It's time for Tony Abbott to dump secret nuclear ambitions | RenewEconomy

It’s time for Tony Abbott to dump secret nuclear ambitions

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Tony Abbott has surrounded himself with nuclear advocates. This explains his antipathy towards wind and solar, but as the French government, and Australian nuclear technology developer Silex are discovering – it’s a dead end. It’s time for Abbott to dump his unstated nuclear fantasies.

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Michael Goldsworthy is not the only one  who has been betting the house on  nuclear beating renewables to be the low carbon energy source of the future.

nuclear-sunset5-150x150Last month, Goldsworthy announced that the ASX-listed Silex Systems would look to jettison its solar assets and focus instead on its uranium laser enrichment technology, confident that the global nuclear industry would rebound and that his technology would be worth billions within a decade.

Now its partners, GE and Hitachi, have dashed the plans by suspending all work on the nuclear technology. Two of the world’s biggest suppliers to the nuclear industry no longer have faith in the industry. Silex shares crashed in response.

The Tony Abbott government, it seems, is prepared to do exactly the same – jettison the country’s renewable energy industry and achievements in favour of a belief that the centralised form of generation will remain dominant for decades to come – and that nuclear will one day be the answer.

Numerous studies suggest that this is nonsense, that the emergence of solar, storage and software solutions will results in at least half the world’s electricity generated (and stored) “on site”.

But the conservative side of politics doesn’t want to know. It wants to extend the life of fossil fuel generators, pursue various of forms of emission reduction technologies for coal generators through its Direct Action plan, and leave the door open for nuclear.

The nuclear option is as yet unstated by the Abbott government, but you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to reveal a deep-seated belief in nuclear energy.

Abbott has surrounded himself with nuclear advocates. Most significantly, the man he appointed to adjudge the fate of the renewable energy target, and the wind and solar industries in Australia, climate change denier Dick Warburton, is convinced that nuclear is the only alternative to coal.

In an opinion piece he co-wrote for Quadrant magazine in 2011, Warburton wrote:

“Except for nuclear power, there are no straightforward strategies for reducing dependence on fossil fuels without large economic costs. Wind and solar generators often cannot function when needed.”

Others in Abbott’s orbit of business advisors share similar views. So do many of his cabinet colleagues and backbenchers, Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has explicitly written in nuclear as a consideration for the upcoming energy white paper.

In an issues paper released last December, Macfarlane’s team wrote that  nuclear technologies continue “to present an option for future reliable energy that can be readily dispatched into the market.”

It also says: “A growing area of global interest is in the use of small modular reactors, which have the potential to reduce the cost uncertainties and construction timeframes associated with current generation reactor designs.”

The conservative commentariat is full of references to nuclear as a potential solution to safe-guarding Australia’s cheap energy status

Adam Creighton, the Australian’s economics writer, typified the confusion of conservatives about energy choices in his column last month, entitled “The wrong call on energy costs.”

Creighton – prompted by analyses commissioned by the anti-green energy Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and BAE Economics, the private firm of RET Review panel member Brian Fisher – concluded that the renewable energy target was ineffective  -“because it mandates a particular set of technologies (mainly wind), it stops use of much cheaper but non-renewable energy sources, such as gas, that are less carbon intensive.

And therein lies one of the problems – utter confusion and ignorance.

Gas is not both “cheaper and less carbon intensive”. It might be less carbon intensive than coal, but it is about twice the price, and could rise to three times the price as the LNG export boom takes hold. Hence the effective closure of all baseload gas plants in the country (they are now used as peakers only – and this has nothing to do with the renewable target).

Gas is certainly not less carbon intensive than renewables, and because of the soaring price for its fuel it is even questionable how much longer gas will remain cheaper than renewables. In the US, investors have decided to switch from new gas plants to solar – they simply don’t want to take the risk on variable fuel costs.

Indeed, as Citibank pointed out last year, the future of gas might rely entirely on being able to act as a “fast response” generation source in a high renewables grid.

Creighton the concluded with this revelatory pearler:

“Indeed, owners of black and brown coal power plants should be encouraged to bid for the ERF (emissions reduction fund) to help start construction of a commercial-scale nuclear reactor. Such a facility ultimately would contribute massively to carbon abatement and also encourage development of a skilled workforce. With near 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves and a significant quotient of isolated, uninhabitable land in which to store nuclear waste we are perfectly placed to shift towards nuclear energy, which already supplies 15 per cent of the rich world’s power supply.”

Hooray, problem solved.

But the idea is laughable for a bunch of reasons. First of all, there is not a single company in Australia, let alone a power plant operator, that has the balance sheet to carry the risk associated with a nuclear reactor. It is debatable whether Australia has a big enough economy to do so.

The second is the idea that nuclear is cheap. France is often held out as the prime example of this, but this façade is rapidly fading on the realisation that France will have to spend more in coming years on maintenance than it did on building the plants in the first place. (See graph at the end of story).

France’s Cour des Comptes said in a recent report that the current cost of production for France’s nuclear fleet was EUR 59.8/MWh ($A85/MWh), and will rise as the state-owned EdF invests another EUR 62.5 billion between 2011 and 2025, half of it just on safety measures. That cost will soar to EUR90 billion by 2033.

A Greenpeace report suggested that the safety upgrades needed for France’s 58 nuclear reactors would raise median production costs to 133 euros ($US180) per megawatt-hour (MWh) by 2020.

That estimate, based on an extension of the lifespan of current reactors by 10 years to 50 years and 4.4 billion euros worth of work per reactor, would make nuclear energy less competitive than onshore wind power around 2015, and less competitive than solar by 2020.

A parliamentary committee said the rising cost of France’s nuclear energy is of such a concern and the government should set up independent expert institutions to help it plan long-term energy investments. The Hollande government has already made a decision, to place a cap on nuclear capacity and ramp up the introduction of renewables, because they see it as the cheaper option.

In the UK, the $24 billion Hinkley C facility is to be built by EdF and some Chinese contractors after getting a guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh 0 nearly double the current average cost of generation in the UK – and a whole heap of subsidies.

As Deutsche Bank pointed out after that contract announcement,  EdF effectively handballed the risk of new nuclear to the consumer and the UK government, and Deutsche wondered how the French government could possibly finance any investment in new reactors.  Given that EdF is already cash-flow negative and has such a huge debt, few people have any clue how that could possibly be done.

In Australia, the Abbott government and the conservatives are completely blind to this. Hence their determination stop renewables as if it were part of some subversive green-left agenda. But the longer they delay renewables, the more they risk Australia’s economic indicators following in the path of Silex

deutsche france nuclear

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  1. johnnewton 6 years ago

    I wouldn’t like to be the prime minister running on a nuclear future.

  2. RobS 6 years ago

    I say go for it Abbott, get one going, and when it blows out by billions of dollars and pushes up electricity rates for the local residents by 30-40% before it generates even a single kilowatt hour it will be the nail in the coffin of LNP governments for 2 decades. Yes it might cost us ten billion or so before the LNP is dumped and the project is canned, but it will be the best 10 billion ever invested in making sure solar and wind are recognised as the far cheaper option.

  3. Kerry Firkin 6 years ago

    Hi is crazy

  4. Zvyozdochka 6 years ago

    But how will the coal/gas masters-of-the-LNPUP react?

  5. michael 6 years ago

    seeing as China is one of the leaders in renewables (as this newsletter frequently points out), is it true they have many nuclear reactors under construction? if so, is this part of their move to a low carbon future and in some ways, it shouldn’t be ignored in considerations as part of the potential mix for australia? if nothing else, we should be giving thought to taking back the waste and promoting the uranium mining.

    • Catriona Thoolen 6 years ago

      China has determined to have Thorium fuelled nuclear power within a decade. This is a much better option than uranium fired.
      My preference would be to create local grids, locally owned (get the multinationals out of our power supply and their drive for ever increasing profits) These grids would have solar panels, wind turbines and a small Thorium reactor for. No storage required, just fire up the reactor when the renewables aren’t producing power.
      Australia has large reserves of Thorium, but apart from that, Thorium is a waste product from the production of renewables (Solar panels & wind turbines), which would make the use of this waste product an additional bonus long term.

      Just because we have lots of non arable land doesn’t seem to me to be the reason to use Uranium, which is also far less efficient a fuel than Thorium.

      • juxx0r 6 years ago

        Wait, what? Run that waste product thing by me again?

        • Catriona Thoolen 6 years ago

          Thorium is one of the waste products from ‘rare earth’ used in renewables production. Uranium waste is also requited as a ‘ starter’ for Thorium reactor… double bonus 🙂

          • juxx0r 6 years ago

            That’s a long bow to draw.

            There’s also no rare earths used in solar, and very little in wind turbines and only those with permanent magnets.

            Then there’s not always thorium in the rare earth minerals.

            It would be far more accurate to say that thorium is a waste product of the titanium and zirconium mining sector.

          • Steven 6 years ago

            The idea in an enlightened society is to provide energy that causes the least collateral damage and thorium and uranium ain’t it.

      • Steven 6 years ago

        “China has determined to have Thorium fuelled nuclear power within a decade. This is a much better option than uranium fired.”

        A decade to commission a thorium fuelled power reactor is optimistic if not industry hype since China’s proposed thorium reactors are still at the R&D stage.

        Thorium? Same dog as uranium – different haircut. Waste from thorium reactors is radioactive and must be isolated for 300 hundred years. And so we witness yet another lobby group – yesterday’s men with yesterday’s technology who intend to dump their carcinogenic waste on the next generation and the next…………

        • Catriona Thoolen 6 years ago

          Thorium has nothing like the half life from waste..I am very excited about options that remove the storage problems with renewables….

          • Baz 6 years ago

            Short half life = highly radioactive waste.

            Thorium reactors produce relatively short lived but highly radioactive Uranium-232 which is a very strong gamma ray emitter and worse still goes through a series of decays that also emit gamma rays. This kind of radiation is much harder to shield against than beta or alpha radiation.

            Further thorium reactors produce Uranium-233 which can be used in nuclear weapons and which also still lasts and remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands.

            Oh – also the type of reactor brings with it additional problems. Molten salt type reactors seem de rigeur amongst those suggesting thorium but they have a host of features that are less than reassuring. These include many toxic by products, some of which are incredibly difficult to store (fluorides in general are problematic to say the least) particularly over hundreds of years as necessary for some of these compounds to cease being a potential hazard.

            Finally there will always be one problem with nuclear in Australia – we simply can’t afford the huge water use to run them even close to efficiently, particularly on hot summer days when A/C use pushes demand higher while making the process less efficient.

            For my money I’d rather we work on very deep geothermal – safer, less water and land use, less unit price for electricity particularly as the tech develops and potentially able to replace EVERY other method of power generation since it provides base load power and uses up zero fuel – just the heat that the earth produces from natural radioactive decay.

            Oh and it can take up the employment and skilled labor from coal and petroleum industries, can use the drilling rigs and existing bore holes from them as well as the steam turbines.

          • Catriona Thoolen 6 years ago

            ‘Finally there will always be one problem with nuclear in Australia – we simply can’t afford the huge water use to run them even close to efficiently, particularly on hot summer days when A/C use pushes demand higher while making the process less efficient.’

            That is the reason it is suggested that they be built close to the coast…to use sea water with byproduct of desalinated water. Unlike inland coal fired power plants that use as much potable water for cooling as Melbourne uses in total…what a waste.

            I agree geothermal needs more development.

          • Baz 6 years ago

            Desalination on that scale is very expensive and this must be factored into the overall cost as well as build time.

            If you mean using sea water and then collecting waste water then there are other issues including a build up of salt, the possibility of contamination, the massive kills of fish in intake water (a single plant in the US was shown to cause around 3.5 million fish kills a year in this manner) and a great deal of difficulty in convincing people to drink or use nuclear reactor waste water.

            Either way you’re going to have the problem of what to do with the vast majority of this hot waste water – particularly in the case of emergency water intake needed to deal with incidents such as an overheating reactor.

            Dumping it into the ocean would be an ecological disaster and certainly would have an effect on our fishing industry as well as our tourism.

            Coastal placement also raises concerns about storm surges or tsunamis.

            Finally it means that we’d be wasting a lot of energy in transporting power inland for such energy intensive uses as aluminium production (more than 10 percent of Australia’s electricity usage) and that (along with the large amount of energy used in desalination) means building extra capacity just to break even.

            I agree about coal’s water use though – total waste in a country where we can’t afford to keep wasting water. Made even worse now that Abbott and co have cut all funding being used to protect and preserve the great artesian basin – something that SHOULD have the national party as well as the greens up in arms.

          • Miles Harding 6 years ago

            …storm surges and tsunamis… haven’t we been here recently?

            Add to the mix, sea level rise, which may me much worse than currently estimated if the rest of the world follows Australia’s present fine leadership.

          • Baz 6 years ago

            Sea level rise worries me far less than overall effects on the biosphere, in particular due to ocean acidification and rain fall pattern change.

            That said, we need to be looking at increased risk in this area due to it since even small rises increase the distance that significant amounts of water will travel in land. The fact that these things aren’t being figured into proposed costs of switches to nuclear power make me skeptical of it meeting the promises of proponents.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Interestingly, Sweden just shut down some of their reactors for a week or so.

            The ocean water had become too hot to cool them.

          • Steven 6 years ago

            The Californian government estimated that the recently shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant maimed and slaughtered >5.6 billion marine life every year.

            (Page 16)
            The ecocidal mayhem created by coastal, once-through
            cooling nuclear power plants (and coal fired-plants) is not something the double-tongue nuclear industry wants Joe Public to know about.

            The Nuclear Regulatory Commission permits the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant, such as the San Onofre to take up to 60 years. Again the motto is evident: ‘dump the radioactive mess on the next generation and the next……’

    • WR 6 years ago

      China has a lot of new generation being built from all sources, including nuclear. But that doesn’t mean nuclear reactors are cheap. Their subsidies easily outweigh anything we have seen for the RET.

      They remain popular with nations who have, or are aiming for, nuclear weapons because the neutron flux from the reactors can be used to convert uranium-238 into weapons-grade plutonium-239.

      The main reason they fell out of favour with nuclear nations in the late 70s was not because of their safety record (the people in charge of these decisions are not the kind to be deterred by public opinion), but instead they became uneconomical due to falling need for Pu-239. By then, the nuclear nations had so many warheads that they no longer needed an increasing supply of plutonium.

      Apart from China, India has new reactors under construction, with some due to come on line within the next year or two. However, these are thorium reactors. Although the reactors are extremely expensive to build, India has the world’s largest known supply of thorium and this is providing them with the incentive to build the reactors. (Although it is also worth noting that India has a nuclear weapons program, and although a thorium reactor doesn’t use much uranium, the neutron flux from the reactor can still be used to convert U-238 to Pu-239 for use in nuclear warheads.)

      • michael 6 years ago

        wow, I thought Thorium reactors were 10-20 years away from being deployed?!

      • adam 6 years ago

        Is it really economically necessary to build a nuclear power reactor to create a bit of weapons grade plutonium?

        Surely it can be done more cheaply by other means…

        Also, aren’t nuclear power stations (now) owned by IPP’s (some listed etc) – it seems unrealistic that a listed company would be using their asset to help create nuclear weapons.

        • WR 6 years ago

          You need a very high neutron flux to transform meaningful quantities of uranium-238 into plutonium-239, the main choice of weapons-grade nuclear material. Nuclear reactors are the only place you get high neutron production.

          • John_ONeill 6 years ago

            ‘You need a very high neutron flux to transform meaningful quantities of uranium-238 into plutonium-239, the main choice of weapons-grade nuclear material. Nuclear reactors are the only place you get high neutron production.’
            You also need to take the U238 out after a month, or some of the Pu239 gets transmuted into 240 or 241, making it unusable for a bomb. That means shutting it down, waiting a week for the radiation to drop, taking the head off the pressure vessel, taking out your uranium samples, extracting the few grams of plutonium, repeat… normally a reactor runs for 18 months before refuelling. Every day lost production is worth a million dollars – all of which explains why no light water reactor has ever been used to make bomb plutonium.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      Consider recent history. Just a few years ago the cost of wind-electricity was double what it is now. PV solar was too expensive to consider.

      Now wind has become one of the two cheapest ways to bring new capacity to the grid in the US. Around 4 cents/kWh. And solar is now around 6 cents/kWh in the sunny parts of the country. Those are non-subsidized prices.

      New nuclear in the US is running at least 11 cents/kWh. That’s the analysis by Citigroup of the cost of power from the Vogtle reactors under construction. If there are no further cost and timeline overruns.

      Now, we know that China is installing solar for about half the US price. One would assume the price of wind and nuclear are also lower, but it seems like they should maintain their relative position. Nuclear more than twice the cost of wind and solar.

      These are very new economics. It takes a little while to change directions with any organization and China is a big organization. I expect they will continue to start new reactors at roughly the same rate for a couple more years. But as the economics further penetrate the offices of the decision makers I expect China will slow and soon after halt their nuclear programs.

      No sense in spending twice as much for a kWh.

    • Peter_Grynch 6 years ago

      China is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world. It emits more CO2 than US and Australia combined.

      • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

        CO2 per capita – Australia, Canada and the US are terrible.

  6. adam 6 years ago

    “In the US, investors have decided to switch from new gas plants to solar
    – they simply don’t want to take the risk on variable fuel costs.”

    I thought the shale gas revolution was pushing gas prices through the floor, and they have domestic consumption policies that are increasing gas uptake in stationary gen. Solar is getting deployed at large scale because of subsidy schemes that are promoting it.

    Happy to be corrected.

    • Richard Hayes 6 years ago

      The largest ‘Gas Port’ is the Henry Hub and the price is about USD 4.80 per Million BTU (USD 5.07 per Gj) or less than1/2 what the Japanese paid for Australian LNG.

      The cost is about break-even with production. Most suppliers costs are around $4.75- 5.25 per MM BTU.

      Shale gas is not cheap but there is losses for the producers but the prices are similar to those in 2009 before any major fracking occurred.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      We had a drilling “gold rush”. Too many wells were sunk in a short time, the market flooded, and prices fell. At one point almost all drilling rigs packed up and moved back to oil. There was no place to store more NG.

      Now prices are getting back to about the place where they once more support drilling – but – a lot of our fields are playing out very quickly. Some wells give one good year and then drop to 30% or so of initial output. For those fields the current price won’t support drilling. Too few years of production.

      Wind in the US has apparently dropped to about $0.04/kWh – without subsidies. And it looks like the federal government won’t offer any more subsidies. But that puts wind in decent competition with NG. Plus a 20 year PPA means that utilities can lock in 20 years of 4c power while the price of gas could easily go a lot higher.

      There are even some numbers which indicate that the US could burn through all its “easily accessible” NG in 20 years or not much more. If that most conservative estimate is true we should see soaring NG prices well before 20 years are up.

      Solar is now around $0.05/kWh with subsidies in sunny areas and subsidies last, IIRC, through 2018. This means that utilities are locking in 20 years of solar at $0.05 – with no cost inflation. Essentially 20 years of 4c daytime electricity.

      Solar, without subsidies, should be competitive with NG by the time solar subsidies run out.

      NG will likely see a market share increase over the near term because we have a lot of capacity and we are about to close 200 coal plants. But over the following few years we should see wind and solar grabbing a lot of the market from NG.

      That’s how I read the tea leaves….

  7. John McKeon 6 years ago

    BUYER BEWARE! When trying to weigh up what is best for this country in terms of energy supply and energy consumption (how efficient is our consumption?), just keep in mind that the uranium miners and nuclear reactor salesmen, and the fossil fuel miners and the fossil fuel fired powered station owners desperately want to do business with us.

    And they desperately want to kill off wind, solar thermal and solar voltaic panels. Let’s not be fooled by the established vested interests! Our long term public interest is more important by a long way.

  8. Rob G 6 years ago

    While Abbott’s mentor Howard (to the best of my memory) was a big nuclear fan, he was from another time and I very much doubt that nuclear is on the cards in the near future. Nuclear is just as much a death sentence to the coal industry as renewables now are. Abbott won’t budge, he has made it clear that he wants to protect his coal mining buddies, at all costs. If he ever suggested nuclear power it would become just another election losing decision (he has a few already).

  9. Zvyozdochka 6 years ago

    How to test if renewable strategies work or not: listen for the squealing from the fossil / nuclear interests.

  10. Nonrev 6 years ago

    Today, nuclear provides only 5% of global energy with 8% coming from renewables (biomass,hydro,wind and solar). Fossil fuels make up 87%. According to which predicts energy use, nuclear is already in decline. It is forecast that fossil fuels will still provide a large percentage of power in 50 – 100 years time, but will be in decline as renewables grow expotentially. That makes more sense to me than the empty grandstanding of Abbott and his cheer squad.

    • Tim 6 years ago

      How could fossil fuels provide a ‘large percentage’ of energy in a century’s time if renewables continue to grow ‘exponentially’? That wouldn’t be very exponential.

    • RobS 6 years ago

      The EIA can’t even accurately forecast 3 years out, with their US Solar prediction for 2014 made in 2011 already exceeded more than 14 times over. Anyone who tries to forecast 50-100 years out should be openly laughed at.

  11. Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

    With more and more people choosing the solar route, I wonder how anybody, no matter how pro-nuclear, could seriously expect nuclear to be a future supplier of electricity in this country – but then, Abbott tends not to worry too much about reality when it conflicts with his cherished illusions.

    • RobS 6 years ago

      BEcause their liberal ideology (and a renewable industry who persist in propogating shrill sky is falling prophecies) believe that without the carbon tax and if the RET goes not a single kw of renewable capacity will be installed ever again and simultaneously the drops in demand over the last few years will suddenly reverse back into steady growth. This, in the Liberal fantasy world, will leave sudden and growing demand for new nuclear and fossil fuel capacity.

      • Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

        I think the majority of people in the renewables industry are only asking for certainty in policy decisions so they can plan for the long term. The chopping and changing, broken promises etc from Sir Pository make it difficult for any business – or state governments for that matter.

        • RobS 6 years ago

          I’ve never heard the renewable industry talk about a long term plan to phase out subsidies as costs fall, just shrill shreaking about how every planned reduction in the solar credit multiplier would spell the death of the industry despite it occurring every year previously and every year previously the industry growing despite it. Its a classic boy who cried wolf thing, they’ve claimed they are subsidy dependent so many times now and then proven they are not that their claims are just no longer credible

          • RobS 6 years ago

            The trouble is the ever growing polarity in politics and industry. We have the filthiest power stations in the OECD and rather than coming together to tackle that we just have special interest groups squabbling and achieving nothing. We could work together and replace Hazelwood’s embarrassingly horrendous 1500Mw with a new state of the art 300Mw coal plant for a small amount of baseload, a natural gas plant for some despatchable spinning reserve and the vast bulk wind, solar and negawatts. However such compromises are simply unachievable with such polar interest groups holding progress to ransom for ideology.

          • adam 6 years ago

            might have happened with an effective ETS and RET phase out. might even happen with direct action…!

  12. howardpatr 6 years ago

    This might explain the Member for Hume, (Angus Taylor), vigorously opposing renewable energy technologies. Perhaps a closet uranium supporter or he knows better than the rest and has his money on thorium.

  13. Zvyozdochka 6 years ago

    We really need a couple of CST w/storage plant up and running. Game over.

  14. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    It’s hard to go past the immediate result of photovoltaic. No consent required. Lots of equipment choice, many many accredited installers to choose from, good consumer protections. Generating in a day. We are fortunate. We’ve also been hearing about Nuke plans for so many decades, but there’s always a problem to deal with. Traditional land owners get pulled this way and that. To me it’s a fairly easy guess renewable will be having the lion’s share of the new technology build for quite some time yet.

  15. gus 6 years ago

    There’s no contradiction between short term gain for vested interests and dead ends. Centralised power and energy dependency on corporate suppliers would be central to the government’s plans for us.

  16. Ray Del Colle 6 years ago

    “Global clean energy investment hit a record $260 billion in 2011. That’s five times as much as 2004. The shift to clean energy is already happening.”

  17. moosey 6 years ago

    Giles, you like many other reporters are misinterpreting what Michael Goldsworthy said in the recent ASX release I believe?
    I don’t believe he mentions selling Solar Systems at all?

    Here is what was actually written.

    Accelerated transition to market for subsidiaries Translucent and Solar Systems

    Solar Systems Pty Ltd:
    Accelerate efforts towards finalising a strategic partnership or equity transaction
    during the first half of FY2015 aiming to achieve a value-creating outcome and potentially eliminating the need for further parent company investment
    A structured process has been agreed by the Board and initiated. During this period,
    the business is expected to require minimal, if any, parent company investment.

    Just where in that statement does it say they are divesting Solar Systems?
    Partnering, yes, but not sell the whole thing?
    I believe what was said, is that they will either partner with another company who will do the heavy lifting, what percentage of Solar Systems they would get remains to be seen?
    OR they will perhaps license out the technology to another company in a similar way to what they did with GE (some would say that didn’t work to well for Silex? more on that later)
    they would be sadly mistaken in my opinion.

    Solar Systems are I believe on the verge of becoming one the best, if not the best LCOE of any solar system provider, I believe their new 50%+ efficiency going to 60%+ will take them to world best efficiency I believe, these new cells require at least 1000suns across them compared to the Spectrolab cells which can only handle 500 suns, they will also be much cheaper than the Spectrolab cells by a fair margin, put that together with Solar Systems new dish which is just waiting for these new cells to arrive, these new dishes are around half the size of the dishes they used at Mildura and are also 1000 suns compared to 500 suns, put those two things together and I believe they will be on a winner, the new dishes would have to be cheaper, have a better wind/snow loading, require smaller two axis tracking system compared to it’s bigger dish cousin, there are heaps of other advantages as well, cooling is one of them because these new cells can take a higher temperature than the older Spectrolabs cells

    But as for GE-Hitachi/GLE closing down the project, that isn’t true either, all they have done is concentrate all of the R&D at Wilmington, you will notice that GLE is still in negotiations with the DoE in the US about the Paducah proposal, where they will use the laser enrichment process developed by Silex to recover Uranium from the tails and enrich it to natural grade Uranium, would they be doing that if the process didn’t work?
    Don’t think so somehow?
    I believe there is one very important reason why they are now concentrating their efforts in the US, it relates to something that Eric Loewen from GE alluded to some time back when he spoke to the US congress about PRISM reactors, where he told the congress that there was enough enriched Uranium sitting in stockpiles of used nuclear fuel, to power the whole of the US for over 900 years.

    They do this by putting the used nuclear fuel through what they call an “Advanced Recycling Center” (ARC) where the Pu plus actinides are separated from the Uranium plus actinides, this Uranium recovered is what they call RepU, which can be used in a Candu reactor without processing, but that would be wasteful, the best way is to either further enrich the RepU to a higher degree to overcome the effect of the actinides, or perhaps an even better way, would be to strip the Uranium away from these other actinides, this recovered enriched Uranium using the Laser recovery method is either HEU or LEU depending on what type of nuclear reactor the used nuclear fuel came from?
    With the HEU they down blend it to HEU in a similar way to what the Russians did with their Megatons to Megawatts deal they did.
    This LEU can then be re used in a BWR as fuel, and the whole process starts over again.

    They are working on this at Savanah River in the US and from what I have read they have got some decent results so far, in extracting HEU from used nuclear fuel from Germany, the Germans are even paying them to do the R&D.
    If they can get the system to work, there certainly wouldn’t be any requirement to build a laser enrichment plant at Wilmington, because they wouldn’t need to, they would have all of the enriched Uranium they would need for the next 900 years!

    The Pu along with other actinides which is separated in the ARC is mixed with a small amount of LEU to start the reaction and is used as fuel for the PRISM reactor which incinerates all of the Pu and actinides, it is basically an incinerator.

    The US are very cagey about all of this, but all is not what it appears to be, the Silex process works, have no fear of that, but they (the US) won’t be using it in the way they first said they would, but why would they when they can get 900 years of free fuel for their nuclear reactors, when they get this up and running, Nuclear power will not be considered as dangerous then in my opinion, because the amount of nuclear waste that is left after reprocessing is a great deal less and is only radioactive for around 300 years compared to over a million years with some of the actinides if they weren’t incinerated.

    • Giles 6 years ago

      What exactly do you think an “equity transaction” is if it’s not a sale. Who knows – i bet they don’t – if it results in a partial sale of a complete sale, with a royalty deal. I have no reasons to doubt the respective technologies – solar systems and laser enrichment – but the key is markets and being able to compete with competitive technologies.

    • sbafa 6 years ago

      considering fuel makes up a minor cost component of nuclear isn’t the ‘free’ fuel a moot point (disregarding the cost of the steps you listed)? if you’re on that point though there are other technologies with free fuels that will be around for a bit longer than 900 years. may be moot, in the end it’s about cheap carbon neutral electricity: the article above addressed those concerns regarding nuclear better than i could.

  18. Ken Fabian 6 years ago

    As long as Conservatives reject the science on climate, they reject the need for nuclear. Until they ditch the climate science denial and obstructionism Australia’s Conservatives will never push for nuclear. The LNP’s rejection of climate science is a stab in the back for nuclear that damages it more deeply than anything anti-nuclear activism can.

    Until the climate obstructionism ends any alleged support for nuclear is no more than an exercise in political rhetoric with no actual commitment to nuclear intended, certainly not at the expense of fossil fuels. It’s rhetoric aimed firstly at green politics – “if greenies want to fix the climate they must support nuclear” – to undermine support for green politics. And aimed secondly at that currently quiescent element of conservative politics that accepts or suspects the reality of the climate problem – “if climate turns out to actually be a real problem we can easily fix it with nuclear”.

    These ‘friends’ of nuclear won’t fight for it because they’re climate science deniers. Even Australia’s most prominent advocates of nuclear shy away from addressing climate science denial within nuclear’s support base head on for fear of alienating a climate obstructionist demographic that appears to be supportive of nuclear. Until they do confront the damaging influence of climate science denial within their own ranks they will not confront the biggest obstacle to public acceptance of nuclear – broad public acceptance of an absolute need to fix the climate problem.

  19. Thanks to Giles Parkinson for wandering away from his usual informational themes on renewable energy and energy efficiency – to take a look at what is going on below the radar in Australia’s political circles. The climate denialist Abbott government certainly is confused. They seem unaware that the nuclear lobby is touting climate change action as the reason to go for nuclear power.

    If climate change is not really much of a problem, as Tony Abbott states in his weaselly way – then there’s no need for the supposed saviour, nuclear power, to be introduced to Australia.

    But let’s not imagine that Labor is any clearer. They are quiet about this, but Bill Shorten has been a supporter of nuclear power, along with many ALP heavies – including Martin Ferguson and that vocal dinosaur Bob Hawke. After all, it all ties in well with our deputy Sheriff role for the USA, and the happily accepted funding from big corporations like BHP.

    But, as Giles Parkinson points out – they are behind the times.
    And now, in July 2014, the world has seen the potential not just for nuclear war between nations, but for nuclear terrorism. If terrorists can strike the twin towers, and strike a commercial airplane, – well, what an enticing target nuclear facilities must be! Australia has at present only one such target, the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. It is surely going out of fashion now, to set up new targets.
    Wind turbines, solar arrays – these are not only getting cheaper and better – they also are not much fun for terrorists to blow up – as they don’t release widespread radioactive contamination.

  20. p.s I love it that I found the thorium nuclear power promoters advertising on this page – pushing their nonexistent and super expensive technology. The real role for the promotion of thorium nuclear fuel is the sort of alchemy promise – magically turning radioactive trash into “resources” – and thus prolonging the nuclear nightmare.

  21. Ken Fabian 6 years ago

    The collapse of climate action obstructionism within Abbott’s government would, I believe, lead to greater advocacy and commitment by them for nuclear but it would also see greater advocacy for renewables – or at least collapse of the current overt hostility – within the LNP. I would be surprised if actual nuclear intentions and plans would have broad support wihin an LNP that, somehow, could become honest and rational and ethical on climate; for one thing renewables represent business and jobs opportunities across the nation.

    Reversing their reversal on market mechanisms – carbon pricing in some form – would be helpful and renewables will go on having the advantage of being able to be installed incrementally; nuclear requires governments working effectively by decree, forcing it on the energy sector directly and that won’t happen without strong, continuous bipartisan support and long term planning and commitment. I just don’t think they are capable of it, even if they want to make nuclear the backbone of a low emissions economy.

  22. Russell Hamstead 6 years ago

    It always amazes me reading the comments people make on articles like this ranting about how the nuclear industry is just out to make money, but that somehow the renewables industry is a benevolent group out to save the world. Never mind that one of the biggest players in the nuclear industry, the General Electric company, is also the second biggest manufacturer and installer of wind turbines…

  23. Peter_Grynch 6 years ago

    Nuclear is the best CO2-free option. You can’t run an economy on wind or solar, whatever the tree-huggers may wish.
    Breeder reactors can provide pollution-free energy for the next few centuries. The only thing standing in the way is misinformation propagated by anti-nuke nuts.
    Sadly, liberals can’t do the math.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      Bet you get your information from Glow in the Dark News.

      Unfortunately what they print is incorrect.

    • Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

      Nuclear is hardly CO2 free. From construction of the nuclear plants, the mining, processing and transport of the nuclear fuel, the postprocessing, storage all require energy input, most of it from CO2 producing sources. Before you accuse others of misinformation, you might want to look at your own biases.

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