Civil society groups are up in arms in response to the statement by Minister Dipuo Peters at the Investec Power Summit in Sandton on Tuesday, that South Africa could build ‘a fleet of five or six nuclear power stations.’
This is particularly alarming, given the recent release of an authoritative report by an eminent group of Russian scientists that concludes (based on records now available) some 985,000 people died, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident. That is between when the accident occurred in 1986 and 2004. More deaths, it projects, will follow.
So much for democracy
‘It is galling that our Minister can make such a momentous statement as a foregone conclusion, when neither our Integrated Energy Policy, nor the Integrated Resource Plan 2, are anywhere near being concluded. Unilateral decisions by the government bode ill for democracy, and the lives of South Africans,’ said Earthlife Africa‘s Cape Town Co-ordinator, Muna Lakhani.
The report, ‘Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment’ was published by the New York Academy of Sciences. It is authored by three noted scientists: Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the Russian president; Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr. Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist and at the time of the accident director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Its editor is Dr. Janette Sherman, a physician and toxicologist long involved in studying the health impacts of radioactivity.
The book is solidly based – on health data, radiological surveys and scientific reports – some 5,000 in all.
Big corporations are misleading the public
‘To add insult to injury,’ said Lakhani, ‘Eskom and others are misleading the public, by making false statements such as ‘renewable energy cannot power the South African economy,’ as recently stated by Steve Lennon of Eskom. Not only are these myths being propagated for the benefit of vested interests, but energy choices that are cheaper, safer and create far more decent work for our people through using existing skills, as well as sustainable solutions to Climate Change, are being deliberately downplayed.’
Soaring global nuclear costs were alluded to and confirmed by Minister Peters, who said that the nuclear option will cost at least three times that of coal. These are far in excess of current prices for bulk wind and bulk solar power. Interim Chairman and Chief Executive of Eskom, P.M. Makwana, stated under oath in January this year, that 5000MW of wind power could be built for about R100 billion, and base load solar energy for between R100 and R120 billion.
This compares unfavourably with the estimated costs suggested by the Minister, which would be in the order of R375 billion. This figure excludes lifetime fuel costs, decommissioning at the useful life of the nuclear plant, and multiple thousand year ‘waste management’ costs.