The Sooner We Start…

As I have asserted elsewhere, I try to be vigilant regarding my own cognitive biases. I want to see reform of the arbitrary prohibition of nuclear power and technology in Australia – an entirely political, populist situation if ever there was one – but I also really like nuclear power itself as a deployable, proven, emissions-mitigating source of energy. If a new, superior alternative presents itself this year, or the next, then I’ll seriously consider backing it over anything else (take heed that this is of course rather different from rejecting nuclear). Perhaps I’m too generous in normally trying to consider the point of view of nuclear opponents when they show up… but there just aren’t any new arguments, and the critical analysis of the ones we’ve heard, repeatedly, reveals where cognitive bias is most prevalent.

No more FUD  c/o David Ropeik

“To be fair, it may be that many of these anti-nuclear advocates are simply not aware of what the evidence tells us about the biological effects of radiation, so they just echo the commonly held beliefs about radiation risk. It is also understandable that some environmental groups, even if they do know what the evidence says, persist in their opposition to nuclear power because it is woven into their very foundations… But neither ignorance nor culturally embedded historic concerns are acceptable excuses for alarmism when that alarmism does real and dramatic harm, as the excessive fear of radiation is doing now in Fukushima, and as it did after Chernobyl, and as it has done to public health worldwide for decades by driving energy policy away from nuclear and toward coal, the particulate pollutants from which sicken and kill tens of thousands of people a year. (And that doesn’t even mention how nuclear fear has led to a fossil fuel-based power generation policy that has drastically increased the threat of climate change.)”

The Nature article

Compare the harm from coal, the world’s dominant energy source.  It is in context that the advantages of nuclear power are stark.

Solar can’t c/o Geoff Russel

“Adding a 3 kilowatt solar PV system to all of Australia’s 7.6 million households (assuming they all have adequate roof or yard space to install them), would deal with about 3 percent of our energy related greenhouse-gas emissions.”

“What does [the WWF World Solar Atlas proposal] one percent look like? One percent of Australia is a bit under 8 million hectares… What does 8 million hectares look like? Consider all the cities and urban areas in Australia. They add up to just 1.6 million hectares, about 10 times more than we use for mining and waste management. So we can get an idea of one percent by multiplying all our urban and city areas by about 5. So drive from the centre of the city of your choice to its outer suburban edge, then start bull dozing trees and levelling ground for your solar panels until you’ve levelled an area about 5 times bigger than the city you just left. Do it for every city and you’ll have one percent.”

“Let’s suppose we manage to find 8 million hectares of good for nothing land. Hopefully, wildlife free and a mere 300 km from our material sources of steel, cement and glass. That’s a 600 km round trip. Note that Sydney-Moree is a 1200 kilometre round trip, and Sydney-Bourke is a 1500 kilometre trip, and Perth-Kalgoolie is 1200 km return, so I’m being ridiculously optimistic. As it happens, our Bureau of Statistics keeps data on articulated truck distances traveled in Australia. Keep in mind that we are rather well blessed with bloody big trucks compared to many countries. Our 81,000 articulated trucks travel around 7,000 million kilometres annually, with rigid trucks doing slightly more. Not all of these articulated vehicles are B-Doubles, so we may actually need more than 50 million loads depending on fleet composition. In any event, the project would keep our entire current articulated truck fleet busy for over four years. If we devoted 10 percent of the fleet, then it would stretch out for 40 years.”

I’ve mentioned this plan to some of the drivers who are regulars to the business where I work. They either don’t understand or think it’s a joke.

Wind can’t c/o nate hagens

The wind is (usually) blowing somewhere, but probably not enough, and transmitting power from windy regions to still regions cannot be economical.

“An estimate for the cost of three 4 GW cables forming a triangle with segments of 700, 1000 and 2000 each between Britain, Spain and Denmark/Northern Germany (Figure 1) arrives at a ballpark of roughly $10-12bn. If we assume an investment of $10bn, a life expectancy of 30 years, an interest rate of 6% (which is rather low and only slightly above 30 year bond interest rates) and maintenance cost of 1% per annum, the cost for each wind kWh usefully transmitted between the three countries would be more than 7 cents, not including line losses and operating energy for the heavily underutilized HVDC equipment (as stated above, utilization would be at approximately 10% of capacity).”

Storage would have to be massively overbuilt and multiply the cost of plant by more than a few whole numbers.

“In order to match one MW of wind nameplate capacity with enough storage to not lose too much of the excess production [in our chosen areas] at high wind time and to be able to bridge all the gaps, we would have to provide capacity worth approximately 20 days of average wind output, which – with a capacity factor of 25% – totals to 120 MWh of storage capacity for each MW of wind power production”

Nuclear is affordable c/o DecarboniseSA

Image prepared by DecarboniseSA

The cost and timescales of projects in the US, or delays in new European reactors is usually pointed to as prohibitive, but this is logically fallacious. If enacted correctly, with rational regulation based on the best modern evidence, nuclear build-out in Australia could use the lessons learned in such cases and others over the last 50 years, in addition to recent success stories such as China’s.

…and most verifiably low emission.

Despite repeated cherry-picking of dubious analyses.

“Independent studies have assessed nuclear energy’s life-cycle emissions and found them to be comparable to wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric generation.”


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