Koeberg power station near Cape Town. (Photo: Bruce Sutherland)
Koeberg power station near Cape Town. (Photo: Bruce Sutherland)
Eskom has asked for a massive 19.9% electricity hike, which business said is to compensate for the financial woes at the power utility. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Eskom has asked for a massive 19.9% electricity hike, which business said is to compensate for the financial woes at the power utility. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
JOHANNESBURG - Existing infrastructure and environmental considerations appear to have tipped the scales in favour of the Duynefontein site in the Western Cape for the construction and operation of South Africa’s next nuclear power station. 

Eskom on Friday announced that the Department of Environmental Affairs had approved the site for the construction and operation the pressurised water reactor type nuclear power station, next to the existing Koeberg power station in the Western Cape. 

The approval of Duynefontein came as a surprise because the Thyspunt site near Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape was the likely site of the new nuclear plant. 

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, construction at the site can only begin after the National Nuclear Regulator has granted a nuclear site licence. 

In a letter, dated October 11, the Department’s Chief Director for Integrated Environmental Authorisation, Sabelo Malaza said, in reaching the decision, it had considered, among others, the need for increased baseload electricity generation capacity in particular in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape in order to underpin the country’s economic prosperity and development objectives. 

The consideration of Thyspunt for the nuclear power plant has come up against still opposition from environmental groupings. The Thyspunt Alliance - a grouping of organisations opposed to the construction of the plant in the site - has consistently argued the selection of Thyspunt was flawed. The grouping has in the past argued that the site would have significant environmental impacts. The Alliance’s members include St Francis Bay Residents Association, Cape St Francis Civic Association, Supertubes Foundation,  Port St Francis Harbour Association, Gamtkwa Khoisan Council, St Francis Kromme Trust and Sea Vista Forum.


Existing infrastructure and environmental considerations appear to have tipped the scales in favour of the Duynefontein site in the Western Cape for the construction and operation of South Africa’s next nuclear power station. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

In its “Reasons for Decision”, the Department said: “The Department believes that the overall environmental impacts associated with the Duynefontein site are acceptable and materially lower than those at the “greenfields” Thyspunt site. The Duynefontein site being adjacent to the existing Koeberg Nuclear Power Station allows for a suite of logistical and operational synergies.”
 
Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Nicholls said the Department’s decision was an important milestone in the development of South Africa’s nuclear programme.  “While we had worked on Thyspunt being the preferred site according to the (Final Environmental Impact Report) compiled by an independent environmental practitioner GIBB, we have always considered both sites equally capable of hosting a nuclear power plant. To this end, we had progressed the Nuclear Installation Site Licence (NISL) to the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) for both sites,” said Nicholls. 
 
He said Eskom initially had five alternative siting areas at the scoping phase, which were Brazil and Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape on the west coast between Kleinzee and Hondeklip Bay, Bantamsklip in the Western Cape on the coast next to Pearly Beach east of Hermanus, Duynefontein and Thyspunt. “Following the scoping phase, Brazil and Schulpfontein were excluded from further detailed specialist environmental studies for the (nuclear plant). It is important to note that the other four sites are still usable in the future as no fatal flaws have been identified,” said Nicholls.
 
Nicholls said throughout the environmental impact assessment process, more than 35 studies were undertaken and a comprehensive public participation process was undertaken. “The granted authorisation is confirmation of the adequacy of the extensive work undertaken,” he said.

- BUSINESS REPORT