparing apples with oranges – surely Finland and the UK (and others) must have some rationale for building nuclear?
    Perhaps you need to include storage costs for intermittent sources?
    I do know that nuclear produces absolutely PRODIGIOUS quantities of energy – also, Hinckley C has a design life of 60 years, not 40.
    Interestingly, the UK recently achieved 100 days of operation, without burning any coal in power stations. How did they do this?
    1. Just over 5% from PV (small)
    2. Just over 5% from wind (small)
    3. About 20% from nuclear.
    4. About 59% from Natural gas (huge)

    I’m not sure if they sequestered the CO2 after burning that much gas, but at least is cleaner and less polluting than coal.

    My question to you is, how are they going to take natural gas out of the equation (and its attendant CO2 contribution)? Add 20 times as much intermittent renewables, and gazillions of dollars worth of batteries (that will need to be 100% replaced every 10 years or so)?
    Put in massive transmission lines to Spain (then, how do they ensure security of supply)? Interestingly, Europe has reportedly lost millions of dollars of renewable opportunity, due to curtailment – their grid was designed for concentrated point sources of generation, and is not working very well with distributed renewable supplies. It will need a massive upgrade – more costs that should be attributed to renewables.
    I’m not saying we should go the nuclear route, or should not be going for more intermittent renewables. But, I do think it is disingenuous to ignore the true, total cost of implementation of any given technology.
    I suspect professionals in Finland and the UK have done their homework?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      If the Finns only have to pay the original $4.8 billion for Olkiluoto reactor 3 that’s not too bad as it’s not that much worse than for seaborne coal and a hell of a lot better for the environment and it was planned before the massive fall in costs of renewables. But the 20 cents for Hinkley C is just nuts and professionals in the UK at the time demonstrated it was nuts and they were ignored. I presume it was the British version of the Abbott government and Morrison waving his lump of coal around in Parliament.

  3. At present 100 new nuclear power station are being built right now with 300 more on the drawing board.

    It takes 60 Months from start to finish to build a nuclear power station.
    Why would so many countries continue to build them if it wasen’t economic?
    Just wonder-

    I love my solar panels and hot water heater but millions of us are living in apartments with no change of installing solar panels.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Paul

      Where did you get that information from? Currently there are 13 new nuclear power stations under construction and total of 57 nuclear reactors for electricity generation under construction at new and existing sites. The information is here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_reactors

      • Hi Ronald
        The information was obtained from –World Nuclear Association–

        Nuclear plant construction 
        at present we have 450 operating worldwide

        Over 100 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 120,000 MWe are on order or planned, and over 300 more are proposed. Most reactors currently planned are in the Asian region, with fast-growing economies and rapidly-rising electricity demand.

        Many countries with existing nuclear power programmes either have plans to, or are building, new power reactors. Every country worldwide that has operating nuclear power plants, or plants under construction, has a dedicated country profile in the Information Library.

        About 30 countries are considering, planning or starting nuclear power programmes (see information paper on Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries).

        • Ronald Brakels says

          On order or planned is different from under construction, but thanks for the information.

          What will determine if nuclear power plants will continue to be built is the cost of electricity from them can compete with renewables. Do you have any estimates for the total per kilowatt-hour cost of electricity from new reactors in developed countries?

          • Hi Ronald
            No I dont have any estimates for the total per Kw-Hour cost from new reactors
            My time is better spend getting the weed out of my garden than looking that up

          • Lazard’s 2018 report:
            • New nuclear: US$112‒189 / MWh (up from US$92‒132 in 2014)
            • Wind: US$29‒56 (US$37‒81 in 2014),
            • Utility-scale solar: US$36‒46 (US$72‒86 in 2014).
            • Natural-gas combined-cycle plant: US$41‒74 for a (US$61‒87 in 2014)
            • Nuclear construction costs US$6.5‒12.5 million per megawatt (US$5.4‒8.3 million in 2014)
            https://www.lazard.com/media/450784/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-version-120-vfinal.pdf
            btw here’s a summary of developments with small modular reactors
            https://theecologist.org/2019/mar/11/obituary-small-modular-reactors

          • According to http://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/what-we-do/the-harmony-programme.aspx they seem to think the LCOE of Nuclear is about $50-$100 per MWh and solar is about $100-$190 per MWh.

            Sounds to me like wishful thinking by a nuclear association. Ahh, aparently the figures are from “Projected Costs of Generating Electricity – 2015 Edition, International Energy Agency and OECD Nuclear Energy Agency”. Any figures on the cost of Solar and Wind from 2015 are going to be woefully out of date and too expensive.

            I’m perfectly happy for there to be nuclear power, but like Ronald, I’m pretty skeptical of its future (or even current) financial viability, but if countries or power companies want to spend their money on it then it is low-carbon energy, so I’ll keep me happy.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Hi Jim

          I noticed your Lazard’s reference doesn’t include costs of, and energy losses for storage – batteries and pumped hydro.

          It seems the plan is to use Natural Gas peaking plants to cover intermittency – cheaper than other options, but still produces CO2, so not really a sustainable solution.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Paul,
      You say:

      “It takes 60 Months from start to finish to build a nuclear power station.”

      That appears to be the absolute best case. A 2011 International Nuclear Atlantic Conference – INAC 2011 paper abstract says:

      “The cost of electricity generated by nuclear power is greatly affected by the capital cost, which is dependent on the construction time of the plant. This work analyses the construction time of PWRs in several countries with different market structure and licensing experience. Countries which succeeded to establish a more collaborative environment among utilities, constructors, regulators, and energy planners through effective partnerships were able to build PWRs in shorter times. The construction time in Germany, France and Russia was around 80 months and in Japan, about 60 months. The envelope of 95% of the cases includes a range between 50 and 250 months of construction time. The evaluations show that construction time of PWRs has been longer for countries that did not hold the technology to build their own reactors, and depended on contracts with foreign suppliers. The nominal power of the reactors was considered a measure of plant size, technology complexity and standardization. Countries with standardized reactor designs (France, Japan and Russia) were able to build
      plants in shorter times.”

      And under the heading “3. Construction time of PWRs” it included:

      “The average construction time of nuclear power plants between 1976 and 2009 was 92 months or 7.7 years with a maximum of 10 years between 1996 and 2000.”

      See: https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/42/105/42105221.pdf

      Then add in the approval process times and the nuclear option cannot be considered a timely technology to provide rapid, effective mitigation for dangerous climate change. Uranium and thorium are finite resources, thus they are not long-term sustainable, and there’s the high-level waste problem that will be imposed on multiple generations to come.
      See my comment: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/fuel-efficiency-standards/#comment-438325

      Ian Dunlop’s op-ed (referred in my linked comment) includes:

      “To stay below 2°C, global emissions must peak now and be reduced by around 7% annually, something no country has ever achieved. The lower 1.5°C Paris target requires even more rapid reduction. Meanwhile, emissions rise in line with worst case scenarios.”

      Renewables are cheaper, quicker to deploy, reliable (with adequate energy storage and robust interconnectors), safer/lower-risk, long-term sustainable, and without the ultra-long-term waste problem.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Hi Geoff

        I’ve read recent posts (elsewhere) saying Westinghouse AP1000 reactor plants can be built in 36 months.

        Methinks the biggest time delays are the approval and financing processes – perhaps further delayed by obstructionism from those who should really know better (safer technology than Solar – by an order of magnitude – when considering fatalities per terrawatt-hour of energy produced). These figures include the impact of Chernobyl, Fukashima, Harris Island, etc.

        Sarah Hanson Young stated :”nuclear is dangerous” – another ignorant victim of the hatched job done by fake news media.

        I suspect it is irrational fear alone, that is forcing use to stay with a technology (coal) that is resulting (by calculation) in 4,000 times the number of lives lost for power production, and millions of tonnes more CO2 polluting the atmosphere. This obstructionism probably explains the very recent 10 times cost increase for nuclear – it’s not the technology, rather the ill-informed.

        “Follow the money” one correspondent noted – and I see the big powers gearing up for a natural gas future. At least this is about half the CO2 emission rate. Some talk about a brand new Coal station in Queensland – they would want at least 40 years of production – I would much prefer a nuclear plant, with far great safety, far less fatalities, and near zero CO2 – and would be willing to pay more for this, so long as it isn’t excessively expensive. In the meantime, we are going to export our “clean” coal to Bangladesh, for them to burn to make “cheap” energy – allowing them to get ahead admittedly, but at what cost to the planet? I can’t help thinking we will continue to burm coal for energy production for at least 4 to 5 decades – despite the “starry-eyed” optimists. I’ve recently read a beat-up about a Victorian school Solar system producing 1 GWhr over a year – sounded fantastic until you got down to the nitty-gritty – very poor capacity factor – I hope they didn’t pay too much for it (although, by virtue of their use timing, I think schools are an optimum application for solar.

        And, the COALition MPs in Qld are asking for Nuclear! So they ARE concerned about reliable, CO2-free power!

        • Geoff Miell says

          Ian Thompson,
          You state:

          “I’ve read recent posts (elsewhere) saying Westinghouse AP1000 reactor plants can be built in 36 months.”

          Which posts, Ian? You are not providing any references.

          Has Westinghouse actually built AP1000 reactor plants in 36 months, or is this just wishful thinking? It seems apparently in 2008, China started building four units of the AP1000’s 2005-design.

          Looking at Wikipedia’s reference for “AP1000”, it includes:

          “In 2016 and 2017 cost overruns constructing AP1000 plants in the U.S. caused Westinghouse’s owner Toshiba to write down its investment in Westinghouse by “several billion” dollars.[7] On 14 February 2017 Toshiba delayed filing financial results, and Toshiba chairman Shigenori Shiga, formerly chairman of Westinghouse, resigned.[8][9][10] On March 24, 2017, Toshiba announced that Westinghouse Electric Company will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy because of US$9 billion of losses from nuclear reactor construction projects, which may impact the future of the AP1000.[11] Westinghouse emerged out of bankruptcy in August 2018.[12]”
          See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP1000

          It seems to me Westinghouse has been reportedly having financial difficulties.

          IMO, some COALition, PHON and other ‘conservative’ MPs recent obsession with nuclear power is just a delay tactic to keep coal plants going, and stop renewables expanding – meaning nothing gets done to rapidly reduce our GHG emissions.

          Katherine Murphy wrote in The Guardian on Saturday:
          “When Switkowski was asked by Howard to weigh the evidence and report back, he concluded that Australia could establish a nuclear industry, and nuclear power plants could make a useful contribution to the country’s abatement task, but he said setting them up would take between 10 and 15 years.”
          See: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2019/jun/15/nothing-new-in-coalitions-nuclear-awakening-no-wait-perhaps-there-is

          You say:
          “This obstructionism probably explains the very recent 10 times cost increase for nuclear – it’s not the technology, rather the ill-informed.”

          What obstructionism, Ian? Would that be nuclear plants take too long to build, are substantially price noncompetitive with ‘firmed’ renewables, nuclear fission is not long-term sustainable because the fuel supply is finite, and the toxic waste legacy long outlasts any energy benefits gained? It seems to me you are unable to see the substantial negatives.

          You also say:
          “I can’t help thinking we will continue to burm coal for energy production for at least 4 to 5 decades – despite the “starry-eyed” optimists.”

          If David Spratt and Ian Dunlop’s 2050 scenario outlined in their recently published policy paper on existential climate and security risks is anywhere near accurate, then humanity will probably become extinct before the end of this century.
          See: http://www.climatecodered.org/2019/05/can-we-think-in-new-ways-about.html

          • Ian Thompson says

            Hi Geoff

            It seems to me you have failed to grasp what I was saying.

            Firstly, I did not say that Westinghouse would be building the plants – I was fully aware that they were in financial trouble – I had understood the article concerned a third party building AP1000 plants, which are of a Westinghouse design. My apologies, the article came up on my phone and I was merely quoting it – I’ll have to did around to see if I can find it (should have noted the source at the time). 2 x AP1000 reactors went online in China in July and August 2018 – a 4th online in China in October 13th 2018. I note Quora states new-age AP1000 can be constructed in roughly 40 months – but this is not where I read 36 months. https://www.quora.com/How-long-does-it-take-to-build-a-nuclear-reactor Apparently much extra time is required if the reactor is of a new design, and needs licensing – which may explain much of your confusion. Someone pointed out the 4:1 price ratio between a Chinese AP1000 (US$6billion for 2), and a US AP1000 (Votgle) – answer was that the Chinese are choking on coal smoke, so don’t get in the way of construction – kind of my point about obstructionism! A-ha – Try Googling this:
            Can an AP1000 nuclear plant be built in 36 months?
            First concrete pour, to fuel loading.

            Why would building a nuclear capability delay reducing CO2 from the new coal-fired stations being proposed? Surely it would be better to build new nuclear plants, than new coal plants?

            I view most comments such as “nuclear takes too long”,” nuclear is too expensive”, “nuclear is too dangerous”, “renewable capability can be implemented faster than nuclear”, as mainly being driven by irrational fear of a technology that many have been brainwashed by “fake” media into believing it will grow you two heads – I see these excuses in just about every “green” statement made about the issue.

            By “obstructionism” I mean, that as well as the activities of the COAL lobby to prevent replacement of their income with a quick, equivalently dispachable, non-CO2 emitting alternative, there are many who oppose nuclear whenever they can, for reason mostly of their uneducated fear. These types of unnecessary obstructionist delays are inevitably going to delay decision-making, delay construction, delay funding – the list goes on – with the result that cost increases are inevitable.

            I think your concern about the negatives is largely hyperbole – Australia would be better suited to waste management, than all of Europe, all of the USA, much of Russia, and all of the UK – yet all of these areas utilise nuclear.
            There are 449 reactors in commercial use throughout the world, but none in Australia – who exports uranium for overseas consumption. New GenIV reactors, when available, will burn as fuel most of the existing waste held on nuclear plant sites, and extend the existing reserves lifetime by several times.

            The 3.45 GW Tibetan solar plant presently under construction is to be installed over an area of 298 square kilometres! You surely don’t believe that is going to come online overnight, do you? At a fatality rate of 10 times that of nuclear! Plus, like much fake and/or misleading boosting in the renewable industries, and the news media, I’d think this plant will likely have a capacity factor less than 25%, meaning the actual delivered average power is not even 1 GW – about one third of that from each of many 3 MW nuclear plants operatng throughout the world. Plus, this plant will need very extensive “balancing” to be effective – and that will cost enormous money, and time.

            And, many countries (e.g. Germany) are looking at a hydrogen economy – particularly for transport – with hydrogen “bowsers” already being installed. As far as I am aware, hydrogen is made commercially primarily by steam reforming of natural gas – or other fossil fuels (very little by water electrolysis, due to the cost and energy inefficiencies) – and this produces substantial CO2 emissions. Not all CO2 is emitted by electricity generators.

            Sorry Geoff – follow the money – I think the quickest way we can reduce our electricity-production CO2 emissions is to first drop coal in favour of natural gas, which can be done very quickly using existing steam generators and will essential halve this source of CO2 – while at the same time building nuclear plants to work with renewables during the transition period to eliminate almost all CO2 from electrical energy production. This will surely extend the deadline for the Armageddon your are so concerned about to give the extra time needed for renewables.

            I am for renewables, but every time I did into this, I come across unrealistic and misleading information – the UK recently went 100 days without burning coal – they are way ahead of us, and will no doubt keep burning coal for a time yet – but the solar PV contribution was only about 5%, wind another 5%. The main source used was natural gas – and much nuclear!

            Sorry Geoff – no matter how hard you wish for and pray for a fully renewables energy economy, I still doubt I’ll see that in my lifetime – it will take too long to install the millions upon millions of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, and hundreds of transmission lines and hydro plants needed to make these effective. Plus, these will take out only about 1% of the world’s present CO2 production from fossil fuel use (the other 2% from agricultural and other non-electricity sources). Grand view, but I believe TOTALLY unrealistic. We have almost no “firmed” renewables – and Finn says to go “off grid” would cost about 3 times the cost of existing rooftop PV plus batteries (aleady a problem). With renewables, the grid itself as to be able to operate effectively “off grid”.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson (Re your comment above at June 18, 2019 at 6:31 pm)

            I stated in my earlier comment that:
            “It seems apparently in 2008, China started building four units of the AP1000’s 2005-design.”

            You say:
            “2 x AP1000 reactors went online in China in July and August 2018 – a 4th online in China in October 13th 2018.”

            Build start in 2008, operational in 2018 – that’s circa 10 years, NOT 36 months.

            You appear to be dismissing “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis”, CSIRO/AEMO’s “GenCost 2018”, LUT/EWG study and other studies indicating that nuclear is more expensive than ‘firmed’ renewables. It seems these studies are all inconvenient to your narrative.

            You apparently ignore Spratt and Dunlop’s policy paper 2050 scenario that threatens humanity’s existence.

            You apparently ignore that uranium and thorium are finite resources, so they cannot be “perpetuity” energy technologies.

            You say:
            “I think the quickest way we can reduce our electricity-production CO2 emissions is to first drop coal in favour of natural gas, which can be done very quickly using existing steam generators and will essential halve this source of CO2”

            You apparently ignore the fact humanity must stop burning ALL FOSSIL FUELS to reduce our global GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050 – burning more gas defeats that objective. Unconventional gas has a “fugitive emissions” problem that likely makes it far worse than coal, because methane is a much more potent GHG compared with CO2.

            In 2018, USA produced more than a fifth (21.5%) of the world’s gas supply, yet it reportedly has an R/P of only 14.3 years. (BPSRoWE-2019). Despite record production growth in 2018, the boom can’t last.

            It seems to me that facts are irrelevant for you. It seems no one is going to dissuade you from your faith in nuclear and your apparent anti-renewable viewpoint.

          • Ian Thompson says

            Hi Geoff

            I am certainly NOT at all anti-renewable – I have no idea where you got that from.

            I certainly AM aware of Lazard’s report – but you still DO have to include balancing costs and PV/Wind “spill” into the equation – not just look at the instantaneous peak power of any technology.

            I just don’t think we will be able to manufacture and install 100’s of millions of solar panels, batteries, hydro, transmission lines, etc., within the timeframe you are suggesting – no matter what the will.

            My more pragmatic approach is to first reduce CO2 as much as we can (by TEMPORARILY going to natural gas is necessary), then ELIMINATE CO2 production by TEMPORARILY going to nuclear – to give us breathing space to get all the renewables and balancing options in place (still assuming these don’t become supplanted by a more cost-effectiove option).

            We do have to be realistic about timelines – I’m thinking you have never travelled – the World is a HUGE place – the World has IMMENSE numbers of people in it – changes are simply just not going to happen at the “flick of a switch”.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson (Re your comments at June 19, 2019 at 11:48 am)
            You say:

            “I am certainly NOT at all anti-renewable – I have no idea where you got that from”

            How about this comment of yours earlier:
            “Sorry Geoff – no matter how hard you wish for and pray for a fully renewables energy economy, I still doubt I’ll see that in my lifetime – it will take too long to install the millions upon millions of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, and hundreds of transmission lines and hydro plants needed to make these effective. Plus, these will take out only about 1% of the world’s present CO2 production from fossil fuel use (the other 2% from agricultural and other non-electricity sources). Grand view, but I believe TOTALLY unrealistic.”

            It seems rather a defeatist attitude to me. Where do you get the 1% figure from? Is that from Bjorn Lomborg?

            Yet the LUT/EWG study says it can be done by 2050 and will be cheaper than the existing system – all that’s missing is a lack of political will.
            See: http://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/EWG_LUT_100RE_All_Sectors_Global_Report_2019.pdf

            You say:
            “I certainly AM aware of Lazard’s report – but you still DO have to include balancing costs and PV/Wind “spill” into the equation – not just look at the instantaneous peak power of any technology.”

            It appears you have forgotten (or didn’t see) my earlier comment to you here:
            https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/powering-finland-nuclear-renewables/#comment-447646

            Per the Professor Blakers YouTube video that is included in my comment:
            “The estimated additional (upper bound) balancing cost is $25/MWh for 100% renewables.”. Did you not see that? Or have you forgotten it?

            You also say:
            “I just don’t think we will be able to manufacture and install 100’s of millions of solar panels, batteries, hydro, transmission lines, etc., within the timeframe you are suggesting – no matter what the will.”

            Are you an expert in this complex field? Do you spend your professional life engaged in this technology area? If not, then I suggest you are just expressing an uninformed opinion, like billions of other people that have no expertise. I make no claim to be an expert in this area – I’m deferring to what the professionals in this area are saying and it appears compelling to me.

            IMO, if renewables can’t work then humanity is stuffed – the evidence I see is a post- ‘peak oil’ and post- ‘peak gas’ world will likely emerge very soon (i.e. 2020s) and we will likely revert back to a pre-industrial agrarian age from a lack of energy, with a drop in population probably below 1 billion before this century ends, if we can’t rapidly reduce our dependency on oil and gas – that is if dangerous climate change doesn’t hit us. There’s also a risk of nuclear war as nations fight over dwindling resources.

            There are multiple independent studies looking into this area of energy supply and transmission technologies – you appear to be dismissing them all – based on what exactly? It seems everyone’s a critic, but few have the relevant knowledge and judgement.

  4. Hi, wondering if someone could advise if this summary from Peter Farley, a fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers, is broadly accurate. The nuclear figure is accurate, not sure about the others. Peter writes: “As for nuclear the 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage. … For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000 MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries. … That is why nuclear is irrelevant in Australia. It has nothing to do with greenies, it’s just about cost and reliability.”
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/how-did-wind-and-solar-perform-in-the-recent-heat-wave-40479/

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Jim

      As a ballpark figure that’s about correct. Especially considering the new Vogtle reactors won’t come online for 2 and 3 years.

      • Thanks Ronald! Here’s the recent experience with nuclear power in north America and western Europe:
        — V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (2 x AP1000 reactors) abandoned after expenditure of at least A$12.8 billion. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy and parent company Toshiba almost went bankrupt as well. Westinghouse and Toshiba have joined the growing number of companies that will no longer take on the risks of large reactor construction projects.
        — Vogtle project in US state of Georgia (2 x AP1000 reactors): cost estimate has doubled to A$40 billion and will increase further, and the project might yet be abandoned.
        — UK: 3 of 6 proposed reactor projects have been abandoned (Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury), two remain in limbo and Hinkley Point C is proceeding at an estimated cost of A$40 billion for two EPR reactors. Lifetimes subsidies estimated at £30‒50+ billion for Hinkley Point.
        — UK Wylfa (Wales) project: Hitachi abandoned the project despite offers from UK government to take a one third equity stake in the project; to consider providing all of the required debt financing; and to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be about £75 per megawatt hour.
        — France and Finland – EPR reactors, nearly 10 years behind schedule, 3 times over-budget, latest estimates A$16‒20 billion for each reactor.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Well, if you can REALLY buy all of the wind, solar, pumped hydro, and batteries for the same amount as the Vogtle’s US$30 billion, things look more than rosy.

        My calculations using a 33% capacity factor for wind (on the day I looked, it was closer to 22% – but the writers stated that 30-35% was more normal):
        https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy
        Used 20% factor for rooftop PV, as my own installation is well placed, and in a good Zone and gets 18% – is probably above average.
        Used 35% estimate for tracking solar – as it cannot really work at night, not much just after dawn and before dusk, and clouds will sometimes intervene.
        I’ve allowed for 45% of the energy produced to then do a return trip through the pumped hydro and battery storage, with a 15% loss amounting to 458 MW of loss (you could use a different figure, at your discretion – but these would often be used at nightime or in poor weather, when wind may shut down due to excessive windspeed – but won’t change the outcome much).

        So, my calculations suggest an actual average of 6,325 MW from the alternative system – I’m assuming there will be enough storage, but feel this may be a little marginal at times – I guess the “mix” could be re-jigged.

        Compared to 1,980 MW nuclear – sounds like a slam-dunk.

        All depends if you can REALLY buy all the systems for an equivalent price.
        And, we will continue to burn toxic coal until it is all in place?

    • Ian Thompson says

      Aaaargh!

      Jim – we’ve been sold a pup.

      The result of my calculations using the Votgle cost seemed too good to be true – here was me wondering if Peter Farley’s purchase of all that renewables could REALLY be done for the cost of Votgle – but now I see units 1 & 2 started running in 1989 at a cost of US$8.87 billion – which is a lot less than $34 billion.
      He is talking about the cost for planned units 3 & 4, which has certainly had it’s share of (financial) problems – so is more likely an “outlier”.
      Olkiluota cost $4.8 billion for units 1 & 2 (1,770 MW), so very much less than Votgle.
      So – I don’t think you’d really have the money to buy so much on the list.

      Also – with 24,000 MW of generating capacity, I don’t think a total of 10,000 MW of storage is anywhere near enough to cover a few cloudy days and long term lower-than-average wind speeds. c.f. home systems might use 12 kWhr for a 5 kW PV system.

      So, I don’t think the comparison should be made, between an outlier cost, and a system that is below par.

      • Thanks Ian. Vogtle 3&4 is comparable to all recent experience in the US and western Europe:
        — V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (2 x AP1000 reactors) abandoned after expenditure of at least A$12.8 billion. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy and parent company Toshiba almost went bankrupt as well. Westinghouse and Toshiba have joined the growing number of companies that will no longer take on the risks of large reactor construction projects.
        — Vogtle project in US state of Georgia (2 x 1.1 GW AP1000 reactors): cost estimate has doubled to A$40 billion and will increase further, and the project might yet be abandoned.
        — UK: 3 of 6 proposed reactor projects have been abandoned (Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury), two remain in limbo and Hinkley Point C is proceeding at an estimated cost of A$40 billion for two EPR reactors (1.6 GW each). Lifetimes subsidies estimated at £30‒50+ billion for Hinkley Point.
        — UK Wylfa (Wales) project: Hitachi abandoned the project despite offers from UK government to take a one third equity stake in the project; to consider providing all of the required debt financing; and to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be about £75 per megawatt hour.
        — France (Flamanville) and Finland (Olkiluoto) – EPR reactors (1.6 GW each), nearly 10 years behind schedule, 3 times over-budget, latest estimates A$16‒20 billion for each reactor.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Hi Jim

          Fair enough. But do we know the reason for the cost of nuclear blowing out by a factor of about 10 in recent years?

          Seems to me that there must be some other factors in play – after all, the US alone has had about 30-odd much cheaper plants in operation, displacing absolutely vast quantites of coal CO2 and other nasty emissions, for some 20-40 years now.

          Could action groups be intentionally prolonging our use of coal – ignoring the impact on climate?

        • Ian Thompson says

          Hi Jim

          I’ve just been on a website – that suggests the construction time for Westinghouse designed AP1000’s should be 36 months!

          There just has to be something going on – nuclear plant used to be able to be constructed for a reasonably competitive cost and in a relatively short timeframe – now, with all the advances of Computer-Aided Design, CAD machining centres, vast improvements in numerical calculations, etc., we take forever and cost a mint.

          BTW – I do find it “fake”, when some people compare the “generation capacity” and capital cost of nuclear, which will run for 60 years at 90% capacity rate, with rooftop solar at 18% capacity rate that must be replaced every 25 years, and needs batteries replaced every 10 years to provide functional equivalence.

  5. Should be mentioned that the Olkiluoto EPR reactor is a First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) build, so of course it will have cost/time overruns. The third to be built cost $7.5B and is already complete.

    High costs and long lead times are commonplace for FOAKs, and they often apply to all energy generation types (including solar).

  6. “My ability to not argue about something solely based on my feelings and being content to wait until I have real evidence is a superpower of mine.”

    It really, really, is!

  7. Des Scahill says

    Even just mining radioactive materials, let alone refining them then using them for other purposes has huge risks as this 2013 article in the SMH shows:

    https://www.smh.com.au/environment/radioactive-spill-in-kakadu-stirs-rage-20131208-2yzee.html

    An estimated 1.4 million litres of radioactive slurry burst the mine’s Leach Tank 1 and spilled out.

    The Ranger mine, operated by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) in the middle of Kakadu National Park at the time already had a history of 120 spills.

    We don’t seem to have learned anything at all from such events. There’s still unresolved ‘debate’ going on about storing the world’s nuclear waste in the outback and getting paid for doing so, or centralizing all of Australia’s radioactive waste at facilities located in suburbs of Sydney.

    The reason why anyone would even bother to talk about using ‘nuclear’ generation of electricity and torturing basic principles of accounting and commonsense until those confess that it makes sense to do so completely escapes me.

    The only conclusion I can reach is that at some unknown time in the past, all the lunatics escaped from their various aslyums, donned white coats to pose a ‘doctors of problem solving’ and are now secretly running the place, with world domination as their ultimate goal. There does seem to be strong circumstantial evidence on TV just at the moment that the early victims of this conspiratorial plot are around.

    Also of some interest is at 2015 study by Duke University in the USA which you can find here: https://phys.org/news/2015-09-radioactive-contaminants-coal-ash.html which I’ll quote from:

    “A new Duke University-led study has revealed the presence of radioactive contaminants in coal ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins.

    The study found that levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to 10 times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity.”found that levels of radioactivity in the ash were up to five times higher than in normal soil, and up to 10 times higher than in the parent coal itself because of the way combustion concentrates radioactivity.”

    The same article mentions in passing the other known contaminants in coal such as selenium, lead, and arsenic

    • Ian Thompson says

      Nasty – but, no-one died! The death rate figures for nuclear – which include mining and processing, and waste disposal – are 0.04 deaths per terrawatt-hour of energy produced.
      Solar – 0.4 deaths, a factor of 10 more (I’ve said 100 before – my bad)
      Wind – 0.15 deaths, a better factor of 3.75 greater than nuclear.
      Coal – 161 deaths per terrawatt-hour, over 4,000 times more than nuclear, and we are still using it!

      I think the safety argument against nuclear is specious – it is the safest technology there is for producing power.
      I think “the long time to construct” is also specious – if economically viable, government should have committed 10-15 years ago, when we would now be largely carbon free – but the Greens hijacked this opportunity.
      However, the economic argument is far more real – if nuclear is really uneconomic, then we have to decide if we pay anyway in order to lower carbon emissions, or otherwise feel certain renewables can be implemented in a sufficiently short time-frame, and at a low enough cost – it’s that simple.

  8. The flies in the ointment are: waste disposal and accidents.

    When I was living in the UK 20 years ago I read an item in the Observer that waste from Windscale was being stored in drums, some outside, others in tin sheds, that were beginning to show signs of deterioration. Scientists were worried that a runaway reaction may occur. How is waste sequestered safely and cheaply, certainly not in drums at the bottom of the ocean as has happened ?

    Look at Fukushima. A complete disaster for Japan not that the Japanese govt. will ever admit it. And that is only one example. You can be sure that in the future there will be more catastrophes of this magnitude. Humans are greedy, well the ones that are on the gravy train when it comes to nuclear power, and have an unerring ability for laziness and cutting corners when critical procedures need to be observed.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hi David

      Are you sure you’ve got your facts accurate?

      The 2011 disaster in Japan was the Tsunami that killed 20,000 people – and also resulted in causing the Fukushima reactor melt-down.

      The Fukushima disaster has resulted in great disruption, no doubt, but only 1 death. Hell, the 737 Max8 crashes killed 346 people! Are you now going to suggest we ban air travel? Even Chernobyl only had 38 deaths – but this was barely a Commercial reactor (more a military one). Noone died in the Three Mile Island accidental radioactive gas release in the USA.

      The data I have is that the fatality rate for Nuclear – INCLUDING the mining of uranium, refining, and decommissioning – is 0.04 deaths per terrawatt-hour of electicity produced. Whereas, the Solar PV death rate is 0.4 deaths per terrawatt-hour of energy produced – some 100 times greater than nuclear.
      (Or, nuclear is 100 times safer than Solar).

      I don’t know why the rate for Solar is so high – perhaps it is because you’d need about 50,000,000 panels to replace the energy production of only 1 decent 3 GW nuclear plant (you can calculate this out yourself) – so the risks of falling off roof accidents and electrocution are so much increased.

      Coal is the thing we should be getting rid of – death rate 161 deaths per terrawatt-hour – even if this means going nuclear – which will also largely eliminate CO2 production. Finn is correct!

      Mercury has been detected in mother’s milk in the USA – getting there from the fallout of burning coal. Mercury has been implicated in the reduced intellectual development of children in the USA.

  9. Jack Watson says

    I note you didn’t do a comparison on the basis of windpower between Finland and Oz.

  10. Jack Watson says

    ps… The key being the NON-storage of power requirement.

  11. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Jack
    I’m not following your point?

    Wind shows hugh daily, seasonal, and annual variation over massive geographical areas – so using wind, how would you plan to avoid storage requirements?

    Finland has access to large dispatchable power sources – hydro-energy – can’t really compare with much of Oz?

  12. This is in part about national security and gaining energy supply independence in an uncertain energy world so the more options we have the better. Energy supply across hostile borders would be a significant subtle weakness in case of hostilities as the Nazis found out in WW2.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Distributed wind and solar would certainly be a lot safer from enemy attack than nuclear concentrated in a couple of locations.

  13. Ernie Elliott says

    Hi guys, just thinking outside the box, how much research is done into tidal generation? After all, for renewable energy, it would have to be the most reliable source, with two low tides and two high tides each and every day. How difficult is it to produce? Especially since there are such huge tidal differences there.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Tidal energy is much more expensive than wind with optimistic estimates generally being at least 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. Part of the reason is because the marine environment is hard on machinery. But if conditions in Finland are naturally suitable maybe it would make sense for it to be part of the mix.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Hi Ronald

        I’d think not so much more expensive than PV & Wind, at around 7-11 cent/kwh when balancing costs are included?

        Interestingly, I have seen operating costs figures for US nuclear (presumable after the capital costs have been recovered), of US 2.4 cents/kwh ~ A 3.5 c/kwh? It would seem worth keeping these going, if they can continue to deliver at that rate! Several plants are now being re-licensed to a 60-year life.

        I often think people get confused between incremental energy costs, and whole-of-life energy costs (when maintenance and replacements have to be factored in). Obviously, PV has near-zero operating costs – but if batteries are used, these may need to be replaced every 10 years.

        Geoff Miell has sent me some very useful references – I’ll thank him here (no replay button). The cost of balancing for 100% renewables is stated at about 2.5 c/kwh – which is a lot lower than I’d thought it would be.

  14. Des Scahill says

    Perhaps I’m just afflicted with a ‘I hate mushroom clouds’ syndrome after watching too many re-runs of ‘Dr Strangelove’ and need to see a counsellor, but to say ‘no-one died’ (as the result of a nuclear waste spill) and to therefore imply that the ruination of hundreds of square kilometres of land is of little consequence, is a stretch of credibility that even Lewis Carroll, author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, would find hard to achieve.

  15. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Des

    Yes, I think you should see a counsellor to deal with your “bleeding heart” and help improve your credibility – of the very few number of nuclear reactor accidents that have ever happened in the entire world, none have resulted in a mushroom cloud – nor would they, the physics simply doesn’t match up.

    Evidently, I have VASTLY more concern about human lives and the environment than you – for a person who is happy to mouth off, your extreme level of gross ignorance about this is absolutely astounding.

    Did you know that the 98 commercial nuclear reactors operating in the USA produced 807 TWhr of energy in 2018? – because you are possibly not well equipped to understand this number, that is 807 followed by 9 zeros worth of kWhrs of energy – which is an awful lot. Not only that, but those 98 reactors have been producing high levels of energy since at least 2001. I’ll provide a discount on this rate, since reactor utilisation has not always been as high, but even then, this corresponds to about 10,800 TWhr over the last 18 years.

    Now, 1.142 kg of CO2 will be produced to make 1 kWhr of electrical energy from burning hard coal – probably significantly more in fact, as steam plant efficiencies are most likely better now than previously – and sometimes lower grade coal is burned, producing proportionally more CO2.

    So, these 98 reactors have displaced 12,000,000,000 TONNES of CO2 by my calculations, that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmoshere by coal plant, potentially resulting in the “ruination” of the ENTIRE PLANET.
    Not only that, but using the published fatality rate from coal, this has resulted in the saving of 1,728,000 human lives.

    That is just for the 98 USA reactors – as far as I can see, there are presently 449 reactors operating worldwide – 4.58 times as many, so the numbers above could be multiplied up, for much greater impact on the saving the planet and human lives.

    Now, I agree the Ranger spill was nasty, and should never have happened, and lessons need to be learned, but the above makes your tears for the (temporary) possible (not confirmed) damage to some scrub in the desert outback seem to pale into insignificance, doesn’t it? By the way, it was not a nuclear waste spill (implying from a reactor) – rather a processing spill of sulphuric acid combined with radioactive slurry resulting from a tank rupture. I don’t think you have any evidence that it has resulted in the “ruination of hundreds of square kilometres of land” – methinks a bit of an exaggeration.

    Anyway, toughen up and get over it – the polluted area will recover in a relatively short time – reports state that previously endangered species are now absolutely thriving around Chernobyl, and that was a release of high-grade radiation over a large area – nothing like the Ranger tank rupture.

    I do not know why nuclear plant construction costs have increased by an order of magnitude in recent times – but am concerned that approvals are being delayed and deferred more by the ignorance and shallow thinking of the technically illiterate, leading to delays and cost blow-outs – without any understanding of the true consequences of otherwise staying with coal.
    I’m ok with nuclear, but if the costs are genuinely too much (not being artificially boosted by morons), then so be it – although I do feel we will have to accept some modest energy cost increases, in order to save the world.
    So far in the West, renewables have only increased our energy prices – I suspect by forcing our dispatchable plant to run inefficiently “off design”.

    I suspect, Des, that you are much more of the problem, than the solution.

  16. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Geoff

    Well – I do happen to have some project management experience.
    But my reading of what is going on with opposition to renewables in Germany, nuclear reactors still being built wordwide, very large resource industries investing in NG, UK burning NG to make 59% of their electricity, USA extending some existing nuclear plant life from 40 years our to 60 – the list
    goes on – makes me conclude some experts other than your own are aware of the need to deal with transition issues.
    Even Finn appears to be saying nuclear will reduce transition CO2 – that is what got Ron’s “goat”.
    Yes, I was cognisant of the stated $25/MWhr balancing cost – and most of the other points had not been “forgotten”.
    Again, you’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick – my comments about renewables was trying to indicate to you than building millions of solar panels, and all the other things needed to make them work, will take quite some considerable time – not that we shouldn’t go that way.
    I think we will just have to agree to differ – I’m concerned your over-optimism is taking us done the path of producing far more CO2 in the interim, transition period, than that of a more balanced approach. My approach allows very rapid initial reducions of CO2, without all the new coal stations that are being proposed to ensure continuity of supply and reasonable cost. I am by no means alone in this concern.
    BTW Geoff, I got the 1% figure from a very reputable website – whenever I mention something that doesn’t agree with your position, you seem to think I am making it up.
    Please remember, there are 3 truths – your truth, my truth, and the actual truth. Please don’t take all green speak as gospel – I am an engineer, and have seen to much rubbish spouted, and so much deliberately misleading information presented, that I wish far more people had a better education.
    Greens should be supportive of nuclear – especially as it saves more lives even compared to solar, and stops CO2 emissions to boot – where are their heads at?

  17. Geoff Miell says

    Ian Thompson,

    Burning more natural gas means more CO2 emissions. Humanity needs to rapidly reduce GHG emissions and we need to start by 2020 and reduce to 50% by 2030, or we risk extinction by the end of this century, or at the very least drastically curtail civilisation, due to dangerous climate change.

    I’ve said on numerous occasions here that I see evidence of a looming global post- ‘peak oil’ and post- ‘peak gas’ world arriving (likely in the 2020s) – as indicated before, read my Submission (#9) to the Australian Senate Fair Dinkum Power inquiry.

    Unless humanity finds affordable, abundant alternative energy supplies to replace/displace declining petroleum oil and natural gas supplies (and quickly) our civilisation will experience increasing scarcity of critical energy supplies. No energy (particularly petroleum-based transport energy) means very quickly no food – no food, then we starve and die. Relying on gas as a bridging energy supply is IMO foolhardy – we need to jump straight to renewables (that’s the ultimate goal anyway), and do it quickly from both an energy security and climate change risk management perspective.

    It seems to me you appear to ignore this critical aspect (as do most other people) – you seem to assume global oil and gas production will continue at current rates and will go on long after you are dead – that’s not what the data in the latest BPSRoWE-2019 and other data I see appears to indicate. There are indications global diesel fuel production may have already peaked – that’s disturbingly critical for transport and agriculture.

    You say:
    “BTW Geoff, I got the 1% figure from a very reputable website – whenever I mention something that doesn’t agree with your position, you seem to think I am making it up.”

    If the website is “reputable” then please provide a link to it so everyone can see it (if they wish) and form a view as to whether it is “reputable” – otherwise we can only take your word for it.

    When I make statements here I usually provide links to references that support my statements so that others can make their own judgments about the veracity of the information (and whether it may be “coloured” in perspective). I’m not hiding anything – you don’t seem to be as forthcoming about the sources of information you are relying upon.

    You also say:
    “I am an engineer, and have seen to much rubbish spouted, and so much deliberately misleading information presented, that I wish far more people had a better education.”

    I concur with that statement – so it appears we agree on some things.

    You end with:
    “Greens should be supportive of nuclear – especially as it saves more lives even compared to solar, and stops CO2 emissions to boot – where are their heads at?”

    Perhaps it’s because nuclear fission technologies:
    1. Are substantially far less economically competitive compared with renewables;
    2. Take far too long to deploy compared with renewables (so it is not a solution for rapid reduction in GHG emissions – more than a decade to build that humanity cannot afford before there’s any effect);
    3. Thorium-based energy is not a mature technology, so it cannot be relied upon to make a rapid transition. That leaves only uranium/plutonium-based energy which is much less abundant compared with thorium resources;
    4. Are not long-term sustainable because uranium and thorium resources are finite;
    5. Have a toxic waste problem that will far outlast any energy benefits gained.

    Perhaps you are unwilling to accept the substantial negatives concerning nuclear fission energy?

    • Ian Thompson says

      So, you disagree with Finn’s observation that CO2 emissions would be a lot greater without nuclear?
      Yes, I do accept there are negatives concerning nuclear – as there are for ALL energy generation technologies – I fuuly accept that nuclear will have to stand on its own merits – I just happen to think we shouldn’t “throw the baby out with the bath water”.
      You seem to have forgotten we (the Royal we, the entire planet) is presently:
      1. Still burning coal, and still building brand new coal-fired power stations.
      2. Still building brand new nuclear power stations – and those, together with the 449 reactors in use, will very substantially reduce CO2 emissions, and also reduce the number of new coal stations required to be built.
      To their credit, China are about to trial the replacement of coal boilers in one of their thermal plants, with a nuclear heat source (retaining the existing turbines, alternators, switchgear, transmission lines, etc.).
      BTW, some time ago a correspondent questioned the Worldwide CO2 effect of Australia “sinking beneath the waves”. Ron’s immediate response was “3%”. I had some doubt about this so did some research – I did find the 3% figure, probably at the same source Ron was using – probably a greenie site, because I did check the source credibility. But, on the same site I then found the 3% figure was for ALL sources of CO2 – including for example, human and animal respiration (surely you don’t expect to curtail that!). Bottom line, the contribution due to fossil fuel burning was only fractionaly greater than 1% – this on the same site.
      Geoff, I think we both agree on where we want to get to – we just disagree on the implementation of Transition – i.e. how we get there.
      For my part, I’m ok with nuclear – so long as the cost of implementation is not too great, and so long as the costs are not being artificially escalated by irrational, and sometimes outright lying, obstructionists.
      Australian is not an island (well, yes it is – but you know what I mean). The entire world appears to be using NG and nuclear as a transition measures – to great CO2-reducing impact compared with coal at the present time – why not Australia as well?

      • Geoff Miell says

        Ian Thompson,
        I see you still haven’t provided a reference to the “1% figure from a very reputable website”. Are you reluctant to reveal your sources because it would expose the biases of them? Is it an anti-renewables website?

        You say:
        “Yes, I do accept there are negatives concerning nuclear…”

        Do you? I think you have been consistently dismissing them here at this weblog as being irrelevant.

        You said in an earlier comment above (at June 17, 2019 at 5:36 pm):
        “I would much prefer a nuclear plant, with far great safety, far less fatalities, and near zero CO2 – and would be willing to pay more for this, so long as it isn’t excessively expensive.”

        Ian, what’s your definition of “excessively expensive”? Double current prices? Triple?

        Per CSIRO/AEMO’s “GenCost 2018”, in “Figure 4-2: Calculated LCOE by technology and category for 2020”, Nuclear (SMR) is A$250-325/MWh,
        compared with wind with 6h PHES firming at A$75-110/MWh;
        and solar-PV with 6h PHES firming at A$70-105/MWh
        (I’m estimating these figures by eye from the graph).

        Nuclear is double to triple the cost of firmed renewables. Do you think that is not “excessively expensive”? I think it is. Or are you just dismissing the CSIRO/AEMO figures because they are inconvenient for your narrative?

        Yet there are people that are apparently less fortunate than you that are currently struggling to pay their energy bills and going without heating and cooling and reportedly suffering from hyperthermia in winter and heat stress in summer.
        See: https://www.2gb.com/podcast/an-alarming-number-of-adults-are-being-treated-for-hypothermia/

        You are promoting nuclear energy that evidence/data indicates will inevitably raise energy prices further and hurt these people (and more who are barely coping now). What I think you are suggesting is “I’m alright Jack, I can afford higher energy prices, but bugger those many poor people who can’t and won’t be able to afford the higher energy prices from nuclear energy”. IMO, you are apparently wilfully ignorant of the real issues, and lack empathy for those less fortunate than you. For what? What’s your fascination/obsession with nuclear? What are your reasons to dismiss the substantial negatives? Is the hidden agenda to lead to acquisition of nuclear weapons? That’s the only reason I can see for pursuing the nuclear-fission power path here in Australia.

        I repeat, even the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) own recent assessment (Sep 2018) says: “Nuclear power’s electricity generating capacity risks shrinking in the coming decades as ageing reactors are retired and the industry struggles with reduced competitiveness, according to a new IAEA report.”
        See: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/new-iaea-energy-projections-see-possible-shrinking-role-for-nuclear-power

        You say:
        “1. Still burning coal, and still building brand new coal-fired power stations.”

        Per “Boom and Bust 2019” report, published Mar 2019, Figure 3 shows in all, net new global coal power capacity was 19 GW in 2018—the slowest rate of growth on record, and the fourth straight year of decline. If trends continue the global coal fleet capacity will begin to decline, possibly as soon as 2020 (next year). And if that happens, then coal demand will decline as well – less generator capacity to burn coal.
        See: https://endcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/BoomAndBust_2019_r6.pdf

        You say:
        “BTW, some time ago a correspondent questioned the Worldwide CO2 effect of Australia “sinking beneath the waves”. Ron’s immediate response was “3%”. I had some doubt about this so did some research – I did find the 3% figure…”

        Was it “3%”? Where’s your reference? Are you getting it from a climate science denier website? Why won’t you reveal the origin of your source material? What are you hiding, Ian? You seem to be pushing natural gas and nuclear but spreading doubts about renewables – are you a closet anti-renewables devotee/disciple? It looks like it to me.

        This is what a former coal, oil and gas senior executive Ian Dunlop stated in his op-ed on May 2:
        “Conventional wisdom has it that Australia is such a small player in the emission stakes, our domestic emissions being only 1.3% of the global total, that anything we do domestically, such as Adani, is irrelevant to addressing the global problem. Utter nonsense. As LNG exports increase, we are about to become the fourth largest carbon polluter in the world when fossil fuel exports are included, as they must be given that the climate impact rebounds on us irrespective of the point of consumption. What Australia does matters where climate change is concerned.”
        See: https://johnmenadue.com/ian-dunlop-stopping-adani-is-a-national-necessity-economically-financially-and-for-our-survival/

        And here’s what climate scientist David Karoly said on ABC Q&A on Monday (Jun 17):
        “I AM a climate scientist, and Alan Jones is wrong. And the reason he’s wrong is that, we know that, yes, the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere – essentially the carbon dioxide concentration now – is 400 parts per million. And this was the one thing he was reasonably accurate on – that that corresponds to…about 0.04% of the whole of the atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide. All his other numbers were wrong. Because we know that that carbon dioxide concentration, 100 years ago, was about 280 parts per million, or 0.028%. But it’s gone from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million. It’s grown 120 parts per million, or about 40%, and that 40% increase is due to human activity. We know that for absolute certain. So, he’s wrong about only 3% due to human activity. It’s 40%. And of that 40%, he’s right – Australians have contributed about 1.5%. Now, that sounds like a small amount, but, actually, Australia only makes up 0.3% of the global population, and we’re contributing 1.5%, roughly, of the increase in greenhouse gases. So, is it fair that 0.3% of the global population has contributed 1.5%? We’ve contributed much more than our fair share, if it was equally distributed around the world, emissions of greenhouse gases, contributing to this global warming increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
        See: https://www.abc.net.au/qanda/2019-17-06/11191192

        It seems to me you continue to regurgitate the pro-nuclear and pro-fossil fuels messages, ignoring or downplaying the substantial (and dangerous) negatives.

  18. This one has all the figures on recent nuclear new build in north America and western Europe, with references:
    Nuclear power exits Australia’s energy debate, enters culture wars
    Tony Abbott ‒ and some others on the far-right ‒ would undoubtedly oppose nuclear power if Labor and the ‘green left’ supported it and they would be pointing to the A$14‒24 billion price-tags for new reactors in western Europe and north America.
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-power-exits-australias-energy-debate-enters-culture-wars-47702/

  19. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Jim

    Interesting read. Would Reneweconomy be a reliable, non-biased source?

    I’m not particularly a nuclear advocate – just interested in a rational and non-emotional review of ALL electricity-producing options. I do understand the negatives of nuclear, having studied nuclear engineering many, many years ago – however I do find much of the rhetoric grossly overstated.

    Yea, the costs do appear to take it out of contention – as I’ve stated before, I’m only concerned that slow construction rates and recent high cost escalations may be more a function of fear-mongering obstructionism, than true techical issues.
    Not directed at you.
    As I have said before, let each technology rest on its merits – it’s not as if PV and wind power don’t also have their negatives. If nuclear doesn’t pass the test, so be it – but I will never accede to a half-wit, bow, and touch my forelock, just because they wish to blindly follow their own, uneducated belief system, and demand I should do the same.

  20. Ian Thompson says

    Geoff
    Your last statement says it all for me.
    You haven’t comprehended a single thing I’ve stated, return with blatantly false statements, and accuse me of hiding something. Tosser.
    You could have looked this up – not the Environmental site I had looked at, but let’s not quibble – 1.3% it is.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas_emissions_by_Australia
    You’d be better placed applying your passion to the 98.7% for more impact.
    3% was Ronald’s figure – it’s on his blog – why don’t you look it up, rather than accuse me of hiding something.

    You appear to have deliberately taken my comment about preferring nuclear over coal completely out of context. Would you then, prefer to stay with coal? OF COURSE the decision would need to be taken, after weighing up the pro’s and con’s of competing technologies. Your blind, bow and touch the forelock faith prevents you from appreciating the bigger picture.

    I have concerns about your maths and logic capacities too. Is it too hard to understand that rather than keep producing CO2 emissions from burning coal to provide dispatchable power while renewables are being manufactured, built, and firmed as quickly as possible, a better option might, possibly, be to TEMPORARILY burn NG? Have a look at the following:
    https://www.ntnews.com.au/news/national/the-gamechanging-20-billion-solar-farm-project-planned-for-the-northern-territory-plus-jobs-in-sa/news-story/51b11a054a9839da7ec750fb76d30638
    10GW installed capacity, cost $20 billion, expected completion 2030.
    Knowing how these things tend to be exaggerated, I’d expect the capacity factor might only be 25%, or less. So, 2.5GW average power. Seems to be approaching the present cost of nuclear, and will have to be replaced when the panels wear out. Granted, a lot of that cost is for balancing, and buikding a hydrogen plant, I think.
    The point is, this is going to take >10 years to operational – and represents only 1 project. I stand by my 4-5 decades before we can get away from all fossil fuel burning – so what do you suggest for energy continuity in the meantime?
    I do have rooftop PV, but take issue with you that I’m someway “entitled”, and don’t give a toss about poor people. You have no righr to make those type of statements about me – you have absolutely no idea of my background.

    Perhaps you should try to be a little less hysterical about nuclear – I dismiss much of the uneducated fear of nuclear, because as a technical professional I know something about these, and in the Australian context they are very often grossly overstated. Even our Chief Scientist has stated nuclesr may well be part of the mix – are you putting yourself beyond him? Like I’ve said before but you have failed to comprehend, if nuclear is really too expensive, not just artificially escalated, then so be it – we’ll just have to use NG, TEMPORARILY.
    You clearly know little about the issues of Transition.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Ian Thompson,
      You say:
      “You haven’t comprehended a single thing I’ve stated, return with blatantly false statements, and accuse me of hiding something.”

      Oh, I think I comprehend very well what you are up to. It’s not just the statements you have directed at me, but the totality of your statements here on this weblog. I think there’s a consistent pattern of you downplaying/ignoring the negatives around nuclear energy technologies, promoting the consumption of more natural gas, spreading doubts about the efficacy of renewable energy technologies and denigrating/dismissing organisations/people providing inconvenient information that contradicts your narrative.

      You say:
      “You could have looked this up – not the Environmental site I had looked at…”

      So, Ian, why won’t you reveal “the Environmental site” that you “had looked at”? Something to hide, Ian? Would that reveal too much about your biases?

      You say:
      “You appear to have deliberately taken my comment about preferring nuclear over coal completely out of context. Would you then, prefer to stay with coal?”

      No context issue – I’m highlighting compelling evidence/data (with links) that contradicts your narrative. Your comments are generally devoid of references/links. And no, as I’ve stated on numerous occasions: that humanity must leave COAL, PETROLEUM OIL and FOSSIL NATURAL GAS (i.e. ALL FOSSIL FUELS), before 2050, to mitigate dangerous climate change. It seems to me by your question you are stuck with the mindset that only coal and nuclear are the only options for reliable power – they’re not, as Professor Andrew Blakers has outlined with pumped-hydro firming for renewables – but you seem to dismiss this entirely.

      You say”
      “I have concerns about your maths and logic capacities too.”

      Ian, now who’s having a comprehension problem? It’s not my maths. It’s not my data. I’m referring to multiple examples of evidence/data (with links to them). So, if you have a problem with the maths and logic, take it up with the authors of the references I linked to. And who are you, Ian? What’s your expertise? Perhaps you are the one with the maths and logic capacity problem? Perhaps you think you know better than them? It seems like it to me – everyone’s a critic, who think they know better than everyone else.

      You say:
      “I stand by my 4-5 decades before we can get away from all fossil fuel burning – so what do you suggest for energy continuity in the meantime?”

      Ian, do you have children, perhaps grandchildren? If the climate science is close to the mark, then if humanity is still burning fossil fuels in 4-5 decades, then your children/grandchildren are at risk of an early death due to dangerous climate change. Do you want to play Russian roulette with their lives/futures?

      Your question on energy continuity suggests you haven’t bothered to look at any of the references I’ve provided – you apparently just don’t want to know because your mind is apparently closed to the alternatives apart from nuclear and gas. Professor Andrew Blakers doesn’t see an energy continuity problem if it’s planned well (and I’ve referred to others). Planning the transition is key, but that’s unlikely when governments don’t have coherent energy and climate policies. So, until governments get their act together Australia will remain ill-prepared for an inevitable and rapid change – we are at risk of falling off the ‘energy supply cliff’ when a post- ‘peak oil’ and post- ‘peak gas’ world arrives (i.e. likely in the 2020s).

      You say:
      “Perhaps you should try to be a little less hysterical about nuclear – I dismiss much of the uneducated fear of nuclear, because as a technical professional I know something about these, and in the Australian context they are very often grossly overstated.”

      IMO, there’s nothing “hysterical” about the compelling evidence/data from reputable sources I’ve linked to (including the nuclear industry’s own International Atomic Energy Agency). But it seems these are all “hysterical” to you – how convenient for you to just label anything that doesn’t fit in with your ‘world view’ as “hysterical” and “uneducated” and “grossly overstated”?

      You say:
      “Even our Chief Scientist has stated nuclesr may well be part of the mix – are you putting yourself beyond him?”

      In June 2017, Dr Finkel AO, as Chair of the Expert Panel, published the “Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: Blueprint for the Future”. On nuclear, it includes:

      “In Australia, the establishment of nuclear power would require broad community consultation and the development of a social and legal licence. There is a strong awareness of the potential hazards associated with nuclear power plant operation, including the potential for the release of radioactive materials. Any development will require a significant amount of time to overcome social, legal, economic and technical barriers. [429]

      Nuclear generators are synchronous generators, providing services that support power system security. Different nuclear power technologies allow application at different scales. Large, traditional nuclear power plants are limited to large-scale applications, which the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation notes makes it “difficult to envisage [traditional nuclear power plants] being established on the NEM given current grid structure”. [430]”

      IMO, what was said two years ago by the Expert Panel (that included Finkel as Chair) doesn’t appear to be a ringing endorsement for nuclear for Australia then. Since then, renewable costs have declined further. So, what Finkel may have said about nuclear possibly being part of the mix here in Australia is becoming more and more remote as time passes.

      Finkel’s recent focus has been on renewable hydrogen: “Hydrogen for Australia’s future: A briefing paper for the COAG Energy Council”, dated Aug 2018. Hydrogen may well surpass natural gas quickly – it needs to for humanity to rapidly reduce GHG emissions.

      I certainly agree with Finkel’s statement (in response to the IPCC’s SR1.5°C report published last year):
      “My purpose is to urge all decision-makers – in government, industry and the community – to listen to the science.”

      • Ian Thompson says

        Firstly Geoff – let me apologise for calling you a “tosser” – obviously I don’t know if you are or not – it’s just at the time your fabrications and falsehoods were irritating me, and I concluded at that time that you were.

        Geoff – you are WRONG on almost all counts, and now I think you are more than a little paranoid. So you think “you comprehend well well what I am up to” – do you just? Let me try to set you straight.

        Firstly, I have spent my entire life working and managing mostly R&D, some working in the USA – as a consequence, I have had a great deal of exposure to dealing with, analysing, and selecting all manner of technologies, methodologies, and TIMELINES. I have no, and have never had, alliances with nuclear or fossil fuel companies, and treat each and every technology on it’s merits – I am not prone to spin, selective, groupthink, confirmation, or outlier biases, but I suspect that you are.

        It may come as a surprise to you, but even your love, love, love intermittent renewables have significant negatives – if you cannot see that, and cannot accept constructive criticism, then you are little more than a bigoted fool.

        I am totally non-partisan, and not particularly for nor against Wind, PV, Hydro, Nuclear, Tidal, or Wave power source – but I do recognise we need to get away from fossil fuels as our end game, soonest – I take each technology on it’s merits.

        Sure, I understand that nuclear appears too expensive at the moment, and maybe for ever more – but it HAS saved 12,000 million TONNES of CO2 emissions in the USA alone over the last 18 years. And maybe 1.7 million lives compared with coal What’s not to like about that? You are WRONG Geoff – nuclear has a total fatality rate about 10 times lower than PV. It is not as dangerous as you think – the technology is just not the same as an A-bomb, and Chernobyl and Fukushima were hydrogen gas explosions. Not the same thing, and not showing lukemia spikes like the A-bombs caused.
        But I agree that unless it can become cost competitive, it becomes a non-starter. The fact that there are finite reserves is a red herring. YOU have fabricated my allegiance with nuclear. However, if small modular reactor prices drop like PV, then we will need to re-think the issue. If nuclear fusion becomes a future cost-effective reality, we will have to re-think that, as well.
        However if they don’t, there is no contest.

        Sure, Wind and PV look good as far as I can see – I’ve got rooftop PV on my own home, and it is saving me money (but also costing taxpayers some money as well – you cannot deny that). I haven’t quite worked out why our power prices keep going up here in the West, but hopefully that will soon change – do wonder if it might be because our coal generation is being heavily curtailed in favour of wind and PV (a good thing), but consequently our reduced coal-fired power is dirtier, and more expensive (due to fixed costs of production). PV prices are still falling, but they must eventually become asymptotic to a minimum limit – from my experience, installing PV is quite labour-intensive, and I would expect these labour costs to increase with time unless more automation is utilised My PV is presently “firmed” from the grid using mostly coal, and had previously been curtailed due to grid overvoltage at the times of high PV output.

        I have wondered why you are persistently getting “the wrong end of the stick”. You quote my comment about fossil fuels not being totally replaced by renewables in my lifetime as being negative. Not at all – your mistake is not knowing how old I am – according the lifespan expectations, I’m unlikely to still be here in 20-25 years time. Your comment about me not caring about the “strugglers” regarding power price increased is unwarranted, and WRONG. At my mere mention of the big N word, your appeared to suffer apoplexy – and all I was wondering, was if obstructionists such as you were the root cause of the recent, sudden cost increases. Not a promotion of the technology, which has a lot going for it, and negatives, but merely wondering what would cause such a massive and sudden escalation of costs?
        Your accusation that I’m negative due to saying it will take a long time to install millions of solar panels is also WRONG. From my recollection, I had calculated 52,000,000 panels need to be installed, to acheive the energy output of just 1 decent nuclear (or coal, or hydro) plant – I was not implying at any time, that we shouldn’t do this, just that it was going to take some time to do it. This is not negative, just a simple statement of fact. I simply brought up NG as a method to short-term (near IMMEDIATELY in the overall scheme of things) HALVE the quantity of CO2 emitted while renewables are put in place, with their balancing requirements. NG is good for load-following – so further benefits accrue whilst waiting for balancing to be optimised – the NG plant can be turned down to maximise CO2 emissions savings from renewbles when they are producing more, rather than have intermittents curtailed, like they have been in SA in recent history. What’s so hard to understand about that? This is what the UK are doing, what much of Europe is doing, what Japan is doing, what the USA is doing – they wish to minimise ongoing CO2 emissions, while setting up renewables.

        As I’ve said before – we agree on the objective – it’s just that I don’t believe you have a credible understanding of the timelines involved. The World is increasing its consumption of NG, and that is a good thing (for the interim) because it reduces CO2 emissions compared to useing coal for dispatchable power in the meantime.

        I think you need to pull your head in, and take stock of your biases.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Ian Thompson,
          You say:
          “Firstly Geoff – let me apologise for calling you a “tosser” – obviously I don’t know if you are or not – it’s just at the time your fabrications and falsehoods were irritating me, and I concluded at that time that you were.”

          Is it really an apology when you follow up with unsubstantiated allegations of “fabrications and falsehoods”? What “fabrications and falsehoods? Please be specific.

          You say:
          “Geoff – you are WRONG on almost all counts, and now I think you are more than a little paranoid. So you think “you comprehend well well what I am up to” – do you just?

          Ian, “WRONG” where? Please be specific – don’t be vague, generalise and continue to engage in ad hominem with words like “a little paranoid”. Deal with the specifics and argue with facts/evidence and logic. Who’s being hyperbolic and emotive here?

          I’ve looked at what you have written here at this weblog and I’ve come to the conclusion (and I’ll repeat again) that it appears to me that “there’s a consistent pattern of you downplaying/ignoring the negatives around nuclear energy technologies, promoting the consumption of more natural gas, spreading doubts about the efficacy of renewable energy technologies and denigrating/dismissing organisations/people providing inconvenient information that contradicts your narrative.” That’s my opinion based on the totality of what you have written here at this weblog, nothing more.

          You say:
          “I am not prone to spin, selective, groupthink, confirmation, or outlier biases, but I suspect that you are.”

          And yet you won’t reveal your sources of information. Why is that? Is it because that would reveal your own biases? I’m upfront about where I get my evidence/data from – why aren’t you? I’m just following what the compelling evidence/data shows me. It appears to me that you find this too confronting for your ‘world view’, and resort to “tosser” and “paranoid”, rather than look carefully with an open mind to the information presented.

          For instance, your first response to Jim above (your comment at June 22, 2019 at 8:55 pm) was:
          “Interesting read. Would Reneweconomy be a reliable, non-biased source?”

          It says to me you are quick to judge, rather than first look at the substance of the information presented.

          You then say to Jim:
          “I’m not particularly a nuclear advocate – just interested in a rational and non-emotional review of ALL electricity-producing options. I do understand the negatives of nuclear, having studied nuclear engineering many, many years ago – however I do find much of the rhetoric grossly overstated.”

          Ah ha, now you reveal to Jim (and everyone else) a bias towards nuclear – I think that goes a long way to explain your attitudes expressed here. Yet you erroneously allege to me that: “YOU have fabricated my allegiance with nuclear.” It looks like you have an “allegiance” with nuclear to me.

          You’ve invested time studying nuclear engineering, (and if you’ve studied it, perhaps you may have spent some of your professional life in the nuclear industry in the US?), so I suspect it’s difficult for you to concede, despite all the compelling evidence/data available, that there are undeniable indications nuclear fission technologies:
          1. Are substantially far less economically competitive compared with new renewables;
          2. Take far too long to deploy compared with renewables (so it is not a solution for rapid reduction in GHG emissions – more than a decade to build that humanity cannot afford before there’s any effect);
          3. Thorium-based energy is not a mature technology, so it cannot be relied upon to make a rapid transition. That leaves only uranium/plutonium-based energy which is much less abundant compared with thorium resources;
          4. Are not long-term sustainable because uranium and thorium resources are finite;
          5. Have a toxic waste problem that will far outlast any energy benefits gained.

          You say:
          “…but it HAS saved 12,000 million TONNES of CO2 emissions in the USA alone over the last 18 years. And maybe 1.7 million lives compared with coal What’s not to like about that?”

          Show me where I’ve disputed these issues? Now who’s “got the wrong end of the stick”? Now who’s “fabricating”?

          You say:
          “The fact that there are finite reserves is a red herring.”

          Really, Ian? So, what happens when finite nuclear fuels become scarce and unaffordable? How do nuclear reactors function without nuclear fuel, Ian? Or do you think uranium and thorium have an infinite supply here on planet Earth? What planet are you on, Ian?

          You say:
          “You quote my comment about fossil fuels not being totally replaced by renewables in my lifetime as being negative.”

          Ah, yep. You seem to ignore that the climate scientists are telling us that humanity must start dramatically reducing our GHG emissions from 2020, reducing to 50% by 2030, and net-zero by 2050. If we don’t, the consequences are likely existential for humanity (and for many other species) before this century is over. So that means we must rapidly reduce all fossil fuel emissions – NOT JUST COAL, NOT JUST COAL & FOSSIL NATURAL GAS, but EVERY human-caused GHG. But perhaps you are a climate science denier, so there’s no apparent urgency for you? Or you think you will be dead long before the proverbial hits the fan, so you are unfussed by it all – just an academic curiosity for you perhaps? Pity your children and grandchildren (if you have any?) to bear the consequences.

          You say:
          “NG is good for load-following – so further benefits accrue whilst waiting for balancing to be optimised – the NG plant can be turned down to maximise CO2 emissions savings from renewbles when they are producing more, rather than have intermittents curtailed, like they have been in SA in recent history. What’s so hard to understand about that?”

          What? Haven’t heard of hydro? Pumped-hydro (both on-river and off-river)? Solar-thermal with molten salt energy storage? Batteries? Supercapacitors? All are proven ‘dispatchable’ technologies to balance the ‘intermittents’ at various capacities and timescales, and the costs are quantifiable. Gas is only going to get more expensive when a post- ‘peak gas’ supply world emerges (i.e. likely in the 2020s). Ah, but perhaps you think finite gas and oil reserves are also a “red herring”? Just keep extracting natural gas and oil for ever and a day, eh Ian? Can’t imagine oil and gas supplies ever getting scarce and unaffordable, Ian? Just look at the rising price of diesel fuel relative to petrol and LPG over the last decade. Why do you think that would be, Ian?

          It’s clear to me, you are “uneducated” and apparently wilfully ignorant of the energy security and climate change challenges facing us, and the available, affordable solutions, possibilities and timelines. It seems to me you are stuck with your apparent prejudices/biases and can’t argue effectively because you don’t have compelling contradictory evidence/data – apparently just unsubstantiated suppositions, flawed logic and out-of-date information – that’s perhaps why you resort to ad hominem, emotive language and hyperbole to distract from your own inadequacies. Please argue with compelling evidence/data that can be verified and we might all learn something. But I suspect your mind is closed – prove me wrong!

          • Jim Green says

            Good on you Geoff.
            I think Ian is trolling and is best ignored.
            Some good fun on ABC’s Media Watch last night!
            https://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/nuclear/11240618

          • Ian Thompson says

            Hi Jim

            I had to look up what “trolling” means – don’t think that is what I was doing – just feel we have to recognise timelines, and be aware of how other countries are dealing with transition.

            I wasn’t seriously suggesting we must, or even should, go for nuclear – just had wondered if the cost hikes are being caused by coal boosters, or possibly even irrational obstructionists.

            But I do believe we will be forced to utilise NG during transition to renewables, but only for transition, to minimise CO2 emissions overall during the interim period.

            All the other accusations and misrepresentations are garbage.

            Watched your link – had missed that – pretty good, but I don’t know if anything was proven, either way. I do wonder, though, why there is so much focus on Chernobyl – this did not have modern controls, and had a purpose to make plutonium for military use – it was not really representative of modern commercial application.

            But I do agree that presently, the cost of nuclear is too much to consider.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Jim Green (re your comment at 25 June 2019 at 06:18pm),

            You are perhaps correct about feeding the trolls, even tame ones. The exchanges from you-know-who are becoming a tiresome ‘Gish gallop’ of prejudices/biases, ineffective argument, unsubstantiated accusations, withholding sources of information, ignoring inconvenient information/arguments, ad hominem and hyperbole.

            Many thanks for your link to the ABC Media Watch segment “Nuclear debate”. I missed that bit. Cheers.

            BTW, are you the same “Dr Jim Green” mentioned in the Media Watch segment you linked to? If so, well done for the RenewEconomy piece “Nuclear power exits Australia’s energy debate, enters culture wars” earlier this month. IMO, the evidence/data presented there is compelling… and damning. I’m not surprised by it, as I was already aware of some of the information highlighted, and I’m pleased that the piece has apparently gained wider coverage on the national broadcaster. Hopefully, more people will wake-up to the lies and deceit being propagated by certain media people and organisations.

            I agree with Paul Barry’s final remark:
            “…we need a proper energy debate — but on the evidence.”

            Unfortunately, it seems some (perhaps many?) people have a blinkered, ill-informed perspective and find it difficult to recognize and accept new compelling evidence/data. IMO the efforts of the likes of News Corp, Sky and Radio 2GB and broadcast affiliates aren’t helping!

            And the windows of opportunity are rapidly closing to minimize the twin risks of falling off the ‘energy supply cliff’ (particularly transport energy) and effective mitigation of dangerous climate change.

            You may wish to check out my presentation P/P slides and script delivered at a public meeting last week conducted by the Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) concerning the Ulan Coal Mine MOD 4 project determination. Perhaps there may be some information of interest to you?
            Slides: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/projects/2019/05/ulan-coal-mod-4/public-meeting/presentations/geoff-miell-presentation-slides.pptx
            Script: https://www.ipcn.nsw.gov.au/resources/pac/media/files/pac/projects/2019/05/ulan-coal-mod-4/public-meeting/presentations/geoff_miell.pdf

          • Jim Green says

            Hi Geoff, yes that was my article that got a plug on Media Watch
            https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-power-exits-australias-energy-debate-enters-culture-wars-47702/
            A longer version of that info is posted at:
            https://nuclear.foe.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Nuclear-power-economic-crisis-June-2019-FoE-Aust.pdf
            It’s easy enough to get published in places like RenewEconomy or Online Opinion, and that would be a better use of your time rather than taking on the trolls.

      • Ian Thompson says

        Geoff, Geoff, Geoff

        I SPECIFICALLY accuse you of falsehoods, misinterpretation, misrepresentation, paranoia, and fabrication, because you persistently and repeatably accuse me of being anti-renewables, of pedalling nuclear and somehow being associated with it, of down-playing the negatives of nuclear, of not understanding technologies in general, of having biases and prejudices, the list goes on – where simply NONE of this is true – not even close!

        I don’t downplay/ignore the negatives of nuclear – I do know the negatives. My only suggestion for nuclear, was if it became economically attractive in a timeframe that allowed it to be deployed, TEMPORARILY, for CO2 reduction benefit while going through the difficult task of transition. I do not agree with you that the management of waste outweighs the benefits (of 12,000 million tonnes of CO2, for example – you should be able to calcualte this, just as I did). As I said, and you ignored, the fact of finite uranium resources is irrelevant in this context, so therefore a red herring to argue against – I had no thought of this being more than a relatively short-term (40 year) opportunity in the overall scheme of things.
        Same goes for NG – the UK have been able to cease burning coal for 80 days, by burning 59% NG – you can find this on the web – I again only suggested this as an interim measure, to reduce CO2 emissions – like many other countries around the world appear to be doing..
        Tell me Geoff – where are the grid-level supercapacitors located?
        Do we have a lot of molten salt storage facilities in Australia?
        Why are Finn and Ronald saying, still, that batteries are presently too expensive for rooftop solar, and will only increase CO2 emissions?
        Why should grid-level batteries be any different – other than for making money by “hedging” electricity prices (granted, economies of scale will help)?
        Why don’t we have enough batteries on grid now, to provide balancing – going along progressively as PV is being introduced?
        Why do Vic and SA have large banks of diesel generators stacked up “just in case” – what is going to be done with them once the need goes away?
        Where is the pumped hydro located in the Perth area? Where are the large scale transmission lines from Tasmania – the “Battery of Australia”? Where is the interconnector to WA located, and the transmission lines going to it?

        Will you also be against nuclear fusion, should it get to the stage of being competitive? Could you then look a little red-faced, if all your precious intermittents become irrelevant, stranded assets?

        Contrary to your persistent fabrications (and in spite of the above), I am certainly not a renewables hater – it’s just that I am not over-the-moon in love with them either, like you appear to be. This is not a football match – I don’t take sides, just look at the merits. I think we should, no must, go ahead with renewables as fast as we can – a saving grace is that if a newer, even better technology eventually comes along in the fullness of time, we can simply not replace solar panels once they become worn out. I am “for” renewables in that sense.

        Your several “guilt trips” do you no credit. So what if we presently produce 1.5% of the worlds CO2, with only 0.3% of the population? Surely this just means we have a lot more work to do. Though having lived and travelled in the USA, and travelled extensively in Europe, I have to query why we are over-represented? Could it possibly be that France, the USA, Germany, et al, all have been using nuclear for years, and have better access to much more hydro than we do in Australia, and we have been using the dirtiest of brown coal a lot?
        Whether or not I specifically have children or grandchildren is an irrelevant arguement – we are talking about saving the entire planet, not just our (very) small corner of it.

        Your comments implying I somehow think we will keep using finite resources, including uranium, forever are utterly ridiculous – I have NEVER suggested any such thing, nor would I ever do so. It is disengenuous for you to come up with this frivilous statement, and it makes you look small-minded. It seems you are grasping at straws, and will fabricate any tripe whatsoever to suit your own narrow-minded and limited viewpoint.

        And please stop harping on and on and on about the 1.3% figure – you seem to agree with 1.5%, so I am not going to quibble. I honestly simply don’t recall where I read the 1.3% figure any more – I did not record the website because at the time I had no need to, but I do recall having checked out the site for credibility – I seem to recall it was government sourced site, but cannot remember if it was something like the Bureau of Meteorology (I guess unlikely), or the Department of the Environment (possible), or what. I’ll be sure to let you know if I find it again. But, I do recall the figure was 1.3%, because I posted this not long after Ronald had suggested 3%.

        Also, please get off the cat’s tail about my Reneweconomy comment – this query was genuine – I don’t know if that site involves more “spin” than reality, or not. I have come across many, many technically rubbish sites.

        Again, I am “for” renewables, not against – and in reality always have been.
        My issue, is how we get there – and I cannot understand your problem with that, and why you go on and on about it. So we disagree about implementation strategy – so what?

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