Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Election 2007 - Year of the Backflip

Whether you're talking about the Liberals' reluctance to discuss nuclear technology or Labor admitting to a Kyoto-2 boycott without developing nations, it's obvious the election is upon us. That said, there's little value in trying to objectively discuss Australia's nuclear options any time soon.

Regardless of who 'wins', it appears that concerned Australians [the vast majority of us at the moment] will continue to keep a close eye on our contribution to [as well as impacts from] the related energy issues. These may include Australia's contribution to emissions linked to climate change, newly proposed fossil fueled generation plants, the price of petrol, our ever increasing coal exports, new mines, port expansions, the cost of electricity, lingering drought, severe weather, etc.

Can we wave our meager 1.4% of global emissions banner and honestly expect to get away with it? Is there a shred of moral or ethical justification to support the average Australian's HUGE contribution to global emissions vs. say the average Indian or China-man?

Eventually, Australia will become serious about implementing changes that amount to more than a 'drop in the ocean'. It won't happen soon, but - considering all technologies currently available - Australia can not and will not get there without considerable nuclear power capacity.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Gweneth Cravens & Rip Anderson - Video

For the past week or so, I've had the above video parked at the top of the blog. I'll leave it here for posterity.

ABOUT THIS VIDEO Another Long Now seminar. This one is from September 2007. In this video Gweneth Cravens and Rip Anderson preview the history and details relating to Gweneth's new book - "Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy". It's 1:43 long and worth every second. Much about the ten year journey that transformed Gweneth from a passionate anti-nuclear activist into an informed nuclear advocate can be seen from this sneak peek into her book. Enjoy.

Considering the progression of the nuclear argument from the first video - saved in a post below [from a nuclear debate in early 2006], we can see how fast the world's minds [some very interesting minds] are changing. In this presentation, the issues are given proper time and consideration. KUDOS to Long Now!!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Korea - Asia Pacific's up and coming nuclear player

While the politicians use the topic of Australian nuclear power to pull attention away from our domestic coal industry and embarrassingly high per-capita carbon emissions; I'd like to highlight the ongoing accomplishments of Korea (that's South Korea).

Korea has designed, built, commissioned and continues to operate their own nuclear facilities. They are into fuel fabrication and are developing and deploying their own domestic technology. Now they are moving forward with work on a waste storage facility.

Way to go Korea!

Safety, energy, security, and low emissions. Watch this space.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Bloggers Wanted

As some of you may have noticed... I have been getting busy. My posting frequency has decreased from a peak in the second quarter of this year - but I assure you it's not due to a lack of interest or enthusiasm.

Nuclear news and related developments are coming fast and furious around the world, including Australia. I've been trying to focus on 'aspects other than the political' because that's not my field of expertise and experience. But I grudgingly admit that those issues must also be addressed if tangible progress is to be made in the two principal thematic areas of this Blog - reduction of emissions being linked to climate change and energy security.

To serve the dual purpose of keeping pace with current events and covering the full spectrum of nuclear related issues and discussions, I invite you to consider becoming a co-author of this blog.

As a co-author, you will be given access to generate posts containing topics you find interesting and relevant to either global nuclear power generation or better, nuclear power in the context of serving Australian interests. You may be pro-nuclear, anti-nuclear or somewhere in the middle; a technical professional, an artist, a student, a pensioner, or a stay at home parent; a professional writer or someone who often forgets exactly how many u's are in the word nuclear. All are welcome. You may post opinions [containing, or supported by, objective references please], links or other references to external information, or pose questions to me, other authors [provided I get some help] or the general audience of this Blog.

But I am the moderator - and the ultimate decisions with respect to content will remain with me alone. Opposing opinions are welcome, but principally emotional rants [for or against] add - in my opinion - no value and will be purged the moment I become aware of them, as will all the standard no-nos such as personal attacks, etc. Posts that have nothing to do with topics relevant to the Blog will obviously be deleted.

How? You may either:
  • Comment to this post using the 'comment' link at the end [if you don't want me to post your comment publicly because, for example, it contains personal information, just let me know and I will take the action to add you and then delete your comment].
  • Send an Email to me at [the name of this Blog - with the space removed, i.e. 'nuclearaustralia'] at or '@' and then 'Gmail' and finally dot or '.' 'com'. Is decoding the Email address a prerequisite for becoming a Blogger? No. I'm just trying to keep the spam to a minimum.

What you will have to do:

  • I believe you will have to create a Google account [I recommend going for a Gmail account right away] to blog here.
  • I will need your Email address to send out an author invitation. If you create a Gmail account per the above step, just forward me that address.
  • If you want to let me know a little bit about yourself [location, background, interests, etc.] that would be helpful and interesting, but it's not mandatory.

I will then initiate the invitation.

Privacy: I will share none [as in zero] of the information you provide with any individual or organisation - not even other authors within this blog.

Grateful for any help you are able to provide.

Last week's video - Tim Flannery interview

From an interview Tim Flannery did with the WWF-Australia in February 2007.

Considering the WWF is conducting the interview, Tim does a good job promoting the role of nuclear power to reduce Australia's embarrassingly high per-capita emissions. He's advocating it be done properly, but it's obvious that - at least for him - nuclear remains on the table.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Yet still more on GNEP - recommended reading

Steve Kidd has prepared another fine article for Nuclear Engineering International.

This one is on GNEP - in the global context of many ongoing, techno-political activities.

I agree strongly with the articles points and conclusions.

Beef & aluminium cuts

Cattle graze in the shadow of a US Nuclear Power Station

As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald

Mark Diesendorf has released a study showing what his data predicts it will take to achieve a 30% reduction in Australia's emissions linked by many to climate change. [What, exactly happened to the 60% target, I do not know - but let's leave that for now. This particular piece of fruit is hanging low enough.].

The report found that greater energy efficiency in residential, commercial and industrial sectors, using the cheapest forms of renewable electricity, such as wind, an increase in generation and co-generation with natural gas, modest improvements in public transport and a shift to hybrid and all-electric vehicles would, by 2020, cut emissions to 13 per cent below 1990 levels.

Even with a report commissioned by Greenpeace [implying all assumptions regarding renewables are somewhat rosy], still only 13%. Additionally, to achieve a 30% reduction - according to Dr. Diesendorf's study - Australia will have to:

  • eliminate or offset emissions from aluminium smelting "One possible response for the aluminium industry would be to move offshore," says Diesendorf,
  • 20 per cent cut in beef production,
  • 50 per cent cut in business and professional immigration and
  • end land clearing

[NB - are we trying to solve a global problem here or just make Australia feel less culpable? To this end, how would moving aluminium smelting offshore address the former? I guess these facilities will be relocated to a country where the energy is not derived from coal... say Russia? However, as the industry departs, so will our GDP. This will have little impact on Australian carbon intensity - i.e. tonnes carbon per unit GDP.]

And we've got another 30% to go after this to reach the 60% goal currently being promoted around the world. May we infer that the proposed cuts will just continue until a goal is achieved? Is this a sustainable approach to emissions reduction? Is it at all consistent with human nature?

Am I to take this report seriously?

Or Australia could adopt nuclear power, keep our comfortable lifestyles, make some significant cuts to emissions and - with efficiency and renewables - meet the targets mentioned above.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Responsibility and accountability

According to this Phil Mercer [same report in mp3] report for VOA News, a recent Sydney conference on climate change where CSIRO has - once again - shown that Australians [and Australian coal and coal power stations] are having one of the greatest per-capita impact on the climate. We are also headed for some dire consequences as a result.

Scientists there told an environment conference in Sydney that average temperatures across Australia will rise by about 1 degree by 2030, and possibly by a further 5 degrees by 2070.

Rainfall patterns are likely to be affected too, making droughts more severe.

Australia pumps out more so-called greenhouse gases per person than almost any other country in the world.

The country's emissions come principally from electricity generation, the majority of which is produced by coal-fired power stations.

There were calls for 'dramatic' reductions in emissions.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

GNEP and the Vienna gathering

The originally proposed GNEP Fuel Cycle

By now, most interested parties should be well aware of the GNEP meeting that took place in Vienna last month and the 11 nations [including Australia] who subsequently came onboard with the previous 'big-5' [France, Japan, Russia, China and the United States]. See the signed Statement of Principals document here.

in the 20-September issue of Nucleonics Week [subscription required] Ann MacLachlan and Mark Hibbs provide an interesting overview of the programme's status from a more global perspective than I've seen since the Vienna meeting. One sentence in particular caught my eye:
Faced with broad resistance to that stance last year, the US stepped back from seeking commitments from non-fuel cycle countries never to develop enrichment and reprocessing.
The entire article is worth a read.

It seems that now, the emphasis is on a more consensus based approach to hammering out a nuclear future - 'together'. The article quotes several ranking officials in the US and elsewhere saying the programme is only roughly defined on purpose so that members are not constrained into a predefined path which may conflict with national interest, it's one of several programmes, etc. - fair enough. Additionally, membership is voluntary and - as political endeavours tend to be these days - totally non-binding.

Also interesting to me is the list of old and new members - or even more interesting, who's not yet in the club. The 'big-5' are arguably the world's nuclear heavyweights. Of the new members:

Australia - No power reactors, and in need of considerable infrastructure upgrades to begin to consider any. We host 1 operational research reactor [OPAL 20MW], two shutdown research reactors [HIFAR 10MW and MOATA 100 KW] and one shutdown critical facility [0 power]. We are a nuclear power featherweight, but 40% of the worlds currently identified uranium reserves us a seat at the adults' table [for example on the IAEA board of governors].

Bulgaria - With 2 operational power reactors, 2 under construction [however construction began in 1987] and 4 shutdown power reactors and 1 shutdown research reactor; let's call Bulgaria a nuclear lightweight.

Ghana - 1 operational research reactor - featherweight

Hungary - 4 operational power reactors, 2 operational research reactors and 1 decommissioned research reactor - lightweight

Jordan - no reactors of any kind - flyweight

Kazakhstan - 1 power reactor permanently shutdown in 1973, 3 operational research reactors - featherweight

Lithuania - 1 operational and 1 shutdown power reactors, no research reactors - lightweight

Poland - no power reactors, 1 operating and 4 shutdown research reactors - featherweight

Romania - 2 operational power reactors, 2 operational and 2 shutdown research reactors - lightweight

Slovenia - 1 operational power reactor and 1 operating research reactor - lightweight

Ukraine - 15 operational, 4 shutdown [all at Chernobyl and of the same design] power reactors and 2 under construction power reactors; 1 operational and 2 shutdown research reactors - middleweight

[All information from the IAEA PRIS and RRDB databases]

Most are relatively minor players in the world of nuclear power - but players nonetheless.

Let's contrast GNEP membership with that of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and particularly which members of the NSG are not yet on-board the GNEP.

Not yet participating in GNEP
Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom.

I believe Ms MacLachlan and Mr Hibbs took a similar look and noticed as I do that some significant nuclear middleweights are taking a very cautious approach to GNEP. I like to keep a close eye on countries in this category [particularly those in red above]. Due to their size, available resources and demonstrated success in the nuclear power field, as a group their actions reflect the direction of the global industry and technology without a lot of political smoke and mirrors.

I said recently that the Canadian nukes were lean and good decision makers. This goes for most other countries in the group. Korea is developing its own domestic nuclear technology [building their own research reactor and - as pointed out in the referenced article - looking to get into pyroprocessing on the ground floor]. Argentina is also doing well. Don't give me guff about the fuel issue with OPAL. Yes it was significant, but it was identified early without any credible threat to any sort of release. Basically it was a unfortunate event that has been and continues to be handled very well. And when the Argentineans emerge from it they will have gained some valuable expertise in their reactor/fuel design and manufacturing groups.

Ditto the other countries highlighted above. Their nuclear industries are lean but successful.

By not jumping onto GNEP, they are also signaling that they are not desperate, but want to protect the future opportunities they see on their doorstep.

I suspect this is why the US is changing [the authors say 'stepped back'] the GNEP programme. They are faced with their own dramas. Energy security and climate change issues loom. Nuclear power can play a role in addressing both [at least - as a nation - they seem to have figured that much out which is more than I can say for about half of Australia]. But what they need now is participation. They have their own big election in about a year and GNEP has to appear to be the Global Partnership that it's proponents are touting. It's had funding issues within the US and unless it takes off on its own accord, may suffer following the election.

I may sound like a bit of a nuclear heretic, but I can't just blindly throw my support behind GNEP. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I oppose it either. It could do some good, but I don't read about it and think 'Panacea' - particularly for Australia. It may help us sell a bit more uranium.

I've talked in other posts about my reluctance toward GNEP and the US's political tendency to invent a 'bigger and better' programme to satisfy political objectives and/or provide a bit of time / pressure release when existing programmes fail to get runs on the board at a rate which pleases their political overlords. Quotes from the article mention pulling GNEP back to avoid duplication of work with, for example the IAEA's infrastructure programme, or GEN-IV's technology development. This is good news. From a technology perspective, maybe GNEP can focus on reprocessing and waste treatment [finally a role for Australia]. It's difficult to understand what is going on in the USA however. I used to have a link to a DOE website explaining Gen-IV technology - it no longer works. Today, I can't even find any planned activities for this year or accomplishments for 2006. Has the 'bigger, better, super-deluxe model' GNEP already overshadowed Gen-IV? [That was quick.] I hope Gen-IV is encouraged to return to the DOE's radar and the US/DOE continues its support for the relevant technology development. Since Australia is said to have joined the Gen-IV along with GNEP, I remain hopeful.

Just take a look at the membership of the Gen-IV international forum [GIF]. There you will find those 'middleweights' I discuss above -and therein lies the future of nuclear power.

Last week's video - Moral and Ethical aspects of climate change

From a meeting at the United Nations on 30-April, 2007.

This is a more articulate way of explaining why I believe - and frequently proclaim - our emissions are so embarrassingly high.

Find the referenced paper at this link.

Listen to Tim Flannery's 2-cents on this topic here.