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!

Chokka fishing boat disaster

Eight crew still missing from capsized chokka fishing boat

There were still eight crew members missing from the ill-fated Chokka fishing boat Maredon that capsized off Thyspunt early Sunday morning. An extensive sea, air and shoreline search was called off late into the evening Sunday with the police, police dive unit and NSRI St Francis Bay remaining on high alert. The search for the missing crew will resume this morning.

Chokka fishing boat capsized


NSRI St Francis Bay duty crew were activated by MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) following reports of red distress flares reported by Chokka fishing vessels at sea off-shore of Thyspoint at around 03h30 on Sunday morning.  The Chokka fishing vessel Silver Eagle had witnessed the red distress flares at around 03h00 and raised the alarm calling Telkom Maritime Radio Services and MRCC.

An EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon had then also been intercepted by MRCC and additional flare sightings were reported.

Two Chokka fishing vessels, Silver Eagle and Megalodon, diverted to investigate and the Chokka fishing vessel Maredon was then confirmed to have capsized.

NSRI St Francis Bay launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II in rough sea conditions with six meter swells and a gusting to 50 knots westerly wind and driving rain. It was confirmed that the vessel had 16 crew members aboard at the time of the disaster and a search commenced for survivors.

In addition to NSRI Spirit of St Francis II, the SA Police Services, Private Care ambulance services, local security company members, NSRI Jeffreys Bay and NSRI Oyster Bay, EC Government Health EMS, a Police Dive Unit and an NSRI Port Elizabeth NSRI ASR team aboard an SA Air Force 15 Squadron Charlie Flight BK-117 helicopter and the Kouga Municipality’s Fire and Disaster team also responded to assist in the search for the missing crew.

Silver Eagle reported a life-raft the life-raft had drifting too close into towards the rocks and could not be reached and the vessel Megalodon reporting it had recovered one survivor from the water. The  survivor was transferred from the Megalodon onto the NSRI sea rescue craft Spirit of St Francis II and he was brought to shore where he was transported to hospital by Private Care ambulance services in a stable condition.

During a search members of the public, including the owner of other Chokka fishing boats and NSRI rescuers, recovered a deceased fisherman on the shore in the vicinity of Sunset Rocks and five survivors were found on the beach at Sunset Rocks. The deceased man was taken into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services.

The Maredon was found capsized and hard aground at Sunset Rocks but surf conditions did not allow rescuers to get close to the stricken vessel during the high tide. As high tide approached waves caused the stricken vessel to roll over a few times and one survivor was witnessed climbing out of the vessel and NSRI rescue swimmers waded into the water and rescued the survivor who has been airlifted to hospital by the SAAF 15 Squadron Charlie Flight helicopter in a stable condition.

As the tide receded police divers were able to breach the hull of the boat using cutting tools but no crew were found inside the hull. Police and a Police Dive Unit will continue in an ongoing search and recovery operation assisted by NSRI St Francis Bay.

When the search was called off last light one deceased crew member had been recovered with seven survivors, six of whom have been hospitalised and are reported to be in stable conditions. Eight crew are still missing.

Commenting on the disaster, Kouga Mayor Elza van Lingen commented on the emergency crews that reacted to the disaster.

“”They did a great job and we are very grateful for their efforts. We are only sorry that not all lives could be saved. Our deepest condolences go to the family of the fisherman who drowned and our prayers are with those still waiting for news of their loved ones.”

All involved in the search and rescue operation today are commended for their efforts in extremely rough sea conditions.

Sincere Condolences are conveyed to family, friends and colleagues of the deceased fisherman.

Police have opened an inquest docket and SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) are launching an investigation.

The search for the missing crewmen contiinued at first light this morning

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 work groups

Thyspunt work groups to be established

Seven work groups will be established to help prepare the Kouga municipal area for the construction of a nuclear plant at Thyspunt should the national power project receive the green light.

Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen said the work groups would serve as sub-committees of the Thyspunt Nuclear Project Joint Steering Committee.

The Joint Steering Committee was established in December last year and is co-chaired by Eskom and Kouga Municipality. Members include Kouga Municipality, Eskom, the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), the East Cape Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta EC), the South African Police Service (SAPS), Sarah Baartman District Municipality (SBDM) and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).

The Mayor said the proposed scope, mandate, activities, budget requirements, risks, milestones and membership of each of the seven groups were discussed at a meeting of the Joint Steering Committee at Jeffreys Bay on Friday (7 April 2017).

“The work groups will be responsible for identifying and addressing opportunities and potential pitfalls for the Kouga area, including infrastructure shortages and socio-economic impacts, should the Thyspunt development proceed,” she said.

“As stated before, the Kouga Council is not opposed to nuclear development per se, but we are not willing for Kouga and its people to be disadvantaged by the project.

“If a nuclear plant is to be built in our area, Kouga’s people must be ready to reap the benefits and proper measures must be in place to mitigate any potential threats.”

The proposed work groups were introduced by Eskom’s acting General Manager: Nuclear New Build, Loyiso Tyabashe, who co-chairs the Joint Steering Committee with the Mayor.

The work groups are: Infrastructure, Human Capital, Regulatory and Environment, Supplier Development, Safety and Security, Finance and Stability, and Stakeholder Management and Communication.

Tyabashe said the groups would be facilitated by either Eskom or Kouga Municipality, as the main roleplayers, and consist of senior representatives from key government departments and state-owned enterprises.

They will report back to the Joint Steering Committee on a quarterly basis.

The Mayor stressed that a final decision had not yet been made about the proposed nuclear plant at Thyspunt.

“These structures are being put in place so as to ensure that roleplayers and stakeholders are ready should the project receive the nod. If approved, Thyspunt will be the biggest development our municipal area has ever seen. We want to ensure that the best interests of our communities are taken into account at all times,” she said.

Tyabashe said Eskom was currently awaiting the outcome of the final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regarding its nuclear plans from the Department of Environmental Affairs. Applications for two Nuclear Installation Site Licences, at Thyspunt and Duynefontein, have also been submitted to the National Nuclear Regulator.

“There have been some delays in the release of the Environmental Authorisation (EA) due to the scope and complexity of the project, but the Department has indicated that the EA should be issued by mid-2017,” he said.

Issued jointly by Kouga Local Municipality and Eskom

 Queries can be directed to:


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