Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Will the United Kingdom Need a Green Program of Energy Rationing

A new report from the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil & The Lean Economy Connection offers a sobering picture of the energy future. Unfortunately the report must be classified as "Green Propaganda" and cannot be taken seriously. One of the reports two lead authors is none other than the the late British Green Party Honcho, David Fleming. One of the fundamental assumptions made by Fleming and by the report is that nuclear power cannot fill the gap left by a declining fossil fuel supply and the necessity to end fossil fuel use due to the role of CO2 in promoting Anthropogenic Global Warming. Fleming previously published a pamphlet titled The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy. This pamphlet received a write up in The Oil Drum, and an extensive "Open Science" quality discussion.

Flemming's pamphlet offered the following thesis:
In Brief
1. 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.
2. It is essential that the waste should be made safe and placed in permanent storage. High-level wastes, in their temporary storage facilities, have to be managed and kept cool to prevent fire and leaks which would otherwise contaminate large areas.
3. Shortages of uranium – and the lack of realistic alternatives – leading to interruptions in supply, can be expected to start in the middle years of the decade 2010-2019, and to deepen thereafter.
4. The task of disposing finally of the waste could not, therefore, now be completed using only energy generated by the nuclear industry, even if the whole of the industry’s output were to be devoted to it. In order to deal with its waste, the industry will need to be a major net user of energy, almost all of it from fossil fuels.
5. Every stage in the nuclear process, except fission, produces carbon dioxide. As the richest ores are used up, emissions will rise.
6. Uranium enrichment uses large volumes of uranium hexafluoride, a halogenated compound (HC). Other HCs are also used in the nuclear life-cycle. HCs are greenhouse gases with global warming potentials ranging up to 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide.
7. An independent audit should now review these findings. The quality of available data is poor, and totally inadequate in relation to the importance of the nuclear question. The audit should set out an energy-budget which establishes how much energy will be needed to make all nuclear waste safe, and where it will come from. It should also supply a briefing on the consequences of the worldwide waste backlog being abandoned untreated.
8. There is no single solution to the coming energy gap. What is needed is a speedy programme of Lean Energy, comprising: (1) energy conservation and efficiency; (2) structural change in patterns of energy-use and land-use; and (3) renewable energy; all within (4) a framework for managing the energy descent, such as Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs).
During the Oil Drum "Open Science" discussion that followed a posted account of Fleming's pamphlet, Flemming's thesis received a complete shellacking from numerous supporters of nuclear power. Fleming offered only one response to the mountain of criticism that was heaped on his pamphlet. Fleming's defense primary focused on defending the reputation of a single source, namely the work of Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and the late Dr. Philip Smith, and other sources which Storm van Leeuwen authored or co-authored. 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, making Storm van Leeuwen a virtual coauthor. Significant criticism was leveled at Fleming by Oil Drum commenters for his reliance on Storm van Leeuwen. Critics noted on the estimation by Storm van Leeuwen and Smith of the energy uses and corresponding CO2 emissions from the complete nuclear energy cycle are viewed by other researchers including Roberto Dones of Paul Scherrer Institut, as inaccurate and exaggerated. Roberto Dones stated,
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."
Fleming failure to offer a stronger defense against many of his claims in the pamphlet. His one comment was a defense of Storm van Leeuwen. 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 on Uranium resources in a peer reviewed journal.

There is in fact little reason to think that we are about to run out of Uranium, even if demand is greatly expanded, and there is no change in nuclear fuel cycle technology. A recent report from the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technology and Policy program stated,
Our findings support a conclusion that concerns over resource depletion should not motivate premature large scale deployment of alternatives: there are sufficient reserves of natural uranium, allowing for further R&D and well-paced introduction of fuel cycle alternatives.
Given that Fleming could not offer other more credible evidence from and evidence from more reputable sources to back up his claims, The oil comments must be taken as discrediting flemings arguments on nuclear power.

While it is perhaps not a fair game to speak ill of the dead, Fleming's views on nuclear power were written up, it would appear that the new report from the House Of Commons group, rests in no small measure on his. Fleming's co-author, Shaun Chamberlin claims to have edited Fleming's pamphlet, The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy. It appears unlikely that Chamberlin has any knowledge on nuclear independently of Fleming, and Fleming nor only relied heavily on Green financed anti-nuclear propaganda.

Fleming believed that what he called a fourfold "Lean energy" strategy would save us,
1. a transformation in standards of energy conservation and efficiency;
2. structural change to build local economic and energy systems; and
3. renewable energy; all within
4. a framework, such as emissions permits or tradable energy quotas (TEQs),eading to deep reductions in energy demand
Fleming argued,
to develop nuclear power as far as the uranium supply allows, . . . there is a catch. . . . A dash for nuclear power would reduce the funds and other resources, and the concentrated focus, needed for Lean Energy. Nuclear power depends on the centralised grid system, which depends on a reliable flow of electricity from gas-powered stations if it is to function at all; Lean Energy is organised around local minigrids. Nuclear power inevitably brings a sense of reassurance that, in the end, the technical fix will save us; Lean Energy depends on the recognition that we shall need, not only the whole range of technology from the most advanced to the most labour intensive, but the whole range of opportunities afforded by profound change - in behaviour, in the economy, and in society. Nuclear power, even as only a short-term strategy, is about conserving the bankrupt present; Lean Energy is about inventing and building a future that works.
For these reasons, the best-of-both-worlds strategy of backing both nuclear power and Lean Energy could be expected to lead to worst-of-both-worlds consequences. Lean Energy would be impeded by nuclear power; nuclear power would be hopelessly ineffective without Lean Energy. Result: paralysis. This should not be overstated: a few token nuclear power stations to replace some of those that are about to be retired would make it harder to develop Lean Energy with the single-minded urgency and resources needed, without necessarily ruling out progress towards Lean Energy entirely. But the defining reality of the energy future - equivalent to the reality of oil in the Oil Age - has to be an acknowledgment that no large-scale technical fix is available. Energy cannot any longer be delegated to experts. The future will have to be a collective, society-transforming effort.
Now of course Fleming does not offer any justification, other than his discredited reliance on the work of a single anti-nuclear propagandist, to support his assertion that nuclear power would requite he continued use of natural gas generated energy. Indeed most renewable energy plans heavily rely on natural gas, while nuclear energy, especially with low cost Generation IV reactors offers a route away from continued natural gas use, which Fleming's "Lean Energy" scheme is almost sure to require.

Thus The House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil & The Lean Economy Connection, almost certainly prematurely discounted the possibility that future energy for the British Isles could be based in part or entirely on nuclear generated electricity.

The Report states,
it is becoming clear that nuclear energy faces depletion issues of its own. As the world’s reserves of high-quality uranium ore dwindle, it has become an open question whether new nuclear power stations would use up more useful energy over their full life- cycle (in mining, transporting, milling and processing the fuel, building and decommissioning the power stations and managing the waste) than is generated over the power station’s lifetime.
It may be that nuclear is actually becoming an energy sink, rather than an energy source, and thereby worsening our climate and energy challenge, in addition to providing its own unique difficulties – the risk of nuclear accidents (or deliberate sabotage), the commitment to millennia of high-tech nuclear waste management, and the increased risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
The sole reference used to support this statement is David Fleming's "Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy." Despite Fkleming's failure to answer his Oil Drum critics, Chamberlain still maintains on Fleming's authority that nuclear power . Hence we havea number of Members of the House Of Commons offering a report which rests on a very flawed pamphlet by a nonexpert on nuclear energy who in turn relied on a pseudo expert who used flawed data to support the contention that we were running out of Uranium.

Thus dishonest propaganda is at the heart of a multiparty effort to introduce fuel rationing in the United Kingdom. It is clear that British Greens have penetrated all political parties in the UK, and are pressing forward with their anti nuclear anti-high energy agenda. It is quite possible that the United Kingdom might need some form of energy rationing before 2020 as the report suggests, however, than it is also quite possible that a crash program of new nuclear construction could do do much to lessen energy shortages during the next decade and might make such energy rationing as might be required to constitute a short range rather than a long range proposition. Placing Greens in charge of any energy rationing program would be like placing a fox in charge of a hen house.


Joffan said...

Fleming's booklet has not been taken up widely (that I have seen) but we can always use a collected refutation of this sort. The idea that waste storage is an energy-intensive activity is laughable and should be more widely mocked.

I trust that your para starting "There is in fact little reason to doubt that we are about to run out of Uranium..." is an uncompleted rephrasing that should actually read
"There is in fact little reason to suppose that..."

donb said...

David Fleming wrote:
Lean Energy depends on the recognition that we shall need, not only the whole range of technology from the most advanced to the most labour intensive, but the whole range of opportunities afforded by profound change - in behaviour, in the economy, and in society.

I for one would rather not have the "opportunity" of engaging in one of those "labour intensive" technologies. For doing large amounts of work, one of them is called slavery. Many labor intensive tasks are not dignified work. All I can say is, be careful what you wish for - you just might get it.

I would much rather have things like electric motors (and the energy to run them!) doing my labor intensive tasks.

Soylent said...

Ah, Storm Van Leeuwen; the lying dutchman.

By the looks of Flemming's picture, he will not live long enough to see the miserable failure of his "lean energy" strategy or uranium supply predictions.

Even if by some miracle you get people to agree to try his plan, anyone with a brain would sooner leave than stay and suffer.


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
by Bravenet.com
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High