Go nuclear, Julia

Posted on Mon 11/29/2010 by


Andrew BoltBy Andrew Bolt

The Julia in the title here refers to the current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. There is mounting talk here in Australia about how Nuclear Electrical Power Generation might be the only feasible option for replacing the 24/7/365 power supplied by CO2 emitting coal fired power plants. However, that one word, ‘Nuclear’ is complete anathema in Labor Party politics, and no amount of rational argument will ever see this eventuating while ever Labor remains in power, and now with the rise of The Greens Party, who are even more diametrically opposed to the word Nuclear, then the future of this clean option in Australia is virtually nil…..TonyfromOz.

The only greenhouse-friendly alternative to coal-fired power – in you really want to “stop” global warming – is exactly the one the Gillard Government has banned. And the preposterously expensive ones are exactly the ones it subsidises.

Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler and our warmist friend Barry Brook investigate:

To find answers, we conducted a meta-review of 25 authoritative peer-reviewed studies of electricity generating technologies, which was published in the international peer-reviewed scientific journal Energy…

We identified only five proven low-emission technologies that met a set of objective fit-for-service criteria to supply baseload power. They were: pulverised fuel (PF) with carbon capture and storage (CCS); integrated (coal) gasification combined cycle (IGCC) with CCS; combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) with CCS; nuclear; and solar thermal with heat storage and gas turbines. IGCC is relatively new technology not yet in operation in Australia. CCS is still only in pilot stage anywhere in the world.

It might come as a surprise to some that wind, solar photovoltaic and engineered geothermal systems (EGS), also known as hot rocks, did not qualify to be fit-for-service for baseload. Wind and solar PV need either extensive gas backup or large-scale energy storage for baseload operation…

The wind/storage solution could only compete at a carbon price above $350 a tonne of carbon dioxide, well above anything being contemplated. EGS is a possible future baseload technology, but it is still too early to estimate performance and costs with the degree of reliability we required.

So solar is too madly expensive, yet it’s the very industry that’s been artificially encouraged by this government, with most investments made, tragically, by union-dominated super funds:

THE Rudd government’s wind energy backflip will unlock billions of dollars worth of investment in new windfarms, the wind power industry says.

Wind energy companies Pacific Hydro and AGL nominated more than $6 billion worth of stalled projects in five states that could be revived after the federal government’s decision to rejig its renewable energy scheme.

And geothermal is too unreliable at this stage, but guess who helped to convince Labor to sink your millions into it:

Geodynamics shareholder and Monash University geology graduate, Tim Flannery

And how much?

Shares in Geodynamics Ltd rose after the federal government awarded the geothermal energy company $90 million in funding under the Renewable Energy Demonstration Program (REDP).

And how unreliable is even Flannery’s little earner?

GEODYNAMICS has provided an update on the safety situation after a well explosion on 24 April 2009 at its Habanero 3 well site at its Innamincka Joint Venture project in South Australia… Geodynamics has had to plug the well and two others with concrete. It said the implications for future well design and material selection are “complex”.

But back to Nicholson, Biegler and Brook, who now discuss what might work better than what the Gillard Government has invested in:

The technologies included are the five fit-for-service replacement technologies plus, for comparison, new PF coal plants without CCS (carbon capture and storage). With no carbon price (as now), new pulverised fuel coal is the cheapest technology, but as the carbon price increases so does the cost of electricity from such plants…

The points where the cost line for pulverised fuel coal crosses the others represents the minimum carbon price needed to make the technology switch worthwhile. Leaving aside nuclear for the moment (as it is presently banned in Australia), the cheapest solution is combined cycle gas turbine (natural gas) with carbon capture and storage, which needs a carbon price of just over $30. To justify building either of the coal technologies (PF or IGCC) with carbon capture and storage for new plants would require a carbon price over $40. Retrofitting existing coal plants with carbon capture and storage might have different costs.

The problem is, carbon capture and storage may only make sense if you take a short-term view of emission reductions. While it can deliver the probable reduction targets until 2030, the current technology will not deliver the tougher emission targets recommended for 2050…

The only renewable technology that met our fit-for-service criteria was solar thermal with heat storage and gas backup for cloudy days… (U)sing solar thermal power to replace coal would require a carbon price over $150.

The standout technology, from a cost perspective, is nuclear power. From the eight nuclear cost studies we reviewed (all published in the past decade, and adjusted to 2009 dollars), the median cost of electricity from current technology nuclear plants was just above new coal plants with no carbon price. Having the lowest carbon emissions of all the fit-for-service technologies, nuclear remains the cheapest solution at any carbon price. Importantly, it is the only fit-for-service baseload technology that can deliver the 2050 emission reduction targets.

Yet it’s precisely this technology that that Gillard Government has banned, still captive of an irrational green scare with zero scientific credibility.

If Gillard is truly serious about global warming, if she wants a solution that won’t provoke a revolt against soaring bills of the kind that toppled John Brumby, and if she wants an issue to finally use against the Greens, this one is it. Give the green light to nuclear power.

Andrew Bolt is a journalist and columnist writing for The Herald Sun in Melbourne Victoria Australia.

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Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and is a regular commentator on Channel 9′s Today show and ABC TV’s Insiders. He will be heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of new radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.