CHOICE membership

Nuclear power


Thorium type nuclear power reactors don’t have a chance of blowing up like uranium ones. They could be a much safer nuclear option, but there are lots of factors that have to be taken into account. First, there is no proven industrial-scale design in operation. Second, all the other issues related purely to Australian market, some mentioned other contributors above. SA gov commission’s report on the potential usefulness of nuclear choice has concluded that it’s doubtful, except nuclear storage could be a good proposition.


Regarding the waste problem, for Thorium fluoride reactors, “rather than uranium in the solid-oxide reactor, it is possible to REDUCE the amount of transuranic material generated by a very large factor.”


Thank you rgolubev. With your post I have my major discovery today.

And lots of reading to do…


[quote=“john.fletcher, post:84, topic:14728”]
And lots of reading to do…
[/quote]Don’t spend too much time on it.


In the last half an hour, l’ve already encountered what could be significant chemical engineering issues of containment in thorium salt processing. e.g. High temperature distillation of highly radioactive liquids?

But I’m interested in the chemistry because I’m a chemist…


Again - ‘long term’ when you’re discussing nuclear waste is a lot longer than people are used to considering. Nuclear waste needs to be stored safely for longer than Australia has been inhabited by homo sapiens sapiens - and longer than the species itself has been around (based upon a 200,000 year estimate for our existence)! Bearing in mind that it took us ‘white fellas’ only a few hundred years to make a mess of large parts of the country and then lose a lot of the history of how much of a mess we made, how good do you think we might be at storing and keeping safe a bunch of spent fuel rods? Might it be important in 50,000 years, when inland Australia is no longer a desert and has a dense population? What about when that once in 100,000 year earthquake hits the centre of the continent? (There was an earthquake near Uluru in 2016 that was measured at 6.1 on the Richter scale!)

Humans are not good at long term planning. We’re not good at planning for something five years away, let alone 100 - let alone hundreds of thousands! I have already stated it in this thread, but I may as well repeat it - TCO needs to be considered, and for nuclear fission the TCO is astronomical. Uh… geological? Darn BIG.

And yes, everywhere on this continent is someone’s ‘back yard’ - so good luck building for nuclear power.


Sometimes we need our leaders to make hard decisions.

The cost of electricity is holding Australia back. In many ways. It’s hurting Australians.

There is chaos in the control of this major utility, and the leaders of our Nation would do well to read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth Of Nations” before they continue with reckless and disruptive privatisation of our natural wealth in disregard for their elected role as servants of the citizens.

The disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods is moot in light of a total disregard of the long term security of our electricity supply, and our leaders’ ability to fix it.

I asked the nuclear question of this Choice forum because I thought we might need a magic bullet. But there is no magic bullet.

There is just a lack of government.


[quote=“john.fletcher, post:71, topic:14728”]
I like the uninhabited areas.
[/quote]Except they aren’t uninhabited. They’re somebody’s country. Traditional owners are still pretty miffed about being nuked by the British in the 1950s and '60s. Good luck getting agreement for anything remotely nuclear.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:78, topic:14728”]
Lots of water out there…
[/quote]Not as much as you might think. You’ll probably find the quality a bit of a disappointment as well.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:86, topic:14728”]
… significant chemical engineering issues of containment in thorium salt processing.
[/quote]Thorium has been touted for the better part of a century. There’s no reason to suppose that all the problems will be resolved any time soon, if at all. I’ve read that the lead-time for a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor is estimated at 40 to 70 years.

Meanwhile, the traditional nuclear power industry is going bankrupt. When the market speaks, it’s generally wise to listen. When it speaks so loudly, it’s difficult to ignore.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:88, topic:14728”]
Sometimes we need our leaders to make hard decisions.
[/quote]First, we need leaders.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:88, topic:14728”]
I thought we might need a magic bullet. But there is no magic bullet.
[/quote]Many bullets, many battles, in a campaign that won’t necessarily end.[quote=“john.fletcher, post:88, topic:14728”]
There is just a lack of government.
[/quote]Government, we have. Leadership, we lack.

I look to the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Begun under Labor’s Chifley, most construction was completed under the Liberal’s Menzies. Whatever we might think of the environmental effects, it was a nation-building project that took vision to begin and courage to complete.

Compare that to telecommunications. John Howard betrayed the nation when he privatised infrastructure that had been built by the community over the better part of a century. To maximise short-term profits, the private sector neglected the network. Eventually, government had to step back in. The government that stepped in was Labor. The Liberals didn’t like that so, when the opportunity presented, they set about sabotaging what the others had begun. That’s what passes for government in Australia these days. Leadership, it isn’t.

I’ve come this far, so what’s my solution? No magic bullet, just a nation-building project on a scale that will have current-generation politicians fouling their nappies. Make that inter-nation-building. There are good reasons for involving our near neighbours.

Turn the entire nation into one coordinated mass of generation and storage. Extend that to our near neighbours, which have significant tidal, hydro and geothermal resources.

The Tasman Sea, for example, is about 2,000 kilometres wide. Modern HVDC transmission lines typically lose about 3% per thousand kilometres. Transmitting power harnessed from New Zealand’s geothermal resources to Australia’s east coast would therefore be more cost-effective than storing Australian-produced power (full-cycle storage losses are typically about 20%). That’s far from the full story, but it’s the scale we need to consider.

Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia are also in the picture. While harnessing their resources, we could lift the living standards of their populations. How’s that for a win-win? Of course, the concept can be pushed further. Australia might be the start, but there’s no reason for it to be the end.

Given that I’ve already mentioned telecommunications: while we’re building a power network, why not incorporate telecommunications? Most of the cost is in the digging, so it makes economic sense. Optical fibre cable is dirt cheap. The job done by copper that the PMG used to buy for (the equivalent in today’s dollars of) $10,000/kilometre can these days be done by fibre cable costing less than $300/km. It adds complexity and (a little) cost but, if we’re going to do it, why not go boots & all?

The grand vision is Australia and regional neighbours with the most reliable power and telecommunications at the lowest possible cost.

Hmmm … that sort of got out of hand. Sorry! :sunglasses:

Renewable Energy - Megathread

Wow, that’s an ask.
It would, at best, be a literature search.*** It is a VERY complex subject with high risk potential; as a Professional Engineer, I have difficulty grasping the whole picture - which is changing all the time anyway.
*** The cost of any more would be prohibitive.
Good luck, Choice.
Keep up the good work.


[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:90, topic:14728”]
Wow, that’s an ask.
[/quote]Australia will need to get its mojo back.

[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:90, topic:14728”]
… a VERY complex subject with high risk potential …
[/quote]What that’s worth doing is simple and without risk?

[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:90, topic:14728”]
… I have difficulty grasping the whole picture …
[/quote]The scale is ultimately global. I was trying to keep it relatively small. :grinning:

[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:90, topic:14728”]
… which is changing all the time …
[/quote]If we wait for the target to stop moving, we’ll never begin. There comes a time when we need to screw up our courage and jump in.


“There comes a time when we need to screw up our courage and jump in.”
Not with this subject, I believe.
The risks are too high - long term.

Who can ‘we’ trust to make the ‘right’ decision?
Our politicians don’t listen to the experts. And, with such potential risk, we can’t be confident of future controls.

Do you want to bequeath to your grandchildren the potential consequences of such a hazardous fuel?


[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:92, topic:14728”]
Who can ‘we’ trust to make the ‘right’ decision?
[/quote]Trust or don’t trust, we can’t avoid decisions.

[quote=“rogerseccombe, post:92, topic:14728”]
… such a hazardous fuel?
[/quote]Sunlight and wind both carry some risks. I guess future generations will just have to deal with them. :smiley:


While I believe there is a plausible argument for electricity produced by nuclear power, at least to the extent that it should be considered in a mix of options and costed with the risks and benefits quantified, I do not believe Choice has the capacity to conduct such a complex evaluation.

There is a lack of political will to consider nuclear power so any exercise would be purely theoretical.


The last time I rode a bicycle through France they have 58 nuclear power stations and not only powered most of France’s power, but a large amount of their neighbouring countries - especially Germany. Germany closed all their nuclear plants years ago, but that didn’t stop them buying nuclear power of France and using this and their hydro to sign off on low emissions targets.

Nuclear (and to a lesser extent their wind and hyro) allows France to can sign off very low carbon emissions targets.

I hear France also invests in deactivation of used rods - not sure if totally successful ?

I’m unsure about nuclear due to it’s disastrous history of catastrophes in Japan and Russia but if France can do it safely, I support at least studying it objectively for Australia to get all the cards on the table.


I worked in the Nuclear industry for 13 years at the AAEC then later ANSTO. When I left I felt that the nuclear industry was the best thing ever to happen to man - I has the potential to solve all our problems. BUT…
Some of thew things I saw would make the hair on back of your neck stand up.
Ever had your hands washed in acid to get the contamination off? Ever worried for weeks until you had a whole body scan to see if you breathed something in? Ever had to check a radiation monitor (QFE) every few minutes to see what your exposure is? Or sat in a puddle only to find its radioactive? But its OK because it wasn’t uranium it was only thorium - 4 billion year half life compared to 14 billion year half life. - Pick your poison.

The organisation was Government run and bad things STILL happened. I could not imagine what would happen if private industry ran one especially a fast breeder… Maybe they’re called Chernobyl, Three mail Island, Harrisberg or Fukushima. When something goes wrong it REALLY GOES WRONG. Just for this reason we should leave our uranium in the ground.
If you want nuclear wait until fusion works. It will happen but only when they strip mine the moon get get Helium three. Then we;ll have stuffed something that beyond earth.
Lets stick with renewables and start talking about population reduction, stopping rampant consumerism and the waste of valuable resources.
Thats my Tuppence :wink:


Yeah, nah. I’ve cleaned up cat vomit and had to brush the loo but no, nothing quite at that level of “oh bugger”.

I too wonder whether nuclear has something to offer - some thing kill us quick, others slow, others a mix in the middle. I tend to think renewables and a change in paradigm is the real answer - the miracle we need is the change in paradigm … here’s hoping … but if clean nuke power becomes a thing, that should be good too - should we settle for dirty in the meantime … not sure I want to sit in that puddle …

I’m glad I tell people IT war stories of stuff that went wrong ‘on the job’ - I imagine you can quiet a dinner party rather quickly with your war stories :wink:


Renewables are the future. Babysitting nuclear waste for 250,000 years isn’t economic sense. To the guy who said we’d need ‘Kangaroo Island’ size of solar panels - good point but flawed; and:
It’s doable!
That’s 20 sq metres of roof area per person - we’re actually not looking at anything much in the way of dedicated solar collector ‘farms’ (which are multiple use anyway).
But the flaw with that 4,000km sq of panels is - that’s yesterday’s technology. Solar panels are on an incredible trajectory of improved harvest and reduced costs.
That (4000 sq km) concept also leaves out ‘all the rest’ - wind, tidal, methane digesters, etc… all of which are part of a eggs-in-different-baskets strategy. We don’t have to bet on just one horse.
ANSTO’s participation in Gen IV is just good scientific practice.
If you ever get the chance to see that facility (!!) - does wonderful science, surprisingly little of it directly nuclear. But they need to be in Gen IV for nuclear medicine - not for power generation.

Nuclear’s dead - unless someone can master fusion - which has been 50 years away for almost 50 years now.


[quote=“dogman.obrien, post:95, topic:14728”]
… nuclear power stations and not only powered most of France’s power, …
[/quote]Nuclear currently provides about 70% of France’s power. By 2025, that’s expected to drop to 50%. They’re looking at going 100% renewable by 2050. That last is a finding by their nuclear power agency!


France is closing their plants too - as this profile indicates, the country intends to go from 75% to 50% of its power being nuclear by 2025 - which is an enormous change. As for decommissioning, which makes up part of the total cost of ownership:

In January 2017 a parliamentary committee reported: “The cost of decommissioning is likely to be greater than the provisions,” the technical feasibility is “not fully assured” and the dismantling work will take “presumably more time than expected.”

There’s plenty more there to argue over, but basically it’s going to get extremely expensive.

(Oops - I see @Drop_Bear beat me to most of this.)


That said, you let one side of our political duopoly off way too easily; privatisation took off nationally under the Hawke/Keating governments. Sure Howard (and his state colleagues) grabbed the ball and ran with it, but the wholesale sell-off of our government’s assets - electricity, telephony, public housing, banking, and all the rest - began in the Hawke and Keating years. Some of it made sense - why do you need a government-owned money exchange? A lot of it - such as the sale of a fixed-line telephone monopoly with enormous infrastructure assets, or the sale of electricity cables, or airport monopolies - did not. Privatisation and its economic ideals brought us competing cable TV networks - in a handful of suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. It brought governments cash when they thought they needed it, and got rid of on-going cashflow sources for their successors.

We have a ‘Productivity’ Commission as a gift of the Howard government, but it simply replaced (rationalised?) existing government bodies (Economic Planning Advisory Commission, or EPAC, for one). These bodies - based upon the principles of economic rationalism - have spent thirty years in the corridors of power, and managed to wreak damage that is just impossible to measure. We have been ruled by ‘economics’ as some sort of benign god, and capitalism as its messenger on Earth. The economists are beginning to recognise their mistakes, but the planet still has governments that want to believe in ‘supply side theory’ (trickle-down economics) and reward the wealthy for being wealthy. Unless and until our elected officials take their directions from the people who elect them we will continue to be sold out and sold off.

And still we have to fight to keep Medicare and our ABC, while Murdoch lackeys demand the right to know what their competitors are being paid without disclosing their own salaries!

Australia, as with so many countries, desperately needs leaders who pay real attention to the people who voted for them rather than simply courting the moneyed elite. This is as much the case for Bill Shorten as it is for Malcolm Turnbull.


Can anyone guarantee you won’t be hit by a car when crossing the road? Much more likely than another Chenobyl. When I last looked over a million people are killed world-wide each year as a result of car accidents, and many times that badly injured. Would you therefor suggest that we stop driving cars? You probably wouldn’t have willingly flown Aeroflot 40 years ago. There have been massive advances in nuclear technology since then. American warships and submarines are nuclear powered and have been for years. I am not aware of significant problems.