Global energy expert and environmental scientist, Tom Blees addressed students and members of the public on the role nuclear technology should play in South Africa’s energy mix.
Blees contends that in order to mitigate against climate change and make environmental preservation a priority globally, there must be a move to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels. He says that the full range of electricity-generation sources − including nuclear power − must be deployed to replace coal and realistically meet the base-load power needs of an increasingly energy hungry world.
“The contrast is starker for a country like South Africa that is focused on elevating the living standards of its people and the development of its infrastructure,” says Blees who is in South Africa as part of a nation-wide guest lecture series to highlight the benefits of nuclear power both to the economy and the environment.
“Nuclear power for a country like South Africa will and must play a critical role in the country’s economic and social development. The building and development of nuclear power plants in South Africa will not only secure South Africa’s energy future but generate thousands of jobs, develop a high specialised technical skill set and stimulate further interest in the sciences, generating a legacy of employment, skills development and science focused education,” he adds.
Blees is world-renowned for his balanced and pragmatic view of the energy needs of a modern world. While he acknowledges the role and importance of renewables, he is realistic about the technology’s inability to support base-load power needs of modern societies.
Blees explains, “Since hydroelectric power is near its maximum potential in many developed countries already (and the same environmentalists who promise an all-renewables future would be the first to protest at the building of any more dams), the bulk of the renewable energy will have to come from biomass, wind, and solar power. But biomass presents its own problems, and the intermittency and seasonality dependencies of wind and solar make these option extremely problematic.”
He also has a view on pricing and production of nuclear and states that in his view advanced nuclear power systems are now designed so that they can be built like aeroplanes, mass-produced in modular form and then assembled on-site. Blees believes that this will enable prices to fall to the point where economics, not to mention enhanced safety, can drive a global energy transformation to bring dependable, abundant, emission-free energy to everyone on the planet… and he says that we’re ready to do this now.
Tom Blees has travelled to The Free State, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg as part of his nation-wide lecture series, his final lecture was in Cape Town.