While few people still believe that nuclear power would provide ‘power too cheap to meter’, there is still a common perception that nuclear power is a cheap source of electricity.
“The fact that nuclear power has not come to dominate electricity generation is seen as being due to a combination of public opposition and dealing with the safety and economic issues raised by accidents such as those at Three Mile Island (1978), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011),” said Professor Steve Thomas, from the University of Greenwich in London.
The reality is that nuclear power has seldom been the cheapest option for new power stations.
Worse, the real cost of any normal successful technology goes down over time due to the effect of intuitively sensible factors such as ‘learning-by-doing’, economies of scale and general technical progress.
“For nuclear power, these factors do not seem to have worked and for its entire commercial history, the real cost of nuclear power has only ever gone upwards,” added Thomas.
One of the main hurdles for any nuclear project has been to convince financiers to lend the money to nuclear projects.
The record of nuclear plants being built on time and within budget is poor and recent experience in France and Finland has reinforced this poor reputation.
With Russian seemingly having the inside track to build six nuclear reactors in South Africa, the question remains – just how is South Africa going to afford a nuclear spend of R 1 trillion.
“We can’t afford the nuclear deal and even the National Development Plan as well as South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan indicate we do not need to spend all this money on nuclear power stations,” said the DA leader in Kouga, Elza Van Lingen.
“Furthermore, Parliament is being bypassed with the nuclear deal and not even the Cabinet knows exactly what President Zuma is up to regarding his private meetings with the Russians.
All the signs are there that the nuclear deal is going to make the arms deal look tame in comparison,” added Van Lingen.
Thyspunt is the government’s preferred site for the construction of the first nuclear power station, despite the many flaws highlighted in the Impact Studies, which have not yet been addressed.