Safely siting a nuclear power station

Site licencing for an energy generation project is usually both multidisciplinary and complex, and even more so for nuclear energy; SRK Consulting’s technical involvement in a recent such project for the national energy provider demonstrates the breadth and depth of its expertise, according to SRK partner and principal engineer Bruce Engelsman.

Continue reading View more

Alarm bells ring over multibillion-rand nuclear power station plan for Durban

Leading environmentalist Bobby Peek described the nuclear power option as ‘ludicrous’, arguing that the city’s plan — along with allied proposals for gas, coal and waste incineration — aimed to tie the country into unaffordable nuclear or fossil fuel energy plans.

By Tony Carnie

Durban municipal leaders are hoping to install a giant 940MW nuclear power station in the city as part of a public-private sector partnership plan to reduce the city’s dependence on the Eskom national power grid, eThekwini Municipal Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda announced on Tuesday. A nuclear plant of this capacity is roughly half the size of Eskom’s 1 940MW Koeberg nuclear power plant, 30km north of Cape Town, which was set up nearly 40 years ago.

Details remain sketchy, but the controversial proposal to build a nuclear plant in Africa’s largest port city is likely to eclipse Kaunda’s announcement that the city hopes to reduce its reliance on the Eskom national grid by 20% by 2025; by 40% by 2030 and ultimately achieve 100% energy independence by 2035.

Opening the Energy Transformation Summit at Durban’s International Convention Centre, Kaunda also announced short-term plans to build a new 400MW coal-fired power station; a new gas import terminal in Durban harbour; a 300MW gas-to-power plant and a smaller 100MW solar PV plant.

He hoped the new solar and gas plants would be running by 2025 and 2026, respectively. All these proposals formed part of the city’s Municipal Independent Power Producer Procurement (MIPPP) Programme, which aimed to attract around R325-billion in investment by 2035.

On the Durban nuclear proposal, Kaunda said: “In the medium to long term, we are planning to procure an additional 2 600MW of new generation capacity to adequately boost regional transformation. eThekwini Municipality will start new procurement of 50MW waste-to-energy, 300MW offshore wind and 940MW of nuclear power in the new financial year (July 2023).”

There have been whisperings about a Durban-based nuclear power station for some time, with the old Durban International Airport in Prospecton mooted as a possible site.

After his announcement, Our Burning Planet from Daily Maverick asked the mayor if he was prepared to elaborate on the timelines, funding sources and location of the proposed nuclear power station.

Kaunda did not answer directly, stating that the city’s strategy was to support private businesses through public-private partnerships. He said the city had identified about 30 sites around the city for a variety of new energy investment projects in terms of eThekwini’s MIPPP, which formed part of a government plan to allow municipalities in good financial standing to procure electricity directly from independent power producers.

In response to our repeated question on whether the intention was to locate the proposed new nuclear plant in Durban, Kaunda simply responded: “Yes.”

In his prepared remarks to the energy summit, Kaunda asserted that: “The city’s energy transition policy was subjected to a rigorous process of public participation as informed by Section 17 of the Municipal Systems Act. Therefore, we are proud to share with you that the vision and strategic targets articulated in the energy transformation policy were formulated in consultation with the public.”

‘No consultation with the public’

But Bobby Peek, director of the groundWork environmental justice group and winner of the international Goldman Environment Prize, asked: “Who did Mayor Kaunda consult? There has been no consultation with the public about eThekwini’s future energy plans. Why were we, and other civil society groups, not consulted?”

Peek described the nuclear power option as “ludicrous”, arguing that the city’s plan — along with allied proposals for gas, coal and waste incineration — aimed to tie the country into unaffordable nuclear or fossil fuel energy plans.

The exclusion of environmental and climate crisis perspectives from the latest proposals was acknowledged, in part, at the opening of the summit by local businessman and KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition co-chair Moses Tembe, who stated:

‘No environmentalists’

“There are no environmentalists on the panel. We need to be clear about how we respond to environmentalists [in the context of the electricity State of Disaster]. It’s an elephant in the room…”

But if these climate crises and environmental perspectives had somehow been overlooked, inadvertently, the summit organisers nevertheless gave top billing to the future energy perspectives of the oil and gas industry.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe failed to pitch as advertised on the summit programme, but oil and gas industry cheerleader NJ Ayuk gave a rousing presentation in his absence as a keynote speaker.

To the applause of several of the invited delegates, the Cameroon-born head of the African Energy Chamber declared that “as someone who comes from the oil and gas industry” he was very happy to hear about eThekwini’s energy transformation proposals.

“Don’t back down to those who tell you not to use coal… Come from the back to sit at my table… I get attacked by environmentalists all the time, but I’ve got a thick skin… Nobody loves the environment more than we do. But we need to look at everything including the free market… I believe in oil and gas… and coal… and carbon capture and storage.”

Article courtesy Daily Maverick

View more