South Africa’s required baseload power capacity could not be guaranteed through renewable-energy sources alone, Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) president Dr Rob Adam said on Thursday at the fourth yearly Nuclear Forum, which is aligned to the Africa Energy Indaba.
He asserted that, while any generation technology, in theory, contributed to the base load, a higher reliance on “volatile” technologies – commonly considered to be those associated with renewables – put pressure on transmission lines and forced high levels of redundancy.
While renewables were expected to become the second-most widely used power source globally by 2015, coal was to remain the most widely used, particularly in countries that were not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
However, coal’s contribution to the global energy mix was expected to decrease from around one-half to about one-third.
Econometrix MD Rob Jeffrey added that security of supply with regard to the provision of base-load electricity in South Africa was critical to sustainable and long-term economic growth.
He believed that alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and wave energy, would continue to have limited large-scale generation capacity.
“Coal, gas and nuclear power are the only technologies to offer large-scale generation capacity at a relatively low cost,” he stated.
Adam reported that global nuclear generation capacity continued to grow and was expected to reach 580 GWe by 2035, led chiefly by China, Korea, India and Russia.
Currently, there were 32 nuclear power plants under construction in China, 11 in Russia, seven in India, five in South Korea, four in the US, three in Canada and 16 elsewhere in the world.
He added that the locus of nuclear power was consistently moving towards the developing world, particularly Africa, as it currently boasted the highest global urban population growth rate with increasing energy demands.
“In addition, nuclear remains the cheapest form of power in the US at the moment because, while its initial investment costs are high, these constitute between 50% and 60% of the lifetime costs of the plant,” said Adam.
Jeffrey added that, as a result, South Africa should remain “in” on nuclear power as a long-term source of energy.