Several organisations attending public hearings in Cape Town have expressed concern about conflict of interest in Eskom’s involvement in the nuclear new build programme.
“Nuclear will not easily be accepted by the population. It is heavily contested. If you go down the nuclear path, it needs to be transparent and rational,” sector development agency GreenCape energy programme manager Bruce Raw told public consultation hearings on the proposed update to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in Cape Town.
He also expressed concern about the risks of Eskom’s involvement in nuclear.
“If the generation business fails, so does transmission. We need to separate those two businesses, to make sure that the risks are not in the same place.”
He said Eskom could be biased towards nuclear.
“We have Eskom being excluded from some generation markets. It is not allowed to be involved in solar photovoltaic. It has a limited role in gas and can’t build big solar and wind plants. This leaves Eskom with very limited options.”
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute energy and climate change consultant Liz McDaid said nuclear was not in the interest of ordinary South Africans.
“The government has made its decision on nuclear. It has vested interests. This is not democracy. This is not good governance,” she told the hearing.
Peter Becker from nongovernmental organisation Koeberg Alert Alliance, questioned whether there was a plan for the accumulation of high-level waste from nuclear power stations.
He said plans were needed on the location of the long-term storage facility, what it would cost to build and the running costs of the facility.
“What is the plan for the 160 t of waste that will be produced every year? We need the details of that plan.”
He said costs on nuclear security, such as port security and transit security for the transport of new fuel, had been ignored within the IRP.
Becker also claimed costs had been skewed to inaccurately favour nuclear, with the exchange rate in the IRP base case quoted as R11.55 to the dollar.
In its submission, the Western Cape government said the cost for nuclear was not aligned with reality, but rather with an outdated foreign exchange figure.
It too argued that generation and transmission should be split to ensure there was no conflict of interest.
But other companies, such as Lesedi Nuclear Services, voiced the concern that the renewable-energy programme was benefiting foreign companies rather than supporting local industry, saying that nuclear could benefit local jobs and manufacturing.
“The nuclear programme is set to benefit the South African economy directly, indirectly and downstream, more so than renewable projects.”
Department of Energy (DoE) deputy director-general Ompi Aphane said suggestions and submissions would be taken into account.
“We need to build trust and be as transparent as possible.”
Cape Town was the third stop in a roadshow of public consultation workshops being held by the DoE. Hearings have been held in Johannesburg and Durban and have now moved to Port Elizabeth.