The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

South Africa’s nuclear company Eskom runs out of money for assessing environmental impact of nuclear energy

nuclear-costs1flag-S.AfricaEskom runs out of money for assessing environmental impact of nuclear energy  SOUTH AFRICA  23 May 2015 JOHANNESBURG – Government says nuclear power in South Africa is going ahead. Earlier this week Energy Minister Tina Joematt-Peterson said that procurement deals would be signed with prospective partners by the end of 2015.

In the next ten years, government plans to introduce 9600MWs of nuclear energy.

But signing procurement deals is one half of the process. The other half of the process has stalled.

The second version of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the site proposed for Nuclear 1, at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape is not complete.

During a question and answer session in Parliament in March Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown in a written reply said that Eskom had run out of money to complete the report.

“It was put on hold during 2013/14 due to funding constraints in Eskom.  In 2014, additional funds were approved and the finalisation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (revision 2) was initiated,” noted the reply.

Eskom said this version of the report is due to be released to the public in May 2015 for comment but the Minister of Public Works says this has been put on hold due to the limited funding.

In the Nuclear Energy Policy of 2008,  Eskom was designated as owner operator for nuclear plants in South Africa. The Department of Energy says this means that Eskom is responsible for applying and obtaining various permits including EIA and nuclear licenses.

Eskom has already spent R35 million on the report, which was funded by the income generated from tariffs.

“Eskom, in terms of the electricity regulations, is allowed to budget for and spend money on activities that are deemed prudent for the development of generation project,” noted the power utility in a statement.

However, in 2014 Eskom had to reprioritise its expenditure, “The funding of the EIA was cut in favour of other projects and activities deemed more essential in nature

Costs for the EIA’s specialist studies are now being managed on an individual study and activity level. Still outstanding is the biodiversity offset study, public participation meetings and some still need to go through the independent phase review.

Eskom says this final stage is vital, “This phase of independent review is necessary to ensure that all issues raised have been addressed in an independent and transparent manner.”

The Department Energy says even though it’s not directly involved in the EIA process it is watching Eskom’s progress on the issue……

  • Others watching the process are the Thyspunt Alliance, a group opposing the development in the Eastern Cape.

    Trudi Malan said they are working with their own experts to verify the findings of Eskom’s report, “The problem with the Eskom EIA is that their experts only spend three of four days on the site, when we actually need more information,” she said.

    The first draft of the EIA was thrown out because incorrect methodology was used to do the assessment…….. 

May 25, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, South Africa | 1 Comment

Like Japan, South African govt is hiding the true costs of nuclear power

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaGovernment hiding nuclear power plant costs: Earthlife Africa

Nuclear critic Earthlife Africa argues that South Africa’s new power plants are another arms deal scandal waiting to happen By  – May 24, 2015 The South African government has done studies on what it would cost to build the planned 6 or 8 nuclear power stations, but it is not releasing the information (Also see: ANC wants to use people’s retirement savings to bail out Eskom).

This is according to nuclear critic and Earthlife Africa project co-ordinator Tristen Taylor, the Sunday Times reported.

Taylor was responding to comments from deputy director general of the Department of Energy, Zizamele Mbambo, who said that it would be premature for government to release figures at this stage, as prices were still being negotiated.

Mbambo’s comments were surprising, Taylor said, adding that government is not releasing the studies because it knows the nuclear power plants are going to cost a lot of money. Continue reading

May 25, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Revolutionary solar rotating system tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert.

Could this be the world’s most efficient solar electricity system?, Guardian, Jeffrey Barbee, 14 May 15 
Using military technology and a zero-emission engine invented by a 19th-century Scot, Swedish firm seeks to revolutionise solar energy production. A new solar electricity generation system that developers claim is the most efficient in the world, is being tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert.

The Swedish company behind the project – which combines military technology with an idea developed by a 19th-century Scottish engineer and clergyman – says it is on the verge of building its first commercial installation.

In the remote Northern Cape province, huge mirrors reflect the sun across the brown Kalahari sand. This is the test site for Swedish company Ripasso, which is using the intense South African sun and local manufacturing know-how to develop their cutting-edge kit.

“Our whole team in South Africa has been hired locally, and our new systems have all been built with local South African labour. It works great,” says CEO Gunnar Larsson.

This is the only working small-scale concentrated solar energy system of its kind in the world. 34% of the sun’s energy hitting the mirrors is converted directly to grid-available electric power, compared to roughly half that for standard solar panels. Traditional photovoltaic panels are able to turn about 23% of the solar energy that strikes them into electricity, but this is cut to around 15% before it is usable by the grid.

Jean-Pierre Fourie is Ripasso’s South African site manager. His crew has been testing the system in the Kalahari under harsh desert conditions for four years. “What we hope is to become one of the biggest competitors for renewable energy in the world.”

The massive 100 square metre dishes slowly rotate, following the sun. Light clicks and taps fill the still desert air as they constantly adjust to capture the maximum solar energy.

Independent tests by IT Power in the UK confirm that a single Ripasso dish can generate 75 to 85 megawatt hours of electricity a year – enough to power 24 typical UK homes. To make the same amount of electricity by burning coal would mean releasing roughly 81 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere………

The project has not been without its troubles. “Our major challenge over the last couple of years has been to get the technology accepted by the financing community, especially from the banks,” says Larsson.

Although banks have been unwilling to finance such novel technology, Ripasso has now secured private funding to begin their first large-scale installation. “We are very ready to head into the commercial phase,” says Larsson.

May 15, 2015 Posted by | renewable, South Africa | Leave a comment

USA alarmed at South Africa’s nuclear burglary – unsolved after 8 years

safety-symbol1flag-S.AfricaA break-in at a South African nuclear complex alarms Washington and strains relations years later  Two teams of raiders penetrated a site holding enough explosives to fuel six nuclear bombs, but no one was ever caught, Center for Public Integrity , 21 Mar 15  By Douglas BirchemailR. Jeffrey Smith 

Key findings:

Washington remains spooked by a break-in at Pelindaba, the South African storage site for nuclear explosives, eight years ago.

No one was ever prosecuted for the Pelindaba break-in, even though a nonpublic South African report concluded in 2009 it posed a serious security threat.

South Africa’s government claims the break-in was a petty burglary, but U.S. officials and independent experts worry that the attackers were after nuclear explosives.

The nonpublic South African report described how at every step, the attackers displayed a detailed knowledge of Pelindaba’s layout and security systems, as well as the expertise needed to overcome the site’s defenses.

The incident led to unpublicized collaboration between a U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory and the nuclear site on stronger security measures, but White House officials are convinced more needs to be done at Pelindaba……….

March 21, 2015 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s stockpile of nuclear fuel – a target for terrorists

Terrorists could steal SA nuclear fuel: US IOL, March 15 2015  By Douglas Birch and R Jeffrey Smith New York – Enough nuclear explosive to fuel half a dozen bombs, each powerful enough to obliterate central Washington or most of Lower Manhattan, is locked in a former silver vault at a nuclear research centre near Pretoria.

Technicians extracted the highly enriched uranium from the apartheid regime’s nuclear weapons in 1990, then melted the fuel down and cast it into ingots. Over the years, some of the cache has been used to make medical isotopes, but roughly 220kg remains, and South Africa is keeping a tight grip on it.

That gives this country – which has insisted that the US and other world powers destroy their nuclear arsenals – a theoretical ability to regain its former status as a nuclear-weapons state. But the US is worried that the nuclear explosives here could be stolen and used by militants to commit the worst terror attack in history.

Senior current and former US officials say they have reason to be concerned given that in November 2007, raiders breached the fences at the Pelindaba research centre and some fear they were after the bomb-grade uranium.

Washington has waged a discreet diplomatic campaign to persuade South Africa to get rid of its stock of nuclear-weapons fuel.

But President Jacob Zuma, like his predecessors, has resisted the White House……..

March 16, 2015 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

Make public the Terms of Reference fo investigation of Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa).

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaDA: Gordon Mackay calls for terms of reference of Necsa task team to be made public The DA has in its possession documents that present a prima facie case of widespread maladministration, a flagrant disregard for due process, and potential fraud being perpetrated at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa).

In terms of the Public Finance Management Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, Necsa is compelled to institute an independent forensic investigation with proper terms of reference.

On 20 February, Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, appointed a Department of Energy (DoE) Task Team to conduct a thorough investigation into the affairs of the Necsa Board.

While there is a genuine case for an investigation into NECSA, we are concerned that the Task Team’s terms of reference, its composition and the complete scope of its investigation are yet to be made public.

This follows allegations that the Task Team is being used as a smoke screen by the Minister to protect the politically connected CEO, Phumzile Tshelane.

It is reported that on 28 January Mr Tshelane, upon suspension pending a disciplinary inquiry into his actions, contacted the President’s Nuclear Advisor, Senti Thobejane, to intervene regarding his suspension. A board meeting – that was opened by the Minister but led by Thobejane – was hastily called on 2 February. At this board meeting, Thobejane asked the board to stay disciplinary proceedings against Tshelane. The Minister, after giving a directive that the CEO must return to his normal duties, announced the appointment of the Task Team.

This is tantamount to the Board being asked to ignore their fiduciary duty.

I will therefore be writing to the Minister requesting that all relevant details of the Task Team be made public without delay. Until this information is released publicly, the independence of such a Task Team remains questionable. The report must be made public and tabled in Parliament so the true intentions of the probe can be thoroughly interrogated.

If political interference has been used to protect close allies of President Zuma, appropriate remedial steps – which could include dismissal and possibly jail time – must be instituted.

March 11, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Financial meltdown looming for South Africa’s state-owned nu­clear com­pany, Necsa

Nuclear body faces financial meltdown Pelind­aba brass scram­ble to pay sci­en­tists   JAN-JAN JOU­BERT jou­bertj@sun­day­

SOUTH Africa’s be­lea­guered state-owned nu­clear com­pany, Necsa, has for the first time ad­mit­ted to fi­nan­cial strain, but vows to keep pay­ing staff salaries on time de­spite “the ac­tual cash in­flow not be­ing re­alised as per plan”.

Ac­cord­ing to leaked in­ter­nal doc­u­men­ta­tion, Necsa will not be able to pay its al­most 2 000 staff this month un­less Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene’s cash­strapped Na­tional Trea­sury can find an ex­tra R212-mil­lion by March 31……..

Ac­cord­ing to the leaked doc­u­ments, Necsa has failed to pay sup­pli­ers since Novem­ber, de­spite Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s pol­icy di­rec­tive that the state pay all its sup­pli­ers within 30 days of ser­vices ren­dered.

The doc­u­ments also claim Necsa is un­able to pay its au­tho­ri­sa­tion fees to the Na­tional Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tor, plac­ing the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of its nu­clear sci­en­tists at risk, and rais­ing the spec­tre of a skills ex­o­dus on the eve of the planned nu­clear build pro­gramme.

The cur­rent ex­pec­ta­tion is that Rus­sia will build new nu- clear re­ac­tors, and that Necsa staff’s skills could con­trib­ute to man­u­fac­tur­ing the fuel.

If not, fuel will have to be con­tin­u­ally im­ported at great cost from other ma­jor pro­duc­ers such as Rus­sia, rais­ing the con­sumer price of elec­tric­ity even fur­ther………

DA MP and en­ergy spokesman Gor­don Mackay lamented Necsa’s and the reg­u­la­tor’s anger, call­ing for trans­parency in­stead.

“While cor­rup­tion can be dealt with swiftly by re­mov­ing those con­cerned, the long-term cost of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion is worse as highly skilled scarce staff quit Necsa for greener in­ter­na­tional pas­tures,” he said…….

The DA will raise ur­gent ques­tions in par­lia­ment to clar­ify how Necsa came to find it­self in such a po­si­tion and what can be done to save the sit­u­a­tion…….. ttp://


March 11, 2015 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: jobs-for-friends among a tightknit clique of government nuclear mandarins

Jobs for pals at state nuclear firm, Mail & Guardian,  06 MAR 2015  LIONEL FAULL A whistle-blower has claimed that the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation created a job for the chief executive’s wife, Ngeniswa Tyobeka. The embattled South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has hired the wife of the chief executive of the National Nuclear Regulator, which polices Necsa’s compliance with stringent safety regulations.

Ngeniswa Tyobeka’s appointment is just one example of a position that “did not exist on the approved Necsa organisational structure”, a Necsa whistle-blower says. It was “unbudgeted and unfunded, which translates into [an] irregular appointment and unauthorised expenditure”.

Both Necsa and the regulator are earmarked to play key roles in the imminent R1-trillion nuclear build programme, the biggest known procurement in South Africa’s history.

The latest allegation of jobs-for-friends among a tightknit clique of government nuclear mandarins raises concerns about decision-makers’ ability to run a process that is in South Africa’s best interests.

Ngeniswa’s appointment as a human resources officer at Necsa places her husband, Bismark Tyobeka, the nuclear regulator’s chief executive, in a difficult position.

It could cloud his judgment when he makes decisions regarding Necsa, from which his wife reportedly draws a R490 000 annual salary.

Ngeniswa was appointed to Necsa last year; her husband has been the head of the regulator since 2013.

The whistle-blower said this week the company’s parlous financial situation, with an apparent shortfall of R82-million this month, is partly a consequence of a “growing salary bill” caused by “unbudgeted and unfunded created [job] vacancies”……..

March 11, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South African government keeps public in the dark on costs of its nuclear energy plan

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaHow will South Africa’s new nuclear power stations be paid for?, My Broadband, 9 Mar 15 If the government is so determined to pursue nuclear power stations, why was no mention of the financing for this included in the minister of finance’s budget speech? By  – March 8, 2015 The South African government has committed itself, by means of its Nuclear Energy Policy and Integrated Resource Plan, to an energy mix consisting of coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind.

Yet, if the government is so determined to pursue nuclear power stations, why was no mention of the financing for this included in the minister of finance’s budget speech?

One would expect that since government wants to use nuclear power to address the shortage of electricity in South Africa, and in the light of high-level delegations which have signed inter-governmental agreements regarding nuclear power, that this expenditure would have been a focus in the energy portion of this year’s budget speech.

This was, however, not the case. Instead, the public was told that the electricity levy will be increased by a whopping 57% from 3,5 to 5,5 c/kWh, and that Eskom would receive additional equity to the tune of R23-billion in three tranches.

The public was also told that although the extra 2 c/kWh levy would be removed in time, a carbon tax can be expected soon. The fact that the R23-billion would be in the form of additional equity means that Eskom will not have repay the money.

This additional backing is meant to prop up the power utility’s balance sheet which should make it easier for the utility to borrow money on the open market.

Economists have pointed out however, that it will be impossible for Eskom to borrow money to build a fleet of nuclear power stations because of the vast amount of money needed. The capital cost of a nuclear power station is extremely high.

So who will fund these nuclear power plants? It has been suggested that the country which builds the stations will fund it, so-called vendor funding, and that South Africa would repay the debt over time as it sells the electricity generated by the plants over a lengthy period.

But surely that will make electricity very expensive because of the large debt and the interest incurred……..

In 2013; the South African government’s estimate was $6500/kW; and recent reports show that a Hungarian nuclear power station, built by the Russians, cost $7000/kW, while the French-built nuclear power station at Hinckley Point, UK, cost $7900/kW. The figures quoted are for the new-build costs alone and do not include operating costs or interest.

Despite the high cost of nuclear power stations, and the obvious fact that South Africa cannot afford such an enormous outlay, the departments of energy, public enterprises, and trade and industry all appear to be in favour of this form of generation.

How much electricity does South Africa the country actually need? Eskom’s website shows an existing total generation capacity of 42 000 MW excluding the additional power from IPPs.

The renewable energy independent power producers (REIPPs) have already added 1500 MW to the grid, and an additional 2500 MW is expected soon…….

South Africa may have more power capacity than it needs at exorbitant cost to the country’s economy. Expensive electricity will result in the country’s manufacturing sector losing its competitive advantage which will mitigate against growth and job creation.

At the same time the drive towards energy efficiency, which, according to the budget speech will be rewarded by an energy-efficiency savings incentive, set to increase by 111% to 95 c/kWh, will surely motivate people to use less electricity……..


March 9, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa – Russia nuclear agreement is by no means a done deal

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.Africaflag_RussiaSA’s nuclear deal with Russia is far from done, Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015  LISA STEYN Money is the big problem with the initial agreement Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed last year, given the financial positions of both countries.   Russia has emerged as an apparent frontrunner to participate in South Africa’s nuclear build, but selecting the technology is just the first of many challenges that could see a nuclear deal such as this come a cropper.

With the Russian economy in turmoil and the subsequent high cost of borrowing, its ability to raise the funding for its nuclear ambitions in many countries is being called into question – as is its ability to deliver on time.

For South Africa, it is even more of a mystery how the government will provide the loan guarantees that would be required, given that so many have been extended to ailing parastatals such as Eskom and SAA. The state may have hit its limit.

Regardless of which vendor is chosen, the guarantees and the government’s 50% localisation target for the project appear to be insurmountable obstacles, particularly given the challenges faced by the domestic construction industry.

The memorandum of understanding signed between Russia and South Africa last year is far more than a generic agreement, as the government had claimed it is. Rather, it lays the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, in terms that heavily favour Russia, the Mail & Guardian reported last week.

Not only will the agreement be binding for 20 years once in force, but the Russians will also be indemnified from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. Russia is also granted a host of regulatory concessions and favourable tax and other financial treatment. The designated competent authorities are South Africa’s department of energy and Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation.

But unresolved issues could make the deal unworkable. An industry expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “My own view is I don’t think the guys driving it from the South African side have joined the dots. I don’t have huge confidence in the people running it and that they understand the issues.”

Despite the apparent commitment to forge ahead with Russian technology, the agreement defers a decision about funding.

The Russians are known to have offered South Africa a “build, own, operate” construction deal, according to which Russia would build and run the nuclear station, and sell the power to South Africa at an agreed price. This kind of vendor-assisted financing may be the only way South Africa could afford to go nuclear. But the bigger question now is: Can Russia?

First, sanctions have been imposed on Russia for its military intervention in the Ukraine. Then the oil price tumbled, severely hitting government revenues, which are heavily reliant on oil and gas taxes. Subsequently, the rouble has lost almost 50% of its value since the start of 2014, inflation has soared to 15%, and its sovereign credit rating was cut to sub-investment grade by one agency in January. And, in 2014 alone, $151-billion was taken out of the country.

Some nuclear economists and industry insiders believe this dire state of affairs could affect Russia’s nuclear ambitions, as new builds involve high upfront costs and are extremely sensitive to the cost of financing, which is mainly the interest rates at which the funding is secured…….

The unnamed industry expert, however, expressed concern that Russia might commit itself to a further agreement but not honour it. He said other nations that had signed nuclear deals with Russia, such as Vietnam, India and Turkey, had all experienced delays…………..

February 21, 2015 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa by-passes Constitution in top secret nuclear agreement with Russia

secret-dealsflag-S.Africa‘Top secret’ nuclear plan ducks scrutiny   Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015 00:00 LIONEL FAULL, SAM SOLE & STEFAANS BRÜMMER Bureaucrats driving the new build programme seem comfortable skirting transparency and fair value. In a “top secret” presentation, the energy department has proposed a closed government-to-government procurement of new nuclear power stations instead of a transparent and competitive ­tender.

If adopted, this would pave the way for the nuclear co-operation agreement it concluded with Russia in September – or “similar” agreements it concluded with France and China after an outcry that it was favouring the Russians – to be implemented without pitting potential suppliers openly against each other.

This flies in the face of public assurances from the government that it would follow a competitive process.

During his State of the Nation address last week, President Jacob Zuma said all countries that bid “will be engaged in a fair, transparent and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner, or partners, to undertake the nuclear build programme”.

If the mooted six to eight nuclear power stations are built, it will be South Africa’s most expensive procurement yet, at roughly R1-trillion.

The agreement with Russia, revealed by amaBhungane last week, states that the South African government is prepared to give Russia the exclusive rights to its nuclear build programme for a minimum of 20 years. During that time, Russia could block South Africa from procuring nuclear technology from any other country.

The agreement is not yet binding, as it requires the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ratify it.

The French and Chinese agreements remain undisclosed.

The energy department’s recommendations on the procurement method are contained in a separate document obtained by amaBhungane. It is marked “top secret” and was prepared for presentation to the national nuclear energy executive co-ordination committee in October 2013.  This was a Cabinet committee comprising the ministers and government officials directly responsible for implementing the new nuclear programme and was chaired by President Jacob Zuma………..

Despite the apparent global tendency to conclude nuclear tenders one on one, and behind closed doors, the lack of transparency is likely to jar with what South Africa’s Constitution says about procurement.

According to section 217, “when an organ of state … contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”……..

History doomed to repeat itself
The last time the government bypassed the Constitution on a major public procurement, the deal went badly wrong…….. The lessons of the Airbus debacle are there to be learned, so it remains to be seen whether section 217 will be bypassed again.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

MR SENTI THOBEJANE – the secret voice behind South Africa’s covert nuclear power plans

Whether or not he is appointed, Mr Thobejane already wields enviable power. He was instrumental in negotiating the nuclear co-operation agreements with Russia, France and China, which have been kept secret not just from the public but also from top government officials in the Department of Energy and the Treasury. The Cabinet is also yet to see the agreements……

With rational planning processes set aside, Mr Thobejane’s advice could turn out to be more influential than all the well-laid plans on paper.


Mr Thobejane is one of SA’s most influential people. As adviser to Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and a frequent adviser to President Jacob Zuma, he is in the uniquely powerful position of having direct channels to the two most important people in the Cabinet at the precise moment that SA contemplates radical decisions in its energy future.

So who is Senti Thobejane and what are his views on the big questions of the day?

Mr Thobejane is a US-schooled physicist and an ardent supporter of nuclear energy, a sector in which he has been involved for a good part of his life. His passion for nuclear energy and knowledge of energy matters has put him at the side of Mr Zuma in recent trips to China and Russia.

It has also made him a key figure in the Cabinet’s subcommittee on energy security that is overseeing SA’s nuclear procurement, as well as in the negotiations on international agreements for nuclear co-operation Continue reading

February 21, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Renewable energy for South Africa – not the cost, secrecy, corruption that goes with nuclear and coal

Next comes nuclear. The cost of $100 billion for 9 600 new MW of power – a guestimate at this stage – does not include ongoing expenses for uranium, transport and permanent safe storage. Illustrating the financial risk, the main French company bidding for SA’s attention is Areva, the world’s largest nuke builder – a company facing potential bankruptcy after its credit rating was cut to junk status in November.

Another huge risk is obvious: corruption

Instead of endorsing nuclear-powered corruption, the moment is surely nearing for the state’s phase-out of subsidised energy to foreign corporations? The capital-intensive, high-energy guzzling firms need to be replaced by civil society’s low-energy, high-employment ‘Million Climate Jobs’ campaign alternatives
 South Africa: Keep South Africa’s Lights On With Renewable Energy – or Irradiate a Darkened Nation All Africa, By Patrick Bond, 20 Feb 15 

After an explosive start to his State of the Nation Address last week, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma turned to nuclear, coal, fracking and offshore drilling projects – but what about the country’s free sunshine, wind and tides?

Last Thursday night in Cape Town’s Parliament hall, South Africa’s newest and cheekiest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), fought gamely but lost their two-dozen seats for the evening. They were expelled during the State of the Nation speech when making what they termed a ‘point of order': asking whether President Jacob Zuma would ‘pay back the money’ (about $20 million) that the state illegitimately spent on upgrading his rural mansion. As police ushered them out with extreme force, seven were hospitalised, one with a broken jaw.

The society only saw the fracas on journalists’ cellphones later, because the SABC public broadcaster refused to screen the floor, panning only a small area where the Parliamentary leadership were gesticulating for police action. Showing surprising technical prowess but extremely weak political judgment, Zuma’s security officials had jammed cellphone and Wifi signals in the hall just before the event began, creating outrage by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists alike. The centre-right Democratic Alliance then walked out in protest against armed police having cleared out the EFF MPs.

The dust settled 45 minutes later, with Zuma chortling and African National Congress (ANC) MPs cheering, and most observers sickened by the spectacle. Still, much more important news would follow, though in the dull tone that Zuma reserves for formal speeches. Given the country’s fury at electricity load-shedding – near daily outages of 2-4 hours – many were relieved that a substantial 14 percent of Zuma’s talk was dedicated to this theme: ‘We are doing everything we can to resolve the energy challenge.’

Listen more closely, though. Aside from building three huge coal-fired power plants, two of which are mired in construction crises, the other long-term supply strategy, accounting for one in six of his words on energy, is nuclear. By 2030 a fleet of reactors is meant to provide 9600 MW. Today we have 42 000 MW installed, of which 39 000 comes from coal. But the economy uses just 30 000 at peak. What with so much capacity unavailable, load-shedding is set to continue for at least the next three years.

To truly ‘resolve’, not defer, the challenge will require a huge roll-out of public investment. ………….

Next comes nuclear. The cost of $100 billion for 9 600 new MW of power – a guestimate at this stage – does not include ongoing expenses for uranium, transport and permanent safe storage. Illustrating the financial risk, the main French company bidding for SA’s attention is Areva, the world’s largest nuke builder – a company facing potential bankruptcy after its credit rating was cut to junk status in November.

Another huge risk is obvious: corruption. Last Thursday, Zuma proclaimed ‘a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme.’ Hmmmm. Replies Moulana Riaz Simjee of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, ‘This nuclear deal poses an enormous corruption risk. It is happening in secret and will make the arms deal look like a walk in the park.’

With prescient timing, the Mail&Guardian last week exposed a Moscow foreign ministry website which provides details about the extent of the nuclear deal that Zuma had already cut with Vladimir Putin six months ago. The contract indemnifies Russian suppliers from any nuclear accident liabilities and gives ‘special favourable treatment’ for taxes.

A durable concern with nuclear energy is safety because three of the world’s most technically advanced countries – Japan, Russia and the US – conclusively demonstrated its catastrophic danger at Fukushima (2011), Chernobyl (1996) and Three Mile Island (1979)……..

Greenpeace continues vibrant anti-nuke protests, this month bringing the ship Rainbow Warrior to local ports and last week, once again unveiling its opponents’ security lapses by disrupting the opening session of Cape Town’s 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress Africa with a banner hang declaring, ‘Nuclear investments cost the earth.’

 Other civil society activists work hard against nuclear: to name a few, the National Union of Mineworkers’ Sibusiso Mimi, Mike Kantey from the Coalition against Nuclear Energy and, in Jeffreys Bay where one of the world’s greatest surf waves is threatened by a proposed power plant, Trudy Malan from the Thyspunt Alliance.

Such citizen advocacy helped halt South Africa’s zany Pebble Bed nuclear experiments, in which a generator was meant to be collapsed on top of pebble storage units after its life span, saving storage costs. But regrettably $1.5 billion of taxpayer funding was wasted, mostly under Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s nose (his successor Pravin Gordhan pulled the plug)……….

We really don’t need this risky behaviour. In three years from 2013-15, at least 2500 MW of renewable energy capacity will have been constructed in South Africa. According to Simjee, ‘Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100 megawatts to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.’ Sere’s cost is just $2.3 million/MW, far below all competitors, with no operating expenses aside from occasional maintenance.

These are supply-side enhancements, and will take time. For more rapid relief, on the demand side it appears Eskom is overdue in addressing wastage by the minerals and smelting corporations. The Energy Intensive Users Group’s 31 members use 44% of our electricity, and their Resource Curse has diminished the integrity of South African politics, economics, society, public health and environment.

Instead of endorsing nuclear-powered corruption, the moment is surely nearing for the state’s phase-out of subsidised energy to foreign corporations? The capital-intensive, high-energy guzzling firms need to be replaced by civil society’s low-energy, high-employment ‘Million Climate Jobs’ campaign alternatives…………..

for those aiming to breed a herd of nuclear White Elephants in coming years, maybe the opening theatrics before Zuma’s speech can resonate; maybe the EFF’s insistent call to, ‘pay back the money’, will prove a deterrent to those with nuclear fantasies.

Prof Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | media, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s secretive and super- expensive nuclear power plans

nuclear-costsflag-S.AfricaGovt in R1trillion nuclear strategy, Business Report South Africa February 16 2015  Paul Burkhardt, Mike Cohen and Franz Wild THE GOVERNMENT is forging ahead with plans to spend as much as R1 trillion on new nuclear plants, ignoring objections from environmental activists, opposition parties, unions and even its own advisers.

Bids would be sought from the US, China, France, Russia and South Korea to add 9 600 megawatts of atomic power to the national grid to address energy shortages in Africa’s second-largest economy, President Jacob Zuma said in his annual State of the Nation address on Thursday. The first output was targeted for 2023, he said.

“We know exactly what we need,” Zuma said on Friday. “We are now well-informed. We are moving ahead.”……..

Detractors of the nuclear plan argue that the plants will be too costly, take too long to build and that the bidding process will be vulnerable to corruption. The National Development Plan, the government’s blueprint for growing the economy, recommended that alternatives be investigated, including the use of gas plants, which would be easier to finance and build.

More expensive

“Nuclear is not a wise choice for South Africa,” Anton Eberhard, a member of the National Planning Commission that advises on implementing the development plan and a professor at the University of Cape Town on February 11. “Nuclear energy will not enable us to resolve our immediate power crisis. It is more expensive than other energy options.”

A 20-year plan published by the energy minister in December 2013 said the decision on whether to build new nuclear plants could be delayed until at least 2025 to allow for a proper assessment of alternatives and likely power demand.

Areva, EDF, Toshiba’s Westinghouse, China Guangdong Nuclear Power, Rosatom and Korea Electric Power have expressed interest in building new plants in South Africa.

The DA said the nuclear bidding process had been clouded by secrecy and had the potential for corruption. The party called on Zuma to abandon it. The National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling ANC, said nuclear power was not a priority and more focus should be placed on completing two new coal-fired power stations that were running behind schedule.

Greenpeace, an environmental activist group, staged a protest against nuclear energy at an industry meeting in Cape Town on Thursday.

February 18, 2015 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Russia- South Africa secret deal exposed: details are fearful ones for South Africa

secret-dealsRussian-Bearflag-S.AfricaExposed: Scary details of SA’s secret Russian nuke deal, Mail & Guardian  13 FEB 2015 00:00 LIONEL FAULL The secret nuclear deal our leaders have signed with Russia carries many risks for South Africa. Shocking details of the secret nuclear deal that Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed with Russia last year can, for the first time, be revealed. The text, which has been jealously guarded by her department and Russian nuclear company Rosatom, holds many dangers for South Africa.

It creates an expectation that Russian technology will be used for South Africa’s trillion-rand fleet of new nuclear power stations. And by laying the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, it appears designed to sidestep the constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering.

Once the agreement comes into force, the Russians will have a veto over South Africa doing business with any other nuclear vendor. And it will be binding for a minimum of 20 years, during which Russia can hold a gun to South Africa’s head, in effect saying: “Do business with us, or forget nuclear.”

The agreement confirms the government’s intention to make “Atomic Tina’s” energy department the procuring agent for the nuclear programme rather than Eskom – where the country’s nuclear expertise lies, despite the utility’s travails. Joemat-Pettersson signed the agreement in Vienna on September 21 last year, three weeks after President Jacob Zuma held talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the latter’s country estate.

It led to an immediate outcry as it appeared that Russia was being favoured over other vendor countries………..

The terms of the agreement lean heavily in Russia’s favour. They:

  • Indemnify the Russians from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. The agreement says South Africa is “solely responsible for any damage both within and outside the territory of the Republic of South Africa”;
  • Hand the Russians a host of regulatory concessions and “special favourable treatment” in tax and other financial matters, but offer South Africa no such incentives; and
  • Require Russia’s permission if South Africa wants to export nuclear technology it develops locally as a result of learning from the Russians, thereby hindering government’s aim that the nuclear new-build programme will develop a globally competitive local nuclear industry………..
How we got the secret documentThe supposedly confidential agreement is published among the list of bilateral treaties on the website of the legal department of the Russian foreign ministry.

It was first obtained by South African environmental organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg by Russian anti-nuclear activist and head of Ecodefense Vladimir Slivyak, who got it from a source in the Russian foreign ministry. It is in Russian, and includes the signatures of Rosatom’s director general Sergey Kirienko and South African energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

A Russian translator commissioned by Earthlife to translate the agreement into English subsequently also found it publicly available on the ministry’s website. amaBhungane has compared Joemat-Pettersson’s signature on the document with her signature on a current document; they are identical. amaBhungane has also commissioned its own translation of the agreement, which is available to download by clicking on the link at the top of this story. – Lionel Faull

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

February 14, 2015 Posted by | civil liberties, politics international, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment


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