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An Updated History of Nuclear Polling

With Nielsen via Fairfax releasing a new poll today estimating the level of public support for nuclear power, it might be time to update our chart that follows this issue. Nielsen asked:

The introduction of nuclear power has been suggested as one means to address climate change. Do you support or oppose the Federal Government considering the introduction of nuclear power in Australia? Is that support or strongly support / oppose or strongly oppose…?

The results, as well as those from all pollsters going back to 2006, comes in like this:

nuke3The latest Nielsen only adds up to 99 because of rounding.

UPDATE:

Now we have the full results, we can also measure how the strength of opinion has changed on the issue over the last 3 years. If we break down the Support level into its “strongly support/general support” components – and do the same with the Opposition to nuclear power, we get:

nukesupport nukeoppo

The key trends here are firstly, the growth in total support for nuclear power is coming from a general support increase rather than an increasing trend in strong support – and that trend is pretty clear.

Secondly, the reduction in the level of total opposition to nuclear power is coming from the sizable trend reduction in those that”strongly oppose”, while there has been a smaller increase in general opposition. That suggests that over the last three years people’s views against nuclear power are tempering – where strong opposition is slowly changing to general opposition, and where general opposition is slowly changing into general support.

If you’re after a textbook case of the process a population goes through when changing their opinion on a key policy area – this probably isn’t a bad example so far.

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  • 1
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Perhaps a better way of graphic this would be as what Excel calls a “100% stacked area chart”, with “support” in the lowest section. If you want to track the “support” column on this chart, your eye has to filter out the other columns and that makes it all just that little bit harder. Just a suggestion.

    Now, what other things can we compare this polling to, to see if we can find a reason for it. Oil price? Support for The Greens?

  • 2
    Evan Beaver
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Might be barking up the wrong tree here, but is there a measure on the strength of a trend? From my manufacturing days, we had a saying about how we wanted to see 7 consecutive points moving in the same direction to call it a trend, everything else was within the scope of noise.

    Here we have 3 points (support strength) that seem to show a trend. But, each point has an MOE and there is a difference in the timing between the points.

    What is the measure that says we have confidence that this is a trend? R^2?

  • 3
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Oh, oops. If I’d hit “refresh” I’d have seen that you’d updated the post while I was doing other things. Yes, the second set of charts is much easier to read, thank you Possum.

    (Why do I feel like Dame Edna when I say that?)

  • 4
    Andos
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I’m interested in the wording of the question here.

    “Do you support or oppose the Federal Government considering the introduction of nuclear power in Australia?”

    Supporting this proposition seems distinctly different from actually supporting the introduction of nuclear power in Australia.

    How similar is this question to those posed in earlier polls shown in your graphs, Scott?

    Maybe if they were asked “Do you support or oppose the building of a nuclear power plant/waste repository in your city?” we might have a different result here.

  • 5
    EnergyPedant
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I think Andos is right. The question is do you support the government considering this. This probably explains the low undecideds. If you change the question to should the government allow nuclear reactors then I think a lot of the mild support switches to opposition or undecided.

  • 6
    David Richards
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Andos and EP

    good point

    The Q and response could mean that people are only in favour of the government considering it, not implementing it

    of course, if you asked a q “Do you want a nuclear power station/waste dump in your electorate?” – the answer would be 100% no

    so the ones in favour are saying that they are in favour – so long as it’s someonelse who is exposed to the risk

    Anyway, unless you can solve the finance and water supply issues, the question is moot.

  • 7
    Gibbot
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Possum – are you sure the June 2006 columns are the right way around? An 11 point jump in support with a 14 point drop in opposition in a single month?

    I’m discombobulated.

  • 8
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Gibbot – yep, it was this Morgan phone poll

    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2006/4032/

  • 9
    Andos
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Well, the question in that poll (Morgan June 2006) with 49% support and 37% oppose was “Do you approve or disapprove of nuclear power plants replacing coal, oil, and gas power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?”

    A completely different question! How valid is it to compare these polls, Scott, and to infer a trend in ‘support for nuclear power in Australia’?

  • 10
    Gibbot
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks Possum. It makes more sense to me now.

    Respondents were asked: “Do you think Australia should – or should not develop and export uranium for peaceful purposes?”

    Is a fair bit of a different question to ‘Do you support the use of Nuclear power in Australia?’

  • 11
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Andos, in addition to that Morgan poll – Newspoll asked in May 2006:

    CURRENTLY, WHILE THERE IS A NUCLEAR REACTOR AT LUCAS HEIGHTS IN SYDNEY USED FOR MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES, THERE ARE NO NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS IN AUSTRALIA. ARE YOU PERSONALLY IN FAVOUR OR AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS BEING BUILT IN AUSTRALIA? IF IN FAVOUR - IS THAT STRONGLY IN FAVOUR OR PARTLY IN FAVOUR? IF AGAINST - IS THAT STRONGLY AGAINST OR PARTLY AGAINST?

    Newspoll asked in Dec 2006

    CURRENTLY, WHILE THERE IS A NUCLEAR REACTOR AT LUCAS HEIGHTS IN SYDNEY USED FOR MEDICAL AND SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES,THERE ARE NO NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS IN AUSTRALIA. ARE YOU PERSONALLY IN FAVOUR OR AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER STATIONS BEING BUILT IN AUSTRALIA? IF IN FAVOUR - IS THAT STRONGLY IN FAVOUR OR PARTLY IN FAVOUR? IF AGAINST - IS THAT STRONGLY AGAINST OR PARTLY AGAINST?

    Newspoll Mar 2007

    THINKING NOW ABOUT REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS TO HELP ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE. ARE YOU PERSONALLY IN FAVOUR OR AGAINST THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY IN AUSTRALIA, AS ONE OF A RANGE OF ENERGY
    SOLUTIONS TO HELP REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS?

    The Newspoll of April 2007 poll commissioned by The Australia Institute asked:

    If there were plans to build a nuclear power plant in your local area, would
    you be in favour of it or against it? If in favour, is that strongly in favour or
    somewhat in favour? If against, is that strongly against or somewhat against?

    I havent got the Gallup question to hand ATM.

    Essential in January 2009 asked:

    Do you support or oppose Australia developing nuclear power plants for the generation of electricity?

  • 12
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Gibbot – the question you’re after is a little further down the page on that Morgan release:

    Do you approve or disapprove of nuclear power plants replacing coal, oil, and gas power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

  • 13
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Andos went:

    Well, the question in that poll (Morgan June 2006) with 49% support and 37% oppose was “Do you approve or disapprove of nuclear power plants replacing coal, oil, and gas power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?”

    A completely different question! How valid is it to compare these polls, Scott, and to infer a trend in ’support for nuclear power in Australia’?

    In an ideal world we’d all love to have identical questions – but we don’t.

    What we do have is a fairly broad set of questions, asking about the introduction of nuclear power. In the same way that differently worded approval ratings and voting intention questions all broadly “move together” – we would expect the same here over time if there was any real movement in the true underlying level of public opinion.

    And that’s what we seem to be witnessing.

    Is it as accurate as it could be? Nope.

    Is it still fairly accurate? Yep.

  • 14
    David Richards
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    like in Yes Minister – the question you ask can largely determine the answer you get.

    some of these questions are loaded to produce a high approval.

    If they were loaded the other way, there would be loud squealing from the pronuke lobby.

  • 15
    cud chewer
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I don’t want to spam your column so I’ll have to be terse. Central to the nuclear argument is that alternative energies are too expensive. The problem is that this is one of those situations where received wisdom has been overtaken by technology. To put it very simply, nuclear is a mature technology that costs about twice that of coal. Wind is currently comparable to or slightly more expensive than coal. Concentrating solar PV is comparable to coal on a utility scale. Thin film PV is now cheaper than nuclear and coming down. Same for solar thermal. Wave power (we have lots of it oz) is potentially cheaper than coal. Same goes for geothermal.

    All of these technologies has more cost savings to make because primarily its about economy of scale.

    Add to this the fact that a crash program to develop nuclear power will result in a working nuclear power station by 2020. Compared to a development cycle of 2 years for full scale geothermal. Nuclear power has no chance of being developed for purely commercial reasons.

    I wonder what would happen if the press were to update its narrative and talk about what is really happening today in alternative energy. Would the polls change? Of course. Notice how difference between strongly against and strongly for. That reflects a very strong opinion of “we don’t like it but we’re scared and we’re told renewables won’t work/are too costly”.

    I’ll give you just a couple of links just cause I’m an engineer and love the tech..
    http://www.nanosolar.com/sites/default/files/NanosolarCellWhitePaper.pdf
    http://www.ceto.com.au/ceto-technology/what-is-ceto.php

  • 16
    Andos
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for pulling together those questions, Scott.

    It’s interesting, because some of the questions are purely about building a nuclear power industry/power plant and some refer to climate change or greenhouse gas emissions.

    To me, it would seem that people might react quite differently when thinking about supporting a nuclear power industry in general, or with the specific aim of reducing greenhouse emissions to combat global warming (i.e. replacing coal power stations with nuclear).

    It’s just an important nuance of the issue of support for nuclear power which probably isn’t that well examined by mainstream analysis.

  • 17
    ShowsOn
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Possum – are you sure the June 2006 columns are the right way around? An 11 point jump in support with a 14 point drop in opposition in a single month?

    They are different polls, a Newspoll followed by a Morgan.

  • 18
    ShowsOn
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Central to the nuclear argument is that alternative energies are too expensive.

    I disagree. The real issue is the huge amount of land required to produce massive amounts of power using solar and wind. One medium sized nuclear reactor can produce the same amount of power as 500 – 600 latest technology wind turbines operating at full capacity, yet the reactor can operate at full capacity for 95% of a year (the other 5% is down time for refuelling), while wind turbines can’t. So in practice you probably need 800+ wind turbines to produce the same amount of power as one medium sized nuclear reactor. My question is, where will all these wind turbines go? Are people really going to agree to giving up a heap of land so that wind turbines can be built all over it? I think NIMBYism is a factor at play against wind energy as well as nuclear.

    By far nuclear energy is the least land-intensive; it requires only one square mile to produce one million megawatt-hours per year, enough electricity for about 90,000 homes. Geothermal energy, which taps the natural heat of the earth, requires three square miles. The most landscape-consuming are biofuels—ethanol and biodiesel—which require up to 500 square miles to produce the same amount of energy.

    Coal, on the other hand, requires four square miles, mainly for mining and extraction. Solar thermal—heating a fluid with large arrays of mirrors and using it to power a turbine—takes six. Natural gas needs eight and petroleum needs 18. Wind farms require over 30 square miles.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574404762971139026.html

    Wind is currently comparable to or slightly more expensive than coal.

    Wind is an intermittent power source, nuclear isn’t.

    Concentrating solar PV is comparable to coal on a utility scale. Thin film PV is now cheaper than nuclear and coming down. Same for solar thermal. Wave power (we have lots of it oz) is potentially cheaper than coal. Same goes for geothermal.

    If all these technologies are cheaper than coal, why aren’t they in use? All renewable energies will be more expensive than coal, that’s why we need a carbon price just to equalise the costs.

    Add to this the fact that a crash program to develop nuclear power will result in a working nuclear power station by 2020.

    Yes, which is about 15 years sooner than is expected for the first coal power station with capture and storage.

    Compared to a development cycle of 2 years for full scale geothermal.

    And the first geothermal plant currently being built in South Australia is expected to generate just 280 MW by mid 2011, which is less than 1/3 of a medium sized nuclear reactor. Also they are trying to secure a $100 million hand out from the government so they can connect their plant to the national grid.

  • 19
    EnergyPedant
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Wind is not cheaper than coal. Wind requires a subsidy of $40/MWh (its why we have a Renewable Energy Target and the cost hasn’t crashed). Therefore its roughly double the price of coal and wind is variable (and uncontrollable).

    Geothermal has lots of potential, but getting money to drill holes ($10M each) to find good spots is a tough ask.

  • 20
    wilful
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    David Richards, you said: of course, if you asked a q “Do you want a nuclear power station/waste dump in your electorate?” – the answer would be 100% no

    Wrong. I wouldn’t want a nuclear power station in my backyard (people tend not to think of their ‘electorate’) for exactly the same reason I don’t want any major industrial facility in my suburban area. However there is heavy industry only a few kilometres down the road, well serviced by transport routes. If i was asked if it was OK to put a nuclear power plant there, I, together with many rational, well-informed greenies, would say “hell yeah, as long as it’s fourth generation!”

    Cud chewer, keep dreaming about the costs of PV. As for geothermal, as a shareholder in Geodynamics, i wish it were true, but it really isn’t.

  • 21
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    It is wonderful to see the heated arguments about nuclear, non-nuclear, geo-thermal, wind and all the other possibilities for the future. But where was all this fury of debate, here and in the other part of Crikey, when it became obvious that governments past, present and probably future, are incapable of thinking about the electorate or the future of Oz. They are utterly consumed by the desire to get re-elected and anything else is secondary. Look at the whaling free-for-all which Kevin Rudd has allowed to go on unprotested against. Because those lovely Japanese keep buying our LNG at bedrock prices.

    It is all about the vast sums of money the coal industries and the mining industries make and all about the ability to buy a politician.

    What does it matter it wind, nuclear, sun are all more expensive/less expensive than coal? Coal is a sickening foul sludge on our environment. But hey baby, we the coal industry don’t really give a fuck about Oz, so we are gonna keep on polluting until we have a majority of the shares in the next most feasible option. And that is that.

    What can anything we say have against that magnificent mantra “”"”JOBS”"‘.

    Sorry to get heated Poss. But it is sickening.

    Any joy on the figures re after Keating and re after Rudd’s victory? A graph on despair? Liberals versus Labor.

  • 22
    Gibbot
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    @ShowsOn – Thanks. I realised that when my brain finally engaged itself around lunchtime.

    Anyone got any views on coal-seam gas? I know there are a couple of large projects about to get underway, but I haven’t read much about it.

  • 23
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Coal is cheaper….

    Nuclear is cheaper…… (and makes us appear more manly)…

    Wind power is intermittent…….

    whinge whinge whinge

    I thought modernity was supposed to be about innovation and progress. If the naysayers had been around in the C18 we’d have been hearing

    steam is too expensive, peasants pulling things are cheaper

    steam needs too much maintenance, peasants don;t need any

    Oh, I forgot, the coal and nuclear lobbyists have lots of government funds to throw at the public (mostly provided by government) to keep them confused. That’s the difference.

  • 24
    Eratosthanes
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    There are lots of problems with actually tracking levels of support using different pollsters with different questions, but that not the point. Just like Possum’s Polytrend, the idea here is to see if there is any identifiable TREND. And there is! No matter what the actual question is, there would seem to be a softening of stance.

    And this supports other anecdotal evidence. WA Labor ran an anti-nuke campaign in some electorates in the last state election. They didn’t get anywhere near the traction that would have been expected from previous campaigns. It didn’t grab people like it used to. The ACTUAL problem of climate change has tempered people’s position on the POTENTIAL problems of nuclear power.

  • 25
    barney langford
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    David Richards is on the money.
    Prior to 2007 Howard tried to fly the kite of nuclear energy and was hit with a massive campaign targetting marginal coalition electorates saying that Howard was going to site a nuclear power station in those electorates. Howard was knocked over in the stampede of local members saying over their dead body would a nuclear power station be built in their electorate.
    Non issue.

  • 26
    cud chewer
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Possum – stop me if this isn’t what you were looking for but as usual, the moment I state the bleeding obvious – that nuclear power will fail for purely economic reasons – I’ve aroused the same worn out an erroneous responses. So let me briefly respond to them.

    ShowsOn @19. The reality of land usage where it applies to wind power is that most of the sites that have good wind resources also happen to be very sparsely populated. Here is a good example: http://www.silvertonwindfarm.com.au/ 1GW (staged) of name plate capacity in an area better known for Mad Max movies.

    As to emotive appeals to land usage, lets do some math. Australia’s installed electricity generation capacity is currently 50GW. A 50GW solar farm would cover 250 square Km. If you were foolhardy enough to actually do this you would need energy storage and your solar farm would cover around 1000 square Km.

    That’s 0.014% of our total land mass, and a small fraction of our urbanised area. And lets not even mention how much land we waste on sheep.

    So unless you’ve got a better argument than one based on scale or land usage, you’ve not dented the central argument and that is that renewables are either economic now, or will become economic before someone can build a reactor.

    Next: Wind is an intermittent source of energy. This is a lovely bit of FUD that sadly, isn’t true. An individual wind turbine is predictable on a scale of a few minutes. A wind farm is predictable on a scale of a few hours. An industry comprised of hundreds of wind farms spread out over large geographical distances is predictable days ahead.

    http://www.cana.net.au/documents/Diesendorf_TheBaseLoadFallacy_FS16.pdf
    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2008/03/clearing-the-air-wind-power-and-reliability-51767

    and for a bit more background..
    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/publications/pubs/windstudy.pdf

    I had to laugh at the argument “If all these technologies are cheaper than coal, then why aren’t they in use.” I did not say all of these technologies are cheaper than coal. I said all of these technologies are either cheaper than nuclear or will be so well before anyone can build a reactor. As to the two technologies now on a par with coal, wind power and concentrating solar, these are already being invested in and the growth rate is exponential. As with all things, there is a lag between when the technology is ready and when large scale investment occurs. Its just the nature of the beast.

    Then I nearly fell of the chair when I read the next sentence “All renewable energies will be more expensive than coal, that’s why we need a carbon price just to equalise the costs.”

    This would be true, except, its not. Cost reductions come from two sources. One is better understanding of the process and the materials. The other is scale. Coal and nuclear are well understood mature technologies. This is why there is no further significant cost reduction to be had from them.

    On the other hand, third generation solar (thin film non-silicon) has reached a price point of less than a dollar per peak Watt and further cost reductions are coming from better manufacturing and installation processes, meaning lower balance of system costs. Currently the best solar photovoltaic power stations are being installed at under $3 per peak Watt. That’s cheaper than coal in some countries, cheaper than coal (with carbon capture/storage) in Australia, and a lot cheaper than nuclear in any country.

    Solar thermal with storage comes in a close second and the challenges there are purely about economies of scale. Geothermal by its very nature is a very cheap source of power. All the energy is there in the ground. You tap into it and your well lasts 50 years. Wave power is a much more concentrated source of power and with the right engineering (I think CETO has it right) it could be made to be cheaper than coal. Need I go on? Every single alternate energy technology including the more exotic solar updraft tower (which generates baseload power too) has the potential for large further cost reductions.

    The argument that a price on carbon is essential to making alternate energy is wrong. Because it assumes that the price of these technologies won’t come down with time. What putting a price on carbon does is hasten the process. Not only that but it brings forward the economies of scale needed. Net result is that you end up with a host of technologies cheaper than nuclear, even if you then took the carbon price out of the system.

    You’ve shot yourself in the foot referring to the scale of geothermal whilst making the comparison to nuclear. Geothermal can go from concept to operation in 2 years. Nuclear takes up to a decade. Geothermal is scalable in small increments. Nuclear is not. By the time you’ve built your first nuclear reactor you could have not just a couple of GW of geothermal power, but 10GW. There is no limit here but the rate of investment. And in 2014 when we have a working geothermal plant, is any self respecting bank going to take the risk on nuclear? Of course not.

    EnergyPedant @20 See above. Wind power is a complex beast because its actually mostly civil engineering. It depends on your site, your local manufacturing resources and of course your wind resource. In some places in Australia wind power is arguably economic even without cross subsidy (guarantees in tariffs.) What the subsidies do is bring forward the efficiencies of scale in the local industry. It means we have more people qualified in the civil engineering part and in the design/simulation part. What this means is that wind (with or without subsidy) will give coal a run for its money by 2014.

    wilful @20: you need a clue. Here’s one. http://www.nanosolar.com/company/blog/nanosolar-completes-panel-factory-commences-serial-production

    [sorry cud, you were in the automated spam bin for a tick - I have a 4 link limit that automates moderation - Poss]

  • 27
    cud chewer
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    You should have seen the longer version.. ;)

  • 28
    wilful
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Sorry cud, I’ve got plenty of clues, I don’t rely on wishful thinking like you. You have no idea what you’re talking about saying geothermal takes two years to develop. Many companies in Australia with real money behind them have spent many more than two years already developing this, and are still much more than two years from commercialisation (as you admit when you say 2014).

    here’s proof that across all of eastern Australia (Tas, Vic, SA, NSW) the wind simply doesn’t blow for many days at a time sometimes: http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/langfig0.jpg?w=546&h=380

    What are we supposed to do on those days? Stay home and light a candle? I don’t think so – what we’ll do is fire up the power station. So if we’re building that power station, we may as well build it to run a bit more efficiently than that, ie run regularly.

    Baselaod is not a myth. Wind power prices are.

  • 29
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Here’s the actual dialogue of that Yes Minister explanation of how to conduct a political poll to get the result you want.

  • 30
    cud chewer
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    willful @ 29, you’re in danger of being too reliant upon a site, that like a lot of climate denial sites, uses selective data. Like for instance the selective wind data you’ve quoted. Australia is bigger than NSW unless you didn’t know?

    As for geothermal, it takes more than 2 years to develop the technology and understand it. But once it is understood, the process of building a new well and having it operational can happen in well under 2 years. And because the technology is modular you don’t have to just build one well at a time. Rapid expansion is very possible.

    As for the baseload myth. Its still a myth. And you should try to understand the following. Firstly, the current usage pattern is an artefact of how we currently sell power. Since coal fired power stations do not throttle easily, do not run efficiently at low loads and are costly to restart, we’ve been in the habit of selling electricity at or below cost at “off peak” times. Much of this so called baseload is actually burnt to produce heat – off peak hot water being the most well known example. Our actual need for baseload power – the stuff needed at 3am, is considerably less than it is today. And many forms of load either do not need to be 24 hour or can be managed to suit the circumstances.

    Having said that, your argument is based on fear. Its the fear that somehow the wind will stop blowing and we’ll all end up in the dark. Hate to say it but you’re wrong. Firstly, you would never use more than about 20% wind and about 30% solar (to match the peak). Second, there are many reliable backup sources already in the pipeline. Thanks to the market for peaking power we’ve got a lot of gas generators being built. Those will be useful for many years to come. Third, you simply ignore the 24 hour a day capabilities of many renewables. Geothermal. Wave. Tidal. Hydro. Solar updraught tower (with up to 48 hours of energy storage). Solar thermal (with as much storage as you want, since the medium, salt, is essentially free). Pumped storage (an easy adjunct to our existing hydro system). Biomass – not just waste but also engineered micro-flora. And last but not least are a dozen other energy storage technologies I’m sure want to dismiss, but are currently being implemented by utilities for short term backup (minutes to hours) because, surprise surprise, large generators are not 100% reliable either.

  • 31
    addinall
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    No serious engineer factors wind or any kind of solar into a baseload generation calculation. It’s pointless. Everywhere renewables have tried to provide a significant portion of baseload has been a dismal failure. Britan has been big on wind. The lights are now going out and they are quickly building some new nukes. Germany was big on wind, they too are now in an energy drought. They are building new coal plant. That is the realism here, either coal or nuke. Pick one. I choose 4GEN nuclear energy, not because I believe any AGW nonsense, I just think it is cleaner and will be cheaper than coal. Nuclear energy has the potential to deliver limitless clean energy for 100,000 years. The technology is available, and has been implemented for two decades. The key is the use of ‘Fast’ reactors, the IFR being the one in question, and in conjunction, adopting a Thorium fuel cycle with MFTR plant.
    Australia should accept ALL the nuclear waste from the rest of the world, and we can burn it for the next 1000 years giving us free power (apart from operating costs, and what is taken as profit).

    A large shift in the acceptence of nuclear energy is coming, funnily enough, from those who consider themselves Green. Even ULTRA-GREEN. As they realise that the renewable dream is just that, a dream.

    http://www.prescriptionfortheplanet.com/

    “This is the most important book that has ever been written on sustainable development… You MUST read it! It is not A revolution, it is THE revolution, THE way to go!”

    — Bruno Comby, Ph.D., founder and President of EFN

    Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy

    “If you’re looking for an energy revolution, Blees has the boldness to offer both technology and vision.”

    — Jim Hightower

    “Blees writes devilishly well. His book is a culmination of tremendous erudition compounded by no end of research. Whether our society can be turned around to follow his Pied Piper lead is open to question. But at least he’s drawn a map.”

    — T. J. King, Ph.D.
    Professor emeritus of English and Literature

    “In a time desperate for solutions to the global environmental crisis, we need all the suggestions we can get. This analysis by Tom Blees therefore deserves serious attention as an informed and conscientious voice in the ongoing debate over what to do.”

    — Howard Zinn. Professor, historian, playwright
    Author: A People’s History of the United States

    “Tom Blees’ book, Prescription for the Planet may well be one of the most important books of our time. After decades of denial, people now understand that the world is in serious difficulties and are asking what can be done. This book shows that there are practical and proven solutions out there, needing only will and effort.”

    — David C. McGaffey, Ph.D.
    President, InterConsultUSA
    Foreign Service Officer (Retired)
    Professor of International Relations (Emeritus)

    “Splendid… A monumental effort! Blees analyzes the energy supply picture with impressive accuracy and no loose ends. His dream of boron as a clean and efficient energy carrier is elegant and reasonable — and revolutionary. Establishing its technical feasibility should be a top national priority.”

    — George S. Stanford, Ph.D., Reactor Physics
    Argonne National Laboratory

    “Tom Blees has embarked on an important journey to launch a Global Energy Revolution. This book brings together the most important technologies of the day to counter the effects of global warming and our looming energy crisis.”

    — Louis J. Circeo, Jr., Ph.D., Director, Plasma Research
    Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, GA

    “… No small thoughts here… Courageous.”

    — Charles Till, Ph.D., former IFR Project Director

    Argonne National Laboratories

    “… A complete plan to revolutionize the world’s energy systems.”

    — Jeff Crowell, Ph.D. Nuclear Physics
    Sandia National Laboratories

    Also, having a look around here
    http://bravenewclimate.com/integral-fast-reactor-ifr-nuclear-power/

    You will find a lot of SERIOUSLY GREEN people jumping up and down wanting to implement nuclear power RIGHT NOW!

    Tell Barack Obama the Truth – The Whole Truth (Part III of IV)

    Dr James E. Hansen

    Nuclear Power. Some discussion about nuclear power is needed. Fourth generation nuclear power has the potential to provide safe base-load electric power with negligible CO2 emissions.

    There is about a million times more energy available in the nucleus, compared with the chemical energy of molecules exploited in fossil fuel burning. In today’s nuclear (fission) reactors neutrons cause a nucleus to fission, releasing energy as well as additional neutrons that sustain the reaction. The additional neutrons are ‘born’ with a great deal of energy and are called ‘fast’ neutrons. Further reactions are more likely if these neutrons are slowed by collisions with non-absorbing materials, thus becoming ‘thermal’ or slow neutrons.

    All nuclear plants in the United States today are Light Water Reactors (LWRs), using ordinary water (as opposed to ‘heavy water’) to slow the neutrons and cool the reactor. Uranium is the fuel in all of these power plants. One basic problem with this approach is that more than 99% of the uranium fuel ends up ‘unburned’ (not fissioned). In addition to ‘throwing away’ most of the potential energy, the long-lived nuclear wastes (plutonium, americium, curium, etc.) require geologic isolation in repositories such as Yucca Mountain.

    There are two compelling alternatives to address these issues, both of which will be needed in the future. The first is to build reactors that keep the neutrons ‘fast’ during the fission reactions. These fast reactors can completely burn the uranium. Moreover, they can burn existing long-lived nuclear waste, producing a small volume of waste with half-life of only sever decades, thus largely solving the nuclear waste problem. The other compelling alternative is to use thorium as the fuel in thermal reactors. Thorium can be used in ways that practically eliminate buildup of long-lived nuclear waste.

    The United States chose the LWR development path in the 1950s for civilian nuclear power because research and development had already been done by the Navy, and it thus presented the shortest time-to-market of reactor concepts then under consideration. Little emphasis was given to the issues of nuclear waste. The situation today is very different. If nuclear energy is to be used widely to replace coal, in the United States and/or the developing world, issues of waste, safety, and proliferation become paramount.

    Nuclear power plants being built today, or in advanced stages of planning, in the United States, Europe, China and other places, are just improved LWRs. They have simplified operations and added safety features, but they are still fundamentally the same type, produce copious nuclear waste, and continue to be costly. It seems likely that they will only permit nuclear power to continue to play a role comparable to that which it plays now.

    Both fast and thorium reactors were discussed at our 3 November workshop. The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) concept was developed at the Argonne National Laboratory and it has been built and tested at the Idaho National Laboratory. IFR keeps neutrons “fast” by using liquid sodium metal as a coolant instead of water. It also makes fuel processing easier by using a metallic solid fuel form. IFR can burn existing nuclear waste, making electrical power in the process. All fuel reprocessing is done within the reactor facility (hence the name “integral”) and many enhanced safety features are included and have been tested, such as the ability to shutdown safely under even severe accident scenarios.

    The Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is a thorium reactor concept that uses a chemically-stable fluoride salt for the medium in which nuclear reactions take place. This fuel form yields flexibility of operation and eliminates the need to fabricate fuel elements. This feature solves most concerns that have prevented thorium from being used in solid fueled reactors. The fluid fuel in LFTR is also easy to process and to separate useful fission products, both stable and radioactive. LFTR also has the potential to destroy existing nuclear waste, albeit with less efficiency than in a fast reactor such as IFR.

    Both IFR and LFTR operate at low pressure and high temperatures, unlike today’s LWR’s. Operation at low pressures alleviates much of the accident risk with LWR. Higher temperatures enable more of the reactor heat to be converted to electricity (40% in IFR, 50% in LFTR vs 35% in LWR). Both IFR and LFTR have the potential to be air-cooled and to use waste heat for desalinating water.

    Both IFR and LFTR are 100-300 times more fuel efficient than LWRs. In addition to solving the nuclear waste problem, they can operate for several centuries using only uranium and thorium that has already been mined. Thus they eliminate the criticism that mining for nuclear fuel will use fossil fuels and add to the greenhouse effect.

    The Obama campaign, properly in my opinion, opposed the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository. Indeed, there is a far more effective way to use the $25 billion collected from utilities over the past 40 years to deal with waste disposal. This fund should be used to develop fast reactors that eat nuclear waste and thorium reactors to prevent the creation of new long-lived nuclear waste. By law the federal government must take responsibility for existing spent nuclear fuel, so inaction is not an option. Accelerated development of fast and thorium reactors will allow the US to fulfill its obligations to dispose of the nuclear waste, and open up a source of carbon-free energy that can last centuries, even millennia.

    The common presumption that 4th generation nuclear power will not be ready until 2030 is based on assumption of ‘business-as-usual”. Given high priority, this technology could be ready for deployment in the 2015-2020 time frame, thus contributing to the phase-out of coal plants. Even if the United States finds that it can satisfy its electrical energy needs via efficiency and renewable energies, 4th generation nuclear power is probably essential for China and India to achieve clear skies with carbon-free power.

    ————————————————————–

    MORE by Hansen on the same topic, with some extra details and a book recommendation for further reading…

    Wow! Mr GREEN Hisself…..
    And,

    “The only realistic way out of the climate and sustainability pincer is to find ways to generate more energy, not less. This is patently obvious globally, with the rapidly developing mega-economies of China and India, but it will also be true for Australia. Desalination and electric vehicles will be two new, energy-hungry demands.

    The Switkowski report said that under a fast-paced schedule, we could see nuclear power delivering electricity in Australia within 10 years. Perhaps, with sufficient will, and a decent carbon price, we can get there even faster. But it’s absolutely clear that we must start the process now.

    As a climate scientist, I consider the public dialogue on nuclear power to be every bit as urgent as the debate on a carbon price and the need for climate change adaptation. Yet right now, Australia is foot dragging while the world, especially places like China and India, are leading.

    Australia’s sustainable energy future depends critically on choices made today. It’s time for green groups to become rational ‘Promethean environmentalists’. Why? Because there’s no ’silver bullet’ for solving the climate and energy crises. The bullets are made of depleted uranium and thorium.”

    Barry Brook is the Sir Hubert Wilkins professor of climate change at the University of Adelaide.

    Hiya Possum. Good work as usual.

    Mark Addinall.

  • 32
    addinall
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “Deployment of 4th generation nuclear power can be hastened via cooperation with China, India and other countries. It is essential that hardened ‘environmentalists’ not be allowed to delay the R&D on 4th generation nuclear power. Thus it is desirable to avoid appointing to key energy positions persons with a history of opposition to nuclear power development. ”
    Dr James Hansen

  • 33
    addinall
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    by Steve Kirsch

    August 10, 2008

    Until now, I have been pretty agnostic about nuclear power. In fact, in May 2006, I wrote an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News on why we shouldn’t pursue nuclear power as a solution for global warming which infuriated the pro-nuclear people.

    After reading Hansen’s newsletter (where I first learned about the IFR) and doing months of research on the IFR listening to arguments on both sides, I’ve changed my opinion. And some really smart friends of mine have read the stuff below, done their research, and their minds have changed as well. In fact, I don’t know anyone with an open mind who has met with the scientists who worked on the project who hasn’t come away impressed. Even the harshest critics of the IFR admit that that they might be wrong.

    I first heard about the IFR on August 4, 2008, in an email I received from James Hansen who is one of our nation’s top climate experts. The email summarized his recent trip overseas to meet with foreign leaders.

    The two most important things that Hansen tells foreign heads of state are (from page 5):

    Annual CO2 emissions, and thus percent reduction of annual emissions, is not an appropriate metric for controlling climate change. Instead, we must limit the total fossil fuel CO2 emission.
    Phase-out of coal emissions is the sine qua non for climate stabilization.
    In other words, if we don’t get rid of coal plants all over the planet, we’re completely hosed. The sooner we do that, the better. Getting rid of every single coal plant is the single most important thing we can do to slow down global warming. If we cannot do that, then nothing else matters. We are basically re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We will go down with the ship.

    Displacing coal plants is hard because they are really cheap (since the utilities are not assessed of their pollution), they can be built anywhere where water is available (all thermal power plants, fossil or nuclear, have to be able to get rid of excess heat), and because they provide power 24×7. That’s why every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

    Getting rid of them is hard. Even with all the awareness about the harm of coal plants to the environment in the US, we have been unsuccessful in displacing them. Today, we still get 49% of our electric power from coal plants. If we can’t displace coal plants in the US, how can we expect other countries, like China, to displace their coal plants?

    Fundamentally, to get rid of coal plants and have any hope at all on controlling climate change, you must to come up with a power plant capable of 24×7 operation that can be built anywhere that is just as cheap (or cheaper) to build and operate as a coal plant. If you had that, then you’d have an economic incentive for people to make the environmentally responsible choice. There would be no reason to build coal plants anymore.

    So if the US developed a way to generate electric power that had no CO2 emissions, was as cheap as coal, and provided 24×7 power, and could be built anywhere, and didn’t require a lot of land to build, and was very safe, and didn’t increase the risk from terrorism then that would be a great thing. It would mean that China would have an economic incentive to build these plants rather than coal plants.

    We don’t have that now. Concentrated solar plants can only be economically built in certain locations. Same for wind power. And both are intermittent sources (although if you have enough wind power over enough area in the right corridor, it can be pretty reliable).

    Such an invention would, quite literally, save the planet from destruction. It would be the “holy grail” in the fight against global warming. It would arguably be the most important invention in history.

    So you’d think that if such an invention existed, everyone would know about it, wouldn’t you?

    Well, would you believe that our top energy scientists invented a technology that does all those things and more! These plants can also get rid of the waste from existing nuclear power plants! And unlike nuclear plants where there is only a finite amount of nuclear material available (I think about 100 years), these plants make their own fuel so they will last 100,000 years. Remember Einstein’s famous E=mc2? The point is that if you do it right, a little bit of matter can make a lot of energy.

    And would you believe the research was done more than 20 years ago in 1984 by a large group of US scientists at Argonne National Laboratory?

    The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is a fourth generation nuclear design that provides a clean, inexhaustible source of power, cheap, with virtually no waste, inherently safe (if you remove the cooling, it shuts down rather than melts down), and the added benefit that it consumes the nuclear waste from other nuclear plants that we can’t figure out how to get rid of.

    Advantages include:

    It can be fueled entirely with material recovered from today’s used nuclear fuel.

    It consumes virtually all the long-lived radioactive isotopes that worry people who are concerned about the “nuclear waste problem,” reducing the needed isolation time to less than 500 years.

    It could provide all the energy needed for centuries (perhaps as many as 50,000 years), feeding only on the uranium that has already been mined

    It uses uranium resources with 100 to 300 times the efficiency of today’s reactors.

    It does not require enrichment of uranium.

    It has less proliferation potential than the reprocessing method now used in several countries.

    It’s 24×7 baseline power

    It can be built anywhere there is water

    The power is very inexpensive (some estimates are as low as 2 cents/kWh to produce)

    Safe from melt down because if something goes wrong, the reactor naturally shuts down rather than blows up

    And, of course, it emits no greenhouse gases.

    ————–

    Neat heh?

    Mark Addinall.

  • 34
    Malcolm Street
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    addinall@several – breeder reactors have been around as a concept and small-scale demonstration for decades. First IIRC was c. 1953 in Idaho and actually powered a small town. Problem is that while well proven on a small scale the technology doesn’t appear to scale. AFAIK only the Russians have been able to keep an industrial scale breeder in operation and obviously their nuclear industry is prepared to take risks unacceptable in the West. Outside that both France (with SuperPhenix) and Japan (with Monju) have built full-scale breeders, and both have had prohibitive amounts of down-time. SuperPhenix was withdrawn from service having consumed more energy when off-line (due to the need to keep the sodium coolant liquid) than it ever produced.

    The nuclear dream of unlimited energy was always predicated on breeders, and they still don’t work. Maybe if you threw enough effort at them they may work, but on the timescale and budget we’re talking about you might as well put the effort into fusion.

    We’re left with nuclear as a stop-gap, in particular in places such as Finland that don’t have any obvious alternative.

  • 35
    Socrates
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    So sorry I missed this post and poll first time around. Thanks for the fantastic post Possum. I am pro-nuclear power, or at least not anti it, and I am comforted that a majority of the population is sufficiently open to scientific debate to see it the same way. Nuclear is dearer than coal but cheaper than solar and more reliable than wind. If we can’t keep burning coal it is the next logical step.

    I disagree with the “anti-baseload” argument. We don’t just need large reliable power supplies for aluminium refining. Hospitals and universities need it too. A few solar panels just aren’t enough. Wind is good but will only cover about 20% of SA and Vics average requirements, less in Qld and NSW.

3 Trackbacks

  1. ...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pollytics. Pollytics said: A quick history of Australian polling on nuclear power http://bit.ly/m8mit [...

  2. ...] I’m again drawing on the excellent Pollytics, who a while back compiled Australian polling data on attitudes to nuclear power. The polls only cover a period of a couple of years, but show a [...

  3. ...] again drawing on the excellent Pollytics, who a while back compiled Australian polling data on attitudes to nuclear power.  The polls only cover a period of a couple of years, but show a [...

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