SA signs nuclear deal with Russia

And it’s a biggie. Fifty billion of your American Dollars. Instantly, there were two camps mobilised on social media; Firstly, there were those that were opposed to the it because of the sudden and apparently clandestine nature of the agreement, and the inevitable palm-greasing opportunities it provides for the 72nd and 127th ranked nations on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013.
And then secondly, there were those who were opposed to it because of Chernobyl. Ugh.

I can’t do much about the first problem. As South Africans, we’re (sadly) naturally conditioned to assume that any governmental activity is, in some way, ethically flawed in a financial sense. Of course, the truth is that quite a lot of governmental activity is corrupt. You’d probably have to ask someone with more time and more love for statistics than me to find out “exactly” how much. (Try AfricaCheck or Ivo Vegter.)

However, that doesn’t mean that all governmental activity works that way. But, the assumption is to assume corruption first, and then continue to assume corruption even when there’s no proof. That’s a rod that the ANC has made for its own back and it’s going to be a difficult rod to remove.

The second issue irritates me. While Chernobyl (which actually in is Ukraine, of course, not Russia) was obviously a catastrophic incident, it’s been 10,378 days since that fateful day and I think I’m pretty much safe in saying no further Russian Soviet nuclear power plants have blown up in the intervening period. It’s also a bit foolish to assume that Soviet Russian technology hasn’t moved on during those 28½ years.
Likewise, Harland and Wolff is still a going concern, despite having built the Titanic (#NeverForget).

Things change.

What I don’t think people have considered is the alternatives to Russian nuclear power. We could do solar, but I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and I reckon that to achieve the 9.6GW capacity planned for this nuclear thing, we’d need something about 33 times the size of the current largest solar park in the world. That would cover 32,043 hectares and would cost about $33 billion. Oh, and since solar only operates at about 25% (Agua Caliente’s nameplate capacity is 290MW, but its average production is just 71MW, because “cloud” and “dark”) we’d never actually get near the 9.6GW anyway.

Wind, then? At 3MW per massive 145 metre (90m hub + 55m blade) turbine, you’d need 3,200 turbines! And that’s assuming 100% efficiency. Wind farms don’t do 100% efficiency. Wind farms only do about 30% efficiency (and I’m being nice here). So basically 10,000 turbines to guarantee that 9.6GW figure. If you’ve seen the blot on the landscape that is the Dassiesklip Wind Farm near Caledon, you’ll see how much of an eyesore just 9 (nine) turbines can be. And how much space they take up.
Dream on.

So…
Tidal, wave? Laughable.
Coal? No-one like coal.
Beaglegas? Far too dangerous. Makes Chernobyl look like an ideal day out for the local primary school.
Natural gas from fracking? Makes perfect sense, but the bunnyhuggers don’t like it.

Of course, the bunnyhuggers don’t like nuclear either, but they don’t seem to be able to come up with any viable alternatives. Alternatives, yes, but not viable ones. They might as well suggest a big team of hamsters on bikes.

But the nuclear deal seems to be all signed and sealed, so I suppose that my pontificating or that of anyone else is of little consequence. I think nuclear is a good way to go. I just hope it’s done right, without backhanders and naughtiness.

Rain approaching

Cape Town City Council has forewarned of some nasty weather approaching this evening and through tomorrow, including heavy rain and gale force winds.

Lovely.

Of course, winter is on its way and we need to accept that winter in the Cape of Storms brings… well… storms. This incoming cold front will be the first of many in the coming months, but because it’s the first, the City has reminded residents of a few safety tips for dealing with the inclement weather:

Residents can help mitigate the potential impact by:

  • staying away from beachfront areas
  • maintaining a safe following distances on the roads
  • ensuring that the drainage systems on their properties are working properly
  • raising the floor level of their homes to minimise the risk of flooding

Yes, some are easier to do than others. For example, if you live on the beachfront, you’re going to struggle with that first one. However, if you live on the beachfront in a beachfront apartment, you’re already sorted for the fourth one, so it’s all swings and roundabouts really, isn’t it?

Windguru is predicting about 40mm of rain for the next 24 hours (which our meteorological expert describes as “quite a bit”), and winds of about 60kph (“properly breezy”), so I think we’re all a little better informed now.
And, after the near 30ºC highs of yesterday, we’re looking at 15ºC for tomorrow.

Saturday looks grey and damp, before a return to more pleasant weather on Sunday, meaning that you can head back to the beachfront and lower your floors again.

Happy days.

Note: The City’s 107 Public Emergency Call centre can be accessed by dialing 107 from a Telkom line or 021 480 7700 from a cell phone.

Incoming: Black South Easter

Much talk around about the ‘Black South Easter’ that is expected to hit Cape Town over the next 36 hours or so, bringing with it high winds, dark clouds and much rain. And right from the outset, it should be pointed out that this nomenclature isn’t a racist thing. We don’t have an alternative ‘White South Easter’ which lives very comfortably in Constantia, happily subsisting off its ill-gotten, pre-94 gains and complaining about the ANC. No, this is so named because of the threatening colour of the clouds – a kind of meteorological Swart Gevaar, if you wish to continue the rather tenuous analogy.

The braai-ruining South Easter or ‘Cape Doctor’ which is usually prevalent in Cape Town from October through to (at least) December is due to a pressure area called the South Atlantic High (SAH) which sits just off the Cape coast and fairly regularly joins up with its equally high friend in Durban. These guys hang around together, being high, giggling at nothing in particular, eating Pringles and forming a ridge of high pressure below South Africa, bringing with them the warm Cape Doctor, which, despite its reputation for blowing patio chairs over in Vredehoek, is actually a fair weather wind.

All good so far? Fantastic.
So what goes wrong in this Black South Easter scenario, which is responsible for such nastiness as the great Laingsburg Flood?

At first the rain was gentle as a result of a low pressure system.  But from Saturday afternoon to Sunday a high pressure system brought heavy thunder showers to the catchment area.  Up to 425 mm rainfall was recorded that week-end, whereas the normal rainfall per annum is only 175 mm.

Well, despite their insistence that a high pressure system was solely to blame, it was actually the interaction between that high pressure system and what’s called a Cut-Off Low pressure area. Please don’t think for a moment that we’re talking about the usual mild-mannered inland low pressure trough that sits over the Karoo in summer here. No, this puppy is a deep low pressure area and it would much rather be with its mates down towards Antarctica at this time of year. Sadly, our South Atlantic High is so out of it that he’s joined up with his Bru from Durbs and unwittingly separated the low from his friends. Awkward.

Let’s explain what’s going on by transposing this situation into a bar room scenario. It would be a bit touch and go.
Ideally, the low pressure area would note the obviously wasted state of the South Atlantic High, politely point out the awkward social situation that had occurred – “Sorry dude, I just need to slip past, please” – and things would be quickly resolved.
Sadly though, meteorological pressure areas are unable to communicate with one another – or anyone else for that matter – and the angry young low has been doing Jägerbombs since lunchtime. He lets fly with everything he’s got, dragging the warm air from our high friends, chucking in some filthy black clouds and several inches of precipitation in his annoyance at not being allowed to sit with his mates.

Fortunately, all this bluster doesn’t last for very long. Whereas a normal winter low pressure area would go on for a few days, the cut off low soon runs out of energy and falls down drunk at the bar. The ridge of high pressure looks on, “Dude, he totally fell over,” and gets on with clearing the dark clouds over the Mother City. That’s why Sunday actually looks quite nice and summer returns on Monday, when we’re all back at work.

If the forecast is to be believed, we’re in for a lot of rain from Friday evening through into Saturday. So do stay safe and remember these numbers in case of emergency.

Blow job

Sorry about that title…

Busy, busy here ahead of a summer weekend, but it’s (literally) blowing a gale in Cape Town today.

Watch it love – someone’s going to have that handbag. This is South Africa.

Here are some more pics. Gusts of 164kph (102mph) were recorded at the Upper Cableway Station and that cruise ship that was meant to leave on Wednesday evening hasn’t gone anywhere.

The winds are due to subside over the next few days, but in the meantime, take care out there peeps.

UPDATE: And now. The video!

After the calm…

It’s been enlightening and slightly amusing reading and hearing news from Cape Town today. We’re not that far away – a couple of hundred kilometres tops – and yet they seem to have been struggling with grey, wet weather there. We’ve been living it up with blue skies for most of the day, albeit with a rather dramatic (read severe gale, gusting storm force) northwester in attendance as well.

image

I digitally sucked all the colour out of that so as not to upset the folks back home too much. But the sea has been wild today. I did get some pics on the “big” camera, but I don’t have the means to easily upload them here, so that’ll have to wait till we return home tomorrow.
I’m not sure how good they will be anyway, as I was constantly fighting to keep the sea spray off the lens. And constantly losing too.