The final environmental impact reports for a nuclear power station with a capacity of 4 000 megawatts would be completed and submitted to the Department of Environmental Affairs late this year for environmental authorisation, Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters told Parliament last week.

South Africa is experiencing increasing electricity demand, with growth in excess of 3 percent a year. Based on economic growth projections, the country will require more than 40 000 megawatts of new electricity generating capacity over the next 20 years.

Peters also told Parliament that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the nuclear power station was being undertaken by an independent environmental expert.

The three sites that form part of the study are Bantamsklip near Pearly Beach, east of Hermanus on the Western Cape south coast; Duynefontein, next to the existing Koeberg power station near Cape Town; and Thyspunt on the coast near St Francis Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Peters said 28 specialist studies had already been completed in the EIA process, including studies related to fauna and flora, wetlands, morphology, transport, heritage and socio-economic activity, including the impact on the chokka fishing, tourism and agriculture industries.

A revised EIA was made available for public comment last year.

“The environmental assessment practitioner will take the comments received on the revised draft environmental impact report into account in finalising the report. A few revised specialists’ report will be made available to the public in mid-2012,” the minister said.

Peters said to date, studies showed there were no flaws in the three sites, although alarms had been raised for the Thyspunt site.

“With respect to Thyspunt, issues have been raised relating to transport, the chokka industry and debris flow.”

However, environmental activism group Greenpeace Africa said on Friday that the process of conducting additional studies for the nuclear plant was flawed.

“The EIA was conducted without a design of the power station and it is thus not possible to adequately measure the true impacts in terms of land, water use, marine impact and damage to heritage sites.”

The government plans to spend up to R1 trillion on a new nuclear power station fleet.

“The secrecy around the type of station being selected is of concern and should start raising alarm bells among all South Africans. We do not want another arms deal fiasco,” Greenpeace Africa energy and climate change campaigner Ferrial Adam said.

The additional studies touch on the key areas of concern highlighted by civil society and include the impacts on the marine, dune, heritage and cultural aspects on the preferred sites.

“Now is the time for government to stop the nuclear build, before it is too late. It will not deliver what we need and will cost the country trillions of rands,” Adam concluded. - Dineo Faku