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Oct 13, 2009

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

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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.

Possum Comitatus — Editor of Pollytics

Possum Comitatus

Editor of Pollytics

Political Commentator and Blogger

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38 thoughts on “An Updated History of Nuclear Polling

  1. Possum Comitatus

    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?]

  2. cud chewer

    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

  3. ShowsOn

    [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.

  4. cud chewer

    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]

  5. cud chewer

    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.

  6. addinall

    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.

  7. addinall

    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.

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