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Is there a future for ‘pro-nuclear environmentalism’?

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Michael Shellenberger is visiting Australia this week. He has been a prominent environmentalist (of sorts) since he co-authored the 2004 essay, The Death of Environmentalism.

These days, as the President of the California-based ‘Environmental Progress’ lobby group, he is stridently pro-nuclear, hostile towards renewable energy and hostile towards the environment movement.

Shellenberger is visiting to speak at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne. His visit was promoted by Graham Lloyd in The Australian in September.

Shellenberger is “one of the world’s leading new-generation environmental thinkers” according to The Australian, and if the newspaper is any guide he is here to promote his message that wind and solar have failed, that they are doubling the cost of electricity, and that “all existing renewable technologies do is make the electricity system chaotic and provide greenwash for fossil fuels.”

Trawling through Environmental Progress literature, one of their recurring themes is the falsehood that “every time nuclear plants close they are replaced almost entirely by fossil fuels”.

South Korea, for example, plans to reduce reliance on coal and nuclear under recently-elected President Moon Jae-in, and to boost reliance on gas and renewables. But Shellenberger and Environmental Progress ignore those plans and concoct their own scare-story in which coal and gas replace nuclear power, electricity prices soar, thousands die from increased air pollution, and greenhouse emissions increase.

Fake scientists and radiation quackery

Environmental Progress’ UK director John Lindberg is described as an “expert on radiation” on the lobby group’s website. In fact, he has no scientific qualifications. Likewise, a South Korean article falsely claims that Shellenberger is a scientist and that article is reposted, without correction, on the Environmental Progress website.

Shellenberger says that at a recent talk in Berlin: “Many Germans simply could not believe how few people died and will die from the Chernobyl accident (under 200) and that nobody died or will die from the meltdowns at Fukushima. How could it be that everything we were told is not only wrong, but often the opposite of the truth?”

There’s a simple reason that Germans didn’t believe Shellenberger’s claims about Chernobyl and Fukushima ‒ they are false.

Shellenberger claims that “under 200” people have died and will die from the Chernobyl disaster, but in fact the lowest of the estimates of the Chernobyl cancer death toll is the World Health Organization’s estimate of “up to 9,000 excess cancer deaths” in the most contaminated parts of the former Soviet Union. And of course there are higher estimates for the death toll across Europe.

Shellenberger claims that the Fukushima meltdowns “killed precisely no one” and that “nobody died or will die from the meltdowns at Fukushima”.

An Environmental Progress report has this to say about Fukushima: “[T]he science is unequivocal: nobody has gotten sick much less died from the radiation that escaped from three meltdowns followed by three hydrogen gas explosions. And there will be no increase in cancer rates.”

In support of those assertions, Environmental Progress cites a World Health Organization report that directly contradicts the lobby group’s claims.

The WHO report concluded that for people in the most contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated increased risk for all solid cancers will be around 4% in females exposed as infants; a 6% increased risk of breast cancer for females exposed as infants; a 7% increased risk of leukaemia for males exposed as infants; and for thyroid cancer among females exposed as infants, an increased risk of up to 70% (from a 0.75% lifetime risk up to 1.25%).

Applying a linear-no threshold (LNT) risk factor to the estimated collective radiation dose from Fukushima fallout gives an estimated long-term cancer death toll of around 5,000 people.

Nuclear lobbyists are quick to point out that LNT may overestimate risks from low dose and low dose-rate exposure ‒ but LNT may also underestimate the risks according to expert bodies such as the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.

Attacking environment groups

Shellenberger reduces the complexities of environmental opposition to nuclear power to the claim that in the 1960s, an “influential group of conservationists within Sierra Club feared that cheap, abundant electricity from nuclear would result in overpopulation and resource depletion” and therefore decided to campaign against nuclear power.

If such views had any currency in the 1960s, they certainly don’t now. Yet Environmental Progress asserts that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FOE) “oppose cheap and abundant energy” and Shellenberger asserts that “the FOE-Greenpeace agenda has never been to protect humankind but rather to punish us for our supposed transgressions.”

And Shellenberger suggests that such views are still current by asserting that the anti-nuclear movement has a “long history of Malthusian anti-humanism aimed at preventing “overpopulation” and “overconsumption” by keeping poor countries poor.”

In an ‘investigative piece‘ ‒ titled ‘Enemies of the Earth: Unmasking the Dirty War Against Clean Energy in South Korea by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Greenpeace’ ‒ Shellenberger lists three groups which he claims have accepted donations “from fossil fuel and renewable energy investors, as well as others who stand to benefit from killing nuclear plants”.

FOE and Greenpeace don’t feature among the three groups even though the ‘investigative piece’ is aimed squarely at them.

Undeterred by his failure to present any evidence of FOE and Greenpeace accepting fossil fuel funding (they don’t), Shellenberger asserts that the donors and board members of FOE and Greenpeace “are the ones who win the government contracts to build solar and wind farms, burn dirty “renewable” biomass, and import natural gas from the United States and Russia.”

Really? Where’s the evidence? There’s none in Shellenberger’s ‘investigative piece’.

In an article for a South Korean newspaper, Shellenberger states: “Should we be surprised that natural gas companies fund many of the anti-nuclear groups that spread misinformation about nuclear? The anti-nuclear group Friends of the Earth ‒ which has representatives in South Korea ‒ received its initial funding from a wealthy oil man …”

He fails to note that the donation was in 1969! And he fails to substantiate his false insinuation that FOE accepts funding from natural gas companies, or his false claim that natural gas companies fund “many of the anti-nuclear groups”.

Shellenberger’s ‘investigative piece‘ falsely claims that FOE keeps its donors secret, and in support of that falsehood he cites an article that doesn’t even mention FOE. Environmental Progress falsely claims that FOE has hundreds of millions of dollars in its bank and stock accounts.

Shellenberger claims that the “greatest coup” of FOE and Greenpeace in South Korea was an “Hollywood-style anti-nuclear disaster movie” which was released last year and has been watched by millions, mostly on Netflix. But FOE and Greenpeace had nothing to do with the production of the movie!

In light of all the above falsehoods, it seems a bit rich for Shellenberger to accuse anti-nuclear groups of being “flagrantly dishonest”. For good measure, he accuses anti-nuclear groups of being “corrupt” ‒ without a shred of evidence.

Environmental Progress has an annual budget of US$1.5 million, Shellenberger claims, and he asks how Environmental Progress “can possibly succeed against the anti-nuclear Goliath with 500 times the resources.” An anti-nuclear Goliath with 500 times their budget of US$1.5 million, or US$750 million in annual expenditure on anti-nuclear campaigns?

Shellenberger claims that Greenpeace has annual income of US$400 million to finance its work in 55 nations ‒ but he doesn’t note that only a small fraction of that funding is directed to anti-nuclear campaigns.

FOE’s worldwide budget is US$12 million according to Environmental Progress ‒ but only a small fraction is directed to anti-nuclear campaigns.

A future for pro-nuclear environmentalism?

The nuclear power industry is having one of its worst ever years. Environmental Progress is warning about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis” and other pro-nuclear lobbyists have noted that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies“.

The biggest disaster for the nuclear industry this year has been the bankruptcy filing of Westinghouse and the decision to abandon two partially-built reactors in the US after at least A$11.5 billion was spent on the project. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg:

  • there has been a sharp down-turn in China’s nuclear program in the past two years;
  • Swiss voters supported a nuclear phase-out referendum;
  • South Korea’s new government will halt plans to build new nuclear power plants;
  • Taiwan’s Cabinet has reiterated the government’s resolve to phase out nuclear power by 2025;
  • Japan’s industry has been decimated by the Fukushima disaster;
  • India’s nuclear industry keeps promising the world and delivering very little;
  • France’s nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” according to a former EDF director and it faces crippling debts;
  • the UK’s nuclear power program faces “something of a crisis” according to an industry lobbyist (the estimated cost of the only two reactors under construction is A$40.4 billion ‒ and cost estimates have risen five-fold);
  • all of Germany’s reactors will be closed by the end of 2022 and all of Belgium’s will be closed by the end of 2025;
  • and last but not least, a High Court judgement in South Africa in April ruled that much of the country’s nuclear new-build program is without legal foundation, and there is little likelihood that the program will be revived given that it is shrouded in corruption scandals.

Industries tied to nuclear power are struggling. “It has never been a worse time for uranium miners”, said Alexander Molyneux from Paladin Energy in October 2016.

He should know ‒ Perth-based Paladin was put into administration in July this year. Here in Australia, BHP produces uranium as a by-product of its giant copper mine at Olympic Dam in SA; Heathgate Resources operates the small Four Mile mine in SA; and Rio Tinto has finished mining uranium at Ranger in the NT and is processing remaining stockpiles before getting to work on a half-billion dollar rehabilitation.

Prices for uranium conversion (converting uranium to uranium hexafluoride) have been in freefall in recent years and the price for uranium hexafluoride has been in freefall. The price for uranium enrichment (increasing the ratio of uranium-235 to uranium-238) was at an all-time low last year and has fallen further this year.

The only nuclear industry that is booming is nuclear decommissioning ‒ the World Nuclear Association anticipates US$111 billion (A$145 billion) worth of decommissioning projects to 2035.

How much longer will the nuclear lobbyists keep flogging the dead nuclear horse? Perhaps not too much longer. It’s worth keeping in mind that nuclear lobbyists ‒ especially the self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ ‒ are few in number. David Roberts summed up the situation in 2013, when Robert Stone’s ‘Pandora’s Promise‘ propaganda film was launched:

“There is no budding environmentalist movement for nukes. Ever since I started paying attention to “nuclear renaissance” stories about a decade ago, there’s always been this credulous, excitable bit about how enviros are starting to come around. The roster of enviros in this purportedly burgeoning movement: Stewart Brand, the Breakthrough Boys, and “Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore,” who has been a paid shill for industry for decades (it sounds like the Pandora folks were wise enough to leave him out). More recently George Monbiot and Mark Lynas have been added to the list.

“This handful of converts is always cited with the implication that it’s the leading edge of a vast shift, and yet … it’s always the same handful. … In the movie, Shellenberger says, “I have a sense that this is a beautiful thing … the beginning of a movement.” I fear he has once again mistaken the contents of his navel for the zeitgeist.”

Dr Jim Green edits the Nuclear Monitor newsletter and is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.  

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  • Joe

    Shellenberger, just a paid voice by the Nu Clear lobby? Or is he a…Trolli?

    • Alastair Leith

      Well Paid.

  • Jo

    NO!

  • john

    Lets go Nuclear.

    Are you totally deluded ?

    NO.

    The only reason nuclear plants were built were to enable the making of the worst type of weapons know to man.

    Any moron who promotes this needs to honestly have his/her head examined.

    • Michael Murray

      I don’t think this is completely true. There was research into thorium based nuclear power for electricity generation but it got pushed aside for various reasons including the fact that it wasn’t part of a weapons pathway.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power#Background_and_brief_history

      Thorium research is ongoing. There is also fusion research of course which is not weapons related.

      • neroden

        Fusion research is exceptionally silly.

        We already have a fusion reactor which has supplied all the world’s energy needs for billions of years and will do so for billions more. It’s located at a safe distance from population centers — eight light-minutes away. It’s called “the sun”.

        We don’t need any more fusion than that. Just improve the devices for converting the energy of fusion into electricity (aka solar panels), which we are already doing, and build more of them.

        As for fission reactors, powering an old-fashioned steam engine with a nuclear bomb is about the stupidest way of generating energy I can think of. It’s blatantly a side effect of weapons research and has nothing to do with research into electricity generation.

        • onesecond

          Well, I don’t think that fusion research in itself is silly. There are new materials and magnetic field controllers being developed that could be useful in other applications, also fusion propulsion for space ships could be a thing in the future. As long as fusion research stays in basic research where it has been stuck for the past 80 years and while it is not foreseeable that it will be able to leave basic research in the next decades, I am totally ok with it. Men made fusion reactors on earth for energy production on the other hand would be in fact exceptionally silly, I agree 100%.

        • jamcl3

          Um, 8.3 light minutes.

      • Mark Diesendorf

        The frequent claim, that the thorium fuel cycle isn’t part of a weapons pathway, is incorrect. It’s just a little more difficult to extract and use fissile uranium-233 (obtained from non-fissile thorium). However, both USA and former Soviet Union have successfully tested nuclear weapons based on U-233.

        • Michael Murray

          Interesting. Thanks for that.

  • Blair Walsh

    Why don’t you focus on projects by Rosatom they’ve been financing and delivering nuclear power plants and continue to do so, China and India will be ramping up nuclear builds in the next decade as they seek to transition to renewables and export Thier technology abroad, wind and solar have enjoyed cost reductions due to mass production and scale and nuclear stands to benefit from the same process.

    • Alastair Leith

      Nuclear has been benefiting from “scale” (or missing it) for decades under subsidized arrangements. Nuclear simply wouldn’t exist today in a single nation without state support and protections. Unfortunately for nuclear power enthusiasts as plants get ever more complicated and enormous to try and solve the existing raft of operational, health and safety problems they become even more complicated than the generation before, and there’s no modular stamping of parts like PV, wind and CST technologies. Progress on SMR remains pre-commerical at this stage.

      • Andy Bowe

        Rosatom seems to be pursing not just energy dominance in a world trying to wean itself coal, but political influence as well by putting its customers in long-term hock to Moscow.

    • Andy Bowe

      Short and quick research shows we should be concerned about Rosatom for many reason. “To build Hungary’s controversial Paks-2 plant, Rosatom gave Budapest an $11 billion loan spread out over 30 years. Hungary has to start paying that back even if the plant is not completed on time. The interest Moscow could collect from Hungary is unclear, but a similar 30-year, $11.4 billion agreement with Bangladesh inked last year could result in $8 billion in interest. A $25 billion deal Rosatom signed with Egypt could, over 35-year term of the loan, swell to $71 billion.”

      • Alastair Leith

        I wonder where in Bangladesh they plan to build it? A
        third of their population lives less than a metre above sea level and there’s potentially ten metres of Sea Level Rise in Antartica ice melt this century alone (exponential rate of ice melt is likely but unknown, further research required). The population centre and economic centre is in the delta. You think it obvious but then look At fukashima.

  • Alastair Leith

    If actually you look at South Korea’s renewables deployment targets time table it’s pretty mediocre at best, so I’d say his point in their case is well made. Coal and nuclear will go down from ~40% to 21.8% and renewables up from 5% to 20% by 2030. That’s a delta of 26.6-15 = 11.6% more fossil energy, Though the same source (Reuters) says gas will go from 18% to 27% — so there’s still a couple of percent unaccounted for in that summary.

    I would have thought 20% renewables even in South Korea is pretty much a low hanging fruit kinda deal, especially if they haven’t looked much into energy efficiency mechanisms.

    In the case of Germany less so, although they’d arguably have less coal and gas in there own mix if their nuclear closure timetable hadn’t been brought forward or exist at all. But coal generation in Germany has been targeting export markets (nuclear poster child) France and Eastern European countries which has seen it less affected by renewables growth than it may have otherwise been.

    • Tony Yen

      I think situation in SK is more complicated, since they actually have a lot of coal capacity, so even with a higher fossil fuel energy mix in total, with gas replacing coal it is still possible carbon emissions can drop.

      I nonetheless agree that phasing out nuclear might cause temporary increase in coal, if gas and renewables is not replacing it fast enough. However, it is usually just a temporary process, as shown in Germany (and may happen in Taiwan in the next two to three years). At some point, coal will still begin to decrease. Keeping nuclear forever seems to provide faster reduction under current circumstances, but you just cannot get a lot of VRE with those inflexible plants still running around in the future. So it is more about what kind of low carbon power system we want in the long run, even if no safety and waste issues bother the public.

      Anyways, the Koreans will reduce nuclear in a more gradual way (due to strong nuclear industrial lobbying) than France and Germany, so the emission issues should be milder.

      • Alastair Leith

        Gas can ramp, so that makes it preferable to coal, but if they just burn heaps of gas in CCGTs then the emissions won’t be much better than coal. If the gas is sourced from unconventional gas wells then it’s likely to be worse for near term warming than burning coal. (Howarth et al, Cornell Letter etc)

        • Tony Yen

          I think unconventional gas would be a issue mainly in the US. Their reliance on fossil fuel for electricity are nonetheless decreasing though.

          Even if one regards all kind of gas a source as dirty as coal, switching from coal to gas still increases flexibility of the system as a whole, so Germany, for example, wouldn’t be exporting that much electricity to neighbor nations when there were a renewable bloom and residual load dropped.

          • Alastair Leith

            Agree wholeheartedly about the flexibility argument for gas but that’s most relevant if they also increase wind and solar which they are not doing quickly, so it will fill in for coal and nuclear as well as providing energy gap-filler. In SEN’s SWIS grid 85% RE by 2030 model coal use drops to zero by 2022 and gas use drops to a third of current consumption by 2030, all thanks to yearly roll out of 400 MW new wind and similar amount of solarPV (both rooftop and utility scale).

            Got any idea how much unconventional gas they hope to frack from WA, NT and already produce in QLD (three LNG trains worth)? That’s mostly export bound.

            Also even the CO2 venting from LNG is massive due to the energy required to refrigerate and pressurise it. Wheatstone alone will be ten million tonnes of CO2 vented a year and god knows how much fugitive emissions (at least 2% methane is best practice I’m told by an oil and gas man).

  • Alastair Leith

    “all existing renewable technologies do is make the electricity system chaotic and provide greenwash for fossil fuels.”

    Michael Shellenberger is blowing out an orifice here, completely uneducated remark for a man who likes to claim profess an expert status on energy.

    • Tony Yen

      By doing so, he can say “I’ve invested in renewables but now I realized that they just don’t work…”

      Just like how they love to say “I was once against nukes but now I find my younger self very stupid…”

      • Alastair Leith

        Wasn’t him Investing in renewables! And the point is he was holding that up as a virtuous achievement (even if it’s an ambit claim that he had anything to do with Obama’s policy direction). Completely contradicts his other statements. Diametrically opposed. Like many nuclear lobbyists he’s given to hyperbola and unsubstantiated slurs.

    • PlainCitizen

      I go along with the claim that renewables only create chaos. You have to redispatch considerably more often, install ramp up batteries, have conventional backup plants that run in parallel, as they can follow load changes only to a degree.

  • Peter

    Friends of the Earth also make lots of false claims, they were particularly busy during the assessments into a nuclear waste storage facility here in SA. I’d rate them as equally FOS as Schellenberger.

    • Barri Mundee

      What are those false claims? Please cite some examples and with links to the source. Thanks

      • Jim Green

        Here’s the FoE submission on the high level waste dump plan – perhaps Peter could tear it apart http://www.archive.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/SA%20Joint%20Select%20Cttee%20FoE-ACF-CCSA-final_0.pdf

        • Barri Mundee

          Thanks Jim. I’d also like to see Peter back up his allegations of false claims, if he has any. Peter, your credibility is at stake.

        • Peter

          FOE is an ANTI-nuclear organisation, not an objective starting point for any discussion. This is a nice example in the FOE submission to the Royal Commission, mincing words that basically say the same thing, that there is both stable and less stable geology. The implication is that the RC was wrong…somehow?

          “The Tentative Findings report asserts that SA has “low levels of seismic activity overall and, in some parts, very low levels relative to elsewhere in the world.” Yet Dr Mike Sandiford from the School of Earth Sciences at University of Melbourne writes: “Australia is relatively stable but not tectonically inert, and appears to be less stable than a number of other continental regions. Some places in Australia are surprisingly geologically active.”

          Who is “surprised” in Sadiford’s quote, Sandiford, the people that know a lot about local geology or a blow-in third party? I’ll repeat, FOE is an ANTI-nuclear organisation, objectivity is left out before the first word is written.

        • Tony Yen

          Yeah I think he’s just torn it apart.

    • Alastair Leith

      Perhaps you’d like to update your profile with a last name when you rip into the FoE submission, Peter.

  • Steve Woots

    I like to encourage the pro-nukes to stop talking about, and – as it is *so* good – go and build it!
    First get your few $billion together – tell the investors that it will only be 10 years (or so) before they get a return. And, the big selling point is generating ‘base load’. IE, electricity at night, when demand is so low you sometimes can’t give it away.

    • Michael Murray

      Presumably only on those very still nights when the wind is not blowing as well!

      • Steve Woots

        Well, if you *really* think there’s enough of that to make a viable market, go ahead and do it!
        I’m sure you’ll want to do some due diligence, where you’ll see how often the night time demand is so low the ‘price’ goes negative.
        http://wa.aemo.com.au/
        Please let us know how your project goes.

  • Ken Fabian

    Oh, there is a lot of room for pro-nuclear environmentalism – just a serious lack of room for environmentalism within pro-nuclear advocacy. Despite appearances there is a very large existing bloc of support – or at least acceptance or just plain apathy – for nuclear. But most of it is politically aligned with climate science denial and obstructionism and that, not anti-nuclear advocacy, continues to prevent it being mobilised in any meaningful way.

    Nuclear advocacy is so thoroughly threaded through with climate science denial that few, if any, who are deeply concerned about climate change and do sincerely want more use of nuclear can see any virtue in voting for the leading advocates for nuclear as a superior climate solution – example of leading and influential Australians would be people like… Tony Abbott, Ian MacDonald, Craig Kelly, Dick Warburton, Graham Lloyd, Andrew Bolt… etc. Whatever they are advocating when they express their support for nuclear it is not superior climate solutions.

    The key to promotion of nuclear for climate has always been emphasis of climate risks, not criticism of renewable energy – but when the LNP and Conservative Right do finally ditch the denial and campaign in favour of real climate action it will be renewable energy that is the main beneficiary, no matter how much they promote nuclear.

  • GotRadiation

    Shellenburger came to Chicago, Illinois USA with a small group of pro-nuclear people, mainly people who work in the nuclear industry and had a little protest against an environmental organization that did not support a bailout for some old non-profitable nuclear plants in our state. Four state agencies issued a report saying our state didn’t need the power from those nuclear power facilities and would not lack power if they shutdown. The bailout did eventually go through, not because of Shellenburger, because of unions who advocated to keep union jobs, communities who wanted the tax revenue and jobs and the industry that makes a lot of campaign donations.

    Ultimately renewable energy advances were held hostage to the nuclear bailout and a number of environmental organizations supported the deal in order to get the advances in renewables which politicians could have implemented without a nuclear bailout but they just didn’t have the guts to facedown the unions, industry and communities. Now residents in Illinois pay more for energy we don’t need from nuclear facilities that ship some of the energy out of the state. Illinois residents also have the burden of risk of an accident and the burden of keeping all the additional radioactive waste created since the bailout. Socialize the risk, privatize the profit, politicians keep their jobs. This is not a good deal and ‘pro-nuclear’ environmentalists are morons for supporting such a deal.

  • PlainCitizen

    I read the WHO report and it says what Shellenberger says.
    http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/a_e/fukushima/faqs-fukushima/en/

    • Jim Green

      Environmental Progress says the WHO report says there will be no increase in cancer rates. The WHO report actually concludes that for people in the most contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated increased risk for all solid cancers will be around 4% in females exposed as infants; a 6% increased risk of breast cancer for females exposed as infants; a 7% increased risk of leukaemia for males exposed as infants; and for thyroid cancer among females exposed as infants, an increased risk of up to 70% (from a 0.75% lifetime risk up to 1.25%).

      • PlainCitizen

        There is no such figure in the report. Concerning thyroid cancer, the paper says
        “There have been recent reports about thyroid cancer cases being diagnosed among children exposed to low doses of radioactive iodine as a result of the Fukushima accident. These reports should be interpreted with caution. A large excess of thyroid cancer due to radiation exposure, such as occurred after the Chernobyl accident, can be discounted because the estimated thyroid doses due to the Fukushima accident were substantially lower than in Chernobyl.”

  • BradFez

    I think FoE, Greenpeace, and the rest of the anti-nuke crowd are missing the point on climate change – time. Nuclear is about the lowest emitter of all the sources we have available to us and we simply don’t have the time to be arguing about what’s the BEST, we need to be throwing ALL our resources into low-carbon electricity.
    By trying to exclude nuclear from the equation over pedantic insecurities is doing the cause no good at all. Let’s get a handle on how quickly we have to move on this, how far we still have to go, build the necessary power sources and the ‘best’ will become obvious down the track. Nuclear is already the safest so unless that changes your arguments against it don’t carry much weight anyway at this point in time.

    • Tom

      I’ve always owned Japanese cars because the Japanese make the best stuff.

      If Japan can’t get nuclear power right, then what chance does Australia have?

      • BradFez

        Ridiculous statement.

  • Tom

    The best argument against nuclear is money.

    Hinkley power station – 20 billion pounds, or AUS $35 billion, for a 3200MW power plant with a 60 year life.

    Even if it ran flat-out for 60 years with no fuel or maintenance costs – that’s over AUS $20/MWh just in construction costs. If it ran at a CF of 67% for 30 years, make that $60/MWh.

    Hinkley has been guaranteed 92.5 pounds (AUS $160) per MWh for their energy for the next 35 years.

    You could build batteries with 3200MW of power and a day’s worth of storage at today’s prices for $19 billion, and 12,800MW of SAT PV (enough to charge the batteries for the whole night plus supply the grid with 3200MW at a CF of 25%) for $18 billion. And these prices are falling fast.

    Of course, you could probably build that much storage much cheaper than this with pumped hydro – there are sites where you could build that much storage for a $2-3 billion at the most.

    You could even over-build PV, extract CO2 from the atmosphere, hydrolyse water, convert it to methanol, transport the methanol to where it’s needed, and then run the methanol through open cycle gas turbines (modern ones can burn liquid fuel just as effectively as they can burn methane) for less than $160/MWh.

  • Bubbles

    Believe it or not, Shellenberger has many friends with nuclear engineering degrees who are overly qualified to talk about nuclear power and advise him on the facts, unlike the dweeb that wrote this article. But none of us are mentioned.