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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. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2021-10-11-we-must-question-why-small-modular-reactors-and-the-rebirth-of-nuclear-energy-are-all-the-rage/

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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.    https://www.esi-africa.com/industry-sectors/generation/op-ed-walking-the-nuclear-dog-a-south-african-tale/

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

As South Africa restarts nuclear plan, critics and advocates clash over its clean energy credentials

As SA restarts nuclear plan, critics and advocates clash over its clean energy credentials, Fin 24, Jan Cronje 30 August 21,  As South Africa’s revived nuclear power plan moves forward, questions over the green credentials of atomic power have added another dimension to an already fraught debate between critics and proponents of nuclear energy.

The debate mirrors one taking place internationally about where, if at all, nuclear power should fit into the battle against climate change…… (Subscribers only) https://www.news24.com/fin24/economy/as-sa-restarts-nuclear-plan-critics-and-advocates-clash-over-its-clean-energy-credentials-20210830

August 31, 2021 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) opposes plan for new nuclear power


Nersa gets green light to approve new nuclear power procurement, but Ts & Cs apply,   Fin24, 20 Aug 21
, A National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) committee has recommended that the regulator approve a plan to procure 2 500 MW of new nuclear power.

It will now be up to Nersa’s full board to make a decision on whether it agrees with the plan as set out by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in August last year.

At a meeting on Friday morning, Nersa’s electricity subcommittee was broadly supportive of Mantashe’s plan. This followed public hearings earlier in the year.  Liz McDaid, Parliamentary and energy advisor to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said that South Africans would now have to wait see what Nersa’s board decides.

If the board decides to concur with Mantahse’s determination, it will have to publish the reasons behind its decision, including the “suspensive conditions” mentioned in the meeting on Friday.

Outa is opposing the new nuclear build, saying it is “not affordable, not appropriate and should not be approved”. No requests for proposal have yet been issued for the new nuclear build. …….. https://www.news24.com/fin24/companies/industrial/nersa-gets-green-light-to-approve-new-nuclear-power-procurement-but-ts-cs-apply-20210820

August 21, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa the only country to have dismantled its nuclear weapons capability,

SA the only country to have dismantled its nuclear weapons capability, Robin Möser 25 Jun 2021   ext month, on 10 July, marks the 30th anniversary of South Africa’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), but it seems this step will not receive the world’s attention it should get. South Africa is still the only example of a state that has given up its indigenously developed nuclear weapons arsenal and subsequently adhered to nonproliferation norms.

Today, developments concerning continuous missile and nuclear tests in North Korea, the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018, and the last-minute extension of the New Start Treaty between the US and Russia in February this year demonstrate the urgency of discussing nuclear disarmament on a global scale.

Revisiting the unique South African case of nuclear disarmament and NPT accession provides a crucial starting point, as it demonstrates that disarmament is possible. Moreover, the South African example shows that to forgo nuclear weapons needs both domestic political preconditions and an international context perceived to be conducive. It cannot succeed solely based on the moral conviction of political leaders that disarmament is good. The actions taken by the FW De Klerk government between 1989 and 1991 illustrate that his decisions gravitated to assessing domestic political risks and potential benefits that the decision to disarm and sign the NPT would bring for his government………………………. https://mg.co.za/opinion/2021-06-25-sa-the-only-country-to-have-dismantled-its-nuclear-weapons-capability

June 26, 2021 Posted by | politics international, South Africa, weapons and war | Leave a comment

‘Koeberg Nuclear Plant is like an old car that simply can’t be kept on the road’

Cape Talk,    7 June 2021, by Barbara Friedman    Refilwe Moloto speaks to Hilton Trollip, a research fellow in energy at UCT’s Global Risk Governance Programme.

  • Koeberg GM suspended but energy expert says the nuclear power station is past its sell-by date
  • Researcher Hilton Trollip is skeptical about refurbishing Koeberg
  • All coal-firing and nuclear plants need to end and move over to renewable sources, says Trollip

On Friday the general manager of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was replaced by Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer. Velaphi Ntuli has been suspended for operational reasons.

RELATED: Eskom suspends Koeberg Power Station GM for ‘performance-related issues’

One of those being that one of Eskom’s biggest generating units with a capacity of 900MW, Koeberg Unit 1 has been on an outage since January 2021.

Just how concerned should we be as we head into winter, and at the same time, try to revive our economy?

We don’t know what’s happening inside Koeberg because we have no information on that, but what we do know is that Eskom is sitting with a power station fleet that is 30, 40, and 50 years old.

Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow – Global Risk Governance Programme UCT

Koeberg was built in 1985 and reaches the end of its design life in 2024, he notes.

It’s like a 20 or 30-year-old car. There comes a stage when it simply can’t be kept on the road, or to keep it on the road is too expensive or you are going to have regular breakdowns.

…………….Should the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station be given a longer lease on life?

There are plans to refurbish it, but I am skeptical about the wisdom of that. I am an engineer and everybody knows, things wear out, including power stations. Hilton Trollip, Research Fellow – Global Risk Governance Programme UCT
He says the government as a whole has not taken on board the fact that this energy era has to come to an end and be replaced with renawables……….. https://www.capetalk.co.za/articles/418543/koeberg-nuclear-plant-is-like-an-old-car-that-simply-can-t-be-kept-on-the-road

June 8, 2021 Posted by | politics, safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

The corruption surrounding the South African government’s push for nuclear power


Part one | Zondo’s nuclear deal revelations,   
https://www.newframe.com/part-one-zondos-nuclear-deal-revelations/

  • By: Neil Over 12 May 2021, In the first of this two-part series, evidence before the state capture inquiry shows how the multibillion-rand deal went ahead despite warnings about the exorbitant cost and danger to health.

It is common knowledge that former president Jacob Zuma fired then minister of finance Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015 because he would not support Zuma’s 9.6GW nuclear deal. But what is less well known are the falsehoods told by the deal’s supporters to coerce reluctant Cabinet ministers – and the country at large – into believing that nuclear power was in South Africa’s best interests. 

Witnesses before the Zondo commission investigating state capture revealed the lies told about nuclear power relating to its alleged safety, its alleged cost and the alleged handling of nuclear waste. Evidence before Judge Raymond Zondo shows that parts of the ANC executive were hell-bent on pursuing the deal, with scant regard for South Africa’s fiscal health, or the health and interests of its residents. 

The Department of Energy presented these falsehoods to Cabinet on 9 December 2015, in a presentation declassified before the Zondo commission. The department was then headed by Tina Joemat-Pettersson, a Zuma loyalist. 

To start, the department led Cabinet to believe that seven other African countries would be operating nuclear power plants within the following 10 to 15 years, five of which were said to be procuring nuclear power by 2020. To date, only one has begun to build a nuclear power station: the controversial El Dabaa plant that Russian state-owned Rosatom is building in Egypt for $30 billion. No other African country has made a commitment to nuclear power.

The department told Cabinet that nuclear power is safe. It said only 60 people died because of the Chernobyl catastrophe in then Soviet Ukraine in 1986, and that no one died because of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in 2011. The Chernobyl fatalities figure that the department cited was based on the original assessment by the United Nations, which it increased dramatically in 2005 to 4 000 fatalities. But many consider this figure to be a gross underestimate, with some sources claiming that as many as 500 000 will die because of that nuclear disaster (the Russian Academy of Sciences estimates 200 000). 

The Ukrainian government compensates 35 000 spouses of people it has deemed to have died from Chernobyl-related health problems, while non-profit science advocacy organisation the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the death toll at 27 000. 

We will never know the true fatality total because there has not been a comprehensive, longitudinal examination of the health impacts of the disaster. This means that deaths from cancer in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are simply recorded as such and are not linked to Chernobyl, despite increasing evidence that long-term exposure to low levels of ionising radiation is more dangerous to human health than previously thought. 

For the same reasons, we will also never know how many people have died or will die from the Fukushima accident because deaths from cancer are not linked to the disaster. There is also a problem in simply recording death rates as this tends to hide chronic illnesses, suffering caused by illnesses and negative impacts on mental health.

In Fukushima, for example, nearly 600 people died after they were evacuated from around the plant owing to what has been described as “evacuation stress”. The stress of forcing thousands of people to abandon their homes, most permanently, is significant. In Japan, 160 000 people were forced to abandon their homes, while 350 000 were evacuated in the Ukraine. 

Hidden costs

The department also brazenly told Cabinet that nuclear waste was not a problem because it “is stored deep underground”. Nowhere is nuclear waste from power generation stored underground. Where it is being attempted, for example in Finland, it is hugely expensive and no one knows yet if it will work. 

Critically, the department told Cabinet that nuclear power was the cheapest option for South Africa. It presented figures stating that the operating costs of nuclear were six times cheaper than those of coal in the country. What the department conveniently forgot to mention was that these costs excluded the enormous cost of construction for Koeberg – Africa’s only nuclear power station on the Western Cape coast, which cost more than planned – and the colossal cost of decommissioning this plant when the time comes.

It did not include the cost of “safely” disposing of nuclear waste. Neither did it include the cost of renewable energy compared with nuclear generation. 

May 13, 2021 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa – Cabinet appoints critic as member of nuclear regulator board

Cabinet appoints critic as member of nuclear regulator board, IOL, By Mwangi Githahu    26 Apr 21, Cape Town – The government has responded to civil society demands for a public representative on the National Nuclear Regulator’s (NNR) board by appointing one of its most vocal critics, Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA) spokesperson Peter Becker.

Spokesperson Phumla Williams said the Cabinet approval of the appointment of Becker and three others would be subject to the verification of qualifications and the relevant clearance……

Last year in response to concerns raised by the KAA, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and other groups, department spokesperson Thandiwe Maimane said Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe had initiated a comprehensive consultative process with Nedlac and Sanco to identify suitable candidates.

Becker said: “The NNR board has been without a representative since August last year and while this announcement is welcome, it is long overdue……….. https://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/news/cabinet-appoints-critic-as-member-of-nuclear-regulator-board-31357be2-1d75-406b-928a-79bf389c97ba

April 27, 2021 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s history of ”state capture” by the nuclear industry

The battle for 2050 energy dominance: Nuclear industry makes its pitch   Mail and Guardian, 14 Apr 21, Moscow The nuclear industry believes it should be able to account for more than 50% of South Africa’s vacant 24 gigawatts of power left behind by the demise of coal in a net-zero 2050 scenario. This was one of the outcomes of a government communications’ panel discussion on alternative future energy sources for South Africa hosted on Wednesday.”’

……………….before returning to instruct the then energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to sign a deal with the Russians on the sidelines of the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.At the same time, Russia’s state-owned nuclear agency, Rosatom, released a statement that it had clinched a deal with South Africa. A legal battle ensued and in 2017, the Western Cape high court ruled that the secret tabling of the intergovernmental agreements with Russia, the US and Korean were unconstitutional and unlawful, and that they be set aside.

A legal battle ensued and in 2017, the Western Cape high court ruled that the secret tabling of the intergovernmental agreements with Russia, the US and Korean were unconstitutional and unlawful, and that they be set aside……….

In 2019 a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that Russian engagement with South Africa during the Zuma era was deep rooted and relied on a web of relationships at the highest levels of both governments.

This included the promotion of multibillion-dollar projects involving state-owned companies particularly in the energy sector, and the leveraging of Cold War-era ties forged during South Africa’s period of national liberation.

The researchers linked the significance of the secret deal to a larger problem of state capture.

According to authors Andrew S Weiss and Eugene Rumer: “As early as the autumn of 2011, Zuma told then finance minister Pravin Gordhan that he wanted to award the entire construction deal to Russia. He brushed aside Gordhan’s insistence on following established procedures for state procurement, according to Gordhan’s written testimony to the state capture commission.

“Gordhan warned Zuma that failing to follow the established procedures could land the president in trouble similar to the fallout over the earlier arms-sales scandal that had nearly ended his political career,” the report noted……….


During the presidency of Thabo Mbeki, Eskom explored possibly expanding the Koeberg nuclear power facility but decided in 2008 that the project was unaffordable.

more https://mg.co.za/business/2021-04-14-the-battle-for-2050-energy-dominance-nuclear-industry-makes-its-pitch/

April 15, 2021 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa, with no way to deal with radioactive waste, must not develop new nuclear power

March 2, 2021 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

New nuclear build for South Africa would face legal stumbling blocks

Nersa warned nod for nuclear build would face legal stumbling blocks

Court is likely to regard decision to pursue a plant as irrational, regulator told at public hearing, 23 FEBRUARY 2021 – LISA STEYN

Any decision to pursue a 2,500MW nuclear build will likely be seen as irrational and unreasonable if tested in court, the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) heard on Tuesday.  Should the regulator be given the green light for a nuclear build, it would lead to “severe legal complications”, Anton van Dalsen, legal counsellor for the Helen Suzman Foundation, warned Nersa… … (subscribers onlyhttps://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/2021-02-23-nersa-warned-nod-for-nuclear-build-would-face-legal-stumbling-blocks/

February 25, 2021 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: an example of how nuclear waste costs are passed on to later generations

Questions we should therefore all be asking of government, the Department of Energy, the nuclear regulator, Nersa, Nuclear Waste Disposal Institute, Necsa, Eskom and the South African nuclear sector are: 

  • Who should bear the cost of nuclear plant decommissioning and long-term storage and disposal of high-level nuclear waste – the polluter, the customer or the taxpayer? 
  • Where are the real asset-based funds set aside within Eskom and Necsa for future decommissioning and long-term storage and disposal of high-level nuclear waste? 
  • Does the “polluter pays” principle apply in practice, or will the customer and taxpayer end up paying twice through government bailouts? 

One can only guess who may end up bearing the real decommissioning, high-level waste storage, disposal and final repository costs in due course – perhaps not the polluter at all, but our children’s children as taxpayers in the next generation. 

South African taxpayers exposed to high-level nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning liabilities, Daily Maverick, By Chris Yelland• 21 February 2021  

Citizens and taxpayers in South Africa continue to labour under the misguided belief that Eskom and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) make real funding provisions monthly, over the operating life of their nuclear reactors, to cover the costs of decommissioning and disposal of high-level nuclear waste from their nuclear plants, in terms of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

Page 69 of the 8th National Report prepared by the Department of Energy and the SA National Nuclear Regulator,  and presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in August 2019 in terms of South Africa’s obligations  to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, states in respect of Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station:

“Financial provision for decommissioning (as well as spent fuel management) continues to be accumulated on a monthly basis since commercial operation of the installation began in 1984. The financial provision is reflected in the annual financial statements of Eskom. These financial statements are audited in accordance with South African national legislation.

“In terms of decommissioning financial plans, the amount of decommissioning and spent fuel provision made each month is determined by the present value of future estimated cash flows. These financial plans are reviewed regularly and adjusted annually, and informed by the South African inflation rate.”

However, the problem with these fine words to the IAEA is that they are misleading, perhaps deliberately so, and that the so-called provision is actually something of a “Potemkin village” to placate and impress the IAEA and the public that all is well and under control.

In fact, no real money, securities or investments of any kind have actually been set aside monthly, annually or at stage and in any fund during operation of South Africa’s nuclear facilities as provision for decommissioning, long-term storage and final disposal of high-level nuclear waste, and/or the construction and operation of a high-level nuclear waste repository.

Continue reading

February 22, 2021 Posted by | South Africa, wastes | Leave a comment

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa omits mention of nuclear in his State of the Nation Address

Experts speculate on meaning of Ramaphosa’s nuclear omission in SONA https://www.iol.co.za/capeargus/news/experts-speculate-on-meaning-of-ramaphosas-nuclear-omission-in-sona-fe6bd6f4-15da-496d-88b7-0009b080661c

By Mwangi 15 Feb 21, Githahu Cape Town – Energy experts and commentators are speculating on the the significance of the omission of any mention of nuclear energy by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation address, with one suggesting this might be a sign that the government may have dropped its commitment to the nuclear power option.

In his speech on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said: “The fourth priority intervention of the recovery plan is to rapidly expand energy-generation capacity.

“Over the last year, we have taken action to urgently and substantially increase generation capacity in addition to what Eskom generates. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) will soon be announcing the successful bids for 2 000 megawatts of emergency power.

“Government will soon be initiating the procurement of an additional 11 800 megawatts of power from renewable energy, natural gas, battery storage and coal in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019.”

Mark Swilling, Distinguished Professor of sustainable development at the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, said: “It is significant that nuclear wasn’t mentioned. It’s not like government forgot about nuclear.

“The DMRE has after all been pushing nuclear power very hard. What is more likely is that the department failed to get its way, and that can only be a good thing, as nuclear is expensive and risky, especially when there are cheaper alternatives.

“What the president announced is a very good start, but not enough. Instead of the procurement of an additional 11 800 megawatts, what we need is at least 20 000MW if we are to be free of load shedding by 2025.

“There is a problem if the 11 800 includes coal because it’s not as though you can build a new coal mine. Nobody is funding them anymore. Around the world even new coal stations are shutting down. The 11 800MW should be strictly from renewables.”

Executive director of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei), Francesca de Gasparis, said: “The president’s speech was silent on nuclear power, yet we know from recent developments that the government has been pushing on with its nuclear plans, despite more nuclear not being needed and being one of the most costly electricity generation options.

“In terms of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which lays out our energy choices, this risky and outdated technology is not even identified as a necessary part of the solution to the country’s ongoing energy crisis. Renewable energy is significantly quicker to install and a more cost-effective choice.”

The Climate Justice Charter Movement lobby group said in a statement: “The economic recovery plan calls for more off-shore extraction of oil and gas. If the president is serious about the climate crisis he would make it clear that nuclear energy plans are also off the national agenda. In this context, we would have taken his climate change commission more seriously.”

February 15, 2021 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has suffered severe corrosion

Koeberg has suffered substantial damage, according to Koeberg Alert Alliance. (with audio)   https://www.capetalk.co.za/articles/408514/koeberg-nuclear-power-station-radioactivity-containment-building-is-severely-damaged?fbclid=IwAR1HSyt2Tw6lrsbwJxlEQW5m4i4YT18_Hl0MgVzEQV0f24h31btTVN150g4   Eskom says the containment building is ‘leak-tight’.


RELATED: We’ll extend Koeberg lifespan from 40 to 60 years. It’ll be safe – Eskom


Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has suffered substantial damage to its containment building, according to Koeberg Alert Alliance (KAA).

The containment building is designed to contain the escape of radioactive steam or gas in an emergency.

A nuclear accident at Koeberg will have devastating consequences for hundreds of thousands of people who live close nearby.

Eskom says it is aware of “deterioration” and that it is managing the issue by implementing a modification.

Like all other nuclear power plants around the world, we do get deterioration… We’re managing this issue… Recent tests show… It’s leak-tight. The building works…

Riedewaan Bakardien, Chief Nuclear Officer – Eskom

Sea air has severely damaged the concrete structure, highlighting the significant risk the facility poses to nearby residents, according to KAA.

A concerned insider at Koeberg brought the alarming structural problems to the attention of KAA.

The insider informed KAA of a crack so large it goes right around the entire 110-metre circumference of the containment dome.

The community group says it is struggling to access information from Eskom about the damaged containment dome.

KAA claims that a 31-page Eskom report (about the damage), has eleven pages entirely blacked out while various other sections, photos and tables were censored because, claims Eskom, it contained “sensitive technical information”.

Lester Kiewit interviewed Peter Becker, a spokesperson for KAA.

The salt in the sea air… has caused accelerated rust in the rebar in the concrete of the containment structures… which caused cracking… About 10% of the surface of the containment building has delaminated [split into layers] …

Peter Becker, spokesperson – Koeberg Alert Alliance

Eskom blacked out about half of the report before releasing it to us…

Peter Becker, spokesperson – Koeberg Alert Alliance

Eskom is surprised by the speed at which it’s deteriorating… Koeberg was not well constructed, and the effect of sea-air was not well understood.

Peter Becker, spokesperson – Koeberg Alert Alliance

Koeberg is far too close to densely populated areas. If they tried to get approval to build it in that location today, it would be refused…

Peter Becker, spokesperson – Koeberg Alert Alliance

Koeberg was designed to last for 40 years… We get to that in 2024… but Eskom wants to keep it going. It’s a really bad idea…

Peter Becker, spokesperson – Koeberg Alert AllianceThis problem will remain. We’re implementing a modification… which will retard the deterioration.

Riedewaan Bakardien, Chief Nuclear Officer – Eskom

It’s the building around the reactor. Yes, there is corrosion… We’re well aware of it…

Riedewaan Bakardien, Chief Nuclear Officer – Eskom

February 15, 2021 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station containment buildings damaged by prolonged exposure to sea air

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station containment buildings suffer damage, ESI Africa, Feb 12, 2021   A recently released Eskom document has revealed that 40 years of exposure to sea air at Koeberg Nuclear Power Station has damaged the concrete of the containment buildings, according to Koeberg Alert Alliance.

At one stage the concrete containment dome was found to have cracked around the entire 110-meter circumference, states the Koeberg Alert Alliance.

“The containment buildings are the outer shells of the reactor buildings, built as pressure vessels to withstand the pressure if the reactors inside them ever malfunction and therefore prevent harmful radiation being leaked into the environment,” says DR, a member of Koeberg Alert Alliance and a retired analytical chemist.

“Where the chloride salts have entered, they have caused corrosion of the reinforcing steel bars, resulting in spalling and delamination of the concrete – it is even more alarming than I thought,” he says. Spalling results from water entering concrete which forces the surface to peel, pop out, or flake off. ……..

According to the Koeberg Alert Alliance, the provided 31-page report which refers to repairs done up until 2018, has eleven pages entirely blacked out and various other sections, photos and tables redacted with the reason given as “sensitive technical information”.

“The interesting parts are clearly those that have been redacted,” says University of Johannesburg Physics Professor, Hartmut Winkler. “The first big redact is titled History/Background and presumably describes past failures and recent damage that Koeberg Alert Alliance’s PAIA was interrogating. Why should the ‘History’ be sensitive due to technical information when the less redacted sections are full of technical details.

“The most puzzling redact to me are the references which are supposed to be publicly available documents, so why are they all being hidden? Do they expose some entities that Eskom does not want anyone to know have been involved with Koeberg and why? I would also query why the financial information would be redacted. Surely the public has a right to know how much money certain components cost, and what Eskom paid for them?” says Winkler.

This is a developing story, ESI Africa will do a follow up to give Eskom an opportunity to respond to the claims. https://www.esi-africa.com/industry-sectors/generation/koeberg-nuclear-power-station-containment-buildings-suffer-damage/

February 13, 2021 Posted by | incidents, South Africa | Leave a comment