Positive Energy

Monday, March 09, 2009

Entropy - The Key to Stability

Energy flows. It moves from one region to another. It bumps into constraints as it flows, and causes these constraints to change: perhaps to heat up, or perhaps to move. The specific effect on the constraint depends on how the energy flow interacts with it. The key point here is that these interactions are repeatable - they happen in the same way every time. This means that people can study the characteristics of these energy streams in a scientific manner. Using the knowledge gained from their observations they can then engineer various kinds of constraints so that the end effect of an energy flow produces something of value. For example, the flow of heat from a hot gas in one container to a cooler gas in another can result in a light bulb glowing brightly enough for someone to read a math book. That is a valuable result.

We use the word "entropy" to indicate how much a unit of energy has dissipated and therefore how reliably it will flow when we open the gate. If it has not spread out very much, ie if it is densely packed in a small volume, we say that the entropy of the energy is low. On the other hand, if the unit of energy occupies a large region and has flow characteristics that we cannot predict and control we say its entropy is high. The entropy of a unit of energy increases when that energy flows from a densely packed configuration (ie low entropy) out to a loosely packed situation (ie high entropy).

The phenomena of energy flowing from a dense state to a loose state has been studied over and over again using scientific methods. No exceptions have ever been noted - energy always flows spontaneously from low entropy to high entropy regions. You can depend on it.

We see then that a container of low entropy energy is a useful thing. It can be plugged into a machine, and energy can flow out from it in a predictable and manageable manner, creating benefits for human beings. Sources of low entropy energy are highly valuable. Over time humans have sought them out and learned how to work with them. From food to wood to coal to oil to gas - we have steadily moved to lower and lower entropy sources, and improved our living conditions by working with entropy to generate increased benefits. And now we are making the transition to a new low entropy source that is millions times better than gas, and so clean it is hard to believe - namely fissionable metals such as uranium and thorium. It will take a while, a few decades, for us to comprehend just how significant this giant leap forward really is. We have never seen anything like this before.

We build a useful energy supply system by putting a large amount of energy into a small space, and providing a gate that we can open or close easily to let out specific amounts of energy in accordance with current demand. Precision is vital if we want this system to be useful. Both the amount and the timing of energy releases are critical. Too much or too little energy in response to demand can damage equipment at the application end, while releasing too early or too late can disrupt schedules and cause chaos.

This sounds like a difficult problem. How can we possibly guarantee that the right amount of energy will flow at the right time? Well, thank goodness for entropy, that dependable characteristic of energy. Entropy increases spontaneously whenever energy is packed into a dense region and then given a chance to expand into a bigger region. So, every time we open the gate the energy flows in a predictable and controllable manner - as long as the entropy is low enough in the energy storage device. This makes the design of a good energy system reasonably simple - start with a really low entropy source and let the energy flow from there through various gates, shunts, loops, and meters to applications such as light bulbs that allow us to read math books. Clearly, the source with the lowest entropy and the longest life span will be our best choice for our energy system. Such a source reduces costs and improves reliability.

The fuels available for a low entropy energy supply system offer different degrees of low entropy combined with long duration. Longer duration leads to less work for refueling and therefore less cost. Wood is good - it releases heat at a steady rate for a few minutes before more fuel has to be added. Coal is better than wood - more heat and longer duration. Oil and gas are better than coal. Then we meet the millions of times better stuff - uranium and thorium. These elements provide clean, low entropy energy for eighteen month fuel cycles in modern reactors and decade long cycles in the reactors being tested for future use. This is millions of times better than coal and gas. Clearly, uranium and thorium provide our best alternatives for building better energy supply systems.

High entropy energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels are less useful than low entropy energy sources such as nuclear reactors. We do not get as much valuable book reading light from them as we do from nuclear for all the work involved in their construction and operation. Wind is a high entropy source due to its turbulence. Sometimes the wind is strong and its energy density is high at a specific location, and sometimes it is weak and its energy density is low. This is why we have to build wind farms as expansive fields of turbines - we hope that at any one time at least some of the turbines will be experiencing energy dense wind gusts. The result is that the total energy from wind farms varies from nothing on calm days up to more energy than we need on windy days when all the turbines are catching wind. The changes in energy output are unpredictable and fast, making the total energy stream difficult to use. This is why we refer to it as a high entropy source. Solar panel arrays have similar deficiencies with their variability caused by night, clouds, and weather that covers the panels with snow and ice.

If the energy source is high in entropy (ie chaotic, in that sometimes it flows forcefully and sometimes it doesnt), then a lot of conditioning is needed to get the energy to flow to the application device in the smooth and controlled manner necessary for it to be useful. This conditioning consumes energy and requires operational management. If the management demand is challenging then the likelihood of mistakes increases. A tipping point point is reached when the chance of an error becomes significant and it happens with an unacceptable frequency, causing system failures. In our electricity grid such failures trip safety devices and cause a large scale shut down. This is why we can operate the grid with a few high entropy sources feeding into it - the tipping point has not been reached. When the amount of high entropy input increases its management complexity increases and the probability of a failure goes up. We eventually get into a situation where safety devices are being set off too often and the value of the grid has decreased. The tipping point seems to show up when ten to fifteen percent of the energy input comes from high entropy (ie variable in unpredictable ways) sources. In other words, a few wind turbines feeding into the grid doesnt do any harm, but too many cause it to fail too often.

To reduce the risk of system failures a high entropy energy stream can be modified to make it less disruptive before it reaches the grid. When the stream is low it can be supplemented with additional energy, making it a smoother source in total. The supplemental energy has to come from a very low entropy system since it has to vary quickly and forcefully as commanded by its managers to counter-match the unpredictable high entropy source. The range of this supplementary power extends from zero to full load when the high entropy source varies from full load generation down to nothing. This leads to an interesting situation - the use of highly variable sources such as wind and solar forces us to complement them with a low entropy generation system to back them up, and this low entropy system has to be robust enough to do the whole job when necessary. Note that the backup system has to run a lot. With wind turbines some additional energy is required seventy percent of the time. The backup system has to run all the time, however, so it is always ready to quickly jump in when needed. For example it may have to provide a five percent increase for a while, followed by a short interval where it provides the full load, followed by a period when it provides a fifteen percent boost. As you gaze at those turbines lazily turning in an expansive wind complex you should understand that somewhere a gas fueled generator is running twenty-four hours per day, releasing carbon dioxide, to back them up.

The practical observer asks why dont we just build the low entropy system and use it and forget about the high entropy complications caused by wind farms and solar arrays. Well, the high entropy system might be less polluting so using it makes sense when cleanliness is important. Wind and solar panels backed up by natural gas makes sense. But if we have a backup system that is clean, safe, and inexpensive and we use it to back up the high entropy inputs, this combination is not reasonable. Switching back and forth between the high and low entropy systems does not reduce pollution while it does increase the chance of grid failure. It makes more sense to just run the clean backup system all the time without the high entropy complications and have a more stable grid as a result. In other words, by adding nuclear reactors to the grid we eliminate requirements for wind and solar use. Nuclear reactors are just as clean as wind and solar sources, and have the advantage of being inexpensive low entropy sources that make the grid more stable. I think we should improve our electricity system by adding new nuclear reactors to it and forget about the unnecessary and costly exercise of plugging in wind turbines and solar panels until we discover the tipping point that makes grid instability intolerable.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Fading Fad

Here are some interesting Canadian initiatives:

Energy Probe


The Natural Resources Stewardship Project

You can supplement these Canadian perspectives with ideas from:

Cool It!


The Bottomless Well

Judging from the above, Canadians should be making hard-headed, wealth increasing energy decisions very different from those being proposed by our political leaders.

Energy Probe started all this for me. They have a long history of writing shallow and unhelpful articles bemoaning all the problems associated with nuclear power. I had written them off as just another voice in the anti-nuke choir, singing from the same sheet as all the rest. Then this appeared:

The Deniers: The World-Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud: And those who are too fearful to do so

The author is
Lawrence Solomon, Executive Director of Energy Probe. One can argue all night long about the merits of this book, its accuracy, its fairness - but what struck me most was its source. I never expected to see anything like this from a group of environment hard-liners who push the conserve and reduce theme to the limit. I blinked more than once - the lights seem to be coming on over there at Energy Probe.

Following the thread brought me to a couple of interesting discussions:

Global Warming Advocate Rethinks Position

Don’t Deny Yourself

Canadians need to be realistic about the choices we make if we want to avoid really destructive and expensive mistakes. In Canada we can do nothing to affect the global level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We are just too small. If we eliminated all our carbon combustion completely it would not even register on the global measurement, yet such a practice could destroy our economy and social structure. The time has come to think of reasonable things. We need clean, reliable, inexpensive, safe, and plentiful negentropy (ie highly ordered energy), and we know how to produce it using our own Canadian nuclear power industry. For me it seems sort of obvious that we have to start building reactors and electricity distribution lines now, but I guess others still need to watch the clock tick for a while before facing up to this reality.

Increasing our use of nuclear power implies more electricity use. This leads to lots of changes - electric powered transportation, electric powered heating and cooling, electric powered and controlled robotics. All these changes provide opportunities for improvement in the way we live, and that is where The Natural Resources Stewardship Project fits in for me. We can do many things better, such as higher speed ground transportation on elevated rails or in tunnels so there is no animal killing or habitat loss. We can grow food in vats in our cities to avoid cutting down all the trees for farms and to eliminate our cruel animals as food practices. And we dont need garbage dumps any more,

Zero-Waste Ottawa

so the new cities can be floating platforms on the ocean if we want to build them that way. Life can still get much better if we are willing to work for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Canadian International Activities

Participating in the nuclear renaissance involves a lot more than building and operating fission based electricity generators. Many international collaborative projects are taking place, all aimed at improving nuclear technology. Canada has a leadership role in a number of these initiatives, and provides key research in other areas. The following list summarizes what I have been able to find out about Canada's international activities:

World Nuclear University (WNU)
The WNU is a global partnership committed to enhancing international education and leadership in the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. The central elements of the WNU partnership are:
o The global organizations of the nuclear industry: WNA and WANO
o The inter-governmental nuclear agencies: IAEA and OECD-NEA
o Leading institutions of nuclear learning in some thirty countries.

Canada's institutional partnership in the WNU is implemented through the University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE).

The 2008 WNU Summer Institute will be held at the University of Ottawa, Canada from July 5 through 2008 August 15, hosted by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Bruce Power, Cameco Corporation, and Ontario Power Generation.

Advanced Reactor Technology Development
An MOU for this work has been signed between China and Canada to develop low uranium consumption CANDU technologies. Press release.

World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO)
WANO was created to improve safety at every nuclear power plant in the world.

International Nuclear Worker's Union's Network (INWUN)
INWUN ensures that the views of Nuclear Worker Unions are heard by international labour and nuclear related organizations.

Canadian Nuclear Workers Council

Euratom Treaty
The treaty outlines its purpose as:
- recognizing that nuclear energy represents an essential resource for the development and invigoration of industry and will permit the advancement of the cause of peace,
- resolved to create the conditions necessary for the development of a powerful nuclear industry which will provide extensive energy resources, lead to the modernization of technical processes and contribute, through its many other applications, to the prosperity of their peoples,
- anxious to create the conditions of safety necessary to eliminate hazards to the life and health of the public,
- desiring to associate other countries with their work and to cooperate with international organizations concerned with the peaceful development of atomic energy

Canada has a number of bilateral agreements with the Euratom community.

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
The NSG was created following the explosion in 1974 of a nuclear device by a non-nuclear-weapon State, which demonstrated that nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.

The Right Way to End India's 'Nuclear Apartheid'

Zangger Committee
This committee maintains a trigger list of items that have to be safely controlled when they are exchanged between states that have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The committee works informally and its decisions are not binding on its members. This approach has allowed it to take a leadership role at times when a formal approach would be too restrictive.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Bureau
The Bureau maintains bilateral relations with its counterparts in other countries to exchange information and share in developing solutions to common challenges. Bilateral dialogue has already been initiated with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.

The Burr Amendment
USA legislation that allows highly enriched uranium to be shipped to Canada for medical isotope production. This is supported by diplomatic notes from Canada that assure proper protection will be provided. The situation is summarized here.

Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction
Canada is doing its part as a member of the Global Partnership.

The USA Department of Energy has an agreement with Russia that allows the USA to pay for the closure of three nuclear power plants that can also produce weapons grade plutonium. Canada has contributed $7M to this project. More details here.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)
Statement of Principles
Note that this statement has been endorsed by
Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, Canada, 2007 Dec 04
A good review of the situation can be read here.

Generation IV International Forum (GIF)
The GIF was organized in 2001 as a collaborative research program aimed at developing the next, the IV, generation of nuclear power. Canada has participated from the beginning. Canadian work is coordinated by the Office of Energy Research and Development. Canada is concentrating on the Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor (SCWR), the Very-High-Temperature Reactor (VHTR), hydrogen production, and other co-generation applications. An outline of Canada's program is available here.

Hydrogen Production Project Management Board
processes for thermochemical hydrogen production
part of GIF
Canada is represented by AECL

Energy R&D MOU - 1998 Mar 18

Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
The NEA is a specialised agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It assists member countries in maintaining and developing the scientific, technological, and legal basis of nuclear energy. The NEA's current membership consists of 28 countries, in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Canada is a member. The NEA works closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - a specialised agency of the United Nations - and with the European Commission in Brussels. Within the OECD, there is close co-ordination with the International Energy Agency and the Environment Directorate.

International Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (I-NERI)
I-NERI is a USA initiative, part of the Generation IV program, and it is currently the only vehicle for international research collaboration in Generation IV technology. It enables collaboration with the GIF countries on a bilateral basis until multilateral agreements are established. Canada has been involved since 2003 in the areas of Hydrogen Production by Nuclear Systems, Sustainable and Advanced Fuel Cycles, and Super-Critical Water-Cooled Reactor Concepts.

Nuclear Energy International Research Agreement
On February 28, 2005, the Government of Canada signed an international agreement on nuclear energy that will help shape the direction of the industry for the next 20 years. The framework agreement, supported by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and six other countries, is part of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) that advances long-term multilateral research and development of nuclear energy systems. In 2006, Canada established the GenIV National Program in order to support Canada’s commitments in advanced nuclear energy systems R&D. On November 30, 2006, Natural Resources Canada signed two systems arrangements of GIF to enable multilateral R&D collaborations in two nuclear reactor systems – the Super Critical Water Cooled Reactor (SCWR) and the Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR). For further details on Canada’s signing of the agreement, please go here.

AECL – China National Nuclear Corporation Agreement on Nuclear Energy Cooperation
On September 29, 2005, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed an agreement that specifies a number of nuclear-related projects on which AECL and CNNC will collaborate. These include joint work on the design of the Advanced CANDU Reactor for China, advanced work on CANDU materials, waste management, CANDU fuel cycles, computerized operations support tools, as well as collaboration in developing advanced technologies including hydrogen production. Further details on the agreement may be found here.

AECL - CNNC - Nucleoelectrica Argentina CANDU Agreement - 2007 Sep 04

International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO)
INPRO brochure dated 2007. INPRO is one of many projects managed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Its place within the IAEA is described here.

Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR)
In the US, the VHTR is more widely known as the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP)

Nuclear Legislation: Analytical Study
This report summarizes Canada's legal framework as it applies to nuclear industry obligations both domestically and internationally.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

IBM Nuclear Power Advisory Council

IBM has set up an advisory council for nuclear power - what does this mean?

The Industry Talk section of the World Nuclear News web site reported that such a council held its first meeting in 2007 December. The results of this meeting are summarized here: Key 2008 Issues for Nuclear Power.

The key concern is the aging of the nuclear industry work force, combined with the internet raised new workers who are not interested in demanding jobs such as the design and operation of nuclear reactors. IBM proposes to solve this problem by introducing better plant management software and asset control. I wonder....

The key idea is to use knowledge management tools to make it possible to introduce new staff into the operation with causing problems, as outlined in Donald R. Hoffman's keynote presentation.

Canada was there .... a representative from AECL attended the meeting.

It seems that Canada again has something to offer in this domain with "Smart CANDU".

The meeting took place at IBM's Global Center of Excellence for Nuclear Power. This centre was set up in July, 2007.

It looks like MRO was doing something like this before, so it became an IBM initiative when MRO was acquired by IBM.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Canada is joining the "Global Nuclear Energy Partnership" (GNEP):

Canada to join Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

One of the GNEP partners actually noticed this momentous decision and gave it a favourable nod:

DOE Statement on Canada Joining the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

GNEP originally included: China, France, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

Eleven more countries signed up at the second meeting: Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. Italy joined in 2007 November.

A number of countries have been attending the meetings while they think about signing up: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Czech, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

You can get the official GNEP details at: GNEP Ministerial Meetings.

Canada's participation could be significant because we can offer a technical alternative that allows the GNEP principles to be practiced now instead of in the distant future. GNEP aims to make nuclear power generation technology widely available without spreading uranium enrichment systems. GNEP also wants to tightly control the disposition of spent fuel. The long term plan is to develop fast reactors and fuel processing plants that address these requirements. But we don't have to wait. We can begin this process today using "Direct Use of used PWR fuel in CANDU reactors" (DUPIC). Countries such as the USA can provide enriched uranium to smaller countries where Light Water Reactors are in use. After the fuel has been used in these smaller countries it can be returned to the selling country. There, instead of being a problem, it could be fissioned in a CANDU reactor. This would make it financially advantageous for the original seller of the fuel. GNEP can begin acting on its statement of principles today. Canada again holds open the door to a peaceful future!

More details about the use of CANDU reactors for this purpose can be seen at:

Better yet, Canada and the USA could begin exercising the GNEP concept immediately, without waiting for the construction of CANDU reactors in the USA. Canada can sell natural uranium to the USA. The USA can enrich it and fission it in their Light Water Reactors. Once it has gone through their system the spent fuel could be returned to Canada where it could be run through our CANDU reactors. That would give Canada free fuel for its electricity generation. This is a huge win-win opportunity for all, since it provides a practical demonstration of the benefits of GNEP.


Monday, November 12, 2007

IPSP Comments

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) announced on 2007 Oct 31 that it wants comments about the Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) recently released by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA).

The OEB has to review the IPSP to make sure that it will accomplish what the Ontario Minister of Energy asked for, at a reasonable cost.

How does one conduct such a review? Well, you make a list of the specific items that the Minister requested, and then look at the sections of the IPSP that address each item. If the plan is adequate in each case the review concludes by giving OEB approval. This approach is reasonable because it is not open ended - the review is finished when all the items on the list have been looked at. But for this approach to be credible the original list of issues has to be complete. So the OEB is starting out by asking the public to review its list of issues and suggest additional items if they are needed.

If you want to be involved you need to read the IPSP, read the preliminary list of issues proposed, and send your comments to the OEB.

The deadline is nicely defined by the OEB:
Parties wishing to comment on the proposed issues list must provide their comments in writing to the Board within 30 days of the last date of publication of the notice.

I'm guessing that comments should be at the OEB before 2007 Nov 30. You can use this form for your submission.

My difficulty with this process is that I think the original request from the Minister was unrealistic. I stated this in a previous post - Comments about the Supply Mix Advice Report. So I think the IPSP should be a short document that contains one word - "Impossible!". Instead it is a detailed list of things to do that launches us into a world of wishful thinking and soon to be dashed hopes. I have tried to warn people that this adventure will be painful. It seems that only hard knocks will teach Ontarians how to manage their electrical resources. They should be building more nuclear power plants, but instead they are pinning their hopes on windmills.

The trouble with missed opportunities is that they don't show up in history as clear alternatives. All we see is the misery of what actually happened. If it did not have to be that way that is never documented. Ontario is setting out on a hard journey that it does not need to suffer through. Oh well ....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lighting The Way

The InterAcademy Council published:

Lighting the way: Toward a sustainable energy future

This document was written by people who have well established positions as administrators, academics, and researchers in scientific fields such as physics, chemistry, system analysis, and biology. I dug into it hoping to find the hard headed, skeptical logic of a physics text book. That didn't happen. I waded through chapters of apologetic explanations of renewables and carbon fuels and how they don't work, but will work if we just spend lots of money quickly on research. I suffered through chapters that faintly praised the successes of nuclear power and then essentially wrote it off as a serious contender. I searched through the conclusions which admonished us to spend a fortune on the energy infrastructure of Africa because that would be a proper thing to do, without any quantification of what this would cost, whether or not we could even hope to complete the job, and what the benefits would be after the costs had been paid. Yes, these are laudable goals - I just expected a more pragmatic treatment that recognized what is actually happening, what is actually doable, and what is really to be gained or lost in measurable terms. Instead, I got what I don't need - a long promise that clean coal and renewables research will save us so we don't have to use nuclear power very much. I won't add this document to my recommended reading list.

What I did like in the document was the clear message about the amount of fossil fuel we have left - namely "lots". The report showed in several ways that we have no shortage of carbon fuels. What we are lacking is a big enough atmosphere to burn all this stuff in without killing ourselves in the process. Along with these facts, the report summarizes how fast we are building up our carbon burning capabilities. It seems pretty obvious to me what this is leading up to - a global heat calamity in a hundred years or so. The report hints at this using much more diplomatic language, and then contradicts itself by demanding that we have to get everything solved within the next ten years. In particular we have to seriously increase our spending on scientific research right now. The facts don't support this kind of panic, and the report reads like a political polemic in these sections. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the global heating discussion need not bother with this report.

Notes made while reading:

  • Good Idea - The InterAcademy Council produces peer reviewed reports written by experts from all over the world. We should be able to use these reports as an honest reflection of what is generally believed to be true about the report's topic. However, they probably will not identify radical departures in thinking that break through to significant solutions.
  • Bad Idea - Too many times the report authors launch into a litany of self praise. They describe how science can solve problems such as energy sourcing, and tell us that they deserve more money for this important work. They just don't seem to be aware of how their narrow focus might be a cause of the problem as much as a solution. I don't see any representation from economists, moralists, militarists, politicists, capitalists, or idealists even though these groups have as large a stake in energy policy as scientists. The scientists writing these reports do have something to contribute, but not as much as they claim (and claim, and claim, and claim).
  • Bad Idea - the plan is to make energy using devices more efficient, introduce clean coal technology, and build lots of wind mills and solar panel systems. This is the song of the Pied Piper calling all the children away - it is a recipe for doom. Don't worry, it won't happen. At this point I wonder if this report is worth reading. So far, it has not been insightful or helpful.
  • Good Idea - there is a clear statement that impoverished people must have access to good energy sources so they can live better. This might be a very positive objective if it means setting up highly available, reliable, and clean energy systems (i.e. nuclear power). If it means burdening the poor with wind mills, then it is a callous attempt to extend their pain.
  • Good Idea - the Preface outlines how energy supports a modern life style that is healthy, secure, and worth experiencing. It then outlines the problems that will make the continuation of this life style difficult. This discussion seemed reasonable to me - it shows what we want to attain, and the problems that stand in our way.
  • Bad Idea - The Executive Summary states that significant initiatives have to begin within ten years. This is a totally unfounded statement. It is a political objective, not a scientific one. This is the equivalent of the huckster salesman trying to push a buyer into a poorly thought out deal. Who knows that we have ten years still to delay? Who knows that we cannot delay for fifteen years and still be OK?
  • Good Idea - The Executive Summary clearly states that there is no shortage of fossil fuels. Everyone needs to understand this clearly. Even if pumped oil is less available in the future, we can continue burning coal and extracting oil from coal, for hundreds of years. The problem is the capacity of our atmosphere to absorb the resulting carbon dioxide. There are many solutions for this problem - we might just decide to live with the heat. The report seems to favour economic coercion that penalizes carbon dioxide releases. The report seems to be blissfully confident that this approach will work. I am not so sure. Anyway, there is no shortage of fossil fuel - a point that is important to emphasize.
  • Good Idea - The Executive Summary states that nuclear power technology should be improved and widely used. Along with this, the facts about it should be collected by the UN and published to the world.
  • Good Idea - Repeatedly, the concept of a carbon tax, or some other cost scheme, is mentioned. This seems to be the only way to inform business that air pollution is not wanted.
  • Bad Idea - The report devotes a whole chapter to energy efficiency. The assumption is that more efficient delivery and end-use technology will make the sustainable energy problem easier to solve, somehow. The authors acknowledge that culture, emotion, and belief all complicate this picture in ways that are not understood, but they blithely plow on with a discussion of efficiency in any case. Scientists like to talk about efficiency, so they are going to do so here whether it helps or not. Efficiency does not help because it accelerates the processes that we use to live. If these processes are dirty, then making them efficient only increases the dirt levels. We have to be clean, whether or not we are efficient. The report does not recognize this distinction.
  • Bad Idea - The report defines efficiency as the ratio of energy input to energy output, and consequently discovers that this kind of thinking has no impact on the market. This is really sterile ground. We could measure efficiency in other ways, such as deaths per kilowatt-hour for energy generation, or deaths per passenger-meter for transportation. The definition of efficiency makes a big difference in its relevance, and the report defines it in a most irrelevant manner.
  • Bad Idea - The whole discussion about efficiency is stated in very general terms. This can make the idea of efficiency sound appealing without bringing out the really controversial stuff. For instance, we have to be efficient in the sense of producing less carbon dioxide, not in other areas such as producing heat. This means that we have to stop using gasoline as a transportation fuel. The report does not really make this clear, and thereby glosses over the controversy. Oil barons run the world and won't allow oil use to stop. We will have to fight to save ourselves. The report pretends that the oil barons will go away without a fight. This is wishful thinking.
  • Good Idea - Table 3.1 shows how long our fossil fuels will last at current rates of consumption. We have decades to centuries of reserves. Everyone should be clear about this - we have time to think, plan, and get it right before we make big changes.
  • Bad Idea - The continued use of coal is criticized because it releases too much carbon dioxide into the air. The fact that coal mining kills ten thousand people annually is not even hinted at. The discussion then flows into methods for carbon capture, totally missing the safety problems. This is a major gaffe in thinking.
  • Good Idea - The report outlines the environmental damage caused by extracting oil from tar sand, and states that this problem cannot be overcome. This is just a really dirty way to get oil, and we should just avoid it.
  • Good Idea - An objective and accurate review of nuclear power technology must be conducted and communicated to the world's people. At present, the general understanding of nuclear power is inaccurate, and this ignorance is preventing the expansion of this clean energy source. I agree with this goal, but wonder how to achieve it. Politically motivated groups will work hard to preserve the present ignorance (i.e. oil barons, luddites, terrorists). An attempt to review the technology will get turned into a shouting match, that bores and scares people.
  • Bad Idea - The report claims that wind power has achieved commercial competitiveness in some places. This is simply wrong - it is like claiming that perpetual motion machines have been built somewhere. The claim is just impossible. Wind turbines are intermittent. They just cannot produce commercially competitive electricity because they are unreliable. When wind turbines are backed up by coal generation that runs all the time then a claim could be made that wind-coal can be competitive, but not wind alone. Of course, for these wind coal systems they would be cheaper and even more reliable if the wind aspect was removed. The fact that the authors don't know this basic aspect of the physics of wind power is worrying. The report is a marketing blurb, not a technical analysis summary.
  • Bad Idea - The report emphasizes the use of wind turbines, and goes to great lengths to outline all the ways that the deficiencies of wind turbines can be addressed. It does not point out that even with the most optimistic growth, wind turbines will only provide five percent of the power needed in 2030. Wind just cannot do the job. The report's fascination with wind technology reflects biased, wishful thinking, not the hard headed analysis we expect from scientists.
  • Bad Idea - Solar photovoltaic cells are mentioned as a technology worth considering. This is amazing given the very small role that this technology will have. World wide, all the solar photovoltaic applications will produce less power than ten nuclear reactors in 2030. The report mentions that this technology is very expensive, and intermittent, but fails to point out that it is also filthy. Producing photovoltaic cells is a highly polluting process. Serious omissions like this do not impress me.
  • Bad Idea - The review of hydroelectric power points out that small projects are the only ones that are really feasible today, due to the opposition of people to large projects. The report fails to mention that hydroelectric power is keyed to weather, and may not be a good strategy for future expansion for this reason. A small project dam can be left dry by a drought or swept away by a ten meter flood rise. Once again, this section reads like a whitewash of hydroelectric power, only emphasizing the positives, especially after all the negatives outlined for nuclear.
  • Bad Idea - The report summarizes the position of non-biomass renewable resources. It states that significant government subsidies are crucial for keeping this technology around. It would disappear quickly if market forces dictated its future. The report also states that carbon taxes that favour renewables are essential for keeping this technology viable. What the report does not say explicitly is that fair carbon taxes would hurt renewables. Dams produces a lot of methane, and wind turbines release a lot of carbon dioxide when they are constructed, and as a result of tree clearing. The report makes it clear that the renewables industry is only continuing as a result of misguided government action that is based on incorrect information, however it does not state this. Instead it blithely congratulates governments for this folly, and encourages them to continue wasting the people's resources. How sad!
  • Good Idea - The report points out that ninety percent of the biomass energy used in this world comes from the burning of wood, dung, and other domestic waste. In other words, we should all be shamed into significantly reducing the use of biomass energy. Dung burning should be replaced with electricity.
  • Good Idea - The report lists the problems associated with biomass - e.g. the fact that food production is being reduced to provide transportation fuel (usually for transportation in far away places). Despite the report's upbeat tone about the future of biomass, this emphasis on the negatives is a good thing.
  • Good Idea - We have lots of energy sources. Coal, for example, will last for hundreds of years. What we don't have is a means for using these resources that avoids pollution and war. Oil causes war because it is unevenly located, coal causes air pollution. To help us figure out how to use energy in a much cleaner manner we need a thorough study of the nuclear power option.
  • Bad Idea - The report devotes a whole chapter to a call for more spending on science and technology research - increasing the amount spent each year and the number of years needed. Subsidies and government support are the main theme. At the same time the government is supposed to introduce policy that steers private industry in the right direction. Exactly how to achieve this miracle is left as an exercise for the reader. Nothing is said about the real issues that make this approach so difficult - corruption, war, crime, and value clashes. This kind of simplified, blatant self serving is really unhelpful in this context.
  • Good Idea - The report makes a strong case for the improvement of the lives of two billion people who do not have good energy availability today. This position is morally strong, and I like it. But it is not backed up by scientific evidence that the world would be better off if this approach is used. The report authors who so vehemently want lots of money spent on science quickly drop the scientific requirement here. Economics and sociology don't seem to count as science, and are not called for. So a really good idea - helping the poor - is strongly argued for, but not strongly justified or rationalized.
  • Bad Idea - The report claims that scientific evidence is overwhelming that today's energy systems are not sustainable. However, not one reference has been given to scientists that disagree with this claim. Bjorn Lomborg is not referenced. How can one claim that the evidence is overwhelming if it has not been added up on both sides?
  • Bad Idea - The report states that coal has to be used more cleanly, and that the technology exists to do this. The report does not mention that coal kills ten thousand miners annually, and that these people should be protected. The report makes all kinds of fuss about helping the poor, and then misses this key aspect of how the poor are exploited. This report is really missing the point in a lot of ways.
  • Bad Idea - One of the challenges facing us is the task of mitigating environmental degradation, according to the report. Why is this thought of in such negative terms. It sounds like humans have to ruin the environment if they want to live in it. The challenge should instead be environmental improvement. We want things to get better for life, not just get worse more slowly. The report is mired in this kind of defeatist language and thinking.
  • Bad Idea - The report acknowledges that an analysis of efficiency improvements and how they will affect society is too complex. Even so, it then emphatically states that efficiency improvements are absolutely needed, both at the user end and at the delivery end, to achieve a sustainable society. This is a statement of ideology, not fact. We just don't know if efficiency improvements are mandatory.
  • Good Idea - The report points out that energy delivery companies make more money if they sell more energy, so they have little incentive to promote end user efficiency. Something needs to be done about this. They should make more money if living standards go up, and if the environment improves. These criteria are difficult to measure now. So we need better measuring devices.

Friday, May 25, 2007

UK Nuclear Consultation

The UK government has asked for comments about nuclear power. The consultation web site is:


The UK government nuclear power policy is summarized here:

The Future of Nuclear Power: Consultation Document

The UK government wants comments that add to the information in the Consultation Document. The document is organized around eighteen questions, with the government position summarized for each case. The questions are:

1. To what extent do you believe that tackling climate change and ensuring the security of energy supplies are critical challenges for the UK that require significant action in the near term and a sustained strategy between now and 2050?

2. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on carbon emissions from new nuclear power stations?

3. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the security of supply impact of new nuclear power stations?

4. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the economics of new nuclear power stations?

5. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the value of having nuclear power as an option?

6. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the safety, security, health and non-proliferation issues?

7. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the transport of nuclear materials?

8. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on waste and decommissioning?

9. What are the implications for the management of existing nuclear waste of taking a decision to allow energy companies to build new nuclear power stations?

10. What do you think are the ethical considerations related to a decision to allow new nuclear power stations to be built? And how should these be balanced against the need to address climate change?

11. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on environmental issues?

12. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the supply of nuclear fuel?

13. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the supply chain and skills capacity?

14. Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on reprocessing?

15. Are there any other issues or information that you believe need to be considered before taking a decision on giving energy companies the option of investing in nuclear power stations?

16. In the context of tackling climate change and ensuring energy security, do you agree or disagree that it would be in the public interest to give energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations?

17. Are there other conditions that you believe should be put in place before giving energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations?

18. Do you think these are the right facilitative actions to reduce the regulatory and planning risks associated with such investments?

I am preparing my responses here, with a separate blog entry for each question. The answers are evolving as I think of better ways to express my ideas. If anyone has anything to add, or corrections, please send me comments at the appropriate blog entry.

1. Critical Challenges

To what extent do you believe that tackling climate change and ensuring the security of energy supplies are critical challenges for the UK that require significant action in the near term and a sustained strategy between now and 2050?

The UK must ensure that its population has enough energy for a good standard of living. Given the changes that are coming this means that much more energy will be needed - to repair storm damage, to evacuate people from weather disasters, and to cool urban centers. Combine these new challenges with the accepted needs for energy - employment productivity, health care, transportation, and communication - and it is clear that the UK should be striving for much higher energy availability than it has now. It will be a challenge to produce this much energy and the new equipment for distributing and using it.

The UK cannot do anything at home to influence the changing climate. Temperatures will continue to rise even if the UK immediately turns off all its carbon emitting sources. The UK can and should prepare for the difficult times ahead by building up reliable energy sources and infrastructure, using the most reliable, least expensive, safest, and cleanest technology - namely fission originated heat and electric energy distribution.

The UK government may choose to believe that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere by human activity. Even so, there is no evidence that reducing the amounts of carbon dioxide will lessen planetary heating. For example, if we choose to reduce carbon dioxide by burning less coal this will also reduce the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere, making it clearer and allowing more sunlight to reach the surface. The effect may be increased heating. Without proper preparation and analysis it is irresponsible to rush into technology shifts believing that the global effects of these changes are simple, known, and controllable.

By developing advanced nuclear power systems, using them widely, and making them available to the world, the UK can lead by example, and influence the people who can mitigate climate change: US, Chinese, Indian, and African industrialists. These aspiring business developers will be more inclined to use clean nuclear power if they see that it works, and they can afford it. The UK can help this happen. The UK initiative should also be driven by a clear moral imperative to change the coal industry. It kills thousands of its workers every year to deliver dirty energy that kills thousands of users. The moral imperative can be extended to reduce the burning of wood and dung which makes millions of people sick, and seriously harms the environment. The positive impact of a vigorous nuclear power renaissance can be large if it solves these problems.

I don't see any reason to pick 2050 as an end date for this brave, new, and clean life style. I think this shift in focus is fundamental, and permanent.

2. Carbon Emissions

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on carbon emissions from new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The UK government states that nuclear power carbon emissions are about the same as wind generated electricity. This estimate is much too pessimistic for nuclear power. Wind stations have to be fully backed up - typically with coal. When the wind turbines are producing power the backup coal system has to run in idle mode which releases dangerous fossil fuel waste. When the wind turbines are not producing power the backup system has to run in full production mode which releases even more dangerous fossil fuel waste. Any national system with a significant wind generation capability releases a lot of dangerous fossil fuel waste to keep the wind system backed up. A national system with a significant nuclear generation capability does not release any carbon dioxide due to the nuclear component. Nuclear power is much cleaner than wind power.

The claim could be made that wind could be backed up by nuclear, and then wind power would be as clean as nuclear. This is not reasonable. If we have a full capability based on fission as needed to back up wind, then there is no need for the wind system in the first place. It should not be built - it will only add cost and destabilize the distribution system.

The UK government states that nuclear power alone cannot tackle climate change. Why not? It is politically expedient to say that other technologies have a role, but there is no technical justification for this. All the electricity needed for a modern culture can be drawn from a fission source. Further, once one reactor has been built the decision has been made that the consequences are not catastrophic. From that point the only logical path is a full conversion to nuclear power.

The UK government states that new nuclear production could mitigate climate change, without any evidence that this is so. Reducing carbon dioxide pollution by eliminating coal will also reduce particulate pollution, making the atmosphere clearer, allowing more sunlight to reach the ground, and probably making the world hotter. On the other hand, heat released from new nuclear plants could be used to make very white clouds that would reflect sunlight back into space, cooling the planet. The UK government has no idea how to work with all these variables.

The entire discussion about carbon emissions is disingenuous, and reduces people's trust in the UK government. The UK government should make clear the amount of carbon released by the UK, and the total amount being released in the world. From this it would be seen that the UK government is powerless to do anything to mitigate climate change. The UK government can cooperate with international efforts to set a good example, but this is all. Given this reality, the mandate of the UK government must be the provision of stable and reliable energy as needed for a modern life style. The UK government's attempts to side step these frank discussions make it appear devious, and increases distrust.

3. Security of Supply

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the security of supply impact of new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. Diversity does not improve energy stability if inferior technologies constitute the diversity. Each candidate technology for a diversified energy mix must first of all stand on its own as a reliable, clean, safe, and inexpensive possibility. For example, the diversity argument makes sense if it is used to justify continued interest in fission and fusion, since both are clean, and presumably reliable. Or the argument could be used to justify the development of both uranium and thorium fuels. But invoking the diversity argument to justify wind power is muddled thinking. Wind mills are not reliable nor inexpensive, and they cause extensive environmental damage. Security of supply is reduced by including wind power in the mix because the variable input from wind farms causes failures in the distribution system. Bitter experience has proved this to be the case in Alberta. The UK government is using the diversity argument to rationalize spending for wind power, but this approach will only make UK energy more expensive and less reliable. The argument being used to increase security of supply will in fact reduce it.

The UK government goes to great lengths to argue that a diverse approach is needed, and then fails to include the most important factor for a diversified nuclear power industry, namely the use of thorium fuel. Thorium is easier to obtain than uranium, and it offers politically valuable characteristics related to spent fuel management and weapons proliferation. India has an advanced program of research and development for thorium fuel, and Norway is starting such a program. The UK government just cannot claim to want diversity of supply and not include thorium fuel in this mix.

The full capability of fission technology for security of supply has not been accounted for. Fission fuels, uranium or thorium, are compact, easy to handle, readily stored for long periods, and inexpensive. Large quantities of these fuels could be purchased now and kept on site, guaranteeing an energy supply for decades. Then the spent fuel could be used in fast reactors built during these initial decades, guaranteeing supply for centuries. This is complete energy supply security - the UK would never again have to purchase energy from any external organization.

Security of supply is usually discussed in a political context where the fear is that other organizations or national groups will restrict fuel sales. But the problem can occur if the supply is keyed to any process that is not controlled by the UK government. Weather is such a problem. Making major portions of the energy supply dependent on weather will cause supply interruptions, especially in the more extreme weather expected with global warming. Wind and hydro power must be taken out of the supply mix for this reason.

4. Economics

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the economics of new nuclear power stations? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

The economic value of a new nuclear power station is determined by non-technical factors. If frivolous legal challenges are allowed to delay construction then new power stations will not be built. If excessive radiation protection standards are mandated then new power stations will not be operated. If schools fail to teach math and physics at a high enough level then new power stations will not be staffed. Factors such as these are controlled by the UK government. Therefore, the UK government can make new nuclear power stations worthwhile. In fact, they have an obligation to do so since the UK government is expected to protect the well being of the citizens.

Nuclear power stations produce inexpensive electricity, as shown in many studies from all over the world. These studies have not even considered improvements that could be made to further reduce costs. For example, the turbine exhaust from today's reactors is vented out into the environment. It could be sold to heat buildings, reducing the cost of the generated electricity even further.

There is a widespread misunderstanding that nuclear reactors can only be used for baseload power. In fact, CANDU reactors in Ontario have demonstrated that power output can be quickly adjusted between 60% and 100% of full power, and the reactor can continue running at any of these levels for extended periods. These adjustments are automated and can take place in real time in response to changes happening on the grid. Many of the constraints affecting the time needed for these changes are due to the turbine design, and could be different. The point here is that the UK government should not assume that other fuels need to be used to provide load following. The complexity of managing an electrical system with many different kinds of generating stations can be reduced by using nuclear power for load following as well as baseload power, and lower costs will result.

There are other benefits that are not quantified but make nuclear power attractive. Some reactors dissipate the exhaust heat from their turbines by evaporating water. These reactors could be fitted with sprayers that use this dissipating heat and water to form clouds containing very small water drops. Such clouds are extremely white and reflect sunlight back into space. Reactors fitted in this way could contribute to global cooling, going beyond merely being a zero carbon energy source. This has a significant economic value.

There are political costs associated with nuclear power. The association with military use has to be broken. For instance, the UK government should get rid of its nuclear weapons so it can develop commercial nuclear power without the distortions introduced by military requirements.

5. The Nuclear Power Option

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the value of having nuclear power as an option? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The future need for energy and electricity is easy to predict - a lot more will be needed. The UK government claims that this is difficult to foresee. I think it is obvious. Moreover, the UK government has a responsibility to make this increase happen. More energy is required to keep industries competitive, to cool and heat urban complexes, for transportation, and to run the computers that will coordinate our world. Energy provides a standard of living that makes human life tolerable. Failure to understand this fundamental tenet of modern life would be a cultural catastrophe, a step down, a betrayal of all the hard work of our predecessors who wanted to improve the human experience.

Facing this challenge, the UK government has some technical options that are proven and reliable, some that are questionable, and some that are liabilities. Preparations for the increased energy future should be based on the proven and reliable technologies at hand, and could perhaps include some small experiments with the questionable forms, but should avoid the liabilities. The UK government is not doing this, in fact is doing the opposite. The liabilities such as wind and carbon capture are being emphasized, the questionable forms such as hydrogen are being encouraged, while proven and reliable fission is being shunned. What is the point of modeling an energy supply mix without nuclear power? What should be modeled is a mix without wind power.

The UK government does not have criteria for measuring the success of renewables and carbon capture. Such criteria are required so that an objective decision can be made to end the effort being wasted on these liabilities. The following measures could be used:

- safety should be better than nuclear (this eliminates coal even with carbon capture, wind, and hydro),

- cost should be better than nuclear (this eliminates wind),

- animal killing should be better than nuclear (this eliminates wind and hydro),

- land use should be better than nuclear (this eliminates wind and hydro),

- green house gas emissions should be better than nuclear (this eliminates coal even with carbon capture, wind, and hydro),

- the need for transmission lines should be less than nuclear (this eliminates wind and hydro), and

- load following and grid disruption should be better than nuclear (this eliminates wind).

The UK government has modeled a future that does not include nuclear power and assumed that such a model is sensible. It is not. Wind mills do not work on their own and no one will invest in them in a market that does not allow wind farms to be backed up with coal. The investment money expected by the UK government model will not be there - it will be put into more reasonable opportunities in other countries that are moving ahead with pragmatic energy policies. The UK will be left behind, a ruined and failed state. Common sense has to be used when modeling.

6. Safety, Security, Health and Non-proliferation

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the safety, security, health and non-proliferation issues? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The UK government has not considered radiation hormesis in its assessment of the risks of radiation exposure. Increasing low dose radiation exposure improves health.


Low Doses of Radiation Reduce Risk In Vivo

The exclusion of these facts shows that the UK government's risk assessment criteria have been set to meet political objectives, not measurable health objectives. The criteria have been set to deflect the propaganda of groups who are adamantly opposed to nuclear power. The criteria are too stringent and unnecessarily increase the cost of nuclear power, much to the satisfaction of these opposition groups.

For example, the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation should be conducting studies looking for the benefits of low dose radiation exposure and using these findings to promote widespread acceptance of fission sourced energy. Instead, they conduct studies looking for cancer and only increase public fear, no matter what they report. The whole approach is negative and unscientific.

Note that placing new reactors underground will improve safety, security, health, and non-proliferation factors. These kinds of solutions, and these new levels of safety, just are not possible with other technologies. Coal cannot be burned underground in the middle of a city, uranium can. This is extremely good news; it amounts to a revolutionary step in our standard of living. The UK government should educate the population about this advance.

The UK government should state clearly that safety is compromised by not using nuclear reactors. When reactors are not used then fossil fuels are consumed instead, releasing dangerous waste products.

The UK government believes that the regulatory framework does not provide a reason to prevent private investment. This is wrong. The regulatory framework causes intolerable delays, is subject to frivolous manipulation from pressure groups, and increases the cost of new nuclear plants. A regulatory framework based on scientific knowledge and a positive approach would result in a rush of investors. The primary factor preventing the widespread use of nuclear power is the crushing government oversight burden. This situation has been created by unrelenting and unreasonable lobbying from small groups who are making a living from their anti-nuclear campaigns. The UK government should take charge of the situation and reframe the discussion in a manner that exposes the whole truth about nuclear power, thereby neutralizing the propaganda of the lobbyists. The health and well being of the population requires energy, clean energy can only be made by fission, and the UK government should provide the confident leadership needed to reach these goals.

The regulatory framework needs to be changed so that new nuclear plants can be built faster.

7. Transport of Nuclear Materials

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the transport of nuclear materials? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The UK government's approach is based on theories of radiation exposure that have been experimentally shown to be wrong. Low dose exposure is not harmful. So the risks are not "low" or "very small", they are negative - in other words the measures being used are excessive, making transportation much more expensive than necessary. If the UK government refuses to apply the proven facts about radiation hormesis for its assessment of transportation risks, then it is not being scientifically honest. The UK government is trying to appease the strident opponents of nuclear power, people who view science as an impediment to be overcome in their quest for political advantage. Appeasement is not the best method for determining the optimal transportation policy - scientific, objective honesty works much better.

I don't see any reason for emphasizing in this section that fuel reprocessing will not happen. It seems that the UK government is trying to set up as many roadblocks as possible to prevent a nuclear power renaissance. At every turn the UK government emphasizes that the new nuclear industry will be hampered and restricted. This attitude will seriously reduce the benefits that could be obtained.

The UK government's assessment of transportation does not address theft. The public should be told truth about this, namely that the materials being moved cannot be used to manufacture bombs. It should be noted that widely publishing these truths will have a discouraging effect on people whose ignorance might cause them to attempt such acts.

It is also worth pointing out that the nuclear power industry requires much less transportation than other industries such as coal, oil, and biofuels for an equivalent amount of electricity production. So the risks for conventional accidents are greatly reduced by the transition to nuclear power.

The transition to nuclear power will reduce or eliminate the need for much of the transportation infrastructure currently used for fossil fuels. Oil pipelines, coal trains and ports, and automobile fuel stations will no longer be needed. The UK government should be clear about how the costs of removing these systems will be addressed.

Since there are no risks involved in transporting nuclear material, it should be allowed to happen as necessary. If reprocessing turns out to be feasible then it should be possible to move material around for this reason or any other.

8. Waste and Decommissioning

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on waste and decommissioning ? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Vigorously disagree. First, anyone who describes spent fuel from thermal reactors as "waste" just does not understand nuclear power. The term "waste" has been pushed forward by nuclear opposition groups who think that this negative terminology will promote their cause. It is a loaded and pejorative word that makes a realistic discussion of the issues impossible. If the UK government really wants to disseminate the truth about this material it should stop describing it as "waste".

Spent fuel from thermal reactors is a treasure. It contains lots of energy, energy that can be released using fission. The spent fuel from one year of operation of a UK light water thermal reactor can run a fast reactor for more than twenty years.


To manage the spent fuel from today's thermal reactors the UK government should build fast reactors and power them with today's spent fuel, and with the depleted uranium left over from enrichment.

The UK government intends to burden new nuclear build projects with an up front cost meant to address full decommissioning. The very fact that the nuclear industry alone bears these penalties indicates that the UK government really does not want new nuclear projects. If this burden was equally applied to other technologies the position of the UK government would not appear so conflicted. For instance, wind turbine complexes should be forced to restore bird populations and pay for this up front. Or coal mines should be forced to replace all the lost husbands, and pay for this up front. Or hydro forced to restore lost environments and drowned cities. In truth, the muddled thinking of the UK government shows that they do not know what they are doing, and causes people to be suspicious about new nuclear development.

The UK government should rethink the whole concept of decommissioning. The wasteful idea that one site can be abandoned and another selected when an upgrade in reactor technology is warranted is not sustainable. Once a reactor site has been selected it should be viewed as permanent. The site should be managed so that reactors can be maintained and improved there forever.

The UK government has to consider extending the operating life of its current nuclear power plants. A false sense of urgency is created by constantly referring to the current plants as having a very limited life span. The situation is not that dire and the UK government should point this out.

9. Existing Nuclear Waste

What are the implications for the management of existing nuclear waste of taking a decision to allow energy companies to build new nuclear power stations?

Some of the new reactors must be fast reactors that will burn the spent fuel accumulated to date from thermal reactors. That is the most advantageous means for exploiting this spent fuel treasure. Today's spent fuel must not be buried; it must not become difficult to retrieve it for use in fast reactors.

10. Ethical Considerations

What do you think are the ethical considerations related to a decision to allow new nuclear power stations to be built? And how should these be balanced against the need to address climate change?

The ethical considerations are overwhelming - similar to throwing a rope to a drowning person. Energy is needed to make human life less destructive. The burning of coal, wood, and dung has to stop. Nuclear power makes this possible. It has to be used as quickly and as extensively as possible. Failing to do this displays a lack of understanding of the value of life. Such lapses in compassion are monstrously immoral, even perhaps insane.

Future generations do not want to inherit a world of ruin, decay, poverty, starvation, and warfare, especially if we have the clean energy resources to do otherwise. People opposed to nuclear power like to imagine a future population that is upset because we left behind a pile of spent fuel. Given the choice between a world in poverty without spent fuel storage or a world of wealth with some spent fuel repositories here and there, it is clear that the wealth alternative should be pursued. This can be framed differently to illustrate this point - future generations want life expectancies of one hundred years, not thirty years. If we can set them up with one hundred year life spans we should do this. Using nuclear power achieves this, not using it dooms our descendants to much shorter and more miserable lives. Morally, we have to give them the better alternative.

11. Environmental Issues

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on environmental issues? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The Government has wrongly assessed the impact of nuclear power stations. New stations can be built underground, leaving the surface intact, undisturbed. Moreover, this can be done in the middle of towns and cities, eliminating power transmission lines. Technically, the impact of new stations could be zero, or even less than zero by improving the current situation with fewer stations and transmission lines on the surface.

Building zero impact nuclear plants would be more expensive. I think it would be worth it.

I realize that this fact is not politically convenient. The howling of the enviro-alarmists will probably force us to adopt environmentally destructive approaches such as building plants above ground and far away from cities. I find it curious that those who claim to care about the environment are the ones causing us to damage it.

Building new plants underground eliminates the bogus airplane attack threat.

Nuclear power does not kill animals as do wind turbines and hydro dams. It does not kill people as do coal mines. It does not occupy huge expanses of land, and it does not create noisy, dizzying distractions in our view of the landscape. It does not have to be big and centralized in a manner that destroys local features. It does not leave ash piles behind, nor oil spills. It eliminates other other infrastructure such as pipelines, railways for coal, oil wells, and electricity transmission lines since reactors can be placed close to their users. The UK government has really underestimated the environmental benefits of nuclear power, to an alarming degree.

The most significant factor missing in the UK governments assessment of the environmental impacts of nuclear power is the revolutionary simplification in technology that it makes possible. With the abundant electricity that nuclear power provides it becomes feasible to heat and cool buildings or even cities, to power all forms of transport, to extend automation, and to enhance communication using electricity. There are all sorts of advantages in this approach - electric motors are easier to maintain making transportation less work than it is today. Electric cars are cleaner and quieter. The story goes on and on. The UK government has shown a serious failure of optimism and vision in this area.

Consider cooling as another point. Heat can be moved from a reactor and used for less intensive purposes before being released into the air. Entire cities could be kept warm in this way, reducing all kinds of pollutants. Heat from a reactor could be used to create very white clouds that could protect a city from excessive sun light, keeping it cooler. This kind of use is just not possible with low intensity technologies such as wind turbines and hydro dams. The UK government seems determined to drive its population right passed the open doors to Paradise, and down into the pit of low energy poverty.