More pouring…..

15 06 2017

The owner builder gods have been smiling upon me…… since expressing concern about maybe having missed the boat with further concreting and Tasmania’s fickle weather, the frosty and rainy weather went on holidays long enough that I decided to persevere, and it’s all paid off….


shower grates

Mind you, it wasn’t without the odd thing going wrong. As Glenda and I reinvented the bathroom layouts, I had to wait for several days for the new grates we are going to use in the shower area before I was able to finish the second spider (see above link). I ended up buying two of these online for $200, while Bunnings were selling them for $300 each…… always shop around!

While waiting, I made three of the four pipes that run into the riser. The riser was in its position, in the middle of the bathroom mockup in the shed, ready to go; once the fourth pipe was carefully glued together, I assembled the spider, only to discover later that the riser had been sitting for days on the floor upside down……… Sacré bleu! I thought I’d worked a way to get away with it, even dragging it up to the house site for installation, until I realised that the riser is moulded in such a way that all those pipes fall to the fitting (it’s only a two degree fall, but it’s important!) and that now all those pipes were going uphill…… and as we all know, water does not run uphill!

I really hate stuffing things up, but I had to go and buy another fitting (50km return trip and $35 later..), destroy the original one, and refit the entire thing properly. I’m getting really good at problem solving.


waterproof membrane in place

I re-hired Caleb to do my heavy lifting and unload another couple of tons of crusher dust off the ute to cover up all those bare dirt patches between the trenches while I went to work putting them together.

There’s a lot to think about. I almost forgot to glue the outlet pipe from the second bathroom, and had to dig it up, by hand. No major drama this time, but there you go. These outlets also have to be lagged with 40mm of foam where they penetrate the footing in case the highly reactive soil I seem to continually build on make the concrete move and break the pipes. It pays to know how


lagged outlet pipe

to read an engineer’s drawings!

Once all the crusher dust was in place, we covered it with the thick plastic moisture proof membrane my supplier sold me, and before you know it, I was ordering another ten cubic metres of concrete.

On the day, I was training Caleb on how I wanted him to rake the concrete towards himself while he stood on the first footing and I inserted the concrete vibrator into the pile of the wet stuff that would land in the middle of the trench. To my amazement, and Caleb’s visible delight, as soon as the vibrator started doing its thing, the concrete came to the end of the trench all by itself, like water in a flash flood……  I tell you, that device is worth its weight in gold! It easily does the work of at least one other man, and maybe more. Mind you, I also had to deal with the end of the machine vibrating itself off, and having to work out the thread was mysteriously left hand – very odd, as left hand threads are usually used to stop things vibrating off! No pressure….  I only had a concrete truck waiting for me to get going again…….

We had two truck loads of concrete in place within just forty-five minutes……. and I had expected it to take twice this long with only two of us on the job!

Now all I have to do is pour a perfectly level and perfectly flat slab on top of the whole thing (after I return from another trip to Queensland to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary!), and we can start BUILDING! I really can’t wait to be past this stage; I didn’t want to do this in the first place, but I am saving so much money, it will all be worth it. And to be honest, it’s all turned out even better than I expected, and I am justifiably proud of my handy work……  watch this space.


More signs the deflationary spiral is upon us

11 11 2015

I’m feeling poorly this morning, the victim of some bug apparently doing the rounds in my neck of the woods. Ute I is having minor repairs done to pass the safety certificate it needs to have its new shiny Tassie plates screwed to its bumper bars, so I’m taking the time to do a bit more blogging.

This scary item from Zerohedge turned up in my inbox the other day, and it really rattled my cage…….  All the ducks are lining up on the wall… I better start spending the proceeds from selling Mon Abri quick smart.

It’s no secret that Beijing has an excess capacity problem.

Indeed, the idea that a yearslong industrial buildup intended to support

i) the expansion of the smokestack economy,

ii) a real estate boom, and

iii) robust worldwide demand ultimately served to create a supply glut in China is one of the key narratives when it comes to analyzing the global macro picture.

That, combined with ZIRP’s uncanny ability to keep uneconomic producers in business, has served to drive down commodity prices the world over, imperiling many an emerging market and driving a bevy of drillers, diggers, and pumpers to the brink of insolvency.

As we noted late last month, if you want to get a read on just how acute the situation truly is, look no further than China’s “ghost cities”…

Here’s the simple, straightforward assessment from the deputy head of the China Iron & Steel Association:

“Production cuts are slower than the contraction in demand, therefore oversupply is worsening. Although China has cut interest rates many times recently, steel mills said their funding costs have actually gone up.”

To which we said, “meet the deflationary commodity cycle in all its glory”:

China’s mills — which produce about half of worldwide output — are battling against oversupply and sinking prices as local consumption shrinks for the first time in a generation amid a property-led slowdown. The fallout from the steelmakers’ struggles is hurting iron ore prices and boosting trade tensions as mills seek to sell their surplus overseas.Shanghai Baosteel Group Corp. forecast last week that China’s steel production may eventually shrink 20 percent, matching the experience seen in the U.S. and elsewhere.

“China’s steel demand evaporated at unprecedented speed as the nation’s economic growth slowed,” Zhu said. “As demand quickly contracted, steel mills are lowering prices in competition to get contracts.”

Right. Well actually there’s that, and the fact that they can’t get loans despite multiple RRR cuts and attempts on Beijing’s part to boost China’s credit impulse. In fact, over half the debtors in China’s commodity space are generating so little cash, they can’t even cover their interest payments.

So, considering all of the above, the obvious implication is that China will simply export its deflation…

Given that, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that on Friday, the world’s biggest steelmaker suspended its dividend and cut its outlook.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

The world’s biggest steelmaker on Friday cut its full-year profit target and suspended its dividend, putting the blame on the flood of cheap steel from China’s loss-making mills. The market is being overwhelmed with material coming from the nation’s state-owned and state-supported producers, a collection of industry associations said Thursday.

“It is obvious that we are operating in a very challenging market,” Chief Financial Officer Aditya Mittal said on a call with reporters. “This is essentially the result of very low export prices out of China that are impacting prices worldwide.”

The steel industry has been roiled by the slowest economic growth in two decades in China, the biggest consumer.

The flood of cheap exports from the nation has drawn complaints from Europe and the U.S. that the shipments are unfair. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates Chinese steel shipments overseas will exceed 100 million metric tons this year, more than the combined output of Europe’s top four producing countries.

While demand for steel in the company’s largest markets of the U.S. and Europe is recovering, producers’ profits are being hit by slumping prices because China has been pushing excess supply onto the world market as its economy slows.

So again, we’re seeing disinflation (the exact opposite of what DM central bankers intended when they decided to expand their balance sheets into the trillions) as global growth and trade enters a new era, characterized by a systemic slump in demand. Here’s the damage in terms of the Arcelor’s equity:

And here’s more from The New York Times on the impact of Chinese “dumping:

“The Chinese are dumping in our core markets,” Mr. Mittal said. “The question is how long the Chinese will continue to export below their cost.”

The company’s loss for the period compared with a $22 million profit for last year’s third quarter.

ArcelorMittal, which is based in Luxembourg, also sharply cut its projection for 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — the main measure of a steel company’s finances. The new estimate is $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, down from the previous projection of $6 billion to $7 billion.

On a call with reporters, Aditya Mittal, Mr. Mittal’s son and the company’s chief financial officer, said that a flood of low-price Chinese exports was the biggest challenge for ArcelorMittal in the European and North American markets.

The company estimates that Chinese steel exports this year will reach 110 million metric tons, compared with 94 million tons last year and 63 million tons in 2013. ArcelorMittal produced 93 million metric tons of steel in 2014.

Of course when the standing government policy is to roll over bad debt and avoid SOE defaults at all costs, uneconomic producers can and will continue to produce. This means the deflationary impulse ArcelorMittal cites isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon, and on that note we close with what we said just a week ago:

The cherry on top is that China itself is now trapped: it simply can’t afford to let anyone default, as one bankruptcy would cascade across the entire bond market and wipe out countless corporations leaving millions of angry Chinese workers unemployed, and is therefore forced to keep bailing out insolvent companies over and over. By doing so, it is adding even more deflationary capacity and even more production into the market, which leads to even lower prices, and even greater bailouts! In short: this is a deflationary toxic spiral.

Wind turbines hit limits to growth before 50% wind power penetration

2 03 2015

Here is another blogpost clearly explaining the limits of renewable energy using mathematics… you know, that discipline you cannot argue with?  Originally published at Energy Skeptic dot com where loads of other interesting stuff on energy matters are accessible.  I highly recommend that site to all my DTM followers…..


Material requirements of 50% wind power in the USA hit limits to growth

Wind turbines can’t be made forever because natural gas, coal, oil, uranium (thorium), neodymium, and other energy resources and minerals needed for wind turbines are finite, and the energy to recycle is limited.

Oil, the master resource, coal, and natural gas are required to make the millions of tons of steel, copper, fiberglass, plastic, epoxy, and concrete as well as deliver and maintain hundreds of thousands of wind turbines providing 50% or more of electricity as fossil fuels decline.

2,029,104,500 MWh = Wind power to equal 50% of annual electricity generation in 2013 (4,058,209,000 MWh / 2)
5,606.4 MWh power per year per 2 MW turbine (2 MW * .32 national average capacity * 24 hours * 365 days) summer
361,926 Number of 2 MW turbines required (2,029,104,500 MWh / 5,606.4 MWh) You’d need 531,318 wind turbines to allow for the lowest capacity of .218 in august 2013 (EIA).
Area required 104,586 square miles — the entire state of Colorado (361,926 2 MW turbines * 2 * 92.47 acres per MW) (AWEO)
Materials per 2 MW turbine in short tons: 265.5 steel, 1025.5 concrete, 39 iron, 3 copper, 24.3 fiberglass, 10 epoxy, 2.4 plastic (average of Elsam, Guezuraga), and rare earth metals neodymium 800 pounds, dysprosium 130 pounds (ED).
Total amount of materials needed for 361,926 wind turbines in short tons: 96,091,353 steel, 371,155,113 concrete containing 74,213,022 cement (20% of concrete), 144,770 tons neodymium, 23,525 dysprosium, 14,115,114 iron, 1,085,778 copper, 8,794,802 fiberglass, 3,619,260 epoxy, 868,622 plastic
Annual steel production world-wide 1,833,395 tons in 2014 (worldsteel) = 52 years of world steel production (96,092,353 / 1,833,395)
Annual cement production USA 142,464,000 tons (USGS) = 52% of annual cement production (roads, buildings, sewers, and other infrastructure will suffer)
Neodymium world production is 7,840 tons/year. Windmill turbines would require 18.5 years of production. Dysprosium production is 112 tons/year requiring 210 years of dysprosium production (ED).
Fossil energy required to build windmills: The vehicles that mine iron ore run on diesel. Vehicles and equipment that process iron ore are mostly made of steel. Iron and steel are made by blast furnace or direct reduction using coal or natural gas. Imported steel arrives on ships burning diesel. Cement (20% of concrete) is made in a kiln using coal or natural gas. Fiberglass, epoxy, and plastic are made out of petroleum.

If the plan is to build 150% wind power to increase the capacity credit for reliable power, or immigration and birth rates increase the US population to 1 billion as expected in census projections by 2100, triple all of the above figures. Since the rest of the world also wants wind power and have increasing populations, perhaps multiplying by 10 would be more realistic, or by 12, since many material requirements were left out (i.e. transmission / distribution lines and towers, substations, roads, etc).

ED. 2015. Neodymium. Dysprosium.

EIA. 2015. Table 6.7.B. Capacity Factors for Utility Scale Generators Not Primarily Using Fossil Fuels, January 2008-November 2014. U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Prieto, P. A. 21 Oct 2008. Solar + Wind in Spain/ World. Closing the growing gap? ASPO International conference.

USGS. 2011. Cement production. United States Geological Society. 127,200,000 long tons converted to 142,464,000 short tons (2,000 lbs)

Worldsteel. 2014. Monthly Crude Steel Production 2014. Pig iron 2013 + DR 2013. (converted from long to short tons).

Prove This Wrong

27 11 2014

My Photo

John Weber

Another guest post by John Weber..  I have already pronounced more than once that building ‘renewables’ involves intensive use of fossil fuels, the emissions from which the machines made to generate this renewable energy can never be removed by the machines.  So while they may reduce the emissions that might have been caused by using fossil energy to generate this electricity, the machines do not remove them.  In fact, it doesn’t matter how many wind turbines are erected, the fossil energy use just keeps growing…..  and if we decided tomorrow to shut down all fossil fuel use (a darn good idea…), then not one more wind turbine would be erected, and not one more solar panel would be built.  It’s really that simple……..


It would be elegant if wind and solar energy capturing devices could actually maintain a modicum of the wonderfully rich lifestyles many of us live.  I believe this is a false dream and that BAU (business as usual) is not sustainable or “green” nor really desirable for the future of the earth or even our species.

Prove This Wrong

Many people believe wind and solar energy capturing devices can replace a substantial percentage if not all of our fossil fuel usage. Below you will find pictures and charts detailing the necessity of the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure in this “renewable” dream.

Wind, Water, and Solar Power for the World

Nix nuclear. Chuck coal. Rebuff biofuel. All we need is the wind, the water, and the sun

By Mark Delucchi/ SEPTEMBER 2011

“We don’t need nuclear power, coal, or biofuels. We can get 100 percent of our energy from wind, water, and solar (WWS) power. And we can do it today— efficiently, reliably, safely, sustainably, and economically.  We can get to this WWS world by simply building a lot of new systems for the production, transmission, and use of energy. One scenario that Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson and I developed, projecting to 2030, includes: 3.8 million wind turbines, 5 megawatts each, supplying 50 percent of the projected total global power demand.”

Mark Z. Jacobson Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University was coauthor of another article. It can be found in Scientific America – “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030”.

They proposed that starting in 2012, 50% of the worlds needs could be supplied by 3,800,000 five megawatt wind capturing devices to be installed by 2030. Here are the numbers:

3,800,000 5 megawatts each supply 50% of the world’s energy needs in 18 years


211,111.11 Machines a year

578.39 Machines a day for 18 years

24.10 Machines each hour each day for 18 years EACH ONE INSTALLED EACH DAY

I am choosing wind energy capturing devices because they have a higher Energy Return on Energy Invested than solar energy capturing devices. I continually use the phrase “capturing devices” for what are usually called solar panels and wind machines because these are devices that capture the sun or wind energy. It is misleading to not realize they require energy and natural resources.

Let me cut right to the results of this study. The base of this 2.5 megawatt turbine in the pictures that follow (half the megawatts in the Jacobson/Delucchi study) used 45 tons of rebar and 630 cubic yards of cement. This computes in barrels of oil and in tons of CO2 for each base:

For the Concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete.

409.5 Tons of CO2 released for 630 yards of concrete.

For the Rebar

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

89 tons of C02 released for 45 tons of steel for the base.

All Together

The concrete and steel together for one base use

613 barrels of oil for each base alone.

Each base release 498 tons of CO2

(A barrel of oil is 42 gallons – or 160L)

Before looking at two of the energy requirements to install these 3,800,000 machines here are some interesting pictures of installing a wind energy capturing device from .

The machine we are looking at is only 2.5 MW turbine not the larger 5 MW proposed by Jacobson and Delucchi.

The turbines, each standing 485 feet tall and weighing 2,000 tons

The project utilizes 2.5 MW turbines on 100 metre towers.


The pictures clearly illustrate that the fossil fuel supply system and a vast industrial infrastructure support the manufacture and installation of these wind energy capturing devices. The tons of rebar and the yards of concrete offer a chance to look at the energy requirements for both. It is also important to point out that all the equipment used to install the turbines also have the fossil fuel supply system and the massive industrial infrastructure supporting them.

In researching this, the information for concrete was more definite than the range of energy required to make rebar.



“Common rebar is made of unfinished tempered steel, making it susceptible to rusting. Normally the concrete cover is able to provide a pH value higher than 12 avoiding the corrosion reaction. Too little concrete cover can compromise this guard through carbonation from the surface, and salt penetration. Too much concrete cover can cause bigger crack widths which also compromises the local guard. As rust takes up greater volume than the steel from which it was formed, it causes severe internal pressure on the surrounding concrete, leading to cracking, spalling, and ultimately, structural failure. This phenomenon is known as oxide jacking. This is a particular problem where the concrete is exposed to salt water, as in bridges where salt is applied to roadways in winter, or in marine applications. Uncoated, corrosion-resistant low carbon/chromium (microcomposite), epoxy-coated, galvanized or stainless steel rebars may be employed in these situations at greater initial expense, but significantly lower expense over the service life of the project. Extra care is taken during the transport, fabrication, handling, installation, and concrete placement process when working with epoxy-coated rebar, because damage will reduce the long-term corrosion resistance of these bars.”

“Under the most ideal circumstances, the energy required to produce solid iron from iron oxide can never be less than 7 million Btu per ton (MMBtu/ton). Since the energy required to melt iron under the most ideal circumstances is about 1 MMBtu/ton, the inherent thermodynamic advantage of making liquid steel from scrap rather than from iron ore is about 6 MMBtu/ton. When process heat losses are included, the advantage falls in the range of 9 to 14 MMBtu/ton. . . . current total energy requirements for the pro- Petroleum provides only a small amount of enduction of finished steel products in different pIants and countries from iron ore range from 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton.”

The range above supports the 25 to 35 MMBtu/net ton. With various iron making processes, iron has a range of Btus per ton.   Converted to barrels of oil the range is 2.17 to 4.83 barrels of oil per ton of rebar.

Taking a conservative 3 barrels of oil per ton the rebar would require 135 barrels of oil for the base of the 2.5 MW Turbine.

On average, 1.8 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced.

This means 1.98 tons of C02 emitted for every ton of steel produced.



Multiply 1.10231 to convert tonnes to tons

One yard of concrete equals two tons

Two tons equals 1.81437 tonnes

4,426,832.62 Btus in a yard of concrete

5,800,000 Btus per barrel of oil

0.76 barrels of oil in a yard of concrete

32.06 gallons of oil in a yard of concrete

0.65 tons of CO2 per yard of concrete

478.8 Barrels of oil in 630 yards of concrete

20,195.52 Gallons of oil in 630 yards of concrete

409.5 Tons of CO2 per 630 yards of concrete


On-site energy values are based on actual process measurements taken within a facility. These measurements are valuable because the on-site values are the benchmarks that industry uses to compare performance between processes, facilities, and companies. On-site measurements, however, do not account for the complete energy and environmental impact of manufacturing a product. A full accounting of the impact of manufacturing must include the energy used to produce the electricity, the fuels, and the raw materials used on-site. These “secondary” or “tacit” additions are very important from a regional, national, and global energy and environment perspective.

Normal weight concrete weighs about 4000 lb. per cubic yard. Lightweight concrete weighs about 3000 lb. per cubic yard. If a truck is carrying 10 cubic yards, then the weight of the concrete is approximately 40,000 lb.

The tonne (British and SI; SI symbol: t) or metric ton (American) is a non-SI metric unit of mass equal to 1000 kilograms;[ it is thus equivalent to one megagram (Mg). 1000 kilograms is equivalent to approximately 2 204.6 pounds,

It is important to realize we have only looked at the energy for the concrete and rebar for the base of a 2.5 MMwatt turbine. Behind this device and most sun and wind capturing devices are a global system of providing energy and materials. And this support is further supported.   Here is one mining truck among a worldwide fleet of trucks that also must be manufactured. It is like a thread on a knitted sweater that when you pull it thinking you will get a small piece, you end up with a whole ball of yarn.


The False Solutions of Green Energy

13 10 2014

Max Wilbert & Cameron Foley expose the fallacies of “green” technology by tracing the process of industrial production for these technologies and exposing the destruction they cause.

I suggest you download the pdf file that has the slides in it, and watch that while you listen to the youtube video…….

Powerpoint slides available at

With fossil fuels…… you can do ANYTHING!

14 02 2014

The much heralded Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power station in California is being commissioned as I type.  Mighty impressive too….  Sprawling across almost thirteen square kilometres of land near the California-Nevada border, it looks pretty damn beautiful…….


Take 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors, each 2 metres high and 3 metres wide, control them with computers to focus the Sun’s light to the top of 150 metre high towers where water is heated to steam, to power turbines, and….. Ta dah…: you have the world’s biggest solar power plant, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.

Long-mired by regulatory issues and legal tangles, the enormous solar plant–jointly-owned by NRG EnergyBrightSource Energy and Google opened for business today…….

From the official news release:

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now operational and delivering solar electricity to California customers. At full capacity, the facility’s trio of 450-foot high towers produces a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.

BUT……  check out how much steel and concrete has gone into this beast…  how much embodied energy are we looking at..?  anyone trying to tell you this can’t be done without fossil fuels had better watch this…:

Now I’m not saying this shouldn’t be done, and I agree it is an engineering marvel, but I still ask, how will this sort of construction continue, let alone maintenance and eventual replacement post Peak Oil, Peak Coal, Peak Uranium, and Peak Debt…..  Just asking.

More photos here…


Does nuclear energy produce no CO2 ?

8 10 2013

Another guest post by Dave Kimble at

Proponents of nuclear power always say that one of the big benefits of nuclear power
is that it produces no Carbon dioxide (CO2).

This is completely untrue, as a moment’s consideration will demonstrate that fossil fuels, especially oil in the form of gasoline and diesel, are essential to every stage of the nuclear cycle, and CO2 is given off whenever these are used.

Ranger Pit 1

This is Ranger Uranium Mine’s Pit Number 1.
All of the material removed from this hole, over-burden and ore, was moved by truck.


heavy pit truck These trucks run on diesel. It would be interesting to know how much diesel is used for how much ore in a year at Ranger.If we are to increase the number of nuclear power stations, we also need to increase the number of these trucks (which obviously take a lot of fossil fuel energy to build), and the volume of diesel fuel. Currently Australia imports 26% of its diesel consumption, and this figure is rising as our oil production falls.

The tyres on these trucks are also particularly energy-intensive to make, and there is a world-wide short of these tyres.


Olympic Dam uranium mill The ore is taken to a mill, usually nearby to keep trucking costs down. The mill crushes the rock to powder. The powder is then treated with sulphuric acid to dissolve the uranium, leaving the rock (depleted ore) behind.


tailings neutralisation The depleted ore is washed and neutralised using lime, and the slurry is pumped to the tailings ponds.


tailings ponds Maintaining the tailings ponds, with more diesel powered machinery.


Saskatchewan uranium mill Hard rock ores, such as quartz conglomerates and granites, are approximately 3 to 4 times more energy-intensive than soft rock ores (limestones and shales) to crush.


Ammonium diuranate - yellowcake The dissolved uranium solution, including other metals, is then treated with amines dissolved in kerosene to selectively separate the uranium, which is then precipitated out of solution using ammonia, forming Ammonium di-uranate, or “yellowcake”.All of these chemicals, sulphuric acid, lime, amines, kerosene and ammonia are energy-intensive to make, and the energy required is in the form of fossil fuels, that produce CO2 when used.


The calciner roasts the yellowcake to produce Uranium oxide In the final stage, the yellowcake is roasted at 800ºC in an oil-fired furnace called a calciner. The Ammonium di-uranate is converted to 98% pure Uranium oxide (U3O8), which is a dark green powder that is packed into 44-gallon drums for shipment.


forklift stacking yellowcake drums Drums of Uranium oxide are stacked by forklifts, while they await shipment, sometimes to the other side of the world.


Hydrofluoric Acid transported by rail The next stage involves dissolving the Uranium oxide in Hydrofluoric Acid and excess Fluorine gas to form Uranium hexafluoride gas :

U3O8 + 16HF + F2 => 3UF6 + 8H2O

Hydrofluoric Acid is one of the most corrosive and poisonous compounds known to man.


Uranium hexafluoride gas in cyclinders The Uranium hexafluoride gas is then transported in cylinders to be enriched.


centrifuge cascade
Naturally occurring Uranium consists of three isotopes:
U-238 = 99.2745% ; U-235 = 0.7200% ; U-234 = 0.0055%
Despite its tiny proportion of the total by weight, U-234 produces ~49% of the radioactive emissions, due to its very short half-life.

The standard enrichment process for pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel converts this mix to:
fuel stream : U-238 = 96.4% ; U-235 = 3.6%
tailings stream : U-238 = 99.7% ; U-235 = 0.3%

The centrifuges are powered by electricity, so this stage can be powered by nuclear power. However building the centrifuge cascades requires lots of fossil fuels.


low enriched uranium Low-enriched (3.6%) Uranium hexafluoride gas is then transported to the fuel fabrication plant.


30 gram fuel pellet The UF6 gas is converted to Uranium dioxide (UO2) powder, pressed into pellets, and baked in an oil-fired furnace to form a ceramic material. These are then loaded into a tube made of a zirconium alloy. Several of these tubes form one fuel assembly.


fuel rod fabrication Zirconium is a metallic element derived from zircon, an ore of Zirconium silicate (ZrSiO4), which is a by-product of rutile sand mining (another energy-intensive business). Naturally occuring Zirconium is always found with Hafnium, which has to be removed (with difficulty) for nuclear uses.For every tonne of Uranium in the fuel, up to 2 tonnes of Zirconium alloy are needed.


fuel rod assemblies Fresh fuel is only mildly radioactive and can be handled without shielding. The fuel assemblies are then transported to the reactor by truck or train.A 1000 MW(e) nuclear reactor contains about 100 – 130 tonnes of Uranium dioxide, and usually one third of that is replaced in rotation each year.


The Paluel complex at Fecamp, France If you ignore the vehicles that the workers use to get to work, the reactor does not produce any CO2. But it does use electricity, as well as produce it, and to the extent that electricity is largely produced by fossil fuels, this needs to be counted in the energy balance.


Blast furnace chimney It takes a lot of steel and concrete to built a nuclear power station, and steel is made by smelting iron ore with coking coal.


Cement factory And a nuclear power station uses lots of concrete, which is made from cement. Cement is made by crushing limestone and roasting it, using fossil fuels, to drive off Carbon dioxide. So cement is particularly CO2-intensive. Concrete manufacturing is one of the highest CO2 emitters globally.


Reactor waste storage flask Spent fuel rods ‘normally’ spend six months in cooling ponds located within the reactor building, so that short-lived radio-activity can decay, making the material easier to handle. In the US and many other places, these spent fuel rods stay at the reactor a lot longer than that, while politicians argue over what to do with it next.


Reactor waste removed by truckReactor waste removed by rail Reactor waste moved by road and rail.

The Pond at Sellafield, UK

Spent fuel is kept under water until it is reprocessed. This keeps it cool and acts as a radiation shield. In the ‘once through’ process, the fuel rods are dissolved in acid, and the Plutonium is extracted, and the remainder including the Uranium becomes high-level waste. In the ‘recycling’ process, Uranium is also recovered.


Plutonium and MOX transport Recovered Plutonium and Mixtures of Plutonium and Uranium oxides (MOX) are sent by road back to the fuel fabrication facility to be used in new fuel rods.


Underground waste repository This is not really a waste repository, ( it is the NORAD military bunker at Cheyenne Mountain ) but this is what one might look like if one was ever to be built.


Security Police This is a security policeman, well , it does say POLICE on his bag. I do hope everything is alright.


Ah, that’s more like it.
How many miles per gallon do you get out of one of those ?


security surveillance Security surveillance is needed to prevent terrorists from getting access to radio-active materials.



Tor-M1 anti-missile missile system And increasingly these days, one also has to defend ones nuclear facilities against attack by an increasingly sophisticated enemy. This is the Tor-M1 – a fully integrated combat vehicle with anti-missile/anti-aircraft missiles, that the Iranians are getting from Russia to protect themselves from the peace-makers.

As you can see, every step of the nuclear power cycle involves the expenditure of energy derived from fossil fuels, which nuclear electricity cannot replace. Thus it is untrue to say that nuclear energy is greenhouse friendly.

In the paper “Nuclear Power : the energy balance” by J.W. Storm and P. Smith (2005) download here, the authors calculate that with high quality ores, the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is about one half to one third of an equivalent sized gas-fired power station.


For low quality ores (less than 0.02% of U3O8 per tonne of ore),
the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is EQUAL TO
that produced by the equivalent gas-fired power station.


So the question is :
Given that the greenhouse claims for nuclear power are false,
and if the only way the nuclear industry can operate is with massive amounts of cheap fossil fuels,
especially diesel derived from oil,
and with oil going to be very much scarcer in the future,
is this a good time to be thinking of increasing the nuclear industry ?


Related article : Confronting a false myth of nuclear power by Mary Olson, NIRS