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Nuclear energy: the debate Australia has to have

By anuevents 23 July 2014 51

ABC 666’s Genevieve Jacobs will talk with three of the nation’s most compelling experts on an issue we cannot continue to ignore.

The world is hungry for low cost, low emissions energy, but in Australia nuclear energy is still off the agenda. Will other low emissions technology be enough? Why do we keep avoiding the nuclear power option? How dangerous is nuclear energy? How long before our entire region is powered by nuclear energy, leaving us as the odd one out?

These and other pressing issues will be addressed at the fifth STA Topical Science Forum. Make sure you don’t miss it.

Where: Theatre, lower ground floor, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Canberra
When: Monday 28 July 1-2.30pm
Register: here.

Read the speaker biographies here.

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, in partnership with Science & Technology Australia and Research Training at The Australian National University.

What’s Your opinion?


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Nuclear energy: the debate Australia has to have
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HenryBG 1:59 pm 08 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

The 14,000 peer-reviewed papers you refer to are written by “scientists” who are paid to write that sort of stuff and it is only theory based on computer modelling.

This is untrue. Those scientists earn meagre sums to conduct research and publish their findings. Competition to get completed research published is enormously competitive and the vast majority is not published, leaving just the very best to end up in print in the respected scientific journals.
(You can tell when “research” isn’t very good – it gets published in obscure journals that are not respected in the academic world.)
Nobody pays them to “write that sort of stuff” – you’re probably thinking of the kind of PR firms that hire scientists to write the kind of anti-global-warming nonsense which you appear to be repeating.

As to the second part, global warming has nothing to do with models – it is basic physics: incoming sunlight loses energy when it is reflected from our planet and so leaves our atmosphere at lower frequencies than it came in as. It just so happens that some molecules in our atmosphere, eg, H20, CH4, CO2, happen to be in possession of an absorption spectrum that matches the *outgoing* radiation. Therefore, more of those molecules means more radiation trapped in the atmosphere, thus heating the planet.
The Greenhouse Effect: Basic physics.

As for modern technologies devised for generating energy through renewable means, why not have a squiz at this NYT article which describes an even more immediately important reason to invest in renewables than any environmental reason:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/business/international/russia-may-be-losing-influence-over-european-energy-markets.html

(I have excerpted the key lines in order to save the time-poor a bit of expenditure:)

The chiefs of big gas middlemen … would sit down with their counterparts at Gazprom or Sonatrach… and work out long-term contracts linked to the price of oil.

big industrial customers are insisting on prices determined by the actual trading of gas

he European gas market is beginning to resemble that of the United States, where gas is priced according to what buyers and sellers will pay, not linked to much more expensive oil.

Europe’s much-criticized renewables push is also influencing energy markets. In the first half of this year, 28.5 percent of German electric power came from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power — a nearly 4 percent increase over a year earlier. Britain is also surging ahead, with almost 15 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources, an increase of almost one-third.

Although the growth of electricity generated by offshore wind farms and vast solar arrays is a nasty headache for fossil-fuel utilities, these unconventional power installations are reducing demand for gas and coal in Europe.

Russia’s influence over European energy markets is weakening rather than growing stronger.

Prices for future delivery of gas have dropped more than 30 percent over the past year on the British market

The European Union, which has been under pressure from industries to ease back on costly new emission-cutting requirements, is taking note of this unexpected strategic gain from renewables, which comes as the Union is formulating energy policies for the next 15 years.

On July 23, Günther Oettinger, the top European energy official, told reporters that a higher-than-expected energy savings target would be recommended for 2030 because of “the need for energy security in gas because of the situation in Russia and Ukraine,” according to Reuters.

Whatever domestic energy supplies Europe can tap will strengthen its hand and serve as insurance. In that sense, renewables are important cards to hold.

“The Ukraine crisis could act as a wake-up call for European decision makers to increase the use of renewable energy,” said Marcus Ferdinand, an analyst at Point Carbon, a research firm based in Oslo.

Diggety 12:20 pm 08 Aug 14

Video of the event can be found here.

gasman 12:19 pm 29 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

bigfeet said :

gasman said :

There are 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting hunan carbon release climate change.

14000 papers blaming one single province in southern-central China for climate change?

Wow, I’d hate to live there.

I was going to draw attention to that spelling mistake but I make a few myself. I now see it in its relevence to the subject matter and I am having a good laugh.

Obviously I was using the Hunan province as a metaphor for all of us. We are all Hunans.

🙂

dungfungus 9:09 am 29 Jul 14

bigfeet said :

gasman said :

There are 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting hunan carbon release climate change.

14000 papers blaming one single province in southern-central China for climate change?

Wow, I’d hate to live there.

I was going to draw attention to that spelling mistake but I make a few myself. I now see it in its relevence to the subject matter and I am having a good laugh.

bigfeet 6:46 am 29 Jul 14

gasman said :

There are 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting hunan carbon release climate change.

14000 papers blaming one single province in southern-central China for climate change?

Wow, I’d hate to live there.

dungfungus 10:13 pm 28 Jul 14

gasman said :

It is a little-known fact that coal-fired power plants release far more radioactivity, as uranium and thorium, than do nuclear power plants.

Read that again – Coal is more radioactive than nuclear.

Coal is typically 1ppm (part per million) uranium and 2ppm radioactive thorium. We then burn the coal and the uranium and thorium are released as fly ash into the atmosphere.

Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/202/4372/1045.short

Furthermore, that radioactive waste from burning coal is not contained and stored as in a properly run nuclear plant, but simply released to wherever the wind blows it.

So not even considering the climate change effects of burning coal, or then thousands of dead coal miners per year, coal is worse in terms if radioactivity release.

Note to climate change deniers: climate change is now well-established science. There are 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting hunan carbon release climate change. If you wish to deny climate change, you will need to quote which scientific paper you disagree with, and why.

The 14,000 peer-reviewed papers you refer to are written by “scientists” who are paid to write that sort of stuff and it is only theory based on computer modelling.
There is absolutely no proof of the climate changing because of human initiated carbon release.
If radioactivity released through burning coal is such a threat as you appear to be suggesting it isn’t borne out by workers at the power plants suffering from radioactive sickness.
Also, as far as I know, fly ash is captured before it goes up the smokestack and it is used in the building industry. I haven’t bothered to check this on the net. I think most of us have enough common sense to develop our own opinions without going down the “information highway” to get someone else’s story.

dungfungus 10:00 pm 28 Jul 14

wildturkeycanoe said :

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

dungfungus said :

So, if you or a loved one had cancer and radiothereapy was the only chance there was for survival you would say “no”?

Producing radiation for radiotherapy treatment does not contribute to millions of cubic meters of waste.
Your argument is like saying I would prevent people using Vaseline for chapped lips because of the rates of cancer from oil refineries. Totally lost the point.

When was the last time someone died from terminal chapped lips?
And I think your estimate of “millions of cubic meteres of (radioactive) waste” is a bit exaggerated.
The nuclear facilities that produce the isotopes for nuclear medicine still produce nuclear waste.

So, we are in agreement that manufacturing medicinal radiation does not produce millions of cubic meters of waste, the percentage is very small. When you look up how much waste in total commercial nuclear power does produce, the figures are astounding. France is looking to have around 1.9 million cubic metres by 2020, with over a million in storage already. Hardly an exaggeration.
I’m still trying to work out how you think I don’t support cancer treatments from my original piece, just because I am against large commercial reactors.

I think you analogy using vaseline on chapped lips mocked the serious business of radiotherapy treatment to save lives. I believe that you would support it and I respect your views on the latent problem that large amounts of radioactive waste may present.
As large as that amount in France by 2020 sounds (a cube 1250 x 1250 x 1250 metres), is it really causing any problems? Think how much carbon would have been saved if the same amount of electricity had been produced using coal or natural gas.
On 7.30 ABC TV tonight they were highlighting a similar problem with the HCB waste at Orica’s plant at Port Botany. Apparently France has refused to destroy the waste in their high temperature incinerator so it may be necessary for Australia to build one.
Who said necessity was the mother of invention?
Australia has a great opportunity to create a safe nuclear waste storage for the world in several areas of that 7,692,024 square kilometre block you referred to on an earlier post.

wildturkeycanoe 7:31 pm 28 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

dungfungus said :

So, if you or a loved one had cancer and radiothereapy was the only chance there was for survival you would say “no”?

Producing radiation for radiotherapy treatment does not contribute to millions of cubic meters of waste.
Your argument is like saying I would prevent people using Vaseline for chapped lips because of the rates of cancer from oil refineries. Totally lost the point.

When was the last time someone died from terminal chapped lips?
And I think your estimate of “millions of cubic meteres of (radioactive) waste” is a bit exaggerated.
The nuclear facilities that produce the isotopes for nuclear medicine still produce nuclear waste.

So, we are in agreement that manufacturing medicinal radiation does not produce millions of cubic meters of waste, the percentage is very small. When you look up how much waste in total commercial nuclear power does produce, the figures are astounding. France is looking to have around 1.9 million cubic metres by 2020, with over a million in storage already. Hardly an exaggeration.
I’m still trying to work out how you think I don’t support cancer treatments from my original piece, just because I am against large commercial reactors.

Maya123 11:23 am 28 Jul 14

Grail said :

There is a fantasy entertained by far too many people that nuclear power will solve all our energy needs, when the main problem is that we have so many damned people using far too much energy. Middle of Winter in Canberra: do you a) put on a jumper or b) turn on the air-conditioning and heat the house to 20C?

Only 20 C! Many people likely think that is too cool.

When getting a new house, houses can be designed for Canberra conditions that need virtually no artificial heating. My house has no heater on at present and is warm. Occasionally I light a wood fire, but I have no other artificial heating. This winter I have only lit the fire once in the daytime and a few times at night; most nights not. When the fire is lit I also tend to cook on it rather than use the electric stove. All my wood (mostly hardwood) has come from waste sources. My last electricity bill (including service fee) was about $135. However, most people rate the entertainment room, two sitting rooms, theaterette, etc more highly than designing their house properly.
Older houses can be better insulated, etc, which will help a lot, but they don’t beat designing the house correctly in the first place.
A lot of energy use is people’s attitude. But having said that, recently I saw a program on energy consumption and household energy consumption is dropping. More energy efficient white-goods have a lot to do with this I believe. The energy companies spent up big on lines, etc, because their projections had energy use increasing, whereas it is now falling (good). The increases in power bills have a lot to do with, now it seems, this unnecessary expenditure on infrastructure.

Holden Caulfield 10:30 am 28 Jul 14

gasman said :

Coal %u2013 global average 170,000 (50% global electricity)

Natural Gas 4,000 (20% global electricity)

Solar (rooftop) 440 (< 1% global electricity) Wind 150 (~ 1% global electricity) Hydro %u2013 global average 1,400 (15% global electricity) Nuclear %u2013 global average 90 (17% global electricity including Chernobyl & Fukushima)

Am I reading this wrong, looking at the percentages assigned to global electricity…

50%
20%
~1%
~1%
15%
17%
—————-
104%

Grail 10:10 am 28 Jul 14

Note that the high rate of deaths per unit production on rooftop solar has more to do with the rooftop part than the solar part. Working at heights is dangerous, and there are far too many rooftop workers around the world who are either not supplied with or simply don’t use the appropriate safety gear and work practices.

In the meantime, nuclear is still quite expensive and requires significant infrastructure to support it, not the least of which is long term security of the nuclear waste. There are technologies available to process that waste faster (e.g.: burning it up in a Thorium reactor), but those technologies are not commercially proven and there is little commercial incentive to prove them.

There is a fantasy entertained by far too many people that nuclear power will solve all our energy needs, when the main problem is that we have so many damned people using far too much energy. Middle of Winter in Canberra: do you a) put on a jumper or b) turn on the air-conditioning and heat the house to 20°C?

Nuclear power plants represent a large amount of production in a centralised activity. This means your energy security is at risk: one “accident” such as a boat or plane colliding with a vital part of the plant will shut it down and lead to an energy crisis in that network until you can repair/replace the nuclear plant.

A more decentralised power generation system means you have much better energy security. No longer will a natural disaster or engineered “accident” threaten to take down the entire state’s energy grid.

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