Sensible, sustainable nuclear power for Africa

Economic, environmental and practical reasons make nuclear power Africa’s best option

Dr. Kelvin Kemm and Knox Msebenzi

Centuries ago European countries were scrambling to take control of large pieces of Africa, to increase their wealth and colonial prestige. They brought their sophisticated, advanced ideas and methods to Africa. This changed the developmental direction of African countries, and positive influences were absorbed, while a great deal of unhappiness and conflict also resulted when colonisers could not grasp the limitations of converting Africa into a European clone.

Famed British author, Rudyard Kipling came to South Africa many times and wrote beautiful prose about the country but emphasized the deep spiritual differences in terrain and general character between Africa and England. He understood the heart and soul of the country, but very many did not and still do not.

Since then Europe has advanced greatly. But so has Africa, though not in the same way.

People of Africa have developed locally applicable solutions to issues and challenges. First World countries must accept that their technological solutions were developed for their social and geographic conditions, not ours. Yes, we have adopted and adapted many foreign solutions, but in most cases a straight transplant from the First World to Africa does not work optimally.

A major infrastructure development is electrification. High-voltage power lines of over 1000 km (620 mi) in length are unheard of in Europe but are common in South Africa, where they also traverse one of the highest lightning incidence areas on the planet. These realities have led to technologically advanced solutions.

The people of Africa know what is best for the people of Africa. First World countries really must refrain from using a paternalistic attitude by trying to tell Africans to “see sense” and to do it “the right way,” or do it to “prevent climate change” – all of which mean do it “their way.”

In South Africa coal has been the mainstay of electricity production for over a century, but the major coal fields are clustered in the far northeast. The port city of Cape Town is further away from the coalfields than London is from Rome! That’s why a nuclear power station was built near Cape Town some 40 years ago, to supply power for and from the south.

The decision to adopt nuclear power in South Africa was made because of sound strategic planning. It has turned out to have been a very good decision.

Nuclear is most certainly a source of sustainable clean energy.  At least seven African countries have signed agreements with Russian nuclear company Rosatom to develop nuclear capabilities. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are currently being developed, which are ideal for deployment in virtually any location. Large conventional nuclear can be 3000 megawatts (MW) in output, whereas an SMR is only about 100 MW.

Contrary to widely circulated rhetoric – that nuclear and renewable energy (RE) are mutually exclusive – they actually complement each other very well. SMRs can vary power output at the will of the system operator. RE sources such as wind and solar depend on variable weather. If a cloud is cast over a solar plant, modern nuclear power can be ramped up to replace the reduced output.

Critics of nuclear falsely say nuclear is very inflexible. The reason why most nuclear plants are not designed for highly flexible operation is that their output does not depend on the amount of input fuel, like coal, diesel or gas. They are designed to just run flat out, reliably.

Certain critics of nuclear for Africa have argued that it requires specialized skills that African countries do not have. The truth is, these skills can be developed once a decision to go nuclear has been made – and conventional electrical or mechanical engineers can be “nuclearized” by training them on specialised nuclear aspects. Everything else is the same.

The idea that a national power system can run on RE sources is unrealistic and suicidal. A prudent approach is to find an optimal mix, providing grid stability and reliability. African countries need reliable disptachable power. This means, if there is any loss of generation somewhere in the system, the system controller can instruct other units to increase generation. With RE one gets only what the sun or wind is producing at the time. Increasing output is out of the question.

SMR systems can be sized for the needs of any country, and placed close to large load centres, thereby reducing the need for expensive transmission networks. As electrical power demand increases, it can be satisfied by small increments of one SMR at a time, which is a small stress on financial and logistical planning.

Nuclear power plant costs are predominantly in their construction; fuel costs are low. So once an SMR is in place, operational costs and fuel costs are low and are very predictable far into the future.

If Africa were to go nuclear in a large way, which seems probable, it would make sense to standardise on one particular SMR model. Staff in each country would be trained to be part of the network. Local construction ability in each country would be used to optimise benefit to each host country. As with large aircraft and vehicles, a policy of standardisation to some degree allows for mutual benefit in the exchange of expertise, experience and spare parts.

An ideal High Temperature Gas Reactor for African use is the HTMR-100, designed in South Africa. The technology uses gas cooling and high temperatures, which make these units very suitable not only for power generation but also for industrial processes that require heat. A typical application is desalination of sea water.

Many African countries rely to a very large extent on hydro power. But much African hydro is very problematic because of unpredictable rainfall patterns, and because dams are very wide and shallow, compared to dams in Nordic countries for example. So it is very challenging to maintain the pressure-head and water volume required for hydroelectricity.

African countries are obliged to devise African solutions that fit the realities of African conditions. African countries must have an immediate planning target of increasing electricity generation by 100% and then, in most cases, double that again – and again. That requires vision and foresight. In many instances that means developing very different approaches to those used in Europe or the USA.

In the case of Small Modular Reactors, the fuel is extremely small in volume and is also of robust construction. That means it is quite feasible to transport nuclear fuel overland for thousands of kilometers. It is also entirely feasible to stockpile a fuel supply that could last for months, or years if need be.

It is also reasonable to conceive of numerous stand-alone radial power grids that are based on two or three SMRs. Such small grids may be only 10 or 20 km in diameter, but one could serve an entire industrial area. In a large African country it may well be better to plan for half a dozen independent SMR-based mini-grids, than to construct one large national grid that must traverse many kilometers of inhospitable terrain.

Why should the traditional image of a single national grid apply? In the United States the state of Texas has its own electricity grid, independent of the rest of the US.

African countries do not substantially connect electrical grids to each other, as many European countries do. So why shouldn’t African countries run a number of separate grids within one country, where they serve specific areas? Such an approach is ideally suited to using distributed nuclear power plants, which do not need large-scale water cooling.

The more one thinks about it, the more inappropriate it is for African countries to follow the electricity development models of Europe, or America.

Yes, Africa definitely should “leapfrog ahead” in energy technology, bypassing coal, gas and oil in those countries which do not have them. They should “leapfrog” directly to Small Modular Reactors, and collaborate closely in developmental approaches.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and CEO of Stratek Business Strategy Consultants, a project management company based in Pretoria, South Africa. He carries out business strategy development and project planning in a wide variety of fields for diverse clients.

Knox Msebenzi is an electrical engineer and Managing Director of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, in Johannesburg. He has many years’ experience in the nuclear power industry.

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Walter Horsting
January 19, 2021 2:03 pm

The Case for the Good Reactor https://spark.adobe.com/page/1nzbgqE9xtUZF/
Seaborg.co

Mr.
January 19, 2021 2:18 pm

But is the “African way” consistent across the 54 sovereign nations that span that continent.

My limited knowledge of the African situation is that tribal affiliations still hold sway over nation state administration in many aspects of governance there.

Geez, if the developed states & provinces of USA, Canada, Australia with national governments can’t get their acts together on energy production & distribution, what chance African countries?

(Maybe this is why China is so intent on being a dominant player there?)

David Kamakaris
Reply to  Mr.
January 19, 2021 2:23 pm

(Maybe this is why China is so intent on being a dominant player there?)

I hope I’m wrong, Mr, but I think you may have nailed it.

ex-KaliforniaKook
Reply to  Mr.
January 20, 2021 1:59 pm

Your argument does not address what the article discusses: no huge grid, but a many independent grids. He specifically says the European/US/Canada model wont’ work. He gives an example of Texas’ grid being independent of the the rest of the US. So, agreement between various African nations is not necessary. They can build SMRs, and live perfectly happily, without bowing to the perniciousness of a massive bureaucracy that no one elected – like in Europe/US/Canada, with requirements (such as RE) that are effectively useless.

Johannes Herbst
Reply to  Mr.
January 21, 2021 1:05 pm

I´ve lived in Tanzania for seven years, establishing one Renewable Energy Department – which looks for low cost RE items which cost below 50 $. It still exists today under Tanzanian leadership. What I´ve learned is that there is abundand folks with reasonable thinking and one caste of bureocrats, who think only of tem and their offspring.

Means getting an office to sit wihtin, getting high salaries and asking for bribes to get normal adminsterial help.

I just hope that the internet will help normal african citiziens to organize themslves. And to get rid of those parasites.

Another problem are these NGOs, which aim to influence governments for their philosopy. Kick them out as soon as possible!

fred250
January 19, 2021 2:47 pm

A bit OT..

But Germany now having to consider laws to allow them to to shut down electricity supply.

https://notrickszone.com/2021/01/19/last-ditch-effort-germany-weighs-electricity-rationing-scheme-to-stabilize-its-now-shaky-green-power-grid/

When you get life hating, social justice greenies in charge, everything becomes just SO DUMB !!!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  fred250
January 19, 2021 6:08 pm

I wonder where Griff is to defend this posterchild?

MarkW
Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 19, 2021 7:52 pm

He’s sent a message to command, and is waiting for a response.

griff
Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 20, 2021 4:03 am

See relevant article!

CD in Wisconsin
January 19, 2021 3:05 pm

“..The people of Africa know what is best for the people of Africa. First World countries really must refrain from using a paternalistic attitude by trying to tell Africans to “see sense” and to do it “the right way,” or do it to “prevent climate change” – all of which mean do it “their way.”

********

Exactly, and Amen to that. Seeing environmentalists in Europe and America telling the people of Africa that their energy future must consist of wind and solar is a form of arrogance and egotism which is no better that European colonialism of previous centuries.

Equally so, The World Bank’s unwillingness to loan the African nations money for fossil fuel power plants reflects the arrogant, egotistical influence that West environmentalists have on the bank. The Chinese will be all too willing to do what the World Bank won’t.

As much as anything else, the environmental movement more and more is confusing what it believes is its own righteousness and morality with what is actually arrogance and egotism. That the movement gets its climate science wrong only makes matters worse.

Gums
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
January 19, 2021 4:00 pm

Salute!

Somehere along the “line” ( 240 v or such), you will have to pay the warlords. And how do the masses offer anything to have their microwave or TV?

The availability of electricity in Africa to the “masses” is gonna be a very complicated affair, economically, politically and socially.

I do not see an easy path to the supply of electricity we have in Europe or the U.S. or the Orient. Sadly, I see a plethora of tribal groups with their associated warlords, and no exportable production except for minerals gained by basic human labor.

The technical aspects of the nukes and distribution is challenging, for sure. But the social and political environment in Africa seems to me to be the biggest obstacle to the higher standard of living that would be possible with a decent electrical grid and possibly gas lines.

Gums muses…..

Disputin
Reply to  Gums
January 20, 2021 3:28 am

Africa is a big place, Gums. I found it very cheering that the above article was written by two Africans, who are obviously well acquainted with the continent. It is quite possible that, while many parts of Africa remain in the hands of warlords, other parts will gradually become more prosperous and attract people away from the thug-infested parts. It will take generations, but you have to start somewhere.

John Alexander
Reply to  Disputin
January 31, 2021 7:10 am

Yea I live there too.
The country had one of the best Electricity generation systems in the world under the white apartheid government.
There still is nothing in Southern Africa that can compare and South Africa exports electricity to these countries who have also destroyed their economies following the same ideology of socialism.
However since the socialists and communists took over all that they have done is stuffed it up, looted the fiscus at hearts content.
The have aslo adopted the idiocy of “Green RE” demanded by the UN IRENA Socialist ideology. This has created huge instability in the grid and frequent “load shedding” to avoid complete power system collapse. They don’t have enough reserve for back-up either.
.
What they don’t tell you is the masses cannot pay for the electricity either becasue the communists have stuffed up the economy and they’re unemployed.Employment is officilly 30% approx but more unofficially around 50%. As it is the minority of whites are subsidising a “free monthly electricity quota” to the unemployed as well .

Businesses are collapsing too due to blatant political policies that are race based and deliberatly exclude the minority on whom they depend on paying taxes. This is to support the communisint government who is so bloated with cadres at all levels. The SOE’s State owned enterprises are collapsing due to theft and corruption.
These racist political descions have not only destroyed the economy but have destroyed small business especially with the convid excuse.
There are simply to few who have to support too many and that is unsustanable as well. The tax base is shrinking as unemployement rockest amongts the whites as their business are decimated by the state policies.

The Government cannot be trusted to build a nother nuclear power plant becasue there in no more money to do that.Besides any loan will be quickly used to fill the “elites” pockets. The Government is already borrowed up to the hilt too.

Mohatdebos
Reply to  CD in Wisconsin
January 19, 2021 7:30 pm

China has helped Pakistan build five 350 MW nuclear power stations and is about to complete the first of two 1,000 MW power plants. Having grown up in Pakistan when load shedding was an every day occurrence, I smile when I think Pakistan will have reliable electricity and eco colonists will have to learn to live with unreliable electricity.

CokMosby
January 19, 2021 3:55 pm

 “Large conventional nuclear can be 3000 megawatts (MW) in output, whereas an SMR is only about 100 MW.”
A single large conventional unit runs 1000 to 1300 MW, although generally a nuclear site has multiple units. The article is wrong about SMR’s output – they run from 60MW per unit (up to 12 units, or 684MW for NuScale;s reactors) and 300 to 500 MW for a single Moltex Energy molten salt reactor. , while Terrestrial Energy’s units are 200MW. The cost of an SMR is generally less than half the cost per mW of a large conventional light water reactors, and the levelized estimate of the cost of Moltex Energy’s power is 4 cents per kWhr. SMRs canbe built rapidly in factories and site preparation is minimal. Molten salt reactors are physically impossible to do significant harm to anyone regardless of the situation. They can load follow (ramp up and down rapidly, unlike conventional nuclear reactors, meaning less need for peak power generators (which are usually fossil fueled). Nuscale’s SMR, which is not a molten salt unit, but a scaled down advanced version of a conventional light water reactor, is due for deployment in 2026, and the molten salt reactors should commercialize before the end of the decade. These units can be located anywhere, some don”t even require water for cooling and those that do require relatively small amounts of water. The future is clearly molten salt reactors – inherently safe, simple to operate, cheap to build and cheap to operate, producing power as cheap as any other technology and a lot cheaper than primitive technologies like wind (15th century technology) and solar

MarkW
Reply to  CokMosby
January 19, 2021 4:50 pm

They are still trying to figure out if one of these can even be built at industrial scale, but the Col remains convinced that they are the wave of the future.

fred250
Reply to  MarkW
January 19, 2021 5:42 pm

The video at the top gets to 12:32 minutes, then says ..

“IF we can build it.”..

several other IF comments follow.

Meab
Reply to  CokMosby
January 20, 2021 10:13 am

You’re missing the basics, col. Even if a design for a nuclear reactor can be made to load follow, you wouldn’t want to run it that way. Why? Because they don’t have to load follow, they can run 24/7, fuel costs are low but construction/financing costs are high, so the only way to get a low power cost is to run them baseloaded 24/7. Have you invested in Moltex? Is that the reason that you continously (and perhaps misleadingly) promote MSRs?

gringojay
January 19, 2021 3:56 pm

Koeberg is R.S.A. ‘s existing nuclear power plant & it shut down 10 days ago for repairs until May 2021. The reason given is because 1 of 3 steam generators was leaking more & more. This seems to indicate the installation is well regulated & I wish them success as type here wearing a T-shirt embossed “South Africa”.

Kevin
Reply to  gringojay
January 19, 2021 8:59 pm

It is NOT well regulated. When you can find info on their capacity factors it is in the 70s or low 80s. Very poor by US standards.

Have you eve taken a look at SA’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency’s web site? They are more concerned with affirmative action than technical matters. Eskom itself is an affirmative action jobs program.

Reply to  Kevin
January 19, 2021 10:19 pm

Escom is NOT an affirmative jobs programme, it is a wealth redistribution programme that steals billions from the taxpayer and hands it to ANC cronies under the guise of broad-based economics empowerment deals that usually delivers substandard services or nothing tangible at all. They create very few direct jobs. That said, those few jobs are paid absurdly high salaries, but applicants are filtered politically.
As a matter of fact, the biggest “job” Escom offers is in the ‘procurement’ and trade of metals stolen from the distribution grid and sold to scrap metal dealers. This scrap metals industry is highly protected and regulated by means of export permits given only to connected individuals.
The only concern the SA government has, is protecting Investor Confidence, and The Investor has decided that all industry and agriculture is to be eradicated, so He can mine the minerals. The rest of the population has to live off tourism, which translates to traditional arts and crafts, demeaning dance performances and prostitution.

David A
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 20, 2021 4:22 pm

“Escom is NOT an affirmative jobs programme, it is a wealth redistribution programme that steals billions from the taxpayer and hands it to ANC cronies”

So it is an affirmative jobs program.

Mr Bliss
January 19, 2021 4:26 pm

I’m sorry – but Africa as a continent has a political landscape that is far too volatile to have nuclear reactors. There is no way they could be kept safe from attack

MarkW
Reply to  Mr Bliss
January 19, 2021 4:51 pm

The only continent where this statement isn’t true, would be Antarctica.

LdB
Reply to  Mr Bliss
January 20, 2021 6:06 am

Yet they have had one since 1984 … that is 36 years and counting 🙂

RelPerm
January 19, 2021 6:24 pm

Oh gosh, what is definition of “clean” energy, low CO2? CO2 is not poison, it is plant food, because it is minor green house gas – emissions will delay inevitable disastrous glaciation.

Stop subsidizing solar, wind, AND nuclear at expense of clean and more beneficial hydrocarbon fuels.

Don’t even mention nuclear as a viable option until its worldwide long term radioactive contamination problem is resolved.

John Doran
Reply to  RelPerm
January 20, 2021 2:09 am

RelPerm, the Molten Salt designs proposed will be able to use present nuclear “waste” as fuel, safely. See PhD nuclear engineer Robert Zubrin’s book, Merchants Of Despair. It reveals the Malthusian & Darwinist roots of those pushing the anti-human “environmentalist” movement. & how nuclear power has been demonised by the fake news MSM, buried under bureaucracy & underfunded.

Pat from kerbob
January 19, 2021 6:26 pm

Bravo
Tell western NGOs to pound sand, nuclear all the way, with gas for now

Tombstone Gabby
January 19, 2021 6:47 pm

It was about a year ago (from Memory) that a cyclone hit Mozambique. Significant damage to their power generation. They were selling electricity to Cape Town. Cape Town went to programmed rolling blackouts. Various districts knew up to a week in advance when their power would be off and for how long.

I checked that news source a couple of minutes ago – no mention of a power shortage. It’s a site worth visiting about once a month just to see what’s happening.

Latest South African News | News24

Reply to  Tombstone Gabby
January 19, 2021 10:29 pm

I will not even correct your string of absurdities and ass-about-face reasoning. Start by looking at a map. Note specifically the distance between Cape Town and Cahorra Bassa hydro plant. The blackouts were due to maintenace issues at Escom, where, just like in your country, accountants and social workers were given control of engineering issues, with no understanding of “useless expenditure” like maintenance.
Also, find out about the aluminium factory the ANC was bribed into guaranteeing power to. That one plant uses more power than ten African countries, yet they have not paid one bill I am aware of.
Also, note your own statement of “Various districts knew up to a week in advance when their power would be off and for how long.” That, my friend, is first-world planning and management of a crisis, not admission of failure. Or do you prefer the California way, where shit just goes off with no warning?

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 20, 2021 7:35 pm

It was “News24” that reported the cutting off of sales from Mozambique to S.A. after the cyclone. You’re implying that they can’t be trusted?

Yup, Southern California Edison has outages. In the 29 Palms area. Had two about a week ago. The first, five seconds till an alternate feed kicked in. The second, about 30 minutes later lasted 20 minutes.. I checked their web site, “Pole maintenance”. Someone had put a vehicle into a pole. We get that once or twice a year.

Back in ’03, a 28 hour outage – an ice storm – Saturday morning till Sunday afternoon. Fun – listening to a ‘police’ scanner. Several transmissions, “Where can I get snow chains on a Sunday morning?” Ambulances having problems in the snow, no med-evac helicopters flying. Us? I had rigged for Y2K – PV panel on the roof, two deep cycle lead acid batteries and six 12VDC outlets in the cabin. A 120W inverter for a 30W fluorescent light. A wood burning stove for heat, and a travel trailer outside the door for cooking – propane. The San Andreas fault will rupture one of these days – ‘Be Prepared’ is a good motto.

John Alexander
Reply to  Tombstone Gabby
January 31, 2021 7:15 am

Do you triust CNN? New24 is a State trumpet. The eclictricty from mozambiqwe is fed in to the grid About 2000 km’s from Capetown.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  John Alexander
January 31, 2021 7:11 pm

Wasn’t it CNN who had people in Bagdad for the opening of the first Iraq war? If it was, that would have been the last time I watched anything from that channel. The other end of the spectrum, FOX? Don’t watch that either. We finally got DirecTV about 8 years ago. I watched Diamondback baseball games, and reruns of “Hee Haw”. Checked a local (Tucson) station for a weather forecast sometimes. Easier to do it online.

In my “News” folder there’s about 18 newspapers from around the world, Siberia to South Africa. I mainly use them to find out what is happening in the US that our ‘native’ papers don’t report.

The scheduled ‘blackouts’ for the districts around Cape Town were displayed in a colorful spreadsheet format, rather hard to miss. When you know in advance you can “Be Prepared’.

Last edited 3 months ago by Tombstone Gabby
Tony
January 19, 2021 6:48 pm

It’s really so surprising that the article was written by people who would benefit from Nuclear power in Africa. Yes, just what Africa needs- the most expensive form of electricity, bar gas peakers. As well as 1gw power plants that get more expensive to run each year, they need SMR’s, that don’t even exist yet (bar one disastrous expensive Russian example) but, if they even make it out of development, promise to be even more expensive per Kwh than large plants.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source 

Readers of WUWT appear to be against subsidies, yet that is the only way nuclear plants ever get built.

MarkW
Reply to  Tony
January 19, 2021 7:55 pm

You really have bought into the propaganda, haven’t you. The reason why nuclear is expensive is because the stunts that you greenies have pulled with gross over regulation, as well as constantly changing regulatory requirements.

keith bryer
Reply to  Tony
January 19, 2021 10:45 pm

Oh dear! Does anyone in the anti-nuclear lobby ever do some reading on nuclear powered submarines or aircraft carriers? Both have been steaming around the world for 40 years. Small reactors have been powering Siberian towns for just as long.
And yes, Russian nuclear subs have had accidents and yes, Chernobyl was a terrible design and yes, you can get a geiger counter to buzz by pointing to just about any rock in the Karoo in South Africa ( where sheep graze and taste delicious) and yes, some nuclear waste can radiate for a very long time but the really bad stuff dies to safe levels within hours. Oh, and point your geiger counter at a granite outcrop and hear it buzz!

Keitho
Editor
Reply to  Tony
January 20, 2021 2:09 am

Rolls Royce have been powering their factory in, IIRC, Derby with an SMR for 40 years without incident. The huge costs of nuclear are entirely a function of regulatory overreach encouraged by the anti-nuclear movement since the 1960’s.

Tony
Reply to  Keitho
January 20, 2021 5:01 am

I’m not quite sure what you are referring to, but the only existing SMR is the one Russia built. There are nuclear reactors on submarines, but they are quite different.

RR would love to build SMRs (what company wouldn’t love virtually unlimited subsidies?) but most governments would probably prefer something else to waste their money on.

Here is RR’s propaganda on SMR

https://www.rolls-royce.com/products-and-services/nuclear/small-modular-reactors.aspx#/

Kevin
January 19, 2021 8:55 pm

Big mistake. They can’t even run the infrastructure they’ve got. And of course, the Western nations will pay for it.

Reply to  Kevin
January 19, 2021 10:31 pm

You will be tha last idiot I retort to today.
When has “the west” paid for anything in Africa? Your “aid” comes at loans, interest-bearing loans, in return for which you raid and rob our economies like a bunch of Israelis around a Palestinian homestead.
Now run along, ask momma for a fresh dummy, you friggin’ dummy!

MarkW
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 19, 2021 10:44 pm

Wow, another twit who substitutes hatred for rational thought.

Graemethecat
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 20, 2021 12:41 am

The West has paid for thousands of top-end Mercedes and private jets for African dictators like Mobutu.

Reply to  Graemethecat
January 20, 2021 5:06 am

No, they LOAN money to countries, and rob them blind in return. The fact that those LOANS are used to by women and cars is a seperate subject.

Paul Johnson
January 19, 2021 9:07 pm

The authors note: “If a cloud is cast over a solar plant, modern nuclear power can be ramped up to replace the reduced output.”
This raises the question – Why bother to build a solar plant in the first place, if an SMR can handle the power demand on its own? The only value of non-dispatchable solar (or wind) power would be reduced depletion of the nuclear fuel, essentially zero.

Keitho
Editor
Reply to  Paul Johnson
January 20, 2021 2:11 am

Exactly. Never to worry, the people who matter will eventually catch up with this very important feature of so called renewables.

Waza
January 19, 2021 9:12 pm

My thoughts about nuclear power in Africa
#1. I absolutely believe Africans should be entitled to cheap reliable electricity. It is directly tied to improved health through safer water and waste water which in turn is directly linked to education of young women.
EDUCATION OF WOMEN IN UNDEVELOPED PARTS OF THE WORLD IS THE GREATEST ISSUE IN THE WORLD TODAY.
#2. To provide this cheap reliable electricity it is better to try SMRs in Asia such as Thailand or Philippines and keep the saved coal for Africa.
#3. Notwithstanding #2 above, why not give nuclear a go in Africa. An example could be Morocco with a SMR connected to a desalination plant. This could also link to Europe if required. Arguably a Spanish or French company could build a large nuclear plant in Morocco that serves both Europe and Africa.

Reply to  Waza
January 19, 2021 10:41 pm

Oh, gods! Okay, one more.
That whole sentence in capitals? Grow up, “women’s education” is Bolshevik speech for disempowering men at the cost of social upheaval and destruction of the family unit. What is needed, is universal, free education of all, and the right to earn and save. but you will argue that, because the most successful export from South Africa was Bantu Education, which you commie bastards call Curriculum 2000, outcomes-based, Agenda21 etc. Without your Bolshevik limitations on who is worth what, women will do nicely for themselves without your moral posturing.
And, just to be sure, in the old South Africa, where “apartheid” actually meant “separate development”, bantu education was a disgracefull bit of social engineering, but at least it was free, not like the lifelong debt the yankees have to take on to learn nonsense like the Bolshevik crap you are spouting. I bet you read gender studies or something!

Waza
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 20, 2021 12:14 am

Paranoid goy
The only link to leftism/feminism of my goal to educate women in the developing world is as a white guy I upset lefties/ feminists when I highlight it.

The goal is real.
To meet the goal requires access to grid based electricity to power reticulated water and sewer. This then provides more free time and improves health allowing more time for education.
Educated women can contribute financially to the family and will have less children. This is the key to a nations wealth.

You could argue that my real goal is to provide grid based electricity to all, but improving women’s education is easier to market.

In Melbourne Australia electricity enabled a reticulated pumped sewer system in the 1890s. By about 1910 water Bourne illnesses were essentially wiped out.

On a personal note I have upgraded two house in rural Philippines.
Previously a well for water, where women collect water and hand wash, but now an electric pump and washing machine.

If you disagree ask your wife mother daughter to go down to the river to collect your water and hand wash your clothes.

Waza
January 19, 2021 10:31 pm

Infrastructure Bang for your Buck.
Firstly, I apologise if I don’t explain this properly.
#1. Climate change is a BS non problem.
#2. Providing services ( such as electricity, water, waste water, hospitals, schools and roads) to the 100s of millions or poor is a real issue and one all humans should be trying to address.
#3. Here in the developed world ( I’m in Melbourne Australia) we complain about wanting a perfect system, whether having electricity 24/7 or being five minutes late because of traffic jam.
#4. To save this five minutes in traffic or in general improve the road network by a 1 or 2% requires a huge cost. Here in Melbourne major road projects are underway costing in excess of $10B which once complete will save 20 minutes on the journey of maybe 300,000 plus people a day. While the cost benefit is still positive it’s marginal at about 1.3 or $1.3 saved for every $1 spent.
#5. In rural Africa spending $200-300m on a road through the jungle or desert may sound expensive. But it won’t save 5 or 10 minutes on a journey, it will improve the lives of millions of people. It will create access to health care, education, market and provide cheaper products and create economic opportunities. The bang for your buck is huge with potentially $100s earned for every dollar spent.
#6. The above road discussion applies to many services.
In summary, we should not expect perfect systems, just get in there an do it, to improve as many lives as quick as possible.
If we don’t do it, you know who will.

Redge
January 19, 2021 11:11 pm

Certain critics of nuclear for Africa have argued that it requires specialized skills that African countries do not have.

Is that patronising, racist or both?

Darrin
Reply to  Redge
January 20, 2021 10:36 am

It’s not patronizing, it’s a fact. It’s even a problem here in the good ‘ol US of A. Ever wonder why Intel doesn’t go build a new fab out in some small town in the middle of nowhere? Doesn’t matter how cheap labor, land, power and water is if there isn’t a sufficiently large skilled labor pool to pull from. That’s why you find clusters of businesses like semiconductor, they’ve build where there’s skilled employees to hire. How do I know, worked semiconductor for years is how I know. I’ve worked in both isolated plants and where’s there’s groupings. Guess which areas had the easier time maintaining a skilled work force?

That doesn’t mean Africa can’t develop a skilled labor force, it just means skilled labor will have to be imported until they can get locals trained up.

griff
January 20, 2021 4:03 am

I think SA adopted nuclear because it wanted a bomb

Patrick MJD
Reply to  griff
January 20, 2021 6:08 am

That would be every country then Griff.

Michael in Dublin
January 20, 2021 6:02 am

Hendrik van der Bijl was a brilliant engineer whom General Jan Smuts appointed in 1920 to create the Electricity Supply Commission in South Africa. Not only was this effort crowned with great success but he continued to make a huge contribution to South Africa with setting up the Iron and Steel Corporation of South Africa. Sadly there has not been a leader in Africa with the foresight of Jan Smuts nor an engineer in Africa that has equaled the achievements of van der Bijl.
Africa could produce a huge amount of hydro-electricity on the Congo River but because of civil strife, mismanagement, greed, incompetence this is unlikely to happen. Those who plug for nuclear power in Africa are wearing blinkers. There is simply too much conflict, greed and self-interest.
For those interested the following can be found online:

  1. The Remarkable Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl” by Dirk J Vermeulen
  2. an Obituary Notice Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl 1887-1948 by the Royal Society Publishing
  3. Dr Hendrik van der Bijl – The Man Who Built South Africa
  4. Engineering and Technology History Wiki

Sadly ESKOM which had his biography (1948)on their website have removed this and only have a slimmed down information page on him. It is out of print but worth looking out for among second hand books.

January 20, 2021 7:27 am

Thanks Kelvin and Knox for this article.
Africa should indeed make the right technology decisions and not be dictated to by the eco-imperialists.
Nuclear in Africa will illustrate nuclear’s advantages like no-where else.
It’s implementation could hopefully run in parallel with an enhanced education and training infrastructure that will give a big step up to skill levels in Africa.
And South Africa doesn’t need anyone to tell them how to make reactors, they make some of the world’s best already such as the pebble bed passive designs.

ResourceGuy
January 20, 2021 9:13 am

Remember to use lots and lots of graphite. /sarc

Jean Parisot
January 20, 2021 9:50 am

I understand Namibia is also considering a small nuclear power station to supplement the hydropower they currently use.

John Alexander
Reply to  Jean Parisot
January 31, 2021 7:24 am

Namibias total populations ia around 2.5 million. It buys most of its power form SA in any event.It sold 2 013GWH last year to them.

tomo
January 20, 2021 11:25 am

Just spent while trivially catching up on what Chinese nuclear industry is up to….

In (rather stark) contrast most western electricity plans – the CCP seem to actually have a plan…

It would seem that a considerable proportion of the later build coal plants have been built with a view to exchanging the hot bit for a small nuke… – quite big, if true – and one has to wonder if true why hasn’t it been spotted earlier?

One of these HTR-PM SMRs on the front end as per this recipe

If they manage the swap – they really will make the Gweilos look like donkeys.

Am I reading it correctly ?

Reply to  tomo
January 20, 2021 12:57 pm

Coal plants upgradable to nuclear sounds like an idea with big export potential worldwide.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
January 20, 2021 12:52 pm

Leapfrogging is also known as the benefit of underdevelopment. Just as cell phone towers eliminated the need for copper wire installation, developing countries do not have to repeat the path taken by Western nations when they produced all these inventions.

The concept of “intermediate technology” is one that should be viewed with skepticism. Why go to copper wire when cell phones are available? Why build hulking great atomic power plants when small modular reactors will do?

Canada in building 5th generation nuclear plants because they worked out how to greatly reduce the resource investment needed for a reliable power system.

January 23, 2021 11:55 am

Critics of nuclear falsely say nuclear is very inflexible. The reason why most nuclear plants are not designed for highly flexible operation is that their output does not depend on the amount of input fuel, like coal, diesel or gas.

Another important reason is that existing nuclear plants have a high capital cost (in $/kW), in addition to a low fuel cost. Therefore, it makes sense to run them as close to full capacity as possible.

Photovoltaics will almost certainly provide more electrical energy than nuclear in Africa to the middle of this century and beyond.

https://solargis.com/maps-and-gis-data/download/world

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