Nuclear talk just puff

A letter to the editor of the Mail & Guardian, in response to an article from NECSA, where a Mr Mabhongo claims that the nuclear energy industry is growing:

Much like an undertaker painting a rosy hue on the cheeks of a favoured relative before the final viewing, Mr Mabhongo makes a good job of attempting to paint a rosy hue on the dying nuclear industry. Examining the facts, however, paints a quite different picture.

70 under construction?
For example, as part of his good story, he writes that ‘More than 70 new nuclear reactors are currently under construction’. The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), a United Nations body formed to promote the use of nuclear power, maintains a global database of commercial nuclear reactors. This lists 70 ‘under construction’ reactors, including the year in which construction began on each reactor.

Under construction’ for 42 years…
One of these is Watts Bar-2, on which construction began in 1972. Forty two years later, instead of classifying this as the economic failure it so clearly is, the IAEA continues to list it as ‘under construction’.

‘Under construction’ for 28 years…
Another two on the ‘under construction’ list are Khmelnitski-3 and Khmelnitski-4, both in the Ukraine, the home of the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. These have been ‘under construction’ since 1986 and 1987 respectively. It is not difficult to imagine why these projects were abandoned, and yet, twenty eight years later, Mabhongo cheerfully considers them to be evidence for the nuclear renaissance story! Only nine are in the West, or eight if Watts Bar-2 is excluded.

Only 2 are in Europe…
and one of those is Olkiluoto-3, which was first planned to be completed in 2009 and is the subject of a bitter long running €2.6 billion legal battle between TVO, Areva and Siemens. Hardly a success story.

Over half of the seventy are in Russia and China, countries not famed for their transparency, safety or environmental standards.

Nuclear power is dying in the West
The truth is that nuclear power is dying out in the West, and is only surviving in countries where public opinion does not not carry much weight. A detailed analysis of the other ‘facts’ presented, such as the claim that the nuclear energy industry is experiencing growth, or that pebble bed modular reactor technology is catching on, will show that Mabhongo is being, to put it kindly, wildly optimistic.

Mabhongo works for NECSA, a public company which aims to extract profit from the nuclear industry.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to include the word ‘advertorial’ above any future article NECSA offers your paper.

First published here:


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