Energy experts opening the eight annual Atom conferences in Moscow, Russia have warned that developing countries looking to use nuclear energy should consider radioactive waste before signing any agreement.
Russia has over the past few years seen an increase in corporations and partnerships with developing countries on nuclear energy programmes- with some using their technology to build nuclear plants.
A few African countries have recently shown keen interest in developing and building nuclear reactors.
This week Russia will sign memorandum of understanding (MOU) with three African countries on nuclear development.
This includes Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia. Russia is steadily seeing an interest in nuclear partnership from various African countries and countries in South East Asia.
Mikhail Chudakov is Deputy Director General of IAE-a company that helps to create the necessary infrastructure for nuclear waste.
Chudakov says although Russia is seeing an increased interest in nuclear partnerships, the partnerships should be done with caution
“More important is that developing nations are planning to include energy in their energy mix but you should remember that it should be developed on the safety culture.”
Zambia is in early discussions with Russia to include nuclear as part of its energy mix.
Kenya is also another African country considering the use of nuclear energy. It plans to build its first nuclear reactor by 2024.
The country already has an established Nuclear Energy Body. Joseph Muthari is a Kenyan member of parliament.
“Yes, we want to establish a working relationship with the team here in Moscow because in Kenya we have a target of at least 2017 – we should have started producing nuclear energy.”
“Kenya is a growing nation and we want to be a country that is able to satisfy the energy needs. And it is important that we diversify our energy source. We are already involved in the training of our personnel so we have students here in Moscow and also students being trained in Korea. African countries are also coming up the demand for electricity is growing the demand is growing.”
Ghana signed an MOU with the state atomic energy corporation of Russia (ROSATOM) in 2015.
Ghana Atomic Energy Commission Benjamin Nyarko says: “Africa has a problem with energy and the best way for Africa to be able to resolve that issue is to go for nuclear power.”
“Waste management in the nuclear power programme has been the main issue that we have had to address so when we are dealing with waste structures we should be able to deal with the waste and when you’re signing an agreement you should open your eyes well. Financing is also a big problem for Africa.”
Over 45 countries are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programmes.
This ranges from sophisticated economies to developing nations. The front runners include the UAE, Turkey, Vietnam, and Poland.
In 2016, Atom expo attracted 4.5 000 people from 55 countries across the world.
Talking millions and billions
However, he says that nuclear power is not economically viable due to high costs needed to construct and maintain plants. “The cost to build a nuclear power station varies in each country. In the United States for example, a nuclear reactor could cost around $10 billion and repairs can also amount to millions of dollars. At the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona in the US, last year, a leak inside the reactor cost $10 million to $15 million to repair. Solar farms on the other hand, are far more economical as the cost to build ranges between $300 million and $500 million and all that is needed is a large piece of land which receives a vast amount sunlight.”
Furthermore, Chien says that the running costs of electricity generated by a nuclear power plant are far higher than electricity generated from photovoltaic solar energy, as nuclear power plants run throughout the day and night, and according to the Brookings Institution, an American research NGO, they are 75% more expensive to build and run per MW of capacity than a solar-power plant.
Therefore continuing to operate nuclear plants prevents the large-scale integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid.” Chien refers to research conducted by Greenpeace, which states that nuclear also channels investment away from renewables where investment can make a difference in fighting climate change and that renewables can replace several times more of the carbon that is leading to climate change – for the same cost as nuclear and at a far faster pace.
Health and environmental risks
Chien adds that the health and environmental risks associated with nuclear power are also extremely high, especially for those who work in and live in close proximity to plants. “Nuclear power produces toxic waste which can be detrimental to people’s health, as well as the environment. Furthermore, the risk of a nuclear accident like that of the Fukushima meltdown exists and it is crucial to consider because of the effects, including increased levels of radiation in the area and contaminated food and water.”
“An indication that South Africa is heading in the right direction to overcome the energy crisis by means of an environmentally friendly, safer and more economical way, includes the rollout of Kalkbult solar plant in the Northern Cape, a Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme project, which can already produce enough electricity to be consumed by approximately 33 000 households, lessening the carbon footprint in the area,”
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The South African government has been holding vendor workshops with countries it could potentially partner with for its nuclear build programme, the Presidency said in a statement on Wednesday. This marks “significant progress” for the government in its engagements with various prospective nuclear vendor countries as part of the process towards the implementation of the expansion in the nuclear new build programme, the statement said. Intergovernmental framework agreements have been signed with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the US, marking the “initiation of the preparatory stage for the procurement process”, the Presidency said. Delegations from these countries have presented technology they believe would best suit local conditions at these workshops, held during October and November. The vendor workshops form part of the government’s technical investigation “in preparation for a procurement decision”, the Presidency said.
Future energy mix
Potential vendors have had to show how they would best meet the 9 600MW (9,6 GW) threshold that the South African government has set for the country’s future energy mix.The countries all have pressurized water reactor nuclear technology, which is similar to that used at the Koeberg nuclear power plant in the Western Cape.”South Africa has been safely using this technology for the past 30 years,” Mac Maharaj, the President’s spokesperson, said. Senior technical government officials, representatives from state-owned entities in the energy field, as well as academics involved in nuclear and engineering programmes attended the workshops, leading to “robust and open discussions” with vendors, Maharaj said. Guidelines for the expansion of nuclear power to ensure energy security based on a sustainable energy mix have been set out in the National Development Plan, the Nuclear Energy Policy, the Nuclear Energy Act and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) adopted in 2011. Under the NDP, the government is required to do a thorough technical investigation before making a procurement decision.The Presidency said its commitment to nuclear energy would be accompanied by the commitment to a “procurement process that is in line with the country’s legislation and policies”. “The nuclear new build programme will create a massive infrastructure development, thus stimulating the economy and enabling the country to create thousands of high- quality jobs for engineers, scientists, artisans, technicians and various other professions, develop skills and create sustainable industries, and catapult the country into a knowledge economy,” said Maharaj.
Source: South Africa.info
Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation said on Monday it will provide up to eight nuclear reactors to South Africa by 2023, in a $50-billion strategic partnership between the two countries.
The delivery of the reactors will enable the foundation of the first nuclear power plant based on Russian technology on the African continent, the Rosatom agency said in a statement.
Rosatom director general Sergey Kirienko estimated the value of the deal at around $50-billion, given that one reactor costs around $5 billion, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
The inter-governmental agreement, signed in Vienna on the margins of the International Atomic Energy Agency conference, also calls for Russia to help build infrastructure in South Africa and to train African specialists at Russian universities.
Rosatom will create thousands of jobs in South Africa as part of the deal which will be worth “at least $10-billion” to local industry, Kirienko said in a statement.
South Africa’s Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the country sees nuclear power as “an important driver for the national economic growth”.
“I am sure that cooperation with Russia will allow us to implement our ambitious plans for the creation by 2030 of 9.6 GW of new nuclear capacities based on modern and safe technologies,” she said in a statement.
Following this announcement, Lawson Naidoo, Executive Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) today wrote to Joemat-Pettersson. He requested a copy of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on a Strategic Partnership and Co-operation in Nuclear Energy and Industry.
“CASAC is concerned whether proper and appropriate procurement and other approval processes have been followed in respect of this Agreement,” said the statement.
Eight reactors by 2035
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised nation, currently has only one nuclear power plant. It is heavily dependent on coal for its energy supply and its electricity capacity is already near the maximum.
Government had announced at the end of last year that it was going to have up to eight new nuclear reactors online between 2023 and 2035, along with other energy sources, including shale gas and hydroelectric power from the future Inga III dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
South Africa’s nuclear power ambitions had attracted several proposals.
French group Areva, which built South Africa’s only nuclear plant at Koeberg, had proposed to provide the country with its new generation of EPR reactors.
Government had also solicited an offer from the US-Japanese group Westinghouse.
The new Russian reactors from Rosatom are expected to go online in 2023. – AFP, additional reporting by staff reporter.