18 comments

  1. Great Job Ben – will have to watch the rest on Big Ideas. Of course you’ll get the usual backlash from the anti-nuclear zealots who are still suffering from the blocks and blind prejudices from which you have freed yourself. They wish to make the perfect the enemy of the good and hence blindly continue to push towards more deleterious climate change.

    The one area you didn’t address (and I appreciate you had no time) is the concern I have about the ability of people, companies, governments and authorities to manage nuclear properly so that in the unlilkely event things DO go wrong, it is well handled.

    I think Fukushima tecahes us many things

    1) Even old nuclear technology that goes horribly wrong produces nothing like the damage that buring of fossil fuels produces day in day out, with monotonous regularity – it’s just “invisible” and accepted as “normal”

    but

    2) The people that run Nuclear have yet to behave in a way that creates ANY sort of public trust in any stage of the nuclear cycle – from building through to handing the problems.

    The reference below highlights this.

    Unless and until the industry takes a very proactive stance in this area I believe FUD will triumph over reason and we will not see the more positive energy future you described

    Permanent Address: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fukushima-blame-utilities-goverment-leaders-regulators
    Fukushima Disaster Blame Belongs with Top Leaders at Utilities, Government and Regulators
    The nuclear disaster could and should have been avoided, according to an independent commission investigating the accident in Japan

    1. Thank you Mark. A very, very good point with which I partially agree. I have had some discussions with people who have lived in communities with NPPs and they spoke very well of the experience and those who were running the plants. The point is that when things are done really well it is quiet and invisible to anyone except those living with the NPP. That doesn’t excuse the Japanese situation and the reality is the industry has ground to make up… but it’s not a fair representation of the WHOLE industry.

  2. After watching the whole debate, it was very well conducted. Best part was when Michael Angwin of the Aus Uranium Assoc. used Prof. Lowe’s technique of personalising his argument to deflect scrutiny through humour against him, amazing I wasn’t expecting that.
    Then seeing the mood of Dominique la Fontaine shift when confronted by engineers who take her to task on the Renewable capacity factor issue to highlight that it’s always Gas and Renewables, as you, Ben, put so simply. There is conformation from a wind advocate that Gas will always be needed in a wind and solar grid.

    At the end of the Day objective facts trump FUD. As this debate showed.

    Also the hyper link is broken in the italics blurb, it has an extra “http://” stuck at the end of the address.

  3. I’ve been a huge fan of nuclear power for a long while now. I first started looking into it when I was in college, but I was mostly dismissed as a fool for thinking outside the box or because of my age. When the incident at Fukushima Daiichi happened I could only shake my head in disbelief as people around the world had knee jerk reactions to nuclear power.
    Australia is probably one of the best places in the world for nuclear power as we are largely free from natural disasters. However I would say that I do prefer the idea of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors instead of more traditional reactor systems.
    I just wish people could look past their own fears and misconceptions of nuclear power, because as I see it this is our best and possibly last great hope to avert the deaths or disenfranchisement of billions that will inadvertently accompany major climate change.

    1. I just wish people could look past their own fears and misconceptions of nuclear power, because as I see it this is our best and possibly last great hope to avert the deaths or disenfranchisement of billions that will inadvertently accompany major climate change.

      I’m grateful for that comment Ted. We are of one mind there.

  4. Well, after all the discussion about the seriousness of climate change and the urgency of the problem I have to say my jaw hit the ground when Ms “clean energy” Dominique la Fontaine said, quite plainly, that she would rather face the risks of gas than face the risks of nuclear power.

    Risks of gas – continued climate change entailing a global ecological and humanitarian disaster (not to mention the 103 severe, fatal, localised accidents that have occurred in the OECD over the last 35 years).

    Risks of nuclear power – Tiny risk of non-fatal, localised accident (coupled with vastly increased possibility of climate stabilisation).

    For anyone who queries the risks, see page 14 for accident comparisons: http://www.idrc.info/userfiles/image/presentations2008/Burgherr_Peter_Comparative_Risk_Assessment_of_Severe_Accidents_in_the_Energy_Sector.pdf

    As for your contribution Ben – excellent piece of communication. Once again, I thought your “waste” comparisons really help to put things into perspective for a new audience. Of course, your credentials within the sustainability feild leave no question as to where your motivations lie. That and the fact that you continually cite reputable, science-based organisations such as the WHO and the UN as the sources of your information has got to be what made people sit up an listen. It was a persuasive, intriguing, (for many, perhaps) counter-intuitive, evidence based argument. What more could one ask for?

  5. I know that presentations can get in the way of things if handled badly, but overall I would have thought a big screen showing visuals would be preferable.,

  6. Compelling stuff Ben and nicely presented. Congratulations. I’ll check Lowe and the rest later but I think I’ll have heard it all before.

  7. Don’t forget to like the video on YouTube and share it. The more stats it gets the better it will be in searches.

  8. Ben – good job.

    Why not point out the inter-generational burden of fossil emissions when Ian made a similar comment on Nuclear waste? Sure, next generation reactors are expected to address the issues in the future, but as I understand the situation, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today will continue to impact global climate for thousands of years. This situation is locked-in and will become more dire based on the world’s reliance on currently operating fossil generation facilities. Nuclear waste, as you said, is comparatively small and can be packaged. In a ‘normal’ situation, there is no impact. Even at Fukushima, the spent fuel did not contribute to the release from any of the affected reactors. Interim packaging technology – available today and successfully demonstrated at Fukushima Daiichi – gives us time to properly and safely manage high level nuclear waste. The same can not be said for fossil waste, and likely never will be.

    1. I hear you! There is a lot more I wished to say in response to Ian. There was a protocol to follow and I tried to go after the biggest hits.

      But yep, given that they completely conceded that their future is all about gas, that intergenerational equity argument falls totally flat. Some people prefer to do their sustainability thinking in ways that are not too taxing by refusing to engage in needing to compare impacts and choose the smaller one. Ian Lowe seems to be one of them

    1. Thanks for the great looking report!

      Not simple to answer your question, as there is absolutely minimal data. There is a chapter on costs in the book “Plentiful Energy”, written by the chief designers of the IFR, but they are pretty circumspect for the simple reason that the technology is cusp of commercial; how can the question be answered at such a juncture?

      I would still expect new coal LCOE to be less than nuclear, sadly. Given it is a way crappier technology, that would stand to reason.

      There are design elements of IFR that will really lend themselves to lower construction costs (and hence LCOE), being mainly the fact that it runs at atmospheric pressure, and the incredible passive safety systems. They will be far simpler bits of machinery. Add the fact that other Governments may well pay for you to accept their waste as fuel, and the economics should improve considerably.

      But I don’t have anything definitive to offer you. I do note that GE Hitachi are offering to build their PRISM reactor in the UK free of charge, and make their money disposing of the plutonium waste and selling electricity. Sounds like a good deal, and one that suggests a great deal of confidence in the tech http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2190361/study-waste-fuelled-nuclear-reactor-feasible-uk

      1. Thank you for the information.at the moment I’m doing an evaluation of the challenge of nuclear energy and the absence of information about the cost of a generation IV is complete.i found information about accelerator driven subcritical reactors but not for generation IV.I’m trying to find the book that you suggest me.again thank you.

  9. Again Thank you checking the info that you provided me I found a document “SMALL MODULAR REACTORS – KEY TO FUTURE NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION IN THE U.S. “(Robert Rosner and Stephen Goldberg) where there is an economical analysis about nuclear plants with small modules reactors and the projected LCOE for a first plant.thank you

  10. Hi Ben,

    I just belated got to see the whole debate and you did great ! Ian Lowe is profoundly flippant ,more interested in quoting Mencken and playing to the crowd.

    He makes the throwaway observation that you wouldn’t even countenance Nuclear Power if it weren’t for serious threat of climate change. I dont think this has been established at all. Zealots in the climate change debate have overplayed their hand and there will be a swing against the whole AGW thing. AGW wont play out like the zealots say (if it plays out at all). IMHO Nuclear power is the better alternative in either scenario.

    Congratulations on a masterfull piece of presentation, Ben you done us proud!!

    Mark Bolton

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