Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent
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Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent

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With some minor modifications, this is the original presentation with which I begin explaining how and why I had changed my mind about nuclear power

With some minor modifications, this is the original presentation with which I begin explaining how and why I had changed my mind about nuclear power

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  • Thank you for comingThe topic is large. Some of the treatment is necessarily briefI will be asking for around 45 mins of your time.Clarifications are welcomed. Please hold questions to the end in the interest of keeping to timeI look forward to taking some specific questions, and then making use of the time for a more general discussion\If Australia were to get on with the job of developing a nuclear power industry tomorrow, I wouldn’t be saying “What took you so long?” . I’d know what took them so long. I did. Me and other Australians like me, no more or less intelligent than anyone else, generally acting from some level of moral conviction, who have made it crystal clear that we want nothing to do with nuclear power in Australia. However, over the course of the last few years, I’ve changed my mind. So for about the next 45 minutes, I’d like to tell you why, and I’d like to show you how. Because I’m now quite certain that nuclear power far more than a necessary evil. It’s an absolutely essential response to solving the impending climate and energy crises, and we need Australian’s to understand this.
  • I am going to ask you to follow my train of thought.It has a beginning and an end. Like every good train journey, there are stops along the way.You may choose to stay on board, or you may choose to hop offI don’t presume to have all the answers, but I have sought to ask myself some tough questions about nuclear power and climate change, and respond to them honestly with the knowledge I have developedIn doing so, I have journeyed from a nuclear opponent to a nuclear proponent, and that is the journey I will be taking you on todayIt is MY journey. I may not have asked the same questions as you, or answered them in the same way. Even faced with the same information, different people draw different conclusions, and I accept this.But I determined that the main contribution I could make to this debate was to explain my journey, see if it resonates with others, and hopefully stimulate honest debate around this divisive issue
  • My journey begins with the problem. As a climate change specialist, that is what I know most about.Most of you know me as a consultantAs a consultant I write reportsThey almost always have a section on scientific context of climate change, and they always stop short of what I see as the most urgent truths of climate change (because I know they will never make it past review).Here they are:
  • Here is the evidence behind this truth.There is so much evidence regarding the urgency of climate change, that I have tried to keep this as straightforward as I can[Read slide]For me, there can be no doubt that we have entered a completely unnacceptable domain of risk
  • Climate change is not happening in a vacuum. The world is getting bigger and more energy hungry. I don’t have time to discuss what trajectories of population and energy use are possible in better scenarios, but I accept these basic facts as indicative of our current path.[Read first points]In response to the climate crisis, the global policy response can be summarised thus:[READ FURTHER POINTS]Naturally, this is a deep oversimplification, but in the many policies and government statements I have now read, it is, sadly, a fair summary.[CLICK AND READ LAST POINT]This response represents a collective madness on the part of humanity. It shows a total abandonment of any adherence to rationality, caution, and the well established principles of risk management in decision making.
  • You may need more detail on how I have reached these numbers, and I am happy to provide the references.
  • I am going to ask you to follow my train of thought.It has a beginning and an end. Like every good train journey, there are stops along the way.You may choose to stay on board, or you may choose to hop offI don’t presume to have all the answers, but I have sought to ask myself some tough questions about nuclear power and climate change, and respond to them honestly with the knowledge I have developedIn doing so, I have journeyed from a nuclear opponent to a nuclear proponent, and that is the journey I will be taking you on todayIt is MY journey. I may not have asked the same questions as you, or answered them in the same way. Even faced with the same information, different people draw different conclusions, and I accept this.But I determined that the main contribution I could make to this debate was to explain my journey, see if it resonates with others, and hopefully stimulate honest debate around this divisive issue
  • Powering the UK by wind of this quality would require 33,000 such turbines, or 6 per day, every day, for the next 15 years
  • We have to stop trying to “put lipstick on coal” (Hansen 2010)
  • But for me, I reached the point where, if I was being honest with myself, I had to look at nuclear [CLICK]
  • I am going to ask you to follow my train of thought.It has a beginning and an end. Like every good train journey, there are stops along the way.You may choose to stay on board, or you may choose to hop offI don’t presume to have all the answers, but I have sought to ask myself some tough questions about nuclear power and climate change, and respond to them honestly with the knowledge I have developedIn doing so, I have journeyed from a nuclear opponent to a nuclear proponent, and that is the journey I will be taking you on todayIt is MY journey. I may not have asked the same questions as you, or answered them in the same way. Even faced with the same information, different people draw different conclusions, and I accept this.But I determined that the main contribution I could make to this debate was to explain my journey, see if it resonates with others, and hopefully stimulate honest debate around this divisive issue
  • I had seven reasons for believing that nuclear power should not be supported, and here they are [CLICK THROUGH]What I am going to do now is address these reasons by explaining what my old thinking was, showing you how I challenged that thinking and the findings of my research, and giving you my new thinking on each concern.I learned some things that surprised me along the way. Let’s get started.
  • This is where it all went wrong [CLICK THROUGH]Modern designs especially GEN III+ designs incorporate passive safety measures to prevent the possibility of core meltdown.
  • This is where it all went wrong [CLICK THROUGH]Modern designs especially GEN III+ designs incorporate passive safety measures to prevent the possibility of core meltdown.
  • This is where it all went wrong [CLICK THROUGH]Modern designs especially GEN III+ designs incorporate passive safety measures to prevent the possibility of core meltdown.
  • The more common safety level and the unusual nature of Chernobyl is reflected in the global performance of nuclear power [CLICK]So that looks pretty good. But the real story is when you compare it to other power sources [CLICK and explain]
  • I am going to focus only on High Level Waste for two reasons. Firstly to keep the presentation to time, and secondly because that’s the stuff that worries me.
  • Even if the experts responsible for this chart are wrong in the bad direction by a factor of ten thousand, the repository would only be as bad as what I pick up every day. I have to say, I am completely comfortable with that.
  • I also wanted to know how high level waste compares to other forms of hazardous waste, and here is some interesting information.
  • Perhaps most importantly of all, how does high level waste compare with the waste from coal power plants? After all, what I am really trying to do first is eliminate coal from the electricity supply. [CLICK THROUGH]But since it is radiation that I was mainly investigating, I was interested to learn this [CLICK]
  • HLW is very hazardous and undesirable by product of nuclear powerSmall in volume compared to both hazardous waste in general, and the waste produced from the combustion of coalIt is managed successfully around the world (short term). HLW is collected and stored, and this cost is included in the electricity. Long term waste solution is yet to be implementedFor coal, vast amounts of waste are externalised to the environmentA transition of electricity generation from coal to a well managed nuclear power regime would be hugely beneficial to the environment and human health.Nuclear waste must be well managed, but it provides no grounds for the complete rejection of nuclear power.
  • Capacity building
  • A greater number of feasible options means greater potential for a cheaper transition overall. Excluding nuclear power arbitrarily would only drive up costs
  • Those who criticise also seek to delayWould it take more or less than 15 years to commission 33,000 new 100m wind turbines in the UK? That’s 5.5 turbines per day, every day, for 15 yearsThe specious reasons for ignoring nuclear power by McKinsey and Zero Carbon Australia perpetuate this problem
  • Their arguments, sincerity and critical approaches are compellingThe anti-nuclear movement has a propensity to employ the deceitful use of information in the same way as the climate change denial movement.

Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent Presentation Transcript

  • The Pro-Nuclear Environmentalist From Opponent to Proponent- The Journey & The Destination Ben Heard Founding Director – ThinkClimate Consulting Founder- Decarbonise SA November 2011
  • Presentation outline It’s a train of thought... Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable?
  • What doesn’t make the cut in my reports... • We cannot know exactly what will happen this century, but – We are collectively staring down a very real and imminent risk of the end of civilisation as we know it – We are collectively staring down our own mass extinction by the creation of a runaway level of climate change – Our collective response assumes a luxury of time and certainty that we simply do not have.
  • The evidence... • Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are approaching 390 ppm. • This is higher than any time in the last 450,000 years, covering 5 glacial/ interglacial cycles (Hansen 2010 p 116 & p 37) • Human induced climate forcing, through the increasing the concentration of CO2 by 2ppm per year, is ten thousand times faster than levels of natural climate forcing (Hansen 2010, p 161) • Ice sheets are able to respond rapidly to large climate forcings, with evidence of changes of 3-5 meters per century for several centuries 13,000- 14,000 years ago. Images: Hansen 2010
  • • The warming experienced to date is already manifest in several global responses: 1. Rapid disappearance of mountain glaciers 2. Loss of mass of West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets 3. Poleward expansion of subtropical regions 4. Damage to coral reefs by ocean acidification and surface water warming 5. Melting of northern hemisphere permafrost 6. Rapid decline of the arctic ice sheet The evidence...
  • Summary of the influence of global growth • Global population is forecast to reach 10 billion people by 2050 • Global energy consumption is forecast to roughly double from current levels in this same period under a baseline scenario (Price Waterhouse Coopers 2006) Summary of the global policy response • Coal to remain a major contributor to global energy supplies • IPCC 5th Assessment Report is considering scenarios of 490, 650, 850 and 1,370 ppm CO2 by 2100 (Moss et al, Nature, Feb 2010) • It is perfectly ok to “overshoot” safe levels of carbon dioxide and temperature and then come back. We must be
  • How bad is the problem? Conclusion • Very, very bad. Very, very urgent • Temperature must be permitted to rise no more than 1.5°C • Atmospheric CO2 needs to be returned to 350ppm, less than current levels • The global energy supply must be completely decarbonised • Coal must be eliminated from the global energy supply post-haste World Primary Energy Consumption by source 2009 (Source: IEA 2009 Report) World electricity generation (Source: World Resources Institute Earth Trends 2008)
  • If you disagree with the scale or urgency of the problem, then you may not see the need to be open to a rational assessment of all solutions. Stop No. 1: The Problem
  • Presentation outline Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable?
  • 1. Energy Efficiency • Energy efficiency gets a great big  • Universally supported by literature • Lowest cost, often negative cost abatement, constantly renewing • Supported by my own experience Limitations • Moderates demand, does not decarbonise supply • Risky to rely on high levels of implementation • Non-cost barriers remain strong • Rebound effect (Jevons Paradox) is strong in the medium term Conclusion on energy efficiency • Any honest strategy to tackle climate change will be one of “energy efficiency, plus...” “Respectable engineering studies have concluded that we could live at our present level of material comfort using just one quarter of the energy we now use, simply by improving the efficiency of turning the energy into the goods and services we require” Prof. Ian Lowe 2010
  • 2 (a). Renewables: Wind • Most market ready renewable power source • Growing rapidly Scale it up • Thanet, largest offshore wind farm in the world • Cost US$ 1.3bn • Offshore, 100 towers, 115m tall. • Site area is 35km2 (2.3 times City of Adelaide) • Installed capacity is 300 MW • Capacity factor of 35-40% (UK onshore average is 30%)= Maximum 1m MWh per year • Hope that it comes at the right time • Total UK electricity consumption (2007): 345m MWh per year (Source: US EIA) The largest wind farm in the world, covering an area of 35km2, may provide approximately 0.3% of the annual electricity consumption of the UK. An inadequate solution to replace fossil on its own • South Australia has 1,150 MW installed • Emissions from electricity 1990/2006/2011 (Mt CO2-e): 6.5/10/8 • No fossil closure, more peaking gas
  • 2 (b). Renewables: Solar Scale it up • Largest (proposed) solar farm a 1,000 MW project by Solar Millennium at Blyth in California • To cover an area of 24km2, or 5,950 acres (1.5 times City of Adelaide) • Cost of $3bn-$6bn • Proponents expect production of 2.1m MWh per year, therefore capacity factor of around 24% (California Energy Commission 2010, Commission Decision) • Total electricity consumption for California: 254m MWh (2005 figures , US Department of Energy) The yet to be constructed largest solar power plant in the whole world, covering 24 km2 of one of the sunniest places in the world, will provide less than 1% of California’s total annual electricity based on 2005 consumption
  • 2 (c). Renewables: Geothermal • HDR is a new, technically difficult, unproven technology that would require major transmission investment • It’s just not ready
  • 2. Renewables: Conclusion • Renewables play a role in global energy. They will increase significantly, but from a low base • Inherent limitations: Diffuse, intermittent, location- specific, or potentially all of the above • Costly, and impossible to scale up globally to meet the challenge • Even if I am wrong, I am not prepared to take the risk of relying solely on renewables in the face of climate catastrophe
  • 3. Coal Carbon Capture and Storage This technology is: • Not established at any realistic scale • As expensive or more expensive than other low-carbon baseload generation • Fails to capture all the greenhouse gas (by a long way) Sources: Nicholson et al 2011; Commonwealth of Australia 2006; Hansen 2010, Blees 2008
  • Conclusion: The non-nuclear solutions In the mission to decarbonise the world’s energy supply as quickly as possible, with the elimination of coal as a priority • Coal CCS has (next to) no place • Energy efficiency has a contribution to make • Renewable energy has a contribution to make • But energy efficiency and renewable energy sources on their own cannot meet the challenge in the necessary timeframe (too great a risk to assume they can) World Primary Energy Consumption by source 2006 (Source: IEA 2009 Report) World electricity generation (Source: World Resources Institute Earth Trends 2008)
  • If you disagree with my assessments of the capability of the other solutions to solve the problem, then you may not see a need to be open to nuclear power. Stop No. 2: The Other Solutions
  • Presentation outline Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable?
  • Nuclear Power: Why not? OR The Seven Reasons I was anti-nuclear 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 1 (a). Opponent thinking: Nuclear power is dangerous (Operations) • Nuclear accidents are catastrophic and a constant risk Challenge thinking: Are nuclear power plants dangerous enough to reject nuclear power? • What is the safety record of nuclear power plants compared to coal? • Let’s examine the safety record of nuclear power plants in the US, France, former USSR, Japan and globally
  • Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: United States • Number of nuclear power plants in the US= 104 in 2009 • Percentage of US electricity production= 20.2% in 2009 (Source: US Energy Administration Annual Energy Review 2009) • Number of deaths from radiation incident in the US in the history of the nuclear power industry= 0 Cooling towers Containment domes Reactors Three Mile Island Reactor (Image: Public source)
  • Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: France • Number of nuclear power plants in the France = 59 in 2008 • Percentage of French electricity production= 79% in 2009 • Number of deaths from radiation incident in France in the history of the nuclear power industry= 0 A French nuclear power plant (Source: The Open University)
  • Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: Former USSR • Number of direct fatalities at Chernobyl: 28 (workers and firefighters, acute radiation poisoning ) (Source: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) • Other serious health impacts: 6,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer, some reproductive difficulties for other ARS sufferers (approx. 100) (United Nations Information Service, 28 February 2011) • 15 deaths from thyroid cancer by 2005 (United Nations Information Service, 28 February 2011) • Major social impact (Source: UNSCEAR) • There were no containment domes, and the accident was caused by a massive contravention of procedure • Conclusion: This was a tragic, catastrophic, and very preventable industrial accident. Site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant post- accident. There were no concrete containment domes (Source: The Open University) http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/pressrels/2011/unisinf398.html
  • Fukishima, Japan: March 11th and aftermath • Direct radiation fatalities : 0 • Elevated exposure for emergency workers • Water pollution to nearby ocean, air pollution to surrounding areas. • Irreparable damage to the plants- will be decommissioned • Evacuation : 200,000 people within 20km from plants • Challenge is now the re-opening of the exclusion zone and letting people return home
  • Iran Illushin II-76 (2003): 302 deaths Air Africa Antonov (1996): 300 deaths American Airlines Flight 587(2001): 265 deaths China Airways Flight 140(1994): 264 deaths Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 (1991): 261 deaths Garuda Indonesia 152 (1997): 235 deaths TWA Flight 800 (1996): 230 deaths Swissair Flight 111 (1998): 229 deaths Air France Flight 447 (2009): 228 deaths Korean Air Flight 801 (1997): 228 deaths China Airlines Flight 611 (2002): 225 deaths Lauda Airflight 004 (1991): 223 deaths Egypt Air Flight 990 (1999): 217 deaths China Air Flight 676 (1998): 202 deaths TAM Airlines Flight 3054 (2007): 199 deaths Birgenair Flight 301 (1996): 189 deaths Pulkovo Airlines Flight 612 (2006): 170 deaths Kenya Airways Flight 431 (2000): 169 deaths Caspian Airlines Flight 7908 (2009): 168 deaths PIA Flight 268 (1992): 167deaths China Northwest Airlines flight 2303 (1994): 160 deaths West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 (2005): 160 deaths Libyan Arab Airways Flight 1103 (1992): 159 deaths American Airlines Flight 965 (1995): 159 deaths Air Indian Express Flight 812 (2010): 158 deaths Gol Transportes Aeros Flight 1907 (2006): 154 deaths Spanair Flight 5022 (2008): 154 deaths Airblue Flight 202 (2010): 152 deaths Yemenia Flight 626 (2009): 152 deaths How must we respond?
  • Lessons from Fukishima Design Lesson 3: Spent Fuel Containment • Spent fuel must have robust containment on all sides • Melt-down then becomes local and contained problem Design Lesson 1: Power Supply • Back- up power supply must be independent and protected. Operational lesson: Engagement and Social Capital • Ignorance of risk from radiation among surrounding populations is the responsibility of the operator, not the population • Operators must engage with communities, build trust, knowledge and understanding that can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. Design Lesson 2: Passive Cooling • In the event of failure, cooling is maintained without any power or intervention, through immutable physical properties e.g. gravity, convection.
  • Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: Global OECD Non-OECD Energy chain Fatalities Fatalities/TWy Fatalities Fatalities/TWy Coal 2259 157 18,000 597 Natural gas 1043 85 1000 111 Hydro 14 3 30,000 10,285 Nuclear 0 0 31 48 Summary of severe* accidents in energy chains for electricity 1969-2000 Data from Paul Scherrer Institut, in OECD 2010. * severe = more than 5 fatalities
  • New thinking from exploring the question “Are nuclear power plants dangerous enough to reject nuclear power?” • No, they are exceptionally safe and getting safer • Chernobyl , TMI, Fukishima incidents provide a good basis for the continuing evolution of stringent safety • Conclusion: Concerns regarding the safety of nuclear power plants provides a poor basis for rejecting nuclear power outright 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. There is not enough uranium 5. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 6. Nuclear power is too expensive 7. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 8. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 1 (b). Opponent thinking: Nuclear power is dangerous (Waste) • Nuclear waste is deadly, long lived and hard to manage Challenge thinking: Is nuclear waste dangerous enough to reject nuclear power? • What is nuclear waste? • How is nuclear waste managed? • How does it compare to other toxic wastes? • How does it compare to waste from electricity production from coal?
  • Nuclear waste: what is it and how is it managed? • High Level Waste (HLW): Spent fuel and reprocessed components. Needs cooling, special handling, transport and storage. Remains hazardous for a long time • The HLW eventually needs permanent geological disposal. This is feasible and low risk (Commonwealth of Australia 2006). No country has done it yet. Many are working on it. Commonwealth of Australia 2006 p 69 This is fuel in waiting for Generation IV (Fast) Reactors
  • HL Nuclear waste: Short-term storage
  • HL Nuclear waste: Proposed long term storage Source: Commonwealth of Australia 2006 p 65 We could do this, but probably never will. We will use HLW as recycled fuel instead
  • Compare with other toxic waste Australia’s Hazardous waste p.a. : 1.1 million tons (Source: Department of Environment, Heritage Water and the Arts 2009 p 175) •Chemical by-products from industrial processes •Metals and metallic compounds (lead, mercury, cadmium) •Waste mineral oils •Household chemicals and pesticides •Biological wastes •Does not include post consumer waste!!! Environment Protection and Heritage Council National Waste Report 2010 HLW p.a. (25 GW nuclear power industry): 750 tons/ 250m3 •An additional 0.07% by weight •45,000 tons for 60 years of reactor life, or 4% of current annual total of hazardous waste
  • Compare with coal waste In 2009, the 2.2GW operations of the Loy Yang Power Corporation, consuming up to 60,000 tons of coal per day, reported the following waste: •577,800m3 of fly ash for “disposal at the on-site overburden dump” •9,079 ML of wastewater, including 3,535 ML of ash water •2,070 tons of fly ash emitted to the atmosphere •56,428 tons of SO2 •29,398 tons of NOx •2,577 tons of CO •18,232,826 tCO2e (Source: Loy Yang Power Environmental Report) “..the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts... the fly ash emitted by a power plant..carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy” (Scientific American 13 December 2007).
  • New thinking from exploring the question: Is nuclear waste dangerous enough to reject nuclear power? •HLW is: •Undesirable, but small and very manageable •Way, way better than coal waste •Fuel in waiting for Generation IV reactors •Conclusion: A transition of electricity generation from coal to a well managed nuclear power regime would be hugely beneficial to the environment and human health. Nuclear waste must be well managed, but it provides no grounds for the complete rejection of nuclear power. 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. There is not enough uranium 5. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 6. Nuclear power is too expensive 7. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 8. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 2. Opponent thinking: Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons • The spread of nuclear power will lead to the spread of nuclear weapons, and this is an unacceptable compromise • Nations that adopt nuclear power inevitably develop nuclear weapons Challenge thinking: Does nuclear power lead to nuclear weapons? • How strong is the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons? • Can power plants be used to make weapons? • Would the increased use of nuclear power as a means to tackle climate increase the spread of nuclear weapons?
  • Are nuclear armed countries also nuclear powered? • Yes. 9 Nations have nuclear weapons capability AND civilian nuclear power generation. (United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, Israel (unconfirmed nuclear capability), North Korea) Are nuclear powered countries also nuclear armed? • No. 21 nations have civilian nuclear power generation AND NO nuclear weapons capability (includes nations in Africa, Asia, North and South America) • Several nations are pursuing nuclear power for the first time, including in our region (e.g. Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia) 22.30% 19.91% 5.50% 5.24% 1.84% 4.28% 79% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Nuclear Powered/Nuclear Armed Nuclear Powered TOTAL % Global CO2 Emissions (Fuel Only) Nuclear Status % Global CO2 Emissions (Fuel Only) by Nuclear Status China USA Russia India Japan Would the increased use of nuclear power as a means to tackle climate change lead to the spread of nuclear weapons? • Firstly, the Megatons to Megawatts program has disposed safely of over 16,000 warheads of highly enriched uranium in the course of providing fuel for zero carbon electricity
  • Can power plants be used to make weapons? Well yes, but... of these means of creating weapons grade material... 1. Nuclear Power Plant 2. Research Reactor 3. Dedicated Facility •The slowest •The most expensive •The easiest to detect/ least clandestine •Produces the lowest quality material •This is easier •Australia has had one of these for decades Sources: Cohen 1990, Ch 13; Physics Today September 2008 (Wood, Glasser and Kemp) •This is easiest, cheapest, easiest to hide, produces reliable material e.g. Gas centrifuge •This is what is happening in problem nations •Does not require a power plant or power industry
  • New thinking from exploring the question “Does nuclear power lead to nuclear weapons?” Conclusion: • Nuclear technology will continue to be applied globally • Nuclear power does not “automatically” lead to nuclear armament • Nuclear power plants are very poorly suited to weapon development • Australia could easily pursue civilian nuclear power with no weapons program, as many other nations are. Non-proliferation is a worthy pursuit. Refusal to use nuclear power makes little if any contribution to this today. 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. There is not enough uranium 5. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 6. Nuclear power is too expensive 7. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 8. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 3. Opponent thinking: Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle • It may look good when just the energy generation is considered, but actually across the lifecycle it is far inferior to renewables. Challenge thinking: Is nuclear power a climate change solution when the full lifecycle emissions are considered? • What are the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power? • How does it perform in comparison to other energy sources?
  • What are the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power? • Full lifecycle for nuclear power needs to include the following: – Mining – Milling – Conversion – Enrichment – Fuel fabrication – Plant construction – Plant operation – Plant decommissioning – Waste storage – ILW/LLW waste disposal – HLW waste disposal – Depleted uranium – Mine site rehabilitation Zippe-type centrifugal uranium enrichment (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
  • How bad does the lifecycle need to be? 1230 680 650 547 320 90 140 80 0.03 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 gCO2-e/kWh Comparative intensity of GHG in electricity Sources: NGA Factors 2010 for Australian figures Barry Brook (2010) for Denmark (Reconstructed) Danish Energy Agency (2009) for Denmark (Reported) International Energy Agency (2010, 2008 figures) for France
  • What are the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power? How does it perform compared to other energy sources? •Reviewed 40 global studies of the energy and greenhouse balance of nuclear power •Undertook new analysis for Australian conditions Source: University of Sydney 2006, p 172 Source: Australian Government 2006, p 95
  • What are the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power? How does it perform compared to other energy sources? Wright, M. and Hearps, P. (2010), p 35 • 2010 Study to provide a “detailed and practical roadmap to decarbonise the Australian stationary energy sector within a decade” (p. xiv)
  • What works? 1230 770 650 547 320 90 60 140 80 0.03 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 gCO2-e/kWh Comparative intensity of GHG in electricity Sources: NGA Factors 2010 for Australian figures Barry Brook (2010) for Denmark (Reconstructed) Danish Energy Agency (2009) for Denmark (Reported) International Energy Agency (2010, 2008 figures) for France
  • New thinking from exploring the questions “Is nuclear power a climate change solution when the full lifecycle emissions are considered?” • Nuclear power performs very well, far superior to coal power and competitive with renewables • This concern is unfounded and spurious • Conclusion: A review of the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power provides evidence to support its rapid implementation as a replacement for coal 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 4. Opponent thinking: Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable • Uranium mining causes massive environmental harm that outweighs any benefit Challenge thinking: Is uranium mining sufficiently harmful and unsustainable to rule out the use of nuclear power? • How do the impacts of uranium mining compare to other types of mining, especially coal mining?
  • Examples of non-uranium mining La Trobe Valley brown coal mining Copper Mine, Canada with SMTD to neighbouring sound Ramu Nickel Mine, PNG. Cleared rainforest, with planned SMTD Flooded La Trobe Valley brown coal mine ...uranium mining is going to have to be pretty darn bad...
  • A method of uranium mining: Acid in-situ leaching In situ leaching of uranium (Source: Uranium SA)
  • Mining uranium with acid in-situ leaching, Beverely Beverley Uranium Mine, South Australia LLRW landfill, temporary storage, Beverley Uranium Mine Evaporation Pond 5, Beverley Uranium Mine (Source of images: Heathgate Resources Annual Environmental Report (2007)
  • Comparison of energy value between coal and uranium Calorific value of coal: 29.3 GJ/t (Source: World Energy Council conversion factors) Calorific value of uranium: 14,300-23,000 tons of coal equivalent, OR 420,000-675,000 GJ/t !!! (Source: World Energy Council conversion factors)
  • How much less??? Leigh Creek Coal Train •2.8 km long •161 Wagons •6,900 t coal per day The energy equivalent in uranium oxide •20 L •200 kg
  • New thinking from exploring the question “Is uranium mining terrible enough to rule out the use of nuclear power ?” • In terms of environmental impact, uranium mining is unremarkable compared to other forms of mining. But the vastly greater energy content of uranium means the impact of uranium mining compared to coal mining is negligible per unit of energy provided • Conclusion: The impacts of uranium mining are a poor basis for rejection of nuclear power. In fact, in the interests of better outcomes for the environment, coal mining should be substituted for uranium mining as quickly as possible! 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 5. Opponent thinking: Nuclear power is too expensive • We should be pursuing the cheapest options first, and nuclear power is not cheap. Challenge thinking: Is nuclear power so expensive that is needs to be ruled out of the mix of solutions? • How do the costs of nuclear power compare to other power sources and other means of cutting emissions? Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant, Finland, 2008
  • How much does nuclear power cost? • Very high up front cost (construction) • Construction cost estimates of a new 1GW plant vary from $1bn- $3.5bn (nuclearinfo.net) up to $5bn (Dr Ziggy Switkowski, Nov. 2010), but varies highly country to country (Dr Barry Brook, Nov. 2010) • Costs are reduced by increasing modularisation, using economies of volume, and reducing first-of-a-kind design and construction. • Very competitive lifetime cost of electricity delivery, including incorporation of waste management and decommissioning costs
  • How does nuclear fare with a carbon price? Source: Nicholson, Beigler and Brook 2010, published in the journal Energy With a carbon price, nuclear is the swiftest technology to displace coal on a financial basis, and it also has the least sensitivity to the carbon price increasing That makes it a smart move!
  • “In contrast to our overseas studies, we have excluded nuclear power from the Australian cost curve... Because it appears highly unlikely that regulatory approval would be granted to build such a facility by 2020, and because political and environmental considerations, rather than economic ones, will drive this decision in future years...We have assessed its impact in an alternative scenario...Nuclear power penetration of around 10% by 2030 would reduce costs to the economy by 12% under a 60% reduction scenario by 2050”
  • McKinsey and Company 2009, p 7
  • New thinking from exploring the question: Is nuclear power so expensive that is needs to be ruled out of the mix of solutions? • Per unit of electricity generated, nuclear power is a highly cost competitive means of decarbonising the energy supply and replacing coal • It is a major and cost competitive source of GHG abatement • It has the best response to a carbon price of any Fit for Service baseload source • Conclusion: Cost is not a reason to rule out nuclear power 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 6. Opponent thinking: Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference • We need a solution now, and nuclear power takes too long Challenge thinking: Would nuclear power take too long to make a difference? Belleville sur Loire Nuclear Power Plant, France (Image from The Guardian)
  • Would nuclear power take too long to make a difference? • Often used figure of 10-15 years-development of all regulatory frameworks. Need it take this long? • There will still be a problem in 10-15 years that needs to be solved • French experience supports potential for high volume roll out. 5% to 80% in 22 years • Conclusion: Even at a worst case of 10-15 years, there is a role for nuclear. We could greatly improve that timeframe by engaging in open and honest dialogue 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • 7. Opponent thinking: People I like and respect are anti-nuclear • I am an environmentalist • Those who champion the environment are anti-nuclear • Those who are pro-nuclear are guided by their own vested interests • I seek guidance in a range of issues, including nuclear power, from scrupulous experts and talented critical thinkers • Almost everyone I know is anti-nuclear • Almost everything I have read is anti-nuclear • John Howard was pro-nuclear
  • Challenge thinking: What are people I like and respect saying about nuclear power? • When did I last revisit some of my favourite thinkers on this issue? George Monbiot James Hansen James Lovelock
  • George Monbiot I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective... On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power... Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power. http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/21/going-critical/
  • James Hansen “That’s what began to make me a bit angry. (outright opposition to nuclear power) ... The antinuke advocates are so certain of their righteousness that they would eliminate the availability of a alternative to fossil fuels.... What if the utility executives are right, and we must choose between coal or nuclear for baseload power? The scientific method requires that we keep an open mind and change our conclusions when new evidence indicates that we should. The new evidence affecting the nuclear debate is climate change, specifically the urgency of moving beyond fossil fuels to carbon free energy sources... A phase out of coal emissions in the West can proceed promptly on the basis of efficiency, renewables, third generation nuclear power and possibly a contribution from carbon capture and storage. Storms of my Grandchildren (2010 p. 204)
  • James Lovelock • “Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood- style science fiction the Greens lobby and media...but I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy... We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear - the one safe, available, energy source - now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet. http://www.ecolo.org/media/articles/articles.in.english/love-indep-24-05-04.htm
  • New thinking from exploring the question: What are people I like and respect saying about nuclear power? • Conclusion: The anti-nuclear movement in no way has a monopoly over those with genuine, passionate and non-vested concern for the environment and climate change • Anti-nuclear activism and environmentalism are two different movements • Many thinking, caring, passionate and non-vested people range in position from active promotion to conditional acceptance of nuclear power 1. Nuclear power is dangerous • 1(a). Operations • 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear
  • Destination: Nuclear Proponent • The problem is too big • The non-nuclear solutions have serious limitations • My previous objections to nuclear energy were either unfounded, or are manageable and comparatively acceptable (to me) • The health and environmental benefits of nuclear energy compared to coal are significant • Conclusion: An open and honest examination of nuclear power as a means to tackle climate change must be permitted to take place in Australia
  • South Australia’s Base Load Generation Stock 2011 Name Fuel Type Capacity (MW) Reported Emissions 2009 (tCO2-e) Commissioned Comments BASELOAD 2,969 8.71 million Torrens Island A&B Gas 1,280 1.6 million 1967&1977 Highly inefficient for gas (33%-36%) Northern Brown Coal 540 3.6 million 1985 1.1 kg CO2-e/ kWh Pelican Point Gas 478 627,000 2000/01 0.390 kg CO2-e/ kWh Thomas Playford B Brown Coal 240 1.77 million 1960 1.2 kg CO2-e/kWh; running out of coal Snuggery Gas/Other 103 50,000 1978 & 1997 Whyalla Brown Coal/Gas 98 785,000 1941 1.2 kg CO2-e/ kWh Port Lincoln Distillate 50 32,000 1998/2000 Osborne Gas 180 243,000 1998 REMAINDER 826 390,000 Predominantly small gas peaking TOTAL FOSSIL GENERATION 3,795 9.1 million STATE TOTAL Approx 4,800 9.1 million 1,000+ MW wind. State average GHG intensity 0.72 kg CO2-e/ kWh
  • Incremental, Small Modular Name Fuel Type Capacity (MW) Reported Emissions (tCO2-e) Commissioned Comments BASELOAD 2,840 952,000 Torrens Island Nuclear: AP 1000 1,154 0 2020 Northern Combined Nuclear: B&W mPower x6 750 0 2022 Pelican Point Gas 478 627,000 2000/01 0.390 kg CO2-e/ kWh Snuggery Gas/Other 103 50,000 1978 & 1997 Whyalla Nuclear: B&W mPower x1 125 0 2022 Port Lincoln Distillate 50 32,000 1998/2000 Osborne Gas 180 243,000 1998 REMAINDER (Fossil) 826 390,000 Predominantly small gas peaking TOTAL FOSSIL GENERATION 1,376 1.3 million STATE TOTAL Approx 5,000 1.3 million 1,350+ MW wind and other renewables. State average GHG intensity 0.11 kg CO2-e/ kWh (or better?)
  • “Community acceptance would be the first requirement for nuclear power to operate successfully in Australia” Australian Government, Uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy- opportunities for Australia?, 2006 Conclusion
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  • Sustainable Energy Choices: The Case for Nuclear in 2 ½ minutes
  • Comparative radiation doses and their effects 2.4 mSv/yr Typical background radiation experienced by everyone (average 1.5 mSv in Australia, 3 mSv in North America). 9 mSv/yr Exposure by airline crew flying the New York – Tokyo polar route. 10 mSv Effective dose from abdomen & pelvis CT scan. 250 mSv Allowable short-term dose for workers controlling the 2011 Fukushima accident. 250 mSv/yr Natural background level at Ramsar in Iran, with no identified health effects. 1,000 mSv single dose Causes (temporary) radiation sickness (Acute Radiation Syndrome) such as nausea and decreased white blood cell count, but not death. Above this, severity of illness increases with dose. 5,000 mSv single dose Would kill about half those receiving it within a month. 10,000 mSv single dose Fatal within a few weeks. Source: World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects November 2011