The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear “renaissance” to Nuclear Fascism

Nuclear energy does not ever exist in some neutral realm; it is always deeply enmeshed in political contexts, and (as South Africa’s own strange nuclear history shows) it is always linked intimately to state power.

Would the honourable member care to explain caesium, strontium and plutonium to the ancestors?

Fascism 1

Power trip: where will Zuma’s nuclear dreams take us?  SUNDAY TIMES OPINION BY HEDLEY TWIDLE, 2016-02-07 Hedley Twidle hiked from Cape Point to Koeberg power station. En route, while passing the traces of our ancient predecessors, he wondered what Zuma’s nuclear dreams might mean for our distant successors. Do we know what we are doing? And will they know what we did?…….

In secrecy and haste, the Zuma government is pushing a deal for a new fleet of reactors. It will be the biggest procurement in our history, with a projected starting price of more than R1-trillion – but nuclear builds are notorious for running over budget.

The reason for the firing of Nene, some analysts suggested, was that he was stalling on nuclear, trying to protect the fiscus from a “presidential legacy” project that threatens to contaminate our economy, and our whole national project, for the rest of our lives.

We all have things that keep us up at night, and the prospect of SA being locked into a “nuclear renaissance” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia (or Xi Jinping’s China, or François Hollande’s France) is mine.

One of the troubling things about the debate is the language in which it is conducted: the technocratic confidence and business-minded briskness that pretends it has everything figured out.

weasel-words1Debates about energy policy happen in the language of developmental economics and financial modelling; in long and acronym-riddled policy documents; in boring technical reports. Decisions are taken amid the short-term cycles of party politics and cabinet reshuffles, not in mind of the long history of building and decommissioning nuclear plants, then disposing of their waste – a process that the world is only just beginning to grapple with. The massive expense and difficulty of it is only beginning to become apparent.

Journalistic expertise and coverage of these larger questions is thin; but beyond even this, do we have the imaginative capacity to understand what a nuclear future entails? I want to suggest that when it comes to nuclear power and its afterlives, we (in a deep sense) do not know what we are talking about.

what does it mean – culturally, philosophically – to produce isotopes that are invisible to our senses but lethal for thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of years? What does it say about our civilisation, the geologic layer we will leave behind, the Anthropocene? What is the lifespan of a human “fact” when read across the expanse of deep time?……..

When Koeberg opened in 1984, the whole population of Cape Town was given iodine tablets, since any of the winter northwesterlies would carry the radioactive “plume” right towards the city. Iodine reduces the absorption of radionuclides by the thyroid gland: the first line of defence in a nuclear emergency. Looking at the evacuation plan, the city’s chief health officer accused Eskom of “absolute naivety” and moved out of the metro in protest………

Writing against India’s nuclear ambitions in her stinging 1998 essay The End of Imagination, Arundhati Roy registers a similar sense of rhetorical exhaustion. There can be nothing more humiliating for a writer, she says, than to restate a case that has, over the years, already been made by other people across the world, “and made passionately, eloquently and knowledgeably”. But she is prepared for this humiliation, she says, because silence would be indefensible.

“So those of you who are willing: let’s pick our parts, put on these discarded costumes and speak our second-hand lines in this sad second-hand play. But let’s not forget that the stakes are huge. Our fatigue and our shame could mean the end of us.”…….

Nuclear energy does not ever exist in some neutral realm; it is always deeply enmeshed in political contexts, and (as SA’s own strange nuclear history shows) it is always linked intimately to state power………

, it is an energy path that requires, that mandates, that fits perfectly with centralised state control and secrecy – hence its ongoing appeal to autocracies. It is the opposite of decentralised, small-scale technologies for renewable energy. Following the events at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, most social democracies have turned away from nuclear. Russia, India, China and now SA are looking to major expansion in the sector, even as the rest of the world regards it as a dying, expensive industry – and one which has never solved the problem of the long-term toxicity it produces, or in its euphemism, its “legacy waste”.

The cleanness and bracing sea air of Koeberg are an illusion. Somewhere within that perimeter fence, the high-level waste of spent fuel rods is stored in cooling ponds. Low and medium level waste is driven up the N7 highway to be buried in an open pit at Vaalputs, in the dry landscape of Namaqualand.

But the most lethal waste – hundreds of tonnes of it – remains on the premises, too dangerous to move, or even to think about.

Outside the closed visitors centre, there were notices about the construction of a new “transient interim storage facility” within the grounds, using the dry casks in which the nuclear industry parks its most dangerous legacies.

The doubled-up adjective is telling: the strategy for this kind of waste is always temporary, transient, interim. It places an unasked-for burden not just on “future generations” (that bland and tired phrase), but even on future species of hominid that might evolve in the geographic space that is known (for now) by the bland name of South Africa………

The lethal time capsules being built deep underground are meant to reach as far into the future as human symbolic behaviour reaches back into the African past: 100,000 years.


To even begin to conceive of what the nuclear option means, you have to abandon opinion pieces, leave “rational” argument and enter the realms of speculative fiction. In 2116, 100 years from now, will the people required to take care of the waste of Koeberg (or Thyspunt, or Schulpfontein, or Duynefontein) understand what they are being asked to do, and why?

Will they have the technology to do it, and the money? Will they still be filing progress reports to a nuclear regulator? What language will be spoken here? Will those two grain silos still be there at the water’s edge, or will they be drowned by rising sea levels?

What about in 3016? Will “South Africa” still exist? Will there be any remnant of the national road system along which the dry casks will (supposedly) be transported to their final resting place at Vaalputs?

Will there be any trace of the companies that profited from the nuclear furnaces, after all the CEOs and the PAs and the PRs and the shareholders and their children’s children’s children, unto the 20th generation, are no more than ash on the wind?

Let’s go one further. What about 10,000 years from now?

Can any symbol or sign system speak across so many millennia of unstable above-ground conditions? And even if the hominids of 12016 AD do understand the warnings about a slow poison buried deep in the desert, will they heed them?

 The 2010 documentary Into Eternity meditates on the construction of Onkalo, the world’s first geological disposal facility, now nearing completion beneath a Finnish island. Amid long takes of underground blasting and a slow ballet of earth-moving machinery, it asks: should we even try to communicate the dangers of buried waste to the deep future?………

Could a question like this please be tabled among all the integrated resource plans and environmental impact assessments and risk assessments and costing exercises that go on for hundreds of pages but never get to the heart of the matter?

In those paper-thin arguments, language is used less to communicate than to disguise risk and evade the real questions posed by nuclear: questions of time, ethics, inter-generational responsibility. Questions about the kind of human experiment we want to be part of.

Would the honourable member care to explain caesium, strontium and plutonium to the ancestors?

What do you think? Write to

February 8, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: CORRUPTION GOES NUCLEAR – Jacob Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians


Zuma’s 9 600MW nuclear procurement programme and its accompanying contracts are tainted with alleged vested interests of the most deplorable kind.
If the country has any hope of having a rational, legal, and transparent evaluation of the need for nuclear energy, the procurement process has to start afresh.
This however can only occur under new leadership, which places the country’s interests ahead of its own.

If this does not occur, the future of South Africa will consist of a dark and discontented nuclear winter.

Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story
Part 1: In pursuit of satisfying his insatiable greed — Jacob Zuma will liberate us from our constitutional democracy, and destroy the chance of a ‘better life for all’ 
Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story RAND DAILY MAIL LILY GOSAM 02 FEBRUARY 2016


I wish to make it clear from the outset that this piece is not about arguing the merits or demerits of nuclear energy. It is whether Zuma’s decision for nuclear energy is based on sound economic principles for the good of the country, or for some other purpose.

Zuma’s (rabid) pet project

On 9 of December 2015 (and hours before Nene was fired), Zuma’s cabinet approved the 9 600 MW nuclear procurement programme (nuclear programme). This paves the way for nuclear vendors to present proposals in March 2016 to build 6 to 8 nuclear reactors, at an estimated cost of between R800-billion and R1.6-trillion ($50-billion to $100 billion)[5] [6] [7.

The nuclear programme, however, glows with controversy. According to Peter Attard Montalto (an emerging market economist at Nomura), the nuclear programme is Zuma’s “pet project”, and is highly interwoven with politics and the succession issue[8]. His analysis is supported by a Mail and Guardian [M&G] source who said that the programme was regarded as one of Zuma’s “presidential legacy projects” [9]. Professor William Gumede, of Democracy Works, added that the programme is being implemented essentially from a purely patronage point of view[10]. While Andrew Feinstein, executive director of Corruption Watch UK (and former ANC MP), said simply, “I fear that the corruption in this deal might dwarf the arms deal” (News24)[11].

A nuclear procurement process in a constitutional democracy should be transparent, logical, considered, legal, participatory, and unbiased.

Yet Zuma has assumed personal control of the nuclear programme, and it has been characterised by: secret meetings; undisclosed documents and classified financial reports; deceit; aggressive campaigning; damage control exercises; illegality; use of apartheid (‘national key-point’) legislation[12]; sidestepping of Eskom’s technical and financial oversight; destruction of oversight organs of state; disregarding of industry experts; refusal of public consultation; ignoring of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) and ANC resolutions; and the removal of any government opponents, the most notable of whom was Nene…………

Below exposes the reasons why Zuma is so hell bent on forcing the Russian 9 600 MW programme through, irrespective of: the evidence against it (from independent and government sources); the laws that stand in his way; the people that advise against it; and the grave concerns of his own party.

Radioactive plant-feed

Nuclear reactors require uranium to function, in particular low-enriched uranium (LEU). But first one must mine the uranium, and for South Africa’s 9 600MW nuclear programme, plus the existing Koeberg Nuclear Plant, the demand for uranium would steadily increase as the nuclear power plants come online. Luckily South Africa is said to have 6% of global identified resources of uranium (or 970 000 tons), the seventh highest share in the world [OECD-NEA, 2013][62].

With a 9 600MW nuclear deal, local uranium reactor demand would grow from the current 290 tons of Uranium (Ut) per year, to eventually 3300 Ut per year, once all the reactors are operational [OECD- Nuclear Energy Agency, 2014][63]. That’s a dramatic 11 times increase in local demand for uranium.

And as it just so happens, in 2010 the Guptas (a family well-known for their backing of Zuma), along with Zuma’s son, Duduzane, emerged as buyers of a South African uranium mine — the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium Project — amid claims that Zuma intervened to ease state funding for the project (according to amaBhungane – M&G’s investigative arm)[64].

[For summaries of the Guptas’ influence with Zuma and his family, read Verashni Pillay’s 2013 M&G article, or Franz Wild’s 2015 Bloomberg article. There are also excellent standalone articles on the Guptas dealings with the state, such as the Sunday Times piece by Sabelo Skiti on how Eskom allegedly went to extraordinary lengths to make sure the Gupta family landed a R4-billion coal deal, or M&G’s amaBhungane articles on a former Gupta associate allegedly involved in R835-million Transnet kickbacks]

All mine

Uranium One Incorporated (Uranium One) — a public company in Canada — owned a number of uranium mines around the world, including a uranium and gold mine in the North West province, South Africa[65] [66]. The local mine was called the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium project, which proved to be a disappointment to the company and so it was mothballed in late 2008.

Uranium One’s global uranium holdings attracted the attention of Rosatom, which from 2009 onwards began buying up the company’s shares through one of its many wholly-owned subsidiaries. (Rosatom would eventually indirectly secure 51% ownership of Uranium One in 2010, and 100% in 2013, after which it was delisted[67])[68].

As Rosatom (through its subsidiary) was buying into Uranium One, the company sold the South African Dominion Rietkuil Uranium project. Reporters picked up on Uranium One’s “low-key announcement” in April 2010 of the sale of the mine to an undisclosed party[69] [70]. The mine was sold for $37.3-million, at a loss to the company of $242-million (based on the company’s interim financial statements)[71]. Thus the mine was sold for about 14% of its reported value.

One month later, in May 2010, the media got wind that the mine — which would come to be known as Shiva Uranium — was bought by Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited (a Gupta-controlled company) together with minority shareholders, which consist of companies within companies (like a Russian nesting doll), including indirectly the ANC’s MK war veterans and its women’s group[72], and the black economic empowerment group Mabengela Investments (Mabengela).

Mabengela is headed by Zuma’s son Duduzane and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta (the youngest of three Gupta brothers). 45% of Mabengela is owned by Duduzane Zuma; 25% by Rajesh “Tony” Gupta (the youngest of the three Gupta brothers); 20% by an array of Gupta employees, former business partners and friends; and the last 10% is owned by an obscure offshore company, with its sole owner a Dubai resident with discernible traces in South Africa[73] [M&G]. The M&G wrote that Mabengela appears to be the vehicle for the Zuma family’s empowerment by the Gupta family[74].

(The North West province — where the mine is situated — is governed by Supra Mahumapelo, the province’s premier, and he is said to be a member of the so-called “premier league”, which consists of premiers loyal to Zuma. The other premier-league provinces are the Free State and Mpumalanga[75]. For the 2014/15 period, the auditor-general found the number of “clean audits” — that is, financial statements that present a fair and accurate picture and comply with accepted accounting principles — for the departments and public entities in Mpumalanga and the North West came to 24% and 4% respectively, while 32% of the Free State’s audits were deemed clean[76] [77]. This excludes financial statements by departments not submitted on time, or at all[78].

amaBhungane and the Sunday Times uncovered that the Guptas had expected the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to facilitate funding for the Uranium mine purchase. (The state-owned PIC is the country’s largest institutional investor, with more than R750-billion — as at 2010 – in civil servants’ pensions under its management[79]).

……….At the time of the purchase of the Dominion Rietkuil Uranium mine, journalist Brendan Ryan [Fin24] pondered, “Who in their right mind would buy one of the most notorious dogs in the entire South African mining sector — the failed Dominion Uranium mine — and do it at a time when uranium prices are still depressed? That’s the $64 000 question following news that the Gupta family — the ultimate controlling shareholder in Shiva Uranium — has bought Dominion for $37.3-million. It’s either the steal of the century — given that developers Uranium One wrote off an investment of $1.8-billion when they shut Dominion down in October 2008 — or it’s a classic case of throwing good money after bad.”[93]

Unbeknownst to Ryan, at the time, was that Zuma and his benefactors had set the course for a large-scale nuclear programme.

Atomic timeline: 2000 to 2010

In the early 2000’s, Zuma — then South African deputy president — met the Guptas for the first time, as a guest at a business function held by a Gupta company, Sahara Computers[94].

In 2005, during the power struggle between Zuma and Thabo Mbeki for the presidency, the Guptas were said to have sided with Zuma, even after he had been fired as deputy president. The Guptas had tried to court Mbeki, but did not get far. (The Guptas claim that they were friends with Mbeki as much as they are friends with Zuma). The Guptas don’t mind telling whoever cares to listen that they were there for Zuma when his days were dark [Business Day][95].

Early in 2007, Eskom approved a plan to expand South Africa’s overall electricity capacity by the year 2025. The plan included the construction of 20 000 MW of new nuclear capacity, consisting of up to 12 nuclear reactors. France’s Areva and the United States’ Westinghouse were contenders[96].

In December 2007, Zuma was elected as ANC president[97].

Six month’s later, in June 2008, Duduzile and Duduzane, Zuma’s daughter and son joined the board of the Gupta-controlled company, Sahara Computers[98] [99]. (Duduzile resigned from the position in 2010[100]. Duduzane and Gupta family members are directors of at least 11 of the same companies, as at December 2015 [Timeslive][101].)

In September 2008, Mbeki resigned as South African president.

In December 2008, Eskom abandoned the 20 000MW nuclear plan for being unaffordable in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and the renewed appreciation for coal production[102] [103] [104][Professor J. van Wyk of Political Sciences]

Zuma was inaugurated as South African president in May 2009. In November 2009, the Guptas’ formed a new company, which would come to be known as Oakbay Resources and Energy Limited[105](Oakbay).

One month later, in December 2009, Zuma declared at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that South Africa was going to reduce its carbon emissions by 34% by 2020[106]. His announcement took both local and international commentators by surprise, but it revealed Zuma’s nuclear ambitions.

Four months after that, in April 2010, the Guptas, Duduzane Zuma, and other investors bought the mine — soon to be called Shiva Uranium — with Zuma allegedly ensuring state assistance. The Guptas and Duduzane then jumped into action, refurbishing the uranium and gold plant “very aggressively”[107] to make the plant operational for production. They also possessed due diligence studies and a comprehensive bankable feasibility study (a document required to raise capital)[108] [109]……..

In August 2010, Zuma met with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, during his first official visit to Russia. Zuma was accompanied by 11 cabinet ministers and more than 100 South African business people[112].

During the trip, Zuma concluded a deal with Medvedev for Rosatom to supply 40% of Koeberg’s enriched uranium needs until 2017 to 2018[113] [114]. The Head of Rosatom told reporters that the company hoped to eventually control 45% of the low-enriched uranium (LEU) market in South Africa[115].”Our share of the market in South Africa will rise,” he said…………….

Gupta and Gupta-linked companies involved in mining – including Shiva Uranium – have several times run into trouble with regulatory requirements, as well as those on environmental compliance[226] [227][TimesLive]. Due to changes in environmental and mining legislation, Zwane is in charge of enforcing those regulations[228] [229]………..

South Africa has become one of the leading destinations for renewable energy investment, so said a 2015 research report by the Energy Research Centre UCT. The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Project (REIPPP) is a joint private-public initiative for renewable energy generation, mainly from wind, solar PV and concentrated solar power. Since its inception, the REIPPP has been hailed an unprecedented success. The programme is unique in that for projects to qualify, developers must contribute to the reduction of socio-economic inequity, through community ownership and economic development benefits[237].

As of October 2015, 92 projects had been selected as part of the REIPPP, mobilising private investment of R193-billion, and with a combined capacity of 6 327MW. In addition, 37 out of the 92 projects had been completed by then and they contributed 1 827MW of power to the national electricity grid (this is equivalent to one Koeberg nuclear power station), while also providing social upliftment[238] [239] [240][241]. In June 2015, the energy department issued a determination to procure a further 6 300 MW for the project[242]. The national treasury expected the REIPPP to eventually contribute 17 000 MW of electricity capacity to the grid by 2022[243].

Yet, in October 2015, just when bidding by renewable power producers was set to start for the additional capacity[244], Brian Molefe — now CEO of Eskom — halted the process, with the non-issuance of budget quotes for the programme. He said it was a temporary measure taken to protect the financial sustainability of Eskom. Effectively, he was saying Eskom could not afford to support new REIPPP connections as well as energy purchases. He added that, “very soon a lasting solution will be found to address this matter” [Fin24][245] [246] [247]. (As of writing, no reports on Eskom’s future commitment to the REIPPP could be located.)

On Wednesday, 9 of December 2015, Zuma held a cabinet meeting to discuss key government programmes and decisions. Amongst them was the nuclear procurement programme for 9 600 MW, which was then approved by cabinet (but excluded the then Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs minister Gordhan, who was off sick) [Carol Paton of Business Day uncovered cabinet’s decision][248].

Just hours after the meeting, and to the cabinet’s great consternation and surprise (according to Jeff Radebe, who is a cabinet member, an ANC NEC member, and minister of the presidency)[249], they heard along with the rest of the public that Zuma had fired Nene, and replaced him with a parliamentary backbencher, David van Rooyen. The move was met with shock and disbelief in all sectors at home and abroad[250].

Two days later, on Friday, 11 of December 2015, the post-cabinet media briefing by Radebe and accompanying press statement made no mention of the fact that the 9 600MW nuclear deal had been approved[251] [252] [253]. It was only on Monday, 14 December 2015, after Gordhan had taken the helm of treasury that cabinet’s decision was publically confirmed by him.

Uranium enrichment

“Global uranium demand is predominantly driven by its use in nuclear power generation plants,”[254]declared Oakbay, the majority shareholder in Shiva Uranium. But uranium cannot be used as fuel to run nuclear reactors until it has been converted into low enriched uranium (LEU)[255] [256].

The World Nuclear Organisation states that Eskom procures its conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication services from world markets, and that nearly half of its enrichment is from Russia. However, historically, South Africa has sought self-sufficiency in its fuel cycle[257].

In the 1970s the Apartheid government established a uranium enrichment company, which later, in 1999, was restructured to become Necsa (currently under the management of Zuma’s “lynchpins” Seekoe and CEO Tshelane). But actual enrichment operations ceased in 1995, and the only two conversion plants were both demolished. Much of the high-enriched uranium (HEU) is still stored away. (Some say there’s a 250kg cache[258]).

With the prospect of 9 600MW of nuclear power, local enrichment operations are again a priority. ………

Uranium is not the only commodity with dubious links to the nuclear programme.

In July 2013, John Helmer (a provocative American journalist who focuses on the Russian business sector) flagged a strange deal with a company Nemascore which had links to Zuma’s associates ……….

Stacked deck 

Overall, the tendering process for the 9 600MW nuclear build programme will include 80%  South African sourced construction companies, engineers, waste management system suppliers, security systems providers, cabling, cement, steel, finance, transport, IT firms, mining, and more[286] [287].
Which on the face of it sounds wonderful, but not when one considers it is for a nuclear programme that has already been declared by government and independent studies to be unnecessary and unaffordable, will ultimately result in 10 to 50 times higher electricity costs than we are paying now, and already exhibits alarming signs of fixed tendering through devious means[288]……..

Zuma is the bomb

Besides LEU, enrichment plants can also produce high enriched uranium (HEU), which is used in nuclear weaponry.

In March 2012, at a Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Zuma stated on the subject of HEU, “…South Africa has adopted a policy on the benefication of our mineral resources, including uranium.”[293] What Zuma meant by “benefication” was that SA has a policy of enriching Uranium and does not want to limit its options by foreswearing the production or use of HEU [IOL]. Officials further explained that Zuma was not only keeping SA’s options open for producing HEU in the future, but also defended its decision to hold on to its existing stock of HEU from the nuclear weapons programme of the Apartheid government [IOL]………..


Zuma’s 9 600MW nuclear procurement programme and its accompanying contracts are tainted with alleged vested interests of the most deplorable kind.
If the country has any hope of having a rational, legal, and transparent evaluation of the need for nuclear energy, the procurement process has to start afresh.
This however can only occur under new leadership, which places the country’s interests ahead of its own.

If this does not occur, the future of South Africa will consist of a dark and discontented nuclear winter.–the-inside-story

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa, Uranium | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Zuma and the get rich plan about uranium

uranium-enrichmentflag-S.Africa Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians — the inside story RAND DAILY MAIL LILY GOSAM 02 FEBRUARY 2016 “……..Below exposes the reasons why Zuma is so hell bent on forcing the Russian 9 600 MW programme through, irrespective of: the evidence against it (from independent and government sources); the laws that stand in his way; the people that advise against it; and the grave concerns of his own party.

Radioactive plant-feed Continue reading

February 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa, Uranium | Leave a comment

South Afric a’s nuclear corporation in a mess

Step one: Sort out the mess at the nuclear corporation, Times Live  The Times Editorial | 28 January, 2016 

Power struggles, factionalism and claims of impropriety at state institutions have become so commonplace they are losing their shock value. “…….The latest public entity to be affected is the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA, which is involved in two court actions over allegations of corporate governance breaches.

Phumzile Tshelane, the corporation’s chief executive and a supporter of the Zuma administration’s nuclear ambitions, is centrally involved in both cases.

The Nuclear Energy Corporation, meanwhile, is reportedly in disarray.

According to Business Day, it has yet to finalise its financial statements for the 2014-2015 financial year and is without a full board.

Several independent directors resigned, or left after their terms ended last year, after reportedly clashing with Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.   It would be tempting to dismiss the ructions at the corporation as just another public entity gone awry.

But the fact is that this is the institution that will play a key role in the government’s controversial plan to procure eight nuclear power reactors at a cost, experts warn, that could exceed R1-trillion.

Moreover, the government has decided to go ahead with the procurement and proceed to the next step, which is to invite tenders, even though the nuclear building programme has not been properly costed.

Surely the mess at the nuclear corporation needs to be sorted out before we take a single step further down the nuclear road.

January 28, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Karoo, South Africa, community unaware of hazards of uranium mining

text-Please-NotePeople should make their voices heard in the public consultations expected to take place over the course of the year 2016, before mining rights are granted.

To register as Interested and Affected Parties write to Ferret Mining at call 012 753 1284/5.

To stay informed, join the Facebook page Stop Uranium Mining in the Karoo.

dust from miningflag-S.AfricaUranium Mining Threatens the Karoo, Karoo Space, 18 Jan 16  By Dr Stefan Cramer  Images sourced by Dr Stefan Cramer  Just as the threat of fracking seemed to recede in the Karoo, the danger of uranium mining has arisen – and it is even more frightening and more likely than shale gas extraction.

The Karoo has long been known to harbour substantial sedimentary uranium deposits. Now an Australian company with Russian funding is planning to get the radioactive mineral out of the ground on a major scale.

The company has quietly accumulated over 750 000 hectares of Karoo properties and concessions around Beaufort West and plans to set up a large Central Processing Plant just outside that town.

While the nation is still debating the pros and cons of fracking, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as the precursor to mining licences is nearing finalisation. During 2016 the Department of Mineral Resources will make a decision on the industry’s application……….

extensive studies on the risks of uranium mining over many decades are available today.

We can draw on vast experiences on what huge impact the uranium mining industry has had in such diverse places as in Germany, USA, Australia or Niger. The death toll of a hugely dangerous industry is well known and firmly established.

Yet so far there is no public debateno strategic assessment process in place in the Karoo.

No advocacy groups balance the glossy claims of the industry against sobering experiences on the ground. While global energy prices are depressed, the deepening economic and political crisis makes South Africa less and less attractive to the huge investments necessary to establish an upstream gas industry. Continue reading

January 19, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa, Uranium | 3 Comments

Political connections in South Africa’s uranium energy drive

text politicsUranium Mining Threatens the Karoo, Karoo Space, 18 Jan 16  By Dr Stefan Cramer  Images sourced by Dr Stefan Cramer “……..It is particularly interesting to see who the South African partners are in this joint venture. The Black Economic Empowerment partner in this case is Lukisa, which holds a total of 26% of Tasman RSA Mines, primarily in the form of exploration rights and nuclear licenses from the National Nuclear Regulator .

Perhaps more important are the excellent relations Lukisa has with Government and the ruling ANC.

Lukisa was founded by the controversial Andile Nkuhlu  then a leading member of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). He belonged to the faction co-opted by the then mining magnate Brett Kebble, whose assisted suicide made headlines in 2005 after he swindled government out of billions of Rand in shady mining deals.

Andile Nkuhlu was then made chief director in the Department of State Enterprises until his career stumbled in a corruption scandal. He pre-empted his dismissal from the ANC by founding the opposition party Congress of the People (COPE).

When this flopped he was readmitted to the ANC and continued to influence provincial polices in the Eastern Cape. A few years ago he relinquished his position at LUKISA because of deteriorating health, until he succumbed to diabetes complications in December 2015.

Now the company is run by Tefo Maloisane, who is said to have a long history of excellent political connections………

January 19, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa, Uranium | Leave a comment

Radiation hazards in planned uranium mining in the Karoo, South Africa


dust from miningUranium Mining Threatens the Karoo, Karoo Space, 18 Jan 16  By Dr Stefan Cramer  Images sourced by Dr Stefan Cramer “…..According to its documents, Tasman RSA Mines today controls exclusive prospecting rights over more than 750 000 hectares in a circle of nearly 200 kilometres around Beaufort West.

About 32 000 hectares are directly owned under freehold by the company. Local farmers find it hard to resist purchase offers, as farming in this part of the Karoo is particularly difficult due to low rainfall and poor soils.

Unlike in fracking, farms are permanently damaged by uranium opencast mining………

So far the company has not indicated whether they would use in-situ-leaching’, a particularly dangerous but low-cost method. Here, large quantities of leaching agent are injected underground. The uranium is dissolved and recovered in well fields.

The uranium deposits are scattered over large zone of 200 by 300 kilometres which will necessitate trucking of ores over poorly constructed dust roads for hundreds of kilometres to reach the Central Processing Plant.

For this plant, the company has already applied for a water licence to abstract annually 700 million litres of groundwater annually, roughly half of the total water consumption of the Central Karoo Municipality.

It is still unclear what will happen with the contaminated waste water. A discharge of radioactive waste water into the aquatic environment, above or below ground, would be  illegal under South Africa’s strict Water Act.

Most probably contaminated slimes will be delivered to large settling ponds, like those around Johannesburg, from which the remaining water will evaporate. This leaves behind a soft and unstable pile of contaminated soil which can be easily mobilised by the strong prevailing winds in the Karoo into large dust dispersal.

Already today, the environment around Beaufort West is contaminated close to the previous mine sites. First field studies by the author show unprotected nuclear wastes with 10 to 20 times the background radiation.

Dust and Radiation – Two Deadly Impacts

The devastating impacts of uranium mining on people, especially the mine workers, and the environment have been well research and documented. Several studies of large number of cases and with exposure over many years (Wismut AG in the former East Germany, theColorado-Plateau in the USA, and Saskatchewan in Canada, have established a particular direct relationship between occupational exposure to uranium and its decay products and lung diseases.

Mining uranium ore in the Karoo will invariably create huge plumes of contaminated dust. Dust clouds are unavoidable during drilling, blasting and transporting.

Dust suppression by spraying water is only partially effective and creates new problems with contaminated slimes, adding to the environmental cost of groundwater abstraction……..

January 19, 2016 Posted by | environment, South Africa, Uranium, water | Leave a comment

Legal obstacle to South Africa’s nuclear energy plan


Already, an attempt to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the process has been lodged: Earthlife and the Southern African Faith Communities Environmental Initiative (Safcei) filed papers to oppose it in October.

Now, the muddled events that unfolded last month are likely to make matters worse, making an already controversial process even more contested.

It all began in the last Cabinet meeting of the year on December 7, when it took a decision to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to build 9,600MW of nuclear power-generation.

As important as it is, this decision was not communicated in the normal post-Cabinet media statement by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

Official confirmation took place only on December 21 in a government gazette. Like the absence of an official announcement, the gazette, too, was strange. Apart from the fact that it was issued on December 21, when the holiday season was under way, the gazette made use of a two-year-old signature by previous minister Ben Martins to establish its legal basis.

In order to call for proposals for new generation, the minister of energy must first make an official determination in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006. To do so, she must obtain the concurrence of the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa). This, it seems, was done two years ago by Mr Martins and the paperwork then lay in a file in the Department of Energy for the next two years.

Last month, the old document was retrieved and slapped into the government gazette.

There are several reasons why the Department of Energy decided to use an old document to make the determination rather than getting a fresh one from serving Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. None of them, though, will make the nuclear deal any smoother……..

key to the legal arguments will be the difference of opinion over whether public consultation to build nuclear power stations has taken place. The department says that it has as it consulted widely over the IRP 2010 and has also engaged in environmental impact assessments. Safcei and Earthlife disagree that this amounts to meaningful consultation.

It is also worth noting that an RFP is only the beginning of the shopping process and does not mean that a decision to build plants has been taken. Reaching a decision on whether nuclear energy is affordable, particularly on the scale that SA has in mind, is a bigger and more difficult decision that the Cabinet will still have to take.

Getting there, though, will mean first navigating the procedural legal hurdles along the way.

January 11, 2016 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

A nuclear expert has serious concerns about safety, in South Africa’s nuclear project

safety-symbol-Smflag-S.AfricaSerious Nuclear oversight concerns, News 24,  Desmund  Bernardo , 3 Jan 16 I started my career within the South African Nuclear industry at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in 1992. The country was going through a serious transition at the time that brought with it excitement as well as trepidation. I had a bright future ahead of me with continuous growth and opportunity. ………
Seeing that our Government is seriously looking at Nuclear procurement in the not too distant future, I found myself reflecting again on those years spent with the burden of ensuring Nuclear safety and protecting the public at all cost. I had to ask myself a simple question. Can we build more nuclear power stations and run them safely?…….

I now ask myself if the NNR is in itself, as an independent government body, skilled enough and have the qualified staff to license current and future licensed staff at Koeberg and future Nuclear Power stations?

To answer this question I had to use common sense and world-best practice. In the USA the NRC is their equivalent of the South African National Nuclear regulator. Within the NRC you find experts and highly skilled professionals that have reached the highest echelons of the American Nuclear industry. These people are accomplished and the Licensees in the industry treat them with utmost respect. The people that oversee and administer exams have at some stage also received a license to manipulate reactor controls. They know what to look out for…….

Today however the invaluable industry experience is sorely lacking within the NNR. Most of the staff in the NNR has never worked within the Nuclear industry at all. Very few have spent time at a Nuclear Power station never mind holding a license to operate from a control room……

Is the Government honest with us when they say that SA is ready to build more Nuclear power stations? Do the Government and the NNR understand their true duty to public safety? Can the President of South Africa assure the public that the employees within the NNR are capable and skilled? Can the NNR assure the public that they will ensure their safety as a watch-dog?

If you are concerned about the oversight issues in the Nuclear industry, the nuclear new build public participation process is a great opportunity for you to raise your concerns and hold the government accountable. Make your voice heard.

January 4, 2016 Posted by | safety, South Africa | 1 Comment

Rejecting nuclear power, Catholic Church in South Africa calls for a referendum

text-Noflag-S.AfricaSouth Africa’s Catholic Church Rejects Nuclear Procurement Plans, Calls For Referendum, IBT  BY  @MORGANWINSOR ON 12/29/15 The Catholic Church in South Africa urged the government Tuesday to suspend its nuclear power procurement plans until a referendum on the issue is held. The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement the risks of adding nuclear energy to the national grid outweigh any economic benefits, according to South Africa’sFin24.

“Although the probability of a nuclear accident is relatively low, the consequences of such an accident cause health hazards for thousands of people and render hundreds of kilometers of land uninhabitable and unsuitable for any use for decades,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza, chairperson of the commission. “The commission has therefore appealed to the government to urgently call for a nuclear referendum.”

Gabuza said the South African government, which is struggling with power shortages and an economic crisis, has yet to show evidence that nuclear procurement is affordable to the country and consumers. The Christian-majority nation should instead focus its efforts and financial resources on renewable energy, he added.

“Given the enormity of the risks that the South African government is asking its citizens to bear through the nuclear option, including the enormous safety risks and economic risks, it is only fair that the government directly consults its people on the matter,” Gabuza said in the statement Tuesday. “A referendum is the best instrument for realizing the common good on this important matter.”…….

The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the government should look to Italy as a leading example. In June 2011, the Italian government held a similar referendum to poll its citizens on its plans to generate 25 percent of the country’s electricity from nuclear power by 2030. Well over 90 percent of voters rejected the plans for a return to nuclear power generation, the Guardian reported at the time.

“If our government truly believes that its nuclear decision is serving the best interests of the majority of South Africans, it should not be afraid to emulate the Italian example and open up the matter to a national referendum before the formal bidding process commences,” Gabuza said in the commission’s statement Tuesday, according to Fin24.

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Religion and ethics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s govt quietly confirms nuclear power deal


This opens the path for the Department of Energy to call for proposals to provide 9.6GW of nuclear power without first doing a cost-benefit analysis.  But Mr Gordhan was adamant on Monday the procurement would go head only if it was “affordable”. Mr Gordhan confirmed that the decision had been made, yet in a post-Cabinet statement and a media briefing last week, no mention was made of the procurement decision.

On Monday, Business Day reported on the decision and that was the first time it was mentioned in public.

Acting Cabinet spokeswoman Nebo Legoabe said on Monday she did not know why the information was not contained in the Cabinet statement. She had not been in the Cabinet meeting and was unaware of what was discussed.

Mr Gordhan said he was not in the Cabinet meeting either last week as he had been unwell, but confirmed the decision.

“There is, I think, a decision on Wednesday that we are going to move in that direction. Part of that decision … is that there will be a formal procurement process in accordance with South African law.’’

He reiterated that the Treasury would only proceed with plans that were affordable. We can’t spend money that we don’t have and we can’t make commitments when we know we are not going to get the money that is required to be spent in this particular regard,” the minister said.

Mr Gordhan added, however, that this did not mean it would never happen, just that it may have to wait.

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene has said repeatedly that nuclear energy would not be procured if SA could not afford it. The African National Congress has also expressed caution, passing a resolution at its national general council in October, calling for ‘‘a full, transparent and thorough cost-benefit analysis of nuclear power’’.

With Carol Paton

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

Secret nuclear dealings behind the sacking of South Africa’s Finance Minister Nene?

secret-dealsflag-S.AfricaNene axed: Cabinet denies knowledge of secret nuclear dealings

14 DEC 2015 13:03 MATTHEW LE CORDEUR Cabinet has denied reports that it approved the start of the nuclear procurement programme just before Nhlanhla Nene was removed as finance minister. President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet has denied claims that it secretly approved the start of the nuclear procurement programme during its meeting just before finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired last Wednesday.

Business Day journalist Carol Paton, who has a reputation for excellent sources, wrote on Monday that “the decision was made at the last Cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday, after which Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister. The approval was not announced by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe in his Cabinet briefing on Friday.”

Acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a brief response on Monday that she was not aware of this. “(I) saw it in Business Day.”

Nene stalled the 9 600 MW nuclear build programme, saying it was too expensive in the current economic climate. He had allocated R200-million in his mini budget for the departments of energy and finance to investigate the costing of the programme. There were no indications of this having produced any results.

Paton said “several independent studies have found that the cost of new nuclear energy will be greater than energy produced by other technologies”.

The nuclear process has been veiled in secrecy for over a year. As a result, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Earthlife Africa Jhb and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institution approached courts to challenge government’s plans to procure nuclear reactors.

Nomura emerging market analyst Peter Attard Montalto told Fin24 on Monday that if Cabinet had approved the programme, it was very serious. “I believe this move is illegal under the Public Sector Finance Management Act. Major public procurement projects have to have National Treasury cost-benefit analysis and affordability sign off.”

Montalto believed Treasury provided initial evidence to Cabinet that the project was unaffordable, which was the “wrong” answer for Zuma. “Hence Nene was ousted,” he said.

Montalto said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had always objected to the nuclear deal due to the cost and the possibility of corruption.

“He was in the Cabinet meeting when it was approved (by a majority) and would not have been presented with funding/guaranteeing, as it was a done deal back at National Treasury. Maybe he even didn’t object to it given it wasn’t his area at cooperative governance?” – Fin24

December 16, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

China keenly marketing nuclear technology to South Africa

Buy-China-nukes-1China confident of winning $80b S. Africa nuclear power bid
By Lyu Chang (China Daily): 2015-12-12 Industry officials are confident of China being the front-runner to win the right to build South Africa’s new generation of nuclear power stations.

“We think we are likely to win the bid, after preparing all the documents for the tender,” ZhengMingguang, head of the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute, ahigh-tech arm of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp.

“The nuclear energy industry also involves other issues, so we can’t set any date yet on thefinal bidding process,” he said.

The country hopes to land the contract using its CAP1400 nuclear technology, which isdesigned by SNERDI and based on the AP1000 reactor technology developed by the UnitedStates-based Westinghouse Electric Co LLC.

South Africa currently operates the continent’s only nuclear power plant, near Cape Town, butthe country is currently facing chronic electricity shortages.

The Pretoria government invited tenders in July for an estimated $80 billion contract to buildfour nuclear reactors-the largest contract in the country’s history-which attractedwidespread interest, including from State Nuclear Power Technology Corp, Russia’s stateatomic agency Rosatom and French nuclear firms…….

December 16, 2015 Posted by | China, marketing, South Africa | Leave a comment

France’s effort to market nuclear technology to South Africa

Hollande-salesFrance seeks to win over SA on nuclear energy, Business Day, BY SISEKO NJOBENI, NOVEMBER 06 2015 AMID speculation about SA’s nuclear build programme, the French special envoy for the French-South African nuclear partnership Pascal Colombani is in the country punting his country for the highly anticipated programme.

During his two-day visit to the country, Mr Colombani is scheduled to have meetings “at the political level” as well with relevant public enterprises such as Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Co-operation (Necsa). However, he would not say who he was scheduled to meet in government.

“This is my first visit since I have been appointed by President (François) Hollande as his special envoy for the nuclear partnership with SA. Therefore, the overall purpose of my visit is to scale up our co-operation into a long-term strategic partnership in nuclear energy with SA,” Mr Colombani told Fin24.

He said France and SA shared ambitious goals for the development of nuclear energy, “which should become one key component of our strategic partnership”.

Mr Colombani said France was ready to scale up the co-operation between the two countries into a strategic long-term partnership, by supporting the development of SA’s new nuclear programme. Technology, training and safety were at the core of this partnership, he said……

November 7, 2015 Posted by | France, marketing, South Africa | Leave a comment

Pitfalls and huge costs make South Africa’s nuclear programme untenable

The nuclear build is a very risky exercise with numerous potential pitfalls. And there are alternatives. The shortfall in the projected nuclear capacity can be covered by a 50% larger than planned renewable energy investment. Wind and solar energy plants have been operationalised on schedule, and solar panel prices continue falling. The intermittence of renewable energy availability is considered manageable. Finally, energy saving strategies have yet to be fully explored.The Conversation

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaWhy SA must abandon nuclear ambitions, The nuclear build is a very risky exercise with numerous potential pitfalls. And there are alternatives. Tech Central,  By Hartmut Winkler, 6 Nov 15  It has been an eventful year in South Africa, characterised by power cutsparliamentary confrontations about wasteful expenditure and student fee protests. There has, however, been an elephant in the room that has impacted all these issues but enjoyed surprisingly scarce attention. The idea, vigorously driven by government, is for the country to build nuclear plants with an expected price tag of R1 trillion.

This equates to 4 000 times the controversial costs to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence and 400 times the shortfall the tertiary education sector will experience in 2016 because of the freeze in university fee increases. Continue reading

November 7, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment


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