When nuclear came to Sydney…and won

Here is the video of the IQ2 debate in Sydney, where the case for nuclear scored a resounding victory.  This is the YouTube link to my opening 9 minutes. For the rest of the speakers, audience questions and rebuttals, go to ABC Big Ideas. Enjoy, and share!

Waste Expectations

In this piece I really lay down the challenge for how we think about nuclear waste, drawing on the production and management of other waste types, comparing it to current and future management of spent nuclear fuel, including discussion of Generation IV reactors. This is one of my favourite pieces

The problem of nuclear waste has been solved. At least, compared to how we manage many other types of waste you are responsible for.

The importance of facts in research: The IFR

This piece provides a considerably more detailed, but still highly accessible description of the workings of the Generation IV Integral Fast Reactor. Those who are truly in the know told me this was a great piece, so it’s recommended reading.

In perspective: Latest in the SACOME nuclear series

Here is the recently published article by Barry Brook and me that appeared in the SACOME journal. In this article, we consider the greenhouse implications of the proposed expansion of Olympic Dam alongside the impact of the mined uranium in global greenhouse mitigation. It directly references comments from Green’s MLC Mark Parnell about the mine being a “huge carbon black hole”. Oh really? Read on…

“It’s easy to tell horror stories about uranium if you rob it of the context of its role in global energy supply. We deserve much better than such rhetorical chicanery.”

Environmentalism at the crossroads

The schism that environmentalism is facing in relation to nuclear power is now out in the open, with the UK leading the way.

Cross post from @Mark_Lynas: UK moves a step closer to #nuclear waste solution

This excellent cross-post from Mark Lynas provides a great summary of the proposal for the UK to use Generation IV nuclear technology to exchange its unwanted waste for energy.

A Waste of Waste: New IFR article by George Monbiot

Why bury nuclear waste, when it could meet the world’s energy needs?

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 6th December 2011

 “These decisions are the result of an almost mediaevel misrepresentation of science and technology. For while the greens are right about most things, our views on nuclear power have been shaped by weapons-grade woo.”

It’s a devastating admission to have to make, especially during the climate talks in Durban. But there would be no point in writing this column if I were not prepared to confront harsh truths. This year the environmental movement to which I belong has done more harm to the planet’s living systems than climate change deniers have ever achieved.

Monbiot making the case with Philip Adams

Thanks to subscriber Andrew Starcevic for pointing me in the direction of this Philip Adams interview with George Monbiot, one of the people who gets it. Monbiot puts in a (typically) strong showing, and hits a lot of the key points of the impregnable case for the role of nuclear power in managing climate change, as well as doing some succinct debunking of the outlandish death toll from Chernobyl touted by Helen Caldicott (among others). It’s only 7 mins and very enjoyable.

If you like what you hear from Monbiot, don’t miss the debate he had with Greenpeace, and my review done in two parts. Here’s the link to part 1, which has a link to the videoed debate itself. Here’s a link to part 2


Here’s the radio interview.

Interview with George Monbiot




A new Age for nuclear? Don’t hold your breath

Followers of this blog will be aware that Melbourne’s major newspaper, The Age, has been running something they have called “The Climate Agenda”.  A process of posting and voting on questions related to climate change by the readership has produced ten questions to which The Age will respond.

I encouraged readers to vote for a well posed question about nuclear power, and last week I gave a review of The Age’s response to a question pertaining to the role of renewables in Australia.

Well this week, nuclear’s number was up. Here is the question in full, and a link to the full response from The Age.

QUESTION: ”If the government is so serious about reducing CO2 emissions, why do they keep ignoring the single most effective method for doing so: nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is far cheaper than ‘renewables’ and kills less people per unit of energy produced than even solar or wind. New generation reactors improve safety significantly and render the long-term waste storage issue moot, and thorium fast-breeder reactors cannot melt down accidentally at all. France has shown how easy and effective nuclear is at reducing greenhouse emissions. Why doesn’t the government spend some of it’s enormous ‘clean energy future’ research and advertising budget to help educate Australians about the facts around new forms of clean atomic energy?”


Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/for-australia-nuclear-is-the-power-of-last-resort-20111008-1lexm.html#ixzz1aH7LQ6Gq

I have one or two things to say about this…

A debate we have to have- the wrap up of CEDA in Perth

Regular readers of Decarbonise SA will be aware that last week I had the priviledge and pleasure of joining a panel of speakers for a function in Perth titled “The Cost of Carbon; Nuclear Energy: Australia’s Clear Energy Future?”.

It was my first visit to Perth. If I had to describe it in just one word, “shiny” would be the one. It looks rather like the CBD was erected ten minutes before I touched down. None of the locals actually denied this either, so I do wonder… I didn’t get much of a look around but I enjoyed the generous opening hours and fantastic selections at Elizabeth’s Second Hand Books.   Aside from that it was mostly business, so hopefully I get the chance to go back for a proper look. I certainly do see the appeal of the place.

The event was well attended, with 70 guests enjoying five very different perspectives on the role of nuclear power in Australia. With no prior planning or collaboration, the speakers delivered a stunningly uniform message to the room: Australia simply must begin engaging in open debate and discussion of nuclear power if we are to make wise energy choices for our future national and global interests. CEDA have informed me that they received “an overwhelming amount of positive feedback” from this event.

As a speaker but also a guest, I enjoyed hearing from my fellow panellists, and I would like to report back to you some of the main messages I took away from the day.

From L-R Tony Owen, Haydon Manning, Ben Heard, Andy Lloyd, Paul Hardisty

Anthony (Tony) Owen, Academic Director and Santos Chair of Energy, UCL School of Energy and Resources, gave a very important discussion of how nuclear power might fit in the Australian energy landscape and the barriers to its uptake. I have shown below two slides in particular that tell an important story. The first tells us something most of us already know: the construction costs of nuclear, in comparison with fossil sources and on shore wind, is high.

 The second tells us something fewer of us know/appreciate/understand, which is that the first chart is not the whole story at all. With nuclear, almost all the money is spent up front. Once constructed it is highly reliable and requires virtually no inputs of fuel. So it then generates electricity at very low cost. This is shown in the next table, which compares the actual cost of the electricity being produced at discount rates of 5% and 10%. The costs shown include a carbon price. Even at the steeper 10% discount rate, the price of nuclear electricity remains either superior of highly competitive across the board. Nuclear, of course, brings that little advantage of being zero carbon and producing no other filthy pollution.

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