The Koeberg nuclear plant near Cape Town requires about thirty tons of uranium fuel per year. Unlike a fuel such as coal, this uranium is not burnt up. It undergoes a nuclear reaction, which transforms it into other elements, some of which are highly radioactive. Burning or any other chemical process does not reduce the radioactivity.
That means that over thirty tons of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) are removed from the reactors each year. So far over a million kilograms of this SNF (over 2000 fuel elements) have accumulated since Koeberg began operating in 1984.
Nuclear power is currently predominately based on uranium fuel. This is an issue for two reasons. Uranium reserves are limited, and should nuclear power become widely used, economically extractable reserves would run out within decades. Secondly, the current 400 odd reactors in the world are producing high level waste at a rate far exceeding the rate at which long term solutions for handling this waste are being planned. The industry has acknowledged these problems, and the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) sometimes refers to uranium based nuclear power as a ‘bridging technology’.
One alternative put forward is thorium. There are about four times more known thorium than uranium reserves and a thorium reaction works differently, so the fuel lasts longer. Continue reading
The government is asking the South African public for their input on the proposed nuclear build 30km outside Cape Town in a series of public meetings. These meetings are always attended by the few pro-nuclear stakeholders and it is important that the public also attend to share their concerns about safety, costs and environmental issues.
Melkbosstrand: 18:00, 12 October 2015
Atlantic Beach Golf club
Kenliworth: 18:00, 13 October 2015
Kenilworth Community Presbyterian Church
Is it really worthwhile attending?
Yes! South Africa has an excellent constitution and powerful laws Continue reading
Will South Africa be able to raise the money to purchase a nuclear power reactor? Probably not. The Treasury recently admitted that it has done no costing or affordability study for nuclear power, and the 2015 budget made it clear that no money has been allocated for the next three years.
And every year, prospects get bleaker for the nuclear industry…
In addition, the falling value of the Rand, and the constantly increasing dollar cost of nuclear plants make it less affordable for South Africa with each year that passes. But just because the train will never reach its destination, that doesn’t mean you can’t get aboard and enjoy the gravy! Continue reading
At a conference in Stockholm in November one of the speakers was Shigeo Nomura, Executive Director of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.
Nomura made some contradictory statements about the Fukushima disaster, as well as some outlandish claims about the costs of nuclear power relative to renewable energy.
It was the tsunami?
I am sitting in a conference in Stockholm about nuclear waste. There are speakers from organisations from all over the world including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, delegates from many non-governmental organisation, engineers, and academics studying subjects such as nuclear physics, ethics, and geology.
Gene Rowe of the US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board gave a highly technical presentation about the prospects of dealing with nuclear spent fuel in the USA via a combination of reprocessing and disposal. I got chatting to him afterwards, and asked him about a claim I have heard repeated many times in South Africa.