Mr. Kelvin Kemm, in this in-depth interview, excerpted below, discusses the realm of energy choices for South Africa as well for other African nations. More are considering nuclear energy as a safe and reliable power source for their economies. Mr. Kemm also discusses the anti-nuclear lobby and the causes for climate change. I recommend you spend the time to read through the entire interview.
“South Africa Builds on Its Nuclear Success”
Interview With Kelvin Kemm, who is chairman of the board of the government-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, known as NECSA,
Kemm: “The current situation is that nuclear is still on the agenda exactly as it was; it’s unchanged. There’s been somewhat of a delay because of various issues—we have a new President now, as of a couple of months ago, and a new Minister of Energy. But nothing has changed with the plan to add 9,600 MW of nuclear—to the existing total from all sources of 45,000-plus MW of electric power.
“However, the wind and solar people have been making a lot noise and made quite a few inroads, in that they’ve influenced the public thinking a lot. In doing this, they’ve done quite a bit of sabotage of nuclear, in the sense that they spread false stories that nuclear power will kill your children, and that there’s an unsolved waste problem, and that South African workers will not be able to meet exacting nuclear standards.
“In contrast…We say that you’re not going to run electric trains across the country on solar and wind, you’re not going run the gold mines; but we have no objection to solar and wind where they can work—in rural areas and in small applications, dedicated applications, which is in stark contrast to the anti-nuclear people, who condemn anything that has the word “nuclear” associated with it.
“I’d like to branch into something else, that there’s a lot of nuclear technology which is not nuclear power. So while the extreme greens are attacking the nuclear concept, they’re doing a lot of other damage. For example, South Africa is currently the second biggest supplier in the world of nuclear medicine; we’re major suppliers to the United States. In Pretoria we’ve got the only nuclear reactor in the world that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, producing nuclear medicine for the world, with deliveries taking place three or four times a day, every day of the year, including weekends and public holidays. We send this nuclear medicine around the world. It is a great life-saver for cancer patients, for example, and in diagnosing other diseases.
“Last year, in 2017, I was invited to speak at the inaugural African Union Economic Platform meeting in Mauritius. One of the things I mentioned in my presentation was nuclear power for other African countries, and I was inundated with reaction.
“Half-a-dozen-plus countries, now, have already spoken to us directly, asking if we can supply nuclear power to them. Now, that is in the form of the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), which South Africa developed a number of years ago. That reactor got to the point where we were ready to start constructing the first prototype, when the government of the day then put the project on ice. They didn’t actually close it down, but they put it into such low gear that it eventually stumbled to an effective standstill.
“Golly, how can you have an African country dependent on rainfall to keep the lights on? You just can’t do that. And numbers of them said they had no coal, oil, or gas.
“They said, what’s next? The anti-nuclear lobby has been going on with their hand-waving and demonstrating, to get solar and wind, but many of them have been very senseless. Hey, wait a minute—you don’t get solar at night. And so hopefully the wind blows. What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? Now, you’ve got nothing. And the
green just say, well, that’s the way Mother Nature designed it: Live with it.
“And so, many African countries have gotten wise about it, saying, wait a minute, we’re about to get suckered here into this thing. And they’ve realized now that the only solution they’ve got is to go for PBMR-type nuclear. because with nuclear, you can stockpile fuel very easily, for a very long period of time. It’s very easy to keep a year or two, or three, or four of nuclear fuel supply in a couple of bunkers, because the volume is so small; whereas you could never keep two or three years’ worth of coal in a pile around a power station. Here in South Africa, we try to keep a two-week emergency supply of coal at power stations, and even that is a mountain of coal “the size of an Egyptian pyramid.” And they go through that very quickly”
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