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. Continue reading →
In 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.
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).
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 →
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 →
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 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 →
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.
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 →
Will South Africa be able to raise the money to purchase a nuclear power reactor? Probably not. The Treasury recently admitted that it has done no costing or affordability study for nuclear power, and the 2015 budget made it clear that no money has been allocated for the next three years.
And every year, prospects get bleaker for the nuclear industry…
In addition, the falling value of the Rand, and the constantly increasing dollar cost of nuclear plants make it less affordable for South Africa with each year that passes. But just because the train will never reach its destination, that doesn’t mean you can’t get aboard and enjoy the gravy! Continue reading →
I am in Upsala, Sweden, as a guest of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC). It has nearly 200 000 paying members, a full-time staff of about 90, and produces a magazine every two months for its members. It has been an interesting first day in Stockholm, with a lot to take in.
Sweden generates about half of its electricity from nuclear power, and, like all countries with nuclear power, the country is wrestling with the issue of what to do with the spent nuclear fuel, or in technical terms, the high level waste. This remains dangerously radioactive for thousands of years, and disposing of it safely is a huge engineering challenge. Continue reading →
During our recent trip to Fukushima, we carried two geiger counters with us, one inside the bus, and one taped to the outside of the window, facing inwards.
These geiger counters measure gamma radiation, and give a readout in micro Sieverts per hour, or μSv/h. Most people in the world are not familiar with these units, but, of course, here in Japan there is a high level of familiarity and interest in radiation levels. For example, on the right is a map stuck on the lockers in an office I went to. Continue reading →