Category Archives: Nuclear

Nuclear: Here we go again!

MoneyWeb, 18 September, 2017.

Energy: Necsa chair optimistic about nuclear procurement restart

(Ed. note: Well, he would be, wouldn’t he? Let’s hope the DOE and Eskom show some common sense and listen to the CSIR on energy policy)

Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) chair Kelvin Kemm believes that SA could restart a procurement process for its nuclear expansion project as soon as next month. However, he noted that government still has to determine the exact timing, says a Moneyweb report. SA is planning to build several new nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 9 600MW – one of the world’s biggest nuclear deals in decades. The plans were disrupted this year when the High Court ruled that a nuclear co-operation pact with Russia was unlawful. Kemm said SA officials have made progress on the nuclear project since the court ruling, and that Eskom and Necsa were ready to proceed. ‘All that needs to happen is for the politicians to press the restart button,’ Kemm is quoted in the report as saying. He added officials had sought Environment Ministry approval for one of the sites – at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape – and approval could be granted in the next couple of months. The next step would probably be for SA to issue a request-for-proposal to the world’s top nuclear reactor firms, all of which had responded to the government’s previous request-for-information (RFI), he said, adding he did not see the need for a new RFI after the ruling.

Full Moneyweb report

Eskom considers relaunch of pebble bed modular reactor programme

EE Publishers, 14 August, 2017.

(Ed, note: This is unbelievable! Perhaps it is a joke? Just the sort of project to strengthen one’s balance sheet!)

This article outlines Eskom’s approach in the development of the advanced high temperature reactor (AHTR) programme, commonly known as the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) restart. The proposed AHTRs are intrinsically safe, modular, efficient and modern gas-cooled reactors which are deployable in even the remotest areas of the country.

The technology base for these reactors, although in research stage, is relatively established with potential commercialisation within the next few decades. Eskom’s approach is to develop a 100 MWth/50 MWe “proof of concept” machine, based on the key lessons from the PBMR, with energy storage capability tailored to customer needs. The research effort is primarily hinged on the PBMR technology with advances in Generation IV reactors.

(Ed. note: Evidently Eskom failed to learn the key lesson of their first PBMR attempt – DONT DO IT! Ir would be interesting to find out where the funding is coming from.)

Read the full article here and hope that good sense prevails

Update on the proposed SA nuclear new-build programme

Chris Yelland, EE Publishers, 10 August, 2017.

During a wide-ranging interview with Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi on Friday 4 August 2017, EE Publishers investigative editor Chris Yelland took the opportunity to get an update from her on the state of the proposed nuclear new-build programme in South Africa.

It was all on track

This time last year, the procurement process for the proposed 9,6 GW of nuclear new-build in South Africa appeared to be well on track, and was indeed forging ahead. Brian Molefe, the hero, was firmly in control at Eskom, and had recently returned as a committed nuclear evangelist from a nuclear power induction programme for utility executives at MIT in the USA. Matshela Koko was head of generation at Eskom, and held similar pro-nuclear views.

Molefe put out an unsubstantiated and unlikely position statement that Eskom would soon be cash-flush, and could handle the proposed nuclear new-build on the strength of its own balance sheet, without the need for any financial support or guarantees from government and the Treasury.

The incumbent energy minister at the time, Tina Joemat-Pettersson appeared more than eager to rid herself and government of the burdensome nuclear hot potato, and happily dumped the responsibility to procure, build, own and operate the new-build onto Eskom, just as Molefe and Koko had asked.

Perhaps Molefe and Koko’s nuclear commitment was not entirely based on sound economic, financial and planning principles, nor in the best interests of South Africa and Eskom. Perhaps there were other nefarious agendas at play.

Whatever, Eskom seized the opportunity, and sprang into action, commencing the nuclear procurement process, and preparing to issue the long-awaited formal request for proposals (RFP) to the Russian, Chinese, South Korean, American and French nuclear vendors before the end of 2016…

Here is the full article.

Nuclear energy: the best option for South Africa?

Energize, Chris Yelland, May, 2017

Eskom appears to be more concerned with building new nuclear power stations than in signing power purchase agreements with independent power producers which use renewable energy sources. Energize caught up with energy analyst and managing director of EE Publishers, Chris Yelland, and asked his opinion of what generation technologies South Africa should opt for.

Chris, you are seen by many as an informed energy analyst and your views and opinion are highly regarded by people in the energy sector and the general public. However, there now seems to be a perception that you are opposed to nuclear energy. So where do you stand?

No, I am not in any camp – not in the renewables camp, and not in the nuclear camp. Being labelled in this way is a kind of personalisation of the issues that is unhelpful. It is a sign that the proponents or opponents are unable to address or answer the real issues rationally, and therefore resort to personalisation of the issues, labelling people and putting them into little boxes.

I am certainly not opposed to a nuclear new-build in South Africa on ideological or technology grounds. But there are real issues that both nuclear and renewable energy proponents must deal with.

What are these real issues that must be dealt with by the nuclear industry? Can you elaborate on them?

Firstly, there are public perceptions of political motives, political interference and corruption associated with  mega-project procurements. There are widespread public impressions that things are happening in secret behind closed doors, that due process is not being followed and that there are some rather sinister motives. Whatever we think of the perceptions, whether they are true or not, they actually need to be dealt with.

The high upfront capital cost and associated financing and affordability of such mega-projects is is an issue. One really has to deal with the high up-front capital cost issue, because it is one of the big drawbacks of nuclear.

We must also fully understand the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from nuclear power over the lifetime of the plant, taking into account the overnight capital cost, interest during construction, debt, fuel, operating, maintenance, decommissioning and waste disposal costs. The LCOE indicates the overall cost, in Rands per kilowatt hour of the electricity delivered from a nuclear power plant, in order to be able to compare it properly on a similar basis with other technologies.

Nuclear power stations take a long time to build, up to ten to twelve years per reactor, and mega-projects are prone to high cost and time overruns.

South Africa needs flexibility in an uncertain and unpredictable world, where electricity demand is difficult to predict in the years ahead, and disruptive technologies are on the horizon. Technologies such as wind, solar PV and energy storage may change the rules of the game.

Is it prudent to commit to a single technology and a single vendor for a fleet of mega-power projects with long lead times for 80 to 100 years in an uncertain world? Or would it be better to proceed with multiple, smaller projects with short and reliable lead-times, and lower price tags, that can be ordered and built flexibly to meet changing demand, economic circumstances and technologies?

These issues are not actually nuclear vs. renewables, but a issues of inflexible mega-projects vs. smaller flexible projects. So it’s not a question of being anti-nuclear or pro-renewables. It’s a question of giving oneself enough flexibility to deal with the real world in the decades and century ahead.

Here is the full article

The South African government hasn’t given up the fight for nuclear

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg, in The Conversation, 17 May, 2017.

Nuclear energy in South Africa is a highly contested issue; so much so that a court recently ruled against the government’s plans to issue a contract for the construction of eight new nuclear power stations.

The ruling appeared to have delivered a significant blow to President Jacob Zuma, and those who support him, who had set their sights on immediate nuclear expansion. The court’s decision was met with jubilation by those opposing the nuclear plan.

The expectation was that the government would appeal the decision. It didn’t, but this shouldn’t be read as a shift in its thinking.

Minister of Energy Nkhensani Kubayi made it clear after the court ruling that, while there would be no appeal, the government remained fully committed to nuclear expansion, and was planning to initiate a new process without delay.

This signals a realisation by government that an appeal would have little chance of success, and that a lengthy court process would tie up the parties in legal cases for months or even years. This would delay a nuclear build even further.

The minister has made it clear that the government is not giving up on its push for the controversial nuclear plan. But it has realised the process must start from scratch. This is the clearest indication yet that Zuma intends launching the nuclear build before his term of office ends in 2019.

Adding to fears that the government isn’t giving up the fight was the surprise reinstatement of Brian Molefe as CEO of the country’s power utility Eskom. Molefe left the job under a cloud six months ago. His reappointment led to immediate and widespread public outrage. Many have interpreted his return as beefing up the quest for nuclear.

Molefe’s return, however, isn’t as critical to the nuclear project as imagined, as Eskom has maintained his pro-nuclear stance in his absence.

What’s more important is that it’s clear that contestation around the future of South Africa’s energy sector will continue unabated. This despite the president having been severely weakened in recent months, and with it the power of the pro-nuclear lobby supported by his faction.

And here is the original in The Conversation