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South Africa takes the nuclear energy low-road February 14, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Environment, News, Nuclear Power, South Africa.
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It’s almost semi-official now: South Africa will get a new conventional nuclear power plant. I told you so, didn’t I! Here are some extracts from yesterday’s Business Day:

SA is to get its second nuclear power station in the Cape, with Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin announcing yesterday that a decision had been taken to build a new baseload nuclear power station “in the southern part of the grid”.

[…]

Speculation has been that a new nuclear plant would be built next door to the existing one at Koeberg, which is licensed for another two reactors and has access to cold cooling water for the power station.

Erwin said yesterday Eskom had taken the decision to go ahead with the plant late last year, with government’s support. It would decide on a preferred bidder in the first quarter of this year. It is expected to go public on details of the new power station within a couple of days. The new plant would be upwards of 1000MW, he said.

It is not yet clear what the new nuclear plant, which would not come on line until at least 2013, will cost […]

So there you have it. The powers that be have decided and that’s the way things will be.

Eskom spokesperson Fani Zulu is quoted as saying that

An EIA (environmental impact assessment) has yet to be done and that would be a participatory process. It is therefore difficult to say when construction will start. We have, however, seen some of the decisions (regarding the plant) taken this year and foresee that the EIA will also be initiated this year.

Does that sound cart-before-horseish to you as well? An EIA has not even been done yet, but plans for the plant are clearly already far advanced and all of the language suggests that in the end the outcome of the EIA will be a mere formality, a rubber stamp.

I also love the reference here to this being a participatory process. This whole thing smacks of quite the opposite to me.

In the absence of details about government and Eskom’s plans a population that is woefully under-informed when it comes to the issues around nuclear power will have little real decision making power, even if they should be asked to participate in a broad-based consultation such as a referendum (which, of course, they won’t).

“The People’s” elected representatives (sic) together with unelected bureaucrats and business people with immense vested interests will decide that a new nuclear power station is indeed best for all of us. It’s called democracy, don’t you know.

So what’s the alternative? What’s going to stop me from whinging on and on about this? What’s the antidote?

Well, you may have read some of my thoughts regarding the concept of continuous growth that seems to underpin our entire civilisation and I think there are a number of very fundamental issues in this regard that we, as a society, would do well to grapple with. For the moment, however, there are a number of much simpler potential, if temporary, solutions.

We are forever being told that if all of Cape Town’s water heating was done using solar water heaters, the local electricity demand would be reduced dramatically. There must be a xentillion other, similarly simple, ways to make us use less electricity. So reduced consumption and improved energy efficiency are one part of the solution.

The second would be investing much more of our efforts in renewable energy generation, and no, nuclear power is not renewable (just as it isn’t clean or cheap). The government seems to have no qualms about spending billions of tax rands on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor and now on conventional atomic energy as well as new coal-fired power stations – why are renewables the perpetual poorer cousins.

Not realistic? Think again: the American Solar Energy Association has just released a comprehensive report that suggests that a combination of improved energy efficiency and renewable energy production (concentrating solar power, photovoltaics, windpower, biofuels and geothermal) could not only satisfy the electricity demand of the United States, but could meet the 60 to 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by mid-century that many climate scientists believe to be the minimum requirement to preserve a habitable planet. And all of this without any nuclear energy at all!

If this is possible in the USA with its massive energy consumption, it must surely be possible in South Africa.

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Comments»

1. Gerry Wolff - February 14, 2007

Further information about concentrating solar power (CSP) may be found at:

http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/index.htm

and

http://www.trecers.net/index.html

and

http://www.trec.net.au/

2. Ingela Richardson - April 26, 2007

Hi

Glad there is another voice fighting nuclear and Coega. Have you contacted Earthlife Africa in Cape Town? Or sent letters to the press and government departments?

3. Andreas - April 26, 2007

I’m not active in Earthlife, but have had some contact with them. I’m afraid I’m not a big letter writer, but I have sent a letter to The Herald regarding Coega and I have written an article in The Argus in the past…


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