SAREC
South Africa’s state-owned power utility, Eskom, is confident that the country is “well-equipped” to handle new nuclear power operations.

With public concern escalating over the past few months around government’s decision to move forward with its new nuclear build plans, the parastatal claims that having successfully run the continent’s only nuclear power station for over 32 years, it is ready for more.

Eskom: nuclear, a global technology

Nuclear energy currently provides approximately 11% of the world’s electricity and through Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town it powers most of the Western Cape and supplies approximately 4.4% of South Africa’s total electricity needs since 1984, the parastatal said in a statement this week.

The utility explained that most power stations use the same principles to generate electricity, with the only difference being the source of energy used to rotate the shaft of the generator.

In thermal power stations, it is the steam produced by heat generated either by burning a fossil fuel, through nuclear fission or through concentrating solar energy.

Addressing concerns

Eskom commented: “We are all afraid of things and situations which we do not understand. Some people object to nuclear power stations because of a fear of radiation. It is worth noting that radiation starts decreasing immediately after the fission reaction has stopped and within approximately 10 years will have decreased by more than 95%.

“Others think that a nuclear power station would explode like a nuclear bomb. However, due to the very low content of fissionable material in the fuel, a nuclear explosion is impossible.”

The power company added: “The performance of the Koeberg power station has also consistently been one of the strongest within the Eskom fleet. It is also the cheapest energy provider in South Africa’s fleet.

Nuclear does require high initial capital expenditure for construction but, operationally, nuclear offers one of the cheapest sources of electricity, rendering it more favourable than any fossil power generation.”

In addition, Eskom has learnt significant lessons from its current new build programme that it can put to good use in the nuclear programme and to reduce the risk of schedule delays and cost overruns. It will also leverage its current relationships to ensure maximum delivery of socio-economic impacts of the nuclear build programme. 

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