South Africa, China collaborate on nuclear energy development

March 31, 2009 • People

j_kriek.jpgAccording to an article on the Power Engineering website, China and South Africa have signed a Memorandum of Understanding facilitating cooperation on the development of pebble bed nuclear reactor technology.

China brought its first pebble bed nuclear reactor online in 2000, achieving full operational capacity in 2003. South African company Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd and China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology of Tsinghua University have been working together on the development of the technology.

The meeting, held in Washington DC, cemented the commitment of both nations to developing clean, efficient nuclear power. Both countries are currently heavily reliant on coal power generation, which is costly in financial and environmental terms.

Says Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd CEO, Jaco Kriek: “While the two projects have chosen slightly different technical approaches, we both fully believe that high temperature, gas-cooled reactors using pebble fuel offer the best potential for sustainable, clean, reliable and safe sources of energy globally,”

“The pebble bed technology will bring a a new option to the energy market in the near future which offers flexible, smart grid solutions for electricity, customer-centric process heat and steam solutions for petrochemical industries, oil sands extraction and desalination. It will also pave the way to high temperature hydrogen production.”

Both countries are regarded as world leaders in the development of the new technology.

The original article can be found HERE.



One Response to South Africa, China collaborate on nuclear energy development


    The Kenyan Government is pressing forward with a stubborn hope of harnessing nuclear energy to meet its energy deficit of 3,000 megawatts to complement the current production of 1,100 megawatts.

    The nuclear energy incentive will cost Ksh 80 billion (U$ 1 billion), says David Maina, the director of the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (INST), University of Nairobi .

    If Kenya will afford to start the construction of nuclear power plant by 2010, it will be second to South Africa which has a fully operational nuclear plant. Nigeria and Egypt are too nursing the dream of joining the league of countries that are peaceful users of nuclear technology.

    A senior government engineer, Rolex Kirui, says that they have so far identified the sites for the plant: Kenyan coast and Western Kenya, bordering Lake Victoria . Thus an environmental study is going to start once the Radiation Protection Board and the National Environment Management Authority will approve.

    The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) Director General Dr. Mohammed El Baradei said that for Kenya to realize its industrialization vision, faster, there is need to add nuclear energy in its current energy mix – when he met with President Mwai Kibaki this year.

    Kenya is ranked 22nd in Africa in electricity generation. According to a survey by the Institute of Developmental Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi , by June 2001, Kenya had 537,079 electricity consumers consisting of 465,365 KPLC consumers and 71,718 Rural Electrification Fund consumers.

    This means that about 10 percent of the population has taken up supply of electricity and an estimated 15 per cent access electricity. Yes, the survey projects that Kenyan energy demand will keep on rising at 6.4 per cent per annum. This position must be overcome for heavy and ambitious industrial take off.

    But other experts in the field of nuclear science are calling Kenyan government to reexamine its position. Albeit Baradei his promise that IAEA will provide experts and personnel to train Kenyans on harnessing nuclear energy.

    The president of Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology, Prof. Soodursun Jugessur, says that its pity that Kenya is going in this direction, when the world knows that taking care of the radioactive waste product is a challenge that will register destructive effect to the environment.

    Jugessur proposes that it will be far much considerable if the US $ 1 billion will be invested on renewable energy sources like solar, biomass, geothermal and wind. “This will lead to job creation.”

    “Nuclear energy harnessing requires specialized training that goes beyond master’s degree in nuclear science programme that is offered by the INST,” says Michael Mangala, a don and a specialist in nuclear techniques in the institute.

    Mangala says the production of nuclear energy will afford the development of advanced technology infrastructure and usher close partnership with the IAEA and other countries like France that is tapping 80 percent of its energy from nuclear energy in training Kenyan experts in advanced nuclear technology.

    How is nuclear energy generated? For electricity generation, water turns the turbines; but in nuclear energy generation, steam, which comes from radioactive process, rotates the turbines – Uranium is the initial raw material used, Mangala explains.

    “Studies have proved that nuclear energy is cheaper notwithstanding requiring huge investment costs – in terms of facilities and human resource,” says Mangala, “its environmental friendly – without gas emissions.”

    Mangala says that nuclear energy waste management is a serious issue that is holding many countries from exploiting nuclear energy. The wastes, if not well managed can affect the normal functioning of body tissues, which in extreme condition can lead to death.

    “If radioactive materials are stolen they can easily be used by terrorist to achieve their horrific ends,” he says.

    James Wafula a lecture in the INST, a specialist in renewable energy says that as the government is marching forward to exploit nuclear energy; renewable energy options should be explored and exploited with the same enthusiasm.

    Wafula says that notwithstanding that Israel is having an operational nuclear power plant it ranks among the top ten countries in the world in solar energy harnessing using solar thermal system. China , the emerging industrial power house, is the leading in harnessing solar energy, option.

    One million households in Israel make use of solar thermal systems in a nation of seven million people. Israel becomes the first nation to develop a cogeneration machine which harness sunlight to produce thermal energy together with electrical energy at the same time.

    This saves Israel from dependency on fossil fuel to run its industrial and economic machine. Thus the country has made it mandatory for every building to be inbuilt with solar thermal heater.

    According to the IDS researchers, by 2004, 4MW photovoltaic power was installed, yes, by 2007 more than US $ 6million worthy solar systems were in place: A negligible per cent comparing to Israel .

    The renewable expert says Kenya secures 60 per cent of its energy from hydro power which is unreliable from prevailing environmental degradation. Geothermal energy complements with a 10 per cent – the government is projecting to increase it to 15 per cent.

    The don says that a forestation is an urgent concern as biomass supplies 70 per cent of the Kenyan general population energy needs.

    Wafula is of the idea that wind energy is a resource that needs to be exploited. A pilot project that was started in Marisabit generated 250 kilowatts, while two turbines at Ngong generated a sum of 450 kilowatts.

    When the Lake Turkana Wind Power Consortium (LTWP) will be done by, June 2011, 300megawatts will be added to the current energy mix.

    Exploiting renewable energy sources will give majority of Kenyan youth’s job satisfaction; too, he says. They will be involved in the building and installation of household Wind Turbine, an innovation of Hugh Pigott. The Institute of Nuclear Science is set to train potential professionals on the same.

    As Kenyans are struggling to resolve the energy crisis facing it, affordable energy means should be pursued, as the government looks forward to exploit nuclear energy option to bridge the huge energy deficit. Rural areas need to be empowered to exploit renewable energy sources to save the loss of 20-30 per cent of electricity in costs from the technicality of settlement and distance from the generating plants.

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