Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nuclear NO-NO

Nuclear energy no-no
Mike Kantey, Coalition Against Nuclear Energy

Your nuclear power editorial on August 17 caught my eye not so much for its accuracy as for its supercilious tone.

You may not have heard the muttering on the street, closer to Pelindaba, and of the good citizens dying of horrible illnesses in Atteridgeville and Mamelodi.

Nuclear power may not produce much carbon but it was banned from the Kyoto Protocol for carbon trading purposes.

Everyday emissions from Koeberg nuclear power station include carcinogenic strontium-90 and cesium-137, not to mention long-lived plutonium-239 from the spent fuel.

The spent fuel has produced no lasting solution since the Manhattan Project in 1942. We're building skyscrapers globally with no toilets.

Pebble-bed technology was yanked off the German market after blowing up in May 1986 (its fallout blamed on Chernobyl) and flogged to some refugees from Armscor under the banner of IST.

Uranium reserves are not forever, therefore it is not sustainable.

As far as the funding of the nuclear ambitions is concerned, have you noticed that Eskom wants an 18% increase in electricity tariffs? This is after agreeing with Nersa last year to a 6% increase.

Why have they jumped from a projected R90bn to a projected R140bn overnight? Could it be the extra R50bn for nuclear power suggested by your own editorial?

And if you want the private sector to get involved in this fiasco, ask them why they have never taken up the offered share in this enterprise. And why no commercially driven investor has coughed up anywhere for a nuclear power programme.

Uranium is a bubble. One more Chernobyl is all we need.

Should that be in SA, where we can't even run a rail service properly?


Article referred to:

Let private sector in on nuclear power

No subject riles environmentalists in the West as much as nuclear power. Not so in SA. With the exception of an insignificant green movement, this week's adoption by government of a draft nuclear energy policy won plaudits all round. For government, nuclear power ticks all the right boxes: it produces little carbon, the technology is proven and uranium is fairly plentiful in SA. In Eskom it has a useful ally (some would say tool), in that half of its new power generation over the next two decades will be nuclear energy.

But there is a significant drawback: the cost of constructing nuclear power stations is significantly higher than that of building coal-fired ones, though in the long run they become cheaper to operate. Eskom currently runs a fleet of 23 coal-fired power stations - and is building a further two - which provide SA industry and consumers with the lowest-cost electricity in the world.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of Eskom's first planned nuclear plant at over R120bn, compared with the R80bn it costs to develop a similar-sized coal-based station. Similarly, enriching uranium, as the national strategy envisages, is a costly but necessary business if SA's plentiful uranium resources are used to power nuclear plants. A price tag of R10bn is the minimum to be expected. Government's draft document is conveniently short on detail on how its ambitious nuclear policy will be funded. It talks of a range of state institutions that will be used as legal entities to arrange the funding.

If there is one flaw in government's nuclear ambition it is the fact that private-sector involvement is limited to the mining of uranium. In other countries, private-sector companies are involved through the entire energy process, from uranium enrichment to running nuclear power stations. As the policy develops it makes financial and operational sense to let the private sector play a much more critical role.


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