Civil organisations renewed their long-running battle with Eskom after the state-owned parastatal filed response to the Nuclear-1 Environmental Authorisation (EA) appeal, which could pave way for a nuclear build in Koeberg. Photo: Bloomberg
Civil organisations renewed their long-running battle with Eskom after the state-owned parastatal filed response to the Nuclear-1 Environmental Authorisation (EA) appeal, which could pave way for a nuclear build in Koeberg. Photo: Bloomberg

Activists in renewed battle with Eskom over new nuclear plant

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Apr 8, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - CIVIL organisations renewed their long-running battle with Eskom after the state-owned parastatal filed response to the Nuclear-1 Environmental Authorisation (EA) appeal, which could pave way for a nuclear build in Koeberg.

Eskom released its response to the Nuclear-1 EA appeal on April 1, the eve of the Easter weekend.

Eskom last week claimed that the factors influencing a pending decision about the environmental authorisation for a new nuclear plant should “not extend to completely new circumstances and facts that arose subsequent to the original decision”. The power utility said the supplementary appeals raised objections relating to the IRP 2019, “which Eskom has not yet had an opportunity to comment on”.

It also said the release of the IRP 2019 indicated that the Cabinet clearly believed that a nuclear programme could be implemented in a flexible and cost-effective manner.

“The country’s policy-makers have taken a decision to go ahead with nuclear, as part of South Africa’s energy mix,” it said. “It is not for Eskom or the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to question the policy-makers’ decision.” However, the Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) spokesperson Peter Becker Eskom’s response contained a mixture of untruths.

Becker said Eskom was pushing for a new nuclear build, overriding the country’s energy plan. “Eskom’s lawyers are asking that we step into a time machine, go back four years, assume nothing will change in the intervening time and make a decision based only on information available in 2017,” Becker said.

“The report was submitted four years ago and some of the studies last updated 10 years ago. It is not unreasonable to think some things might have changed.” In 2017, Eskom obtained environmental approval to construct the Nuclear-1 Power Station and associated infrastructure at the Duynefontein site, next to the existing Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape.

However, many organisations and individuals, including the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, Greenpeace Africa and Dear South Africa, appealed the decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs before the deadline in March 2018.

The department, however, issued an invitation for supplementary submissions after the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) was replaced by the IRP 2019. The IRP 2019 recognises additional nuclear capacity of 2 500MW contributing to the South African energy mix. Organisations then filed their submissions to Eskom, which released its 19-page response last week.

Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Matshantsha said yesterday that he could not respond to queries as he was not yet familiar with the KAA’s argument to the power utility’s response.

Meanwhile, a new study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development suggests that Eskom holds the key to fundamentally transforming the country’s electricity. Lead author of the study, Chido Muzondo said Eskom was seen as a barrier to renewable energy deployment

“What this research shows is that with the right business model – and sufficient political support – it is entirely possible for a State-owned utility to pivot out of fossil fuels and into more cost-effective and reliable renewable energy,” Muzondo said.

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