Nuclear energy briefing revealed nothing new - DA, experts

2015-07-14 21:25

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Durban – Several environmental organisations and experts have raised questions around the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation's "status update"on the Nuclear New Build project, saying it contained nothing new.

The DA also criticised the energy department and the Energy Corporation for the same reason.

News24 reported earlier that South Africa intended forging ahead with the programme which would see capital investment in as many as nine nuclear power stations.

At a press conference at Zimbali Lodge in Ballito on Tuesday, Deputy Director General of Nuclear Energy Zizamele Mbambo reportedly said that as part of the electricity plan of government with a mixed energy agenda, 23%, or 9 600MW, of the country’s power would come from nuclear reactors by 2030.

This plan, as it is currently envisaged, will see the construction of as many as nine nuclear power plants by that year, with the first estimated to come online and start contributing to the grid in 2023.

Sites for these plants had been provisionally identified by the state, and could be situated in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape, as well as in KwaZulu-Natal.

David Hallowes, an associate at Pietermaritzburg’s environmental justice group groundwork, also attended the briefing.

He said: “In terms of a power station in KZN, we are not aware of a location. We presume that it would be along the coast.”

Hallowes said running the plant would have environmental implications, like using sea water for cooling, which would have an impact on fisheries.

“During apartheid, South Africa was doing fuel fabrication and they were mining uranium in the West Rand and today the West Rand is contaminated, and I have no reason to believe that that will be dealt with in the near future.

“With that said, how are we supposed to believe they will be able to run a clean nuclear industry if they haven’t been able to deal with the legacy,” said Hallowes.

'Beauty parades have been completed'

Energy expert Chris Yelland said South Africa should keep its options open.

He also agreed that nothing new was revealed on Tuesday.

“We all know from previous announcements that the procurement process is expected to start and this was confirmed at the briefing.

“We know also that the beauty parades have been completed to get an understanding of the different offerings of the different vendor countries and we do know that the government of SA has signed a number of inter-governmental co-operation agreements with the vendor countries,” he said.

Yelland said he believed that South Africa was still not certain on the price and financing models for the project.

“I don’t think they know whether they will procure this in one major contract or proceed more cautiously. Of course the vendor countries would love to supply the complete fleet, but this will lock SA into a single vendor country probably for 100 years.

“South Africa is uncertain at the moment and that’s why they did not give that information today. This is a preliminary step to the hard decision we have to make as a country [in terms of] whether we can afford it, and how are we going to afford it,” said Yelland.

'Nuclear industry is in decline'

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg said in a statement that according to its Energy Policy Officer Dominique Doyle, "the idea of a nuclear industry makes no sense".

"Worldwide, the nuclear industry is in decline, so why would South Africa want to generate development off of a heavily subsidised and failing market?

"The contribution of nuclear in the world's primary energy dropped from 8% in 2000 to only about 4.6% in 2012. There are better ways to invest, like in the growing market for cheaper renewable energy," it said.

DA energy spokesperson Gordon Mackay said: “While this briefing was a perfect opportunity for government to dispel widely held public opinion that South Africa’s largest-ever procurement deal is tainted with secrecy and unfolding behind closed doors, today saw nothing more than restatements of the same old rhetoric, with nothing new to add.” 

Mackay said the procurement process for the nuclear project remained “highly secretive, procedurally backward, and not beyond reproach".

“The public is still in the dark as to how much the deal will cost, and who will be paying for it. The DoE today offered no substantive answers to these pertinent questions.”

Mackay said the party’s attempts at obtaining information regarding the project had been blocked several times.

Read more on:    earthlife africa  |  da  |  durban  |  sa nuclear deal  |  nuclear energy

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