Three Cheers

Three Cheers to all those who worked so hard to stop Thyspunt happening

Being somewhat indisposed for the past six weeks through illness has been frustrating particularly as there has been so much meaty news during the period that I lay flat on my back reading the news from my smart phone each morning. Of course the Springbok’s huge loss was hardest to take made all the more frustrating as I was unable to watch the broadcast.

Although SFT had published a few broadcasts over the past weeks, in my haste to get back to work I overdid things a bit and ended up back in beds with a nasty lung condition further delaying SFT return.

Yesterday (Monday 16) would have been the perfect day to resume paublishing in light of Friday;s massive news but unfortunately I had to be in PE bright and early for the cardio to give me the once over. So whilst everyone in St Francis Bay is no doubt aware of Eskom’s decision not to build the next nuclear power station at Thyspunt maybe there are some reasers further afield who have not heard, unlikely but just maybe!

So massive was Friday’s news that there it is of little wonder that it took the power out throughout St Francis / Oyster Bay for some 12 hours or was that just Eskom’s way of giving us the finger for going into battle against them. No doubt there are some pro-nuclear supporters with more than a little egg on their face, non-more so than ever popular Dr Kelven Kemm particularly in light of his claims (28 August) pronouncing Thyspunt was going ahead in spite of the court ruling that the entire process had been cancelled.

Local Thyspunt Alliance and other anti-nuclear activists have certainly been rewarded and our thanks must go out to the Thyspunt Alliance especially to our own Trudi Malan and Hilton Thorpe and others including Gary Koekemoer of NoPENuke for their efforts.   While this decision does not totally scuttle plans to one day build a nuclear power station at Thyspunt, it certainly is unlikely to rear its head during the lives of the majority of our readers. And certainly in years to come a solution will have been found to store generated power renedering nuclear options unnecessary and obsolete.

No doubt the anti-nuke fight will continue with Eskom’s decision to build its proposed new nuclear reactor at Duynefontein, near Koeberg in Cape Town and here’s to all those supporting the Thyspunt effort lend a helping hand to their Cape Town colleagues.

And just to give confirmation that the decision is final (in terms of being preferred to Thyspunt) attached are two documents, one from Environmental Affairs and one from Gibb, the consulting engineers.

J36210_Nuclear-1 EA Decision_v3_2017.10.14

Nuclear_1-Environmental Authorisation

Thyspunt Alliance comments

Kemm’s nuclear arguments fatally flawed

A letter received from Thyspunt Alliance’s  Hilton Thorpe discusses flaws in Dr Kemm’s arguments

“The article in the August, 2017 edition of the Chronicle, which quotes Dr Kelvin Kemm at length, is typical. It is nothing more than propaganda – a disinformation exercise which deliberately disregards serious issues in relation to the nuclear process, and gives a totally erroneous impression.

Who is this Dr Kelvin Kemm?  He is a lobbyist denying climate change. Like so many lobbyists, he appears to be blind to any realities other than his own agenda. He has invested his professional and business career in nuclear technology, and is now using his lobbying skills in this direction. As nuclear adviser to the government, Chairman of NECSA and CEO of his own nuclear company, he has a fatal conflict of interest.

Kemm described the High Court ruling, which set aside every step taken so far, as “just a bump in the road, not even a pothole”.  This is tantamount to contempt of court. The entire nuclear programme has to start from scratch, legally, with full parliamentary and public participation.

The Russian agreement would have given Russia a virtual monopoly over all nuclear matters in South Africa for a minimum of 20 years, and an unspecified favourable tax regime. South Africa would have been fully responsible for any damage arising in consequence of any nuclear incident. The government was hoping to smuggle this through without reference to parliament. The judge ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional, to be reviewed and set aside.

Kemm suggests that the Record of Decision for the EIA is simply a matter of a Ministerial stroke of the  pen.  He ignores the fact that the EIA process is also subject to the law (in this case NEMA). The Final Environmental Report was riddled with fatal flaws, including lack of material information required. A favourable ROD at this stage would be inappropriate. There are a number of major processes to follow before the project can go ahead.

Eskom has already spent tens of millions of rands on a fatally flawed EIA, and on land purchases, prior to decisions by the DEA and NNR. Now they want to proceed with site preparation, at tax-payers’ expense, prior to authorization, and at risk.

Kemm may be a competent nuclear scientist – he has never shown the slightest interest in the merits or otherwise of Thyspunt as a nuclear site. His arguments should be treated with the skepticism they deserve.”

Nuclear Saga continues

The Nuclear Saga continues – Fact or creative public relations

With nuclear saga back in the news it seems there could be a fine line between what constitutes “fake news” and what is “real”. What is fake and what is real is often dependant on which side of the proverbial fence one sits and what those publishing the news want to achieve when publishing such news. The e-mail received late Sunday claiming the nuclear process is well on its way to becoming a reality is possibly the truth for those wishing it to be real but on the other hand those wishing Thyspunt not to progress may consider it “fake” particularly as neither Eskom nor the energy ministry has issued supporting comment.

Having only read the news release for the first time so late on a Sunday it allowed little more than a cursory look to see if either Eskom or the ministry had published similar insight. The article in question certainly seemed credible and that it had been placed into the public domain by a seemingly official agency surely meant it had government blessing. The quick search of relevant web sites and news portals proved fruitless so one must question as to why the news of the nuclear go ahead has been put into public domain with no word of support from Eskom or the ministry. Until confirmation is published either by Eskom or the energy ministry we remain no closer to what really is happening. One question that should be asked however is what authority Dr Kemm has to make such far reaching claims to say nothing of his right to commit, in print, billions of state funds to the nuclear process (“the Thyspunt site development budget is R25-30-billion and all that is left with respect to the Thyspunt site is the Record of Decision (ROD) sign-off by the Minister of Environment Affairs”).

St Francis Today was possibly a little “naughty” in publishing without delving deeper into the facts but given the importance of the article to St Francis residents, we felt it important that readers were informed of the news should they not have seen it in alternative publications. Our haste was also motivated by the fact as we will be unable to publish SFT for a few weeks from Friday so felt it necessary to get the ball rolling in informing our readers.  Happily for us (SFT) we achieved exactly what we intended and have received comment that questions whether claims made in the said article are in fact a reality or simply the view of those who may have a vested interest in seeing nuclear go ahead.

Gary Koekemoer of NoPENuke, a member of the Thyspunt Alliance makes some very interesting points that certainly question Dr Kemms claims in his exclusive interview.

Gary’s response is published below.

The United States of America is the world leader in nuclear energy with ninety-nine reactors currently on-line. On the 31 July 2017, two electricity utilities announced, , that they were abandoning the building of their two nuclear reactors (at the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina) after spending $9 Billion and being close to 40% complete. This was two of the four nuclear builds currently underway in the USA and a direct consequence of Westinghouse – the American nuclear build powerhouse – declaring bankruptcy in March 2017. The last new build to come on-line in the USA (Oct 2016) was Watts Bar 2, currently the record holder for the longest nuclear plant build ever – 43 years. The nuclear (energy) world is changing. Many suggest that the industry is in terminal decline, that it is following in the footsteps of other pivotal technologies like the Concorde and the Space Shuttle – brilliant scientific feats, but no longer economically viable given ongoing operational and safety constraints.

However, listening to the public relations hype being generated by the nuclear industry one wonders if they have special access to a parallel universe. Nuclear energy advocates are good at two things: selling (only) the positives of nuclear and creating “straw men” about the opposition to nuclear. And so lobbyists, such as Dr Kelvin Kemm (CEO of Nuclear Africa and Chairperson of NECSA), emphasise jobs, energy security, constancy of supply (baseload) and scientific progress as guaranteed in-the-bank benefits. At the same time they accuse those opposed to nuclear of all kinds of evil misdeeds: being unpatriotic, anti-progress, anti-jobs, like terrorists, essentially anti-everything and then endow them with magical powers that seemingly give them unlimited abilities to make nuclear mega-projects fail. Thrown into the mix too are always comments that white-ant (think hungry termites eating something from the inside out) renewable energy.

The most recent example of this positive spin is Dr Kemm’s exclusive interview with the St Francis Chronicle in which he is quoted as saying that the recent set-back for the South African nuclear programme is simply “a bump in the road, not even a pothole” and that “fake news” (a term now made famous by President Donald Trump) was spreading false rumours that the project was either cancelled or delayed.

No one is saying the project is cancelled. But the Minister of Energy, Mmamoloko Kubayi, in an interview with energy expert Chris Yelland on Friday 4 August 2017 confirmed that, “…we have decided to relook at the whole nuclear process and the requirement for nuclear IGAs, to see if there is anything that needs improving or reworking. There are lessons to learn from what has happened before…” and “…we are reviewing the whole nuclear process, taking it to cabinet, advising them on the issues, and making recommendations.” That hardly sounds like Dr Kemm’s assertion that “we can essentially start with the site development immediately when the Environment Minister signs the ROD for the selected site”? But Dr Kemm is correct on one thing, it isn’t a pothole. It’s far greater – an entire re-set of the nuclear build programme. For a process that started in 2006/7 to go back to the beginning, there can be no doubt that this will result in further delays. To claim anything else is creative public relations, a salesman desperate to convince a sceptical client that there really is gold at the end of the rainbow.

So what is this setback? On the 26 April 2017, the Cape High Court found that the intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) between South Africa and specifically Russia, America and South Korea to be unconstitutional and unlawful. It also declared the Section 34 Ministerial Determination that made Eskom the procuring agent of nuclear as invalid, and so too Eskom’s request for information (RFI) that would have started the procurement process.

In effect, before the nuclear build can progress a number of processes must be completed. First up, the plan for electricity supply – the integrated resource plan (IRP) that decides if and when nuclear is needed – must be updated. The Minister of Energy has indicated early 2018 as the most likely date for this. Then it requires a Section 34 determination to establish who will procure the nuclear build. Thereafter, any nuclear IGA will have to be tabled in parliament before the procurement process can start – given the size, scope and nature of nuclear builds, an IGA is inevitable as South Africa cannot source the required R1 Trillion plus in any normal commercial transaction. Furthermore, before site preparation can take place the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) must issue the builder of the plant with a nuclear site installation licence (NSIL). And before that, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) must give the environmental go-ahead (record of decision) based on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) that started in 2007 and, after five iterations, was finally submitted in mid-2016. Each of these processes includes the potential of further public participation, an appeal and a subsequent legal challenge.


Dr Kemm suggests that this whole process is “something like building a garage for your new car”. It is nothing of the sort. It is a highly complex mega-project that must overcome numerous economic, engineering, safety and legal obstacles before it can proceed. Even then, as the USA new build demonstrates, the project can be abandoned before completion. Cancelled? No. Delayed? Already years behind and more to come! Is it a done deal? Buying a lotto ticket may be a better bet.

Well you decide what is fact and what is fake!

Thyspunt back on the table

Opening an e-Mail in my inbox titled “SA Nuclear Plan to go ahead” yesterday afternoon was really came as no surprise as it really has been quite a long time coming following the court case won by the anti-nuclear activists. That court case was always just a delay tactic and it was only a matter of time before the mention of Thyspunt would again raise its head and no doubt the ire of many in St Francis and Jeffreys Bay.

The court case was only about the procurement process that had been rushed through Parliament rather than whether the nuclear build would go ahead or not. It was never going to happen that Eskom was going to ditch nuclear in favour of renewable energy and their recent reluctance to sign off agreements with wind and solar projects was warning enough that nothing had changed their mind about the way forward with nuclear and probably Thyspunt in particular.

The ANC has far too much at stake to not see Thyspunt proceed for there are sure to be some cadres who have been promised lucrative pay-outs by way of either  supply contracts or if not legitimate contracts, then certainly through well-earned  backhanders for supporting Zuma and the ANC.  And let us not ignore the huge tracts of land that Eskom owns in the proximity of the proposed nuclear power station. It was purchased for a reason.

The anti-Thyspunt activists will have had time to catch their breath knowing it was only a matter of time before they again have to man the battlements. Whether they have used this breathing space to see how many more “bumps” they can put in the road and possibly even find a “pothole” or two only time will tell.

No doubt the gloves will be off as the bell rings for what could well be the start of the “Mayweather / McGregor” of nuclear bouts.

Thyspunt Proposal Flawed

Hilton Thorpe comments on Thyspunt Work Groups

Following yesterdy’s post on the Thyspunt Work Groups to be established to help prepare the Kouga municipal area for the construction of a nuclear plant at Thyspunt, local anti-Thyspunt activist activist Hilton Thorpe posted the following comment which some may not have seen so it seems worth reprodicng as a post on its own.

Here is Hilton.s comment but one wonders if the Government would pay attention to the National Nuclear Regulator if they were to rule the site iand the proposed technology, unacceptable such is their determination to develop Thyspunt.

“Everything about the Thyspunt proposal is flawed, from the original site selection under apartheid restrictions to disregard of the Review by the CSIR in 1992, which concluded that the site was not suitable for development; to ignoring of the argument from the local community in 1998 that the site is not viable in terms of international emergency planning requirements; to the Scoping Report, which should have been rejected by the DEA in terms of NEMA requirements for failure to contain material information required; to the “co-operation agreement between the DEA & the Department of Energy, leaving the DoE in charge of nuclear issues, and effectively putting to sleep the viability issue until Eskom has applied to the NNR for a technology licence, which has still not happened; to the proposal by Eskom to apply for a reduction in emergency planning to 3 kilometres around the site, in terms of European Utility Requirements, which have been described by an English nuclear scientist as a “fiction” and only a wish-list; to the multiplicity of flawed draft environmental impact reports; to the flawed impact rating criteria, which made it impossible to have a “fatal flaw”; to the separate, and equally flawed transmission lines EIA, which based its recommendation on “national interest”, rather than environmental considerations; to the fatally flawed Final Environmental Impact Report. No wonder it is taking the DEA so long to come to a decision!

To-date, Eskom has done everything at risk, on the assumption that the EIA & Regulatory processes will go smoothly.

We can shortly expect the process by the National Nuclear Regulator, to determine whether or not both the site itself, and the proposed technology, are acceptable in terms of the Nuclear Regulator Act & Regulations. An immediate problem with this is that South Africa is a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency Convention, which demands that the Regulator must be independent of both political and commercial pressure. This will be difficult to justify in the light of recent political developments in the country,and of the fact that Eskom will be financing the process.

The St Francis community should be aware of the probable social impact of the project going ahead. When the Mosgas project began it is said that 100000 unemployed people converged on the town looking for work. Mossel Bay is now a large town, with a huge unemployment problem. Much the same applies to Lephalale, following the Medupi project. This can only lead to land invasion, and all the social pathologies associated with informal settlements.

Eskom’s behaviour so far has been irresponsible, and there is no reason to assume that it will change. It may be necessary to go to court to stop this.”

Thyspunt a Fait Accompli?

Is Thyspunt a fait accompli?

At Tuesday’s  DA AGM at St Francis Bay Golf Club Kouga Executive Mayor made a statement that will not have gone down well with the anti-Thyspunt or the anti-nuclear lobbyists. Addressing a rather small audience of ardent DA supporters her statement that Thyspunt is a ‘fait accompli’ will have had some choking on their gin and tonics or cold lagers and others maybe rejoicing at the news so split is the community pn the subject of Thyspunt.

The press, including St Francis Today, have recently published several articles that building a nuclear power station on a site that may be at risk of surge storms and tsunamis seems maybe not to be such a good idea. At one of the presentations at St Francis Links by consultants Gibbs when presenting their EIA report last year, one recalls their assertion that one of the primary reasons for selecting Thyspunt as an ideal environment for the nuclear power station was that there is little or no possibility of seismic activity in the area.

The question must then be asked, did Gibbs do their homework with the EIA  or if they did, did they simply and expediently cover it up to suit their paymaster. At the self-same presentation when asked about the dangers of contamination from the plant that the prevailing westerly winds may cause they categorically stated that the prevailing winds were North Westerly. Now anyone who has lived in the area for a year or more knows the westerly is our prevailing wind and St Francis is thus directly in the path of the winds blowing from the proposed site.  Possibly there is little or no chance of the wind spreading the contamination but the question is, how reliable are their findings on other matters of importance if they couldn’t ascertain the simple wind direction and what other pertinent facts have been incorrectly reported or simply painted over?

It certainly does appear that the ANC government and Eskom are hell-bent on building Thyspunt whether SA can afford it or not, but one can only wonder at how many houses and schools and improvements to infrastructure could be built for the poor with the money that will be spent on legal fees by the anti-lobby and government alone for this matter is very likely to be dragged through the courts for years to come.

And when the development starts, who is going to pay for the infrastructure upgrades that will be required? Apparently Eskom will be paying only for the building of the plant, nothing more, so who is going to pay for the roads, the housing for workers and, and ……..

Thyspunt may not be another Fukushima anytime in the near future but who knows 50 or more years in the future? With the recent spate of earthquakes and tsunami warnings on the Pacisic Rim can anyone really ascertain whather this may also possibly cause changes to the fault lines on other continents. Can our grand and great grandchildren be guaranteed or should we not worry about them and their future?

Article on Prof Maarten de Wit at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and director of the Africa Earth Observatory Network, a research institute