Enviro study for initial nuclear site to be finalised by year-end

11th April 2012 By: Terence Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

The final environmental impact report for the possible development of a new nuclear power station in South Africa should be completed for submission to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) before the end of 2012, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has confirmed.

In a response to a Parliamentary question posed by Dr Pierre Rabie, of the Democratic Alliance, Peters noted that the revised draft environmental impact report had been published in 2011 and that an environmental assessment practitioner would take account of the comments received when compiling the final report.

The draft report identified Thyspunt, located between Oyster Bay and St Francis Bay, in the Eastern Cape, as the preferred site for an initial project with a maximum capacity of 4 000 MW.

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan for electricity proposed the development of 9 600 MW of nuclear energy capacity by 2030 and Peters reiterated during March that nuclear would be part of the country’s power mix.

The South African government was still considering a study commissioned to assess lessons from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which followed on from Japan’s March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee, chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, had also been established to oversee the possible restart of a nuclear build programme.

Peters said the programme still required several “authorisations and approvals”. Alternative sites had also been identified at Bantamsklip and Duynefontein, in the Western Cape, should Thyspunt fail to be approved as the first new nuclear power station site.

“More than one site will be required if the nuclear programme envisaged in the Integrated Resource Plan is implemented,” she also noted.

A total of 28 specialist studies had been completed for the report, including studies related to fauna and flora, wetlands, dune morphology, transport, heritage and socioeconomic activities.

“The studies that have been conducted to date have not identified any fatal flaws on the three sites,” the Minister wrote.

Issues raised relating to transport and debris flow, as well as the chokka, or the squid, industry near the proposed Thyspunt site were being investigated. “If there are substantive changes made in the respective specialist reports, the public will be provided with the opportunity to comment on these reports.”

Some revised specialists’ reports would be made available to the public by mid-2012. Thereafter, a final report would be submitted to the DEA for evaluation and a decision on an environmental authorisation.