Here is a short video which describes the job creation potential in South Africa of nuclear and renewable energy. English subtitles may be switched on or off.
South Africa needs electricity, and coal power stations need be replaced as they become old. We face a choice. Either we can build nuclear power stations, or use renewable energy such as solar and wind power. So, how should we choose?
Unemployment is a big problem in South Africa, so let’s look at how nuclear and renewables would affect job creation.
Nuclear power stations need a deep foundation and a containment building with concrete walls, metres thick. They also need a large steel reactor vessel weighing over 400 tons, which has to be custom built at a specialised steel forge. We do not have such a forge in South Africa, and so it would need to be imported at huge expense. Most of the highly qualified specialists would have to be flown in from other countries. The hi tech equipment and complex safety systems would also need to be imported. We wouldn’t build more than 3 nuclear power plants in South Africa. It would not be worth building factories to make components for just 3 plants, so nuclear power will create very few jobs in the manufacturing industry.
Nuclear power would create short term construction jobs in at most 3 places.
It would create only a handful of long term operating and maintenance jobs.
So nuclear energy would create very few jobs in South Africa.
On the other hand a solar plant is fairly simple to construct. It needs steel racks and collection panels, such as solar panels or mirrors.
Wind turbines are also relatively simple to construct. Each one needs a concrete base and a steel tower.
South Africa has some of the best conditions in the world to make use of solar and wind energy, and technological developments have reduced the cost of these options.
So what about job creation?
There are many people in South Africa with the skills needed to do this. This means work could start on many wind farms and solar plants all over the country at the same time, creating lots of long term jobs within a short time. Renewable energy plants will also be built in remote rural areas where jobs are desperately needed.
As more and more solar plants and wind turbines get built, it will become worthwhile to build factories in South Africa that can make the components. The electronic systems that control solar and wind plants can be made in South Africa and also be exported. This will create jobs in the manufacturing sector.
There will also be ongoing operation and maintenance jobs needed for these solar plants and wind farms.
For nuclear power it is not worth building factories to make components for at most 3 power stations, so nuclear power will not create many jobs in the manufacturing sector. Nuclear power would create short term construction jobs in a maximum of 3 places. It would also create only a few long term operating and maintenance jobs for mostly highly qualified people.
Renewable energy on the other hand will create long term manufacturing jobs. Renewable energy such as wind farms and solar plants will also create a large number of construction, operating and maintenance jobs distributed around the country. Jobs will be created for South African people with a wide range of skills.
So which option do you think is best for job creation?
This one, nuclear power…. or this one, renewable energy?
The voice-over is by Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.