The Chairperson appreciated the turnout and it was indicative that the Committee was on the right track. The meeting would look at nuclear energy as reliable supply of energy; this was the sixth meeting where stakeholders were invited en masse. The stakeholder meetings were different to public hearings as everyone would be allowed to make inputs. This was a more flexible approach and allowed for diverse input. The stakeholders' common vision was to see the country attain an adequate and sustainable supply of energy. The Committee believed the Department of Energy (DOE) should be doing more about ensuring increased supply. Nuclear energy was one of the components of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 but there had not been much debate on the programme.
Department of Energy said the Integrated Resource Plan was a 20-year national electricity generation plan. This long-term plan sought to direct the expansion of the current fleet of power stations. The plan sought to give SA a long term perspective and considered issues such as technical constraints, capacity, cost and affordability, and the amount of electricity that could be injected into the grid. There was a social aspect that addressed the kind of technologies that could be relied upon to generate employment opportunities at all levels. Externalities like carbon emissions were also considered. DOE acknowledged the fact that it would periodically have to re-look at its assumptions. Initially it was agreed that after every two years the plan would be reviewed, but that had not been happening. The plan was not fixed for 20 years, and would be revised this year. The growth in electricity demand was directly linked to economic growth. There was a multiplication factor between the projected economic growth and the anticipated growth in electricity demand. Electricity was also linked to other infrastructure developments. One should anticipate the need in the future, and as accurately as possible second guess the future in order to make the right decisions today. Supply should be ready at the right time; the volume of the electricity generated had to be ready at the time it would be used.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Energy Institute said all industries would have to play a role, and sustainable development would require economic, social and environmental considerations. Manufacturing was capable of supporting an extended nuclear programme in the country. Two reactors in the country would not be sufficient, and government should be looking at establishing more. Three more plants would contribute significantly to job creation. Construction was ready and capable to handle anything, but effective scheduling would be required. Government was well positioned and it had Presidential level oversight. Most of the governance structures in place, such as the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), were reasonably effective. The financial services had adequate capacity. Considerable investment would probably be required for transmission and distribution. This would influence the flow of electricity from the northern provinces down to the coast. The media had a keen interest about nuclear debates, but unfortunately it had been fed a lot of inaccurate information.
Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (NECSA) said the world energy perspective had changed after Fukushima. All the countries running nuclear had looked at what would happen should a similar kind of natural disaster engulf one of their reactors. How could they mitigate against this outcome. It would cost in terms of money, but would save in terms of security of mind. This could drive up the cost, and ambitious timelines for planning and construction would have to become more realistic. Alongside this, there should be attempts to increase global governance of safe and environmental friendly energy sources. This was in line with the IRP 2010. From the safety and energy efficiency perspective nuclear power plants would be improved for the better. It was interesting that the developing countries were the ones picking up the banner for nuclear. Asia and the Middle East sat on oil, and yet they were opting for nuclear for long-term plans.
Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) looked at the global outlook for energy in 2013, saying China had 17 nuclear power reactors and 32 were in various stages of construction. The Chinese were licensing some of NIASA’s technology for their new build. Renewable energy and nuclear power were the fastest growing energy sources, each increasing by 2.5% a year. The fossil fuels would account for about 80% of energy use until about 2040. Natural gas was the fastest growing fossil fuel supported by increased supplies of shale gas. Coal would grow faster than petroleum consumption until after 2030, mostly due to China’s increased consumption of coal. On the African continent, SA was the only player in nuclear energy generationAn increased will and political commitment by many African countries to advance electricity generation via nuclear energy was noticeable. Nigeria was making progress with the introduction of nuclear power.
Those opposed to nuclear use at the meeting voiced concerns that allowing the nuclear industry to have a hearing was all well and good, but the gap had been that opponents to nuclear use had not had a chance to alert Members of Parliament to its dangers and pitfalls - these were never communicated by nuclear experts. Concerns were raised about an evacuation plan in case of disaster, the disposal of radioactive waste and the need for a review of the IRP.
The Chairperson appreciated the turnout and said it was indicative that the Committee was on the right track. The meeting would look at nuclear energy as reliable supply of energy; this was the sixth meeting where stakeholders were invited en masse. The stakeholder meetings were different to public hearings, and everyone would be allowed to make inputs. The practice was new in Parliament and would hopefully have an impact. This was a more flexible approach and allowed for diverse input. Stakeholders had one common vision to see the country attain adequate and sustainable supply of energy.
Mr Njikelana said he would not elaborate on electricity supply challenges. Recently, the Committee had received a briefing from the Department of Energy (DOE) on efficiency and the Committee’s dissatisfaction was voiced at that meeting. Members believed DOE should be doing more in ensuring increased supply. Nuclear energy was one of the components of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010. There had not been much debate on the nuclear energy programme. The Nuclear Industry Association of SA (NIASA) had previously organised engagements on this with those who supported and opposed the use of nuclear energy. The differing and opposing views on the use of nuclear energy could not be shied away. In the meantime, the Government had taken a clear position that it was moving ahead with nuclear energy.
Parliament should play its role and facilitate public participation. This was in preparation for the new nuclear build programme. He been invited that day by the Oil and Gas Alliance of SA (SAOGA) to the upcoming convention on gas in November where the industry would engage robustly. Next week a summit would be held on wind energy. There were platforms to address energy careers and sources. It was logical to give space to address nuclear as an energy source as well. He handed over to the presenters.
Department of Energy (DOE) input
Mr Thabang Audat, DOE Acting Chief Director: Electricity, said he would focus on the basis upon which nuclear power generation was included in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010, where nuclear was part of SA’s energy generation mix. The purpose was not to defend the IRP, but explain the process that DOE undertook to reach the final policy document as it stood. The objective was to enhance the discussion around nuclear. The IRP 2010 has allocated 9600 megawatts for nuclear by 2030 as part of the energy mix in the IRP – a 20-year national electricity generation plan – and should be seen in the context of an integrated generation plan.
This was not an operational, but a long-term plan that sought to direct the expansion of the current fleet of power stations. The plan sought to give SA a long term perspective and consider issues such as technical constraints, capacity, cost and affordability, and the amount of electricity that could be injected into the grid. There was a social aspect that addressed the kind of technologies that could be relied upon to generate employment opportunities at all levels. Externalities like carbon emissions were also considered.
The purpose of the IRP could be categorised into two streams: theoretical and practical. DOE want to identify the required investments in the electricity sector, so that project investments would be identified to make sure the projected demand was met. There were practical issues to condier: the projected increase in electricity demand was a dynamic trajectory. There were cost elements and a number of investments in this type of a plan. In practice the Department would have to take into account that incorrect calculations in the plan would result in huge costs.
Although this was a long-term plan, in reality there was no plan that could be fixed in 20 years. DOE acknowledged the fact that it would periodically have to re-look at its assumptions. Initially it was agreed that the plan would be reviewed every two years, but that had not been happening. The plan was not fixed for 20 years, and would be revised this year. The growth in electricity demand was directly linked to economic growth. There was a multiplication factor between the projected economic growth and the anticipated growth in electricity demand.
There was a social welfare component that influenced the increase in demand of electricity. DOE had services that influenced growth in electricity demands; there were key customers such as the mines, huge factories, the services section, the airports and the communications sector. If these sectors grew steeply, they would influence the rate at which electricity demand was projected. There were social elements to it, such as education, health, safety and food production. These also influenced the rate at which electricity demand grew.
The problematic areas that were taken into account when developing the IRP was that electricity was not like ordinary commodities. It could not be stored and used when required; engineering of electricity generation had to meet the demand as and when it was required. Another challenge was that it took years from when one took a decision to build a power station to a point where that power station injected electricity into the grid and started working. One had to plan many years ahead for how the demand would look like in future.
Electricity was linked to other infrastructure developments. These developments should anticipate future needs, and as accurately as possible, second guess the future to make the right decisions today. Supply should be ready at the right time; the volume of the electricity generated should be ready at the time it would be used. The quality of a future power station should be as close as possible to what the reality would look like when it was required. Electricity also should be affordable and the IRP needed to answer these questions for the next 20 years.
The country needed to put in place plans to meet the future demand. Currently available capacity was less than the projected demand. Medupi and Kusile power plants were expected to come on stream, but if nothing else was done to supplement those, electricity supply would, again, be a challenge. Supply would fall while demand would continue to steeply increase. Currently there was a gap between demand and what Eskom was able to dispatch. The IRP sought to balance that gap. DOE was currently trying to manage the system under the so-called emergency response and business continuity plan.
Implementation of the IRP would ensure demand was met. The existing coal power stations were reaching a maturity point and needed to be decommissioned. Coal power stations needed to be linked to sufficient water provision, and the IRP ought to answer that. There was an issue with primary energy resources. The country should also develop skills within and the new technologies should address that question.
Localisation should enhance local skills and there was a need not to bring international companies to merely do the jobs. There needed to be compulsory skills element, stipulated in the contract, so that companies did not come and go without transferring skills. Skills transfer was critical and should be specified. Cost and funding were intrinsically linked to decisions made now. Certain assumptions should be made at a point where the country said it was ready to initiate a programme. But the real cost would only be realised when going to the market. The same thing was done with energy renewable programmes.
The team learned as it moved along with the implementation of the IRP. On the revised IRP, information would be much more enhanced. There were issues that the country needed to take into account as it moved away from coal generated electricity supply. The issues included the cost of the plan, and whether it would meet security of supply, and carbon emission limits. It would be a challenge if the international community decide on imposing penalties for carbon emissions. DOE did not want SA to make a switch yet. There was a need to keep a close eye on the carbon emissions of the plan. Water availability was a challenge; there were competing needs for water in the country and DOE did not want to put additional stress on water.
The process that the Department followed in putting together the IRP, was three-phased: an input phase; modelling phase and the outcomes. The modelling phase involved taking the assumptions and effecting them into a modelling tool and out of that, the outcomes, would be categorised in IRP 1 in terms of cost, carbon emissions, and the economic benefits for the country.
The reason the IRP looked the way it did was because at the beginning there was no preference or exclusion of one technology for another. At the beginning DOE took a scientific approach, and took the assumptions and the existing policies and all of the entire data set was put through that instrument. On the supply side of the input, one had to make assumptions on how much such a technology would cost, and that was the entire lifecycle of the cost. There was a load factor associated with these technologies; some technologies were referred to as base-load and others as peaking power plants. With some technologies one did not even have control in terms of how they were dispatched. He cited the example of a wind turbine that could generate energy only when there was wind.
The technologies that the country would have resources for were nuclear and coal. There was gas resources but this had not been fully explored. Hydro would be important to some extent, and there were pump storages that could be used to balance peak demand. Other plant costs over and above investments, were refurbishment, and decommissioning costs. The country was not only looking at overnight capital costs but there long-term cost elements for each technology.
There were generic, demand and supply input categories. Nuclear specific input would fall under the supply input category. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Report would be used as the modelling tool for the IRP plan. The cost assumptions relating to nuclear were not put together by a consultant, but EPRI which was a reputable engineering institution. There was the 'overnight capital cost' but this was increased by 40% to accommodate those costs that were beyond the overnight capital cost.
The outcome of this was a fair price path that a South African would pay as an average tariff. Outside the price cone there were carbon impacts and effects. There were constraints on the maximum carbon emissions that a model could not go beyond. An assumption was made on future cost of carbon. The critical issue was the security of supply; DOE would want enough available supply to meet the projected demand. The Department wanted to move to a more diversified mix of electricity generation. The technology choice that would be implemented was not one type over the other, but rather was more of a balanced energy mix. Globally, there was nothing that was payable for the amount of carbon a country emitted. Discussions were ongoing on this aspect of global politics and carbon emissions could become a serious constraining externality should the global environment decide to impose cost penalties.
Out of all the technologies that the IRP proposed nuclear accounted for 17% emissions and the renewables accounted for 42%. It was pointless to plan to have all the technology options if there were no resources. He ran through a diagram that represented all the resource options that the country had. Worldwide there were about 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries. While 129 reactors were in Europe, the US had about 122, and Africa had only 2. Public hearings on the plan would resume next week.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Energy Institute input
Prof Phillip Lloyd, Energy Institute CPUT, said representing the views of everyone on the nuclear matter was a challenge. Stakeholders included manufacturing, construction, government, financial services, power distribution, the media, the public, education and training, and the environmental industry. All industries would have to play a role, and sustainable development would require economic, social and environmental considerations.
Manufacturing was capable of supporting an extended nuclear programme in the country. Two reactors in the country would not be sufficient, and government should be looking to establishing more. Three more plants would contribute significantly to job creation. France that had created over 100 000 sustainable jobs by creating a larger nuclear fleet.
Construction was ready and capable to handle anything. Effective scheduling would be required to avoid what happened during the 2010 Fifa World Cup, where the system simply did not cope with all the work that was undertaken. There would be a clear message to government to schedule properly. Skills shortages were highlighted in the case of Medupi Power Plant. As long as these challenges were recognised, something could be done about them. The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) could actually contribute as opposed to just drawing money from government. On construction, the country had adequate capacity and the industry was not limited by the number of plants. By having a fleet of reactors, civil engineering performance would improve as they moved on.
Government was well positioned and it had Presidential level oversight. Most of the governance structures that were in place, such as the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), were reasonably effective. The support structures were in place, but clear decision making and policies were required as costs for nuclear energy build could escalate out of control. The timing was critical when it came to environmental issues.
The financial services had adequate capacity to deal with most of the issues mentioned. There was limited experience in the country in the nuclear industry. Financial services had not shown much interest about the nuclear programmes. Government should give some guidance in terms of how it envisages involvement of private institutions in the nuclear field should it come to pass. However the financial institutions should be able to do procurement of the capital works, both internationally and locally. Uncertainty surrounded the role financial services would actually play on the programme.
Considerable investment would probably be required on transmission and distribution. This would influence the flow of electricity from the northern provinces downward to the coast. The challenge was that one could not have all sorts of renewable sources operated on a small grid. One big issue on transmission and distribution was the question of the Independent System Operator's Model. This particular question ought to be resolved and a complete rethink was necessary.
The media had a very keen interest on nuclear debates, but unfortunately it had been fed a lot of inaccurate information. The media demonstrated a lack of understanding for the drivers of nuclear power. The drivers were pretty clear; it was the base-load, and also there had to be a drive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These were the main reason nuclear was being tested. Negative news about all the disasters such as Fukushima, overshadow all the positive aspects of nuclear use. No one died in Fukushima due to the nuclear disaster. There was a general poor understanding of the true nature of nuclear hazards.
There was a widespread rejection by the general public, but this had been overcome in some places like Sweden. Also concerning was the cost of nuclear power; this was one of the things to talk about. The concerns about safety were entirely misplaced, because most disasters resulted from hydro power which was the second most dangerous after coal. There were concerns about long-term nuclear waste but such concerns were misplaced. Nuclear was like the ash of any fire, it cooled off faster when disposed off.
Prof Lloyd said there should not be concerns about the levels of acids contained in the ashes, as humans ate 100 000 acids every day. The fact that humans could eat radioactivity tended to be forgotten. This showed that the long-term wastes were not as hazardous as many people believed. Some sections of the population were welcoming to nuclear power, especially in Cape Town. If one worried about carbon then nuclear was the way to go as it produced little carbon. It would also meet the need for base-power. There were high level skills in the country when it came to education and training. Some tertiary institutions were already involved and this could not be a disaster.
The environmental industry saw nuclear as a cash cow. Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) already had lobby groups in place. But if the country could recognise and debate the possibility of mitigating the negative aspects then the environmental industry could be convinced into believing this was a good idea. He said 67 nuclear reactors were under construction right now in the world. In spite of Fukushima the world was moving ahead with nuclear; 14% of the global electricity came from it. Nuclear was already playing a significant part in keeping the world alight, warm and the lights switched on.
Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (NECSA) input
Dr Gawie Nothnagel, NECSA Senior Manager: Radiation, said it was useless to speak of a world scenario, if the country’s readiness had not been ascertained. The world energy perspective changed after Fukushima. Nuclear safety and transparency had to be continual reinforced. New generation nuclear power plants were being programmed and constructed, and four nuclear power plants would be rejuvenated based on post-Fukushima stress tests.
The Chairperson interjected and requested that the point be elaborated upon.
Dr Nothnagel said all the countries running nuclear in the world had looked at what would happen should a similar kind of natural disaster engulf one of their reactors. How could they mitigate against the outcome similar to what happened on a very old generation reactor such as at Fukushima. Safety would cost in terms of money, but would save in terms security of mind. This could drive up costs, and ambitious timelines on planning and construction would have to become more realistic. Alongside these activities, there should be attempts to increase global governance of safe and environmental friendly energy sources. This was in line with the IRP 2010.
From the safety and energy efficiency perspective, nuclear power plants would be improved for the better. It was interesting that the developing countries were the ones picking up the banner for nuclear. Asia and the Middle East sat on oil, and yet they were opting for nuclear; this was long-term planning. He took the meeting through a graph that contained transitional scenarios. South Africa’s nuclear use was far too low and that was not good. Efforts should be redoubled on this aspect of energy source. There was potential to grow human capital and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. In the country there was a bit of everything and if that were to be enhanced, it would have positive results for the country. People were eager for training, capacity building and opportunities.
Nuclear energy as part of the base-load was a must for the vision, as it would result in reduction of carbon emissions. He described the plan as world-wise and locally tailored. Considerable work had been done on the part of government. Various initiatives had been taken; preparing for the new build would require a lot of skills. Many university programmes had been geared towards the field notably by North West University, University of Johannesburg and Wits. NIASA had harmonised the national curriculum and provided training for the industry staff. He outlined the programmes that were being offered at postgraduate level in the field.
This was a very good field for job creation. There were various positions within NECSA, and the entity could handle about 150 tonnes components. The entity looked to boost localisation as it was the priority focus of Government, but also that it was an important criterion in the IRP new build programme. NECSA would go for a phased approach and would localise only identified products. NECSA would look to be registered internationally as a supplier. The entity would do joint ventures on commercial basis as well. Localisation was a short term measure and the country ought to think globally.
The nuclear power option was advancing safely and surely for the better. Nuclear as base-load had remained a world-wide accepted solution to security supply of electricity, whilst kerbing green house gas (GHG) emissions. Government and the nuclear industry have made substantial investment in training and localisation preparedness, and had, thus, advanced considerably towards a viable localisation goal. Nuclear fuel cycle programme held massive promise for globalisation of aspects of nuclear power technology and job creation potential. The IRP was a wise approach to the global tendency and the local needs perspective. It encapsulated what the country was and what it could do and what it needed.
The Chairperson asked Dr Nothnagel to comment on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR).
Dr Nothnagel said PBMR in principle was a great idea. Had it been approached modestly in a phased approach, "the smaller and more conventional demo model" might have had completely different outcomes. This would have made licensing much easier. People license things they understood much better than innovation. It would have added value had it succeeded; the PBMR was low on water consumption. This was a valuable commodity in our country, and could be brought to where the energy was required. It had a potential for delocalised processed heat and a hydrogen economy. A lot of training in engineering and manufacturing came out of it.
Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) presentation input
Ms Judi Nwokedi, NIASA board member, said the entity was a collection of high level members that included academic institutions in the country. The organisation brought together the best experts in the field of nuclear. SA was the world number one isotope producer. This was what had set the country apart from other global players. NIASA had been asked to present global learnings and provide a continental perspective.
On the global outlook for energy in 2013, China counted more than 17 reactors built and 32 were in various stages of construction. Chinese was licensing some of NIASA’s technology for the new build. Renewable energy and nuclear power were the fastest growing energy sources - each increasing by 2.5% a year. The fossil fuels would account for about 80% of energy use until about 2040. Natural gas was the fastest growing fossil fuel supported by increased supplies of shale gas. Coal would grow faster than petroleum consumption until after 2030, mostly due to China’s increased consumption of coal.
World electricity demand would grow by 20% by 2030, and nuclear energy would have to double. Worldwide, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were projected to increase by 46% by 2040. She concurred with the point that nuclear-related energy supply would lead to reduced levels of carbon emissions. On the continent, SA was the only player in nuclear energy generation. The first natural nuclear fission reactions occurred in Gabon so the epicentre of nuclear origins was on the African continent. An increased will and political commitment by many African countries to advance electricity generation via nuclear was noticeable. Nigeria was making progress in the introduction of nuclear power.
NIASA and NECSA had partnered with a number of countries on the continent who wanted to learn. The NNR was held in high esteem across the continent. Many countries had such nuclear regulators even though in many countries nuclear plants had not been built. In order to build power plants, a country needed such a regulator to be in place.
The four key questions that countries implementing nuclear programmes asked were about safety, affordability, procurement transparency, and whether there were measures and processes for accountability. There were questions around uranium availability, as well as about opting for nuclear when the sun and wind were free. Why not use the cheap base-load of coal and gas? What risks were there for going nuclear other than the environment and waste control? What were the financial implications of going nuclear?
The financial implications for nuclear were difficult to guess, but the implications for using nuclear were favourable to other technologies. She cited the example of the Koeberg nuclear power plant near the area from where she came. The community supported nuclear, because coal contaminated the air from morning till night. The community was not even aware that Koeberg was there. The next build of nuclear power plants would result in universal access to electricity, effectively with no carbon dioxide, no land contamination and much better than coal. Base-load was the need and was critical for an economy like SA that hoped to industrialise and become globally competitive. The energy mix had to be diverse.
The best way to find out the real cost implications would be to issue enquiry documents to various potential participants in a nuclear new build. The delays around nuclear and indecisiveness and regulatory challenges were all some of the hidden cost that resulted in cost overruns that would redefine the actual cost of the nuclear new build. What was known about the cost of capital nuclear structure was that the engineering of a power plant, from the beginning to the end, was expensive. Such information had been ascertained and could be presented to the Committee.
The reason South Korea was among the leading economies in the world today was because of the decision the country made 60 years ago, where about 200 South Koreans went to study the intricacies of the nuclear field. Nuclear provided a country and an economy with a whole differentiator; it had the power to completely take a country to a different level of knowledge. The single greatest cost to any economy was the lack of electricity.
SA could do it and Koeberg had been a success story. The biggest drive was public engagement around the issue. There were many countries where the public drove the need for nuclear new build. In SA, there was a need for a private sector dialogue with government. It was the private sector that built; it had been building; and together with enterprises across the value chain the private sector would continue to build. How could the country proceed with the nuclear new build without a well structured dialogue with the private sector? The policy was an enabler; but the people who build had to be part of the dialogue. Unfortunately that dialogue was glaringly lacking. The country had reached a suspended moment in its energy history. The country was caught between an intractable present and irrecoverable past. Nuclear was not the answer, but it had to be part of the answer.
Dr Dawid Serfontein, Senior Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering at North-West University, commented that the concern raised about the debate was the levelised cost of electricity generated from nuclear power compared to coal. Nuclear power could indeed reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but its use had raised concerns of cost and safety. He said he had compared the costs of nuclear and coal using conservative assumptions.
He detailed how he arrived at his scientific calculations, and gave a graphic analysis of the cost.
Dr Serfontein said the country ought not to be thinking about cost and percentages. Whilst the capital cost of nuclear was double that of coal, the environmental cost was far too low. The Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) from nuclear was less than coal. The worst case nuclear was better profitable than the best case coal in nominal terms.
Mr Christopher Bellingham, Renewable Energy Engineer at juwi Renewable Energies, said there were instances where the LCOE for nuclear energy could go up to R8 per kilowatt hour, including decommissioning. The country used wind and solar energy sources that were far cheaper. If one were to take the same levelised prices for nuclear and add the economic development commitments one would experience an expensive form of electricity. If one took into consideration the tender programme that would have to be initiated, it would have to be an expanded programme in order for nuclear to be viable in the country. If that were to be the case, SA would be handcuffed into an outdated technology leading into the future, leaving the country without the benefit of the cutting-edge and future technology.
Prof Lloyd noted the statement on the price of nuclear power and the cost of decommissioning. He invited Mr Bellingham to give him his email address so that he could provide a detailed breakdown of the cost of decommissioning.
Ms Catherina Scheepers, Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) member, identified herself as someone who loved and respected the earth. She disputed the statement that no one had died in Fukushima. Elderly people died in Fukushima because they could not be evacuated in time, and deaths were still continuing. It took 40 years to get an evacuation plan for the country, and when that was put to the test, it proved to be a pipe dream. The whole plan was based on a fallacy that there would be enough willing bus drivers to help with evacuation. She said in her engagements with bus drivers from Golden Arrow they knew nothing about the plan. Given that Cape Town had about three million people, what happened in Fukushima would be like a Sunday picnic if that were to happen in Cape Town.
Prof Lloyd said the reported deaths after the Fukushima incident were as a result of a decision by the Japanese Government to move people. It was unfortunate to try and target the nuclear industry for a government decision that had nothing to do with nuclear. He stood by his statement that no person died as a result of radioactivity in Fukushima; the two reported deaths resulted from the tsunami.
Mr Ross Harvey, Research Fellow: South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA), said he had just read an article by one of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Commissioners where it indicated that only 13 countries were constructing nuclear energy plants, 5 of which had incomplete reactors whose construction started as far back as the ’80s. It would seem there had been a great deal of hopeful thinking, but these nuclear plans would lock the country into a high capital cost cycle that would reduce SA’s flexibility and responsiveness. The country ought to be aware of what went on globally.
Prof Jan Glazewski, Marine and Environmental Law Department, University of Cape Town (UCT), said he neither supported nor opposed the use of nuclear. He said it was concerning that the Portfolio Committee received presentations that were only pro-nuclear, given the number of NGOs that were against use of nuclear. He wondered if invitations had been extended to such NGOs.
Prof Glazewski asked if there was a plan to deal with high-level cost of radioactive waste, especially as reference had been made to the life-cycle cost of nuclear. He drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the environmental right in the Constitution guaranteed the rights of future generations. It seemed as though the country did not have a plan to deal with high-level radioactive waste, and not a single country in the world had such a plan.
Prof Glazewski asked if the nuclear energy policy of 2008 had been revisited in the wake of Fukushima. If so, how had it been revisited?
Prof Glazewski sought clarity on whether consideration had been given to liability. Who would underwrite the risk of a nuclear accident, given that government could not underwrite the risk from acid mine drainage.
Mr Saliem Fakir, World Wide Fund-SA Head: Living Planet Unit, commented that he had never eaten any radioactivity in his life. He commented that there had been a lot of debate around the demand curve. The reason this was important is that it would give an indication as to whether the country needed nuclear energy or not. It would be important to understand how that would look like in the next 30 years. It would be interesting to know about the procurement and bidding processes and how they would be financed. What would the guarantees look like? What would be the cost of capital that the country could attract for the nuclear industry?
Mr Audat commented that a proper work study would be done to revise the demand curve. The methodology to conduct all the reviews of the current curve was restricted to institutions, and was not as open to the public. If the demand curve came out to be lower in the IRP than the current one, a logical step would be to answer the question about the kind of energy mixes SA required to meet the revised demand curve. If the demand came out lower that would not mean nuclear need not be part future energy solutions. Experts should not pre-empt what the future energy mix would look like.
Prof Lloyd disputed the comment by Mr Fakir that he had never eaten anything radioactive. Had he not eaten radioactive, he would not be able to speak because at the core of a human being’s nervous system was potassium that was highly radioactive. The nervous system operated on the exchange of insulin and potassium. He said he was shocked that an individual would overrule the simple physics of the universe.
The Chairperson interjected and teasingly said the professor was not a medical doctor. To which Prof Lloyd replied he was not, but he knew his radiation.
Mr Muna Lakhani, Earthlife Africa/Tsunami branch coordinator, disputed the statistic on the global generation of electricity by nuclear and said it was only 10% not 14%. He asked when would the four organisations present that were opposed to nuclear be afforded an opportunity to articulate their stance. The investment opportunities bandied about by the presenters could not have been correct. About $300 billion was going towards renewable energy, and nuclear had not picked a fraction of that sum. This was worthy of a bit of rethink. He cited the Russian example, where nuclear use had been reported to have resulted in cancer in to close to a million people. That nothing had happened in Fukushima now, was not a guarantee that nothing would happen in the future.
Mr Audat said DOE was opened to inputs, and would in the coming week hold public hearings on the revised assumptions that influenced the next IRP. It was useless to sit in offices and develop counter-IRP reports with the intention of presenting that as an alternative to the government IRP. At the end of the day only a few people would know what effort had gone into that counter-document. For the benefit of the country, everyone should be honest and influence the debate fairly.
Mr Woody Aroun, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (NUMSA) shop steward, said he had expected that stakeholders would be given much more time to comment on the matter. He reminded the meeting that the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu) had adopted a resolution at its 11th congress (2012) saying no to nuclear. He disputed the statistics on renewables and said the quoted statistic that ‘42% of the new build would be renewable energy’ was lower than 42%. Renewables had to be prioritised but the allocation was too small.
Mr Audat replied the presentation was clear that, for the next 20 years, of the new power plants that would come to connect to the grid, 42% of the new build would be renewable energy. The 14% of electricity generated from nuclear, was sourced from a reputable source and not google.com. To avoid conflicting figures, experts ought to put the reputable sources in the open. The Department projected 14% based on reputable research and the report was available.
Prof Lloyd referred to the NUMSA comment and said most of the renewable energy was not proven and was largely new. The windows that were being built were for more than 2 megawatts in power. These were only about five years old; they had not much operational experience yet. Putting in a 100 megawatts plant was a major step; this was the biggest plant of its kind in the world. This was a brave step and it carried considerable risk.
Dr Nothnagel disputed the concern that the environmental side did not get a hearing and said nuclear proponents were not against the environment, rather they supported a balanced approach. People needed not to be emotional when getting points across, lest they exclude a base load source that could enrich the country. Experts had to find each other for a wise national solution.
The Chairperson said there was a government position that was part of the IRP. The meeting should not suggest in any way and to anyone that the Committee was about to change that position. At the same time people should be allowed to talk. The Committee could not create platforms that had a potential to undermine government programmes.
Bishop Jeff Davids, Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute, said he was disturbed by the little time afforded to the discussions especially since the faith community and the Electricity Governance Initiative of South Africa (EGI) had asked to be given time to do a presentation on the Smart Electricity Plan, which had been well researched. He requested that the country look at renewable energy as an option for sustainable energy. He was appalled at the biased and prejudiced views that had been presented. Differing views deserved to be listened to as well.
Mr Audat replied that SA was a heavily industrialised economy that needed base load. Unless renewable energy could be able to produce base load, the country could not look solely at renewable energy as electricity source. Renewable energy was there to serve a particular need; mines could not wait for sun or for windy days to send people underground. The country needed a mix of energy generation. The country did not have adequate hydro resources and was reliant on other countries for this. DoE would not want to expose the economy to global politics at this stage.
Mr David Le Page, an environment and renewables journalist, commented that since the IRP had been developed, there had been four studies by the University of Pretoria, Energy Research Centre, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and Association for Science Schools SA, and all four have spoken to a dramatically reduced electricity demand in the country. He pointed out that although the French example was cited for job creation, Prof Lloyd forgot to mention that there were 58 nuclear reactors in that country. SA would have to build many more nuclear reactors before it got to creating 100 000 nuclear jobs. All the evidence from Germany and the US, showed that renewable energy created many more jobs. Too much capital had left the country as a result of the Arms Deal and that, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), had cost the country a lot more jobs. Depending on the localisation policy, the money that would leave the country as a result of the nuclear build programme could create a lot more jobs if it were to stay here.
Dr Nothnagel said the French had 75% of energy coming from nuclear and they were the fifth largest economy in the world; Mr Le Page's comments were debatable and too simplified as a view that should inform costing. There had been a public concern about waste that would result from nuclear use. This had been a big barrier towards finding a solution to waste. It had now been 100 years of nuclear science and the solution was there; experts needed to find each other in terms of the socio-environmental solution.
Mr Pieter Becker, Chairperson KAA, commented he was disturbed by some of the disingenuous sales pictures shown by the industry people, as they were full of factual errors. He cited the statistic that 14% of the world electricity was generated from nuclear. This was not true; the figure should have been 12% according to google.com. The quality of the academic research was worrying because the presenter gave Parliament the incorrect information.
Mr Becker commented that the National Radioactive Waste Management Agency was concerning. The Agency should be set-up from a levy on the nuclear energy produced. There was no fund at the moment as there was no staff; and there was also no capacity to create the levy to handle waste. This was something that required urgent intervention from Parliament to get that process underway.
Mr Andrew Kenny, an engineer, said he believed citizens had a moral duty to protect the planet, as well as bulk power producers needed to turn to nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear power had been proved by far to be the safest energy source. All around the world nuclear power remained the cheapest and the cleanest form of energy.
Mr Don Mingoue, a physicist, teasingly said that he wished people would stop using google.com for information, and start using internationally accredited scientific literature for statistics. He disagreed with several of the statements that had been made by those opposed to nuclear usage. People should do their homework in a scientific way rather than via a consensus way. It was interesting to see that the state had been putting in solar PV systems in Gauteng at R37 000 each. Based on this statistic, the capital cost of renewable energy was the same as nuclear if not more.
Mr L Greyling (DA) commented that he was struggling to work out the purpose of the meeting. There was a big debate on nuclear use in the country, and to have only those presentations that supported nuclear was not conducive to a proper debate. There appeared to be an inherent bias, and that did not assist the debate. He said he was embarrassed as he had come with an open mind, wanting to hear all sides.
The Chairperson replied that the Member had wrongly assumed that those who made presentations were pro-nuclear while everybody else was anti.
Mr S Radebe (ANC) commented that the role of Parliament should be to unite SA citizens when cracks appeared to be widening. Members should allow the Chairperson to arrange another meeting that would afford all citizens enough time to engage on the matter. This was a continuous debate, and Members should allow citizens to engage on matters without taking sides. Members should find solutions for South Africans.
The Chairperson said this meeting was the sixth energy stakeholders’ meeting; four of which had been about renewable energy sources, and that had to be noted. He had facilitated those meetings because of the inputs received from various stakeholders.
Ms Nwokedi cited an instance where the Committee had once refused her an invitation as the engagement was not for nuclear people, as only renewable people were needed to do presentations. There had been ongoing dialogue within the Committee for the past three years, and nuclear had been given little time to present its voice. Nuclear got the raw end of the stick when it came to putting its science forward. Public dialogue needed to be informed; individuals should put aside self interest in pursuit of common interest for the good of the country. She urged all those opposed to nuclear to consider the impact and complications of coal on the lives of people in Richard’s Bay (KZN).
The Chairperson said the context within which the meeting was called was that government was going ahead with its nuclear programme. But that should not limit what Parliament could do, and it needed to create a platform for engagement. He said it was annoying that individuals seemed to suggest that Parliament could reverse government stance. If people wanted government’s view to be changed there were a number of avenues including meetings with stakeholders. The meeting would attempt to do that.
The Chairperson said that the Department had been invited to open the deliberations, mainly to indicate the road the country had followed. This was a journey, and needed to be refined. He said the suggestion by Members of a follow-up had been noted. Whether people were pro or anti nuclear, they needed to ensure they were part of refining the journey. Very important issues that required consideration such as cost, comparative analysis, and safety had been raised.
Second round of comments
Prof S Mayathula (ANC) commented that the platform created ought to be appreciated. People should accept that not all of the attendees could speak during a three-hour meeting. It was not the responsibility of the Committee to invite stakeholders; other Committees did not even invite stakeholders to their meetings.
Mr Gaopalelwe Santswere, Chairperson: Young Nuclear Professionals Society, said he was depressed that there were people who were opposed to nuclear energy supply. The country was faced with unemployment, poverty and inequality. How could these be addressed without first addressing the question of sustainable electricity supply that would contribute to economic growth. He said 16% of the country was not electrified, and people lived in extreme poverty. People ought not to look at self narrow interest but rather should look at the interests of society at large.
Ms Kate Davies, Safe Communities Environment Institute, said communities were concerned for the well-being of people. She said her organisation, together with the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute, had thrice written to the Minister and the President seeking an audience in the same manner, and none of those letters was ever acknowledged.
Prof Ernst Uken, CPUT Energy Institute, cited a report prepared by Finland, a highly regarded country when it came to the environment. That country had recently taken a decision to go the nuclear route and was in the process of constructing two nuclear power plants, as solar and wind could not meet the country’s electricity demand.
The Chairperson interjected and said it would be preferable if that model could be shared with the Committee in writing.
Mr John Walmsley, a physicist, noted he had recently been in the Witbank area and was horrified by what coal had done to the environment in that area. SA should rid itself of coal generated energy. Secondly, the radioactive waste would be put in a highly insoluble form and would be in highly insoluble containers. These bins were safe and would protect ground water. If the radioactive waste eventually appeared in the ground water and moved slowly through the high integrity bin material, the radiation would have decayed after all those years into negligibly low levels. This was based on an analysis that had been done.
The Chairperson said that two days before, DoE came to report to the Committee that the Board for the Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute had been approved by the Minister and would be appointed soon. The issue with radioactive waste was being institutionalised by government. He said he hoped there was a budget for that purpose otherwise the Department would find itself in conflict with Parliament.
Mr Darryl Hunt, an independent energy consultant, said he was not opposed to nuclear but the country needed to get the mix slightly better. Gas could play a meaningful role in the mix of dispatchable plant. Gas was cheaper to construct, and there was an engagement on this the following week where everyone was welcome to attend. He was waiting with bated breath to hear the kind of role gas could play in the IRP. He emphasised that this was not shale but natural gas.
Mr Kelvin Kemm, CEO of Nuclear Africa Pty Ltd, said nuclear power had been operating for over 50 years profitably and well. In SA it had been operating for over 25 years without any impact on the environment. The evidence for safety was there. He reiterated that there were no deaths in the Fukushima disaster. There were more deaths coming out of Fukushima because of the government’s wrong decision to move people. There had been incredible consideration about nuclear safety by the people in the nuclear business since the nuclear destruction during the Second World War.
Mr Heini Nel, independent power project developer, said the objective was to go for a viable energy mix. The government policy decision to go for a full suite of 9.6 gigawatt of nuclear power was based on the IRP 2010 but that called for a two-yearly review. There was supposed to have been an IRP 2012 and in the next IRP the whole energy mix must be driven by demand. If the demand changed, what was the platform to change government’s policy decision?
Bishop Davids said the letters to the President were designed to change the government’s policy. The faith communities were deeply concerned by the route the country had taken. Centralised energy mix would not address the challenges of the country. There was a myth created that one could not generate a base load from renewable energy. One could do that now; the technology was there and was a matter of the political will being there. The main concern was the rate at which people were destroying the planet. An open dialogue was needed.
Dr Serfontein explained how he got to the Levelised Cost of Electricity, and maintained that nuclear was the cheapest and the cleanest.
Mr Becker said he was gratified by the attention being paid to the nuclear waste issue. He was happy about the National Radioactive Waste Management Agency being set up as a failure to do so would invite the wrath of the public. When such an agency was set up, normally it was funded by a levy on kilowatt use. Eskom had been operating the Koeberg power plant since 1986 without a levy. He asked if a retrospective levy on Koeberg would be instituted, because if that were to happen it would be illegal to do so.
The Chairperson interjected and said there was no need to worry about that for now.
Mr Becker replied this was a challenge because DoE would only raise a levy from this point into the future. This would mean levies would be far higher than international standards to compensate for the years that Koeberg had been running without paying that levy.
The Chairperson requested that he put that in writing.
Mr Becker jibed this was complicated and impossible to utter in one minute (the allocated time for comments per speaker during the Discussion period of the meeting).
Mr Kenny said in Germany nuclear power was the safest, cleanest and reliable form of electricity. A moment of madness had grabbed the country and they had decided to phase it out. They had spent an absolute fortune on wind and solar technologies that were useless and contributed nothing to base load electricity. That had resulted in high prices for electricity. Poor people suffered as a result of this; the only people to benefit from these wind turbines was a few of the rich elite.
The Chairperson said the Committee would appreciate a short report on that too.
Mr Mingoue said as a radiation worker he had listened to all the comments. At the heart of the problem, when one looked at the 10 000 people closest to Fukushima, only three of them got more than the amount of millisieverts a person should take in a year. People did not understand millisieverts. US President, Barack Obama, had said that America would not have responded in the same irresponsible way which resulted in disastrous psychological and economic stress while acting against radiation in Fukushima. In that case, it was not as dangerous by far as was being said by opponents to nuclear energy.
Mr Lakhani said the 10% figure he quoted came from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013. Allowing the nuclear industry to have a hearing was all well and good, but the gap had been that opponents to nuclear use had not had a chance to alert Members to the dangers and pitfalls that were never shared by nuclear experts.
Ms Scheepers requested that the nuclear industry not be allowed a hearing until an evacuation plan, in case of a disaster, was in place.
The Chairperson said the Committee had been given food for thought. It was the first time the Committee had conducted such an open meeting, and he was not even sure how Parliament would react to the report. He pointed out that no one had commented about project management. The country had not been doing well in project management. Incorrect costing was also a challenge and he cited the pipeline from Johannesburg to Durban and Medupi. Dialogue was required with private sector. He said he understood why government was jittery about procurement once the nuclear sector had taken off.
The meeting was adjourned.
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