David Fleming argues in his booklet, "The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy: A Life-Cycle in Trouble," that the era of nuclear energy is over.
Fleming argues that "The world’s endowment of uranium ore is now so depleted that the
nuclear industry will never, from its own resources, be able to generate the energy it needs to clear up its own backlog of waste." I have previously demonstrated in Nuclear Green that it is not the case that we have exhausted the world's uranium resources, and indeed given current technology, it is possible to extract abundant amounts of uranium for a period of time that would extend many tens of thousands of years into the future. Thorium is three to four times abundant as uranium, and through nuclear alchemy, thorium can be converted into U233. I have discussed David Fleming's numerous errors in his discussion of thorium. Fleming, however, committed numerous other errors in his pamphlet.
A review of Fleming's booklet reveals that he relies on one source for his information, that is the work of Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and the late Dr. Philip Smith. Fleming acknowledges that before he wrote his booklet, he had a consultation with Storm van Leeuwen that lasted many months, and he mentions Storm van Leeuwen 86 times in his 50 page booklet.
Fleming argues that: “Back-end” energy – the energy needed to clear up all the wastes produced at each stage of the front-end processes, including the disposal of old reactors – is of two kinds: (1) the energy needed to dispose of the new waste – that is, the waste produced in the future, and (2) the energy needed to dispose of the whole backlog which has accumulated since the nuclear industry started-up in the 1950s. Back-end energy is the combined total of both of these.
Thus according to Fleming if the industry really had 60 years’ supply of uranium left for its use, it would only have some fifteen years left before the decisive moment; from that turning-point, its entire net output of energy would have to be used for the essential task of getting rid of its
stockpile of wastes, plus the wastes produced in the future.
How does he know this is true? Fleming gives us a footnote:
"Oxford Research Group (2006a); and Storm van Leeuwen (2006B), and (2006E).
SVL, Parts C2, C4. " In case you are wondering Storm van Leeuwen is listed as the source of the Oxford Research Group's findings by Fleming himself. The title "the Oxford Research Group," itself is something of a misnomer, since none of the listed authors appears to have any connection with Oxford.
Thus Fleming placed a great deal of reliance on Storm van Leeuwen authority. It is clearly questionable if Storm van Leeuwen, can be uncritically relied on in matters involving such broad judgements. He is not a nuclear scientist or a resource economist, indeed it is not clear if Storm Van Leeuwen has ever published a paper in a peer reviewed journal. He is listed as a Senior Scientist, Ceedata Consultancy, Chaam, Netherlands. A search for Storm Van Leeuwen uncovered the following information:
"Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, M.Sc., was born in Indonesia in 1941. He attended gymnasium (high school) in Utrecht. After graduation he served in the armed forces for two years. He then studied chemistry and physics at the University of Utrecht, B.S. He took his degree of M.Sc. at the Technical University Eindhoven in chemical technology (catalysis) in 1971. During the US exhibition 'Atoms at Work' in Utrecht in 1966, he was reactor assistant, with great interest in nuclear sciences."
"After completing his study, he chose a mixed occupation as a part-time teacher of chemistry and physics at a high school (A-level) and as a free-lance investigator. He has more than 30 years of experience in technology assessment. The main fields of his expertise are chemistry and energy systems (solar, fossil and nuclear), with related ecological aspects. The profile of his consulting work is making complex systems transparent and to make relevant data accessible to policy makers. During the years 1981-1982 he was a senior consultant of the Centre for Energy Conservation (CE), Delft, as member of a team working on the development of an innovative social-economic scenario and to assess all aspects of large-scale implementation of nuclear power. His technology-assessment studies of nuclear power started at the CE in 1978 and continued until 1987. During the last few years, these studies have become topical again, since the nuclear industry began claiming a practically zero emission of CO2. "
Another biography adds:
"Storm prepared, in collaboration with other experts, two reports on nuclear energy on in-vitation of the Dutch government, published in 1982 and 1987 respectively. During that pe-riod Storm was a senior consultant at the Centre for Energy Conservation and Sustainable Technology (CE) at Delft, and member of a team working on the development of an innovative social-economic scenario. In collaboration with Prof. Philip Smith he assessed all aspects of large scale implementation of nuclear power, including the forgotten ones. The CE scenario had a significant effect on the Dutch energy policy during the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1990s the discussion on nuclear power faded into the background. In 2000 the Greens of the European Parliament asked Storm, then independent consultant, to update his report from 1987, and to prepare a background document for the UN Climate Conference COP6 (The Hague, 13-24 November 2000).From 2000 on, again with Philip Smith, Storm van Leeuwen continued the broad and in-depth reassessment of nuclear power. The results were published on the web, to facilitate interaction with the target group: scientists, policy makers and interested individuals. From then on the authors keep in close contact with many scientists all over the world.Storm van Leeuwen is one of the international group of expert reviewers of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC."
Storm van Leeuwen is the secretary of the Dutch Association of the Club of Rome.
Storm Van Leeuwen does appear to come from a distinguished Dutch family. His biography suggests that most of the first four years of his life were probably spent in a Japanese internment camp in Indonesia. Such early experiences can have a negative impact on the life of a very young child from whom much is expected. Storm Van Leeuwen's was educated as a chemical engineer who does not appear to have worked as a chemical engineer, and who appears to have struggled to find his place in society. His place appears to be associated with the the Malthusian wing of the European Green movement. The "Storm-Smith" study appears to have been paid for by the anti-nuclear, European Green Lobby.
Thus Fleming rests his argument that back end energy requirements of nuclear power represent such a singular energy demand, that it would consume all of the output of reactors, on the rather slender authority of "Storm-Smith" and in particular on the even more slender authority of Storm Van Leeuwen.
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