Making the case for nuclear in South Africa

31 August 2018

The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has said it will make the case for the inclusion of nuclear in the country's energy mix following the release earlier this week of an updated Integrated Resource Policy (IRP) which sees no increase in nuclear capacity.

South Africa's Koeberg nuclear power plant is near Cape Town, pictured here at sunrise (Image: Pixabay)

NIASA Managing Director Knox Msebenzi yesterday said the nuclear industry was not in a "celebratory mood for obvious reasons", although the IRP had been greeted with a "sigh of relief" for making policy known after a long delay.

Msebenzi said the energy debate in South Africa had not been well-coordinated, characterised instead by "antagonistic forces" in the energy sector, with messages persuading against nuclear power as a viable option.

The narrative over recent years had been dominated by an "attack" on nuclear centred around allegations of corruption and the affordability of nuclear, he said. "A genuine evaluation of the merits of nuclear as an energy source should not discredit nuclear because there is a fear or suspicion that some corrupt deals were signed, and therefore the technology should be jettisoned outright," Msebenzi said.

Comparative costs of energy sources had not been calculated on a common basis, while technical considerations related to the intermittent nature of renewable energy had been "swept under the carpet", Msebenzi said. "In acknowledging the shortcomings of RE [renewable energy], the anti-nuclear lobbyists strengthen the argument for RE by proposing a major backup by gas generation, in a country which does not have a domestic supply of gas. This is a case of putting our country at the mercy of a foreign gas exporter," he said.

Msebenzi said the IRP's claim of job-creation focused on jobs per kilowatt-hour generated, and not "real" jobs. The additional costs of back-up generation and storage facilities required for renewable energy were not factored into the determination of the price per kilowatt-hour of electricity, but are unfairly included in determining the claimed jobs created, he said. The prices are quoted in the various renewable energy "bid windows" including generation costs at source only, he addde.

"This is like selling water at the Vaal Dam, but the consumer is in Polokwane," he said, adding that the operating costs for state utility Eskom to provide electricity "as a service and not as a commodity" had not been factored in.

"A transparent process of determining the appropriate energy mix for South Africa is required. We believe it is grossly unfair for the IRP to require extensive additional studies to justify the inclusion of nuclear in the energy mix. A lot of work has been done from 2007, which culminated in the 2010-2030 IRP. There were subsequent updates which meant that extensive studies were done, so to ask for further studies in respect of one energy source only, while boosting RE, is grossly unfair. As the nuclear industry, we will make representations to the department and we believe we will make a case for the inclusion of nuclear power," Msebenzi said.

IRP 2018 updates IRP 2010, which came into effect in 2011 and called for the construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity by 2030. The draft IRP, which was approved on 22 August by the South African cabinet and released by Energy Minister Jeff Radebe for public comment, sees the country's nuclear capacity remaining at 1830 MWe until 2030.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News