Hearings to be held on Eskom's nuclear power plant plans for Eastern Cape

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Eskom's Koeberg nuclear power station outside Cape Town.
Eskom's Koeberg nuclear power station outside Cape Town.
Jay Caboz
  • The National Nuclear Regulator will in August hold public hearings on Eskom's application for a nuclear-site licence in Thyspunt.
  • The application is to ensure the availability of a suitable nuclear site, in future, if it is required, said Eskom.
  • Currently, South Africa has only one nuclear power plant - Koeberg, in Cape Town.

The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) will in August hold public hearings on Eskom's application for a nuclear-site licence in Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.

According to a notice issued by the NNR, the Nuclear Installation Site Licence application from Eskom is limited to evaluating the suitability of the Thyspunt site for a new nuclear installation.

In an emailed response, Eskom said it had previously applied to the NNR for two nuclear site licences; these applications are being processed and will include public hearings. 

"The drive to obtain a nuclear site licence is to ensure the availability of suitable nuclear sites in the future, should they be required," Eskom said.

Business Insider previously reported the licence application fee Eskom had to pay is R16.5 million.

Public hearings on the Thyspunt site application are to be held on 25 August in St Francis Bay and on 26 August in Jeffreys Bay.

The site licence application is a precursor to a nuclear-installation licence which relates to constructing and operating a nuclear power station. According to a public information document on the proposed Thyspunt site, signed off by Eskom officials in 2019, the site licence application is in accordance with the nuclear-energy policy of 2008. The policy requires an owner and operator of nuclear plants to ensure that sites build future nuclear plants are "available, secured, protected and authorised", the document read.

The Thyspunt site is located on the south coast 4km east of Oyster Bay, 12km west of St Francis Bay and 17.3km south of Humansdorp, in the Eastern Cape. Large urban areas, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage, are located partly within an 80km radius of the site.

Earlier this year, a City Press investigation found that many farms and properties that were bought by Eskom for the Thyspunt site at excessively inflated prices. 

According to the document, Eskom has not chosen a specific design for a reactor, but has opted for pressurised water reactor technology to be used, as it has experience with this type of reactor at the Koeberg power station. Koeberg is currently the only nuclear power station in the country.

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