South Africa’s nuclear industry raises objections to new IRP

31st August 2018 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa is not happy at the exclusion of further nuclear power (over and above that already provided by the existing Koeberg nuclear power plant) from the government’s recently released Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2030. “The nuclear industry,” observed Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa MD Knox Msebenzi, “is not in a celebratory mood for obvious reasons”.

“A transparent process of determining the appropriate energy mix for South Africa is required,” he affirmed. “We believe it is grossly unfair for the IRP to require extensive additional studies to justify the inclusion of nuclear in the energy mix.”

“A lot of work has been done from 2007, which culminated in the 2010-2030 IRP,” he added. “There were subsequent updates which meant that extensive studies were done, so to ask for further studies in respect of one energy source only, while boosting RE [renewable energy], is grossly unfair. As the nuclear industry, we will make representations to the department and we believe we will make a case for the inclusion of nuclear power.”

He argued that the costs of the differing forms of electricity generation were not calculated on a common basis, “not comparing apples with apples”, making nuclear appear more expensive than other forms of generation, particularly renewable energy. Published RE costs excluded the cost of the back-up generation capacity and storage facilities that the intermittent nature of renewable electricity generation required, he cited.

“The prices quoted in the various RE bid windows only include generation costs at source,”  asserted Msebenzi. “This is like selling water at the Vaal dam, but the consumer is in Polokwane.”

“The power generated [by RE] is sold to Eskom on a take or pay basis, with guaranteed profitability for 20 years built into the power purchase agreements,” he said. “It is Eskom’s responsibility to deliver this service to consumers throughout the length and breadth of the country. The operating costs to provide electricity as a service and not as a commodity to the consumer are not factored in.”

Furthermore, fears of corruption, or suspicions of corrupt deals, should not cause an outright rejection of nuclear as a technology for energy production. Nuclear should be subject to a genuine evaluation as an energy source.