Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent

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With some minor modifications, this is the original presentation with which I begin explaining how and why I had changed my mind about nuclear power

Transcript of Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent

  • 1.The Pro-Nuclear Environmentalist From Opponent to Proponent- The Journey & The Destination Ben Heard Founding Director ThinkClimate Consulting Founder- Decarbonise SA November 2011

2. Presentation outline Its a train of thought... Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable? 3. What doesnt make the cut in my reports... We cannot know exactly what will happen this century, but We are collectively staring down a very real and imminent risk of the end of civilisation as we know it We are collectively staring down our own mass extinction by the creation of a runaway level of climate change Our collective response assumes a luxury of time and certainty that we simply do not have. 4. The evidence... Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are approaching 390 ppm. This is higher than any time in the last 450,000 years, covering 5 glacial/ interglacial cycles (Hansen 2010 p 116 & p 37) Human induced climate forcing, through the increasing the concentration of CO2 by 2ppm per year, is ten thousand times faster than levels of natural climate forcing (Hansen 2010, p 161) Ice sheets are able to respond rapidly to large climate forcings, with evidence of changes of 3-5 meters per century for several centuries 13,000- 14,000 years ago. Images: Hansen 2010 5. The warming experienced to date is already manifest in several global responses: 1. Rapid disappearance of mountain glaciers 2. Loss of mass of West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets 3. Poleward expansion of subtropical regions 4. Damage to coral reefs by ocean acidification and surface water warming 5. Melting of northern hemisphere permafrost 6. Rapid decline of the arctic ice sheet The evidence... 6. Summary of the influence of global growth Global population is forecast to reach 10 billion people by 2050 Global energy consumption is forecast to roughly double from current levels in this same period under a baseline scenario (Price Waterhouse Coopers 2006) Summary of the global policy response Coal to remain a major contributor to global energy supplies IPCC 5th Assessment Report is considering scenarios of 490, 650, 850 and 1,370 ppm CO2 by 2100 (Moss et al, Nature, Feb 2010) It is perfectly ok to overshoot safe levels of carbon dioxide and temperature and then come back. We must be 7. How bad is the problem? Conclusion Very, very bad. Very, very urgent Temperature must be permitted to rise no more than 1.5C Atmospheric CO2 needs to be returned to 350ppm, less than current levels The global energy supply must be completely decarbonised Coal must be eliminated from the global energy supply post-haste World Primary Energy Consumption by source 2009 (Source: IEA 2009 Report) World electricity generation (Source: World Resources Institute Earth Trends 2008) 8. If you disagree with the scale or urgency of the problem, then you may not see the need to be open to a rational assessment of all solutions. Stop No. 1: The Problem 9. Presentation outline Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable? 10. 1. Energy Efficiency Energy efficiency gets a great big Universally supported by literature Lowest cost, often negative cost abatement, constantly renewing Supported by my own experience Limitations Moderates demand, does not decarbonise supply Risky to rely on high levels of implementation Non-cost barriers remain strong Rebound effect (Jevons Paradox) is strong in the medium term Conclusion on energy efficiency Any honest strategy to tackle climate change will be one of energy efficiency, plus... Respectable engineering studies have concluded that we could live at our present level of material comfort using just one quarter of the energy we now use, simply by improving the efficiency of turning the energy into the goods and services we require Prof. Ian Lowe 2010 11. 2 (a). Renewables: Wind Most market ready renewable power source Growing rapidly Scale it up Thanet, largest offshore wind farm in the world Cost US$ 1.3bn Offshore, 100 towers, 115m tall. Site area is 35km2 (2.3 times City of Adelaide) Installed capacity is 300 MW Capacity factor of 35-40% (UK onshore average is 30%)= Maximum 1m MWh per year Hope that it comes at the right time Total UK electricity consumption (2007): 345m MWh per year (Source: US EIA) The largest wind farm in the world, covering an area of 35km2, may provide approximately 0.3% of the annual electricity consumption of the UK. An inadequate solution to replace fossil on its own South Australia has 1,150 MW installed Emissions from electricity 1990/2006/2011 (Mt CO2-e): 6.5/10/8 No fossil closure, more peaking gas 12. 2 (b). Renewables: Solar Scale it up Largest (proposed) solar farm a 1,000 MW project by Solar Millennium at Blyth in California To cover an area of 24km2, or 5,950 acres (1.5 times City of Adelaide) Cost of $3bn-$6bn Proponents expect production of 2.1m MWh per year, therefore capacity factor of around 24% (California Energy Commission 2010, Commission Decision) Total electricity consumption for California: 254m MWh (2005 figures , US Department of Energy) The yet to be constructed largest solar power plant in the whole world, covering 24 km2 of one of the sunniest places in the world, will provide less than 1% of Californias total annual electricity based on 2005 consumption 13. 2 (c). Renewables: Geothermal HDR is a new, technically difficult, unproven technology that would require major transmission investment Its just not ready 14. 2. Renewables: Conclusion Renewables play a role in global energy. They will increase significantly, but from a low base Inherent limitations: Diffuse, intermittent, location- specific, or potentially all of the above Costly, and impossible to scale up globally to meet the challenge Even if I am wrong, I am not prepared to take the risk of relying solely on renewables in the face of climate catastrophe 15. 3. Coal Carbon Capture and Storage This technology is: Not established at any realistic scale As expensive or more expensive than other low-carbon baseload generation Fails to capture all the greenhouse gas (by a long way) Sources: Nicholson et al 2011; Commonwealth of Australia 2006; Hansen 2010, Blees 2008 16. Conclusion: The non-nuclear solutions In the mission to decarbonise the worlds energy supply as quickly as possible, with the elimination of coal as a priority Coal CCS has (next to) no place Energy efficiency has a contribution to make Renewable energy has a contribution to make But energy efficiency and renewable energy sources on their own cannot meet the challenge in the necessary timeframe (too great a risk to assume they can) World Primary Energy Consumption by source 2006 (Source: IEA 2009 Report) World electricity generation (Source: World Resources Institute Earth Trends 2008) 17. If you disagree with my assessments of the capability of the other solutions to solve the problem, then you may not see a need to be open to nuclear power. Stop No. 2: The Other Solutions 18. Presentation outline Origin: Nuclear opponent Destination: Nuclear proponent How bad is the problem? How good are the other solutions? Can nuclear help, and are the drawbacks of nuclear power acceptable? 19. Nuclear Power: Why not? OR The Seven Reasons I was anti-nuclear 1. Nuclear power is dangerous 1(a). Operations 1(b). Waste 2. Nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons 3. Nuclear power produces too much GHG across the lifecycle 4. Uranium mining is harmful and unsustainable 5. Nuclear power is too expensive 6. Nuclear power takes too long to make a difference 7. People I like and respect are anti-nuclear 20. 1 (a). Opponent thinking: Nuclear power is dangerous (Operations) Nuclear accidents are catastrophic and a constant risk Challenge thinking: Are nuclear power plants dangerous enough to reject nuclear power? What is the safety record of nuclear power plants compared to coal? Lets examine the safety record of nuclear power plants in the US, France, former USSR, Japan and globally 21. Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: United States Number of nuclear power plants in the US= 104 in 2009 Percentage of US electricity production= 20.2% in 2009 (Source: US Energy Administration Annual Energy Review 2009) Number of deaths from radiation incident in the US in the history of the nuclear power industry= 0 Cooling towers Containment domes Reactors Three Mile Island Reactor (Image: Public source) 22. Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: France Number of nuclear power plants in the France = 59 in 2008 Percentage of French electricity production= 79% in 2009 Number of deaths from radiation incident in France in the history of the nuclear power industry= 0 A French nuclear power plant (Source: The Open University) 23. Safety Record of Nuclear Power Plants: Former USSR Number of direct fatalities at Chernobyl: 28 (workers and firefighters, acute radiation poisoning ) (Source: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) Other serious health impacts: 6,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer, some reproductive difficulties for other ARS sufferers (approx. 100) (United Nations Information Service, 28 February 2011) 15 deaths from thyroid cancer by 2005 (United Nations Information Service, 28 February 2011) Major social impact (Source: UNSCEAR) There were no containment domes, and the accident was caused by a massive contravention of procedure Conclusion: This was a tragic, catastrophic, and very preventable industrial accident. Site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant post- accident. There were no concrete containment domes (Source: The Open University) http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/pressrels/2011/