Many of you will be aware I recently attended the International Youth Nuclear Congress 2014 in Burgos, Spain. I had an outstanding week of learning and meeting wonderful people and I will provide a fuller write-up in coming weeks.

Burgos Group









I was honoured to be recognised by the judging panel for the Best Oral Presentation of the congress for Worlds Without Nuclear: A systematic review of the literature exploring 100 per cent renewable electricity.

The presentation was not recorded so I have attached a shareable PDF of the slides.

Please note as per the opening disclaimer, this work is preliminary. I will be working hard to finish and publish the assessment this year.

Enjoy! Worlds without nuclear_SHAREABLE VERSION

Communications panel L-R Suzy Baker (US), Kirsty Gogan (UK), Ben Heard (AU) David Hess (UK), Valerie Faudon (FR), Felix Meissner (US)
Communications panel L-R Suzy Baker (US), Kirsty Gogan (UK), Ben Heard (AU), David Hess (UK), Valerie Faudon (FR), Felix Meissner (US)



  1. Based on blog comments I thought SHB was British and KG American so I got it wrong. The all-renewables mantra is particularly fashionable right now; advocates include the publicly funded ABC, numerous academics, bureaucrats within the CSIRO, the Climate Commission, the UN and the IPCC. Even SA Power Networks is talking renewable microgrids, probably why Alinta thinks it can get finance for solar thermal. It’s easy for most just to drink the Kool Aid. Then today I came across a blogger who has lived off grid for 30 years who disputes whether wind and solar are truly renewable

    The pdf works as a slide show using the page down command. I’ll read it again tomorrow. My only quibble at this stage is the omission of the specific word ‘batteries’ which some insist are the next big thing.

  2. This sounds very simplistic and unintellectual, but I have this suspicion that deep inside most anti-nukers, their root driver isn’t about reactor safety or fears, but they deeply and maybe guiltily desire to banish the atom from humankind as punishment for the somehow “unique evil” it committed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Something like that I’m sure. Even God’s own 100% guarantee odf nuclear safety is of no consequence to them. They need an evil fall-guy in their lives to hate and protest. Their seething animus toward nuclear is just too implaccably passionately irrational to be any other gut reason.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  3. Ben what does (delta)TPES stand for? I had a guess, but I want to be sure.

    Also did you have a speech manuscript that could add a bit of context?

    1. Change in total primary energy supplied.

      No, it was relatively off-the-cuff.

      Given some time I may prepare and add a script, however this is far from the last time you will be hearing about this research.

  4. Good slides Ben and well thought out approach.

    And James. Of course what you say is simplistic, but it captures the spirit of the anti-nuclear movement; it doesn’t consider nuclear as just another energy source with a set of pluses and minuses which can be thrown into an optimisation algorithm. The opposition is religious (ie., a matter of faith and simply not up for discussion) for more than a few people. But I’m not sure it’s quite to tied to the WWII bombings … I think the core belief that underpins it is akin to the “precious bodily fluids” (see Dr Strangelove) argument. Radiation is thought to be some kind of dark satanic force which can corrupt our DNA for aeons into the future … turn us into the gollum. Otherwise rational people believe this.

  5. I propose that there is a distinct third attitude tied in with the “small is beautiful” ideology. These people regards energy extracted from the earth by mining etc as fundamentally wrong and will accept only what nature benignly donates via the wind and the sun. The fact that extracting energy from such diffuse sources requires sophisticated technology is utterly ignored, yet super-sophisticated nuclear power is the pure antithesis to their philosophy.

    1. Well summed up. Virtually impossible to engage ppl with that mindset in meaningful dialogue.
      PS. Ben , the panel seemed very much biased towards the “Anglosphere” , not that there is anything wrong with that 😉

  6. Only a few years ago dry rock geothermal was the Next Big Thing. The SASDO2011 report opined that up to 525 MW would be sent out from the Habanero project. So far they have a dormant 1 MWe pilot plant with no customers within 200 km. Now the other hopeful Petratherm is quitting
    Alluvial outwash from that granite is the basis for the ISL deposits Four Mile and Beverley . That uranium goes into real world grid connected nuclear power stations, just not in Australia.

  7. It’s funny that Geothermal, a natural radioactive decay, is ok, but Nuclear which is man-made radioactive decay is too controversial. I wonder if this is to do with human fallibility and that man made things are destined to fail while nature is infallible.

    I would like to know the concentrations of radioactive elements that come out of the steam loops of geothermal plants and how they compare to the loops in modern reactors. I’ve heard that they do exist, but are below limits so it’s not reported.

    1. I’m sure Geodynamics once had a web page on fugitive radon but now it’s not even mentioned in their FAQs
      Kind of a shame it hasn’t worked out. Looping the water in the wells I guess is necessary for two reasons… containing the minor radon and lack of top up water in the outback. The reason most helium comes from natural gas is said to be due to actinide decay in basement rocks but the helium gets trapped in the same sedimentary caprock as the methane.

      1. It is my understanding that in Australia the well operators do not bother capturing the helium, yes? Certainly a shame, as demand for super-cooled hospital equipment can only increase.

        One particular year back during post-grad, we had to turn the NMRs off due to a helium shortage. Hospitals with their MRIs had priority over all other customers. Fortunately it was brief and our spectrometer magnets did not quench and crack.

  8. Good presentation, small correction on Iceland, geothermal is only 25% of electricity, rest is hydro. Obviously geothermal is very useful for space heating as well.
    Also useful in the comparison would be the overgeneration/spilled generation in each scenario. This is the real shocker in the Jacobson paper which you could also include in the comparison.

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