LegalBrief Environmental 6 November 2012.
Energy: Call for Parliament to delay nuclear allocation
At the hearings, British nuclear economist Stephen Thomas warned Parliament that the government was over-confident about the potential cost of its nuclear power programme expansion. ‘The government seems to have a history of assuming that things will go much better with nuclear power than they actually do,’ Thomas, of Greenwich University, told the Standing Committee on Finance, according to a report on the IoL site. ‘The result is that SA has now embarked – this is the third time – on a nuclear programme on the basis of cost estimates that, even before the programme has started, appear ridiculously optimistic.’ Thomas said that the R300bn cost estimate – which appeared in the February Budget review – was based on a figure of $4 000 (about R34 500) a kilowatt, but the current estimate was that it would cost at least $7 000 now. Energy Minister Dipuo Peters had estimated nuclear build costs of about R400bn. Others had put the figure near R1trn while the Treasury ‘gives different figures’, said Taylor.
Thomas noted that the nuclear reactor that was supposed to be off the ground this year had not happened, although tenders for it went out in 2008. A Cape Times report says Thomas noted that Eskom has proposed generating 9 600MW of nuclear power by 2029. Experts say this would require between six and 10 new power stations. Three sites have been earmarked – at Koeberg, Thyspunt and Bantamsklip. Thomas noted that if reactors were built they would be ‘the latest generation’ that took into account the dangers of Chernobyl, for example. The bottom line was that if SA was going to build them they would be ‘untested’. There were also big questions over how the ultimate decommissioning process and the disposal of waste would be financed.