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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Government neglects nuclear waste

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.

Continue reading

Nuclear-1 Submission to Dept of Environmental Affairs

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

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

Nuclear 101

This riveting talk by Peter Becker of the Koeberg Alert Alliance explores the issues of Nuclear based power generation and debunks the myths around renewable energy use.
If you have ever wanted to understand the bigger picture of energy generation and separate the facts from the spin of the pro nuclear industry then Nuclear 101 is the place to start.

Part 1 – covers issues of the fuel for Nuclear Power, the radioactive waste generated by nuclear power stations and related human and environmental risks.

Part 2 – covers problems at Cape Town’s Koeberg Nuclear plant e.g. leakages and security as well as Koeberg’s emergency response plan.

Part 3 – looks at global energy trends, renewable energy, energy and job creation, base load energy provision, debunks various renewable energy myths and looks at ways we can address global warming.