The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Australian nuclear shill Ben Heard’s attacked on renewable energy: refuted by 6 international academics

Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’ AUTHORS W. Browna,(a) , T. Bischof-Niemz (b)  , K. Blok(c) , C. Breyerc(d) , H. Lund (e) , B.V. Mathiesen (f  )  (Their  university positions are listed at the end of this post) September 2017

Abstract A recent article ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems [by Ben Heard, Barry Brook, Tom Wigley and Corey Bradshaw] claims that many studies of 100% renewable electricity systems do not demonstrate sufficient technical feasibility, according to the authors’ criteria.

Here we analyse the authors’ methodology and find it problematic. The feasibility criteria chosen by the authors are important, but are also easily addressed at low cost, while not affecting the main conclusions of the reviewed studies and certainly not affecting their technical feasibility.

A more thorough review reveals that all of the issues have already been addressed in the engineering and modelling literature. Nuclear power, as advocated by some of the authors, faces other, genuine feasibility problems, such as the finiteness of uranium resources and a reliance on unproven technologies in the medium- to long-term. Energy systems based on renewables, on the other hand, are not only feasible, but already economically viable and getting cheaper every day.


1 Introduction 1

2 Feasibility versus viability

2 3 Feasibility Criteria

2 3.1 Their Feasibility Criterion 1: Demand projection

s 2 3.2 Their Feasibility Criterion 2a: Simulation time resolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3 3.3 Their Feasibility Criterion

2b: Extreme climactic events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4 3.4 Their Feasibility Criterion

3: Transmission and distribution grids . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4 3.5 Their Feasibility Criterion 4: Ancillary services

5 3.6 Our Feasibility Criterion 5: Fuel source that lasts more than a few decades . . . . . . . . . . 6 3.7 Our Feasibility Criterion

6: Should not rely on unproven technologies

4 Other Issues 7 4.1 Viability of nuclear power . . . . . . . . . . . 7 4.2 Places already at or around 100% renewables . 7 4.3 Feasibility of biomass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 4.4 Feasibility of storage technologies . . . . . . . 8 4.5 Feasibility of carbon capture

4.6 South Australian blackout in September 2016 .

8 4.7 Other studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 5


1.Introduction In ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’ [1] the authors assessed 24 published studies (see e.g. [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]) of scenarios for highly renewable electricity systems. They chose feasibility criteria, according to which they concluded that many of the studies do not rate well.

In this response article we argue that the authors’ chosen feasibility criteria may in some cases be important, but that they are all easily addressed both at a technical level and economically at low cost. We therefore conclude that their feasibility criteria are not useful and do not affect the conclusions of the reviewed studies. Furthermore, we introduce additional, more relevant feasibility criteria, according to which renewable energy scenarios score highly, while nuclear power, which some of the authors advocate, fails to demonstrate adequate feasibility.

In Section 2 we address the relevance of feasibility versus viability; in Section 3 we review their feasibility criteria and introduce our own additional criteria; in Section 4 we address other issues raised by [1]; finally in Section 5 conclusions are drawn. Preprint submitted to Elsevier S

. . . ……3.7. Our Feasibility Criterion.…..

6: Should not rely on unproven technologies Here is another feasibility criterion that is not included on the authors’ list: Scenarios should not rely on unproven technologies. We are not suggesting that we should discontinue research into new technologies, rather that when planning for the future, we should be cautious and assume that not every new technology will reach technical and commercial maturity.

The technologies required for renewable scenarios are not just tried-and-tested, but also proven at a large scale. Wind, solar, hydro and biomass all have capacity in the hundreds of GWs worldwide [88]. The necessary expansion of the grid and ancillary services can use existing technology (see Sections 3.4 and 3.5). Heat pumps are used widely [89]. Battery storage, contrary to the authors’ paper, is a proven technology already implemented in billions of devices worldwide. Compressed air energy storage, thermal storage, gas storage, hydrogen electrolysis and fuel cells are all decades-old technologies that are well understood. (See Section 4.4 for more on the feasibility of storage technologies.)

On the nuclear side, for the coming decades when uranium for thermal reactors would run out, we have fast breeder reactors, which can breed more fissile material by bombarding natural uranium or thorium with fast neutrons, or fusion power. Fast breeders are technically immature (with a technology readiness level between 3 and 5 depending on the design [90]), more costly than light-water reactors, unreliable, potentially unsafe and they pose serious proliferation risks [91]. Most designs rely on sodium as a coolant, and since sodium burns in air and water, it makes refueling and repair difficult. This has led to serious accidents in fast breeder reactors, such as the major sodium fire at the Monju plant in 1995. Some experts consider fast breeders to have already failed as a technology option [91, 92]. The burden of proof is on the nuclear industry to demonstrate that fast breeders are a safe and commercially competitive technology.

Fusion power is even further from demonstrating technical feasibility. No fusion plant exists today that can generate more energy than it requires to initiate and sustain fusion. Containment materials that can withstand the neutron bombardment without generating long-lived nuclear waste are still under development. Even advocates of fusion do not expect the first commerical plant to go online before 2050 [93]. Even if it proves to be feasible and cost-effective (which is not clear at this point), ramping up to a worldwide penetration will take decades more. That is too late to tackle global warming [94].

 Viability of nuclear power Following the authors, we have focussed above on the technical feasibility of nuclear. For dicussions of the socio-economic viability of nuclear power, i.e. the cost, safety, waste disposal, terrorism and nuclear-weapons-proliferation issues involved in current designs, see for example [2, 95, 96].

Places already at or around 100% renewables

  • The authors state that the only developed nation with 100% renewable electricity is Iceland. This statement ignores smaller island systems which are already at 100% (on islands the integration of renewables is harder, because they cannot rely on their neighbours for energy trading or frequency stability) and countries which regularly come close.
  • Countries which are close to 100% renewable electricity include Paraguay (99%), Norway (97%), Uruguay (95%), Costa Rica (93%), Brazil (76%) and Canada (62%) [66]. Regions within countries which are at or above 100% include Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany, Schleswig-Hostein in Germany, South Island in New Zealand, Orkney in Scotland and Samsø along with many other parts of Denmark.
  • This list mostly contains examples where there is sufficient synchronous generation to stabilise the grid, either from hydroelectricity, geothermal or biomass, or an alternating current connection to a neighbour. There are also purely inverter-based systems on islands in the South Pacific (Tokelau [97] and an island in American Samoa) which have solar plus battery systems. We could also include here any residential solar plus battery off-grid systems.
  • Another relevant example is the German offshore collector grids in the North Sea, which only have inverter-based generators and consumption. Inverter-interfaced wind turbines are connected with an alternating current grid to an AC-DC converter station, which feeds the power onto land through a High Voltage Direct Current cable. There is no synchronous machine in the offshore grid to stabilise it, but they work just fine (after teething problems arising from unwanted harmonics between the inverters).
  • Off-planet, there is also the International Space Station and other space probes which rely on solar energy
  1. Conclusions
  2. In ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’ [1] the authors have chosen feasibility criteria to assess studies that are important, but not critical for either the feasibility or viability of the studies. The issues can all be addressed at low cost. Worst-case, conservative technology choices (such as dispatchable capacity for the peak load, synchronous compensators for ancillary services or significant grid expansion) are not only technically feasible, but also have costs which are a magnitude smaller than the total system costs. More cost-effective solutions that use variable renewable generators intelligently are also available. The viability of these solutions justifies the focus of many studies on reducing the main costs of bulk energy generation. As a result, 100% renewable systems have been shown in the literature to be not just feasible, but also cost-competitive with fossil-fuelbased systems, even before externalities such as global warming, water usage and environmental pollution are taken into account.
  3. The authors claim that a 100% renewable world will require a ‘re-invention’ of the power system; we have shown here that this claim is exaggerated: only an evolution of the current system is required to guarantee affordability, reliability and sustainability.         Acknowledgements…..

……2] M. Jacobson, M. Delucchi, Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials, Energy Policy 39 (3) (2011) 1154– 1169. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2010.11.040.

……[95] M. Z. Jacobson, Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, Energy Environ. Sci. 2 (2009) 148–173. doi:10. 1039/B809990C. URL
[96] D. Abbott, Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?, Proceedings of the IEEE 99 (10) (2011) 1611–1617. doi:10.1109/JPROC.2011. 2161806. URL….
(a) Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, Ruth-Moufang-Straße 1, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
(b)Energy Centre, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Meiring Naude Road, Pretoria, South Africa
(c) Lappeenranta University of Technology, School of Energy Systems, Skinnarilankatu 34, 53850 Lappeenranta, Finland
(d) Delft University of Technology, Chair of Energy Systems Analysis, Faculty Technology, Policy and Management, Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX Delft, The Netherlands
(e) Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Rendsburggade 14, 9000 Aalborg, Denmark
(f) Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, A.C. Meyers Vænge 15, 2450 Copenhagen SV, Denmark    ….

September 25, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Reference, spinbuster

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