Despite objections from Greenpeace, the ruling ANC considers nuclear power plants to satisfy rising energy demands
South Africa is considering the construction of three nuclear power stations on its coastline despite objections from environmentalists.
The country currently has Africa's sole nuclear plant, Koeberg, near Cape Town, which began generating electricity in 1984. It is surrounded by a private game reserve and has been targeted by environmental protesters.
The three new nuclear stations – provisionally known as Nuclear 1, 2 and 3 – would each be able to deliver twice as much electricity as Koeberg, South Africa's Die Burger newspaper reported today.
The report said details had emerged from an environmental impact study by the engineering consultancy Arcus Gibb, carried out on behalf of the government.
The study suggested two new stations in Western Cape and one in Eastern Cape. A site next to the existing Koeberg power plant could be ready by January 2011, with construction of Nuclear 1 starting in 2012 and likely to take six years.
The government wants to begin work at the same time on Nuclear 2 at Bantamsklip, south-east of Pearly Beach, and Nuclear 3 at Thyspunt near Cape St Francis in Eastern Cape, the impact study said.
The project would create thousands of jobs and help to meet rising demand for power in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, the governing African National Congress (ANC) has connected many townships to the grid for the first time. But more than a million people still live in shacks, often without access to electricity, a source of frustration that has contributed to this week's violent demonstrations over poor service delivery.
There was an outcry last month when Eskom, the national electricity supplier, applied for a price increase of 34%. It currently operates 11 coal-fired power stations as well as Koeberg..
Eskom claims that Koeberg is "vital" for grid stability in the Cape. The two units there each produce about 20 tonnes of radioactive waste in 18-month cycles. Low and intermediate level waste is transported by road in steel and concrete containers to a remote disposal site in the Kalahari desert. High-grade radioactive waste is stored on site in steel rods about 3.7 metres long and as thin as an adult's little finger.
Andrew Kenny, an independent engineer and energy specialist, said: "Koeberg has wonderful safety mechanisms. The new nuclear power reactors are also extremely safe. It can be regarded as the safest industrial infrastructure existing in Cape provinces."
In 2002, Greenpeace activists raided Koeberg from the sea in inflatable dinghies. Six climbed the five-storey seawater cooling pumphouse to hoist banners protesting against South Africa's use of nuclear power.
Years earlier, while Koeberg was still under construction, members of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), planted limpet mines at the unfinished power station. Four blasts rocked Koeberg over two days, delaying the commissioning of the plant for 18 months.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016