After three years of silence, the Nuclear-1 Environmental Impact Assessment process was revived by an invitation for “supplemental submissions”, as described in Nuclear-1 EIA revived with ‘Supplemental Submissions’. The invitation specified a condition that supplemental submissions may only be made by those who had submitted a formal appeal in 2017. We wrote to the department and objected to this condition as follows:
On 19 June 2020 new Draft Regulations on the Long Term Operation of Nuclear Installations were published by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for comment, due by 19 August 2020. This is the fourth major nuclear power related activity in government circles since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown (the others were the RFI, the EIA Supplemental submission invitation, and the discussion paper on decommissioning policy).
The exact aim of these new regulations is not clear, giving rise to concerns that they may be aimed at attempting to weaken or bypass the regulations relating to Environmental Impact Assessments.
If they were to be adopted, they would likely be applied to attempting to extend the life of the Koeberg Nuclear Plant, which is due to be shut down in 2024. Continue reading
On 20 July 2020, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) released a Discussion Paper on National Decommissioning Policy for Nuclear Facilities.
This was a well balanced document which went into some detail, and proposed various decommissioning strategies. It posed 10 questions which covered liability and security for decommissioning costs, strategies, and research needed.
The actual costs of decommissioning the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, including final disposal of the spent fuel (so far over 1.5 million kilograms), are unknown. If South Africa had followed the Swedish model with a levy on nuclear power Eskom should have accumulated a fund of about R170bn by now. Instead, Eskom is R450bn in debt. Continue reading
The Nuclear-1 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a large new nuclear plant at the Koeberg site was given the go ahead in 2017, resulting in many appeals against this decision. After three years of silence, the Department sent out a notice to appellants in July 2020, inviting a supplemental submission.
The EIA was based heavily on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010, which included projections of strong economic growth and vastly increased electricity demand by 2020, and hence the need for nuclear power stations. Recently the IRP 2019 was released, which took into account the actual electricity demand, and so delayed any possible need for new nuclear power to beyond 2030.
Despite the length of time that has passed with the EIA process in limbo, the Department have told us that interested parties may not make submissions now, unless they also submitted a formal appeal in 2017. The deadline for submissions is 3 September 2020, although this may be extended. Continue reading
It has long been suspected that the only motivation behind pushing for nuclear power in South Africa has been corruption via State Capture, coming from then President Jacob Zuma. Details of this are emerging at the Zondo commission into State Capture where it has been testified that a Minister of Finance was fired specifically because he would not ignore the realities of the cost of nuclear power, and so refused tos sign off on the nuclear deal.
Despite this, and despite Zuma being removed from office, there are disturbing signs that there are still those in positions of power who are pushing for taxpayers’ money to be given to the nuclear industry.
Back in 2007, Eskom began an Environmentam fcl Impact Assessment (EIA) for building a lar.ge new nuclear power plant on the Koeberg site, about 28km north of Cape Town. Ten years later, after many drafts and submissions, the Department of Environmental Affairs issued an Environmental Authorisation for the project to go ahead. Many organisations appealed this decision, and Eskom was required to respond in detail to the content of each of those appeals, which they have now done (in August 2018).
Many of these responses were combined into one document, which has been widely distributed. However, KAA received the following 115 page specific response. There has not been time to go through it in detail yet, but it is published below to give you all the opportunity to have a look through it and pass it on to others.
Paging through it, a few bits stood out for me.
A tourism plus…
In a show of optimism regarding possible impacts of tourism, Eskom writes “Some nuclear power stations have a positive effect on tourism, as tourists visit specifically to see the stations.”
After a long Environmental Impact Assessment which began in 2007, an Environmental Authorisation was issued for the Koeberg site, 26km north of Cape Town. This gave Eskom permission to build a new nuclear plant of unspecified design, plus a nuclear waste reprocessing and/or disposal site.
At first only 30 days were allowed for appeals against this decision, and this was extended on the day of the deadline to about 90 days, until 5th March 2017. There are so many reasons this Authorisation was wrong, and we tried to describe some of them in the 43 page submission we wrote. Continue reading
On 11 October 2017 the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) issued an authorisation to Eskom for a second nuclear power plant at Koeberg, 28km north of Cape Town City centre. It came with a surprise. The Department also authorised the “construction of facilities or infrastructure, including associated structures or infrastructure for … disposal of nuclear fuels, radioactive products and waste.”
Waste disposal not part of project…
You would have been surprised if you had studied the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) because it gave the impression this was not about waste disposal. Continue reading
The Koeberg nuclear plant near Cape Town requires about thirty tons of uranium fuel per year. Unlike a fuel such as coal, this uranium is not burnt up. It undergoes a nuclear reaction, which transforms it into other elements, some of which are highly radioactive. Burning or any other chemical process does not reduce the radioactivity.
That means that over thirty tons of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) are removed from the reactors each year. So far over a million kilograms of this SNF (over 2000 fuel elements) have accumulated since Koeberg began operating in 1984.
Nuclear power is currently predominately based on uranium fuel. This is an issue for two reasons. Uranium reserves are limited, and should nuclear power become widely used, economically extractable reserves would run out within decades. Secondly, the current 400 odd reactors in the world are producing high level waste at a rate far exceeding the rate at which long term solutions for handling this waste are being planned. The industry has acknowledged these problems, and the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) sometimes refers to uranium based nuclear power as a ‘bridging technology’.
One alternative put forward is thorium. There are about four times more known thorium than uranium reserves and a thorium reaction works differently, so the fuel lasts longer. Continue reading