Monday, March 24, 2008

Storm van Leeuwen

Comment: anonymous said...
Aside from your usual dose of ad-hominem fallacies, do you have specific information about van Leeuwen's alleged errors?

My Response: I would not classify my argument as ad-hominem. I did not argue that Storm van Leeuwen was wrong because of the facts I laud out, rather I argued that his background did not qualify him to be an authority on nuclear power. The fallacy is the assumption that Storm van Leeuwen is an authority without carefully examining criticisms of SvL's work.

If you are interested in Storm van Leeuwen's errors I can provide you with some discussions. David Bradish discusses some "Storm-Smith" math errors here.

Roberto Dones compared "Storm-Smith" findings on CO2 emissions associated with nuclear power to several studies published in peer reviewed journals. Dones notes, "SvLS guesstimate relatively high to very high energy requirements and hence corresponding CO2 emissions for the electricity of nuclear origin, the highest to be found in the literature circulating in Internet,2 especially when low grade uranium ores are considered. The main explanation for SvLS’ high figures lies in their extreme assumptions (often rough guesses, as the authors admit themselves) and partially flawed methodology."

Dones, whose paper is published under the letterhead of the Paul Scherrer Institute, like other critics argues that "Storm-Smith" cherry pick data: "the authors do not critically address their own evaluation in view of findings from those studies. Instead, they extract worst data from just one presentation (Orita 1995: Preliminary Assessment on Nuclear Fuel cycle and Energy Consumption), which is a highly incomplete survey, was never reviewed, nor it reports the used sources. ISA (2006, #35) discard figures reported in Orita (1995) on mining as “outliers”. . . SvLS qualify the data presented at that meeting as oversimplified and incomplete as if this were representing the whole of studies on the nuclear chain. Incidentally, several studies whose intermediate results were presented at the IAEA had and have been published in reports and journal papers and are acknowledged as reference LCA studies."

Dones points to methodological errors:
"SvLS (2005) often convert costs into energetic terms using generic factors, not reported in the text, lacking critical consideration of cost components, and lacking use of technical match to compare with real energy expenditures."

"SvLS (2005) add thermal to electric energy directly to give “total energy”, which is certainly not recommended practice."

"SvLS do not provide explicitly conversion factor(s) PJe or PJth to CO2 mass."

Dones also notes, "SvLS (2005) comparison of CO2 emission from nuclear with natural gas is not consistent.." and "SvLS (2005) use references that are likely to be outdated."

Dones also states, "SvLS (2005) is not accounting for mine industry practices." Dones, as well as other critics reports, SvLS (2005) pay no consideration of co-production of minerals as common practice for economically viable mining and milling (processing) of the ore especially in case of low grades. If co-production or by-production occurs, the energy expenditures shall be allocated to the different products according to the specific needs, accurately analyzing (to the extent possible) the complete process flow."

Dones then points to "Storm-Smith's" notorious Olympic Dam mine error:

"[A]s reported in (ISA 2006), in the Olympic Dam mine, where uranium is extracted as
a byproduct of copper, “most energy requirements would have been attributable to the recovered copper” under consideration of energy allocation to different products by process flow analysis.  ISA (2006) reports the results of Olympic Dam’s own calculations based on such energy allocation, obtaining 0.012 GJ of energy to uranium “for every tonne of ore that we process in its entirety (from mining through to final product)”. This would correspond to 0.012/0.7/0.85/0.82 = 0.024 GJ/kgU for U-grade of 0.07% (proved ore reserves), or 0.041 GJ/kgU for 0.04% U-grade (total resources).9 Application of the formula in (SvLS 2005, Chapter 2, #5) would give for 0.07%  grade the energy intensity of 4.4 GJ/kgU and 10.6 GJ/kgU, respectively for soft and hard ores, while with 0.04% the energy intensity would be 8.2 GJ/kgU and 19.5 GJ/kgU, respectively for soft and hard ores: i.e., SvLS formula would calculate two to three orders of magnitude higher values than this specific case

Dones argues, "SvLS (2005) systematically overestimates energy expenditures, thus the associated GHG."

Rather than continue a summation of Dones devastating critique of "Storm-Smith", I suggest that you read the whole thing.

Martin Sevior's well known critique of Storm-Smith together with the debated between Sevior and "Storm-Smith" are to be found here with links. Savior's arguments are presented along with an extensive discussion, are presented on The Oil Drum here, and here.

Critics of nuclear power continuously miss represent "Storm-Smith's" authority. For example, David Thorpe, in the Guardian's "Comments are Free" blog, claimed "extensively peer-reviewed empirical analysis of the energy intensity and carbon emissions at each stage of the nuclear cycle has produced much higher figures. In fact, nuclear power produces roughly one quarter to one third as much carbon dioxide as the delivery of the same quantity of electricity from natural gas, ie 88-134g CO2/kWh." In fact Thorpe did not supply a link to any peer reviewed study. Indeed Thorpe provided a link to the Storm-Smith web page. None of the "Storm-Smith" studies were ever published in reputable, peer reviewed journals, so Thore is clearly either ignorant or dishonest.

Other common misrepresentations of Storm van Leeuwen's authority are the titles Professor and Doctor which are used with his name. To point out that SvL does not qualify for either title is surely not an ad-hominem fallacies.  It is simply a counter to common misrepresentation of SvL's credentials.   The fallacy then is the overblowing and misrepresentation of SvL authority, by people who for ideological purposes, use SvL's alleged authority to hid the flawed nature of his work.  


Anonymous said...

I think this is a good example of how LCA and EROEI analysis are methods too arbitrary to be really useful in institutional decision making. The results depend in great part on the political credo of the people making the analysis. I have seen too many different results for different technologies (also renewables).

DV8 2XL said...

This study has been critiqued over and over van Leeuwen has had his ass handed to him in debate on more than one occasion, and still the antinuclear people hold it up as definitive.

Does it even matter any more what the facts are that science tells us, if a lie once spoken can never be refuted and put to rest?

Charles Barton said...

anonymous, The misuse of analysis for ideological purposes, does not mean that we should abandon analysis. The point of identifying errors, is to make sure that they not be repeated.

dv8 2xl, People who continue to argue on the basis of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith's authority have my contempt.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you have so many references about SvL mistakes, you surely would have other references where an energy balance analysis of a nuclear power installation is computed correctly, and where they would also produce a comprehensive whole life-cycle analysis of CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, as Done says, the paper you refer to "is no such a complete comparative study, which would require substantial resources and time". Perhaps your friends at the nuclear industry would be kind enough to provide the resources needed to undertake such a study and show the world how wrong SvL is, not only "pointing out the major flaws" of his work, but also pointing out how to do it correctly.

By pointing out someone's errors you do not prove that holding the contrary view is correct. You should simply consider the judgement suspended.

Charles Barton said...

You, my anonymous friend appear unacquainted with Sir Karl Popper theory of science. Scientific knowledge is established by showing that the null hypothesis is false. "Storm-Smith" in effect offered the null hypothesis, and by refuting it, we are as close as anyone is likely to get to the truth of the matter. Dones recodes a number of peer reviewed papers, and if you are interested, you ought to look them up. You appear to be mistaken about who I am. I have no connection to the Nuclear Industry. In fact, online organs of the Nuclear Industry don't even link to my blog.

I do not suspend judgement about people who continue to believe that mistaken beliefs are true after they have been shown to be false. Such people loose my regard.


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