My deepest gratitude to the undersigned experts, including Adelaide local and friend Tom Wigley, for publishing this open letter and putting this critical issue in no doubt. The time for ideological opposition to nuclear power based on historical and outdated understanding is past. A new paradigm of environmentalism is needed. A quiet plea from me to our ENGOs: take a moment to absorb what our best climate scientists have to say. Pause before responding with what we have already heard from you. Realise that compelling arguments in favour of renewable energy do not make compelling arguments to exclude nuclear in this time of urgency. Lead public opinion in supporting smartly regulated new nuclear technologies as essential in the fight against climate change.

To those influencing environmental policy, but opposed to nuclear power:

As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.

We call on your organization to support the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as a practical means of addressing the climate change problem. Global demand for energy is growing rapidly and must continue to grow to provide the needs of developing economies. At the same time, the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions is becoming ever clearer. We can only increase energy supply while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions if new power plants turn away from using the atmosphere as a waste dump.

Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.

We understand that today’s nuclear plants are far from perfect. Fortunately, passive safety systems and other advances can make new plants much safer. And modern nuclear technology can reduce proliferation risks and solve the waste disposal problem by burning current waste and using fuel more efficiently. Nuclear power remains more expensive than power from coal or natural gas. However, nuclear is one of the cheapest sources of clean energy (second only to large-scale hydro-electric). Innovation and economies of scale can make new power plants even cheaper than existing plants. Regardless of these advantages, nuclear needs to be encouraged based on its societal benefits.

Quantitative analyses show that the risks associated with the expanded use of nuclear energy are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks associated with fossil fuels. No energy system is without downsides. We ask only that energy system decisions be based on facts, and not on emotions and biases that do not apply to 21st-century nuclear technology.

While there will be no single technological silver bullet, the time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as one among several technologies that will be essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on using the atmosphere as a waste dump.

With the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology that has the potential to displace a large fraction of our carbon emissions. Much has changed since the 1970s. The time has come for a fresh approach to nuclear power in the 21st century.

 We ask you and your organization to demonstrate its real concern about risks from climate damage by calling for the development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy.

Sincerely,

CalEmaHanWig

Dr. Ken Caldeira, Senior Scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution

Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Atmospheric Scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Columbia University Earth Institute

Dr. Tom Wigley, Climate Scientist, University of Adelaide and the National Center for Atmospheric Research

21 comments

  1. Good to hear. I’ve already seen on other blogs and message boards where this has been posted that there is already a creep of the “climate change denier” argument style coming from the renewable ideologues. Such as:

    “These aren’t authoritative energy experts” or ” They are just climate scientists”
    “Shills” or “We know Hansen is paid by the Nuclear lobby” (I like how they think there is this highly organised global renewable body; new world order….)
    “What would they know”
    “Fukushima, Chernobyl etc. etc.” a’la Hockey Stick graph conspiracy
    “We can do it all with solar and renewables” and fairy floss too I suppose.

    I could weep, but I won’t. Why weep over an idiot?

  2. I see in online news media the usual talking points get a run, including the nothing-wrong-with-coal line. In my opinion the serious criticisms of nuclear are cost and the need for active cooling; the other criticisms are beatups. I think the naysayers need to grasp what a head in the sand attitude will achieve… a combination of unreliable power and more coal. Reading those comments in the online media it feel like that realisation is still years away.

    1. There is a power point presentation by Geoff Dimery CEO of Alinta on the Port Augusta Power Station committee page. From that presentation a Kogan Creek solar booster looks like the most likely scenario for Northern Power Station. Solar thermal with storage is very costly to implement at the scale required. So more coal with a bit of solar tacked on. But the longevity of Leigh creek does come into play.

      http://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Committees/Pages/Committees.aspx?CTId=3&CId=274

      Go to Submissions and “No. 32 Alinta Presentation to Committee Nov 2012”.

  3. If they do a solar add-on to Northern it will be a gesture which renewables enthusiasts seem to think is the real deal. An example of what I call mouse-humps-elephant. The mouse is extremely pleased but the elephant doesn’t notice. What happened to the similar concept at Liddell NSW? I think the SA govt might be grabbing at anything after the disappointments with geothermal and fracking.

    When Northern needs replacing or Leigh Ck runs out of coal and gas is $12/GJ that is when it will get interesting. They should start planning for that yesterday.

    1. What is the disappointment about fraccing? It hasn’t really taken off yet. Some wells have been drilled (Moomba-191, Holdfast) but nothing on the scale as we have seen in the US. Conservative estimates have the upper bound of gas at $9/GJ, but even WA domestic gas didn’t hit that mark once their LNG industry went underway. Same deal for NT.

      1. For the ageing Cooper Basin to support SA, NSW and the three LNG trains being built at Gladstone Qld there needs to be thousands of fracked wells, not a handful. Presumably the wells will show the same 40% decline rate as in parts of the US
        http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-10/u-dot-s-dot-shale-oil-boom-may-not-last-as-fracking-wells-lack-staying-power
        Post Fukushima the Japanese have been paying up to $17/GJ for LNG. Both shale and coal seam gas will need to expand substantially to maintain supply for users of piped gas in south eastern Australia. The SA mines minister who once advocated a uranium industry more recently described fracking as an ‘energy revolution’. A strange way to describe paying double for a basic fuel.

        Without sufficiently flexible backup generation the limitations will soon become clear of SA’s 1200 MW of wind power and 10% of homes with PV.

        1. From what I’ve been told Cooper Basin Gas is intended to mainly be domestic consumption in SA and NSW, with a small proportion going to Gladstone. The CSG in Qld is the main supplier to the Gladstone LNG trains.

          1. What I’ve heard is that Gladstone intends to liquefy 25 Mt a year from east Australian gas – conventional, CSG and tight Until next year none of it exported. However consumption for the whole of Australia is about 20 Mt. It seems we’ll have to keep drilling like it or not
            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-30/gas-shortages-nsw-macfarlane/4980952
            CSG drillers might have to offer farmers more money. SA also gets some gas from the Vic Otway Basin, The offshore Bass field supplies both Vic and Tas. If I recall there was talk of extending the Darwin-Alice Springs pipe to Adelaide with the gas now originating in the Icthys field offshore from WA.

            I think this will be discussed in next week’s ABC Q&A.

  4. John Newlands, Liddell’s two solar thermal boosters are still in place but generally are not in use, except occasionally for demonstration purposes. As one who had a minor hand in design review and construction supervision of both, I am familiar with them. This is not the place for more detailed discussion, but it would be true to say that they have not lived up operationally to the expectations of the enthusiasts, who must be disappointed by the outcomes.

    IMHO, this does not disprove the concept, but it does highlight that “the devil is in the detail”. More so, it seems, when attempting to commercialise emerging technologies.

    So, these solar thermal booster plants are in nowhere-land. They indicate a path to a possible future but have not taken us there.

    1. Good to see some heavies advocating nuclear. “Renewables will have a role to play” We’ve already got more than enough renewables in SA, especially wind. Further growth in wind should be stopped now and subsidies for solar should be terminated. Have a look at wind in The UK and Europe if you want to see how useless and expensive they are. Solar thermal for Port Augusta?? What a waste!! 200MWe at prohibitive costs to replace 754KWe from coal? Are they nuts or what? I followed the Alinta presentation to the select committee with my own presentation to replace Port Augusta coal with nuclear. It’s time to get stuck into all of our SA politicians, and to stop pussyfooting around. Tell them that if they’re serious about global warming and carbon DIOXIDE emissions [I’ll pewk if I hear another politician talk about carbon pollution]then they’ll be serious about adding nuclear power to their energy mix. Yes, I know, I’m being a bit impatient and aggressive. You would be too if you’d been trying to knock some sense into their ignorant heads for 16 years. Get stuck into them and don’t be too nice. For politicians to remain ignorant of the truth about nuclear power and its world-wide growth is totally unacceptable. Tell them! Yes I’m now P—-d off as well.

      1. Have you read the transcript of hearing from the when Alinta visited on the 18th of October? It fits with the presentation slides they received.

        It includes bits such as this:

        Mr RICHES (Alinta): That’s why I think our general view has been a hybrid plant is more economically viable than a stand-alone plant. We have been somewhat disappointed, I think it is
        fair to say, in the remarks of Repower Port Augusta and the Port Augusta council when they say, ‘We don’t want coal anymore,’ and the answer is, ‘Well, that might be great philosophically, but wouldn’t you rather have something than nothing?’ Certainly, this study will analyse all of the different setups that you could have for solar thermal generation to work out what may be economically viable. Certainly, it has a lot of benefits, not so much in the southern states (apart from South Australia) but certainly in Queensland, potentially, around developing a hybrid plant and then looking at whether it has application in other parts of Australia.

        1. Thanks Irregular Commentator.I missed the Alinta October 18th transcript.Why not choose ONE type which can actually do the job of adequate, secure supply and without emissions [nuclear].That’s what most of the rest of the world is doing.James Lovelock in 2007 while at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas said,”It doesn’t make sense that Australia isn’t already nuclear.” Hybrid [solar/wind/gas or what] is wasteful in my view.Solar and wind ALWAYS need back-up. Gas alone might be OK but it’s a fossil fuel for goodness sake and emits 40% of the emissions of coal. I thought we wanted to do away with emissions.

  5. An Adelaide relative has eulogised over the feed in tariff of 60c per kwh for residential PV. Perhaps they should wonder why major industries are leaving for Asia. I see last night on Mark Willacy’s final ABC alarm piece from Fukushima region the geiger counter was reading 7 uSv/h. I suspect parts of the Adelaide Hills (eg around Houghton) read higher than that but the radiation maps are in becquerels. Why not evacuate the Adelaide Hills? Funny how nobody is alarmed by skyrocketing energy prices or lack of future jobs.

  6. It’s disappointing that BHP Billiton the world’s largest mining company has dumbed down on emissions issues.
    They mothballed expansion plans for Olympic Dam mine a major uranium source.
    They said reformed coal exec Ian Dunlop was not welcome on the board.
    They urged the Abbott govt to replace carbon tax with weak ‘direct action’.
    They plan to bulldoze Borneo rainforests and start a big new coal mine.

    On a more positive note BHPB cancelled expansion plants for Abbot Point (one ‘t’) coal loader due to weak coal prices. Overall they seem more like a lumbering dinosaur than a corporate world leader.

  7. In my opinion BHP has regressed since the departure of Marius Kloppers, a chemical engineer with a PhD from MIT. Kloppers said in speeches we must prepare for the low carbon economy and make sacrifices, or words to that effect. By comparison the new management at BHP seems to eat raw meat and communicate in grunts. What I thought was particularly stupid was congratulating the Abbott govt on the repeal of carbon pricing and the advent of Direct Action. Since nobody knows if DA can even get off the ground perhaps BHP should now write a letter of congratulations to the tooth fairy.

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