Monday, 28 November 2016

Bias leads to cherry picking.

Nicholas Thompson

... The authors don’t seem to deny that they have a bias against nuclear energy. I completely believe that any mistakes that were made in this paper were honest mistakes. But in this response, they state that their, “…contribution was intended to challenge a widespread assumption about the supposed climate benefits of nuclear power.

In this sentence, the authors seem to be saying that it is their belief that nuclear does not have climate benefits, or at least that was what they were trying to prove ...

Said more diplomatically than me.

It's clear the authors were engaged in advocacy not analysis. Hardly surprising they got it wrong. They do not follow any clear cut method [They were comparing index values that began = 100 in 1990. Yet they take too small a slice: 7 years, 2005 - 2012]. The indices only have meaning when followed per country from 1990. So that progress can be clearly seen, countrywise. Some countries are large, others small. Some used energy far more inefficiently (the ex-communist countries) in 1990 than today. Some are very highly populated (Malta), some sparsely (Northern Baltic region) Some were more badly affected by the GFC during that time than others. I can go on all day like this ...

A cross-country comparison of indices never made sense. Their data selection has no clear rules to select time periods. Their choice of index (a derivative indicator), rather than GHG emissions per capita (a more primary indicator) made no sense.

They can cherry pick to their hearts content until they find the right combination of data and method that just so happens to imply what they want to show.
Their peers and journal editors are clearly happy with that state of affairs because they allowed the original article to be published.

This is bias right through the academic process. Even the critics and gatekeepers at Retraction Watch are biased. They censored my criticisms.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Pyrrhic Victory Speech

We hear the controversial paper by Andrew Lawrence, Benjamin Sovacool & Andrew Stirling was retracted. Andrew Lawrence takes full blame for the arithmetic errors. I suppose we should all be happy with this, and put our metaphorical daggers to rest? Not me.

Are we unfair, or bitter?

No we're not unfair. Pro-nukes should not be too forgiving.

  1. The paper was launched with great fanfare. Their press release was echoed by at least 10 green media websites, including The Ecologist. I bet the authors were aiming for a bigger splash. Yet no major media outlet ran with it. Not even the ever so reliably anti-nuclear Guardian newspaper in the UK.
  2. The article should never have been published. So the retraction does not exonerate any of the parties involved. They should've checked their numbers against other sources. For example: their political allies like Climate Action Network (Europe), CAN show no advantage to pro- nor nuclear phase out countries. E.g. In the CAN approved Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI, see this link), Or see my summary comparing the pro-nuke and nuke-phaseout countries. We can clearly see there is no advantage to one nor the other. CAN include some organizations with explicit anti-nuclear power policies (such as Greenpeace UK, WWF UK, ...); not exactly nuclear industry shills as anti-nuke campaigners would say. The article relied on only one data set to back their view. Other data sets are available, which they should've checked their results against before publication. The journal editors should've used better peers. For example, I saw the data was wrong straight away (as others did). What kind or peer is unfamiliar with greenhouse gas reductions in Europe? None. Everyone has these reductions thrust into our eyes several times a year.

Another blog of mine has a timeline of events, with all links. Many thanks to Nicholas Thompson, Suzanna Hinson, and Stephen Tindale. Unlike other people I know, they are probably more forgiving. So my view is not necessarily theirs'.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

My advice to Trump on nuclear power

At the start of his first term, Obama appointed Gregory Jaczko, who was basically an anti-nuclear power activist, to run U.S. nuclear power regulation: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC. This activist proceeded to do as much damage as he could to the cause to reducing green house gas emissions.

I doubt Trump will be able to match that feat, no matter how many coal mines and gas pipelines he allows to operate.

Trump should do the opposite of what Obama did. Instead of spiking nuclear power, Trump should reform the NRC with a few strategic deregulations, and re-regulations. Eventually the USA will see the fruits of such deregulation in several years time. There's very little, perhaps nothing, Trump can do immediately to jump start cheap nuclear power. That's why he must begin by reforming regulation.

  1. Change exposure limits for radiation from no-safe dose to a threshold dose. Even a threshold as low as 50 mSv/a looks like a real improvement. It will positively impact two things:
    1. It will undermine the rationale for ALARA. If tiny emissions are not harmful then why obsess over them? A great deal of time and money is wasted obsessing over small, but harmless, amounts of radiation.
    2. It will undercut radiophobia. Radiophobes will not longer be able to legitimately claim that 0.1 mSv, of say tritium, is a catastrophe. Radiophobes will not be able to use these arguments to lobby for a nuclear power shutdown as they have in the past.
  2. Change the NRC mandate. From a mandate that only tries to make nuclear power as safe as possible. To one that promotes safe, cheap nuclear power. Return to something like the old AEC mandate. Nuclear power plants of each type have already been made as safe as can possibly be. These advances will not be lost, no matter what.
  3. Force NRC to explicitly justify current and new safety measures by cost benefit analysis and assessment. Ensure that cost-benefits are measured in numerical units like DALY. IMO: only when you pin them down to numbers, will antis use proper cost-benefit.
  4. Look through all U.S. laws for anything quoting a precautionary principle and rescind that law. Republicans need to stop using precautionary arguments too.
  5. Clarify the position of U.S. government on issues like reprocessing and proliferation. If there are agencies out to stop reprocessing, please let us know what their rules are. If there are going to be reprocessing bans against nuclear used fuel, let the NRC oversee them. Likewise for other proliferation risks imagined and real. Please make technology bans explicit. This may involve clarifying exactly what the law is and which agencies have been directed to enforce or dictate rules and laws. I warn Mr T. that continued bans and heavy restrictions on reprocessing will result is continued expensive nuclear power. By enforcing the current 'de facto' monopolies. By preventing newer, better, technology.

Atomic Energy Commission - AEC

The AEC regulated nuclear power before the NRC was created:

In ... 1954, when Congress revised the law and, by allowing nuclear technology to enter the mainstream of American industrial life, it broadened the AEC's mandate. Congress declared that the widespread use of nuclear energy was a national goal and that it was the AEC's task to promote that growth.

But the AEC was created with a dual mission. Congress directed the AEC not only to promote nuclear power's peaceful uses, but also "to protect the health and safety of the public."

--Hostages of Each Other: The Transformation of Nuclear Safety since Three Mile Island, by Joseph V. Rees

Due to lobbying by coal power interests: the AEC was abolished in 1974/'75. It's regulatory functions were given to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC. The NRC was given only one single goal: to make nuclear power as safe as possible. Consequently, applications to build new nuclear plants fell to nothing, almost overnight. For those nuclear plants already with planning permission : a large number were never built, or completed largely over-due, over-budget. Costs of complying with extreme regulation practically doubled the cost of building nuclear power plants. In contrast: coal power never had its own draconian safety regime. The nuclear power industry, such that it was, did not lobby to spike coal power.

It was argued that this dual mandate created a problem - a paradox at the heart of the AEC - making it impossible for AEC to properly consider safety. This critique never had any legitimate foundation. It is a false critique. During its time, AEC made cheap, safe, nuclear power possible in the USA. The myth of unsafe nuclear power is just that. A myth created by phobics and Luddites either foolishly or recklessly. U.S. nuclear power has always been safe. Chernobyl happened in the Soviet Union, a communist dictatorship, where there were no checks and balances. Nothing like the AEC nor NRC. An unsafe nuclear power plant design such as the Russian RBMK was, in 1986, would never have been allowed in the USA. Not by the AEC, not even by the most fervent pro-nuclear power supporter.

Barriers to nuclear power

Some of the things U.S. government is holding back:

  • Lithium isotope separation: Dr. Stephen Boyd: MSRs - What are We Waiting For? Contrary to what Stephen Boyd says - there are no U.S. national security interests. Russia and China currently separate lithium-7 from lithium-6, and USA buys all the lithium-7, or lithium-6 it needs from Russia or China. Sure: lithium-6 can be used to make tritium. Sure: in theory, tritium could make a fusion bomb. But as Russia and China already make loads to lithium-6, and USA makes none: I don't see the national, nor international, security issue.
  • ... Canada that's ... a realistic scenario ... except I don't want to go to prison. I was told in no uncertain terms by the department of energy that if I bring any of my intellectual property off of the United States soil, that represents a national security threat, I will get thrown into prison. They told me over the phone and I know who they are. I'm not going to name them.
    -- Dr. Stephen Boyd
  • U.S. government invented the lie that breeder reactors and reprocessing are A-bomb proliferation threats. The opposite is true. At the moment U.S. makes about 2,700 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel each year. Any of that spent fuel can be easily chemically reprocessed to make, rather impure, plutonium. That plutonium could be used to make inferior A-bombs. In contrast: a properly working breeder reactor, with full reprocessing, will leave no useful waste for A-bomb proliferation. A breeder will leave only fission products.
  • Rare Earths - Thorium - the alternative, more abundant nuclear fuel - is often found in conjunction with rare earths. In mining, thorium is left behind as tailings. But the thorium can't simply be dumped because it is slightly radioactive. It's half-life is 14.5 billion years. It's classified by the EPA as naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). Currently, this must be disposed of under state rules. The radioactivity is too low to cause harm, but just significant enough for the EPA to rule on. In practice, it means USA has no rare earth industry to speak of. USA is totally dependent upon, and at the mercy of Chinese imports. An EPA rule change could stop all that, and give USA a rare earth mining industry bigger than it used to have.
  • Thorium fuel. Could actually power current reactor technology as well. It will not be considered because it requires reprocessing and US government has always opposed that.

PS: Also read: Who killed nuclear power and why?

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Nuclear waste, "constipation", and Jim Green.

Jim Green came out of his, hopefully, 'environmentally friendly' Batcave again. The SuperAussie leading Friends of the Earth, Oz, argues against fast reactors once again. For an anti-nuclear activist who claims to be protecting the environment, Jim surely has an obsession with fast reactors. Reactors which don't really exist anywhere, so can't be causing any environmental harm. Jim previously, wrongly, said that fast reactors were used by France to make lots of plutonium for their weapons programme ("340 kg of plutonium for WMD"). I debunked that long ago here.

Let me look at some of his points. The Japanese Monju fast reactor now closing was a loop-style reactor. Liquid metal fast breeders (LMFBR) favoured by Gen IV fans (like me) are basically pool-style reactors. Loop and pool, chalk and cheese, work in very different ways when used as fast breeders. The GE-Hitachi PRISM and Russian BN-XXX reactors (e.g. BN-800) are pool types. The GE-PRISM is based on the Integral Fast Reactor, IFR, research from 1984 – 1994, in the USA which had an excellent safety record with estimable clean energy and environmental goals.

A fast reactor with a cheap, easy way to recycle fuel, can leave only 1200 part, or 0.5% of the waste of conventional light water reactors (LWR), which run on low enriched uranium (LEU). USA developed such cheap, easy recycling technology over 2 decades ago during IFR research. It’s called “pyroprocessing”, but the idea depends upon separating waste using electricity. Like a battery in reverse. Something called electro-deposition.

Fast reactors which leave hardly any waste are bad news for anti-nuclear power activists like Jim Green. Because one of their core strategies is to “constipate nuclear power”, by preventing waste disposal. Far harder when future waste is only 0.5% current waste. Hence the effort anti-nukes put in to spread alternative lies. For example the lie that fast breeder reactors lead to A-bomb proliferation. This is another point Jim Green previously made elsewhere.

There are good reasons fast breeders, like PRISM, can leave only 0.5% the waste of a conventional reactor, for the same electricity made.

  1. Nearly 90% of the radioactive waste from nuclear power begins in fuel manufacture. The depleted uranium (DU), from enrichment, can’t be used by conventional light water reactors (LWR). A fast breeder reactor can use DU for its fuel. To be fair to Jim - he basically ignores the issue of DU.
  2. Anything from 95% to 96% of the fuel going into a LWR is unused when it exits. Cheap pyroprocessing makes it economical to put this fuel back in; leaving only radioactive fission products as waste.
  3. If the fission products are stored for 50 years, half of it is deactivated, by decay. Only the longer decaying, still radioactive material need be disposed of as waste. So we could, actually, get the nuclear waste down to below 0.25%, or 1400 part of what it currently is. But only if we build breeder reactors.
  4. A PRISM reactor is more efficient in using heat generated than a LWR. That's because a PRISM runs at a higher temperature (> 500ºC) compared with a LWR (maximum ~ 330ºC). This leads to a greater temperature difference between source and sink. In the case of a PRISM, it might mean up to 10% - 20% efficiency gain. E.g. For the same electricity output, a PRISM may make over 10% less fission products than a PWR.

That’s one reason why real environmentalists favour nuclear power, but fake environmentalists like Jim Green oppose it. Disagree with me? You could always try asking Jim Green why he opposes nuclear power. Supposing you can take the torrent of censorship, abuse and personal attacks his supporters will direct at you.


  • See Plentiful Energy, for a description of the IFR, and pyroprocessing. Especially chapters 5 and 13 covering "Choosing the Technology", and "Economics".
  • Watch Dr. Roger Blomquist, of U.S. Argonne National Laboratory, describe the cost of pyroprocessing as only 17 that of current nuclear fuel reprocessing such as PUREX.
  • 'constipate nuclear power'! Why is there no link to environmental propaganda here? Because this is supposedly a secret policy of theirs they don't admit to. Greens who've actually constipated nuclear power use this phrase among themselves to describe what they do. We know that from ex-greens who did it.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

"100% renewable energy", what does that mean?

100% renewable energy is a myth concocted by anti-energy greens, to justify shutting nuclear power. Media outlets pushing 100% renewable are also hard-line anti-nuclear power sites. Their news stories on some supposed renewable energy “breakthrough” sometimes say: “Will XXX renewable breakthrough finally kill nuclear power”. Bit of a Freudian slip there by them. Some of the most avid and hard-line 100%-RE activists are funded by natural gas interests.

Shutting nuclear plants means more fossil fuel

The argument against nuclear power, and for 100% renewables basically says: keeping nuclear power slows the transition to 100% renewables. Evidence contradicts this. There is no transition to 100% renewables. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, EIA, show that: shuttered nuclear power plants are replaced by fossil fuel, not “green” energy.