Know your Nuclear
The question is: what kind of South Africa (and what kind of world) do we want to live in by 2030,
and what energy technologies and strategies will get us there? The issues that need to be addressed are:
How much is it going to cost and what are the externalised costs to the environment and to future generations?
Who is going to benefit in terms of jobs and skills?
What energy path is the safest and simplest?
What is the most effective way to address climate change?
Nuclear power costs too much
1 - No private investors anywhere in the world will take on the capital costs of nuclear power without government support.
Director Steve Kidd of the World Nuclear Association says that it is "completely impossible to produce definitive
estimates for new nuclear costs at this time".
2 - No nuclear plant operators anywhere in the world today carry full liability in case of accident. The cost of insurance and regulation is subsidised by the taxpayer. Without such an insurance subsidy, there would be no nuclear power.
3 - No private investor can pay for long-term waste management, because the long-term cost is uncertain. We cannot work out the cost because no technology for long-term waste management has been shown to work anywhere in the world. The time-frame also covers tens of thousands of years, which is beyond the scope of financial accounting.
Nuclear power provides least jobs for money
1 - Renewable energy and energy efficiency installations, such as solar water heaters, will create more jobs
more quickly and are more suited to the job market than nuclear power. These will also be more spread out
around the country and not only to be found in one or two places.
2 - Even if we chose nuclear power over renewables, we do not have enough highly-trained engineers to design and safely monitor the nuclear power plants through their working life, unless we pay them a huge salary. South Africa would still have to compete for these skills with all the other nuclear-powered countries around the world, most of them with much deeper pockets than us.
Nuclear power is neither safe nor simple
The nuclear fuel cycle is made up of mining, fuel enrichment, fuel fabrication, nuclear power plant operation, waste management, and transportation, with a direct link to nuclear weapons. All of these highly complex stages present a hazardous risk, some more than others.
Uranium mining brings up huge masses of radioactive rocks from underground, to be crushed and carried to local people by the wind. It also takes masses of fresh water and leaks radio-active and acidic waste-water into the local water supply, both above and below ground.
Uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication plants release significant quantities of radioactivity and toxic chemicals into the environment.
Nuclear power plants release radioactive fission products such as cesium and strontium in the course of their normal operation. These products, which are radioactive and chemically similar to elements essential for life, accumulate in plants and animals which we eat, causing premature cancers.
Nuclear power is a threat to security
If nuclear plants were inherently safe they would not need any evacuation zone or evacuation plan. In the event of an accident, the worst-case scenario is uninsurable and radiation damage is excluded from your home-owners insurance policy. If nuclear power was safe, insurance companies (who understand risk) would insure you.
Nuclear power plants have to be run for a very long time if they are to recoup the capital investment and as the plants get older they become more fragile and more susceptible to failure.
The transportation of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste has a risk of accident and is susceptible to terrorist attack.
Nuclear bombs require tritium and plutonium or uranium. Tritium and plutonium come only from nuclear power plants, so to make nuclear bombs, nuclear states require nuclear power plants and nuclear re-processing plants. Without nuclear power plants, there would be no nuclear weapons.
1 - These countries have both civil nuclear plants and nuclear weapons: USA, Russia, UK, France, China,
India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea. South Africa did have nuclear weapons but has dismantled them.
2 - These countries have civil nuclear plants and are suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons: Iran, Myanmar (Burma)
3 - Not one country without civilian nuclear power plants has nuclear weapons, or is suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons.
Nuclear power: no answer to climate change
1 - The "tipping point" for climate change is the point after which global warming will not be reversed.
Scientists say that this point will be reached when the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a volume of
air goes past 450 parts per million (ppm). They also say that this point would see the average global
temperature rising by two degrees Centigrade, enough to cause havoc.
2 - Right now, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 380 ppm and is rising every year by three ppm. By this measure, we can say that the 450 ppm tipping point will be reached within 23 years, probably by 2020 —unless we do something NOW!
3 - Nuclear power does not release as much CO2, but it is too expensive, too slow to build, and takes away from cheaper and quicker options.
4 - If we ordered one today, a nuclear power plant would not be ready before 20201, and that will be TOO LATE to stop global warming.
5 - Energy efficiency is by far the most effective and quickest method of reducing CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency measures can be put in place for buildings, lighting, motors, transport, electronics and power generation and transmission.
6 -A solar water heater can be installed in ONE DAY. One million solar water heaters with timers installed by 2020 would save 3000 MW of electricity and 26 million tons of CO2 per year. Using direct sunlight to heat water is much more efficient than using electricity.
7 - South Africa could save more electricity by installing passive solar water heaters with every house, commercial building, and factory for free, instead of paying the same size power station for all the electricity required.
8 - Wind farms can be planned and built in two to three years. South Africa could have up to 10GW of wind energy by 2020, supplying 26 million kW hrs of electricity per year1. This could save another 26 million tons of CO2, or the total output of one, very large coal-fired power station.
9 - South Africa has the best solar resources in the world. Solar thermal plants are coming down in price as fast as the price for nuclear power plants is going up. By 2020 there is little doubt that solar thermal power will be the most cost-effective source of bulk electricity and usable heat – and the electricity will be close to carbon-free.
10 - We would need 50 years to have enough nuclear power plants to really reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming.
WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH TIME.
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