Energy: Call for Parliament to delay nuclear allocation

LegalBrief Environmental 6 November 2012.

Environmental Focus

Energy: Call for Parliament to delay nuclear allocation
SA’s green activists are questioning the government’s proposed future nuclear spend, asking for more comprehensive research into all forms of energy, not just nuclear energy, before a budget is allocated, writes Legalbrief. Lobby group Earthlife Africa has called on Parliament not to approve the R1.7bn allocation to the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) over the next three years until the Department of Energy has produced a comprehensive costing of the proposed nuclear programme, estimated last year to cost about R1trn. A report on the BDlive site notes that representatives of the non-governmental organisation made the plea during public hearings of Parliament’s two Finance Committees on the medium-term budget policy statement released by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week. ‘The allocation of R1.7bn is a significant expenditure and will limit the flexibility of the state in making energy choices in the future,’ Earthlife Africa Johannesburg spokesperson Trusha Reddy is quoted in the report as saying. ‘It will be difficult for the state to justify not building nuclear reactors even if these are not the best cost option if it has already spent billions of rands on preparatory aspects of the programme,’ Reddy said, according to the report. It notes the organisation said research shows that the nuclear expansion programme will cost significantly more than has been estimated by the state.
Full BDlive report

At the hearings, British nuclear economist Stephen Thomas warned Parliament that the government was over-confident about the potential cost of its nuclear power programme expansion. ‘The government seems to have a history of assuming that things will go much better with nuclear power than they actually do,’ Thomas, of Greenwich University, told the Standing Committee on Finance, according to a report on the IoL site. ‘The result is that SA has now embarked – this is the third time – on a nuclear programme on the basis of cost estimates that, even before the programme has started, appear ridiculously optimistic.’ Thomas said that the R300bn cost estimate – which appeared in the February Budget review – was based on a figure of $4 000 (about R34 500) a kilowatt, but the current estimate was that it would cost at least $7 000 now. Energy Minister Dipuo Peters had estimated nuclear build costs of about R400bn. Others had put the figure near R1trn while the Treasury ‘gives different figures’, said Taylor.
Full report on the IoL site

Thomas noted that the nuclear reactor that was supposed to be off the ground this year had not happened, although tenders for it went out in 2008. A Cape Times report says Thomas noted that Eskom has proposed generating 9 600MW of nuclear power by 2029. Experts say this would require between six and 10 new power stations. Three sites have been earmarked – at Koeberg, Thyspunt and Bantamsklip. Thomas noted that if reactors were built they would be ‘the latest generation’ that took into account the dangers of Chernobyl, for example. The bottom line was that if SA was going to build them they would be ‘untested’. There were also big questions over how the ultimate decommissioning process and the disposal of waste would be financed.
Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

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