The government is asking the South African public for their input on the proposed nuclear build 30km outside Cape Town in a series of public meetings. These meetings are always attended by the few pro-nuclear stakeholders and it is important that the public also attend to share their concerns about safety, costs and environmental issues.
Melkbosstrand: 18:00, 12 October 2015
Atlantic Beach Golf club
Kenliworth: 18:00, 13 October 2015
Kenilworth Community Presbyterian Church
Is it really worthwhile attending?
Yes! South Africa has an excellent constitution and powerful laws such as NEMA and PAJA that demand meaningful public participation during the process of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Every written submission, and every question or comment at an EIA public meeting, must be recorded, and responded to in writing, allowing the public to have a real effect on the process. If procedure is not followed, the process can be overturned by a court and forced to start again, causing further delays.
Every month of delay will see the price of renewable energy falling and make it clearer that the nuclear option is too expensive and risky for South Africa.
It is vitally important that you attend the public meetings in your city during October, to show that there is public concern. If the public does not show up, the room will be dominated by the viewpoint of those from the nuclear industry who want this project to go ahead as soon as possible without too much regards for environmental or safety concerns.
Experts in fields such as seismic geology, marine ecology, ground water systems, economics, civil engineering etc. can also make a big difference by taking the time to submit detailed criticisms.
What are the real risks?
Apart from the catastrophic risk of an accident, just a few possible impacts from a nuclear plant during normal operation are:
- large quantities (about 3 billion litres per day) of warm water are discharged into the sea making the discharge area about 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding water. This may have an effect on fish, chokka, sharks and the breeding patterns of whales, and therefore also on the fishing and tourism industries.
- some radioactivity is released into the environment, such as the groundwater, during normal operation, and it is not certain how exposure to these low doses affect the risk of cancer (see here).
- the spent fuel, or high level waste, will need to go somewhere. So far, Koeberg has accumulated 1 million kilograms of this waste, and to date there is no concrete plan as to what to do with it.
Whatever your views on nuclear power in general, this meeting is where you can help ensure that all safety and environmental factors are properly taken into account.
A little background…
In 2010 Eskom began the process of assessing the potential impact of building three nuclear plants along the south coast of South Africa, just outside Cape Town, Hermanus, and St. Francis Bay.
The first draft of the EIA report by Arcus Gibb was riddled with bad science and was thoroughly criticised. It glossed over many issues such as radioactive waste handling, earthquake risks, and the effect of warm water on sea life including whales and chokka. KAA wrote a 27 page detailed submission, which included 36 corrective actions, while many other organisations, scientists and other individuals also submitted detailed criticisms.
The second draft, although slightly improved, was again widely condemned. After many delays and postponements, the next revised draft, round three, has now been released five years after the start of this process.
The report is meant to address all aspects of the potential impact of the nuclear build on the environment and surrounding communities.
But doesn’t South Africa need more electricity?
Yes, but is a nuclear plant, which will take at least ten years to build (the record is over 40 years), and is currently the most expensive form of electricity (according to the official Dept. of Energy IRP 2010 report) the best way of doing that?
Can the South African taxpayer afford to commit to paying hundreds of billions of rand to Russia?
And if something goes wrong, the South African taxpayer will have to cover the costs. This is made clear in the agreement with Russia which reads in 15.1 “under no circumstances shall [the Russians] be liable for such damages” and in 15.2 “liability due to a nuclear incident … shall be transferred to the authorized South African organisation”.
If the Russians were confident in their technology, one would think they might take on at least some liability in case there is an ‘incident’ with their plant.
Attend the public meetings! Be present and let your voice be heard at Kenilworth Community Presbyterian Church on Tuesday 13 October at 18:00 to 20:00 or in Melkbosstrand at the Atlantic Beach Golf Club on 12 October at 18:00.
Follow this blog to get more notifications about the process and what you can do, hear about flaws in the latest EIA report, and also effective ways of making verbal submissions.