Updated: Jul 23

Author: Des Muller – Spokesperson for the SA Nuclear Build Platform

South Africa has a relatively small but experienced nuclear industry, with some of its talents behind the development of local and international small modular reactors (SMRs) and the operation of some of the world’s most advanced nuclear power plants. We are also leaders in the field of nuclear medicine and research.

Although, over the last four to five decades, our nuclear industry has been geared toward operating and maintaining our Koeberg power and Safari research reactors, the earlier nuclear power procurement programs and Koeberg’s life extension projects have developed a local nuclear supply chain, seeing new entrants qualifying for these opportunities and building capacity.

During the 2007 nuclear build procurement programme, South Africa’s industry became well-aligned with the two international nuclear vendors and their EPC contractors. Being a vendor-controlled turn-key EPC solution, with a fully integrated local workforce, the risks experienced on our recent coal builds would have been mitigated. This remains the preferred contracting strategy for all nuclear builds today.

In 2007, the localisation target would have resulted in a local spend of over R300 billion, across our industrial supply chain, over 15 years. This would have prevented the collapse of our construction and manufacturing sectors and significantly reduced today’s unprecedented levels of unemployment. The local operation and maintenance spend over the following 60 years would have significantly changed the economies around those power plants, as we have seen with Koeberg. https://www.gov.za/speeches/minister-lynne-brown-release-kpmg-report-koeberg-power-station-30-mar-2017-0000 We can no longer deny our industry these opportunities. Today, we have several large-scale nuclear power plants, SMRs and potentially a Multi-Purpose Research Reactor in our procurement plans. While this provides us more options, it adds complexity and time to the procurement process, which can pose challenges for our local industry.

The large-scale Generation III nuclear power plants are through their ‘first of a kind’ (FOAK) phase, with many reactors successfully connected to the grid and achieving designed performance. Many new nuclear power plants and SMR demonstration units are under construction internationally, significantly reducing construction schedule and cost risks for Africa.

A country that is setting a great example for South Africa on localising a nuclear new build is the UK. Although a lot larger than our industry, we are similar in having last built nuclear power plants almost four decades ago. Through an effective Government-led industrial development program, an ambitious localisation target for the first nuclear power plant was achieved. The UK’s fleet build programme will result in significant reductions in build costs and schedule, reducing electricity tariffs while creating exponential growth in local employment. A nuclear build programme delivers far-reaching and long-term impact across the industry’s supply chain: from advanced education to apprenticeship training, with top jobs in planning, legal, financial, regulatory, engineering, manufacturing, and construction disciplines. The plant’s operating & maintenance functions that follow for the next 70 years, places nuclear energy as an industry leader in providing decent high-paying jobs and technical careers over the long-term.

A great opportunity for our Intensive Energy Users Industry, is to help capitalize nuclear power plants in exchange for high-capacity, long-term, competitive, and clean off-take agreements; thereby significantly reducing their CO₂footprints while securing reliable energy supplies. Nuclear energy’s low cost and reliability will result in sustained economic growth for South Africa.

It is encouraging to see the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) requesting a public hearing on the suitability of the Thyspunt site, in the Eastern Cape, for a nuclear power plant. This is how we can effectively deliver the growth and prosperity we have promised that region. Let’s Participate!

Although the barriers to entry to the nuclear industry are understandably high, the sheer size of the opportunity makes it worthwhile for our industry. Before one can be contracted, significant progress on the nuclear qualification and safety culture programs are required. As seen with developed countries, nuclear qualifications and capabilities will advance our industries toward high-tech markets and other safety-class industries, like aerospace and LNG, reducing imports.

The timing for the engagement of our local industry in a nuclear build is vital. A well-coordinated alignment will optimize localisation while mitigating risks for our industry. This also requires a well-coordinated procurement programme between our Government stakeholders and the many nuclear vendors and technologies. Our local industry should be engaged systematically through orientation, assessments, prequalification, and integration programs, which the South African Nuclear Build Platform coordinates. www.sanuclearbuildplatform.co.za

Jennifer Granholm – United States Secretary of Energy. - “Let me say it loud and clear. Carbon-free nuclear power is an absolutely critical part of our decarbonization equation.”

Des Muller - Co-Spokesperson for the SA Nuclear Build Platform www.sanuclearbuildplatform.co.za

Updated: Jul 23

Author: Des Muller – Spokesperson for the SA Nuclear Build Platform

Over the last decade, South Africa’s “just transition” toward clean energy has put the Country’s economy at considerable risk by depriving it of energy security, industrial growth, and an effective transition from fossil fuels. South Africa has also not met its Paris Agreement goals on decarbonisation and, for consecutive years, has been recording an increase in carbon intensity. To meet these goals, South Africa needs to cut its CO₂ emissions by two thirds by 2050, which could deindustrialise our economy, if we continue getting this wrong. If Africa contributes less than 3% of global CO₂ emissions, then how did we get so drawn into these commitments, at the expense of our economy, when more appropriate and viable solutions are at hand? Due to South Africa’s aging generation assets, we should anyway see a rapid decline in coal-fired power generation in our energy mix over the next decade, with probably only 10 gigawatts remaining by 2050. Cleaner coal could extend its contribution but, like most technologies working outside their “comfort zones”, coal power could eventually price itself out of the market. Similarly, the high volumes of toxic waste being generated by renewable energies globally is putting pressure on this industry to recycle its waste, instead of sending it to landfill sites. Should these decommissioning and waste management costs be added into the energy production costs, as nuclear energy does, we could also see the cost of renewables escalating exponentially.

South Africa’s coal power decommissioning programme would reduce our generating capacity by over 1000 MW of baseload capacity per year over the next two decades. Eskom’s declining Energy Availability Factor (EAF) has already started this trend.

The DMRE’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019) does not adequately address the replacement of base-load coal power, at a pace and scale we should be planning. The low generation capacity and intermittency of renewables has proven to be ineffective in arresting load shedding. And who backs up this intermittency when Eskom is unbundled? Therefore, beyond 2030, South Africa will be in chronic load-shedding unless an effective energy expansion programme is implemented.

A transition to a sustainable energy future is only possible through a balanced portfolio of energy solutions which deliver energy security, access to affordable energy, environmental sustainability, and socio-economic development (jobs), as its key criteria. All the generation technologies we have at South Africa’s disposal can collectively achieve this.

As demonstrated internationally, nuclear energy delivers all the above criteria on its own and should therefore be prominently featured in South Africa’s energy transition. Any technology can be made cleaner and more reliable with add-on technologies, but these additional costs tend to raise the cost per kWh, or their overall CO₂ emissions. Eskom should no longer subsidise these improvised technologies when more effective solutions are at hand.

Had we followed through with 2007’s 9.6GW nuclear procurement programme, we would have had an additional 5000 MW of baseload energy on the grid, producing 40TWh of emissions-free electricity per year, which would have again doubled in the next five years. This would have mitigated load-shedding, boosted our economy, and brought us a lot closer to our decarbonization goals.

The most effective way to successfully replace our retired coal fleet, is with clean baseload power like large-scale hydro or nuclear energy. As we have seen since 2007, once you have broken your baseload foundation, it needs the most effective remedy to fix it, unless one reduces demand through deindustrialisation and economic slowdown, which load-shedding ultimately does.

Nuclear energy is easily financed through various low-cost funding models. A great opportunity for our Intensive Energy Users Industry, is to help capitalize nuclear power plants in exchange for high-capacity, long-term, competitive, and clean off-take agreements, thereby significantly reducing their CO₂ footprints while securing reliable energy supplies.

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are also receiving a lot of attention and investment globally, making nuclear energy a great catalyst to kickstart our post-covid economies. South Africa is well positioned to establish an SMR manufacturing hub for domestic and African export projects. Given the capacity of our Grid, South Africa can implement both large and small-scale reactors, to achieve the economies of scale we need.

Our retired coal power plant sites would be ideal for SMRs. Their valuable infrastructures and available skilled resources, that can be upskilled and re-employed, are great enablers and will transform potential ghost towns into advanced clean energy hubs. By-products like process heat and green hydrogen can also add enormous value to that economy.

South Africa’s renewable energy, gas to power and own-generation programs, can also play a vital role in balancing our energy portfolio through distributed power systems at our load centres and beyond the grid, although environmentalists are starting to consider gas power generation, at 490g CO₂/kWh, a challenge. Like coal, this could pose a problem for financing and operating gas power for a nett-zero future. This leaves renewables (without batteries), hydro and nuclear energy as the leading low-carbon technologies for the future.

The Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Programme (RMIPPP) could have also considered upgrading our expensive, high-emissions diesel peakers to combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) and fuelled them with cheaper and cleaner liquified natural gas (LNG). This would have been an investment in our existing Eskom and IPP assets and effectively raised their production capacity from 15%+ to 50%+, providing an abundance of dispatchable power, on demand. LNG could soon become a domestic fuel source through Total’s explorations.

Only a robust and workable energy expansion plan would get South Africa on a transition path toward energy security, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. It is concerning that this plan still eludes us after almost two decades, despite the valuable lessons we could learn from the global energy sector and the effort we have invested so far. Clearly South Africa needs to start taking more independent and workable advice.

Michael ShellenbergerClimate Journalist and Author: “The anti-nuclear lobby group, over the last two decades, has only successfully kept the share of fossil fuels in our global energy mix above 80%”. Are these unintended consequences?

Des Muller - Co-Spokesperson for the SA Nuclear Build Platform www.sanuclearbuildplatform.co.za

Author: Des Muller – Spokesperson for the SA Nuclear Build Platform

12 February 2021

The recent spate of anti-nuclear media coverage coincides with national energy regulator, NERSA’s, public consultation process on the procurement of 2500 MW of nuclear energy to rescue our dire energy situation over the long-term, while short to medium-term measures are being considered and implemented.

It is logical to assume that the biggest economy in Africa should be powered by a balanced and sustainable energy portfolio that ultimately delivers a) access by all to affordable electricity, b) environmental sustainability, c) sustainable employment and, most importantly, d) energy security, which mitigates load shedding.

Nuclear energy is the only power generation technology we have available today, that delivers exceptionally well on all of the above objectives.

Therefore, it is illogical when knowledgeable and seasoned economists, energy experts, and now politicians, try to squash the value proposition that nuclear energy has for our country, in favour of imported and evidently unreliable energy sources.

As one of the pioneers of renewable energies and independent power producers in South Africa, I am disheartened to see that, after spending R250 billion on renewables, our economy remains constrained by energy security challenges. Whereas the same investment in nuclear energy would have given us more than double the electricity produced on a reliable and dispatchable basis, and it is “green”.

Koeberg is a living example of this having generated the cleanest, most reliable and cheapest electricity for the past two decades and will continue doing this for at least another two decades. It is therefore foolish to even try and undermine the value this has provided and continues to provide for our economy, especially for the Western Cape.

To ensure that nuclear energy retains its status as the safest power generation source in the world, it has recently improved its safety and quality standards with the release of third-generation large scale nuclear power plants. The emergence of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) promises to improve on these safety standards and shorten the construction lead times.

The new generation power plants have emerged from their proto-type projects, where construction lead times and costs were understandably overrun, similar to what we saw with the early wind farms. Today’s large-scale nuclear power plants are being consistently built by highly experienced and competent Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) teams within the budgeted schedule and cost parameters. These are the proven power plants and construction methodologies that South Africa will pursue to reduce these known risks, while cutting out corruption and increasing local content. We are now well positioned to reap the benefits of many reference nuclear power plants built and operating successfully in the world.

Although the overall delivery of a nuclear power plant, from conception to commercial operation, is typically ten years, a significant part of that is in the planning, procuring, licensing and site preparation during the initial stages, which provides many sustainable and high-paying jobs right from the start. With the high levels of unemployment in our engineering, manufacturing, material supply and construction sectors, instead of criticizing, we should be welcoming long-term construction projects that provide a century of employment from conceptualisation to decommissioning. Clearly the jobs created will be a significant benefit for our country in addition to the valuable energy it produces over the long term.

While renewable energy suppliers claim to provide the cheapest installed costs and tariffs for new power plants, this is taken out of context erroneously by not considering the additional system costs to balance the intermittency in supply. This places the overall renewable/IPP tariffs at about double Eskom’s selling tariff, which effectively puts our electricity costs into orbit as we expand the renewable portfolio. Batteries will exasperate these costs even further.

Although the installed costs of nuclear power plants are about three times higher than renewables and take longer to build and commission, they operate three to four times longer, produce three to four times the amount of electricity per year and provide even greater multiples of jobs per GW installed and TWh produced. They are easy to finance with sub 5% Export Credit funding (ECF) from their countries of origin and again, will provide the cheapest electricity on the Grid after the capital costs have been paid back during the first quarter of its operating life. The cost of decommissioning and spent fuel management is included in the tariff as a statutory requirement. However little is known about the piles of renewable toxic waste being generated, the ecological impact and the decommissioning of these plants and how this is being managed.

To add to the illogical stance from the anti-nuclear groups, modern nuclear power plants also provide flexible energy to follow fluctuations in load demand and balance the intermittency of renewables. Nuclear energy also has the capacity to provide an abundance of cost-effective and clean energy for high volumes of reliable process heat, desalination and hydrogen production, while the world sleeps at night.

Of great importance for South Africa, is the investment and employment opportunities that a nuclear build programme brings to our energy sector. The industry-based South African Nuclear Build Platform (SANBP) is dedicated to optimising local industry participation in a nuclear build programme. South Africa has a very capable and experienced nuclear industry, which is currently engaged in Koeberg’s life extension in preparation for the new build.

The nuclear industry is highly regulated and fact-based. You can come and find out for yourself about Nuclear Energy at the Africa Energy Indaba from energy experts you can trust from 1st to 5th March 2021.

As Michael Shellenberger aptly said, “The real reason they hate nuclear is because it means we don’t need renewables”. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/14/the-real-reason-they-hate-nuclear-is-because-it-means-we-dont-need-renewables/?sh=6b86ce9f128f)

There is, however, enough room for all energy sources in South Africa’s balanced and sustainable energy mix. Let us commit ourselves to solving our country’s current and future energy needs instead of pursuing vested interests.

Issued on behalf of SANBP by: The Independent Voice Media & Advocacy Communications Agency Cell: 082 904 3616 Email: jboccaleone@gmail.com