CSP trumps nuclear

1st April 2016

Editor –

It was amazing to read your article about a new concentrated solar power (CSP) plant coming on stream in Bokpoort on March 15.
This molten salt storage system provides nine hours of power after dark, which means that it gives baseload power through the peak demands of night-time.

Further, it cost R5-billion for 50 MW, and was completed in less than three years. This means that it would cost R500-billion for 5 GW. South Africa’s new nuclear build is projected to cost between R500-billion and R1-trillion for 9.2 GW. So, if nuclear costs R1-trillion, it would be more expensive than CSP but, at R500-billion, it would be cheaper. But bear in mind that those nuclear estimates were done at an exchange rate of R10 to the dollar.

However, nuclear takes ten years to come on stream. So, CSP would give power for seven years before nuclear is available – that is seven years of profit for Eskom and seven years of power for our economy.

If we add in those economic returns for seven years, then is CSP not cheaper? Further, CSP does not require dirty mining and dangerous storage of nuclear fuel and waste, and neither does it need expensive decommissioning nor have any comparable safety concerns.

CSP construction can be carried out by smaller firms, so it does not carry the serious risk of being tainted by corruption, as we are already witnessing with allegations of the Gupta family acquiring uranium mines under dubious circumstances and suggestions of political interference by Rosatom.

The Northern Cape receives 350 days of sunshine a year. So, even with 15 ‘down’ days, that is a downtime of 4%. Compare this with the weeks or months of downtime that nuclear plants need to refuel.

So, surely, CSP is better that nuclear.

This analysis might seem boring, but it is crucial to our future. Getting this right might mean prosperity. Getting this wrong could send our country spiralling into poverty. The stakes are really very high.

Mark Jackson