Dr Kelvin Kemm

Durban - Opposition to nuclear energy was based on misinformation pushed by pro-green organisations hell-bent on eliminating nuclear energy around the world.

That was the view of Dr Kelvin Kemm, chief executive of Nuclear Africa, who was on a mini-roadshow to encourage people, especially business leaders, to get involved in the nuclear project planned for the country.

Greenpeace SA, however, shot back yesterday, saying it did not dream up information about the dangers of nuclear energy and what it said was based on past experiences and nuclear energy reports.

Addressing a small crowd at the Durban Chamber of Commerce offices in Durban yesterday, Kemm said he had heard some horror stories about nuclear energy.

“Many people are misinformed and, when you ask where they get such information, they will tell you that it came from some Greenpeace person who had come to their house,” he said.

Kemm said he had even heard stories of people rejecting nuclear energy because they feared that the electricity produced would be of lower quality and that there would be radiation seeping through the electricity wall socket in their homes, endangering the lives of their children.

He said the reality was that nuclear energy was the way forward.

“They say it’s expensive, but Koeberg (the nuclear plant in Cape Town) produces the cheapest electricity for Eskom – it’s cheaper than coal.

“About 21 African countries are considering going the nuclear way and about 10 have started,” Kemm said.

Speaking on South Africa’s nuclear build programme, he said there were a lot of distortions, mainly regarding the price tag.

“The R1 trillion figures are incorrect. The nuclear scientist have calculated the figure of the proposed three power plants, with six to nine reactors producing around 9 000 megawatts of power, to be around R650 billion.

He said once the project, which he expected to start next year, was complete, there would be a significant economic impact.

Kemm urged local businesspeople to take the lead, saying South Africans were already leaders in nuclear energy and should not wait to be led by foreigners.

“We will have one or two international partners, but South Africans should lead the project.”

He defended the alleged secrecy around the project. “This is not intentional secrecy. The people leading this are scientist and they do not know how to talk to people.”

Kemm said secrecy around financial spend on the project was justified. “This is a bidding process. If you were building a house, you would not tell a builder how much another builder was quoting you.”

Melita Steele, the senior climate and energy campaign manager of Greenpeace SA, said it was distressing that an organisation like Greenpeace was being blamed for distortions.

“We base our information on the past record of nuclear energy. We do not suck those figures out of thin air.”

She said nuclear projects were not a solution to the country’s power shortages, as they took a long time to complete and often cost more than what was budgeted for.

“This current nuclear deal is done in secrecy. If there is nothing wrong with the deal, the government should produce the information and reports that it is based on,” Steele said.