Barry Brook

Professor Barry Brook holds the Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and is Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide. He has published two books and over 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and regularly writes opinion pieces and popular articles for the media. He has received a number of distinguished awards in recognition of his research excellence, which addresses the topics of climate change, computational and statistical modelling and the synergies between human impacts on Earth systems.

Barry's website: bravenewclimate.com

by Staffan A. Qvist and Barry W. Brook

There is an ongoing debate about the deployment rates and composition of alternative energy plans that could feasibly displace fossil fuels globally by mid-century, as required to avoid the more extreme impacts of climate change. Here we demonstrate the potential for a large-scale expansion of global nuclear power to replace fossil-fuel electricity production, based on empirical data from the Swedish and French light water reactor programs of the 1960s to 1990s.

Analysis of these historical deployments show that if the world built nuclear power at no more than the per capita rate of these exemplar nations during their national expansion, then coal- and gas-fired electricity could be replaced worldwide in less than a decade.

Under more conservative projections that take into account probable constraints and uncertainties such as differing relative economic output across regions, current and past unit construction time and costs, future electricity demand growth forecasts and the retiring of existing aging nuclear plants, our modelling estimates that the global share of fossil-fuel-derived electricity could be replaced within 25–34 years. This would allow the world to meet the most stringent greenhouse-gas mitigation targets.

Nothing but fear and capital stand in the way of a nuclear-powered future

By David Biello | September 14, 2015

new-vogtle-construction-august-2015
NEW NUCLEAR: This AP-1000 under construction in Georgia is one of four new reactors in the U.S.

In just two decades Sweden went from burning oil for generating electricity to fissioning uranium. And if the world as a whole were to follow that example, all fossil fuel–fired power plants could be replaced with nuclear facilities in a little over 30 years. That's the conclusion of a new nuclear grand plan published May 13 in PLoS One. Such a switch would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly achieving much-ballyhooed global goals to combat climate change. Even swelling electricity demands, concentrated in developing nations, could be met. All that's missing is the wealth, will and wherewithal to build hundreds of fission-based reactors, largely due to concerns about safety and cost.

 

There is an ongoing debate about the deployment rates and composition of alternative energy plans that could feasibly displace fossil fuels globally by mid-century, as required to avoid the more extreme impacts of climate change. Here we demonstrate the potential for a large-scale expansion of global nuclear power to replace fossil-fuel electricity production, based on empirical data from the Swedish and French light water reactor programs of the 1960s to 1990s.

GR_April2015_CCCby Barry Brook

Guest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff recently released the popular book “Greenjacked! The derailing of environmental action on climate change“.

The Climate Council has a new report out. The Global Renewable Energy Boom: How Australia is missing out (GREB) is authored by Andrew Stock, Tim Flannery and Petra Stock. The lead author is listed on the Climate Council website as a "Non Executive Director of several ASX listed and unlisted companies in the energy sector, ranging from traditional energy suppliers to emerging energy technology companies." He's also a chemical engineer.

 Posted on 19 January 2012 by Barry Brook

Late last year, Tom Blees, I and a few other people from the International Award Committee of the Global Energy Prize answered reader’s energy questions on The Guardian’s Facebook page. The questions and answers were reproduced on BNC here. Now we’re  at it again, this time for the website Eco-Business.com (tagline: Asia Pacific’s sustainable business community). My section is hosted here (Part I), and Tom’s here (part III).

Part II, which I don’t reprint, answered by Iceland’s Thorsteinn Sigfusson, covered the relationship between large-hydro and climate change, and why solar conversion isn’t used more extensively.

Barry Brook - Advanced Nuclear Power Systems for Long-term Energy and Climate Security

Thu 22/9/2011 12:30pm

Leonard Huxley Lecture Theatre

Professor Barry Brook
University of Adelaide

Fossil fuels currently supply about 80% of modern society’s primary energy. Given the imperatives of climate change, pollution, energy security and dwindling supplies, and enormous technical, logistical and economic challenges of scaling up coal or gas power plants with carbon capture and storage to sequester all that carbon, we are faced with the necessity of a nearly complete transformation of the world's energy systems. Nuclear power is capable of providing all the carbon-free energy that mankind requires, although the prospect of such a massive deployment raises questions of uranium shortages, increased energy, environmental and socio-political impacts from mining and fuel enrichment, and so on.

One of the new initiatives I’ll be trying in 2011 is an audio podcast series (I use the term ‘series’ loosely, as there’ll be no fixed schedule). This is now fairly straightforward to do, via my iPhone 4 and the Audioboo app.

This type of media/blogging is quick and flexible to do on the fly. This is a real advantage for me, because I quite often have time to take 5-10 minutes to record something, but often not time to compose a more detailed blog post (once every 3-5 days is about my sanity limit!). So, in this way, I hope to add a lot of detailed content on very specific topics by this method.

All of the podcasts will be short (<5 minutes) and will range from general observations of recent news in climate and energy, to very targeted answers to questions (please feel free to pose those you’d like me to have a go at answering), to short interviews with interesting people.

by Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler and Barry Brook

28 November,2010

Climate change professor supports nuclear in newly published analysis

When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, only nuclear power will keep the lights on, keep electricity costs down, and meet long-term emission reduction targets, say three Australian authors in a paper published this week in international peer-reviewed journal Energy*.

Introducing a carbon price changes relative technology power costs because rates of carbon emissions differ between technologies.

“In order to understand where our future electricity will come from” says lead author Martin Nicholson, “we need the best possible insights into generating technologies, their costs and their carbon emissions”. If you would like a PDF of the entire article email Barry Brook at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Want to know more about the Integral Fast Reactor technology from the comfort of your lounge room chair? Then these two fascinating videos, recently transcoded and uploaded by Steve Kirsch to the “ifr.blp.tv” website, are for you. You can watch online, or download in .MP4 format (choose the format and then the download link below) for offline viewing.

First, we have: Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor Actinide Recycle System, ”Energy for the 21st Century”

It is about 8 minutes long and cost the ALMR team about $40,000 to make in 1990 (according to Chuck Boardman).

Nuclear power is being most actively pursued today in China (23) reactors currently under construction), India (4), South Korea (6) and Russia (8), and in terms of forward projections through to 2020, China plans to expand its nuclear generation capacity to 70 GW (up from 8.6 GW in 2010), South Korea to 27.3 GW (up from 17.7 GW), and Russia from 43.3 GW (up from 23.2 GW). Looking further ahead, India’s stated goal is 63 GW by 2032 and 500 GW by 2060, whilst China’s 2030 target is 200 GW, with at least 750 GW by 2050. These nations are heavily focused on rapidly overcoming first-of-a-kind (FOAK) costs and establishing standardized designs based around modular construction and passive safety principles. By contrast, the country with the most installed nuclear power – the United States, with over 100 commercial reactors – has announced loan guarantees to support new plants, but has not yet started construction of any Generation III reactors.

Once upon a time...we all wanted to understand renewables. What were the promising technologies? Are they available now? Could they produce enough power? How would the variability be managed? How reliable would a high-grid-penetration renewable energy system be? How much would it cost?

IFR FaD 3 – the LWR versus IFR fuel cycle

on BraveNewClimate.com

The following post in the Integral Fast Reactor Facts and Discussion series centres around two important diagrams prepared by Dr Yoon I. Chang – Distinguished Fellow at Argonne National Laboratories, a key figure in the development of the IFR between 1984 and 1994, and founding member of the Science Council for Global Initiatives. These allow one to easily — visually — see the difference between the uranium fuel cycle of today’s Gen II and Gen III light water reactors, and the alternative mass flow represented by the IFR.

December 1, 2009

Here in Australia, there’s currently a political storm over a proposed cap-and-trade system for putting a price on carbon pollution. In brief, the federal Labor (left wing) government has passed the legislation for an emissions trading scheme in the house of representatives (where they have a clear parliamentary majority), but have had it blocked in the senate, where they lack a majority.

It has now become clear that the Liberal/National coalition (conservatives) will not pass the bill the second time around, for various reasons (a large number of members are skeptical of a human role in climate change, and others claim it will be an economic disaster). The Greens party, with five senators, have also refused to vote with Labor to pass the bill in the senate for inverse reasons — they claim it is a flawed system because of the way it rewards big polluters and due to its grossly inadequate emissions reduction targets.

The climate changes because it is forced to do so. That may sound a little strange, but 'forcing' is a real technical term for any pressure that causes the 'average weather' to shift. Positive forcings (e.g. increased solar activity, more greenhouse gases) induce global warming, whereas negative forcings (e.g. more low-level clouds, volcanic dimming) result in cooling. Climate system feedbacks (e.g. melting ice, more water vapour) act to enhance these processes. That's the way it's always been, throughout Earth's long history. When the planet is thrown out of energy balance by a change in forcing, it must respond, by warming or cooling. It can't be bargained with and it has no room to compromise. It will do what it must do. It's the laws of physics.

So there's no point in half-fixing climate change. If this is our strategy, whether implicit or explicit, people may as well enjoy the Platinum Age (as Ross Garnaut calls the last few decades) and be done. Cap-and-trade systems to reduce emissions by some percentage are a good example of an ultimately useless 'half-fix' policy. Due to the long lifetime of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere (about 20 per cent of CO2 released today will still be airborne in 1000 years), it is only the total amount of CO2 released by humanity during the fossil-fuel age that really matters. We must limit total emissions.

The November 2009 issue of Scientific American has a cover story by Mark Z. Jacobson (Professor, Stanford) and Mark A. Delucchi (researcher, UC Davis). It’s entitled “A path to sustainable energy by 2030” (p 58 – 65; they call it WWS: wind, water or sunlight). This popular article is supported by a technical analysis, which the authors will apparently submit to the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy at some point (or may have already done so). Anyway, they have made both papers available for free public download here.

So what do they say? In a nutshell, their argument is that, by the year 2030:
Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.

GE (General Electric) Hitachi is proposing the Advanced Recycling Center (ARC). It is an ectrometallurgical separation process that would make a new form of fuel from spent fuel rods without separating plutonium. This would be used in the Fourth Generation PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactors. This proposed "first of kind" system would cost about $3.2 billion and would be completed by 2020.

A 50 minute talk on the world's current energy situation.

October 7, 2009

Any solution to the world’s ever increasing energy requirements must be climate change friendly.

While many activists and scientists insist that renewable energies such as wind, solar and hydro electric can solve the world’s energy needs and avoid a climate catastrophe, opponents point to fourth generation nuclear power as a better solution.

Posted by Barry Brook on 19 September 2009

I note a recent article in Opinion Online by Dr Helen Caldicott was linked to in the Is Our Future Nuclear? comments thread, and this subsequently generated a fair amount of heated discussion. The focal claim from Caldicott in this piece is that it is dangerous to live near to nuclear power plants (NPP), because they supposedly increase rates of leukemia.

Listen to me on ABC Radio, talking about nuclear power, fast breeder reactors, renewables, and the inevitability of growing societal energy demand. This also features an interview with Dr Jim Green, and my response. It runs for about 16 minutes in total: http://tr.im/vXE2

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Published in the Adelaide Advertiser, 4 August 2009 (pg 18).

This opinion editorial I wrote builds on the recent flurry of interest in the Australian media on introducing nuclear power.

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Imagine someone handed you a lump of silvery metal the size of a golf ball. They said you might wish to put on some plastic gloves to hold it, although that would not be necessary if you washed your hands afterwords.

You look down at the metal resting on your palm. It feels heavy, because it’s very dense.

You are then told that this metal golf ball can provide all the energy you will ever use in your life. That includes running your lights, computer, air conditioner, TV, electric car, synthetic jet fuel.

Everything. Using 1 kilogram of uranium (or thorium, take your pick).

That is what modern nuclear power offers. An incredibly concentrated source of energy, producing a tiny amount of waste.

The Australian Newspaper, 9 June 2009:

If climate change is the “inconvenient truth” facing our fossil fuel dependent society, then advanced nuclear power is the inconvenient solution starting right back at the environmental movement.

Since the 1970s, when the Sierra Club and other prominent environmental groups switched from being active supporters to trenchant detractors, nuclear power has fought an ongoing battle to present itself as a clean, safe and sustainable energy source.

Posted by Barry Brook on 8 August 2009

If renewable or nuclear energy is going to be successful in decarbonising our electricity supply (and, ultimately, all energy use), it needs to hit a couple of fundamental benchmarks:

(i) its life cycle energy inputs must be low compared to its ‘clean energy’ output; and

(ii) it must be able to displace fossil fuels — with elimination of carbon emissions from stationary energy being the first major objective.

Regarding life cycle emissions from nuclear power, I’ve already touched on the issue, but will be exploring this in more detail in the future. But this post is about wind.