Saturday, July 25, 2015

Arctic Sea Ice 2015

Subtitle: Not Shrinking Like Before

source: Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) Centre for Ocean and Ice
In the endless debate over Global Warming, or Climate Change, one of the key indicators is the polar ice.  Warmists insist that the polar ice is melting away and will lead to all manner of havoc, such as seashores inundated by rising seas.  The implications are grim, for those who live within a few feet of sea level.  Warmists also insist that the addition of tiny amounts of carbon dioxide, CO2, to the atmosphere will increase the globe's average temperature and accelerate rate at which the polar ice melts.   The figure at the right, from Danish Meteorological Institute, shows millions of square kilometers of Arctic ice over a year's period, with different colors for each of the past few years.  The shaded gray area and darker gray line are the mean (roughly the average) over the 22 year period 1979-2000.    The bold black line shows the data for 2015.  (see link  for updated data) 

A few things can be observed from this figure.  First, the ice extent reaches a maximum in mid-February, and a minimum in early September.  The average maximum extent for the '79-2000 period was approximately 16 million km2.  The recent few years are only 1 million less, at approximately 15 million km2.  That is a decrease of only 6.2 percent over 35 years. 

The minimum extent has a much greater variation, with the '79-2000 average of approximately 7.5 million km2.  Recent years showed a minimum of 4 million km2 in 2012, and 6 million km2 in 2013 and 2014.   The extent in 2012 led to much press over the ice is melting and claims that we are all going to die from sea level rise, by the warmists.   

The extent for 2015, though, is only a bit past the mid-way from maximum to minimum, March to September.  That black line has several things to convey.  First, the other recent years (2011 - 2014) all had approximately the same rate of melting - the slope of the line - as does 2015 from approximately April 15 through June 1.  But, something is different starting in about June 1.  The recent years all began melting more rapidly starting June 1 (the slope of their lines increased downward), but the line for 2015 continued on its early slope.    One can speculate about the causes of the steady melting, and not the accelerated melting of the past few years.  Melting occurs from four sources: heat absorbed by the ice from seawater from below, heat absorbed from warmer air from above, heat absorbed from radiant heat from sunlight, and wind that breaks up the ice then pushes the ice into warmer water where melting takes place.   Warmists will add a fifth source of heat bombarding the Arctic ice: radiant heat from CO2 and water molecules in the atmosphere above the ice.  

So, what is different this year, that is not accelerating the ice melt?  One cannot determine the cause from the simple figure above.   One thing we do know for certain, though, is that the tiny amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere during the past year could not be responsible for a sudden and large change in melt rate.  

This graph bears watching closely, especially as the upcoming IPCC meeting in November will attempt (once again, because they failed each previous time) to obtain an accord to retard fossil fuel use world-wide.   

Warmists, especially those in the alarmist camp, have a very difficult time refuting solid evidence of Arctic ice growing, year over year over year.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hurricane Dolores in Los Angeles

A post from 2009 on SLB (see link)  titled Hurricanes in Los Angeles was critical of public officials in their warnings and evacuation plans ahead of that hurricane.  Of course, hurricanes almost never hit Los Angeles because the ocean surface temperature offshore Southern California is far too cold to sustain a hurricane. 

Today, however, the remnants of Hurricane Dolores 2015 sit offshore Los Angeles, and moisture from the storm's arms is turning into rain, creating flash flooding in the regions surrounding Los Angeles. 

From the National Weather Service, the following warning was issued:


Global warming alarmists will almost certainly use the Dolores 2015 event as proof of their theories that man-made carbon-dioxide is heating the atmosphere, and that creates stronger hurricanes, floods, and storms.    Of course, when such alarmists are asked to explain similar events that occurred pre-1970, they alarmists attribute those to natural causes.   It is notable that 28 floods occurred pre-1970 according to a document published by State of California Department of Water Resources (see link) titled "History of California Flooding (2013), Table C-1"  Of the 28 floods, 3 were from tsunamis, and 3 were from failed dams, leaving 22 from rain events.   Those 22 are not all of the floods pre-1970, only the major floods. 

Sometimes it seems that the warmists simply do not understand that history did not start in 1970.   Hurricanes, floods, droughts, severe winters, heat waves, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis all happened before 1970.  There were changes in local temperature, also.  

Sometimes, but rarely in my experience, a rational warmist will discuss such events.  Their response usually is along the lines of "we do not dispute the existence of severe weather events before 1970, only the severity and frequency.  Since 1970, man-made CO2 in the atmosphere has made the severity greater and increased the frequency of such events."  

Even that statement is full of problems, since some of the floods (8 of the pre-1970) were statewide in scope.  It is difficult to imagine greater severity.   The response to showing the warmists actual data is usually along the lines of "you are only considering a small part of the Earth's surface, California is far less than 1 percent of the globe.  We consider the entire globe, hence Global Warming."    When such statements are made by warmists, be sure to ask them to provide the data for your inspection.  Note whether the data is from authoritative sources, or from agenda-driven ideologues. Also note whether the data is truly global in scope, or skips over parts of the Earth where the data do not fit their agenda.  

Finally, it is always fun to ask warmists how the severe and prolonged cold weather events continue to occur, 45 years since 1970 and with CO2 levels now at 400 ppm.  Note that ice is more persistent on the US Great Lakes, Great Lakes' water temperature is colder than historic averages, ice and snow are more intense in many areas, and many glaciers are growing. 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California

copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell.  All rights reserved.

South Australia Invites Comments on Nuclear Power

Subtitle: Nuclear Power for South Australia Not Justifiable

The state of South Australia, Australia, established recently the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to investigate uranium fuel, its mining, enrichment, power generation, and nuclear waste management and storage. (see link)  Australia is a producer and exporter of uranium.  

The NFCRC "will provide all interested persons with an opportunity to provide information and evidence that will help guide the Royal Commission in its decision making and formulation of the final report.

A Royal Commission, acting on its own, cannot undertake an inquiry into complex social, economic and environmental matters concerning the nuclear fuel cycle without significant external assistance.

As such, we (the Royal Commission) will be seeking cooperation and input from a range of involved stakeholders – including academics, subject matter experts, interest groups, members from industry, non-government organisations, consumer groups and members of the community.

Former Governor of South Australia, Rear Admiral the Honourable Kevin Scarce AC CSC RAN (Rtd), was appointed to the role of Royal Commissioner for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission on 9 February 2015. The Royal Commission is seeking to engage with all sectors of the community in order to bring the widest range of views possible into the research and decision making process.

At the conclusion of its investigation, the Commission will produce a report which will make findings based on evidence obtained by the Commission and will make recommendations.

The report (and its recommendations) are required to be provided to the Governor of South Australia, The Honourable Hieu Van Le AO, no later than 6 May 2016."

The Commission organized the uranium issue into four areas :

1. Uranium mining
2. Uranium enrichment into civilian power fuel
3. Civilian nuclear power plants, and
4. Nuclear waste management and storage.

I have been invited to prepare and submit responses to the questions and issues posed in Paper 3 for Civilian nuclear power plants.  There are 17 questions, shown below.   I plan to formally submit detailed answers to most, if not all, the questions.  

The short, summary answer to the over-arching question of Should South Australia build and operate nuclear power plants, is no.   The basis for that conclusion is the facts and particulars of South Australia's power grid both at present and the foreseeable future.  The grid is small, with 5,000 MWe total installed capacity.  The demand is low, with typical daily maximum 1,500 MWe although demand peaks on hot summer days at approximately 3,000 MWe.  More importantly, minimum demand at night is approximately 700 MWe.   Finally, South Australia has access to abundant coal and natural gas for fuel.  

Given the small grid loads, and small minimum night demand, a nuclear power plant that is operated at baseload to provide maximum efficiency and minimum power price, must be a small size at perhaps 300 MWe.   Small nuclear reactors suffer from reverse economy of scale and are very expensive for the amount of power produced.   Conversely, a larger plant would achieve some economy of scale, but the plant must have its output reduced at night to ensure grid stability.  A larger plant would be more costly to allow load changes, and the sales price for electricity produced must increase accordingly.  (see Truth About Nuclear Power, part 2 for details -- see link)   The usual safety concerns also apply: operating upsets and radiation releases, evacuation plans, spent fuel storage or reprocessing, and sabotage and terrorist attacks, to name a few.

Royal Commission's 17 Questions on Civilian Nuclear Power Plants

3.1  Are there suitable areas in South Australia for the establishment of a nuclear reactor for generating electricity? What is the basis for that assessment?

3.2  Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected to the NEM (National Electricity Market)? If so, what are those technologies, and what are the characteristics that make them technically suitable? What are the characteristics of the NEM that determine the suitability of a reactor for connection? 

3.3  Are there commercial reactor technologies (or emerging technologies which may be commercially available in the next two decades) that can be installed and connected in an off-grid setting? If so, what are those technologies, and what are the characteristics that make them technically suitable? What are the characteristics of any particular off-grid setting that determine the suitability of a reactor for connection?

3.4  What factors affect the assessment of viability for installing any facility to generate electricity in the NEM? How might those factors be quantified and assessed? What are the factors in an off-grid setting exclusively? How might they be quantified and assessed? 

3.5  What are the conditions that would be necessary for new nuclear generation capacity to be viable in the NEM? Would there be a need, for example, for new infrastructure such as transmission lines to be constructed, or changes to how the generator is scheduled or paid? How do those conditions differ between the NEM and an off-grid setting, and why? 

3.6  What are the specific models and case studies that demonstrate the best practice for the establishment and operation of new facilities for the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels? What are the less successful examples? Where have they been implemented in practice? What relevant lessons can be drawn from them if such facilities were established in South Australia? 

3.7  What place is there in the generation market, if any, for electricity generated from nuclear fuels to play in the medium or long term? Why? What is the basis for that prediction including the relevant demand scenarios?

3.8 What issues should be considered in a comparative analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources? What are the most important issues? Why? How should they be analysed?  

3.9 What are the lessons to be learned from accidents, such as that at Fukushima (Japan), in relation to the possible establishment of any proposed nuclear facility to generate electricity in South Australia? Have those demonstrated risks and other known safety risks associated with the operation of nuclear plants been addressed? How and by what means? What are the processes that would need to be undertaken to build confidence in the community generally, or specific communities, in the design, establishment and operation of such facilities?

3.10 If a facility to generate electricity from nuclear fuels was established in South Australia, what regulatory regime to address safety would need to be established? What are the best examples of those regimes? What can be drawn from them?

3.11 How might a comparison of the emission of greenhouse gases from generating electricity in South Australia from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources be quantified, assessed or modelled? What information, including that drawn from relevant operational experience should be used in that comparative assessment? What general considerations are relevant in conducting those assessments or developing these models?

3.12 What are the wastes (other than greenhouse gases) produced in generating electricity from nuclear and other fuels and technologies? What is the evidence of the impacts of those wastes on the community and the environment? Is there any accepted means by which those impacts can be compared? Have such assessments making those comparisons been undertaken, and if so, what are the results? Can those results be adapted so as to be relevant to an analysis of the generation of electricity in South Australia?

3.13 What risks for health and safety would be created by establishing facilities for the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels? What needs to be done to ensure that risks do not exceed safe levels?

3.14 What safeguards issues are created by the establishment of a facility for the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels? Can those implications be addressed adequately? If so, by what means?

3.15 What impact might the establishment of a facility to generate electricity from nuclear fuels have on the electricity market and existing generation sources? What is the evidence from other existing markets internationally in which nuclear energy is generated? Would it complement other sources and in what circumstances? What sources might it be a substitute for, and in what circumstances?

3.16 How might a comparison of the unit costs in generating electricity in South Australia from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources be quantified, assessed or modelled? What information, including that drawn from relevant operational experience, should be used in that comparative assessment? What general considerations should be borne in mind in conducting those assessments or models?

3.17 Would the establishment of such facilities give rise to impacts on other sectors of the economy? How should they be estimated and using what information? Have such impacts been demonstrated in other economies similar to Australia?


Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell.  All rights reserved. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Good Laugh over Thorium

Subtitle: Anonymous Says Thorium Is Too Good

Sometimes, I just have to laugh.  I don't post many comments on SLB, although I do receive a great many comments.    My blog only contains comments that pass my moderation standards.  Many comments get discarded, such as hateful statements, irrelevant statements, blatant sales pitches, and illegal statements.    Today, I post an anonymous comment that was sent in just the other day on one of SLB's thorium nuclear power articles.   This one is given its own article with my commentary - it is just too funny. 

I don't mind anonymous comments just because they are anonymous.  I understand there are some excellent reasons for some people to remain anonymous.  It's the content of the comment, not the commenter's internet name that gets the moderation. 

Note, this commenter gave zero support for any of his statements (or her, but I'll refer to him and his.)   That is pretty typical for an anonymous and negative tone such as this one. 

First, the comment in quoted italics, then my thoughts on what Anonymous wrote. 


Your "blog" is truly a masterful deception. The reason that alternatives to Thorium power plants have occurred had absolutely NOTHING to do with the failure of thorium power plant technology. Way back in the early 70's Westinghouse Corp. had 2 fully operational thorium test plants.

While there were minor problems, they did in fact completely obsolete virtually all nuclear and fossil fuel technologies of the time. Now I happen to know a little about this because my father was a senior management Consultant for a major consulting firm who was under contract with them at the time. The issue of Thorium was not that it was a failure; rather it was far to (sic) big a success. It literally would have rendered the entire fossil fuel industry of oil, gas and coal, not to mention conventional nuclear power obsolete . Its other big failing, and ultimately the excuse for burying the technology, was the fact that unlike conventional nuclear power, there was (sic) no by products (sic) suitable for material for nuclear weapons production. 

Ironically it was Jimmy Carter who officially signed the death warrant for Thorium, claiming national security issues. But in truth Thorium was a victim of its own success. It was to damn good, and to damned cheap." 

My comments:

He writes, "your "blog" is truly a masterful deception."  I suppose putting the word "blog" in quotations is his way of saying SLB is not a real blog.   Perhaps not, but more than 42,000 visitors from 145 countries have shown up to read SLB.    

He then says "in the early 70's Westinghouse Corp. had 2 fully operational thorium test plants."  No references or citations were given, but perhaps Anonymous refers to the short test at Shippingport, Pennsylvania where thorium fuel was tested in a nuclear power plant.   For those who want to read about this, Idaho National Lab published a document on it at this link.   The Shippingport reactor was a Light Water Breeder Reactor (LWBR) test plant of only 72 MWe maximum.  Key passage is shown below:

"During most of core life, the LWBR was operated as a base load station (Richardson et al. 1987, WAPD-TM-1606, p. 35). During the first two years of operation, the core was subjected to 204 planned swingload cycles to demonstrate the core transient capability and generating system load follow to simulate operation of a large commercial nuclear reactor (Richardson et al. 1987, WAPD-TM-1606, p. 35). A swing load cycle is defined as power reduction from about 90% to 35–60% for 4 to 8 hr, then back to 90% or higher power. Despite shutdowns and swing, the reactor achieved a high capacity factor
of 65% and high availability factor of 86% (Richardson et al. 1987, WAPD-TM-1606, p. 35).

For its initial 18,000 EFPH, the maximum allowable reactor power was established as 72 MW gross (electric) . . ." 

Anonymous then writes the truly funny statement: "It literally would have rendered the entire fossil fuel industry of oil, gas and coal, not to mention conventional nuclear power obsolete."   That is a bold conclusion, with zero facts provided to support the conclusion.  Here are the important points that Anonymous must prove to support such a conclusion: how would nuclear-produced electricity make obsolete the oil and gas industry, given that oil provides transportation fuels for cars, trucks, ships, aircraft, and trains, plus lubricants, asphalts, and petrochemical feedstocks, and natural gas provides critical feedstock for agricultural and petrochemical production?   That thorium nuclear-produced electricity must indeed be novel, even Nobel-Prize worthy stuff.   Also, coal has many non-electricity uses, but perhaps Anonymous is not aware of such things, or he has a plan for substituting his thorium nuclear-produced electricity for those services.   Here is a partial summary of non-electricity uses of coal: 

"Other important users of coal include steel producers, alumina refineries, paper manufacturers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Several chemical products can be produced from the by-products of coal. Refined coal tar is used in the manufacture of chemicals, such as creosote oil, naphthalene, phenol, and benzene. Ammonia gas recovered from coke ovens is used to manufacture ammonia salts, nitric acid and agricultural fertilisers. Thousands of different products have coal or coal by-products as components: soap, aspirins, solvents, dyes, plastics and fibres, such as rayon and nylon."  (source:   

So, we can see that Anonymous is truly a funny man.    But what about the statement that thorium would make "conventional nuclear power obsolete?"   As written on SLB (and a few other places), nuclear power that now produces only approximately 11 percent of the world's electricity after 50 years of intense effort, is outrageously expensive and so unsafe that only with effectively full government indemnity from radiation releases are any plants built anywhere.   Therefore, Anonymous' thorium nuclear plants must somehow overcome those two big hurdles: must be much less costly to build and operate and decommission, and must be so safe that they do not need government assistance.    

Put bluntly, that is not going to happen with thorium plants.  As written before on SLB, see link, when a nuclear plant is operated at anything but baseload, the price for its electricity must skyrocket.  As shown in the above quote from the Idaho National Lab (INL) paper, Shippingport was operated as a load-following power plant, even though it was tiny at only 72 MWe.  The output shown in the INL report shows max output of 50 to 65 MWe.  

So, thanks for the laugh, Anonymous.  Your conclusion of "It was to (sic) damn good, and to (sic) damned cheap." is truly funny.   "Good" means what, exactly?  Was the plant able to compete with a coal-fired power plant on cost?  We note that the test was for only 5 years, and not full-time at that.  Would such a plant last for 40 years?  "Cheap" means what, exactly?  Note that conventional nuclear fuel from uranium is touted by the nuclear proponents as costing "only" one or perhaps two cents per kWh generated.  Even if thorium fuel was free, how much would that reduce a customer's monthly bill? 

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2015 by Roger Sowell