Koeberg Power Station – Western Cape
Koeberg is the only nuclear power station in Africa.
It has a pressurised water reactor (PWR) design and is one of the safest PWR's in the world. Additionally, it is the most reliable Eskom power station and is vital for grid stability in the Cape.
But what is Nuclear Energy?
Nuclear energy is atomic energy. Energy can be harvested from the bonds elements share on an atomic level. When we talk about things that are atomic, we are referring to the smallest particles of matter.
Nuclear or atomic energy can be harvested from two different atomic interactions. Nuclear Fission, where atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, and Nuclear Fusion - where atoms are bonded together to form larger atoms. In both scenarios, energy is released.
In the case of a nuclear power plant, nuclear fission is used to produce electricity.
The Advantages of Nuclear Power
No Greenhouse Gases
When it comes to producing electricity, nuclear energy produces far less greenhouse gases and other carbon emissions than the fossil fuel industry.
While the by-products of nuclear fission are radioactive and can be damaging to the environment, these by-products are stored, sealed and contained apart from the environment.
Nuclear energy can generate electricity regardless of weather and environmental patterns. This means that nuclear can be relied on as an energy source without a dependence on outside resources.
Nuclear energy uses less uranium to produce the same amount of energy as coal or oil, which lowers the cost of producing the same amount of energy.
The procurement and transportation of uranium is also less expensive, which further lowers the cost.
The Disadvantages of Nuclear Power
The disposal of nuclear waste and its impact on the environment is one of the biggest concerns when it to nuclear energy.
Nuclear power plants, like other energy producing plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas, produce electricity by boiling water into steam. This steam then produces energy that turns turbines to produce electricity.
However, the difference is that nuclear plants do not burn anything. Alternatively, they use uranium fuel to produce electricity through nuclear fission.
Nuclear power plants use nuclear fission to obtain the heat needed to produce steam required to turn the turbines that then generate electricity.
Nuclear fission involves the splitting of uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor. The uranium fuel consists of small, hard ceramic pellets that are packaged into long, vertical tubes. Rods of this fuel are then inserted into reactors.
Once the fuel rods become depleted, they are retired. They are then stored on-site in special pools equipped with high-density racking.
Low to medium level waste is encased in steel containers and then enclosed again with concrete casing. These containers are then transported to a remote disposal site where they are carefully stored in specially designed holding cells which prevent radiation leaks and exposure.
Koeberg’s disposal site is Vaalputs, 600km away in the Kalahari Desert.
Koeberg is surrounded by a 3000-ha private game reserve owned by Eskom. The reserve is home to over 150 species of birds and half a dozen small mammal species.
It is the perfect example of how the production nuclear energy does not negatively affect the environment surrounding the nuclear power plant.
A lot of the negative nuclear energy views are based on “what ifs” and although these are warranted, they are not often based on the understanding of the facts or the processes.