Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Zealand Herald: "Only Way Is Full Steam Ahead" With Nuke Plants Including Thorium Reactors

So says Brian Leyland, consultant to the New Zealand electric power companies, in his February 27, 2012 article in the largest paper in New Zealand.

He says:

"For electricity, nuclear power and, in particular, reactors burning thorium, promise us a virtually unlimited supply of electricity at a reasonable price"


"exposure to low levels of radiation is not harmful and may even give some immunity to cancer"

Why is he saying these? Probably because:

"It would reduce the cost of nuclear power and change the public perception of the danger of nuclear power",

which is likely to be benefiting the electric power companies who employ him.

It doesn't seem to have entered his mind that the cost of nuclear power generation may not be "reasonable" if you factor in the cost of:

  • a potential accident like Fukushima which is bankrupting one of the largest companies in Japan (TEPCO);

  • decommissioning the reactors (so much so that the US power companies are going to do nothing for 60 years)

I guess April Fool's Day came early in New Zealand. It somewhat reads like George Monbiot (albeit far less in-your-face than Monbiot), who famously said he became pro-nuke because of the Fukushima accident.

Unlike Monbiot who wrote right after the accident started, Leyland has zero reference to the nuclear accident in Japan, writing nearly one year after the accident started. And he talks about the cost of nuclear power generation. Amazing.

From New Zealand Herald (2/27/2012; emphasis is mine):

Brian Leyland: The only way is full steam ahead

Like many people living comfortably in developed economies John Peet is opposed to continued economic growth. Unlike John, I have worked extensively in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands so I have seen the misery and environmental damage resulting from poverty-stricken people doing their best to scratch a living.

The steam engine freed us from manual labour and expensive and polluting horsepower, and drove the transformation that we have seen in the past 200 years.

As a result of the prosperity it has brought, people in developed countries live longer and are healthier than they have ever been in the past. Access to low-cost energy, engineering and technology have driven this transformation. We have progressed from eking out a living from subsistence agriculture to having plenty of time for recreation and relaxation and living better than a king of 300 years ago.

Sixty years ago, I have clear memories of Auckland being covered in a pall of smoke from chimney pots, railway engines, ferries and the coal-fired power station on Kings Wharf and of raw sewage spewing into the harbour. Since then technology has advanced and we are prosperous enough to afford to look after the environment. Economic growth has benefited us and the environment.

In our prosperous little world, it is all too easy to forget the billions of people who are still scratching a living from subsistence agriculture, suffering chronic illnesses and dying young from entirely preventable diseases. In these countries populations are growing rapidly. History shows us that as a population becomes more prosperous, the reproduction rate declines dramatically because people realise that they no longer need to have lots of children to ensure that a few will survive to support them in their old age.

A primary driver of the economic growth they need is access to affordable energy, electricity and communications. Energy frees people from the burden of manual labour and electricity frees them from the need to cut down forests for firewood. It also provides them with television and cellphones which are a major factor in lifting the economies of many developing countries.

Even in New Zealand, any attempt to stop the economy growing would have a disproportionate effect on the poor and those who have retired.

What we need is economic growth using the best available technology to ensure that goods are supplied at the lowest cost and that energy is used efficiently and wisely. This is what engineers do.

The best definition of an engineer is "someone who can do for 20 cents what any fool can do for a dollar". Another is "the art of directing the great forces of power in nature for the use and convenience of man".

It is widely believed that the world is running out of resources. In fact, we now have more resources available to us than ever before.

When the steam engine was first invented, people were worried that, quite soon, the world would run out of coal.

Now the world is known to have more coal than it is ever likely to use. Two or three years ago, the United States and the United Kingdom were expecting to import more and more gas. The shale gas revolution has turned this around. For the past 100 years, the reserves of oil have steadily increased. For the same 100 years people have been predicting the imminent arrival of "peak oil". They have been wrong every time. Even if oil did start to run out, the immense gas reserves in offshore "methane ice" could easily be turned into liquid fuels.

For electricity, nuclear power and, in particular, reactors burning thorium, promise us a virtually unlimited supply of electricity at a reasonable price.

And for those who believe it is too dangerous to contemplate, recent research into radiation exposure shows, quite clearly, that exposure to low levels of radiation is not harmful and may even give some immunity to cancer. The radiation limits for nuclear power stations could be raised by a factor of 200 without the slightest risk. It would reduce the cost of nuclear power and change the public perception of the danger of nuclear power.

In spite of all the predictions, the world is not running out of food. With the efficient use of irrigation, improved plants and reduction in the enormous wastage that occurs in developing countries, the world could easily feed a much larger population.

I believe that one of the biggest dangers facing the world is well-meaning people who believe that the world is running out of resources, that technology will no longer continue to make our lives better and better and that economic growth is incompatible with the environment. If these people carry the day, our grandchildren will suffer.

The best way of future proofing this country, and the world, is rational and efficient development of our resources to support the economic growth we need so we can continue to do our best for people and the environment. It will also advance the date when the world population stops growing.

New Zealand is located in the "Ring of Fire" zone around the Pacific Ocean. Mr. Leyland doesn't even mention how earthquake prone his country is, and he says "full steam ahead" with nuclear power.


Anonymous said...

" recent research into radiation exposure shows, quite clearly, that exposure to low levels of radiation is not harmful and may even give some immunity to cancer."

Where is this ground-breaking research which contradicts all others? What's the difference between a nut like Brian Leyland and Adolf Hitler? They are both willing to massacre millions of people for personal reasons.

Anonymous said...

Suggest he take a dip in a spent fuel pool. Or wait a minute, perhaps he has....

Anonymous said...

Leyland is a disgusting criminal. the NZ Herald are scum for publishing this garbage. NZ has only 4.5 million people and so nuclear would be totally impractical. as for the "radiation is good for you" bs, check out this blog to see what corrupt criminals these people are:

Anonymous said...

The article seems to me written by someone who lives on a different planet.

For instance, resources available to us have not increased. We may have learned to use other, previously unknown resources or have found larger quantities of already known ones, but coal and oil, etc., were formed a gazillion years ago. There cannot have been an increase in the last 100 years.

The author also seems to overlook that the world population has nearly doubled in recent decades, increasing demand for whatever resources, including food. And while we certainly can grow more food more efficiently nowadays due to the use of technology, pesticides, genetic engineering, etc., it is certainly highly debatable whether at least the latter two are really a good/healthy thing. In either case, it still doesn't seem to be enough to prevent mass starvation in many parts of the world. And apparently he did not hear about the food/grain shortages and starvation we caused when we started converting grain to fuel?

Yes, technology can be a good thing, but claiming that technological progress is the answer to everything is painting an inaccurate or at least incomplete picture, completely leaving out any and all downsides of the technologies involved. And using that claim to make an argument for the use and further development of nuclear power would be simply ridiculous if it weren't so dangerously deceptive.

"For electricity, nuclear power and, in particular, reactors burning thorium, promise us a virtually unlimited supply of electricity at a reasonable price." Well, that thinking got us into using nuclear power in the first place. And we all - except the author, of course - have learned that it wasn't all roses after all once you deal with accidents, contamination, the lack of a solution for nuclear waste, to name just the most obvious.

If nuclear power with all it's downsides and problems is "rational and efficient development of our resources," then the author is probably 100% correct about the last thing he says (albeit not for the reason he claimed): "It will also advance the date when the world population stops growing."

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Could someone succinctly remind me again why a thorium reactor is not the answer?

Anonymous said...

In a nutshell--thorium reactors are seriously f'ing dangerous!

Anonymous said...

Would have been nice if Brian Leyland had put at least that much journalistic effort into his writing as to come up with a sentence or two why thorium reactors ARE the answer (in his opinion) instead of just making the claim with no backup apart from general "fluff." But since even the general fluff doesn't provide a leg to stand on, I guess we have to hope for a better informed person to come along for real pro and con info.

Anonymous said...

Forget immigrating to nuclear-free New-Zealand, it won't last.

FallOutMan said...

Thorium reactors don't exist except in research labs (I'm not even sure they exist there). The UK parliament is talking about spending billions to try to develop the technology. So its easy to make claims of safety and cost effectiveness for something that does not exist and may never exist.

A brittish documentary recently played an interview with one of the designers of what was the worlds first "commercial" nuclear power plant built in Sea Scale England. The public were told it would produce "power too cheap to meter". He said that most days it consumed more power than it produced. He also said that to a degree nuclear power has always been like that. The electricity production aspect is just to sell it to the public.

The current power plants were called safe, and cheap. Early on people were told they would produce "power too cheap to meter". Totally clean!

It turned out to be even more expensive than solar and that's without taking into account waste disposal and the almost incalculable health cost.

After years of coverups, now it is well established that normally operating power plants cause increases in cancer, still births, deformities and all other kinds of disease in those down wind of them.

The nuclear industry has been consistent in lying to promote itself. We need to learn from history.

FallOutMan said...

I sent a letter to the Herald about Brian Leyland's nuclear industry PR piece. Of course, they would not publish it. So here it is...

Dear Editor,

Bryan Leyland paints Nuclear power as the way to economic growth, yet Nuclear power is only viable if Governments provide insurance and pick up the bill for waste storage and health effects.

Hundreds of Farmers in the UK still cannot sell sheep off their contaminated properties as the meat produced tests unsafe 26 years after Chernobyl fallout came down in the rain. England and Wales are a long way from Chernobyl and some UK pasture is unsafe to this day.

One nuclear reactor accident in Sydney could wipe out farming in New Zealand. Australia was debating whether to build a series of nuclear power plants until Fukushima blew up. Consider what happened to our sunsets when Sydney had bush fires, and then consider what would happen to the food we produce if they had a nuclear accident. It would be the end of our economy. A farming nation cannot afford a Fukushima.

Yours Sincerely,
FallOut Man!

FallOutMan said...

I also sent them a link making it clear my statements are correct. A link from a UK government web site stating how many farms today still cannot produce meat.

Source - UK Government food surveillance web site:
"Of the 9,800 UK holdings, and more than 4 million sheep, originally placed under restriction following the accident, there are 334 farms that remain under some form of restriction in North Wales, and in Cumbria, only eight farms still remain under restriction. All Mark and Release controls were lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000 and in Scotland in 2010."

FallOutMan said...

The UK documentary on the Seascale nuclear disaster can be found here. Just a minute after this an investigative journalist is interviewed who mentions the new plant with "power to cheap to meter" was taking electricity out of the grid (apologies at least in this part of the doco it was a journalist saying that, not one of the designers)

"Safe", "Too cheap to meter", "pollution free"
Yeah... right.

Nancy said...

Thorium is a scam. There is a group of people who formed a publicly traded company to develop thorium. They have a number of "experts" and foundations that push this nonsense. India tried for 50 years and couldn't get a functioning thorium reactor. The US quickly abandoned the concept in the 60's. Germany toyed with it and abandoned it also. Another part of the thorium nonsense is using liquid sodium. This is what they use in Monju, it doesn't take much research to see what a problem that is. We gave thorium
a sound debunking here

As for nuclear in New Zealand with their history of powerful quakes?

Anonymous said...

Karen, how the hell do you make the leap from thorium in light bulbs to a molten salt thorium reactor? Abundance of thorium is not the issue???? Of course it's not the issue -- you never really write anything about the issue, do you? How can thorium be just another option like plutonium when they can't get a working thorium reactor up and running for commercial use because of the highly dangerous concept?

You are not "missing typos", you are missing brain cells. You have no clue what a thorium reactor is, do you? And Karen, after being a nuclear fuel operator for a brief while before NFS fired you and then you failing at politics, you should try journalism next.

Anonymous said...

It was an advert in a local paper,uncorroborated and without counterpoints offered by peers,junk.

Anonymous said...

here is the industry info in 09

and AREVA last year

As to Leyland waxing on about the Industrial Revolution...full steam ahead.
For a planet with finite resources and 7 billion people?
Surely we should be aiming for the best sustainable solutions and leave him to smile in the beneficial radiation.

Steve From Virginia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For those of you who speak German (or can make sense out of a google-translated version), a very comprehensive explanation can be found here about what went wrong with Germany's thorium reactor development in the '80s. It is under the heading "Probleme und Stillegung."

Sorry that my technical knowledge is too limited to translate the section. In short, however, it turned out to be less safe than anticipated with plenty of technical malfunctions (and, in fact, release of radioactive materials into the environment), extremely costly, and less efficient than predicted.

Apolline said...

Hello from France, hello Ultraman and readers,

I've got a german video, subtitled in english, about lie in Fukushima :

Anonymous said...

Ms. Brackett, don't you feel silly using those words? Why don't you gracefully disappear and spare everyone else the pain of having to see your name?

Anonymous said...

if you need some munitions to shot down the restarts of
the nukes in japan watch the first 5 minutes here:
it's hilarious how one pro-fission group (thorium) is bad-mouthing another pro-fission group (uranium).
if you need more ammo just go watch other alternative pro-fission youtube vids. most of them point out one or two "bad" things about uranium powered reactors.

Anonymous said...

As a New Zealander I find the Leyland article embarassing and repulsive.

In spite of the rhetoric and NZ Herald publishing it, I seriously doubt nuclear could fly in NZ (esp after Fukushima). Governments cant even get support to let US nuclear warships back into our ports for R&R!

Consider that in the 70's we spearheaded stopping French Nuclear tests at Mururoa, culminating in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland port. That is the only act of terrorism weve had in NZ, and it was done by the Frech govt - we caught their agents too.

Then we stopped nuclear warships entering our ports, to the great chargrin of the US, and we still pay the price for those acts even today.

Anti-nuclear is deep in the bones of NZ, and we have plenty of hydro, bio, wave, tide and wind energy to play with for a long time yet. We even have lots of coal and gas.

Let the Leylands of the world speak, like vampires their arguments cant stand the full light of day


Anonymous said...

To Anonymous who is a New Zealander

I live in NZ. I'd like to believe that the people in NZ know the risk of nuclear power, but do they really? They may feel that they don't want nuclear power in the country, but they seem to be ignorant about the risk of contaminated food. Look at the 'safety' levels the NZ's MAF has currently set (source:

Cesium 134 & Cesium 137 - 1000 Bq/kg
Iodine 131 - 100 Bq/kg
Strontium 90 - 100 Bq/kg

For your information, the Japanese 'safety' levels which were in place up until 31 March 2012 are shown here (source:

I like Japanese food, but I'm too scared to eat any Japanese imported food available in New Zealand... How can we change the attitude of the NZ government and MAF?

Anonymous said...

from Anonymous who is a New Zealander

Yes I hear you, and I'm also concerned with NZ imports. As usual the govt agencies just go with the stds of other countries when no-one is looking carefully.

Have you looked at the 'Country of origin' labelling lately -- it usually says "Made in XXX, from local and imported ingredients". WTF, is that potentially contaminated or not?

Ive been trying to get attention for used car imports. NZ gets a lot of used cars from Japan, and no-one seems to think a test at the border would be wise. Not even when they consider young mothers (probably their daughters) will drive them.

But even given the above, we are far better off than others, and I dont know where better to be at the moment.


Anonymous said...

NZ is a small place. It can't afford the risk of a nuclear reactor being within a thousand miles, let along in it's small space. How very stupid. All the ocean around it, all the tidal energy, not to mention probably geothermal, and they've got fools there wanting any kind of nuclear power plant. They should force the fools to live in Fukushima Prefecture for five years.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous who is a New Zealander

Thank you for your comment. I'm also worried about contaminated used cars coming into NZ from Japan. AA says that Japanese cars imported to NZ have been checked and all are OK, but they haven't told us what the standard they are going by looks like or what the actual levels of contamination they are detecting... A car dealer in Japan said cars that have got contamination levels of lower than 0,2 micro Sv/h should be fine, but I'm not convinced as I know Russia rejected all imported cars from japan at the end of last year because they detected 0,3 micro Sv/h or higher on the body of the cars...

As for food, I now always check where the ingredients came from. As far as I'm concerned everybody should be doing the same.

Yes, we are fortunate to be here, but NZ & AUS have already been contaminated, too. The radiation contamination from Fukushima will continue and we should start thinking about how we can protect NZ as much as possible.

ALERT: Radiation Cloud Detected Over New Zealand (Jan. 29, 2012): Almost 2 MicroSieverts/Hour In The Wind!!!

Anonymous said...

If nuclear waste is disposed of safely in landfill why not store it under parliament.

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