System Upgrade: Bill Gates Backs New Wave Nuclear For World’s Clean Energy Future

Bill Gates determined to take nuclear power to the masses.

 

When the world’s richest entrepreneur says wind and solar will never work, it’s probably time to listen.

Bill Gates made a fortune applying common sense to the untapped market of home computing. The meme has it that IBM’s CEO believed there was only a market for five computers in the entire world. Gates thought otherwise. Building a better system than any of his rivals and shrewdly working the marketplace, resulted in hundreds of millions hooked on PCs, Windows and Office. This is a man that knows a thing or two about systems and a lot about what it takes to satisfy the market.

For almost a century, electricity generation and distribution were treated as a tightly integrated system: it was designed and built as one, and is meant to operate as designed. However, the chaotic delivery of wind and solar have all but trashed the electricity generation and delivery system, as we know it. Germany and South Australia are only the most obvious examples.

During an interview at Stanford University late last year, Bill Gates slams unreliable wind and solar and made the point that it’s time to quit jerking around with renewables and batteries:

 

Gates, a solution focused thinker if ever there was one, hasn’t just thrown a wet blanket on wind and solar, he’s throwing his very own $millions at TerraPower – an outfit determined to develop a new wave of nuclear power plants that will safely deliver reliable and affordable power, forever.

Judith Sloan provides a few details below.

We’re getting closer to a sensible debate on nuclear power
The Australian
Judith Sloan
5 November 2019

Australia’s experience with ­nuclear power can best be summed up by the phrase “missed it by that much”. We’ve come close to establishing a nuclear power ­industry but events conspired against it.

So can we create the conditions that might lead to the construction of nuclear power plants? After all, we’re blessed with ample uranium and nuclear-powered electricity has the advantages of being both reliable (24/7) and emissions-free.

Long-serving South Australia premier Tom Playford was a fan of nuclear energy. Indeed, the South Australian government owned a uranium mine at Radium Hill that operated through to 1961. He wanted a nuclear power plant constructed in his state, but a technological jump enabled the very poor quality brown coal at Leigh Creek to be the source of fuel for a power plant that was built at Port Augusta.

In the 1960s, plans were developed to build Australia’s first ­nuclear plant at Jervis Bay.

Development was shelved in 1969, mainly weighed down by the lack of cost competitiveness of the plant relative to coal-fired generation.

In the late 2000s, Martin Ferguson, as the Gillard government resources minister, became enthusiastic about nuclear power for Australia. He did an in-depth ­investigation, including travelling overseas to consult with leaders in the field.

Then in March 2011 the Fukushima disaster occurred. The Daiichi nuclear power plant was inundated by a tsunami, the cooling systems of three of the re­actors failed and a series of explosions ­occurred. There were no immediate radiation-related fatalities but the negative impact on the public’s acceptance of ­nuclear power was substantial.

The Japanese government opted to shut all the country’s ­nuclear power plants and the German government similarly made the decision to wind down its ­nuclear plants. In this context, it’s interesting to detail a recent ­National Bureau of Economic ­Research study on the impact of the fallout from the Japanese accident. Nuclear power was replaced by fossil fuels and electricity prices rose quickly — by almost a third. It is estimated that there were 1300 cold-weather related deaths in the period 2011 to 2014.

The authors conclude the ­“increase in mortality from higher electricity prices outnumbers the mortality from the accident itself, suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production has contributed to more deaths than the ­accident”.

Good ideas never die. The ­environment and energy committee of the House of Representatives is running an inquiry, chaired by Ted O’Brien, into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia. This inquiry has called into question the credibility of the CSIRO. While many scientists laud the advantages of ­nuclear energy in terms of generating reliable, zero-emissions electricity, the presumed high cost of plant construction is often mentioned as a major impediment to its rollout.

The CSIRO puts a figure of $16,000 a kilowatt for the construction of small nuclear modular reactors. It turns out this figure is in Canadian dollars and is cited in a report produced by one group but the ultimate source of the figure remains unclear. This much is actually accepted by the CSIRO.

When it comes to whether this cost might have fallen over time — there is a much lower cost estimate ($7000) from another source — the CSIRO is standing by $16,000.

The CSIRO is nigh on useless when it comes to this issue. As Trent Zimmerman, a member of the committee, stated: “It sounds remarkably vague … basically, you’re relying on a third party, who’s relying on a website, and you haven’t been able to fact-check that information yourself.”

The big roadblock in Australia is the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The good news is that the amendment required is very simple — the removal of “a ­nuclear power plant” in section 140A (1)(b).

It is possible this could pass both houses of parliament, even though the Greens are likely to oppose it notwithstanding that nuclear energy is so environmentally friendly.

There are some exciting technological developments in ­nuclear energy. You once needed very large plants, but smaller-scale options are now available. Nor do they necessarily require large volumes of water.

The third episode of Inside Bill’s Brain available on Netflix covers many of the issues and describes Bill Gates’s start-up, Terra­Power. It’s worth watching.

Gates makes the point that ­energy is core to our modern life­styles — it is his starting point — but he is concerned about energy that emits high volumes of carbon ­dioxide and acknowledges the public’s reservations about ­nuclear. His team of extremely well-qualified nuclear physicists and engineers aim to create fail-safe nuclear plants no longer ­dependent on power and human intervention in the event of an ­accident.

The TerraPower plants will use depleted nuclear waste, meaning that it can’t be used for weapons’ production. There is enough nuclear waste in the US to power the nation for 125 years. And instead of having cooling towers, the plants use molten metal to prevent explosions in the event of overheating. The re­actors automatically shut down and the heat is passively removed.

In fact, a prototype plant was ready to be rolled out in China when the China-US trade war erupted and the US government withdrew its consent.

Our government could approach TerraPower to see whether it is interested in constructing a plant here.

Interestingly, professor John Quiggin, a left-wing economist, has given his blessing to the introduction of nuclear power in Australia. He does this on the condition that a carbon price also be introduced, which he sees as a necessary prerequisite to make nuclear power cost-competitive.

The good thing is that we already have a (shadow) carbon price, given our Paris emissions reduction commitment. Estimates put a figure of $90 a tonne on the carbon price by 2030. This part of the bargain is ­already in the locker

Nuclear energy is a difficult political sell. It won’t happen overnight. But it has many advantages that are likely to become even more apparent over time. There is a case for Australia to start to head in this direction.
The Australian

One works 24 x 365, the other never did & never will.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. I like this article. A ray of sunshine. Much better than ruining millions of acres of land on which people could build homes.
    Unfortunately we do have a bad habit we should pay more attention to and that is energy waste. More specifically: Light pollution (look it up). Annually North America throws away about 4 billion per year lighting up the bottoms of clouds and possibly annoying a neighbor with a glaring light. Will we ever really evolve ?

  2. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.press.

  3. John Lloyd says:

    I do not know if you realize that Wind and solar power are emitting a gas called “FS6″ this I believe is 35,000 times more global warming than C02. All of the gas contained in these things will eventually find its way into the atmosphere. Please check BBC Climate change. Electrical Industries dirty little secrets Hope that is some help J.C.

    On Wed, Nov 13, 2019 at 2:31 PM STOP THESE THINGS wrote:

    > stopthesethings posted: ” When the world’s richest entrepreneur says > wind and solar will never work, it’s probably time to listen. Bill Gates > made a fortune applying common sense to the untapped market of home > computing. The meme has it that IBM’s CEO believed the” >

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  5. Something needs to be done. And it needs to happen fast.

    A quick look at one energy provider’s terms and conditions alerts us to the problem of demand management. As customers, what do we actually get for these increased electricity prices? You would naturally expect a more efficient and reliable energy generation system. But the opposite appears to be happening, despite more and more money being thrown at the problem.

    Quote…

    EnergyAustralia website Terms and Conditions. Section 4.

    4. DEMAND RESPONSE REQUESTS

    a) We may, from time to time, send a demand response request (Demand Response
    Request) to you via a series of SMS and email communications to:

    (i) alert you that a Demand Response Event may take place;

    (ii) activate a Demand Response Event requesting you to reduce your consumption; and

    (iii) to notify you that an event has concluded or that an event will no longer be taking place.

    (b) A Demand Response Request will contain the following information:

    (i) the day, time and duration required for the Demand Response Event; and

    (ii) a request for you to reduce electricity usage at the Premises.

    (c) We are not able to give you any guarantee about the number or frequency of Demand Response Requests. We intend to only issue a Demand Response Event:

    (i) between 10am and 10pm (AEST);

    (ii) no more than 20 times in each calendar year during the Term (including up to 4 activations for the purpose of testing and re-testing during that same period); and

    (iii) with respect to Demand Response Events for a duration of not less than 1 hour and not exceeding 4 hours.

    (d) In addition to Demand Response Requests, we may send you additional SMS or email notifications to provide you with energy saving tips and usage insights or as otherwise needed in order for us to provide the Demand Response Product to you or seek feedback in relation to the Demand Response Product.

    (e) You acknowledge that the receipt of SMS and email notifications from us is an essential element of this Demand Response Product. You consent to receiving notifications which do not include an unsubscribe facility and acknowledge that we have informed you of the methods for opting out of individual events or the Demand Response Product more generally.

    End quote.

    Welcome to Australia in the 21st Century.

    Link below.

    https://www.energyaustralia.com.au/sites/default/files/2019-11/Residential%20Customer%20Demand%20Response%20Billcap%20T%26Cs%20-%20Bill%20Credits.pdf

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