Australian Submarines May Go Nuclear But Our Power Stations Never Will

Nuclear power stations and Australia

Australia recently decided to buy nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS pact with the UK and United States. 

Assuming it goes ahead, the first sub may be ready around 2040.  But while our submarines may have nuclear reactors, our power stations never will.

There is a simple reason Australia will never have nuclear power despite deciding to get reactors that wander around under the ocean.  The reason is…

  • Nuclear power is too expensive for Australia.

Every other concern — whether it’s safety, waste disposal, decommissioning, insurance, or location — is irrelevant because nuclear energy can’t clear the first and vital hurdle of making economic sense. 

Some suggest building nuclear power in addition to renewables because the threat from global roasting is so great we should fight emissions using every means at our disposal.  But this would be counterproductive because:

  • Nuclear power consumes resources that would result in greater emission cuts if used for solar and wind generation plus energy storage.

In other words, $1 spent on solar power will cut greenhouse gas emissions far more than $1 spent on nuclear energy.

Finally, some people say we need nuclear power to provide a steady source of low emission baseload generation, but this suggestion is completely nuts.  Even if we built nuclear power stations, they would soon be driven out of the market in the same way coal power is because:

  • Nuclear power has exactly the wrong characteristics to be useful in a grid with a high penetration of solar and wind.

Australia currently doesn’t have a nuclear power industry, and building submarines with American made sealed reactors that are never refuelled will do next to nothing to make nuclear power more cost-effective.  

In this article, I’ll explain why nuclear power makes no economic sense in Australia, and at the end, I’ll also whinge a bit about nuclear submarines.   

You may think I have zero qualifications to have an opinion on submarines, but I say being half-Dutch automatically qualifies me to talk about everything below sea level.  Or, to be precise, half the things below sea level. 

But if you don’t find that convincing and want a neutral viewpoint, you can read what a Finnish blogger has written about the AUKUS pact.  As a Finn, I don’t think he understands some of the subtleties of our culture, and that’s why he thought a good name for a post on our Navy would be “A Pounding in the Pacific“.

I’m Not Saying Anything About Existing Nuclear

To be clear, I’m only saying Australia will never get nuclear power.  I’m not saying a damn about whether or not existing nuclear reactors should be shut down.  If you happen to own a working nuclear power station in another country, you have my permission to keep it running as long as you like.  If you live in Bulgaria, I’ll even send you a free roll of duct tape.

Nuclear Power Is Ridiculously Expensive

The cost of energy from new nuclear isn’t just expensive; it’s ridiculously expensive.  Here are examples of reactors under construction in developed countries, using Australian dollars at today’s exchange rate:

  • Finland’s Olkiluoto #3 reactor:  So far, this 1.6 Gigawatt reactor has cost about $14 billion, which is around $8,750 per kilowatt of power output.  Construction started in 2005 and was scheduled to be completed in 2009.  Due to delays, it’s now scheduled to commence normal operation in February 2022 for a total construction time of 17 years. 
  • France’s Flammanville #3 reactor:  The cost of this 1.6 gigawatt reactor is approximately $31 billion.  That’s $19,400 per kilowatt.  Normal operation is scheduled for 2023 — 16 years after construction began. 
  • UK’s Hinkley Point C:  These two reactors will provide 3.2 gigawatts of power and cost around $42 billion.  That’s $13,100 per kilowatt.  Construction began in 2018, and they’re currently scheduled to come online in 2026.
  • US Vogtle 3 & 4:  These two reactors in Georgia (the US state, not where Stalin was born) will total 3.2 gigawatts and, by the time they are complete, may cost over $38 billion.  That’s around $12,000 per kilowatt.  Construction started in 2013, and they’re expected to come online next year.  These are the only commercial reactors being built in the United States. 

As you can see, new nuclear isn’t cheap.  Note these aren’t the most expensive reactors under construction in Western Europe and North America, they’re the only ones under construction.     

If you think these reactors are expensive to build but provide cheap electricity, that’s not the case.  The Hinkley Point C reactors under construction will receive a minimum of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour they supply for 35 years after they come online.  If the wholesale electricity price goes above 21 cents, they’ll receive that instead.  The 21 cents is indexed to inflation, so it will remain ridiculously expensive for the full 35 years. 

In the US, households in Georgia will have paid around $1,200 each towards the new Vogtle reactors by the time they come online. After that, their electricity bills will increase by around 10% to pay for the new nuclear electricity.  For another nuclear power station to be constructed in the US would require a payment per kilowatt-hour similar to or higher than Hinkley Point C. 

Australia doesn’t have any pixie dust it can sprinkle on reactors to make them cheaper than in other developed countries.  Because we don’t have an existing nuclear power industry, they’re likely to cost us more.  One option to get a lower price would be to ask China to give us a good deal on a reactor as part of their Belt and Road initiative, but they’ve shown no interest in giving anyone else a good deal, so I doubt that will work.  If Australia does decide to go ahead with nuclear power, Chinese engineering is likely to be the least expensive option.   

Nuclear Energy Is Many Times Too Expensive

Here are the average market prices, per kilowatt-hour, for wholesale electricity in the eastern states last financial year:

  • NSW 6.5 cents
  • QLD 6.2 cents
  • SA 4.5 cents
  • TAS 4.4 cents
  • VIC 4.6 cents

Even in the most expensive state — NSW at 6.6 cents per kilowatt-hour — Hinkley Point C’s minimum price is over three times as much.

Last year, wholesale prices were affected by the pandemic, so they are from the financial year ending in 2019.  A period when wholesale electricity prices were exceptionally high:

  • NSW 8.9 cents
  • QLD 8.0 cents
  • SA 11.0 cents
  • TAS 9.0 cents
  • VIC 11.0 cents

Even in the most expensive states during a period of high prices, wholesale electricity prices were still half the minimum cost of electricity from new reactors underway in the UK. 

Levelised Cost Of Energy (LCOE) - nuclear, coal, gas, wind and solar power

This graph for the US from page 293 of The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 clearly shows why we will never build purple nuclear in Australia, which has plenty of sunny orange and blowy blue.

Nuclear Can Get Cheaper But Won’t Get Cheap Enough

New nuclear power is so expensive it makes a great idiot test.  For anyone who seriously suggests Australia should build nuclear power capacity the options are:

  • They haven’t done basic research.
  • They’re deliberately deceptive.
  • They’re delusional.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear evidence they can’t be trusted and should never be in charge of anyone else’s money.

But nuclear energy can get cheaper.  If enough money is spent improving designs and a sufficient number of new reactors are built, I’m sure the cost of new nuclear power in Western Europe and the US could be cut by more than half.  But that won’t be cheap enough. 

The first full-scale nuclear power station came into operation in the UK in 1956.  Over the 66 years since then, nuclear power received a lot of investment but failed to become competitive with coal generation.  We don’t even have to look at costs to know this, it’s obvious from the amount of coal we export to countries with mature nuclear industries.

I’m glad places like France decided to use nuclear energy rather than coal, but if it can’t get cheaper than coal, we will never build nuclear capacity in Australia.  This is because solar and wind generation plus energy storage is cheaper than new coal and is gradually driving existing coal power stations out of the market.  If nuclear energy can’t beat coal after 66 years of development, it’s not about to suddenly beat cheaper alternatives. 

Small Modular Reactors Are More Expensive

An SMR is a Small Modular Reactor.  There have been claims these will provide cheap energy in the future, but this seems unlikely given their designers have stated that…

  • Before cost overruns are considered, SMRs will produce electricity at a higher cost than current nuclear reactor designs.

Being more expensive than conventional nuclear power is a major obstacle for any plan to supply energy at a lower cost. 

The advantage of SMRs is they are supposed to be less likely to suffer from disastrous cost overruns.  This means they are a more expensive version of a type of generation that is already too expensive for Australia before cost overruns. While any cost overruns that do occur may not be as bad as conventional nuclear, that’s not what I call a good deal.  

There is nothing new about small nuclear reactors.  India has over a dozen reactors of 220 megawatts or less in operation.  But all Indian reactors now under construction are larger because they want to reduce costs.  Technically their small reactors aren’t modular because major components weren’t constructed at one site and then moved to where they were used.  This leads to another major problem with SMRs…

  • They don’t exist.

Before Australia can deploy an SMR, a suitable prototype reactor will have to be successfully built and operated. Then a commercial version will need to be developed and multiple units constructed overseas without serious cost overruns and used long enough to show they can be operated safely and cheaply. 

Given nuclear’s prolonged development cycle, this could easily take over 20 years.  The very best estimate for the cost of electricity from an SMR I have seen is around 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour and it relies on everything going perfectly — a rare thing for nuclear power.  It also leaves out several costs that have to be paid in the real world. 

It’s a fantasy figure for vapourware that doesn’t yet exist, and only someone suffering an attack of the vapours would regard it as a solid figure.  But if it somehow turns out to be correct, it’s still more expensive than wholesale electricity in most Australian states over the past year, and I’m certain it will be much too expensive in 20+ years. 

If I’m Wrong, Buy Nuclear When I’m Wrong

Let’s say I’m completely wrong, and in the future, other countries build reactors that provide energy — when all costs are included — for less than renewables plus energy storage.  This will never happen.  I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I’ve only ever made mistakes this large when getting married. 

But let’s pretend it happens.  In this case, we should build nuclear when it’s cheaper than other alternatives — not before.  If nuclear energy becomes cheaper in the future, it won’t make your old expensive reactor refund the difference.  Building nuclear before it’s cheaper than other low emission options would be what economists call freaking stupid. 

Poor Choice For Emission Reductions

Some people ask…

“Why not build both nuclear and renewable capacity to reduce CO2 emissions as rapidly as possible?”

The answer is…

“Because every dollar invested in nuclear will cut emissions by much less than a dollar spent on renewables.”

If the goal is to cut emissions rapidly, it’s counterproductive to invest in nuclear.  Australia doesn’t have existing nuclear capacity or a half-built reactor, so whether it makes sense to keep old reactors operating or complete construction doesn’t come into it.

Nuclear capacity isn’t quick to build.  Some notable examples:

The first two are pretty extreme, but the last one takes the yellowcake.  But if you don’t count the 22 year break they took, only 21 years were spent actually building it.

Looking at South Korea, a country better than most at finishing nuclear projects on time, out of 30 reactors, their shortest construction time was four years.  All others took five or more years, with the longest taking 10 years.

Because Australia has no nuclear power industry, it would take more than five years to build a nuclear power station even if we could start construction today1. But Australia can increase its solar energy generation almost immediately.  Extra wind power will take months to arrange, as wind turbine purchases are more complex than just ordering extra solar panels and inverters.  Firming the grid with energy storage is also fast.  The world’s largest battery, the Hornsdale Power Reserve or “Tesla Big Battery”, was built in 100 days.

Whether cost or time are considered, nuclear energy is a poor choice for reducing emissions.

Nuclear Energy Not Needed For Baseload Generation

One of the craziest reasons given for building nuclear power in Australia is we need low emission baseload generators.  This idea is nuttier than a lumpy chocolate bar because:

  • No baseload generators are required.
  • Like coal, nuclear power has the wrong characteristics to support a grid with high solar and wind generation.

It’s impossible to argue that we need baseload generators that run continuously (except for maintenance).  This is because South Australia has none.  The state doesn’t continuously import electricity either. 

South Australia electricity generation

This graph shows South Australian electricity generation over a week.  It both importing (purple) and exports (below the dotted line). Over this time, 72.4% of electricity consumption was renewable energy generated from solar power (yellow) and wind (green).  The orange is gas generation.  Note how solar and wind often supply more than the state’s total electricity consumption.  (Image: OpenNEM)

Despite having no baseload generators, SA still manages to meet demand as well as other states. 

South Australia had coal baseload generators in the past, but as wind and solar power capacity expanded, there were increasing periods of low or zero wholesale electricity prices2 resulting from solar and wind having zero fuel costs.  Because their fuel is free, they have little or no incentive not to provide electricity even if they receive next to nothing for it. 

Because coal power is expensive to start and stop and saves very little money by shutting down because its fuel cost is low — but not zero — it often had no choice other than to keep operating during periods when it was losing money on every kilowatt-hour generated. 

In 2016 South Australia shut down its last remaining coal power station because it was no longer profitable.  This same process is happening throughout Australia as solar, wind, and energy storage capacity increases.  In a (hopefully) short period of time, renewables will drive coal power out of the market. 

If it doesn’t make economic sense to keep existing coal power stations around to supply baseload power, it definitely makes no sense to replace them with more expensive nuclear reactors with the same problem – that shutting down saves little money because their fuel cost is low.  Building a nuclear power station and then only using it half its potential capacity almost doubles the cost of energy it produces. 

Using nuclear to firm renewables supercharges its lousy economics.

Batteries Also Make Nuclear Uneconomic

As solar and wind generation increases, the worse the economics of nuclear energy become.  This is because its low cost pushes down wholesale electricity prices.  There can be periods of high electricity prices when renewable output isn’t sufficient to meet demand, but this isn’t enough to make nuclear pay.  Nuclear wouldn’t pay if there were no such thing as battery storage, but battery storage makes its economics worse. 

Next year a 580 megawatt-hour battery will be built in Victoria for $270 to $300 million.  That’s around $500 per kilowatt-hour.  If each kilowatt-hour of storage capacity provides a total of 4,000 kilowatt-hours of stored energy over its lifetime — a not unreasonable amount — then the cost of storage will be around 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. 

That’s not cheap, but still a lot cheaper than nuclear energy, especially since we will often charge it with renewable electricity that costs 1 cent or less per kilowatt-hour.  It also has the advantage it will supply electricity when prices are high, rather than more or less continuously, as is usually the case for nuclear power.    

There’s no reason to expect the cost of utility-scale battery storage to stop falling anytime soon, so by the time a nuclear power station could be completed in Australia, its economics will be far worse from falling energy storage costs alone.

Other Nuclear Energy Issues

There are many issues associated with nuclear power that are often discussed but are irrelevant.  I’ll quickly mention and dismiss half a dozen or so:

Safety:  For a while, I lived 40 km from a nuclear power station that suffered a criticality event while I was there — a major safety breach.  At the time, it didn’t worry me in the slightest.  This is because they successfully covered it up for eight years. 

Despite being endangered by dishonest nuclear management, I’d have no problem living next to a new nuclear reactor today.  I’m confident they’re very safe.  But anyone who tells you they’re completely safe has a raisin in their braincase. 

Nuclear power stations are complex systems, and we can’t be 100% certain what may go wrong or what deliberate sabotage could achieve.  But it doesn’t matter how safe or unsafe they are.  It’s irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive.

International Nuclear Event Scale

The International Nuclear Event Scale and my own interpretation of the different levels of danger.  The cover-up that occurred 40 km from me was only level 2, but a culture of cover-ups and inaction may have led to a far worse disaster.

Nuclear Waste:  Nuclear waste can be stored in a way that makes it extremely unlikely to ever harm anyone — provided you spend around $5.5 billion doing it.  While (hopefully) safe disposal only comes to a fraction of a cent per kilowatt-hour generated, it’s still a hell of a lot more than dealing with old solar panels that can potentially be 100% recycled.  But nuclear waste disposal is irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive.

Nuclear Proliferation:  Nuclear fuel from normal reactors is very difficult to make into atomic bombs.  But this is irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive. 

Insurance: Nuclear power can’t be fully privately insured because no company can cover the cost of a major nuclear accident.  Governments can set insurance premiums at a reasonable level, but this is irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive. 

Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing:  France reprocesses its nuclear fuel.  This reduces their need for uranium by 17%.  Given the current low cost of uranium, reprocessing nuclear fuel makes no sense.  It’s also irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive. 

Thorium:  Using thorium instead of uranium could reduce the cost of nuclear fuel.  But uranium is only a tiny portion of the total cost of nuclear energy, so it will make little difference.  Because it makes little difference, it’s irrelevant because nuclear power is too expensive.

Decommissioning:  Nuclear power is very expensive to build and decommission at the end of its life.  This is why the nuclear energy industry likes to push these costs onto the public while hanging around for the profitable part in the middle.  But the high cost of decommissioning is irrelevant because nuclear is too expensive.

A Submarine Whinge

I can think of several things likely to provide Australians with better protection than nuclear-powered submarines.  These include:

  • Creating a lab that can produce mRNA vaccines that can help fight the current pandemic and the next.
  • Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to build better relations with other nations and reduce the potential for conflict from climate change.
  • Introducing vehicle fuel efficiency standards or simply promoting electric cars will reduce oil imports and improve energy security.
  • Raising superannuation contributions would increase investment and allow us to spend more on defence in the future if required.
  • A wealth tax that reduces consumption and shifts more resources into investment would also improve our capacity to protect ourselves in the future.

Australia is in the very fortunate position of not having any enemies3, despite our PM’s habit of leaping into his own mouth feet first.  Our geographical position also means there is no nation with both the will and means to invade Australia. 

This is why I don’t see a need for nuclear submarines.  I don’t even see why we need conventional ones.  But if you put a loaded torpedo to my head and forced me to say what I considered the least-worst way for the Australian Navy to acquire submarines, I would say buy non-nuclear ones made overseas, but build an uncrewed supply submarine here. 

Nuclear Power — A Complete No Go For Australia

There’s a good chance Australia will never have nuclear submarines.  The first won’t be completed until around 2040 and we can’t even be certain the United States will still be around in four years.  The next person in the Oval Office could be President-for-life of the Freedom States of America. 

But assuming we do get nuclear submarines, they will have reactors made and fueled in America. We will have a small number of people trained in the operation and maintenance of a naval reactor that is nothing like a nuclear power station.  This is around 18 years away and will do bugger all to lower the cost of nuclear power in this country. 

Footnotes

  1. Not even using the work already done at Jervis Bay will speed things up.
  2. There were also long periods of negative electricity prices, but these will mostly disappear as the value of LGCs (Large-scale Generation Certificates) decrease and battery storage increases.
  3. If you think having a trade dispute makes a nation your enemy, remind me to never attend any garage sale you have.
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. Stephen Brickwood says

    Thank you for your excellent information.
    Most of us do not have this factual framework to understand this topic.
    You have given us the ‘dimensions’ to assess the comments we all hear from others.
    The matter of safety zones around Nuclear Power Stations means that over a thousand square kilometres is required and not just the boundary fence of the plant. This is a huge distance and would affect the cities environment.

    On the submarines matter, in the end we may save a huge amount of money and just have our Collins subs. With their French drives.

    • Ian Thompson says

      Hi Stephen Brickwood

      I do think the framework as presented is in fact quite misleading – because it quotes costs in $/kW of installed capacity, and for a range of other reasons (e.g. not including a necessary storage multiplier / kW of generation capacity).
      We know, for example, that nuclear commonly has a capacity factor exceeding 90% (I even saw a capacity factor of 101% in one US reactor, over one month – how’s that!). If not being artificially curtailed in favour of intermittent sources of energy (perhaps that is the nub of the problem).

      We do need to go down the wind/PV route, however how this is accomplished in a clearly defined manner has yet to be described. Obviously, we have to design a system that will sustain power generation, under the worst-case conditions. Like mid-winter with several calm days days in a row. So, obviously we need sufficient battery storage to tide us over those periods – and that is fairly expensive. Clearly, to keep these batteries charged to cover these instances, we will need to install large over-capacity. This means in mid-summer on windy days we will either need to ‘spill’ excess generation – unless we install massive energy storage capacity – e.g. make hydrogen when the sun shines, sell it overseas, or use it (only seasonally) to substitute for processes such as steel-making.
      All this adds cost – I would doubt the ‘REAL” capacity factor for these extensive facilities would even reach 20% – I’ve seen far, far less than this in my home rooftop PV in winter.

      Also, nuclear typically has an operating life of more than twice that of PV, wind, and batteries – adding another factor of 2. So, suddenly, the high initial cost of nuclear does not seem so bad (in terms of total energy generated over lifetime). I do appreciate the running cost of nuclear is probably (maybe definitely) greater than the cost to maintain and operate wind turbines and wind farms – and this has also to be included into the equation.

      Apologies to Ronald – but I feel his ‘framework’ would be a lot more informative and honest, if it was based on true $/kWh actually generated. Based on a real system of intermittent generation, during year-round operations – complete with necessary storage costs, and real capacity factors that are actually realisable. Saying the same thing over, and over, and over does not necessarily make it true.

      BTW – crew on nuclear subs are seldom more than 100m away from the reactor.
      BTW – I am ‘for’ renewables, as well – but feel we need truth when making comparisons, and also a fallback position should battery costs not fall dramatically, making intermittent-only impractically expensive. (Wind and PV are approaching their physical performance limits – so cost reductions are primarily available through manufacturing cost reductions – and given the ‘maturity’ of development at present, how likely is that?). Lazards graphs appear to show a ‘flattening of the curve’.

      I’d hate us to get 30 years down the track, only to realise ‘Oh s**t, our de-carbonisation plans are stuffed – we have to go to plan B, but that will take a long time’.

      The presentations in this article appear severely biased in my opinion – and I do have technical (engineering) skills – so it has not convinced me at all.
      How about a ‘REAL’ analysis, Ronald?

      • Stephen Brickwood says

        Do you know that the entire country has no wind at the same time???
        Did you look up the wind records and wind diagrams??
        On shore and off shore winds are a constant all year morning and evening or longer because of the temperature difference of ocean to land mass.
        So there is a lot of details but globally I think Ron is on track.
        IF WE WENT NUCLEAR then of the non nuclear dictatorships of the world would have a party, a nuclear party, as the worlds supply of nuclear materials would expand massively.
        All countries, not in the Australian unique sunny latitudes would demand nuclear supply as we ‘demonstrate our failure’ to go renewable.
        7.692 million km² is the area of Australia, That is 8 million billion m2 of sunshine.
        59,736 km is the length of our coastline, That is 60,000 km. Wind and desalination of seawater.

        Now Nuclear power stations need an exclusion zone when things go wrong 50 km in radius as we can not provide the same protection as a few military people in the confines of a submarine are given. They also receive ‘danger money’.

        People who love nuclear and big business are often ‘blind’ to the down side and are ‘blind’ to their ‘SOCIALISTS costs’ that they impose on every single Australian and future Australian.

        As I said 8 million billion m2 of sunshine at 200 watts every hour of the day for years and years and …
        That’s free billions and billions of Kw every day for the rest of our lives.

        And we live in a STABLE DEMOCRACY.

        We can grow tomatoes etc in the deserts, …….

        Growing Tomatoes In The Desert With Sunlight And Seawater, youtube.

        Nuclear is a distraction. A longer power grid should be our first priority.

        When every home is only adding to the grid and all existing coal fired power station are supplying the electricity as we transition to a more intense electrical Australia/industry we will be headed to a safer world.

        I think the nuclear subs will be important when we have a shortage of diesel in the future, that would be a smart move at this moment in time.

        Thank you for making your case.

        • Stephen Brickwood says

          50 km radius is roughly 10,000km2 is a huge area near a city.

          Coal fired power stations have often failed with accidents rarely reported,
          Lucky it was only coal.
          Farming under solar panels is a developing technology, as plants can grow longer and less stressed and soil condition improves.

          Nuclear locks in a few companies only, monopolies, like the coal and power companies who have been paying for political returns for 20 years, the unrelenting attacks by our leaders with a lump of coal in their hand in parliament.
          We have had NO SERIOUS PUBLIC DISCUSSION for 20 years and confusing comments by leaders.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Ah – Steven Brickwood – I see you have been ‘taken in’ by the rhetoric.

          To answer your first question – you should download the NEMWatch Live Supply and Demand widget and check it out – you might actually learn something. I did this long ago, and monitor the generation and demand profiles regularly.
          And yes, I HAVE seen numerous examples where the wind was NOT blowing significantly anywhere in Australia, overnight and during the day – and have reported these case within this forum previously. Remember that when we no longer have coal and NG generation, we will STILL want continuous energy supply. To do this, our replacement technologies will be required to achieve this, under the worse-case scenarios. For example, several years ago there was a ‘wind drought’ throughout Europe for a year or so. This was one of the reasons Germany put several of their retired coal-fired power stations back into service. What if we have a week of low wind speeds and overcast conditions simultaneously in mid-winter (not an uncommon circumstance I’d think). SA’s Big Battery supplies a tiny output for only a couple of hours, then goes flat – you can observe this for yourself, if you monitor the NEM widget
          BTW – your example of billions and billions of kW each day – for years and years – at no cost – is utter BS. Don’t you understand that you have to buy PV panels, have them installed, wire them to inverters, connect them to the grid – and do that all over again every 10-25 years? And if your approach is to work, we need to install massive (and, Extremely expensive) transmission lines criss-crossing the country. Besides, we need kWh, not kW – you don’t appear to appreciate the difference. SA’s performance contains a lot of ‘creative accounting’ – they will NOT be able to export green energy over the border, then claim they suck it back when they need it (really just coal-generated) – once the other states have their own equivalent capabilities. This is not a sustainable arrangement – but IS good for transition at the present time – in terms of overall emissions.
          I am actually very much ‘FOR’ renewables – but would like to see some solid design outline details for how the future is going to work – rather than just spin, and emotional clap-trap. Talk about putting all of our eggs in one basket. In reality, though, renewables may prove simply part of a transition to more dense energy low carbon generation technologies in the future (e.g. nuclear fusion) – or even work in harmony with them. For my sins, I am also ‘FOR’ ensuring we are not left behind when it comes to nuclear, if it is found necessary to deploy in the future.

          BTW – I feel Geoffrey Meill’s links are rather pathetic – providing little more than ‘Statements of Intent’ (i.e. wishful thinking), marketing spin and misrepresentations, lack of engineering prowess, and NO designs that could be shown to actually work in their entirety (i.e. NO coal, NO NG support). Mere political clap-trap.
          The reason we don’t already have nuclear, is probably more a case of the kids being in charge of the kindergarten – 30 years ago. Lack of foresight and planning.

  2. Agree with all that including the subs bit. The Japanese have built some diesel lithium battery subs that might do the trick but we need to keep the fantasy alive that SA will build at least some of them. I think unmanned underwater drones will make subs redundant well before 2040

    The only thing I would add is Torrens Island could be considered a “baseload” plant but seems to have a decent ramp rate to match evening peaks

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Gas generators in SA are paid to keep operating when they would otherwise shutdown to provide ancillary services to the grid. The need for this should decline over time as battery storage increases and new synchronous condensors (big spinny things) come online.

      • Unfortunately SA will need at least 80MW of spinning gas until PEC is commissioned. Possibly 2 x TIPS B units which would be a pity given their low efficiency and Pelican Point’s impressive efficiency

  3. Joseph King says

    I really think you should have included in your “War and Piece(sic)” article that nuclear power is just too expensive. Also should have mentioned the decommissioning time and cost as well which are horrendously long and is VERY expensive. Final nail in the coffin which you glossed over is the storage of the nuclear waste which from memory figures of some 10 years ago was in the USA alone there was some 125,000 tonnes of the stuff of which 100,000 tonnes were sitting above ground in “puddles” of water. I also don’t like the idea of leaving radioactive waste that has a stupidly long half life and will still be around for the next 3,000+ generations.

    Did I mention nuclear power was also too expensive?

  4. Lawrence Coomber says

    Ronald optimism drives innovation:

    So yes you are correct about the next decade being an optimistic period for new energy technology innovation coming into focus globally, but you are completely off track in your analysis of what those dominating global mainstream technologies will be.

    I revisited a post from 2016 here: http://www.2greenenergy.com/2016/11/22/climate-leadership/ that pretty much summed up my views of what lay ahead from a global energy imperative perspective, and there is plenty of maturing and well funded research unfolding around the topic since my post in 2GreenEnergy, as evidenced in a recent updated article here supporting some key points of my 2016 commentary: https://www.machinedesign.com/materials/article/21151239/5-new-reactor-designs-earn-doe-funding

    You have passion for technology topics Ronald and that is admirable, but I recommend you broaden your horizons [literally] to develop a global focus about energy technologies of the future. And in accordance with the laws of technological evolution; if you don’t [like all of we commentators] you run the risk of irrelevance as a commentator and being left out of discussions.

    After all we are discussing critical global issues in an energy starved world Ronald, and one where disadvantage and dis-enfranchisement of over half of the worlds population from attaining a basic standard of living due to a lack of access to massive industrialisation and infrastructure developing power; cannot be overlooked or tolerated.

    Global technological inequality is what is supporting worsening GHG emissions everywhere. Global equalising generation technologies provide the platform for genuine new era reform. And this is predicated on an entirely different technological focus to the one that you promote Ronald.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Michael Dunstan says

      Well that didn’t age well. What was it in China last year, 250GW renewables to 400MW nuclear?

      • George Kaplan says

        Are you sure about that figure? I’m seeing 134 GW (72 GW Windmills, 48 GW Solar, 14 GW Hydro), as well as 38.4 GW of coal plants for 2020. Comparing Q1 2021 to Q1 2020 however shows growth to almost exclusively be coal – 250.5 versus the 38.9 of renewables. To be fair the figures are a little skewed by the fact that roughly three-quarters of all new renewables were added Q4 2020.

        • Geoff Miell says

          George Kaplan,
          You ask: “Are you sure about that figure?

          Per the WNISR-2021 (on page 31, bold text my emphasis):

          Renewable energy deployment and generation has far better resisted the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic than the nuclear power sector. In 2020, nuclear power added net 0.4 GW (+startups, -closures) while renewable capacity increased by a record 256 GW (+30 percent); nuclear production dropped 4 percent while non-hydro renewables increased 13 percent.

          https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-2021-773.html

          Also from WNISR-2021:
          * Figure 1 shows Nuclear Electricity Generation in the World (and China), in TWh (net) and percentage share in World electricity generation (gross).
          * Figure 4 shows Reactor Startups and Closures in the World, in generator units, from 1954 through to July 2021.
          * Figure 6 shows World Nuclear Reactor Fleet, in number of operating units and GWe total capacity.
          * Figure 47 shows Net Added Electricity Generation by Power Source, 2010 to 2020, in added TWh (gross) by source.
          * Figure 48 shows Nuclear vs Non-Hydro Renewable Electricity Production in the World, 2011 through to 2020, in TWh (gross).

          Where are you getting your figures from, George? You don’t say.

  5. Thanks and the decommissioning costs of nuclear power is always conveniently avoided.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      One thing that is really never mentioned is the big increase in the cost of grid ancillary services that can result from plonking a huge 3.2 gigawatt pair of reactors down in one spot. In the UK, rather than putting the cost on Hinkley C, the extra expense will be borne by all generators.

      Not even I mentioned it.

  6. Just on the subject of SMRs, they are often touted as a solution to energy problems in small or remote LGAs. They could be trucked in and left for the local jurisdiction to operate. The last time I had a close look at my local councillors I could not see a single person that I would trust to look after one of these things. It would be like leaving a hand grenade in a preschool.

  7. Geoff Miell says

    New nuclear power is so expensive it makes a great idiot test.

    IMO, a good test for those people who espouse the notion that Australia should have a nuclear power industry is to ask them whether they have read and understood the latest The World Nuclear Industry Status Report. This data rich and comprehensive document is usually published annually, and the latest one (WNISR-2021) became publicly available on Sep 28.
    https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-Report-2021-773.html

    I’d suggest the WNISR-2021 is an ideal reference that contains much niti-griti that can be used to test how well informed (or not) people are on global nuclear power industry matters. There are focusses on various countries including: Belarus, China, Finland, France, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, UK and USA; and status reports including on SMRs, Fukushima and Chernobyl.

  8. George Kaplan says

    Ooh this should be an interesting article!!! (Not that others aren’t, but this one is likely to be especially controversial). The fact is Australia is well placed to embrace clean green nuclear energy. Not only does Australia have the largest uranium reserves in the world (almost a quarter of the global total), it has high quality and safety standards – unlike certain nations to our north-west, and is relatively earthquake free – though apparently not totally free which is interesting.

    As regards the first sub possibly being ready by 2040, has a timeline been announced? The French deal was subs starting to become ready sometime next decade – which is too slow.

    The Corporal Frisk post is actually interesting. It notes Australia has a unique operational position, that the Swedish, German, and French options were all theoretical designs – not actual operational subs, that the one country with suitable subs is Japan, and that they didn’t make it. (Thanks Turnbull!).

    Once the French design was selected it immediately ran into problems. There is no submarine industry in Australia, switching from nuclear to conventional is very difficult, and a different combat management system was supposed to be used. Ultimately Turnbull’s French option was a white elephant – very expensive, wasn’t working, and Australia needs protection as Beijing looks towards developing an expanded Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

    As regards Australia becoming the 3rd largest operator of nuclear submarines, no that’d be Beijing which already operates 14, is building more, and has a large conventional sub fleet too. The UK is currently 4th with 11, and France 5th with 10.

    It is interesting that Frisk concludes with “SSNs are the obvious operational choice for Australia” though expresses concern about the cost, and local workmanship given Australia has no sub industry.

    Given current exhange rates Hinkley Point C looks to cost more like AU$37.8 billion, but hey what’s a few billion here or there? : )

    And while the costs per kW are high ($8,750 to $19,400 per kilowatt), is it fair to directly compare them to solar or wind? Remember nuclear is reliable and Hinkley is intended to last 60 years. Thus while a nuclear kW is roughly 12x the cost of a solar kW – I confess I’ve no idea about windmill pricing, this fails to take into account replacement costs for panelling – likely to happen at least once in that 60 year period, and the inverter, which is likely to need replacing 4-6 times in that period. What was once 12x the cost is suddenly only 4-6x the cost, and we’re not yet done.

    Remember solar only works if the sun shines, nuclear always works – unless the plant blows up or something. (Okay so nuke plants can’t blow up but hey this isn’t a pro-nuclear site). Thus for a truely equal comparison solar batteries must be factored in, and they only last 5-15 years. Best case you’ll need 4 batteries over the course of Hinkley’s life, and batteries are expensive, though slowly dropping in price.

    Thus on paper while the nuclear plant is a large up front cost, a 24/7 ‘solar plant’ may in fact have comparable costs.

    And where this piece notes Hinkley will receive a minimum of 21 c/kWh, what are the actual operating costs? A quick Duck returns various claims including fuel costs for US nuclear plants of $.0077/kWh, generating costs for the best US plant of 1.5 c/kWh, and nuclear power having a lower cost than solar, but higher than gas – specifically $96 per MWh – roughly three-quarters due to capital and a quarter to operational and maintenance costs, whilst utility grade solar is $130 per MWh of which almost 90% is due to capital, and less than 10% due to operations and maintenance. Note this last is 2012 figures, and as the article graph shows solar has dropped substantially since then. Without battery being factored in however the nuke v solar comparison isn’t a true equivalency.

    Buy nuclear when it’s cheaper. This certainly is something to watch, as is fusion, which has been of interest but proven something of a challenge since near the beginning of atomic energy. Will it ever prove feasible? Who knows.

    I haven’t ever lived 40 km from a nuclear plant, but I did live about 150 km from one, and never gave it a thought. Frankly I’m more worried by sanitisation concerns than nuclear errors. The point about deliberate sabotage is interesting, but is that environmental terrorism, or international terrorism? I’d actually contend the threat of a Han Reich rising is one argument that could be made for solar power – try not to collapse. Concentrating anything makes for a strategic vulnerability. The reliance on Singapore for petrol, and holding only 2 weeks fuel in Australia means an interdiction would force everyone to walk – unless they have an electric scooter or somesuch. A reliance on large coal\gas\nuclear plants means an enemy only requires a few missiles to wipe out Australia’s energy. And of course encouraging 63% of the population to live in a mere 5 cities means a handful of nukes would see Australia wide open for invasion, or colonisation if you prefer that term.

    Better things to spend money on than defence? Well freedom is kinda important to some people, and I’m guessing your Mandarin 不太好. Not that that’s an issue – most Australians are monolingual but …

    As regards other spending options, Australia already has a number of medical research centres, Australia already has one of the lowest emissions per square mile in the world so further cuts are silly, raising super contributions simply means higher costs – folk can already save more if they wish, and a wealth tax is a vastly different thing to a consumption tax. Hey if you want to levy extra charge on McDonalds so as to encourage healthy eating I’m all for it and will fully support the notion, but I doubt it’d be a vote winner.

    You contend Australia is in the fortunate position of not having enemies, but is that really true? Wasn’t Europe saying that in 1938? Those who fail to lean from history …

    The reality is Beijing is not only a threat to Australian interests, but a growing one. Those who bury their head in the sand say goodbye Australia, 你好 澳大利亚. Yes I see you contend trade dispute =/= enemy, however that’s only one factor to consider. What of, and in no particular order, Beijing’s constant threats against the nation of Taiwan, threats to nuke Japan, border skirmishes with India, occupation and subjugation of the South China Sea including territory belonging to Vietnam, Malaysia and the Phillipines, threats to nuke Australia, current construction to develop one of the largest ICBM arsenals in the world, and ongoing efforts to build an ever larger military despite already having the world’s largest military (50% larger than India, roughly twice that of the US or Russia) and no border threats – Russia is a near ally, and the Indian-Chinese border is hostile terrain.

    Sadly I do agree that we can’t be certain the United States will be around in 4 years – in fact I’d say we can’t be sure the US will survive to the next presidential election, but we can hope.

    For all that I disagree with some points, a very interesting piece.

  9. If nuclear is too expensive (did you mention that) until maybe far into the future then maybe fusion will come to our rescue. As one of the comments pointed out a large proportion of the world’s population has a very poor standard of living only improvable with at least our availability of sort of cheap reliable power and therefore industry in most places.
    When SA is able to do more than just get by electrically without coal and retain the status quo most of the time at a high cost to power users, and instead have a working fusion plant, look at the industry and increased population that would attract to a wonderful mostly underdeveloped state with a shortage of jobs that building parts of a few subs is not going to fix any time soon.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      South Australia has difficulty supplying electricity to consumers at low cost, but the wholesale price generators are paid has been the lowest on the mainland for almost three years. The only state where they were lower was Tasmania where electricity generation is 98% renewable. So renewables are going to push coal out of the marketplace in Australia.

      Fusion (depending on type) has basically free fuel, but fuel is only a tiny portion of the cost of conventional nuclear, so nearly free fuel won’t be enough to make fusion competitive. Fusion requires lower capital costs than fission to be successful. (Much lower.)

      • I think you should have stated whether or not nuclear was too expensive. I was left unsure of your opinion.

  10. Nicholas Geary says

    I would go as far as to say I think it is very unlikely that Australia will ever buy any old-tech nuclear power stations, and I’d venture it is more likely than not that Australia won’t buy any new-tech nuclear power within the next ten years. But I don’t see the basis for the confident prediction that Australia will Never buy any kind of nuclear power stations. To take just one example, the Thorcon team is developing a 500 MW offshore molten salt power plant design, and they are aiming to produce electricity at a cost of around 3 cents (US) per kwh, or a little over 4 cents (AU) per kwh if the exchange rates hold–with a build time of one year for the plant, plus however long it takes to prepare the onshore grid connections. Thorcon thinks they could have a demonstration reactor ready to go in about 4 years, so it is within the realm of possibility that they could have a commercial reactor ready to go in the 10 to 15 year timeframe. Now, maybe they’ll succeed and maybe they won’t, but there are other teams vying for roughly similar economics (eg. Moltex and Elysium) and it only takes one success to change the market landscape. The point is, there are way too many unknowns to make firm projections even 15 years out. And 15 years is nothing compared to Never.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Nicholas Geary,
      The Union of Concerned Scientists published a report in Mar 2021, by Edwin Lyman titled “Advanced” Isn’t Always Better: Assessing the Safety, Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors.

      See Section 7: Molten Salt Reactors, where it discusses the history and current status of MSRs/MSBRs, safety issues, sustainability claims, proliferation/terrorism risks, and readiness for commercial demonstration and deployment. The ThorCon reactor is discussed, as well as proposals from Moltex and Elysium (and others).
      https://ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/advanced-isnt-always-better-full.pdf

      IMO, there appears to be much more hype from the MSR/MSBR proponents than there is substance.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I don’t think 4 cents will be cheap enough for Australia by the time Thorcon is ready. Also, if Thorcon isn’t doing something radically new then at least one out of France, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the US, etc. should have been able to consistently build reactors that supply four cent a kilowat-hour electricity (in today’s money) decades ago. Without significant technology changes only an incremental improvement is likely. But if Thorcon are doing something new then it’s untried technology and they have to get lucky and hope it pans out without too many problems.

  11. You talk about cost of nuclear power being espensive, bit you forget we are going to spend over 100b on nuke subs. So what’s another -30-40 bn on nuke reactors? This can be pushed through public support by saying it will create jobs etc

    The sub announcement was quite well received, media focus and scare mongering on china saw to that. I would not be surprised if there was a nuke power announcement within the next 5 years.

  12. You need a math lesson and an energy storage lesson. Wind an solar will never power large economy an infrastructure without large scale global effort on storing power, which is nearly virtually impossible at this point right now. Telling readers anything but that is a lie and I will absolutely destroy you with investment capital thesis, so when would you like to start. On a good day the max one wind turbine can get is maybe 12MW. Natural gas an nuclear are the large sources of energy that we will need to meet demand and is continuing to rise and wind and solar- renewable will not meet it. Europe’s turning on coal plants right now nice try this article was written with wishful thinking I didn’t even finish it as the first five paragraphs were nonsense. And also written by someone who doesn’t invest

    • Ronald Brakels says

      South Australian electricity 2006: solar 0%, wind 0%, gas 48%, coal 36%, imports (coal) 17%.
      South Australian electricity 2020: solar 17%, wind 42%, gas 41%, coal 0%, exports 1%

    • Geoff Miell says

      Brendan,
      Saul Griffith has done the work: https://www.rewiringaustralia.org/
      Also: https://www.rewiringamerica.org/

      So has the Global 100% RE Strategy Group: https://global100restrategygroup.org/

      So has the EWG & LUT University: https://www.energywatchgroup.org/new-study-global-energy-system-based-100-renewable-energy/

      And there are many others.
      Who are you, Brendan? Have you actually done any work?

      • Show me where the batteries storage is working on large scale in a cost effective manner. We could travel to Texas California all over New England they are failing. Let’s go ask some of these places how their battery storage is holding up during weather issues try running a hospital on wind and solar. I build infrastructure I’ll run circles around you. Walk me through performance numbers where it’s making money don’t send me articles about people telling me it’s on the verge show me the money we live in capitalism unless you’re planning on living in a socialist society with mass subsidize power on a regular basis then you’re in for delusional experience. Send me the spreadsheet show me a battery or park that makes money by storing power show me the efficiency Show me how much was actually produced and show me how much was actually saved and then sold back to the market I’ll save you the time you can’t I buy power I’m smarter than you. I just left the largest infrastructure conference not one person told me they were building more battery or storage.

  13. Nicholas Geary says

    @Geoff Miell,
    I agree with the basic premise that new or advanced doesn’t always mean better. But out of the many MSR designs being developed, it would be good enough if only a few of them turned out to be better. Most innovations don’t pan out, but a few do, and we keep those and discard the rest.

    Lyman has concerns, and that’s fine. I think the give and take between proponents and skeptics can be a good thing, so long as the dialog is reasonable. But Lyman’s background is theoretical. He doesn’t have the practical engineering expertise of the design teams (or of UCS’s Dave Lochbaum, whose name I notice is conspicuously absent from this paper.) The design teams think they have workable designs, and they are racing to try to demonstrate that. Several of them are trying to get demo reactors running this decade. So Lyman’s views not withstanding, development is definitely going to proceed. And when we have actual demo reactor performance data, we’ll be in a better position to judge whether Lyman’s concerns were addressed (or had any merit in the first place).

    But with respect to the article here, the point is that we don’t know yet whether the designers are going to be able to produce market-competitive designs. (And some of the designs are looking at auxiliary sources of revenue beyond just generating electricity.) There is at least a reasonable chance that one or more of the teams could succeed.

    @Ronald Brakels.
    The Thorcon team is developing a molten salt reactor (as are several other teams) which is more different from old-tech nuclear power plants than Tesla automobiles are different from old-tech electric cars. It is based on a demo reactor that ran back in the 60’s, but much of the design is new and even where it uses technology that has been in use in other sectors (the big one being ship-building technology), using that technology for this application is also new. So, yes, it includes multiple aspects of untried technology. But isn’t that the whole point of doing something new? How do you do anything new if you limit yourself to doing only that which has been done before? Can you think of any technology we commonly use today which had no beginning? And all technology which had a beginning was untried before we first tried it.

    And by the way, the fact that these new designs are such a break with the old designs means they are also a threat to the old-tech nuclear industry. I’m a bit surprised at how few longtime opponents of old-tech nuclear are grasping the opportunity here.

    And yes, there is an element of luck to everything that humans do. But as it happens, we have science, and engineering, and computer modeling, and simulation software that lets us do virtual development, testing and evaluation, so even when they reach the point of physically building something for the first time, it won’t be down to sheer luck as to whether it works as they intended. There will be some problems, of course, because we never achieve perfection on the first try, but that’s also why Thorcon is designing the plant to get a new reactor every four years–to allow for fixes and upgrades. Regarding whether they (and all the other teams) will be able to compete when they are ready, I would count that as a maybe-yes, maybe-no situation. That’s how it always is with new technology development. But maybe-no is not definitely-no, so I still think the prediction of ‘never’ is too soon. I think we’ll have a much clearer picture in ten years time.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Nicholas Geary,
      Per Wikipedia: “In 2018 Lochbaum departed from the UCS and is currently unemployed.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lochbaum

      Kurt Cobb posted a comment at Resource Insights on Aug 22 headlined Whatever happened to China’s revolutionary molten salt nuclear reactor program? It concluded with IMO some insightful observations:

      The techno-uptopians keep promising us technological solutions to our myriad critical problems that either don’t appear, don’t solve the problem, create many new difficult problems, or keep getting delayed far into the future (fusion-based energy comes to mind). What they never seriously ask us to do is change the way we live. That must be a major reason their “solutions” find such a large audience of ready believers.

      https://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2021/08/whatever-happened-to-chinas.html

      • Nicholas Geary says

        China completed their first molten salt thorium reactor in August.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Nicholas Geary,
          Per the Sep 10 Nature article headlined China prepares to test thorium-fuelled nuclear reactor, China’s MSR program began in 2011. The experimental demonstration thorium reactor in Wuwei “was due to be completed by the end of August” — with trial runs scheduled for September 2021, according to the government of Gansu province. The reactor is designed to produce up to 2 MW of thermal energy.
          https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02459-w

          But does it demonstrate all the claims being made? I’d suggest we won’t know for some time.

          Can it be scaled up to a commercial, rapidly deployable operation? We don’t know yet.

          China “hopes” to build a 373-megawatt reactor by 2030. IMO, 2030 is FAR TOO LATE, and hope is not enough – compelling evidence I see indicates we/humanity need affordable, rapidly deployable, large-scale, low/zero GHG emissions solutions right NOW.
          See my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/iea-global-emissions-mb2085/#comment-1154308

          • Nicholas Geary says

            And at the end of August, Beijing announced that the reactor had in fact been completed. I think that answers Cobb’s question about what happened to their molten salt reactor program. It’s clearly still ongoing.

            “But does it demonstrate all the claims being made? I’d suggest we won’t know for some time.”

            Quite so. Same for all the other advanced nuclear designs which are in development. And that lack of information is exactly why I think right now is too soon to be predicting that Australia will never have any nuclear power plants.

            “China “hopes” to build a 373-megawatt reactor by 2030. IMO, 2030 is FAR TOO LATE, and hope is not enough —
            compelling evidence I see indicates we/humanity need affordable, rapidly deployable, large-scale, low/zero GHG emissions solutions right NOW.”

            That may be what we need right now, but that’s not what we have right now. We’ll do what we can with the options we have, but there is broad recognition that we need better options–which is why there is so much work going on in many fields to try to develop those. 2030 will be too late for new options *if* we have managed to get off fossil fuels by then. That seems incredibly unlikely. But if we somehow manage to get our act together, change our trajectory, and hit that 2030 target, great. Problem solved, and we’ll simply have developed some backup options that we wound up not needing. But if we blow through 2030 still emitting huge amounts of fossil carbon, I bet we’ll be happy for all the best backup options we managed to get operational by then. Better to have insurance and not need it than to need insurance and not have it.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Nicholas Geary,
            You state: “That may be what we need right now, but that’s not what we have right now. We’ll do what we can with the options we have, but there is broad recognition that we need better options…

            Evidence I see indicates there’s broad recognition from many energy scientists and engineers we/humanity already have many affordable, rapidly deployable, reliable, low/zero GHG solutions – see my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/submarines-nuclear-not-power-stations/#comment-1259256

            See also the YouTube video below titled 100% Renewable Energy solar/wind with pumped Hydro with Professor Andrew Blakers of Australia ANU, published Feb 24, duration 1:43:14:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4116SKhd18

            IMO, what’s holding us/humanity back is denial of urgent effective action required to mitigate anthropogenic climate change, deliberate large-scale vested interest propaganda/misinformation, ignorance (inadvertent and wilful), ‘inertia’ and lack of will.

          • Ian Thompson says

            I’m with you, Nicholas Geary

            I am ‘FOR’ wind and PV, and batteries, but feel it is woefully irresponsible not to also pursue other forms of low-CO2 energy generation – hence my support for maintaining a level of involvement in nuclear – as an available fall-back option, down the track.

            Much of the spin, exaggerated claims, misrepresentations, and lack of definition of a complete system (including batteries) able to tide us over extended periods of low wind and overcast sky, with some margin for the unexpected. is what makes me anxious that we are ‘putting all of our eggs in one basket’. It is partly a matter of ‘trust’ – not marketing and political flim-flam.

            Most project managers provide contingency plans, and ‘slack’, into their Gantt charts. We seem to be have been provided with precious little of either – from many, many years ago, when there would have been time to deal with the obviously approaching issue.

            Given SA as an example, I’d like to know how much wind farm capacity, how much PV capacity, how many transmission lines, and how much battery capacity would be needed – to make SA self-sufficient of both electrical, and other primary energy requirements (steel making, mining, agriculture, etc.). Time-lines, and fully costed, of course.
            As yet, I have never seen this data – only ‘blue-sky’ projections.
            My own calculations, presented within this forum, would suggest we are falling further and further behind our required time-frames. Not just here in Australia, but World-wide (India, China, Bangladesh, Africa included).

  14. Trevor Crunkhorn says

    All sounds good. A few points though..

    Point 1: Our only Nuclear reactor is at the ANSTO at Lucas Heights NSW. It was replaced just a couple of years ago because the old one was well past its use by date and it was leaking, so the carefully decommissioned it. The new one is small and its sole purpose is the production of Nuclear Medical isotopes with a half life of a few hours. It is a very important function and the new plant is extremely reliable and safe.

    Point 2: Great about clean energy. But it is not so clean. There is a huge problem with waste from both the Wind Generators and the Solar Panels. Neither can be recycled. So the solution is to simply dig a big hole and bury it. Great for the environment. Then there is the huge carbon footprint created from the manufacturing process. All of this should be taken into account when determining if it is really clean energy. Granted that the energy produced is clean, but you need to take all factors into account, not just the convenient ones.

    Point 3: Batteries. Basically the same as point 2. There is a huge carbon footprint to mine the basic elements and how do the dispose of it once it has died. Can it be recycled? Not that I know of. However the are a clever lot so I am sure technology will advance and we will find a replacement for it.

    We just need to take into account all the processes of clean energy otherwise if we all take into account only the clean energy produced and ignore the ugly truth, then we should all become politicians.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Solar panels can’t be recycled? They’re can reclaim and use 94.7% of solar panels in Europe. What was the percentage for the Hamm-Uentrop nuclear power plant?

    • George Muscat says

      I want to see more solar and general renewables, but 100% energy production for both domestic and industry use is going to be really difficult. Are we going stop making metals in Australia to achieve 100%? Or just outsource it to another country? Are we going to be able to diversify renewable energy production for continous power? How are we going to deal with enegy density issues where they matter like in transport (airplanes, ships, road/rail away from a grid)?

      While I approve of the widespreed use of solar in residential/commercial environments; I do worry about land use for large scale solar production projects. Lets be honest, not many solar projects are going to be in the desert. They are going to be near existing infrastructure and thus replace farmland. Climate change is probably going to increase the need for more farmland for increasing variable weather patterns.

      I not confident that we can replace all existing technologies like hydrocarbons with renewables. I suspect that hydrogen with all of its technical challenges (for example storage and hydrogen embrittlement of metals) is probally the only clean fuel that might be capable of replacing existing hydrocarbons. Nucleur energy is the other near carbon free technology with high energy density. Hence the use in submarines.

      The possibility that nuclear energy, however great the cost, might be a partial solution to carbon reduction, might need to be considered. For example the possiblity of using high temperature nuclear reactors for both assisting with baseload power production and thermochemical hydrogen production might also be part of the long term energy solution required.

      I really hope we can achieve zero emissions worldwide with just renewables, but I have my doubts. Especially that people beyond statements will be willing to curb thier lifestyle like forgoing overseas air travel, stop eating meats or curbing the use of heating/cooling in thier home. Time will tell.

  15. Brendan Stark says

    I’m a bit sceptical about the ability of pure renewable/storage to satisfy 100% of demand in the foreseeable future.

    Looking at SA on opennem, there are times where the wind isn’t blowing (much) and the sun isn’t shining. During those periods they rely heavily on gas and imports (coal). Battery discharge currently provides an insignificant source.

    I’d love to see the numbers on the amount of battery storage including contingency that would be required for them to operate on 100% renewable generation with current reliability.

    Can the world produce enough battery capacity to transition the majority of developed countries to 100% renewable in the next 20 years?

    Not to mention the extra renewable capacity to both recharge the batteries and satisfy load simultaneously.

    To be clear, I’m not anti-renewable by any means. I just want to see the numbers before believing it’s in our near future.

    • Brendan, a few messages above, Geoff Miell provided links to reports which are likely to have numbers for you.

      Geoff’s links:

      Saul Griffith has done the work: https://www.rewiringaustralia.org/
      Also: https://www.rewiringamerica.org/

      So has the Global 100% RE Strategy Group: https://global100restrategygroup.org/

      So has the EWG & LUT University: https://www.energywatchgroup.org/new-study-global-energy-system-based-100-renewable-energy/

    • Geoff Miell says

      Brendan Stark,
      In addition to Peter’s comments above (on October 12, 2021 at 4:53 pm), there’s also work by:

      * Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE): https://bze.org.au/research-releases/all-research-releases/
      * Transgrid, who commissioned a report titled Energy Vision by the CSIRO, ClimateWorks Australia and The Brattle Group, published on Oct 12: https://www.transgrid.com.au/about-us/network/network-planning/energy-vision
      * ARENA, who commissioned a report titled Comparison of Dispatchable Renewable Electricity Options, published in 2018 (although it perhaps may now be a little dated): https://arena.gov.au/knowledge-bank/comparison-of-dispatchable-renewable-electricity-options/

      There are numerous studies being done, here in Australia and around the world, IMO all pointing in the same direction.

      On Oct 11, the AFR published an article by Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow headlined Coal power likely gone by 2035: Schott, that begins with (bold text my emphasis):

      Energy Security Board chairman Kerry Schott has predicted coal-fired power will disappear from the National Electricity Market by the mid-2030s if not earlier – cutting short the rated life of some generators by more than a decade.

      https://www.afr.com/policy/energy-and-climate/coal-power-likely-gone-by-2035-schott-20211011-p58yuq

      • Nicholas Geary says

        “Coal power likely gone by 2035”

        Maybe. But remember 2017, that rosy forecast that “it appears likely that both China and India will not require any thermal coal imports by around 2020” ? [Geoff Meill letter to NSW PAC Commissioners] How did that work out?

        (other subthread)
        “Evidence I see indicates there’s broad recognition from many energy scientists and engineers we/humanity already have many affordable, rapidly deployable, reliable, low/zero GHG solutions”

        There is also broad recognition that they are very unlikely to displace fossil fuels anytime soon, and broad recognition that we need to develop more and better options.

        “IMO, what’s holding us/humanity back is denial of urgent effective action required to mitigate anthropogenic climate change, deliberate large-scale vested interest propaganda/misinformation, ignorance (inadvertent and wilful), ‘inertia’ and lack of will.”

        I agree it is theoretically possible to get the job done by 2030 using only the low-carbon options that we have right now, and there are some flashy Power Point plans (eg. Jacobson and Diesendorf) for how that can happen. And the reasons you just stated are why I think that’s not going to happen–unless the entrenched multi-national power interests and the capitalist system that created them are overthrown, and we have a global cultural, political and economic revolution and attain levels of global unity and cooperation the likes of which this planet has never seen. Oh yeah, and all that has to happen in, like, the next two years if we are going to make the 2030 deadline. Meanwhile, there is deep and widespread suspicion that the climate crisis has been ginned up to push a social agenda, and that suspicion is only fueled by the conflicting message that this is such a dire crisis that we need a revolution, but it is not so bad that we need to develop all of our most promising clean energy options–basically saying that this is only a *some*-hands-on-deck emergency.

        But while social revolutions are hard, and rare, and risky, and often go horribly wrong, technology revolutions are very common. There are many going on all the time. And for those, you don’t have to change everyone’s mind first. They can be kicked off by small teams or even individuals, and the main obstacle is just the limits of our ingenuity. It’s even better if you have multiple teams developing competing options so that we can pick from the best–which, thankfully, is the situation we have now, with dozens of teams hard at work on the problem. You made the point that ‘hope is not enough’. I agree. We need action. And right now, I see a lot more action–and progress–on the technology front than I do on the social revolution front.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Nicholas Geary,
          You state: “Meanwhile, there is deep and widespread suspicion that the climate crisis has been ginned up to push a social agenda, and that suspicion is only fueled by the conflicting message that this is such a dire crisis that we need a revolution, but it is not so bad that we need to develop all of our most promising clean energy options–basically saying that this is only a *some*-hands-on-deck emergency.

          I’d suggest that would be the many vested interests, including the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, and the (as you put it) “entrenched multi-national power interests and the capitalist system“, who desperately wish to maintain their status quo and ongoing relevancy.

          Per NOAA: “In terms of CO2 equivalents, the atmosphere in 2020 contained 504 ppm, of which 412 is CO2 alone. The rest comes from other gases.
          https://gml.noaa.gov/aggi/

          The Earth System has already passed the tipping point for systemic Arctic and Greenland systems change, and we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity. That means the Greenland Ice Sheet will completely melt, contributing at least 7 metres of sea level rise, albeit over centuries to millennia timeframe.

          The Earth System is already at +1.2 to +1.3 °C global mean warmer (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age), and ‘locked-in’ to breach the +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold, likely before 2030. Humanity will be very lucky if we can avoid breaching the +2 °C global mean warming threshold before 2050. See Figure 2 at: https://mailchi.mp/caa/july-temperature-update-faustian-payment-comes-due
          Also see the Warming scenarios table on page 15 in Degrees of Risk: Can the banking system survive climate warming of 3˚C?: https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/dor

          James Hansen, a climate scientist who shook Washington when he told US Congress 33 years ago that human emissions of greenhouse gases were cooking the planet, is now warning that he expects the rate of global warming to double in the next 20 years. As Hansen puts it, humanity’s Faustian payment is coming due.
          http://www.climatecodered.org/2021/09/renowned-climate-scientist-warns-rate.html

          Compelling evidence I see indicates nuclear fission technologies cannot now be deployed at large-scale to save humanity from the consequences of catastrophic climate change in the timeframe required.

          You state: “I agree it is theoretically possible to get the job done by 2030 using only the low-carbon options that we have right now“.

          We/humanity need to put theory into large-scale, effective action right now or I’d suggest human civilisation is on the path to collapse, with likely consequent suffering and deaths of billions of people in the coming decades.

          • Nicholas Geary says

            “I’d suggest that would be the many vested interests, including the fossil fuel and nuclear industries,”

            Are you suggesting the nuclear industries are saying that the climate crisis isn’t real and impending? Or that they are somehow fueling climate change skepticism? Because I’ve only seen the opposite of that. The fact they are a low-carbon energy source is one of their main selling points.

            “we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity.”

            Yep.

            “That means the Greenland Ice Sheet will completely melt, contributing at least 7 metres of sea level rise, albeit over centuries to millennia timeframe.”

            It will unless we actively draw down the released carbon soon after we get off fossil fuels. And there are several ways we could do that (eg. olivine grinding and dispersion, or seawater injection into peridotite formations) but many of them would require large amounts of clean energy. So naturally, I’m very interested to see if any of the new nuclear designs could help with that.

            “James Hansen… is now warning that he expects the rate of global warming to double in the next 20 years.”

            I’m pretty sure Hansen would disagree that this constitutes an argument against developing and deploying new forms of nuclear power–considering he’s a major proponent of developing and deploying new forms of nuclear power.

            “Compelling evidence I see indicates nuclear fission technologies cannot now be deployed at large-scale to save humanity from the consequences of catastrophic climate change in the timeframe required.”

            For old-tech nuclear, I would largely agree. For nuclear that hasn’t been developed yet, that’s still an open question. Thorcon, for example, is designing their power plant to be built with existing automated shipbuilding technology. (Their core team previously built some of the world’s largest supertankers this way–very cheaply). Their estimate is that just the existing idle build capacity in the kind of shipyards they would use would be enough to crank out over 30 GWe of capacity per year. (With a build time per unit of roughly 1 year.) They also figure that if their design proves popular, it would only take about 3 years to triple production capacity. And that’s only one of the advanced nuclear teams. The limiting factor on deployment rate for any of the teams is going to come down to market demand. And that will depend on their costs, it will depend on the performance value and services they can deliver, and it will depend on the cost of competing options at that time. And at this point, we don’t have good information on any of those.

            “We/humanity need to put theory into large-scale, effective action right now or I’d suggest human civilisation is on the path to collapse, with likely consequent suffering and deaths of billions of people in the coming decades.”

            So is there a plan for how to get humanity to take that large-scale action that you want right now? Because I am not seeing it happening. I’m not even seeing any indication that we are moving in that direction. If there is no plan for how to make it happen, merely saying that it needs to happen won’t be enough to make it happen.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Nicholas Geary,
            It seems you agree with me that we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity. I’d suggest that means we/humanity must rapidly reduce ALL human-induced GHG emissions ASAP. Any additional human-induced GHG emissions from now on makes the task of atmospheric carbon drawdown increasingly more challenging – like the analogy of continuing to pour more water into a bathtub near the point of drowning the occupant, while simultaneously trying to drain it.

            Large-scale, safe atmospheric carbon drawdown technologies do not yet exist. If you disagree with this statement, then please provide evidence of these technologies that you consider already demonstrate this.

            It’s interesting that James Hansen was a co-author of an op-ed published in The Guardian on 4 Dec 2015, that included the following statements that IMO appear remarkably unself-aware:

            To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not on prejudice. …

            The climate issue is too important for us to delude ourselves with wishful thinking. …

            The future of our planet and our descendants depends on basing decisions on facts, and letting go of long-held biases when it comes to nuclear power.

            https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/nuclear-power-paves-the-only-viable-path-forward-on-climate-change

            I’m suggesting nuclear energy industry proponents wilfully misrepresent the capacity of the nuclear industry to contribute to rapidly reducing GHG emissions. Compelling evidence I see indicates nuclear technologies demonstrate they are FAR TOO SLOW to deploy to contribute in any significant way to make the required rapid and deep GHG emissions reductions. I’d suggest you re-read Ronald’s piece above and read pages 53 through to 58 on Construction Times in The World Nuclear Industry Report 2021. Demonstrated construction times shown do not include project planning, equipment procurement and site preparation times that typically add a further 5 years – see Fig 8: Typical durations for the main contracts in the IAEA document titled Project Management in Nuclear Power Plant Construction: Guidelines and Experience

            You state: “ For nuclear that hasn’t been developed yet, that’s still an open question.

            IMO, if it’s still an open question it’s already TOO LATE to save humanity from the consequences of catastrophic climate change. Sir David King, head of the UK Climate Crisis Advisory Group, said earlier this year: “What we, humanity, do in the next 4 to 5 years will determine the future of humanity for the next few thousand years.

            I find it remarkable that you appear to be mesmerised by the apparent unsubstantiated and highly optimistic claims being promoted by ThorCon.

            Per ThorCon’s website to date, I see the design phase is still apparently incomplete, there is still no physical manifestation of any plant, and there are no test results, or approvals. Furthermore, oversight is apparently being performed by Indonesian authorities, in a country that has had no prior nuclear power industry experience, only lower power research reactors. IMO, Thorcon’s highly optimistic project timeline indicating 6 years for a new system design to complete all construction, testing and acquire type approvals is already TOO LATE. Any slippage in this schedule, which is highly likely, makes the situation much worse. What could possibly go wrong, eh Nicholas?
            https://thorconpower.com/project/

            Meanwhile, non-hydro renewables are demonstrating again and again they are lower cost, safer, rapidly deployable at large-scale, exponentially increasing in installed capacity and energy delivered, and have recently overtaken global nuclear contributions. IMO, nuclear has already lost the race.

          • Nicholas Geary says

            “It seems you agree with me that we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity.”

            I think we have overshot what would be ideal for us and the rest of remaining life on Earth, and I think we are on a hard trajectory to make it much worse, but I don’t think there is a distinct dividing line between safe and unsafe CO2 levels.

            “I’d suggest that means we/humanity must rapidly reduce ALL human-induced GHG emissions ASAP.”

            Saying it must happen won’t make any more difference than saying it needs to happen. Until someone figures out a way to convince humanity to do this, it’s not going to happen.

            “Large-scale, safe atmospheric carbon drawdown technologies do not yet exist.”

            Several would be easier if we had large amounts of clean energy. But if they did exist right now, that would give the fossil fuel companies license to continue business as usual. Also, some of the strategies–such as injecting heated seawater into peridotite formations, have a large but finite sequestration capacity. If we use them up before getting off fossil fuels, then they won’t be available for drawdown after fossil fuels. So maybe it’s for the best that they don’t exist yet.

            “It’s interesting that James Hansen was a co-author of an op-ed published in The Guardian on 4 Dec 2015, that included the following statements that IMO appear remarkably unself-aware:”

            If you would like to suggest that Hansen doesn’t know what he’s talking about, there are a lot of climate change denialists who would take comfort in that, and see that as vindication of their views that his opinions can be disregarded.

            “I’m suggesting nuclear energy industry proponents wilfully misrepresent the capacity of the nuclear industry to contribute to rapidly reducing GHG emissions.”

            I would largely agree where you are talking about proponents of old-tech nuclear and the existing nuclear industry. I don’t see old-tech as making much difference outside of China, and maybe India.

            “Compelling evidence I see indicates nuclear technologies demonstrate they are FAR TOO SLOW to deploy to contribute in any significant way to make the required rapid and deep GHG emissions reductions.”

            For old-tech, I would say too slow, too expensive, too difficult to run, and not flexible enough in operation.

            “I’d suggest you re-read Ronald’s piece above”

            That won’t change the things I already know he missed.

            “and read pages 53 through to 58 on Construction Times in The World Nuclear Industry Report 2021.”

            Or more specifically, construction times for old-tech nuclear.

            “You state: “ For nuclear that hasn’t been developed yet, that’s still an open question.”
            IMO, if it’s still an open question it’s already TOO LATE to save humanity from the consequences of catastrophic climate change.”

            The may be your opinion, but I see others have different opinions, so I’d say that’s an open question too. I think it’s dangerous to promote the message that it is too late for many forms of action, because that engenders defeatism, resignation, and disengagement, and the fossil fuel companies can ride that horse just as effectively as they have denialism. There’s also an element of Pascal’s Wager to this. If we assume it is too late, and we don’t develop all our most promising options, then we don’t gain anything if we were right, and we lose huge if we were wrong. If we assume we have time and work to develop our best options, then we gain huge if we were right, and lose hardly anything if we were wrong.

            “Sir David King, head of the UK Climate Crisis Advisory Group, said earlier this year: “What we, humanity, do in the next 4 to 5 years will determine the future of humanity for the next few thousand years.””

            King is a strong supporter of nuclear power.

            “I find it remarkable that you appear to be mesmerised by the apparent unsubstantiated and highly optimistic claims being promoted by ThorCon.”

            I see clear differences for the new nuclear designs in development. The Thorcon approach is not my favorite, but I see it has good potential. I particularly like the replaceable reactor module design. That makes it endlessly upgradeable.

            “Per ThorCon’s website to date, I see the design phase is still apparently incomplete, there is still no physical manifestation of any plant, and there are no test results, or approvals.”

            First build of a demo/test reactor is at least 4 years out. But a big advantage they have is that their “factory” (ie. the existing automated shipbuilding industry) is already here and ready to go, whenever they have the module sets ready to upload. Back when Devanney’s team took on building some of the world’s largest supertankers, there was no physical manifestation of any of those as well, before they went straight into production.

            “Furthermore, oversight is apparently being performed by Indonesian authorities, in a country that has had no prior nuclear power industry experience”

            Several countries are currently signing up for nuclear power for the first time. Every country that does that necessarily has no prior nuclear power industry experience.

            “IMO, Thorcon’s highly optimistic project timeline indicating 6 years for a new system design to complete all construction, testing and acquire type approvals is already TOO LATE.”

            If there is no market for their reactors by the time they are ready, they will simply be a failed venture–a very routine occurrence among new ventures.

            “Any slippage in this schedule, which is highly likely, makes the situation much worse.”

            What situation does it make worse? And if a delay makes this situation worse, then surely not developing their reactor at all would be far worse.

            “Meanwhile, non-hydro renewables are demonstrating again and again they are lower cost, safer, rapidly deployable at large-scale, exponentially increasing in installed capacity and energy delivered, and have recently overtaken global nuclear contributions. IMO, nuclear has already lost the race.”

            All the molten salt teams I know of have their sights set on out-competing coal and gas–both of which are very likely to still be in operation on a large scale by the time the new reactors are ready. Most of them are also designing for flexible operation, so that they can back up wind and solar. The race nuclear designers see themselves in is the one against each other–trying to be first to market with the best design.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Nicholas Geary,
            You state: “All the molten salt teams I know of have their sights set on out-competing coal and gas–both of which are very likely to still be in operation on a large scale by the time the new reactors are ready.

            Compelling evidence I see indicates if coal- and gas-fired electricity generators are not retired on a global scale (as well as rapid and deep GHG emissions reductions from other sectors) by 2030 or earlier, the sooner the better, then the Earth System will likely overshoot the +3 °C global mean warming threshold (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) within the second half of this century. See the Central & High Warming scenarios shown in the table on page 15 in Degrees of Risk: Can the banking system survive climate warming of 3˚C?: https://www.breakthroughonline.org.au/dor

            With the Earth System crossing the +1.5 °C global warming threshold, that means the beginning of an exponentially increasing risk of multiple ‘breadbasket’ failures, which represents an increasing threat to global food security.
            https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308521X18307674

            With the atmospheric CO2 equivalent already above 504 ppm, +1.5 °C global warming is now inevitable, and +2 °C global warming is probably unavoidable, but still delayable depending on ongoing GHG emissions. So, I’d suggest we/humanity have already crossed the unsafe GHG emissions threshold, and it’s now a question of how bad will it get for those of us still ‘vertical’ beyond the next few decades.

            Crossing the +2 °C global warming threshold means the melting of all of the Antarctic Ice Sheet becomes essentially unstoppable, albeit over centuries to millennia timescale, even with a quick return toward pre-industrial temperatures, that would ultimately contribute at least 57 metres of sea level rise. Add at least another 7 metres contribution from the Greenland Ice Sheet.
            https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-overshooting-2c-risks-rapid-and-unstoppable-sea-level-rise-from-antarctica

            Above +2 °C warming may trigger a “Hothouse Earth” scenario of self-reinforcing warming that would be beyond human control. There are also increasing risks ‘tipping points’ could begin to manifest between +1.5 to +2 °C warming.
            https://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252

            Crossing the +3 °C global warming threshold means substantial areas of planet Earth that are currently home to billions of people would essentially become uninhabitable. The brown hatching areas shown in Figure 3 are essentially uninhabitable (i.e. too hot/humid) for humans less than 50 years from now (i.e. by 2070, under an ongoing high GHG emissions trajectory), including substantial regions in Australia: https://www.pnas.org/content/117/21/11350#F3

            Based on the compelling evidence I see, my point is: If coal- and gas-fired electricity generators are still around by the time demonstrably provennew nuclear designs” are available for large-scale deployment, I’d suggest likely well beyond 2030, then human civilisation is likely already on an inevitable path of catastrophe and collapse.

            Broadcast on the ABC’s Science Show on 29 Aug 2020, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Professor Johan Rockström said: “Time is also running out. The window to avoid major catastrophes is still open. But only barely. During the next decade, global emissions must be cut by half and we must halt the loss of species on Earth. That’s the reason. That’s the basic justification for declaring a state of planetary emergency.”
            https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/window-closing-for-action-to-stabilise-the-earth%E2%80%99s-climate/12606342

            You state: “I think it’s dangerous to promote the message that it is too late for many forms of action, because that engenders defeatism, resignation, and disengagement, and the fossil fuel companies can ride that horse just as effectively as they have denialism.

            I think it’s very dangerous to ignore the reality of the urgent and existential threat of dangerous climate change, and pursue policies/technologies that compelling evidence/data indicates will likely provide no significant and timely contribution, and distract and divert critical resources from focussing on and solving what really matters.

            If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest.” – Professor Schellnhuber
            https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/i-would-people-panic-top-scientist-unveils-equation-showing-world-climate-emergency.html

          • Nicholas Geary says

            “my point is: If coal- and gas-fired electricity generators are still around by the time demonstrably proven “new nuclear designs” are available for large-scale deployment, I’d suggest likely well beyond 2030, then human civilisation is likely already on an inevitable path of catastrophe and collapse.”

            Our current trajectory puts us at roughly no change in emissions by 2030–basically, all increases in clean energy production only cover the increase in energy consumption. If we follow through on all of the announced reduction pledges and proposals (rather unlikely), we might see a net emissions reduction of around 5 to 7% by 2030. Ambitious so-called “sustainable development” scenarios (way beyond what governments today are even considering) put net emissions about 10 to 14% lower by 2030. By every major forecast scenario, there will still be plenty of coal and gas in use by the time the first of the new reactors are reaching market-ready.

            “Professor Johan Rockström said: “Time is also running out. The window to avoid major catastrophes is still open. But only barely. During the next decade, global emissions must be cut by half…”

            A cut by half would still leave a lot of coal and gas in use, and even the net-zero by 2050 scenarios (which we haven’t made the least movement towards) wouldn’t cut emissions by nearly that much that soon. And saying it “must” happen because of dire predictions won’t be enough to change that. Doomers have been with us always, and the predictions of the most extreme climate doomers (eg. Guy McPherson) have already failed. At any given time, there are always lots of dire predictions, most of which come to nothing, and the average person doesn’t have the tools to tell the plausible ones from the hyperbolic ones. So the large majority of people just leave it to the experts and politicians to figure it out while they get on with their lives. If you are counting on a major course correction without a plan for how to convince humanity (and governments, and opposition interests) to do that, what you have there is basically the functional equivalent of a wish.

            “I think it’s very dangerous to ignore the reality of the urgent and existential threat of dangerous climate change, and pursue policies/technologies that compelling evidence/data indicates will likely provide no significant and timely contribution, and distract and divert critical resources from focusing on and solving what really matters.”

            I think it would be dangerous to bet the farm on a wish that has terrible odds while having no backup plans or options. And you can claim pursuing nuclear development is ignoring reality, but that development is actually happening, so it is part of our reality.

            But divert critical resources? I have no idea what that refers to. Even if you could somehow halt all the advanced fission development currently underway, the displaced nuclear engineers wouldn’t have anything to contribute to wind and solar and grid buildout, the nuclear labs would be useless for that, the nuclear fuels would be useless for that, the nuclear simulation and development software would be useless for that, computer hardware is cheap and abundant, so that’s not a critical resource, the steel and concrete that would be freed up is trivial, and those aren’t critical resources either, and the money for nuclear development is a speck out of the gross world product. Even if all the development programs were blocked, the government money would flow back into the general coffers, and the private investment money would shift to other high-stakes, high-return ventures–which would overwhelmingly not translate into investment into your preferred options.

            The problem for your preferred agenda is not technical and it’s not any shortage of resources. The overwhelming obstacle to your agenda is social. Public opinion is not with you, government policy is not going the direction you want, and powerful interests have deep resources to work against changes in either of those.

            On the other hand, arguing against nuclear development sends the message that pro-nuke climate scientists and the IPCC have some misguided or mistaken ideas, which only makes people more comfortable ignoring everything they say. And saying we don’t need to develop new clean energy options because the ones we have are good enough makes it sound like this is not that big a problem, which will undercut any felt need for any big changes. Or if you say it’s because the situation is so dire that there simply isn’t time to develop new options, that sends the message that there’s also not enough time for large systemic changes and it’s all just hopeless–which again works against your agenda. And that’s entirely your prerogative. But if you imagine that approach is helpful in the fight against fossil emissions, it just looks ironic when you accuse other people of ignoring reality.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Nicholas Geary,
            You state: “Our current trajectory puts us at roughly no change in emissions by 2030…

            Then the scientific evidence, that I’ve referred to in my series of previous comments in this thread, indicates the Earth System would then be on the path to reach an inevitable +3 to +5 °C global mean warming temperature range before 2100, and human catastrophe and civilisation collapse on a global scale. That’s the inconvenient truth.

            Professor Kevin Anderson says that a +4 °C global mean warming future “is incompatible with an organised global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems and has a high probability of not being stable” – see page 10 in Degrees of Risk. Also, Prof. Andy Pitman, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes in Australia suggests Western Sydney could be experiencing 60 °C summer heatwaves. That’d be lethal, and I’d suggest there’d be many cities around the world in a similar predicament (or worse for cities nearer to the equator).

            You state: “A cut by half would still leave a lot of coal and gas in use, and even the net-zero by 2050 scenarios (which we haven’t made the least movement towards) wouldn’t cut emissions by nearly that much that soon.

            No, you misunderstand. Professor Johan Rockström said (presumably recorded prior to the original Swedish podcast published 1 Jan 2020, and rebroadcast on the ABC’s Science Show on 29 Aug 2020): “During the next decade, global emissions must be cut by half…

            There is no qualifier specified by Rockström for electricity – ”Global emissions” means total global human-induced GHG emissions. GHG emissions from the electricity generation sector are only a subset, albeit a substantial one, of total global human-induced GHG emissions – see the World Resources Institute interactive pie chart at: https://www.wri.org/insights/interactive-chart-shows-changes-worlds-top-10-emitters

            A 50% total global GHG emissions reduction means a complete global decarbonisation of electricity generation, and low temperature heat (i.e. up to 150 °C), elimination of ‘fugitive’ emissions, and substantial if not all decarbonisation of land transport. The difficult sectors that will likely require more time to reduce the remaining 50% GHG reductions include high temperature heat (above 150 °C), industrial processes, aviation and shipping, and land and other sectors. Atmospheric carbon drawdown is also required.

            You say: “Doomers have been with us always…” I’d add, deniers and the wilfully ignorant that have vested interests to protect, together with the enablers/propagandists and the gullible/dupes, have been with us always too.

            You say: “I think it would be dangerous to bet the farm on a wish that has terrible odds while having no backup plans or options.

            Nicholas, let me get this straight – you think it would be dangerous to heed the overwhelming evidence and warnings from the vast majority of climate scientists and scientific organisations (IPCC, NASA, NOAA, Academies of Sciences of numerous countries, etc., etc.) of the urgent and existential threat of climate change? And wilfully ignore the available and timely low/zero GHG emissions solutions highlighted by many energy scientists and engineers that indicate are demonstrably cheaper than fossil and nuclear technologies? And prefer to continue business-as-usual, thus risk the future of human civilisation and the likely destruction of lives and livelihoods of billions of people? IMO, your series of comments in this thread suggests to me you would.

            You state: “Public opinion is not with you…” What do you base that on, Nicholas? I clearly see the opposite, including for example: https://theconversation.com/new-polling-shows-79-of-aussies-care-about-climate-change-so-why-doesnt-the-government-listen-148726
            Also: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-want-the-government-to-act-on-climate-change-whats-the-hold-up/
            And: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_3156

            You state: “Or if you say it’s because the situation is so dire that there simply isn’t time to develop new options…

            IMO, you are having trouble with your comprehension of my thread of comments and the numerous references I’ve presented. Evidence/data indicates there simply isn’t any more time available to develop new low/zero GHG emissions technologies to tackle the urgent decarbonisation of the entire global electricity sector by 2030 or sooner. Evidence/data I see indicates nuclear, whether with existing proven designs or new unproven, cannot now help. Either we/humanity deploy the available solutions (i.e. renewables + storage + efficiency measures) that are available in the required timeframe, or reap the consequences of a much more hostile and unstable planet that is likely incompatible for human civilisation later this century. If you cannot understand this, then I’d suggest you are being wilfully ignorant. That’s on you.

            Wilful ignorance and denial about the climate crisis and the available, rapidly deployable solutions to mitigate, leading to inaction or inadequate action, can get many, many people killed. What legacy do you want for future generations, some which you may personally care about, Nicholas?

          • Nicholas Geary says

            “You state: “Our current trajectory puts us at roughly no change in emissions by 2030…”
            Then the scientific evidence, that I’ve referred to in my series of previous comments in this thread, indicates the Earth System would then be on the path to reach an inevitable +3 to +5 °C global mean warming temperature range before 2100,”

            That is, if the assumptions in those projections are valid and do not change, not even with the development of energy options and drawdown technology which we do not currently have.

            “A 50% total global GHG emissions reduction means a complete global decarbonisation of electricity generation, and low temperature heat (i.e. up to 150 °C), elimination of ‘fugitive’ emissions, and substantial if not all decarbonisation of land transport.”

            And this supposedly has to happen by 2030? I have not seen any major energy forecast or projection scenario that gets us even halfway to that goal in that timeframe, have you?

            “You say: “I think it would be dangerous to bet the farm on a wish that has terrible odds while having no backup plans or options.”
            Nicholas, let me get this straight – you think it would be dangerous to heed the overwhelming evidence and warnings from the vast majority of climate scientists and scientific organisations (IPCC, NASA, NOAA, Academies of Sciences of numerous countries, etc., etc.) of the urgent and existential threat of climate change?”

            There are leading climate scientists as well as the IPCC who recommend the development and expansion of nuclear power. You seem to be of the opinion that we should disregard those recommendations. And I haven’t seen any of those organizations say we have to completely decarbonize electricity by 2030 to avoid major catastrophe.

            “And wilfully ignore the available and timely low/zero GHG emissions solutions highlighted by many energy scientists and engineers that indicate are demonstrably cheaper than fossil and nuclear technologies?”

            At no point did I say we should ignore them. My position has consistently been that we should do what we can with the options we currently have. I just think the odds are poor that we will get the job done with our current options, so I think we should also work on developing better options for the future.

            “And prefer to continue business-as-usual,”

            I indicated no such preference.

            “thus risk the future of human civilisation and the likely destruction of lives and livelihoods of billions of people?”

            The whole reason I favor the development of backup options is because I think we should do what we can to reduce risk in the likely event the current options don’t get the job done.

            “IMO, your series of comments in this thread suggests to me you would.”

            You are way off. Maybe it would be better to focus on what I actually say instead of making wild speculation about what I would say.

            “You state: “Public opinion is not with you…” What do you base that on, Nicholas? I clearly see the opposite, including for example: https://theconversation.com/new-polling-shows-79-of-aussies-care-about-climate-change-so-why-doesnt-the-government-listen-148726

            From that article: “68% support a net-zero by 2050 target for Australia.” That doesn’t sound at all like what you are advocating. Such a notional “target” would leave ample time for consideration of new nuclear power when it is developed.

            It was also 68% of Australians who felt, in 2006, that “Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.”
            https://poll.lowyinstitute.org/charts/attitudes-to-global-warming
            But by 2012, that proportion had fallen to only 36%, while the proportion who felt “we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost” had risen to 45%, and the percentage that felt “we should not take any steps that would have economic costs” had doubled over that six years. Today, public opinion has swung back to where 60% support taking action now, while 30 percent support taking low-cost gradual action. Even after the brushfires, public opinion hasn’t recovered to 2006 levels, the dominant position today is support for a target 30 years out, and past experience shows how quickly that support can evaporate.

            “You state: “Or if you say it’s because the situation is so dire that there simply isn’t time to develop new options…”
            IMO, you are having trouble with your comprehension of my thread of comments””

            “If” is a conditional. I’m addressing the possibility that you might say there isn’t time to develop new options. It seemed like a position you would be likely take. But yes, there are definitely things about your position I have not understood. That’s why I’ve asked questions–several of which you conspicuously have not answered (like what you meant about nuclear development being dangerous because it would divert critical resources). And your major misread of my position suggests you are struggling in the comprehension department as well.

            “Evidence/data indicates there simply isn’t any more time available to develop new low/zero GHG emissions technologies”

            You are raising the exact objection I anticipated. Seems very odd to use this as an example of how I did not comprehend your position.

            “Either we/humanity deploy the available solutions (i.e. renewables + storage + efficiency measures) that are available in the required timeframe, or reap the consequences of a much more hostile and unstable planet that is likely incompatible for human civilisation later this century. If you cannot understand this, then I’d suggest you are being wilfully ignorant. That’s on you.”

            I clearly understand that is your position. I also understand the transformation you are talking about is highly unlikely to happen in timeframe you are talking about using only the clean energy options we have now.

            “Wilful ignorance and denial about the climate crisis and the available, rapidly deployable solutions to mitigate, leading to inaction or inadequate action, can get many, many people killed.”

            That accounts for a fraction of the opposition to your agenda. Most of the opposition would come from the cost, which would be driven by the very short timeframe. Majority public support is for a much more gradual transition. And if you don’t realize how serious an obstacle that is to your agenda, then it may be you who is having problems with ignorance or denial.

            “What legacy do you want for future generations, some which you may personally care about, Nicholas?”

            With respect to this topic, I’d like future generations to have abundant clean energy and large-scale natural restoration. And towards that end, I think the development of new kinds of nuclear energy would be harmless, and might turn out to be very useful.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Nicholas Geary,
            You state: “That is, if the assumptions in those projections are valid and do not change…

            IMO, that indicates to me you still deny the overwhelming scientific evidence of the urgent and existential threat of climate change, and are continuing to entertain the very dangerous notion that the climate crisis isn’t as bad as the climate scientists have been and are now more insistently warning about, and are willing to put billions of lives and livelihoods at grave risk in doing so.
            https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/19/case-closed-999-of-scientists-agree-climate-emergency-caused-by-humans

            You ask: “And this supposedly has to happen by 2030?

            You have already agreed that we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity. I’ve provided a quote from Professor Johan Rockström stating unequivocally what must be done, and the sectors I’ve indicated are the easier ones (but not easy) to achieve it with in the required timeframe with the available, timely solutions. Professor Will Steffen was more specific in the YouTube video titled Will Steffen – Climate Change 2020 – Why we are facing an emergency – April 2020, published 24 Apr 2020, from time interval 0:38:25 through to 0:39:27.

            It seems to me you want to continue to ignore them? Why, Nicholas? Is the evidence/data I’ve presented inconvenient for your apparent ill-informed ideologically-based ‘nuclear will save us’ narrative?

            You ask: I have not seen any major energy forecast or projection scenario that gets us even halfway to that goal in that timeframe, have you?

            I’d suggest there’s a major and dangerous disconnect between what the climate science (and the more vocal climate scientists) are presenting, compared with what governments, various NGOs, business groups and the vast majority of the media are now advocating should be done.

            Climate scientists James Dyke, Robert Watson and Wolfgang Knorr, in The Conversation on Apr 22 headlined Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap, stated (bold text my emphasis):

            We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar…

            The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now.

            https://theconversation.com/climate-scientists-concept-of-net-zero-is-a-dangerous-trap-157368

            The IEA is now advocating for no more development of oil, gas and coal projects.
            https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/18/no-new-investment-in-fossil-fuels-demands-top-energy-economist

            Yet governments are still encouraging and approving more fossil fuel projects. I’d suggest many governments’ deeds are highlighting the hypocrisy of their hollow rhetoric and aspirations.

            You state: “There are leading climate scientists as well as the IPCC who recommend the development and expansion of nuclear power. You seem to be of the opinion that we should disregard those recommendations.

            Which “leading climate scientists”, Nicholas?

            In reference to nuclear power, James Hansen in 2008 admitted in his Trip Report on page 8: “I do not have the expertise or insight to evaluate the cost and technology readiness estimates.”, and on page 7: “I have always been agnostic on nuclear power.” – see: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2008/20080804_TripReport.pdf

            I’d suggest the “leading climate scientists” you perhaps have in mind and the IPCC don’t have the expertise or insight to evaluate the cost and readiness of nuclear technologies.

            You state: “Most of the opposition would come from the cost, which would be driven by the very short timeframe. Majority public support is for a much more gradual transition.

            Costs won’t matter if we are dead!

            Manage the unavoidable, and avoid the unmanageable.” – Professor H.J. Shellnhuber. +3 °C warming and higher would be unmanageable.

            Compelling evidence/data I see indicates it’s cheaper to transition to renewables than continue with fossil and nuclear technologies, and that renewable technologies can still be deployed in the required timeframe (although that window of opportunity is also rapidly closing too) – see my previous comments and links above, that it seems to me you continue to ignore.

            I’d suggest most of the public don’t know how serious the climate crisis is and the degree of urgency needed, and the available, affordable, effective solutions there are, thanks to dangerous propaganda/misinformation from powerful vested (fossil and nuclear) interests, facilitated by willing media organisations, and a plethora of ill-informed, ideologically-driven commentators and politicians.

            You state: “And towards that end, I think the development of new kinds of nuclear energy would be harmless, and might turn out to be very useful.

            IMO, you are a nuclear fantasist, wilfully ignoring the overwhelming evidence/data that nuclear is too expensive, too slow to deploy, reliant on unsustainable finite fuels, and that poses dangerous risks from long-lived toxic wastes and weapons proliferation.

          • Nicholas Geary says

            “You state: “That is, if the assumptions in those projections are valid and do not change…”
            IMO, that indicates to me you still deny the overwhelming scientific evidence of the urgent and existential threat of climate change,”

            All projections are based on assumptions, and even reasonable-sounding assumptions can still be wrong. To recognize that inherent limitation of projections is not a denial of science or evidence. I’ve seen many projections go wrong over short time intervals due to missing, or underweighted, or overweighted factors (remember the projections as recently as 2017 that China and India would no longer be importing thermal coal by now?) and the error bars only grow the further into the future the projections run–especially where the timeframe covers hard-to-predict factors like human behavior, and technology which hasn’t even been developed yet.

            “You ask: “And this supposedly has to happen by 2030?”
            You have already agreed that we/humanity are already into a negative carbon budget for a safe climate for humanity.”

            I not only agree, I expect it to get worse. There are no plans in the works to decarbonize electricity by 2030 using only the options that we have right now, and the targets the leading emitter nations are currently proposing are unlikely to reduce electricity emissions by even 10% in that timeframe even if we hit those targets–which we probably won’t.

            “I’ve provided a quote from Professor Johan Rockström stating unequivocally what must be done, … Professor Will Steffen was more specific …
            It seems to me you want to continue to ignore them?”

            I’m not ignoring their views. I’m expecting humanity will mostly ignore their views.

            “Why, Nicholas?”

            There is no why for a presumption you got wrong.

            “Is the evidence/data I’ve presented inconvenient for your apparent ill-informed ideologically-based ‘nuclear will save us’ narrative?”

            I’m not saying it will save us. I’m saying some kinds in development look like they good potential to be helpful in displacing carbon-emitting sources. And the only evidence you’ve presented is that the climate crisis is serious. You’ve presented zero evidence that we are actually going to deal with it before advanced nuclear is ready. There’s nothing in that which is inconvenient for me.

            “I’d suggest there’s a major and dangerous disconnect between what the climate science (and the more vocal climate scientists) are presenting, compared with what governments, various NGOs, business groups and the vast majority of the media are now advocating should be done.”

            Which makes it likely the aggressive action you are proposing won’t happen. Because so far, I haven’t seen any plan for how to overcome or bypass those factors.

            [Dyke, Watson and Knorr]
            “We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar…”

            I think emissions would have soared anyway. If it hadn’t been net-zero, it would have been something else.

            [DWK] “Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate.”

            And that would have been the case even if climate scientists had rejected net zero.

            [DWK] “… large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. … The time for wishful thinking is over.”

            If they think merely saying these cuts need to happen now will be enough to make them happen now, that’s still wishful thinking.

            “governments are still encouraging and approving more fossil fuel projects.”

            While supporting and encouraging high production from the existing projects. And I’m seeing no sign this is going to let up anytime soon.

            “You state: “There are leading climate scientists as well as the IPCC who recommend the development and expansion of nuclear power. You seem to be of the opinion that we should disregard those recommendations.”
            Which “leading climate scientists”, Nicholas?”

            Some prominent examples would include James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, Tom Wigley, Pascale Braconnot, Francois-Marie Breon, etc. Do you know of any leading climate scientists who oppose the development and expansion of nuclear power?

            “In reference to nuclear power, James Hansen in 2008 admitted in his Trip Report on page 8: “I do not have the expertise or insight to evaluate the cost and technology readiness estimates.””

            And in 2008, I was strongly opposed to all forms of fission power. People can learn and people can change their minds. By 2013, Hansen was an outspoken proponent. A 2013 joint letter from Hansen, Caldeira, Emanuel and Wigley began with: “To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power: As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”

            “I’d suggest the “leading climate scientists” you perhaps have in mind and the IPCC don’t have the expertise or insight to evaluate the cost and readiness of nuclear technologies.”

            For forms of nuclear now in development, we know they aren’t yet ready, and we won’t know their costs until they are developed. But actually developing and evaluating them should address both of those issues.

            “You state: “Most of the opposition would come from the cost, which would be driven by the very short timeframe. Majority public support is for a much more gradual transition.”
            Costs won’t matter if we are dead!”

            The public overwhelmingly does not believe that a gradual transition to net-zero by 2050 would cause our death.

            “Compelling evidence/data I see indicates it’s cheaper to transition to renewables than continue with fossil and nuclear technologies, and that renewable technologies can still be deployed in the required timeframe”

            Wait. Are you saying that we should not even continue using existing nuclear? And renewables deployment as rapidly as you propose may be theoretically possible, but it’s highly improbable given the current state of public opinion, politics, and corporate / media influence.

            “I’d suggest most of the public don’t know how serious the climate crisis is and the degree of urgency needed,”

            And I don’t see anything that is likely to change that anytime soon.

            “…and the available, affordable, effective solutions there are, thanks to dangerous propaganda/misinformation from powerful vested (fossil and nuclear) interests, facilitated by willing media organisations, and a plethora of ill-informed, ideologically-driven commentators and politicians.”

            I’m highly skeptical that the public is getting their information about these solutions you are talking about from nuclear companies. The old companies were mostly secretive and had very little media presence. The new companies are absorbed in their development work, and don’t have time or resources for a media presence beyond some web pages, social media posts, and a few scantly-viewed videos, and these are all about their own projects.

            “IMO, you are a nuclear fantasist,”

            I see potential in nuclear designs which do not currently exist. That potential may not be successfully realized, but the potential is there. If everyone who sees potential in technology which isn’t here yet is a fantasist, then most of the technology of the modern world was created by fantasists. I think that’s an incorrect use of the word. A fantasist envisions a state of affairs far removed from reality, with no practical plan or map for how to get there. The nuclear development teams are up against challenges of funding, engineering, and regulation, but these are mundane technology challenges, and there are plans in place for how to work through them. Your preferred agenda, on the other hand, is up against powerful interests and human nature, and is basically going to need a very rapid. worldwide. cultural, political, and economic transformation, starting almost immediately, and you appear to have no map or plan for how to get there from where we are. I don’t see the practical difference between that and an idle wish, dream, or fantasy.

            “wilfully ignoring the overwhelming evidence/data that nuclear is too expensive,”

            I’m quite aware that old-tech is too expensive, and have said so here.

            “too slow to deploy,”

            Old-tech is.

            “reliant on unsustainable finite fuels,”

            That’s not an issue. We’ll never bump into a limit on terrestrial nuclear fuels.

            “and that poses dangerous risks from long-lived toxic wastes”

            Toxic wastes aren’t harmful if they are contained. Dumped toxic waste from solar PV manufacturing has probably sickened and killed more people than nuclear power spent fuel has. The main dispersal risk with old-tech was from meltdowns, but there are designs in development that show good potential to eliminate that risk,

            “and weapons proliferation.”

            Our current fleet of reactors burned up the pits from around 20,000 nuclear bombs. They have been the most potent anti-proliferation tool we’ve ever had, and some of the new reactors in development could be even better.

  16. Ronald. Love your work chap but did you have to undermine it all with commenting on the subs?

    Sadly we are entering a dangerous period with the growth or a totalitarian thug called the CCP in our “backyard”. Now no one like bullies do they, but we have a 6 foot 5 barrel chested bohemeth who’s throughibg their weight around and you want to save the money from the program and build a MRNA lab and spend more money on batteries?

    Tell me an example of appeasement that ever worked with a bully? The only thing they respect is power. Those subs offer a realistic and credible deterrent. Once on patrol they can stay on station for say 90 days, silent, offering a credible threat both strategically (proposed land attack through Tomahawk cruise missiles) and tactically (through area denial).

    And compared to diesel subs (which are still credible but limited), the nuke boats can get on station much quicker- say at 22 knots vs say 10 (and snorkelling periodically), are much bigger (offering greater special mission, UUV and VLS/ strike options) and as mentioned stay on station for say 90 vs 15 days.

    We need these boats to maintain a credible threat to an aggressor. Sadly this is where we are at and where our future lies.

  17. I don’t know about wholesale prices, but my current household prices in Sydney are:
    Peak 60c/KwH
    Off peak 18.2
    Shoulder 29.48

    so generation cost seems to be only a minor factor.

    And my roof angle doesn’t let the solar panels operate terribly efficiently!

    Anyway, big thanks to Finn for the solar quote a couple of years ago. Every bit helps.

  18. Euan Robert Dickson says

    We could lease a couple of Los Angeles Class Submarines from the US they have a few decommissioned, I am sure they could recommission a couple. Nuclear Power just looks expensive because some bright sparks had it banned in 1998, probably the same bright sparks that brought about Gun Amnesty. Both of those were terrible ideas, nice piece by the Author though but basically the same reason we will never make another car in Australia, deemed cheaper too import them. Still think we should have Nuclear industry, South Australia is really boring.

  19. JAMES MCLUCKIE says

    has western australia fallen off your map.or do you not consider it worth a mention.
    if you wonder about the western australian attitude to eastern staters look no further than your list of states listed with cost of electricity.

    Jim Mcluckie WA

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I’m afraid Western Australia and the Northern Territory are secretive with their wholesale electricity prices. I suspect WA is embarrassed about how high it is.

  20. Ian Thompson says

    So Ronald – you say SMRs are ‘vapourware’?

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but I suspect the US Sub reactors are essentially SMRs – I could be wrong, but I’d think it very likely that their components are built in a factory – and likely even pre-assembled before being loaded into the subs. Maybe we can park them here in the West, and run cables out to our grid when they are not on patrol?

    Also, China’s HTR-PM has just reached ‘criticality’ (that is, made to run as intended, even if only at low power). This IS an SMR, and is of GenIV design. Also, a First of a Kind (FOAK) – so no doubt being developed cautiously.

    Maybe vapour Ronald, but rapidly solidifying.

    https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Chinas-HTR-PM-reactor-achieves-first-criticality

    • Des Scahill says

      Ian Thompson

      As far as I ‘m aware, the fully completed nuclear subs aren’t expected to be delivered until 2050. There is however an ‘optimistic’ 2040 date promulgated by our illustrious leaders according to this article in a local newspaper in Mansfield Victoria :

      https://www.mansfieldcourier.com.au/australia-in-deal-for-nuclear-submarines-1

      The same article also mentions: “An 18–month consultation period will determine workforce and training requirements, production timelines and safeguards on nuclear non–proliferation agreements

      Construction is expected to start before the end of this decade”.

      Even the normally pro-LNP News Corp thinks this is not a good idea at all.. According to their article: https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/australias-new-100b-submarine-could-be-a-waste-of-money/news-story/db8c482fe12bc6797df26d36478b1ec6columnist

      To quote from the News Corp article: “The $100 billion bill faces inevitable, massive blowouts. The 20-year delivery date is optimistic, and likely too late. Now a top academic has dropped a bomb on Australia’s nuclear submarine dreams – labelling them dinosaurs of the deep.”

      The News Corp article is worth reading in full, as it gives details of the new technology that is being developed in the area of ‘under water warfare’.. There’s a technological shift towards the use of unmanned ‘drones’ and other devices with AI capabilities which are considerably cheaper.

      As well, a SMH article at:
      https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/lost-the-plot-how-an-obsession-with-local-jobs-blew-out-australia-s-90-billion-submarine-program-20210913-p58r34.html

      mentions that the !2 new submarines will cost not only the 100 billion or so for their initial purchase, but a further 145 billion to maintain and keep operational over their useful life.

      Given the delivery date, there’s a need to extend the life of existing six Collins class submarines, beyond their 2026 existing end of life. How much that will ultimately cost is a bit vague, because what’s unknown is for how long beyond 2026 the life extension will ultimately be.

      This all sounds depressingly familiar to me. It’s almost identical to..

      – we”ll keep our old coal mines operational and continue to subsidize them
      until they’re replaced by SMR nuclear sources.

      – we can be confident that SMR is the answer even though hardly any of them have been built yet, and those that have, have have taken far longer to become fully operational than was originally promised., and have usually cost at least twice as much as was expected.

      – Everything will be sweet by 2050. We’ll just ignore reality in the meantime.

      Just to reinforce my point about ‘ignoring reality’ I note with some interest
      that the National Party has finally succeeded in partially convincing itself that well…yes… maybe… we might need to do something about reducing emissions by 2050, but nobody is going to bully us into actually doing anything about it unless they give us 100’s of millions of dollars to do so, and they also agree to completely ignore the fact that the National Party have done their best for years to argue that ‘climate change’ doesn’t really exist, and anyone who thought it did is nothing but a ‘woke’ greenie.
      See this article here concerning the above:
      https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-17/simon-birmingham-denies-climate-change-policies-held-hostage/100545840

      For those with a sense of humour, Australia’s ‘climate change denialism’ has achieved international recognition through being featured on a Times Square billboard in New York. – see this ABC article here:
      https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-16/times-square-billboard-ads-shame-australia/100544834

      Ronald’s general description of SMR’s as ‘vapourware’ seems quite appropriate to me.

      But leaving that aside, what seems pretty clear is that Australia, along with other countries needs to re-establish both an interest and an on-going presence of some kind in the South Pacific region long before 2050.

  21. Lawrence Coomber says

    China understands the limitation of renewables in the context of being a meaningful contributor to “massive power” in their energy intensive society, compared to other sources such as coal fired and nuclear.

    The main game is of course for all nations to lock into a reliable energy technology source of ”massive clean, safe, low-cost power” for global societies to get on with what they need to thrive and prosper going forward.

    That is precisely what all nations leaderships are responsible for, and required to deliver to their societies, and the new energy dense ‘top of the energy tech pyramid’ generation science era allows for this through safe, clean, efficient, modular, low footprint, low cost, thermodynamic generation science.

    Everybody should understand that coal fired generation plants must be phased out progressively over the next 30-40 years, whilst simultaneously maintaining and enhancing “massive power” opportunities for all people, communities, states and nations, to prosper indefinitely, through new era energy intensive technologies waiting to come on stream.

    This is the ‘Global Energy Imperative’ definition that commentators should get their head around and focus on.

    Lawrence Coomber

  22. Lawrence Coomber says

    Commentators

    What we never hear is the term “global communities equalizing energy technologies” because it’s not fashionable to think about all of those communities in Africa, Asia, and everywhere else really, with no or little electricity supply, being so contemptuous as to believe they are deserving in this greedy modern era, of having just as much energy available for their community development as say an ordinary western world community.

    Well that distorted thinking (and its very common in adults) is precisely why I coined the term “global communities equalizing energy technologies” in 2012 and included it in my middle school ‘Technologies for Future Sustainability’ series lectures (12-16 years age students). And to my joy, they actually hooked up on it immediately.

    Global peace and prosperity is all about the availability of “massive energy”. It is not about lean and green energy frugality and retreating back into caves with candles as some would have us believe.

    But this raises another challenge that we never hear about in blogs and other cyberspace media. How does this fit in with permanent greenhouse gas reversal generation technology. It seems to throw another spanner into the works.

    Well of course it certainly does, by a global multiplier of about 50 to 100. That’s right – and that will come as quite a shock to most. But not to lateral thinking global commentators because they take the time to think about the broader global energy equation, unlike most others.

    50 to 100 times. Yes that’s about right. For those global communities who haven’t got it – to join with those global communities who have got plenty of it: meaning the energy needed to commence and complete modern (infrastructure development, energy intensive manufacturing, roads, mining, businesses, rolling stock, refining, all forms of electric transportation, food production, and on and on it goes).

    Yes 50 to 100 times of what is currently being generated globally is about on the money to bring everyone up to a modern era standard!

    So when is the right time to implement “global communities equalizing energy technologies” if ever; well coincidentally and serendipitously I contend, about now is the time, along with greenhouse gas reversal generation technologies. Because they are precisely the same generation science solution.

    By implementing abundant, clean, safe, low cost power for all people, two critical issues are resolved, for the price of one. And the maths adds up.

    Back to the molecular science generation issues of scale; don’t be constrained in your thinking about what you see in the rear view mirror about old school nuclear scaling issues. Scale will be determined by the solution required not the other way around. Technology will (as it must) be tailored to fit the need.

    My guesstimate is that smart energy reticulation systems will be deployed everywhere. The format would most likely look like: a drop in modular, self contained, closed loop mini system starting at 50 MW and scaling up from there.

    It is time to get to work worlds best and brightest physicists, scientists and researchers. ASAP.

    Lawrence Coomber

  23. Lawrence Coomber says

    Don’t forget that GHG and climate change science, is a global subject.

    And the key greenhouse gasses mitigation issues that must be addressed conjointly (within 10 years of each other anyway) that have been universally agreed to are: [1] the closure of fossil fuel generation plants everywhere (coal); and [2] the cessation of manufacturing globally of internal combustion engines (oil).

    So by extension items [1] and [2] need “massive capacity, clean, safe, low cost” replacement generation technologies to simultaneously step in to keep the lights on and the wheels revolving globally. Any guesses what that must be? And my estimation is that we won’t be discussing this trendy term [energy mix] that has evolved over the last 10 years either. There won’t be any support for costly alternative miniscule capacity primary sources of energy at all, and why would anybody think otherwise.

    There is no philosophical loyalty by consumers to “high cost” proposals side by side with “low cost” proposals. Mobile phone plans teach us that at least. Economy of scale is the key driver as we move forward with new era energy science.

    I am always amused by those who believe that electric vehicles get their electricity from batteries alone. Hey, beam me up Scotty!

    I invite readers to make up a simple Excel spreadsheet to get some idea of the global energy requirements post fossil fuels dominance. Start by summing the annual global usage statistics of oil. They are well documented. The surprises appear with the simple click of a mouse. Then move onto per capita energy consumption averages of let’s start with the USA, then extrapolate this value with the balance of people on the planet. Then consider the energy impost multiple on top of all that necessary to elevate community’s development from scratch for the global masses, to the Australian citizen standard for example, and the spreadsheet starts to glow in the dark.

    We don’t seem to have many energy focussed contributions of where the world is at and where we are heading from the mathematicians? We need to hear from them to understand the “global energy imperative” in front of us, rather than some narrow focussed Australia only viewpoints.

    Lastly and perhaps most importantly, when doing your analysis about global energy imperatives moving forward, that the global current 7 billion population is on track to exceed 10 billion by 2045.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Ian Thompson says

      Well Lawrence – I’m guessing your ‘top of the energy technology pyramid’ dense energy production must define the source of energy used by stars including our sun – nuclear fusion.

      I still wonder if another issue we would STILL need to deal with – is the fact that our economies are predicated on escalation in order to work. And this by implication means unlimited population growth > more, and more energy and resources needed. Not disagreeing with Nicholas Geary directly, but perhaps we DO need a form of social or structural revolution – one that allows us all to prosper, WITHOUT the need for exponential financial, and population growth?

      We wouldn’t be in this mess, is populations were controlled aeons ago. China did it, for a while at least.

      Just saying…

  24. It is a pity that most are that afraid of nuclear energy.
    Sheesh, I am that confident in its safety, that I will swim in the reactor cooling pool whilst the reactor is active, pending a basic caveat of depth being so I can’t touch it by diving in!
    Another factor oft ignored, is the future potential of processing and reuse of other countries waste, at fees that would likely result in negative energy costs, let alone storage fees!
    We could have other countries pay us to process their waste, which we use to process our own electricity.
    IIRC, we can reduce waste by over 90% when using it as an energy source.
    Otherwise, every vehicle processed will leave us with a bag of rice of end waste for a rudimentary scale.
    I strongly recommend people actually research above rather than just accept or dismiss at face value and form your own informed opinions.

  25. Lawrence Coomber says

    X Lee

    At the macro level renewable energy technologies such as solar PV and wind have a very limited future role in the global energy supply equation. Renewable solutions will remain suitable for miniscule scale applications in boutique and niche circumstances only. Renewables lack the necessary attributes to qualify as enduring future mainstream energy generation solutions.

    I understand that global climate change is largely fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel energy generation, and gasoline powered engines. I also understand that well over half of the world’s population are energy starved; and as such are denied opportunities to aspire to reach the modern standard of living enjoyed by those of us fortunate enough to exist in an energy abundant society.

    It is axiomatic without any doubt, that the energy deprived must do whatever and by any means possible, to redress this imbalance. The math around this premise is astonishing.

    The current world’s total power generation output by all forms will need to increase by a factor of between 50 to 100 times (at least) and be steadily rolled out systematically and globally over the next 50 years, to begin to definitively redress this energy imbalance and moving societies forward rapidly into the next century!

    Moving the world forward technologically; is not only about (1) stabilising GHG at insignificant levels permanently, but also and simultaneously (2) “powering up” the entire world’s population to enable the pursuit of a modern era of prosperity and standard of living by and for all peoples.
    The key point here is that GHG mitigation concepts and technologies, are intrinsically linked with “global societies equalising power generation technologies”.

    Let us not forget: the current global population of 7 billion will increase to over 10 billion by 2050, irrespective of whatever scientific and technological advances brings forth in the near foreseeable future; or worse, does not bring forth. It will still be around 10 billion with or without the right technological solutions put in train about now.

    Energy commentators and readers might benefit from pondering a bit on the simple term “the new age global energy generation imperative”; it has a books worth of meaning in its few words. The “new age global energy generation imperative” demands a massive and enduring energy science technological solution that:-

    1. Must be an energy dense power generation technology able to deliver massive, safe, clean, and low-cost power; and be one occupying the apex of the energy science technology pyramid;
    2. Reduce power generation global greenhouse gas emissions GHG [from combined sources] to insignificant and ongoing manageable levels permanently;
    3. Be of scalable and modular design, and easily deployed systematically and cost effectively; to power ‘’new age energy intensive industries and businesses’’ throughout the world;
    4. Cost effectively enables all individuals, families, communities, states, and nations, throughout the world, the opportunities to aspire to achieve (1) prosperity through industrialisation and modernisation, and (2) a modern standard of living; and particularly post 2200.

    The key takeaway phrase is: “massive, safe, clean and low-cost power”; and nothing less than this technological pursuit and outcome will cut it moving forward globally.

    The technology that gets that right – will precipitate a falling into line of all other critical technological imperatives including: stabilising the worlds peoples and societies, and most certainly be regarded as “global in-perpetuity energy science technology” enabling all things that follow.

    Finally: I recommend that global thinking scientists, researchers, and commentators, focus on my comments above and switch ideas from a narrow focussed “here and now” argument, to a more expansive global energy perspective moving forward; and one that is a more quantitative and purposeful viewpoint in which modern science takes precedence over misguided rear view ideology.

    Lawrence Coomber

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