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February 17, 2009
Press Release: An Invitation to the Launch of “Climate Change, Development, and Energy Problems: Another World is Possible”
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Press Release: No Amount of Redesign Will Save the PBMR

Press Release: No Amount of Redesign Will Save the PBMR
Earthlife Africa Jhb
18th of Feb. 2009

With the PBMR Company seeking to redesign the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) to focus more on heat applications, it is imperative to note that disadvantages of continuing with the PBMR remain.

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor has become a black hole for public funds. The costs involved in the PBMR saga are illustrative of the financial risks inherent in nuclear power in general.

In 1999, the PMBR (165MW capacity) construction costs were budgeted at R2 billion. By 2005, these construction costs had risen by a factor of seven, to R14 billion without a single PBMR being constructed. These costs do not include the decommissioning costs, which will be considerable.

Based upon the 2008 Environmental Impact Assessment for the PBMR Demonstration Reactor and the decommissioning costs for of the predecessor to the PBMR—the German AVR—the costs to decommission a single PBMR range from R1.5 billion to R70 billion. It is nearly impossible, due to the lifespan of the reactor and the variable rates of contamination, to be more exact than this. Hence, the decommissioning costs of the PBMR are uncertain and could incur a heavy burden on future generations, absorbing funds for vital social programmes.

An additional expense will be the waste storage costs, which are impossible to calculate due to the long-term nature of storing waste; for example, uranium-235 has a half-life of 704 million years, plutonium-239 a half-life of 24,110 years, and caesium a half-life of 30.2 years. These kinds of timeframes defy economic planning, and, given our pressing social needs, should not be entertained.

The costs for the PBMR are not efficient in terms of power generation. For example, Eskom is seeking finance of R5 billion to build a concentrated solar plant (100MW) in the Northern Cape; R14 billion for 165MW or R5 billion for 100MW capacity, economic sense favours the solar plant. This also excludes the costs associated with the security apparatus necessary for the PMBR.

Nuclear materials and equipment need to be protected and highly regulated, due to the threat of contamination and theft. The consequences of radioactive material in the hands on malicious organisations could have profoundly negative consequences and has to be avoided at all costs. While currently unquantifiable at this stage, these security costs will be passed onto the state and are unique to nuclear power. Other forms of energy generation (including heat generation) do not require these increased security costs.

No matter how much the PBMR Company and the Department of Minerals and Energy seek to spin the matter, the PBMR has been a waste of vital public funds and will continue to be so until abandoned.

For more information, please contact:

Tristen Taylor
Energy Policy Officer
Earthlife Africa-Johannesburg Branch
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Fax: +27 11 339 3270
Cell: +27 84 250 2434
Email: tristen@earthlife.org.za

Makoma Lekalakala
Programme Officer
Earthlife Africa Jhb
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Fax: +27 11 339 3270
Cell: +27 82 682 9177
Email: makomaphil@gmail.com

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Press Release: SASOL’s CDM and Greenwash
February 17, 2009
Press Release: An Invitation to the Launch of “Climate Change, Development, and Energy Problems: Another World is Possible”
February 22, 2009

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