Columns 18.2.2014 07:59 am

Less talk, more nuke power

Andrew Kenny.

Andrew Kenny.

Is South Africa about to advance with new nuclear power?

In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Zuma said: “We expect to conclude the procurement of 9 600 megawatts of nuclear energy.”

Is this just a soft confirmation of the 9 600 MW of new nuclear by 2030 already in the “Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity”? Or is it a hard commitment to order new nuclear stations soon?

Let’s hope the latter.

South Africa’s electricity supply is in dire straits. For the last five years we don’t know what our real electricity demand has been because Eskom has been unable to meet it. All we know is that it is much higher than the supply Eskom has been able to provide.

Industries have been asked or ordered to reduce production to save electricity; smelters have been shut down; projects have been cancelled because investors fear there won’t be sufficient electricity. Our economy is being stifled. We shall never get the higher economic growth we need.

Eskom’s coal stations, which provide 92% of our electricity, are on their knees. Because of a critical shortage of capacity, the existing stations have to run flat out and are suffering dangerous wear and tear. Availability is going down. Unplanned stoppages are increasing. The new coal stations, Medupi and Kusile, are suffering delays and problems.

Eskom’s 14 new gas turbines, using diesel fuel at extremely high cost, were intended to run briefly and seldom. Instead they have to run long and often.

Eskom will soon be burdened with useless, unreliable and expensive wind and solar electricity from the Renewable Energy programme. This will add to its difficulties in trying to provide us with reliable power.

Nuclear is by far the best option for clean, safe, reliable, economic baseload power.

The rumour is that we would do a nuclear deal with the Russians. They would be my second choice (after the American/Chinese AP1000 and CAP1400 reactors). Russia has the world’s most integrated nuclear power industry. Her VVER reactors are simple, sound and safe, with an excellent record (Her RBMK reactors, such as at Chernobyl, will never be built ever again). Russia is building VVERs in India, the Middle East, Turkey and Belarus at very competitive prices.

Let’s get on with it!

 

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