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As Australia gets American nuclear-capable bombers, it risks becoming a dangerous military mess and target – like Guam

China’s furious reaction as Australia gets US nuclear-capable bombers A furious Beijing has blasted reports of the US gifting Australia nuclear-capable bombers, prompting a concerning warning from China. Ally Foster and Frank Chung, November 1, 2022 –

Australia has been issued an ominous threat, after China lashed out at reports of the US sending nuclear-capable bombers to the Northern Territory.

According to an investigation by the ABC’s Four Cornersthat aired on Monday, Washington has drawn up plans to build a dedicated a “squadron operations facility” at the Tindal air base south of Darwin that will house “six B-52s”.

These aircraft are capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional weapons, with a combat range of more than 14,000km.

The news has prompted a furious response from Beijing, with the former editor-in-chief of the CCP-run Global Times issuing an ominous warning to Australia.military

Commentator Hu Xijin said Australia would need to “bear the risks” of this move.

“The PLA’s Dongfeng missiles definitely fly faster than the B-52 bombers,” he wrote on Twitter.

“If Australia wants to become a “big Guam,” then it must bear the corresponding strategic risks.”

There have even been warnings that accepting these bombers could “trigger a regional arms race”.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian said by sending the bombers to Australia, the US had “increased regional tensions, seriously undermined regional peace and stability, and may trigger a regional arms race”.

“Defence and security co-operation between any countries should be conducive to regional peace and stability and not target or harm the interests of third parties,” he told reporters in Beijing.

Mr Zhao said Beijing was urging all the countries concerned to “abandon the old Cold War zero-sum thinking and narrow geopolitical concepts”.

The focus should instead be on contributing more to regional peace and stability and enhancing “mutual trust”, he said.


November 1, 2022 Posted by | South Africa, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Africa’s nuclear sector has failed its test: the Koeberg nuclear plant life extension

The Conversation, Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg, August 21, 2022, South Africa’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, has frequently been in the news in 2022, all for the wrong reasons.

Its operating licence expires in 2024, and its continued operation thereafter depends on critical refurbishments and upgrades. Work on these finally began in January this year, but immediately ran into difficulties, forcing significant delays.

Koeberg is supplying only half of its power while work is in progress. This has amplified the crippling power shortages South Africa has been experiencing. This state of affairs, where the country effectively has 3% less generating power available than it would otherwise have, is expected to persist for the bulk of the next two years.

Other potential signs of turbulence linked to Koeberg include:

  • the delayed application to the nuclear regulator to extend the plant’s licence
  • the controversial dismissal of one of the regulator’s board members – an opponent of nuclear power – by the Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources
  • resignations of senior Koeberg staff, though there is no evidence that these were due to friction.

All of this has led to speculation that the Koeberg life extension exercise is in difficulty. In turn it casts doubt on the capacity of South Africa’s nuclear sector, and is likely to put to bed the highly ambitious proposals still advocated within the sector to build new nuclear plants.

Koeberg’s history

Koeberg, Africa’s only operational nuclear power station, 27km north of the Cape Town city centre, is reaching the end of its scheduled life cycle.

The plant consists of two units of just over 900 megawatts each, and together these contribute roughly 5% of South Africa’s electricity.

Koeberg was built by the French company Framatome between 1978 and 1984. In line with international practice, the plant was granted a 40-year operational licence which will expire in July 2024. Licensing the plant for a further 20 years is possible, as long as it meets specific safety criteria. Typically these involve particular upgrades and the replacement of various components……………………

The upgrade is projected to cost R20 billion (US$1.2 billion). Most of this would go towards buying and installing six new steam generators.

The need to replace them was identified over 10 years ago, but protracted litigation over who would do the job held up the project. The operation was eventually scheduled for 2022.

Life extension project

The replacements and upgrades needed to secure a 20 year operating licence extension require each Koeberg unit to be shut down for a projected five months. Unit 2 was therefore switched off on 18 January 2022 and was supposed to reopen in June 2022. Unit 1 was then to go through the same process, starting in October.

Things then went wrong. The critical steam generator replacement was again postponed to 2023. The full reasons have not been officially disclosed. But there has been no denial of reports that the onsite storage facilities for the now radioactively contaminated old steam generators were not ready.

The delay in getting Koeberg Unit 2 up and running on schedule resulted in an additional 900 MW shortfall during South Africa’s most recent midwinter bout of severe power blackouts.

Unit 2 finally started operating again on 7 August, almost two months later than projected. Another outage of comparable duration is still required in 2023.

Significance for the nuclear sector

The mishandling of the Koeberg life extension project raises serious questions about the capacity of South Africa’s nuclear sector. This sector has advocated the building of a large fleet of new nuclear plants, implying that it could be done without major cost and time overruns. But the much smaller and far more straightforward Koeberg upgrade has not gone well……………

August 21, 2022 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy ruled out for South Africa

Nuclear energy is off the table, says Ramaphosa

1 July 2022, Ntebo Mokobo |  @SABCNews,

President Cyril Ramaphosa says as the country tries to diversify its energy capacity, the nuclear energy option is off the table.

He was speaking to SABC News on the sidelines of the 7th SACU Summit which was held in Gaborone, Botswana on Thursday. The one-day meeting was called to discuss ways to ramp up export and investment among five SACU member states which include South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and the Kingdom of Eswatini……………..

President Ramaphosa says although nuclear energy looks attractive to help the country overcome its energy generation woes, South Africa simply can’t afford it………….

July 2, 2022 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

From Russia with very expensive love – Karyn Maughan on South Africa’s bombed nuclear deal 19th May 2022, by Michael Appel  

Jacob Zuma‘s presidency will be remembered for the wholesale looting of South Africa’s fiscus by him, his family, his friends the Guptas, and the political party he led – but also don’t forget how fiscus-destroyingly close we came to indebting future generations with a Russian nuclear deal.

In their new tell-all book, Nuclear: Inside South Africa’s Secret Deal, Karyn Maughan and Kirsten Pearson make the minutiae of the R1trn nuclear deal with Russia understandable and digestible. In this interview with Maughan, BizNews deputy editor Michael Appel seeks to better understand the dynamics behind the failed nuclear deal.

Plus, an update on the current state of Zuma’s arms deal corruption trial.

May 21, 2022 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Peter Becker, sacked from South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator Board, won’t go down without a fight

 Daily Maverick  By Sasha Planting, 18 May 22, Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe drew a line in the sand recently when he said he would not countenance dissent from board members at the National Nuclear Regulator. ‘If you resist nuclear and you [are] a board member, I fire you, simple. You can’t be [on] a board of something you’re not advocating for.’ His comments, reported by News24, are relevant for many reasons, chief among which is a legal challenge to his dismissal of community representative board member Peter Becker…………………………….

May 19, 2022 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: Five years after the illegal nuclear deal was nuked, we are still struggling with a broken energy system

 Daily Maverick By Francesca de Gasparis and Makoma Lekalakala,  02 May 2022, 

The South African government’s current approach to energy production is our biggest barrier to a just transition and it seems as though we are deliberately choosing fossil fuels and nuclear, while implementing renewables at a snail’s pace.

The month of April was not only significant to South Africa as Freedom Month, but was also the month in which Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) commemorated the court victory that exposed the severity of the corruption within the state and halted government’s “illegal and unconstitutional” R1-trillion nuclear energy deal with Russia……….

Apart from revealing the depths of the rot within government and how far members of the state were willing to go to dupe the public, this was also the start of an intense battle which continues to rage between public interests versus those of government and corporate to protect citizens’ right to be consulted on huge capital spends, especially in energy procurement that may affect them……………..

A publication released at COP26 in December 2021, Neither Climate Nor Jobs: Nuclear Myths About the Just Transition, argues that nuclear will be detrimental to our “collective capacity to transform our energy systems in a way that leaves no one behind”.

While nuclear power operations do not have as large a carbon footprint as coal, gas and oil, there are numerous other issues with this outdated and largely failed technology that must be considered, that make nuclear power utterly unsuitable for South Africa’s energy needs in our current reality. Comparatively, the carbon footprint of nuclear power is estimated to be at least two to four times more than that of renewables.

There are a number of reasons that nuclear energy is NOT a solution to the climate emergency and why it should not be part of the just transition. First, South Africa needs development that is pro-poor, and basic services need to be provided that are affordable to all. This means that the country’s energy plans should work to reduce the gaps in inequality, with the people – not industry nor the economy nor profits – at the centre of its plans.

Sadly, the government’s current approach to energy production is our country’s biggest barrier to a just transition and it seems as though we are deliberately choosing fossil fuels and nuclear, while implementing renewables at a snail’s pace.

Investing in nuclear energy requires huge capital investment – which could have an impact on public spending on social services – while the centralised and costly nature of its production will do little to reduce the widespread energy poverty in the country. When considering the urgent need for poverty-alleviating approaches to development and energy production, the fact that renewables create more jobs (with a wider variety and in more flexible locations) and can be installed in a matter of months, provides more compelling arguments against nuclear.

Furthermore, as climate change takes root and weather conditions become more extreme, a just transition will require a flexible and decentralised electricity supply for greater stability. Without even considering nuclear power stations’ poor installation and cost performance globally, we need only look at South Africa’s only existing nuclear power station at Koeberg to know that nuclear has not proven to be particularly reliable over the past 18 months.

Ongoing issues at the nuclear power station are a significant part of the reason that citizens have been plunged into darkness once again. We must recognise Koeberg’s deteriorating performance while noting the ongoing governance issues at Eskom and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Another reason that nuclear energy is not fit for purpose for our current and future energy needs is the outdated argument of the necessity of baseload energy, which completely ignores the strides made in modern technology. This type of centralised power often takes very long to come online and will do little to alleviate the energy poverty in the country. Even in the best-case scenario, it would be at least another decade before we are likely to get any electricity from a new power plant.

Just the fact that we need to keep temperatures below 1.5°C by 2030 means that even if we did go the nuclear route, we would be far too late to mitigate carbon emissions in any meaningful way. Yet, our government insists on wasting time pursuing nuclear, while utility-scale renewable energy projects could be ready in less than half the time. 

South Africa is at a crossroads. Are we really willing to continue making the mistakes of the past?……….

It is important, at this point, to remind South Africans that it was as a result of a national effort by many civil society organisations, academics and concerned citizens that we were able to stop then-President Jacob Zuma’s illegal nuclear deal five years ago, sparing us from the effects of the bankruptcy that would have ensued.

At a time when the divisions in our society were becoming decidedly evident, it was wonderful to be part of such a unifying campaign with people from all walks of life. From eco-justice NGOs to community-based organisations, right down to the ordinary person on the street, most South Africans knew we had to stand together or risk losing our country……..

May 3, 2022 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Floods in South Africa – a ”climate catastrophe of enormous proportions”

After the relentless rain, South Africa sounds the alarm on the climate
crisis. Many are still missing after this month’s floods. Extreme weather
is becoming more frequent, and it can be devastating.

The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, described a “catastrophe of enormous
proportions” and attributed the disaster to the climate emergency. “It
is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here,” Ramaphosa said
as he visited the flooded metropolitan area of eThekwini, which includes
Durban, shortly after the floods. “We no longer can postpone what we need
to do, and the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.”

 Guardian 24th April 2022

April 26, 2022 Posted by | climate change, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa. Fired National Nuclear Regulator board member takes Minister Gwede Mantashe to court

 Daily Maverick  By Sasha Planting 20 Apr 22,

Peter Becker is seeking declaratory relief that the minister’s decision to discharge him as a board member was unlawful and unconstitutional, and wants an order reviewing and setting aside this decision.

Peter Becker, formerly a member of the board of the National Nuclear Regulator, has served papers on the minister of mineral resources and energy, the National Nuclear Regulator and the chairman of that body to challenge his dismissal in February this year. 

Becker is seeking declaratory relief that the minister’s decision to discharge him was unlawful and unconstitutional, and wants an order reviewing and setting aside this decision. 

Becker’s initial suspension came in January, just days before the regulator approved the extension of life project for the Koeberg nuclear power station, a decision that should be reviewed, given the delays and safety concerns that have arisen since.  

The role of the regulator is not to protect the interests of Koeberg or nuclear power, but to ensure that nuclear activities are conducted safely in South Africa, ultimately in the interests of the public. 

Becker was appointed to the board in June 2021 by Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe. He was nominated by civil society organisations, including the Koeberg Alert Alliance, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute and the Pelindaba Working Group, to represent communities that may be affected by nuclear activities. 

However, on 25 February Mantashe fired Becker, arguing that he was guilty of misconduct and was conflicted. This was because Becker had, in his personal capacity, and before his appointment, expressed critical and challenging views on the use of nuclear energy.  

“The minister has fundamentally misunderstood those duties. His decision is vitiated by substantive and procedural irrationality, errors of law and fact and unreasonableness,” Becker responds in the affidavit. 

His removal has not come at a good time. Maintenance and replacement work are being carried out at Koeberg, under authorisations granted by the regulator. However, this work is already behind schedule and several safety concerns have been raised. 

Moreover, Mantashe has signalled his intention to tender for new nuclear power proposals as soon as possible, possibly before the year is out. 

The alleged conflict of interest arose because Becker is concerned about the use of nuclear power in South Africa, is opposed to the building of more reactors at Koeberg and is worried about its lifespan being extended. He has been publicly vocal in this regard. However, as Becker has deposed, these views were well known and were included in his CV before he was appointed to the job.  ………………………..

At least one member of the board is actively and vocally pro-nuclear. This is  Katse Maphoto, the chief director of nuclear safety and technology in the minister’s department. On several occasions he has indicated his support for nuclear power, saying it should form part of SA’s energy mix.   

Thus Becker says, it is inconsistent and irrational to take the position that people who are generally critical of nuclear activity should be disqualified from exercising proper judgment concerning safety issues, while those who are supportive, are not. 

The minister has 15 days in which to submit a “record of proceedings” — the documents, evidence, arguments and other information relating to the dismissal — failing which, a court date will be set.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

South African Anti-nuclear activist taking Energy Minister to court for firing him

Anti-nuclear activist taking Gwede Mantashe to court for firing him

Fin 24, Lameez Omarjee,  13 Apr 22

  • Anti-nuclear activist Peter Becker has launched a legal challenge against Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
  • The minister had axed Becker from the board of the National Nuclear Regulator over an alleged conflict of interest.

Becker is the spokesperson of Koeberg Alert Alliance, a civil society group concerned with the safety of nuclear activity………………..

April 14, 2022 Posted by | legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa removes critic of nuclear power from regulatory board.

South Africa Removes Anti-Nuclear Activist From Regulatory Board

Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg, 24 Feb 22— South African Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe fired community representative Peter Becker from the board of the National Nuclear Regulator, citing a conflict of interest.

Mantashe said Becker was opposed to the development of new nuclear-power facilities or the extension of the life of South Africa’s existing one, Koeberg, and therefore couldn’t be objective, according to a letter sent to the activist on Friday that was seen by Bloomberg. 

The dispute that led to Becker’s removal highlights the difficulties Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is facing in its fight to keep its Koeberg nuclear plant in Cape Town operating until 2044. Mantashe, a former coal-mining labor unionist and chairman of the ruling African National Congress, has emerged as a vocal supporter of the nuclear industry, while drawing criticism from environmental activists. Becker, by contrast, is also a spokesman for the Koeberg Alert Alliance, which wants the plant closed……….

By law, the minister has to appoint a community representative to the board. He complained, in the letter, that Becker had brought the board into disrepute by objecting publicly to its decisions. Becker was suspended on July 18 and then sued Mantashe, forcing the minister to make a decision whether to retain him or fire him from the board.

Becker said he will consult with his legal team and the communities he was representing before responding.

While Eskom has yet to receive final permission to extend the life of Koeberg, the only nuclear-power facility in Africa, it has started a program to spend about 20 billion rand ($1.3 billion) on new steam generators as part of the work needed to keep it operating. Becker and Koeberg Alert have opposed the extension of Koeberg’s operating license because of the nuclear plant’s proximity to Cape Town, a city of 4 million people, citing what they say is a potential for earthquakes.

February 26, 2022 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Fight Over Africa’s Sole Atomic Plant Entangles Energy Minister Mantashe

Mantashe sued over suspension of activist from the board
Eskom plans to extend Koeberg plant’s operating lifetime, 
Bloomberg, By Antony Sguazzin, 2 February 2022, South African Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is being sued following the suspension of a National Nuclear Regulator board member who also works with a civil society group fighting against the lifetime extension of the continent’s only power reactors.

The suit filed by Peter Becker, who in addition to serving on the nuclear regulator’s board is a spokesman for the Koeberg Alert Alliance, will be heard by the High Court of Cape Town on Feb. 8, according to public documents seen by Bloomberg. South Africa is legally obliged to appoint a nuclear regulatory board member who represents communities potentially affected by industry decisions…………..

Becker, who was suspended on Jan. 18, argues in the documents that Mantashe didn’t have the legal authority to suspend him from performing his duties on the regulatory board. “The role of a board member representing the interests and concerns of communities is defined by the National Nuclear Regulatory Act” and “while I am suspended, decisions are being taken by the board without that representation,” he wrote in a reply to questions. 

The court case highlights the difficulties Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is facing in its fight to keep its Koeberg nuclear plant in Cape Town operating until 2044. Mantashe, a former coal mining unionist and chairman of the ruling African National Congress, has emerged as a vocal supporter of the nuclear industry, while drawing criticism from environmental activists. ………………

February 3, 2022 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

Call to rally against extending the lifespan of ageing Koeberg Nuclear Power Station

Call to rally against extending the lifespan of ageing Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, IOL. By Kristin Engel, 17 Dec,  Cape Town – The Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei), together with concerned Capetonians gathered on Bloubergstrand Beach for an anti-nuclear protest to question the safety of the nearby nuclear plant operated by Eskom.

The protesters’ chants of “down with nuclear” came as Eskom tries to extend the Koeberg plant’s operating life by another 20 years, after its initial 40-year lifespan ends in 2024, despite numerous challenges and safety concerns at the plant.

Safcei executive director Francesca de Gasparis said Eskom had been quiet about its plans for South Africa’s only nuclear power plant and have not provided information about this process or given the public sufficient evidence that it was safe and in the interests of electricity users to extend the lifespan of the ageing nuclear plant.

Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement member Vainola Makan said: “We are certain that because of the lack of access to information and the lack of transparency, only private business individuals will benefit from this deal and the interests of citizens is of no concern.”

KAA spokesperson Peter Becker called on Eskom to shut down the Koeberg nuclear power plant as planned in 2024, and stop their attempts to extend its designed lifespan, especially with the old engineering and increasing problems at the plant.

However, the electricity supplier was adamant about the extension of the plant’s lifespan.

………  National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) spokesperson Gino Moonsamy said Eskom’s application would be undergoing a detailed review process in which the NNR would direct Eskom to publish the application for comment in local newspapers and serve notification letters to stakeholders.

Moonsamy said only after the NNR considered the insights and representations from public consultation, would they finalise the decision on the application and announce the decision on whether the plant would be able to operate beyond its current licensing basis.

December 18, 2021 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

FW de Klerk, who ended South African apartheid, leaves another legacy: nuclear disarmament

FW de Klerk, who ended South African apartheid, leaves another legacy: nuclear disarmament, Bulletin 

By Robin Ephraim Möser | November 12, 2021 Almost nothing suggested that former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk would be the one to dismantle apartheid. He was born into a family of politicians of the nascent apartheid state, became a member of Parliament in 1972, and was complicit in—even supportive of—all the evil committed under apartheid during numerous ministerial posts. But while serving as president, de Klerk stunned the world in February 1990 when he removed the ban on opposition political movements, including the African National Congress, and released political prisoners, including the individual with whom he would later share the Nobel Peace Prize—Nelson Mandela.

De Klerk’s death at the age of 85 this week has been widely reported in the New York Times, the BBCder Spiegel, the Daily Maverick, and other international media. Yet none mention that, under his leadership in 1991, South Africa joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and fully dismantled the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

De Klerk believed that nuclear weapons, having lost their deterrence value following the end of the regional conflicts, would subsequently burden his government. Two weeks after assuming the presidency, he held a top-secret meeting of advisors in which he requested a plan to rid the country of nuclear weapons. Those who attended agreed, though some rather grudgingly, as he recounted in my 2017 interview with him………..

Almost three decades later, in my 2017 interview with him, de Klerk revealed that his distaste for nuclear weapons preceded his presidency. He had decided that if ever he became president, he would review South Africa’s nuclear weapons program. He had that chance by 1990—and seized the denuclearization opportunity.

De Klerk’s nuclear rollback was complete and verifiable. Not only was South Africa free of nuclear weapons, but the development served as a catalyst for Africa as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. In 1995, President Nelson Mandela and other African heads of state signed the Treaty of Pelindaba, which forbade atomic bomb testing and banned nuclear weapons from the African continent.

South Africa remains the only country to have gone full circle on nuclear weapons. The South African National Party politicians initiated a nuclear weapons program during the 1970s and de Klerk ended it in 1989. De Klerk expressed the hope that South Africa’s example might inspire the nine leaders of other nuclear weapons states—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea—to eliminate their arsenals. The world can only hope that, over time, they do.

November 13, 2021 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, South Africa, weapons and war | Leave a comment

We must question why small modular reactors and the rebirth of nuclear energy are all the rage

These considerations should lead us to make saner and more realistic choices for our children and our children’s children

Roland Ngam • 11 October 2021, We must question why small modular reactors and the rebirth of nuclear energy are all the rage,    Daily Maverick, 

Small modular nuclear reactors are being widely punted as the energy source of the future. But if we are looking only at costs, solar and wind are way cheaper than small modular reactors and battery technology is way better today than it was only three years ago.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) seem to be all the rage these days. Dismiss them at your peril. I am no conspiracy theorist, but everyone is talking about them just as energy prices are spiking in Europe, the UK is struggling to supply its filling stations with fuel, the green parties want to cancel Nord Stream 2 and China is rationing electricity after recent widespread outages in 22 states.

Could it be that some of these crises — and ergo, energy panic — are artificially made in order to give fossils one last hurrah in the limelight? Nuclear energy is renewable   [Ed. this is not true] , but I mean, you need fossils and a lot of capital investment to make them! Also, are those who are betting on SMRs as the technology of the future right to place their hopes in this sector rather than in greener alternatives?………………

America has been subsidising research in SMRs for more than a decade now. They paid $226-million in research grants for the light-water SMR built by Nuscale Power for Energy Northwest. The US Congress has already passed a nuclear production tax credit (PTC) act to subsidise energy from the plant for the next 10 years and the Department of Energy further approved $1.355-billion to fund the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), which involves investing massively in SMRs.

China already has a bunch of floating SMR powerships and started construction on a 125 MWe land-based pressurised water reactor (PWR) in Hainan province in June 2021. The project was officially launched by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (which is another point I will get back to in a moment, i.e. that countries are pushing nuclear hard as the green solution of the future).

In the United Kingdom, SMRs are a key part of the decarbonisation strategy. Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £525-million investment in SMR development and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is about to approve a contract for Rolls-Royce to build a fleet of them in order to assure energy self-sufficiency, which has become a hotly debated topic after Brexit and now amidst the fuel shortages that have hit the nation.

Not to be outdone, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to make SMRs a cornerstone of his 2022 re-election campaign. It is believed that France will spend €50-million from the Euro Recovery Plan on SMR research. Industry players in the nuclear space have already announced plans for the construction of a university of nuclear research. About 30 research centres have also received funds from the France Relance plan for nuclear research. Although France is a world leader in nuclear technology, they have been caught napping by Russia, the US and China which are already way ahead of them in SMR technology.

So the race is on to scale up production of affordable commercial land-based SMRs which could potentially fill up the manufacturing companies’ order books.

Now, back to why nuclear technology is enjoying a comeback — well, it never went away, but it is enjoying a renaissance of sorts among the ever-more confident G20 leaders — because, as Maud Bregeon puts it in Nucléaire: un patrimoine industriel et écologique, even the IPCC and the UN say that “all low-carbon technologies are needed to meet our climate goals, including nuclear.

……..  is the world right to focus on SMRs as the future? If we are looking only at costs, solar and wind are way cheaper than SMRs and battery technology is way better today than it was only three years ago.

According to the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, the kilowatt-hour price for SMR is almost certainly always going to be higher than what bigger power plants can offer. It is for this reason that many question why South Africa’s Energy Minister is still determined to commit to new nuclear capacity in line with the integrated resource plan (IRP). That allocation could be shifted to a cheaper energy source.

Three billion dollars is a massive drop from the $10-billion that is the going rate for a big nuclear plant. However, even at $3-billion in start-up for a small plant, the average African country simply cannot afford this type of technology. By comparison, they can get going on a modular solar plant with only a few thousand dollars. 

Then there is the toll that continued investment in nuclear has on the environment. In an essay titled An Obituary for Small Modular Reactors, Friends of the Earth Australia argues that “about half of the SMRs under construction (Russia’s floating power plant, Russia’s RITM-200 icebreaker ships, and China’s ACPR50S demonstration reactor) are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere”.

Drought-hit Namibia, which has about 5% of the world’s uranium resources has seen an increase in investments in the uranium sector. Russia (

Helpless activists in Namibia have also been trying to draw the world’s attention to the unusually high numbers of former uranium mine workers who have been dying of cancer, without much success. As investments in uranium pick up, and as some environmental activists make the case for nuclear as green technology, it is important to remember the toll that it is taking on people and ecological systems in the Global South.

These considerations should lead us to make saner and more realistic choices for our children and our children’s children.


October 12, 2021 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, South Africa | Leave a comment

Walking the nuclear dog – a South African tale

Walking the nuclear dog – a South African tale,   ESI Africa,  By Chris Yelland, managing director, EE Business Intelligence, 6 Sept 21

Apparently, in government, there is an activity known as “walking the dog” – a strategy intended to keep self-serving politicians, officials and stakeholders quiet, and to calm them down when they are getting agitated and fidgety for some of the action.

Of course, there is some excitement at the prospect of sniffing out the territory on a brisk walk, with the anticipation that something big is on the cards. But this is inevitably short-lived, and things soon revert back to the normal and more leisurely state of inaction. Mission accomplished.

There are some examples of this in the coal and nuclear energy sectors of South Africa. The media and the public need to be careful not to be bamboozled by the noxious smoke and mirrors, sometimes radioactive, that emanate from these quarters in their excitement.

2,500MW of new nuclear power?

However, in the days following the board meeting, Nersa seemed to be acting very coy – firstly about clarifying exactly what it was that the board had concurred with, and secondly, whether this was even a concurrence by Nersa after all, as opposed to a conditional concurrence that was still subject to a number of suspensive conditions.

Of course, the independent Regulator was treading a very delicate line – to at least give the appearance that the noisy nuclear sector had got its way, while covering all political bases and legal angles, protecting its fragile reputation, and taking care not to become the scapegoat for scuppering the nuclear ambitions of a fractious Minister.

However, on 3 September 2021, Nersa finally succumbed to the growing pressure to release full details of its actual decision on 26 August 2021, with the reasons for the decision (RFD) to follow in due course. In so doing, the tricky game that Nersa was having to play became clearer.

Following a meeting by the board of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) on 26 August 2021, there were breathless public statements to the media by officials at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) regarding a decision by the Regulator in respect of 2,500MW of new nuclear power in South Africa.

The Regulator was said to have “concurred” with a so-called Section 34 ministerial nuclear determination in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA). Some in the media fell for this hook, line and sinker. The nuclear energy sector was ecstatic, asserting that the procurement of 2,500MW of new nuclear power in South Africa would now commence.

Suspensive conditions?

Contrary to the public statements and media interviews by DMRE officials, written details of the board decision reveal that Nersa has in fact not yet concurred with the Section 34 determination per se, but that such concurrence is still subject to a number of suspensive conditions which have not yet been met.

The precise wording of Nersa’s decision of 26 August 2021 in respect of the suspensive conditions, indicate that the Energy Regulator has decided:

To concur with the commencement of the process to procure the new nuclear energy generation capacity of 2,500MW as per Decision 8 of the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2019 – 2030 … subject to the following suspensive conditions:

  1. Satisfaction of Decision 8 of IRP 2019 – 2030, which requires that the nuclear build programme must be at an affordable pace and modular scale that the country can afford because it is no regret option in the long term;
  • Recognition and taking into account technological developments in the nuclear space; and
  • To further establish rationality behind the 2,500MW capacity of nuclear. A demand analysis aimed at matching the envisaged load profile post 2030, with the generation profile that would be needed to match that load profile, is required. This will assist to determine the capacity and the scale at which the country would need to procure nuclear.

It is thus clear that Nersa is only concurring with Decision 8 of the current Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity, IRP 2019 – 2030, to “commence preparations for a nuclear build programme to the extent of 2,500MW”, with this itself being subject to the suspensive conditions listed.

The Regulator is not concurring with the commencement of a request for proposals (RFP) for new nuclear power in South Africa, nor is Nersa giving the green light to any new nuclear construction programme.

Not so fast please!

It goes without saying that any public procurement must still comply with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and the Constitution. As such, National Treasury remains a gatekeeper through the requirement for a positive outcome to a detailed cost-benefit analysis, and the requirement for National Treasury to establish the affordability of any such procurement.

It is still far from resolved as to the technology to be used for a nuclear new-build programme in South Africa. Would these be giant pressurised water reactors (PWRs) such as the Rosatom VVER 1200 units? Or small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) that still have to be developed, piloted, commercialised, licenced and proven elsewhere in the world?

The suspensive conditions even indicate that the very rationality of a 2,500MW nuclear new-build programme still needs to be established through long-term demand forecasting for the period post-2030 in order to determine the mix of the generation capacity required to meet that demand. 

Finally, as no new nuclear power is provided for in the current IRP in the years to 2030, it is clear that any new nuclear procurement can only commence, at the earliest, after an updated IRP has been considered by government’s “social partners”, approved by the Cabinet, and promulgated.

1,500MW of new, clean, coal-fired power?

A further example of “walking the dog” may be found in ongoing suggestions by the Minister and his officials at the DMRE that “clean coal” technologies can be deployed……………….

The 9,600MW nuclear fleet?

Yet another case of “walking the dog” was detailed in an article in Daily Maverick on 26 August 2021. In the article, former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas reveals that there was a general understanding in government that the 9600 MW nuclear deal with Russia, being pushed in 2017 by then-President Jacob Zuma and Energy Minister David Mahlobo, would be terrible for South Africa.

According to Jonas, President Ramaphosa’s instruction was to “walk it” as long as possible. “He [Ramaphosa] said that by the time we have to make a decision, Zuma will be gone. He told us to find everything in the book to delay”.Does a question arise as to whether the upsides of dog walking really outweigh the downsides? It is hard to give a clear answer to this question, but it would seem that our President clearly prefers walking the dog to dealing firmly with self-serving elements within the party circle.However, a poorly-founded but nagging question keeps popping up as to what Vice-President DD Mabuza was really up to during his extended five-week leave of absence in Russia in July 2021?Putin would likely be a big, vicious dog, ready for a fight, and not easily controlled on the walk – actually more of a bear than a dog. And I would hate to be walking a grumpy bear.

September 6, 2021 Posted by | politics, South Africa, spinbuster | Leave a comment