Press Release: World Expert on Nuclear Economics, Professor Stephen Thomas, Visits South Africa

Earthlife Africa Jhb
Johannesburg, 12th of September 2014

Rumours of a new ‘red’, or Russian built, nuclear power station are rife at present in the South African media, fuelled by events such as President Jacob Zuma’s unexpected and unexplained trip to Russia two weeks ago. The rumours, and the lack of transparency surrounding the possibility of another nuclear build, have left many pondering the cost feasibility of more nuclear energy. If nuclear energy makes so much financial sense, why then is it treated with such secrecy by the national government? Next week the much renowned nuclear economist Professor Stephen Thomas, hosted by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, will be holding public lectures (see below) at various universities to unpack some of the myths surrounding the technology and financing options for further nuclear energy roll out.

The media are also invited to a media briefing session at the Earthlife Africa Johannesburg offices on Monday the 15th of September from 14:00-17:00. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg offices are located on the 5th floor of the Heerengracht Building on 87 de Korte Street in Braamfontein. Professor Thomas will be available then for interviews and comments.

Professor Thomas has considered the cost reasonability of the proposed 9600 MW nuclear build in South Africa; especially in light of the failed attempt to procure nuclear energy from the French based vendor, Areva, in 2008 because the price was quite simply unaffordable. Given this history, would the Russian Rosatom bid be able to provide the technology cheaper, and if so how reliable is that technology compared with other sources? Also, because obtaining finance is currently one of the largest barriers to the expansion of the nuclear industry, will ordinary South Africans be expected to carry further energy infrastructure debt through taxation?  Lastly, South Africa’s already existing nuclear power station-Koeberg – is nearing the end of its life span. Decommissioning Koeberg will prove to be an expensive venture. Has the cash strapped Eskom put aside the necessary funds and how should the costs of decommissioning contaminated power plants be factored into the price of new builds so that they do not become the burden of future generations?

Professor Thomas latest research into the costs of South African nuclear power will be available on Earthlife Africa Jhb’s website from the 16th of Sept. 2014.

Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, explains how important it is that this information is disseminated into the public domain: “Energy infrastructure comes at massive cost to the environment, our society and the economy. Energy infrastructure is also a long term investment which will need to be paid for over the next 50-60 years, we also need to accept the impacts of that energy infrastructure for the same time frame and for much longer in the case of nuclear energy. It is essential that the public is aware of the implications of South Africa’s energy choices.”

Lecture venues and times can be seen below:

16/09/2014- University of Witwatersrand: Humphrey Raikes Building (School of Chemistry), Lecture theatre C9 from 13:15-14:15
16/09/2014- University of Johannesburg: Auckland Park Campus, Council Chambers, 2nd floor, Madibeng Building from 17:00-18:00
17/09/2014- University of Pretoria: Natural Science 1 Building, Physics Department, Room 5-35 from 11:30-12:30
17/09/2014- University of South Africa: Department of Political Sciences, Theo van Wijk building, level 7, room 7-01 from 14:00-15:00
18/09/2014- University of Cape Town: Upper Campus, LS3B from 13:00-14:00

Stephen Thomas is Professor of Energy Policy and Director of Research in the Business School of the University of Greenwich, London, where he has led the energy research since 2001. He has worked as an independent energy policy researcher for 35 years. He was also a member of the team appointed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to carry out the official economic due diligence study for the project to replace the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (1997). Thomas was a member of an international panel appointed by the South African Department of Minerals and Energy to carry out a study of the technical and economic viability of a new design of nuclear power plant, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (2001-02). He was part of an independent team appointed by Eletronuclear (Brazil) to carry out an assessment of the economics of completing the Angra dos Reis 3 nuclear power plant (2002). He has published extensively on economics and policy on nuclear power.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:

Lerato Maregele
Education and Outreach Officer
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 72 157 2155
Dr. Tristen Taylor
Project Coordinator
Earthlife Africa Jhb
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 84 250 2434

Map of meeting point for the media briefing:

Earthlife Offices

Heerengracht building

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