Environmental approval for Eskom new-build site

13 October 2017

This story has been updated to include further comments from Eskom. 

South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs has authorised Eskom's Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for a new nuclear power plant at Duynefontein. The site is next to the existing Koeberg nuclear power station.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project to build a new pressurised water reactor power station of up to 4000 MW, known as Nuclear-1, considers three alternative sites: Bantamsklip, on the Southern Cape coast; Duynefontein, in Western Cape; and Thyspunt, in the Eastern Cape. Of these, Duynefontein and Thyspunt are recognised in the FEIR as environmentally acceptable - Bantamsklip, while acknowledged as a viable site for a nuclear power plant, was excluded from the report as the least favourable of the three. Thyspunt is identified as Eskom's preferred site.

Eskom Chief Nuclear Officer Dave Nicholls said the DEA authorisation was an important milestone in the development process of South Africa's nuclear programme.

"While we had worked on Thyspunt being the preferred site according to the FEIR compiled by an independent environmental practitioner GIBB, we have always considered both sites equally capable of hosting a nuclear power plant," he said. "To this end, we had progressed the Nuclear Installation Site Licence to the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) for both sites." The site licence applications were submitted to the NNR last year.

He said the DEA's authorisation was "confirmation of the adequacy of the extensive work undertaken" in the EIA process, which involved "more than 35 studies" and a "comprehensive" public participation process.

Eskom confirmed to World Nuclear News that the site licence applications for both Duynefontein and Thyspunt are still being considered by the NNR. "We had prioritised Thyspunt but we need to review this in light of the current decision by the DEA," the company said. "Of the other four nuclear sites owned by Eskom, Thyspunt included, we consider them usable in the future as no fatal flaws have been raised on them," it added.

South Africa's Integrated Resource Plan for 2010-2030 calls for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity - supplying 23% of the country's electricity - with the first reactor to come on line by 2023. In December 2015, following Joemat-Petterson's decision to designate it to undertake the procurement, Eskom issued a request for information to companies interested in participating in the programme.

However, the South African High Court earlier this year ruled ministerial determinations underpinning the country's nuclear procurement plans to be unlawful and unconstitutional. It also declared the same to be the case for intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreements, including those with Russia, South Korea and the USA, and ruled that they and the request for information must now be set aside.

The two-unit Koeberg plant, which has a net generating capacity of 1830 MWe, generates around 5% of South Africa's electricity.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News