Sunday, August 19, 2007

What a nuclear mess!

What a nuclear mess!

According to a Business Day report (24 July 2007), a "consortium" led by Ethos Private Equity in South Africa has sold the systems developer for the PBMR (1st Nuclear), to US-based Westinghouse Electric because it did not expect any short-term gains.

So one might ask who owns what? Wasn't the PBMR allocated millions for their nuclear budget every year from government - now it is sold privately for an "undisclosed amount"? Isn't that a taxpayers' investment being sold off?

They are still amazingly vague? How much will a PBMR cost? A spokesperson for the PBMR says "billions of rands". Could he be more specific? And how many people do these nuclear businesses employ? The defence unit is 50 people. And 1st Nuclear is 118 people.

CEO for Westinghouse, Stephen Tritch said South Africa would add "between 10 000MW and 20 000MW of nuclear power capacity over the next 20 years" = 18 new nuclear power stations, each with a capacity of 1 100MW".

The Nuclear Energy Commission of South Africa (Necsa) said electricity generated from nuclear energy would cost as much as R100 billion. How cheap is nuclear energy again?

Then on a World at Six interview, vice president for Westinghouse in South Africa, Dr Rita Bowser said: "Westinghouse...are really excited about the opportunity...not only because of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor but because of Westinghouse’s position for growth both in South Africa and overall".

When asked by Bruce Whitfield about comments that electricity tariffs in South Africa were rising so how could this be an attractive investment, Bowser said: "Westinghouse... currently service the Koeberg Reactor and supply both services and fuel there".

Whitfield asked if Westinghouse was planning to become an independent power generator in South Africa and Bowser said they were supporting their current business and looking towards the future with the Pebble Bed Reactor and light water reactor.

When Whitfield astutely commented that "things have gone very quiet on that Pebble Bed Modular Reactor front. I mean are we on schedule? I think what was it, 2010 or 2011 to actually have one of these reactors up and running".

Dr Bowser said: "Well I am sure Eskom are the right people to ask for that and the Pebble Bed Reactor team I have been over to their facilities and I can tell you they have an incredible dedicated workforce".

What can you say to that? Only that PBMR certainly are paid enough to be highly motivated - motivated to cling on to their jobs at all costs.

Ingela Richardson

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