Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Public Apathy towards proposed Nuclear Power Station

Apathy about proposed nuclear power station

Only about 12 people attended a public stakeholder meeting held by Eskom, its environmental assessment practitioner Arcus Gibb and public participation consultant Acer in die municipal auditorium last week to discuss the proposed nuclear power station at Bantamsklip just outside Pearly Beach.

Apart from a few concerned citizens, the rest of the audience consisted of representatives of ratepayers associations and conservation groups as well as the municipality.

Similar meetings were held in Gansbaai and Elim in June this year where fierce resistance was encountered to the idea of having a mammoth nuclear power station situated on our doorstep.

In addition to environmental concerns, the main concern among members of the public was whether Eskom still has the capacity to run more than one nuclear power station effectively.

The meetings represent the first part of a longer process to assess the socio-economic as well as environmental impact of the proposed power station on the area, to raise awareness among the public (interested and affected parties or I&APs) and to invite possible concerns at an early stage.

Five potential sites along coastline

In a pre-feasibility study undertaken by Eskom in the early 1980s, five potential sites, based on various social, economic and environmental criteria were identified for the erection of nuclear power stations.

These are Thyspunt near Cape St Francis in the Eastern Cape, Bantamsklip about 10km south-east of Pearly Beach, Duynefontein adjacent to the existing Koeberg power station, Brazil in the Kleinsee/Port Nolloth area in the Northern Cape and Schulpfontein in the Hondeklipbaai/Kleinsee area in the Northern Cape.

Eskom proposes to construct a nuclear power station of the pressurised water reactor type technology. Cooling water for the nuclear power station will be utilised directly from the sea.

It was made clear that there would be further meetings as the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process progressed.

Explaining the logic behind the proposal, Eskom's stakeholder manager Tony Stott said that there has been a sharp increase in demand for electricity over the past two years and that it is estimated that the demand for electricity generating capacity will double from an existing 36 000MW to about 77 000MW in 2025.

This additional generating capacity could come from a variety of energy resources namely, coal, liquid fuels, gas turbines, natural gas, uranium (nuclear), hydro and pumped storage schemes, wind and solar energy.

Stott said that to optimally meet the total demand, it was necessary to have both “base load electricity generating power stations? as well as peaking electricity generating power stations”.

Base load capacity forms the major component of the 40 000 MW of new generating capacity that is required in the next 20 years. According to Eskom, the only primary energy sources in South Africa that are suitable and available in sufficient quantities are coal and uranium.

Uranium will provide 50% of new generating capacity.

Arguing that nuclear power has the potential to make a substantial contribution to sustainable development and a significant contribution to reducing South Africa's greenhouse gas emissions and in the light of the country's rich resources of uranium, the Eskom Board had approved the investigation of up to 20 000 MW of nuclear capacity over the next 20 years.

The initial phase of this investigation will concentrate on one nuclear power station of approximately 4 000 MW with provision being made for further expansion. There is a possibility that more than one of the proposed sites will eventually be needed.

The entire development, including auxiliary infrastructure will comprise about 31 ha and will include a nuclear reactor, turbine complex, spent nuclear fuel storage facilities, waste handling facilities, intake and outfall basin and various auxiliary service infrastructure.

Should the proposed project be authorised, it is estimated that the construction of the nuclear power station could commence in 2009/10 with the first unit being commissioned in 2016.

In addition to the EIA process, which serves to identify, assess and mitigate potential environment impacts that may be associated with the proposed nuclear power plant, authorisation from the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) is required to provide for the protection of persons, property and the environment against nuclear damage and to exercise regulatory control related to safety.

The construction and operation of the required transmission power lines will be subject to a separate environmental authorisation process. The processes will run as far as practical in parallel with the EIA and all information will be shared with the public as it becomes available.

Lengthy process

Independent specialists have been commissioned to do the specialist studies that will form part of the EIA investigations.

A number of potential environmental issues have already been identified, including air pollution, visual impacts arising from the nuclear power station during construction and operation, impacts on fauna, flora and avi-fauna, potential safety impacts, potential traffic and nuisance impacts during the construction phase, pollution and waste management, social and socio-economic impacts during construction relating to the influx of construction workers.

The construction of such a huge nuclear power station is estimated to also hold substantial development benefits to the local and regional economy.

The EIA includes opportunities for the public to be involved in the decision-making process by identifying issues that will help focus the process and enhance decision-making.

Information about the process can be obtained on the website www.eskom.co.za.

Members of the public are urged to register as an interested and affected party in order to receive information and to record comments.

Source: http://www.news24.com/Regional_Papers/Components/Category_Article_Text_Template/0,,486_2169585~E,00.html

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