Nuclear PR scrapes bottom of the barrel

These are desperate times for the nuclear industry.  Rising costs, the ongoing nightmare of the Fukushima clean up, the phasing out of nuclear power by some countries, fewer new orders every year, and dramatic cost and time overruns for the few projects under way makes new nuclear a very hard sell indeed.

And in South Africa, the star of the nuclear lobby, President Zuma, has become a falling star. Other senior ANC members have begun loudly denouncing his ties to corporate interests, in the form of the Guptas, including uranium mining.

Like the thrashing of a dying beast, the industry has been churning out press releases and placed articles at a frantic pace.  In South Africa, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has in the past paid people such as Andrew Kenny and Dawid Serfontein to pen articles for the local press promoting nuclear power.  Continue reading

The Case for Non-nuclear Power Options

by Keith Gottschalk

Intelligent people often hold a range of views on complex issues, especially where more than one criterion is involved, and where some criteria may not be easily quantified.

Newspaper editorials have criticized the Government’s abuse of secrecy – what democracy classifies its future electricity plans as secret? – as it proceeds with its programme to build six to nine extra atomic power reactors totalling 9600 MW of electricity. The reason for secrecy is defensive: these plans cannot stand up to scrutiny for economic rationality.
Continue reading

Eskom and GIBB living in la-la land

Eskom and the Department of Energy have recently cranked up efforts to move forward with the plans for more nuclear energy for South Africa.  In the Environmental Impact Assessment being prepared by GIBB consultants, the background to this includes a graph of the predicted peak electricity demand. Here is the graph they use, on page 2 of the latest combined main report, released in September 2015: Continue reading

Earthquakes and Nuclear

As South Africa contemplates building nuclear power stations along the coast, consultants from GIBB have been given the job of assessing the potential impacts of doing this.  This includes looking at the risks.

Photograph of crack in road in Ceres caused by earthquake

Damage in Ceres from 1969 quake

One obvious risk is that of an earthquake damaging the nuclear reactor, as happened in 2011 in Fukushima.  To assess this risk, GIBB produced a specialist report in 2011 (i.e. done before Fukushima) titled “Appendix E4: Seismic Risk Assessment”. Continue reading

How to ride the nuclear gravy train

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

Nuclear waste disposal sites likely to be close to nuclear power stations

I am in Upsala, Sweden, as a guest of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC). It has nearly 200 000 paying members, a full-time staff of about 90, and produces a magazine every two months for its members. It has been an interesting first day in Stockholm, with a lot to take in.

Sweden generates about half of its electricity from nuclear power, and, like all countries with nuclear power, the country is wrestling with the issue of what to do with the spent nuclear fuel, or in technical terms, the high level waste. This remains dangerously radioactive for thousands of years, and disposing of it safely is a huge engineering challenge. Continue reading

Measuring radiation in Fukushima, Japan

Radiation contamination map

During our recent trip to Fukushima, we carried two geiger counters with us, one inside the bus, and one taped to the outside of the window, facing inwards.

These geiger counters measure gamma radiation, and give a readout in micro Sieverts per hour, or μSv/h.  Most people in the world are not familiar with these units, but, of course, here in Japan there is a high level of familiarity and interest in radiation levels.  For example, on the right is a map stuck on the lockers in an office I went to. Continue reading

On the ground in Fukushima

I am sitting in a hotel in Tokyo, after attending the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World this past weekend.  The sessions were video recorded, and was streamed in real time.  Over 100 000 people watched the streaming.  See http://npfree.jp/english/

Before the conference we were taken on a two day tour of Fukushima city and some areas nearby, and listened to local people talk about the experience, Continue reading

Evacuations and after effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

It is not unusual for those who favour nuclear power to downplay the effects of nuclear disasters that have happened.  In the article “Nuclear power is a key part of SA’s future”, attributed to the South African Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters, I came across this example: ‘The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to Fukushima at the end of May 2011 concluded that “to date no confirmed long-term health effects to any person have been reported as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident”‘. Continue reading