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Last modified: 19 Oct 2017
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Surprise twist puts nuclear plan for Thyspunt on hold

17 October 2017

South Africa’s nuclear programme took an unexpected turn last week when Eskom received authorisation from the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to build a 4 000 MW nuclear power plant at Duynefontein near Koeberg.

Kouga Acting Mayor Brenton Williams said the long-awaited Record of Decision (ROD), released by DEA on Thursday last week, came as a surprise to many people as Thyspunt near Oyster Bay had for decades been mooted as Eskom’s “preferred site”.

“The ROD means that construction at Thyspunt has been delayed by years, if not halted forever,” he said.

The municipality met with Eskom on Monday to discuss the way forward for Kouga and Thyspunt following the ROD.

“We were pleased by Eskom’s assurance that they would continue their support programme for science and maths learners at five Kouga high schools until at least 2019,” Williams said.

“A Thyspunt Joint Project Steering Committee meeting will also still be held towards the end of November for Eskom to keep Kouga abreast of developments.”

Williams said Eskom had indicated that any further nuclear plans would depend on the National Integrated Resource Plan, which is currently being revised and is expected to be finalised by March next year.

“Currently, the plan makes allowance for 9 600 MW of nuclear power to be added to South Africa’s energy mix by 2030. This number could be revised, which will impact on the roll-out of the nuclear programme,” he said.

According to the ROD, the primary reasons Duynefontein received the nod are:

  •  DEA believes that the overall environmental impacts associated with the Duynefontein site are acceptable and materially lower than those at the Thyspunt site.
  • Duynefontein being adjacent to the existing Koeberg Nuclear Power Station allows for a suite of logistical and operational synergies.
  • The incremental environmental impacts of the Duynefontein site are generally less than the impacts associated with development of the “Greenfields” site at Thyspunt.
  • The refinement of the Duynefontein footprint to a terrestrial area of some 265 ha immediately north of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and inland from the coast has materially reduced the footprint-related environmental impacts of the project.

Eskom has, in the meantime, released a statement welcoming DEA’s permission for them to proceed with the nuclear installation at Duynefontein.

“While we had worked on Thyspunt being the preferred site ... we have always considered both sites equally capable of hosting a nuclear power plant,” Eskom’s Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Nicholls said.

Five sites had initially been investigated at the scoping phase: Brazil and Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape, Bantamsklip and Duynefontein in the Western Cape, and Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.

“It is important to note that the other four sites are still usable in the future as no fatal flaws have been identified,” Nicholls said. “Going forward, we and GIBB, the independent environmental practitioner that compiled the Final Environmental Impact Report, will interrogate the decision and work within the regulations in terms of available options.”