Johannesburg – One of South Africa’s most ecologically sensitive
coastal areas and the cornerstone of the South African squid industry has been identified as Eskom’s preferred area for a new nuclear power station.
Thyspunt, close to Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape, is one of five identified areas where Eskom hopes to erect nuclear power stations.
Tony Stott, Eskom’s spokesperson on nuclear power, acknowledged that Thyspunt would be the preferred option if South Africa were to continue with its nuclear power plans.
Cormac Cullinan, senior partner at the legal firm Cullinan & Associates, represents an organisation of local interested parties, the Thyspunt Alliance.
He said studies on the land where Thyspunt has been identified as the preferred option are incomplete and based on 30-year-old plans.
Cullinan said the whole process had been rushed without adequate input from all concerned parties.
Eskom had unexpectedly been embarrassed by the shortage of electricity and had proceeded to dust off old plans, he said. At the time that the plans had been drawn up, the squid industry had not existed. The plans had also failed to examine the socio-economic impact on the local communities.
The coastline today is very different from that 30 years ago, but Eskom has neglected to look at other areas.
Thyspunt Alliance spokesperson Trudi Malan said the original five areas that Eskom had identified for nuclear power stations were all based on plans drawn up by the apartheid government in the early 1980s.
Greg Christie, spokesperson for the South African squid industry, said the impact studies were also incomplete and had disregarded various critical factors.
No study had been done on the impact of building a nuclear power station on the sea life.
For example, Eskom planned to pump 6.4 million cubic metres of sea sand into the sea to facilitate construction. This would destroy the squid industry.
In the Eastern Cape this industry generates R500m a year and supplies work for 5 000 local people who have no other refuge.
Squid breeds only in very specific conditions. There’s no coastal area in the country where it flourishes as it does at Thyspunt.
In 2009 Eskom officially abandoned its nuclear power plans because of financial considerations.
The state-controlled utility then said that the responsibility needed to be referred back to government.
As to the future of the nuclear power industry in South Africa, Stott said it would now be determined by government’s reviewed integrated resource plan (IRP2) which was currently being developed.
This document is expected to provide for new nuclear power stations and should be published next month.
Stott said that in 2006 Eskom had appointed the Arcus Gibb consultancy to conduct environmental impact studies in the areas where new nuclear power stations might be built. It was the Arcus Gibb report that had ultimately indicated Thyspunt as the preferred option.
But, he said, a great deal still had to happen before a new nuclear power station would be built in South Africa.
While squid are currently on the green list according to the latest South African Seafood Initiative (SASSI), uninformed decisions such as these could see squid upgraded to the orange list before we know it.
One has to ask why we continue to develop Nuclear Power plants and Coal Fired Power Plants? The future is in renewable energy such as Solar Energy and Wind Energy which may be more expensive form of energy but are at least sustainable. The fact that Eskom are “dusting off” plans from the eighties shows that this is the old way of thinking and new age thinking will surely be more efficient than 30 year old technology.
If we all fitted solar geysers, an extra 40% capacity would be freed up reducing the strain on our power stations. This would give Eskom time to investigate renewable energy supply. Solar water heating is the way of the future and can pay for itself within 3-4 years. With the Eskom rebate for solar geysers, it is also inexpensive to make the change.