PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Conrad Kassier
 
Comments: 8
Article views: 740
 
 
Latest Badges:

 
View all Conrad Kassier's badges.
 

Behind South Africa's nuclear ambitions

05 August 2013, 07:15

In recent months economists, academics and international observers have rejuvenated the debate around South Africa pursuing nuclear power expansion. The government seems serious to follow its nuclear ambitions and to achieve the goal of adding 9.6 GW’s of electricity through nuclear energy to the grid by 2030. The Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP 2010) which is currently being disputed stipulates the country’s nuclear energy needs. President Zuma’s new role as chair of the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee (NNEECC) confirms the appetite that South Africa has for nuclear power. The fact that the contract is estimated to be worth R1 trillion demands a closer look at what this all means.

Three reasons behind nuclear power expansion during Zuma’s first term in office prove useful.  

Firstly, South Africa’s electricity sector remains in dire need of reforms and a more coherent energy mix. The IRP states that 23% of the country’s future energy mix should stem from nuclear energy. The coal-fired Medupi and Kusile power stations entrench South Africa’s historical coal reliance and internationally discredit the efforts to curb carbon emissions and to meet the Copenhagen emission reduction targets. Minister Gigaba’s comments are correct when he states that South Africa now needs to think “post Kusile in 2017”. This is where nuclear energy enters the equation.

Proponents of nuclear power and the very few correctly informed citizens welcome the notion of nuclear power in South Africa for the sake of energy security. Nasa research recently showed that between 1971 and 2009 an average of 1.8 million net deaths worldwide were avoided, thanks to the existence of nuclear facilities. Mortality figures based on the use of fossil fuel facilities are undeniably worse and besides being detrimental to human health, cause unprecedented damage to an already fragile environment that underpins human existence. The naysayers continue to cite the disasters of Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 and will persist with this for decades to come.             

Secondly, South Africa is undergoing a global political facelift. Since Zuma has taken office, South Africa is eagerly presenting an image of multilateral partnership and confidently asserts its image on the global stage, especially in the field of energy. Africa is rising and South Africa is driving its development forward. Zuma correctly understands that South Africa’s development agenda will never be realized without the cornerstone of energy security being firmly in place. With Zuma occupying Africa’s driver’s seat also comes the need to act. To play on the global stage, South Africa needs to prove its ability to keep up with global developments, which is why we also see South Africa being ambitious in matters of energy. Former Minister Peters’ noted recently that South Africa is reaching a point of no return with the nuclear energy agenda, which makes sense considering the above in a broader context.  

Noting South Africa’s increasingly important role in the BRICS grouping and as a gateway to Africa, the ANC is eager to compare its nuclear power capabilities vis-à-vis its fellow BRIC partners. Let’s consider some available facts:

Brazil currently has two PWR nuclear reactors, a third reactor under construction and additional units planned for the 2020’s.  Russia currently operates 33 nuclear reactors, continues to add to and diversify its fleet, and is selling its nuclear technologies to other governments. Putin and Zuma’s blossoming personal friendship will surely underpin Pretoria’s nuclear energy decisions in the coming months. India is operating 20 nuclear reactors and is becoming a leader in nuclear fuel technology with the potential to evolve the best practice of nuclear fuel cycles in the near future. China has 17 nuclear reactors in operation, with 28 under construction and more units planned. South Africa only operates Koeberg’s two reactors and has seen its Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project being scrapped.

Thirdly, South Africa is facing a gradual population growth increase which means that more people require access to electricity. The trend of a growing population is not going to abate, meaning that energy security and sufficient power supply are not negotiable under any conditions. Since 2001, the population has grown from approximately 44 million people to an estimated 53 million people in 2013. Without electricity, daily life grinds to a halt as we know.

Reliable energy sources are the foundation to sustained economic growth and providing the government with the means to reduce poverty and social inequality. Nuclear power on its own is a worthy, climate-friendly means of reducing South Africa’s supply and demand gap, even if current data show that demand has not risen as sharply as was expected. Electricity demand will continue to grow as infrastructure developments progress and as South Africa upgrades its manufacturing and services sector to attract foreign investment. Stable electricity supply underwrites the path that has to be taken to ensure that the gateway to Africa remains open.

To proceed with the nuclear procurement, South Africa must deal with three practical challenges which by all means leaves government’s work clearly cut out for them. Firstly, the PBMR project cost South Africa R9 billion since 1999 and was discarded after an investment meltdown, leaving skeptics and nuclear antagonists in jovial spirits. This also reduced confidence in South Africa’s ability to expand its nuclear facilities.

Secondly, the price tag of building six new nuclear reactors exceeds Eskom’s financial means entirely, considering the continued cost overruns of Medupi and Kusile. Currently, South Africa is already lagging behind in its nuclear procurement plans, based on the time required to construct the nuclear fleet. This means that the well-known nuclear power plant cost overruns are lurking in the dark already and are likely to increase as the construction process continues.

Thirdly, over the years the awarding of tenders by the government has consistently been met with criticism and has left dents in the image and confidence outsiders have about transparency.  To curb this, government is challenged to find alternative funding models that will aspire to the stark realities that face the development of the energy sector. However, light exists at the end of the tunnel because Russia is lobbying very strongly for the nuclear contract. An intra-BRICS cooperation effort is something that South Africa should aim towards.

Nuclear procurement is thus not a matter of “will”, but “when” will South Africa commence. The political and economic opportunities that exist are far too shiny to ignore.

Conrad Kassier is a Master’s student on the Erasmus Mundus Global Studies programme at the University of Vienna, and is currently based at the BRICS Policy Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

 

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Dr Johann Serfontein
NHI Fund Doomed to Fail

One of the principles of the NHI is the creation of a single payer mechanism, or NHI Fund. Read more...

0 comments 129 views
Submitted by
Stannich Makiele
Inside the mind of an ANC support...

I’m not as proud as I would like to be of the ANC especially the current president but it is the only option I have for now.  Read more...

0 comments 328 views
Submitted by
Angus Douglas
The Insidious Idea Poisoning our ...

All it takes to poison the political atmosphere is an insidious idea. Read more...

0 comments 123 views
Submitted by
Dr Johann Serfontein
Office of Health Standards Compli...

The fate of the Government’s National Health Insurance (NHI) project could be decided before it even started.  Read more...

0 comments 875 views
Submitted by
PoliticallyCorrect
I refuse to be called Black. I am...

I always refuted being called Black. Once, I posted on Facebook that I do not approve to being called a black person, simply because I am not. Read more...

0 comments 438 views
Submitted by
Leslie Fivaz
Assumptions...too often they're w...

Why is it that so many of our logical assumptions are just plain wrong? And why do we want to act as if they must be true? Read more...

0 comments 100 views
 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

TV Get us in your home, on your television.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2016 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.