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Are we clear on nuclear for South Africa?

“Koeberg is a cash cow for Eskom”

President Jacob Zuma’s remarks during last week’s SONA on the country’s nuclear future might seem contradictory, but this is not the case, says Dr. Anthonie Cilliers of North West University’s School of Mechanical & Nuclear Engineering. President Zuma said South Africa’s nuclear build programme would roll out at a pace the country can afford and that the plan was to introduce 9600MW of nuclear energy in the next decade.

Dr Cilliers says “the government has been conducting a number of studies on the affordability of the new build nuclear programme. It is however important to assure this to the public. In the past year a perception has been left in the media that the nuclear programme will go ahead without any knowledge of the cost and responsibilities that come with it.  I hope the President’s comments will help to change this perception.”

He says South Africans should not be worried: “contrary to popular sentiment the process of 9600MW of nuclear procurement has been extremely open and transparent. The vendor parades were well documented within the confidentiality constraints of a competitive bidding process. Government has cancelled an unaffordable tender process in 2009 indicating the commitment to affordability. I want to emphasise what the President said. We remain committed to the 9600MW of Nuclear New Build, but we will do it at a scale and pace the country can afford - that is what we should so.”

Nuclear power by FAR the safest option

“Contrary to what people think and believe, nuclear power provides by far the safest option” states Professor Johan Slabber, professor in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Pretoria. He adds: “it also compares virtually on a one to one basis with coal when it comes to the costing. Although the capital cost is somewhat higher to start with, its running cost is much lower.”

Prof Slabber says the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has been running smoothly now for more than 30 years: “Its load factor is 90% plus, compared to coal fired stations which run at 75%. It is the 'cash cow' at the moment for Eskom. So with this as a clear example of a reliable and safe technology, why hesitate any longer?”

Nuclear has potential to transform our country

North West University’s Dr. Anthonie Cilliers says “I believe very strongly that nuclear energy has the potential to transform our country’s economy as it has done for South Korea - catapulting it from the second poorest country in the world to an industrial and economic power house.”

He adds: “to support that I believe I should focus on two things: Building the right skills required, and ensuring that we understand exactly the magnitude of the challenge we are taking on. To address the first one we have initiated the South African Network for Nuclear Education, Science and Technology (SAN-NEST). To address the second one, I have initiated a project to build a small zero power reactor suitable for nuclear training at the NWU.”

Rosatom: ready to cooperate

The Russian nuclear energy firm Rosatom is seen as a favourite to win the bid for a second nuclear reactor in South Africa. Mr Viktor Polikarpov, Regional VP: sub-Saharan Africa for Rosatom: “we are ready to cooperate with local companies to revitalise the entire nuclear industry in South Africa, to develop a full-scale nuclear cluster of world class standards, from the front-end of nuclear fuel cycle up to the engineering and manufacturing of complex power equipment and in doing so, create reliable partners that can assist us in achieving our ambitions further up in Africa. South Africa has the infrastructure, technical capabilities and legislation in place for this to become a reality now.“

Nuclear Power Africa

Dr. Anthonie Cilliers, Prof Johan Slabber and Rosatom are some of the nuclear experts who will be part of the discussions at the upcoming Nuclear Power Africa on19 May in Cape Town. The event will examine the myths and realities of nuclear power and explore the future of nuclear in the coming energy transition. Expert speakers will look at lessons learned from nuclear build programmes around the world, and provide insights on advanced nuclear technologies available today and in the near future.

Seen and heard on the Twitter Live Chat for #AUW2016 on #Nuclear: http://twubs.com/AUW2016

  • #Nuclear build needs to be viewed as an investment and not an expense, especially taking into account its 80 year lifespan.”
    Knox Msebenzi, MD, Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa)
  • “South Africa has a pool of skills in #nuclear spanning decades from one of the world's most safe plants, Koeberg.”
    – Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, Editor, ESI-Africa
  • “Yes, Renewables are doing well. In a complete #Energy strategy however, a mixture of sources should be considered.”
    - Daniel Swanepoel, renewable energy expert

Nuclear Power Africa is an authorised side event at African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa, organised by Spintelligent, leading Cape Town-based trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events Ltd, based in the UK. The event forms part of a global energy event series, including European Utility Week, Australian Utility Week, Asian Utility Week and Latin American Utility Week. Other African flagship events in Spintelligent’s power portfolio are East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC), West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC), iPAD Rwanda Power & Mining Investment Forum and iPAD Cameroon Energy & Infrastructure Forum.

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