Click to get your own widget

Thursday, May 31, 2007


This from a recent set of comments on the online Scotsman. It was part of a fairly standard discussion following some letters but Colin's responses are worth keeping. Incidentally I have noticed that the online debate there is getting very one sided with very few people now coming on to say that windmills beat nuclear. Perhaps the real world will follow:

12. Colin, Glasgow / 7:18pm 29 May 2007 Neil, I'm an advocate of nuclear power, but it is worth looking at the alternative proposals if only to inform the debate. Here are couple that I hope you will consider with an open mind (by which I mean, don't laugh).

Greenpeace has big promotion on decentralised energy at the moment.

The SNP commissioned a "Scottish Energy Review" last year:

It is pretty clear that it is possible to construct figures that support the hypothesis that it is feasible for Scotland to get its energy without using nuclear power. What is apparent though is that it is not easy; it inevitably involves a considerable punt on new technologies that are not yet tested, and also, preferably, a substantial cut in consumption.

It is equally clear that both these proposals start with the assumption that nuclear must absolutely be avoided at all costs. In fact, in the case of the SNP document it seems necessary to descend into a frothing anti-nuclear polemic to make sure people have no doubts. The real question is why? Why make a difficult problem into an almost impossible problem by writing-off nuclear? The SNP's campaign is based on their assessment that nuclear is "dirty and dangerous". This might be a good enough reason if it was true, but it is pretty clear from the track record of nuclear power that it is both clean and astonishingly safe compared to other energy industries.
Compare the historical accident rate:

In contrast, opposition to nuclear power over the last few decades has predictably led to over-dependency on fossil fuel with its associated air pollution resulting in literally millions of deaths. This is of far greater concern to the WHO than nuclear power is. Well done those anti-nuclear protesters.

Incidentally, the Sustainable Development Commission jumps through similar hoops to construct a nuclear-free energy policy for the UK. Amusingly one of the cornerstones of their argument is that nuclear power would give the wrong message in that it might make people think that energy is plentiful and therefore discourage energy saving.

13. Neil, 9% Growth / 5:29pm 30 May 2007 Because it is, or at least can be if we let it.

I think you have your finger on it. It seems counter intuitive that people should willingly choose poverty over wealth but a significant number of people are scared stiff of a world which, though far smarter, more informed, wealthier & freer than what we have now will also be DIFFERENT.

Therefore they want to put our potential back in its box & hide it in the back of the cupboard. To reinvent a, usually pseudo, past with windmills, mock Tudor frontages, Victorian values, Earth mothers & servants to do the work.

On the other hand I want all the stuff that Dan Dare, Bob Heinlein & Mr Spock promised. I want the human race to go for its unlimited potential. I think it is the only possible way to go, because pastoralism won't actually work when you look at arithmetic, but most of all it is what I want.

14. Colin, Glasgow / 7:28pm 30 May 2007 Exactly. There shouldn't be a shortage of energy. World energy consumption amounts to a relatively few tonnes of mass. We just need to get better at converting it.

The SD commission is saying: "don't use a technical fix otherwise people might think there is a technical fix". I'd rather use the technical fix and get on with it.

Fortunately the encouraging message from the SD commission is that their serious anti-nuclear arguments have been whittled down to 5, and they are fairly weak.
1. Long term waste - geological disposal is completely adequate for this - in fact the margin of safety is massively over-the-top
2. Cost - (really they mean financial risk) It's pretty clear that it is possible to run nuclear cost effectively if people get on with it.
3. Inflexibility - it only provides baseload grid electricity. This is a disadvantage? What a hardship. In fact it is possible to do decentralised nuclear electricity with small reactors, but outside of Siberia, Alaska and Antarctica it doesn’t make sense.
4. Undermining energy efficiency - the argument I mentioned above. We shouldn't be happy unless we're feeling guilty, it seems.
5. International Security - as if the rest of the world is going to stop using nuclear because we do?

I find this all encouraging. The serious anti-nuclear voice doesn't even raise health and safety as an issue anymore. They are finally getting over their cold-war radiophobia.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Last week I took a few days off with my brother & his wife to sightsee Scotland. We spent a day going round Skye & then had dinner in Plockton & then drove back via Fort William. We set off probably about 9.45 in the evening.

The point about this is that on the way home the roads were hoaching with deer. From the first one that ran across the road in front of us coming out of Plockton to Fort George at least, we must have seen about 30 of them all on the roadside or on the road itself (in the dark they would be impossible to see any further away). Indeed Jamie who is a very good but fast driver nearly ran into one as we came round a blind corner. A disconcerting experience in the passenger seat as he swerves past a deer whose head passes within a couple of feet of where I am sitting. Shortly after that we came across 2 separate groups crossing the road the leader of one of whom was extremely pernicity about her prior right of passage.

A distinctly interesting experience. I am sharing this partly because I know that a very high proportion of my readers are from overseas & if you want to see deer in the wild this is the place and the time to do so. We drove up the same road in the morning & while it was possible to see literally for miles saw none yet during the night they are all over the road. I assume that grass verges taste better than cropped grass since they were certainly congregating there.

Drive carefully.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I read this via John Brignell's excellent Numberwatch. This should teach any budding scientist how to carry out genuine statistical research & that it can be done without fancy computers or indeed fancy grants. Though the subject is slightly unusual the fact that it got published in a serious journal shows that it uses serious methodology. The fact that it didn't get published in the newspapers proves it doesn't deal with sex or global warming. I have seen reports by "researchers" using smaller numbers & worse methodology given headline space.


Proposed windmill sites in Scotland.
And it still won't provide anything more than intermittent power so we need virtually 100% back up from new coal & gas generators as well. Since you need about 1300 windmills to produce 1 gigawatt we will need about 5,000 windmills which would be 20 per dot.


Well the Russians are dismissive of a new Kyoto treaty. Not entirely surprising since they only signed up for the first one as part of a deal for EU support in joining the WTO. On such a basis are the great scientific consensii of our times decided.
"In reality, the scientific basis for the protocol is fairly weak," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov told a crowded opening session of the two-day conference Thursday, which drew more than 200 environmental experts and carbon market participants from around the world. "In the opinion of many experts, the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere does not have any effect on the climate."

In fact, a process of "global cooling" is now taking place
, Mironov argued ...

....Most troubling for some of the delegates was the news that the event's chief organizer was not allowed into the country Wednesday.

Jorund Buen, the director of Point Carbon, a leading carbon emissions consultancy, had to fly back to Oslo from St. Petersburg after experiencing "a slight visa problem," said Christian Sommer, the Point Carbon analyst who addressed the conference in his place. "We had our Kiev office on the phone all night trying to find a solution," said another Point Carbon associate. "Mr. Buen was very upset."

The mood of the event never seemed to recover from the government's apparent snubs.

"It was clear at that point what the message was," said Martin Kruska, director of 3C Group, a climate change consultancy based in Frankfurt, Germany. "We might as well go home."

So with this farce now rejected by Russia, America, China, India & with Japan keeping its head down the isolation of the sceptics means they are all isolated from the EU (excluding the Czechs) & ..... well that's about it.

An interesting factor however is the coverage of this. As of today (it may improve) this has been reported by approximately zero British or European papers. Good to know our media can be relied on to maintain their normal level of balance. Had he warned that "global warming is more serious than previously believed" it would have been headline stuff.


Letter in the Scotsman today on nuclear power. Minor editing in the 1st 2 paragraphs which tightens it up but the last 2 were removed, which I think was a pity. As you will see this was running parallel to my last post.

"Jim Mather's recent letter (23rd May) said that nuclear was "neither wanted nor needed in Scotland" which is pretty clear - currently.

[However] in a recent speech his commitment to avoiding blackouts is even more clear, He asks for ideas without preconditions & absolutely opposes the option of not building sufficient capacity to replace our ageing generators [correctly describing that as "ridiculous". It seems to me that] if those who know make it clear that the alternatives ARE nuclear power or blackouts then, however reluctantly, the SNP would have to choose the former.

[They can, perhaps, put off the choice a few years by extending Hunterston's life but, since it takes a minimum of 4 years to build a reactor & Hunterston is due to close in 2011 this is merely stopping the clock at 5 to midnight.

It is the duty of those who know to say boldly that without new nuclear we ARE going to face the loss of 50% of our capacity. That massive blackouts & deaths will be inevitable. The SNP's door may not be open to nuclear but they have specifically committed themselves to not allowing blackouts. It is up to the supporters of nuclear to prove, at least beyond reasonable doubt that we cannot rely on windmills nor other renewables, mostly not even at the prototype stage to replace 50% of our power without a scientific breakthrough in storage capacity, in a few years. The difference between the 3% windmills provide & the 50% we are about to lose is so stark that there is little room now for doubt of a reasonable nature" ]
Yours Faithfully
Neil Craig

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

British Blogs.