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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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

Patrick Moore: Another discredited pro-nuke lobbyist

The nuclear industry is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, and has been suffering from sharply declining sales since even before Fukushima.  One response has been to hire high profile lobbyists to paint nuclear power as ‘perfectly safe’.  Unfortunately, sometimes journalists who are not too good at fact or background checking, such as our own Matthew le Cordeur, regurgitate the point of view put forward by these lobbyists, and write ‘articles’ such as this one (which I dealt with in detail in this post).PatrickMoore

One well known figure who has come out in support of nuclear power is Patrick Moore, who famously misrepresents himself as a ‘founder’ of Greenpeace.  Here is a short clip in which he sings the praises of a client (a company which runs a nuclear plant in the USA).  He says that “nuclear industry is actually one of the very safest industries”. Continue reading

Nuclear PR scrapes bottom of the barrel

These are desperate times for the nuclear industry.  Rising costs, the ongoing nightmare of the Fukushima clean up, the phasing out of nuclear power by some countries, fewer new orders every year, and dramatic cost and time overruns for the few projects under way makes new nuclear a very hard sell indeed.

And in South Africa, the star of the nuclear lobby, President Zuma, has become a falling star. Other senior ANC members have begun loudly denouncing his ties to corporate interests, in the form of the Guptas, including uranium mining.

Like the thrashing of a dying beast, the industry has been churning out press releases and placed articles at a frantic pace.  In South Africa, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has in the past paid people such as Andrew Kenny and Dawid Serfontein to pen articles for the local press promoting nuclear power.  Continue reading

The Case for Non-nuclear Power Options

by Keith Gottschalk

Intelligent people often hold a range of views on complex issues, especially where more than one criterion is involved, and where some criteria may not be easily quantified.

Newspaper editorials have criticized the Government’s abuse of secrecy – what democracy classifies its future electricity plans as secret? – as it proceeds with its programme to build six to nine extra atomic power reactors totalling 9600 MW of electricity. The reason for secrecy is defensive: these plans cannot stand up to scrutiny for economic rationality.
Continue reading

Eskom and GIBB living in la-la land

Eskom and the Department of Energy have recently cranked up efforts to move forward with the plans for more nuclear energy for South Africa.  In the Environmental Impact Assessment being prepared by GIBB consultants, the background to this includes a graph of the predicted peak electricity demand. Here is the graph they use, on page 2 of the latest combined main report, released in September 2015: Continue reading

Earthquakes and Nuclear

As South Africa contemplates building nuclear power stations along the coast, consultants from GIBB have been given the job of assessing the potential impacts of doing this.  This includes looking at the risks.

Photograph of crack in road in Ceres caused by earthquake

Damage in Ceres from 1969 quake

One obvious risk is that of an earthquake damaging the nuclear reactor, as happened in 2011 in Fukushima.  To assess this risk, GIBB produced a specialist report in 2011 (i.e. done before Fukushima) titled “Appendix E4: Seismic Risk Assessment”. Continue reading