Solar is clean and instant – nuclear is costly and distant
24 March 2016
Mr Zuma wants to push ahead with the nuclear build. He is doing so in spite of the fact that nearly R10-billion was wasted by the government on the Pebble Bed reactor. Had that money gone into renewable energy, electricity would have been flowing into thousands of factories, mines and homes to stimulate our economy. The failure of the pebble bed reactor was quietly made to go away. Now, once again, the question of nuclear power stations is in the air. Will there be a different result this time around?
Électricité de France, EDF, has been building a nuclear plant at Flamanville in Normandy, France. The same company is finding difficulty to procure £18bn to construct a plant of similar design at Hinkley Point in the UK. That is owing to the French plant being years behind schedule and the estimated cost of €3.3bn will have shot up to €10.5bn. It is a risk South Africa cannot even contemplate.
Prolonged delays and cost overruns will most certainly also occur in South Africa as we have seen with Kusile and Medupi. The estimated cost and scheduled date of completion must therefore be multiplied by 3 or 4.
EDF is presently having difficulty with the steel for the reactor vessel. If EDF fails the steel test, it will add more years to the construction and push up the price even higher. The same problem is occurring in Finland.
Solar allows for plants to be set up safely, quickly and even ahead of schedule. Moreover, they can be sited almost everywhere in the Northern Cape and adjoin areas. There are too many places in South Africa where solar radiation is high throughout the year. In the time period that a nuclear power station will come on line, solar will have been operational and it would have evolved substantially for the problem of base load to have been solved through new technologies.
With solar radiation in such abundance in South Africa and investors so eager to fund projects, the government should embark on the solar route and wait to see what happens in France, Finland, England and elsewhere. If government encouraged fifty more companies to set up solar farms, within two years South Africa will have an abundance of clean renewable energy and a healthier environment to boot.
Investors are waiting. Job seekers are waiting. Mines and industries are waiting. Mr Zuma, however, is the impediment because he has another agenda in mind. If, however, Deputy President Ramaphosa wants to demonstrate that the ANC is indeed not for sale, he will persuade cabinet to agree to the licensing of fifty more solar farms within the next ninety days. Energy constraint can be overcome quickly and effectively within 24 months if there is any political will and bravery within the ruling party.
Issued by Dennis Bloem, COPSE Spokesperson, 24 March 2016