Koeberg Power Station File picture: Sam Clark/Independent Media
Kelvin Kemm’s article of March 15 repeats his assertions made in his September 8 opinion piece, which were subsequently refuted in letters to the editor. His personal sneers at environmentalists as a “rock around the rainforest crowd”, “figure of fiction” alert us to the weakness of his facts and arguments.

He repeats his refuted allegation that “Koeberg was built on time and on budget”. He fails to refute the facts that South Africa was promised Koeberg in 1975 for R600 million, when the Eskom chairperson’s final report conceded it cost R3 billion - 500 percent over budget.

He asserts that “Nuclear power projects are not inherently prone to cost overruns and time delays”. On the contrary, the Global Nuclear Power Database records two-thirds of such power stations falling behind construction schedule. Even the pro-atomic International Atomic Energy Agency lists some nuclear power stations as under construction for twenty years, some still under construction after thirty years.The Olkiluoto and Flamanville overcost and overbudget constructions are a sober warning to us taxpayers.

He claims the nuclear power build will not cost more than R650 billion. Until now, the nuclear power station lobby never quotes complete costs, but only what they call “overnight costs”.

Cost components

This excludes many cost components, of which the most expensive is interest and other finance charges. Kemm admits the nuclear power station build “would span a decade”, so it will run up higher compound interest charges than any other electricity option.

The Department of Energy dropped a bombshell during last year’s public consultative hearings. It wants “not merely nuclear power stations but a nuclear programme!” This also demands a uranium enrichment factory, and a fuel element fabrication factory. Are these included in his R650bn claim?

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After all but two of the public submissions to the consultative hearings opposed any further nuclear power stations, the government brazenly announced it wanted to double new nuclear power stations from 9.4GW to 20GW.

If Kemm argues that 9.4GW will cost R650 billion, by his own figures the latest escalation in nuclear plans amounts to more than one trillion rand.

A blend of imported gas from Mozambique and elsewhere, and imported hydropower, is the most economic mix to accommodate any fluctuations from solar and other renewable power sources.