like to hear:
Nuclear energy has received the thumbs up from a former anti-nuclear environmentalist who co-authored an independent report pitting the advantages of nuclear energy against renewable energy for electricity generation.Lower startup costs? He’s got numbers.
Ben Heard told a uranium conference in Adelaide today that nuclear power presented lower start-up costs, lower cost electricity, much smaller land use, no use of fresh water, more reliable generation capacity and other advantages compared to renewable energy.
Key takeaways include nuclear power requiring a capital cost of between $3.5 billion and $4.8 billion for a 690* megawatt equivalent plant compared to $8.1 billion for a 1,460MWe equivalent combined renewable energy plant as well as requiring 2 square kilometers of exclusive land compared to 18.1 square kilometers for the renewable option.I’d like to see those num – oh, wait, I can?
Heard’s comprehensive, self-funded report (Zero Carbon Options – Seeking an Economic Mix for an Environmental Outcome) analyses 13 specific benchmarks to identify the most efficient energy source to replace two small coal-fired power stations at Port Augusta in South Australia.And wouldn’t you know – the report has its own attractive website – www.zerocarbonoptions.com. Here’s the direct link to the report. A chart on page 12 sets the baseline – the report uses a CANDU reactor on the nuclear side – and page 24 onward compares nuclear energy with what it calls combined renewable energy – wind and solar.
What motivates the report is the replacement of two coal plants with a combined capacity of about 1460 megawatts. According to the report, the CANDU reactor was chosen because it matches that figure almost exactly. That may seem a little flimsy as a rationale, but there it is.
The report is quite long, and I’m not sure the comparison is completely fair – if I’m not missing it, it ignores the intermittent nature of renewable energy. Comparing the two tends to almost over favor nuclear energy. But that in itself is fair enough – if you’re replacing a lot of baseload energy, it doesn’t hurt to bring in baseload energy.
And the demonstration of cost is interesting, too, though it has a lot of moving parts – in the case of wind, literally a lot of moving parts.
We’ll probably be watching Australia move ever closer to nuclear energy for the rest of our lives. There have always been strong voices there in favor of it, but the Australian dislike for it seems almost a birthright, genetic. But we’ll see: more surprising things have happened.
I was curious about the description of Heard as a former anti-nuclear activist. I looked to see what there was to know of him and found this description of his work at The Conversation:
Ben is also Founder of Decarbonise SA, a not-for-profit collective with the aim of achieving a rapid decarbonization of electricity in South Australia through fostering understanding and acceptance of nuclear power. A former trenchant nuclear opponent, Ben’s growing appreciation of the climate crisis lead him through research and a change of position. His presentation “Nuclear Power: From Opponent to Proponent” has been delivered to over 600 people including the State Conference of the Local Government Association of South Australia.But wait. If he’s been at this for awhile and even has a “collective” around it, I wonder when he was a “trenchant nuclear opponent.” His self-written biography at Decarbonise SA explains this. Nothing sinister about it, aside from the fact the press stories about him have grabbed at the anti-nuclear turncoat angle quite hard.
The worst though was this: the logical part of my brain was telling me loud and clear that the broadly accepted set of energy solutions for climate change, namely renewable technologies and improvements in energy efficiency, had not a hope in hell of solving this problem on their own. No matter how optimistically my peer group and I talked them up, the reality of the scale of the climate crisis kept crashing the party. Things were getting worse, not better, and there was really no solution on my radar. Well, there was one, but I didn’t like it… nuclear power.So - he was anti-nuclear when he was younger and chatting up the issue with his friends, but found a professional direction after his climate change epiphany (he also teaches at the University of Adelaide). I’m not tweaking him here – it happens all the time. But unlike, say, Patrick Moore, he doesn’t seem to have made this change during his professional life, which would have had a decided impact. But that’s okay – it’s overstated but not wrong. He did have a change of heart.
I was amused to read that Friends of the Earth has an Australian branch and have had at Heard over this (no link – you can find it easily enough):
A mining industry magazine article says that Mr. Heard was "once a fervent anti-nuclear campaigner". However there is no evidence of Mr. Heard ever having any involvement whatsoever in anti-nuclear campaigning let alone 'fervent' involvement. And no evidence that Mr. Heard has made any effort to correct the error in the magazine article.No evidence that he hasn’t, either. I love how FOE jumps from the mundane to the diabolic in one short hop – it’s like a sour magic act intended to scare children. But however (and whenever) Ben Heard became pro-nuclear, power to him.
*EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a typographical error, this figure was incorrectly transcribed as 6,690 megawatts. We regret the error.