Oct 12, 2007
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Maggs: First up, Eskom considering five coastal sites for the building of a large new nuclear power station. This will be the first since Koeberg, 20-odd years ago.
Creamer: Nuclear is very much on the agenda and this is in order to lower South Africa’s carbon footprint. 86% of our electricity comes from coal at the moment and Eskom wants to reduce that to 70% by 2025. They will do that with the help of nuclear. Nuclear coming in with about 20 000 MW by 2025. Five sites are now being looked at, exactly which one of the will be used initially is not known, but the environmental impact study is already under way. Approval is expected by mid-2009 and possibly the first sod-turning on one of those sites by could be 2010. Those sites that have been named so far are at Oyster Bay, Pearly Beach, Bantamsklip and Kleinzee on the West Coast. Also, possibly at Koeberg itself. There is a possibility over time that all five of these sites will be used because of the programme that they want with nuclear and are also looking at inland dams where possible nuclear power stations could be built, because nuclear needs to make use of nearby water for cooling. That is why they are initially on the coast where they will make use of sea water.
Maggs: Nuclear power to solar power traffic lights in Cape Town.
Creamer: Yes, solar power traffic lights are operational in Europe and Japan is also making them now. Cape Town came up with this idea this month where they would put up a pilot site and that is an eight-robot intersection on Plantation Road and Lotus River Road and they want to study this to see whether they can migrate this to further sites. Robots consume the equivalent of 1 200 residences in Cape Town so it will be away of alleviating pressure on the national electricity grid. Hence, this initiative is being funded by Eskom who are looking at ways of cutting down on the use of national electricity and thereby keeping the capacity open for other things. But, exactly what will happen with the solar power is still to be determined and the pilot site will be evaluated over time.
Maggs: You are not pulling anyone’s leg here? Making calls from a cellphone, no battery just the warmth of your hand.
Creamer: Yes, that is the news from our columnist Karl Smrcka who reports on technology breakthroughs and he has been doing it for many years. He is a veteran of this sort of thing and he is reporting on research breakthrough in Germany. Three institutes involved are all part of the Frauenhofer organisation and coming together to create new circuits that are making it possible to harness body heat when generating electricity. The first use of this, may be medical censors in intensive care wards where instead of drawing power from wall sockets these censors will draw on the warmth of the human body. They want to extend that further and the big challenge is voltage normally you’ll need at least one or two volts for the phone situation, but the breakthrough involves a circuit that can make use of very low voltage including that that could be generated from the warmth of ones hand.
Maggs: The signal is stronger, I guess, if you wear gloves. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.
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