When a group of about one hundred Australians are invited to participate in an energy forum to be broadcast for an international audience, could anyone be faulted for bringing high expectations? This week’s Energy Futures forum in Perth provided an opportunity to address Australia’s contribution to what is arguably the conundrum of the century: a high energy planet that must become carbon neutral. The results were deeply underwhelming. It seems those of us most saturated in reliable energy are also the most insulated from its simple realities.

I was pleased to participate in the Energy Futures forum in Perth this week, the first in a three part series for 2014 by CNBC, sponsored by Shell. My sincere thanks to CNBC for the invitation and also to Shell for the hospitality for the evening. The evening will be broadcast next month, with the next 2014 fora to be held in Singapore and Ontario. I took the opportunity for a longer visit to Perth and surrounds, and enjoyed myself immensely.

What a shame then that the event itself delivered a null outcome. Despite a wonderful set up and a well-conceived hypothetical, the hand-picked assembly manifestly failed to deliver.

Having been warmly welcomed with dinner and drinks, participants joined tables of 6-8 where we found a flat, three-tiered octagon, scratchy textas and a voting keypad.

Our challenge and process was as follows.

We would be given a hypothetical and fifteen minutes to document ideas for addressing it on the outer tier of the octagon, with the aim at this stage of “quality, not quantity”. Stage two required the table members to elevate their favoured ideas to the next level of the octagon and vote, using chips, on their favourite idea. The winning idea would then be documented on the top tier and presented to the assembled group in a ninety-second elevator pitch. All assembled would give each pitch a score out of ten and at the end of the evening scores would be announced.

I joined a table with the following participants:

  • Paul Anastas, Lord Mayor’s Personal Aide, City of Perth
  • Marita Bradshaw, Senior Science Advisor, Energy Division, Geoscience Australia. This organisation prepares the Australian Energy Resource Assessment
  • Chris Fair of Oilfield Data Services
  • Alex Gosman, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network. This organisation represents Australia’s largest greenhouse emitters
  • Dylan Korczynskyj, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, University of Notre Dame Australia
  • Ray Wills, Managing Director, Future Smart Strategies, a private sustainability consulting firm

This was the hypothetical for which we needed to propose a pathway:

“Australia’s energy sector achieves the impossible, becoming the world’s largest producer while attaining carbon neutral status in the same year (2035)”

Unfortunately participants were not provided with any numbers in which to frame this hypothetical. Therefore the quality of the outcomes relied, in large part, on pre-existing literacy regarding the global energy challenge and Australia’s energy footprint. This knowledge varied a great deal among the participants. I’ll take the opportunity here to put some simplified numbers around it based on Australia’s published energy flows.

Australia’s balance of total primary energy is roughly 16,500 PJ. Of that, about 13,500 PJ is dirty energy in the form of coal export (8,000 PJ), gas export (1,000), oil export (1,000 PJ) and non-renewable end use within Australia (3,500 PJ). Our clean energy is approximately 3,500 PJ of which 95% is our uranium export (3,250 PJ) and 5% is renewable electricity and biomass (250 PJ).

Australia’s largest energy contribution is coal export

For a coarse definition of the carbon neutral concept (in energy alone) included in the hypothetical, let’s assume Australia needs to consume and export equivalent or greater zero-carbon energy than it consumes and exports in fossil fuels. That assumes perfect substitution of a PJ of zero carbon energy for a PJ of any fossil fuel. That’s incorrect but suffices for this purpose. The other way of resolving the challenge of the hypothetical is to make enough of the dirty impacts of the dirty energy disappear i.e. carbon capture and storage.

Now, we can get a rough idea of the challenge. To achieve the carbon neutral goal based on our current position, assuming no reduction in fossil exports (i.e. a net increase in energy), we would have needed to consume and export just shy of four times the amount of clean energy, to achieve 13,500 PJ of clean energy. Assuming clean energy exports substituted for fossil exports rather than adding to them, (i.e. the total energy figure remains the same), we would have needed about 2.3 times the consumption and production of clean energy, while the fossil consumption and export drops by about 40%.

Bear in mind, the hypothetical also called on Australia to become the world’s largest energy exporter in 2035. All of those energy numbers would need to increase dramatically to account both for us jumping to first place and for the projected growth in global energy demand by 2035. For the sake of simplicity I’m going to complete the discussion using current figures.

Our task: to provide a vision for achieving this challenge. Without a useful, workable set of numbers to frame the challenge, discussions readily degenerated into unreality. Three major discussions emerged at our table.

Firstly Ray Wills declared “The future is renewables. The coal and gas industries will crash between 2025 and 2030. We have this renewable energy, so the challenge we have is catching it get it there”.

I called this as nonsense at the outset, suggesting that those markets cannot crash on the back of renewables until the solution is well established and proven, and it isn’t. Willis assured me this was happening now. I queried whether he grasped the quantity of energy we currently export and the quantity of growth to come, by pointing out to our table that on average a Kenyan has access to just 1/100th the electricity generating capacity of a South Australian. Wills informed me that the amount of energy needed to address energy poverty was actually very small, clarifying that “he doesn’t mean buying them a TV”.

It may come as a surprise to some that Kenyans, along with everyone else, buy their own TVs and they do so without asking our permission. Willis’ version of addressing energy poverty seems consistent with the United Nations description of meeting “basic human needs” of 50-100 kWh per person per year. That is enough electricity to operate “a couple of light bulbs, a fan and a radio for five hours per day“. That would be an awful lot better than nothing at all, but let’s not kid ourselves. The median Western Australian household uses that much electricity in just ten days.

Meme by Tim-Rasmus Kiehl

With the benefit of the basic numbers we can put the renewables-driven concept to the test. Use and export of renewable energy would need to be increased 14-fold to cover just our dirty domestic energy consumption. On a substitution basis, to neutralise the impact of the exports too, our output of renewable energy would need to increase another 32-fold. To fulfil the promise of crashes in fossil fuel (i.e. meeting the full level of fossil exports with renewable energy) it would need to be increased another 40-fold. So, to neutralise both domestic use and exports we need to grow renewable energy output by 46 times. To wipe fossil out of the picture we need to grow renewable energy output by 54 times.

Of course, that’s not even the nub of the problem. Just how are we supposed to use and export at least 46-54 times our current production of renewable electricity? Currently we can’t even implement cost-effective systems of storage to shave off a bit of peak demand. We cannot sell sunshine, wind and hot rocks. We have no way of packing this energy into a useful, portable form that is anything like a match for the energy density of coal, gas, and especially uranium. The only technologically conceivable route is the direct connection and sale of a frighteningly large amount of HVDC electricity. Try to picture a system that can deliver 40 times Australia’s total energy end use in the form of electricity. Picture all of our export markets happily forgoing the flexibility, convenience and security provided by stockpiled fuel, and instead purchasing every single kWh in real time from our island nation.

To Wills’s credit he chose not to elevate such a vision to the second stage. He was stumped by the challenge and no solution came to mind.

The second major concept came largely from Marita Bradshaw with support from others, and went roughly as follows. Based on the achievement of a major climate compact in Paris in 2015 between the USA and China, strong climate action is entrenched. Australia is elevated to the world’s largest energy exporter through growth in the full energy “portfolio” (Aside: portfolio is fast becoming my most hated weasel word in energy discussions. It’s code for “cop out”. End aside) This portfolio included growth in coal and gas. Uranium was included on a token basis, largely to placate me, and I think renewables were mentioned somehow.

When I pointed out that a growth in fossil exports from current levels fails to meet the carbon neutral component of the hypothetical a priori, the response was that carbon capture and storage is delivering on the challenge by then. I observed that this sounded like every Australian Government policy document I have read in the last five years and not the type of idea that could actually meet the hypothetical. I cautioned the table that while this vision may get up in our vote, it would be treated harshly by the room and is therefore not worth supporting. I was told that it was not about winning. In summary, this vision was vision BAU fossil growth, crafted to challenge, excite and offend no one.

I offered the third alternative based on our uranium resource. It should be obvious to even the casual observer that since uranium is 95% of our total clean energy and 100% of our clean energy export, the key to meeting this challenge lies in growing the export of uranium, the super-dense clean energy fuel. An increase of just 2.5 times the uranium export in substitution for coal would meet my coarse carbon neutral definition. That is so achievable it’s almost boring. Australia is not even the world’s largest uranium exporter right now. We are third, even though we have the world’s best uranium reserves. Even if expanded alongside, instead of in substitution for fossil fuels, a four-fold growth in Australian uranium would meet the carbon-neutral challenge articulated above. Considering our current energy export in uranium is delivered via less than 7,000 t U3O8 per annum, compared to exports of about 150 million tons of thermal coal per year, it’s a logistical non-event.

Uranium oxide carries 14,000 – 23,000 times the energy of coal per unit weight

The challenge is more so the growth of the market itself. That was the crux of the concept I offered the table, termed Intermediate Fuel Storage + Integral Fast Reactor (IFS+IFR). It goes like this. Australia establishes the world’s first multinational spent fuel repository. This is established on the ironclad commitment to develop a fleet of integral fast reactors (commercially known as PRISM) to demonstrate and expand the recycling of the spent nuclear fuel for another 99 times more zero-carbon energy. The development of the intermediate repository and the first reactors is funded by our international partners who purchase the service Australia provides, so it is at worst revenue neutral for Australia at the outset. The commitment to PRISM development negates the need for geological repository on science fiction time scales. The 30-year half-life of the eventual waste products permits far simpler storage solutions on an intermediate time scale (hence intermediate fuel storage). By unblocking the back end of the nuclear fuel cycles for our international partners and customers, rapid nuclear development in Generation III+ technology receives a strong boost and uranium exports begin strong growth as nuclear power pulls share from coal in global energy growth. Each PRISM development adds 622 MWe of saleable zero-carbon generation to Australia which further improves the revenue position and drives down our domestic energy footprint, bringing the carbon neutral goal ever closer. At maturity, Australia is running on PRISM reactors fuelled by the spent fuel we received. The world is running on a much large number of Generation III+ reactors that we supply with our uranium exports under a fuel leasing model. The transition to PRISM world-wide is underway on the back of Australia’s pioneering embrace of the technology with support of key partners. Australia is exporting the starter bundles of metal fuel from our own PRISM fleet while continuing to derive revenue from the multi-national repository and uranium exports.

I won’t pretend that’s easily done. But it meets the challenge of a hypothetical that called on Australia’s energy sector to “achieve the impossible”.

This vision picked up votes from three at the table: myself, Paul Anastas and Chris Fair. The portfolio vision scored votes from four: Marita Bradshaw, Alex Gosman, Dylan Korczynskyj and, to my considerable consternation, Ray Wills, a sustainability consultant who threw in behind fossil-fuel BAU rather than give oxygen to a nuclear vision. Stranger still, he stood up and presented it. There was something profoundly allegorical about how this played out. With nothing to offer to meet the challenge of a high energy, decarbonised planet, so many renewables advocates will flee to the safety of climate change rather than entertain a nuclear pathway. My vision lost, and BAU won. At least, at our table.

The pace was frantic and discussions were heated

When the elevator pitches arrived, presentation after presentation gave a rehash of the same blue-sky, motherhood statements around carbon capture and storage, renewables here and elsewhere, engineered draw-down of carbon dioxide and the like. Two presentations suggested Australia would begin accepting, by the tanker load, imports of carbon-dioxide from our trading partners for sequestration in Australia. Several groups made passing, joking, semi-scathing reference to Australia becoming a nuclear “dump” to fund these grand ideas.

The scores told the story. All eleven tables were scored between low 4s/10 and at best a high 6/10. Our table scored in 8th place with a score in the high 4s. Given that tables could boost their own chances by voting for themselves, it’s clear that we delivered shades of mediocrity to answer this serious hypothetical. In defence of my fellow participants who may be less specialised than I, more information on energy was required.

And that was that. We emerged for drinks and networking.

I departed quickly, feeling deeply disconcerted and even angry at what I had seen and heard. As an assembly of hand-picked Australians, we would have represented a far upper percentile of wealth in even our own wealthy nation. We had flown in from around the country, and driven to the event in petrol powered cars along bitumen roads. We enjoyed hot food and cold beer in excess, doubtless throwing out more food per head than the town’s poorest would see in a week. We watched the city of Perth light up below us from our own well-lit, air-conditioned venue before returning to modern hotels. We were filmed and recorded, and will be showcased to an international audience. Everything about the experience was the result of energy. Plentiful, dependable energy provided, but for a scraping of renewables, from dense fossil fuels whose waste is threatening to bring the house down around our ears this century. We Australians appear so utterly detached from both the quantity of the energy that sustains us and the impact it is having on the world. We owed far, far more to the process and our hosts than we delivered. We owed more to those who live without energy, and more to those who would have given anything to participate in such a forum.

I would like to see the debt repaid. If there is a sponsor who would support another event where we capture the process of writing an inspiring, high energy carbon neutral future for Australia, I’m in. I’ll bring our greatest creative energy minds with me, and we will deliver.

Perth by night, seen from our forum venue. We are a high-energy people. We need to get informed and get honest about that.

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    1. As stark an expression as I’ve ever read of the need for these debates to be numerically based

      Indeed. Even I did not have those numbers in my head on the evening, and it’s pretty familiar territory. I knew the scales and the basic splits of the energy at least.

  1. you could have added in that other fuel agnostic high temp reactor from http://www.terrestrialenergyinc.com to chew through some SNF, or just provide cheap industrial heat. Splitting all that CO2 (at 900C) from the tanker loads captured, combined with H2 (sulfur iodine process) to produce syn-gas based, CO2 neutral, easily exportable DME (and liquid fuels) for export. That would displace at least some natural gas and liquid fossil fuels exports

  2. Have you seen the drills our government is paying for to drill holes for carbon sequestration?
    Please someone tell them when you burn 12 tonnes of carbon you need 32 tonnes of oxygen to make 42 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s a lot of carbon dioxide to import and bury. How might they try to manage quality control?
    I gather some politicians think we can go on using fossil fuels until they run out and then use the next best alternative. Someone needs to also tell them about the methane hydrate yet to be included. Long before then a few more people will realise that our oceans have already been loosing productivity for about ten years. Now most fish is coming from fish farms. Maybe we would be better killing more whales so we reduce our loss of krill. We need a whole lot better understanding of life in our oceans which are 72% of earth.

  3. Not surprised WA has a cornucopian world view which will last until Asia no longer wants boatloads of rocks. Right now it is extremely sexy to be a renewables idealist whereas some of us think they are innumerate bull artists. There must come a point at which the public starts to doubt whether they are clued up as they claim. Perhaps the point of these debates is to keep getting reassurance against the nagging suspicion the numbers don’t stack up.

  4. Well Ben, I can understand your frustration. It is very sobering to realise the potential elite of the energy world seem to fail to understand the extent of the challenge. The apparent dismissal of nuclear power (the most natural solution) is very disappointing. I can understand how, for some on your table, they felt that they had to support their employers. Did you gain any idea if the nuclear option had been successful at any table?

    On the concept of exporting renewable energy, it could only be in an energy carrier. Clearly electricity as an energy carrier was discussed but the shipping cost (HVDC) would be prohibitive to the major markets in China. It’s a wonder no one suggested aluminium. Perhaps because we seem to be moving out of that industry today.

    Perhaps we are becoming myopic about nuclear power. It’s seems such an obvious solution we can’t understand why everyone can’t see it. I fear we have a long way to go! Keep up the good work.

  5. It is worth noting that Australia’s current uranium production, of about 3250 PJ, is very close to 100% of Australia’s total primary energy requirements at home (about 3500 PJ), without exports.

    According to ASNO, Australia’s uranium exported in 2012-2013 corresponded to an amount of energy generated which was 99.6% of Australia’s electricity generation for that period.

    In this sense, Australia’s electricity generation industry is already completely “carbon offset” by Australia’s production of nuclear fuel. Australia’s current uranium production, used inefficiently in LWRs, could replace all the domestic fossil fuel combustion without any expansion of uranium mining. (Assuming inefficient single-pass LWR use without recycling.)

    It is significant to note that measurements like 3250 PJ of primary energy in the form of Australia’a uranium exports are not truly accurate – this number comes from assumptions that are made about how that uranium is used, inefficiently with a single pass through ordinary light-water reactors with no recycling or efficient use of the uranium. Most of the uranium is not reacted at all, whereas systems such as the IFR will extract all that potential energy, rather than leaving it unused.

    This figure does not represent the true value of the potential energy stored in those drums of uranium oxide loaded onto the ships. The true primary energy value stored in those drums of uranium, for Australia’s present uranium production, is closer to something like 800,000 PJ per annum.

  6. Well done, Ben. Henry ford said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

    It is truly sobering to again be reminded that “We Australians appear so utterly detached from both the quantity of the energy that sustains us and the impact it is having on the world.

    Just how many hectares of solar panels of wind turbines do we need to generate 16,500 PJ’s on energy… reliably, day and night, winter and summer?

    1. Oops. Fixed for typo’s.

      Well done, Ben. Henry Ford said: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

      It is truly sobering to again be reminded that “We Australians appear so utterly detached from both the quantity of the energy that sustains us and the impact it is having on the world.”

      Just how many hectares of solar panels or wind turbines do we need to generate 16,500 PJ’s on energy… reliably, day and night, winter and summer?

  7. BREE’s preferred unit the petajoule PJ seem less intuitive than gigawatt years Gwa or sometimes denoted GWy with 31.5 PJ = 1 Gwa approximately. Thus it gives the thermal gigawatt rating of a heat converting machine running every second of the year at full capacity.

    Dividing Luke’s 800,000 PJ by 31.5 gives over 25 TW years or 25,368 Gwa equivalent to more than 25,000 gigawatt sized thermal plants operating around the clock. I understand Australia’s total generating capacity including WA and NT is something like 54 GW electrical.

  8. 50-100 kWh per person per year is the absolute bare minimum for domestic consumption. I’d tend to argue that is basically still energy poverty. But let’s be real, as countries develop no household will settle for that level of energy consumption anyway. And domestic demand aside, where do these people think all the energy that actually drives development is going to come from? I.e., to meet demand where the majority of energy is actually used (not in the home!).

    50-100 kWh per person! It’s completely absurd!

  9. Can’t we get some traction with the following plan. Nuclear power plants, 1 or 2 at Port Augusta, then 1 or 2 in Port Pirie. Uranium enrichment plant. Buy nuclear power plant sort of off the shelf from China or India even if lots of 457 workers. Extra activity rejigs the expansion of Olympic Dam. Subsidies from Tony Abbott’s Carbon abatement scheme.
    Get everyone who’s anyone to come to the announcement. Tim Flannery, Barry Brook & all the Climate Change academics in Oz. Emphasise that all the real scientists, Climate Change, Physics, Earth Sciences support this 30000 new jobs. Billions for the state. Biggest Carbon reduction program since the French.
    Begin with an education program. The leak of radiation into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima is 0.0000001% (guess) of the amount that’s there already, or = 76 millions bananas, the amount eaten in Australia in 1 month.

    1. There are attractive elements to that.

      It is becoming clearer and clearer that clean energy needs to somehow self-fund. The NEM is currently substantially oversupplied thanks to both wind and falling demand. There is no economic or political appetite for energy spending.

      So IFS+IFR is important as it provides substantial early revenue to fund the clean energy development. Actual revenue from selling a service to someone who wants to buy it, not the make-it-up-onomics of “job creation” which just spell declining energy and labour productivity.

      IFS+IFR makes masses of clean energy a side-effect from making masses of money.

  10. Since “The cost of the plant would be comparable to a large conventional reactor, according to GE-H” [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Fast-Neutron-Reactors/] and AETA 2013 sets this at about $6400/kW (I think) for FOAK, the first set of PRISMs would cost about $4 billion plus the once-off costs of establishing the regulatory framework under ARPANSA and attracting the required professionals from abroad (while the necessary educational programs are set up in our universities). The modular construction of subsequent plants would profoundly depress NOAK costs (not recognised by AETA). Assuming 0.9 capacity factor (very much the low side I reckon), each set yields around 4.9 TWh per year, so 40 of them (or more like ~7 “power blocks”) would supply about 80% (worked for France!) of our electricity demand (2009 numbers).

    I expect the $100 billion plus cost of all these reactors wouldn’t need much government support, considering the global service they would provide.

  11. Hi Ben. I’ve always liked the idea of Australia setting up an ‘interim’ (pre-recycling) fuel storage site. It’d be a great revenue raiser, and would expose Australia to the back end of the fuel cycle, dismantling an additional barrier to eventual use of nuclear power. I’m glad you brought it up in your discussions!

    My thoughts on the topic: I think the easiest path would be to enact some kind of defence legislation. The site would be just inside the woomera restricted area near Roxby Downs, with the Military providing security both at the site and in transit from the foreign port. This would ensure no ‘terrorists’ or zealous protesters could get at it. It would broaden the expertise of the armed forces into nuclear (I can’t help think about the US’ ‘nuclear navy’ and positive spill-over effects the private sector has enjoyed because of it). It would provide additional practical training for our forces, align our armed forces with foreign ones through joint training missions, strengthen (and possibly give an ace in foreign negotiations) international ties. There are probably so many more potential benefits if we were to take ownership (for a price to the foreign country, of course) of the fuel, and FAR more if we were able to actually close the fuel cycle.

    I’m not sure of the dollar figure needed for security staff and regulatory oversight of spent fuel at existing NNPs, but I’d suggest it’s considerable, probably several billion dollars every year world wide, and the service would likely be in high demand. This doesn’t take into account the political downside of accumulating ‘waste’, nor the cost of individual nations pursuing their own, billion dollar-plus geo-storage and re-processing projects. Compare that to a vast concrete slab, some cameras and some guys nearby with steyr AUGs.

    Are there any international or bilateral (between powerful nations) treaties that would prevent the export of spent fuel? Would they also prevent military oversight of the civilian spent fuel?

    1. Thanks for the endorsement and additional thoughts.

      For reasons I trust are obvious I would never endorse tying civil nuclear energy development to our defence sector. That will create many more problems than it prevents.

      Siting needs to be determined through a process that is open, transparent and inclusive. It needs to treat the IFS+IFS as what it is: a boon for regional development, incredibly safe and inherently resistant to threat, all of which is true. The opportunity should be open to every community in South Australia from Adelaide working out. Beginning from the assumption it needs to be parked it in the middle of nowhere send entirely the wrong message.

      Look at what the Fins achieved. They had three communities in a process of competitive bidding to host their repository! That is the model to follow.

  12. I agree with the military connection. When the air warfare destroyer program ends you’ll have all these tech savvy workers on the scrapheap not to mention car assembly workers seemingly fated for menial jobs that don’t use their skills. The federal defence minister says he can find $40-$50 bn to build more diesel subs so the money is there if they’re serious.

    On Woomera protected area note the Brits have been testing their stealth drone and the NW corner is the Maralinga A-bomb site. In radionucliide terms it has lost its virginity. One existing mine Prominent Hill inside the zone uses local groundwater but has a power line from Olympic Dam just outside the zone. OD is now connected to the NEM via Pt Augusta and no longer relies on diesel generators but doesn’t have the power or water supply to expand. I’d go for broke… uranium mining, enrichment if needed, electricity generation, nuclear assist desalination (RO or flash) and waste burial. Start with some light water SMRs then later build an IFR or CANDU to eat some waste products retrieved from the underground site.

    1. John, see above. This approach is a rookie mistake from the point of view of risk communication.

      Do we believe this is safe? If so, it does not need to be somewhere that has “lost its virginity in radionucleide terms”. This only reinforces a pre-existing ignorance and fear.

      I would prefer it in the Adelaide metropolitan region so I can visit it more easily along with everyone else in Adelaide. However if a regional community makes a better case for hosting, fair enough.

      It’s not dangerous. Don’t play into the hands of opponents.

      1. There is a fairly large industrial site that has been recently cleared down South, up on a cliff, with industry all around it, and a gold plated desal plant!

  13. Talking about zero-carbon without reference to nuclear power is analogous to talking about tax reform without reference to the GST. Political constraints certainly appear to be preventing a full debate in both cases.

  14. Points taken about the fear factor. However the political reality may be that NPP must in the boondocks not close to Adelaide. I’ve seen comments elsewhere that people would be more accepting if NPP was further away. Note the good people of the ACT want their wind and commercial solar to be over the border in NSW not near the Canberra suburbs. People of Tasmania like to think they are as green as all hell the fact the Basslink HVDC cable terminates at Loy Yang Vic brown coal station is out of sight out of mind.

    I don’t like either Pt Pirie or Pt Augusta for sea cooled thermal plant because of the mangroves, high water temperatures in summer and disconnection from the major Leeuwin Current. Had the 600 MW Ceres wind farm gone ahead (backed by burning hay bales) on Yorke Peninsula there would have been an underwater AC cable to Adelaide. Building the first NPP way out of Adelaide may be a path of least resistance and quell fears.

    1. I thought you might have noticed that, around here, we prefer to create political reality, we don’t follow it.

      If the location at the end of a good process is distant from Adelaide, that’s one thing. Starting a process assuming it has to be is something else, and by definition makes it a badly delivered process.

      Start as you intend to continue. Nuclear is not dangerous and communities do come on board.

    2. The “good people” of the ACT are majority opposed to the current ACT government’s proposal on wind. Essentially it is nothing more than an outright bribe to the single Green’s member in our assembly, to commit to paying 15% more for renewable sourced electricity, for a guaranteed 20 years, in return for his support in the assembly.

      1. While infrasound is disputed I believe wind towers next to houses can create flicker in TV and mobile phone reception. That’s why they don’t them want in the suburbs. The FiT backed 26,000 solar panel array planned for Uriarra seems more like a costly green feelgood exercise. There is plenty of unused roof space in Canberra where the homeowners could use the power directly.

  15. Here’s what I think will sharpen SA politician’s thinking
    2014-2016 …El Nino + gas price shocks
    2017-2019 …mass layoffs of skilled workforces.

  16. Fascinating account, Ben.

    Your experience is very familiar to mine, having had the opportunity of participating in such (slightly less prestigious) events on a few occasions. Doing so taught me that participants at such events don’t actually care about achieving anything exceptional. For most of them, it is little more than an opportunity to ‘network’, get some positive (press) exposure, or just plain old relax and enjoy good food/drink. They are typically the kind of people who are experts at explaining how important it is to “know the difference between one’s sphere of influence, and one’s sphere of interest.” Such people will never change anything or think of anything new. They are the very stuff that BAU is made of.

    1. You are so right.

      Of course, when needed, they will point to their participation as evidence of their contribution to such an important issue…

      A very sad experience for me and one that taught me a lot.

  17. 2,200 highly skilled workers to go on the dole queue if Defence buys off the shelf subs or none at all
    Skills include pressure vessels and welding titanium to steel. Since SMRs won’t be ready til 2025 perhaps building a CANDU at Pt Stanvac is the way to go. Make the decision now and start working on a heavy water separation plant to have a lot made up by fuel loading time.

    1. Hi Ben,
      Sorry I’m late but have been up in uranium country [Beverly etc for two weeks]. But, very well done Ben and I share your dismay at the attitude of many erstwhile intelligent, well-meaning people to the role which uranium should play in making Australia a/the leader in a future clean energy world. Very depressing to say the least. But I know you won’t give up. And youth is on your side. You’ll eventually see Australia take its rightful place as the world’s guardian for the little world waste that will eventually emerge after PRISM expands around the world. At 76, my chances of seeing it are receding fast but I hope to live to see our governments at least declare that Australia WILL take a leadership role in the future world clean energy supply and that we will over coming decades develop the full nuclear fuel cycle and especially here in SA. Ben, have you badgered any of the state politicians on this issue yet? If you have , then good. If you haven’t, then please think about having a go at them. In 16 years, I’ve convinced a few of them and as indicated in a previous post, I’m about to target Geoff Brock, the Independent who lives in Port Pirie. If only we could get him on side. He’s right in the part of the state where much of the nuclear development could/should occur. Keep up the good work Ben.

      Best wishes


      1. Hi there Terry, nice time of year to be near Arkaroola! Beautiful place.

        Firstly, thank you. Encouraging words are never wasted on me.

        Yes off and on I have contact with politicians State and Federal, as well as party members who seek me out. I will be glad when we reach the point that back-channeling can end and a critical mass are happy to go public with the issue.

  18. Well I recently brought to the attention of both my Federal and State MP’s the April 2014 SACOM survey – http://www.sacome.org.au/images/UAS_Results_summary_final.pdf – which showed, amongst other things, that more people (both genders and all age categories) are for nuclear power than agin it. I suggested that survey outcomes such as this may be grounds for them to think about setting aside their morbid fear of electoral opprobrium whenever the N word is mentioned. Talk about duck and cover…

    These people are notoriously thick of skin so it seems to me that regular reminders from their constituents of the views of the hoi polloi have to be useful.

  19. When people go through contortions to avoid steeping on cracks in the pavement we say it’s obsessive compulsive disorder. Have a read of this AEMO document
    The N-word does not appear once while uranium is mentioned once as a source of decay heat for dry rock geothermal. The report goes into some detail on not only geothermal but wave power, solar thermal and for gawdsake even new coal developments. The tiny factlet of Olympic Dam being the world’s largest uranium deposit .is not mentioned. The report is supposed to be about fuel yet OD supplies yellowcake to several countries with more like UAE lined up. You’d have to think AEMO is following the script set down by its political masters. . .

  20. It’s like living in a parallel universe or perhaps the Dickens novel in which Mr Micawber says ‘something always turns up’, Our finest political minds have worked out SA car industry workers can be rehired in unspecified ways after some counselling
    That’s actually $40m extra. The collapse of the SA car industry by 2017 is thought by Adelaide University’s workplace research centre to lead to direct and indirect job losses as high as 13,200 people. Naval ship building may cease in 2019 with the loss of 2,200 direct jobs. On top of that the gas price (52% of SA generation in 2013) is expected to triple by 2016 or so.

    The air of unreality is compounded when the previously linked AEMO report shows extensive undeveloped coal basins immediately north of Roxby Downs, the township attached to Olympic Dam mine. Plans include coal gasification. Yet it was only a couple of years ago there was talk of a uranium enrichment industry for SA. The state currently has 3 ISL uranium mines, 1 hard rock uranium mine and potentially several others. Hard rock mines cannot expand due to shortages of power and water. There is no value adding nor other aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.

    Depending how future electricity demand works out I’d say more coal power for SA looks quite possible, either from new mines in the state or interstate electricity imports via beefed up transmission.

  21. Excellent post.

    I wonder if Mr Heard could address the following aspect of the hypothetical: 2035 is 21 years away.

    What is the fastest construction time for a nuclear reactor (since 1990, say, to account for changes in safety standards), from the initiation of the approval process to 100% of the projected output?

    Many of these projects advance very slowly. I recently wrote about a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu that just reached 50% of its full capacity . . . twenty-six years after its approval. (http://theidiottracker.blogspot.com/2014/06/new-indian-nuclear-plant-illustrates.html).

    ITR may be a wonderful technology, but it is also a new technology, which could introduce more delays.

    Is it realistic to expect a whole series of new nuclear plants to be up and running in 20 years? What would have to change about the funding, approvals process, construction and testing of the designs and hardware to make that happen?

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