The question is: what kind of South Africa (and what kind of world) do we want to live in by 2030, and what energy technologies and strategies will get us there? The issues that need to be addressed are:
How much is it going to cost and what are the externalised costs to the environment and to future generations?
Who is going to benefit in terms capital, cash flow, jobs and skills?
What energy path is the safest simplest most flexible and cost effective?
What is the most effective way to address climate change?
NUCLEAR POWER COSTS THE EARTH
1 – No private investors or banks anywhere in the world will take on the capital costs of new nuclear power without government (read taxpayers) guarantees. Director Steve Kidd of the World Nuclear Association says that it is “completely impossible to produce definitive estimates for new nuclear costs at this time”.
2 – No nuclear plant operators anywhere in the world today carry full liability in case of accident. The cost of negative health effects, insurance and regulation are borne by the taxpayer. Without such subsidies, there would be no nuclear power.
3 – No investor can pay for long-term waste management or de-commissioning because the long-term costs are unpredictable. We cannot calculate the cost because no technology exists for long-term waste management and de-commissioning can be the same or more than the build cost. The time-frames can also cover tens of thousands of years, which is beyond the scope of rational accounting.
NUCLEAR POWER CREATES THE LEAST JOBS
1 – Renewable energy production systems and energy efficiency installations such as LED’s, solar water heaters etc. will provide and save more energy decentralizing both power production and risk. These will also be spread widely around the country beyond the reach of the Eskom grid and will create more jobs more quickly and be better suited to the skill sets that are readily available than nuclear power ever could.
2 – Even if we chose nuclear power over renewables, we do not have enough highly-trained engineers to design, regulate and monitor the safety of nuclear power plants through their long working life, unless we import them and pay heavily for the privilege. South Africa would have to compete for these skills with other countries around the world, most of them with much deeper pockets than us.
NUCLEAR POWER IS NEITHER CHEAP, SAFE NOR SIMPLE
The nuclear fuel cycle is made up of mining, fuel enrichment, fuel fabrication, nuclear power plant operation, waste management, and transportation, and has an irrevocable link to nuclear weapons. All of these highly complex stages carry serious health risks and environmental destruction.
Uranium mining raises huge masses of radioactive rocks from underground, to be crushed, the dust and tailings expose local people to radiation health risks along with the ecological devastation that is caused. The industry uses large quantities of precious fresh water and leaks radioactive and acidic waste water into the water supply, both above and below the ground. Radiation respects no boarders or boundries
Uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication plants release significant quantities of radioactivity and toxic chemicals into the environment, exposing all and sundry to the associated health hazards.
Nuclear power plants release radioactive fission products such as cesium and strontium routinely in the course of their normal operation. These products, which are radioactive and chemically similar to elements essential for life, accumulate in plants and animals which we eat, causing cancers.
INSTALLATIONS ARE A MAJOR SECURITY THREAT
Pelindaba “research” reactor (pictured above) has been broken into twice, Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) used for making bombs (from the dis-assembled SA bombs) is stored here and has been targeted by professionals. They have so far gained access but fortunately failed to get the HEU.
If nuclear plants were inherently safe they would not need evacuation zones or an evacuation plan. In the event of an accident, the worst-case scenario is uninsurable. Radiation damage is excluded from your home-owners insurance policy and all affected properties would be a total loss If nuclear power was safe, insurance companies (who understand risk) would be happy to insure you.
Nuclear power plants have to be run for a very long time if they are to recoup the huge capital investment and as the plants get older they become more fragile, brittle and more susceptible to failure.
The transportation of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste has a risk of accident and is susceptible to terrorist attack. After 60 years the industry has still failed to deal with the lethal waste it creates.
Nuclear weapons require tritium and plutonium or uranium. Tritium and plutonium come from nuclear power plants, so to make nuclear bombs, nuclear states require nuclear power plants and nuclear re-processing plants. Without nuclear power plants, there would be no nuclear weapons.
1 – The word disposal when used with reference to nuclear waste is a wrong, there is no “disposal” only long term storage with security and management over time frames up to 250,000 years, at what cost?
2 – These countries have both civil nuclear plants and nuclear weapons: USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and South Africa had nuclear weapons which were dismantled.
4 – These countries have civil nuclear plants and are suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons: Iran and Myanmar (Burma)
3 – Not a single country without a civilian nuclear power plan has nuclear weapons, or is suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons with the exception of Israel which is universally believed to have them.
NUCLEAR POWER IS NO ANSWER TO CLIMATE CHANGE
1 – The “tipping point” for climate change is the point after which global warming will not be reversed. Scientists say that this point will be reached when the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a volume of air goes past 450 parts per million (ppm). They also say that this point would see the average global temperature rising by two degrees Centigrade, enough to cause havoc. 2 – Right now, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 380 ppm and is rising every year by three ppm. By this measure, we can say that the 450 ppm tipping point will be reached within 23 years, probably by middle of 2020 — unless we do something NOW!
3 – Nuclear power does not release as much CO2 as other fossil fuel sources, but it is too expensive, too slow to build, too high in risk, displacing capacity from cheaper, safer and faster to build option
4 – If one were ordered today, a new nuclear power plant would not be ready to produce energy before 2025 and that will be TOO LATE to stop the rise of global warming.
5 – Energy efficiency is by far the most cost effective and quickest method of reducing CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency measures can be put in place for buildings, lighting, motors, transport, electronics, power generation and transmission almost immediately.
6 -A solar water heater can be installed in ONE DAY. One million solar water heaters with timers installed by 2020 would save 3000 MW of electricity and 26 million tons of CO2 per year. Using direct sunlight to heat water is much more efficient than using electricity.
7 – South Africa could save more electricity by efficiency, such as installing passive solar water heaters, LED’s etc. in every house, commercial building, and factory for less capital than paying for a power station to provide for the electricity currently required by the inefficient technology in use.
8 – Wind farms can be planned and built in two to three years. South Africa could have up to 10GW of wind energy by 2020, supplying 26 million kW hours of electricity per year. This could save another 26 million tons of CO2, or the entire output of one, very large coal-fired power station.
9 – South Africa has some of the best solar and wind resources in the world. Wind energy is now the cheapest of all sources followed by various solar panels and concentrated solar plants, Renewable energy prices are still falling while nuclear is easily the most expensive has costs rising fast as the dangers shown by Fukushima has forced increased safety measures. By 2020 there is no doubt that wind, solar thermal power with heat storage and the new batteries will be the most cost-effective sources of bulk electricity. Fuel costs will be nil and the electricity produced will be close to carbon-free.
10 – We would need 50 years to construct enough nuclear power plants to partially reduce carbon emissions and make a difference to the dangers of global warming. Too little too late.
WE DO NOT HAVE THE TIME NOR THE MONEY
The nuclear industry is in terminal decline, desperation is driving all corrupt means to secure orders.
Front runners, the Russian with the probable unit of choice their VVER 1200 reactors, would mean 8 reactors spread over the three proposed sites. The Russians offer to poor countries (like us) the BOO or BOOT program. This is where they supply the capital and expertise to Build Own and Operate sub-standard old technology reactors and the receiving government (read us tax payers and users) guarantee the long term purchase of the electricity at whatever price is agreed.
OUR CAPITAL IS TO BE EXPORTED!
Our government (read taxpayers end users) would indemnify the Russians against all and any accidents or negative outcomes. Once the vendors get back the capital with profits they give Transfer of the aged “assets” to the “lucky” winners. Obviously employment of S.A citizens will be minimal and short term with decisions made on a geopolitical basis, not in our citizens interest. All costs and associated economic, ecological and health risks are transferred to us, all the citizen of South Africa.