Nuclear WAR

2012-03-10 12:51

The provision of adequate electrical energy is vital for the future prosperity of South Africa and, indeed, the entire world.

The upliftment of impoverished populations everywhere depends upon it.

In a world of diminishing resources and increasing population, reliable nuclear energy is an essential part of the energy mix.

In 2010 our country’s electricity consumption was 260 terawatt-hour (TWh). In the report known as Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010, gazetted in May 2011, the department of energy estimates that to meet the annual GDP growth rate target of 4.6%, the electricity demand in 2030 will increase to 454TWh.

 By 2030 we must commission more than 56 000 megawatts

(MW) of new electricity generation. This means we must more than double the existing electricity capacity that we have. We are going to need all the electrical energy we can get to avoid or minimise further blackouts.

We also need to generate the electricity in a manner that is safe, reliable and cheap while minimising CO2 emissions and the impact on global warming. The electricity generation mix in the government-approved IRP 2010 is aimed at achieving that.

The plan involves the construction of 9 200MW of wind power, 9 600MW of largely photovoltaic solar power, and 9 600MW of new nuclear power.

Nuclear power is well proven in 31 countries, including South Africa, and can play a major contribution towards climate change mitigation since nuclear power plants emit no CO2.

It is suitable and proven base load power than can provide the necessary back-up for renewable energy technologies.

The nuclear power generation industry has the highest safety standards, and has evolved and become even safer over the years.

Early nuclear reactors are referred to as Generation 1 reactors. France has generated nearly 80% of its electricity from 58 reactors for about 20 years and enjoys among the cheapest electricity and lowest per capita CO2 emissions in Europe.

When we examine the historical fatalities associated with the various generation technologies, the following statistics emerge.

According to an International Energy Agency study (2002), for every 10 billion kWh of energy generated, there were 33 coal deaths, 55 hydro deaths, 1.6 natural gas deaths and 1.2 nuclear deaths.

Further safety measures considered virtually to eliminate any possibility of a major release of radioactivity have been designed into the so-called Generation 3+ reactors under construction in Finland, France, China and the US.

As with successive generations of aircraft, nuclear reactors have become safer with each new generation.

Other than at Chernobyl, no one in the world has been killed by radiation associated with an operating nuclear power reactor, including Fukushima. The safety record of nuclear is exemplary, and the facts are there to prove this.

The Nuclear Energy Institute White Paper on The Cost of New Generating Capacity in Perspective, published in January 2012, states that the levelised cost of nuclear generation is in the order of $76-87/MWh, which is competitive and predicts that by 2025 this will be the second-lowest cost after natural gas.

The figures were taken from the Electric Power Research Institute Programme on Technology Innovation (June 2011).

According to a report called Green Job Realities: Quantifying the Economic Benefits of Generation Alternatives by Donald Harker and Peter Hans Hirschboeck, nuclear power generates the second-highest number of direct and permanent jobs after solar PV.

Since South Africa has the fourth-largest reserves of uranium in the world, it follows that we could operate about 60 more Koeberg-type reactors for their 50-year lifetimes.

Nuclear technology is here to stay and it is not a stop-gap solution. It has the potential to power the world for thousands of years.

» Ayanda Myoli is CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa

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