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.
Before approval for a nuclear plant can be granted, by law an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be done and submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
The EIA for the so called ‘Nuclear-1’ project has been in progress for over six years, and the fourth and final draft of the resulting report was eventually submitted to the DEA in early 2016.
This report is of a low scientific standard, and should be rejected by the DEA.
We have made submissions on each draft to the EIA consultants, GIBB, which have been largely ignored, and have not resulted in the changes to the EIA report we hoped for.
We have therefore written to the DEA giving reasons why we believe they should reject this report.
To see our submission, including a short summary, click here: KAA Submission to DEA
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
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.
Below is the formal submission made to the GIBB Consultants who are running the Environmental Impact Assessment on behalf of Eskom.
Its a long read, so those with limited time can use the contents to find areas of specific interest.
While its hard to choose, there are three items of particular concern.
The first is the practically non-existent assessment of the risk of earthquake damage (see point 1), and the potential impact this could have. 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
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