Thursday, December 17, 2015

Judith Curry plays (nuclear) politics

Sou | 7:24 PM Go to the first of 143 comments. Add a comment
Judith Curry is of the view that science deniers like herself are the only people permitted to "play politics with science".  On her climate conspiracy blog today she wrote about an article in the Guardian by Naomi Oreskes. Professor Oreskes was writing about the push from some quarters into what she called "wholesale expansion of nuclear power". Her article came after a previous Guardian article by Professors James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley.

The argument in favour of nuclear power generation

The article by Hansen, Emmanuel, Caldiera and Wigley set out the following points in favour of the development of nuclear power, particularly next generation nuclear:
  • A shift to clean energy is urgently needed.
  • Not all clean energy is equal. Cutting down forests and damming rivers can have "terrible environmental consequences".
  • The 100% renewable scenarios (without nuclear included) "ignore the intermittency issue by making unrealistic technical assumptions, and can contain high levels of biomass and hydroelectric power at the expense of true sustainability".
  • Over the past 50 years, nuclear power stations have avoided "an estimated 60bn tonnes of carbon dioxide"
  • Next generation nuclear power, with a closed fuel cycle (where spent fuel is reprocessed) is "is uniquely scalable, and environmentally advantageous"
  • Nuclear energy can power whole civilisations, and produce waste streams that are trivial compared to the waste produced by fossil fuel combustion. There are technical means to dispose of this small amount of waste safely. 
  • Nuclear produces no CO2 during power generation
  • Including large amounts of nuclear power "would make it much easier for solar and wind to close the energy gap" 
  • Nuclear does pose unique safety and proliferation concerns that must be addressed with strong and binding international standards and safeguards. 

The argument against expanding nuclear power generation

In her article, Naomi Oreskes made the following points:
  • Nuclear power is "slow to build, expensive to run, and carries the spectre of catastrophic risk"
  • For safe operation, nuclear technology "requires technical expertise and organization that is lacking in many parts of the developing world (and in some part of the developed world as well)"
  • France has successfully deployed nuclear power production, but in the USA, it is "hugely subsidised" by the government, which also indemnifies private nuclear power generation companies from accidents.
  • In the USA, the US government has taken responsibility for disposal of nuclear waste, "a task it has yet to complete"
  • Mark Jacobsen and colleagues set out a plan (in February last year) by which the USA can shift to 100% renewable energy by 2050 without adding nuclear energy.

Policy option discussions are very important

Naomi Oreskes also referred to those who argue that renewable energy on its own will need to be supplemented with substantial investment in nuclear energy as "a new, strange form of denial". I think that's unfortunate, particularly because she includes Drs Hansen, Emmanuel, Caldiera and Wigley in her "denial" allegation.

To my mind, more discussion over how to best shift away from fossil fuels is very welcome. We've had enough of fake sceptics wanting to avoid discussing future energy pathways and distract with "is it warming" or worse "it's not warming" claims.  All views on how best to make the shift deserve full consideration. James Hansen is not the only scientist who is of the view that the world will find it very challenging to stay below 2C of warming, let alone 1.5C. Dr Oreskes would be of the same opinion.

It strikes me that Dr Oreskes and Drs Hansen and co are talking past each other to some extent. Dr Oreskes was discussing the situation in the USA. Drs Hansen and co were discussing the entire world. I am not convinced this is an "either/or" situation. China has plans to expand nuclear power generation ten-fold by 2050. I don't know that it's being progressed in other places - hopefully people who are more up on this issue than I am will comment.

[Personally I don't support the development of nuclear power plants, but I know that my lack of support is based less on considered reasoning and more on "gut feel", so it doesn't count. (I'm aware that on this issue I'm probably no better than the anti-GMO activists I criticise.) If Gen4 nuclear power plants ever get off the drawing board, some of my concerns may be allayed.]

Judith Curry plays politics

It's hard to know if Judith Curry supports a "wholesale push" to nuclear power or not. Judith rarely spells out in clear unambiguous language what she thinks, probably because she doesn't. Not rationally, that is. Judith copied and pasted huge slabs of text from Naomi Oreske's Guardian article and a press release from Drs Hansen and co, then wrote:
Well, to play Oreskes’ denial game, Oreskes et al. are engineering ‘deniers.’

If you accept the premise that human caused climate change is dangerous and that we need to rapidly stop burning fossil fuels, then I don’t see a near term alternative to nuclear.  The innovations that Gates is looking for most likely won’t be major factors in energy generation for several decades.
Since Judith questions the premise that human-caused climate change is dangerous, and doesn't even accept the premise that it's humans who are causing global warming, her opinion on any "near term alternative" is moot. But what about her notion that nuclear power can be expanded "near term"? She added:
There is no good solution massively reducing our emissions from fossil fuels on the time scale of a decade.  If the nuclear solution is unpalatable, then reconsider whether the proposed cure is worse than the hypothesized disease.

I don't know what Judith regards as "massively reducing" emissions on the time-scale of a decade. For sure, nuclear energy can't be ramped up on the "time scale of a decade". It takes a lot longer than that in most countries (China may be the exception) for a new nuclear plant to go from inception to completion. For example, it took eight years just to finish the construction of a 1150 MW nuclear power plant in the Tennessee Valley - and that wasn't from design to completion, it was to finish building something more than halfway constructed. It was already 60% built back in 1985.

Judith pontificated further, writing:
Now that political victory on climate change has been declared, its time to look at the engineering (not to mention economical) challenges.

On that point I would agree, with the added comment that it's past time to look at this. And lots of people have been "looking" at these issues for a very long time already. Judith is very late to the party. Then she, who has long politically agitated against mitigating climate change had the cheek to write:
Naomi Oreskes and her ilk that are playing politics with science, and now engineering, need to get out of the way.
Notice how Judith doesn't seem to think that she, Judith, is playing politics by advocating nuclear, but she accuses Dr Oreskes of playing politics by arguing against its use. Although I think the framing of Dr Oreske's article is unfortunate, I completely support her adding her views to the discussion of how best to make the transition to clean energy.

Judith Curry on the other hand, shows that she wants to stifle discussion. She doesn't want anyone to express an opinion that differs from her own. Time will tell if Judith is now wanting to jump on the technology bandwagon that's already left the station, or whether she'll sink back into greenhouse effect denial and climate science disinformation. Maybe she's belatedly read the writing on the wall and has decided to switch wagons - jumping off the science disinformation wagon and onto the nuclear energy wagon.


  1. I have more respect for dbstealy than I do for Dr Curry.

  2. Sou

    I agree with you that Naomi made a very poor choice in calling Hansen, Emanuel, Caldiera and Wigley's views "denial".

    She's already disappointed a lot of climate scientists with her involvement in the strange apparent campaign against talking about the temporary slowdown in global mean surface warming - AKA the "hiatus"/"pause".

    Calling leading scientists "deniers" takes this disappointment to a whole new level.

    David Roberts at Vox said it well:

    "Calling everyone who disagrees w/ you about anything a "denier" is a great way to cheapen the word & dilute support for climate science."


    1. And that's it Richard? Nothing to say about Dr Curry?

    2. This article is about technology solutions, Richard.

      Naomi has been a great champion for helping to get the world to agree that it's past time to seriously address global warming. Yes, her framing in the Guardian article was unfortunate, but don't let that detract from her remarkable achievements. You've also done great work in helping to get the world to address climate change, Richard. I can see that you're still smarting from the "seepage" article and related, but this isn't about that. Isn't it time to let it go and move on? There is still a huge amount of work ahead.

      There is room for disagreement (as you know I'd be the last person to dispute that). However, lets not go overboard and make enemies of people who are working toward the same ends.

    3. Hi Sou

      Sure, that's why I used "disappointed" - the wider context of Naomi's work makes it all the more surprising.

      And indeed I might have been happy to let the "Seepage" thing lie, but the same author team have published 2 more papers on the same theme and I'm not the only one who finds it all very odd - although having said that, it's interesting (and good) to see that they do seem to have taken on board earlier concerns to some extent.

      I see this all as a useful discussion to have. I'm not making enemies and I don't think there's any risk of that - I see Steve Lewandowsky from time to time and get on OK, and I also met Naomi at a meeting convened by Steve back in the summer and we got on very well. We all agree that it's fine for academics to have different opinions. Knocking things back and forth on blogs and in the literature is a good thing.

      So, don't worry…. :)

    4. Richard it's way passed time that you started making the odd enemy. It would be nice if just half the weight you placed on your comment re Oreskes' sins was applied to any of the myriad ofdangerous sinners.
      Ever since the Bristol piss-up you have gone out of your way to appease those who continually engage in misleading and deceptive conduct.
      OK do that- it's seems to be your destiny-but please spare us your wet angst re heavy lifters like Oreskes.

    5. PG

      Oh do get a grip, pay attention and look beyond your own little bubble! Instead of spinning a false narrative against me, because I once did something you didn't approve of, try getting the true picture.

      eg. Follow me on twitter, or read the mainstream media.

    6. Richard Betts has disappointed far more climate scientists than Naomi Oreskes has.

  3. PG

    As it happens I was just coming back to add that of course a lot of climate scientists are also very disappointed with Judith!

    (I thought it went without saying, and then I remembered that it's unwise to make such assumptions, as you have just illustrated!)

  4. I hold this truth to be self-evident; that everyone* stands to benefit from the maximum feasible penetration of genuinely renewable technologies into our power networks.

    Now, I don't pretend to know what that is, but I do know that the sun-and-wind-baggers have been proved wrong over and over again. My home state of South Australia is a case in point.

    Massively centralized and subsidized nuclear power is clearly the preferred fallback option of authoritarians, because it most closely replicates the world as it is, and therefore should be. If they can't have no AGW, they may be prepared to settle for a continuation of hierarchic power as vested in a vast network of nuclear power stations managed by the same oligarchic elites they've come to know and love.

    Frankly, Fukushima finished the nuclear industry. Remember Fukushima? I'll say it a few more times: Fukushima, Fukushima, Fukushima. To my mind, anyone who imagines it's going to come back to life in the democracies has rocks in their head.

    But no doubt the deniers and the pro-nukers will now form a tag-team - we can already see this happening - insisting that it's nukes or nothing, and everything else is 'unrealistic'. Because 'baseload', or magical calculations that prove wind is worse than coal and Hitler combined, or whatever.

    (Pretty ironic coming from the people spruiking a 'mature' technology still hasn't found a solution for its dreadful waste problem!)

    All this despite the fact that the market doesn't want them, the public doesn't want them, they take forever to come on line, have to be socialistic enterprises, etc. etc..

    And the clear - and massive opportunity cost of putting all our eggs into the one baroque, hyper-expensive, insanely slow to deploy basket!

    The work that's been done already in this regard may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of the small victory of COP21. Because ironically, given Curry's complaints, some of 'our' people have no political or strategic nous whatsoever.

    Maybe renewables can't do it all. But let's see just how much it can do first, eh? Minus the doomsayer chorus...

    *Fossil-fuel profiteers, apparatchiks, and (ironically) self-styled Libertarian zealots aside

    1. South Australia is doing what the rest of Australia should have been doing. Thankfully it looks as if Tony Abbott's (effective) ban on windpower has now been lifted.

      Next steps include starting to shut down coal plants, starting with Hazlewood, and stopping any more coal mines, then shutting down existing coal-fired power plants and coal mines. Plus investing in more solar - if we can't win with wind and solar here in Australia, something is very wrong.

    2. While I have no great antipathy to nuclear power, I would demand one thing: Compare its costs honestly to other sources. W/o massive subsidies for govt-controlled reprocessing/waste disposal and without massive subsidies to underwrite impossible-to-afford private insurance, nuclear power is simply not economically viable. Make it economically viable and I'll jump right on board.

    3. What jgnfld said. Let nuclear compete with no externalised costs. None.

      This whole thing about the baseload problem has me somewhat puzzled. It basically implies that humans can't overcome the energy storage problem. Really, we can perform many other technological marvels but we can't manage large-scale energy storage...?

      And there are still those who believe that large-scale carbon sequestration is more feasible, even in the face of the inherent huge energy costs required, and the lack of sufficient available sinks.

      For pity's sake, surely all we need to do is to organise a prize for the best scalable energy storage technology. Even an 8-figure sum would be cheap in the greater scheme of things.

      And if humans can't quickly crack the storage nut, then there's certainly no way that we're going to solve any of the other serious problems that we've created for ourselves.

    4. Bernard, your

      "Really, we can perform many other technological marvels but we can't manage large-scale energy storage...?"

      is no more a rational argument than

      "Really, we can perform many other technological marvels but we can't manage faster than light travel...?"

      The constraints on energy storage are as real as the physics of the greenhouse effect. Wishful thinking will not magic them away, any more than denial will remove the heating due to co2.

    5. VTG, not quite.

      I'm not anticipating anything particularly sciencey-fictiony in terms of energy storage: in fact quite the opposite. I think our best hopes are relatively prosaic answers, with alternatives that are probably no more than refinements of current technologies, combined with decentralised distribution of operation and a serious look at some fundamental cultural change.

      That's why I use the word "marvels" - the answers to our energy problems are rather less than marvellous I suspect... at least in the technological sense. Perhaps that irony was lost in transcription.

      And on the matter of constraints, it's also wishful thinking to imagine the long-term success of any substitution of fossil carbon as a high-density energy source, especially by something as technologically-complex as nuclear energy, whilst we continue to erode the integrity of our planet's ecology. Our society is effectively constructing an inverted pyramid of systems-function, and when such a model experiences failure the results are usually catastrophic.

      We have only one little blue marble in all of the universe on which to live, forever, and we need only one FUBAR to break it forever. I very definitely do not think that the answer lies in swallowing spiders or birds, and as I have noted more than once at Eli's superluminal flights of fancy to the stars are as impossible as swallowing a horse.

    6. Bernard,

      The way I'd frame the argument about storage is not in terms of technical plausibility, but near-term economic viability. Without storage, wind and solar PV are just getting there. With storage -- who knows? Difficult to cost out something that isn't technologically mature AND hasn't seen large-scale commercial operation yet. That's a capital risk, and I'd argue that lenders perceive it as worse for storage than it is for nukes .... because nukes continue to be built and storage farms aren't.

      I don't like nukes as the ultimate long-term solution. To answer the near-term call for urgent action, I do see them as the response most likely to gain the required monetary support from large financiers.

    7. Brandon -

      ==> "I do see them as the response most likely to gain the required monetary support from large financiers."

      Nuclear has some significant financing problems. Who will want to invest in nuclear, with a high default risk, a likely limited span of competitiveness, massive liability, massive capital needs, and a long time horizon for return on investment? Why not choose other investment vehicles?

      The answer would have to be, I would think, government-backing along with government investment. The problem there is that many of the same people who are ostensibly supporting nuclear are from the same ideological cohort that want to drown government in a bathtub, and who will have "don't let government pick winners" engraved on their tombstones.

      Seems to me that beyond the huge logistical obstacles to meeting energy needs through nuclear (tens or hundreds of plants every year for 35 years?) the political reality of making it happen are also quite significant.

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. Joshua,

      Perhaps the way for me to sum up my argument is that I, as a CO2 mitigation-minded soul, am open to doing BOTH on a massive scale ASAP, and would like for the political opposition to both be mainly limited to the drill-baby-drill school of thought. IOW, it need not (and I think should not) be an either nuke or renewable proposition.

      All you say about *perceived* capital risk and need for hands-on gummint participation I agree with -- emphasizing that I think it holds true for both options. What the actual capital risks end up being I cannot say ... my argument rests on what I believe major lenders think.

      Side note: I think the free-market-knows-best advocates will also significantly resist ramping nuclear power when it comes time to break ground -- nobody wants Fukushima in their back yard. To that group, liquified coal will sound more cost-effective and much much safer.

    10. Brandon -

      My perspective is similar to yours. For the most part, I see the discussion of nuclear being held hostage as a proxy for ideological warfare. That is why it turns into a caricature of an actual discussion, that instead is bickering over either/or false dichotomies in service of a scorched earth outcome. It reminds me of arguments about mitigation vs. adaptation, neither of which actually exist in isolation to one another.

      ==> "my argument rests on what I believe major lenders think."

      Have you seen evidence of a high level of interest from major lenders that isn't contingent on a level of federal support that is much higher than what currently exists, or that at least is clearly feasible given current political realities?

    11. Joshua,

      Winner take all politics isn't constructive.

      You ask a good question, and the answer is no I have not seen such evidence. More stuff like what J.P. Morgan has to say: https://www.jpmorgan.com/cm/BlobServer/Brave_New_World_-_Annual_energy_piece.pdf

      The way I'm reading it, they're calling for a mix and the argument is compelling: a 100% renewable grid would require so much additional nameplate capacity (and storage) to handle intermittency that cost per unit power would be ultimately be higher than what we're seeing today.

      The report is prefaced with this note:

      Why de-carbonize the electricity grid? Vaclav [Smil] offers his opinion

      The impact of CO2 emissions on the planet is not the purpose of this year’s energy paper. We are primarily focused on understanding the direct cost and emission implications of electricity systems with large amounts of renewable energy, the mechanics of energy storage, etc. However, I did ask Vaclav for his thoughts on the de-carbonization question. Here is his response:

      "Underlying all of the recent moves toward renewable energy is the conviction that such a transition should be accelerated in order to avoid some of the worst consequences of rapid anthropogenic global warming. Combustion of fossil fuels is the single largest contributor to man-made emissions of CO2 which, in turn, is the most important greenhouse gas released by human activities. While our computer models are not good enough to offer reliable predictions of many possible environmental, health, economic and political effects of global warming by 2050 (and even less so by 2100), we know that energy transitions are inherently protracted affairs and hence, acting as risk minimizers, we should proceed with the decarbonization of our overwhelmingly carbon-based electricity supply –- but we must also appraise the real costs of this shift. This report is a small contribution toward that goal."

      I could not have stated my own thoughts and priorities any better.

    12. PS - h/t anoilman over at ATTP's for turning me on to the JPM report: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/12/15/forcing-efficacy/#comment-69503

    13. 1. Actual US subsidies for nuclear in FY2013 were less than 1/10 that of wind and less than 1/200 that of solar, per MWh generated. https://flic.kr/p/BMQcUz
      Historical experience in the US shows that when wind subsides are allowed to lapse, wind installations drop by about 80%. If the playing field were level, nuclear would win easily.
      2. Actual national buildout rates of non-fossil technologies show that nuclear buildouts have historically been about three times faster than wind and five times faster than solar, given equivalent national commitments. https://flic.kr/p/zpQF5J
      Of course it is always possible to make nuclear, or any other technology, as expensive and slow as you want by overregulation. But that's not a technological issue, it's a political issue.
      3. Levelized cost (absent subsidy) of wind and nuclear are about the same, but solar is about three times higher than both. http://tinyurl.com/puevx9o
      And solar is likely to remain higher permanently. It's just too diffuse, requiring too much structure to capture too little energy. The Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California has warned investors that it will default on its contract to PG&E because it has produced less than 70% of its expected output this year. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project report for the US shows that the high-nuclear pathway is about 1/4 the cost of the high-renewables pathway. Mark Jacobson, meanwhile, has never, ever put an actual number on the cost of his scenarios. Do you think he doesn't know what it is? Or is he afraid to tell?

      Most of the anti-nuclear propaganda you read is, well, propaganda. When you actually look at actual numbers, things look a whole lot different.

    14. There is currently a Royal Commission in South Australia into nuclear power. It is in final stages now. One of the drivers for this is that penetration of intermittent wind and solar power is reaching a point where there has been a serious load shedding incident, and it could happen again at any time. Also, SA is dependent on brown coal-fired electricity from Victoria. Shutting down Hazlewood would effectively shut down SA. The only option for new low emissions baseload power in SA is nuclear.

      The option for energy storage is simply not available, despite a lot of engineering R&D over many decades. I am reminded of a comment I once heard: "We can send people to the moon, but we can't figure out to fuel a car with water? It's all a conspiracy by the oil companies!". Patent nonsense of course.

      Nice post, KAP.

  5. no one seems to have talked about uranium ore ressources, which is strange for me : uranium resources are not well spread, and most resources are already exploited in countries that are quite not known for their stability or their democracy (Kazakhstan, Niger). Given the problems we already have with Middle East, I am not comfortable with all nuclear. Another point forgotten : nuclear financial cost is underestimated, at least in France.

    Given that, there is a true debate that needs to be done, with serious arguments on both sides. Richard Betts, as usual, was quick on jumping on the tone concern wagon with extra hyperbole - otherwise we would have been disappointed - but still Oreskes did a subpar performance compared to what she has written before. But she makes very good points. As did Hansen, except for the "next generation closed fuel cycle" farce - but I bet he didn't examine closely that point.

    1. It's not just the security angle, though I agree that's a critical concern. Current nuclear designs don't fit well with global warming as far as my (limited) understanding goes. Maybe future nuclear technology will fare better. However, with what's out there today I can't imagine too many places in Australia where a plant could be built. AFAIK it would be near impossible to balance the need for ample cool water esp in Australian summers, proof against rising sea level, and proof against floods. And that's not even allowing for the huge cost of building nuclear.

      None of that means that nuclear should be removed as an option for discussion. Just that those difficulties all need to be overcome.

      (I don't buy that intermittency of solar and wind is an insurmountable problem either.)

    2. Sou, Australia may find itself a major nuclear energy power without nuclear power plants. Bob Hawke and others in the centre / right want Australia to control the nuclear energy cycle by
      providing the yellow cake,
      making the fuel rods,
      repossessing them,
      reprocessing them and when spent
      storing them in a geologically and politically stable continent.
      I'm warming to the idea.

    3. I remember that too, PG.

      (Australia has more than 30% of known uranium I think. The most of any country in the world.)

    4. mmh just checked the numbers, it is indeed more spread than I thought. My apologies - one less argument.
      Still, you have for 100 years with current consumption, 200 if you go for less valuable resources. I know that some people advocate for regeneration with fast neutrons, but the only industrial demonstrators I've seen use massive amount of sodium, and I'm very uncomfortable mixing plutonium with a product highly reactive to oxygen and water.
      Or we go for thorium, if it's possible. I'm not quite aware of the possibilities, but at least thorium is easier to find than uranium. And I heard reactor designs using thorium could be safer.

      If one day I find useful documentation resources, I shall share them with anyone interested here :]

    5. Re. "intermittentcy". Nuclear proponents tend to ignore the significant annual downtime for normal reactor maintenance and refueling. That ignores unscheduled maintenance which also occurs and is very time consuming when it does.

      Nuclear as a panacea reminds me of the satellite record as a "global thermometer in the sky". Sounds good on the surface. But the devil is in the details.

    6. This paper puts worldwide availability factor for nukes at 77.4% as of 1996: http://users.ictp.it/~pub_off/lectures/lns005/Number_2/Spiegelberg.pdf

      To put that into context, current fossil fuel plants range from 80-90%. What nuclear plants aren't good at handling are peaking demand ... but then neither are wind and solar.

    7. Just for the record, Australia has 31% of the world's (reasonably accessible) uranium, and 78% of that is in South Australia. In turn, most of that is also concentrated; at BHP's Olympic Dam / Roxby Downs mine, the world's largest single resource by far (where, ironically, Naomi Oreskes used to work back in the 80's / WMC era)

      Former Premier Mike Rann wasn't too far wrong when he called this state 'the Saudi Arabia' of uranium.

      Further for the record, SA breezed (yes, punny!) through its 20%, 30%, and 33%, renewable energy targets, sits at just under 40%, and is now aiming for 50% by 2025.

      Which of these 2 collections of stats make SA a progressive state?

      Incidentally, the stalled Roxby expansion proposed about 5 years ago was due to consume just under half* of the state's electricity, mostly due to be generated by the Playford power station at Pt Augusta, which incinerated flaky brown soily stuff mined at Leigh Creek that some generous souls liked to describe as 'coal'. Partly because the expansion didn't go ahead Leigh Creek's *cough* 'coal' operations are now totally defunct: bad news for the locals in a region with poor employment prospects (not least due to climate change!); good news for the planet.

      'Carbon Free' Pro-nukers need to acknowledge that Roxby is a huge generator of CO2 emissions, and could have been even more so!

      *I kid you not!

    8. "Reserves" for uranium, as for any mineral, are price-specific: the higher the price, the more resource becomes economically recoverable. In the case of oil, that slope is very shallow, but in the case of uranium it's very steep: doubling the price of yellowcake (uranium oxide) increases reserves by a factor of 4, and that continues for many orders of magnitude. And since the cost of uranium is a tiny fraction of the total cost of nuclear power, those increases won't have a significant impact on the final price of nuclear electricity. Combine that with a full-use fuel cycle and we have enough nuclear fuel to last until the end of civilization.

    9. "And since the cost of uranium is a tiny fraction of the total cost of nuclear power..."

      Why is that?

    10. Because the expensive part is building the machine, and doing it in such a way that it won't break, and so that even if it does break it won't kill anybody. That's what happened at Fukushima: 9.0 earthquake and tsunami killed 12,000 people, and radiation killed zero. Even with a triple meltdown, radiation killed zero. And never will kill anyone, according to the WHO.

    11. '"Reserves" for uranium, as for any mineral, are price-specific: the higher the price, the more resource becomes economically recoverable... Combine that with a full-use fuel cycle and we have enough nuclear fuel to last until the end of civilization.'

      'When the price of eggs rises high enough, the roosters begin to lay.'*

      I was raised in 'the Saudi Arabia of Uranium'. We've heard all the nuker slogans, 'electricity too cheap to meter' being a particular favourite.

      Congratulations on having discovered an economic variant of perpetual motion. But don't be too surprised if others look at you a bit strangely and pass on...

      *Actual quote from the one-time head of ABARE, an organization after the nuclear lobby's heart, if ever there were one.

    12. Bill, the argument from personal incredulity went out with creationism. Try this instead: Lightfoot, H. Douglas, et al. "Nuclear fission fuel is inexhaustible." EIC Climate Change Technology, 2006 IEEE. IEEE, 2006.


    13. @KAP

      Why not spend a few seconds and provide a link? If you think it is worth reading you could be bothered to do that:


    14. The article argues that nuclear fission fuels are inexhaustible because of fast breeder reactors. But they do not exist in commercially deployable form and may never exist.

      I support the ongoing research & development efforts on Gen 4 reactor technology but I also remain skeptical of articles that read like a Jules Verne novel. Maybe it can be made to work but until it is commercially proven, it would silly to base our long term decarbonisation strategy on it.

      My advice, acquired from bitter experience is when someone tells you that we can solve climate change with this new sensational Gen4 reactor, hang on to your skepticism and check for the word "development" or "prototype" or "design" in its title.

    15. Nuclear proponents seem to do this game constantly of acting like gen4 plants exist already and can be built at a huge scale with no worries, but solar and wind are unproven and thus should not even be bothered with.

    16. *Sigh* ah, the Fast Breeders. And by the time I'd got to the desktop the obvious points were covered by Mike and numer above.

      Fast breeder / Gen 4 utopianism reminds me of carbon capture utopianism and cold fusion utopianism. Apparently I'm a 'creationist' because my response to all three is 'oh yeah? prove it!'!

      Lots of 'creationists' about, then, I suspect... this is my point - pro-nuke lobbyists can apparently never, ever refrain from over-egging the pudding, and for some reason never manage to work out how this affects non-enthusiasts - but, from previous experience, proponents will almost-certainly just restate the (magico)technocratic argument. Because other people just don't get things, you see...

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This single paper from a decade ago and a string of highly-contingent 'ifs' don't amount to it.

    17. bill

      Lots of 'creationists' about, then, I suspect... this is my point - pro-nuke lobbyists can apparently never, ever refrain from over-egging the pudding, and for some reason never manage to work out how this affects non-enthusiasts

      And exactly the same is true of anti-nuclear proponents of renewables who are equally prone to hand-waving. Both camps do it and it is equally unhelpful from either side.

      Trying to push a low-carbon technology off the table at this stage on ideological grounds is swivel-eyed lunacy, but that's what every 100% nukes vs 100% renewables argument boils down to.

      We need all the tools in the box and a diverse, best-fit-to-region approach if we are to have even a hope of avoiding dangerous climate impacts.

    18. We don't often disagree, BBD, but I'd suggest there is not much symmetry here.

      Firstly, 100% genuinely renewable power is a totally desirable outcome, but it may well not be technically feasible.

      The technical feasibility of 100% nukes, particularly 'until the end of civilization' is clearly also open to question, but the desirability of such an outcome is even more debatable!

      As for the Tu Quoque thing, no-one here is playing the 100% renewables must work and everything-else-is-propaganda card, though some studies that suggest its feasibility have been cited.

      Whereas not only are we informed by a visiting proponent that 100% nukes is not only feasible, and desirable, and eternal, but it's the only moral choice!

      And that all the ubiquitous negative perceptions of the nuclear industry are the fault of (fossil-fuel-funded!) anti-nuclear activists, because attribution games with Chernobyl and Fukushima.

      Unwanted (and almost invariably unheeded!) advice section: four things all pro-nuke advocates need to accept if they want to be viewed with anything less than the healthy skepticism they currently are:

      One: the bulk of the public mistrust of the Nuclear Industry is based on its (occasionally disastrous) failure to deliver on a constant string of overstated promises, and is not just the fault of Greenpeace, the ACF, or whoever.

      Two: 'but Gen 4' is not a magic, get-out-of-gaol-free card that wins the debate, any more than 'but carbon capture' and 'but cold fusion' are.*

      Three: we live in a human world where mistakes will be made, officials will be venal, oversights will happen, parts will be made on the cheap, contractors will be dodgy. Proponents can't just say 'oh, but that shouldn't have happened, so therefore Eternal Platonic Fission remains untarnished!' The thing about nukes is that when something goes seriously wrong entire communities get turned upside down for decades. (Again, this is not symmetrical when contrasted to renewables.)

      Four: nuclear proponents are generally the worst possible ambassadors for the industry. The industry seems to attract many devoted enthusiasts who apparently are incapable of expressing much in the way of a normal human level of doubt, or deploying reservations or qualifications, or empathizing with the plight of others if that means acknowledging the possibility of a fault in the beloved. The failure to address the problem of climate change deniers in their ranks, and the willingness to tag-team with those deniers to attempt to undermine the renewable industry is genuinely deplorable.

      And, I'll add a five: opportunity cost. It's a real thing. Wind farms are relatively quick and cheap to deploy. I strongly suspect that part of the reason why so many nuke advocates wish to assassinate them is that they rightly fear that their slooooow-to-build, cost-over-running, baroque, statist, uninsurable behemoth won't get much of a look in by comparison, so a campaign has to be mounted that insists that theirs is the one true path, requiring the full backing of a state that must guarantee a market and scorn all other suitors!...

      'We've f*cked up in the past, sure, but we've learned form that and here's how we can limit f*ck ups in the future, and limit their impact if they occasionally, regrettably do happen. Because the carbon issue is so important...'; to my mind that's how nuclear advocacy should be framed!

      If one wants to actually win, and not just 'be right', of course. ;-)

      *I guess we're all lucky that the authoritarian (but rational) Chinese can do the Gen 4 experiment for us!

    19. "'We've f*cked up in the past, sure, but we've learned form that and here's how we can limit f*ck ups in the future, and limit their impact if they occasionally, regrettably do happen. Because the carbon issue is so important...'"

      The nuclear industry already does that, today. That is why nuclear is the safest energy technology (lowest bodycount/TWh when including Chernobyl and Fukushima, even compared to renewable energy)

      Antinukes like yourself delude themselves by demanding that the nuclear industry admits it is dangerous and dirty. It is not. It is the cleanest and safest, according to all independent authoritative analysis. If you can't accept that fact, then you are simply a victim of antinuke misinformation which has turned your intelligence to mush.

    20. bill

      Firstly, 100% genuinely renewable power is a totally desirable outcome, but it may well not be technically feasible.

      Hence the need (aka desirability) for some nuclear in the future energy mix.

      It's just how it is, and if the primary concern is efficient pathways to decarbonisation, then that's the end of the matter. If there is a subtext, then it's getting in the way of solving the actual problem and that is itself a problem. People need to think this through.

  6. Given that so many supporters of the nuclear solution are climate science deniers (and leaving aside what that says about the judgement of those who are) I can't help but think the best thing that could happen to advance the nuclear solution is the collapse of climate science denial within mainstream politics.

    And had that convenient justification for avoiding climate responsibility not been so enthusiastically taken up, I suspect nuclear would have seen a couple of solid decades, pre cheap renewables and before Fukushima, of being hard fought for and heavily promoted. Rather than used as a rhetorical tool by those seeking to avoid climate action by any means for attacking those seeking climate action by other means.

  7. Jgnflg,

    your cost analysis might look quite different if you include the externalities of fossil fuels and the cost of storage for renewables.

    1. I'm no fan of subsidizing coal either! But most basically, it seems to me that nuclear proponents are the worst group for simply ignoring the huge subsidies involved in their favorite energy choice. NO private insurer or group of insurers will insure nuclear against its potential liabilities. That should tell its proponents something.

    2. Right now we have the technology to deploy wind and solar to cover 30-40% of our electricity needs. Add on 10% nuclear that exists and 20% hydro that exists and we've halved the carbon intensity of electricity -- or better, since we'll mothball the least efficient fossil plants first.

      Nuclear plants may play a larger part of the equation at equilibrium, but it takes so long to build one that if you rely on nuclear to reduce carbon intensity you're emitting a lot of carbon in the meantime.

    3. It takes long to build a nuke in some regions where antinuclearism is endemic, not in others.

      Modern nukes have a technical life of up to 100 years, so it doesn't matter that they (currently) take longer to build than in the past.

      The long life of a modern NPP is more than just a gift of cheap electricity for our children. The availability of cheap, reliable electricity is essential for future deep decarbonisation of other sectors. With cheap zero carbon electricity, it becomes economical to recycle waste using plasma arc incineration. Such cheap electricity makes the fabrication of zero carbon drop-in liquid fuels economical, to compete with crude oil products. Cheap electricity also allows cheap desalinisation of seawater, allowing the expansion of agriculture into areas which are not rainforests or wetlands.

      Solving environmental problems depends heavily on the availability of cheap, reliable electricity. Renewables cannot provide that. Worse, they lock-in the burning of fossil fuels for backup. Countries which attempt to achieve a non-nuclear electricity system will achieve only partial decarbonisation, and a great cost, which will stimulate industry to move away to countries which use cheap fossil fuels and which don't have strict environmental regulation. If industrialised countries don't start soon with a concrete plan to deliver cheap, reliable nuclear electricity soon, then they will not only fail to decarbonise, but they will cripple their own economies and hasten the move of industry to fossil fueled countries without environmental regulations.

  8. These days, trying to pin down Judith 'The Equivocator' Curry to any hard position on any aspect of climate science is like nailing Jello to the wall. Sour, bitter, unappetizing Jello at that.

    1. I'm not sure throwing science overboard to become one of the Top Five Contrarian Climate Scientists® was worth it. But I suppose that's for Prof. Curry to decide.

    2. This is a pretty common strategy among a certain class of inactivists: I think of it as 'Schrödinger's Cheshire Cat' - play the 'genius above the fray' game by never opening the box and collapsing the waveform into a real committed position, with a huge and smug grin at the thought of your own sagacity plastered on your dial throughout...

  9. Today Curry turned her blog over to Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger for a guest post ending with "It is high time to rethink those efforts [to restrict global greenhouse gas emissions]."

    Enough said.

  10. I think she is just enjoys the conflict. Here is what she says in the comments about her position.

    curryja | December 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Reply

    Well I’m no big fan of nuclear either – I like the fast mitigation plan (CH4 etc) and energy innovation.

  11. One thing worries me about the nukeees. Not the smart people who think we should develop them. I agree that would be good.

    What worries me about the nukeees is the people who actually do work on them. Even the smart ones seem to have a deep faith in hormesis combined with a deep faith that tiny little quantities of whatever can't possibly have big longterm consequences because: teeny!

    A nuclear plant can't be safely managed by people who think the biologists are just tsk all too worried about problems that, pooh, couldn't be all that serious.

    And that's who's managing the things, e.g. Fukushima

    Example, at the site of one of the more thoughtful and well respected people in that camp, that's had me gobsmacked for a few years:

    What does it take to believe CFCs can't reach the ozone layer to do damage because teeny! and gravity! -- huh??

    And, dammit, I _do_ agree we need to build them.
    But we need to manage them. And it appears we can't.

    1. Hank, interesting link! I wonder if he has tested the hypothesis that the ozone layer depletion is caused by all those heavy ozone molecules falling down to the surface and lodging in crevices? After all, if the CFCs are too heavy to reach the ozone layer, how does the ozone (a heavier-than-air molecule) stay there either?

  12. Sou,

    "Personally I don't support the development of nuclear power plants, but I know that my lack of support is based less on considered reasoning and more on "gut feel", so it doesn't count. (I'm aware that on this issue I'm probably no better than the anti-GMO activists I criticise.) "

    You're not nearly as bad as most of the anti-GMO activists. At least you openly admit it is more based on gut-feeling rather than considered reasoning. I have yet to find an anti-GMO activist who is willing to accept that his/her antipathy to GMOs is much more of a gut feeling that considered reasoning. Maybe because those people generally get drowned out by the "THE SCIENCE SHOWS ITS DANGEROUS!" screaming by some, accusations of being an industry-shill by others, etc. etc.

    (cue Ian Forrester in 3...2...1...)

  13. I support nuclear power as part of the shift from fossil fuels. The arguments against seem to be 'Yaa! Fukushima!' (the event that caused approximately 0 deaths from radiation) and 'Yaa! Expended fuel storage!' (this problem has been solved for decades; the only problem is NIM-million-square-mile-BY) and 'Yaa! 'Insurance!' (a problem caused by radiation phobia). There's no good scientific argument against all nuclear reactors and I have doubts about the financial ones.

    1. Though Fukushima does seem to be an argument against siting nuclear plants with high earthquake or tsunami risk.

    2. I think the lessons of fukushima should be rather more profound. 


      1.  The public was assured that the reactors were designed to withstand earthquakes and concomitant tsunamis.   The designs failed to live up to the promises. 

      2.  They knew the tsunami safety case was inadequate but *chose* not to address it so as not to concern the public  (!)


      1.  We are not good at designing to cope with rare events

      2.  The public will not, and should not, trust safety in nuclear reactors. 

      3. Human factors in high hazard installations are not adequately controlled. 

      I'm a supporter of nuclear,  purely because of climate change.   But there is a very long way to go,  and no sign of the fundamental hubris which caused fukushima being adequately addressed by the industry. 

    3. From the Japanese Diet Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission

      "The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said
      parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly “manmade.” "

      "Since 2006, the regulators and TEPCO were aware of the risk that a total outage of electricity at the Fukushima Daiichi plant might occur if a tsunami were to reach the level of the site"

      "From TEPCO’s perspective, new regulations would have interfered with plant operations and weakened their stance in potential lawsuits. "

      "The regulators should have taken a strong position on behalf of the public, but failed to do so. As they had firmly committed themselves to the idea that nuclear power plants were safe, they were reluctant to actively create new regulations. Further exacerbating the problem was the fact that NISA was created as part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI), an organization that has been actively promoting nuclear power."


    4. Radiation PHOBIA???? Fukishima displaced 159,128 people out of ALL of their property. Estimates of the total economic loss range from $250-$500 billion US. The utility cannot pay these losses. The insurance companies have earthquake exclusions. That leaves the government which has not done all that much. Banks are even requiring former residents to stay current on their mortgages. Nor can the utility begin to pay for the cleanup of the reactor mess.

      The Chernobyl exclusion zone is far bigger as a second example.

      This is not "phobia". It is real live losses that the utilities cannot and will not cover. Phobia indeed. Good Lord.

    5. VTG, I grant points 1 and 3, and 2 if 'blindly' is included. But note that Fukushima was well enough designed that even the tsunami did not lead to dangerous releases of radioactivity. Again, these are human factors/political problems, not design/scientific problems, and nuke opponents should concentrate on those, not 'yaa! radiation!'

    6. Treesong,

      "did not lead to dangerous releases of radioactivity."

      I think you are mistaken there. The dangers have been *controlled*, through a massive hugely expensive cleanup. But that's completely different to saying there was no danger.

      MikeH, thanks for the quotes. Essential reading to understand the root causes of the accident.

    7. jgnfld: about Chernobyl. You may find this interesting: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28281-wildlife-is-thriving-around-chernobyl-since-the-people-left/

    8. Move there, then. What do those stupid scientists know about the effects of radiation exposure on humans?

    9. Methinks you did not read the article well.

      “The study results support what many scientists have long suspected, that the impact of radiation on wildlife within the exclusion zone is much less than the impact of humans,” says Wood.

    10. Here's a timely link, if it works -


      Apologies if it doesn't.

      Now, let's look at Australia.

      Given a big country's transmission issues and the distribution of the population, and the combined need for access to adequate cooling water resources while keeping well clear of rising seas, where's the logical place to build a reactor in Australia?

      Hint: it ain't in Adelaide*, where the Uranium more-or-less is. So, let's speculate - somewhere on the eastern seaboard near, say, Canberra?

      Now, re-watch the above (if you can), and then imagine how any resident of Bateman's Bay, or Ulladulla, or Nowra, or wherever (mentally shift it to Albury, Newcastle, Byron Bay, Lakes Entrance - it makes little difference) is going to react to the prospect of having one of these as a neighbour.

      Frankly, I reckon the ACF would only need 3 people, a small car, this video, a laptop, and a digital projector to knock any such proposal completely on the head. In fact, if someone trained a puppy to walk door-to-door with a screen playing the vid on endless loop draped around its neck it'd probably be sufficient...

      *Also, go on then, just try to build one of these in Port Adelaide, as climate change denier AND nuclear spruiker Ian Plimer has suggested.

      (PS speaking of which, and contrary to some entertaining rumours, our Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission is really about establishing a really, really big - and potentially profitable - waste dump, and not nuclear power. We're all supposed to be relieved when they 'only' propose the dump, well off in the desert somewhere. No-one in their right mind politically seriously believes we're going to build a nuclear plant here...)

    11. N-I-M-B-Y if you don't mind :)

      There'd be no assurance of sufficient cooling water at Albury or Canberra. I guess sea water can be used at some of the other locations, but watch out for sea level rise.

    12. "Move there, then. What do those stupid scientists know about the effects of radiation exposure on humans?"

      No thanks. Too cold in winter. But the stupid scientists who did the study in the link said "We’re not saying there weren’t radiological effects at all, but we can’t see effects on populations as a whole." and "By combining that with contemporary measurements of caesium-137 – a marker of radiation levels – Smith calculated that residual radiation was having little impact on animal survival."

      Which is interesting, IMO, because it's not what people would have expected when the reactor blew.

    13. Sou, I consciously left Canberra off the list because I don't believe the Murrumbidgee is going to be reliable enough to cool a nuke, and, while I'm sure Albury Wodonga would be high on the list of potential sites simply because of their location and 'there's the river there' after the drought of the noughties I think it's clear that no inland waterway is sufficiently reliable.

      So coast it is. But the coastal inlets etc. are either already well-and-truly colonised by folks who aren't likely to be any happier than yourself, or in (very popular) national parks.

    14. Yeah, I'm trying to imagine the opposition from our elected representatives if Canberra was ever touted for a nuclear power plant. That would show which ones thought it a good idea and those who didn't, wouldn't it.

    15. The same effect has been observed in the Korean DMZ. Turns out that mine fields are less dangerous to large animals than the close proximity of people. That is not a good argument for a suburban development there either.

      "People" might not have expected it, YOU might not have expected it, but I suspect many ecologists would. The reefs of Bikini Atoll unaffected by fishing for decades are another well known example.

    16. And the experiences of the people of Bikini Atoll are another well known example of the not-so-good effects of radioactive contamination on people.

    17. Ah, Bikini. Well: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34642692

    18. People that are so comfortable with the US government as insurer of last resort in the case of radioactive contamination would do well to read up on the history of the Bikini Islanders post 1945.

      Again, price nuclear appropriately and I'm fine with it. But the price includes fair compensation for real losses incurred.

  14. You might be interested in this recent piece on nuclear, Jacobson, Hansen, etc. There will, hopefully, be a sequel on it coming pout soon......I think there's vastly too little discussion of the weaknesses of wind, and too much concentration of those of nuclear....


    1. That is an article which you should be embarrassed by.

      I suspect this is what Oreskes was pushing back against.

      The campaign of vilification against Mark Jacobson being promoted by nuclear advocates.

      "Jacobson is almost for the left's 'Big Green' what Patrick Michaels or Richard Lindzen were to the right's big oil,.."

    2. I wouldn't be so skeptical of Jacobson if he would just come right out and tell us what his plans would cost. Using numbers rather than adjectives. Does he not know? More likely he's afraid of worldwide sticker shock.

  15. Another point from the Hansen et al article

    "this makes a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system in this illustrative scenario"

    That seems extremely implausible particularly given the large number of old reactors in the existing fleet that need to be replaced and the complex engineering required to build new ones.

    I understand that China slowed its nuclear program post Fukushima because there were doubts that it could supply the qualified and experienced engineers necessary to build and operate the reactors and oversee safety and it was concerned that going too fast would lead to an accident.

    Nuclear advocates should be very careful about what they wish for - one more major accident would likely kill off the industry permanently.

    France is struggling to complete one and as a result is proposing to go to 50% renewables by 2025.



  16. > China doubts that it could supply the
    > qualified and experienced engineers
    > necessary to build and operate the
    > reactors and oversee safety

    Oh, I'd guess they know that for sure.


    See Poorly Made in China about "quality fade" -- read the reviews on it.

    As Paul Ehrlich pointed out about ecosystems, so for big industrial production -- when each manager saves a penny by having workers omit one rivet or make one unauthorized, untested, cheaper part substitution, the final product is apt to fall apart eventually or fail in some unpleasant way.

    The USA was at this stage a century or more ago. It wasn't pretty then, and cheating still happens today.

  17. I'm a big fan of nuclear power. I just think that 150 million km is about the right distance away from a nuclear reactor.

    1. That about sums up my feelings, too, Tom. :D

    2. We've had a nuclear reactor in the middle of Sydney for yonks. Do you live 150 million km from Sydney? :D

    3. Lucas Heights is a research reactor run by competent scientists. The core is so small that it is safe without outside cooling on shutdown.

      Generally power reactors are run by incompetent people for profit. Shortcuts are taken till they fail!

      See this little gem



    4. Just do a search 'homeless men fukushima' to see how well the nuclear reactor people run things.


    5. I know what Lucas Heights is. My point is that it is apparently possible for nuclear reactors to be run safely. The human side of things seems to be more problematic than the technological side of things.

      And let's be honest here: most of them don't fail. Failure is actually quite rare. If you want to knock nuclear for its failings that's fair enough, but it makes sense to be accurate IMO.

    6. Let's put this in perspective: "It is apparently possible for cars to be driven safely, for guns to be shot safely, and for coal to be mined safely. The human side of things seems to be more problematic than the technological side of things.

      And let's be honest here: most of them don't fail. Failure is actually quite rare. If you want to knock nuclear for its failings that's fair enough, but it makes sense to be accurate IMO."

      Failure is rare, true. But at a minimum, as we have already seen, exclusion zones the size of whole states for decades to centuries/millennia are the price of totally expectable human failure.

    7. Failures that to date have never yet provided remotely adequate compensation to those affected.

    8. Fair points. And yet we allow all of those dangerous things. I'm guessing you probably drive a car yourself, and how many deaths and injuries have cars been responsible for? A lot more than nuclear accidents to date. If you're living next to a reactor in France, you're probably far more likely to be killed driving past it than by the reactor itself.

    9. There is clear established liability in those cases. It is clear to date that there is no such liability in nuclear. Those affected simply pay themselves.

      This includes the US which has NEVER truly compensated the Bikini Islanders for their losses.

  18. Several universities in the USA have been working on designs for smaller safer(?) nuclear solutions, like this one; http://senergi.oregonstate.edu/nuclear-energy

  19. While I know it's still more expensive than alternatives, I like solar thermal with heat storage, that could supply much needed base load power, and which is more flexible than coal or nuclear plants, when it comes to responding to demand.
    The problem I have with nuclear advocates is that they seem to see it as the one silver bullet solution. I have been interested in liquid thorium reactors, as someone mentioned here (or thorium anyway). Everything I've read about them says they would be far safer and can't lead to nuclear arms proliferation. And I have wondered if the nuclear industry hasn't shown much interest, simply because of entrenched thinking.
    Regarding nuclear energy, it isn't so much the technology that bothers me, but rather the potential for human failure in one form or another. That includes underestimating the powers of nature. There have been 5 magnitude 9 earthquakes at subduction zones since 1950. And they all created huge tsunamis. So building 6 nuclear plants on a low lying coastline by a subduction zone, as at Fukushima, doesn't seem to have been a very good idea. Of course, to be fair, when they built them there had only been 3 magnitude 9 earthquakes since 1950. There have been two off the coast of Chile, one in Alaska, the 2004 quake near Sumatra, and Fukushima. Seattle area is prone to the same thing.

    1. Nuclear can load follow just fine. They do it in France routinely, and do it on submarines routinely. Nuclear is used as baseload in the US for economic reasons, not technological ones: it's cheaper to turn off the fossil generators first, because fuel cost is a major component of fossil electricity (but not for nuclear).
      I don't see nuclear as the only solution, but I certainly do see it as one important solution, and I am happy to refute those who don't.
      Regarding Fukushima, of the eleven reactors along the Tohoku coast, the three oldest all suffered core damage and the eight newer ones didn't. In other words, we've already made the necessary changes.

    2. "In other words, we've already made the necessary changes."

      I think what you meant to say is that the eight newest reactors at Fukushima were sufficiently different to the older models that they were able to withstand the results of the earthquake/tsunami.

      That's very different to "necessary changes".

    3. The main difference was that some stations had backup generators below the floodline. The earthquake alone would not have caused any meltdowns. The main lessen learned from the Fukushima incident is that backup generators should be placed above the floodline.

      A better solution is to construct reactors that don't rely on active processes to get rid of residual heat after shutdown. 4th gen technology does this (AKA 'walk-away safety). 3rd and 3+ gen reactors partially solve this by incorporating features which allow them to survive station blackout for a few days, rather than a few hours.

      P.S. I call Fukushima an 'incident' because nobody was killed. You can't have a 'disaster' if there are no dead bodies.

      P.P.S I'll try the respond to the reactions (thanks for them) to my earlier comment more fully later on. Right now I'm too busy with the end-of-year crunch at work.

    4. Your attempt at language manipulation is noted. However your definition of 'disaster' and the definition used by normal people for centuries are at odds.

      The Red Cross definition of 'disaster' is: "a sudden, calamitous event that seriously disrupts the functioning of a community or society and causes human, material, and economic or environmental losses that exceed the community’s or society’s ability to cope using its own resources. Though often caused by nature, disasters can have human origins."

      The pertinent Oxford definition is "Anything that befalls of ruinous or distressing nature; a sudden or great misfortune, mishap, or misadventure; a calamity."

      Personally, I would call the sudden, mostly uncovered loss of up to half a trillion dollars and all the physical property and possessions of nearly 160,000 as fitting these definitions easily.

      But good attempt at minimization.

    5. "You can't have a 'disaster' if there are no dead bodies.

      I suppose it makes it easier to prevail in a discussion if you can just make up your definitions as you go along. That is not a necessary criterion of a disaster for most people. Or all dictionaries.

    6. There have been only two disasters in Japan related to the nuclear incident. One is the antinuke fearmongering-induced public hysteria over the incident. This hysteria has caused more than a hundred billion in avoidable economic damage and had killed more than a thousand people. The other is the wholesale switch back to fossil fuels. Japan has burned tens of billions of dollars worth of fossil fuels while its nuclear fleet is shut down, and is building dozens of new coal plants to replace the nukes.

      Right at the start of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear generation station, it should have been clear to everybody that there would only be a minor health risk, even under a worst case scenario. This should have been clear because the reactors are designed to limit such consequences even under extreme conditions. The USNRC has explained all this already:


      The evacuations in the region may have been slightly beneficial, but should have been reversed within weeks. Even if there had been no evacuations, there would have been no detectable health effects.

      http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf (in particular, see the table on p.190, which shows that even without evacuation, the most exposed member of the public would have received a dose of radiation which is not known to increase cancer risk.)

      The only thing which made the Fukushima incident unusual (from the viewpoint of risk management) was the fact that three reactors melted down at the same time. This introduced some uncertainty about the consequences for the public. However, officials should have been aware that the safety of a single meltdown has been established on the basis of very conservative estimates, meaning that a triple meltdown would very likely still be a safe event. And indeed, as the UNSCEAR analysis demonstrates, the health consequences to the public even if no evacuations had taken place, would have been negligible.

      So yes, I'll grant that the Fukushima incident was a disaster, but it was a PR disaster, not a radiological disaster. The PR disaster closely resembles the PR disaster after Chernobyl. Chernobyl caused massive death and destruction, but virtually all of it was caused by fear and doubt, rather than radiological health effects.

      That is another lesson of Fukushima: the lessons that we have not learned our lessen from Chernobyl. The worst health impact of Chernobyl was the psychological effect of the Nuclear Scare Scam. And that is exactly what happened at Fukushima as well.

      I suppose this is what I am asking Hotwhopper readers to consider: the climate change denialism problem is pretty much contained, but the antinuclear fear mongering problem is not. I'm hopefull that if we can mobilise the same kind of exceptional and incisive debunking seen at Hotwhopper and apply it to the Nuclear Scare Scam, then we can stop the poison of antinuclearism and finally start solving the greenhouse gas problem.

      Make no mistake, without nuclear power, the battle against global warming is as good as lost. I've already noted the fact the Japan is building dozens of new coal power plants, as a result of shutting down its nuclear fleet. Germany does the same. We have got to cut through the 'sustainababble' about replacing coal with renewables. It's not going to happen. As long as we let the antinuke fear mongers control our energy policy, we are going to get fossil fuels. That is the awful truth. We have to recognise this antinuclear scourge and fight it. It will not go away by itself!


      I will restate the fact that my comments are intended to stimulate people to find out the truth about nuclear and climate for themselves. Don't take my word for it. Educate yourself. Here is a nice speech by Ben Heard which echoes my sentiments exactly.


      All the best,


    7. Joris,

      whilst I have sympathy with your sentiments, you post wildly and spectacularly misses the point as to how to reach the nirvana of a renaissance of nuclear power.

      You need to regain trust in the nuclear power industry.

      The nuclear industry promised that they could safely build reactors in an earthquake zone. At Fukushima, three reactors exploded, contaminating a wide area, proving the industry absolutely wrong.

      Question: In the light of this undeniable fact, why should the public trust the industry?

      At Fukushima, the operator *knew* that the safety case for tsunami was inadequate and decided not to rectify it.

      Question: In the light of this undeniable fact, why should the public trust the industry?

      Clue: asserting that Fukushima wasn’t a big problem will take you further from, not closer to your objective.

      There is only one party to blame for the failure of nuclear to be accepted, and that’s the nuclear industry.

    8. "So yes, I'll grant that the Fukushima incident was a disaster, but it was a PR disaster ..."

      That is so good of you to grant us it was not a disaster. But it was only a PR disaster! Oh, so that is OK then.

      Seriously, you should heed the advice above not to minimise these consequences. Because of your downsizing of the seriousness of the issues I cannot take you seriously and cannot be bothered to read the rest of what you have to say, however good your points might be.


    9. Whoops.

      That is so good of you to grant us it was a disaster.

    10. Admitting to damages which did not occur or to risks that do not exist is what the nuclear industry has been doing, and it has been a failure. To regain trust, the nuclear industry needs to flatly deny the falsehood that it is a dangerous, dirty industry. It is not. The fossil fuel industry is dangerous and dirty. German coal plant air polution kills as many people every three months as the Fukushima radiological contamination will kill during the next 80 years, using conservative estimates of health effects.

      To suggest that I should not 'minimise consequences' is tired nonsense. Nuclear power is safe, and nuclear power plants are safe. The Fukushima meltdowns have confirmed this. A triple meltdown has killed noone and will kill noone. The reactors - decades old that they were - protected the public. They worked. To demand that we need to deny that the worked is the worst kind of antinuclearism. It is the kind of antinuclearism which insists that 'we can only discuss nuclear if we agree that it is dangerous and dirty'. Nonsense!

    11. @Jammy Your reaction is typical of hard-core antinukes and climate denialists: refuse to consider evidence which undermines your predetermined convictions. Good luck with that.

    12. Joris,

      They worked.

      They were designed to shut down safely in the event of an earthquake and/or tsunami.

      They exploded!

      This is a *failure* of engineering.

      The reason they exploded is because the operators deliberately chose not to rectify known faults.

      This is a *failure* of human systems.

      Until you bring yourself to acknowledge these failures, you have no hope of convincing anyone of the safety of nuclear power. Why should anyone believe other failures are not buried in the designs and regulatory frameworks of the nuclear industry?

      Your insouciance in the light of these significant failures is exactly the kind of behaviour from within the industry that condemns you to irrelevance (and to future disasters)

      I’m someone who understands and has designed and operated high hazard installations. Complacency equals failure.

    13. Just to be clear on this: as I have already stated, I have nothing to do with the nuclear industry. All I want is clean, affordable energy and an end to anthropogenic co2 emissions. Everything I thought I knew about nuclear energy was a lie. When I dug into the subject, I found out the truth. The truth is that we have been misled on nuclear. That truth has to be brought forward, if we are to have any chance of limiting climate destruction. Pretending that the nuclear industry dug its own grave is a mistake. It was the antinuclear movement, founded and funded by fossil fuel interests, which is to blame.

    14. VTG, I have already acknowledge the fact that building the backup generators below the floodline was a mistake. Please don't waste time I don't have.

    15. Please note that neither the nuclear industry, not I, have ever or will ever guarantee that no meltdown will ever occur. But what the nuclear industry, and I, can guarantee is that the consequences will be negligeable. And they are negligeable, as Fukushima has demonstrated decisively. Modern nuclear power plants are safer still.

    16. JvD

      "VTG, I have already acknowledge the fact that building the backup generators below the floodline was a mistake "

      wherein you miss the point again.

      The point isn't that one particular part of one design was wrong.

      The point is twofold:
      1) If that was wrong at Fukushima, how do we know other things are not wrong elsewhere?
      2) They *knew* that it was wrong at Fukushima. And decided not to rectify it. Why does the industry operate plans it *knows* are not safe?

      These are serious and substantive questions, NOT timewasting.

      Do you have answers, Joris?

    17. So...your stated position is that it is completely safe and "no one will die" apparently if everyone just moves back into Chernobyl and Fukushima. I should think that would take expertise and actual evidence other than that of a mechanical engineer. What, for example, is the miscarriage rate in these wonderfully healthy deer of which you speak? What is their rate for various cancers? (I have met many thyroid cancer suffering children from Chernobyl due to a program that sent them to my city over here.) Your willingness to ignore radiation harm verges on that of, oh, ubiquitous use of X-ray machines in shoe stores--another activity with no known death associated with it yet is really, truly, actually unsafe.

      Like Patrick Moore's assertions re. the complete safety of glucophosphates (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovKw6YjqSfM), I suggest even you might balk at settling in and/or eating food derived from these areas.

    18. @Joris

      "Your reaction is typical of hard-core antinukes ..."

      Stop projecting your hard-core position on everyone Joris. Just because you are so fixed and certain does not mean everyone else is. There is no way you could come to that description of me based on what I have said.

      I am not hard-core anti. Actually I do not know quite where to position myself. The point of what I said is your "I know it all" attitude and approach does not generate any confidence in what you say. Especially when you wilfully refuse to acknowledge any problems at all.

      A PR disaster? What a joke.

    19. 'It was the antinuclear movement, founded and funded by fossil fuel interests, which is to blame.'

      [citation needed]

      Let me guess; 'I was a zealot in one direction, then I underwent a Damascene conversion*, and now I'm a zealot in the other'?

      *Monbiot Moment? ;-)

    20. "1) If that was wrong at Fukushima, how do we know other things are not wrong elsewhere?"

      This is similar to the kind or argument used by the climate deniers: "If the IPCC was wrong about ice loss in the Himalaya, how do we know that global warming is real?", etc. This kind of argument is a standard element of the antinuclear/anticlimate-science toolkit.

      We should not be careless when using nuclear technology, and we aren't. That's why nuclear is the safest energy technology.

      2) They *knew* that it was wrong at Fukushima. And decided not to rectify it. Why does the industry operate plans it *knows* are not safe?

      The situation at Fukushima was complicated by the fact that to protect the NPP against the theoretical maximum tsunami made glaringly obvious that 500 miles of coastline around the plant was highly unsafe for people to live. The theoretical tsunami would cause catastrophic damage. Such a disaster would make any problem at the NPP insignificant.

      There is a similarity with the question of whether or not NPP's should be able to withstand a meteor impact, or a military bombing raid. Such a question is in a sense absurd, because if such a meteor strike or bombing raid were to occur, a meltdown at the NPP would be a minor problem.

      This is not to say that the regulator was right to delay taking action against the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, to force them to expedite improving the flood protection and/or moving the generators to higher ground. But it is to illustrate the fact that risk management is not a cut and dried as it may seem to outsiders. The regulator might well have thought that improving the flood defense was not a priority, since if a flood high enough to swamp to NPP would occur, there would be far more death and destruction on the coastline. Until that far more serious threat was solved, why waste resources on solving the minor threat of meltdown?

      One can look at it from the other perspective. Let's say the plant had been improved sufficiently before the tsunami. How would the families of the 20.000 tsunami victims have reacted? Might they not have said: "The government spared no expense in protecting the nuclear power plant, but they just left my community to be destroyed. They *knew* my community was at deadly risk. Why does the government care more about nuclear power than about my community?"

      So it's all not cut and dried. If we demand 100% safety from nuclear power, we get coal instead, which kills and destroys far more intensively.

    21. "Let me guess; 'I was a zealot in one direction, then I underwent a Damascene conversion*, and now I'm a zealot in the other'?"

      Not at all. I thought that nuclear power was something humanity should move away from. I thought uranium was a limited resource due to run out within decades. I thought Chernobyl killed and maimed a million people, and destroyed a wide area permanently. I thought nuclear power plants posed a risk of nuclear weapon proliferation. I thought nuclear power was very expensive, but that it was subsidized purely because it was needed to produce nuclear weapons. I thought that any amount of radioactive contamination from nuclear technology is deadly. I thought that a meltdowns was be an apocalyptic event with the potential to wipe out humanity. I thought that nuclear power technology was stagnant, with no significant innovation potential. I thought that nuclear power was extremely complicated conceptually, meaning that only specialists can understand it.

      All of these kinds of thoughts were imprinted on me in our antinuclear educational and media system. All of these kinds of thoughts are wrong.

      I'll repeat again: don't take my word for it, but go investigate. There are plenty of objective and accurate online literature resources available to help people who want to de-program their own antinuke brainwash. And if you don't like reading, watch the movie "Pandora's Promise" for example.

      Even better: perhaps the Hotwhopper blog can expand it's repertoire to not just tackle climate denial, but also nuclear denial. These topics are connected after all.

    22. "'It was the antinuclear movement, founded and funded by fossil fuel interests, which is to blame.'

      [citation needed]"

      Consider Rod Adams' informative 'smoking-gun' series of articles, here:

      Or if you can't be bothered, look carefully at the following fossil fuel funded antinuclear propaganda poster.


      Or check out this very clear message from the coal industry:


      There is no controversy about the fact the the fossil fuel industry has traditionally been supporting renewable energy and fighting nuclear power. That may of course be a bona fide activity, but it's hard to ignore the fact that nuclear power is a real threat to fossil fuel interests, especially coal. Solar and wind are not a threat.

    23. Or...


  20. As a holder of an MS in mechanical engineering and a 20 year rabid interest in the technical aspect of energy, economy and climate issues, I want to make the following statements.

    1. Nuclear power is the only morally defensible source of energy because of it's safety, cleanliness, abundance, and affordability.

    2. The primary cause of global warming is the antinuclear movement, proven to be funded in part by fossil fuel interests, which has used fear mongering lies to cripple public acceptance of nuclear technology, despite it's second-to-none record of safety and cleanliness.

    3. Nuclear fission fuel is so abundant that it can be called inexhaustible. For example, coal ash contains far more extractible nuclear energy in the form of trace amounts of uranium than the chemical energy in the coal it came from.

    4. Without nuclear power, the battle against global warming is as good as lost.

    5. Those who fight nuclear power might as well fight to expand coal power.

    6. Nuclear power is the only energy technology which manages all of it's waste.

    7. There are about a dozen different solutions to nuclear waste, all technically feasible and economically viable, but antinuclear politics will oppose any solution as part of the decades old antinuke policy of 'constipating the nuclear fuel cycle'.

    8. Recycling of irradiated nuclear fuel in 4th gen reactors increases the amount of energy available to humanity from uranium by a factor of about 100, making even trace amounts of uranium such as found in average rock or ocean water an economically viable and inexhaustible source of clean energy.

    9. Public fear of nuclear power and radiation is extraordinary and unjustified. Fukushima killed no-one and will kill no-one. Chernobyl only killed a few dozen unfortunate souls, but its impact on public health has been and will remain minor. The non-lethality of historical nuclear accidents underline - rather than undermine - the safety record of nuclear power. Modern gen III and gen IV nuclear technology is safer still.

    This comment is meant to stimulate the reader to start investigating the fascinating history of antinuclear propaganda. Thorough investigation will result in each of the points above to be corroborated.

    I very much like the Hotwhopper blog, and have been lurking here for years now, but I dare to hope that Sou and her readership might consider taking up the worthy challenge of battling the Nuclear Scare Scam with the same erudite vigor displayed in your commendable fight against climate science denialism.

    I'll finish by providing a link to an enjoyable video showing Galen Winsor, one of the first and most determined scientists fighting the Nuclear Scare Scam.


    [P.S. I'm not in any way linked to the nuclear industry. I never have been, don't intend to be, have no family which is, etc. etc. I am simply a deeply concerned mechanical engineer, married, with two children, who has for too long been watching humanity's chances at maintaining human progress and improving environmental protection slip through our fingers.]

    1. 1. Nuclear power is the only morally defensible source of energy because of it's safety, cleanliness, abundance, and affordability.

      Thanks for starting the list with a statement so absurdly overwrought it means I needn't bother to read the rest of it! What is it about the social skills (or lack thereof) of pro-nuke advocates?

      But by all means, keep doing what you're doing. You're only hurting your own side...

    2. But bill that means you have missed the wonderful video. Not often you see someone so desperate to prove nuclear is safe that he eats radioactive uranium. Pure comedy but a bit weird at the same time.

    3. He could always wash it down with a litre of roundup!


    4. 1. Argument by assertion.

      2. Argument by assertion, plus demonstrably incorrect factoiding.

      3. Ignores ERoEI.

      4. Argument by assertion.

      5. Conflation.

      6. Worse than argument by assertion: again, demonstrably incorrect.

      7. Arguments by assertion. Where are the numbers or even references to numbers?

      8. Argument by assertion.

      9a. Argument by assertion.
      9b. Straw man. People were removed from the contamination zone so that there would be little or no harm. It's the Y2K fallacy.
      9c. Argument by assertion.
      9d. There's a whole bunch of fallacies in just one sentence, but just to shake it up let's include the display of normalcy bias.
      9e. Argument by assertion.

      I'm all for nuclear energy to the extent that it can be properly framed by its costs and benefits, but techno-Utopian fluffing does neither the field nor its proponents any favours. If you can back up your claims with independently and expertly reviewed confirmation then progress may be made.

    5. Joris, I suggest that climate science denial and climate action obstructionism - undermining public concern and government commitment to serious climate action - has been a far more potent inhibitor to nuclear as climate solution than all the anti-nuclear opposition.

      Because NOT addressing climate change appears on the face of it to be the cheapest climate policy option of all it has enormous appeal to those who weigh up the matter in terms of how it affects short term competitiveness and profitability - ie commerce and industry. Thus it has had strong support from those very influential sectors of the community and economy. As a consequence the support and strength of advocacy commerce and industy may have given to nuclear was diverted and muted and subsumed into a goal antithetical to fixing the climate problem using nuclear - ie the goal of not fixing the climate problem at all.

      Political support for avoiding climate responsibility and opposing government authority to regulate emissions is incompatable with strong action on climate. And no policy approach requires more clear, long running, bipartisan political commitment - both to shore up community support and to build the underlying infrastructure rapidly at the scale needed - than nuclear. It does not lend itself to the kinds of small scale incremental and cumulative advances that have seen renewables, having been given enough rope, to pull themselves into viability with.

      Frankly I don't think the fossil fuel sector does support anti-nuclear activism in any serious way - it just has no direct interest in opposing it, and anti-nuclear activism looks self supporting. On the other hand Fossil Fuels interests supporting tankthink, lobbying, PR, advertising and other support for anti-climate activism has been very real and visible and centres around alarmist economic fears of facing climate head on resulting in lost profitability, prosperity, lost jobs and family livelihoods. These have been applied to both obstruction of the 'greenies' and their 'unreasonable' goal of limiting climate damage via emissions regulation as well as via the non-nuclear technologies that have been their preferred means of doing so. And those economic fears are far more directly potent than those of future sea level rise and damage to agriculture and natural ecosystems. I don't think it was ever up to 'Environmentalism' to fix this, it was just politically expedient for those who don't want to fix it to frame it as a beat up issue by a not entirely rational fringe and then find the solutions from Environmentalists, that arose by default, because no-one else was serious about it, to be unacceptable. When it's a mainstream, bipartisan goal radical Environmentalism will have very little say.

      No, a small fringe group of dedicated anti-nuclear activists didn't put nuclear in such a deep hole. It has taken much more powerful mainstream interests than that to do it.

      It also hasn't helped that nuclear advocacy has had a long and strong anti-environmentalist history, that attracts anti-environmentalist, anti-climate regulation types to it's cause; those advocates who are genuinely concerned for the environment and solving the climate problem need to confront the climate science denial that runs strong and deep through nuclear advocacy.

      The climate problem will get solved by commitment to solving the climate problem not by commitment to nuclear energy. Support for nuclear will grow from commitment to climate action. Support for nuclear without that goal especially if aligned politically with those who oppose it (The political Right in most places) - and in the presence of an excessive abundance of cheap fossil fuels - will not fix the climate problem.

    6. 'The climate problem will get solved by commitment to solving the climate problem not by commitment to nuclear energy. Support for nuclear will grow from commitment to climate action. Support for nuclear without that goal especially if aligned politically with those who oppose it (The political Right in most places) - and in the presence of an excessive abundance of cheap fossil fuels - will not fix the climate problem.'

      Agree, bearing in mind my first, self-evident principle; that everyone stands to benefit from the maximum practicable implementation of genuinely renewable technologies (and the windbaggers, having blown any credibility they may have had, don't get to arbitrarily decide where that boundary lies.)

      And, Joris, Ken's post is how you get somewhere in this debate, rather than labelling all proponents of renewable technologies and/or nuclear skeptics as somehow 'immoral', stupid, or witting or unwitting coal fifth-columnists.

      Also, this 'only 50 people died because of Chernobyl' BS has to end. Proper, grown-up adult estimates of overall mortality vary widely from several thousands up, but disingenuous lawyerly games with attribution, along the lines of 'you can't ever say this single storm was caused by global warming, so there!' are an insult to human intelligence. I lost a lot of respect for Monbiot when he bought in to this crap (particularly after his Climategate performance!)

    7. How I hate these arguments.

      The priority is decarbonisation by all feasible means in the increasingly short timescale permitted by the interaction of physics and ecology.

      The *only* rational approach is pragmatic and holistic. Everything stays on the table. All low-carbon technologies must be deployed according to local / regional best-fit conditions, starting now.

      Arguing for one over the other is madness. We need everything we can muster and even then, it will probably not be nearly enough, soon enough.

      Let's for our own sake have an end to this insane nuclear vs. renewables 'debate'. They are prongs of the same fork.

    8. ^^^ This is what bothers me, and why I'm not (currently) convinced that nuclear should be regarded as utterly taboo.

    9. I appreciate the sentiment BBD but there is an inherent contradiction in your comment.

      "All low-carbon technologies must be deployed according to local / regional best-fit conditions, starting now."


      "Arguing for one over the other is madness."

      Each nation needs to decide which decarbonisation methods are appropriate for their circumstances. Arguing for one method over the other is how that is done in a democracy.

      What we need are respectful and evidence based arguments.

      Oreskes article did not meet those requirements. But then neither did Hansen et al whose article was full of wishful thinking about nuclear and which provided no evidence to support their blanket claim that 100% renewables is not viable.

    10. there is an inherent contradiction in your comment.

      I would argue that there is not, but perhaps I could have expressed myself more clearly.

      The argument to avoid is the either/or. Globally, the most efficient path to decarbonisation will be a diverse energy mix that is inclusive not exclusive.

      What we need are respectful and evidence based arguments.

      Of course. Here's one such.

    11. And here is another. Treat yourself to the paper edition for Christmas. It's essential reading if you are seriously interested in energy and energy policy.

    12. I read Mckay's book a few years ago when it was first published. I agree that it is essential reading and the lesson I took from it is that when it comes to energy policy, numbers are critical. But if all you are reading is Mckay, you are missing out.

      There are numerous peer reviewed articles that look at renewable energy and attempt to quantify how practical its deployment is. There are now four 100% renewable plans for Australia all with detailed numbers.

      Two of three major political parties in Australia are committed to large scale deployment of renewables and it is climate policy that is very popular with the public.

      Why should Australia, a potential renewable energy superpower dump those actual plans & policies in favour of extremely unpopular nuclear with the risk of ending up with a Hinkley C or a Flammaville financial disaster just because Hansen et al claim **without providing any numbers** that it will not work?

      I think the fundamental problem is the insistence that every country follows the same pathway to carbon mitigation. For some countries nuclear will be important. If others choose to follow the 100% renewables path, they should be supported if their plans meet the below 2C target.

    13. You are preaching to the choir, MikeH :-)

      I don't argue for restrictive energy policy. I argue for pragmatic, holistic energy policy.

      What I don't like is the 'either/or' discourse. It helps nobody and could very well inhibit the real-world progress towards decarbonisation.

      And time is short.

    14. @Ken, you write:

      "Joris, I suggest that climate science denial and climate action obstructionism - undermining public concern and government commitment to serious climate action - has been a far more potent inhibitor to nuclear as climate solution than all the anti-nuclear opposition."

      Not so. Fossil fuel interests have directly created antinuclearism, back early in the second half of the twentieth century. They rightly fear losing market share. Rod Adams has provided ample evidence of this.


      The fossil fuel industry has been supporting renewable energy, because they know they have little to fear from wind and solar power. Being intermittent, the growth of global energy demand will ensure growth of fossil fuel demand, even if wind and solar are ramped-up as quickly as possible. Fossil fuel interests love renewable energy because that energy depends on fossil fuel backup.

    15. Joris, you sidestep the point that climate science denial and obstructionism is incompatible with the goal of replacing fossil fuels with any alternative, including nuclear and mainstream political parties, including the US Republicans, support and practice such denial and obstructionism.

      With such powerful political forces willing to lie about the climate problem to prevent effective policy whilst refusing to use the truth of it in support of nuclear it ought not to be a surprise that nuclear is struggling to gather the necessary support to be a principle low emissions energy option. It won't be Environmentalists changing their minds about it, it will be commerce and industry and their political advocates on the Right of politics accepting the true need for climate action that will lift nuclear out of the political quagmire it's in. Of course governments getting serious and unified about climate will give a huge boost to renewables too.

      Fossil fuels will indeed begin as the backup to renewables as part of an ongoing transition - but simply by being periodically and intermittently cheaper renewables will force fossil fuel plant into ever greater intermittency. As should be expected and encouraged. The true value of storage technologies - which is much higher than any average daily energy price can reflect - will become more apparent as fossil fuel (and nuclear) plants deal with intermittently cheap renewables and are forced to raise prices to compensate for the lost market share.

      A big financial incentive and opportunity for storage technologies will be an unstoppable consequence of low cost intermittent renewables in an open electricity market. Only regulatory interventions will keep nuclear from being financially disadvantaged by what should be seen and accepted as a market imposed carbon price.

    16. Correction - Above comment by Ken Fabian, not Lyn. (My sister had logged into google on my computer and the comment got published under her name by mistake.)

  21. Joris van Dorp I think you will find with a bit of searching that there were many thousands of deaths directly due to radiation exposure in the rushed 'clean up' and sarcophagus construction after the Chernobyl meltdown fire and explosion. These were young military conscripts ordered to work for a few minutes each with rudimentary protection in highly radioactive areas shovelling Plutonium contaminated graphite.

    To add insult to injury the surviving men have had their disability pensions savagely cut. Both civilian deaths and radiation worker deaths have been covered up.

    They do not have the money to build a more permanent sarcophagus. This is needed as there are hundreds of tons of Plutonium in reactor four. This Plutonium amongst other long lived radionucleotides are in a molten mass somewhere in what is left of reactor four.

    This mess will remain dangerous for a few hundred thousand years. One microgram of Plutonium if ingested will certainly kill you.

    By the way all the wildlife around Chernobyl are just the survivors in spite of the dangerous radiation levels.

    Can you show me ONE nuclear reactor that has been safely decommissioned and the waste suitably stored to remain safe for thousands of years.

    Thought not.

    This is my 'gut' feeling.


    1. Of the 500,000 that were involved in clean up and building the sarcophagus 20,000 died soon after, 200,000 are permanently incapacitated and the rest all ill to some extent.

      A bit more than a few dozen!

      A new sarcophagus is needed, the temporary one was hoped to be good enough for thirty years.


    2. I have found the video I had seen some time ago here


      Check out the weasel words by even western investigators like Hans Blix.


    3. My memory was wrong! It was hundreds of kg of pure Plutonium. This is melted into tons of magma somewhere below reactor four. Bert

    4. Bert

      Of the 500,000 that were involved in clean up and building the sarcophagus 20,000 died soon after, 200,000 are permanently incapacitated and the rest all ill to some extent.

      The figures you quote are shockingly wrong.

      Please see here for the correct information. This is a summary (though detailed) of the UN Chernobyl Forum report (2006).

      Please don't post unattributed misinformation like the above. It helps noone.

    5. In my experience Naomi is given to reifying her politics as rhetoric-- if she can't accuse someone of being a climate denier, she'll she'll call them a science denier instead.


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