Australian news, and some related international items

Ben Heard and the fake environment group ‘Bright New World’

Ben Heard and the fake environment group ‘Bright New World’ that accepts secret corporate donations, Jim Green, Nuclear Free Campaign, Friends of the Earth 

For factual rebuttals of the misinformation promulgated by other nuclear advocates, please visit:

Ben Heard – corporate-funded greenwasher   Ben Heard is arguably the most aggressive and abusive of Australia’s nuclear advocates − see for example this temper tantrum and compare it with the matter-of-fact tone of the paper he is attacking. He has repeatedly indulged in personal, defamatory attacks.Like so many other nuclear advocates, Heard very rarely or never says or does anything about the problems of the nuclear industry such as its systemic racism (abundantly evident in his home state, South Australia) or the inadequate nuclear safeguards system.

A mining industry magazine article says that Heard was “once a fervent anti-nuclear campaigner”. However Heard never had any involvement whatsoever in anti-nuclear campaigning. Heard made no effort to correct the error in the magazine article – indeed he put the article, uncorrected, on his own website. His website was later corrected, but only after his dishonesty was publicly exposed. Likewise, Heard made no effort to correct an ABC article which describes him as a “former anti-nuclear advocate”.

A November 2015 ABC article falsely describes Heard as a scientist. It isn’t clear whether this was an error by the ABC or the latest fabrication and misrepresentation by Heard. Either way, it’s a safe bet that Heard won’t be correcting the error. And again in March 2016, Heard was described as a scientist in the media (inDaily); and again it’s a safe bet that Heard won’t correct the error.

Heard has a recurring disclosure problem. He rarely disclosed his consulting work for uranium company Heathgate when spruiking for the nuclear industry. More recently, he rarely discloses corporate funding – indeed his fake environment group has a policy of accepting secret corporate donations. He said the reason he rarely disclosed his consulting work with Heathgate was that it was mentioned on his website. So any time you hear anyone speaking about anything in the media, it’s your responsibility to do a web-search to see if they have a financial interest!

Heard’s university supervisor was none other than Barry Brook, best known for insisting there was no risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as multiple meltdowns were in full swing, and for promoting a bogus ‘outstanding scientist’ award on his university website and leaving it there long after he knew it was bogus.

Ben Heard’s “outright lie”, massive hypocrisy and extreme censorship

June 2020 ‒ Long story short … RenewEconomy published a FoE article about small modular reactor economics. Ben Heard demanded a right of reply. RenewEconomy told him that anyone is welcome to submit a contribution and it would be reviewed. Heard said he had been denied a reply. That was an “outright lie” according to the RenewEconomy editor. Anyhoo … Heard’s response to the FoE article was published on his Bright New World website. He denied me a right of reply (!) so I replied in the comments section and my comments were deleted by Heard! And my comment alerting readers to a substantive response on this FoE webpage was not published!

An “outright lie”, massive hypocrisy and extreme censorship … all in a day’s work for Australia’s foremost ‘ecomodernist’ and his lobby group (which accepts secret corporate donations from the nuclear industry).

Here are the comments censored by Heard.

Ben Heard: “Then find the cost estimates, add them up and divide it by three, and float that as the cost of SMR nuclear that will inform decision-making in Australia.”

Response: Yes, real-world SMR construction cost data is limited but it is a better guide than self-serving industry claims. Also relevant are real-world data about cost overruns including the huge overruns with SMR projects and the A$10+ billion-dollar overruns with large reactors in western Europe and the US.

Ben Heard: “If Friends of the Earth thinks +50% is too low, they could have stated their reasoning, made their case (succinctly, if at all possible) and proposed their loading.”

Response: The general recent pattern is that EARLY vendor estimates underestimate true costs by an order of magnitude (see my article – citing AP1000s, EPRs, and Argentina’s SMR as examples), while estimates around the time of initial construction underestimate true costs by a factor of 2-4 (numerous examples cited in my article).

So a 100% loading above NuScale’s estimate would be the minimum starting point.

Note that the WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff LCOE estimate for a NuScale SMR (A$225 or ~US$150 per MWh) is 2.5 times greater than NuScale’s estimate, and it is roughly twice the BNW estimate.

Ben Heard: “We went with vendor first-of-a-kind estimate +50%, consistent with this being a Class 4 cost estimate, independently verified, based on well-known and understood technology …”

Response: None of that changes the fact that real-world projects have been subject to vastly greater cost overruns.

Ben Heard: “We look forward to the author securing employment with a major accounting firm and explaining this [that NuScale’s cost estimate is bollocks] the next time the estimates are verified.”

Response: Heard himself adds a 50% loading. WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff’s LCOE estimate is 2.5 times greater than NuScale’s estimate. No-one believes NuScale’s estimate.

Ben Heard: “Friends of the Earth didn’t understand ‘Class 4 estimate’. It is a defined term, established for estimates of engineer/procure/construct in civil projects. This is clearly described in our submission. We doubt they read it.”

Response: Yes, I do understand the term and have read your various articles and submissions – and referenced three of them at the top of my article. The real-world evidence, for both small and large reactors, demonstrates that Class 4 estimates need a rethink, especially the demonstrably false assertion that a 50% loading will cover any conceivable overruns.

Ben Heard: “‘NuScale’s estimate (per kW) is just one-third of the cost of the Vogtle plant’. Drawing comparison with large nuclear units, the very paradigm SMR is devised to disrupt, while not entirely irrelevant, is pretty dubious.”

Response: The relevance is that there is a solid body of expert opinion that construction costs per kW and LCOE will be greater for SMRs compared to large reactors. For example a 2015 report by the IEA and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency predicts that costs per MWh for SMRs will typically be 50−100% higher than for current large reactors, and a UK report estimated a 30% cost increase per MWh.

Ben Heard: “‘BNW objected to the previous CSIRO/AEMO estimate of five years for construction of an SMR and proposed a “more probable” three-year estimate’. We neither objected, nor proposed a ‘more probable’ 3 years, nor even used the words ‘more probable’!”

Response: From the cited BNW paper: “No SMR developer is working on the basis of 5-year construction. This would also raise the LCOE considerably compared with a more probable 3 three years on the basis of what those bringing SMR to market are actually devising.”

As noted in my article, SMR projects typically take about a decade from start of construction to completion or near-completion (8 to 12.5 years).

Ben Heard: “‘100% agreed with Friends of the Earth [that there’s no empirical basis, nor any logical basis, for the learning rate assumed in the GenCost report]. There remains lack of transparency and replicability as regards the SMR learning rates applied in GenCost.”

Response: So do the maths … what is a reasonable learning rate based on the 12.5 year Russian floating plant?

What is a reasonable learning rate based on the Argentinian SMR, conceived in the 1980s, with construction of the first prototype currently stalled due to the project’s ‘serious financial breakdown’?

What is a reasonable learning rate based on mPower, abandoned after the expenditure of US$500 million and before construction of a first prototype began?

What is the learning rate for fast neutron reactors? That question could be answered based on 70 years of mostly-failed projects and would usefully inform current SMR / Gen 4 debates. My guess is that the FNR learning rate is negative.

What are the learning rates for large light water reactors? Well, we can answer that question, and I did so in my article: a very slow learning rate with modest cost decreases, or a negative learning rate.

Heard / Bright New World claims about SMR learning rates are 100% speculative.

Ben Heard: “‘Even with heroic assumptions resulting in CSIRO/AEMO’s low-cost estimate of A$129 per MWh…’. Friends of the Earth has studiously avoided all of the other necessary corrections identified by Bright New World, in particular operating costs and capacity factor, which bring this right down to more like $100/MWh.”

We have considered all the real-world data and plenty more besides. That research is synthesised in the RenewEconomy article and there’s loads more info in submissions such as this:


Our conclusions are shared by informed expert opinion (cited in the submission), e.g. the pro-nuclear US academic researchers who concluded that for SMRs to make a significant contribution to US energy supply, “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and deployment over the next several decades”.

Ben Heard: “‘NuScale Power…hasn’t yet begun construction of a single prototype’. The reference case technology uses the most commercially established fuel cycle in the world, with standard fuel.”

Response: mPower was based on conventional light water technology, but still went bust after the expenditure of US$500 million. Rolls-Royce is proposing light water technology for SMRs in the UK but won’t proceed unless and until a long list of demands are met and hefty subsidies granted……..


June 26, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster

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