The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

South Africa is warned – Nuclear power is a dying industry

scrutiny-on-costsWith the South African build is set to cost anywhere up to R1-trillion, that would mean the same cost (adjusted upward with inflation) would have to be born near the end of this century, he says. “Except then you will have no income coming in. Just the cost of powering the reactors while you wind down operations. And the endless cost of looking after the nuclear waste.”

“This is a dying industry and there are just too many unanswered questions for South Africa to go down this path. Except we know the element of corruption can always be present in the nuclear industry,”

radiation-sign-sadflag-S.AfricaNuclear a ‘technology of the past‘, Mail & Guardian, 27 JUL 2015  SIPHO KINGS Russian nuclear activist has labelled South Africa’s pursuit of new nuclear capacity – with Russian support – as “naive” and advised against it. “Nuclear is not technology of the future. This is technology of the past, of the Cold War.” This is the conclusion Vladimir Slivyak, of the Russian environmental group Ecodefense, reaches when talking about nuclear technology. Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Russia is front-runner in scramble to sell nuclear reactors to South Africa, but who will pay?

South Africa has concluded similar pacts with China, France, the US, Japan and South Korea.

“There are serious questions that need to be answered as to whether South Africa is able to finance this programme and how any investment would have to be repaid,

Russian-Bearflag-S.AfricaWill Putin pay for SA’s $100bn nuclear plan?, Mail & Guardian, 06 JUL 2015 11:03 MIKE COHEN The awarding of contracts to build SA’s nuclear plants is nearing. Who will pay for the big project? Russia is seen as the frontrunner to win the right to build South African nuclear power plants that may be worth as much as $100-billion. With a six-month deadline to award contracts, who’s going to pay for the country’s biggest project yet remains a mystery.

Price-tag estimates for as many as eight reactors generating 9 600 megawatts, which the government wants to begin operating from 2023 and complete by 2029, range from $37-billion to $100-billion. Bids are due to start this quarter, with Russia’s Rosatom seen as a leader. Areva, EDF, Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding and Korea Electric Power have also shown interest.


The planned investment comes as the government battles to fend off a junk-grade credit rating and the Treasury seeks to rein in the budget deficit. Proceeding with the nuclear plants could result in a large increase in public debt, the International Monetary Fund warned in a report on June 24.

“There appears to be a simple-minded assumption that countries like China or Russia will provide cheap plants and offer finance,” Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich in the UK, who has monitored South Africa’s nuclear plans since 1997, said in a phone interview on June 24. “That’s an illusion.” Continue reading

July 11, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Russia, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance refutes government denials over a nuclear deal.

Russian-Bearflag-S.AfricaDA slams nuclear deal July 10 2015  IOL By ANA  The DA refutes government denials over a nuclear deal.

Cape Town – South Africa’s inking of two memoranda of understanding with Russia’s state nuclear energy company Rosatom made it clear a deal for a new reactor was already in the pipeline despite government’s denials, the Democratic Alliance said on Friday.

DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay said he had written to Energy minister Tina Joemat-Petterson following Thursday’s announcement of the agreement on the sidelines of the Brics summit in the southern Russian city of Ufa to demand that she release further details of it.

“That these MOUs reportedly speak of cooperation in order to provide training for five categories of specialists for the South African nuclear industry is the clearest indication yet that Rosatom is the preferred bidder,” Mackay said

“Signing MOUs of this nature, while a competitive bid process is underway, smacks of gross impropriety on behalf of Minister Joemat-Pettersson and can be seen as nothing more than a crude attempt by the Zuma administration to bolster Rosatom’s bid over potential rivals.”

Government on Thursday denied Russia was the preferred bidder for a deal that would increase South Africa’s nuclear power capacity………

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

Russia’s nuclear industry to “educate” South Africans

Russian-Bearflag-S.AfricaNuclear deal – 200 South Africans to be “educated” during excursions to Russia ALEC HOGG JULY 9, 2015 Cape Town – The Department of Energy announced in a statement on Thursday that it has signed two memoranda of understanding with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom at the 7th summit of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries in the Russian city of Ufa.

According to the first document, Russia and South Africa aim to implement several joint projects for education in the nuclear power industry.


The countries will cooperate to provide training for five categories of specialists for the South African nuclear industry: nuclear power plant personnel, engineers and construction workers, staff for operations not related to the power industry, personnel for nuclear infrastructure, students and teachers.

There will also be education programmes for 200 South African candidates at Russian universities and educational organisations. This memorandum stipulates the development of educational materials and scientific literature on nuclear power, student exchange programmes for students of various levels of training, organisation of internships and summer courses, student competitions and teacher training.

The second memorandum signed in Ufa stipulates joint efforts of the parties to promote nuclear power in South Africa, increasing the awareness of local residents of modern nuclear technologies used in the power industry and in other industries, and ensuring public acceptance of nuclear power.

In particular, the parties have agreed to work out a plan for the implementation of a joint communication programme to be launched in South Africa. This will involve the organisation of round tables and other events aimed at promoting nuclear power and modern nuclear technologies.

A nuclear energy information centre in South Africa is also under consideration. “The parties seek to exchange information and best practices in the nuclear industry by organising working visits and international conferences and exhibitions,” said the Department of Energy.   Source:

July 10, 2015 Posted by | politics, Russia, South Africa | Leave a comment

Clearly, South Africa can’t afford nuclear power

nuclear-costs3The South African government has said it will not go ahead with nuclear power if the expected construction cost is more than $6500/kW, equivalent to about R130bn per reactor. However, the latest cost estimates are about 25% higher than this. This means that if the South African government sticks to its promise, the tender will fail.

Why South Africa should steer clear of nuclear, By Steve Thomas, Professor of Energy Policy at University of Greenwich   Business Tech By  June
21, 2015
 It would be sensible to acknowledge that a nuclear programme is not viable for resolving South Africa’s energy crisis. Rather, the country should be focusing its attention on how to end electricity blackouts and speed up energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes.

Building new nuclear energy capability will cost the country billions of US dollars. It is doubtful that South Africa can afford this.

In addition, nuclear power entails a different but also serious set of risks to climate change. These include the risk of reactor accidents, the danger of weapons proliferation and the hazards of radioactive waste……

Price of nuclear

Continue reading

June 21, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Uranium promise turned to poverty for Dominionville, South Africa

Uranium mining town hopes long turned to dust, Mail & Guardian  05 DEC 2014 PHILLIP DE WET Dominionville residents expected a boom town when Shiva Uranium foretold promises of riches, but white poverty and black despair remain years later. The people of Dominionville in North West have seen it before, and those who were not around have heard the stories. The residents tell it among themselves like a sort of fairy tale – the pre-Disney kind, full of darkness and foreboding – warning against hope.

In 2006, it was Uranium One, they say, that sold the idea that riches would return to their town. In Canada and Europe, the company sold the story of the rich shafts – almost within sight of the residents – and they sold it well.

The people of Dominionville, more than half resigned to the idea that the tide would never turn their way again, read the articles about hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into the company, and dared to dream……

That was so many years ago that the signboards for the Shiva Uranium mines have been bleached almost illegible by the sun. As yet, the money has not materialised. Dominionville barely clings on, a place of white poverty and black despair……

June 10, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s government continues in its historic underestimation of nuclear costs


History suggests otherwise. When the pebble bed programme for SA to develop its own reactor design was announced in 1998, Eskom claimed a commercial reactor could be in operation by 2004 at a construction cost of less than $1,000 per kilowatt of capacity.

By 2010, commercial deployment of the pebble bed was estimated by Eskom to be 20 years away and the estimated cost of a demonstration plant had increased nearly 30-fold.

In 2006, a tender for new nuclear plants from the world market was launched with the expectation that a plant could be bought for $2,500/kW. The lowest bid was 150% more and the tender was abandoned in 2008 because it could not be financed.

Only two years later, a new attempt to order nuclear plants was launched with the publication of the first Integrated Resource Plan for the electricity industry. The prices bid in 2008 were ignored and it was assumed the cost would be only $3,500/kW. A year later, in 2011, the government had to admit this figure was far too low and revised it up to about $5,000/kW, still well below the prices bid in 2008 and below prevailing international price levels.

There are only two explanations for this continued gross underestimation of costs. Either the government is choosing to mislead the public about the actual costs, or it is far too gullible to the claims of nuclear sales people. Neither explanation reflects well on the government.

The government has promised that if the bid prices were higher than $6,500/kW, the tender would be abandoned. Given that prevailing prices in the world are now about $8,000/kW, if the government keeps its promise, the tender being launched this year is doomed to failure. It would be useful for Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to confirm now whether the promise still applies and, if it does not, how much the state is prepared to pay.


June 4, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Secrecy, and no costing known, in South Africa’s plans for nuclear power



However, officials said the procurement would be completed by the end of the financial year when “a strategic partner or partners” would be chosen.

While the officials gave a lengthy motivation on the need for nuclear power and SA’s preparedness for the new nuclear energy build, details about the cost, the financing and the procurement process were not provided. Inter-governmental agreements that SA has signed with various countries on nuclear co-operation, as well as a damning report by the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review on SA’s readiness also remained under wraps.

Ms Joemat-Pettersson is backed by President Jacob Zuma in her quest to build 9.6GW of nuclear generation capacity. However, there are several detractors of the plan, including the former National Planning Commission, opposition political parties and a wide array of civil society and human rights lobby groups……

DA MP Gordon MacKay said that with regard to the financing the government had got the cart before the horse.”It is strange that we are wanting to buy something that we don’t know the cost of and we don’t know how we will pay for,” he said.

Mr MacKay also criticised the secrecy of the report compiled in the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review process.While reports for other countries are available on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the report compiled on SA remains “classified” despite being completed two years ago.

Mr MacKay said it was believed that the report showed SA to be unprepared for the nuclear procurement in 14 of 19 benchmark areas.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Unlikely that South Africa could fund its secretive nuclear power project

Too soon’ to assess SA on funding nuclear BD Live BY CHARLOTTE MATHEWS, 03 JUNE 2015, MOSCOW — Assumptions could not yet be made about SA’s capacity to finance its planned 9,600MW of new nuclear power because a number of other issues needed to be decided first, said Kirill Komarov, Rosatom State Corporation’s first deputy general director for development and international business.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Atomexpo 2015 conference on nuclear technology in Moscow this week, which has attracted 1,600 delegates from 48 countries. Although Rosatom has the major role, there are speakers and exhibitors from nuclear vendor countries including France, Russia and China……..

The South African government seeks a large nuclear procurement despite doubts about its affordability. The target is to have the first reactor in commission by 2023……..

Given SA’s other spending priorities and weak economic growth, it seemed unlikely it could fund this programme in full………Rosatom had arranged financing for nuclear stations it built in Belarus, Hungary and India,……. • Rosatom sponsored Charlotte Mathews’s visit to Russia

June 4, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, South Africa | Leave a comment

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


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