Transparency over nuclear energy


No offense to Nuclear, but until there is evidence of a clear advantage over Renewables (perhaps in a future generation which drives down the costs/risks) it doesn’t make sense to take a stance on anything under the pick your battles doctrine. I’d rather not take a side either way because being anti-nuclear will piss off the pro-nuclear crowd and being pro-nuclear will piss off the anti-nuclear crowd. Doesn’t matter who’s right, it’s just not an issue at this point.

If/when it does become one again (because of new generation of nuclear technology), we should look at the issue again at that time when the evidence specific to that tech is more clear and say we can say x technology is proven to back that up.

Who knows what the energy landscape will look like when that new generation nuclear technology comes out? Maybe renewables have taken a generational leap too? New forms of generation? Fusion power? It’s really not the right time to make a backing of Nuclear right now, rightly or wrongly in how it was treated in the past, the time is not right to make a stand at present.


I just posted about the advantages of nuclear over solar/wind/etc, and you respond with that now?

This is just all sorts of wrong.

You are taking a side, because that is not the neutral option. That’s the anti-nuclear never option dressed up in misleading platitudes. Nuclear tech is already proven and good enough by objective measurements. If you aren’t willing to go with the evidence now there’s no reason you’ll be willing to go with it in the future. And continuing the status quo of demonising and banning nuclear will ensure the tech won’t progress anyway.

It is an issue at this point, because carbon emissions are an issue and hobbling ourselves by banning useful technology is silly.

And it does matter who’s right because we’re meant to be a party of evidence-based policy. If the evidence indicates that nuclear is fine to use, which it does, then nuclear should be allowed to be used.

The neutral option would be to pay attention to these people and adopt some/all of their recommendations. Which, surprise surprise, includes unbanning nuclear. No need for actively supporting it at this point, just not continuing the irrational anti stance.

(Tim Challis) #83

Is it worth stepping back from specific methods of generation for a second and considering the broader policy position?

In general a mix of generation technology types is superior to relying on a smaller range. In an ideal world a sensible choice reduces any dependence (note: does not eliminate!) on storage.

Regrettably Australia is on the whole embarrassingly flat so pumped storage beyond the capacity of the Snowy scheme is not that attractive. Similarly battery storage has to be viable for multiple decades (say at least two) before its long-term economies start to show. Molten salt storage faces unbelievable corrosion issues at present.

My personal suspicion is that storage at a system-wide level is currently not feasible and that it will not move significantly beyond being a localised attribute for at least another (human) generation. (Please correct/amend if this is known to be untrue.)

Which starts to bring the storage issue back full-circle to traditional spinning-inertia-storage. And there in a nutshell is the justification for steam/gas turbine style base-load generation, with nuclear being only one possible energy source.

And the other advantage of a mixed-generation national scheme is that losing an essential feature of any particular technology (e.g. gas shortage, policy change etc.) should not cripple the generation capacity of the overall network, and in any case the loss of any one technology must as policy not result in overall network generation capacity falling below a critical level (i.e. lives must not be at risk if the sun does not shine for a week, to take an extreme case.)


Let’s take a step back here… I will assume that everything you have said about Nuclear is true at face value for this argument.

Here is a scale

Merits of technology:
Worst o---------------------------o------o-----------?-----?-----?-----? Best
. . . ^Coal . . . . . . . . . . . ^Solar ^Nuke Gen3

In no order:
? = Nuke Gen 4
? = Future Renewables
? = Future Non-Renewables
? = Fusion

Public perception:
Worst o----------------------------------o---------------o-------------- Best
. . . ^Nukes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ^Coal . . . . . ^Solar

If if Nukes are “------” much ahead Technologically (currently, without knowing what the future will hold for any new technologies), and public perception is “----------------------------------” behind coal, why fight now for the current Gen3 stuff?

Why not wait for Gen4, see where it actually stacks up (and proven) compared to to other future generations of the alternatives, and then that would give us the ammo to make a compelling case.

If this was the early 00s where Gen III new still new and providing itself, I would be all over Nuclear (in fact I was at the time). Now the technological gap between the two has closed significantly, it doesn’t make sense to back Nuclear.

I understand that Nukes got hard-done by with negative media campaigns against it instead of scientific evidence, with many environmentalists changing their mind since then, and it was harder to disseminate in the early 00s when online discussions hadn’t really taken off as it has now, but that doesn’t change the truth that Solar got the funding while Nukes missed out.

@jedb I don’t think that you are going to get enough support on this policy to be pro-nuclear based on the responses here.

I am not against, or for, I am just being pragmatic. If you want a change to our energy policy, it would need to be something more neutral to get the backing.

For example: "PPAU supports all power generation as long as the environmental, safety and security risks are well managed as the first priority, and then decided on a cost basis after that.

We support further research of new power generation technologies based on their merits, without exclusion of any specific technologies as long as these requirements are also met during development."


You realise that example is entirely consistent with repealing the ban on nuclear, right? Can’t say we’re neutral and support all power generation on its merits etc etc if one is arbitrarily banned.


I can agree not to rule out Nuclear, but I won’t agree to use Nuclear just because it’s not banned.

As far as the actual bans go, that’s just something which naturally happens when the Government to change its mind. Public support to repeal the ban is not strong right now, you would need to win the argument that Nuclear is the way to go first (and we are not even sure on that until we have enough data on Gen IV and it’s competitors).

We could say lets not ban research into Nuclear Gen IV, I would support that on ideological grounds. On practical grounds, we are nowhere near a world leader on Nuclear research while other countries have 70+ years of experience and highly classified research, established educational pathways into this field, etc.

It would be a huge undertaking for Australia to enter it this late in the game. And for what? Something which might not even be a clear winner. We just got a space agency after our STEM field got decimated, I’d rather put resources into that to be our scientific motivation than Nukes which has a more uncertain future.

(Kaz) #87

Just so we can all be on the same page, does anyone have any links to the government reports into scoping nuclear power in Australia?

Surely the productivity commission or some other body has already looked into this.

(Andrew Downing) #88

South Australia had a royal commission.

(Kaz) #89

Just had a flick through the summery at a glance, this Fuel Leasing arrangement is something I haven’t heard of before.

Is it common in other jurisdictions?

(John August) #90

The Umpner / Switkowski ( ex Telstra guy ) report from back in 2006, if you’re really keen :

(Jesse Hermans) #91

This misunderstands or at least misstates how the electricity market works, how it has changed and what the main issues are currently. Right now the issue is not base-load generation, the issue is peak generation. As such when talking about storage the only alternative is peaking power plants which are Open Cycle Gas plants. The only way to handle peak demand issues (from the supply side) are OC gas, hydro (including pumped), (potentially biomass) and batteries.
Nuclear is only capable of replacing other base-load (e.g. coal and Closed Cycle Gas), it is not capable of functioning in a dispatchable peaking role. Renewables can also increase the reliance on peak generators to smooth out intermittency, but generally this only happens up to a point once there’s a larger aggregate amount and intermittency starts averaging out more. It is unprofitable and nonsensical to build base-load power plants which are operating just for the peak and then dumping all their electricity off-peak. This is why some of the coal power plants have been (and are) exiting the network (aside from their age). They’re unable to profitably operate in an environment which requires the ability to increasingly rapidly respond to changes in demand/supply via dispatchable generation/storage. Nuclear would run into the same issues, if not worse given how uncompetitive it is in the context of cost projections of Nuclear and other generation sources.
Further more, if Natural gas (and even coal) with CCS are cheaper or on par with Nuclear costs, then even with carbon pricing you still wouldn’t see nuclear materialise out of the market. You could drive carbon pricing through the roof until the point CCS becomes viable (which would be an absurd policy imo), and you still wouldn’t get nuclear without subsidies because the alternatives are still more cost effective.

This how ridiculous this whole discussion is. We are talking about a generation technology which is projected to be more expensive than the absurdity that is CCS technology - CCS for the love of Pete! It didn’t even occur to me to think of it in those terms until now. In essence no matter your carbon price, you won’t see the market invest in nuclear as a base-load generator.
In which case despite my opposition to private nuclear operators, I am starting to come to the conclusion now from this thread that lifting the ban is of no real world consequence for Australia - I couldn’t care less so long as people/industry aren’t calling for government subsidies or externalising of costs to actually make nuclear happen. Policy and electricity generation will continue on as if nothing has happened, simply because nuclear costs are at absurd levels (both current and projected) in the context of other alternatives in the Australian Energy Market. You’d never see a nuclear power plant built without massive public subsidies or externalising of costs by private operators under the present and forecasted state of affairs.

(Tim Challis) #92

Jesse, I take exception to your tone.

True I am mildly pro-nuclear (at least as far as considering it) but at the same time I am mainly anti-irrational. I tried to make my point avoiding bias insofar as my limited expertise permits, however if you are simply going to twist my meaning I am no longer interested in participating in this thread of discussion.

Do what you will. I am out of this thread.

(John August) #93

Check out the areva reactor, with good load-following characteristics :

Sure, if you want to lock yourself into current nuclear technology, you can make certain claims. But I also see people talking about future renewable technologies, so there seems to be some double standards. Grant renewables the promise of the future, but do not do that for nuclear.

Apart from geothermal and hydro, other forms of renewable are intermittent, so you need to include storage technology into the picture, though the available of solar may correlate with the need for air conditioning in the heat during the day. And as I understand it, in Australia, hydro is a reserve for peak load, not something we have lots of.

I’d suggest though, your style of argument is one which will win you the battle and loose the war. If you’re clever in your argument, rather than bringing people on board, it will only disadvantage you in the longer term. Of course, I need to accept having that spotlight shone on me, and I will leave others to assess this. And how many people will empathise with my assessment? I don’t know. At least Tim, I suspect.

Even if the pirate party continues its ban on nuclear power, I want to retain faith in the process by which that comes about. The more presumptive your tone of argument, the more you undermine everyone’s ability to retain faith in the process.

(Jesse Hermans) #94

My apologies, I can’t easily convey a merry tone through the online medium given it is text based. I will try to use more emoticons in future to keep things light-hearted and in good faith. :slightly_smiling_face:

(Jesse Hermans) #95

Looks fancy, but I was never one for cosmetics. If it’s economic without public subsidies and externalising of costs let us not stand in its way! :smirk:

Those cost estimates did include future cost estimates for nuclear.

(Jesse Hermans) #96

I’ll tell you what John, I’ll put my politics where my mouth is. :smile:
I have enough confidence in the LCOE estimates that I am willing to proclaim (despite my opposition to private operators of nuclear) that I will not oppose any initiative in the PPAU to remove the ban on nuclear power.
I have come to the conclusion in this thread I no longer need to take a position on this matter, since the economics as far as I’m concerned make it a meaningless outcome. If private sector investors won’t touch coal with a 12-metre pole because it’d be uneconomic under carbon pricing (and especially CCS), then there is no doubt in my mind the same would happen with nuclear regardless of carbon pricing based on estimates.

I will however still oppose any attempts to subsidise nuclear power or heavily deregulate it (to externalise costs) to try and make it more economic like we do with coal by not pricing CO2. I won’t accept people building nuclear power plants for ideological reasons rather than on any sound economics basis.

(Jesse Hermans) #97

This is also seems to be a mute point. The reactor doesn’t just magically switch off as I understand it. All it does it stop the turbines spinning so it isn’t producing electricity but is still consuming fuel. That’s little difference from producing the electricity and dumping it, which doesn’t enhance the economic viability since it’s still wasting energy inputs.


I didn’t infer anything hostile about Jesse’s tone :smile: this isn’t an anonymous internet forum where you can just tune out if you don’t manage to change the other person’s mind. We need to be more accepting of difference in opinion. As far as I can tell Jesse is trying to back up his arguments with evidence, as long as you’re not using something like InfoWars as the source there is nothing wrong with that. Best to assume positive intent of everyone else :v:


While I’m still trying to duplicate the CO2CRC numbers, let me tell you how unconvinced I am of that:

  • As mentioned previously, the paper assumes a lifespan of 30 years for nuclear, despite real world lifespans being 40+ years.
  • On page 259 (actual 277 in the pdf) it mentions solar PV lifespan could be anywhere between 20 and 30 years.
  • In the section briefly describing nuclear it mentions on page 107 (125 actual) that there are eight proven small modular designs currently available for commercial deployment. Despite that, the technology development curve graph on the following pages places them in research status, not even reaching deployment by 2030.
  • Related to that, only a single GW+ design is considered for LCOE calculations with no possibility of any economy of scale cost reductions from other options.
  • By the figures given, solar thermal is truly ridiculously expensive, yet it gets research, development, deployment, and projected cost reductions applied.

Also your hyperbole is showing regarding CCS, as gas CCS is competitive.

And now back to the anti-nuclear apologism…

Get that winners vs losers idea out of here please, because it’s not applicable. Usual proposals are for a mix of every tech that has appropriate characteristics to be useful in Australia. As has been mentioned previously several times now, the evidence indicates that nuclear is one of those useful technologies.

Aside from being able to actually make use of the magic rocks we dig up rather than sell them to someone else? We would get the advantage of not being an early adopter, that’s what. We don’t have to worry about or deal with gen I or gen II plants, and can skip straight to get III/III+/IV. Made all the easier since we’re not after bombs and so don’t have to arbitrarily rule out designs.

You seem to be still tied up in the erroneous idea that nuclear can somehow have any real chance of research/development/deployment while the political ban is in place.


I said…