On the 31st of March 2017, it was reported that Jacob Zuma had the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, replaced due to a disagreement regarding a nuclear power plant. This news shocked our already outraged nation. And it followed a statement from State Advocate, Marius Oosthuizen SC, stating that the South African government is under no obligation to get public approval for the nuclear agreement it signed with Russia. But what is a nuclear power plant and what does this deal mean to South Africans?
A nuclear power plant is a power station that generates electricity using heat from nuclear reactors. Electricity made by nuclear power plants is called nuclear power. 30 Countries worldwide are operating nuclear reactors, and there are 60 nuclear power plants currently under construction. By the end of 2016, it was revealed that 10.9% of the world’s electricity is produced by nuclear power plants alone.
This energy source is one of the most controversial on the market today, due to the fact that it comes with many advantages and disadvantages. Advocates in favour of nuclear energy, as well as those against the nuclear power plants, feel equally passionate about their causes. It is important that you, as a South African, understand the pros and cons of this energy source in order to make an informed decision about your own energy use. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a nuclear power plant:
Nuclear power plants use less uranium in order to produce the same amount of energy as coal and oil. This decreases the use of raw material and represents a significant save on transport costs. A power plant can run, uninterrupted, for 540 days, resulting in fewer brownouts. It is also not contingent on the weather or foreign suppliers, making it more stable than any other form of energy.
While nuclear energy does release some gas into the air, the plant itself does not give off greenhouse gasses – a gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range.
One of the reasons that nuclear power plants are a subject of debate is due to the many disadvantages that it presents. The uranium that the power plant uses is naturally unstable, meaning that special precaution needs to be taken during the mining, transporting and storing of uranium. When uranium splits, it results in a radioactive by-product that needs to be removed and stored correctly in order to avoid contamination through leaks or containment failures.
There are several nuclear reactors around the world that have failed and been shut down. These abandoned reactors are now contaminating the areas surrounding them, yet they are too unstable to be removed.
With many advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy, it comes as no surprise that nuclear power remains one of the most divisive sources of energy in existence. Educate yourself on this topic to make an informed decision on your views of its use.