Let’s assume (as STT does, for the sake of argument) that the global warming/climate change Chicken Littles are right: the sky really is falling and it’s all CO2’s fault.
So what the HELL are we doing pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into subsidies for wind power?
STT has always thought that if man-made CO2 emissions really were destroying the planet, then sensible governments would have moved to build nuclear power plants from the moment the Chicken Littles started wailing about the heavens collapsing.
The French generate over 75% of their sparks using nukes – and have used nuclear power – without any serious incident – for over 50 years: the first plant kicked off in 1962.
Nuclear power is the only stand-alone thermal power source that is base-load and which does not emit CO2 emissions when generating power.
It’s true that geothermal falls into the same category, but away from volcanic zones (think New Zealand and Iceland) depends on accessing “hot-rocks” deep underground – which tends to limit its scope for operation. Although STT thinks – as a “base-load” generator – it’s a source worth pursuing, with more funds directed at research and development (see our post here and this article).
STT readers know that we are a big fan of hydro power, the development of which stalled after the Greens “No Dams” mantra shot them to political power (and see our post here). The perversities of our renewable energy legislation (the LRET) mean that the cleanest and most reliable source of renewable energy – hydro – does not benefit from the incentives given to ludicrously expensive and completely unreliable wind power. That’s right, the “Waterboys” don’t get RECs (only hydro generating capacity built after 1998 is eligible – the 99% of total hydro capacity that was built before then gets nothing).
With the – about-jolly-time – dawning realisation among at least some of our political betters that wind power is not (and will never be) a meaningful power generation source – for fairly obvious meteorological reasons:
focus has quite properly shifted to the Awesome-Atom; ‘Awesome’ that is, when it comes to generating power 24 x 365; at a long-run marginal cost per MWh a fraction of wind power – in the US, $29.60 per MWh for existing nuclear versus $106.80 per MWh for wind power (see our post here) – except that the former is available at the deliberate dunking of a rod; whereas the latter is only available at the fickle whim of the Wind Gods.
And, unlike wind power with no need for an equal amount of capacity running in the background from fossil-fuel sources, a nuclear plant is capable of truly CO2 emissions free operation. Given the abject failure of wind power, investing heavily in nuclear power technology is a direction that the owner of a minor computer software firm is keen to take:
While there is a solid case to veer away from uranium as the fuel source and to fill reactors with the safer and more benign thorium, instead:
However, whether it’s uranium or thorium, atomic power alone has the features needed to bring about meaningful power, delivered at sensible cost, with no CO2 emissions in the process. In short, if CO2 emissions in the electricity sector is the problem, then nuclear power is the only serious solution.
The debate in Australia on the merits of nuclear power has just begun, but don’t expect much more than emotional hysteria from the energy-economics illiterates that front up the Green/Labor Alliance; and even less from the intellectual pygmies that front the mainstream media.
As you consider the piece below, penned by Maurice Newman – former head of Deutsche Bank, the ABC, ASX and adviser to former PM, Tony Abbott, here are a few facts that tend to get overlooked in the nuclear power debate.
While there have been a small number of nuclear accidents involving nuclear power generation plants (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima) only Chernobyl – a Soviet Military installation – resulted in any actual fatalities: a total of 56 – 47 of whom were fire and rescue workers, 4 of whom died in a helicopter crash.
Now, compare that tally (racked up over more than 50 years of nuclear power generation) with the 162 killed by these things.
The following comes from the Caithness Wind Information Group’s Summary of Wind Turbine Accident data to 30 September 2015:
“Our data clearly shows that blade failure is the most common accident with wind turbines, closely followed by fire. This is in agreement with GCube, the largest provider of insurance to renewable energy schemes.
In June 2015, the wind industry’s own publication “WindPower Monthly” published an article confirming that “Annual blade failures estimated at around 3,800”, based on GCube information. A GCube survey in 2013 reported that the most common type of accident is indeed blade failure, and that the two most common causes of accidents are fire and poor maintenance. http://www.gcube-insurance.com/press/gcube-top-5-us-wind-energy-insurance-claims-report/
Number of accidents
Total number of accidents: 1781
Number of fatal accidents: 116
Please note: There are more fatalities than accidents as some accidents have caused multiple fatalities.
Of the 162 fatalities:
95 were wind industry and direct support workers (divers, construction, maintenance, engineers, etc), or small turbine owner/operators.
67 were public fatalities, including workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. transport workers). 17 bus passengers were killed in one single incident in Brazil in March 2012; 4 members of the public were killed in an aircraft crash in May 2014 and a further three members of the public killed in a transport accident in September 2014.”
Hmmm, not so ‘safe’, after all.
Then it needs to born in mind that nuclear power has been a serious power generation source since the 1960s – currently responsible for around 15% of the electricity generated world-wide; whereas wind power – a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ – fits as a damp squib, somewhere in the 2.3% (bundled up with with solar, biomass etc) classed as ‘Other’:
So there you have it – wind power: costly, seriously deadly and utterly useless. Now, with that in mind, here’s Maurice Newman’s pitch for a nuclear powered future.
Sun and wind can’t match nuclear power
19 October 2015
No doubt the champagne corks were popping in renewable energy boardrooms when they heard the news that Malcolm Turnbull had deposed Tony Abbott. After all, Abbott questions anthropogenic climate change and is a fiscal conservative who was tough on rent-seekers.
Turnbull is convinced global warming is human caused. He believes that to “effectively combat climate change”, the nation “must move … to a situation where all energy comes from zero or very near zero emission sources” – an expensive exercise. Expensive or not, Environment Minister Greg Hunt confirms, under the new Prime Minister the renewables industry should feel “very supported”.
While this sounds reassuring, South Australia’s Labor Premier Jay Weatherill’s decision to establish a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has the potential to significantly reduce electricity prices and to make the renewables industry obsolete.
The royal commission will look at “the potential for the expansion and extraction of minerals and the undertaking of further processing of minerals and manufacture of materials containing radioactive substances, use of nuclear fuels for electricity generation and the storage and disposal of radioactive and nuclear waste”.
South Australia is a prime candidate for an end-to-end nuclear industry and Weatherill, despite his Left faction credentials, has seized upon it as a potential economic game changer.
In part due to its heavy investment in renewables, his state has the highest electricity prices in the country (and third highest in the world), the nation’s worst unemployment rate, declining manufacturing industries and a record budget deficit of $279 million. Serendipitously though, South Australia is sparsely populated and located on the planet’s most geologically stable continent, making it eminently suitable for the storage of spent nuclear fuels. It also hosts Olympic Dam, the world’s largest known single uranium deposit.
Westinghouse Electric, the giant nuclear power company which builds and operates about half the world’s nuclear plants, clearly senses this is a “Nixon goes to China” moment and has just announced memorandums of understanding with three local suppliers to the nuclear industry.
Make no mistake, if the royal commission opens the way to nuclear energy and storage and the South Australian government capitalises on this historic opportunity, the passion and ferocity of the ensuing opposition will qualify as an Olympic sport.
Words like “Chernobyl”, “Three Mile Island” and “Fukushima” will feature prominently in the anti-nuclear playbook.
We should expect Australian activist Helen Caldicott to make frequent appearances on the ABC, warning us of the dreadful dangers of all things nuclear. Caldicott’s alarmism puts Tim Flannery to shame.
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, after a 9 magnitude earthquake and catastrophic tsunami, she painted a scenario where “a very big aftershock could make almost all of Japan — including Tokyo — uninhabitable forever” and “induce an epidemic of cancers”.
Well, four years and 60 aftershocks of more than magnitude 6 later, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms there have been no radiation related deaths or acute effects observed in 25,000 workers, including those at the site.
Plans to return evacuees home are being accelerated. Nearly every type of food produced in Fukushima has been found to be below Japan’s contamination limits (the world’s toughest) and, based on thorough testing, seawater samples contain no traces of radiation.
These facts won’t stop the scaremongers. We will be told that we have no comprehension of the risks to human health we face. The virtues of renewable energy will be exaggerated as a viable alternative, despite its dismal economic and environmental record and growing evidence of adverse health effects from wind turbine infrasound.
Last year, in the article “Sun, wind and drain”, The Economist cited work by Charles Frank of the Brookings Institution. Frank notes the limitations of “levelised costs” and uses a cost-benefit analysis to rank various forms of energy producers.
“The costs include those of building and running power plants, and those associated with particular technologies, such as balancing the electricity system when wind and solar plants go offline or, disposing of spent nuclear fuel rods”. He found that nuclear-power plants that run at 90 per cent of capacity avoid almost four times as much CO2 per unit of capacity as do wind turbines and six times as much as solar arrays. He also found that seven solar plants or four wind farms would be needed to produce the same amount of electricity as a similar sized coal-fired plant.
As The Economist summarises, if all the cost benefits are totted up, using Frank’s calculation, solar is by far the most expensive way of reducing CO2 emissions, followed by wind. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit but, “the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power”.
Australia’s energy day of reckoning is fast approaching. Its thermal power stations are ageing. They are forced to suffer generator intermittency and to subsidise their renewable energy competitors’ capacity. Their costs are rising and their prices falling. Legislated distortions threaten their very survival. As they cannot attract new investment, there is a growing prospect of random power outages within a decade.
Something has to give. Either prices rise or, like Britain and Europe, taxpayers will have to subsidise obsolete generators to keep the lights on. This is a short-term fix only. Nuclear energy has to be on the table.