Commissioning of a nuclear power plant

Hello. I have a small question due to my lack of knowledge concerning nuclear power generation.
A spokesperson for Earthlife in praising Eskom for not pressing ahead with their nuclear program (,,2-13-1443_2437933,00.html) mentioned that it takes up to 135 years to commission a power plant. Does it really take that long to get a nuclear power plant up and running?

I also don’t really know but there are a few nuclear plants around since the 1960’s (I think). We only started to undersand how atoms behave in the last 100 years or so.

Maybe it should be decommission?

A fine example of South African journalism. It took around 20 years to further develop the technology and build the first nuclear power plant in the 1950’s.

My only concern with nuclear power is waste disposal, the effects of which lasts thousands of years. Sure, there are risks involved, like radiation and the potential of a meltdown, but nuclear power plants are generally safer and more reliable than some alternatives.

[Slightly off topic…]

Sunny South Africa should look into solar panels for each house. We have solar (heating) panels connected to our geyser and save thousands of Rands each year. It’s paid for itself twenty times over and requires no or very little maintenance.

I know this is not solar power, and only heats up the water, but should the correct solar power product become available on the market, backed by the government and Eskom, our problem would be solved.

In the US, home owners with their own power generators, sell abundant power back to the power company by feeding it into the grid. When they need power, the supply is reversed. Why don’t we have the same system yet? We have an abundance of sunlight and wind in the country, and some organisations run huge generators.

What ever happened to that Professor that claimed he could manufacture cheap solar panels?

We a also have thousands of kilometers of costline. Can one not use the wave power to pump sea water into a reservoir? Water coming out of the reservoir then drives a hydroelectric generator.

Thanks for the link, I was also wondering what happened to that guy from UJ (RAU).

In a related link, there seems to be some promising research in solar energy going on that might make it even more viable in the future by converting almost 100% of sunlight into electricity:

As stated by this article, ‘Do we need to go nuclear to stay green?’, relying on only nuclear energy is not viable for the future and we need to develop alternative sources. I think solar power is the most promising of these.

My favourite is the Solar updraft tower. But it comes with its own problems… :wink:

My understanding is that wind power in SA is not economically viable due to the high maintenance cost and unpredictable weather. There is not enough wind for long periods to supply reliable energy.
I would suspect that wave power share similar maintenance and cost problems.

Nuclear is a predictable and reliable energy source, with a relatively low environmental impact. But I agree that costs and waste management problems should make it a last resort.

Hey sadrok

I feel I may be able to help provide an answer to your question. I was involved in researching nuclear power generation for the department of minerals and energy in August of this year. I spent many hours researching the cost and waste disposal elements of nuclear energy generation (amongst other things).

Anti-nuclear organisations (such as EarthLife Africa and CANE) consider that the economics of new nuclear power plants are unfavourable because of the initial costs of constructing a nuclear plant, the public subsidies and tax expenditures involved in research and security, the cost of decommissioning nuclear facilities, and the undetermined costs of storing nuclear waste.
Furthermore the anti-nuclear groups can, and do, use this to their advantage by engaging governments in protracted legal battles, prolonging the roll-out of nuclear power and driving the cost up even higher.

Anti-nuclear organisations are highly concerned with the management of nuclear waste. The length of time for which the waste remains hazardous is of particular concern.
Many groups oppose waste handling in all the forms it currently takes, including reprocessing and isolation (whether on-site or in a geological repository).

The United States Congress has been planning for an underground repository to hold spent fuel from commercial power plants and waste from defense plants since 1982. Yucca Mountain was selected as the site and Congress has voted to reaffirm that over the objections of Nevada as recently as 2002.

Critics charge that moving spent fuel from over 100 commercial nuclear plants to Yucca Mountain 100 miles from Las Vegas would be a huge health and safety risk. They charge that the site leaks, is in an active earthquake zone and is being proposed for licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next year when its design is only 35 percent complete.

Senator Barak Obama has declared himself flatly opposed to construction of the Yucca Mountain Repository, whilst Senator McCain is, controversially, in favour of the repository. McCain’s view is that the transport and storage of nuclear waste can be made safe enough for it to be a more favorable option then the current status (on site storage).

South Africa is pioneering the use of Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMR), I’m going to get a little technical here, but I think I can sum up quite nicely why PBMR is cleaner then our only REAL alternative, coal.

Compared with the huge atmospheric emissions from fossil-fuel energy, nuclear wastes exist in small, highly manageable amounts that can be stored without harm to people or the environment. One kilogram of uranium in the PBMR fuel has a greater energy output than 430 tons of the best coal with an ash content (waste) of up to 40 percent. A large coal-fired power station uses about 2 200 trainloads of coal per year (six a day), while only 2 truckloads of fuel per week will be required for 24 PBMR nuclear power stations of equivalent capacity. For the PBMR demonstration unit at Koeberg, 10 truckloads will be needed for the initial load, and only 4 truckloads per year for the replacement of spent fuel. A 165 MWe PBMR module will generate about 32 tons of spent fuel pebbles per annum, about 1 ton of which is uranium. The storage of PBMR spent fuel should be easier than for fuel elements or rods from conventional nuclear reactors, as no safety graded cooling systems are needed to prevent fuel failure. The PBMR system has been designed to deal with nuclear waste efficiently and safely. There will be enough room for the spent fuel to be stored at the PBMR plant for the power station’s expected 40-year operational life, during which time no spent fuel will have to be removed from the site. After the plant has been shut down, the spent fuel can be safely stored on site for another 40 years before being set to a final repository.

I’d better stop before you all fall asleep :slight_smile:

Didn’t know how to respond. Thanks for the replies, and SD doesn’t have to worry. I didn’t fall asleep reading that informative reply.