Following an outcry from nuclear watchdogs earlier this week, Eskom is engaging with the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) to extend the period for the public to comment on the utility’s application for a site installation licence to allow it to build a reactor at Thyspunt.
Responding yesterday following criticism from the Organisation for the Undoing of Tax Abuse (Outa) and an urgent call from NoPENuke for people to comment before Eskom’s Monday deadline, Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said there had been a slip-up.
While the notices in the newspapers and the Western Cape Gazette regarding the proposed Duynefontyn reactor complied with the period of 30 days prescribed in the NNR Act, “the notice in the Eastern Cape Provincial Gazette did not”, he said.
“We are therefore engaging with the NNR to re-advertise the notice in the Eastern Cape Gazette and additionally in the national Government Gazette to give more time for public comment.
“Eskom will communicate once the NNR has given a response.” On Thursday, Outa project manager Julius Kleynhans pointed out that the notice had only been published in the Eastern Cape Gazette on August 8, making nonsense of Eskom’s stipulation of August 29 as the 30-day deadline.
But besides the need to rectify this immediate slip, the public needed considerably more time and more details on Eskom’s nuclear plan for Thyspunt, west of Cape St Francis, to allow it to comment properly, he said.
NoPENuke spokesman Gary Koekemoer urged the public to nevertheless get involved and said issues to consider included tax funds that would be needed to pay for the proposed reactor, and Eskom’s subsequent ability to fund renewable projects.
“For those in Nelson Mandela Bay, there is the concern of being 80km downwind in the case of a nuclear accident, and radioactive materials and building materials being shipped through our port and roads,” he said.
The fact that 70% of Nelson Mandela Bay’s water came from within 50km of the plant, from the Churchill and Impofu dams, was also a concern, he said.
Koekemoer said besides the danger of a nuclear accident, further concerns included the poorly researched issue of low-dose radiation and the fact that the proposed Generation III technology proposed for the South African nuclear programme had not yet been tested anywhere else.
Responding in June to a question on this point, Eskom said Generation III reactors were being constructed in other countries and they were “an evolution of the existing Gen II reactors; hence the commercial and safety basis has been established”.
On the Thyspunt project, Koekemoer said the estimated influx of 8 000 temporary workers into the area if the project was approved, and Thyspunt’s status as a significant Khoisan and early human site should also be considered by the public.
Besides the fragile dune vegetation and aquifer system at Thyspunt and the threat to the chokka industry from the ejection of sand during construction – changing the unique composition of the seabed which attracts the squid to lay their eggs there – there was also the danger to marine life posed by the water intake pipes, he said.
Public participation submissions on the Thyspunt project and Eskom’s site licence application should go to NISLcomments@ nnr. co. za