Mantashe’s misinformation, then silence, on nuclear

Mantashe presenting the DMRE budget for 2021/22

All eyes were on Minister Gwede Mantashe today to see what he had to say about nuclear power issues as he presented the budget for his Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). In a surprising move, he did not mention the subject. 

However, last week on 12 May addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mantashe responded to questions about the Koeberg nuclear power plant. According to academics, activists and organisations, Mantashe’s answers contained disinformation that implied that Koeberg’s 20-year life extension is approved, and that the cost of the electricity it produces is a fraction of what it actually is. 

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Ministerial agreement contradicts IRP 2019

Too much power

The responsibility of regulating the safety of nuclear installations in South Africa is concentrated in the hands of one man, who appoints not only the members of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), but also the CEO of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) , and its board via an opaque process. The same man has committed in writing to both procuring a new nuclear plant by 2024, and extending the life of Koeberg by 20 years beyond its design lifetime.

Ministerial performance agreements address poor service delivery
In 2019, in an attempt to address poor service delivery, President Ramaphosa required each national minister to sign a performance agreement. This was laudable, but in some cases has had unforeseen and negative consequences.

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Eskom responds to Koeberg cracks

In response to our press release Cracks in Koeberg Safety Claims Eskom released a statement (full text given below) on 12 February 2021. This statement ignores several of the issues we raised, obfuscates others, and provides some further alarming information.

Maintenance and testing is being done …
The Eskom statement says “repairs have been implemented” which sounds initially reassuring. However, the report itself describes the repairs in progress at the time as follows:Extract from report: neither ideal nor sustainable

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Cracks in Koeberg safety claims

A recently released Eskom document revealed that 40 years of exposure to sea air at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has damaged the concrete of the containment buildings. At one stage the concrete containment dome was found to have cracked around the entire 110 meter circumference.

“The containment buildings are the outer shells of the reactor buildings, built as pressure vessels to withstand the pressure if the reactors inside them ever malfunction and therefore prevent harmful radiation being leaked into the environment,” says DR, a member of Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) and a retired analytical chemist.

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