If CO2 Really is ‘Pollution’, There’s Only One Solution: Nuclear Power

In the climate alarmists’ worldwide crusade against carbon dioxide gas, only the most delusional still believe that wind and solar power add anything to their arsenal.

One of America’s leading eco-warriors, Michael Shellenberger has turned on wind and solar with a passion, instead he’s now advocating for an all-atomic energy future, simply because the latter provides reliable power, whereas the former are a childish nonsense.

With Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (focused almost exclusively on wind and solar at the expense of everything else) having all but destroyed Australia’s Eastern Grid, as well as being responsible for the highest power prices in the world, commentators and pundits are now starting to consider the nuclear alternative.

As Michael Shellenberger recognises, building a system of nuclear power generation renders wind and solar utterly redundant. If the point is cutting CO2 emissions and powering an economy, nuclear power stands alone. And, unlike weather and time dependent wind and solar, nuclear power doesn’t need anything else to prop it up.

Here’s The Australian’s Graham Lloyd with a pretty solid wrap-up on what should be Australia’s nuclear powered future.

Nuclear the energy alternative for Australia none dare name
The Australian
Graham Lloyd
16 September 2017

A lot has happened in the decade since Ziggy Switkowski set out on a mission to promote nuclear power as a sensible clean energy option for Australia.

The nation’s ageing fleet of coal-fired generators is 10 years nearer to closure and the need for reliable sources of power to ­replace them has become acute. Politicians have been unable to balance the twin challenges of ­energy security and a climate change response.

The result is that energy options are being crushed between hope and reality.

Switkowski’s warning of a decade ago — that renewable energy was intermittent, heavily subsidised and required stable “dis­patchable” generation to support it — has proved correct.

Despite the billions spent, Australia’s peak energy regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator, has confirmed that wind generation can fall as low as 2 per cent of installed capacity. Building more wind turbines across a greater geographic spread can improve this only to 5 per cent.

AEMO’s report reads like a horror show. It warns of a “heightened risk” of load shedding and blackouts as early as this summer. Longer term, as more of Australia’s baseload coal fleet is ­retired, the situation is far from clear.

A key criticism of nuclear has been price. But the renewables push has already seen Australia’s retail electricity prices soar. The wholesale cost of electricity has trebled in Victoria from $20 a megawatt hour to more than $60. In South Australia it has risen from $50 a MW/h to $110, leaving consumers paying the highest electricity costs in the world.

The concern is that Australia’s longstanding natural advantage of cheap energy has been squandered with dire consequences for manufacturing and jobs.

Analysis has shown that taxpayers will have paid more than $60 billion through federal renewable energy subsidies by 2030, enough to build about 10 large ­nuclear reactors. But nuclear is not able even to get a seat at the table for debate.

For supporters, nuclear has ­always been a dependable, zero-emissions option, but it is still too hot politically to handle.

While nuclear has fallen out of the headlines in Australia, it is following two critical pathways ­internationally. There has been a shift in the global centre of gravity in large-scale nuclear power from Europe and the US to Russia, China and India. Big nuclear projects have hit financial trouble in Britain and the US but are booming in the world’s emerging major economies.

Alongside this transition there is an increasingly energetic nuclear race led by Microsoft ­founder Bill Gates and a fleet of small venture capital-backed companies working to reinvent nuclear power. Nuclear is being downscaled in a way that is better suited to emerging electricity markets. It is claimed the new-generation plants under ­develop­ment will be cleaner, smaller and more versatile.

Unlike coal, the new-generation plants will be able to ramp electricity output up and down to follow grid demands. When electricity is not required they will be able to use their energy output for other tasks such as water desalination, providing heat for industry and generating products such as hydrogen for chemical and fertiliser production.

A table released by the World Nuclear Association, updated to July 1, shows there are 448 nuclear power plants operating worldwide producing 392,364 megawatts electric power. There are 59 nuclear plants under construction, 160 planned and a further 378 proposed.

Mainland China has 36 operating plants, 21 under construction, 38 planned and 174 proposed. China’s nuclear power has sprung from nowhere over little more than a decade. It has completed construction and begun ­oper­ations of more than 30 new ­nuclear power reactors since 2002. It has started an export marketing drive for a ­largely indigenous reactor design and is conducting a world-leading research and development effort.

India has 22 operating nuclear reactors, six under construction, 19 planned and a further 44 proposed. As well as the 22 ­nuclear ­reactors already online, of indigenous and foreign ­design, those under construction ­include a 500MWe prototype fast breeder reactor.

This will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage two, a less polluting version of nuclear power that many claim will be the future.

Australia, meanwhile, has put its faith and money into renewable energy and the promise of battery storage and better grid management. Green groups argue that Australia is capable of leading the world in renewables but there are others who say that without nuclear the country runs the risk of being left behind.

The Minerals Council of Australia says nuclear energy is a readily deployable, zero-emissions baseload energy that should not be excluded from Australia’s ­energy mix.

To be considered, however, changes would need to be made to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which effectively bans it. And as things stand, neither major party seems prepared to push the nuclear button.

The reality is this: if Switkowski’s review of nuclear energy sparked a flicker of government and public support for nuclear in 2006, it was effectively swept away in Japan’s March 2011 ­tsunami, which caused a catastrophic failure at the Fukushima nuclear reactor.

Fukushima led to a global stalling of what appeared at the time to be a rapidly blossoming nuclear renaissance. As a result of Fukushima, Germany quit the technology and closed all of its nuclear plants. Japan proposed a renew­ables future but has since restarted most of its remaining nuclear fleet. Germany has turned ­increasingly to coal.

The official view of the World Nuclear Association is that there were no deaths or cases of ­radiation sickness from the ­Fukushima nuclear accident but more than 100,000 people were evacuated.

Reflecting on events, Switkowski tells Inquirer that community confidence was shattered by Fukushima.

And while there was some public support for ­nuclear, there was little enthusiasm on the part of generators and financiers who would have real skin in the game. “Government won’t move until a real business case is presented and none has been, to my knowledge, and there aren’t votes in trying to lead the debate,” Switkowski says.

There are many, however, who still believe nuclear is the way to go. “With Australia’s current ­energy challenges, the country can no longer afford its outdated prohibition,” the Minerals Council’s uranium spokesman, Daniel Zavattiero, said this week. “The country deserves to have all ­energy options on the table to consider in future.”

Last year Australia became the 14th member of the Generation IV International Forum, a collaboration in the development of new reactor technologies. But without changes to laws Australia’s opportunities will be limited.

The rush to new-generation nuclear has some heavy backers. The Bill Gates-backed Terra­Power claims it could cut overall costs by as much as 80 per cent and supply much cheaper energy. TerraPower is working to develop a molten chloride fast reactor that it says will run hotter, yet more safely and economically, than conventional water-cooled reactors. It could generate electricity, but when prices for electricity were low, it could sell the heat to help industries develop cleaner, higher-value products.

According to Zavattiero, many of the new nuclear innovators are seeking international collaboration. “Australia’s long history of reliable uranium production and supply, its world-class research ­reactor in Sydney, and its strong non-proliferation reputation provides a base of expertise and ­experience with which international nuclear innovators would dearly like to work,” he says.

“The removal of the prohibition will mean nuclear will be properly considered on merit, and before any project is built it would need to satisfy stringent environmental and regulatory standards and be approved by the federal government.”

Mike Young, chairman of the MCA Uranium Forum, says Australia could be at the vanguard of nuclear technology.

“Any objective science-based discussion ­devoid of hyperbole and emotion invariably finds that nuclear power is clean, economic and ­reliable, that it plays a vital role in the world today,” Young says. “It makes no sense for it to be banned in Australia.’’

Australia’s Finkel report into Australia’s energy future did not ignore nuclear altogether. But it says the establishment of nuclear power will require broad community consultation and the ­development of a social and legal licence. “There is a strong awareness of the potential hazards associated with nuclear power plant operation, including the potential for the release of radioactive ­materials,” the report says. “Any development will require a significant amount of time to overcome social, legal, economic and technical barriers.”

In the US, the Trump administration has put its weight behind new-generation nuclear research.

Donald Trump, in a White House Energy Week conference address in June, announced six initiatives to propel a “new era or American energy dominance”. “First we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector, which produces clean, ­renewable and emissions-free ­energy,” the President said.

US energy secretary Rick Perry told the conference he was on a mission to make nukes “cool” again. “This administration ­be­lieves that nuclear energy ­devel­opment can be a game changer and an important player in the development of our clean-energy portfolio globally,” Perry said.

“I believe we can achieve this by focusing on the development of technology, for instance, ­advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors.”

For Perry, the issue is about more than reliable energy with zero carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s about America maintaining — or regaining may be a better word — our leadership role in ­nuclear energy, because the Russians and the Chinese are very ­actively engaged across the board, globally, to go put their technology to gain and leverage their political place,” he said.

“So this is a lot bigger issue than just allowing a couple of plants in the southern part of the United States. It’s a lot bigger than just making sure that Westinghouse continues to be a stable American company. This is a massively ­important issue for the security of America and the security for America’s allies.”

At this stage, Australia remains politically disengaged.

Once a supporter, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has publicly gone cold on nuclear.

In his ­maiden speech to parliament in October 2010, five months before Fukushima, Frydenberg said it seemed “inexplicable that in Australia we have yet to have a constructive and thorough debate about nuclear power, the only base­load, carbon-neutral energy source. It is a curious moral, economic and environmental position that we find ourselves in where we are prepared to supply uranium but not use it.”

The federal government is ­agonising over whether to support new-generation, high-efficiency, lower-emissions coal-fired plants but makes little mention of nuclear.

“Australia has a large natural advantage when it comes to uran­ium,” Frydenberg tells Inquirer. “The development of a domestic nuclear power industry would not only need bipartisan support but also state-based support. To date the Labor Party has been opposed to it. Any investigation would need a long-dated timeframe and would unlikely ­address the more immediate issues of affordability and reliability.”

Switkowski says he can understand the reasoning. “Adding ­nuclear capacity one gigawatt at a time is hard to justify, especially as costs are now very high, development timelines are long and solar plus battery storage is winning the race,” he says.

But if battery and other storage advances don’t live up to their promise as coal-fired plants are forced to close, it is conceivable that ­one day Australia could be forced to turn to the sort of new-generation small modular reactors now being developed.

Switkowski says these are more affordable and less threatening than large-scale nuclear plants and could be scaled to support a regional centre.

In a decade from now it is likely that small nuclear reactors will be able to be purchased “off the shelf” from China, India or the US. They still will require community ­acceptance and have to compete with a new generation of renewable technologies on price and performance.

But given the dire outlook for energy security it is still possible that one day nukes will indeed be cool again.
The Australian

The Australian’s Graham Lloyd joins a growing band
of environmentalists ready to go nuclear.

 

Anyone pinning any hope on Josh Frydenberg doing anything sensible at all in response to Australia’s self-inflicted power pricing and supply calamity, is setting themselves up for exasperated disappointment.

Frydenberg’s office and his Department are full of wind industry advocates, lobbyists and Frydenberg himself runs way too close to the gang from Infigen, the Clean Energy Council and everybody else seeking to keep the subsidy gravy train rolling.

Whatever Frydenberg might’ve said in favour of nuclear power in the past, is clearly long forgotten. Frydenberg is wedded to wind and stuck to solar, and will continue to defend the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target which fuels both.

His boss, PM Malcolm Turnbull is thoroughly conflicted on the issue. For all his tough talk about putting more coal-fired power into the grid, the only way that can happen is if he kills the LRET.

Turnbull is about to face a mutiny within the Coalition party room, simply because he and Frydenberg refuse to tackle the real cause of Australia’s energy crisis: the Federal LRET.

STT reported some time ago on the fact that the PM’s son, Alex Turnbull made an uncannily timed investment in the near-bankrupt wind power outfit, Infigen: Born Lucky: Stars Align Perfectly for PM’s Son with Mammoth Bet on Wind Power Outfit Infigen

After Turnbull signed up to the Paris Climate agreement in April 2016, Infigen’s shares went from $0.20 to $1.20. Lucky, indeed.

It would be disappointing to think that Australia’s Prime Minister was pulling his punches on the LRET (and its disastrous consequences), simply to protect his progeny’s investments.

If Malcolm Turnbull continues to protect the LRET, an angry and growing number of members within his own Liberal Party along with the National Party (which have already determined to kill off subsidies to wind and solar) will make him walk the plank in the not-too-distant future. It happened once before over an emissions trading scheme being pushed by Labor, and the ingredients this time round are little different.

Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg are part of the problem, not part of the solution to Australia’s energy crisis. The sooner this pair is sent packing, the better.

And then Australia might find some leaders, willing to lead. Leaders with the wit and nerve to deliver a nuclear-powered future.

The problem, not the solution…

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. When I was younger, I believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Renewable Energy. Now that I’ve grown up, I’ve become a firm believer in nuclear power, because it delivers reliable electricity at an affordable price with no carbon emissions.

    • In a country with a large high density population a reasonable argument for an exorbitantly expensive nuclear power plant could be made. The problem is you still need enough back up power to cover the total loss of such an expensive piece of generation plant. Before climate change and privatization generation systems were continually up graded with the newest power station usually having twice the generation capacity of the last power station built. The cost of running any large size base load power station is practically the same with the improvement in lower cost generation and efficiency being made by the generators being twice the size of the last power station built which also takes into account population growth.There is only two places in Australia where nuclear power could be produced and used efficiently and that’s Melbourne and Sydney. If Australians ever accepted nuclear power plants the State or Federal government would have to build and operate them because no private company or bank would be able to get the insurance cover for any disasters that could occur. Other smaller coal fired power stations will always be needed because of Australia’s main transmission system starting at Cairns in the North continuing all the way around the East coast to Adelaide. There is very little depth with only large distances between load centers along the coast. This fact is never taken into account by the loony PC left climate change believers as they don’t understand the limitations and cost of transmitting power over long distances.

      • Small Modular Nuclear Reactors come in capacities ranging from 50 to 200 MW. SA has a tiny market for power, spread over an area bigger than Texas. Until May last year it had 2 baseload stations: 1280 MW of gas-steam at Torrens Island, just north of Adelaide and 780 MW of coal plant at Pt Augusta, 300km north of Adelaide. For 50 years it ran successfully with large plant, separated by large distances, distributing power over even larger distances. 4 x 200 MW SMRs at Pt Augusta would solve its debacle for good. What’s your next point?

  2. Opposition to nuclear fission cannot be made to go away just by raising one’s voice or ratchetning up the political rhetoric against Greens. ‘Stop These Things” valuable input against wind parks might lose less support, including mine, if the enthusiasm for nuclear energy is fine-tuned to exclude discredited nuclear fission and perhaps embrace nuclear fusion, for whatever promise it may (may!) have: https://focusfusion.org/about/

  3. 9-22-17 Puerto Rico Wind – Solar – Cellular Structures Destroyed – Aerial

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