Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen
|Splitting more than hairs|
Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen is a Dutch anti-nuclear crank sponsored by Greenpeace and the European Green Party. He runs a website which contains his magnum opus, a paper called Nuclear Energy: the Energy Balance, co-authored with Philip Smith.
Nuclear Energy: the Energy Balance
This publication tries to demonstrate that nuclear power fueled with low-grade uranium ore does not provide net energy gain; in other words, that the nuclear industry will consume more energy than it produces once high-grade ore is exhausted. The paper contains serious factual errors, and relies on what are essentially very pessimistic wild guesses rather than easily available real-world data to come to this conclusion. This work, often called Storm&Smith, Stormsmith or SLS is frequently cited by anti-nuclear activists and environmental organizations in arguments against using nuclear energy to combat global warming. They push it so fervently that, despite the paper's complete disconnection from reality, or the fact that it was never published in a peer reviewed journal, it was referenced in the IPCC AR4 report.
Leeuwen's analysis uses the average energy intensity (AEI) method. This involves using theoretical relationships between the dollar cost of work and the CO2 emissions it causes. This method is conceptually simple, but is prone to overestimation for projects that require large amounts of high value labor. The best way to evaluate the merit of this approach in this case is to compare the results obtained from its equations to some real world information. This way we can verify how well it models the energy usage of uranium mines and nuclear power plants.
The Rössing uranium mine in Namibia mines low grade ore (0.03% U). According to Leeuwen's equations, it should consume 82 PJ of energy per year. However, the entire country of Namibia consumes around 47 PJ per year, so if Leeuwen's equations were accurate, the mine could not exist at all. The mine itself reports that it used around 1 PJ per year, so Leeuwen's equations are off by a factor of 80. His estimates are wildly inaccurate also for the case of power plant construction: he estimates that the energy required to construct the Forsmark plant in Sweden was 240 PJ, while the actual energy input reported in the Environmental Product Declaration, which is independently audited, was just 8 PJ.
These massive rifts separating the work from reality can only be explained if one proposes a conspiracy theory involving multiple national governments and educational institutions, some of which have very little connection to the nuclear industry, or by applying Occam's razor to dismiss Storm&Smith as rambling nonsense.
Van Leeuwen's work has been republished as a section in a report of the Oxford Research Group called "Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming". It was included 3 times in a mean of 19 studies in a meta-analysis on the CO2 emissions from nuclear power by Benjamin K. Sovacool, also quite popular among the anti-nuclear crowd.
- Storm & Smith website
- World Nuclear Association: Energy Analysis of Power Systems - contains an analysis and critique of Storm & Smith at the end
- NEI Nuclear Notes: Van Leeuwen and Smith's Egregious Mathematical Errors
- Examples:   
- Leeuwen has published a paper based on "the same methodology" in Energy Policy. However, that was a long time ago, and many of his assumptions (e.g. 30-year maximum reactor lifespan, 100-year decomissioning lifespan) have been proven false.
- University of Melbourne, Australia: Energy Lifecycle of Nuclear Power