Mar 212014


By D.A. Barber AFKI Original

South Africa, which currently relies on coal for more than 85 percent of its electricity, wants to wean itself off fossil fuels by using more nuclear power by 2030. Kenya, Nigeria, and other sub-Saharan countries have similar aspirations and are not far behind. (…)

Nuclear power plant construction has stagnated worldwide, according to an October 2013 report from U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute. 

Nuclear is the only mainstream power source – including all of the renewables and all the fossil fuels – that is stagnant and has actually had negative growth, said Alexander Ochs, director of the Climate and Energy Program at Worldwatch Institute, in an AFKInsider interview.

The reason for that stagnation of nuclear? It’s not that countries are forbidden to build them — it’s simply economics, Ochs said. Utilities are unwilling to carry the high costs and the high risks. (…)

“I’m just not sure why you would go down a nuclear route, which is extremely expensive,” Worldwatch Institute’s Ochs told AFKInsider. “You’re not building a nuclear power plant in a couple years. It’s a 15-year project. South Africa has a lot of coal left. I’m not a huge fan of getting the coal out of the ground and burning it, but it gives you time for a transitional strategy towards renewable technologies that are actually using the enormous potentials that you have in the country. To me it doesn’t make any sense.” (…)

Africa Nuclear Power“This is not a technology that works well with intermittent resources,” Ochs told AFKInsider. “To ramp up a nuclear power plant and then drive it down again to take it off the grid — even with hypermodern ones, it takes two or three days.” (…)

If you want to address intermittency, natural gas is the smartest way to go because — almost like a stove at home — you can turn the gas on and off and in a very short response time, Ochs said. “And from an economic standpoint even more so, because these (nuclear plants) have to run all the time. So then that leads you to a situation where you have a lot of wind or solar and you’re producing at peak and you can’t use this electricity because you have your nuclear power plants on.” (…)

“In a privatized market, you wouldn’t find a company that really would be willing to do this,” Ochs said. “It’s two things really: it’s the scale, it’s the simple amount of how much these things cost, and secondly the investment risk that goes with it, which is a long list of risks that you’re confronted with if you build a nuclear power plant.”

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