TREVOR Manuel’s National Planning Commission turned to the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre last year. The brief was simple: investigate what should form part of SA’s future energy mix.
The centre issued its report last April. It found that “nuclear investments are not necessary [at least in the next 15 to 25 years] nor are they cost effective based on the latest cost data. Gas options should be explored more intensively and hydro projects from the region should be fast-tracked.
“Many of the low emission alternatives to nuclear capacity [imported hydro, wind and natural gas] can be installed at lower cost with shorter lead times, in smaller increments, reducing the risk of overbuild.”
The researchers weren’t alone in questioning the rush to build nuclear reactors.
Former Eskom CEO, Brian Dames, was one sceptic. “If South Africa wants to pursue a large gas strategy, then this may displace other technologies,” he told Business Day.
As the argument against nuclear grew, even the government seemed to change its tune.
In November last year, government’s updated Integrated Resource Plan struck a more cautious tone, saying the nuclear decision could be delayed because the electricity demand outlook “has changed markedly” since 2010.
“The revised demand projections suggest no new nuclear base-load capacity is required until after 2025 [and for lower demand not until at earliest 2035] and that there are alternative options … before prematurely committing to a technology that may be redundant.”
Worse: “A persistent and unresolved uncertainty surrounds nuclear capital costs.”
But despite all these findings, President Jacob Zuma appeared hellbent on pressing ahead with the nuclear plan.
Read more at Nuclear, come hell or high water