South Africa’s new nuclear energy plan is a large remorse …

The Pelindaba nuclear research center west of Pretoria, South Africa, was photographed on July 10, 2012. The center was used by the apartheid government in the 1970s for research and construction of nuclear weapons. It is used today to produce medical isotopes. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy)

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 shows that a nuclear construction program “is not an option to regret in the long run”. I disagree and believe that a new nuclear build program is just the opposite – and poses a very high risk.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has one Consultation paper and requested public contributions, comments and replies According to a decision by the Minister for Natural Resources and Energy in accordance with Section 34 (1) of the Electricity Ordinance Act 2006, to procure 2,500 MW of new nuclear energy in South Africa.

The ministerial determination was sent to Nersa for review and approval. This is a necessary step before the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy (DMRE) can launch a call for proposals to nuclear suppliers following an open, transparent and competitive procurement process.

I am against new nuclear power in South Africa, and I definitely am Not because I am ideologically opposed to nuclear energy or nuclear technology per se, but for reasonable, pragmatic reasons and the lack of a valid business model, including but not limited to:

  • The high cost of capital / interest during the owner’s construction and development costs;
  • The long planning, approval, procurement and construction times of over a decade; VI
  • The inevitable high cost and time overruns associated with complex mega-projects;
  • Establishing and operating the inflexibility of nuclear energy in an electricity network that increasingly requires flexible generation capacities; and
  • Most importantly, the need to be committed to a single supplier country, single supplier company, single technology and design for a period of 100 years – including construction, operation and decommissioning.

This ministerial determination comes at a time when the world of energy and electricity is changing rapidly, when the prices of renewable and flexible generation technologies are falling, when new energy storage technologies are emerging, when the future of large-scale, centralized generation is changing, and when electricity needs are overflowing Long distance transmission networks are decidedly uncertain and in decline.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 states that auclear build program “is an option in the long run without regrets”. I disagree, and believe that a nuclear rebuild program is just the opposite – a very high risk and high regret option. This is not the time to make extremely expensive 100 year commitments.

So I urge thinking people to oppose the new nuclear power in South Africa – because this is clearly not a national priority and new nuclear procurement cannot prevent the current electricity crisis from turning into a disaster over the next decade. DM

Written comments on the ministerial designation for 2,500 MW new nuclear power in South Africa should be emailed to Nersa at [email protected]. The deadline for submitting written comments is Friday – February 5th, 2021, but in general Nersa will also accept written comments after the deadline. The dates for public hearings on the ministerial decision will be announced by Nersa shortly.

Chris Yelland, OUTA energy consultant and managing director of EE Business Intelligence.

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