WWF cautions SA on nuclear energy

2012-06-13 14:00

Cape Town - South Africa should avoid going down the path of building more nuclear plants to ensure energy security, an environmental organisation has said.

"We have an international policy where we don't believe in nuclear - we are rather cautious and generally in many of our offices, they're pretty much opposed to nuclear power," Saliem Fakir WWF head of the Living Planet Unit told News24.

Internationally, many developed countries have moved away from nuclear generation after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan.

The building of nuclear plants internationally also takes a long time and they are often associated with cost overruns.

"The problem with nuclear is not just about the risk associated with radioactive waste, but it's also about the long-term financing cost, and it takes a long time to build.

"From work that we have studied, usually nuclear plants have huge cost overruns so we don't know if this makes financial sense," said Fakir who held the position of associate director for the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at the University of Stellenbosch.

Electricity demand

SA has an acute shortage of electricity generation capacity and despite two coal-fired power stations being built; demand is predicted to escalate as the economy grows.

The Medupi power station Unit one near Lephalale in Limpopo province is scheduled to come online in 2013 and Eskom has committed itself to resolving all maintenance backlogs by then.

Some have criticised the utility over industrial users which consume around 37% of electricity capacity, and Fakir said that an analysis should be done on the viability of massive industrial projects.

"A large sector of the demand is driven by smelters and so on and we have to ask economically whether those smelters are adding real economic value or not.

"I think there's an underlying structural problem also around economy with regard to fair share of income," he added.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters recently said that SA should move forward to build more nuclear power stations, amid opposition from Greenpeace.

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

Energy security

"Minister [Dipuo] Peters' support to expand nuclear power in Africa is extremely irresponsible given the socio-economic challenges prevalent on the continent," said Ferrial Adam anti nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

The WWF conceded that minister wanted to promote energy security for the country, but indicated that her comments should be balanced.

"We must be careful that a political speaker who is just throwing enthusiasm about how this is going to change the world is also balanced with some realism around the issues of whether these are good choices or not.

"The National Planning Commission, for instance, which is a forum of real experts; although they've come out in support of fracking, they've raised lots of concerns about nuclear. Even in government, there are differences of opinion about this," said Fakir.

A recent informal News24 poll found that the majority of users were in support of the country's push toward nuclear energy, with 34% concerned about the environmental impact.

"I think if you were to tell people what the true figures are and the potential for corruption and all sorts of things around a large infrastructure programme, it might change people's minds about this," said Fakir.

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  • Hallo - 2012-06-13 14:24

    Buzz off hippies.

  • doug.gass1 - 2012-06-13 15:27

    I'm not going to let a bunch of TV wrestlers tell me how to live my life :-)

  • judith.taylor.56 - 2012-06-13 15:27

    It is not feasible for SA to afford nuclear other than that freely available from the sun. The levels of pollution produced by uranium mining and beneficiation will destroy our land, air and water. A toxic burden that will wipe out entire communities and ecosystems. Highly toxic radioactive waste will destroy more as well. However, it is the costs which we cannot bear when solar and wind are becoming vastly less expensive (nuclear costs are rising)and will produce many more jobs. If Thynspunt goes ahead 20 000 jobs will be lost in the calamari industry and replaced with 1382 over 11 years by nuclear - doesn't make any sense at all

      gerrit.n.maritz - 2012-06-13 16:09

      You do realize we produce Uranium as a byproduct from mining Gold right? It really isn't that bad. Prove that 20 000 jobs will be lost (Proof means a peer reviewed study). And lastly, take into account that the manufacture of photovoltaic cells require nasty stuff such as cadmium

      Hugo - 2012-06-13 21:42

      you are wrong Ms Nkwe,very wrong.

  • jan.henning.14 - 2012-06-13 15:28

    Isn't a coal fired power station a far worse threat to the environment? If I look at Hiroshima today, the nuclear contamination wasn't nearly as bad as it is made out to be.

      gerrit.n.maritz - 2012-06-13 16:15

      While you are correct, Hiroshima is a bad example because it involved the detonation of a thermonuclear weapon which is completely different. Rather take a look at Chernobyl and the radiation levels after 30 years. While wildlife flourishes it is still too radioactive for long term human habitation.

      Hugo - 2012-06-13 21:21

      Gerrit the chernobyl nuclear technology is vastly different from what is planned for SA(PBMR VS BWR).The PBMR is much more superior from safety systems to cost competetiveness as well as lead time.The nuclear fuel design is such that zero radiation is released in the event of an explosion because the fuel pebbles are encased in hardened spheres.Explosion itself is highly unlikely as the core shuts itself down if coolant is lost and many more REALLY WONDERFUL FEATURES.Koeberg which is a PWR is also safer than chernobly(BWR) and FUKUSHIMA(BWR).Both reactors are cheaper and simple in design which is why they are so popular(US has plenty of them too,privately owned).They however have the distinct disadvantage of have a complex system for cooling.This means that the coolant system can fail(human error) .The planned tech (PBMR) dispeses heat naturally by conduction,convection and radiation.Also the BWR has what is called a positive temp coefficient i.e loss of coolant increases temp of core leading to 'melt down'.PBMR and Koeberg has a negative temp coefficient,i.e loss of coolant prompts the core to shut automatically. so this gym specimens must stick to steroids and leave us alone.

      gerrit.n.maritz - 2012-06-14 01:19

      HugoMabasa, errr where to start. Sure Koeberg is different but that isn't really the point that I was making. The OP used Hiroshima as an example and I corrected him on that. Lastly, the PBMR project has been scrapped since 2010. The reactors that are being considered by Eskom are conventional light water reactors.

  • TdJ01 - 2012-06-13 15:36

    No, Fakir is right we should all go back in the dark ages before electricity! Lets's be honest nothing will please these hippies, there will always be something for them to complain about.

      djozmo - 2012-06-13 16:37

      Yeah and you are not complaining ?

  • Harry - 2012-06-13 15:57

    At this stage it is all about the cost of electricity that matters. In SA we need this cost to be as low as possible to keep inflation low, to make us more competitive in the global economy, and to be still a relative cheap country to attract tourists. Statistics show that there is no real danger using nuclear, and even during the recent Japanese tsunami, people died from water flooding and the earth quake, but not from nuclear contamination. The government in Germany is dominated by the Green party; hence a very strong anti-nuclear policy. Pollution from the few additional nuclear of coal fired power stations intended for SA is virtually nothing compared to pollution levels in China and the USA. Moreover, one normal volcanic eruption produces more gaseous pollution than all coal fired power stations in the world. Rather support SA government to decide on cheapest possible electricity for all.

      djozmo - 2012-06-13 16:33

      Maybe the government in Germany is (as you say) "dominated" by the Green party for a good reason? its not like the Germans are technical idiots you know...??

      djozmo - 2012-06-13 16:35

      and wating for the government to decide on the cheapest electricity aint fun while they blow taxpayers money on parties, flights and Hotels...take a hint form the rest of the world, it is the advantage of being behind, you get to watch and learn (hopefully) from other countries mistakes.

      Hugo - 2012-06-13 21:30

      Djozmo germans are kings of engineering,look at our national court of arms:the BMW! however,Germany has enough wind to replace nukes by 2050 at the earliest.They are also have one of the world's largest photpvoltaic 'mine',though in winter sunshine prefers to stay 'in doors' most of the time.Most scientists and engineers agree that 'crossing over' to wind and solar from nukes 'will be like skating on thin ice',not that u cant... In SA the situation is diff and our challenges are unique nukes are the future,the technology is much much more failure proof such that other EU coutnries are looking to see if they cant partner us! support SA gov and lets move on to the 21st century ladies and gents

  • djozmo - 2012-06-13 16:30

    Whats with all this Hippie bashing all because its anti nuclear?? whats up with you south african idiots?? huh? Im a Saffa and you aint my brothers. and no I am not a hippie. but i sure as hell appreciate my natural surroundings and will do my part in pushing for cleaner energy. All you pawns pushing your "stoneage" comments etc go to a country that allready has nuke plants - and store there waste. It is obviouse you wanna bennifit from them, polishing pipes etc so please be my (our) guests.

      Hugo - 2012-06-13 21:35

      nukes are clean. for your info,WE ARE GOING NUCLEAR,so live with it.The plan is to have 25% of our power from nukes by 2030.The tech of choice is the PBMR which has many other applications,the result is that we can export high value capital goods.The technology was transfered from germany to here so we have a chance of being a world leader in 5th generation nuclear technology. liven up ! the party is just starting with SKA on board,I dont know

  • Andre - 2012-06-13 16:31

    How can SA even consider nuclear power having an abundance of alternative enegy arround them?

      Harry - 2012-06-13 21:21

      You are only right about the abundance of energy, which is uranium ore reserves. Gold ores contain significant amounts of Urananite, whilst huge amounts of Carnotite occur within the Karooo region. Then there are huge amounts of low grade coal, which is suitable for power station boilers. Other energy sources such as wood, sun and wind are inefficient as they cost a lot more per kilo Watt electricity produced. Do you want our country to become poor, jobless, ad more dangerous due to hungry masses that will rob and kill to survive? At this very moment China is busy erecting dozens of both nuclear and coal fired power stations, and their economy is thriving - are they stupid or are the Greenies in SA stupid? Why don't you Greenies rather try to convince China and the USA that they are stupid, because they are the main culprits regarding global atmospheric pollution?

      Hugo - 2012-06-13 21:39

      I was working with a guy whose masters theses was in alternative energy in SA.May I break it to you that the alternative sources are UNRELIABLE(load shedding),wind mines require acres and acres yet produce very little energy compared to a nuke plant.besides,we have an advantage of being the only ones who have the knowledge in this new tech,PBMR

  • pheko.phoku - 2012-06-13 21:08

    Is WWF a wrestling agency that I know? Are they with greenpeace?

  • Zahir - 2012-06-14 08:00

    Nuclear power stations will be too expensive this will result in annual increases in electricity of 30% and be unffordable

  • djozmo - 2012-06-14 13:01

    @HugoMabasa I can agree with you on these many points, that we cannot only live off clean energy. IT is true, I am living in Germany, But I am South African. I do know that Nuclear energy is safe and all, and its all "risks and what if's" that people are scared of,especially after Japan. Id too rather have a wind turbine fallout instead of a nuclear disaster in SA, my major concern is that of the waste product that gets stored away out of site underground. Foresure it is safe, and checked but it builds up and leaving this mess for future generations I feel is irresponcible. Germany needs A combination of electricity, yes. But SA does not have a popullation of over 81 million. ps thanks for the intellegent comments and not just "buzz of hippies etc"

  • charles.kubhayi.9 - 2012-08-15 15:29

    Government must use the money planned for nuclear energy to fund other energy sources that will prevent pollution and the destruction of nature.

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