14 December 2015, Johannesburg: In the midst of Nene’s shocking axe from cabinet, most probably because Treasury openly questioned the risky nuclear procurement process, civil society has pushed back on the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report for South Africa’s most expensive energy infrastructure procurement to date.
The 2nd version of the Revised Environmental Impact Assessment for Nuclear-1 was published in September 2015 for public comment. Stakeholders were given just 60 days to comment, but assistance from the Legal Resources Center in Cape Town gave stakeholders an extension until the 10th of December 2015. In an effort to push through the report as soon as possible, rushed and inadequately advertised public meetings were held around the preferred nuclear build site at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.
Some of the meetings were marred by bullying from Eskom and the pro-nuclear lobby, like Dr. Kelvin Kemm of Nuclear Africa. The meetings barely met with the Constitutional imperatives of public participation in development planning and some organizations, like NoPENuke, were left begging for their localities to also be given the chance to participate in the process through public meetings.
The environmental impact assessment process has been ongoing for over four years, and has cost the embattled Eskom well over R 35 million. This round of public participation marked the last chance for affected communities to voice their concerns before the report will be presented to the Department of Environmental Affairs for decision-making.
“We would argue that from a constitutional and NEMA (National Environmental Management Act) perspective, the EIA process has fundamentally failed to adequately answer the questions of whether new nuclear investments are safe, truly necessary or justifiable; whether the most appropriate site has been selected for a new nuclear reactor; whether the local economic, social and environmental benefits of new nuclear would outweigh the costs, and whether the correct EIA process has been followed. All of this essentially renders the Draft Environmental Impact Report meaningless” said Gary Koekemoer from NoPENuke. NoPENuke is a local Port Elizabeth based voluntary organization, organizing around the unlawful nuclear procurement process.
Melita Steele, Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager for Greenpeace Africa confirms that: “For a project that has the potential to impact every single South African through significantly increased electricity tariffs, we believe that there has been a failure to assess the economic and socio-economic impacts of the proposed nuclear power station, which is an infringement on the environmental rights set out in both the Constitution and NEMA. Investments in new nuclear reactors has the potential to disproportionally impact the poorest South Africans citizens, and Greenpeace believes the project should not be allowed to go ahead. It is clear that nuclear is a dead end, which will deliver far too little, far too late and at far too high a price”.
“The Draft EIA report rejects the possibility of alternatives such as renewable energy, fails to adequately assess a no-go option and blatantly states that ‘nuclear energy is essential’, which is outrageous when renewable energy investments are a clear alternative to outdated, expensive and dangerous nuclear technology” said Nomfundo Tsoko, Chairperson of Mlibo Environmental Network.
“On the brink of an economic recession, South Africa can ill afford a nuclear investment estimated at R 1 trillion. The expense of the EIA alone is totally unjustified, given the alarming poverty levels which the people of South Africa are experiencing. In fact, to conduct an EIA for nuclear power in the absence of authoritative policy planning for nuclear is unlawful. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg will take any positive record of decision on the EIA to court, just as we are legally challenging the Minister of Energy and the President on their unconstitutional procurement process”, ended Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.
NoPeNuke: Gary Koekemoer, 0716102884 firstname.lastname@example.org
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg: Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer, 079 331 2028 email@example.com
Mlibo Environmental Network: Nomfundo Tsoko, 078283 226 firstname.lastname@example.org
Greenpeace Africa: Angela Karnein, Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer, 0725608700 email@example.com