French nuclear financial crisis deepens

9 12 2016

French taxpayers face huge nuclear bill as EDF financial crisis deepens

Originally published on the Ecologist’s website…..

I alluded to this in response to some of Eclipse’s comments on some of my earlier posts. I’m of the opinion the entire global nuclear energy sector is about to go tits up….

Paul Brown

8th December 2016

Nuclear giant EDF could be heading towards bankruptcy, writes Paul Brown, as it faces a perfect storm of under-estimated costs for decommissioning, waste disposal and Hinkley C. Meanwhile income from power sales is lagging behind costs, and 17 of its reactors are off-line for safety tests. Yet French and UK governments are turning a blind eye to the looming financial crisis.

EDF’s biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these ageing power stations is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit. Then they still have to decommission.

The liabilities of Électricité de France (EDF) – the biggest electricity supplier in Europe, with 39 million customers – are increasing so fast that they will soon exceed its assets, according a report by an independent equity research company,

nuclear_power_432Bankruptcy for EDF seems inevitable – and if such a vast empire in any other line of business seemed to be in such serious financial trouble, there would be near-panic in the workforce and in governments at the subsequent political fall-out.

But it seems that the nuclear-dominated EDF group is considered too big to be allowed to fail. So, to keep the lights on in western Europe, the company will have to be bailed out by the taxpayers of France and the UK.

The French government, facing elections next spring, and the British, struggling with the implications of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union, are currently turning a blind eye to the report by AlphaValue that EDF has badly under-reported its potential liabilities.

Ageing nuclear reactors

While EDF is threatening to sue people who say it is technically bankrupt, the evidence is that the cost of producing electricity from its ageing nuclear reactors is greater than the market price.

Coupled with the impossibility of EDF paying the full decommissioning costs of its reactors, it is inevitable that it is the taxpayers in France and the UK who will eventually pick up the bill. However this will not be easy due to the EU’s ‘state aid’ rules, which limit governments’ ability to support ailing companies.

There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.

A looming problem for EDF, which already admits is has €37 billion of debt, is that 17 of its ageing fleet of nuclear reactors, which provide 70% of France’s electricity, are being retired.

According to AlphaValue, EDF has underestimated the liabilities for decommissioning these reactors by €20 billion. Another €33.5 billion should be added to cost of handling nuclear waste, the report says. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, an equity analyst who is the author of the report, says that a correct adjustment of nuclear provisions would lead to the technical bankruptcy of the company.

In a statement, EDF said it “strongly contests the alleged accounting and financial analyses by the firm AlphaValue carried out at the request of Greenpeace and relating to the situation of EDF”.

It says that its accounts are audited and certified by its statutory auditors, and that the dismantling costs of EDF’s existing nuclear power fleet have also been subject to an audit mandated by the French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea.

Even with its huge debts, EDF’s problems could be surmounted if the company was making big profits on its electricity sales, but the cost of producing power from its nuclear fleet is frequently greater than the wholesale price.

That creates a second problem – that unless the wholesale price of electricity rises and stays high, the company will make a loss on every kilowatt of electricity it sells. The new rightwing French presidential candidate, François Fillon, promises not to retire French reactors and to keep them going for 60 years. But this cannot be done without more cost.

This is the third problem: vast sums of capital are needed to refurbish EDF’s old nuclear fleet for safety reasons following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

New nuclear stations

Even more money is required to finish new nuclear stations EDF is already committed to building. The first, Flamanville in northern France, is five years late and billions over budget. Questions over the quality of the steel in its reactor are still not resolved, and it may never be fully operational.

Add to that the need for €12 billion (or potentially considerably more) capital to complete the two nuclear stations EDF is committed to building at Hinkley Point in southwest England, and it is hard to see where all the money will come from.

To help the cash-strapped company, its ultimate owner, the French state, has already provided €3 billion in extra capital this year, and decided to forego its shareholder dividend. But that is a drop in the ocean.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international consultant on energy and nuclear policy, says: “The French company overvalues its nuclear assets, and underestimates how much it will cost to decommission them.

“However, EDF’s biggest problem is the cost of producing power from these ageing power stations. The cost is greater than the wholesale price, so everything they sell is at a loss. It is impossible to see how they can ever make a profit.”

He says that is not the company’s only problem: France has not dealt with the problem of nuclear waste, and has badly underestimated the cost of doing so: “With German electricity prices going down and production increasing in order to export cheap electricity to France, it is impossible to see how EDF can ever compete. It is really staggering that no one is paying any attention to this.”

Even former EDF director Gérard Magnin agrees. He resigned from the board in July as he thought the Hinkley Point project too risky for the company because of its already stretched finances. Now he says that, with the reactors closed for safety checks, the French nuclear industry faces “its worst situation ever”.

The company’s troubles do not stop in France, as EDF also owns the UK nuclear industry. Ironically, it took over 15 reactors in the UK after British Energy went bankrupt in 2002 because the cost of producing the electricity was greater than the wholesale price – exactly the situation being repeated now in France.

Repeated life extensions

Since the sale of UK nuclear plants to EDF in 2008 at a cost £12.5 billion, the company has continued to operate them, and has repeatedly got life extensions to keep them running.

But this cannot go on forever, and they are expected to start closing in the next ten years. Once this happens, the asset value of each station would become a liability, and EDF’s mountain of debt would get bigger.

So far, the French and UK governments, and the company itself, seem to be in denial about this situation. Currently 17 French reactors are shut down for safety checks, following the discovery of faulty safety-critical compenents including large, difficult to replace steel forgings like steam generators.

The company has issued reassuring statements that they will be back to full power after Christmas, however in so doing EDF is assuming that the safety checks will give the reactors a clean bill of health. In fact, there are three other possible outcomes:

  • additional potentially time-consuming tests are needed that will create further months of downtime.
  • remedial engineering works are required to make the reactors safe. These would probably be costly and time-consuming.
  • key components at the heart of the reactors, for example steam generators, need to be replaced altogether. However this would be so costly that, for a nuclear plant already reaching the end of its lifetime, premature closure would be the only viable option.

Perhaps the most likely outcome is that some of the 17 reactors will fall into each of these four categories, creating as yet unquantifiable unbudgeted costs for the company.

Meanwhile, to make up the shortfall from the closed reactors, electricity is being bought from neighbouring countries, including the UK, to keep the lights on in France. The power shortage is temporarily causing an increase in wholesale prices – but one that EDF is unable to fully exploit because so many of its reactors are not generating.

The future remains unpredictable – but as long as there are no actual power cuts, no action is expected from governments. Despite official denials, however, the calculations of many outside the industry suggest that it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes.

The cost of producing electricity from renewables is still falling, while nuclear gets ever more expensive, and massive liabilities loom. Ultimately, the bill will have to be passed on to the taxpayers.

 

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57 responses

9 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Yup, Hinkley C is a weird project management problem that many of the nuclear engineers I read say should just be scrapped, and start again with a whole new company.

Yup, there are going to be some cleanup bills coming home to roost soon with older technologies.

Newer reactor designs are coming to market that are far easier to decommission.
These old Gen 2 models do NOT reflect on the performance and potential of Gen 3 and 4 reactors. That’s as childish as predicting the downfall of the airline industry because of the Hindenburg!

9 12 2016
ejhr2015

The bill, which will be huge, as you said, will not be paid out of taxes. You can breathe a sigh of relief over that fact. Just as Ben Bernanke got the fed to bail out the GFC banks through money creation [he marked up the accounts the banks held in the Fed], You can be sure the EU will find a way to do the same. There won’t be a choice.

9 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi EJ,
I guess as long as you discuss economic possibilities you’re on home territory. But, as a layperson reading over the shoulders of technical giants, even I can see that there are some *enormous* differences between different reactor designs. It’s an industry that has had a quiet revolution with the passive safety systems of today’s reactors (like the AP1000 which would easily have survived the power outages at Fukushima), let alone the vast improvements coming in tomorrow’s GenIV breeder reactors. I’ll run across to BNC to see if any actual engineers have time to offer their feedback on the French story above.

9 12 2016
ejhr2015

How do you counter the doomsayers on Gail Tverberg’s blog? Take “Fast Eddy” he’s always dissing the hopefuls who post solutions there. I’m afraid I see he’s right most of the time
There’s some headlines that the French nuclear power giant is on the verge of bankruptcy. I didn’t save the link but you will have seen it? I notice that the giant half moon sarcophagus has been wheeled into place over Chernoble.

One comment, I think from Simon Michaud I like is that humans cannot be trusted to manage nuclear facilities. All too true it seems, even for the spent fuel rods.

9 12 2016
Eclipse Now

“How do you counter the doomsayers on Gail Tverberg’s blog? Take “Fast Eddy” he’s always dissing the hopefuls who post solutions there. I’m afraid I see he’s right most of the time”
Are you kidding? You’re actually using the mere handle of a doomer fan, in one of the loudest doomer echo-chambers on the planet — without even discussing the exact nature of his gripe — and I’m supposed to be convinced by this? Seriously, you’d better start arguing whatever it is you’re arguing with much clearer points than just “Woah, have you seen Gail Tverberg’s blog!” That’s like trying to convince me that climate change isn’t true by getting me to read Heartland Institute crap! She censors the truth. She did on The Oil Drum, and she does on her blog. Reality doesn’t get a look in, such as comments from qualified engineers. They’re banned. Yet who the heck is she to ban them? An actuary, commenting on complex technical energy issues? Give me a break! It’s easy to be a doomer, or even climate denier, if you get deep enough into an echo-chamber. Read the peer-reviewed circuit and you’ll be blown away at how simplistic and downright deceitful Tverberg is!

“There’s some headlines that the French nuclear power giant is on the verge of bankruptcy.”
Enron had some financial issues as well. Does that mean power grids are a fallacy? 😉 Basically, I don’t really know what’s happening in the financial management of France’s electricity sector at the moment, and don’t really care. Businesses are sometimes badly managed. Your argument would be akin to claiming all democracy is flawed because Donald Trump got elected. It’s that simplistic. Decommissioning is, generally, a small part of the cost, and does not require a Chernobyl sized dome to be placed over the reactor. Standard procedure is to ‘park’ them in a shut down mode for 50 years to let some of the radiation cook off, and then decomission them when it’s easier, safer, and cheaper to do so. The sector is government owned, so maybe the government needs to pull the Private out of the Public Private Partnership they have over there and just fully nationalise it till this crisis is over. Tom Blees has a chapter in “Prescription for the planet” that demonstrates public electricity is cheaper and better managed across American states, because there is no real such thing as an ‘electricity market’ because customers can’t go anywhere else to get their lights and TV’s to work. It’s not really a ‘market’ as such. He makes a strong case for governments to just nationalise the electricity sector and roll out affordable nuclear power. They’ll save a BOMB on the public health purse once all those coal stations are closed!

“I notice that the giant half moon sarcophagus has been wheeled into place over Chernoble”
We MUST ban modern aviation! The Hindenburg, the Hindenburg, everyone remember the Hindenburg!
Basically, Chernobyl Shmernobyl. Even anti-nuclear activist Prof Ian Lowe, former head of the Australian Conservation Foundation, admits that Chernobyl was SABOTAGED by the ignorant and secretive communications failures of the Soviet Era, and is just plain NOT representative of the technology. Also, I’d continue to live in my city if it had the same radiation levels as Chernobyl. They should fence a few sites off (such as just around the reactor and the red forest that took some serious fallout) and then resettle the rest immediately. Except that would be sad, as it is now one of the world’s most successful wildlife parks. Tell me, you quote Chernobyl as some kind of proof-text against abundant affordable electricity (yes, affordable, despite whatever’s happening in France), and yet, can you tell me, off the top of your head without googling, what the radiation levels there actually are? And how they compare with the radiation levels in your own house? Your backyard? The global average? Please, do tell! 😉 OK, I’ll let you google it. But we won’t be able to move forward until you can answer those questions. What is the standard background radiation, and what is Chernobyl’s?

9 12 2016
ejhr2015

What a mindless rant. I’ll leave you with it.

10 12 2016
Eclipse Now

You’re quick to call people mindless, but looking up a few numbers is too hard for you? 😉 Seriously dude, most of the Chernobyl region isn’t significantly more radioactive than your own backyard. If actual scientific data is too inconvenient to your opinions, then stop asking people to take your opinions seriously!

10 12 2016
ejhr2015

Same to you, with knobs on! Your unedifying rant in that post rules you out of a sensible discussion. Like Thatcher you are not for turning. The future will sort you out, so we’ll wait till then.

11 12 2016
Eclipse Now

OK, but you’re the guy that said this. “Take “Fast Eddy” he’s always dissing the hopefuls who post solutions there. I’m afraid I see he’s right most of the time.” Yup, truly convicting! I’ll just have to click my ruby slippers together 3 times and say “There’s no such thing as breeder reactors, there’s NO SUCH THING…” and all that science and engineering will just vanish, will it? Because Fast Eddy said so? 😉 Again, if you want to discuss something *specific*, with numbers on it, I’m happy to. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll go ask some engineers who do know. But vague appeals to an extremely vague ‘authority’ (Fast Eddy) just isn’t even an argument in my books. I mean, what if I turned around and said “Oh yeah, we’ll I read Engineer Poet, he smashes Fast Eddy!” It’s not about appeals to internet personas, but the actual numbers. That’s why Bartlett is brilliant: he illustrates the danger of unmitigated exponential growth. But it’s purely mathematics. His lecture doesn’t introduce the sociology behind educating and empowering girls, and how that has been lowering the growth rate over the past few decades. That’s why we have to test hypothetical mathematics (say, of a mathematically extrapolated depletion curve of oil reserves plotted against expected reserves, etc) and all those associated doomer statements (like Mike Stasse’s 2000’s claim that we’d be in Mad Max by now) against the real world, where a mere GFC suddenly and dramatically curbs 25% of American oil consumption! Without any new law, etc, American oil consumption dropped dramatically, and it wasn’t the end of the world for them. They’re still there. Sure, there are sectors of their economy that have been going overseas, and Trump’s a reaction to that. But that’s an economic and political matter. They are *still there*. The ‘inevitable’ collapse of the modern world due to oil depletion did not happen, and all that ‘essential’ oil did not prove to be that ‘essential’ after all. People adapted, and just cut a quarter of their consumption just like that! So my advice? Read Fast Eddy’s posts, and ask yourself what people in the real world will do about all his graphs and stuff he might post. Then go read the EcoModernist’s on it! What are they saying about energy, food, governance, etc? Get real with the data and arguments, and then if you think you’ve found a particularly compelling one, post here. But just quoting ‘the vibe’ of the thing didn’t work for the lawyer in The Castle, and it won’t work for you here.

11 12 2016
ejhr2015

You are being ridiculous. I mentioned” fast eddy” so you could see for yourself not to say he’s perfect.

11 12 2016
Eclipse Now

When you can discuss something specific, I’ll respond to that.

11 12 2016
ejhr2015

You only have supposition to support your position. I simply say in a finite world there can never be exponential growth.
It all follows from that and which you are in denial.

11 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Well, today’s world is finite, and yet last century had decades of exponential growth in the human population and oil consumption and consumption of many other things. Plenty of exponential growth there, and not all of it good! Yes, OF COURSE a finite plant cannot allow ENDLESS exponential growth of any systems. Um, who ever said I was saying that could happen? It’s so self evidently false as to be a tautology, like the Gaffer out of Lord of the Rings saying “Don’t you go looking for no trouble and no trouble will come looking for you.” Yeah, finite and *endless* exponential growth don’t go together. No argument there! It’s self-evident, by definition. Because the planet is finite, we need to figure out how to stabilise the human population. Now instead of vague tautologies, let’s get specific. What population do you think is sustainable, and why? I think a world of 10 billion is entirely doable with today’s technology. I’ve also read various UN reports that estimate that population growth should level off around there due to various Demographic Transitions occurring across the globe. (Modernisation, and the educating and empowering of women bring the birth rate down. Basically, for every 3 years of education a girl gets, that’s one less child she’ll have! It’s a statistic from UN reports). Basically, you can have a really unsustainable 1 billion or a sustainable 10 billion, all depending on your technology. The T in IPAT really is that powerful a multiplier or divider of harm!

Abundant clean energy is one major key to whether or not you have an unsustainable, high impact 1 billion people or a lightly treading 10 billion. Nukes *can* supply abundant reliable power. There’s absolutely no *technical* reason they can’t. Only political and cultural FUD.

12 12 2016
ejhr2015

Sorry, it does not compute. We are unsustainable, a locust species. We will not willingly downsize and we cannot make the economy go into reverse and let us down gently which is your hope. Even if all future births stopped today the momentum would still not be reversible. We might gain a little more time but our industrial technological dynasty is in its end stages. Dynasties come and go and there’s nothing sacred about this particularly exploitative one.
The real question is who will survive? Even the first peoples are so compromised and weakened it’s no sure thing they will survive, but we coddled westerners will be the first to go. it only takes 30 hours w/o food for it to take over our thoughts. Competition for what’s left will be brutal and pitiless.

12 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Nice episode outline of Walking Dead there, but do you have any numbers to justify your position? I’ve supplied the technology we can build for abundant reliable energy which is *the* key to everything else: abundant energy without CO2 and with minimal impact. Assuming the political willpower, we can build this out and reduce our impact to one planet living. I’ve already shown you this graph! (Point 7 below).
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/reduce/

You merely *assert* I’m a product of wishful thinking, and *assert* there are too many of us. However, I’m supplying a graph that proves that there’s not too many of us, we’re simply using the wrong technologies! It’s the T in IPAT that’s all wrong, that’s magnifying our impact. The graph above shows that if we “just” clean up our energy, we’re in one planet living! Do you have a graph that disproves this, that shows energy NOT to be our main environmental impact?

While we’re building out clean nuclear energy systems, we can also reform agriculture, use green chemistry to minimise plastic pollution, create more campaigns for national parks and wildlife corridors, etc etc etc.

12 12 2016
ejhr2015

Your studies don’t support your thesis, they support mine. Your evidence cannot be substantiated. To many “what -if’s”
Hans Rosling doesn’t take into account the equivalence you mention of us being effectively 14 billion. That just makes your case even more unlikely etc. Sorry again, it will not compute. As “Fast Eddy” says its Koombuya land. Hold your nose and look at the Gail Tverberg site. I’d appreciate some names you said criticised her blog.

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Be specific, EJ. Just asserting my studies don’t prove my case doesn’t make it so. Why? You’ll need to actually come up with counter evidence, and stop doing the “Vibe of the thing” quote from The Castle.

13 12 2016
ejhr2015

You’ve got to do the same yourself. Otherwise its just a ploy to excuse yourself. Your have NO evidence that your suppositions are factual. It ill behooves you to try on that tactic. A sign of failure, so cease!

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

EJ,
the evidence I’m submitting is that we have technology that could fix things, not that we *are* fixing them right now. Abundant clean energy is the key. Do you not believe breeder reactors exist? They do. Read below. All we need to do is deploy them. That’s the clean energy taken care of! That’s the key to everything else. As far as biodiversity loss etc, I’m thoroughly aware of it, and it’s on my main page. Remember I said we need to change how things go? To stop the extinctions? There are many things to do, but the first is abundant clean power. And apparently you’re asserting I haven’t provided any evidence for breeder reactors, so here it is.

Breeder reactors burn the longer lived actinides in nuclear waste, eventually burning the nuclear waste down to the fission products which only stay hot for 300 years.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

But in reality, new designs could make breeders cheaper than traditional once-through reactors like Light Water Reactors! There are 2 types:

1. Fast Neutron reactors.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast-neutron_reactor

Russia had the old BN-350, and then built the Bn-600. Note: the Japanese paid Russia a billion for the technical specs on their old BN-600, and “The operation of the reactor is an international study in progress; Russia, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom currently participate.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BN-600_reactor

They just opened the BN-800 (and sold the plans to China).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BN-800_reactor

They are building 11 new normal reactors over the next few years, including 2 whopping great BN-1200’s!
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Russia-to-build-11-new-nuclear-reactors-by-2030-10081602.html

G.E. have the PRISM ready for commercial prototype testing (as the original proof-of-concept testing was done decades ago in the EBR2). They are basically ready to deploy in the first country that will let them.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(reactor)

China will mass produce breeder nukes cheaper than coal in just 6 years!
http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/china-seriously-looking-at.html

2. Thermal (slow neutron) reactors run hotter
My favourite thermal reactor is the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor which CANNOT ‘melt down’, as it is already a liquid! See China’s plans!
http://www.technologyreview.com/news/542526/china-details-next-gen-nuclear-reactor-program/

China will mass produce breeder nukes cheaper than coal in just 8 years!
http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/china-seriously-looking-at.html

FUEL?
America has enough nuclear waste to run her for 1,000 years and this has been estimated to be worth $30 TRILLION dollars!
http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/16/ifr-spm/

The United Kingdom has enough waste to run her for 500 years.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/feb/02/nuclear-reactors-consume-radioactive-waste

When we finally run out of today’s nuclear waste to burn in 500 years my guess is we might not even need fission reactors any more. But if we do still need to use IFR’s and LFTR’s, what then? Uranium from seawater is ‘renewable’ in the sense that erosion constantly tops up the uranium particles floating in the ocean, 3 times faster than we could use it. It will last us a billion years.

WASTE? Once the actinides are burned out, the fission products only stay ‘hot’ for 300 years. Just vitrify it into waterproof ceramic blocks, and store in carpark depth bunkers. Done. Trivial. Not an issue!

13 12 2016
mikestasse

Do you really think we have time to follow that many links…… you’re wrong, get over it…

13 12 2016
mikestasse

Valuing this way of life over life on the planet causes its advocates to tell lies, to themselves and to others. The first lie is that this way of life isn’t inherently destructive. At this stage in the unraveling of life on this planet I shouldn’t have to support this statement. We need merely look around.

The last thing the world needs is more industrial energy generation, energy that will be used to do what the industrial economy does—convert the living to the dead: living forests to two-by-fours, living mountains into component minerals.

http://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/climate-change-renewable-energy-environment-headlines-news-01742/

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Incorrect. The last thing this world needs is a collapse of civilisation where the first thing starving parents do is march on in and eat the animals in the zoos as they did in Paris during a particularly nasty food shortage. Once the zoos are gone, they’ll march on the wilderness and eat every last thing. Only civilisation and law and order give the environment any chance.

14 12 2016
mikestasse

I think you’ll find that today’s people are considerably different to the era you talk about….. soft, obese, and diabetic, they won’t last long!

The environment takes no prisoners. ESPECIALLY in Australia……..

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi Mike,
EJ wanted evidence, I gave it to him. Breeders are on the way: most of the one’s above are still in the ‘testing’ phase, even the Russian BN series where they have built various sizes before, just opened the BN 800 MW, and are soon building a whopping 1.2 GW reactor in the next few years. They’re all still perfecting it, even though we actually have 400 reactor years experience with them: both test modules and full scale working breeders. But GE have got some fully developed GenIV reactors closest to commercialisation, meaning they’ll come off the production line! They’re based on 30 years of the EBR2. Here’s the GE one, my *second* favourite reactor ever but closest to commercialisation.

“It is a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) design, scaled up by a factor of ten.[3] The design utilizes reactor modules, each having a power output of 311 MWe, to enable factory fabrication at low cost….”

“….In October 2011, The Independent reported that the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and senior advisers within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had asked for technical and financial details of the PRISM, partly as a means of reducing the country’s plutonium stockpile.[6] In July 2012, GEH submitted a feasibility report to the NDA showing that the PRISM could provide a cost-effective way of quickly dealing with the UK’s plutonium stockpile. The feasibility report includes an assessment from the consultancy firm DBD Limited suggesting there are “no fundamental impediment(s)” to the licensing of the PRISM in the UK. [7] [8] A 2012 Guardian article pointed out that a new generation of fast reactors such as the PRISM “could dispose of the waste problem, reducing the threat of radiation and nuclear proliferation, and at the same time generate vast amounts of low-carbon energy”. David J. C. MacKay, chief scientist at the DECC, was quoted as saying that British plutonium contains enough energy to run the country’s electricity grid for 500 years.[9]”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(reactor)

13 12 2016
ejhr2015

There is little factual proof in your assertions. So you are still behind the 8-ball. It’s “all in the future” it all depends on spending resources to get there. and resources are not cheap now. Then it’s all electricity which is not the whole deal. Do you see the technology to grow food through electricity? I saw no mention. We can’t eat electricity, or coal etc. WE need soil that are not being depleted by artificial fertilizers, that are not allowed to go fallow to recover that are less than what we will need in a generation’s time, etc. We shit in our nest, big time. We don’t have time for the transition to work.We’ll end up falling between the two stools, the now, and the forecast. It’s no good. Sorry.
Lets just enjoy what time is left before we start running around like headless chickens. There’s time for that.

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

EJ, “all in the future”
AP1000’s are NOT in the future. We could build them now until GE or whoever commercialises the perfect breeder reactor. Of course, if we just build 115GW per year as Dr James Hansen says, with TODAY’s nukes, then we’ll be right. That’s SLOWER than France ALREADY built out nukes back in the 1970’s, on a GPD per reactor base. Or are you REALLY saying we don’t have enough coal to give us just a few decades to build out the nukes?

In other words, we’ve already done this in the past. If enough people get out there and become EcoModernists, we can do it again.

That is, unless you have some attraction to doomerism. I thought you said you had a daughter? Don’t you want her to have a chance? But hey, if it’s all too bad and sad, surely you should have some suicide pills ready and explain to her how many she’ll need to take when it all comes tumbling down. Don’t be shocked. Suicide is big with doomers. I’ve already met with one father of a suicide victim. Young Tas was on Mike’s ROEOZ. ROEOZ convinced him there was no hope. Tas hung himself. Here are some reflections.
http://restoringmayberry.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/moment-of-darkness.html

13 12 2016
ejhr2015

How are you going to explain to your family that you have misled them? Will they hang themselves too?
Two can play at your game!

14 12 2016
mikestasse

I actually believe that when the shit hits the fan, and people lose all their toys, there will be mass suicides… especially when people won’t have access to their antidepressants…!

14 12 2016
Eclipse Now

And *why* is the whole of society going to collapse? Remember, there is a vast difference between a Great Depression and the total breakdown of civilisation.

14 12 2016
Eclipse Now

EJ, I don’t know the future, remember? I haven’t ‘misled’ them because I’m humble enough to say I don’t know *what* is going to happen! We could all disappear in a big white flash because Trump had the ultimate temper tantrum and started WW3, or we could make it! Abundant nuclear power is the key answer that provides the energy for all the others. You have not provided evidence to the contrary.

14 12 2016
ejhr2015

You have not provided evidence in support.

14 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi EJ,
No my friend, it is YOU who have not provided evidence in support….

(See how that’s not a complete sentence?)

13 12 2016
mikestasse

You know what happens when humans have too much energy, clean or otherwise…? Yhey use it to expand and grow the population.

We can’t help ourselves. Just like YOU can’t help yourself….

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi Mike,
do you have *any* evidence for that? UN studies into population dynamics would *completely* disagree with you. Basically, modern, developed country life – on average – stops population growth. We don’t need to consider children as our retirement slaves that will work the farm for us as we age! You should know this – articles about the Demographic Transition populate your sphere of the internet. Even old Energy Bulletin had this classic, which thankfully survived the transition to Resilience. Abundant clean energy enables the modern world to have the wealth for the welfare state, and that’s what we need to achieve the following aims.

The United Nations Population Fund puts it this way:

“Every three years of additional education correlates with up to one less child per woman.”
http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2005/presskit/message1.htm

But why? Sharon Astyk writes:

“The first factor, education, works in several ways. Literacy for women benefits families in a number of ways. It increases her health (a literate woman can read material about health and hygiene practices), it increases her family’s security (if her husband dies, she can get a better job), it increases her desire to see her children receive education and it increases her political power – she can read and understand national issues. Mandatory education for all children serves to remove children from the labour pool, and makes children not producers, but consumers, and thus parents are forced to view their children in that light.”

and…

“Women have high literacy rates and political power. Women are comparatively well protected from rape, and can choose their husbands. A 1994 study by Yale Economist Paul Schultz found that female literacy was perhaps the most defining factor in TFR in poor nations. In India, Kerala, with a 100% female literacy rate has a 1.7 TFR, compared to a 4.1 TFR in regions with a 30% literacy rate”
http://www.resilience.org/stories/2007-07-26/understanding-demographic-transition

But if you’ve got evidence to the contrary, I’m all ears. Evidence, that is, not just doomer opined rants.

13 12 2016
mikestasse

IF it wasn’t the case, then WHY are CO2 emissions growing exponentially?

Consumption INCREASES with both A and T. Regardless of whether population stops increasing, A & T increase, and emissions continue growing, at a rate which is now exponential.

Births may have decreased in Europe, but population is still rising because of the refugee crisis, and ALL those people moving to Europe are looking to expand their consumption of energetically driven goods and services…… that’s why they are going there; for a ‘better’ life.

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

So you grant that Europe’s population growth is down from natural increases? Demographic Transitions are a thing? Good. So increased A & T do not necessarily increase P, indeed, may even stabilise it? That’s great! Now, if the world ran on only nuclear power and renewables, would CO2 still be rising? If the world managed to sequester all the CO2 from agriculture, say through widespread adoption of biochar, ocean-kelp farm fertilisers, and other strategies like Polyface farm grazing that locks CO2 in the soil, would there be an increase in CO2? If the world continued the trend towards wood skyscrapers with Cross-Laminated Timber, would that increase CO2? If our A was met from abundant clean energy (the correct T) and infinitely recyclable materials, would a modern lifestyle for all 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 really be that impossible? Especially with aquaculture increasingly being divorced from ocean impact with the discovery of how to farm the microbes that seafood feed off in the off-season in the very same pond that will later growth the prawns, for example?

In other words, if an increase in A + the RIGHT T can stall growth in P, doesn’t IPAT start to work for us, not against us?

13 12 2016
ejhr2015

On top of that the birth rate is only low in good times, when the life stresses are less severe and each child is likely to survive. As soon as trouble strikes the birth rate goes up. So from less than 1 baby /woman it can rise to 6 babies per woman, which is what it is now in central Africa.

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

The post-colonial stresses across Africa are *mainly* political. Sure there are some environmental stressors, but the gradual economic integration of the African Union can create stability that will bring on a Demographic Transition. Gradually, like the EU, economic integration will create forces for political integration and stability. Just check out how many common currencies are developing, and free trade regions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_African_Union

Again, the RIGHT T can provide us with all the energy we need to grow all the high-tech food we need as Agriculture 2.0 rolls out, aka Precision Agriculture. Clean energy and PA will alleviate our 2 greatest impacts.
http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/the-future-of-food/is-precision-agriculture-the-way-to-peak-cropland

13 12 2016
ejhr2015

Lets look at this slightly differently;

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46024.htm

It’s disgusting what we are doing to our planet.

10 12 2016
samsavvas

I think the point of the article was to raise the issue of costs. Speaking as someone who tries to keep an open mind on such matters, I find myself asking ‘is the cost of current liabilities – as we know them right now & based on what’s operating NOW – sustainable?’ Once we answer that question I reckon we can start to better understand what the possibilities for ‘new technology’ might be. That’s my layman’s take on the problem. Because we cannot simply ignore legacy costs. Inevitably they stay with us even if we are seeking to transfer to a new way of doing things. You see the detritus and impacts of ‘old technology’ around every outback town and farm in Australia. The difference is simply that dumps of old cars and trucks and farming machinery don’t ‘glow in the dark’ – so as to speak! No-one in the history of humanity has had to deal with an industrial and engineering decommissioning challenge such as France faces (and other nuclear-powered grids face as well). It’s a thing new to our consciousness! So surely – irrespective of whether one has a degree in engineering or not – such questions are all legitimate, irrespective of the no-doubt encouraging promises of newer technologies etc…

10 12 2016
mikestasse

This fits in so nicely with limits to growth…

As I constantly explain to people, the 20th Century was built one brick at a time, as and when it was needed, with cheap and very high ERoEI oil and coal.

Today, as old infrastructure ages beyond its use by date, not only do we have to replace this old stuff (and I’m not just talking about nukes, the US has to replace half of all its bridges, NOW..!) but simultaneously, we have to add new infrastructure to deal with population growth….. using very low ERoEI fossil fuels, because all the low hanging fruit is as good as goone.

And we wonder why debt levels are skyrocketing….?

We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet on that front either…….

10 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Apparently many ‘parked’ reactors could be reopened if the government gave permission.
http://atomicinsights.com/decommissioning/

10 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi Sam,
how refreshing: a much more polite manner of putting the question. Yes, there are some real legacy costs from earlier, more experimental reactors at the dawn of the nuclear age. Even with these higher costs, they’re still cheaper than trying to backup an intermittent, unreliable solar and wind grid. Earlier reactors are costing a significant fraction of the original build out price to decomission.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_decommissioning#Cost

Read out of context, the numbers for decommissioning can seem mind-blowing. But because atomic bonds have 2 MILLION times more power than the whimpy chemical bonds of fossil fuels, nukes deliver enormous power, reliably, with a vastly higher EROEI than fossil fuels and only stopping for scheduled servicing. In other words, they deliver *lots* of power from *minimal* material: about a milk crate of yellowcake per financial quarter. That’s significant, because once the reactor superstructure is built, the actual uranium or thorium is a very small portion of the cost, bringing the overall cost of nuclear power down. Indeed, thorium reactors may get their fuel for free as a *waste* product from rare-earth mining! While the numbers for reactor parks are mind-blowing (including decommissioning costs), so are their outputs.

“First, $26 billion is an aggregate number that includes two reactors, turbines, transmission and distribution infrastructure (power lines or T&D), plant infrastructure, and nuclear fuel for 60 years as well as decommissioning costs. The most important number in the whole controversy has gone largely without notice and that is the delivered cost of electricity from the plants is in the range of five cents per kilowatt hour.”
https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/23/recent-nuclear-power-cost-estimates-separating-fact-from-myth/

This is cheaper than trying to backup a wind and solar grid. EG: If wind and solar provided just a third of Germany’s power it would cost so much money to buy just *one* week of storage that you could instead nuke the entire grid. Backup a third of the grid for a week, or nuke the entire grid for 60 years! If Germany was 100% renewables, the storage would cost 3 times as much for one week. It gets worse. German winters often cut renewables for *many* weeks at a time. Two weeks storage is 6 times as expensive, and three weeks is 12 times as much as nuking the entire grid! Remember, that does not even include buying and maintaining the wind and solar farms in the first place! Point 2 below
http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/renewables/the-grid-will-not-be-disrupted

Future reactors will be smaller and modular and easier to decommission, but that’s another topic. Just remember, nuclear power has evolved over time, and lessons learned from vastly overpriced cleanups of earlier reactors have been implemented into later reactors. We’re clever monkeys, and learning more about splitting atoms all the time.

10 12 2016
Eclipse Now

>There is also the ongoing thorny problem of disposing of the nuclear waste and spent fuel rods, which are building up in cooling ponds and stores on both sides of the Channel, with no disposal route yet in sight.

I honestly struggle to understand how utterly ill-informed modern environmentalists are when one of their BEST heroes, Dr James Hansen, recommends a book all about Integral Fast Reactors that EAT nuclear waste! Every time I read an environmental author raving about the ‘problem’ of nuclear waste, I cringe in embarrassment for them and feel like their IQ’s have dropped 80 points! Why are we so uninformed? Is it really that hard to google about the ‘problem’ they are purportedly writing about? This is terrible reporting, and utterly ignorant. The UK has enough ‘waste’ to run her for 500 years, and America enough for 1000. It’s all in the media, spoken of by Dr James Hansen, and in Australia Dr Barry Brooks and even Stuart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalogue. Disregard the report above as utterly uninformed!

13 12 2016
Eclipse Now

EJ, electricity doesn’t produce food? Wow, what planet are you living on?

ELECTRICITY = FOOD
Cheap energy is the backbone of the green revolution. Cheap energy uses the Haber Bosch process to pull Nitrogen out of the air. Cheap energy could run massive kelp farms to get seaweed fertiliser for all our food needs, hopefully carbon-tax subsidised to fund massive kelp farms. Cheap energy can pump seawater into seawater greenhouses that convert seawater into food in the desert! (Don’t say there’s no evidence for this, there’s one in Adelaide called Sundrop Farms and Woolworths have just signed a massive deal with them. Seawater + desert + energy = food!).
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/green-deserts/

Cheap energy is the key to Precision Agriculture.
http://thebreakthrough.org/programs/Food-and-Farming

TRANSPORT
Even if we’re at peak oil and gas, we’re still only half way through the oil. EV’s are on the way, and can charge on excess overnight electricity. If it turned out we were at peak oil, governments could legislate that all new cars had to be EV’s / synfuel or even boron vehicles, and then within just 16 years, natural attrition would have completely swapped out the fleet. Then there are growing bodies of educated town planners realising suburbia may not be the best lifestyle, and campaigning for more trains and trams and trolley buses.

RESOURCES
We can build skyscrapers out of wood, and most of the next house and car and boat out of household waste! As nations industrialise there *is* an initial surge in demand for metals, of which there is an abundance. We don’t even need coking coal as hydrogen can be flushed through in the smelting process, removing the need for coking coal to make steel. With enough energy, electric arc furnaces can recycle all the metals we want.
https://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/recycle/

Then there’s space, but we won’t discuss that for now, as I don’t think you’re up to it!

14 12 2016
mikestasse

I often ask myself what planet you’re living on…….

Kelp farms hey…….. well here in Tassie, the kelp is disappearing due to climate change. And fish farming has completely stuffed up the environment. But hey, we are sooooo clever….

I always thought the Haber Bosch process used NATURAL GAS to pull N out of the air. Besides, N fertilisers are KILLING soils all over the world, and will cause mass starvation in the future as we literally run out of soil…

14 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Hi Mike,
I forgot to share this on kelp farms, truly BIG ones. Save the climate, save the ocean from acidification, feed the planet, provide fibre and all sorts of feedstocks.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clayton-b-cornell/cooling-the-climate-with-_b_8486822.html

16 12 2016
mikestasse

YOU like national Geographic……..:

Problems of Rapid Expansion

“The rapid expansion of any industry, however, can result in unforeseen ecological and societal consequences,” according to the authors.

“Communities that come to depend on a single crop for their livelihood become highly vulnerable to a disease outbreak, as happened in the Philippines between 2011 and 2013 when a bacteria that whitens the branches of a valuable seaweed species caused a devastating loss to the communities involved, estimated at over U.S. $ 310 million.”

The authors say the industry needs to guard against non-indigenous pests and pathogens, to promote genetic diversity of seaweed stocks and to raise awareness of mistakes in farm management practices (such as placing the cultivation nets too close together, making the crop more vulnerable to disease transfer and natural disasters).

“In addition, the illegal use of algicides / pesticides, with unknown but likely detrimental consequences for the wider marine environment, user conflicts for valuable coastal resources and rising dissatisfaction over the low gate prices for the crop can all result in negative impacts on the industry,” they say in the news statement.

The experts note that increasing demands being placed on the marine environment and competition for maritime space (renewable energy, aquaculture, fisheries, et cetera) necessitates coordination and co-operation between different users, an ecosystem-wide management approach and marine spatial planning (MSP) for aquaculture, alongside regulation to protect the wider marine environment.

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/09/03/booming-seaweed-farming-exposes-producers-and-environment-to-risks-experts-warn/

Most. Tragic. Species. Ever.

We have done exactly the same that any primitive life form would do when faced with a surplus, of food, energy, and in our case credit, cheap money. We spent it all as fast as we can. Lest less abundant times arrive. It’s an instinct, it comes from our more primitive brain segments, not our more “rational” frontal cortex. It’s not that we’re in principle, or talent, more devious or malicious than more primitive life forms. It’s that we use our more advanced brains to help us execute the same devastation our primitive brain drives us to, but much much worse.

That’s what makes us the most tragic species imaginable. We’ll fight each other, even our children, over the last few scraps falling off the table, and kill off everything in our path to get there. And when we’re done, we’ll find a way to rationalize to ourselves why we were right to do so. We can be aware of watching ourselves do what we do, but we can’t help ourselves from doing it. Most. Tragic. Species. Ever.

16 12 2016
mikestasse

BTW, when I googled kelp “farming environment disaster”, I got 364,000 results…….

14 12 2016
Eclipse Now

PS: National Geographic says: “Improving nutrient and water supplies where yields are lowest could result in a 58 percent increase in global food production.” That’s precision. That’s *without* increasing the land used, as Step 1 is “Freeze Agriculture’s Footprint”.
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/

Then there’s the fact that Polyface farming of cattle brings soil back to life, traps carbon in the soil, and gets 4 times as many cow-heads per acre.

16 12 2016
mikestasse

And all that water would wash the nutrients all the way to the sea and kill the Great Barrier Reef. Oh hang on…. we’ve already done that!

I do know about “farming of cattle brings soil back to life, traps carbon in the soil”, because that’s what I practice here in Tasmania… but four times as many cows per acre? Hahahahaha!!!

That’s a sure fire disaster recipe for hyper compacted soil and more run off of cow shit into the streams to suffocate the oceans with more Nitrogen. National Geographic make pretty movies, but I wouldn’t use them as a source of rational facts.

I’ve halved the number of cows on this property over the past 15 months, but am still paying the price of past overgrazing. There’s even algal blooms in my dam at times, and the dickhead uphill of me insists on overgrazing his place (with 30 heads on 25 acres, which I am sure is less than the four times as many bullshit you’re spruiking) is almost certainly the cause…..

When YOU start farming, come back to me and tell me how you went…..

16 12 2016
Eclipse Now

“I do know about “farming of cattle brings soil back to life, traps carbon in the soil”, because that’s what I practice here in Tasmania… but four times as many cows per acre? Hahahahaha!!!

That’s a sure fire disaster recipe for hyper compacted soil and more run off of cow shit into the streams to suffocate the oceans with more Nitrogen. National Geographic make pretty movies, but I wouldn’t use them as a source of rational facts.”
So you’ve been practising Polyface farm’s method with the exact same procedures, moving an electric fence like a clock around your paddocks so that the one bit of pasture only gets grazed every 6 weeks, and then you follow through with the chickens 4 days later to scratch for larvae in the cow-pats, spreading the cow pats around the freshly mown pasture so that they fertilise it evenly?

You’re also finding this? “His egg-laying chickens are housed in mobile trailer-style coops (called “eggmobiles”) that follow four days after the cattle, when flies in the manure are pupating; the chickens get 15% of their feed from this. While scratching for pupae, the chickens also distribute the cow manure across the field. Salatin feels that “if you smell manure [on a livestock farm], you are smelling mismanagement.” So everything possible is done to allow grass to absorb all the fertilizer left behind by the animals. If animals must be kept inside (to brood young chicks for example), Salatin recommends providing deep bedding of wood chips or sawdust to chemically lock in all the nutrients and smell until they can be spread on the field where the compost can be used by the grass.”

With your testimony from personal experience I have a scientific survey sample of exactly 1. But first I need to know exactly what you’ve been doing before I even count your personal testimony, otherwise it’s just like those gym junkies selling the latest gutbuster on an infomercial!

Just look at the photo down the page where the previous day’s grazing is compared to the height of that day’s fresh salad-bar grazing. Are you practising Polyface?

http://polyfacehenhouse.com/2014/10/cow-days-and-winter-grazing-schedule/

16 12 2016
mikestasse

I’m not finished yet, but YES, this is the only sustainable way to farm, and it’s what’s on my grand plan…. I am right now having a break from building a six pack chicken integrated market garden…. one garden bed is growing green manure, one has just this morning been rotary hoed with compost and lime additives to correct the soil, and my chooks are probably right now scratching around in the mulch and pooping everywhere….

Healing the soil, one bite at a time.

These things take time. And money. And chickens…. and I still don’t have enough of those, but we’re working on that too!

16 12 2016
Eclipse Now

There’s a lot I admire about your lifestyle Mike. Have you been to Taranaki farm in Victoria?

17 12 2016
Eclipse Now

So anyway, if you’re trying to use a Polyface style farming system, are you aware of the cow days per acre that Joel Salatin achieves, and why come down on me like a ton of bricks because I quote his results? Are you rotating your cows every single day or not? What cow days per acre are you achieving? I love it BTW. Joel claims that if all American farmers used his method, they’d sequester enough carbon in the soil to be carbon neutral. But then, Joel is very right wing and I haven’t seen whether that’s a back of the envelope guesstimate or more reliable science.

But why is your method of farming the only sustainable one? What’s wrong with Seawater Greenhouses: Seawater Greenhouses turn desert + seawater into food! I mean, how good is that? And it doesn’t harm the soil because it doesn’t even USE soil! Then there’s a growing interest in eating bugs for protein. Veggie peelings left over from the SG’s could be fed to bugs for protein. Stir fry, and yum! Of course, the SG’s seem to be limited to salads and fruits, not serious crops like rice or wheat.

But that’s where Precision Agriculture comes in, which *is* happening. Have you been following the slow but steady increase in robotics in Precision Agriculture? (PA)? There are robots that weed now, removing the need for as much herbicides. Some are solar powered carts that trundle along slowly, recognise a weed, an arm moves out and injects a tiny amount of herbicide, or some even have tiny focussed microwave doovers. PA really is a growing and diverse movement. You should read more about it at The Breakthrough.

17 12 2016
mikestasse

My neighbour has a weeding robot in his apple orchard….. of course, it puts people out of work.

He also uses Joel’s animal rotation system…… he even uses our farm as part of the scheme. We work together very well…

17 12 2016
Eclipse Now

Cool! And those cow days again? You’re not convinced that Joel Salatin gets 4 times the cattle on his land? (Or more technically, 4 times the cow-days per acre?)

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