Energize Inbox, October 2017

Our winning letter

re: Can SA manage a nuclear new-build programme?

Dear Editor

If nuclear power is as economic as presented by Dr. Kelvin Kemm (Energize, September 2017, p.7), one has to ask why the French legislature voted on economic grounds to reduce France’s nuclear fraction of its electric power (the highest in the world) from 76% in 2014 to 50% in 2025, in favour of seriously increased wind and solar power (goo.gl/apzNAU).

According to an article published by Reuters recently, nuclear-powered France, on cold winter nights, has to import power from (much colder) wind and solar powered Germany (goo.gl/7YE55c). The reason for this situation is that it costs far too much to build sufficient nuclear capacity to power France through its cold spells.

Dr. Kemm refers to the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates. Commentators have cited a cost of US$20-billion for 5,6 GW of nuclear power. That may have been the contract price, but in 2011, even before the start of construction, that cost has already escalated to $30-billion. Plus, later, another $25-billion for “operation, maintenance and fuel supply”. That’s an escalation from $20- to $55-billion even before any power had been delivered!

These figures represent a total cost of around 55/5,4 = $10,2/W and compare poorly with large modern solar and wind systems, which come in at an installed cost below $3/W. More importantly, the cost per kWh of modern concentrated solar power (CSP) systems such as Tamarugal and Dubai is $0,073/kWh (still below R1/kWh) which is far below that of any new nuclear plant (goo.gl/4j3V0G and goo.gl/e8HL22).

What’s more, both of these CSP plants deliver far more useful-to-the-grid dispatchable power than a mere baseload nuclear plant.

Ben Franklin

re: Can SA manage a nuclear new-build programme?

Dear Editor

The fascinating thing about this debate is that that “one trillion rand” cost has remained unchanged since late in 2011. At the beginning of 2011 a dollar cost about R6,50 although it had increased to around R8,50 by September of the same year. The exchange rate is now around R13,50. So, if the R1-trillion was correct in 2011, surely the “correct” cost today would be about R1,6-trillion. Apparently, one can get the Koreans to build 5,6 GW plant for $20-billion (goo.gl/BSdhbK) which, for 9,6 GW for South Africa would equate to: 20/5,6 x 9,6 x 13,5 = R463-billion. It seems to me that R1-trillion-R463-billion = R537-billion, which is a surcharge not worth paying.

James Barbour

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