Kim Cloete
2 minute read
26 Jun 2014
6:00 am

‘Mushroom-cloud ambitions for SA’

Kim Cloete

Executive director of the Free Market Foundation, Leon Louw believes the return of nuclear power as a key ingredient in the state's energy plans will be a 'catastrophe'.

FILE PICTURE: Power station. Picture: AFP

Estimates for the programme’s costs range wildly between R500bn and R1 trillion, with output ambitions indicating three nuclear plants will have to be built.

The massive expenses and risk to the fiscus means investment in the sector should be left in private hands, Louw says.

“The government has shown conclusively that it is unable to manage electricity … Nuclear will make the disasters of Medupi and Kusile seem small,” he says.

In his address to Parliament earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma said work needed to be done on all forms of energy especially nuclear energy and shale gas with regards to funding, safety, exploitation and the local manufacture of components.

Zuma said nuclear had the possibility of generating well over 9000MW.

Louw says he is not principally opposed to nuclear and sees it as a safe and reliable option. However, he’s concerned about nuclear energy investment remaining in government hands, as it is so expensive. He’s cautioned that it could also be wide open to kickbacks.

The cost of investing in nuclear in SA has been estimated at around R1 trillion, although nuclear physicist and CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants, Kelvin Kemm, says it could be closer to R500bn.

“The only way we can have nuclear is to let private investors risk their own money for which we are not responsible. That’s happening worldwide. Pouring government money into it is irresponsible. Taxpayers will end up paying. We are sitting with a dinosaur model, what I’d call an ‘energy policy for neanderthals’,” said Louw.

Louw’s other concern is that nuclear will take far too long to build; he estimates seven years, although Kemm says nuclear power stations are being built in Korea within five years.

“When you are dealing with a crisis, as we are, you need to build something quickly … small power stations and gas turbines. You don’t build Kusile, Medupi and nuclear. That is a perpetuation of the energy crisis and will guarantee that the economy will stagnate,” Louw said.

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation says nuclear would revitalise the economy and fuel broader industrialisation.

Kemm says power stations like Medupi and Kusile won’t meet energy demands, underscoring the need for nuclear. Over 9 000MW of nuclear power equates to three big power stations, each “twice the size of Koeberg”.

Kemm says the outlay is expensive, but the payoff will be tremendous.