Koeberg nuclear power station. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Koeberg nuclear power station. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Environmental groups campaign against government’s nuclear power plan

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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Cape Town - As the February 5 deadline for public comment, objections or input on the government’s decision to start the procurement process for new nuclear energy generation draws near, environmental groups are shoring up support to protest, while suggesting cost-effective alternatives.

In November, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe gazetted a consultation paper in which Nersa outlined government plans to add 2 500MW of nuclear power to South Africa’s electricity mix by 2030.

Spokesperson for campaign group Dear South Africa (Dear SA) Rob Hutchinson said his organisation has collected more than 5 000 comments on the matter.

Hutchinson said: “A quick analysis of the 5 500 submissions already received, 4 101 lean towards disapproval of new nuclear procurement.”

“The top concern among those who disagree is around procurement of the nuclear technology, management or maintenance thereof, with many references to the problems facing Kusile and Medupi power stations,” said Hutchinson.

“Of the 770 participants who support the government’s proposal, the majority have concerns around the tender process and corruption. Kusile and Medupi are once again referenced.”

“Of the 555 participants who sit on the fence, the main concerns are also around the tender process,” said Hutchinson.

Francesca de Gasparis, executive director of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei), said: “We will be running two online workshops for people who are concerned and want to make submissions about the plans.

“Very little information has been shared about the costs, why and where this energy would be housed. All information we as citizens would need to make an informed response,” said De Gasparis.

Greenpeace Africa spokesperson Happy Khambule said: “Greenpeace Africa is completely opposed to nuclear-generated power.The risks associated with nuclear are far-reaching and costly to the environment and human lives.”

Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Michael Wolf said: “Although nuclear does not cause global warming on the level fossil fuels do, there are major environmental, safety and cost concerns. As a country, we need to invest in large-scale renewable energy and not in new nuclear power. Why is this still being considered?”

Energy commentator Ted Blom said: “I prefer small-scale embedded plants that are safe and distributed countrywide and can be built in under two years.”

“Local small plants do not need a grid and should be ordered and operated by the local municipal government, not Eskom, which has a terrible track record and not by the central government, which has a track record of gross corruption.”

Meanwhile, the Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) has reacted to the news from Eskom that on Sunday afternoon an increasing leak rate was observed on one of three steam generators in Koeberg Unit 1.

Eskom said a decision had been made to take the unit offline for repairs, routine maintenance and refuelling.

KAA spokesperson Peter Becker said: “Koeberg is an old, leaky dinosaur and as it gets older, it will only give more problems.”

“Today, the site would be considered far too close to densely populated areas to be approved for a nuclear plant. Eskom wants to extend the life of Koeberg by another 20 years, which is insane from a safety viewpoint,” said Becker.

Eskom said the maintenance was originally scheduled to start in February and that the unit was now expected to return to service in May.

Cape Argus

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