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Lessons for South Africa, in Vietnam pulling the plug on nuclear power plans

SA – listen to your scientists on new nuclear energy deals  Biz News,  David Fig, 25 Nov 16  According to David Fig, an honorary research associate at the University of Cape Town, nuclear energy is unnecessary for South Africa’s progress as a developing nation. It swallows up too many resources in return for too little electricity, the waste is a nightmare and the alternatives are cheaper, cleaner and ultimately, more cost-effective. 

He draws on the recent journey of Vietnam to illustrate how that thriving nation has stepped away from the nuclear abyss in the current economic climate, improving its long-term prospects. The territory he doesn’t really explore is our domestic political culture and climate, which previous contributors to Biznews have argued is the real reason behind what amounts to a simmering long-term intention to go big on nuclear.

That is; there are potential and (perhaps even current) crooked financial incentives for our politicians to want to pull the Russian nuclear deal off ice. And these have nothing to do with ignoring the scientific advice on the matter – it doesn’t even come into play. How can we not think otherwise in the aftermath of the useless and hugely costly Arms Deal, with all its attendant dirty dealings? – Chris Bateman……..

According to Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy analyst:

Vietnam is only the latest in a long list of countries, including more recently Chile and Indonesia, that have postponed indefinitely or abandoned entirely their plans for nuclear new-build.

Vietnam’s decision is for outright cancellation of a contract for two reactors which were to be part of a sequence of purchases. But South Africa is not being as decisive. Yet South Africa is realising that it must at least postpone its nuclear plans. In its latest Integrated Resources Plan 2016, one option is to delay completion of the first reactor until 2037.

A postponement would mean that South Africa wouldn’t need to start building new nuclear plants until the mid-2020s. The country’s energy provider Eskom, however, is still bent on initiating the procurement process very soon………

Lessons for South Africa

Nuclear energy is unnecessary for the country’s progress as a developing nation. It swallows up too many resources for too little electricity in return. The nuclear fuel and the waste have to be safeguarded for many millennia, and the reactors have to be operated safely. Accidents contaminate huge areas and affect millions of people.

There are a number of safer and cleaner renewable alternatives, especially solar and wind. If Vietnam is brave and shrewd enough to step away from the nuclear abyss, so can South Africa. Instead of postponement of nuclear procurement, South Africa should reject this technology outright.

The country’s Integrated Resources Plan decides on the ratio of different power sources in the total energy mix. South Africa needs to listen more clearly to its scientists. And it could learn some useful lessons from Vietnam’s approach.

November 26, 2016 - Posted by | general

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