Comments by Geoff Russell Subscribe

On Cheap Nuclear

I can well imagine nuclear engineers in 50 years time still debating the merits of the latest designs ... while a few more degrees of planetary warming has been locked and loaded.  How big a problem is tritium? The increased consumption of red and processed meat into Japan in recent decades has added 80,000 bowel cancers per year to the nation's hospital load. Is tritium a bigger or smaller problem than this? Problems need to be put into perspective. Please explain why the tritium issue is worth holding up progress for?  

You can bet your life that the shale-oil producers aren't screwing around with debates like this.  We need a mindset which gets stuff built and operating.

May 10, 2014    View Comment    

On In Defense of Picking Winners

Remember the oil crisis in the 1970s? This was back when lots of people burned oil to make electricity?  So what happened? The French Government picked winners ... nuclear. And the result? They've had clean electricity for 25 years. Elsewhere, nuclear was also successfully rolled out, although I don't know all the mechanisms, but the rollout broke the back of the oil crisis in about a decade and prices slowly fell. 

It's now been 24 years since the IPCC AR1 and Governments got pretty firmly behind stopping climate change with Kyoto ... but by that period, the market had become the predominant religion and, as a clear consequence, very little has been done. In the US, with nuclear sidelined by the anti-nuclear movement,  gas (which had been in decline during the oil crisis) took off. The triumph of gas in the US demonstrates the stupidity of both market mechanisms and the domination of short term thinking. Replacing coal by gas reduces emissions but can never get you to the low level required to roll back climate destabilisation. So after huge (but piecemeal) investment in gas infrastructure, you have to throw it all out and start again with a technology which is actually clean. How stupid is that? but what about renewables? If we had a hundred years and you don't mind maximising the area of wildlife habitat you cover in concrete, steel and glass, then fine. But we don't and I mind very much.

Picking which fission technology to rollout might be tough, but knowing that nuclear is the only feasible long term solution is blindingly obvious ... except if you are a market and driven by the things that markets value ... short term profit and feel good PR campaigns about how green you are! 

We know what's needed to deal with climate change, but the market and the anti-nuclear movement are getting in the way. 


April 5, 2014    View Comment    

On The World's Number One Fuel Source Isn't Even a Fuel

Read it some time back Willem ... it was part of what made me change my anti-nuclear views.  These days I'd regard renewables like wind+solar as a big part of the problem and definitely not part of the solution. They are simply a dead-end distraction. We need mass produced nukes ... probably SMR fast spectrum.

November 2, 2013    View Comment    

On The World's Number One Fuel Source Isn't Even a Fuel

We need to think clearly about the problem we have and the best way to solve it ... the problem is climate change and energy efficiency should be given absolutely the lowest priority in terms of research dollars and effort. 


I live in Australia, we have pretty much the dirtiest electricity on the planet at about 850 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour and we use over 10 mega watt hours per person per year of electricity. Which makes us about 30% more efficient than those wasteful Swedes who use over 14 mega watt hours per person per year. What idiots!  Well not really. Their electricity is about 50/50 nuclear/hydro and generates about 20 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour per year. Who gives a damn how much they use!  

If we can produce clean electricity then we can solve the climate problem, but we need huge amounts and it must be clean. We need huge amounts because mucking round with fuel efficiency is just a total waste of time.  Electrify the whole shebbang and it won't matter how inefficient it is. Ditto synfuel manufacture and a host of other problems. With abundant clean electricity then you can make real efficiency gains because you can recycle far more materials because it won't matter how inefficient the process is. 

"Efficiency" research is a cop-out and admission of defeat in the real battle which is to build clean energy systems hopefully with a low environmental footprint. We need to minimise the land we screw up for other species, they have already paid a high price for our selfishness. 




November 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Update on Fukushima Leaks: Unrepresentative Sampling Supports Fear Mongering

Thanks Rod for hunting down the details. The interesting thing about the contaminated fish is that they were caught. They didn't die from radiation, some bugger with a net or hook went and pulled them from the ocean and probably watched them die in considerable agony and distress. If fish could cheer, I reckon those around Fukushima would be raising a mighty chorus. Radiation is a trifling concern compared to the normal things people inflict for both recreation and profit on fish ... hooks, suffocation, bottom trawling ... the list is long. 


September 5, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy: Whatever Happened to Searching for the Truth?

Have a look at ... which has rates of cancer around the world. For example malignant melanoma in Japan is about 0.5 cases per 100,000 per annum. In Australia its 36 cases per 100,000 per annum (and in sunny Queensland it's 67 per 100,000 per annum). The cause? Sunshine. Which is more carcinogenic ... living in the Fukushima exclusion zone and getting 50-100 mSv per year or living in Queensland and enjoying the sun and surf? Easily the latter. The evidence is quite clear that the former wouldn't lift cancer rates by enough to register about basic noise. On the other hand when Japan added red and processed meat to its diet in larger quantities than its traditional mainly plant based diet, what happened? Huge and very detectable rise in bowel cancers. Up from about 20,000 cases per year in Japan in the early 1970s and now running at over 100,000 cases per year. Radiation can cause cancer but it's a mere hillock among the big mountains of major lifestyle influences.

July 3, 2013    View Comment    

On Climate Change and the Energy World Map

I think the challenge is surmountable if there is agreement within the major mainstream political parties. Opposition is extremely vocal, but not too numerous and based on clear misinformation ... much the same as climate change denial, anti-vaccination and other anti-science positions. Once the climate change denial challenge is beaten, then I reckon the anti-nuclear opposition won't be so tough. I'm not denying its a huge challenge, just that any society with a strong scientific basis should be able to meet it because it's irrationality is pretty clear.

June 17, 2013    View Comment    

On Climate Change and the Energy World Map

Nice to see somebody who realises the inefficiency of a focus on energy efficiency as a response to climate change ... huge gains in efficiency of many types of devices have had no impact on per capita emissions during the past 2 decades:

But can CCS be rolled out quickly? Here's a novel idea, why don't we use a technology which we know works and which we know from actual experience can be rolled out quicky ... about 7 times faster than renewables. Which technology? Fission electricity, nuclear reactors. 7 times faster isn't a dream but a measured fact (see graph):


June 17, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

Referring to my previous comment, it was a little obscure.

There's enough information in the various comments above to make it reasonably clear that opting for a 100% renewable energy infrastructure will be far too slow to prevent the worst that climate change will deliver. On the other hand, the nuclear build during the 1970s/80s was incredibly fast (about 5-7 times quicker than the German wind+solar roll out in the last decade). The only thing stopping us collectively doing this again is the lack of political will driven by people who sincerely, but innumerately consider that 100% renewables can be rolled out in time and who are frequently clinically radiophobic. 

Anybody opting for 100% renewables is clearly happy to risk a very hot and unstable future. 

Lastly, I should point out that James Hansen doesn't think that a total phase out of coal by 2035 is sufficient to bring atmospheric CO2 back to 350 ppm by 2150. Also absolutely necessary is a slashing of non-CO2 forcings (e.g., methane, black carbon, etc) and a roll back of 200 years of deforestation. Both of these aren't optional, but required and both imply a radical dietary shift away from meat and dairy products. 

So we need a massive nuclear build in addition to a major dietary shift ... that's all :)


June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

David, I'm a little confused. Are you trying to heat up the planet? Or do you simply not care at all about climate change?

June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On EU: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Is Here

France has been producing electricity for less than 80 gms-CO2/kwh for 20 years. Would you care to compare this to the emissions of all the countries in your renewable list? Germany's electricity is 6 times filthier and she's running out of money to subsidise her grand plans. Most of the EU's emissions reductions have been achieved by outsourcing production emissions to China.

If the anti-nuclear movement hadn't stopped the nuclear roll out during the 80s, we'd all have been producing clean electricity for 20 years and our climate problems would be much smaller.

Data? p. 111 here:

Thankfully the Chinese have got more brains than the EU and are rapidly deploying clean nuclear technology.


June 13, 2013    View Comment    

On Welcome to Renewable Electricity Nirvana

Hi N Nadir, it's particularly good to get praise from someone whose work I admire ... yours! Thanks. 

The CNN piece was authored by Prof. Kirk Smith ... check him out, his work is behind a lot of estimates in this area, he was the first to devise the methods and actually measure indoor air pollution in villages in India and elsewhere. I doubt there are any serious contradictions between him and the WHO ... more a question of definitions and study dates. These numbers aren't measured accurately but estimated with widish error margins. India and China have been rapidly rolling electrification out and, despite plenty of problems, the number of people cooking with biomass is dropping quickly.  

I haven't checked progress on the Jaitapur project lately. It's a massive nuclear plant that could change and change (and save) the lives of many in India. I doubt Greenpeace can stop it, but if they did, it would could reasonably be called  a crime against humanity.



June 12, 2013    View Comment