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Nuclear Energy Costs the Earth
An introduction to the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor
About this paper:
This paper has been produced by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg branch, drawing on many sources, including material produced by the Cape Town branch; it is one in a series of papers being produced under the auspices of the Nuclear Energy Costs the Earth campaign, which focuses on the ambitions of Eskom, South Africa's parastatal utility, to build a `new generation' of nuclear power plants. As part of a so-called feasibility study the plan is to build a reactor in Cape Town and a fuel manufacturing plant at Pelindaba (North West province) that will import enriched Uranium via Durban.
Alternatives to the proposal are explored in `Renewable Energy', which includes examination of the prospects and benefits of renewable energy. Also on this site is a paper by Steve Thomas that focuses on the track record of the type of technology used in the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor programme.
So many misleading and/or unsubstantiated claims are made by lobbyists for the nuclear industry that they cannot all be addressed in a popular paper. In the interest of providing a short and accessible introduction to the issues relating to the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor programme, some issues are treated superficially and some `prevailing wisdom', as touted by the industry, is left unchallenged.
In particular the figures for costs and projected benefits are not analysed in detail since the developers themselves have informally admitted that they do not stand up to detailed scrutiny and have initiated study and analysis that is due to produce a new set of figures in about March 2001.
Contents of this paper:
What is the PBMR programme?
What is Pebble Bed Modular Reactor?
The sales pitch
The nuclear power industry
Economics of nuclear power - a failing industry
Trade related issues
No current need for new generation capacity
Alternatives: renewable energy and socio-economic considerations
Public Participation process