SA set to export nuclear reactors in 5 years…

SA set to export nuclear reactors in 5 years…

Nuclear physicist Dr. Kelvin Kemm of Stratek Global, the company behind the local development of a Small Nuclear Reactor system, aims to be ready to export the reactors in five years’ time. He tells BizNews that there has been interest from places as far afield as Canada, “great interest” from Australia, as well as from parties in the Middle East that want to put small reactors in the desert and on the coastlines. Even the US is “very interested”. So are a number of European countries. Several African countries also want to acquire the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Dr Kemm stresses that nuclear power “is incredibly safe” – and “the greenest, cleanest, cheapest, safest power you can get”.

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Extended transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Chris Steyn (00:01.734)

Small nuclear reactors are becoming a significant issue worldwide, with a number of countries having initiated small modular reactor programmes. However, South Africa was the first country in the world to start on this path. At the time, the rest of the world was saying that this was not the way to go. We speak to nuclear physicist, Dr. Kelvin Kemm of Stratek Global, the company behind the local development of a small nuclear reactor system.

Chris Steyn (00:01.092)

Welcome Dr. Kemm.

Kelvin Kemm (00:04.07)

Thank you so much for inviting me, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.

Chris Steyn (00:10.308)

First question, why did South Africa do it?

Kelvin Kemm (00:14.63)

Well, what happened was we looked at the country and nearly all of South Africa’s energy is in the form of coal and the coal sits in the far northeast of the country up in Mpumalanga and the top of KZN and we had to power the whole country. That was equivalent to powering the whole of Western Europe, say from Austria only way back in the 1960s because South Africa is the same size as the whole of Western Europe added together. So the planners of the day said we’ve got to start producing electricity from the bottom up and so nuclear was introduced in Cape Town in the form of the big Koeberg nuclear power station and that power station this year has arrived at its 40th anniversary and it’s run incredibly well.

And then as time went by, they had another look at that and they said, wow, we can now put some electricity at the bottom and some electricity at the top, but nothing in the middle. What are we going to do? And we couldn’t truck coal all the way from the coal fields to the middle of the Free State, for example, where the gold mines are or the areas such as Sasol where they are producing the range of chemicals that Sasol produces and so on.

And so we said we’ve got to do something. And the something was obviously nuclear power. So I said, right, we’ve got to do nuclear power. And it’s got to be small nuclear power because we can’t build a big Koeberg. Also, the big Koeberg needed water. We didn’t have any. So that was the impetus to get going in the first place.

Chris Steyn (01:48.516)

Now, there are different ways of designing these SMRs, such as different cooling methods. Can you explain the differences to us, please?

Kelvin Kemm (01:58.95)

Absolutely. With the large reactors like Koeberg, which were essentially all of them all over the world at the time…by the way Koeberg is the most southerly power reactor in the world, and they need the ocean for cooling the steam system inside. And they’re huge pipes. They suck the sea in, they circulate it around and then back out into the ocean. And so all of the reactors around the world essentially were built on the coastline or on very big lakes like Lake Baikal in Russia for example. We have no spare water internally in South Africa so we were constrained to building the big nuclear reactors around the coastline which is still the plan of the government. There’s five sites been identified on the coastline for new Koeberg type reactors, but that didn’t solve the problem of the internal reactor in the middle of the dry areas of South Africa.

So we had to come up with a non-water-based nuclear reactor, and so we chose helium gas. Now you’ll find that there are people around the world who have been developing reactors, some have got liquid lead, can you imagine that? Liquid lead cooling going through the middle. Others liquid sodium metal. Others liquid salt. Now the lead and the sodium being metals, they both pull heat out more effectively than the gas does, but to my mind these are rather starry-eyed scientists sitting in European laboratories on the assumption they’ve got very high-tech systems around them. We said, we’ve got to build a reactor for African conditions hundreds of kilometers away from the maintenance people that might be called not just a few kilometers down the road like you’ll find in most of Europe. So we looked at the robust nature of what we would have to produce for our conditions, which happens to be the same conditions for Africa generally, the same conditions for Australia, much of South America, Indonesia, many countries like that have got those conditions. So we said we’ve got to go for something that does not have those problems. So we put helium cooling in, which actually works very well. And helium is a totally inert gas. If it comes out, it’s not poisonous, it’s not toxic to human beings, it doesn’t become radioactive, it doesn’t become anything.

Kelvin Kemm (04:22.758)

So it’s perfectly safe. If a whole lot of helium were to escape for any reason, it just goes away into the air and that’s that. The case of the liquid salt, one of the problems there is if you get an overheating, there’s a salt plug at the bottom, which is designed to melt so that all the salt pours out. So you get all this liquid salt coming out, which is supposed to be caught in a tray underneath, but you can imagine what could conceivably go wrong there with salt splashing all over the place. So after much thought, we say, uh-uh, we go for helium gas, nice and simple. So that’s why we use our method. And there’s only a handful of people in the world that have followed this gas cooling technology.

Chris Steyn (05:05.284)

So you’re saying that the South African reactor would be suitable for other African countries?

Kelvin Kemm (05:13.798)

Absolutely. When we started off, we were of course looking at the interior of South Africa. But it turns out to be very applicable for other African countries as well, because they’re all very big. People don’t realise that. But Africa as a continent is massive. Africa is larger than China, the United States, India, and the whole of the UK and Japan added together.

The standard Mercator map projection doesn’t give an accurate picture because you can’t make a sphere accurately on a flat piece of paper. And so it doesn’t indicate that. When I first started to realise this, I couldn’t believe it. And I went and got my globe and I stuck pins in the globe with bits of cotton and put it on rulers to convince myself I wasn’t dreaming. Then I discovered that South Africa is the same size as the whole of Western Europe. I’m sitting in Pretoria as we speak. The distance from me and Pretoria to Cape Town is the same as Rome to London. I also discovered that the Karoo is bigger than Germany. And yet we get Germans coming out saying, we’ve got the answer, do it our way. Germany doesn’t even have any dirt roads. They have no idea what it’s like driving a couple of hundred kilometers over a dirt road or going through the Karoo, for example, where you can ride clean through the Karoo from one side to another and see a couple of dozen people. Germany’s got 80 million people in a size smaller than the Karoo. So the whole basic foundation of one’s thinking processes is completely different to you sitting in a European situation and then saying, let’s plan for you. 

And I found that surprising. So, you know, surprising initially, you say, wait a minute, everybody says, do it the German way, do it the European way, do it the whatever, until you say, hang on, it’s completely different. And we had a European visitor here the other day, and some amusement, we arranged for him to go to a game reserve. And he came back and said I saw a real elephant and a hippopotamus. The two that had never seen one in their life, not even in a zoo.

Kelvin Kemm (07:31.046)

Now, us South Africans are sitting grinning from ear to ear now, where he’s getting excited that he’s taking photographs of a real live elephant than a real live hippopotamus. At our nuclear reactor in Pretoria, the Safari one, there are zebras that walk around outside the nuclear reactor building. Just a little bit away, there are eland and there are other animals that walk around. Nothing that’s going to eat you. But similarly at Koeberg, they’ve got zebras and wildebeests and so on wandering around. Those are the only two nuclear reactors in the world with wild animals walking around them, which we think is not very unreasonable. But to other people they are astounded. So we were to first take your mental state and say, let us now take our mental state. 

And now just an amusing little story, Chris. I was invited to be a guest speaker at a conference in Hanoi in Vietnam. And there I was standing up in front of the crowd and I was saying, here in South Africa, we’ve got like all these kilometers of sand and open space and we’ve got to jump across this with long power lines and all these distances in between. And then at one point a gentleman, Dr. Arnold Cizerino, turned out, put his hand up and he said, very interesting to hear, but I’m the chief nuclear fellow of Indonesia. He said, you’ve got wide open sand. He says, we’ve got water. Indonesia is composed of thousands of islands. He said, we’ve got to jump from island to island across the water. We can’t run power lines over the water. Then I thought, oh, good heavens, of course. So even something like that, and they’ve shown great interest, that the big water distances, that they can’t put cables over the water, even for that matter, under the water is difficult. So having small reactors dotted around is a much more reasonable approach in many instances than trying to go for a very big one. And so it turns out that from the developments we were doing, our type of reactor, the gas-cooled small modular reactor, is now ideally suited to very, very many applications.

Look at photos of latest plans for the Africa nuclear reactor here

Chris Steyn (09:44.708)

Well, I was just going to ask you about countries outside Africa. What interest has there been in your initiative?

Kelvin Kemm (09:54.79)

Well, we’ve had a lot. We’ve had interest from places as far afield as Canada. Right up in the north of Canada, they’ve got tar sands down under the ice and snow. And that’s like a solid block down there. It’s frozen. And they want to get that to the surface in the form of oil. And I remember when people first phoned me from there, they said, well, it looks like your reactor, we could take hot water, we pump the hot water down the hole, we mix it with the solid blocks of tar down there and up comes oil and water mixture. Is that feasible? I said, absolutely. So they are now very interested in putting small modular reactors in the ice and snow, not only for trying to get the tar sands out, but also for supplying electricity and what’s now remote. Now that you mention that, the Indonesians are going to jump over water. We’ve got to jump over sand. The Canadians got to jump over snow.

And so they were interested. We also found great interest from Australia. Australia is currently theoretically or legally anti-nuclear, yet there’s a lot of pro-nuclear business people there that have been contacting us saying, look, they feel that their country will change its attitude very soon. So we’ve had interest from there as well. We’ve spoken to people in the Middle East that want to put small motor reactors in the desert, actually even on the coastlines of the Middle East to run certain things. So we’re in discussions with them. And we’ve had quite a few like that from these places in ranging from snow to sand to whatever. 

But we’ve also had interest from sophisticated countries. Not that they aren’t sophisticated. I mean, the ones that traditionally one doesn’t think of as having these sort of problems. And that’s like the United States, European countries. A number of them said, look, they’re looking at different policies now. 

I was invited to talk to a team out of one of the state governments of the United States. And they said they are now going towards a frame of mind where they want more small reactors controlled by municipalities or private groupings or something. And this is the answer. So we now found that the US is very interested and numbers of European countries as well. 

France started their own programme just not so long ago to develop a new small modular reactor. The UK is looking at it. So I see the whole mental approach changing. Like in the early days when new electricity first started in places like New York and London, they started with a couple of blocks and then a couple more blocks and a couple more blocks. So this grew organically until eventually it started spreading across and it turned into a grid. But if you think of it today, there’s no need to have a grid. Just like water supplies aren’t connected across the country, the water supply of Pretoria is not connected to the water of Durban, which is connected to the water of Bloemfontein and so on. There’s no need. There’s no need for electricity in principle to be interconnected. If you want to have a national grid, okay many countries, of course, already have national grids on a large scale like Europe, but if you go into African countries, many of them have got very small national grids. And when you talk to them, they say, wow, you know, the cost in expanding the grid is millions to run long cables. You don’t have to do that anymore. Instead of running long cables all over the place, you can now have individual small modular reactors or groupings of small modular reactors having a two kilometer diameter, five kilometer diameter grid of their own. So if you’ve got mining copper in northern Zambia for argument’s sake, or in other countries like that, you can have your own electricity supply point there that need not be connected to the national grid. So you don’t have the expense of running the cables, but you also then don’t have the legal complexity of putting what amounts to dirty electricity into the grid. 

People also don’t realise that when the government like the South African government is reluctant sometimes to let people put electricity into the grid, a lot of the members of the public say, oh, they’re just being fussy. That’s not the case. You can’t, like water, for example, is a municipal water supply. You couldn’t just say, oh, anybody with a borehole in their backyard can just put water into the municipal system. You’d have to say, no, it must be sure that there aren’t E-coli in the water. You mustn’t drop dead mice or rats or something into the water accidentally, there’d be huge controls over anybody adding water to the municipal grid. The same is true of electricity. If electricity comes with jerks in the voltage and variations and all sorts of things, it upsets the system. For example, the frequency, South Africa runs on a 50 hertz frequency. The United States in contrast runs on 60 hertz. But here, all electronic clocks run on that 50 hertz. An electronic clock is like the one in your computer. And these electronic clocks have got to be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly accurate. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange communicates with the world financial system off an electronic clock. You can’t move millions and millions around the world on a system that they’re not quite sure if the time on the one side and the other side is correct. And we’re talking about fractions of a second. So you can’t have somebody just putting, I’m calling it dirty electricity now, into the grid. Whereas if you have your own separate thing, you can do what you like. If you want to mess it up, you can mess up your own system and then you have your own rules about how to keep it nice and clean.

Chris Steyn (15:54.404)

So I take it you are also now receiving interest from African countries.

Kelvin Kemm (15:59.75)

Yes, actually a lot. And we’ve had, just yesterday, in fact, I had two people that visited from a neighbouring country. Right now, we’ve got somebody in another African country far to the north of us. And there we got an inquiry from the president saying the president would like to see somebody face-to-face. And the person left last Monday to go there to see the president face-to-face.

We’ve had a number of other African countries contacting us, but it’s also the case that over the last number of years, some at least 10, but possibly 12 by now, African countries have officially told the International Atomic Energy Agency that they are pursuing a nuclear future because they realise they have no option. Most of these countries, they don’t have coal, they don’t have oil, they don’t have gas.

A few years ago, I had a dinner with the Minister of Energy of Uganda. At the time, he said, look, we can’t go for coal. He said the only place we could feasibly get coal from would be you South Africans. And if we were to do that, the train has got to cross four international borders. He said, let alone the logistics of moving train loads of coal from here to Uganda, they can’t risk going over four borders where there’s the legalities of crossing a border with a coal train. So he said, that’s out, and that’s out, and that’s out. So many of these African leaders are looking at that and realising that for their own security and their peace of mind and so on, they need to be able to produce their own electricity where they want it. And the small nuclear gives them that opportunity, whereas virtually all others don’t. 

And of course, here, people are going to say, what about wind and solar? Well, of course, wind, you can only put where there’s a reasonable wind that blows a lot, and then it’s very intermittent. I think there’s a place for wind and solar, but these are not in competition. We found, unfortunately, a lot of the renewable energy enthusiasts condemn nuclear out of hand, which we can’t understand why they do that, because no nuclear people condemn wind and solar out of hand. There’s a lot of use of solar coming about now, but of course you get solar only during the daytime and then only during a portion of the daytime. You get very little early in the morning when, before morning tea time, when the sun angle is low. People don’t seem to realise that the sun must be at right angles to the panel to get maximum. If the sun is like this or like this, you get much less than the maximum. So when somebody tells you we’ve put in 400 megawatts of solar, the answer is you’re gonnato get a quarter of that, possibly on average, if you’re lucky, and then only during the daytime, nothing at night. So now you’ve got to make a plan. What do you do at night? And at night, you’ve then got to have nuclear or coal permanent on standby as a backup. Then they don’t say, who pays for the coal while the coal is standing there, switched off, waiting to be the backup to the solar. If you start taking that whole equation together, then you discover it’s nowhere near as cheap as the people claimed. And so I think that there’s a place for solar. It can act as energy sources for repeater stations, for television broadcasting channels.

Wind turbines can pump water up into dams. It doesn’t matter about the intermittent nature. But you’re not going to run electric trains across the country on wind and solar. That’s out. So to be realistic, you’ve got to look at what’s actually going to give you continuous power all the time. All the time. And that’s nuclear.

Chris Steyn (19:42.372)

I do want to ask you about the fuel and the uranium though. How much do you need and where do you get that from?

Kelvin Kemm (19:49.926)

Oh, good point. What happens is that our fuel is what’s called pebble fuel. If you look at the fuel that goes into Koeberg nuclear power station, which is a conventional what’s called pressurised water reactor, it runs with water running through the core and the water is under pressure like a pressure cooker that somebody uses on the stove. If you jack up the pressure of the pressure cooker, the temperature goes up.

It’s the same with the pressurised water reactor. The temperature runs at 250 degrees C up to 300 degrees C that level. And so those fuel elements are 3.8 meters long and they’re about that cross section. It’s a bunch of tubes bundled together and inside those tubes you get pellets of the uranium the size of one joint of my finger like that – and that’s how they work. Now if you take one of those which cost tens of millions each and you drop it a meter, it’s almost certain to be a write-off because if that thing gets a little bit dinged with a dent or two or a twist, you dare not put that inside the nuclear reactor, it could stick in there or break, so you couldn’t do that. So they’re terribly delicate, those things. Our fuel is a ball the size of a cricket ball, tennis ball of graphite and they’re very robust. You can take one of those, I’ve done it, and throw it against a concrete wall and it will bounce to some degree. Inside that ball there are 18,000 grains of uranium about the size of grains of sugar. Those grains of uranium are coated with some soft carbon to act as a sponge and around that there’s a silicon carbide coating which is hard. That silicon carbide is to make sure that any radioactive particles that break away can’t get through the walls. So each one of those grains has its own containment vessel down at a millimeter size level. The soft carbon is if the thing expands or wobbles around, it’s not going to break the silicon carbide coating. It’s got a sponge that it can move into. So that’s what the fuel looks like. So now if you want to take a load of fuel from here to Uganda or something and you put it in a truck and you go over some of the the African dirt roads with holes and rocks and whatever, you can bounce around to your heart’s content and those graphite balls, it’s not going to harm them. They’ll be in some sort of holding bracket like an egg box and you can bounce around. It doesn’t matter. You dare not do that with the Koeberg type fuel elements. So it becomes very easy to move the fuel around and it’s very robust. So it’s terrific. 

And we make the fuel here. We started to develop the fuel right at the beginning of the exercise. South Africa has been in this game for 30 years now. And we can make it. I think we’ve possibly got the most advanced triso fuel lab in the world right here. We’ve got a small plant that has actually produced the fuel that has been qualified in three countries. So we’ve got the qualification certificates. Everything is done. 

What we would now like to do is get the funding to be able to develop a larger commercial size plant that goes in tandem with building the reactors. So certainly the fuel we have. Another interesting thing by the way with the fuel, before the fuel goes into the reactor you can hold it in your hand. Under normal conditions they would not make that legal. It’s a bad thing. It’s like doing open heart surgery and putting the scalpel on your dinner plate or something. It’s not done. So there would be rules saying you can’t do that, but in fact from a science point of view you can walk around with one of these balls in your hand and it won’t harm you. When it comes out of the reactor it’s a different story. While they’re inside they’re red hot when they have been used up, which takes a couple of years. You drop a ball in at the top and it goes down, down, down, down like that. And after two and a half years or something it works its way to the bottom and then it comes out. When the fuel ball comes out at the bottom, it is so radioactive that you dare not go near it. It’ll kill you in no time. So then you have the professionals handling it. Now there’s very, very little of this stuff. Again, to give an analogy, if you take Koeberg nuclear power station, which is 2,000 megawatts, if Koeberg were coal power, it would take six train loads of coal every day. Can you imagine six trains every day going in and out of Koeberg and unloading. In reality what happens with Koeberg it takes one truckload of fuel, nuclear fuel per year, that’s all. So the boss there at Koeberg can decide well we can deliver next week but on the other hand it’s my birthday next week and we can have a birthday party. We can do it the week after. Then somebody else says well it’s actually Mark’s birthday. We’ll do it the week after. You’ve got that sort of latitude to be able to play and if something happens and rain washes the road away after a flood, it doesn’t matter. Whereas a coal power station, you need the coal running all the time. If you lose your continuous supply, you’re in trouble. So it’s a great advantage of nuclear. You don’t have to have the fuel coming in every day. And in the case of our pebble fuel, you can stockpile it. It’s a case of it would be a political and economic decision how much you want to keep on site. And that’s it. 

So beforehand the country concerned would say well let’s keep a week’s stock, a month’s stock, six month’s stock, whatever the case might be so they’d be immune to border-crossing problems or floods washing the road away and so on.

Chris Steyn (25:56.42)

Now how ready are you to actually start? I think that’s the million dollar question.

Kelvin Kemm (26:02.118)

Okay, well it’s actually not quite a million dollars, it’s about half a million dollars because we’re ready to start and we’re looking for money which is of the order of half a million dollars to actually build the first reactor. The first reactor internationally is known by the term FOAK which stands for First of a Kind. Numbers of sub-assemblies have already been built in South Africa and run and tested and they all work but now we want to build the first one. Now when you build the first one it costs about 500 million dollars but in that is also the cost of doing a lot of testing and qualification as required by law and there’ll be a lot of development of processes and procedures and so on. After the first one, the second one onwards will come out at about a third or so less we imagine. We have very complicated and very extensive calculations on this. We can give you the numbers in any currency you like because we get asked in all sorts of currencies. So we have to build that one and we’re looking for funds. And what has happened now is we’ve got a number of funding agencies around the world that have come to visit us in South Africa and had extensive discussions with us. And we’ve passed all their tests and they are now collecting the money together because obviously we wouldn’t take all the money one shot once. We would take about five years to build the FOAK. And that money would then flow over the five-year period in a certain pattern, the pattern being an S-curve, in that the first year or so is largely the planning and things. It’s only when you really start pouring concrete and welding steel and so on that the big money starts to flow. The quicker you get money together, the quicker we can go faster. But we could effectively start next week. We really could in that we’ve got 100 people now available that are working daily on related things. So the team already exists. Another interesting thing, by the way, some of it quite a bit due to you, in fact, is that we’ve had numbers of companies approaching us saying, oh, we see that you are wanting to build this reactor. We’d like to be part of this. We have companies that are making filtration systems, making pumps, doing welding, all sorts of things that are calling us. And we visited them and some of them have visited us. They say, please put us into your package to consider as we go forward. Because we need to look a little bit into the future, a half a dozen years. Far too many people are looking always at the next six months, you know, with some of the electricity supply problems that we’ve had in South Africa and which other people have had around the world, by the way. We always hear it’ll all be sorted out by Christmas. And Christmas comes and it isn’t. Well, it’s all be sorted out by next winter. Next winter comes and it isn’t. Well, we’ll get it right this Christmas.

And this has been going on for half a dozen years. We’ve now got to sit down, and that’s why a number of these African countries have been approaching us and saying, we’re now looking half a dozen years into the future and saying, what do we do to be responsible to look ahead and to make sure that the plans are now being laid correctly? So we can build it, we reckon, in five years. Those are our plans. We might even go a bit faster if the money comes in faster. And we’re confident of that.

Very fortuitously as well, is we have a positive government. We have a minister of energy who is supportive of nuclear. In fact, he was the one minister of energy in the world that throughout the last five years or so has been consistently saying he’s in favour of nuclear, whereas many other countries in the world were anti. We find in the last 18 months to 24 months, numbers of other world leaders have come out pro-nuclear now. They’ve got the courage to say it and not feel that the extreme greens are going to throw too many bricks at them. And I’ve spoken to a couple of these people face-to-face who said they had to be very cautious of the very antagonistic reaction that they could get from extreme Greens if they make these moves. So a lot of people have had a pro-nuclear attitude and then have been nervous to say, now there’s a flavour in the world that nuclear is the answer, which it is. It could take over totally in due course, I believe, just because the natural economics is in its favour. And so I see we run that pathway.

Chris Steyn (30:36.836)

And it is a privately driven initiative.

Kelvin Kemm (30:41.094)

Yes, what happened in the beginning in South Africa is that from ESKOM there was a fellow, Professor Dave Nichols, that would run up and down the passages and say he wants to build a nuclear reactor and a number of people said you’re crazy and a number of other people said just maybe this guy’s on the right track. I was one of the ones that said I think he’s on the right track and what eventually happened is that the chief executive of the day, Alan Morgan, made the decision to let him try and start. And he tried to start and he started and it became very successful. We built up to the biggest nuclear design team in the world. And then a number of events all occurred and the project was taken down into ultra-low gear. It was never actually cancelled, contrary to what many people say. It was just taken down to such low gear that eventually ground to a halt. But at that time, a number of private people that was fellows that used to be employed on the project and others got together and said we can’t let this wonderful type of thing die, we carry on on our own. That was over 10 years ago. So for the last 10 years there’s been a group that went off and designed a modification of the original PBMR and it’s called the HTMR100. That is our reactor. We made it simpler and cheaper to build and we did a few positive changes and that is now designed and ready to go. We have everything.

A lot of people don’t believe that South Africans can actually do this. I had a phone call the other day from London and the fellow said, how on earth can people from Africa actually possibly be ahead of people out of the UK? And I said, well, we are. And that’s an attitude we’ve had from quite a few people who are startled to discover that South Africans can actually do things. And yet we dig the deepest mines in the world. We build military gear that’s fantastic. There’s all sorts of achievements by South Africans to show the world and they get startled to discover we actually can build a nuclear reactor designed in South Africa and so on. So yes, we’re ready to go now and we’re dealing with people. It’s a private venture so all they’ve got to do is get hold of me or one of our team, look at our website and we can have a discussion.

Chris Steyn (32:59.108)

Now, when news of your latest initiative first broke, a certain skeptical energy analyst suggested that this could be a pump-and-dump scam. What do you say to that?

Kelvin Kemm (33:12.614)

Well, this type of thing happens. We still get the anti-nuclear people that are quite crazy. Over a number of years, I’ve had things ranging from death threats to other threats. I get obscene letters, I get all sorts of things, people threatening me one way or another. It’s quite amazing what these Greens do. If some of them don’t get their way, they start throwing bricks and they start doing all sorts of things. 

So…You know, unfortunately, it’s the reality of the nuclear game. I even had people that broke into my house and left signs around inside my house, Stop promoting nuclear power. And it’s amazing. So we were conscious of it. One day when I did a radio programme in South Africa, as I was about to go to the studio, the radio station got a call that there would be an attack on me and the radio station. They called the police. I arrived there to find armoured cars around the police station radio station going into their lockdown mode so to speak. They asked me if I could cancel this. I said I’m not cancelling it if you guys want to so we went ahead with armed cops outside the gate. And this is the type of thing they do so we’re used to these extremists being crazy. Obviously a number of people have got what they feel are reasonably legitimate gripes. We could go on for another hour about it. 

You will not get any radiation leaking out of a nuclear power station. In Fukushima, nobody was killed, nobody was hurt, no private property was damaged from nuclear radiation. The tsunami did a lot of damage, but not nuclear radiation. So it is incredibly safe. It’s the greenest, cleanest, cheapest, safest power you can get. And that is categorically correct. You can look it up and see that I’m absolutely correct. And a number of other people verify that.

Koeberg is currently producing South Africa’s cheapest electricity by far because our reactor now is designed to last 60 years and it’ll probably last 80 years. So you have to look at the total cycle and when it comes to the funding options what you do is you make an arrangement like you do when you buy a house. You pay off the bond over a period of time. It’s the the cost of the electricity per kilowatt hour, which is the issue that you need to look at in your costing, not what the capital cost is signed on the piece of paper on day one. So arguments, we cannot afford this are wrong. We in fact cannot afford not to do this because the other things appear cheap on the surface, but they’re actually horrendously expensive underneath the surface when you start to look at what is the real cost of putting solar panels far away and then asking the government to supply taxpayers’ expense 14,000 kilometers of power line, which is not included in the price. And 14,000 kilometers of power line will buy 30 of our nuclear power stations. So it’s those sorts of things that we looked at at a higher level using intellect, using intelligence, and then coming to sensible answers.

Chris Steyn (36:19.268)

Thank you. That was Dr. Kelvin Kemm speaking to business about the future of nuclear. I’m Chris Steyn.

Read all about South Africa’s HTMR-100 Nuclear Reactor here

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