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Koeberg Alert fights plan for reactor

Published Oct 14, 1999

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Environmental groups are concerned at a proposed plan by Eskom to build a second nuclear reactor at Koeberg in the Western Cape.

Koeberg Alert, an umbrella body representing a number of environmental groups, requested that Bills currently before Parliament which will allow for this be scrapped.

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Koeberg Alert spokesperson Liz McDaid said government should instead set in motion a process where the public was consulted on whether South Africa should have a nuclear industry.

Koeberg Alert was reacting to reports earlier this month that Eskom would build an experimental R600 million pebble bed modular reactor near the existing one at Koeberg.

An environmental impact assessment study on the proposed project would be completed by the end of next year and construction on the reactor would begin in 2001.

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Members of the organisation protested at Parliament in Cape Town on Monday and Wednesday morning, where a memorandum calling for the scrapping of the Bill was handed to Minerals and Energy Affairs Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

"The whole idea of the demonstrations was to target members of Parliament to raise concerns over the proposed new nuclear reactor.

"Bills before Parliament which will allow this to go ahead must be withdrawn," McDaid said.

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The organisation expressed further concern about Eskom's plan to build a pebble bed modular reactor because it was not commercially applied anywhere else in the world.

This matter is currently being investigated by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A study on the economic feasibility and safety aspects of the PBMR was expected early next year.

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"This report is necessary in order for government to make an informed decision regarding future state investment in the nuclear industry, particularly the investment of state funds in unproven technology."

McDaid said South Africa's apartheid government committed billions of rands of revenue to develop and maintain a nuclear industry owing to its commitment to military use of nuclear technology.

While the 1998 White Paper on Energy Policy did not exclude nuclear energy as a possible energy supply option for the future, it does state that it should be done in the context of an integrated energy planning process and relevant legislation.

Alternative energy sources such as solar and wind energy should also be explored.

"We believe that, by approving nuclear legislation in 1999

which allows the continuation of the nuclear industry, the government will pre-empt their own investigations on the matter," she said.

The Koeberg Alert campaign is supported by organisations including Earthlife Africa, the Wildlife and Environment Society, the Green Party of South Africa, the Kouga anti-nuclear group, the Oude Molen Farm Village and the Environmental Monitoring Group. - Sapa

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