“We have the accumulation of socalled nuclear material that tends sometimes to be reused but includes a large stock of more than 80 tons of separated plutonium, which is a major concern for proliferation and safety, and including depleted uranium in very large quantities and also tens of millions of tons of mining residues.”
He contends the nuclear targets contained in the draft IRP are “very short-sighted”. ou need a long-ter m vision of a much more decentralised system. Developing and emerging countries have the opportunity to develop, from the start, relevant and clever infrastructure for generating electricity, transporting electricity and consuming it… rather than trying to copy the developed countries and going for this kind of nuclear prestige that won’t bring anything but problems. There’s no point arguing it’s not feasible. It’s just a matter of political will.”
As global leaders converge in Cancun for the UN climate summit, which got under way this week, Greenpeace’s Nkopane Maphiri sees a contradiction between South Africa’s nuclear ambitions and its leadership role in international climate negotiations.
After the “spectacular failure” of Copenhagen, confidence needs to be rebuilt and South Africa, which has taken a lead in climate negotiations until now, can play a role in reaching a globally binding deal when the next conference kicks off in Durban next year.
“South Africa can push for increased gains. South Africa is in a position to show leadership… The nuclear industry in South Africa is a public relations machine. Can we afford a dangerous growth path?”
Jayendra Naidoo, the energy spokesman for Business Leadership SA, embraces the IRP 2010 as a “bold document” that “sends signals about the future plan of where our demand requirements are and how we are going to deliver on those requirements”.
As global populations soar, we need to change how we consume energy, he says.
“What is sustainable? Is it sustainable to have six billion people on the planet? Is it sustainable to expect to eat meat every day, for thousands of people to travel to conferences to save the world, to go on annual holidays? We need incentives, rules, a change in consumer behaviour and an increase in social awareness,” says Naidoo
Nuclear, it seems, is not a dirty word in business circles.
“Coal is still going to be a big part of our future. And business and industry are supporting nuclear in general. A lot of our companies are hooked up to the coal industry, and there’s some apprehension about nuclear, even among coal producers, but nuclear does provide baseload.
“The thing about it is you switch it on when you need it and switch it off when you don’t. It’s not based on external factors like weather. Solar and wind power are intermittent,” Naidoo says, citing the expensive tariffs that may be in store with renewable energy.
But David Chown, of Mainstream Renewable Power, says the myths that wind and solar power are intermittent and expensive must be debunked. He maintains they are no longer experimental technologies – and have been successfully adopted around the world.
“Why isn’t South Africa implementing the technology the same way? Wind and solar are some of the cheapest solutions for electricity generation – they are quick to deploy and certainly one of the drivers of local economic creation and rural development. There are water savings, risk reduction and reduced emissions. We will have our own fuel source that will never run out.
“The clean-energy future is the only way we’ve got to go, simply because of the benefits.