Cape Town nuclear build approved by Dept Environment

Before any major development, South African law requires a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment to be submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs before the project may begin.  In 2009, Gibb consulting submitted a scoping report for such a study on behalf of Eskom, with a view to building a large nuclear power plant.

During the public participation process Koeberg Alert, as well as many other organisations, scientists and members of the public submitted extensive and detailed comments on the report, and in particular the poor quality of the specialist reports.  In response to this deluge of criticism, GIBB produced four versions of the report, and finally submitted its final version to the Department in February 2016.  Based on a wide range of factors, the report recommended that Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape was the best site for the plant.  Nearly two years later, Sabelo Malaza, the Chief Director, issued an authorisation which overrode the consultants recommendation, and specified Duynefontein (Koeberg), near Cape Town, was were the plant could be built.

The full text on the authorisation is here: Duynefontein authorisation full text

If you made any submission during any of the four public participation processes, it is crucial that you indicate that you wish to appeal against this finding. To do this, simply send an email to appeals@environment.gov.za and to Herbstdl@eskom.co.za in which you say you intend to appeal the authorisation for a nuclear power station at Duynefontein, reference number 12/12/20/994. The price of a participative democracy is participation – please find a few minutes to do this before the deadline of 21 October 2017. [Correction: 31st October 2017]

Graph showing predicted and actual peak electricity demand in South Africa

There are many flaws in the report, some clearly intended to bias the finding for Eskom, and others perhaps just due to sloppiness or scientific incompetence.  And example of the former is the ludicrously inflated projected demand for electricity, which is used to justify the need for a nuclear plant.  Despite being given far more up to date data, Gibb refused to incorporate this into their report.  This is dealt with in more detail, including graphs, in Eskom and GIBB living in la-la land.

fukushima-nuclear-explosion2An example of sloppy science is the thorny issue of seismic risk.  Since the earthquake near Japan caused the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, there has been more concern worldwide about the risk of a seismic event causing a leak or reactor explosion.

Photograph of crack in road in Ceres caused by earthquake

Damage in Ceres from 1969 quake

In the first version of the seismic study, a specialist found that the Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA)_ for the Koeberg site was 0.30g.  Any scientific measure is accompanied by a confidence interval, for example 0.30g ±0.01g. The scientists who write this report, Erna Hattingh and Johann Neveling, were apparently unaware of this, and did not give any interval, despite the inherent uncertainty in their methodology.

It also noted that 0.30g was the threshold over which a site is considered unsuitable for a nuclear plant.  Finally, it added that the 0.30g for Koeberg was arrived at using an outdated methodology, and that this will “necessitate additional geological investigations and implementation of an advanced PSHA that will follow internationally accepted practice“, and that “may increase or decrease these values“.   So if a post-Fukushima study is done using up to date methodology, it may increase the risk value, and if it increases by just 0.01g, that would make Koeberg and unsuitable site, based on seismic risk alone.

After consultations with Gibb, this wording was omitted from the second draft report

Cape Town evacuation zones 20km and 50km

Recommended evacuation zones as per Fukushima and Chernobyl

Since the Koeberg site was chosen in the late 1970’s population patterns have changed significantly.  If for any reason it was necessary to evacuate the zones as per other nuclear disasters, the number of people needing to be evacuated would make the job simply impossible.

Radiation from Caesium makes a contaminated area uninhabitable for hundreds of years.  Where will the millions of displaced people live?  However small the risk of an earthquake damaging this nuclear plant, the consequences in term of economic damage and human suffering are too awful to contemplate.

While it will be difficult to draw up a comprehensive appeal in the 30 day period allowed, Koeberg Alert will be doing what it can.  If you can assist with this process, particularly if you have legal or scientific expertise, or if you would like assistance in formulating your own appeal, please contact us on info@koebergalert.org

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High Court blasts nuclear plans

Jubilant activists celebrate on the steps of the High Court

A case against the Department of Energy, the Minister of Energy and Eskom was brought by SAFCEI and EarthLife Africa Johannesburg recently.  Today judgement was handed down by Judge Bozalek, and it surprised everyone.  He granted every single request of the plaintiffs!  He also gave a costs order against the government. Continue reading

Nuclear vs Renewables Job Creation video

Here is a short video which describes the job creation potential in South Africa of nuclear and renewable energy.  English subtitles may be switched on or off.

Frame from a video showing a whiteboard with a drawing of South Africa facing a choice between nuclear and renewable energyIntroduction
South Africa needs electricity, and coal power stations need be replaced as they become old. We face a choice.  Either we can build nuclear power stations, or use renewable energy such as solar and wind power. So, how should we choose? Continue reading

From Russia, with Liability

The minister of Energy signed an agreement with Russia in September 2014. More recently made a ministerial determination to allow Eskom to go ahead with the procurement of nuclear plants for South Africa.  The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) had concurred with this determination.  I sat in for the final day of the three day high court hearings questioning the legality of these dealings.

Drawing of advocate Oosthuisen arguing before the high court, with advocate Unterhalter and assistant

Advocate Oosthuisen driving home a point

Continue reading

Would you like to earn R1.7m a week?

Drawing of Zizamele Mbambo

Zizamele Mbambo

On November 29 2016 the Portfolio Committee on Energy was given a presentation by the Department of Energy (DOE) on the progress of the South African nuclear build programme.  For some reason, the minister of energy, the Director General of the department and the Director General for nuclear energy chose not to attend, and instead sent the  Deputy Director General for nuclear energy, Mr Zizamele Mbambo.

The presentation included a list of sixteen consultancy contracts that have been awarded by the DOE. First prize for the most lucrative contract is a tie between Mahlako-A-Phahla Investments and Central Lake Trading 149, at about R1.7 million per week! Continue reading

Kelvin Kemm: Yet another pro-nuke advocate discredited

Drawing of Kelvin kemmIn South Africa there are few, if any, more vocal proponents of nuclear power than Kelvin Kemm, recently appointed chair of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA) board.

Kemm was a proponent of the Pebble Bed reactor project (PBMR), which turned into an expensive failure for South African tax payers, who funded the project for somewhere around R10 billion.  Most of that went to salaries and consulting fees for those in the industry such as Kemm.

A local investigative magazine, Noseweek, did a bit of digging into Kemm, and came up with a lot of information about CFACT, or the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which is a sugar coated name for a lobby group funded by oil and coal companies.

Hired to head CFACT was Marc Morano, an expert at disinformation. Continue reading

Nuclear reactors for Thyspunt have been ordered

This is according to the World Nuclear Association, which describes itself as “the only international industry organisation with a global mandate to communicate about nuclear energy”, and has members which include Rosatom, the Russian nuclear power company, as well as Areva of France, KEPCO of Korea, and many others.Ordered reactors from Russia close up Continue reading