Welcome to part two of my review of the nuclear debate between Monbiot/Grimstom and Levitt/Parr. If you missed part one where I drew on the first two speakers to reflect on the nature of anti-nuclear environmentalism, gave a detailed assessment of the performance of solar PV in South Australia, and contended that absent nuclear power all the good ideas in the world will not bring down South Australia’s emissions sufficiently quickly (phew!), it’s not too late, here’s the link. Today though, time to move on to our third speaker, second speaker on the side of nuclear, Malcolm Grimstom. He’s Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London.

Malcolm Grimston, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial Collecge, London

What I particularly enjoyed from Malcolm was these two quotes:

“There’s plenty (of) energy in renewable… but unfortunately they are incredibly high entropy, they are very low grade they are dilute, they are low temperature… we are continuously bashing our head with renewable against this problem of intermittency.

The laws of physics haven’t just been got up by a right wing plot involving the nuclear industry and the oil companies, …the limitations of renewable are inherent, not just a matter of somebody having decided to kill them off.”

It seems that many people are simultaneously expressing frustration that the problem with renewable technology is not the technology, or even our support of it, but rather our expectation of it. There are great technologies in development, but they are going to take time. Instead of acknowledging this, we tell ourselves stories of conspiracy, neglected research and development and the wonderful impact of creating “economies of scale”. It speaks of an appalling intellectual immaturity. I regret the derogatory nature of that description but I readily apply it to myself 5 years ago. James Hansen is even more upfront, suggesting we have, en masse, drunk the renewable energy Kool-Aid (for those fortunate enough not to understand the reference, it refers to the tragic events of the Jonestown Massacre,  where cult leader Jim Jones’ followers were so uncritically believing of him, that they drank Kool-Aid laced with poison. Nearly one thousand died. Hansen, as you can see, appears to have grown weary of pulling his punches).

Otherwise, Malcom’s seven minutes are a pretty good scientific discussion of the nature of nuclear power including the safety advantages of nuclear plants that could be built today. I won’t go into detail there; there has already been much discussion on this site about those issues, and you can certainly find heaps of great information on this over at Brave New Climate.

Which brings us to our final speaker, Doug Parr, Chief Scientist from Greenpeace.

Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace

What can I say? That question is not as rhetorical as you might think because seriously, what did he say?  I don’t want to overdo it, but even expecting as I was to disagree with him, I was astounded by the dearth of meaningful comment in this seven minutes. If it were on offer, I would take a refund for whatever proportion of my donations ever went to Doug’s salary.

Doug reflects another little piece of the old Ben Heard: “Studies show that X is possible”. You know what? I don’t really give a damn anymore what a “study shows” is possible, until a bunch of other people have seriously put it through its paces and determined that what is on the paper has a snowflake’s chance in hell of actually transpiring in the real world. It is that type of thing that Barry Brook and his various guests do so very, very well over at BNC. To quote Doug:

The way to deal with the long-term energy system is not to carve out individual little blocks like the UK, but to actually look at it as a European system, and then you have places which are strong on solar like the south of Europe, and places that are good on wind, like northern Europe, places that are good on hydro, places that are good on bio-mass, and you integrate it all together, and you have a system which is capable of delivering perfectly acceptable, similar standards of supply security, to the existing ones.

Right. The secret ingredient I presume is a pinch of fairy dust. Seriously I would (and did) very nearly fail a student for taking such an uncritical approach to what a “study shows” is possible, but it would appear to get you a good gig at Greenpeace. I’m not sure the exact study he is referring to but he mentions PWC, so here is a recent one of theirs. It’s the one where they say that reaching just 20% renewables for Europe would require the equivalent of over a million wind turbines, or solar panels over an area twice the size of Belgium.

Back to the quote. It’s worth knowing that the “individual little block” known as the UK houses over 62 million people.  Just because it is taken for granted, providing electricity on demand all day every day to 62 million people is no mean feat. For another thing, the next time the UK does this…

The deep freeze experienced in the UK in the 2010 winter. Image from NASA



…would we really wish to be reliant upon an elegantly perfect combination of wind, hydro, wave, biomass and solar to keep the heating on for weeks on end, thereby averting loss of life in the thousands? Or would this be one of those times where we accept the performance is “similar”, but not the same, as a system with a strong component of non-intermittant power? You would have to hope that conditions are not cloudy across Spanish Adalusia on a day like this, and there is some biomass to spare as the rest of northern Europe endures similar conditions.

Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection: Piece of cake

Likewise, the next time Adelaide does 10 days in excess of 40 degrees C, how are we going to be sure we keep the air-conditioners running? It’s not a luxurious question I am afraid; the excess deaths we already experience in such times is significant. To put solid data around my hypothetical, on the peak demand day in the last 12 months, which was 31st January 2011, Adelaide set a new record for demand of 3,433 MW with a peak temperature of 42.9 C. At that time, the 1,150 MW of installed wind capacity delivered just 60 MW, 5% of its capacity (all data from the Australian Energy Market Operator). On the winter peak day? 3%.  This is the technical way of saying that on the day in each peak season when we needed the most power, the wind was not blowing…anywhere. Despite South Australia being a pretty big place, it’s not big enough to provide balance in our wind system. It’s little wonder that despite 1,150 MW of wind, we have not closed a single MW of fossil.

Reliable energy is a major factor that separates those of us fortunate enough to live with it from our pre-industrial peasant ancestry and today’s chronically poor. We would want to be pretty damn sure of ourselves before we turn our backs on dense energy sources and instead bet a grand scale of human life on complex interactions of different intermittent and limited baseload renewables dispersed across whole continents. A system like Doug proposes needs the intermittent renewable backed-up by either fossil of nuclear. We virtually need to build two energy systems; the one we supposedly want (nearly all renewables), and the one we use at those times when the one we want fails to deliver. Combined with cost of the generation technology itself and the extensive level of new interconnection required over very, very long distances to effectively share power between, you know, northern and southen Europe or all of Australia, this quickly becomes a financially riduculous proposition.

Locally, the good people at Beyond Zero Emissions have provided such a road map for Australia. You can read all about and you can read its critique here and another here. It’s another in the club of studies that refuses to consider nuclear power as a decarbonising solution.  This time, the reason given is that gorgeously self-fulling little chestnut of “because we don’t already have it, nuclear power will take us more than 10 years (so, you know, best not give it any thought or analysis that might help people learn about it, break down misconceptions, and build social acceptance that would facilitate its uptake. Then, the next time someone raises it we can say “Well, the thing with nuclear is that it will take 10 years…)”.

Over time, I’m honestly growing less interested in the question of whether such grand and complex plans might work as I am in the question of why the hell we would bother trying in the first place??? If we actually are more interested, as we should be, in resolving climate change than promoting certain energy sources, then the very last thing we should do is jettison the best baseload zero-carbon energy solution currently available. It doesn’t make sense. Unless of course one is where I used to be; intellectually stuck around the seven predjudices and misunderstandings, which I break down in my presentation , that kept me an opponent of nuclear for so long.

I’ve said it that many times before, but once more can’t hurt. I love renewable energy, both in concept and, for the most part, in practice. But it encapsulates merely one of the means to decarbonisation, and not the end itself. I might as well quote myself:

To reach that goal (rapid decarbonisation), we demand the simple, commonsense maturity from our government and fellow citizens to consider all zero-carbon generation options on a level playing field basis. That includes the one that has been delivering for over 50 years, currently provides 15% of global electricity across 30 nations, has an outstanding record of safety and environmental performance, and has a strong future of even better technology. As my friend Barry Brook often remarks, he doesn’t actually care what does the job, only that it is done, and done quickly. He just happens to know, based on his research, that nuclear will perform extremely well if only it is given the chance for a fair fight.

But alas, no. For Doug and others like him, it seems to be renewables only or death. At the moment, I know which is winning.

Doug then moves on to specify one of the barriers he perceives as intractable, the long term management of nuclear waste. Completely ignoring Generation IV technology, as is Greenpeace’s want, he says this:

“…its one of those things where would have to explicitly accept, and make a values judgement that that’s something we are prepared to live with”.

Well, yep, that’s about right. I say much the same thing in my presentation. It’s a process broadly known as informed decision-making, and it happens all the time. Those of us who are concerned about waste but have the courage to challenge our prejudices very quickly realise that for the incredible benefits of nuclear power, the short-term waste management trade off before the commercial introduction of Generation IV is a very good deal indeed.

Doug then makes the point that “if you feel comfortable with nuclear power here [read UK or expand your reading to OECD if you like], then you have to feel comfortable with it across Africa..”. Well firstly, bollocks, as it remains well within our power to decline sales to basket case nations. Secondly, where we do engage in this trade, is the use of a modern nuclear generation facility to provide reliable, clean power somehow supposed to be bad? Somehow more concerning to us and more destabilising to the region than the myriad nightmare scenarios that play out every year in areas of that benighted continent due to a lack of development? Seriously, is it the nuclear power plants in South Africa that are supposed to concern me when, as I write, millions are displaced and starving in Somalia? Couldn’t we sleep even easier if the developed world had the brains to accepts high level waste in return and supervise the whole fuel cycle? Words fail me.

Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, South Africa. Two nuclear reactors supply 5% of South Africa's electricity

Finally, Doug manages to muster something approaching passion and conviction to tell use that nuclear-centric energy policy in the UK is “undermining support for renewables”. Oh well. Balances out Australia I suppose…

In matters of energy, it seems clear that Greenpeace have given over any pretence at logic a long time ago in preference for a dogmatic adherence to the renewable Bible. They achieve this in complete wilful detachment of the urgency of the climate crisis. Kool-Aid indeed.

Well dear readers if you have made it this far in the debate I will leave you to enjoy the final one minute summations from each of the speakers and make up your own mind. But I hope that as I build these posts it is growing clearer that in my home state of South Australia, as around the world, if we want to want to respond to the science of climate change with courage, with our eyes open, and with a socially just example the rest of the world might emulate, we must open ourselves to the outstanding technology that is nuclear power. It’s that or fail, and failure, in my mind, is not an option.


  1. BZE does not just indulge in propelling prophecy to self-fulfillment when they rule out nuclear, there is a conscious double standard when it comes to renewables. In their FAQ they ask:

    Could you get it done in ten years? Wind farms and transmission lines currently take several years just to get through the planning & permitting stages?

    For renewables, the answer is

    Fast-track permitting and prioritisation policies for renewable energy already exist in other countries and can be replicated here …
    … The ZCA Plan is proposing a departure from business-as-usual bureaucracy, and would require leadership that is not currently present in the Australian decision-making sphere. The Stationary Energy Plan highlights that the current limitations in progressing renewable energy in Australia are not technology, capacity or money.

    Do we find the nuclear option evaluated on the basis of the same heroic assumptions about fast-tracking, leadership and moving beyond business as usual? Lets see:

    Nuclear power was not considered primarily due to the timeframe requirements … taking into account the lack of any legislative framework for nuclear power in Australia.
    Even in Western countries that have existing nuclear power programs it can take 10-15 years to complete a single reactor … The only recent nuclear power plant that is being constructed
    in a Western country, the Olkiluoto 3 plant in Finland, is several years behind schedule …

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking! It clearly shows the authors work backwards from their desired conclusion to construct their argument, rather than the other way around.

    1. Wow. That’s it’s really, really disappointing isn’t it? I mean, their resourcefullness and obvious determination is so impressive, yet this arbitrary exclusion of nuclear.

      1. Quite. But as an indication of their selective approach to overcoming barriers for different types of energy, it’s a very good example. In one case, solution focussed to the max. In the other, obstacle focussed to the max. Notions like “fast tracking” , “prioritisation”, “leadership” are wholly generalisable across solutions. If one wants them to be that is…

  2. I heard the same thing you say here about peak demand in Adelaide in your discussion with Barry Brook and Rod Adams found at Atomic Insights. You were all saying that wind in Texas is useless because at the peak heat recently the wind was not blowing.
    The obvious counter to that is that of course solar will get the best results under exactly these circumstances. Solar matches demand in one way since it doesn’t work at night when demand is lower, and in another since it peaks exactly when the most air conditioning is needed.
    One other thing is that renewable energy is useful from the first kilowatt on. Every bit replaces fossil fuel, even if we are not at 100% in most places now.
    On the other hand, the question someone should have asked to the Greenpeace side is: You say 100% renewable is possible. Great. Shouldn’t we switch off carbon free nuclear after that has happened? Or do you really think global meltdown is less of a threat than a bit of radiation?

    1. The match between solar and peak demand in Adelaide is useful but not perfect. By the peak time of 4.30pm to 5.30pm solar performance is already well off the midday optimum, however point taken, and yes it does help. Risky if it clouds over for 30 mins or something which is very possible.

      Also very clear that the wind does displace fossil when it is blowing, except when we can’t use it. Happy to see them in use in SA as best suits our needs.

      1. This is a point that could do with greater emphasis – that the 3433 MW demand peak occurred at 5:00 pm local summer time (4 pm standard time). Too often the claim is blithely made that solar PV production ‘exactly matches’ peak demand from aircon – it’s simply not true. And if memory serves, very high temperatures are associated with clouds in Adelaide more often than you might think, particularly in the afternoon.

        1. Yes, it’s a really common misunderstanding, and it means the potential of high solar penetration to help put downward pressure on network infrastructure costs to cope with peaks is a lot less than people think (in fact the network operators say it is basically zero for the reason of clouding as you point out. They are utterly vested of course, but does not make them wrong). I think it’s another one of those things people really wish was true because it sounds so lovely, but sadly it isn’t.

          1. That doesn’t change the fact that solar will generally peak in summer, which generally matches the supply curve.
            I personally don’t care ever so much if 100% renewable is possible, since I don’t believe in the Greenpeace idea of replacing nuclear by renewable in the first place. We need both, never mind the costs or radiation risks.

            1. Yeah, but the problem around here in sunny Adelaide is that the a couple of cases are routinely made. 1) Decentralised solar will make the network cheaper to maintain because it matches peak, so as our peak rises (which it is faster than overall demand), then we should not need extra generation and more robust networks. Firstly, that’s sort of true and sort of not true at all. It certainly matches periods of HIGH demand which is great and is still contributing come peak, but it’s well off its best by peak time. In terms of network planning it it the actual peak, and only the peak, that drives the level of required investment. Secondly, come some clouds, the whole lot stops dead, so the network planners don’t rate it at all for meeting their reliability requirements 2) “when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun will be shining”. Again this is often, but far from always true. So if we wanted all renewables (absent HDR geothermal) we would need to build loads of both wind and solar to cover the respective weak spots, then some other form of back up for when they both don’t work e.g. the winter peak!

              I’m with you (I think…) KFL, I want them in. The purpose of this and the last post though is to try to highlight to the “no nuclear, just renewable” folks that there really are actual, proper, non-pretend limitations to that vision that are only solved with great mountains of money to patch over the gaps.

    2. One other thing is that renewable energy is useful from the first kilowatt on. Every bit replaces fossil fuel,

      Karl, I don’t think you meant it in this way, but for most people with no understanding of electricity production (i.e. most of us), this statement is a bit misleading. It suggests that the ‘replacement’ occurs on a kWh for kWh, CO2 for no-CO2 basis, but, as I understand it, that is not so. In the video Grimston make the point that even when intermittent renewables are generating, the large baseload fossil fuel plants in the system cannot be ‘turned off’. It can take days to shut-down or start-up one of these plants and even the small peaking gas plants would take hours to go from cold shut-down to full output. At best, what actually happens is that while wind and solar are generating FF plants continue to produce CO2 emissions as they tick over at a low output ready to fire up when the wind drops or the sky clouds over. The wind/sunshine doesn’t cut out predictably or conveniently, neither does it slowly wind down over the course of an hour or two, it can drop out quickly and over large areas whether it’s loss is convenient or not. Even fast response gas plants can’t fire-up from zero under these conditions.

      Absent affordable large scale storage, the only solution I can see to this problem is to have wind and solar backed by a non-carbon emitting generator ie nuclear, hydro, conventional geothermal (ie volcanic/hot springs, close to the surface), because if we haven’t got a zero carbon back-up, wind and solar can only go so far.

      Again, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I think it would be more accurate to say that each bit may help to reduce fossil fuel use, but does not replace it.

      1. The SA wind integration strategy appears to call for up to 33% wind contribution (from ~20%) in the next few years, certainly on committed builds.

        In WA, one of the reasons our newest desalination plant is “Powered By Wind” is that it is literally true. It will operate at periods of high (or excess) wind contribution as demand smoothing.

        This results in some under-utilisation of the desal equipment (in terms of capacity/capital), but as the running costs are the biggest component while excess wind is not valueable to an operator (but grid smoothing is) this plant will deliver desalination ~40% cheaper than our first example.

        I hope your new desal plant will provide the same service to the grid.

      2. The SA wind integration strategy appears to be 33% wind contribution (from ~20%) in the next few years, certainly on committed builds.

        In WA, one of the reasons our newest desalination plant is “Powered By Wind” is that it is literally true. It will operate at periods of high (or excess) wind contribution as demand smoothing.

        This results in some under-utilisation of the desal equipment in terms of capacity/capital. As the running costs are the biggest cost component and while excess wind was not valueable to the grid operator, but smoothing is, this plant will deliver desalination ~40% cheaper than our first example.

      3. There’s an interesting new post on BNC examining the the role of a broadly dispersed wind/solar super-grid in mitigating renewables intermittency problems and resultant fossil fuel reliance. It also discusses smart grids and storage options. Much of it supports the concerns I expressed above and is generally pertinent to the discussions here. http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/10/29/gws-sg-es/#more-5195

  3. Good post,Ben.I can foresee nothing but disaster if we continue to go down the road advocated by blind (or,at best,tunnel visioned) ideologues.
    The current open thread on BNC has an excellent little piece in the introduction about elephants and ants as in nuclear versus renewable.
    Just by the way,ascribing the problems of the African continent to “lack of development” is being simplistic.There are many other serious issues which contibute to its “benighted” state.

  4. Just as a quick addendum to this post, the story of wind in SA is indeed a pretty successful one to date as far as I can tell, and the AEMO reference I cite in post gives a really excellent summary, and detail, of both the positives and the limitations, the latter being particularly relevant as we proceed beyond getting 20% of our power from it. My plan has been to provide a review of this report as my next post and present the full story. By all means though, click the link and dive right in if you want to beat me to it.

  5. Ben
    I don’t know if suitable data exists but it would be interesting to evaluate SA’s wind power on cost per tonne of CO2 avoided. The default case would be generating the same number of Mwh using gas alone. I’d include RECs in the cost of wind power, perhaps worth $30-$45 per Mwh in the recent past. Thus omitting coal fired and interstate electricity imports in the reference period I’d take
    case A; production cost of (wind + gas), actual CO2 from gas in tonnes
    case B; cost of same Mwh if done entirely from gas, estimated CO2
    Then (delta cost)/(delta CO2) gives the cost per tonne of CO2 avoided. If that works out greater than $23 then ditch the wind farms and use just gas until it runs out in a few years. Another interesting figure would be possible wind output curtailed.

    I’d give this a crack myself but I don’t even have Excel at the moment.

    1. Reckon some folks did this in a “replacing Hazlewood” exercise. Not sure what the cost outcome was but it turned out gas alone would have been cleaner (!) because it would be CCGT, rather than OCGT peaking when combining with wind!!! Apparently they did not really talk about that outcome though. I should find the study and stop talking in vaguaries

        1. Cheers Barry. Looks like a pretty good answer right there John, or at least something to chew on. Peter and co. would have to have been very, very wrong for the wind/gas option to be superior in that useful metric of cost of abatement.

          1. However some might claim SA has ‘cracked it’ with over a GW of nameplate wind so the Hazelwood calcs somehow don’t apply . The loss of an Mt of CO2 between 2006 and 2010 for SA generation needs more explaining in my opinion if coal was constant during that period. I’m still trying to work that one out.

            The AEMO report has something for both dreamers and realists. It is tells it like it is on gas supplies but elsewhere it gets a bit fanciful eg in Figure 3-2 we see a 525 MW generator at Innamincka, presumably geothermal. The next few years should sort what is real and what is fanciful.

            1. I have the answer to that.

              The wind “following” is done with progressively smaller OCGT units.

              For example; if a 5MW “dip” occurs, the 10MW turbine is adjusted. If a 30MW “dip” occurs the 10MW & 50W turbines are adjusted, and so on. Various combinations of controls are use that result in the “least mass” of charge air “dumped”.

              It’s a critique of the above BNC OCGT/CCGT commentrary which I have heard somewhat strenuously put by manufacturers of gas turbine equipment. There is also a “two sided” story that is missed in the BNC critique; the variations of following demand is not mentioned. (Yes it is generally smoother than wind input).

              Seimens also have a very clever CCGT multi-shaft arrangement that gangs smaller gas and steam units to create that “control” in one location. Efficient following is a capability of all but their most powerful CCGT sets now, but they are more expensive. (Alstom too).

  6. 1) I don’t think Ben was arguing that energy operators who have wind in their generation portfolio state the fact that they’ll provide during Summer peaks. Rather (this is the context of his paragraph) that those advocating 100% Renewable, e.g. Wind, need to accept there are some severe deficiencies inherent in the technology. Especially during times of large High Pressure zones (as occurs frequently during a hot SA summer) there is hardly any wind, although lots of solar radiation.

    2) Checking out the Australian Government’s “State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories” report (2009; most recent) the stats they publish do not match those you state. Gross drop in inventories is 4.3% for SA, however looking at the Energy section of the SA chart (p. 24, Table 7) you can see that Emissions increased in the Energy Industry sector (+11.9%, +1069 Gg CO2-e). This is taken from a same time period you stated, 5 years (04-09). Even for the period 1990-2009 Energy Industry emissions increased by 27.4%.

    Source: http://climatechange.gov.au/publications/greenhouse-acctg/state-territory-inventory-2009.aspx

    If you could provide some sources for the 20% drop claim that would help. Maybe you have a more recent State inventory report?


    1. Bang on the money for number 1. I figured that was sufficiently obvious to any one except those who wanted to build a straw man.

      For number two, I think the issue is that you then need to break the Energy Industry sector down again into Electricity Generation, and that is where you see the drop. The AEMO report I link to in the post lays this out pretty clearly. It has been a challenge to find the clear breakdown, but this AEMO report is a thing of beauty. I have made an important edit to part one of this post based on what I found in it, you can check my italics remarks in that post.

    2. Yeah, your link is the one I have been working from for a while, showing GHG from electricity generation leaping from 6.5 MT in 1990 to 9.1 MT in 2009, which is obviously seriously the wrong direction. BUT, it was previously worse than that before the commencement of wind generation in 2003, and that is information I only just got my hands on. Check that AEMO link for the detail.

  7. To me the take-home message from the linked AEMO report seems to be SA’s mining and desalination industries can’t expand without gas from Queensland. Let’s hope they will sell it cheaply enough for a decade or two. Gas dependence is implied by the low 5% and 3.5% firm credit for summer and winter wind while somehow wind manages to achieve 20% of the annual energy mix. What happens when there is no gas?

    I’ll try to use the report’s limited data in some other ways. Somehow I doubt it will be possible to conclude SA’s energy situation is not precarious.

  8. I see comments in the online Advertiser that also express incredulity that SA can achieve 20% windpower while the summer capacity credit is so low, some 5% with 3.5% c.c. for winter. We need some time series graphs that show the interplay between wind and gas, say at monthly intervals. Rann seems to be hinting that the latest wind farm to be built on Yorke Peninsula will burn hay for nearby backup. Great, heatwaves with added smoke.

    I find the AEMO report on SA electricity somewhat strange in its ability to not mention the elephant in the room. A large part of it is devoted to unproven technology. It mentions the power needs for the Olympic Dam expansion in several places. What product is the world demanding from Olympic Dam?

    1. Copper, gold, and uranium is lucky number three, but I certainly take your point. It’s an interesting report, because the appendices provide a pretty frank assessment of the readiness of various energy technologies for SA, with wave/tidal and HDR Geothermal getting a particularly underwhelming review, consistent with what I heard from CEDA that day that was the basis for my Renewable Reality Checks post.

      In the week either side of the actual peak, the wind provided up to 870 MW, but the performance profile was nearly the exact inverse to the demand profile. Clearly we’ve managed it so far, but I think it gets a lot harder from here on in.

  9. The $1.3bn 600 MW Yorke Penisula wind farm will break what I’d call the ‘Inhaber rule’, namely that >20% wind penetration increases CO2. That’s unless SA can get other States to take some of the output. Of course there are a couple of other factors at play, the future of the REC subsidy (expected to average $39 a Mwh in 2011) and the longevity of SA’s on-tap fossil fuel supplies. What if both are gone in say 15 years?

    To those who dispute the 20% rule hopefully we’ll have detailed graphs from AEMO to help draw our own conclusion. If this is Rann’s parting gift to SA perhaps they should name the wind farm after him as a perpetual reminder.

  10. I see outgoing SA premier Mike Rann wants the State population to hit 2m by 2027, not 2050. Another 0.4m people, presumably powered by the 600 MW wind farm that will produce a reliable 30 MW in hot weather. Which also assume everybody pays an extra 3.9c/kwh for electricity when the wind does blow. Is he for real?

    The link to the export plan doesn’t seem to be working so I can’t see if it assumes increased output from Olympic Dam. So where will the mine’s extra power and water come from? I always thought that La Nina/El Nino was cyclical so there will be some years when there is very little water for farming. Perhaps Rann assumes we’re now on permanent La Nina.

    Dry season water supply, summer air conditioning, industrial electricity, coal and gas depletion all assumed away. Perhaps the extra people will bring those things with them.

  11. Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, South Africa. Two nuclear reactors supply 5% of South Africa’s electricity.
    Yet one soda can full of “spent” fuel, evenly dispersed, is enough to kill every living creature on the planet.
    That’s one hell of a risk for 5% of a country’s electrical power production, ESPECIALLY considering the solar power potential in SA.

    1. I prefer references for sweeping statements like that just so I can understand an if necessary challenge the assumptions that underpin what you are saying. Otherwise it really just comes across as hyperbole, you know what I mean?

    2. That makes about as much sense as saying one knife, evenly applied, is enough to kill every single person on the planet.

  12. A “soda can” is a volume of 375 cubic centimetres. Koeburg is a classic Gen 3 PWR, using enriched uranium. That would weigh a rather remarkable 7 kilograms. Now, assuming our troll only meant every human, not every living creature, and we’ll round the population off at 7 billion, then if every human got, in some rather remarkable act of distribution, one millionth of a gram each, what would be the health impact? Not terribly much I expect.

    Meanwhile, the total number of known radioactive material escapes from this plant in the past 27 years, from operation? ZERO.

  13. For those with an interest, there is a very detailed discussion of the meme raised by Tao in Chapter 13 of “The Nuclear Energy Option” by Bernard Cohen, specifically the issue of plutonium toxicity from whence this basic idea of killing everyone on the planet seems to come from. Apparently Ralph Nader has enjoyed saying it a lot in the past.

    It’s a long and detailed section, but the upshot is:
    – Pu is indeed very hazardous if inhaled as a fine particle (it is certainly not alone in that regard). The basic measure of its toxicity does suggest a lot of potential deaths should it be inhaled by enough people (2 million per pound. Still sounds pretty bad to me)
    – It is nowhere near toxic enough to support this idea of killing everyone in the world even if it were widely distributed
    – One would not keel over and die. We are referring to increased lung cancer risk which may become apparent after 10 years, but more likely after 20-40 years
    – Most importantly, being quite (very) heavy, it is impossible to conceive of a mechanism by which high levels of inhalation may occur, even if you vaporised it in a population centre. Cohen suggests a pound of vapour might remain airborne long enough to result in 27 future fatal cancers, if basic precautions of staying indoors for the first hour or breathing through a handkerchief are not taken.

    Finally, atmospheric test bombs have sadly vapourised about 10,000 pounds of plutonium to date. We are still here.

    Clearly if you are willing enough to mis-use the data and not give any point of comparison, it is possible to scare the pants off people. Meanwhile we have fossil fuels and climate change…

        1. Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

          How about the sixties? 704 nuclear explosions in that decade alone. That works out to be an average of one bomb every 5 days!

          Watching something like this helps one understand where the anti-nuclear movement of the early 1970’s was coming from – it’s just a pity they got power generation confused with pointlessly excessive and destructive weapons testing.

          1. For sure. I enjoyed speaking to a group of my father’s friends for that very reason. There was one serious hold-out to my message, who was probably the most strongly aligned with the peace movement, but the others seemed to make the intellectual journey pretty readily.

            Good point you make though: who could blame them for saying no to all things nuclear in that environment, particularly when the power and weapons programs certainly did share intellectual and financial capital? I think maintaining that empathy is really, really important for what we are trying to achieve, and that animation certainly built my appreciation.

            Thanks to the Brits, plenty of those little booms were in my back yard, relatively speaking. Incredible madness. Nuclear obliteration was clearly the existential threat of that generation; I posit we have swapped that for the far more subtle climate change.

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