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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Murky dealings in South Africa’s nuclear procurement

corruptionflag-S.AfricaNuclear vision: New Eskom CEO Koko puts controversial nuclear power plans back on table The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when the government appeared to back down on plans to build nuclear power plants any time soon. But Eskom’s new acting CEO Matshela Koko has moved quickly to get the build back on the agenda. He would like to start the process to identify project participants before the end of the year, with nuclear power plants up-and-running within the next decade, Fin24 has revealed.

The nuclear power plan has proved controversial for a number of reasons: firstly, the amount of money involved in developing the programme is so huge it could damage the economy; secondly, the plans first came to light after it emerged that President Jacob Zuma had been in secret talks with Russia to do the work. While Russia and its agency Rosatom have denied that there have been any irregularities in their dealings with South Africa about the build programme, it’s hard not to be cynical about what has gone on behind-the-scenes. The state capture report released by former public protector Thuli Madonsela pointed to the widespread abuse of state funds and the involvement of foreign parties in the control of state entities. Power utility Eskom featured prominently in the report.

So far, there has been no concerted action to fully investigate the allegations. Koko replaces Brian Molefe, who resigned after disgracing himself with bizarre statements about a shebeen in Saxonwold in order to deny he was visiting the controversial Gupta family who live in the leafy suburb. But Koko is no saint; he has also had links to an irregular Eskom deal highlighted in the state capture report. The fact that the nuclear build programme is back on the table, and that there is a sense of urgency to get it moving, points to the worrying possibility that state capture doesn’t only extend across the public sector – it runs deep within institutions. – Jackie Cameron

Biz News, By Matthew Le Cordeur, 1 Dec 16 

Cape Town – Despite a draft energy plan that sees nuclear energy being delayed by over a decade, government and its state-owned entities (SOE) are gearing up to release the request for proposal (RFP) for the 9.6 GW nuclear build programme.

Acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko last month pledged to release the RFPs by the end of the year, and this could happen as soon as next week…….https://www.biznews.com/sa-investing/2016/12/01/nuclear-power-eskom-ceo-koko/

December 2, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

African states lead in push for international ban on nuclear weapons

world-nuclear-weapons-freeAfrica pushes for a 2017 ban on nuclear weapons https://www.issafrica.org/iss-today/africa-pushes-for-a-2017-ban-on-nuclear-weapons
A new UN resolution might spell an end to decades of paralysis in nuclear disarmament negotiations.
01 DEC 2016  /  BY ANNIE DUPRE AND NOËL STOTT 
On 27 October, the First Committee of the United Nations (UN) passed L.41: ‘Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations’. The resolution calls for negotiations to take place next year on a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, and lead towards their total elimination. It was passed with 123 votes in favour, 38 against and 16 abstentions.

This initiative has been called historic by analysts such as the former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the UN, civil society groupings and international organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross –underscored by the belief that as long as nuclear weapons exist, humankind will risk facing the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear war.

Others, such as France, maintain that such a treaty would be ineffective and could undermine the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, prohibits the spread of nuclear weapons.

These differing assessments over the potential impact of a nuclear weapons ban treaty mirror the deep divisions among NPT state parties regarding their disarmament obligations, which has been a source of disagreement since the NPT’s entry-into-force.

The response of African states has been largely positive. Of the 47 African UN member states present at the vote, all but three supported the resolution. From the Africa Group, only Mali, Morocco and Sudan deviating by abstaining – presumably after coming under pressure from some nuclear-weapon states. Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles and South Sudan were not present for the vote. A number of African states co-sponsored and spearheaded the resolution, including Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

If passed by the UN General Assembly in December, negotiations are set to start in early 2017 – a step that would end two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Despite two-thirds of countries present at the vote supporting the resolution, there was significant push-back from virtually all the NPT nuclear-weapon states (the United States, France, Britain, Russia) and most of their allies, such as the 27 North Atlantic Treaty Organization members and Japan and Australia. The Russian representative warned of the damage such a treaty could cause, arguing that the initiative ‘was a destructive and hasty one that undermined and eroded existing disarmament mechanisms [the NPT]’.

His argument was echoed by others, including Morocco – which explained that its abstention was based on how the process and the way it was handled would impact on the NPT review process, and the possibility of all states working together. The Moroccan representative further called for preparatory work to be undertaken before negotiations started.

South Africa, however, expressed the view that the initiative would actually further the goals of the NPT, stating: ‘Such a treaty would also strengthen the NPT and underline the urgency of accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations and related commitments’.

Speakers from non-nuclear-weapon states also argued that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons would constitute a violation of international law and a crime against humanity. Malawi declared that it ‘is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances. The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapons detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed’.

In the statement delivered by Nigeria, the African Group affirmed that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is still ‘the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use’. Beyond supporting negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, Nigeria’s statement also called on all UN members to support ‘a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances by nuclear-weapons states to all non-nuclear-weapons states, pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons’.

Some of the states under the US nuclear umbrella that abstained or voted no – like the Netherlands and Japan – have indicated their willingness to participate in the negotiations in 2017. Others, such as Norway, have subsequently indicated that they would not. Still others seem undecided.

It is unlikely that the NPT nuclear-weapon states would participate in such discussions. Mark Toner, US State Department spokesperson, said: ‘Successful nuclear reductions will require participation from all relevant parties, proven verification measures, and security conditions conducive to cooperation …we lack all three factors at this time.’

The United Kingdom (UK) is also clear on the need for its nuclear deterrence to be maintained ‘for the foreseeable future’ – because of the ‘risk that states might use their nuclear capability to threaten us, try to constrain our decision-making in a crisis or sponsor nuclear terrorism’.

Significantly, three nuclear-armed states, namely China, India and Pakistan, abstained, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea voted in favour. However, it remains to be seen whether these states would participate in the negotiations.

And this is the crux of the issue. Despite a sizable number of UN members in favour of negotiations, there is significant skepticism of the opportunities these would present, especially if nuclear-weapons states boycott the talks scheduled for March and June next year.

The question is whether it would be better, strategically, for nuclear-armed states and their allies to participate – if only to try guide the negotiations in their favour? However, African states, who make up a significant portion of the UN membership, could also direct the path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

According to Article 36, a UK-based organisation, the treaty would serve as a necessary and practical next step towards a world in which all weapons of mass destruction are outlawed and are being eliminated: even without the participation of nuclear-armed states.

Historically, all unacceptable weapons have first been subjected to a global prohibition before they were eliminated. For any international instrument to have a true impact, however, acceptance by a large majority of states is needed.

In most of the recent processes towards banning indiscriminate weapons (such as anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions), Africa has played a leading role. It is possible that the African continent, which also hosts the only country to have unilaterally eliminated its own nuclear arsenal, may again play such a role in the banning of probably the most destructive weapons ever to have been developed. While the effectiveness of such an instrument remains to be seen, the decision to commence negotiations on such a treaty is indeed a historic occasion.

Annie DuPre, Research Consultant and Noël Stott, Senior Research Fellow, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria

December 2, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, AFRICA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear marketing: sellers keen to finance Kenya ?

marketing-nukes

Who’s Paying For This $5 Billion Nuclear Plant In Kenya?,Daily Caller, ANDREW FOLLETT
Energy and Science Reporter, 1 Dec 16  
Kenya is getting ready to start building a $5 billion dollar nuclear power plant, but its unclear where the money is coming from.

Kenya’s first nuclear reactor is scheduled to be completed by 2027 and will generate an estimated 1,000 megawatts of power. Kenya has signed agreements with China for the larger country to help finance and construct similar reactors. China’s state-controlled nuclear companies have already offered technical assistance in handling the nuclear fuel Kenya will need.

Another potential funding source for the reactor is South Korea, which signed agreements to collaborate on designing, operating and financing Kenyan reactors.

“When we talk of 1,000 megawatts, we are talking half of the capacity we have right now in the country,” Collins Gordon Juma, CEO of Kenya’s Nuclear Electricity Board, told Bloomberg Markets Tuesday. “It is very expensive, so we are looking at several funding options. We are speaking to various governments.”……..

Kenya is one of the most stable countries in East Africa, but the country has a serious problem with Islamic terrorism. In 1998, 200 people were killed when al-Qaida affiliate Egyptian Islamic Jihad bombed the U.S. embassy in the country. Another 13 were killed in an attack on an Israeli-owned Paradise hotel in 2002. More recently, the militant Islamic terror group, Al-Shabaab, killed 67 people in an attack on a shopping mall in 2013.

The country’s new reactor would not produce the weapons-grade plutonium necessary to make a nuclear weapon, but materials from them could be used to create dirty bombs. A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with conventional explosives that could contaminate the local area with high radiation levels for long periods of time and cause mass panic, though it would be millions of times weaker than an actual nuclear device. The Islamic State wants to steal this kind of radioactive material for a dirty bomb.

Other countries with serious Islamic terrorism problems are also constructing nuclear reactors. Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear power plants from Russia for $100 billion despite terrorism concerns, according to a Monday announcement from a government-controlled nuclear power company. The reactors will be built by the Russian government controlled Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Cooperation……. http://dailycaller.com/2016/11/30/whos-paying-for-this-5-billion-nuclear-plant-in-kenya/#ixzz4RcZVEppY

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Kenya, marketing | Leave a comment

South Africa’s new Integrated Resource Plan holds no joy for the nuclear lobby

What’s next for SA energy, now that Russian nuclear build is on ice? Expert unpacks the plan , Biz News, Business players and others with interests in nuclear energy are understandably annoyed that the country’s plans are changing, with a nuclear build programme with Russia looking like it is on ice. For Hartmut Winkler, a physics expert at the University of Johannesburg, the new plan has the makings of a good news story for South Africa. He unpacks the details, explaining how energy consumption patterns in the country have changed recently and also how the costs of renewable energy options have been falling. Although the pro-nuclear lobby – which includes Eskom, a state entity that features prominently in state capture allegations – is expected to keep pushing for the Russian option, Winkler reckons the programme is unlikely to go ahead. There is research that indicates that nuclear power might not even be needed by South Africa until at least 2050, which means pushing the build out even further.  Winkler is remarkably upbeat about the state of the energy sector. If energy generation is managed properly from here on, South Africa’s energy challenges may not be as bad as we all think, is his message. – Jackie Cameron By Hartmut Winkler* 29 Nov 16 The much awaited updated South African Integrated Resource Plan for electricity has been released for comment.

The document makes far-reaching proposals about the target energy generation mix leading all the way to 2050. In particular, the plan pronounces on the future scale and role of nuclear energy and renewable energy technologies. The appropriateness of these has been debated a great deal in the country in the past few years……

in an updated version of the 2011 plan that was prepared in 2013. It recommended that, in view of these changing conditions, there was no longer a need to kick-start a nuclear build programme immediately. It also recommended that a decision on whether or not to embark on an expensive expansion of the nuclear reactor fleet could be delayed for several years.

But this updated version of the plan was never promulgated. This left the door open for a fiercely pro-nuclear lobby which is in favour of a highly lucrative nuclear expansion programme. This issue has developed into a political hot potato. The central argument is that the push for nuclear goes against economic common sense and that it’s being pursued for the benefit of politically connected individuals.

The nuclear build issue has come to feature prominently as one of the important drivers of what is referred to as “state capture” of some of the country’s large institutions.

The latest version

The draft update of the resources plan advocates the following most likely scenario, referred to as the “base case”.

  • Electricity demand between 310 and 355 TWh in 2030 (about 100 TWh lower than envisaged in the 2010-2030 plan) with demand rising to between 390 and 530 TWh in 2050. This is based on projection models developed at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
  • The construction of 37.4 GW (1 000 GigaWatts equal 1 TeraWatt) of wind capacity and 17.6 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity between 2020 and 2050.
  • The gradual decommissioning of most existing coal power stations by 2050 in line with international carbon emission agreements.
  • A substantial increase (35.3 GW) in electricity generation from gas. Due to the high cost of gas it is generally used only as a back up. It would in any case contribute only about 7% of total energy generation.
  • The construction of just over 20 GW of nuclear power. But this would only gradually come on line between 2037 and 2050. Given that construction of the plants would take ten years the decision to go ahead with the nuclear build could still be delayed for another decade.

Initial reactions

Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry and its supporters have reacted very negatively to the new draft. Strong nuclear advocates in the state electricity utility Eskom have gone so far as to defiantly declare that they will invite nuclear construction proposals before the end of the year.

But Eskom’s defiance is unlikely to lead to anything substantial. This is because the state utility is facing both a credibility crisis and its finances are in poor shape.

On the other hand advocates of faster growth in renewables have criticised two fundamental assumptions underpinning the “base case” model.

They argue that the model assumes renewable tariffs slightly higher than achieved in the last allocations made under the renewable energy procurement programme. Only by 2030 do these drop a further 20% for photovoltaics and 9% for wind. But given recent trends and projections there’s a strong likelihood that future renewable energy costs will be lower than that.

The “base case” also assumes a limit to how many solar and wind plants can be constructed annually. But based on past interest and delivery by private renewable power producers far greater annual developments are possible.

Several researchers have shown that by applying lower renewable tariffs and removing annual construction limits renewables can make up a much greater proportion of the energy mix, and that new nuclear might not even be needed in 2050.

Future energy demand

The new energy plan is now subject to public input. It is due to be adopted by government in four months time after improvements and further scenario modelling has been added.

Even after adoption, updates will need to be done regularly, ideally every two years since even current projections could be overestimating future energy demand considerably.

This is particularly true given that energy consumption is declining in most developed countries because of advances in technology and energy saving initiatives.

If the energy sector is managed correctly, the current South African energy crisis may not be as far reaching as is often assumed.The Conversation

November 30, 2016 Posted by | ENERGY, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s unsafe nuclear power plans – new report

safety-symbol-Smflag-S.AfricaSouth Africa’s Proposed Nuclear Power Plant Unsafe: Study  VOA News, 25 Nov 16 JOHANNESBURG — 

South African power provider Eskom has proposed building a nuclear power station on a site that may be at risk of surge storms and tsunamis, a geological report suggests, but the state-owned utility disputes the findings.

South Africa has the continent’s only nuclear power station and plans to expand nuclear power generation to meet growing electricity demand in Africa’s most industrialized country.

The report by Maarten de Wit, a professor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and director of the Africa Earth Observatory Network, a research institute, says canyons in the bedrock would need to be secured.

“If you are going to build anything on that, it’s pretty prone to storms, sea level rises and tsunamis,” De Wit told Reuters on Friday.

The site at Thyspunt, near Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, is on the Indian Ocean coastline.

The report also showed seismic activity along dormant fault lines near the site that could trigger submarine landslides. Any such activity “is likely to generate a large submarine slump, and a possible significant local tsunami that would affect the coastal region, including Thyspunt,” the report said, warning that a plant at Thyspunt could be at risk of devastation similar that in Fukushima in Japan in 2011……. http://www.voanews.com/a/south-afdrica-s-proposed-nuclear-power-plant-unsafe-report-says/3611738.html

November 26, 2016 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) warns Eskom on nuclear procurement plansx

Busa warns Eskom on nuclear plans IOL,  25 November 2016,  Siseko Njobeni Johannesburg – Business Unity South Africa (Busa) yesterday warned power utility Eskom not to proceed with preparations to procure nuclear while consultations on the draft integrated resource plan (IRP) had not been completed.

Busa said it was concerned that the difficulties that renewable projects faced in gaining access to the grid appeared to be used as an artificial constraint on renewable energy sources.

“Furthermore, Busa is concerned that Eskom and the government do not seem to be aligned on the question of the nuclear element of the IRP,” the business group said.

“Busa believes that the role of Eskom, particularly in respect of its position as the sole purchaser of electricity, needs to be clearly defined.”

“Additionally, Eskom’s role as the developer of new generation capacity should not proceed independently of the IRP which is only expected to be finalised in the third quarter of next year,” Busa said.

Procurement

The business body said any procurement of large-scale generation should commence only after finalisation of the IRP as the national plan.

The warning comes after the Department of Energy published the draft integrated energy plan and the draft IRP for the country on Tuesday.  The documents are out for public comment.

The assumptions and scenarios in the IRP will be the subject of public consultation at Nedlac – the government, labour and business negotiating chamber – and provincial road shows in February next year…….

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa said yesterday that it was alarmed at the prospect of a delay of the nuclear programme to 2037. http://www.iol.co.za/business/companies/busa-warns-eskom-on-nuclear-plans-2093258

 

November 26, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, South Africa | Leave a comment

Stalling of nuclear power plan in South Africa shows Zuma’s waning power

flag-S.AfricaZuma’s waning power exposed by stalled nuclear plan. Mail and Guardian 24 Nov 2016 Mike CohenPaul Vecchiatto Government’s decision to stall plans championed by President Jacob Zuma to build nuclear plants has exposed his waning authority.

News of the delay came on Tuesday when the department of energy said additional atomic power won’t come on stream until 2037 under its “base case” scenario, 14 years later than previously projected. Although Zuma says reactors are key to addressing power constraints in Africa’s most industrialised economy, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, economists and ratings agencies warn that South Africa can’t afford them now.

 “Essentially the project has been indefinitely postponed and the final decision on nuclear power will only be taken by Zuma’s successor,” said Robert Schrire, a politics professor at the University of Cape Town. “This is a great victory for economic rationality and political expediency and reflects the new political balance of a weakened Zuma administration.”…….

Gordhan’s victory
Gordhan won a victory this month after prosecutors withdrew fraud charges against him for allegedly approving a pension payment to a tax service official, two days before he was due to appear in court. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, alleged that Zuma intended to use the court case as a pretext for firing Gordhan and in the process remove the biggest obstacle to his nuclear ambitions.

The party also says that Zuma may already have signed a secret nuclear power supply deal with Russia and that the programme would be used to benefit his own financial interests and those of his allies. The president and the government deny the allegation……

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told reporters the power blueprint was updated to reflect developments in the energy industry, including changes in technology costs and lower-than-anticipated demand. The draft plan will be finalised next year.

Eskom, which supplies about 90% of the nation’s power, isn’t shelving its nuclear plans yet. The state utility will continue to seek requests for proposals to build new reactors pending the completion of the energy plan…..

The dynamics of power in South Africa are shifting, according to Keith Gottschalk, a political scientist from the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town.

Zuma is “still able to outvote and outmanoeuvre his opponents in the ANC, but the mounting pressure has meant he has not been able to always get his own way all the time,” he said. “He is on the way down like a slow-leaking puncture.” – Bloomberg http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-24-news-analysis-zumas-waning-power-exposed-by-stalled-nuclear-plan

November 24, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Economic realities in South Africa: indefinite delay to nuclear power plans

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaGovernment delays nuclear plant plans as economy stagnates, Mail and Guardian, 22 Nov 2016 Mike CohenPaul Vecchiatto  South Africa delayed plans to build new nuclear power plants over concern about their cost and the waning demand for additional electricity as economic growth stalls.

Under a new timeline, the first nuclear power is expected to come on stream in 2037, with a total 20 385 megawatts of nuclear energy added to the national grid by 2050, according to the “base case” scenario outlined in a presentation about the department of energy’s updated Integrated Resources Plan. The proposal, released in Cape Town on Tuesday, also estimates as additional 37 400 MW of power from wind, 17 600 MW from solar plants, 35 292 MW from gas and 15 000 MW from coal by 2050.

  The government previously said it wanted to generate 9 600 MW of energy from as many as eight reactors that should begin operating from 2023 and be completed by 2029. Price estimates had ranged from $37-billion to $100-billion. Although President Jacob Zuma has championed the nuclear programme, the treasury has cautioned that the country may be unable to afford new reactors at a time when the economy is barely growing and the budget deficit needs to be curbed to fend off a junk credit rating.

“Gas and renewables [will] form the biggest chunk of installed capacity by 2050,” the department of energy said in the presentation. “There is significant reduction in installed capacity from coal……..

Power cuts
The energy plan will be refined in March next year and then submitted to Cabinet for final sign-off.

Eskom, the state-owned utility, has said it could use the more than R150-billion it will accumulate in reserves within 10 years to build new reactors. The utility operates Africa’s only nuclear power plant — the 1 800 MW Koeberg facility near Cape Town, which began operating in 1984.

Rosatom, Areva SA, EDF SA, Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric unit, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp and Korea Electric Power Corp previously expressed interest in building new reactors in South Africa…..http://mg.co.za/article/2016-11-22-sa-delays-nuclear-plant-plan-as-economy-stagnates

November 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Stark choices face communities in drought afflicted Africa

Electricity Minister Luis Motta looks at the massive Guri Dam, virtually dry because of the drought. Reuters photo.Battle of the Desert (I): To Fight or to Flee? http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/battle-of-the-desert-i-to-fight-or-to-flee/ 

“After the rains failed for a few years, some neighbours claimed our trees were drawing too much water from the ground. We cut them down. Our harvests fell. My mother closed her stall at the local market. That is when my father and I moved from the midlands to the Ruvu Mferejini river valley.”

Maria, whose dramatic story has been told by the United Nations organization leading in combating desertification, goes on to say: “My brother quit school to help the family. He went to find work but he does not earn enough. My mother stayed in Bangalala so that my daughter could go to school because there are no schools in the valley.”

“But where we moved to, my crop also failed last year. That is why early this year I moved yet again, but I left my father behind. I hope to farm here much longer, as I am sure the people I left behind with my father will have to move too. But when will this moving end? I cannot afford it anymore.”

This is not an isolated case–Maria is in the same situation that women in Darfur, Mali, Chad or Afghanistan were in before local conflicts over water or land turned into civil wars, sexual violence or genocide, reports the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Nor is this situation unique to sub-Saharan Africa where half a billion inhabitants are rural, a majority lives off the land and desertification is a constant threat to their livelihoods,” it alerts in its report Desertification, the Invisible Frontline.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.” UNCCD

According to the Bonn-based UNCCD, more than 1.5 billion people in the world depend on degrading land, and 74 per cent of them, like Maria, are poor.

Desertification is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, says this international legal framework for tackling desertification, land degradation and drought, 169 of its 194 Parties have declared they are affected by desertification.

The consequences are dire. “As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

The effects of desertification are increasingly felt globally as victims turn into refugees, internally displaced people and forced migrants or they turn to radicalisation, extremism or resource-driven wars for survival, UNCCD continues.

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.’

Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.

UP to 30% of World’s Land Affected by Desertification

For its part, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that desertification currently affects approximately twenty-five to thirty per cent of the world’s land surface area. About 1,2 billion people in at least 100 states are at risk.

Over 42 billion dollars in lost productivity or human support occurs each year on account of it. According to UNEP, the global rate of desertification is increasing, although the local rates vary by region.

“Africa, with around sixty-six per cent of its land either desert or drylands, is particularly affected by desertification. Already, a number of large-scale famines have occurred in the Sahelian region, resulting in migration of people towards more hospitable lands.”

Desertification occurs mainly through over-cropping, over-grazing, improper irrigation practices, and deforestation. These activities arise from poor land management, which, in turn, stems from the socio-economic conditions in which the farmers live.

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, gives specific figures.

“Globally, only 7.8 billion hectares of land are suitable for food production. About 2 billion hectares are already degraded, and of these 500 million hectares have been totally abandoned. These lands could be restored to fertility for future use.”

With 99.7 per cent of our food calories coming from the land –Barbut underlines– land degradation is a threat to our food security. But its effects are especially harsh for the poorest people who rely directly on the land for survival – food, employment and water. When their lands cannot produce any more, they have little choice but to migrate or fight over what little is left.

“Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy,” Barbut wroteon IPS.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 per cent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product, she added.

“Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild. Or simply leave.”

According to Barbut, “It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.”

Food Insecurity Triggering Riots

In 2008, food insecurity triggered riots in over 30 countries, ccording to the UNCCD. But it is rural communities like those of Bangalala, who depend on rainfed agriculture that contribute to global food security.

The livelihoods of over 2 billion people worldwide depend on 500 million small-scale farmers. Drylands, which make up nearly 34 per cent of the land mass and are a major source of food security especially for the poor, are being degraded day-by-day, it adds.

“Desertification does not always lead to conflict. But it is an amplifier of displacement, forced migration, radicalisation, extremism and violence.”

The US National Security Strategy refers to climate change as a key global challenge that will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources, suffering from drought and famine, catastrophic natural disasters, and the degradation of land across the globe, it reminds.

Therefore, “investing in practical solutions that transform lives and reduce the vulnerability of communities like Maria’s would be cheaper and work better than investing in walls, wars and relief.”

November 23, 2016 Posted by | AFRICA, climate change | Leave a comment

South Africa’s renewable energy is making nuclear power look obsolete

solar,-wind-aghastflag-S.AfricaSolar And Wind Versus Nuclear: Is Baseload Power Obsolete? Planet Save November 20th, 2016 by . The future of electrical energy is playing out in South Africa, where 80% of all electricity is generated by burning coal. The government is anxious to shutter all those coal fired plants but is caught in a crossfire between advocates for nuclear power and those who favor renewable solutions like solar and wind energy.

South Africa is the most advanced economy in sub-Saharan Africa. Until 2008, its electrical power came from coal fired generating stations and one nuclear power plant. Starting in 2008, the country ran short of electricity due to poor infrastructure planning, That’s when crippling rolling blackouts began. Desperate for more electrical capacity, the government started a campaign to lure investment in wind and solar power. By June of this year, 102 renewable energy projects worth $14.4 billion had been completed.

Renewable Strategy Successful

“The program has been very successful, clear of any corruption and very well run,” said Wikus van Niekerk, the director of the Center for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University. “It’s been seen by many people in the rest of the world as one of the most successful procurement programs for renewable energy. It’s something that the South African government and public should be proud about.”

Several of those projects are concentrated solar facilities located near Upington in the central part of the country. That area has some of the most abundant daily sunshine of any place on earth. But those facilities use technology that is now almost obsolete. They use mirrors to concentrate sunlight to boil water to make steam.

After the sun goes down, they can continue to make electricity from the steam on hand for a few hours. After that, they have to wait for the sun to reappear the next day. Newer concentrated solar plants use the sun’s rays to heat molten salt, which can be kept in storage for up to 10 hours after the sun sets and used to keep the steam turbines spinning. Researchers in Spain say using molten silicon can store up to ten times as much energy as molten salt……….

Is Baseload Power An Outmoded Concept?

“The concept of baseload is actually an outdated concept,” said Harald Winkler, the director of the Energy Research Center at the University of Cape Town. “Eskom was built around big coal and to a lesser extent big nuclear — big chunks of base load power. It’s really myopic in terms of where the future of the grid is going to go. We’re going to see in South Africa and the rest of the world much more decentralized grids.”

Distributed Vs. Centralized Power

Ahhh, there is in a nutshell. The same fears that drive established utility companies in the United States. Europe, and Australia apply in South Africa. Utility companies think in terms of centralized grids. Renewables coupled with efficient, cost effective energy storage make grids virtually obsolete. Utility companies are petrified they may become irrelevant and the trillions of dollars invested in building grids throughout the world will stop producing income.

Businesses in South African cities are increasingly installing solar panels and going off the grid. Elsewhere in Africa, it is now common to see villagers connecting cellphones to single solar panels outside mud­ brick homes.

Opposition to South Africa’s nuclear plans is also coming from the government’s main research agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It says an expansion of solar and wind energy, in addition to natural gas, could meet South Africa’s future energy needs for less money. “No new coal, no new nuclear,” said Tobias Bischof­Niemz, who leads the
council’s research on energy. “South Africa is in a very fortunate situation where we can decarbonize our energy system at negative cost.”……..

Nuclear power relies completely on a centralized grid. Building grid infrastructure — transmission lines and substations — costs as much or more as a building generating facilities themselves. That’s why localized renewable power provides the most amount of electricity per dollar invested. http://planetsave.com/2016/11/20/solar-wind-versus-nuclear-baseload-obsolete/

November 21, 2016 Posted by | decentralised, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s renewable energy boom attacked by nuclear Eskom

Windmills or Reactor Cores? Inside South Africa’s Energy Clash, NYT NOV. 13, 2016 UPINGTON, South Africa — In one of the most sun-drenched corners of the planet, a 670-foot tower rises above a desert dotted with 4,160 mirrors. Tracking the sun throughout the day, the mirrors, called heliostats, redirect the sun’s rays into the tower, where water is heated to generate steam — and electricity.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Secretive meeting for South Africa’s Parliament on nuclear briefing

Media not welcome at nuclear energy briefing http://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2016/11/15/Media-not-welcome-at-nuclear-energy-briefing Linda Ensor | 15 November, 2016  The Department of Energy’s briefing on the nuclear build programme to Parliament’s energy portfolio committee will be a closed meeting with no media or members of the public present‚ committee chairman Fikile Majola announced on Tuesday. The decision marks a step backwards in Majola’s otherwise forthright push for greater transparency from the department‚ which has been intent on withholding documents on the nuclear procurement programme.

 The sitting was yet to be scheduled. Majola also said the meeting to discuss the forensic reports into the R14.5-billion impairment suffered by PetroSA on its investment in the Ikhwezi offshore drilling project was also to be closed.

This meeting was also scheduled for Tuesday‚ attracting a strong media presence. Journalists and other members of the public were required to leave the room. Majola said he had obtained the necessary authorisation from parliamentary authorities to close the meeting‚ which would be addressed by the PetroSA board.

At a previous sitting‚ Majola obtained copies of the forensic reports into the Ikhwezi project on the proviso that the committee decided in what manner it dealt with it‚ giving consideration to the need for confidentiality.

The Ikhwezi project was intended to bolster the supply of gas to PetroSA’s gas-to-fuel refinery at Mossel Bay but generated only about 10% of the envisaged volumes.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Drought is destabilising Africa

drought1HotSpots H2O: Africa’s Water Challenges  http://www.circleofblue.org/2016/world/hotspots-h2o-africas-water-challenges/ Global HotSpots H2O, 13 Nov 16 

From the Syrian conflict, to protests in Zimbabwe, Tunisia and India, to a deep drought destabilizing South Africa, water is playing a significant role in global civil unrest.

HotSpots H2O from Circle of Blue’s award-winning team of journalists examines regions, populations, and countries that are most at risk from water-related unrest and conflict. It reveals the challenges individuals confront — and the solutions they discover — as they strive to build resilient communities.

Africa’s Water Challenges The worst drought in 35 years continues to grip southern Africa, even as the El Nino season that caused it comes to an end. The drought, which began in 2015, has left 21.3 million people in need of food assistance,according the American aid agency USAID. Officials say the food crisis will continue to get worse.

“The crisis has yet to peak,” United Nation’s Special Envoy Macharia Kamau told journalists in Mozambique after a four day tour of that nation where he witnessed the desperation of the hungry. “For many children, women and the elderly, the next few months will be about looking at survival straight in the face,” he continued.

The fifteen-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been scrabbling to find aid for the food crisis and has recently launched a call for $US 2.9 billion in food aid from the international community. The call for assistance comes as the wet season returns to southern Africa with the onset of La Nina.

Despite the upcoming rains, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe have all declared a state of emergency, due to the upcoming “lean season.” From January to March famers will wait for their crops to grow before they can begin to harvest.

The severity of the effects of the drought in the region stem in part from the fragile nature of the water systems and the economic structures prevalent in the region, according to visiting Oxford Professor David Grey.

“Unsustainable livelihoods as a consequence of the hydrological complexity and variability are fairly widespread across the continent,” Grey told Circle of Blue. “And the consequences of this is that as populations grow, people find it harder and harder to feed themselves.”

Water Security: Freedom from Intolerable Water-Related Risks | PODCAST |

Large-scale drought in southern Africa. Floods in North Korea and Haiti. Rumblings of water-related conflicts in Pakistan and India. In Circle of Blue’s latest HotSpots H2O podcast, Dr. David Grey, a visiting professor of Water Policy from Oxford University, argues that water security is closely linked to migration, climate change risk, and economic development. In an interview with J. Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue’s director, Dr. Grey also offers solutions to alleviating the world’s water-related risks.

Dr. Grey also is a former member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security. J. Carl Ganter reports from Washington D.C. at the International Dialogue on the Global Commons.

Madagascar in Focus: Food Shortages Affects 1.4 Million People

 Three years of extended drought in southern Madagascar have left 1.4 million people without food as a hunger crisis emerges in the southeast African island nation.

“These are people living on the very brink – many have nothing but wild fruits to eat,” United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) regional Director Chris Nikoi told reporters in late October.

The drought forced many subsistence farmers to begin eating their own seed stocks and selling their land to get by, meaning they will have nothing to plant and nowhere to plant it when the rain returns. Next year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, at least 840,000 people risk severe malnutrition, and nearly 1.4 million will be food insecure.

Children have been the hardest hit. According to UNICEF, some 10,500 kids have been treated for a hunger-related illness known as severe acute malnutrition or SAM since January of this year. Children suffering from SAM typically have a mortality rate of around 30 to 50 percent.

The return of La Nina this winter may bring some relief. But strong rain could cause flash flooding, washing away fragile topsoil and newly planted crops.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | AFRICA, climate change | Leave a comment

Vested interests and corruption in South Africa’s nuclear procurement

corruptionNuclear deals could be ‘captured’ http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2016/11/07/Nuclear-deals-could-be-captured  JAN-JAN JOUBERT | 07 November, 2016 
Environmentalists have warned that proposed nuclear building programmes could be “captured” if Eskom continues to be the procurement agency for the project, which is expected to cost more than R1-trillion.    Environmental action group Greenpeace said former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture released last week confirmed that vested interests and corruption in the energy sector were central to the energy choices made in South Africa.

“It is no coincidence that Brian Molefe is a key figure in the State of Capture report, and that he and the Eskom board have been running an anti-renewable energy campaign, focused instead on pushing for expensive and unnecessary nuclear energy,” said Greenpeace spokesman Helen Dena.

“This undermines the prioritisation of renewable energy, which would enhance South Africa’s energy future, strengthen the economy and deliver affordable, safe, clean electricity,” said Dena.

DA MP Gordon Mackay said: : “In light of the government’s own policy documents, preference for nuclear is irrational in law.”

November 6, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS IN THE CASE FOR NUCLEAR IN SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s power utility wants to finance nuclear. This is a bad idea. , enca, Seán Mfundza Muller, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Johannesburg Sunday 6 November 2016 JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s cabinet is to consider a proposal that a mooted nuclear power deal for the country be financed through the state-owned power utility Eskom. This is the latest twist in South Africa’s controversial efforts to expand its nuclear power capability by commissioning up to 9.6GW of energy from six nuclear power stations. The decision has been mired in controversy and still hangs in the balance and the offer by Eskom to foot the bill raises more questions than it provides answers.

Recent claims by Eskom’s management fail to adequately address any of the fundamental criticisms of the proposed nuclear programme.

Statements that Eskom can “finance nuclear on its own”, or absorb the risks from an incorrect decision, don’t add up economically or financially, and are misleading.

Furthermore, changes in Eskom’s rationale for justifying nuclear procurement over the last two years call into question the merits and motives of these arguments. Its claims about financing also raise serious questions about the arguments it presented to Parliament last year to justify a R23 billion cash injection and writing off a R60 billion loan.

The right decision would be for cabinet to defer further consideration of the programme for at least two years. In addition Eskom should account to Parliament on discrepancies in its statements about its financial situation.

THE FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS IN THE CASE FOR NUCLEAR

The three main problems with the case for nuclear procurement are well-established.

The actual power probably will not be needed. Recent trends in economic growth and electricity demand are much lower than the original forecasts on which the supposed need for nuclear power were based.

The programme is also likely to be very costly although there are still no credible, government cost estimates in the public domain. Many energy experts have argued that even if additional capacity was needed, other energy sources may be cheaper or more appropriate.

Finally, the combination of insufficient demand and costly supply means that nuclear poses a serious threat to the future stability of the country’s public finances and economic growth.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment