Debating the costs of nuclear energy

Nuclear physicist Gaopalelwe Santswere, and Mike Kantey from the Coalition Against Nuclear Energy (Cane) joined 702 and CapeTalk host, Eusebius McKaiser to chat about Nuclear energy and whether or not is a viable option for South Africa to help deal with energy insecurity.

The National Nuclear Regulator describes nuclear energy as energy in the nucleus (core) of an atom. Atoms are tiny particles that make up every object in the universe. There is enormous energy in the bonds that hold atoms together.

Nuclear energy can be used to make electricity. But first, the energy must be released. It can be released from atoms in two ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. In nuclear fusion, energy is released when atoms are combined or fused together to form a larger atom. This is how the sun produces energy. In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to produce electricity.

Santswere explains that because the market for nuclear has not been tested and there are uncertainties on how much it will cost the country, therefore, we cannot say nuclear energy is not viable.

He goes on to say that nuclear energy should be treated as an investment, especially in an ailing economy such as South Africa.

From a numbers point of view we don't know how much it will cost the country because we have not tested the market.

Gaopalelwe Santswere, nuclear physicist

Kantey responds to Santswere by saying that the point of the nuclear industry viability is for export sales, adding that the plan for the table beds for export sales never got off the ground despite many billions of rands spent, it never found a buyer overseas.

A future nuclear programme will cost in excess of R1 trillion. This will place enormous strain on the balance of payment and without an effective localisation programme will have severe consequences for the South African economy.

Mike Kantey, National Chairperson of The Coalition Against Nuclear Energy (CANE)

Kantey says that if electricity demand is sufficient to meet the need then there is no need for building anything.

We've got a big gas field off the coast of Mozambique which is worthy of commitment and a massive investment in renewables. I'm talking now billions of rands of foreign direct investment which we all want in solar and wind farms. Particularly solar in the Northern Cape which is the highest solar radiation in the world which is higher than Spain and California.

Mike Kantey, National Chairperson of The Coalition Against Nuclear Energy (CANE)

If you look at electricity demand projected in 2007, what you have is a situation where the demand electricity in 2017 is less than it was in 2007.

Mike Kantey, National Chairperson of The Coalition Against Nuclear Energy (CANE)

Listen to the clip below for more on nuclear energy:


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