City’s no to nuke plant

Koeberg power station.

The City of Cape Town has vowed to fight plans to build another nuclear power station right next to the existing Koeberg plant.

This comes after the Department of Environmental Affairs last month granted Eskom environmental authorisation to build a second nuclear plant in Duynefontein.

But in a brief statement sent to Tabletalk this week, Xolani Koyana, mayor Patricia de Lille’s spokesman, said: “The City of Cape Town is opposed to another nuclear plant. The City is appealing this decision to establish a second nuclear plant in the boundaries of the city.”

If a second nuclear plant is built, it will stand next to the existing one, taking up some 600ha.

Eskom lodged an application for the plant with Environmental Affairs in 2007, and an environmental impact assessment was done by an independent consulting firm, which identified five sites: Brazil and Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape, Duynefontein and Bantamsklip in the Western Cape and Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.

A statement from Environmental Affairs said Duynefontein was selected because it was deemed to have the least environmental impact.

Koeberg power station was designed to have a 40-year lifespan and be shut down in 2025, with all nuclear waste being removed from the site.

In a presentation last year, Kabelo Moroka, a senior Eskom engineer, said the Eskom board had agreed in 2010 to extend Koeberg’s lifespan to 60 years.

Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA), an anti-nuclear activist organisation, has criticised the plan to build another nuclear plant at Duynefontein and, according to its website, it is mounting an appeal against the decision by Environmental Affairs to grant environmental approval.

It claims the country’s electricity needs have been exaggerated to motivate the need for nuclear power and questions the reliability of studies used to select the Duynefontein site, which it claims is not as seismically stable as might have been made out.

The KAA also questions how neighbourhoods that have sprung up around Koeberg since it was built will be evacuated in the event of a nuclear accident, and notes that the building of nuclear power plants carries with it the unresolved question of how to dispose of high-level radioactive waste.

Eskom says its application was for a site to house a 4 000-megawatt nuclear generation installation.

“We are currently evaluating the EA (environmental authorisation) and the course we shall take. This will dictate the way forward and the respective timelines,” said Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe.

Smokie la Grange, the chairwoman of the Melkbosstrand Ratepayers’ Association, said a nuclear plant would have less of an impact next to Koeberg than it would at Thyspunt.

“The residents of Melkbosstrand and Duynefontein have been nuclear-educated for over 30 years, and the infrastructure is already in place,” said Ms La Grange.

Skilled artisans and engineers already lived in the area and all necessary precautions were taken at the Koeberg site.

Chris Yelland, an energy expert and managing director at EE Publishers, said the country needed another nuclear power plant, but the question was whether it would be enough to meet the country’s energy needs.

He said the process still had a long way to go before any construction even started and an intergovernmental nuclear co-operation agreement needed to be on the table.

“There has to be an integrated energy plan and an integrated resource plan. Treasury would have to look at the cost-benefit analysis. This will look at to the affordability, how this will be financed and what business model will be set up.”

Mr Yelland said he saw no reason why another plant should pose a safety threat, but he was curious about whether the country could afford nuclear energy right now.

In his medium-term budget speech last week Finance Malusi Gigaba painted a bleak picture of the South African economy and noted that the country could not presently afford a multi-billion rand nuclear-build programme that had been dogged by allegations of corruption and state capture.

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