Dirk de Vos argues whether “South Africa should put its nuclear dreams aside for now?” He does so by looking at current nuclear constructions and comparing it with the promises of new nuclear.
It is an article well worth reading, concluded as follows:
Revival of nuclear energy
If there is going to be a revival of nuclear energy, it appears it will happen only with the arrival of new technology to replace the molten salt reactor. Some concept designs allow these to run on either uranium or thorium. They have an added benefit in that they can run on spent fuel from the current conventional light-water reactors.
Molten salt reactors are also modular and will be able to be built at a much smaller scale. Conventional reactors harness only about 3% of the available energy in a given volume of uranium, but molten salt reactors can capture much higher percentages – from 50% up. They also offer safety advantages because the fuel is liquid – it expands when heated, thus slowing the rate of nuclear reactions and making the reactor self-regulating. Also, they're built like baths, with a drain in the bottom that is blocked by a plug. If anything goes wrong, the plug melts and the reactor core drains into a shielded underground container.
Besides being cost-effective, molten salt reactors could solve the nuclear industry's two other problems: safety and waste. China plans to build a liquid fuel reactor (likely powered by thorium) within five years. These timelines are a very rough guide but are in line with other options such as building a gas infrastructure.
Right now, there is no single path to a low-carbon future, but rather several options, including renewables, gas-fired plants, clean coal and a watching brief on nuclear. There is no guarantee any of them will get us there fast enough to prevent significant climate change from occurring but we have no other reasonable choice.
Should SA put its nuclear dreams aside for now? Mail and Guardian