This week, the Conservation Council of South Australia released a report purporting to provide a road map for 100 % renewable energy in South Australia, achievable in the next 15 years. Here is the summary (version 15 June 8.36 pm).

100-percent-Renewables-for-SA-summary-report

This version of the report is also available here.

As far as the key message goes I’m both interested and nonplussed. As a relatively small part of a vastly larger grid, I find this a barely-relevant pursuit; possibly feasible with sufficient expense and government fiat.  As recently published in Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, we said:

In electricity terms, South Australia is not, in normal circumstances, an island. The
current and future success of integrating variable renewable energy in South Australia
hinges on the reliability provided by the rest of the NEM network. In that context,
pursuing high penetrations of variable renewables in South Australia, as an end itself,
becomes a parochial pursuit more so than a meaningful contribution to decarbonising the National Electricity Market.

I will leave it to my energy-literate readers to offer further critique on this plan.

However this summary report did not limit itself to a positive renewable story for South Australia. It dedicated some space to attacking nuclear energy technologies. I was stunned by the reference to Optus. See the image below, taken from page 10 of the summary report.

Optus

A mistake is not beyond anyone, including me. The Conservation Council is perfectly entitled to make mistakes and it’s not my intention to poke fun.

However, these are serious matters and CCSA is prosecuting these arguments in a serious way. Given a full paragraph of unrelated material made print, I feel entitled to ask: how carefully was this material reviewed for anything prior to publication?

If the Conservation Council of South Australia is publishing nuclear “myth-busting” with reference to Optus, I posit that no one within the organisation is reviewing the veracity or robustness of the “nuclear energy myths” themselves. This may well be because, quite reasonably, no one within the organisation is sufficiently knowledgable to pick a fact from a furphy on these issues.

Take, for example, the last “myth” on this image: “NUCLEAR WEAPONS CANNOT BE MADE FROM THE INTEGRAL FAST REACTOR”.

The headline is an entirely correct statement. Nuclear weapons cannot be made from the integral fast reactor.

I had to deal with this, on the spot, in front of about 60 people yesterday, with Dr Mark Diesendorf, lead author of this work for the Conservation Council, telling an audience that the IFR increased proliferation risk. Yet the text above clearly states that, no matter what, a chemical reprocessing facility, which is nothing whatsoever to do with an IFR, is required to do any meaningful separation of plutonium. So if you don’t build a chemical reprocessing facility… what then? Are we to suppose that material from an IFR hot-cell in South Australia is first processed, then diverted, sent away on a ship to France to a facility that already exists and operates to undertake this process and the world is somehow more dangerous because of the IFR? Given that an IFR is designed around the permanent elimination of long-lived nuclear materials, the whole thing is patently absurd fearmongering.

As I said in panel yesterday, the South Australian community needs to reach a consensus position on nuclear. For that they need basically agreed information on the table for consideration.

So I am glad of the Royal Commission, because it will be hard to move to serious and intelligent discussions when far-reaching NGOs issue publications on contentious topics without seeking adequate review.

South Australia deserves better. Fortunately, there is plenty of time left for CCSA to take a more responsible approach, and there are plenty of people who would be willing to help.

157 comments

  1. Hey Ben, I’d love to check out if this proposal is worth critiquing, but since an SA-specific “plan” isn’t actually summarised in the brochure, nor even clearly referenced, I get the feeling I’m going to end up wasting a bit of time hunting it down if I go that far.

    Or is the whole point that I *don’t* read the source material, and just triumphantly wave this brochure over my head while chanting “no nukes”?

    1. @actinideage
      No Nukes! No Actinides!! No Nukes!!! No Nukes!!!! No Nukes!!!!!

      There, feel better? I’m being facetious, of course. Part of the issue, in addition to fingering some fairly hot and quite radiotoxic used IFR fuel and spiriting it out of the country (continent?) without killing the perps in the process, and beneath the collective noses of IAEA and whatever security authorities Australia decides to set up, is the additional question of how one modifies an IFR to produce weapons grade plutonium in the first place, and operate one in a weapons-production manner, i.e. very rapid short-duration pass-through of fuel elements, again under the noses of security authorities who know very well how weaponable material is made.

      IFR is a proliferation hazard only if the Australian state officially decides to get into the nuclear weapons business. In which case there are far easier routes to weapons grade fissionables: (1) dedicated graphite-water reactors configured for rapid fuel pass-through such as every single other country who has elected for plutonium weapons has used, or (2) the ultra-centrifuge route as currently used to produce enriched uranium for light-water reactors. Presumably, with IFR Australia will never be in need of uranium enrichment. Though as a major global yellowcake supplier, there’s no real reason not to go for the enriched value-add and fuel fabrication as well. Somebody’s going to do it.

      For those not familiar, the “problem” (or feature) of weapons-grade plutonium production, is one of time. In a uranium reactor U-238 absorbs a neutron from U-235 fission to form (after beta decay) Pu-239. Most of which is then split by a subsequent neutron and contributes to the fission energy. Most, but not all. Some Pu-239 captures a neutron rather than fissioning, yielding Pu-240.

      Pu-240 is a nightmare for weapons designers (poor things), because a small amount of *it*, rather than neutron fission or capture, undergoes *spontaneous* fission without any outside neutron help. And releases neutrons in the process. Which are not an issue in a power reactor rich with neutrons anyway, but spontaneous neutrons raise unholy hell when trying to detonate an atomic bomb, as they cause the chain reaction to initiate unpredictably and prematurely, causing the erstwhile weapon to fizzle itself apart before a true-and-proper reaction can proceed to a point where mass-death ensues. Weapons-grade plutonium production reactors therefore limit their fuel residence to something like 60 days, rather than the 600 typical of power reactors. And even then the residual Pu-240 requires a sophisticated implosion bomb design rather than the (relatively) straight-forward gun-type designs usable with highly enriched U-235.

      That’s all without the sophisticated, messy, and hazardous Purex process needed to chemically extract plutonium from the highly radiologically toxic fuel elements.

      Such activity does not go unnoticed. Plutonium weapon production therefore requires a serious State decision and commitment, and even then is not easy to hide, although North Korea appears to have tried. Smaller terrorist operations would go the far easier and direct high-enriched uranium route to a (mis)usable bomb. There is little or no radiation hazard during the enrichment and production processes, and the (again relatively) simple bomb design has demonstrated reliability.

      Still hide to hard all those centrifuges, though. And their electricity draw. And the mining.

      1. It’s the ultimate deceit that opponents gleefully claim a legitimate nuclear industry including a reactor would take at least 15 years of effort to establish… but diverting material for weapons, even with a fuel cycle specifically designed to physically disallow it, is apparently trivial.

  2. I started work in the IT industry back in the 1970’s. In those days we were using IBM equipment and our communication protocol between devices was Token Ring. Ethernet had some advantages over Token Ring and became the more commonly used protocol between IT devices, particularly as IBM withdrew from the router and switch business in the late 1980’s.

    What the hell has Ethernet got to do with electricity distribution networks? The “Optus” paragraph had to be a faux pas. If not, perhaps the authors have no idea about electricity networks and how they differ from IT networks, which might explain much of the nonsense in their 100% Renewables paper.

    1. I suspect that, in time honoured Media Watch parlance, ‘the error was made in the production process’ – the Conservation Council have taken Diesendorf’s rehashed text+figures and given it to a graphic design consultancy with a brief to make it look sexy, whereupon the latter have used one of their previous jobs as a template and failed to erase quite enough of it. Nevertheless, Ben’s point about rigour vs contempt for accuracy stands. My initial reaction from when I saw this ‘work’ first reported is here: http://indaily.com.au/business/2015/06/16/sa-energy-100-per-cent-renewable-by-2030/#comment-2081277514

      1. The biggest flaw I can see in Diesendorf’s paper is his use of hourly data (which he seems to think is sufficient).. The NEM works on 5 minute dispatch intervals and must balance the network for all 300 seconds of each 5 minutes. So Diesendorf paper is only taking a “helicopter” view of the terrain so his margin of error could be very significant.

          1. …careful, otherwise we’ll be invalidating people from the discussion for having dabbled in ridiculous pursuits, like say occupational therapy ☺
            I think Dr. D. (he’s been an Assoc Prof for like a million years …meow) has an undergraduate physics degree with a math-type PhD. But that’s of no consequence as far as I’m concerned. That he is the pin-up for the triumph of dogma over the scientific method is more significant. We should rejoice that he is the go-to-guy for groups like the CCSA …if that’s the best they can do…

      2. I think J. Symons picked it on the template too, https://twitter.com/symons_jon/status/611163918140977152
        It does have that Optus marketing schmick to it. But I was crushed when I heard about the typo. While Ben was doing a sterling job over at the CRC CARE workshop, there I was whipping the crowd up into a deathmatch frenzy over at TC,
        https://theconversation.com/coal-closures-give-south-australia-the-chance-to-go-100-renewable-43182#comment_697993
        …only to end up with a no show. The True & The Good: 0 — ☢: 1
        I still haven’t found any numeric projections for carbon emissions that the CCSA thinks their plan will lead to. They don’t think we just assume it will be zero do they? Anyone found anything yet?
        Finally, they didn’t produce actual printed hard copies of this report did they? And if they did, what do I have to do to get an original from someone. Those babies will be worth serious money someday.

        1. J.Sutanto – you are one of my comment-thread heroes…and here I see you referencing my tweets. Are you on twitter? What’s your handle?

    2. “What the hell has Ethernet got to do with electricity distribution networks?”

      Seeing you asked, here’s an entertaining (at least for those of us who have worked in data comms) “standard”. Note the date

      https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3251.txt

      Back to business. WNN reports that Sth Korea and the US have concluded their nuclear cooperation agreement. Reprocessing or recycling continues to be banned, but shipment of spent fuel to another country is allowed. Which seems very pertinent to current proposals for Sth Australia

      http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-USA-and-South-Korea-update-cooperation-deal-1606152.html

      1. wow …now that’s a classic. I like how just as I’m mouthing the words ‘this is in…sane…’ there it is right there in the document. Lovely. A Pythonesque piece of comedy.
        On a serious note, I’ve always thought the term ‘large external plant’ was the strongest point of commonality. As in: we’ve got equipment spread out all over the place in the sun & the rain, and you want to take a hard job & make it virtually impossible? How about you make this stuff work, hippie? …excuse me, I need to take a moment & figure out how this hammer ended up in my hands, must have blanked out for a bit there.

  3. Apart from free plugs for a telecom the report seems to spend more effort on attacking nuclear than practical details of 100% RE. I looked for the usual bit about electric trains delivering hay bales to backup power stations but the details were glossed over.

    SA is staring down the barrel of a gun to find replacement industries before 2020 for car making and defence contracting. Especially if future power prices will be higher, a glimpse of which came with the outage of the Northern power station
    http://www.wattclarity.com.au/2015/06/even-the-liquid-fuelled-plant-get-a-run-in-sa-this-evening-with-northern-offline-demand-higher-and-wind-waning/
    While nuclear will be more expensive than un-carbon-taxed coal the money gets spent in SA (also true of alternative schemes) but the cost should be long term price stable. It should also have enough reliability to power mines and future industries. That is why In my opinion off the shelf technology must be used initially.

    I see nuclear in SA as a kick starter for the rest of Australia. It will help the country wean itself off increasingly expensive gas baseload and eventually replace the big coal stations, notably the 7.1 GW of brown coal capacity next door in Victoria.

    1. While nuclear will be more expensive than … but the cost should be long term price stable.
      No good, as long term electricity costs decrease.
      Long term many other methods of electricity generation become cheaper and cheaper. Such as solar, wind, storage (battery, electricity-to-gas/fuel conversion for long term), coal, gas, etc.

      In the sixties, electricity generated by new nuclear was cheaper than almost all other methods of electricity generation.
      Now many other methods of electricity generation deliver cheaper electricity than new nuclear.
      This is also shown by the deteriorating position of nuclear on the global electricity market; from ~17% in the nineties towards ~10% now.

      So new nuclear should show decreasing costs.

      1. In the one place where it is being built on a regular basis, the cost of new nuclear is very inexpensive. Namely China. With costs around $2 / watt they are cheaper than any type of new power station in the USA except a gas turbine. When you count in long term fuel costs the cost of electricity is very low indeed. While the costs of electricity from Wind and Solar are decreasing. Sort of. They have a long long long way to go to reach the unsubsidized price of Nuclear generated electricity in the USA which is 2.4 cent / kwh. There are several new designs that promise even less expensive long term electricity. If allowed to build out Nuclear in the multiple units that Wind and Solar are building the costs would drop dramatically. Small to Medium sized reactors could power many things including ships, hospitals, factories etc. The economy of reproduction on an assembly line would bring costs down very far. Currently the costs are being driven by first of a kind learning curves as well as the infamous N-stamp whereby the total process that it takes to make a part for a “Nuclear” power plant has to be documented from the mine to the refinery to the assembly line etc. This means EVERY step in the process documented! This is typical of a regulatory system that dictates design rather than outcomes.

        1. All those Chinese cost levels are low. Consider the ratio with renewable.

          Chinese government recently increased it’s 2020 targets: >100GW solar and >200GW wind before 2020. While nuclear targets were decreased in past years. So after wind, Chinese solar production will also surpass nuclear.
          (construction of Chinese NPPs start to get the same delays and cost overruns as the safety demands are gradually increased towards US standards).

          unsubsidized price of Nuclear … in the USA which is 2.4 cent / kwh
          Last years several closures of NPP’s in USA for which the owner stated:”to limit the losses” as the only reason (VY Kewaunee, etc). While av. whole sale price in US is substantial higher (~5cnt/KWh).
          So your 2.4cnt/KWh seems peculiar?

          Wind turbines in the plains produce already at that price.
          Recently Austin Utility was offered 1.2GW of solar for <4cnt/KWh. They expect that the unsubsidized price will be below 3cnt/KWh before 2020.

          1. Darius you say, “(construction of Chinese NPPs start to get the same delays and cost overruns as the safety demands are gradually increased towards US standards).”

            What about the AP 1000’s being built in China are less safe than those being built in the USA? Also, you are admitting that “safety demands” are what drive costs and delays. Why should there be “safety demands” on a design that took 15 years to clear the NRC? Most of the time “safety demands” are made by people who are reflexively anti-nuclear. People who think that Nuclear = Evil. That Radiation = Harm and are not looking at the actual data on public health impacts.

            ““unsubsidized price of Nuclear … in the USA which is 2.4 cent / kwh
            Last years several closures of NPP’s in USA for which the owner stated:”to limit the losses” as the only reason (VY Kewaunee, etc).”

            Yes, the Wholesale price is higher than the cost. Normal business practices there. Most of the cost of that 2.4 cents is in Security forces that are “protecting” the plant. Another large portion of that 2.4 cents is in ALRA practices that seek for every diminishing levels of radiation exposure to the point where a worker INSIDE a NPP gets less radiation than a person living miles away from the plant. Another major cost is the Per Reactor fee of the NRC! The cost of fuel? Nearly nothing per kwh. The cost of the plant? Paid off 40 years ago. In my opinion most of these drivers come from trying to allay the public’s “fear of nuclear” which fear comes from people making claims – like those found in the Optus debacle above.

            So why did Kewaunee close? Two basic reasons, First, it had a bit higher cost than other NPP’s per kwh. Second, it was a fairly small plant so the NRC license cost – which is NOT adjusted to the size of the reactor was a large stranded cost. Third, because of subsidized wind, the market for electricity was pushed below zero forcing the NPP to pay into the market. Remember that most of the costs above are NOT related to fuel but to operations that are mandated. Thus, even a plant that can load follow well has a base of stranded costs. When the government – excuse me cough cough – the government pays one electricity producer to “generate” power at below zero prices and the government – excuse me, cough cough – charges another power producer very very high stranded costs through fees and regulations, it seems to me that the fault behind the closure lies with….. (drum roll please) ….. the GOVERNMENT!!

            Vermont Yankee? Check out the blog http://yesvy.blogspot.com for a perspective on why that plant closed.

            1. @David,
              What about AP 1000’s being built in China
              Those are now also getting delays (and of course costs overruns due to the delays, but that is less visible as the Chinese are less open).

              There have been discussions during construction about the deletion of some safety provisions in the Chinese AP1000. Not aware what the outcome is. Only that the discussion was moved towards Beijing. Not sure whether they still adhere the position that Chinese pilots won’t fly against a NPP.

              Why “safety demands” on a design cleared by the NRC?
              NRC increased its safety demands (usually after accidents), which deliver costs increases.

              Radiation = Harm … not looking at the actual data on public health impacts
              The health impacts are the major reason Germany, Austria, a.o. oppose nuclear.
              Those impacts concern accidents and (rather recently found) normal operation:
              – Accidents: This solid study shows major increases in Down syndrome, etc. due to a slight increase of radiation in districts >1000miles from Chernobyl. An easy readable article: http://nyti.ms/1ND0weZ
              – Normal operation: This presentation gives an overview of the found DNA damage in newborn if the father lived within 50km from the nuclear facility at the period of conception. Another: http://bit.ly/1Uhr5L7

              Security forces that are “protecting” the plant…
              Why is protecting between quotes? Don’t they do their job well?
              A French NPP got an amateurish attack by somebody using an old (luckily) WW2 anti-tank grenade. What if some IS people attack Indian Point with the right wind towards Manhattan, using real armor piercing grenades, etc?

              electricity was pushed below zero forcing the NPP to pay into the market.
              Luckily, selling electricity is now a ‘free’ market. It drives prices down, which benefit economy.
              As wind & solar have near zero marginal costs, those will continue to produce until the price is <0.1cnt/KWh. That implies that only flexible generators can compete.

              The major German utilities (E.on, RWE, Vattenfall) had same conclusion. So they now try to sell all base load power plants (you get money if you buy). They offered all their NPP’s for a negative price to government (Merkel refused), etc…
              RWE and E.on explicitly stated that they want to become a service company, asap.
              Realize that US lags only 10-20years behind the German electricity market.
              Remember Bob Dylan: “Times, they are changing…”

  4. Reading the transcript of Ben’s ABC radio interview it dawned on me SA nuclear is a test case and battlefront for the 100% RE crowd. It’s frickin’ obvious that a place which
    – has 30% of the world’s easily mined uranium
    – is facing a manufacturing collapse and population exodus
    – has reached VRE penetration equal to capacity factor
    – is having its gas resources diverted
    – is closing its local coal plant but importing even even dirtier coal power
    should look at NP.

    1. John,
      Wind & solar share at capacity factor, implies that those will produce 100% of all electricity needed when the wind blows or the sun shines well.
      That implies that nuclear then has to deliver for near zero (or negative) prices, because wind and solar have <$1/MWh marginal costs.
      Just compare with Germany.

      That implies that only flexible nuclear plants (plants that can up-/down-regulate their power fast) make some chance.
      I'm not aware of existing nuclear plants that have that flexibility?

      The other method would be guaranteed prices of produced KWh's such as UK wants to do with the new Hinkley C. But those are so high that it's not viable.*)
      You will end up with either highly uncompetitive prices for SA, or citizens paying a substantial tax.

      ___
      *) £92.50/MWh in 2012 pounds, inflation corrected. Assuming 2% inflation and start in 2025 (delay also due to the Austrian complaints) that implies:
      £120/MWh in 2025 at the start of the NPP.
      £170/MWh in 2043 ~halfway the 35yrs guaranteed period.
      While:
      UK whole sale price is stable at ~£40/MWh showing no increase.
      German whole sale prise is ~€37/MWh and the Futures indicate further price decrease in the next 5 years.
      German think tank Agora predicts further cost price decreases for solar towards €20/MWh in 2050. Similar with wind and storage.

      1. ‘will produce 100% of all electricity needed when the wind blows or the sun shines well’

        Exactly this, according to AEMO’s own analysis, would leave SA 1 interconnector failure from state-wide complete power failure. Study http://bravenewclimate.com/2015/03/05/a-path-to-energy-nirvana-or-just-a-circuitous-detour/ carefully for more. There’s far more to power supply than percentages of your favourite generator.

        ‘I’m not aware of existing nuclear plants that have that flexibility?’

        You should be – they are a part of one of the lowest emissions grids in the world, Ontario http://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.html
        Bruce Power units can and do load follow
        https://thedonjonesarticles.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/a-quick-primer-on-how-candus-fit-into-ontarios-windy-power-grid-2013-july/

        ‘The other method would be guaranteed prices of produced KWh’s such as UK wants to do with the new Hinkley C. But those are so high that it’s not viable.’

        What would an anti-nuclear comment be without a mention of Hinkley C’s notorious contract for difference? For a reactor technology which is several times too big to fit on Australia’s grid?

        From Mark Diesendorf’s report, regarding the economics of adopting 100% renewables:
        “The policies required to support the transition involve targets, new price structures for both grid electricity and feed-in tariffs, and either tradable certificates associated with a LRET or preferably reverse auctions together with feed-in tariffs or contracts for difference…”

        1. … SA 1 interconnector failure from state-wide complete power failure>/i>”
          They/you/Russell (author of the linked post) do something quite wrong.
          In Denmark wind alone generated ~40% of it electricity last year. So they experienced periods in which wind produced significant more than 100% of demand. The over-production was exported, via interconnectors, to other countries (Germany, Sweden, Norway).
          Denmark continues to increase wind capacity and targets a share of 50% of all consumed electricity in 2020. Further increases thereafter, as they target 100% renewable in 2040.
          Note that Denmark has little solar because of their high latitude.

          nuclear plants flexibility
          Just study the electricity delivery characteristics of the German plants during the hours of negative electricity prices (at sheet 9); no nuclear plant below 70% of its max capacity. Even while the price was minus €70/MWh (paying that amount to get rid of your production is very fast way to loose money).

          Compare with the flexibility of their present gas plants (<10% of max. capacity), which is the min. flexibility needed in an high renewable environment.

          Hinkley C
          One would expect that the utility will make big profit with those high guaranteed prices. Also considering the additional subsidies and guarantees by UK government, such as:
          – loan guarantees for £10Billion (worth £10 per produced MWh)
          – very low decommission and waste storage max. costs guarantees
          – very low max. liability limits.
          However they have great difficulty to finance the project, which suggests that even with those high guarantees and subsidies, the project is not very profitable.

          smaller?
          You suggest that small(er) reactors produce cheaper. So the choice for the economy-of-scale of bigger reactors would be wrong.
          Note that:
          – smaller reactors are the ones most frequently closed early (e.g. in USA) because their operational costs are higher. The needed staff is nearly independent of the size of the reactor.
          – smaller reactor cost more steel, etc per MW to build. Also same control instrumentation needed whether small or big reactor.
          So the investment costs per MW are bigger.

          If those are build by thousands, just as wind turbines, then economy-of-mass-production may offset these drawbacks.
          Experience show the chance is very slim. Even with up-to-date designs such as GE-Hitachi’s Prism, which is ~ a decade in the market. No sales.

          So the cost price per MWh produced is higher with smaller designs (also indicated by recent expert estimations; which caused the initial enthusiasm to fade away).

        1. Nice publicity presentation of E.ON. Only German reactors do not load follow in real live.

          They prefer to pay up to €70/MWh to get rid of their electricity production as shown by this overview of German electricity market (sheet 9).
          No nuclear plant below 70% of its max capacity…

          Note that this spring E.ON announced that they will separate off all central power plants (incl. nuclear) in a separate entity which is for sale.

          E.ON was also leading with the offer to German government of last summer by all German ‘nuclear’ utilities. They made an initial offer that German government could get all operating nuclear power plants + the huge decommission funds for €0,00 (zero).
          As it wasn’t an end offer, it implies that they were prepared to give extra money if German government would accept. Merkel flatly refused.

          1. Denmark:

            Suggest you reread https://decarbonisesa.com/2015/05/28/not-humbled-angered-the-response-to-fukushima-is-an-ongoing-mistake-part-1/#comment-55288

            We wouldn’t want to be suspected of errorism https://northwestcleanenergy.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/how-to-be-an-errorist/

            German nuclear load following:

            Maybe Google translation isn’t getting it quite right, but when you state “German reactors do not load follow in real live.[sic]” we’re left to wonder who is the publicist.
            http://mobil.idowa.de/region/artikel/2014/12/12/isar-2-ist-eine-stuetze-der-energiewende.html

            1. @actinideage
              Sorry. Just detected that the link towards the overview with sheet 9 doesn’t work.
              The link: http://bit.ly/1LjdS1D

              The author of the link in your other comment somehow assumes that the Danish didn’t do such simulation and risk studies. Knowing the huge studies in Germany, I find that highly unlikely.

              Nice promotion article of one of Germany’s best nuclear power plants, in the local newspaper. The figure in the paper doesn’t match with the Fraunhofer report.

              1. You find one thing unlikely, so therefore stand by Denmark as a valid example of using majority wind power to effectively decarbonise a nation’s electricity supply?

                It’s a claim by a German nuclear plant that they are operating as flexible back up for the Intermittent RE capacity. If you want to maintain that such a thing isn’t happening, how about doing more than casting doubt on the figures and provide actual evidence that it’s false, promotion or not.

                1. @actinideage
                  I wrote that the statements in the paper do not fit with the Fraunhofer report presentation.
                  If you don’t believe: Please, check the linked report presentation.

      2. …also if we do compare with Germany, if their marginal costs are so great, why do they still need feed-in tariffs? Why have wind turbines been switched off during events of high overproduction, but still been paid for the electricity they theoretically would have produced? And they haven’t even hit a seriously high level of penetration into the grid according to the CCSA report.
        In other news from Germany,
        http://theenergycollective.com/roman-kilisek/2239486/germany-outsourcing-its-future-energy-security
        This article may be a little too subtle with the content within it – just keep in mind that the people running the government in Germany may know things they also know people like you wouldn’t like to hear.

        1. The energy collective is totally off / wrong (as often) with their judgment about the 12 state electricity deal.
          Some years ago German studies (a.o. Agora) showed that grid enlargement is the cheapest method to compensate for the variability of wind and solar (wind speed in NW-Spain is negatively correlated with that at the N-Sea, etc).
          This deal is only a first step towards the implementation of that Agora advice of grid expansion. I expected more.

          It has nothing to do with outsourcing electricity security. They keep more than enough spare capacity as shown when Merkel closed 7 nuclear power plants immediately after Fukushima and Germany stayed a net exporter of electricity.
          Germans are too afraid to outsource electricity security. Their electricity supply is far more reliable than that of neighbors such as France (SAIDI Germany 15minutes, France and UK ~1hour, US ~2hours).

          Why feed-in tariffs, while near zero marginal costs?
          The costs of solar & wind are capital costs (depreciation, interest) only.
          Capital costs are distributed over the electricity produced, which deliver an average cost price of ~€60/MWh. As the average whole sale price is €37/MWh, the wind turbines still get/need a guaranteed price (=feed-in-tariff) during the first 15years. The owner gets the difference between the price for which he sells his electricity at Leipzig (the spot market) and the guaranteed price from the Energiewende fund. So he will continue to produce full blown even if the price is -€100/MWh as it will deliver him €100+€60=€160/MWh from the Energiewende fund.

          After those 15years the wind turbine is a free enterprise. So then the owner has to decide at what price he stops production. As the costs of his wind turbine increase only very little when he produces, he will continue to produce until the price becomes e.g. <€1/MWh. As he still earns some cash if the price is €2/MWh.
          Same applies for PV-solar.

          The operating costs of nuclear plants are already ~€20/MWh (or higher). So the nuclear plant owner is loosing cash if the price is below that level..

          Why wind turbines switched off during overproduction, but still paid for the electricity they would have produced?
          Note: Same occurs with big PV-solar installations.

          Shortly; because it is the cheapest and fastest method to regulate the grid.
          Asking a nuclear (or coal or gas) plant to decrease production is much slower and costs more.

          Let’s take the less complicated situation that the wind park is older than 15years, so no longer in the guarantee period.
          The owner of the wind park has sold his production, so the buyer pays him even if he doesn’t deliver to the grid. Because the buyer gets his electricity as long as the grid is up and running and he is not restricted in his consumption. The grid operator won’t do that as somehow there is overproduction…

          Note that the whole sale rule is that ‘nobody’ is allowed to deliver more or less electricity to the grid than he has sold to customers. And customers are obliged to take the electricity they bought.
          Overproduction (nuclear refusing to go below 70%, and other similar producers) drives the price at Leipzig down to zero and then further down until enough production stop. There have been situations with negative prices of €200/MWh.
          With the increasing (battery & pumped) storage and power-to-gas facilities (now ~20 MW scale pilots), those situations will become very rare.

          1. Hi Bas,
            I’d reply to counter your points but I see you’ve already done that for me. Thanks, very considerate of you.

          2. “wind speed in NW-Spain is negatively correlated with that at the N-Sea…” Fascinating. Have you a link for that?

            Otherwise, you are quite right. If you prefer wind+fossils over nuclear, then manage market structure to allow wind+fossils to drive out nuclear. If you wish to minimize carbon dioxide emissions, then manage the electricity market to run nuclear plants at maximum capacity and wind+fossils to provide the peaks. Nothing new here. Society is the master of the markets, not the other way around.

            1. Ed,
              Wind+fossils is often used by pro-nuclear to show that nuclear is needed.
              Renewable implies; solar + wind + hydro + storage(power-to-gas/fuel, batteries, etc) + geothermal + biomass + many others. That brings 100% renewable reliable electricity.

              The ‘normal’ weather pattern in W-Europe: High pressure in the SW (beautiful weather) implies low pressure in the north (bad weather) and vice versa.

              I’ve seen different wind speed correlations, from -0.2 to +0.02
              It depends highly on the areas which are correlated, etc (also whether the author is pro-nuclear, as at this site).

              Note further that solar production and wind production are also negative correlated here in W-Europe (less wind in summer).

              Simulation studies that do not consider a substantial role for solar, etc. are crab. The authors needed to neglect solar, etc. as otherwise they cannot show that renewable doesn’t work.

              Germany is moving ahead with many (about 20) power-to-gas MW-scale pilots.
              These can solve seasonal issues as there is huge cheap storage capacity in earth cavities. The Germans use those already to buffer Russian gas, so they can cover their need for half a year if Russia bans all export. We in NL use those to flatten demand fluctuations.

              1. Thanks Darius. But you have yet to provide citation for your contention that
                “The ‘normal’ weather pattern in W-Europe: High pressure in the SW (beautiful weather) implies low pressure in the north (bad weather) and vice versa.”

                You may well be right, I’ve never lived there. But the real-world wind data charted in the Euan Mearns post you provided says just the opposite. Its not like its never windy in one place while not in another (Germany vs Spain) — just that one can’t count on it:

                “I’ve seen different wind speed correlations, from -0.2 to +0.02”

                Even at -0.2, you’re seeing substantial wind blowing one place when not the other only (roughly) one-fifth of the time. Even that is contrary to my own expectation of positive correlation out to at least a thousand km, tapering to zero correlation in the Great Beyond. I could well be wrong, but would still like a confirmatory link.

                Apologies for not mentioning the full wind+sun+hydro+storage+bio+geothermal+fossils as well, I usually do. The question then becomes for any region just how such hydro is available, and for how long must one store energy and/or burn bio+fossils to tide one through the dark days of windless winter (or whenever), and how much such storage+bio+fossils will cost in both euros and CO2. I’ve seen estimates of about ten days, consistent with the Jul-Aug 2013 data in Figure 1 of the above link (which doesn’t include solar insolation during that summer period).

                Synthetic methane storage is indeed feasible in regions already blessed with extensive natural gas distribution infrastructure. It is energetically even less efficient than hydrogen, but for safety and containment reasons hydrogen must generally be limited to less than 7% of the mix. There are exceptions such as Hawaii where the distribution system already handles syn gas from coal (H2+CO aka “water gas”). Its costly, but you may as well do something useful with the overcapacity required by a renewable solution. Its been studies here in the US as well. Pricey compared to nuclear + far-less-storage, but presumably doable.

                Rest of the World doesn’t have much existing gas distribution, though China is working on it. The question I have is “Just how much more carbon will we need to burn to avoid the nuclear bogeyman?” We are amidst a climate crises, and it motivates many of us to seek optimal carbon reduction solutions that may be applied world-wide. The demand for reliable energy is huge.

                1. The German power-to-gas plants target to sell the generated gas (inject in the pipe system). So those plants can produce the gas competing price (Russian gas is more expensive than US gas).

                  The amount of $ to spend to avoid climate change is limited.
                  So we should follow the path which deliver the most per spent $.
                  At the moment wind & solar offer far more than nuclear. As nuclear is high investment (~$10/W) with long lead time (~10yrs) and expensive MWh (>$120/MWh). But things may change with fusion (I hope).

                  1. Mostly I agree. And I do favor energy storage as it is a rising tide than lifts all. But I’d amend your contention “we should follow the path which deliver the most per spent $”. Personally, I think we should spend the least cost — economic and environmental — that it will take to fix the climate problem. That requires long-term planning. Short-term expedience is not necessarily long-term productive.

                  2. Really, you make this too easy. You should step back & read your own words (carefully) & think critically (i.e. challenge your own assumptions & prejudices).
                    Using your own rationale ($ for climate change avoidance is limited & we should pursue the path that delivers most per $)… then if nothing else, existing nuclear should be left on. If Green political groups in Germany (& the rest of Europe) are not prepared to treat climate change as the absolute priority it deserves, in action not just words; then why should anyone take climate change seriously? Like our own clueless Prime Minister for example …why right-wing climate change deniers don’t use this clear case of hypocrisy from european environmentalist is not clear to me. A lack of fortitude perhaps, or maybe some secretly do think there is cause to be concerned about the earth’s climate & CO₂.
                    You will of course be tempted to spin some nonsense about existing nuclear being too expensive… which will make Ontario hard to understand if that were true. Their electricity is more expensive than their peers, but not because of nuclear. Could this be at the heart of why groups like WISE & NIRS are attempting to have nuclear barred from discussion
                    at COP21 in Paris later this year? Pathetic if this weren’t so serious. Critical objective thinking has a way of chipping away at such nonsense until one day the whole facade simply crumbles.

          3. @Jonathan,
            Wider here, so I answer your questions here.

            …existing nuclear should be left on
            “All nuclear out” is not because of economics but because of the imminent danger (note that the risks of nuclear are socialized).

            There is pressure to accelerate the closure of coal plants. German government resisted with the argument that Germany can’t afford to pay both at the same time; so serious closure of coal starts after 2022.

            Note also that the Energiewende levy would become substantial; so nobody would follow Germany (which is one of the targets).
            Coal+lignite is anyway in decline since the start of the Energiewende (in 2000 share ~50%, now ~46% generated with far more efficient plants), as more renewable was added than necessary to replace closed nuclear.

            Germans felt and feel Chernobyl, not only because of German speaking farmer communities there, but also because of health hazards in Germany (>1000miles from Chernobyl). Even simple things: 2 year ago I met a German who complained, that he still couldn’t gather mushrooms in the woods because still forbidden due to radiation.

            If anything is noticed here in NL and Germany about climate change, then it’s more that winters become less cold. Which is rather pleasant.

            The most imminent danger first, is logical to me. So: ‘all nuclear out’ is unassailable.

            Btw.
            Germans don’t believe the ridiculous, changing IAEA/WHO statements regarding the Chernobyl victims. The Chernobyl book published by the New York Academy of Sciences is more credible (~a million victims).

            1. Imminent danger? There are over 400 operating nuclear plants. In the last 50 years there have only been 3 accidents that could potentially coarse exposure to the general public.

              The second accident was Chernobyl in 1986 and the only one to actually cause damage to the general public. If the New York Academy of Sciences was correct with its million victims surely the reports of deaths from radiation exposure would have been headline news throughout Europe. The million deaths from Chernobyl seem to have evaded any news headlines over the last 29 years which beggars belief.

              It seems much more likely that the World Health Organisation may have been closer to the mark with its “fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.”

              Unfortunately you may be driven more by fear than analysis..

              1. “If the New York Academy of Sciences was correct with its million victims surely the reports of deaths from radiation exposure would have been headline news throughout Europe.”

                For the record, there is truly no way to know because the Russian Greenpeace-sponsored study was not and likely cannot ever be peer-reviewed – unlike Balonov’s critique: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22569279

                Relying on the Yablokov “study”, which no one at NYAS will take responsibility for (http://www.scribd.com/doc/63975527/Email-Correspondence-by-Caroline-Webb-re-NYAS-Chernobyl-Book) is the anti-nuclear equivalent of rejecting childhood vaccination based on Andrew Wakefield’s erroneous, motivated and *retracted* study of MMR and autism (http://www.businessinsider.com.au/who-is-andrew-wakefield-2015-2).

                1. Thanks Oscar for filling in these details re the NYAS involvement. Alas, those who want/need to believe the million Chernobyl deaths will still see evidence to justify their belief. Helen Caldicott has to be convinced as she has been so public after Fukushima in predicting at least 3 million deaths based on the Chernobyl million. So far there haven’t been any deaths in the general population in Japan, nor is there likely to be any. As a fear-mongering strategy, it is an easy sell to those who don’t know the full story. Unfortunately the consequences of such outrageous predictions can be dire in deed.

                2. @actinideage
                  The book summarizes the results of a few thousand studies (many published Russian scientific journals). It’s no study.
                  The 2006 IAEA/WHO Chernobyl forum considered only 350 publications. They could do that by excluding all studies regarding the effects on not direct involved people, and all studies concerning territories outside Belarus, Ukraine, Russia (so they excluded also this solid study; http://bit.ly/1MV1nqq).

                  Of course the NYAS was strongly attacked by pro-nuclear as also demonstrated in one of your links. Pro-nuclear members left, etc.
                  Though they refused to remove the book from their site, they had to give in somewhat.

                  But read the book your self. The physical NYAS book is sold out, but scientific publisher Wiley now sells it for ~$150. You can get free (enhanced HTML and/or PDF) copies, if you sign-up for membership (free) at NYAS: http://bit.ly/1fpIGk1

                  1. It was a report done by Greenpeace (anti-nuclear policy) and Bellona (anti-nuclear policy). It was not a compilation of 1000s of papers, rather the work of Yablokov et al. in Russian.

                    If you don’t believe me, the original Russian edition before NYAS has Greenpeace’s and Bellonia’s logos on the report:

                  2. @Irregular,
                    Greenpeace financed the costs to convert the document by the three prominent radiation professors into a book. And to translate it in English.
                    Authorities in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine were strongly against any publication which showed harm, so no money (Belarus even put a professor a year in prison because he showed such research results). The people’s mind have to be kept at rest.

                    You now see similar with Japanese authorities. Researchers complained about the active opposition of the Japanese authorities…

                  3. Ok, you are now on moderation. That work was grossly irresponsible, has been amply and extensively exposed as such, you are continuing the fearmongering and now extending it to Japan with unfounded notions of conspiracy. Your comments will be moderated, if you can’t meet a standard you will be blocked.

                  4. Noted and appreciated.

                    Your points of view are welcome provided the necessary standard of discussion and evidence is being met.

                    You will remain on moderation for the next few comments.

            2. @Martin,
              …reports of deaths from radiation exposure would have been headline news…
              1. The NYAS book (by the 3 top-radiation scientists of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia) and other publications got headlines (e.g. IPNNW).
              Why do you think that the Germans and Austrians want to stop nuclear at nearly any cost? Austria even launches a complaint at the EU high court to stop the construction of Hinkley C despite the announced serious sanctions of UK government against Austria.

              2. Increased radiation levels (if not big) cause cancer after a latency period of 20-60years. Similar as with smoking (nicotine), asbestos, etc.

              Check the last report of the Life Span Studies Series of the Radiation Effect Research Foundation (=the best US, Japanese, UK radiation scientists).
              So most death still have to come.

              Immediate effects were highly significant increases of Down syndrome, serious other misfits, etc after Chernobyl in areas up to more than1000mile away as shown in this rock-solid study: http://bit.ly/1MV1nqq

              3. The press release after the 2006 IAEA/WHO Chernobyl forum stated <100 death. The summary of the report, stated <4000 deaths, but:

              – IAEA in the summary of its second revised version of the report now states: "It is impossible to assess reliably, with any precision, numbers of fatal cancers caused by radiation exposure due to the Chernobyl accident…".
              – WHO now concludes (in the Chernobyl mortality section of its WEB-site) towards ~9.000death.

              "Fukushima”
              Read the WHO expert group report: 3%-7% more cancer risk later in life among the children who lived nearby, despite the fast evacuation. This translates into ~700 death.

              It’s sad that these UN organizations are so much driven by their sponsors (the atomic powers), that they make themselves unreliable.

          4. @Ed
            … we should spend the least cost … to fix the climate problem. That requires long-term planning…
            We agree…
            I consider the German Energiewende which covers 50years (2000-2050) such long term planning. Discussions and studies in German scientific circles about:
            – the option to increase the targets (90-95% renewable electricity in 2050; Denmark 100% renewable electricity in 2040, so Germany lags behind).
            – how fast moving towards 100% (also with all other energy) renewable after 2050.

            In NL we only have a widely supported long term plan to increase the dikes gradually (weakest spots first) in the period to 2070. So we can resist the blackest IPCC scenario.
            Economists calculated that our economy benefits from climate change (export of water know how). So fighting climate change has slightly less priority. Still we have a national energy plan which targets to increase renewable towards ~20% in ~2025.

            Germany takes the high costs of a forerunner creating mass markets, etc. (PV-panels, batteries, power-to-gas, etc). We follow ~a decade behind. Now even France starts to follow Germany. Just read a French government study which reports that 80% renewable in 2050 is the cheapest scenario (France now has a more aggressive wind & solar stimulation program than NL, probably also because they start closing nuclear next year).

            1. Thanks for the link Darius. Germany does not lag Netherlands or Denmark. They are all on the same grid. Denmark at the crossroads of the major feeds from Scandinavian nuclear and hydro that connect with Germany.

              As for France — also part of that grid — Dan Yurman ran a recent piece on
              France’s Nuclear Destiny. The challenge faced is sobering. But there is a difference between nuclear plant that France chooses to close at the end of their nominal 40-year service life, and those it must close for economic or safety reasons.

              The two go hand in hand, and I wouldn’t fault the French nuclear safety agency, ASN, were the decision theirs. But it isn’t. Here in the US nearly all plants that have applied for license extensions (20 years here, 10 years elsewhere) have been granted — but at the cost of large-scale replacement of wiring, some pumps, and some instrumentation. It is not cheap, and for instance, Xcel energy could only justify the $1.10/W capital cost of its recent Monticello upgrade, rather than just replacing the old teakettle with cheap gas, was because Minnesota gives credit for carbon dioxide avoidance:

              State law says utility regulators should consider the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, though they’re not currently regulated. Without carbon-emissions savings, the Monticello upgrade would be a losing proposition, costing customers $303 million extra over its life, according to Xcel’s filing.

              Of course, that also assumes Xcel and its customers only get another 16 years out of the plant. The upgrades there were impressive, and there are national studies underway to see whether some of these older plants might be extended for an additional 20 years beyond that, for 80 years total.

              The driver of these initiatives is carbon dioxide emissions. In regards to France, any nuclear plant that is shut down before its natural lifetime — as determined by science, engineering, and ASN, not political considerations — must be replaced with something. And that something, whatever it is, could just as well have replaced a shiny new (or old) lignite plant in Germany.

              Premature closing of a nuclear plant is the singular most irresponsible climate action known to man. See Jonathan Sutano’s June 20 comment above.

              1. @Ed,
                That something to replace old nuclear in France will be primarily renewable.
                Read the French government study report, that I linked above. It concludes that 80% renewable in 2050 is the cheapest scenario.
                The Fessenheim NPP is first on the list to be closed, also because they built it on a earthquake sensitive spot (fault in the earth crest, earlier earthquakes). Without thick enough concrete foundation to prevent leakage into the large aquifer, contamination of which would be very harmful.

                1. I think France has about as much chance of replacing nuclear with renewable as Greece does of paying off its debt.
                  Darius is of course revisiting the IAEA/WHO conspiracy belief. Sir Humphrey Applebee says you should never order a report without knowing what the result will be. You can know in two ways.
                  1. You’re rather certain that the science is on your side. You commission a comprehensive report from a large group of eminent international researchers – UNSCEAR & the Chernobyl Forum or
                  2. You know that the science isn’t on your side. (Or you believe in The Conspiracy) Cherry-pick a couple of mediocre quasi-scientists maybe with a Ph.D but without a university appointment and with a history of supporting your dogma. – The European Greens & TORCH or Greenpeace & Yablokov

                  1. @Graeme,
                    If you are right, the report reflects the ideas of French government (the principal).

                    Not impossible as it is in line with:
                    – their new law to decrease the share of nuclear from ~75% down towards 50% in 2025 (very fast in my eyes);
                    – their new ambitious renewable stimulation program (they even had a collision with Brussels about it; too much direct subsidy. So they had to reshape, according to the German model).

      3. The £92.5 contract for difference awarded at Hinkley C is too high. Five factors came about to eliminate competition. With real competition, the CfD would’ve been only two thirds: more like £60/MWe. The 5 anti-competitive factors were: 1) only 2 consortia bid but one pulled out giving the Edf consortia a monopoly, 2) at that time only 1 new reactor design had gained GDA approval from the UK regulator ONR, 3) It’s taking about 5 years for the UK regulator to approve a GDA for a new reactor. The EPR is still the only new design we’ve approved. Any competitive design is basically eliminated, 4) there are 8 sites allowed for new UK reactors. No consortia can build new reactors unless they own a site. 5) EDF and AREVA (who will make the EPR) are both French, state majority owned. A competitive market it isn’t.

        Elsewhere, South Korean KEPCO are contracted to build new 1.455GWe reactors for USD $5bn (their APR-1400). Per MWe, that’s only 53% the price of the EPR. Such a reactor may require a CfD of only GBP £60/MWe.

        In my view, the UK picked a bad mechanisms for decarbonizing (renewable subsidies and contracts for difference). A fee and dividend is far simpler and more efficient because the lowest priced non-carbon supplier is best rewarded.

        1. We agree about UK making the wrong choices. Also shown by the very high whole sale prices in UK (even much higher than in Netherlands, so our interconnection is almost exclusively used to export electricity to UK).

          Your assumption that the guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh in 2012 pounds (thereafter to be increased with inflation) is too high due to little competition, is very doubtful. If that is the situation then EDF/Areva would not have such huge problems to get investment money from the banks (despite the additional £10billion loan guarantee and other guarantees and subsidies). Because the banks consider the investment as too risky, they had to ask the Chinese nuclear companies.

          Not sure how much the security of Chinese and S-Korean designs are less than the EPR.
          Since Chinese government stated that no plane will fly against a nuclear reactor, and a state security official in China stated that supervision staff of the regulator was far too small and not professional enough, I got substantial doubt. Think also about the big fraud with inferior quality parts which would be nuclear approved in S-Korea.
          Remember that Japanese plants were considered very safe until Fukushima. May be similar should first occur in China & Korea.

          Considering prices, we should correct for the much lower labor costs in Korea & China compared to UK.

  5. Making such a point about a final editing mistake, looks rather poor.
    The final edited version was probably correct and then sent to the printer who meshed things…

  6. Classy Ben. Well done.
    …& to Darius (above) read the actual post (carefully). People here picked up the error literally within moments of it being made available. The CCSA people couldn’t spare someone to do basic proof reading, or they did & that person didn’t understand what they were reading, didn’t flag it or maybe too distracted by the pretty graphics? Didn’t actually read it (carefully) maybe. Lazy or incompetent? We’re talking about something of vital importance here, and take it seriously …would be nice to see our opponents do the same – makes me think they’re just in it for the demos & the temper tantrums.

  7. Some of their points are zany. Take the premise that the Integral Fast Reactor is suitable for making weapons grade material. Do they even know the difference between a fast and thermal reactor? A fast reactor has (n, 2n) reactions too. For examples:
    Pu-239 + n -> Pu-238 + 2n
    U-238 + n -> U-237 + 2n -> Np-237 + ß-
    Higher actinides build up too, often with inconvenient half-lives. It’s be nasty pea soup in their. No one would try to use an IFR to make bomb grade material when graphite pile or thermal reactor with a breeding jacket make way more sense.

    If they were kosher scientists they’d discovered that before they posted. They ought, at least, try to know something about the technology they presume to criticize.

    1. Mark,
      Your argument: “No one would try to use an IFR to make bomb grade material…” as other methods are easier;
      is not relevant as that is not what the CCSA brochure states.

      It states: If IFR operates, and the produced waste is separated (= part of normal operating cycle), then it offers an easy opportunity to extract plutonium.

      1. Its a red herring, Darius. Give it up. Mark’s explanation is that the diversion of weaponable plutonium (if any) from an IFR facility would be an *extremely* difficult and hazardous undertaking, the exact opposite of “easy opportunity”. As ActinideAge remarked above, the facility is specifically designed to make it that way. There is no onsite-equipment to remove the thermally hot (~500C) and intensely radioactive U+Pu+TU refined fuel mixture from the site. The CCSA brochure is wrong.

        1. The separated waste being ~500C seems unlikely. Because than storing and re-using it in the reactor will become expensive preventing economic operation.

          1. Your thinking in terms of renewable energy ratios. The heat capacity of IFR fuel elements is absolutely negligible compared to the energy they release. And you’ve got to melt the recovered heavy-metal mixture (U-Pu-10Zr m.p. ~1200C) in order cast new fuel ingots anyway. Plentiful energy makes all sorts of things possible.

            1. @Ed,
              Thanks for your elucidation.
              Is there a pilot plant that shows that such separation of the waste into real waste and fuel, is (cost) feasible?

              1. That would depend upon one’s definitions of “pilot”, “plant”, and “cost”, and presumably will be (a) central question for the Royal Commission. EBR-II was designed and built as a 60 MW(t) pilot plant, included an on-site integral pyroprocessing recycling facility, and demonstrated though actual operation the feasibility of the closed fuel cycle. See Vision and reality: The EBR-II story for a brief history.

                That’s the good news. The bad news is that EBR-II, designed in the late 1950’s and put into operation mid-1964, was but the second of its kind: its EBR-I predecessor was a proof-of-concept reactor that demonstrated reasonable breeding ratios could be attained with metal fuels.

                Mixed-oxide fuels, not so much, and EBR-II’s planned follow-on, the commercial-scale EBR-III, fell victim to a combination of the light-water accident at Three Mile Island, the water/graphite disaster at Chernobyl, and the administrative and technical shortcomings of the other-wise unrelated Clinch River Breeder Reactor mixed-oxide fuel design. The entire US breeder reactor program was cancelled in 1994, EBR-III was never built.

                EBR-III was to have been a joint-venture between US government and industry. The industrial partners were General Electric and Hitachi. GE-H continued refining the design on their own, and began seeking customers for their IFR (known as S-PRISM) I think just within the past decade. Although it abandoned the reactor design business per se, the US government has continued fuel cycle research, and pyroprocessing research has continued on the international stage.

                In that sense the details of whatever pyroprocessing GEH uses in S-PRISM will differ from what was used in EBR-II. Cost is a big question. In principle, the smaller size (310 MWe) and lack of pressurization or high-pressure heated water should make construction and containment much simpler at lower cost than an LWR. But fuel recycling will drive costs up. Also PRISM — Power Reactor Innovative Small Module — is a small modular design, and its economics will be determined by how many may be built, bought, and on what time scale. GE-H is looking for a first customer, and the three interested parties thus far — U.K, Australia, and a group in Japan, are all at least partially motivated by recouping some cost from LWR used fuel disposal.

                Its not that used LWR fuel disposal is that challenging or expensive from a geological or engineering standpoint, rather that there is public opposition to underground storage of something that will remain hazardous for another 200,000 years, coupled with the obvious “Throw it away? Why would anyone in their right minds want to go to all that trouble refining such an incredibly rich energy source, use less than 1% of it, and then just throw the rest away???

                Good question. But short-term that’s where the economics lie, at least for those willing to Let It Go. I confess I’m not one of them. It just does not seem possible that mankind will solve its climate and energy problems without a substantially larger contribution from nuclear power: IPCC has called for up to a near doubling by 2035 an additional 270 – 410 GWe. Sooner or later the extraction cost of raw uranium will have to rise, and all that slightly-used LWR fuel has to go somewhere — either underground or into our electricity grids. Its just a matter of when.

                1. “But fuel recycling will drive costs up.”

                  Great discussion Ed, and just to flesh out the above point: I have detailed capital and operational cost estimates for fuel recycling and, balanced against the cost of fuel purchase or LWR, this is small-to-negligible. PRISM capital questions are highly relevant of course, but you don’t need to worry about the fuel recycling. It’s excellent value for money. Details will be available soon.

                2. Ed,
                  Thank you for the interesting story (also the first link with its nice overview)!

                  UK has an ~$100billion problem with the nuclear waste at Sellafield.
                  I understood that GE-H offered S-PRISM reactors who could solve part of the problem and at the same time generate electricity.
                  But apparently their offer was ignored by pro-nuclear UK government.

                  Strange as Austria announced long ago that they would take action against any subsidized new NPP. So UK government knew the danger of an Austrian complaint at the EU high court (the court may stop Hinkley C as it conflicts with the EU competition rules).

                  With S-PRISM, UK government can defend stating that there is no alternative to get rid of the nuclear waste. With the EPR no convincing defense for UK government at the EU high court.

                  Any idea why UK government ignored the GE-H offer?

                  1. After an initial challenge, the European Competition Commission approved the Hinkley Point C contract terms in October 2014. The challenge was expected, and U.K. expected to prevail. Whatever Austria chooses to bring before the High Court in that regard remains to be seen. As does final financing for the project.

                  2. Ed,
                    EU commissioner for competition decides herself, unless it is too “tricky & big”. Then the full EU commission decides, as with Hinkley C.
                    Not aware of any EU Competition Commission with authority.

                    I don’t expect much activity with Hinkley until EU high court decides.

                  3. Ed,
                    It doesn’t contribute to WNN’s reliability that it omitted the EU cost correction; £24billion (=50% more).
                    Especially as the £24B is accepted (£24B=~€10/Watt).

          2. If you have access, get the paper “Non-proliferation and safeguard aspects of the IFR” by Hannum et al, 1997, Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol 31.

            Mark D, and hence CCSA, are simply completely wrong in this matter.

  8. The problems with high penetration renewables are discussed at length on BNC. However just this week the regulator just issued a cautionary report on going for broke on SA solar
    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/technology/warning-on-sas-love-affair-with-solar-power/story-fnjww4h6-1227403165551?sv=9768350d72d6d44c769aac9137425bf6

    The article says the 2014 SA electricity mix is 45.5 % gas, 31.2 % wind 17.3 % coal and 5.9 % solar. However SA’s gas supplies will soon be up against not only depletion but high priced export LNG taking market share. The local coal capacity could shut down anytime between 2016 and 2018. Gas is used for both baseload and peaking and no doubt helps SA achieve high wind penetration. Variable renewables entrenched by a $52 per Mwh subsidy are a fact on the ground. Therefore a nuclear plant designed for state needs should have good load following capacity but a large plant designed for interstate electricity exports or new industries (enrichment, increased mining, electric car charging) within SA could operate at a more steady output.

  9. Actually that’s two statements that would need to be in writing as an MoU
    1) South Korea will be looking for somewhere to take spent fuel
    2) Victoria would import more SA electricity while easing up on brown coal.
    It would be a mistake to build the Thrudpuster 6000 model assuming either of these markets will open up when the potential customers could make other plans.

    1. John,
      I thought that there is a worldwide (UN) agreement between countries that each country has to take care of his own waste within its own territory.
      Here it’s forbidden to ship dirty waste to other countries. E.g. to African countries which are happy to earn some money receiving it (those simply dump it somewhere in an ’empty’ part of their territory).

      1. Shame that rule doesn’t apply to nox, sox, CO2 and PM2.5 that drifts from coal stations into other people’s atmosphere. A deal-with-your-own-waste rule seems reasonable to me. Both reprocessed and vitrified material should routinely go back to the previous user if handled by another country. If country A wants B to take material permanently they should pay a hefty fee (Smillions) to cover monitoring.

        Sidenote: I see Qld Premier Palaszczuk who has dissed nuclear previously is welcoming the arrival of USS George Washington. SA should sell Qld baseload power so it won’t offend their sensitivities.

  10. From this very thoughtful piece by David Roberts (who I may finally start reading now):
    “…it’s likely we’re going to muddle through the transition to clean energy… it forces us to confront trade-offs between our ideals and political realities, trade-offs that cannot be waved away with ritual invocations of “political will.” Thinking this way is more vexed and less fun than blue-sky modeling, but it’s a necessary complement.”
    http://www.vox.com/2015/6/19/8808545/wind-solar-grid-integration

    I contend that by the time we’re thinking so realistically about intermittent renewables integration, we’re in a pretty good position to apply unbiased logic to assessing nuclear energy, too.

    ‘This notion of “economic carrying capacity” clarifies our original question. Technically speaking, we can integrate as much VRE as we want, as long as we’re willing to keep spending more money on grid-integration solutions. The question is, at what point is it cheaper, from a total cost-benefit perspective, to resort to low-carbon alternatives to VRE?”

    1. I’ve been thinking the same thing about Roberts. The Jacobson plan has possibly unsettled him on the thought of just how much crazy do they plan on being with the whole 100% renewables thing. We could be witnessing someone starting out on their very own road to Damascus.

      I liked that last line in particular,
      The question is, at what point is it cheaper, from a total cost-benefit perspective, to resort to low-carbon alternatives to VRE?
      According to Ontario it’s about 70% non-renewables, ‘low-carbon alternatives’
      At some point the penny drops that sure you can build out lots of renewables & get to 20% of the electricity generated, then work even harder again (& even more $$$) to get up to 40%… but nuclear decarbonises the last 20%, and as you work your way back it gets easier. In Australia we can, and are, giving renewables a 20 year+ head start; nuclear will still break the halfway mark first.

      If you have to transition through EcoAwesome before getting to the point where the hard decisions & trade-offs need to be made (though it is less hard the more technical understanding you avail yourself of), then that’s ok by me. Of real value is as a messenger of this information Roberts reaches people who believe the la-la land fantasies of pure renewables by insisting on remaining safe behind their own intellectual gated communities.

      1. “…what is cheaper (total cost-benefit), to resort to low-carbon alternatives to VRE? According to Ontario it’s about 70% non-renewable…”??

        Amazing!
        As the recent (April 2015) French governmental study concluded that 80% renewable in 2050 is the cheapest scenario (80% renewable, ~10% nuclear, ~10% other): http://bit.ly/1HwjYso

        1. I would have liked to have found a version of this study in English. From what I have read it relies fairly heavily on the Sabatier reaction as a way of overcoming the intermittency and storage problems. This means reacting hydrogen and CO2 together to produce methane which I am assuming would be stored in the existing gas network. It would be interesting to see if the financial costs and energy losses of the various stages make it still sound viable. Having seen many of the assumptions and exclusions written into some 100% renewable studies, I am naturally skeptical of studies that sound too good to be true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabatier_reaction

          1. Steve,
            I would also love to find a good German or English translation as my French is even less than my English.

            Note that:
            – other processes than improved Sabatier, are also in development / pilot phase.
            – there is time as such storage won’t be needed until wind+solar share is ~50% (~2035).

            Power-2-Gas economic viable?
            Audi started a MW scale plant in 2013 to fuel its cars: http://bit.ly/1Lv4LaV
            Now Audi started a power-to-diesel plant (using patented Swiss technology): http://bit.ly/1z57czD

            Apart from the ~20 different MW-scale projects in Germany, we in Netherlands also have a 8MW project (and some smaller). That implies that studies found it will become economic viable as we don’t have an Energiewende or so, and the general mentality here is that investments should pay off (so we will not reach the EU renewable targets, etc. also because sea-level rise will probably benefit us).

            Power-2-Gas-2-Power economic viable?
            Considering the low efficiency (25%-40%) this has been studied in Germany a lot. There is some efficiency improvement at the horizon, but I don’t believe beyond 50%.

            With whole sale price of 2cnt/KWh this implies ~6-8cnt/KWh:
            – <2cnt/KWh occurs already during some periods in Germany. Agora study predicts 2-4cnt/KWh cost price for solar in 2050 Germany, so in France it will be ~30% lower (more sun).
            – German studies predict that this process may become economic profitable in ~2035 (then wind+solar generate ~50%).

            Assume the French did read those studies.

      2. @ Bas²
        That’s nice. Renewables are great, cute even. Ontario is a real life electricity grid remember, what you have is a piece of paper. What’s sad is in 10 years time you will be waving around the latest incarnation of some NGO’s or government study into the high penetration viability of renewables; while Ontario will have gotten a decade’s worth of actual low carbon electricity generation under its’ belt.
        You’re plucky, I’ll give you that. What you should know is that I am never really addressing someone like you directly during one of these internet symposia; my real audience is the reader who comes along later, hopefully one leaning towards renewables if not completely committed to the 100% vision, while at the same time still capable of recognising rational rhetoric and distinguishing it from dogmatic polemic. And there is already sooo much information here for them to get their teeth into¹… outstanding & you have played your part perfectly, thank you. They may not be entirely convinced straight away, in fact it’s likely they will not. But in a decade’s time will their dedication to 100% renewables remain monolithic? When you will still be doing the dance of the sacred scriptures? I sure hope they’ve come to their senses. Otherwise we’re all doomed, doomed I tell you.

        ⑴ along with some impressive deep diving into hard-core actual physics stuff …(n, 2n) reactions? Wow. How many blogs out there slip straight into fifth gear like that? Ain’t nothing but a thang.

        ⑵ btw EnergyCollective is back up …feel free to drop by any time in the future though, you’ve been fun.

        1. I think we are on the same wavelength, J.S. After all, I myself learned a substantial portion of what I now know via comment threads similar to this but 4-5 years prior.

          1. Thanks Uncle Archer. Just following orders. I’m really enjoying the EnergyCollective, the breadth & depth of expertise there is amazing… always learning something new there.
            So Question: should I think of you more as Archer from the eponymously named TV show (loved you in Frisky Dingo btw) or is Oscar from Sesame Street closer? Perhaps a hybrid?

          2. Holy Crap! Did I just see Joel Fitzgibbon & Grahame Morris argue on the same side for uranium on #qanda? Normally don’t bother with it, but had a feeling because of the buzz about the Kintyre uranium mine. Fitzgibbon especially could have ducked & covered, but still jumped in. Respect. They both botched it though, eh baby steps. You twitterers need to jump in. I don’t.

        2. Jonathan,
          Energy Collective censors well founded anti-nuclear comments, if they think the author is anti-nuclear. It happened with my comments, as well as with those of my friend Bas and others. Jesse Jenkins from TEC even banned my friend Bas (I saw Jesse’s mail stating the ban) and also others.
          So TEC generates the false impression that most people are pro-nuclear.

          You won’t see Bas a lot as he is building his own site now (earlier he made: http://bit.ly/1Lw7Eby ).

          …in 10 years time…
          Compare with 10yrs ago. Then people laughed about solar, wind, etc…
          I think that in 2025 solar will produce more than wind. That the discussion then will be more about how fast more renewable. Which mix (solar, wind, storage, etc) does minimize the costs, etc.

      3. @ Steve
        This stuff with France & the potential/likely decline of nuclear in their energy mix has more to do with the sausage-making of their national politics than sober analysis of their energy requirements. The Greens over there could be forward thinking & plan for decarbonising their transport infrastructure with more nuclear and renewables, but apparently climate change is only a secondary matter for them. No hard decisions to be made here it seems. At least while they try (& fail) to replace low carbon electricity, low carbon electricity will continue to be generated.

  11. Some antinuke diehards seem to be softening their position not only in the US but here in Australia. I could name several but they might not care to be ‘outed’ and lose cred with their deep green constituency. Some may have belatedly grasped that coal isn’t going away in this country so a rethink is needed. Fact is if we replaced coal and gas baseload with nuclear we could avoid about 30% of our net emissions. Low carbon transport and direct heat will come later.

    What I fear is what I’d call the stunned mullet scenario whereby the RC gives a cautious green light by this time next year but nothing happens for years.

    1. I’d be quite happy for the wavering diehards to remain on the downlow, as long as they are having discussions among the more open minded of their peers & all of them coming to a more reasoned & reasonable position. I’ve always thought those relatively high-income highly-educated inner city seats the Greens have been picking up lately bring with it a new breed of environmentalist that dogma will have minimal effect on.
      As far as the RC is concerned, I’m trying hard not to expect too much. My main hope is it serves to help eliminate this level of ignorance (& I’m just talking about the pro-nukes when I say that… won’t mention what I think of the anti’s). Another example is the Geek.com article I mentioned in a comment below. Maybe something concrete comes out of the RC, which would be outstanding, but as long as the debate & discussion continues that’s still a win in my eyes. Also important is the changes to nuclear policy that Labor will be engaging on at their national conference …which if adopted will only explicitly exclude the use of nuclear for electricity generation. So clearly not worried about having already annoyed their left wing, but taking on the right wing unions in mining & the power sector is apparently too far for them to go. Tells you everything you need to know right there, doesn’t it. Not that this is likely to occur to any of our political journos.

  12. One of Ben’s main points, and this applies very broadly, is that the good (associate) professor (and, of course, The Conservation Council) should finally bite the bullet and consult actual nuclear experts. I think Ben’s made this point perfectly well, but just to punctuate it in the clearest possible way, we have this “research” from Diesendorf’s group http://www.ies.unsw.edu.au/our-research/real-economics-nuclear-power illustrated, unsurprisingly, with a spectacular image of the Cosmo oil refinery fire in Chiba, over 100 kilometres from Fukushima http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/30/refinery-japan-cosmo-oil-idUSL3E7HU10Q20110630

    But, hey, I’m not an expert.

    1. Ouch. Someone here didn’t put in a request to have this archived did they? Because a fresh copy has just been made today… that’s just mean.
      An exercise I like to get the merely casually interested to take is to run a google image search with ‘fukushima nuclear’ and see how many results on the first page are of the Chiba oil refinery instead. I got 4/13 and from the first line of 4, 3 were Chiba. The saddest one for me though is the Geek.com article, “Fukushima radiation has reached California, but it’s really nothing to worry about” because they are trying to inject some common sense into the debate, but just about ruining the effort by misidentifying the Chiba refinery. …unless this is an outstanding effort of subversive dissidence. That just makes it hard to figure out whose side they’re on though. Pretty certain this is a case of friendly fire.
      I remember a report on SBS late last year & I suspect an overzealous video editor dropped in the Chiba fire into a montage of images …a fraction of a second it was there, but the blazing fireball was unmistakeable. Imagine if Fox News tried to pull crap like that on an equivalent topic …wait, they do.

      1. @quokka
        Definitely wasn’t going to underestimate how difficult it would be, and it would likely be even harder than that. The toughest challenge I think would be to do it in a way that all interested parties would have enough faith in it to “accept the umpire’s decision” or at least as close as it would be humanly possible to achieve that. The pro-100% RE crowd for instance would need to believe the simulation isn’t rigged against them for starters… otherwise there would be no point in such a massive effort… imagine modelling it down to the neighbourhood local sub-network level. I know, I’m a dreamer & a fool. Have just been picking away at it in the meantime & will continue to tinker in my spare time, which has been chewed up composing ridiculously long postings lately, need to dial that back some so I can code.

        1. So disappointingly unspectacular now. No black smoke, no fire balls… just a couple of crumpled sheds. Not even any eerie green glow.

          No wonder they initially made “a mistake”.

          1. Of course this “mistake” you reference is very minor compared to their analysis for 100% renewable energy. I am seriously concerned that they actually don’t understand how the electricity network actually works. I wonder if they have anyone on their team who has in depth understanding of the NEM and how it works.

            1. Odd how they use 1 hour simulations and don’t use the 30min and 5min data provided by AEMO and other monitoring groups.

              Could be as innocent as computational power. Nevertheless the modelling tool is freely available online for people to have a look at:

              https://nemo.ozlabs.org/guide.html

              1. I downloaded it. There is no documentation to speak of. There is not actually that much code – 2,731 lines of Python to be exact. I’m going to have a bit of a play with it and understand how it works. No idea of how long that will take.

                1. oh wow, nice find & props to them for making it available. Got it & going to have a play as well …as fundamentally a data dispatch system it doesn’t need to be big. But I’ve always thought using Python (which is great btw) was using the wrong tool, and consequently the aggregation of source data which I also have always found odd (if I remember the paper right, the data granularity might have been driven by the weather data too …clearly a re-read is on my todo list as well). Nonetheless a super-computer shouldn’t be required for this kind of simulation, which is what the original work used. But now I can make a properly informed assessment of this work. Looks like there’s 2010 data in there as well. Christmas has come early this year apparently. Wheee!

              2. I suspect they may have tried 5 min analysis and didn’t like the outcome. A colleague of mine who works for ERCOT (Texas) has done a 5 min analysis for their network assuming high amounts of wind power. The storage requirement is substantial and probably not affordable,

                1. Unsurprisingly when a simulation approaches a closer matching with reality, problems begin to proliferate. Interestingly I notice the CEEM is now looking at FCAS, which even at a moderate penetration level of renewables is going to be a major issue. Will have to make liberal use of a photocopier next time I’m within striking distance of a university campus & its’ collection of journals.
                  Also I’ve had an idea for a while now that a website backed by a live simulation of the NEM and getting a realtime data feed of demand & weather conditions could be a useful addition to the debate. If done right it would basically be an online sim that anyone could test their chops on by setting up their preferred electricity mix …let them schedule when Hazelwood is to be permanently shut down & still keep the lights on, etc. Just might slice off a decade or so from the time before the penny drops & we can set about building a real suite of generation infrastructure of (say a nice neutral number like ~60%) renewables and the rest something else. Getting started on that though was always a bit daunting …more on this at some point in the future (perhaps).

                  1. Jonathan, I absolutely agree with you about a web site that could run a simulation of the NEM. I think it would be very valuable indeed.

                    Do no underestimate the amount of work though. It would be a lot more than that involved in NEMO by the time you make it robust, reliable and pretty and most importantly properly test for sensible results. Once on public display, it would be put under a microscope and any flaws dealt with ruthlessly.

                    I too have thought about this for a while. I’ve kept my mouth shut because I don’t know if I could personally put in the amount of time and effort required even as part of a team. It really would be a substantial project.

  13. Tying together some very loose threads I think SA and WA should ‘hook up’ on the nuclear fuel cycle. Slight problem that the NEM and SWIS grids are separated by 1400 km of desert. However Cameco’s WA Kintyre yellowcake will be exported via Pt Adelaide. WA will still have gas for peaking purposes long after eastern Australia has run out, by 2030 I reckon, but send electrons not gas.

    We assume the Vics will want to import power from SA while voluntarily reducing their use of brown coal of which they have 800 years of reserves. However I recall a speech by the former Vic premier, a veterinarian (therefore scientifically trained) along the lines ‘we love our brown coal and won’t do anything to hurt it’. I think the Vics will keep going until Hazelwood or Loy Yang B start falling apart. That seems to have been the trigger for the closure of Pt Augusta’s Northern power station. Only then will the Vics ask for SA power.

  14. I wonder if nuclear opponents will claim victory. It was just a few years ago that the expansion of Olympic Dam mine was to be SA’s biggest project. It would need 650 MW of new power sources of which 250 MW would come from an onsite gas fired power plant, the rest from the grid. The gas would come via a 400 km long pipe. Since local groundwater would be inadequate a 300 km pipeline was to be built to an RO desal plant on the coast. Now none of that is happening as planned and OD is reducing its workforce
    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/business/more-jobs-to-go-from-bhp-in-south-australia/story-fni6uma6-1227414434511
    Some might see this a triumph of solar and wind power or using less or perhaps no need to mine new uranium. However high power prices in SA are driving away other industries and worldwide NP needs new uranium supplies. If SA could expand the nuclear fuel cycle beyond uranium mining it could provide replacement jobs for those lost and displace coal burning in many places. Neither will happen from SA’s perspective if uranium mining contracts.

  15. Taking into account:
    – the decrease of world wide nuclear in the past decade;
    – the high prices of new NPP’s; >$10/Watt investment, electricity cost price >10cnt/KWh; compare Hinkley (UK) or Vogtle (US);

    it would be smart to prepare for lower uranium demand.

    1. Interesting, since Platts has noted an increase in generation recently. Just because Germany is pulling out doesn’t mean that everyone else is. France hasn’t committed to the 50% limit, and Sweden phases in and out depending on the government at the time. UK is building new nuclear, eastern EU states are doing the same, US is building too, and Asia is developing at a rate of knots.

      Platts source: http://www.platts.com/news-feature/2015/electricpower/global-nuclear-analysis/index

      1. To my info, the 50% limit for nuclear in 2025 is now law in France. Though that doesn’t imply that that target will be reached.
        But to start; all parties agreed to the rule that the same nuclear capacity has to be switched off, for new nuclear capacity to be added.

        A number of other countries also decided to phase out nuclear (e.g. Belgium, Switzerland).

        So it seems that the expansion by ‘new’ developing countries won’t be enough to compensate the closures.

  16. I wonder if Germany will forfeit its ‘strong man of Europe’ title due to high energy costs, though export industries are somewhat shielded. I understand currently German GDP > France > UK. All aim to be low carbon. However the underdogs are not shooting themselves in the foot with unnecessary economic burdens. That makes me wonder if like SA Germany will face an industry exodus eventually forcing a rethink.

    1. John,
      Indications are into the opposite direction:

      – German whole sale prices are lowest (av. ~3.7cnt/KWh) in the EU.
      This winter the last aluminum smelter in NL broke down because the German alu smelters have cheaper electricity. UK whole sale prices are even substantial higher than those of NL.

      – France has to renew its old nuclear fleet. Indications are that the new reactor, the safer EPR, has a cost price of ~15cnt/KWh.
      While studies show that wind, solar & storage costs will continue to decrease during next decades (e.g. ~3cnt/KWh for PV-solar in 2050 in Germany despite it’s poor insolation).

      – Even France government study detected that less nuclear and more renewable will bring the cost price of electricity down; 80% renewable, 10% nuclear; 10% other being the most economic option for 2050: bit.ly/1Istazd

      – There were complaints that Germany subsidized it’s industry via the electricity price. The EU fair competition directorate did an investigation. Results: No fines. Only an agreement to apply some energy taxes also for some industries, which won’t change much.
      Seems that the EU will again investigate next year (will probably not change much either).

  17. This latest agreement between the UK and Canada seems to hint that the CANDU EC6 may be favoured ahead of the PRISM to deal with the UK’s plutonium stockpile
    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Canada-UK-extend-nuclear-energy-cooperation-2906155.html
    If so maybe it’s because the technology is ready to go, also a consideration for SA. I see in WNA news that the 1.35 GW Grafenrheinfield nuclear plant in Germany had to close early to avoid $2.6 bn a year in special taxes and other imposts. While deep greens hold the moral high ground I’m seeing an authoritarian streak that others may pick up on later.

    1. PRISM was offered already years ago to UK government. But apparently they don’t want to buy despite having a major problem (>£100B) with the waste at Sellafield.
      What are the major problems with the PRISM design?
      The reasons UK government doesn’t buy it, while it would bring a ‘cheap’ solution for the waste problem?

  18. Darius, as of April 2015,32 countries were continuing to generate 15% of the world’s electricity in 436 reactors. Those countries and 17 others are building 70 reactors right now, 174 reactors have been firmly planned and 301 proposed for the future.Those countries have obviously concluded that nuclear is not too dirty, too dangerous, too costly, too slow, too every damn thing else and are working towards developing an adequate, secure, base load, safe, cost effective and emissions-free technology. The world is going increasingly nuclear and at pace Darius. And South Australia with the world’s largest recoverable uranium reserves and the world’s best high level nuclear waste disposal site is the obvious state in Australia to initiate the development of the full nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment, fuel manufacture, power production and waste disposal and nuclear desalination as well for that matter. John Newlands is right to suggest that WA and SA get together on our nuclear future. The Officer Basin, the world’s best high level waste disposal site straddles the SA /WA border and Pangea Resources, on behalf of the IAEA, researched the WA section of the basin about 20 years ago. My late brother was consulting geologist for Pangea, having written and mapped the geology of the SA section of the basin 15 years before that. Here’s my vision[now 10 years old] for much needed economic, infrastructure and jobs development in SA over the next 25-30 years and based on our uranium reserves and best waste disposal site.
    1. International high level waste site to be established in the Officer Basin.
    2. Purpose built small port at Fowler’s Bay? Ceduna? to receive the purpose built ships which carry the waste from overseas.
    3. A purpose built railway to move waste from the port to a suitable site in Officer Basin.
    4.A nuclear cogeneration desal/power plant at Ceduna for Olympic Dam and Eyre Peninsula water with power?? for the grid.
    5. BHP Billiton to provide own power [650 MWe] with a bank of SMR’s or an appropriate sized reactor.
    6. Expansion of the Whyalla port with new industries in uranium enrichment, recycling and fuel manufacture.
    7. Conversion of the Port Augusta power station from coal to nuclear ??
    This a 25 year plan with the potential for 50,000 infrastructure development and operational jobs, $400-500 billion in investment dollars. [Deloitte Access Economics put $200 billion in investments over 40 years on the waste disposal site alone, including $2.3 billion per year in taxes and royalties paid by user countries].This would drag SA off the bottom of the economic pile and make us the “clean energy capital of the world.” This formed the basis for an opinion piece which was printed in the Adelaide Review in September 2009.
    Do any of you other contributers to Ben’s blog have a vision for SA growth? If you do, then I’d like to hear it. If you haven’t, then you might consider adopting mine and promoting it. The development of the full nuclear fuel cycle in South Australia is a NO BRAINER.
    By the way, I converted anti to pro nuclear in 1981 while on teacher exchange in Ontario Canada. I started taking about it through letters and speeches in 1998. The above will form part of my submission to the Royal Commission.

    1. I agree we have to forego what seems technically perfect for what has less political resistance in its path. If WA is open to nuke talk but Vic won’t hear talk of coal replacement until mid century we may have to go with the flow. However a trans-Nullarbor HVDC cable will cost several billion dollars.

      Another factoid is that Ceduna already tranships radioactive material in the form of zircon sand, some 25% of the world total I believe. It’s wonderful what lack of NIMBYs can achieve, Zircon sand normally emits thousands of Bq/kg. With ocean frontage Ceduna has a lot of cool and brine dispersing sea currents flowing past unlike high up in gulfs. I think it could become the nuclear capital of Australia with gen 3, gen 4, fuel reprocessing, regional desal and an inland high level repository.

    2. Hi Terry,
      Starting with wrong facts make your comment less convincing:
      – Share nuclear: It is <11% (was 18% in the nineties). Since ~2010 even the volume of nuclear produced electricity declined.
      – # reactors: It's now 10cnt/KWh going up (check e.g. Vogtle & Hinkley), while wind and sun deliver cheaper with prices going down further (long term estimations ~3cnt/KWh).

      5: BHP Billiton will choose for the cheaper renewable option. First indications are that SMR will become even more expensive than AP1000 or EPR. Only when mass produced, costs may go down. If that occurs, it will be after 2040. All indications are that by that time solar, wind, and even battery storage will be much cheaper (price decrease ~8%/a for solar and batteries, ~3%/a for wind).

      7. $200billion investment with a $2.3billion brute return (so after deducting operating costs ~$1.4billion net, which is 0.7% for interest+depreciation) seems a bad investment.

      SA would do economically far better with large PV-solar (with some wind & storage) as that will produce for <2cnt/KWh in 2050 (a.o. study of Agora think tank; 2-4cnt in 2050 Germany with its poor sun and high ground prices) and install Aluminum smelters, etc.

      1. Correction. Read after:
        – # reactors: It’s now <400.
        – etc. Refer to: http://bit.ly/1T7ZASG

        Your points 3 & 4: Nuclear waste volumes are low. So transport costs via dedicated harbor & railway will become extremely expensive.

        and resume reading my previous comment.

        1. The only terrorist attack was done by an eco-terrorist who ended up as a Greens MP in the Swiss parliament. Also terrorists don’t do complex attacks, all they need is a gun and a crowd to get their message across. This isn’t an episode of 24.

          1. “terrorists don’t do complex attacks,..”
            Until the first!
            Well not really the first as some other attacks were already far more than a simple gun. E.g. the successful attack at the US warship in the harbor at Aden, the bombs at US embassies, the attack at the Olympic games in Munich, etc.

            1. Quit dredging the barrel Darius. This is turning into stupid fearmongering and I won’t permit it. You want to DISCUSS terrorism risk, go for it, with data, information, the usual standards I expect. Degenerate into these daft, unfounded memes and I will put you on moderation.

  19. Darius if electricity via intermittent generation and battery storage can be delivered for 2c a kwh it will be like return of the prophet. No wonder some see religious fervour in those wanting 100% renewables. It would be quite odd and probably inefficient to power aluminium smelting with batteries, both electrochemical processes.

    WIluna WA yellowcake will be trucked some 2,700 km to Pt Adelaide for export, a waste of diesel fuel. Apparently there was a spillage of lead concentrate at the nearer port of Esperance WA which exacerbated NIMBY attitudes
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/no-port-in-a-storm-for-wa-yellowcake/story-e6frgczx-1226366247371
    Like I say the WA state govt is mainly pro-nuke but is on a different grid to SA. Vic is connected to SA on the NEM but may not close gigawatt sized brown coal stations until about 2032 at the earliest, the recent Anglesea closure being small at 150 MW. Of course there could be a federal directive to cut emissions but there is no sign of that so far.

    1. John,
      2,700km is a huge distance to W-European standards. This spring I cycled with a friend from S-Spain back to Netherlands; 2,800km despite many detours.
      A pity that your link end at a subscriber only article.

      The effects of the 8%/a long term (4 decades) price decrease for solar start to show.
      The Austin utility got proposals for 1.2GW of solar for <4cnt/KWh (http://bit.ly/1IxNEGL ).

      This implies that a nuclear plant has to earn it's money during the ~30% of the time when there is no wind or sun. Considering that the cost prices of AP1000 (Vogtle) and EPR (Hinkley) while running full-load all the time, are already >10cnt/KWh, I don’t see how those can compete in that environment.
      Even a 3 times cheaper design will have a real hard time.

  20. Darius even if your estimates for future low PV costs are correct there is still the question of fitness for purpose. The mining industry for example works around the clock not only below ground but to operate crushers and extraction plant above ground. That may include electrowinning such as the copper cathode process. Conceivably a remote off-grid mine could use some daytime solar to save diesel generation. In general however big mines need large amounts of reliable power day and night so PV is irrelevant.

    That’s great though about commercial PV coming down in price. Soon they’ll have no case for receiving the subsidy currently about 5.2c per kwh. Combine that with batteries that can store millions of kwh i.e. Gwh for an extra cent or two then they might make a useful contribution.

    1. @John,
      The costs of the whole renewable combination are going down:
      – PV: ~8%/a (since ~1970)
      – Wind: ~3-4%/a (since ~1995)
      – Storage (battery & power-to-gas/fuel): ~10%/a (since ~2010; enough room for technology improvements to continue. Pumped storage will become too expensive in ~2030).
      As this will continue for next decades, these cost decreases will become disruptive for central power plants; starting with base load power plants.

      The German electricity market is 10-20years ahead. Their biggest utilities concluded that there will be no place in the market for them and started major transformation processes.
      All indications show that similar will occur everywhere, where there is a free electricity market.

      mines need … reliable power day and night so PV is irrelevant
      Too simple. Last autumn I cycled through the mountain regions of Indian Kashmir.
      20years ago people had diesel generators for light in the night. Now they have a PV-panel with an old truck battery.

      The combination of these renewable technologies (with over-capacity) deliver reliable electricity!
      In the transitional stage fossil fuel can be used during an ever smaller percentage of the time (from 50% => 40% => etc).

      Btw.
      The copper cathode process can be configured such that all is done during sunlight days, when electricity is very cheap. Similar as the aluminum smelters in Germany do.

      1. Therein lies a hint that German heavy industry will eventually relocate to other countries. The copper cathode process is aqueous ie water based and presumably can be switched off then restarted after a few days. Aluminium smelting is molten salt and has to be kept hot. Power cutbacks in heatwaves are generally less than a few hours I believe. We’re going back to the days of sailing ships when the wind had to be in the right direction to get out of the harbour.

        1. German heavy industry enjoys one of the lowest whole sale prices in the world; on average 3.7cnt/KWh last year. So little chance that they will leave. The opposite occurred. Aluminum smelters moved to Germany.

          Note that UK whole sale price level is twice the German level. So the cable between NL and UK is actually one way; nearly always the (mostly German) electricity flows to UK.

  21. OK Darius,
    Nuclear contribution to world electricity supply does vary and you are probably right with your current 11%. But would you care to answer my question as to why nuclear build is going at such a pace? I reckon it’s because those countries see nuclear as a big, perhaps the biggest part of them being able to secure an adequate, secure, emissions-free supply of electricity. The renewables have never nor will they ever be able do that Darius. Here’s a disturbing fact. Over the past 20 years, the world has spent $367 billion on subsidies for renewables for a return of 2.8% of its electricity and with virtually no emissions reduction. The renewables have been a scandalous, wasteful folly and here in South Australia we should put a stop to their further development, especially wind. Heard on the Science Show yesterday that the renewables had given Australia 4000MWe last year. Sounds a lot. But in fact, it’s 4Gigawatts and Australia’s total consumption is/was around 60+ gigawatts. So the renewables have produced less than 7% of our needs. Darius, if you’re interested in reading my case for nuclear, then log onto: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ockhamsrazor, bring up past programs and then check those for Sept 4th 2011, Jan15th 2012, March10th 2013, Feb 9th 2014. They represent the 4 thirteen minute talks I’ve given on Robyn Williams Ockham’s Razor programme. Give them a try Darius. And sometime in the future, bring your bike to South Australia and ride our Mawson Trail. Much of it passes through the Flinders Ranges, probably the most important sequence of sedimentary rocks on the planet.

    Cheers

    Terry

    1. Hi Terry,
      Thank you for your trail suggestion. If I find a mate, I go this winter (Australian spring).
      Anxious to learn about more interesting cycling tours?

      …why nuclear build is going at such a pace?“??
      It is stalling in the western world.
      It cannot compete against wind+solar+storage as shown by the subsidies for the planned Hinkley C new nuclear plant.

      China: Wind was nowhere until a few years ago. Now wind generated electricity surpassed that of nuclear. China now targets for 2020: 100GW of solar and 200GW of wind, while nuclear expansion plans are gradually reduced.

      Only countries that have or may need an atomic bomb, now plan NPP’s. So they can build up the knowledge and infra to produce a bomb within a few years. So the Gulf states in response to Iran, etc.

      secure, emissions-free supply of electricity. The renewables have never nor will they ever be able do that
      Germany’s electricity became substantial more reliable when the share of renewable became substantial (now ~28%). The Germans enjoy now the most reliable electricity supply in the world (total outage per customer ~15minutes/a). Closely followed by Denmark who generate 50% by renewable (wind alone already 40%). Distributed generation by thousands of small generators is inherently more reliable.

      … a return of 2.8% of its electricity and with virtually no emissions reduction.
      If 2.8% is generated emission free then it is an emissions reduction of at least 2% if the replaced electricity generation used fossil fuel.

      renewable have produced less than 7% of our needs.
      In 2014 renewable produced 13.5% of Australians electricity. Check your facts.

      I listened to your audio. Few remarks:
      – renewable deliver >90% of all electricity (so incl. base load) in >16 countres.

      – The statement: “nuclear produces no emissions during operations” is not correct.
      * NPP’s need fuel which is mined, transported and processed producing lots of emissions.
      * NPP’s have a sizable staff which produce lots of emissions (cars, etc).
      Wind & solar don’t have those.

      – the nuclear accident statements are far off reality.
      * Chernobyl: After starting with 80 deaths and several revisions up to 8000 deaths, IAEA site now states that the number death cannot be estimated with any accuracy. Other reports state 80,000 death, and many more.
      The book at the New York Academy of Sciences site; 850,000 deaths before 2006. Which would imply up to 8million death as most still have to come due to the 20-60 years latency as shown by the RERF studies. Similar to smoking, low level asbestos, arsenic (my estimation; 1 million deaths).

      * Fukushima: WHO expert report estimates up to 7% (future) increase of cancer death under the infants that got radiation despite speedy evacuation. Translates into ~700deaths.

      * The TMI accident did release radiation. So processes regarding financial compensation for people who felt their health was damaged, etc.

  22. We can be forgiven for suspecting that the associate professor has a word document full of cleverly written “myths and fallacies” regarding nuclear energy, from which he picks what he might see as the most pertinent and obfuscatory (and what he might think he can get away with) for any given debate that he feels compelled to contribute to.

    http://www.donotlink.com/framed?737446

  23. In view of the inadequacies of the renewables [see above] and the obvious rapid nuclear build occurring around the world, surely the associate professor might concede that Australia really should at least consider the nuclear option.

    1. Terry, which rapid new build do you mean?
      The construction periods for new nuclear are still increasing, now >10years in the western world (the costs as well).
      Furthermore I see that the number of operational reactor is declining. It’s now at ~390 (down from 437).

  24. The signs are not good that using less (as ‘efficiency’) and renewables will get us where we want
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2015/7/6/energy-markets/year-review-emissions-still-going-now-demand-too
    Maybe facts on the ground aren’t that important to true believers. In the last year or so those facts include declining hydro and fears of rising gas prices both favouring coal. Yet we’ll need even more reliable and price stable energy for what lies ahead… electric transport, population growth and crazy weather.

  25. Darius,
    I got my nuclear build figures from the World Nuclear Association April 2015 newsletter. Please go back and read my July2nd post. Where are you getting your figures?

    1. Terry,
      The first sentence in your July2nd comment: “32 countries were continuing to generate 15% of the world’s electricity in 436 reactors” contains 3 facts, all wrong.

      1. The 15% is simple. WNA states over 11%; http://goo.gl/H0swuO
      If it is over 12% they would have stated that.
      Nuclear share changed from 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013.
      You can find the 10.8% in the circle diagram halfway the linked WNA page.
      I doubt whether the ‘over 11%’ in the header of the page is correct.

      2. Until recently the WNA site stated 436 operating reactors. As that is untrue*) they changed the name in ‘operable’ reactors. Check their list at: http://goo.gl/inYvIN
      It states 43 Japanese reactors. But zero nuclear electricity generation in the whole of 2014.
      Except a few those reactors didn’t operate since 2011.
      So for a start your number should be <400.
      However the list contains more such anomalies. You can't trust WNA.
      So I checked the World Nuclear Industry status report: http://goo.gl/WWVBCD
      Which delivers ~390 reactors.

      Note that Japanese utilities started a long license procedure (major safety upgrades) for about half of those 43. That implies that the other half won't operate anymore.
      However the WNA definition of 'operable' (=as long as there is a grid connection) allows permanently closed reactors to be declared operable, as long a those need electricity for cooling etc…

      3. 32 countries?
      Counting I found 30 countries only at the WNA list: http://goo.gl/inYvIN
      WNI status report 2014 states 31 countries.

      ___
      *) I find it a problem that nuclear frequently states wrong figures. Not only regarding relative unimportant issues such as # of reactors, but also regarding relevant figures.
      E.g. With the agreement between UK government and EDF/Areva to build the new Hinkley NPP it was confirmed that the NPP would take an investment of £16billion.

      As the project needed EU permission because of the high subsidies which spoil free competition, the EU accountants at Brussels checked the figures and concluded that the investment would be £24billion = 50% more! Clearly more correct as all parties accepted the new figure.

      I find it hard to believe that people at EDF/Areva/UK government didn't know that the 16B figure was far off reality. Don't know good English name for this behavior; filthy? Liars? Cheaters?

  26. Well Darius,
    I shall choose to believe the WNA newsletters. I get regular updates from them and have NO reason to think they are liars, cheats etc. And whether you like it or not and not withstanding all of your corrections to my figures, many countries are choosing to go down the nuclear path and Australia should do likewise. It’s time to open your mind Darius and to stop being so negative about the world’s cleanest, greenest most powerful source of energy known to mankind.

    1. Terry,
      As you believe WNA, check then the WNA list: http://goo.gl/Y7t5nh
      Then you see that in the past 10 years:
      – one country stopped totally with nuclear (Lithuania)
      – one country started with nuclear (Iran).

      So your many countries are fake.

  27. This is a big call but I think the human race would be doomed without two remarkable coincidences
    1) oil and gas supply will be in decline by mid 21st century regardless of carbon taxes etc
    2) the nuclear industry established itself in the 20th century.

    Imagine trying to argue the case for new nuclear without being able to point to the success of 1970s and 80s built nuclear. The naysayers would prevent any new industry from happening. A bit like the closed religious community that practised celibacy until they all died out due to lack of numbers.

    1. @John,
      You are free to think that, but I think that your thoughts are far off reality.

      1. Nuclear
      Nuclear is in decline since the nineties, despite the adulated renaissance in the past decade.
      Some reasons nuclear decline will continue:
      – the costs of new nuclear increased to levels above wind+solar+storage solutions;
      – the nuclear costs are increasing, while solar (~8%/a), wind (~3%/a), and storage (~10%/a) continue to become cheaper in next decades. The many power=>gas=>(seasonal) storage pilot plants show that long term storage is also becoming competitive.

      Apparently even China concluded similar as they reduced nuclear expansion targets and expanded wind so much within a few years, that wind produces now more TWh/a than nuclear. Solar is on the same path now.
      China now targets 100GW solar and 200GW wind in 2020. Little doubt that those targets will be surpassed greatly, as in the past.

      2. Decline oil and gas/i>?
      Since almost a century (~1920) predictions have always been that oil and gas supply would decline after ~30-40years. In ~1969 the club of Rome produced an expensive study predicting that around 2000 oil & gas supplies would be finished…

      While consumption increased to levels far above those assumed by the club of Rome, the costs (in hours to work for a liter gas) went down, and the prospect is still that supply will decline in ~30years…

      I agree that oil & gas consumption will come down eventually, but I think more because of cheaper electricity (solar & wind producing locally for ~2cnt/KWh), etc.

  28. A neat summary of SA’s economic woes
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/submarine-maker-asc-sinks-101-blue-collar-workers-20150717-giehum.html
    yet SA has perhaps 30% of the world’s easily mined uranium, a world that needs to replace fossil energy with clean. Things won’t get better any time soon; the gas which helps supply 48% of SA electricity goes into export LNG starting October.

    I note some senior bureaucrats think SA should continue down the wind and solar route. First problem it doesn’t seem to have helped. Second problem they still have a job while others don’t.

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