Decarbonise South Australia and Brave New Climate visit The Atomic Show
On August 13, 2011, I braved the 13.5 hour time difference between Adelaide, South Australia and Lynchburg, VA to record an interview with Ben Heard, the force behind Decarbonise SA and Dr. Barry Brook, the well respected climate scientist who blogs at Brave New Climate.
Aside: I used the phrase “braved the time difference” because the best time for Ben and Barry was 5:00 pm their time. I will leave the math to the readers to figure out what time that meant I had to be up and ready to record. That is okay – I am willing to make some sacrifices in order to contribute to the battle to save the world from both energy scarcity and the negative environmental effects of massive fossil fuel waste dumping. End Aside.
We talked about Ben’s journey from an inherited dislike of nuclear energy to his realization that his friends in the established “environmental” community were totally out to lunch (my words, not his) when it came to effective action against global climate change.
We also discussed a bit about the history of the antinuclear movement within Australia and how it was partially funded and motivated by the railroad unions who get a great deal of work from the effort to extract and export massive quantities of coal from Australian mines. Ben even mentioned this advertisement from the coal miners that clearly states why they are opposed to the development of nuclear energy.
I tried to explain how the real political power behind the antinuclear movement came not from workers concerned about middle class jobs that leave little spare change for political action, but from the mine and well owners who have successfully figured out how to concentrate vast sums of money in their own pockets by selling useful hydrocarbons.
The profitability of the hydrocarbon fuels enterprise is enhanced by all efforts that restrict overall energy supply; when demand exceeds immediately accessible fuel supply, the selling price of fuel skyrockets without any change in the real cost of extraction. That is the way that the law of supply and demand works. Anyone who has ever sold anything will tell you – it is far better to sell at a high price than at a low price if the number of items that you are capable of producing is limited anyway.
I wonder if politically it would be a bad idea for pro-nukes to beat the climate change drum too much at this point, for fear that it will collapse people into fatalism rather than stirring them into action.
We need a major victory or two first, so that people can see that the anti-nuclear movement is not invincible.
I’d rather beat the national security and trade deficit drums. Even if we imported our uranium, there wouldn’t much of a contribution to our trade deficit and sources of uranium would most likely come from countries with whom we have friendly relations. Also, temporary disruptions to supplies of uranium or swings in the price of uranium ore aren’t likely to have much of an impact on our economy.
The political issue Nuclear has always had is that it stands in direct opposition to huge players in the energy industry. In my opinion, increased use of Nuclear would not lead to the end of the coal industry, just as the use of coal didn’t lead to the end of logging, and the invention of diesel-electric locomotives didn’t lead to the end of coal. Coal is an incredible source of carbon, and carbon is a great way of storing hydrogen. I think that nuclear will be the key to achieving true clean coal, through coal liquification and gasification. I was speaking to a South African man, he had worked for a company that performed these processes, currently, natural gas is used to produce the process heat. I’d like to see an analysis of the process where a HTGR (High temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor) was the source of this heat. Eventually people will get tired of breathing particulates containing lead, arsenic, mercury, and sulfur. Nuclear needs to stop being the kid trying to take coal’s market share, and become the energy source that will allow coal to compete well into the future.
That’d be a hellish expensive way of making liquid fuel, Simeon.
The chap you were talking to probably came from a company caled “SASOL”. They basically got started back in the days of Apartheidt and sanctions, when SA’s ability to import oil was under threat (albeit it never got that tight – I spent a brief stint in Cape Town when the gas fields of Mossel Bay were first being developed, working for a firm called Soekor – which, strangely was largely staffed by people on “career breaks” from BP and Shell….
SASOL still does a bit of “coal-to liquids” work, but it’s basically for developing countries which have coal reserves, and who want to hang on to foreign exchange. A few countries (including SA) do similar things with gas, which is much cheaper.
Synthetic fuels produced that way cost a multiple of “conventionally” produced fuel – and, since they tend to be associated with large coal deposits or gas reserves, they benefit from VERY cheap fuel that way. Even so, they’re not even remotely competitive on an open market.
Add the capital cost of a reactor on the front of the process (much more expensive than producing heat from just burning the coal) and costs will be even higher.
That’s one of the areas where rod and I disagree – I simply don’t see even nuclear-fuelled synthetic fuels production getting even close to being economically competitive for many decades; far easier to decarbonise all the other parts of the energy merket, and use CNG for transport fuels.
My claim was not that the produced fuels would be inexpensive, I’m aware of the cost. Though I understand my phrasing did not make that clear.
Thank you for some clarification on the history and development of the Fischer–Tropsch process. It is important to remember that the process has been employed mostly when political policy causes embargo, as the German’s and Japanese did during the second World War.
My point is this, coal to liquids technology is capable of producing liquid hydrocarbons for present generation vehicles without the need for infrastructure buildup (ie Cryogenic Hydrogen) or hardware modifications (ie Ethanol) At a cost comparable to the unsubsidized delivery cost of the aforementioned fuels. I’m not suggesting a silver bullet, I’m suggesting that nuclear technologists find ways to endear themselves to the coal industry. Coal is going to be around for a very long time (I daresay until we have used it all), it supports a lot of jobs, it provides reliable service, we have a whole lot of it, and consequently it’s very inexpensive. As a recent High School graduate looking at the industry, I feel like nukes are trying to fight too many battles, why not take a traditional enemy and turn them into an ally? Maybe what I’ve suggested is not plausible, but in my opinion it’s worth consideration.
Do you have any resources I could look at regarding CNG? I’d love to learn more about the technology.
sorry if that came across as unduly negative – I just have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about enthusiasts for technologies forgetting the economic issues!
For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree more re the cryogenic hydrogen point. There’s a ridiculous level of naivety about the end-to-end costs of that particular cycle.
I’m not sure it’s right to dignify CNG with the soubriquet “technology” – it can work at a seriously crude level, as well as more upmarket applications
It’s a b
The victory is going to happen in a few weeks when the evacuation notices will be lifted in Fukushima in the 20-30 km zone.
Then Japanese will start asking the right questions on the other evacuated zones.
This will be an eye opener.
At that point I hope we will convert a big name to the cause. Maybe the Chairman of the NRC!
If the pronuclear side thinks it has problems in North America and Europe, one only has to look at Australia and New Zealand to see how bad it could be. Supporters of nuclear energy there have a very high cliff to climb what with a poor public attitude and a coal industry that has a huge influence on government policy.
In my opinion they are at least another generation away from considering nuclear energy and then likely only if there is external pressure to do so.
New Zealand probably is probably wet,windy and steamy enough to get by with hydro, geothermal and wind till everyone else goes nuclear (although our current government is keen to burn everything in reach). The coal mining industry is in bad odour at the moment for killing 29 miners recently,and the biggest coal power generator got knocked back for trying to charge enough for a short period of backup power to cover a year’s sitting idle. But yes, nuclear is a tough sell here
John – New Zealand also has a population of about 4 million people and imports most of its manufactured products. Energy is somewhat less important to its ability to function than it is in more densely populated countries that produce steel, chemicals, aluminum, automobiles, and other important products for modern living.
you miss something – ” wet,windy, steamy and EMPTY” enough.
Also, although it’s not well known, there’s this:
which feeds this:
the Kiwis even went through a phase of using the gas from Maui to make synthetic petrol, and hence reduce import dependency – it only cost about six times as much as the equivalent purchases on the open market.
The emptiness is the issue, though. Doesn’t the old “more sheep than people” calumny still apply?
I attended a pro-carbon tax public forum last week and put the case for nuclear power on behalf of Nucleus 92 (click on my name). My comments ( I was invited up to the podium to explain my case) were very well received, and our flyers were taken by everyone present. This was a much better reception than I was expecting, and was quite encouraging. Things may not be as bad as we think.
Great news Craig! I’m following with interest. I agree that once you have people’s attention on the topic most Australians click with the concept very readily. Let’s hope Nucleus 92 and DSA can channel that into something meaningful.
Western Australia has big coal interests and lobbyists yet the uranium mining ban was lifted and Cameco bought some potential mines over there at a hefty price a few years ago.
I think in terms of mining ban, we have challenges today in the US, in Virginia for one.
But hey, we don’t need jobs.
True, but mining uranium and using it are two different things.
As to resistance to mining in the US while this is true, it has not impacted the continued use of nuclear energy in that country. At any rate US deposits are relativity poor quality in comparison to those of active mines in other parts of the world. I suspect if some company like Cameco where interested lobbying would smooth the way to getting these mines open.
Daniel – I live less than an hour away from the largest known deposit of uranium east of the Mississippi near Chatham, VA. It is amusing to me to hear people claim to be so worried about the environmental effects of uranium mining that they demand for the state to retain its law prohibiting uranium mining.
The reason I am amused is that this state has 147 licensed coal mines. Some things just make you say “hmmm”.
I’ve long suspected that the traditional leftist hostility to nuclear energy is down to a desire to protect coal miners from unemployment.
“clean natural gas” has been advertised millions of times. My wife says that “safe nuclear power” should be advertised millions of times also.
Insert “safe nuclear power” into every debate question you can.
Insert “safe nuclear power” into every blog response you can.
Wouldn’t it be great to insert “safe nuclear power” into all of NEIs TV ads?
“safe nuclear power” can save the environment if we start building about one reactor per month.
“safe nuclear power” creates clean air.
“safe nuclear power” is on when you need it.
There are over 100 reactors in the United State that generate “safe nuclear power”.
No one have ever been made sick due to United States “safe nuclear power”.
Please insert “safe nuclear power” where ever you can.
I am in favor of safe nuclear power.
Martin – I agree with your notion of repetition, but I personally prefer abundant, affordable atomic energy. I will let someone else introduce the safety question. I am not avoiding it, but assuming it. Nuclear energy has an outstanding safety record and should not have to keep claiming safety – it simply “does” safety better than any other energy source.
The real challenge is to remind people how many benefits they are leaving on the table by avoiding the use of nuclear energy. It is also useful to allow the opponents to explain why they do not want the rest of us to have access to “abundant, affordable atomic energy.”
The natural gas industry chose “clean” as a marketing term that capitalized on existing perceptions. It wasn’t necessarily safer than coal or oil for heating your home, but it definitely was cleaner. It was something people didn’t give a whole lot of thought to, but knew it in the back of their minds. The gas industry marketing campaign brought it to the forefront.
Nuclear energy is safe, but using that as a marketing theme seems reactive and defensive in the present context. How about taking a lesson from the successful natural gas campaign and capitalizing on widely perceived strengths? For example, most people would agree that nuclear power is advanced, technically sophisticated, modern, space-age, and so on. Routinely achieving transmutation — the dream of alchemists for a thousand years or more — is stupendous when you think about it. By comparison, burning dead plants (i.e., fossil fuels) is downright primitive and outmoded.
Here’s my suggestion for a slogan:
“Nuclear Energy: Beyond Fossil Fools”.
I wonder if Fukushima will be the good news story you are hoping for when they start burying their children and their economy is swamped by huge medical costs.
You really don’t believe that your pay packet /share dividend justifies the death of some one’s child do you? The way your industry is polluting (there really should be a new word for nuclear pollution….oh there is DEATH)it will soon be your child, your grandchild .your mother ,your wife fighting the effects of dna changing hot particles. Also for Erica Smyth, we won’t be fooled,a little radiation is never GOOD for you. Be prepared in South Australia there’s a fight coming..
How do you all sleep at night
And the ‘industry’ also makes pocket change by peddling its wastes to medecine and the pharmaceutical world. It’s a big conspiracy. But money is money.
We have nuclear medicine inject patients with Tc 99 and Baryum to get precise diagnostic that otherwise would leave millions in worst shape.
The gamma rays from Cesium are also used to cure lung diseases that were fatal just 2 years ago. And certain types of prostate cancers are now being treated right away with radiation. It is simply too effective. (But not in Chernobyl)
And Strontium is being experimented with nowadays in medication that will do a better job at penetrating bones and delivering the right medecine.
Nuclear is so bad, it makes medecine sick. (Thank you Muhammad Ali for a variation on one of your best one liners.)
Sueec – those are some pretty harsh accusations. Do you honestly believe that people who are smart enough to obtain advanced degrees or complete technical training in a subject as demanding as nuclear engineering or its related disciplines are so desperate for work that they would cover up real hazards to children just to remain employed?
I can testify that I am a loving father and grandfather who cares very deeply about the health and well being of my own family and for the health and well being of all people – even those I have never met. I care about reducing the pollution that is released constantly from coal, oil, gas, and biomass powered generators by replacing those generators with the same kind of technology that was clean enough to power my submarine while we were deep underwater in a sealed ship.
We have studied the health effects of radiation intensely for more than 100 years. There is some dispute about the effects at the low end of the scale – some insist that there is never a point of zero danger, but they admit that the number is so tiny as to disappear in the “weeds” of normal impacts of living on Earth. (They say that there must be a negative effect, but it will be so small that they will never be able to measure it. From my point of view, that is close enough to zero.)
Other people, based on the results of numerous long term studies with careful measurements have told the world in peer reviewed journal articles that they have found that low levels of radiation are not only without risk, but they have an overall beneficial effect through stimulation of various immune responses. They call that effect hormesis. You can find good links to some of the articles here on Atomic Insights if you search with that term.
You are perhaps to steeped in your belief system for me to change your mind, but I hope that at least one or two uncommitted bystanders will read this and do some hard thinking about which one of us makes more sense and can back up their statements with reliable research results.
Here’s the interesting thing.
As things stand, the probability is that Fukushima will cause zero deaths.
The problem is, hysterics like yourself rarely do numbers. Over on the daily Kos, a person called “Junaieu” has tried – based on a (possibly doctored) screen capture of someone undergoing a whole body scan. Unfortunately for them, they’ve had to admit they got things a factor of 1,000 wrong.
Worse, having fed the claimed numbers through this
it lets you calculate the increase in the chances of the person succumbing to cancer. It’s an increase in the lifetime probability of a heady 0.0017%. Which compares with the fact that about 30% of Japanese men will die from cancer pre-Fukushima.
Maybe if you did a little less frothing, and a little more thinking….
Read “Health Effects of Chernobyl
25 years after the reactor catastrophe”
ippnw report April 2011
I’m giving a copy to all my relatives and friends……in South Australia
There are plenty of signs to be read in and around Chernobyl. Unfortunately, animals, vegetation and birds are not highly educated and have continued to go about their business in and around Chernobyl.
The wildlife in and around Chernobyl, or Wolfland as it is now being called in Ukraine, has lost its biggest predator in the last decades – man.
The results are quite impressive. Wolves eat preys who feeds on vegetation that grows in soil irrigated by water. The wolves are doing better than anywhere else in the world. (And the wolves don’t walk nor look funny)
As for the health impact on humans, the UN, WHO have all published enough on the topic. You should read what is based on science, not what is based on funding from big oil.
Don’t worry about children either. You’ll be wasting your time.
Do you often give science fiction as a gift to your relatives? There are plenty of reports that are available free for download that have the distinction of being peer reviewed.
This is a statement from the “About” page of the IPPNW “International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War”.
“In 1980, in the face of a harrowing nuclear arms-race, two physicians from two very different parts of the world, Dr. Bernard Lown from the US and Dr. Evgeni Chazov from the USSR, got together and decided that the threat of a Nuclear War was too great for this world and that it was the responsibility of physicians to highlight this threat. Together, they founded IPPNW.”
So, two doctors out of a world population of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of doctors got together and decided that since they were from two different countries, they could add credence to their organization by calling it “international”.
I wonder how many active members this worldwide organization really has and how many of them are actually physicians. I would be willing to bet a considerable sum that the number of physicians that are members of the IPPNW who have documented training in nuclear medicine or radiation health is less than a half a dozen. It might even be ZERO.
Martin – My wife suggested “Safe Nuclear Electricity” as the best expression for repetitive reassertion.
I’ve changed my page banner reassertions to that. We’ll see how it wears over the next week or so.
Thank you for the suggestion.
Waiting for market changes 20-30 years out? We do not have that long before the long winter begins. This morning I look at the tremors and magma intrusion levels under Iceland. The date for change is NOW or When Populations die off from starvation and cold. WE ARE NOT DRIVING CHANGE……THE EARTH ALWAYS MAKES THE CHANGE AND WE FACE THE CONSEQENCES
Hey Rod, can I borrow your time machine? I figure you must have a time machine since I’m listening to this podcast on August 14th, 2011, but at the beginning of the show, you said it’s recorded on October 13th, 2011. So, you must have recorded the show 2 months from now, then travelled back in time to make it available to use sooner. =)
(Man, you must have been *really* tired lol).
@Jeff – what are you talking about? In my world the leaves are turning, football season is in full swing, and the pumpkin patches are open. 🙂
Alternatively, perhaps your other guess is correct, and I really should have gone back to bed before doing the post processing. Thanks for the catch.
“Safe nuclear power” is like “safe aspirin”, a cynical inuendo to suggest it may be NOT safe, and used by Obama on purpose to demonize nuclear electricity.
Nuclear power is safe, period, just compare its record to ANY other power source!
Have you thought about writing a book about the nuclear industry and why nuclear power is the solution to our energy demand increase in the future? I feel like this would be a fantastic book because I support everything you post on this blog as a soon to graduate mechanical engineering student.
You have more useful info than the British had cooinles pre-WWII.
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