Author Archive: roman

What is the carbon footprint of renewable electricity?

As part of an analysis of the carbon footprint of nuclear power, Keith Barnham notes the footprint of renewables. The british Climate change commission (CCC) has recommended any new power stations should not exceeed 50 gCO2/kWh.

When comparing the carbon footprints of electricity-generating technologies, we need to take into account carbon dioxide emitted in all stages in the life of the generator and its fuel. Such a study is called a life cycle analysis (LCA).

There are other gases such as methane that are more dangerous greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. The most reliable LCAs take all greenhouse gases into account and present equivalent carbon dioxide emissions.

In a recent paper in Energy Policy, Daniel Nugent and Benjamin Sovacool critically reviewed the published LCAs of renewable electricity generators. All the renewable technologies came in below the 50 gCO2/kWh limit.

The lowest was large-scale hydropower with a carbon footprint one fifth of the CCC limit (10 gCO2/kWh). A close second was biogas electricity from anaerobic digestion (11 gCO2/kWh). The mean figure for wind energy is 34 gCO2/kWh, and solar PV comes in a shade under the 50g limit, at 49.9 gCO2/kWh. Bear in mind that rapidly evolving PV technology means that this last figure is contantly falling.

It’s a lot more difficult to do the calculation for nuclear power, because of the concentration of uranium affects the energy to enrich; the costs of decommissioning (dismantling and waste disposal) are poorly known. Barnham’s article goes into more detail about the wide range of estimates and their assumptions.… Read more >>

We’re not impressed with the draft terms of reference for the Nuclear Royal Commission

“This Royal Commission will be hearing evidence in a vacuum: the draft terms forbid it from considering any aspects of the industry we are familiar with (mining), and insist it consider aspects of the hypothetical future next generation reactors, which are so wonderful that no-one is building them commercially.”, said Roman Orszanski, Climate & Energy campaigner for Adelaide Friends of the Earth.

The full media release is hereRead more >>

Next Gen Nukes for the hard sell

FoE Australia’s very own Jim Green looked at the possibilities for the new generation of nuclear power reactors (since the current crop are unlikely to impress anyone), and found the kinds being spruiked by pro nuke advocates in SA have a few problems.

Integral Fast Reactors … it gets ugly moving from blueprint to backyard

Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) are a case in point. According to the lobbyists they are ready to roll, will be cheap to build and operate, couldn’t be used to feed WMD proliferation, etc. The US and UK governments have been analysing the potential of IFRs.

The UK government found that:

  • the facilities have not been industrially demonstrated;
  • waste disposal issues remain unresolved and could be further complicated if it is deemed necessary to remove sodium from spent fuel to facilitate disposal; and
  • little could be ascertained about cost since General Electric Hitachi refuses to release estimates of capital and operating costs, saying they are “commercially sensitive”.

The US government has also considered the use of IFRs (which it calls Advanced Disposition Reactors – ADR) to manage US plutonium stockpiles and concluded that:

  • the ADR approach would be more than twice as expensive as all the other options under consideration;
  • it would take 18 years to construct an ADR and associated facilities; and
  • the ADR option is associated with “significant technical risk”.

Unsurprisingly, the IFR rhetoric doesn’t match the sober assessments of the UK and US governments. As nuclear engineer Dave Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned

Scientists puts it: “The IFR looks good on paper. So good, in fact, that we should leave it on paper. For it only gets ugly in moving from blueprint to backyard.”

Small Modular Reactors … no-one actually wants to buy one

In any case, IFRs are yesterday’s news.… Read more >>

Nuclear Industry on trial?

“If the Royal Commission brings a genuine spirit of independence and rigour, and is willing to take evidence on the nuclear sector’s performance in Australia and overseas, the report will provide a valuable contribution to domestic energy and industry policy.

It will paint a picture of an industry in terminal decline; a uranium market in a state of chronic oversupply; 60 years of high-level nuclear waste still awaiting a coherent management solution; ongoing contamination hazards at destroyed reactor sites; unresolved weapons proliferation risks from ‘civilian’ enrichment facilities in Iran; a stalled disarmament agenda and a handful of countries persevering with new plants plagued by cost overruns and safety fears.”

Scott Ludlum, providing a nice example of the nuclear industry on trial in New Matilda, a piece well worth reading.… Read more >>