May calm and common sense prevail on nuclear power – Cape Chamber

Janine Myburgh says DMRE and NERSA are caught between a rock and a very hard place

May calm and common sense prevail on nuclear power

30 November 2020

We should be grateful to our lumbering bureaucracy. It sometimes avoids decisions based on the fashion of the day, rather than on common sense.

An admirable example is the slowness of the Department of Mineral resources and Energy (DMRE) together with the National Energy regulator (NERSA) in determining the direction the country’s energy supply must go if the wheels of industry are to keep turning.

It’s tough on them both. They are surrounded by highly-organised pressure groups with agendas that they loudly push at every opportunity.

One is the Green lobby. It has re-imaged carbon dioxide. No longer is it a benign gas that makes plants grow and drinks fizzy. Its public image is now akin to the breath of Satan himself.

To avoid a carbon dioxide Armageddon it proposes closing all coal-fired power stations, substituting them with massive wind farms and hectares of photovoltaic panels, all of which ironically require backup systems using gas, diesel, paraffin or batteries.

Opposing lobbyists would prefer to employ more hydro-electric methods of generation, or ones using liquefied natural gas, or indeed nuclear power which emits no carbon dioxide at all.

The upshot is that DMRE and NERSA are caught between a rock and a very hard place.

Engineers tend to think countering the perceived threat of manmade climate change should use nuclear powered generators. The DMRE agrees, but its first attempt at providing the base-load power by nuclear means was stymied by skilful Green propaganda, aided by more than a whiff of corruption.

But neither the Minister nor his Department gave up. This week NERSA called for comment on whether or not it should approve the purchase by the DMRE of a 2 500 MW nuclear powered generator to “provide clean base-load capacity in response to the approximately 24 100 MW of coal capacity being de-commissioned, as well as to maintain supply-demand balance and improved energy security”.

If approved, such a small nuclear power generator will make hardly a dent in the 24 100 MW that will soon be unavailable, but it will likely be of modular design and thus more easily added to when needed. All-in-all it is a sensible thing to do.  Whatever the lobbyists come up with in the way of rhetoric, the truth is Chernobyl-style reactor is not being contemplated.

So let’s play with a full deck of cards including Nuclear. Then we will know which system gives us more sizzle for our steak so that we can keep the kitchen of our economy operating 24/7.

Issued by Dean Le Grange, Media and Digital Co-ordinator, Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 30 November 2020