An Open Letter to “Nuclear for Climate”

by Mike Jonas

Today I received an email from the “Nuclear for Climate” organisation in Australia. The email is headed “We can give Australia a massive Economic and Environmental Boost with Nuclear Energy – A Plan for a Century.”, and its content is reproduced below. The link to the paper that they refer to is:

http://nuclearforclimate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Solving-Australias-Energy-Trilemma.pdf

Now I am a supporter of nuclear energy, as I think that it should and will become an increasingly important component of the global energy market, and I am very much in favour of it being considered by Australia. But I don’t agree with all the arguments presented for it by others.

I’m presenting my reply to “Nuclear for Climate” as an open letter, (a) so that their campaign can reach a wider audience, and (b) so that they can receive feedback on their arguments. As I said, I support the idea of nuclear power, and I am sure that a lot of WUWTers do too, so exposure here can hopefully be very helpful to them. But think of it as “tough love” – there are some things that must be said by their supporters that they might not wish to hear.

This is my open letter to them:

 

Hi Barry, Robert and Rob –

In your paper, while some of the arguments for nuclear energy are valid, there are some that are not. Early in the paper, the arguments presented in “THE ELECTRICITY SECTOR INVESTMENT DILEMMA” are incorrect. The primary factor pushing up the cost of electricity is not the “competitive nature” of the electricity sector, and it is not a “Tragedy of the Commons” issue. The primary factor is that the federal government’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) reduces competition in the electricity sector. It does this by forcing the use of renewable energy when alternatives are available. This pushes up the cost per unit of production for those energy providers who are thus excluded from a large part of the market. It also allows the providers of renewable energy to charge exorbitant prices for their electricity, simply because the other energy providers are prevented from competing with them. The effect is similar to that of a monopoly: the renewable energy suppliers are handed on a plate the ability to rort the system (you call it “gaming”). Your reference to the market being “settled every half hour” is irrelevant, because the problem is not the manner of competition, the problem is the enforced prevention of competition.

If the MRET could be removed – the sooner the better – then electricity prices would fall, and in my opinion they would fall a lot. The reason is that it would return the electricity market to being a competitive market again. In that market, there would be an excess of supply over demand for much of the time, ie. while the wind was blowing or while the sun was shining. In a competitive market with oversupply, prices are driven down. Electricity is no exception.

Australia’s base-load electricity supply situation is woeful, due to the disgraceful campaign against coal. You talk about banks not providing debt funding as if that is caused by the way the market uses half-hour settlement. The real reason of course is the vitriolic campaign that the greens have been waging against fossil fuels. That campaign, which is based on the laughable idea that Australia’s use of fossil fuels has an impact on Earth’s climate, opens the way for others to ride on the bandwagon in order to promote their own interests. Those riding the bandwagon include coal’s competitors, such as natural gas and renewable energy suppliers, and also people like yourselves who are taking advantage of it in order to promote nuclear energy.

Rob Parker, as I told you some years ago (at a CanWin function where you presented the case for nuclear power), I do agree that Australia should consider using nuclear energy, but I don’t agree with all your arguments. I wish you success in changing Australia’s attitude towards nuclear power, but I think you might do a lot better if you used only the valid arguments.

I will offer this email for publication on the web, as I think the subject of nuclear power needs much more open discussion. – and it will give you a significant forum in which you can reply to this and any other comments.

Cheers

Mike.

 

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58 thoughts on “An Open Letter to “Nuclear for Climate”

  1. I didn’t see anything in his open letter that perhaps they might not want to hear. Unless it is that they mightn’t want to be chided on misunderstand the economic principle of ‘tragedy of the commons’.

    ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ regards a ‘common good’ like open park land (‘The Commons’), available for all to use and maintained by all from ‘common revenues’. The ‘tragedy’ arises from the maintenance costs being borne by all, yet the usage is not evenly shared by all.

  2. I’m not sure what the ‘false arguments’ allegedly being presented in favor of nuclear power are supposed to be. Sure, the article addresses some apparent misunderstandings in how electricity markets could/should operate, but what does that specifically have to do with nuclear power (of which I too am a supporter)?

    • By the “jury rule”, if you find one thing wrong with the testimony of a witness, you may disallowed all of their testimony.
      While in the US, this legally only applies to the charge given to the jury in legal proceedings, it is also used the the court of public opinion, by some. Best to make an argument with no flaws.

    • That nuclear energy will somehow “save the climate” is the lie they are using. Make no mistake, they will try to use the climate lie to both favor nuclear financially, and punish “carbon”. They don’t intend for there to be a level playing field.

      • Bruce, you are quite right, I get a daily dose of World Nuclear News’ anti-carbon argument for nuclear, in my in-box every day. It is also, however, a good source of the state of nuclear power growth.

      • Bruce, I agree with your comment. The problem with the nuclear argument as presented is it is based on accepting the grand lie that it is necessary to limit CO2 emissions. Whilst I think that we should have a decent nuclear industry for reasons of national self interest the lowest cost power generation sources for Australia are clearly HELE coal supplemented with OCGT and some pumped hydro for peaking purposes.

        All the other (so called renewable) fluff does is inefficiently harness weak energy sources at a huge cost that if unchecked will eventually destabilise and destroy the national electricity grid.

    • 1. More atmospheric CO2 leads to climate catastrophes such as more and worse: floods, heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes and typhoons, disease, species extinctions, …, INSERT YOUR OWN fake catastrophe(s). The nuclear power industry is ultra-conformist. For over 4 decades they bent over backwards to meet ultra strict requirements of state regulatory agencies. They are not about to question the UN, no matter how many nuke engineers see through the climate hype.
      2. A nuclear power and renewable energy combination are an ideal, and urgent, replacement for fossil fuel electricity. This second false argument only makes sense if you accept both aspects of the first: (a) Nuclear industry believe everything the government tell them about climate change and (b) renewable energy + nuclear power made a well-suited combination.

      Nuclear power is not well-suited to pair with wind power; nothing is. Nor does it pair well with solar power at Northern latitudes because solar output is lowest in mid-winter, when electricity demand is highest.

      • Mark wrote:
        “Nuclear power is not well-suited to pair with wind power; nothing is. ”

        I generally agree Mark – this is due to the intermittency of wind power, which varies as a cube power of wind speed, and requires almost-instantaneous reaction from “spinning reserves” power, typically only available from hydro (assuming reservoirs are ~full) or natural gas turbines (which must be kept turning at idle, so they can spin-up at short notice).

        Nuclear and coal power plants are not easily or quickly spun-up to compensate for wind power, and are best-suited for “base load” power.

        It may be that new coal and nuclear plant designs are more flexible, but why bother? Wind power is a sick old dog, ridden with parasites – put the poor thing out of its misery – now.

  3. Due to the extra cooling required, nuclear produces a lot of warm water which ultimately translates to more H2O which is a strong gh gas.

    Gas powered power plants are the cheapest and the best.

    • Nuclear doesn’t require any more cooling than does any other power source.

      Ya boil water, use the steam to turn a turbine, then you use cool water to condense the steam back to water.
      It doesn’t matter what you use to boil the water with in the first place.

      • Not only that but 16 g of methane generates 36 g of water vapor when burned. (CH4 + 2 O2 —> CO2 + 2 H2O)

    • More human emitted water vapor has little warming effect because the water vapor rises to the level of condensation, producing clouds and ultimately, rain. Both are net cooling affects. Any extra DWIR produced by human H2O emission is negligible and irrelevant.

      SR

    • Natural gas directly produces huge amounts of water vapor. Even liquid fuels produce perhaps 1.2 gallons of water for each gallon of gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil, etc., a strong GH gas. Nuclear cooling towers or ponds or rivers do not have that direct combustion production.

      • Very true, seems to be that the main focus of research is into cleaning the salt and developing resistant materials that can house the fuel for the anticipated lifetime of a reactor.

      • Liquid sodium can be used. Different set of issues as molten salt — pluses and minuses between the two.

    • beng
      The UK government tried for 30 years to get a fast breeder reactor to work with molten sodium coolant. I worked there (did AB MSc thesis) for 6 months in 1990. Every second day a loud banshee screech was heard across the whole site – the sound of reactor depressurisation. The reason was always the same. Liquid Na leaking out of pipe welds. They never fixed the problem, and soon after my time there the site and program were shut down.

      Most other countries trying sodium cooled fast breeders likewise gave up and closed their programs. But not Russia. They have a reliably working sodium cooled fast breeder reactor: the BN-800 at Beloyarsk. Continually supplying the grid, uneventfully since Nov 2016. Hmm. Seems that problems with nuclear technology are more likely when they are mandated by the prevailing political environment.

      • France only closed Superphenix after years of obstruction by socialists-greens. It was actually working fine, after the “barillet” was shut down as a non workable concept. It was a prototype!

  4. Mike, your point about MRET adversely affecting price of nuclear (and other non-renewable energy sources), due to the undeserved advantage given to renewables, is correct. I agree accepting the current higher prices (for non-renewables) as normal is an error in Nuclear for Climate’s argument touting nuclear power, but only in the cost sense.

    Some of the readers here appear to have assumed you meant Nuclear for Climate’s argument was faulty in its claims concerning viability, longevity, safety etc.

    SR

  5. It’s nice to see that one of the two main back stage players now openly enter the playground, even at wuwt and Jo Nova’s homegrounds. Judith C. has indicated (I have to be careful here due to my deepest respect for her) that the nuclear industry might be one of the main players back stage in the global warming game. This is an industry with companies with strong links to military industry complex. The decomissioning of nuclear weapons has left quite a stockpile of material for potential use in nuclear reactors. Reuse and refining mean by and large selling the same stuff several times and at profit margins only matched by organised crime. Support from the largest international banks is at hand. Their profit margins from carbon credits etc is well explained by Jo Nova. The handling of waste from nuclear reactors is by planned company and responaibility shifts placed in the hands of the taxpaying man in the street, as is the decommissioning bills of the nuclear plants. Dear taxer, you’re being f….. in the the name of the global warming religion – and most wote for it at elections! Not much new under the sun (the major temperature regulator) – ftm (follow the money). And returning to the article – remove MRET – and the case is closed. Like that.

    • Just like the Natural Gas Industry is the big background player in the Dirty Coal campaign. Full disclosure: I approve of Coal, Natural Gas and Nuclear Power production.

    • There is so much wrong with this comment that it is difficult to know where to begin. First of all, it is obvious to anyone with any observational skills that the “nuclear industry” (as if it were one entity) is certainly NOT behind the “global warming game.” This is clear because all of the main players pushing the agenda — from Al Gore to 360.org, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists, etc. — are all anti-nuclear to various degrees.

      Next, uranium is so plentiful and cheep today that there is no economic incentive to make nuclear fuel from weapons material. The only reason why someone would to it is to pay to get rid of the material, not because the fuel is needed. Australia has abundant domestic supplies of uranium, if it finally develops the wisdom to make use of them.

      Finally, the description of waste disposal is ridiculously wrong. Nuclear power is the only form of electricity generation that is responsible for all of the “waste” it creates — not “renewables,” not coal, and not natural gas. I’ll use the US as an example, but other countries have comparable programs.

      Power plants are required to store all of the “waste” onsite. In addition, they are required to collect from the customers who use the electricity a fee that goes to a fund to pay for disposing of this “waste.” The taxpayer doesn’t pay anything. The owner of each plant is also required to maintain a fund to be used to decommission the plant and clean up the site. This fund is monitored by the regulator to ensure that it is adequate to do the job.

      • Up until very recently 10% of all electricity in the us was generated from blended down Soviet nuclear weapons. That is the reason for the LEU market glut.

        Presently the US has no domestic enrichment capacity due to the failure of the Obama administration to grant a loan guarantee to the one potential US enricher in favor of a Canadian one, which backed out. Uranium One is only half the story of 8 years of nuclear malfeasance.

        A loan guarantee in this instance is justified since the biggest source of risk in the enrichment market is the government itself.

  6. The problem that has led to nuclear price spikes is , in fact, entirely due to the stupidity of forcing utilities to buy renewable first, nuclear last, which means that nuclear plants, which are baseload plants, cannot sell all of their power, which is what they were designed to do. In addition to the fact that nuclear plants cannot ramp output up and down quickly (to save fuel) is the fact that fuel for a nuclear plant is a small portion of its total cost to operate (about 3/4th of a cent per kWHr). I would argue that one should wait until Gen 4 molten salt nuclear reactors commercialize in the next 10 years. They can be built in factories and assembled on sites that require little preparation and require no cooling bodies of water. Inherently safe and proliferation resistant, they can load follow (ramp output up and down rapidly) eliminating any need for fossil fuel peak generators and overall can produce power cheaper than any other technology.

        • Yes. Thank you for the link. I have followed this issue.
          China for sure is going for it. However, they are displaying so much sun collecting panels. Last I looked they have a site with, get this, 4 millions panels!
          And planning more and more (good luck disposing such 20 or 30 years from now).
          Maybe they look at such as “interim”. We all know they have huge air pollution problems and can’t wait for the “molten”.
          Still, I have a hard time to believe “within the next 10 years”.

      • Ten years? Absolutely not.
        First things first. Set up a regulatory program for reactor approval that is nominally 10 years long. (Dead Right There.) Now, any bureaucrat can drag out the approval process all the way to pension time, and they do. This adds many more years, which is the point. The regulatory process is job security for the bureaucrats, and they know it.

        Next comes the particular abuse of the courts known as “Lawfare”. Tie them up in the courts indefinitely. One favorite tactic is to endlessly challenge the “Environmental Impact Statement” After five or eight years, assert that the Environmental Impact Statement is out of date and needs to be updated. If your jurisdiction shopping was any good at all, your crony judge will agree and you have reset the process back to the beginning. Then you can start all over again.

        Item 1:
        The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was formed from a reorganized Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Immediately after, in the US, dozens of nuclear reactor plants were canceled. In the ensuing 40 years, only four plants have been approved. All of them by dragging the NRC through the courts, kicking and screaming the entire way. Any casual observer might conclude that the NRC was really formed to stop nuclear power in it’s tracks, which it did.

        Item 2:
        The ALCAN highway.
        The ALCAN highway was built at the height of WWII to connect the west coast of the US (lower 48) to Alaska. This was a military imperative to defend the continental US against invasion by Japan via the Aleutian Islands. As a result the highway was completed in 10 months. A tremendous feat by all accounts.
        Today:
        There was a news item recently that a bridge repair project on the ALCAN highway was given the go-ahead, and work could commence. This was noteworthy because the repairs had been held up for 10 YEARS(!) by the regulatory approval process. The whole highway only took 10 months, yet a maintenance project for a single bridge was sidelined for 10 years.
        Now consider: The whole delay was the government asking itself for permission to do some mundane highway repair.

        If this is your government, your country is doomed.

        • Certainly agree with you. Just look at Alberta in Canada.
          No need for more details, we all know what is happening there. Years of review ordered by the court. Good luck Alberta.
          But this is China. At least can China deliver the capability of the molten. I hope so.

          • @ rd50
            “At least can China deliver the capability of the molten. I hope so.”

            Be careful what you wish for.
            China is in this race for the good of China. If they succeed with a full scale industrial sized roll-out of these reactors, they will kill the West using energy so cheap, the west will have no hope of matching. Their industrial advantage will be overwhelming.

            India understands the threat, and has their own MSR project. They are pursuing their MSR as fast as they can, partially for economic and industrial development, and partially as a National Security interest.

            Meanwhile, the US and the rest of the West is fully engaged in “Regulation Nation”.

        • Totally agree about the regulatory monster, but Trump was hired, in part, to deal with that, and has dealt a few blows against it. 8 years of Trump could be the best thing to happen for this country in a very long time–stopping the metastasis of bureaucracy is a requirement for a sane future

        • Not related, but Olkiluoto 3 (nuke reactor in Finland) of which construction started in 2005, is now estimated to complete in 9/2019.

          That is 14 years of building a plant. I don’t believe in molten salt in picture before 2040.

          • Check out Seaborg.co. 20-foot 30-ton shipping container MSR by 2025 with 250 MWS Thermal or 100 MWS Electric, good for city of 200,000

  7. Although I am a CAGW skeptic, one has to face the reality that political parties come into and go out of power in Australia. Even if a conservative government permitted new coal or nuclear power, at some time in the future a party with a different political complexion will gain power, and the many millions of dollars spent by any investor in such a venture would probably be lost. Would I invest a significant part of my savings in such a scheme? Definitely not.

    The problem with nuclear power in Australia is the NIMBY factor. A nuclear power station or radioactive disposal facility has to be located somewhere, and even in the remotest regions of the vast continent of Australia, there will be someone living there who can be persuaded to object. Even natural gas suffers from the same problem to a certain extent.

    The only solution to all of this is probably time. CO2 levels will continue to rise as the third world industrialises while temperatures stay reasonably constant, and electricity prices will skyrocket with concurrent depressing economic effects. Invest in beer, and popcorn.

  8. The First World countries must embrace and lead on nuclear power not because of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, but because fossil fuel resources are limited and will run out.

    • rd50
      China are cutting fossil fuel use (and replacing it by nuclear) for the right reason – air quality.

    • This is an old lie that Thatcher used decades ago. On the contrary, the economically viable fossil energy reserves are higher today than at any time.
      If one adds the currently not yet economically usable resources, then the fossil energies will last for centuries. At this time, it will be possible to start the nuclear fusion. Therefore, there is no need to resort to any other kind of energy for lack of energy.
      From a technical and strategic point of view, however, I am in favor of nuclear fission. There are already very modern and safe power plants today. One should not rely on just one type of energy production. The reserves of fossil energy are too precious to serve only as a fuel. It is a treasure that should be available to our civilization for centuries to come.

  9. coal n standard gas not a problem offshore or onshore standard oil no worries
    frakked gas or nuke..nope sorry.
    we have enough damned good coal and LPG to supply all of aus many times over and if they have an accident its manageable and pretty clean re after effects.
    i and many others would prefer to see he grid we lrady paid for many times over returned back to govt owned water/ power/sewerage/and transport should be owned by the people not private industry
    ditto health care, since major usa health cos moved in our med costs soar
    and now the recent push for pet insurance is pushing vet bills above affordable for many
    everytime one of yur bright ideas chaps gets a toe in our door
    us mug taxpayers cop another price hike
    I add the RFID chipping of stock to that
    now even a damned PET sheep on a property has to have a chip in it.
    added charges to maintain and to handle at stockyards.
    internet of things is yet another crappy idea, along with the un wanted 5g network

  10. I understand why the nuclear industry seeks to advantage itself on the basis of the demon CO2. But the fix to a base load problem caused by political interference is to remove that interference, not leverage it. (I say this having a brother employed in the nuclear power industry who narrowly avoided having his plant shut down when the state was forced to bail it out with subsidies to help match the wind subsidies.)

  11. While the West insanely wastes $trillions building expensive, intermittent, unreliable, inefficient and diffuse wind and solar farms, the Chinese plan to have commercial-grade Thorium Molten Salt Reactors available in about 10 years:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20171214071933if_/https://www.iaea.org/NuclearPower/Downloadable/Meetings/2016/2016-10-31-11-03-NPTDS/05_TMSR_in_China.pdf

    It will be exceedingly difficult for the West to catch up because Leftist enviro-wackos will inhibit TMSR development and will hold up plant site approval and construction for decades, while it will take the Chinese months to assemble prefabricated TMSRs anywhere the Chinese governemnt deem necessary without debate…

    Nice going Lefties, you singlehandedly destroyed Western economies..

    How proud you must be…

    • “Giving society cheap, abundant energy … would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

      – Paul Ehrlich, “An Ecologist’s Perspective on Nuclear Power”, May/June 1978 issue of Federation of American Scientists Public Issue Report

      To these wackos, energy scarcity is a feature, not a bug. They will obviously fight MSR as they have fought fracking. I’m sure that if fusion were to finally become commercially viable, they would invent some reason why it is unsafe and must be opposed. Their anti-human agenda should be apparent to all by now.

  12. TO ALL AUSTRALIANS, FROM AN ENERGY EXPERT:

    Why go nuclear when your magnificent country has huge quantities of coal?

    Coal-fired power is cheap and clean – contrary opinions are held by certified imbeciles, who worry by CO2 emissions, the basis of all life on this beautiful blue-water planet.

      • True Yirgach.

        The Greens believe that their Carbon is good, whereas your Carbon and my Carbon are bad!

        Therefore we Bad Carbon People should be eliminated, but the Greens get to stay around and run things. Such is Green logic, and Green ethics.

        Proof:

        Quotations from http://www.green-agenda.com/

        It is truly amazing that the Green minions actually believe they are ethical, and of above-average intelligence.

        Regards, Allan

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the
        industrialized civilizations collapse?
        Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
        – Maurice Strong,
        founder of the UN Environment Programme
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the
        United States. De-development means bringing our
        economic system into line with the realities of
        ecology and the world resource situation.”
        – Paul Ehrlich,
        Professor of Population Studies
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “One America burdens the earth much more than
        twenty Bangladeshes. This is a terrible thing to say.
        In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate
        350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say,
        but it’s just as bad not to say it.”
        – Jacques Cousteau,
        UNESCO Courier
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth
        as a killer virus to lower human population levels.”
        – Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,
        patron of the World Wildlife Fund
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong.
        It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.”
        – John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “The extinction of the human species may not
        only be inevitable but a good thing.”
        – Christopher Manes, Earth First!
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “The extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival
        for millions, if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species.
        Phasing out the human race will solve every
        problem on Earth – social and environmental.”
        – Ingrid Newkirk,
        former President of PETA
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        “Childbearing should be a punishable crime against
        society, unless the parents hold a government license.
        All potential parents should be required to use
        contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing
        antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.”
        – David Brower,
        first Executive Director of the Sierra Club

  13. The view-count on this sleazy & amateur propaganda clip (from 2016) leapt from a measly 218 to a pathetic 268 in response to all the attention raised by this article.

    Of course, energy in Australia was much cheaper under the “socialist” system of public-owned utilities.

  14. Even though nuclear is the way to go for future base load demand there will never be nuclear power in Australia due to decades of scare campaigns over decades. The same scare subjected to New Zealanders who won’t allow nuclear powered ships in to her waters.

    Crazy!

  15. Dear Mike:

    The problem is that people have been saturated by hysterical anti-nuclear propaganda for even longer than they have been bombarded by CAGW noise. When was the last time you went to a Pro-Nukes concert? 🙂
    The supposed high cost of nuclear (in fact, the raw capital cost is not so much different than other industrial projects of similar scale) is due almost entirely (at least in the US) to lawfare by environmental groups dragging out the permitting process to cause maximum delay. Once a nuke plant is built, the cost of fuel is almost negligible.

    • French people has been fed antinuc antirad propaganda and yet there is still quite a lot of support for nuclear power!

  16. the renewable energy suppliers are handed on a plate the ability to rort the system (you call it “gaming” –>

    the renewable energy suppliers are handed on a plate the ability to resort the system (you call it “gaming”

    / or whatever intended /

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