Driving this decision is a 2006 report which shows that South Africa is the fifteenth-largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emission source in the world by country. (The report made use of 2004 data.)
“If Eskom was a country, it would have been ranked twenty-fifth,” says Stott.
This is why the utility has made climate change a priority, he adds, and why it will attempt to reduce its carbon footprint through the new capacity it is building to cater for surging electricity demand. Much of this demand has been stimulated by higher-than-expected economic growth.
Eskom plans to more than double its generation capacity, reaching 80 000 MW by 2025, of which 20 000 MW is expected to flow from new nuclear power stations.
Nuclear power is viewed as a clean energy source.
The utility will also embark on cleaner coal technologies, and carbon capture and storage.
Eskom views the programme to build new generation capacity as “an extraordinary opportunity to develop a low-carbon portfolio”, says Stott.
He says nuclear power stations do not emit any CO2.
He capital cost of building a nuclear power station is “without doubt” more than the bill for a coal-fired plant – which currently comes in at about R80-billion – Stott says any future tax placed on CO2 emissions in South Africa may alter this picture significantly.
Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga said last month that Eskom is making the assumption that it will, at some point in the future, pay carbon taxes for its emission footprint.
“We cannot make the assumption that our position under Kyoto will continue,” says Stott. “We cannot just continue to emit CO2. We’ll have restrictions placed on us at some point.”
South Africa – similar to other developing countries – is not currently penalised or restricted under the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
However, the treaty is set to expire in its current form in 2012, when a newly negotiated protocol is likely to take its place.
About 40% of current global energy generation comes from coal, with 16% from nuclear sources.
There are 301 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, with China, for example, building four, India six, Russia seven, Bulgaria two and Finland one.
FIVE SITES UNDER CONSIDERATION
Eskom is currently considering five possible sites for its first new nuclear plant in 20 years. The plant is expected to have a capacity of between 3 200 MW and 3 300 MW.
The environmental-impact assessment study has already started.
The five coastal sites under consideration are Oyster Bay, Pearly Beach, Bantamsklip, the current Koeberg site, and Kleinzee.
Current planning is to have environmental approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by June 2009.
“It is a very long process,” says Stott.
Eskom has identified the world’s biggest nuclear power firm, Areva, and US-based Westinghouse as the companies to build the new station, with construction possibly starting as early as 2010.
Stott says the five possible sites are all at the coast, as nuclear plants can use sea water for cooling, saving on fresh water consumption.
In the long run, it is likely that all five sites will house a nuclear plant by 2025.
“If you are looking at 20 000 MW of new nuclear capacity, with 3 000 MW to 6 000 MW per site, it [means] that we may build on all five sites.”
However, some inland sites, close to dams, are also being considered.
Stott says it is impossible to calculate the cost of the first new nuclear plant, as “negotiations with vendors are ongoing”.