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Quo vadis, German energy policy?

by DoDo Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 06:19:15 AM EST

The future mix of power plants generating electricity is a very politicised issue in Germany. Specific generating modes had their best friends in different parties: the Social Democrats (SPD) for coal, some local branches of the SPD for gas, the conservative CDU/CSU for nuclear (and some local branches of the CDU also for coal), the Greens for wind and photovoltaics and combined generation.

Consequently, government changes had strong influence on energy policy. The SPD-Greens coalition under Chancellor Schröder made nuclear phaseout a law and allowed the expansion of gas-fired plants in unison, while the expansion of renewables and a slow phase-out of coal subsidies were born out of rather intense intra-coalition fights. In the following Grand Coalition (CDU/CSU+SPD), differences mostly served to maintain the status quo, only an SPD environment minister was now free to pursue a coal renaissance (hampered by realities and activists). Finally the black-yellow (CDU/CSU with the neolib FDP) coalition government empowered in last year's federal elections was widely expected to bring back nuclear and undermine renewables.

However, the new government hasn't been any less messier on energy policy than on taxes or Afghanistan. While the pro-nuclear promises were followed up by opening talks on extending power plant lifespans, the government felt forced to make those difficult with demands like companies paying for the clean-up of a nuclear dump and the premature closure of older plants. On the renewables front, plans of the (CDU-led) environment ministry to cut the feed-in rate for photovoltaics led to protests on Thursday, also supported by regional leaders from the CDU (who fear job loss).

Now federal environment minister Norbert Röttgen seems intent to counter-act the image damage with a U-turn. In an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, he opined that the CDU should give up on nuclear as the identification is hurting the party, and chart out its replacement with renewables instead: in effect, an accelerated nuclear phaseout. The initiative only created more turmoil, Röttgen was attacked left and right.


The Röttgen interview is only in the paper version, but the linked on-line article sums it up with quotes and paraphrases.

As indicated, Röttgen's argument centers on public opinion and party interests:

"Die CDU muss sich gut überlegen, ob sie gerade die Kernenergie zu einem Alleinstellungsmerkmal machen will."..."The CDU should think it over whether it's just nuclear energy it wants to turn into a unique selling point."
..."Kernenergie hat auch nach vierzig Jahren keine hinreichende Akzeptanz in der Bevölkerung", sagte er. Deshalb dürfe die Union ihren Erfolg nicht davon abhängig machen, dass Kernkraftwerke störungsfrei laufen...."Even after forty years, nuclear energy lacks sufficient support in the population", he said. For this reason, the CDU/CSU should not make its success dependent on the trouble-free running of nuclear power plants.

The reinforced nuclear phaseout then outlined is presented as government policy:

Die Bundesregierung werde in den nächsten Monaten prüfen, wie sich die Kernkraftwerke schrittweise durch erneuerbare Energien ersetzen lassen. Die schwarz-gelbe Regierung hatte in ihrem Koalitionsvertrag zwar eine grundsätzliche Bereitschaft für längere Laufzeiten erkennen lassen, will diese aber in ein "Energiekonzept" einbetten. Bis zum Herbst soll es stehen.In the next months, the federal government will study how nuclear plants can be replaced by renewables step-by-step. Though the black-yellow government indicated its readiness for longer lifespans in the coalition agreement on principle, it wants to embed this in an "Energy Concept". This should be ready by September.
Dieses Konzept sei nötig, "nicht um die Kernkraft zu festigen, sondern um darzulegen, wie wir sie ablösen", sagte Röttgen. This conept is necessary "not to reinforce nuclear power, but to establish how we raplace it", Röttgen said.

There's still a bone thrown to the companies with a strange argument:

Gleichzeitig warnte er davor, die Zusatzgewinne der Unternehmen mit einer Sonderabgabe abzuschöpfen. "Der Staat muss jeden Anschein vermeiden, er schöpfe Sondergewinne ab und mache dafür Zugeständnisse bei der Sicherheit", sagte er. At the same time, he warned against skimming off the extra profits of the companies with a special levy. "The State must avoid any appearance of skimming off extra profits but giving concessions on safety in return", he said.

As the article notes, this runs directly against the (FDP) economy minister's idea of selling the extension of lifespans: he wants a special levy and use it as (direct) subsidy for renewables.

As for the frenzied intra-party reaction, here is a sharp-tongued one from deputy CDU faction head Michael Fuchs (again from Süddeutsche):

"Volkswirtschaftlich bedeutet es einen enormen Schaden, gut funktionierende Kernkraftwerke abzuschalten, die weder durch 'Vogelschredderanlagen' (Windkraft) noch durch 'Subventionsgräber' (Solarzellen) ersetzbar sind""Shutting down well-functioning nuclear power plants which cannot be replaced by 'bird shredding facilities' [wind power] or 'subsidy graves' [solar cells] means an enormous damage for the national economy"

As if out of an anti-renewables PR flyer, aint' it? Another faction vice head, Michael Kretschmer, told in the Sunday issue of Die Welt:

"Mich stört auch das Argument, es gäbe eine mangelhafte Akzeptanz der Kernenergie. Wenn das so wäre, wäre es die Aufgabe der CDU, dafür zu kämpfen, dass die Akzeptanz größer wird""I am also troubled by the argument that nuclear power would have insufficient acceptance. If that would be true, then it would be the CDU's job to fight for a higher acceptance"

Kretschmer also rolled out the standard nonsense rhetoric about Germany (an increasing net exporter) having to depend on imports, despite his party comrade speaking explicitely about a replacement:

"Ich bin selbst Ingenieur und sprachlos über so viel Unfug in der Debatte. Wollen wir tatsächlich die sichersten AKWs der Welt abschalten, um dann Strom aus weniger sicheren, ausländischen AKWs zu importieren?""I am an engineer myself, and I am speechless about this much BS in the debate. Do we really want to shut down the safest nuclear power plants in the world [huh!? _DoDo] and then import electricity from less safe foreign nuclear power plants?"

What about the opposition? The reaction was rather sceptical:

Die Grünen-Vorsitzende Claudia Roth warf Röttgen vor, er versuche ,,den Menschen Sand in die Augen zu streuen, während Schwarz-Gelb im Hinterzimmer den Ausstieg aus dem Atomausstieg festzurrt und die Solarförderung kappt". Wenn Röttgen meine, was er sage, ,,müsste er einfach am Atomausstieg festhalten". Grünen-Fraktionschefin Renate Künast nannte Röttgens Ankündigung ,,unglaubwürdig" und angesichts der bevorstehenden NRW-Landtagswahl ,,wahltaktisch".Greens chair[wo]man Claudia Roth accused Röttgen of attempting to "throw dust into people's eyes while black-yellow is fixing the phaseout of the nuclear phaseout and caps the support of solar behind closed doors". Would Röttgen mean what he says, "he would just have to keep to the nuclear phaseout". Greens faction leader Renate Künast called Röttgen's accouncement "untrustworthy" and, in view of the coming regional elections in Northrhine-Westphalia, "election tactics".
Der SPD-Vorsitzende Sigmar Gabriel bezweifelte den Willen zum Atomausstieg. Er sagte auf dem Landesparteitag in Neumünster (Schleswig-Holstein): ,,Ich glaube, dass Herr Röttgen und andere hier Taschenspielertricks vorbereiten und das Hin- und Herschieben von Laufzeiten planen."SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel doubted the willingness for nuclear phaseout. He told at the regional party conference in Neumünster (Schleswig-Holstein state): "I believe Mr. Röttgen and others are preparing card-player tricks and are planning to push lifespans back and forth."

What will come out of this? No clear energy policy direction, methinks.

Display:
What I find interesting is the complete absence of coal in the arguments. Röttgen set the stage by naming renewables as replacement, and it is a fact that coal plants are run by the same energy giants that are on good terms with the CDU (hence the local CDU support for some coal power plant projects); still, even CU lobbyists of nuclear power would mention coal and CO2.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 7th, 2010 at 11:09:53 AM EST
As discussed on ET when the new government list was released, the new environment minister Röttgen was a little-known Merkel loyalist. So, the big question was of course: is this his own initiative, or was the minister testing waters for Merkel?

Now the latter seems likely: her speaker defended Röttgen, saying it was in line with the government programme (which calls nuclear a "bridge technology" -- a weasel world now interpreted the other way, ha).

Meanwhile, an FDP politician attacked Röttgen, too. It's bizarre: in German politics, of all parties, it's the neoliberal FDP that advocates the (least market-friendly) renewables+nuclear mix apparently favoured by many on ET.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 12:01:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I would call it a case of sanity overriding ideology. Coal has to go, and trying to power the Ruhr and the rest of German industry with renewable energy is just blatantly not workable, so nuclear is kind of the only reasonable option.

The problem being that with energy being a political football, the most likely outcome is either the status quo of approximately 78% coal, 20 % nuclear, +some renewable persists, or that the phase out happens and the faction of coal in the German energy mix actually goes up.

Either outcome is hideously bad for the planet.
Better outcomes would be to turn the tables on the SDP + greens and start arguing in terms of a coal phaseout, trying to win the public debate or alternatively, just throw in the towel and build the reactors across the border..

by Thomas on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 02:35:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 04:21:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shiny numbers. Thanks. Still, if the germans are considering adding 23 % renewable to their energy mix, using that gain to turn off the nuke plants instead of the brown coal plants would be the height of irresponsibility
by Thomas on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 04:38:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that behind the big highly public renewables vs. nuclear battle, there is a less noticed one: one concerning gas vs. coal and nuclear. The conflict of interest concerns gas plants built by local utilities, who'd like to run those plants at a higher utilisation.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 05:28:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even better: download the third from bottom here, there is a long-term time series.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 05:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would call it a case of sanity overriding ideology

I would call it being pro-business overriding market ideology :-)

Coal has to go

Agreed.

trying to power the Ruhr and the rest of German industry with renewable energy is just blatantly not workable

Says who? I mean, beyond coal and nuclear lobbyists?

the phase out happens and the faction of coal in the German energy mix actually goes up.

Even the current environment ministry sees renewables at 40% (the limit they set for nuclear phaseout) by 2022. There is a reason that mnost of the CDU abandoned the "renewables can't do it" rhetoric and switched to "bridge technology".

start arguing in terms of a coal phaseout

Yet, it's only the Greens who are talking about a coal phaseout. The reasons should be clear: coal and nuclear are run by the same companies, who see those as alternatives to securing long-term market domination.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 05:21:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The absence of coal from the political narrative is what is fueling the anti-nuclear activism, because it disguises what the actual consequences of a nuke phase out would be; IE; more gas, more coal. If the black/yellow want to win this fight, and somewhat relatedly, if the utilities want to avoid becoming a mere funnel of euros to gasprom, the terms of the debate has to be redefined. Every single time someone argues against nuclear in a debate, they should simply parrot the argument back, while doing a "search and replace" where "nuclear" is replaced with "coal".
(This works hilariously well for every single anti-nuke argument. Except proliferation, I suppose. And anyone who brings that up in a German context... well, just stare at them like they were covered in slime)

Re: says who: Germany is energy intensive, and population dense, so "logic and physical constraints"? - German energy consumption exceeds one watt/square meter of German soil. Solar in Germany yields 5 watts/square meter, so that would mean paving over more than one fifth of Germany, which is a:not going to happen, b:an intensely undesirable outcome. Nor is there sufficient good wind sites in germany for full energy supply.  

by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 08:08:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The absence of coal from the political narrative is what is fueling the anti-nuclear activism

How many times do pro-nuclear people have to repeat this canard? As it happens, those protesting coal and nuclear are usually the same.

more gas, more coal

More gas: likely, until various other ways to mitigate intermittency aren't developed more. More coal? Only in the dreams of energy giants, but not even in the latest scenarios of the German nuclear lobby (see first diagram in my latest diary).

Every single time someone argues against nuclear in a debate, they should simply parrot the argument back, while doing a "search and replace" where "nuclear" is replaced with "coal".

That would be fun to hear. Of course, those serving business interests won't speak up against both main modes of baseload production.

German energy consumption exceeds one watt/square meter of German soil. Solar in Germany yields 5 watts/square meter

Those are strange figures...

  • Total consumption:  let's not calculate in watts, let's take kWh/a instead, and let's assume total net consumption won't be reduced under 600 TWh/a, that is roughly the Noughties level. (Translating this into your figures: 600 TWh/a is under 0.2 W/m² -- you won't get above 1 W/m² even if you confused primary energy and electricity.)

  • Solar: The actual 2009 average 10.5% capacity factor for PV in Germany translates to 0.92kWh/a produced by one Watt. So meeting half the total consumption would need 327 GW installed. To reach 327 GW by 2030, installations would need to reach an average level of 16 GW/a -- last year it was around 2.5 GW, I don't think an increase by one order of magnitude is impossible (though I would agree that it is little realistic until prices don't drop further). As for surface needed, with current module efficiencies of 13-15%, that is 130-150 W/m², I get to around 2,350 km² -- a mere 0.66% of the total surface of Germany, much less than that taken up by built-up areas and roads. (Translating into your figures: solar yield is around 14.5 W/m², three times your figure.)

  • Wind: I hope Crazy Horse has something newer, but in the early 2000s, the exploitable wind resource was estimated at 55% of total consumption, most of that off-shore.

That's wind and solar. Methinks pumped air storage and at least geothermal will be commercial technology by 2030, too, and energy conservation is possible (also if population decrease is considered). So if Germany really really wanted, 100% renewables by 2030 would be possible; but I am fine with a renewables-gas mix by then, too, if gas too is phased out in the next two decades.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 10:21:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consumption was for total energy use, not electricity. This was deliberate, since I see no way of actually lowering CO2 emissions significantly without electrifying nearly all energy use. Should have clarified.
The square meter yield was taken from the bavarian solar plant, since that was the first real world figure I could find - Yield per-square-of panel is not the same as yield per - square of plant.
by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 10:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Electrifying heating and transportation improves energy efficiency by up to an order of magnitude.

That needs to be put into your calculations too.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 11:22:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consumption was for total energy use

Then you moved the goalposts rather far from supplying electricity to the Ruhr area industry :-)

electrifying nearly all energy use

As JakeS said, such electrifying can improve energy efficiency greatly, lowering the generating capacity needed. I add that solar thermal (which is spreading rapidly in Germany) and geothermal (which I see as significant by 2030) can give heat energy without electrifying.

Yield per-square-of panel is not the same as yield per - square of plant.

Correct, you need North-South separation (for Sun-following plants, East-West too). However, just because that, not all the surface you contemplated is 'covered'. For rooftop plants, separation is provided by North-facing roof sides, courtyards, gardens and streets (the latter also for plants installed on highway noise barriers).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 02:26:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, I am not okay with a gas mix come 2030 - it is simply an unacceptable outcome both for the planet, and economically, reckless as hell - Gas has very volatile prices, and the price of electricity doing the yo-yo constantly will make any attempt at cleaning up other energy use via electrification a fools errand.

- This is also a major reason I favor nukes over other green generation tech. If we are to have any hope of cleaning up transport, industry and all the other myriad sources of CO2 industrial society is responsible for, it is a dire and absolute necessity that the price of a KWH be both low, and constant.

Demand management is just fancy words for "The price of a kwh hour will depend on the wind, sun and phase of the moon, have fun figuring out what your electric car will cost you this month!"

The French and Swedish experience demonstrates that the nuclear path can fully replace carbon based generation of electricity in 15 years if it is considered a priority to clean up generation. Rapidly expanding demand for electrons may add time to this, but it must be done, regardless, or we are screwed.

by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 10:54:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's easy to know what the electric car will cost you: you set the charger to only top it off when power is below a certain price. Hell, if power gets expensive enough you might sell some of it back to the grid.

How is this different from using petrochemicals where the price varies day by day? People have seldom known how much their car is going to cost.

When demand is high you increase the cost to discourage unnecesary usage. What is the problem?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 10:59:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
two problems; Firstly; absolute average price price. Some forms of renewable energy just cost too much. No one will adopt the electric car if gas is flat out cheaper than electrons. Thus, for example, solar is at current prices the enemy. Secondly, and this remains a problem even if the base price comes down, the intermittency of the base power sources, wind and sun, mean that prices will vary, and vary a great deal, on more than just a day/night cycle.
It will not be a practical option for people to not charge their car before they go to work. Worse, the problem is that we want people to rework industrial processes that are energy hungry on scales utterly disconnected from anything you encounter in your day to day life to use electrons instead of coal or gas, and steel mills cannot just not cease operation for days on end because it happens to be cloudy and quiet. Prices matter. Stability of supply is important.
by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 11:32:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're back in your strawman world of 100% wind and solar, aren't you?

It will not be a practical option for people to not charge their car before they go to work.

No? How much charge do they need? What if most people only use a small proportion of their car's mileage each day? I put diesel in my car about once every three-four weeks. Lots of people only drive ten or twenty miles a day. What do I need, half an hour charge time in 24hours? An hour? If the sun goes out or the atmosphere stops I might have a problem, but on those occasions I can just pay the higher price if it's important.

Prices matter.

Yes, they do. They modify behaviour. Even of big industrial concerns. That's what we want them for.

You're making the assumption that practices based on the assumption that you can be profligate with cheap energy will carry over into a situation with expensive energy.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 12:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I am flat out stating that a future where electricity is expensive is a future where carbon emissions will be high. We need to replace carbon source energy inputs with equivalently priced, or cheaper non-carbon inputs, because if we do not, governments that take the problem seriously will loose elections to governments that do not, and production will move to the places where it can burn all the coal it can find.
Fiat and political will only gets you so far, and while nuclear is, indeed, a cheap ass technocratic answer to the problem to global warming that lets people continue right on consuming vast quantities of cheap energy that is a good thing because it means the only people you have to persuade /defeat politically are the entrenched interests of the coal and gas industry instead of absolutely everyone.
by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 01:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
You're making the assumption that practices based on the assumption that you can be profligate with cheap energy will carry over into a situation with expensive energy.

yeah some energy valhalla, where we're all wearing electric suits and roaring through megawatts till sparks are flying out our fingers.

there seems to be no awareness that we don't actually need to be permanently plugged in to some grid the whole time.

this is a blind spot, and is very culture-centric, as we argue here in yurp about how many teras we 'need', and apparently will never be glutted by the use of, while millions of people could already be using a couple of panels in places like nigeria and running a clinic fridge and some lights with.

instead they will probably have some corrupt bureaucrats negotiating a nuke plant for them with some 'western' company!

and all this with the planet temperature rising, and water shortages looming. solar and wind don't gobble water, once they're up and running..

it's effing lunatic, and what's especially distressing is how many intelligent people can't see this for what it is: a last ditch, extremely well-financed effort to keep the public dependent and ignorant, about something that we have the tech to give everyone some of, and that could be useful in so many ways.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 03:06:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and I think your attitude is dangerous. To mankind, and the world. Higher energy costs is not a good outcome for anyone, and especially not for the poor of the world, because they will not be able to afford it, or, most likely, be able to field the technical cadre to maintain a network of windmills, the smart grid they need, or the load balancing facilities to keep things going, ect. The monstrous centralization of a nuclear power station has upsides, as well as downsides - for India, and other stable-but-poor countries manning and maintaining these stations is easier than farming the entirety of the countryside for energy.

There is also the basic fact that if the choice the public is offered is one between costly energy and frying the planet, most likely the planet will fry.  Maybe not. Maybe the current generation is more righteous than mankind has been so far. But is that really something you want to bet the world on?

Re: Water. Two words: Nuclear desalinization.

by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 05:16:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You want to claim that wind energy is too high-tech for developing countries but nuclear isn't?... Huh.

You should know that India is a wind power pioneer, too, with almost 11 GW installed (nuclear: 4.12 GW). Suzlon even bought majority in a top German manufacturer (REpower).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 05:20:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You want to claim that wind energy is too high-tech for developing countries but nuclear isn't?... Huh.

what can you say?

they're teaching grandmothers in india to install solar, maybe they can moonlight at westinghouse!

the bit about how inefficient it would be to harvest energy from the countryside too...

obviously a grid for their nuke nirvana would be worth installing, but empowering them off the grid, not so much.

concern trolling, poor planet, it's dying of coal fumes, what it surely needs now is to be bathed in radioactive rays, while declaiming how solar energy will pave the world with cement.

it beggars belief...like most topdown -is there any other kind?- capitalism.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 09:30:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one will adopt the electric car if gas is flat out cheaper than electrons.

Even if we were to magically conjure up enough petroleum reserves for that scenario, it's nothing a 2000 % gasoline tax can't solve.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 12:28:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know how much a train will cost you, because that organisation is large enough to absorb a lot of price risk without serious dislocation.

If people are dumb enough to use cars for bulk transport in an all-electric grid, then I really have a hard time taking their whining about price risk seriously. Cars are specialised vehicles with a sharply limited sphere of use within which they make economic and engineering sense. Bulk transportation is not one of them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 11:29:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:

Demand management is just fancy words for "The price of a kwh hour will depend on the wind, sun and phase of the moon, have fun figuring out what your electric car will cost you this month!"

The price of per kwh right now here in Sweden depends on freezing cold, nuclear plants offline, low rain levels last summer and mothballed oil plants coming online. Yet my price stays the same, as I - like most swedish consumers - has a fixed price level. Big industry may run with variable prices and exchange the highs for the lows (and adopt usage) but for a consumer a fixed price contract is more sensible. This does not change with the number of appliances I plug in, so I see no reason it would change if I got an electric scooter.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 05:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
unacceptable outcome both for the planet, and economically, reckless as hell

Using gas for peak power is much less CO2 than using coal for both peak and baseload. You burn the hydrogen, too. In addition, the bulk of the gas is used for heating today anyway, so combined plants mean increased efficiency and again less CO2. Either way, it is an improvement relative to as-is, and phasing them out by 2050 is still phasing them out.

Others dealt with your strange views on prices, but this:

The French and Swedish experience demonstrates that the nuclear path can fully replace carbon based generation of electricity in 15 years

  1. No, Sweden relies on hydro, and France is no isolated system as it relies on exports to Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
  2. The past success of two countries in doing it in 15 years is not scalable to the entire world, neither power plant nor mining facility construction would be able to keep up with the explosive increase you foresee, not even just to replace baseload electricity production world-wide. You won't get that by 2030, nor 2050, and later only if breeders would become reality, but that is a big "if" just like for fusion power or pebble bed reactors. And that's just baseload.
  3. Even with the research discussed in my latest diary, nuclear supply of peak load looks unrealistic.
  4. You want to replace the entire primary energy production with nuclear, which is then even less realistic.

I would have a harder time arguing with the position of some here, that nuclear has to be part of the mix, but this nuclear-solves-everything stance is exorbitant.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 05:44:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
re 2: Scale up the number of countries working on the problem and you are scaling up the resources available to throw at it as well, so construction pace is not a bottleneck. No, Areva and Japan Steel will not be able to meet this demand, or even close, but steel forges can be built, engineers can be trained.
 Fuel.. Well, to be honest, we should probably focus on IFR or similar tech, but even with bog standard PWR's, all that would happen is a very steep price shock in uranium ore, as prices are set by the last mine to go into operation to meet demand, and that  would not bleed through to final power prices to any great degree.

re 3: It looks like it would increase the cost of nuclear electricity by 25-30 %, due to lower utilization of capital in a fully nuclear grid. Likely more economic to build pumped storage and a few less nuke plants, but the savings from series build on this scale will more than make up for it. If the world builds 5-10000 reactors to solve global warming once and for all, reactor number 500 through 7825 is not going to cost as much as flamaville 3

RE: 4: well, the entire primary energy production has to be replaced with something. My attitude is exorbitant because the problem is.
As far as I can tell, nuclear is the only option that really could do this if we are willing to expend enough effort on it. Wind has its selling points, but we are going to run out of good locations for it way before we get to that goal, so, not really an answer. (Might work out for the US. EU population density is just too high) Solar on a scale to match with primary energy production makes me break out in hives, because it really would entail concreting over too much of the world.

by Thomas on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 08:31:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Areva and Japan Steel will not be able to meet this demand, or even close, but steel forges can be built, engineers can be trained.

This is not under discussion. The question is, what can be built in the next 5, 10, 15 years?

So, we can estimate (with some work) how much new nuclear capacity can come online in the next 5, 10, 15 under various scenarios of building steel forges and training engineers (neither of which happen instantly).

And, given such estimates, you will find there is room for new windpower installations as well, even if your preference would be for all new installations to be nuclear, given that wind is preferable to coal or gas.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 08:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Re 2: as Migeru said, and even more so for mines. Do I have to repeat that, as with peak oil and oil shales, a price increase won't result in unlimited changes in the pace of production?

Re 3: 25-30%? Could be higher, but worse is that not only does a full provision of variable power from nuclear look technically unfeasible, but such operation in general looks to bring maintenance problems. The mass-production cost decrease argument applies for all modes.

Re 4: your attitude is exorbitant because you seem to insist on a solution with one generation mode only -- and make untested to unreal assumptions for your choice mode to see it able to deliver.
I don't know what's the present estimate for the exploitable wind resource in the EU, but last I looked, it was equivalent to current consumption. Population density is not that much a limit, especially not in the comparison to the resource of the USA (I think you were told about this in the past, too), the available wind is more. And this image of yours of solar needing the covering (and now even concreting!...) over of the world should not recur either after the calculations I gave you before, even less when thinking on a European rather than just German scale. Meanwhile, if HDR geothermal would become commercial technology, the exploitable resource would be several times current consuption of even primary energy (which, as said before, would be reduced if f.e. transport would be electrified the right way).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 09:39:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The additional thing about the necessary opening of lots of extra mines of low-grade uranium is that, even if they could be built, they would mean the moving of material in volumes exceeding that of coal today, with consequent increased air pollution and increased mining CO2 emissions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 09:48:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Relevant calculations of mine, showing that mined material per kWh generated in an EPR would exceed coal's global average when tapping uranium ores of the lowest grades then mined resp. deemed recoverable by IAEA. Expanding nuclear capacity not just to equal coal, but to replace it and every other fossil fuel in primary energy (or even just electricity generation) would mean tapping of these and even lower grades, thus mining volumes order(s) of magnitude greater than coal mining today.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 10:09:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rough math check. Upper bounds on uranium use: Currently, nuclear is supplying 2 % of global primary energy use - Assuming that already existing large scale hydro/wind stays in use, and that electrification of everything only cuts total energy use by 30% (this is conservative, yes?) the nuclear power sector would have to expand to about 30 times its present size. Currently (well, in 2006. sorry, really should get newer numbers), the world goes through some 66 500 tonnes of uranium/year, so this is a burn rate of somewhat over 2 million tonnes/year.
Known conventional resources extractable at <130 dollars/kg are 5.5 million tonnes. Estimates of currently unknown, but geologically likely resources of the same grade are another 10.5 million tonnes, so using conventional reactors on this scale would burn through global ore supply of reasonable grade in 7 years. Okay, that takes that plan off the table, I suppose seawater extraction could supply a once-through cycle for significant spaces of time, but the entire idea is to avoid industrializing more of nature than we have to, and extracting 2 million tonnes/year from the sea would run counter to that.

So, really, for nukes to work as a global warming fix, breeders are necessary. - Plausible designs for rapid adoption would be the IFR and the Russian BN-800 design.
- This actually has hilarious consequences in the opposite direction, since the ore requirement for a breeder reactor in operation is roughly one tonne of  fertile, (not fissile!) material per year, so after the initial fuel load, the stockpile of already mined depleted uranium (1.5 million tonnes) could keep the world in power for about a thousand years..

by Thomas on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 07:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose seawater extraction could supply a once-through cycle for significant spaces of time, but the entire idea is to avoid industrializing more of nature than we have to, and extracting 2 million tonnes/year from the sea would run counter to that.

Indeed, and it may not even be feasible: again size of supply and speed of extraction are different things. The Uranium2007 study says:

Seawater may also be regarded as a possible sourcc of uranium, due to the large volume of uranium contained (about 4 billion tU) and its almost inexhaustible nature. However, because of the low concentration of uranium in seawater (3-4 ppb), it is estimated that it would require the processing of about 350 000 tonnes of water to produce a single kg of uranium. Nonetheless, with the exception of its high recovery cost, there is no intristic reason why at least some of these significant resources could not be extracted from various coast lines at a total rate of a few hundred of tonnes annually.

So, really, for nukes to work as a global warming fix, breeders are necessary.

Yep. But, for that, one would need:

  1. design &build a full-scale prototype: min. 10 years
  2. gain sufficient operational experience with the prototype: min. 5 years
  3. get first commercial plants running: min. 5 years

...and we arrived in 2030 already. And this is a best-case scenario, supposing that

a) the design works without problems (unlike the Superphénix or the never even started Kalkar),
b) the breeder plant is paired with another novelty, a flawlessly working reprocessing plant (in contrast to the dirtiest branch of the nuclear industry: Sellafield, Hanford, Mayak, Le Havre, Hanau, Tokaimura...).

So, I'm not saying it's impossible, but I don't see a breeder future any less hypothetical than a fusion future.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 05:20:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are working, commercial, fast breeder designs available today. They are Russian. Which is ahem cough problematic from a public relations standpoint in the west, but the Chinese do not seem to care, and the tech in general really is quite massively further along than fusion research since just about everyone with a nuclear industry has at least built a prototype that produces net power.  
- Note that the French plan for their nuclear sector appears to be "Build PWR's now, Fast breeders later, run the PWRs on Mixed oxide  fuel produced in the breeders"
by Thomas on Fri Feb 12th, 2010 at 08:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's really no reason to go for breeders until a long time later, and then it's just an academic exercise anyway, as we have no idea on the distribution of low grade ores, and we have even less idea how much lower grade ores that can be mined than the ones we're looking at now.

For example, an almost unknown mining project in northern Sweden (Myrviken), an vanadium, uranium, molybdenum and nickel deposit, is big enough to fuel all our nukes for 20 years! And this from a country which the IAEA classifies as having "zero" uranium reserves. The uranium ore is not rich enough to mine by itself, but the other minerals make it possibly profitable. There are lots and lots and lots of big low grade deposits like this scattered all over the world.

Total known world recoverable uranium reserves are 5.5 million tonnes. In spite of this, there's 1 million tonnes of the stuff lying around in a single small Swedish mountain (Billingen) which is not included in any data because of the low grade. At what cost is this ore profitable? No one knows. Is it possible to mine it? Yes, it was mined to get uranium to our weapons program.

Oil reserve data is bad, gas reserve data is awful, coal reserve data is horrible and uranium reserve data is nonexistent. The only thing we can say about uranium reserves with any measure of safety is that there's really plenty of the stuff around, and whenever people head out and look for it they find a lot more than is consumed any given year.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 12:27:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and then there's another 4.2 million tonnes of uranium in the Storsjön area. This is where the Myrviken deposit (about 30.000 tonnes) is located.

So, in just these two areas there's as much uranium as in the official numbers for the entire world. Think about that for a while. On the other hand, the low concentrations and the thin deposits (3 metres) means that most of these deposits would have to be mined in a way which looks a lot like open pit coal mining. Myrviken is an exception, because here the alum shale is not 3 metres thick, it's 200 metres. Myrviken would look very much like and have about the same dimensions as the Aitik copper mine in northern Sweden.

       

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 12:45:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are working, commercial, fast breeder designs available today. They are Russian.

There is

  1. Beloyarsk-3, a working BN-600 lower-scale prototype: without containment dome, burning uranium only; and with a history of accidents and consequent (checking) 45-78% utilisation rate, though neither as bad as for Superphénix);
  2. Beloyarsk-4, a much-delayed demonstration unit in construction: it will pioneer MOX use in the BN series, I don't know about containment dome;
  3. the export to China you mention, which will be another BN-800 demonstration unit, to be built from next year, which China wants to use to develop its own type.

That's not commercial yet -- the Russian commercial version (BN-1600, Beloyarsk-5) would be twice the size, and use lead rather than sodium as coolant.

Which is ahem cough problematic from a public relations standpoint in the west

It may also be problematic considering the power sector safety culture there, especially considering the liquid sodium pool. I shudder at the thought of a commerical-scale Chinese fast breeder reactor operated with the same care coal plants or indeed photovoltaic factories are. The same goes for large-scale reprocessing.

Anyhow, though I think that my 10 year minimum applies, for purposes of a timescale, it is wholly uncertain when Beloyarsk-5 (or a Chinese equivalent) will be up and running (I haven't found any officially stated concrete dates). But looking further East, here is a timescale:

Mitsubishi to develop Japan's next fast breeder reactor

Mitsubishi to develop Japan's next fast breeder reactor
18 April 2007

The Japanese government has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) as the core company to develop a new generation of fast breeder reactors, in an initiative promoted by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

...The company plans to establish a new unit by March 2008 to orchestrate engineering activities and carry out development, looking towards construction of a demonstration FBR by 2025 and a commercial reactor for introduction by 2050...



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 13th, 2010 at 03:53:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the argument here goes along the lines that with breeder reactors you don't need as high-grade fuel and you don't need as much because the fuel is recycled. Also the possibility to use Thorium as fuel.

The concern here is one of proliferation, but that is political. If the answer to our global energy needs were thorium-fuelled breeder reactors the motivation would be there to get serious about non-proliferation.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 10:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Thomas mentioned IFR, but then went on to claim that it goes with PWR too. At any rate, talking of breeder reactors is talking of hypothetical future reactors to be developed and made commercially viable, similar to fusion. It's not something that can be rolled out big-time now or before 2030, so the big push would first need Flamanville 3-style plants (as he mentioned) using mined uranium. (I just made another quick calculation: with an exponential increase of capacity from now until 2030 to reach the current world total electricity generation only, assuming the EPR's claimed fuel efficiency, the "reasonably assured reserves" of all grades claimed in OECD's Uranium2007 study would be gone in 2029, and the "inferred reserves" by 2035.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 02:00:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup, this is correct - tough it should be noted that, the Russians, at least, will sell you a fast reactor for power purposes today, and the IFR is not really very far off from commercial use either. (Not bitter at Clinton at all about this. no.)
by Thomas on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 07:58:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
RE: 4: well, the entire primary energy production has to be replaced with something. My attitude is exorbitant because the problem is.
As far as I can tell, nuclear is the only option that really could do this if we are willing to expend enough effort on it. Wind has its selling points, but we are going to run out of good locations for it way before we get to that goal, so, not really an answer. (Might work out for the US. EU population density is just too high)

I do not agree that it is realistic with an all nuclear approach. Two years ago I wrote a rather fun poll:
European Tribune - How many reactors should we have?

As seen from that drawing and comments there are all kinds of pro- and anti-nuclear stances. So just to make things interesting I would like to know: How many reactors do you think we (as in all the world) should have around 2030?

Some premises. While accounts appear to differ, nuclear power is about 1/15 of the worlds energy supply, and about 13/15 being made up by fossile fuels. And we have today around 450 reactors with a bunch in production. Say 500 for good measure.

Of course reactors can be of different effect, but assuming around todays values, replacing todays fossile fuels with fission reactors would demand some 6500 new reactors, bringing the total to 7000. Then perhaps there should be some more for all new electrical gadgets.

Solar on a scale to match with primary energy production makes me break out in hives, because it really would entail concreting over too much of the world.

How much of the planet?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Feb 11th, 2010 at 02:40:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so that would mean paving over more than one fifth of Germany,

what about rooves? are you including those?

you can have solar panels in fields too, there's no need for this grim cement vision you keep describing.

as if nukes don't cover real estate!

weak part of your argument...

the strong part is the coal factor, no disagreements here on that, but DoDo is right, there is the possibility to solve the problem without nukes, but it will take more work (countering the pronuke propaganda) and a lot of nega-watting, something conspicuously absent from your posts.

..and a lot less wasting huge sums on fusion and fission, both which, like gas and coal, preserve the centralised grid, to the exclusive benefit of privatised bizniz interests, and the continued disempowerment of citizens all over.

corporate offshore wind could save britain's energy problems, but the recurrent chimera of nukes has probably done more to slow that solution down than anything else.

also conspicuously absent from your case is any reference to the amount of civic repression that will be needed to convince the public of its value, especially as the cat's out of the bag as regards the eco-supremacy of wind and sun.

there will be no repeat of the myths that were peddled by the media about solar 'not working' for decades, even as people were seeing them emerge everywhere, from on space vehicles, to emergency stop- and street-lights in their towns.

your arguments smack of the same propaganda, and the reference to looking at people as if they were slime, says more about you than the people you so confidently judge.

still, it's nice to have opposing viewpoints hashed out here, so cheers!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 12:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Firstly; the way the German debate is currently heading, there are politicians saying they need to replace nukes with renewable while leaving coal in operation. That is very, very stupid.

secondly; No you cannot place a solar panel in a field. Wind, yes. the practical footprint of a mill is small, since they are vertical and spaced out by necessity. Solar power uses up sunlight. Nothing can grow where it is deployed.

Third; Net Negawatts will not happen in any society that is seriously trying to combat global warming. Vast amounts of power can, and will be saved by superior design of electronics, the substitution of heat pumps for furnaces and so on. I can easily see a world where our total energy consumption goes down, a lot, through increased efficiency. Our electricity consumption, however, will rise. A lot. The more seriously we take global warming as a problem, the higher its going to go.
Cars -> electric cars and rail = Net fall in power use as gasoline burning free falls, but an increase in electricity used by at least a third. More likely half, and I could see it outright doubling demand in the US (Sufficiently good batteries, and people will build great big "electron waster" cars..)
Industrial use of gas and coal ended? that means vast demand for industrial heat, and electrochemical processes to replace thermo chemical ones.
And so on, and so forth.

by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 01:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
there are politicians saying they need to replace nukes with renewable while leaving coal in operation. That is very, very stupid.

yes, no one is arguing for that here, you do realise, yes?

No you cannot place a solar panel in a field.

have you ever seen them on rotating columns? they're not vertical, but they aren't flat either, unless on rooves.

Nothing can grow where it is deployed.

obviously putting panels under shade trees is inefficient, but in the areas of europe most begging for them, shade is a plus. there's no reason why they can't be designed into beautiful landscaping or gardening projects, unless you're talking about huge mega arrays, for light industry.

you make it sound like nature will be paved over with cement and silicon. this is emotive reasoning, to carry your point further by imbuing PV tech with some anti-green vibe. planet-hating folks, those solar fanboys.

Net Negawatts will not happen in any society that is seriously trying to combat global warming. Vast amounts of power can, and will be saved by superior design of electronics, the substitution of heat pumps for furnaces and so on. I can easily see a world where our total energy consumption goes down, a lot, through increased efficiency. Our electricity consumption, however, will rise. A lot. The more seriously we take global warming as a problem, the higher its going to go.

i apologise for not being more precise. by 'negawatts' i intended to refer to the negation of the need for so many watts used, whether by your excellent points about heat pumps, electronics, and i'd definitely add better insulation and passive solar architecture being mandated, not a diminuition of watts productively used.

the waste right now is staggering, light bulbs and standby are the least of it, but as symbols of how tiny household changes, scaled up to countries and unions of countries, they make a tidy little example of 'small is beautiful'.

reducing the waste in all energy dynamics, and scaling down our concepts of what is 'normal' energy use, so to be less extravagant in relation to the poorer 4/5ths of the world, will cut our carbon footprint so significantly that we will be able to phase through to a non fossil fuel economy by 2050, globally.

i expect some large industries will relocate, not for cheap labour so much any more, as for cheap energy, so i'd expect more desert projects, and in europe more use of the scrubbety southern zones, where there isn't enough soil or conditions for much flora anyway. with the deserts growing, i doubt too many will complain too bitterly about some acres of solar panels helping them avoid more oil wars, or 3 mile island episodes.

i have no problem with upping electricity use by a third, or even more, as long as it's distributed more fairly to the poor countries, who get much more bang for the solar buck with small installations anyway, than us with our BMW lifestyles. plenty of sunshine to be 'used', as you put it, though i see it more as 'transformed'.

i note you haven't addressed the social repression angle, unless i missed it.

do you really think the public will go along cheerfully with these nuclear tidings of great joy?

the last time i was looked at as if i were slime, was by a uniformed thug, the kind whose numbers i would expect to blossom like vile weeds around nuclear installations, the transport routes for materiel, the 'disposal' arrangements etc. are those costs factored in, or will they be more of the famous 'externalities', so easy to forget during the planning phase?

because when i mention the word 'cost', the economics of all those 'security' services is the tip of the iceberg. what about the paranoia, the jackboot, the reconditioning of social fabric. are they airbrushed out of your vision? france has avoided the worst of this, but can you really believe other countries will hold to that kind of standard, especially seeing recent events in germany and finland regarding the engineering?

public trust is important, who do you think the public trusts to tell us the truth more, the nuclear industry or the crazy horse gang?

i think the nuke biz had its day in the sun, and that era proved we as humans are not up to the challenge of controlling such a nasty beast with any real consistency, and that was when the public was still very innocent and believed the 'too cheap to meter' propaganda unconditionally.

so we agree to disagree, we both sense the other's position as unwise and dangerous. time will tell. thanks for playing.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 08:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A few points more;
The slime argument was in reference to people bringing up proliferation concerns in debates over nuclear power- I cannot really think of any polite answer to that argument, because if you bring it up the implication is that you think the pro nuke side intends to build atomic weapons. Which is really quite insulting. And blatantly wrong, in the case of Germany. Thus, glaring at people who bring it up is the least alienating response I've got. Apologies.

Real estate: As a matter of fact, the land use of nukes, including mining, enrichment and disposal is lower per kwh than anything else. By a lot.

And solar not working being a myth.. Do me a favor. look up how much of German electricity, never mind total energy use, is currently supplied by solar, and what the feed in tariff is set at. Then do the same for wind.

by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 01:40:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the fuel cycle in question involves easily weaponized isotopes, it represents a proliferation risk regardless of the intentions behind the project. For the simple reason that it expands the number of people who need to know how to manufacture those isotopes on an industrial scale.

And as good spies have always known, the risk of a security penetration goes up faster than linearly with the number of people in the loop.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 04:14:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would find this argument a whole lot more legitimate if anyone could show me a single example, anywhere, of the technological spread of knowhow going power reactors->bombs.
 A number of states have tried to recoup some of the outrageous costs of a nuclear weapons program by using the expertise gained to build civil reactors, but there are no examples of the reverse happening. (The magnox reactors and the chernobyl design may have been attempts at dual use, but they were built in states that already had the bomb, and verily, both designs sucked ass. Everyone with an ounce of sense trying to build a bomb would use a research/military reactor specialized for plutonium breeding.)
by Thomas on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 04:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
India and weapons of mass destruction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
India tested a nuclear device in 1974 (code-named "Smiling Buddha"), which it called a "peaceful nuclear explosive." The test used plutonium produced in the Canadian-supplied CIRUS reactor, and raised concerns that nuclear technology supplied for peaceful purposes could be diverted to weapons purposes.

A look at the key personnel involved indicates that the nuclear expertise came from the civilian nuclear side.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 9th, 2010 at 05:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is South Africa, too.

9. Apartheid's nuclear arsenal: Deviation from development: Centre de recherches pour le développement international

To illustrate the extent of the programme, it is necessary to link it to the entire nuclear project in South Africa. Each piece of the project added extra impetus to the development of a weapons programme...

The programme had three prongs: research on uranium and other fissile materials, research on radio-isotopes and radiation, and research on the establishment of a power reactor. To house its research, the AEB moved from its suite in a Pretoria office block to secretly purchased farmland west of Pretoria. This site became known as Pelindaba (`The talking is over'), and became the new home of the South African National Nuclear Research Centre. Construction began and the first buildings were occupied in 1963.

One of the buildings was designed to house a research reactor. Under the `Atoms for Peace' programme (Ambrose, 1984:147-51), the United States agreed to make available a reactor with a capacity of 20 megawatts (MW), running on highly enriched weapons-grade uranium. The United States was also willing to supply the enriched uranium on condition that South Africa signed a safeguards agreement allowing international inspection of the facility. This condition was accepted by South Africa. Named SAFARI-I, the South African Fundamental Atomic Research Reactor was first commissioned on 18 March 1965.1Scientific training

The `Atoms for Peace' initiative included the forging of a secret treaty: the US-South African Agreement for Co-operation Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy.2 This co-operation enabled a cadre of South African scientists to be trained in reactor physics in the United States. Training occurred at the Argonne National Laboratories outside Chicago, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and other venues. On their return to South Africa, this group was to form the active nucleus of an increasingly powerful nuclear bureaucracy.

The early seeding by the United States of South Africa's nuclear research facilities was crucial. By the mid-1960s, South African universities were running their own nuclear research departments. The AEB was able to recruit 75 scientists to staff Pelindaba. With the inauguration of SAFARI-I, thanks to United States collaboration, South Africa's nuclear research effort had reached its critical mass.

From the late 1940s onward, South African scientists were also given access to British facilities. However, by the late 1960s, it had become more difficult to sustain open nuclear collaboration. As the AEB turned its attention towards developing enrichment technologies, the relationship with its West German counterpart began to flourish. South Africa was keen to understand the jet-nozzle enrichment process pioneered by West German Professor Erwin Becker. Brokered by Franz-Josef Strauss, right-wing Bavarian politician, friend of apartheid, and minister in the West German coalition cabinet, South African scientists became interns at the Karlsruhe headquarters of the GfK, the federal Nuclear Research Centre. One of these scientists was Dr Waldo Stumpf, currently chief executive of South Africa's Atomic Energy Corporation (successor to the AEB).

The similarities between the Becker method and the final enrichment technique adopted by South Africa led to speculation about the close levels of collaboration (Cervenka & Rogers, 1978:43, 73-8).

...On 20 July 1970, the then prime minister, B.J. Vorster, stood up in the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town and, for the first time, revealed information about South Africa's enrichment plans. He announced that the main motive was based on the fact that South Africa, as a major uranium exporter, could derive more foreign exchange exporting uranium in its enriched form. A further motive was the immense cost of importing enriched uranium to fuel South Africa's nuclear power programme, envisaged as having a capacity of 20 000 MW by the year 2000 (more than 20 Koeberg-sized reactors). At no stage was there mention of a military application of uranium enrichment. Vorster emphasised the peaceful intention of the programme three times during his speech, and offered to collaborate with any non-communist countries in the exploitation of the process. Vorster also set in train the creation of a separate parastatal entity charged with uranium enrichment. Within a month of his speech, legislation had been signed creating the Uranium Enrichment Corporation of South Africa (UCOR).

UCOR attempted to draw on the West German connection to create an international partnership in which its activities would be adequately financed and its product marketed globally. The calculation still held that such a partnership was a vital component of any commercial enrichment plant. For six years it entertained potential West German partners, embarking on discussions and negotiations with a view to securing a joint venture. The German company STEAG, which the GfK had entrusted with licensing the jet-nozzle process, signed a memorandum of understanding with UCOR in August 1973. STEAG aimed to sub-license UCOR.

However, there was no unanimity in the West German cabinet, which had to approve the deal, and STEAG withdrew its formal application for federal government approval. Although the official deal fell through, a joint `feasibility study' was conducted comparing the South African and German enrichment processes. Many saw this study as a smokescreen for continued collaboration.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 05:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and Brazil.

Nuclear Weapons Programs - Brazil

Brazil made a radical change in 1975, when it opted for nuclear technology from West Germany, despite strong protests from the United States. The agreement, signed on June 27, called for West Germany to transfer eight nuclear reactors (each of which could produce 1,300 megawatts), a commercial-scale uranium enrichment facility, a pilot-scale plutonium reprocessing plant, and Becker "jet nozzle" enrichment technology. West Germany's Kraftwerk Union, an affiliate of Siemens, was hired to construct the power plants. The projected cost of the program was US$4 billion, to be paid over a fifteen-year period. The most important element of the agreement was that it called for the first-ever transfer of technology for a complete nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment and reprocessing. The United States government opposed the accord vigorously. Although it was unable to revoke the agreement, the United States convinced West Germany to enact stringent safeguards.

...West Germany did not require IAEA safeguards, and following the 1975 agreement Brazil transferred technology from its power plant projects to a secret program to develop an atom bomb. Code-named "Solimões," after a river in the Amazon, the secret program was started in 1975 and eventually came to be known publicly as the Parallel Program.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 10th, 2010 at 05:15:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Quo vadis, German energy policy?
Do we really want to shut down the safest nuclear power plants in the world [huh!? _DoDo] and then import electricity from less safe foreign nuclear power plants?

Nationalistic pro-nuclear talking point for debate in [insert country name here]:

"Nuclear power in [insert country name here] is safer then that in other countries because our engineers are better then foreigners. (If you do not agree you are anti-[insert relevant form of country name here].)"

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Feb 8th, 2010 at 08:50:57 AM EST


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