Energy minister pushes nuclear

2012-05-31 14:12

Johannesburg - Nuclear energy would help Africa realise its energy security goals, the energy minister said in Johannesburg on Thursday.

"We cannot, because we are black, end up having a dark continent," Dipuo Peters said at a business breakfast hosted by The New Age.

South Africa was rich in uranium reserves that could be used to create an abundance of energy.

"God gave us these resources and we must use them," she said.

Africa needed to take a proactive role and would not be bystanders in the energy revolution.

Waste management institute

Earlier in the week, Greenpeace activists protested against the expansion of the nuclear energy on the continent and claimed Peters had not adequately responded to their concerns. Peters said she believed further engagement was needed, but felt the environmental group was not prepared to compromise.

"[Greenpeace] don't want nuclear, you don't want hydro, coal. It's important they understand we are an energy intense economy."

Peters said President Jacob Zuma had given her the mandate to "demystify" nuclear power to overcome public concerns. Aspects of nuclear technology were already used in hospitals, desalination plants, and in agriculture.

The government was also in the final stages of establishing a nuclear waste management institute, which would keep the public informed of measures to deal with nuclear by-products.

Concerns about fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, to extract shale gas reserves needed to be overcome through research and technology.

"We cannot allow a blessing to lie fallow... If shale gas is one of the blessings, we are going to go for it," Peters said.

It was essential, however, that the process was not rushed. The technology involved in fracking was established in other countries, such as Australia and the US, and similar to that used in processing gold. Means of extracting the shale gas safely would benefit the people of the Karoo, she said.

Asked about the tender processes associated with the expansion of the nuclear industry, Peters appeared amused at South Africa's preoccupation with tenders.

"Why should we always be tenderising everything?"

  • Judith - 2012-05-31 14:51

    Dear Minister you have absolutely no idea of the health impacts of what you are proposing. Uranium mining and beneficiation pollute the lives of the workers, the nearby communities, the water, air and land as a result of the radioactive waste products. Fracking is no different. Apart from that neither produces jobs in any quantity and, if you go ahead in Thynspunt over 8000 jobs will be lost immediately and only replaced by 1300 over 11 years. The cost of nuclear is outrageous and is the only form of power generation which is rising exponentially in cost with completion predictions extremely uncertain. Is your aim to bankrupt the country and kill off everyone? Or will you listen to the counter arguments and build clean solutions which create jobs at far lower costs? Is, perhaps, Chancellor House's investment in Hitachi and Westinghouse clouding your objectivity?

      indianajohn - 2012-05-31 15:18

      Please tell us about these cleaner solutions at far lower costs.

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 15:56

      Wind, wave, geothermal, solar (pv or parabolic trough.) I could go on?

      indianajohn - 2012-05-31 16:38

      Those are not cheaper. They are far more expensive. Nuclear power is the cleanest, safest, most cost-efficient means of electricity generation. Your opening paragraph in particular is total rubbish. Nuclear plant impact on the environment is negligible compared to traditional coal plants. We all want cleaner energy but some people seem completely stuck on promoting impractical solutions that simply can't work without more money than we have.

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 17:22

      indianjohn, the initial infrastructure costs are more, granted, BUT those types of facilities require very little maintenance, no raw materials, and can be run with skeleton crews. There are also no safety issues, and you can have them (in some cases) on agricultural land, or even in the sea - so there's less cost in terms of land use. How is coal better than that?

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 17:23

      Geothermal energy could even be harnessed from 'used up' mines that are already there. Safer than nuclear, that's for sure.

  • EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 15:55

    This after the whole world decided to move away from nuclear, after the meltdown in Japan. Eish.

  • Ben - 2012-05-31 16:08

    Wish people would just work out the kinks. Waste and hazard that is. It's much cleaner than a long shot. Coal "fly ash" emitted by burning coal for electricity sends 100 times more radiation into the surrounding environment than nuclear station does producing the same amount of energy.. I'd rather live next to a nuclear plant than a coal plant. Yes Japan and Chernobil was monumental cluster F***s... But yeah...human error.

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 16:11

      Bolt. Reactor. Nuff said.

      Ben - 2012-05-31 16:12

      PROS It's a reliable source. It's cheap, almost as cheap as coal. It is a lot more environmentally friendly than other sources of energy that we currently rely on. Accidents rarely happen. (But when they do...) Safer to obtain the materials necessary (not dangerous like obtaining coal) Provides secure jobs. Power plants take care of environment.

      Ben - 2012-05-31 16:12

      CONS Can be dangerous. Relies on a rare element, Uranium or Plutonium. Plants are harder to maintain. Requires more time to produce energy. Requires use of water sources and can affect temperatures of water which, in turn, effects the ecosystem that inhabits it.

      Ben - 2012-05-31 16:30

      like I said.... kinks. In no way what so ever can you give coal the thumbs up over nuclear. Compare environmental effect, serious illnesses and deaths. It's actually funny if you see the stats. But all n all I want to see the human race put some effort (real effort) into harnessing that mindbogglingly huge reactor we call the sun... That beast emits roughly 400 million million million million watts a second. A million times more than the US uses in a whole year.

      Chrysippus - 2012-05-31 19:25

      @Thoughtsandstuff. Dangerous to give opinions on things you might not be familiar with. The bolt wasn't in the reactor, it was the turbine. Nothing to do with reactor.

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 21:56

      Okay. Greenpeace, Koeberg. The point IS, nuclear is not a bad option, GENERALLY speaking. However, if countries as advanced as Japan can't guarantee safety when it comes to nuclear, then how can a third world backwater that can't even maintain coal supply with any guarantee do it? All of the world's major nations, including Germany (known for their precision) are moving AWAY from nuclear. Britain is building wind farms on the sea, to save land space. Portugal has wave farms. The US is developing geothermal power plants, AND has some of the world's biggest parabolic trough power plants. Why the move to nuclear, when there are so many other, SAFE options for power?

      EricksonTL - 2012-05-31 21:58 I may have got the bolt's location wrong, but please point out how sustainable, GREEN energy is a bad thing?

      piet.strydom - 2012-06-01 07:33

      @thoughts - The problem is that none of the "green" alternatives can provide enough power. Yet.

      EricksonTL - 2012-06-01 11:05

      Not on their own, no. But do you really think that they would shelve the coal plants if they went nuclear? There are even technologes out there that combine wind and solar (pv) in one device - so whether you harness wind or sun, or both, you WILL have power from it. The options are out there, and they are quicker (and possibly cheaper) to implement. They're safe, and there is virtually no maintenance involved. I'd MUCH rather there was some focus on that than on nuclear!

      piet.strydom - 2012-06-01 19:33

      @Thoughts - there is a lot of attention being given on all alternative energy sources, but we need something now that is better than coal, and the only viable solution is nuclear. As technologies develop, they will be implemented. But we cannot sit without electricity and wait until wind/solar/whatever is a viable alternative.

      piet.strydom - 2012-06-01 19:36

      I personally think that the solution to our fuel problems will come in the form of bio-engineered bacteria that can produce diesel, none of the other existing technologies are as flexible.

      Malans - 2012-06-01 20:29

      News flash: "German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said." South Africa has a LOT more sunshine than Germany and a LOT more wind to boot. Too bad we just want to roll in the mud, instead of embracing a renewable energy future with vigour and determination.

      piet.strydom - 2012-06-02 18:46

      @Malans - GOOD!! 22Gw is a huge amount of electricity. For how long did they produce 22GW? 24 Hrs? Daylight hours? Sunshine hours? In Germany, their total contribution from Solar is 3.2%!! To provide all electricity from solar would therefore require 66 TIMES the capacity they currently have. They currently have 15 plants exceeding 20 MW capacity, and numerous smaller ones. That means at LEAST another 1000 Twenty MW plants. So rather than getting snarky, get realistic.

      piet.strydom - 2012-06-04 14:09

      66 times of course assumes that those solar plants are operating 24/7....

  • Alastair - 2012-05-31 21:59

    Sure, go nuclear for SA's needs, but why continue to use uranium as a fuel? It's expensive, dangerous now & hazardous for a very long time - although does produce nuclear weapons grade material as a by-product. Hm! Thorium on the other hand (of which SA has an abundance) is an easy & proven nuclear fuel, is inexpensive to access, is efficient, 'clean', requires a plant footprint 100 times less than a uranium fuelled nuclear plant & has no melt-down potential. SA, with only one ageing uranium fuelled plant, is not committed to that technology & need not follow the herd. Why then sign up to a new batch of uranium fuelled plants when a much better technology is readily to hand?

  • guwonson - 2012-05-31 23:17

    Hahahaha......... Nuclear power ... run by South Africans. Nuff said.

  • Dakey - 2012-06-01 10:39

    Radioactive waste remains for 100,000 years. That is about 8 times longer than the Pyramids have been around. Even if it takes 1,000 years to find cleaner energy, it is worth the wait. Can you imagine what would happen if this country has a civil war in the next 100 years? Who's manning the nuclear stations now?

  • Kate - 2012-06-01 11:54

    Madam Minister, God also gave us sunshine and wind! We must use these before we exploit energy sources that are so destructive to the health and well-being of people and future life on the planet, our only home! Have you heard of climate change?

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