The fight against nu­clear

Var­i­ous lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions are pulling to­gether in a bid to stop Eskom from build­ing a nu­clear re­ac­tor close to a sleepy East­ern Cape town

CityPress - - Business - MAX MATAVIRE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, civic or­gan­i­sa­tions and cul­tural ac­tivists are hop­ping mad over the pro­posed con­struc­tion of a nu­clear re­ac­tor at Thyspunt, about 70km south­east of Port El­iz­a­beth. They ar­gue that con­sul­ta­tion by Eskom is in­ad­e­quate, and that their pre­sen­ta­tions against the project and its im­pact have not been well con­sid­ered.

They have or­gan­ised them­selves into an as­so­ci­a­tion called the Thyspunt Al­liance com­pris­ing 10 or­gan­i­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous sec­tors and in­ter­ests.

Th­ese are: St Fran­cis Bay Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion; Cape St Fran­cis Civic As­so­ci­a­tion; Fos­ter, an en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion; Port St Fran­cis Harbour As­so­ci­a­tion; Gamtkwa Khoisan Coun­cil; Jef­freys Bay Board­rid­ers; St Fran­cis Kromme Trust; Sea Vista View; Su­per­tubes Surf­ing Foun­da­tion; and the SA Squid Man­age­ment In­dus­trial As­so­ci­a­tion (Sas­mia).

“Peo­ple also op­posed to the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment can join as in­di­vid­u­als,” said al­liance co­or­di­na­tor Trudy Malan in an in­ter­view with City Press.

“This area can­not sus­tain such a de­vel­op­ment, both from a so­cial and bio­phys­i­cal view­point,” Malan said.

“We be­lieve in this case, strength does lie in num­bers and it would there­fore be an ad­van­tage for the cause to have more civil so­ci­ety and busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tions join the al­liance.” Ini­tially Eskom, which wants to build the multi­bil­lion-rand project, iden­ti­fied five sites, but has now cho­sen Thyspunt as the pre­ferred one.

The 10 al­liance part­ners have each en­gaged ex­perts in cul­ture, en­vi­ron­ment, fish­ing, ge­ol­ogy and other ar­eas to ar­gue their case by sub­mit­ting de­tailed and well­re­searched pre­sen­ta­tions to both Eskom and the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs, which is con­duct­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ments (EIAs) for the area.

As it is now, the de­part­ment has not yet made a fi­nal de­ci­sion as to whether it will go ahead with the project at Thyspunt. Stud­ies are still be­ing con­ducted. “The fi­nal EIA re­port was sub­mit­ted to the de­part­ment, but they have yet to is­sue au­tho­ri­sa­tion,” said Malan.

“The date for the is­su­ing of a pos­si­ble record of de­ci­sion by the de­part­ment is some­where be­tween May and mid-June. If the au­tho­ri­sa­tion is pos­i­tive for the Thyspunt site, we will fol­low due process to chal­lenge it. That is, we will first take the mat­ter on re­view, and if we are not happy with the out­come, we will chal­lenge it in court.”

She said re­gard­less of what Eskom was say­ing, there were still sev­eral un­pro­ce­du­ral mat­ters that needed to be con­cluded be­fore the project could go ahead.

“Be­sides the mas­sive cost, as an or­gan­i­sa­tion, we fo­cus on the di­rect so­cial, her­itage and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact that this pro­posed largest in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment in the south­ern hemi­sphere will have on an area that can hardly cope at present,” said Malan.

Greg Christy, ar­gu­ing on be­half of the Sas­mia, said if the nu­clear plant were al­lowed to go ahead, it would dis­turb the breed­ing area of squid that sup­ported an in­dus­try he said had an an­nual turnover of R500 mil­lion.

“The squid in­dus­try at St Fran­cis Bay em­ploys 5 000 sea- and land-based jobs. At a time when South Africa is feel­ing the ef­fects of the global re­ces­sion, and in par­tic­u­lar the fish­ing in­dus­try that is strug­gling ow­ing to a strong rand and a de­pressed ex­port mar­ket, the threat of the con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion of this nu­clear power plant is ex­treme to the squid in­dus­try,” said Christy.

About 6.3 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of sand would be dumped onto the off­shore ocean and the squid ground ecosys­tem and breed­ing space would be dis­turbed, he

R62 THEUNS KRUGER, Graph­ics2

What do you think about Eskom’s plans to build a nu­clear power sta­tion at Thyspunt? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word NU­CLEAR and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 said.

If the in­dus­try lost one sea­son of prof­itable fish­ing, he said, many busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly those with bank fi­nance and mort­gage bond pay­ments on their fish­ing ves­sels, may be liq­ui­dated.

“Com­mer­cial har­vest­ing of squid is only pos­si­ble in a small area off the East­ern Cape coast, with prime breed­ing grounds fall­ing on the coast of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment. If th­ese prime grounds are de­stroyed or com­pro­mised, it is not for the fish­ing in­dus­try sim­ply to pick another area to fish from,” ar­gued Christy.

St Fran­cis Bay Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion, in their pre­sen­ta­tion, said the noise pol­lu­tion dur­ing con­struc­tion would be “un­bear­able”.

They said huge trucks would be mov­ing, car­ry­ing hazardous ma­te­rial 24 hours a day and us­ing the many small feeder roads that would be also con­structed. “St Fran­cis Bay is a highly suc­cess­ful and unique re­sort town with a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion,” said the res­i­dents’ as­so­ci­a­tion pre­sen­ta­tion.

“A sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion here com­prises re­tirees who have worked their en­tire lives to en­able them to live in what they re­gard as an in­com­pa­ra­ble en­vi­ron­ment. To then im­pose a trans­porta­tion sys­tem of the type en­vis­aged on such a com­mu­nity would be un­just and un­rea­son­able.”

Kobus Re­ichardt, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Gamtkwa Khoisan Coun­cil, said that their her­itage would be com­pletely wiped out if the project were al­lowed to go ahead.

“We have in this area hu­man re­mains of our an­ces­tors and a lot of our ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ma­te­rial for our her­itage is on the pro­posed site. If this project is al­lowed, all our her­itage is gone. Also, in terms of Unesco’s def­i­ni­tion, the cho­sen site is a cul­tural land­scape, and it should not be dis­turbed in any way,” Re­ichardt said.

The Su­per­tubes Surf­ing Foun­da­tion, a sec­tion 21 com­pany founded in 1999 and a draw­card for in­ter­na­tional surf­ing com­pe­ti­tions, is wor­ried about the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment.

“Var­i­ous other op­tions of en­ergy – wind, so­lar, bio­gas and wave power – have not been fully ex­plored. Why nu­clear? Re­new­ables pro­vide bet­ter, cheaper elec­tric­ity and cre­ate jobs.

“The pro­posed de­vel­op­ment will al­ter the flora and fauna here, and put a stop to the surf­ing ac­tiv­ity that goes on around here,” said the foun­da­tion, adding that in­ter­na­tional surfers brought the much-needed for­eign cur­rency when they come for com­pe­ti­tions.

The SA Her­itage Re­sources Coun­cil also re­fused to ap­prove the site, say­ing it was “en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive”.

The Thyspunt Al­liance said it would fight the project to the bit­ter end, even go­ing to the high­est court in the land.

It is be­lieved that the new nu­clear build will add in­stalled ca­pac­ity of about 9 600 megawatts.

Ear­lier this month, Eskom and the Coega De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to work to­gether in the de­vel­op­ment of nu­clear new-build pro­gramme.

Re­spond­ing to the re­sis­tance to the choice of Thyspunt for a nu­clear plant, Eskom this week said it ini­tially ap­plied to the Na­tional Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tor (NNR) for a nu­clear in­stal­la­tion site li­cence in March last year for Thyspunt and Duyne­fontein in the Western Cape.

“Thyspunt was rec­om­mended by the EIA as the pre­ferred site for the in­stal­la­tion of the nu­clear re­ac­tors, with the fi­nal de­ci­sion be­ing awaited from the de­part­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs,” said Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe.

The NNR, said Phasiwe, was in the process of as­sess­ing the suit­abil­ity of both sites to ac­com­mo­date a nu­clear in­stal­la­tion. “The NNR has ap­pointed 16 lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­sul­tants to as­sist with the eval­u­a­tion of the site safety re­port,” said Phasiwe.

Manyi snubbed, then huffs

Pro­gres­sive Pro­fes­sion­als Fo­rum (PPF) pres­i­dent Mzwanele Manyi may have re­signed from his po­si­tion as head of pol­icy at the Black Busi­ness Coun­cil (BBC) be­cause of the out­come of a meet­ing with Na­tional Trea­sury ear­lier this month.

Ac­cord­ing to a well-placed source within the BBC, Manyi quit be­cause he was side­lined when the or­gan­i­sa­tion smoked the peace pipe with Trea­sury.

How­ever, the BBC said in a state­ment that Manyi had re­signed, cit­ing he had too many re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in his other port­fo­lios.

Manyi has de­nied that his res­ig­na­tion had any­thing to do with the out­come of the meet­ing and the sup­posed sub­se­quent truce achieved be­tween Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and the BBC.

Gord­han, who con­vened the meet­ing, sub­se­quently also ac­cused the or­gan­i­sa­tion of rep­re­sent­ing views of a cer­tain fam­ily, pre­sum­ably the Gup­tas.

How­ever, dur­ing that meet­ing, the par­ties buried the hatchet and Gord­han con­ceded, ac­cord­ing to a source who at­tended the meet­ing, that he re­ally had no prob­lem with the BBC, just with Manyi.

Manyi, who has not minced his words about his mis­giv­ings about Gord­han’s bud­get speech, was sub­se­quently left out of the com­bined steer­ing com­mit­tee meant to dis­cuss pol­icy is­sues around bud­get speech, de­spite be­ing the elected head of pol­icy.

Manyi de­clined to com­ment on PPF’s view on the out­come of the Trea­sury-BBC meet­ing.

“PPF was not part of that meet­ing. We have no view on that meet­ing,” he said.

– Le­setja Ma­jola

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