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Nuclear Energy in South Africa: Ramaphosa's mixed messages

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Ellen Davies and Saliem Fakir

Will government continue to pursue nuclear energy despite the exorbitant cost? And if it does, will the procurement process be more open and transparent than it was under the Zuma administration? Whether government will engage with and listen to the concerns of its people, when it comes to the controversial topic of nuclear energy, is yet to be seen.

December 2017 marked the beginning of significant political changes in South Africa. Former President Jacob Zuma was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the African National Congress (ANC). On 14 February 2018, Zuma stepped down as president of the Republic of South Africa (RSA), almost one year short of completing his second and final term. He was replaced by the newly elected president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa.

This has brought about significant changes in South Africa. However, what this means for Government's nuclear energy ambitions is not yet clear. While the Zuma administration remained unwaveringly committed to the Nuclear Energy New Build Programme in its full 9.6 GW glory, mixed messages about the future of nuclear energy have emerged from President Ramaphosa and his newly appointed Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe.

Given this uncertainty, as well as the country's questionable track record with pursuing nuclear energy procurement under the Zuma administration, those opposed to the nuclear new build programme are left in limbo. Will government continue to pursue nuclear energy despite its prohibitively high costs; the lack of energy demand to justify a build on this scale; the fact that we don't have the money to finance it; and the continued resistance from many constituencies throughout South Africa? If it does, will the procurement process be more open and transparent than it was under the Zuma administration and will government engage with and listen to the concerns of its people?

These are critical questions because the energy choices we make now will have significant impacts not only on our energy security and economic performance today but also in the future.

Furthermore, as we enter into a new period of optimism in South Africa, the need to ensure Energy Democracy, understood in its broadest sense to mean that all South Africans are informed about and have a say in our energy future, is critical.

It is in this spirit that the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) undertook two studies to explore the future of nuclear energy in South Africa. The purpose of these studies is two-fold. First, it seeks to understand what we can learn from the decisions made and strategies pursued to push nuclear energy under the Zuma administration. Second, it seeks to highlight the potential points of intervention available to those seeking to oppose nuclear energy deployment, or at the very least ensure accountability in the procurement thereof.

The first study, South Africa's nuclear new-build programme: Who are the players and what are the potential strategies for pushing the nuclear new-build programme, maps the most vocal constituencies in the nuclear energy debate and their reasons for either opposing or supporting the new build programme. What it reveals is that across the board, irrespective of ideological positions or technology preferences, South Africans are opposed to the nuclear programme. The reasons given by these commentators include the prohibitively high costs involved, the lack of energy demand to justify the programme, the lack of finance to fund such a programme, the secrecy associated with nuclear procurement and the potential for corruption, among others.

The study also unpacks some of the lessons we can learn from government's strategy to push the nuclear programme under the previous administration. Importantly, it unpacks the Earthlife Africa and Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) legal challenge, which saw the Western Cape High Court declare Government's Intergovernmental Agreement with Russia unlawful and what those opposed to nuclear energy can learn from this process. It attempts to understand what, given the High Court decision, are the strategies available to Government if it is to continue to pursue nuclear energy in South Africa.

The second study, South Africa's nuclear new-build programme: The domestic requirements for nuclear energy procurement and public finance implications, provides insight into the various legislative requirements for large infrastructure builds in South Africa.

What it reveals is that SA has a robust legislative framework in place to ensure that due process is followed in large infrastructure procurement. In particular, Treasury's various procurement rules impose a number of checks and balances to prevent cost overruns and delays and to ensure transparency and accountability. These are critical to understand, not only in the context of nuclear energy, but for any infrastructure build we might seek to undertake.

One of the biggest lessons we can draw from nuclear procurement under Zuma is the importance of understanding this legislative framework and where the public can intervene to ensure accountability.

The second report also shows unequivocally that SA cannot afford to pursue the nuclear new build programme. Using very conservative cost estimates, it shows not only that the fiscus can neither finance the programme nor provide the guarantees necessary to seek financial support elsewhere.

Given this, and as we move into a new period in SA's democracy, it is critical we entrench inclusive and accountable decision making from the get go. This requires that we ensure that government engages with and listens to all stakeholders when making important decisions about our energy future.

Going into this new period, we can draw on two fundamental lessons from our past. The first is that everyone has the power to make a difference. Against all odds, Earthlife Africa and SAFCEI were able to change the course of our energy future. The second is that in order to exercise this power we need to be informed. The energy space is unnecessarily complicated. It is time for those working in this space, to move away from the technical language that excludes participation by most South Africans and start driving Energy Democracy in its truest form.

The two WWF reports are online:

Nicky Prins and Ellen Davies, 2018, 'South Africa's nuclear new-build programme: Who are the players and what are the potential strategies for pushing the nuclear new-build programme?',

Nicky Prins, 2018, 'South Africa's nuclear new-build programme: The domestic requirements for nuclear energy procurement and public finance implications',

Ellen Davies is WWF South Africa's Project Manager of Extractives Industry. Saliem Fakir is head of WWF South Africa's Policy & Futures Unit. 

Reprinted from The Journalist,

South African president's last-ditch effort to ram through a nuclear power deal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Hartmut Winkler ‒ Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg

South African President Jacob Zuma's term of office has been characterised by an absence of vision and associated initiatives.1 Zuma is instead known for his inaction and overt stalling tactics.2 Examples include delays in setting up the State Capture Commission of Inquiry3, announcing a new board for the state broadcaster4, and delaying the release of a report on the future of university fees.5

His recent dramatic push to fast-track an expensive and highly controversial nuclear power station build is therefore very much out of character.6 But Zuma's advocacy of the nuclear build needs to be understood in terms of another hallmark of his presidency – state capture.7 This expression refers to the systematic takeover of state institutions by presidential allies and the resulting exploitation of institutions for commercial advantage and profit by his benefactors.

It's already become clear who is likely to benefit from South Africa pursuing the option to build nuclear power stations. The list includes the Gupta brothers8 and Zuma's son Duduzane through their links to the Shiva uranium mine.9

And then there's Zuma himself. Speculation about why the president appears to be favouring a deal with Russian company Rosatom ranges from allegations of grand scale individual kickbacks10 to alleged commitments linked to funding for the African National Congress.11

The controversy around the nuclear power option was precipitated three years ago when it emerged that the government had signed an agreement with Russia that paved the way for the use of Russian technology in planned new nuclear power stations.12 The problem was that there'd been a complete lack of due process – no costing, no public consultation, no proper proclamation and no competitive bidding.13 It was no surprise that the courts declared the awarding of the nuclear build to Russia illegal.14

On top of this a very strong case has been mounted against South Africa pursuing nuclear power. Reasons include the fact that it can't afford it15, and doesn't need nuclear in its energy mix.16

Despite all of these developments, and the growing controversy and mounting opposition to the deal, Zuma appears determined to get it done before his term as president of the ANC ends in December. In the last of the reshuffles he appointed one of his closest allies, David Mahlobo, to the energy portfolio.17 This is generally seen as a last-ditch attempt to roll out the nuclear build in the face of now massive opposition.

Reports suggest that this reshuffle was occasioned by Russian displeasure over what they see as a broken promise to award the building contract to Rosatom.18

The energy minister's next steps

Mahlobo appears to have devoted his first few weeks in office entirely to furthering the nuclear project. He has been active in the media declaring the nuclear build as a given – and necessary.19

Mahlobo's next steps are likely to be:

  • He is reported to be planning to release – in record time – a new energy plan.20 This, some suspect, will be biased towards nuclear.21
  • Heightened public lobbying. This could include verbal attacks on nuclear critics as already initiated by the President.22
  • The issuing of a request for proposals to build the nuclear plants to potential developers like Rosatom. Most observers expect the evaluation to favour Rosatom regardless of the merits of the other bidders.
  • Signing an agreement with Rosatom. This could mirror the US$30 billion deal Russia signed with Egypt which, on the surface, will appear attractive because it would offer favourable terms such as annual interest of only 3% and the commencement of repayments after 13 years.23 But when scaling the 4.8 GW Egyptian agreement up to the 9.6 GW envisioned for South Africa, the total cost then already exceeds R1 trillion. Annual repayments from year 14 to year 35 then amount to about 5% of South Africa's annual fiscus. Any cost overruns, which are common in many other nuclear builds24, would vastly increase the debt further.

What's changed

The global energy landscape has changed dramatically since South Africa first mooted the idea of supplementing its power mix with more nuclear. Major developments and changes include:

  • Growing mistrust in nuclear energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster25;
  • A dramatic fall in the cost of renewable energy26 and;
  • Lower than expected growth in energy demand in South Africa.27

Not even government's own recent energy plans have promoted nuclear. A 2013 draft energy plan argued against immediate nuclear growth. (The plan was never formally adopted.28) The last draft plan released in 2016 went as far as declaring new nuclear unnecessary until 2037.29

Will it happen?

Nuclear plants are major long-term investments, and these projects will not survive lengthy construction and operation periods without broad public support. There is definitely a lack of public support in South Africa.

The Zuma-Mahlobo work plan will face major opposition by other parties, civil society and even critics within the ruling party.30 Lengthy court challenges will query the validity of the energy plan process, the public consultation, the regulatory aspects, the site selection and the constitutionality of the entire process. Public protests, highly effective in other spheres, would now be directed against the nuclear build.31 The ruling party would probably abandon the scheme if it proves politically costly.

The danger is, however, that huge funds will have been wasted in coming to this realisation.

The stakes are high. Zuma's efforts to promote this unpopular nuclear project are weakening him politically.32 Even party comrades perceived to be in his inner circle – like newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba – recognise that going ahead with the programme at this stage would cripple the country economically.33 Repeated ministerial reshuffles to sideline his critics has further damaged Zuma's standing in the ruling party and in broader society.34

Reprinted from The Conversation,




































South Africa: Court ruling on Zuma's nuclear deal is a marker of South Africa's political health

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
David Fig ‒ Honorary Research Associate, University of Cape Town; member of the steering committee of the African Uranium Alliance.

The South African government's plan to bulldoze through a nuclear energy deal has been dealt what might be a fatal blow by the Cape Town High Court which has declared the plan invalid.1 It found that the government had not followed due process in making the decision to pursue a nuclear power option, as well as in other critical areas.

The court's decision has put paid to President Jacob Zuma's hopes of clinching the nuclear build programme before leaving office in 2019 if he completes his term.2

The case was brought to court by Earthlife Africa3 and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities' Environmental Institute.4 The two NGOs were challenging the way in which the state determined the country's nuclear power needs. The plan would have seen South Africa purchasing 9,600 megawatts of extra nuclear power.5

The judge, Lee Bozalek, ruled the government's action unconstitutional and found that five decisions it had taken were illegal. These included the government's decision to go ahead with the nuclear build and the fact that it had handed over the procurement process to the state utility Eskom.6 The court also ruled that Eskom's request for information from nuclear vendors, a step taken to prepare the procurement, which ended on 28 April 2017 was invalid.7

If it still wants to pursue the nuclear deal the government will have to start all over again. To do so legally it would have to open up the process to detailed public scrutiny. The country's electricity regulator would have to have a series of public hearings before endorsing what would be its highest ever spend on infrastructure.8 And any international agreements would have to be scrutinised by parliament.

All this will take time – something Zuma doesn't have. And it's unlikely that his successors will be as eager to champion a new deal as he has been. Meanwhile the facts about the deal will become public. This will undoubtedly demonstrate two of the biggest criticisms of the deal to be true: that the country can't afford it, and that it's energy needs have shrunk, making the vast investment redundant.9

The court's ruling has turned the nuclear procurement issue into one of the key markers of South Africa's political health. It's not yet clear whether the South African government will appeal the Western Cape High Court's decision, or comply with the judgement. A third option is that Zuma simply ignores the courts and continues to pursue the deal.

Demand and affordability

South Africa currently has more than enough electricity to meet its needs.9 This wasn't the case about five years ago when widespread outages hit the country.10 Since then new electricity generation capacity has been added11, through the rapid roll out of renewables12, and the opening up of two new giant coal burning plants. Consumption, particularly by industry, has steadily declined due to faltering economic growth and higher electricity prices. Demand has dropped so much that Eskom plans to close five coal burning power stations.13

The argument that the country needs another 9,600 megawatts was identified in documents that produced in 2011. These are now widely acknowledged as being badly out of date. Recent studies by the University of Cape Town's Energy Research Centre have shown that the country doesn't need to consider nuclear for another 20 years.14

A number of studies have also shot holes in the government's argument that the country can afford the proposed nuclear build. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has developed models showing that new nuclear is likely to be much more expensive than coal or renewables.15 The price ticket for nuclear – which some estimates put at more than R1 trillion16 – doesn't take into account the costs of operation, fuel, insurance, emergency planning or the regulation or decontamination at the end of the life of the reactors.

It would also impose a financial burden17 on the country's fiscus which it can ill afford18 particularly now that the economy has been rated at junk status.

Ulterior motives

So why is Zuma still pushing for the deal to go ahead? One source of pressure might be the Russians. South Africa's former energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, had been instructed to signed a deal with the Russian utility, Rosatom to build the reactors.19 South Africa has also already signed nuclear power cooperation agreements with other countries like the US and South Korea, which the court has declared void.20

A more likely reason for Zuma's zeal is the involvement of the Gupta family with whom he has close ties.21 The family's web of interests around the nuclear deal are complex.

What is known is that the Gupta family controls South Africa's only dedicated uranium mine.22 The family has developed close relationships with key individuals at Eskom. In November last year the country's then Public Protector pointed to overlapping directorships between Gupta-owned companies and Eskom.23

The report also suggested that Brian Molefe, Eskom's CEO, had a close relationship with the family. These revelations led to his resignation shortly after the report was published.24

Another strand in the complex web is the fact that Zuma's son Duduzane is a business partner of the Guptas while other relatives are directly employed by them.25

Despite his determination, Zuma has become increasingly isolated in his quest for nuclear procurement. The African National Congress is clearly divided on the issue. This is evident from the fact that Zuma has resorted to reshuffling his cabinet to make way for more compliant ministers without reference to party officials as would be the norm.26

The private sector has also come out against the idea27 while the list of civil society organisations opposed to nuclear expansion goes well beyond the environmental lobby and includes a broad spectrum of foundations, faith communities, human rights campaigners and defenders of the country's constitution.

High stakes

The nuclear judgement in Cape Town indicates that South Africa's legal system has not yet been "captured" by private interests.

The key question is whether Zuma and Eskom will accede to the verdict, or whether they challenge it while continuing to ignore the rule of law. Not only would this subvert the country's constitution and its democratic form of government, it would also deny the constitutional right to popular participation in energy democracy.

The stakes are high – for the country as well as for the president. Will he continue to treat the country's energy future with impunity? Or will this judgement symbolise the rollback of the democratic dispensation envisaged by the authors of the country's constitution?

Reprinted from The Conversation,





























NGOs respond to South Africa's High Court ruling

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA) and Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) were jubilant about the extraordinary April 26 High Court ruling that:

  • set aside the Ministerial determination that South Africa required 9.6 gigawatts (GW) of new nuclear capacity, and that this should be procured by the country's Department of Energy;
  • set aside the later Ministerial determination that identified South African utility Eskom as the procurer of the nuclear power plants (both determinations were ruled to be invalid because of the failure to include a public participation process);
  • found that nuclear cooperation agreements between South Africa and Russia, the USA and South Korea were unconstitutional and unlawful, and should be set aside; and
  • ordered the government to pay the legal costs incurred by ELA and SAFCEI.

Activist and film-maker Zackie Achmat joined a jubilant crowd on the steps of the High Court in Cape Town to celebrate the court ruling. "I think Earthlife Africa and SAFCEI can really celebrate this judgment," he said. "It is a total victory against corruption and it is a total defeat against Jacob Zuma and the corrupt Guptas and the corrupt Russians.''

SAFCEI said: "At SAFCEI we are still dancing with delight at the momentous ruling from the Cape High Court that sets aside key points in the nuclear deal process. After 18 months of delays and frustrations, this was an immense win for Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and SAFCEI, and all who have supported us throughout. We are immensely grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from Earth Keepers all over the world – it is only through this that we have been able to prevail in the face of all odds."

SAFCEI noted that the High Court ruling was released on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and the day before the anniversary of South Africa's Freedom Day: "Freedom Day, the day of South Africa's first democratic election in 1994, ushered in an era where the constitution was supposed to be the guide to how society would be governed. In recent years, we have seen unabashed looting of the government coffers, the capture of key state institutions such as Eskom, for personal greed, and the apathetic failure of the government to be accountable to the people of South Africa."

SAFCEI spokesperson Liz McDaid said: "Along the road to the courts, we experienced delays and dirty tricks, but we persevered and now we have been vindicated. The court has found in our favour. SAFCEI and ELA-JHB based their case on the South African Constitution, which states that when it comes to far-reaching decisions, such as the nuclear deal, which would alter the future of our country, government is legally required to debate in Parliament and do a thorough, transparent and meaningful public consultation."

SAFCEI youth ambassador Siphokazi Pangalele said: "We are so glad for the result, but it is clear that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. In the past few weeks citizens have demonstrated their willingness to mobilise against corruption and the capture of our State. The nuclear deal is at the centre of it all."

An ELA statement said: "A lot has happened in the two months since the final arguments were heard in the nuclear court case in February 2017. The President's late-night cabinet reshuffle at the end of March has spurred countrywide marches and a vote of no confidence is looming. Many more discrepancies have since been reported, with the nuclear deal being in the spotlight in the latest crises in political leadership."

Adrian Pole, legal representative for ELA-JHB and SAFCEI, said: "Before any nuclear procurement can proceed, the Minster of Energy ... will be required to make a new determination in accordance with a lawful process that is transparent and includes public participation. This will necessarily require disclosure of relevant information that to date has been kept from the public, including critical information on costs and affordability."

Makoma Lekalakala from ELA welcomed the court ruling as a victory for "justice and the rule of law", but said organizations and citizens are planning to launch an "even bigger campaign soon to ensure this judgement is only the start of people holding the government to account on its energy deals."

For links to the High Court ruling and other legal documents, see:

SAFCEI, 26 April 2017, Nuclear Deal Blocked! Judgement made on the South African Government's Secret Trillion-Rand Nuclear Court Case',

Twists and turns in South Africa's nuclear power program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

A draft energy plan recommends that South Africa's nuclear power program should be deferred ‒ yet state-owned utility Eskom wants to press ahead.

A draft of the government's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) proposes increasing nuclear power capacity by as little as 1.36 gigawatts (GW) by 2037, compared to a previous target of adding 9.6 GW of new capacity by 2030.1 Start-up of new reactors is pushed back from 2023 in the 2010 IRP to as late as 2037. The government cited additional generation capacity, lower demand forecasts and changes in technology costs among the reasons for the revisions.2

Energy spokesperson Gordon Mackay from the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said the draft IRP "deals a serious blow to President Zuma's attempts to finalise a corrupt and unnecessary nuclear deal. The Minister [Tina Joemat-Pettersson] must be commended for her bravery in standing against the prevailing winds of state capture and bequeathing the South African people the legal and statutory basis to challenge an irrational and ruinous nuclear deal."3

The 2010 IRP promoted nuclear power but the 2013 IRP did not ‒ it suggested that any decision on nuclear should be deferred well into the future. However the 2013 IRP was never adopted and so only has unofficial status.4,5 Given that history, it is an open question whether the draft 2016 IRP will be accepted. The plan is for the draft IRP to be revised by March next year and then submitted to the cabinet for final sign-off.6

Eskom, which will procure, own and operate new nuclear plants, said it will still issue a 'Request for Proposals' (RFP) from international nuclear vendors by the end of this year. Eskom cited the long lead-time to build nuclear plants to justify its decision, and said that testing the market with a RFP is not the same as entering a contract. The utility said its plans are closely aligned to the 2016 IRP, but in fact Eskom envisages 6.8 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2030.7

Whether a RFP will elicit any responses in the current political environment is an open question. Numerous vendors have expressed interest in recent years, but the nuclear program is now shrouded in allegations of corruption, and President Jacob Zuma's days are numbered. Johan Muller from the Frost & Sullivan consultancy told Reuters: "If I was an investor or project developer in the nuclear space, I would not pick up a pen before the IRP is finalised next year to submit any request for proposals, specifically considering the dark cloud hanging over the nuclear program with alleged corrupt relationships."2

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Gordon Mackay said the RFP should be deferred until the IRP has passed public consultation and been adopted by Parliament. He further noted that the RFP would be open to legal challenge as it would be issued "on the basis of an outdated and legally dubious Section 34 Ministerial determination, itself based on the much maligned and now out of date IRP 2010".8

Business 'delighted'

Hardly anyone supports South Africa's nuclear power program other than the corporates and kleptocrats who stand to directly benefit from it. Business interests, other than those with a direct interest, are overwhelmingly opposed.

The rand strengthened on the news that nuclear power was downgraded and deferred under the draft IRP.9

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it is "delighted to see that the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2016) says there is no need for more nuclear power in South Africa before 2037". Chamber President Janine Myburgh said: "This means that we will not have to make a decision on building new nuclear power stations for the next 10 years and by that time we will be in a better position to judge the performance and cost of renewable energy."10

The Cape Chamber added that "one worrying factor about the new IRP was that it did not include a scenario in which there were no artificial restraints on renewable energy and the effect this would have on the case for nuclear power." The draft IRP imposes annual limits on the installation of new renewable power capacity.

Dawie Roodt, an economist formerly with South African Reserve Bank, said: "We don't even need a deal like this to sink the South African economy. We are already in seriously deep trouble. If you add this to the economy, I'm afraid it's going to be fatal. This nuclear deal cannot happen now. You cannot enter into an agreement with anybody else at this stage because there's too much homework that we need to complete first."11

Responding to the draft 2016 IRP's downgrading and deferral of nuclear power, Jana Van Deventer, an economic analyst at ETM Analytics in Johannesburg, said: "It's been postponed so far down the line that by the time we get there nuclear energy might possibly be obsolete and not be a viable option anymore. This latest development potentially means that any nuclear power deal is off the table for the time being."9

The rise and fall of President Jacob Zuma

The likely deferral of the nuclear program is inevitably seen through the prism of President Zuma's fortunes. Zuma is scheduled to step down as leader of the governing African National Congress next year, and his second and final term as president ends in 2019.

Zuma may not last that long: he faces internal revolt within the ANC and so-far unsuccessful votes of no confidence in Parliament.12,13

Bloomberg reported: "South Africa's decision to stall plans championed by President Jacob Zuma to build nuclear plants has exposed his waning authority. ... While Zuma says reactors are key to addressing power constraints in Africa's most-industrialized economy, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, economists and ratings companies warn that South Africa can't afford them now."14

If Zuma had his way, the most likely outcome is that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would have been pushed aside (indeed he never would have been appointed in the first place), the draft IRP would never have been released, and the nuclear program would be moving ahead at pace.

Robert Schrire, a politics professor at the University of Cape Town, said: "Essentially the project has been indefinitely postponed and the final decision on nuclear power will only be taken by Zuma's successor. This is a great victory for economic rationality and political expediency and reflects the new political balance of a weakened Zuma administration."14

Keith Gottschalk, a political scientist from the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, said Zuma is "still able to out-vote and out-maneuver his opponents in the ANC, but the mounting pressure has meant he has not been able to always get his own way all the time. He is on the way down like a slow-leaking puncture."14


The nuclear debate is occurring in the context of a wide-ranging debate over corruption. On November 2, the Office of the Public Protector released a State of Capture report that details evidence of corruption and is critical of the executive for failing to act on claims that there had been interference in the appointment of cabinet ministers.15 The report orders Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days and for it to be headed by a judge who has the same powers as the public protector.

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics at the University of Johannesburg, said: "Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry and its supporters have reacted very negatively to the new draft [IRP]. Strong nuclear advocates in the state electricity utility Eskom have gone so far as to defiantly declare that they will invite nuclear construction proposals before the end of the year. But Eskom's defiance is unlikely to lead to anything substantial. This is because the state utility is facing both a credibility crisis and its finances are in poor shape."16

Eskom's 'credibility crisis' relates to, among other things, evidence of its questionable and possibly illegal dealings with the powerful Gupta family and Gupta associates.17

Another issue taken up in the State of Capture report concerns the dismissal and appointment of a succession of finance ministers.18 On 9 December 2015, Zuma sacked finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who said he wouldn't sign off on the 9.6 GW nuclear program if it was unaffordable, and wouldn't be swayed by political meddling. Nene was replaced by little-known backbencher David van Rooyen. The rand plummeted. Four days later, Zuma was forced to replace van Rooyen with Pravin Gordhan. According to the State of Capture report, the mystery of van Rooyen's appointment was connected to the Gupta family wielding undue political influence.14,19

In November 2016, prosecutors withdrew fraud charges against Gordhan for allegedly approving a pension payment to a tax agency official. The Democratic Alliance alleged that Zuma planned to use the court case as a pretext for firing Gordhan and in the process removing the biggest obstacle to his nuclear ambitions.14

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, said: "South Africans should be deeply concerned about the government's nuclear project. Let's be clear. It is in no way motivated by a genuine desire to secure South Africa's energy future in the most cost effective and sustainable way. Rather, this huge project is going ahead because Zuma, the Guptas and other ANC elites stand to make millions in bribes and tenders. ... In forging ahead with this ill-conceived plan, our hapless government is locking SA into an over-priced, outdated technology within Eskom's monopoly, while blocking the development of renewables which are dynamic, increasingly cost-effective and more job-creating."20

Jackie Cameron sums up the current, sad situation in Biznews: "The twists and turns in the political stories unfolding in South Africa read like an over-the-top action thriller. There are allegations of deals struck in secret between President Jacob Zuma and Russian heavyweights. Then there are suspicions that the president's associates, including three brothers from India, have been involved in a chess-style plot to seize control of South Africa's state organisations. This strategy is going so well, the narrative goes, that billions of rands have been siphoned out of government coffers. Add to the mix an antagonist in the form of fearless Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who has been working tirelessly in the face of intimidation to unpack the deception. And, let's not forget an economic superman in the form of finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who is believed to be blocking a deal with Russia – and stands between South Africa and the end of the world as we know it."21

Perhaps the nuclear program will die when Zuma's presidency ends ... or perhaps there are enough kleptocrats inside the government and the state apparatus to keep it alive. Keith Gottschalk from the University of the Western Cape takes the optimistic view: "The biggest consequence of Zuma's removal would be that his cronies and agents in state departments and parastatals would be purged. This would mean the end of Zuma's reign, heralding a new era of honest government and better use of taxpayers' money."22


1. Department of Energy, 2016, 'Integrated Resource Plan, and

2. Reuters, 22 Nov 2016, 'South Africa slows nuclear power expansion plans',

3. Gordon Mackay, 22 Nov 2016, 'It's DoE vs Eskom as Integrated Resource Plan says no to nuclear – Gordon Mackay',

4. 25 Nov 2016, 'South Africa: Understanding the Court Challenge to the Nuclear Deal',

5. Anton van Dalsen, 19 Nov 2016, 'The govt's policy on nuclear power',

6. Paul Vecchiatto and Michael Cohen / Bloomberg, 22 Nov 2016, 'South Africa Slows Nuclear Plans as Rating Assessments Loom',

7. 7. WNN, 23 Nov 2016, 'Eskom procurement plan unchanged by lower capacity target',

8. Gordon Mackay, 23 Nov 2016, 'Nuclear deal: Eskom must suspend Request for Proposals',

9. Xola Potelwa, 22 Nov 2016, 'Rand Leads Currency Gains as South Africa Delays Nuclear Program',

10. Dean Le Grange, 23 Nov 2016, 'IRP says no need for more nuclear power – Janine Myburgh',

11. 15 Sept 2016, 'Brilliant – How Zupta's nuclear deal will sink SA',

12. 29 Nov 2016, 'The enemy wants to jail me, Zuma tells NEC',

13. Peter Dube, 30 Nov 2016, 'Zuma survives ouster bid but faces vote of no confidence',

14. Michael Cohen and Paul Vecchiatto, 23 Nov 2016, 'Zuma's Waning Power Exposed by Stalled South Africa Nuclear Plan',

15. 14 Oct 2016, 'State of Capture', a Report of the Public Protector,

16. Hartmut Winkler, 29 Nov 2016, 'What's next for SA energy, now that Russian nuclear build is on ice? Expert unpacks the plan',

17. Siseko Njobeni, 3 Nov 2016, 'Eskom, Gupta dealings exposed',

See also: Jessica Bezuidenhout, 25 Nov 2016, 'Eskom's ties to Gupta-linked Trillian exposed',

18. 17 Dec 2015, 'South Africa's nuclear power program', Nuclear Monitor #816,

19. Conor Gaffey, 3 Nov 2016, 'South Africa: Five Things Thuli Madonsela's State Capture Report Told Us',

20. Mmusi Maimane, 16 Sept 2016, 'Zupta's nuclear deal: either we end it or it ends us',

21. 13 Oct 2016, 'State capture claims: For real? Unpacking #Zupta nuclear conspiracy theory',

22. Keith Gottschalk, 30 Nov 2016, 'Zuma lives to fight another day. But fallout from latest revolt will live on',

South Africa's nuclear program lurches from scandal to scandal

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Author: Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

South Africa's controversial plan to build 9.6 gigawatts of new nuclear power capacity is heading to court on December 13‒14. This is the latest chapter in a protracted saga stemming from legal action initiated by Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA).1,2

In 2014, SAFCEI submitted several requests for information on the nuclear plans to the Department of Energy using the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Those requests were refused on unsatisfactory grounds. In October 2015, SAFCEI and ELA initiated legal action, challenging various aspects of the nuclear procurement process. They maintained that the government did not follow legal procedure in the procurement process and didn't meet the requirements of the constitution for a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective process.3

The government's response to the legal action, long delayed, revealed further inconsistencies. It was revealed that the Department of Energy gazetted a 2013 Section 34 Determination (which is required before a nuclear procurement process can go ahead) on 21 December 2015, after keeping it secret for two years. Moreover, the Department side-stepped the necessary Parliamentary approval and public participation process by tabling this determination under section 231.3 and not section 231.2 as was advised by the state law adviser.4

SAFCEI and ELA's lawyers submitted a supplementary affidavit in March 2016. The government delayed its response, missing three deadlines and compelling SAFCEI and ELA to issue a rule 30A notice, which gave the government until 31 May 2016 to respond. The government's answering affidavit was finally received, but it failed to include 10 documents that had been referenced in the affidavit. When lawyers requested these documents, the government refused.5

SAFCEI and ELA signed the last affidavit on September 15 and the dispute goes to court on December 13‒14. The organizations contend that the case is about the requirements for lawful, procedurally fair, rational, statutory and constitutional decision making.6

SAFCEI and ELA allege that legal documents in their possession indicate that South Africa signed a binding nuclear deal with Russia to supply the reactors, and that the Russian agreement was entered into unlawfully. Russian nuclear firm Rosatom issued a press release in 2014 saying that it had been chosen to supply reactors, but quickly back-tracked.7

The Mail & Guardian editorialized in February 2015 that the bilateral agreement "is a lopsided, murky and legally fraught arrangement that hands most of the aces to Russia's state-owned nuclear company and carries significant risks for South Africa. ... Acting as if there are no other possible vendors, the agreement is heavily tilted to feather Rosatom's bed and minimise its risk. The Russians are indemnified against nuclear accidents and promised a host of regulatory and tax concessions."8

Further evidence of the government's obsessive secrecy came with Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's rejection of an appeal by the Open Democracy Advice Centre ‒ acting on behalf of the Business Day newspaper ‒ against her department's refusal to grant access to documents relating to government's nuclear procurement plans. The centre requested access to three reports ‒ on nuclear procurement models, the cost of nuclear plants, and financing models.9


On September 7, Joemat-Pettersson said in Parliament that the government would issue the formal 'request for proposals' (RFP) on September 30, kicking off the tendering process. But the RFP was not issued on September 30. The Rand Daily Mail portrayed the delay as another indication of President Jacob Zuma's diminishing influence, and suggested that the nuclear project will be scaled down, if it goes ahead at all.10

There are divisions within the government regarding the scale of the nuclear new-build project, the timing, the cost, whether Zuma's preference for a deal with Rosatom should be allowed to prevail or whether a genuine tendering process should proceed, and whether the procurement should be led by the Department of Energy or energy utility Eskom. Until now the department has been the procuring agent while Eskom, which is the designated owner-operator of nuclear energy plants, watched from the sidelines.

The two leading opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters, have expressed strong criticism of the planned nuclear build. Gordon Mackay, the DA's energy spokesperson, said the delay in issuing the RFP was linked to efforts to hand the procurement process to Eskom:11

"This must be seen for what it is ‒ a blatant attempt by the Zuma administration to: side-line parliamentary oversight of the nuclear new build programme; block public debate on the need for additional nuclear capacity; create a veil of secrecy around the procurement process which would now be subject to internal Eskom processes and procedures; give President Jacob Zuma greater control of the nuclear procurement process."

"Designating Eskom as the procuring agent of the state will fundamentally limit the role and capacity of Parliament to oversee the nuclear deal and, in doing so, increase the potential of corruption surrounding the trillion rand deal. The DA rejects any attempt to designate Eskom, headed by CEO and Zupta buddy, Brian Molefe, as the procuring agent for nuclear. Eskom has proven with Medupi and Kusile that it is unfit to manage mega-projects. It has also proven that its governance procedures are lax and the Supreme Court of Appeal has found its Board Tender Committee to be corrupt."

There is also speculation that the state-owned South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) could play a greater role.12 NECSA has been involved in two court actions over allegations of corporate governance breaches over the past year.13 The Auditor-General found that NECSA incurred R128 million (US$9.4m; €8.4m) in irregular expenditure in the 2015 financial year because it failed to comply with the government's procurement regulations. NECSA management and its board are currently being investigated by a taskforce appointed by the Energy Minister. The investigation relates to "serious mismanagement"‚ the Auditor-General said.14

Who pays?

The lowest of the estimates of the capital cost of the 9.6 GW nuclear build is around US$50 billion.15 South Africa is in no position to be stumping up that amount of capital. It's doubtful whether Rosatom would be able or willing to provide the capital under its Build-Own-Operate (BOO) model given Rosatom's other commitments at home and abroad.

The levelized cost of electricity for new nuclear is calculated to be R1,30 per kWh by EE Publishers, rising to R1,52 per kWh if fuel, operating and maintenance costs are included. That compares unfavorably with wind (R0,69 per kWh) and solar (R0,87 per kW).15 Likewise, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research estimated the levelized cost of electricity from nuclear power to be R1/kWh compared to R0.60/kWh for wind and R0.80/kWh from solar PV.16

While the nuclear program makes little economic sense for South Africa, it could be hugely profitable for corrupt politicians and corporate spivs. South Africa has been rocked by numerous corruption scandals, such as the payment of around US$300 million in bribes associated with an Arms Procurement Deal. Andrew Feinstein, executive director of Corruption Watch UK (and a former ANC MP) said he feared the corruption associated with the nuclear deal "might dwarf the arms deal".17

The Right2Know Campaign said the nuclear program "commits us to a dangerous technology, and has all the hallmarks of the corrupt arms deal ‒ the risk of massive corruption-prone foreign tenders that have the potential of indebting us to foreign companies and rob the country of funds for service delivery and job creation."18

An investigation by the Rand Daily Mail summed up the nuclear program: "Zuma has assumed personal control of the nuclear programme, and it has been characterised by: secret meetings; undisclosed documents and classified financial reports; deceit; aggressive campaigning; damage control exercises; illegality; use of apartheid ('national key-point') legislation; sidestepping of Eskom's technical and financial oversight; destruction of oversight organs of state; disregarding of industry experts; refusal of public consultation; ignoring of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) and ANC resolutions; and the removal of any government opponents, the most notable of whom was [former Finance Minister Nhlanhla] Nene."17

Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman's December 2014 warning has come to pass: "Almost no one believes that as long as Zuma is in power that anything remotely resembling an orderly procurement process is likely to take place."19


1. SAFCEI, 13 Sept 2016, 'Court papers & press releases from SAFCEI/ELA court case',

2. SAFCEI, 14 Sept 2016, 'SAFCEI & ELA Jhb's Nuclear Campaign and Court Case',

3. SAFCEI, 15 Oct 2016, 'Press Release: Court Action',

4. SAFCEI, 30 March 2016, 'Court case exposes web of secrecy in government nuclear dealings',

5. SAFCEI and ELA, 18 Aug 2016, 'Nuclear court case – more missing documents requested',

6. SAFCEI, 16 Sept 2016, "See you in Court",

7. SAFCEI, 21 Sep 2016, 'Civil bodies a step closer in nuclear deal challenge',

8. Mail & Guardian, 13 Feb 2015, 'Editorial: 'Atomic Tina' blows SA away,

9. Linda Ensor, 22 March 2016, 'Access to nuclear documents denied once again',

10. Ray Hartley, 30 Sept 2016, 'Signs of a great rift over Zuma's nuclear programme',

11. Gordon Mackay, 30 Sept 2016, 'South Africa: Nuke RFP Delayed in Order to Give Eskom Greater Say and Avoid Parliamentary Scrutiny',

12. 30 Sept 2016, 'South Africa: Nuclear Plan On Ice As Eskom May Take Ownership',

13. The Times Editorial, 28 Jan 2016, 'Step one: Sort out the mess at the nuclear corporation',

14. Linda Ensor, 27 Sept 2016, 'Nuclear corporation's spending comes under scrutiny of Auditor-General',

15. Chris Yelland, 1 Aug 2016, 'Study of the capital costs and the cost of electricity from new-nuclear in SA',


17. 17. Lily Gosam, 2 Feb 2016, 'Zuma, the Guptas and the Russians ‒ the inside story',

18. 26 Sept 2016, 'Nuclear deal 'has the hallmarks of the corrupt arms deal'',

19. Dan Yurman, 6 Dec 2014, 'China jumps into the action in South Africa',


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

African nuclear commission takes shape.
Afcone, a new commission to coordinate and promote the development of nuclear energy in Africa, is set to become fully operational after key founding documents were finalized and adopted. South Africa has agreed to host the commission. The African Union (AU) established the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (Afcone) in November 2010, following the entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in July 2009, which required the parties to establish a commission for the purpose of ensuring states' compliance with their treaty obligations and promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation, both regionally and internationally. 
At a meeting in Addis Ababa on 26 July, the elected commissioners adopted the rules of procedure, structure, program of work and budget of Afcone. The commission will focus on the following four areas: monitoring of compliance with non-proliferation obligations; nuclear and radiation safety and security; nuclear sciences and applications; and, partnerships and technical cooperation, including outreach and promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The meeting agreed to a budget of some US$800,000 per year for the period 2012-2014. It also agreed on a scale of assessment for contributions to Afcone's funding. South Africa is currently the only African country to operate nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but several others - including Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria - are considering building such plants. Namibia, Niger and South Africa are major uranium producers, accounting for about 15% of world output in 2011. Other African countries have significant uranium deposits, with some having prospective uranium mines.
World Nuclear News, 13 August 2012

Koodankulam: Clearance for fuel loading.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) condemns the undemocratic and authoritarian decision of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) to grant clearance for the 'Initial Fuel Loading' and 'First Approach to Criticality' of Unit-1 of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project. 
Even as the country is awaiting the Madras High Court's judgment on a batch of petitions that have challenged the legality and appropriateness of the Environmental Clearance granted to the Koodankulam project, this decision amounts to contempt of court and outright insult of the rule of law in our country. More interestingly, the AERB has given assurance to the Madras High Court that the post-Fukushima taskforce's recommendations would be fully implemented in all the nuclear installations in India and that no fuel loading decision at the Koodankulam nuclear power project would be taken until then. The current permission to load fuel is a gross violation of that commitment made at the Court and the sentiments of the struggling people.
This attitude and functioning style, however, is very much in congruence with the undemocratic, authoritarian and anti-people nature of the atomic energy department. The political parties and leaders in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, the civil society leaders and the media must take a stand and protect the interests of the 'ordinary citizens' of India and reassert the rule of law in our country. 
The struggling people will do whatever democratically possible to oppose the  authoritarian and illegal decision of the Indian nuclear establishment.
Press release, The Struggle Committee PMANE, 10 August 2012

No permanent resettlement Chernobyl Exclusion zone in next 20 years.
Despite earlier reports, the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant remains unfit for habitation, said Dmytro Bobro, the acting head of the State Agency for the Chernobyl Zone. Short visits to the exclusive zone are not banned, and up to 10,000 visitors arrive there on memorial days, he said at a press conference in Kyiv. Concerning people who returned to the zone of their own accord and live there, relatives are allowed to come and see them for not more than five days, but if a longer term is requested, they are placed under radiological control, he said.
Experts said at a press conference on August 15 that part of the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Chernobyl itself are already fit for living. Chernobyl could be opened to personnel working under the Shelter project to construct the new confinement shelter. These people work in shifts now. 
But a few days later, Bobro said that some 200 square kilometers in the total area of 2,000 square kilometers are relatively safe. "But again, there is no infrastructure there, and the territory has "contaminated spots" and should not be populated, although it could be sown with crops to be used as biological fuel," he said. Humans could return to this territory in about 30 years. But if rehabilitation measures are taken, people would be able to come back even earlier to an area of 200 or even 500 square kilometers, he said. "Half of the exclusion zone will remain unfit for habitation forever as it is contaminated with plutonium isotopes," Bobro said.
Interfax, 17 August 2012 / ForUm, 17 August 2012

South Africa: develop 'Plan B'.
South Africa should work on a ‘Plan B’ if nuclear build proves too costly, the newly released National Development Plan 2030 asserts. The plan, which was handed to President Jacob Zuma on August 15, acknowledged that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity proposed that new nuclear energy plants be commissioned from 2023/24. But it also argued that South Africa needed a “thorough investigation” of the implications of nuclear energy, including its costs, financing options, institutional arrangements, safety, environmental costs and benefits, localisation and employment opportunities, and uranium-enrichment and fuel fabrication possibilities.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee (NNEECCa), which was set up late last year, had its inaugural meeting in early August, when it began deliberation on the findings of a so-called ‘integrated nuclear infrastructure review’. The review is a self-assessment of the country’s readiness to proceed with a new nuclear build and reportedly covers 19 areas. But the 26-member National Planning Commission (NPC) argued that an alternative plan be developed in the event that sufficient financing was unavailable, or timelines became too tight. The NPC did not say which entity or organ should conduct the cost/benefit analysis, only that one should be completed ahead of any decision to proceed to a procurement phase. The analysis should also not be confined to the economics of the project and should include social and environmental aspects.
Engineering News (South Africa), 15 August 2012

Sellafield: record number of hotspots found on beaches.
A record number of radioactive hotspots have been found contaminating public beaches near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, according to a report by the site's operator. As many as 383 radioactive particles and stones were detected and removed from seven beaches in 2010-11, bringing the total retrieved since 2006 to 1,233. Although Sellafield insists that the health risks for beach users are "very low", there are concerns that some potentially dangerous particles may remain undetected and that contamination keeps being found. Anti-nuclear campaigners have called for beaches to be closed, or for signs to be  erected warning the public of the pollution. But the government's Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said "no special precautionary actions are required at this time to limit access to, or use of, beaches". But it also pointed to a series of "uncertainties" in the beach monitoring that could lead to its risk assessment being reviewed. The latest equipment might miss tiny specks that could be inhaled, it said, as well as buried alpha radioactivity that "could give rise to a significant risk to health if ingested".
Adding to the attempts to down play the radioactive state of the beaches, the official monitoring of the coast has been deliberately abandoned - at the specific request of some local authorities - during the peak periods of school and public Bank Holidays for fear of alarming the tourists.
The Guardian, 4 July 2012 / CORE press release, 4 July 2012

South Africa's nuclear power program

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman warned in December 2014 that South Africa's nuclear power program would be a bumpy ride: "Almost no one believes that as long as Zuma is in power that anything remotely resembling an orderly procurement process is likely to take place."1

The most recent controversy was President Jacob Zuma's dismissal of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene on December 9.2,3 And the sacking of his replacement four days later! No reason was provided to justify the decision to sack Nene, who said in August that he wouldn't sign off on the Zuma-led plan for a 9.6 gigawatt nuclear power program if it was unaffordable, and wouldn't be swayed by political meddling.4 No such constraints apply now that Nene has been sacked.

Journalist Ranjeni Munusamy said of the decision to sack Nene: "It was an illogical, irrational decision for which South Africa will pay dearly. For Zuma, it is another accomplishment in his mission to completely capture the state and will ensure unwavering loyalty from those who serve at his pleasure. There will be no defiance in cabinet ever again."2

Mzukisi Qobo from the University of Johannesburg said:3

"The crux of Nene's fall is not easy to decipher. But two factors seem to have driven the final nail into his professional coffin. The first has to do with his hard stance on the country's state-owned airline, South African Airways. ...

"Second, it is apparent that Zuma found the National Treasury, and Nene in particular, a stumbling block to a ; nuclear deal the President is believed to have promised the Russians. It is estimated that the deal could cost as much as R1 trillion [€57 billion; US$63 billion]. Nene's allocation of a mere R200m [€11.4m; US$12.6m] towards research for this programme must have been seen as an insult by Zuma's cronies and insiders. ...

"At the heart of both the South African Airways saga and the nuclear deal is the failure by the country's leadership to adhere to accountability and transparency mechanisms, especially the Public Finance Management Act, as well as to grasp the implications of irrational decision-making on the fiscus and the economy."

Nene's dismissal came days after international ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's downgraded South Africa to one level above junk status, citing the slowing economy and rising debt.2 Reuters reported that the removal of Nene "sent the rand currency to record lows, sparked a sell-off in bank stocks and sent yields in both local and dollar-denominated debt soaring."5

In February 2015, Zuma promised a "fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme." But he clearly favours Russia's Rosatom − if only because of the possibility that Rosatom might provide much of the up-front capital − and has no interest in a "fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process".

Research into the nuclear power plan carried out by the National Treasury has been kept secret − even the fact that the research was being carried out was kept secret.6 And nuclear costing studies by international consultants have been kept secret, and a request to access the reports under the Promotion of Access to Information Act was denied.7

Cost estimates for a 9.6 GW nuclear program range from US$37−100 billion (€34−91b) and there is profound scepticism that it can be financed, even with up-front support from Rosatom.8

In August, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson disputed that plans for a 9.6 GW program were being developed − describing the 9.6 GW figure as "a thumb-suck".9 In all likelihood that nuclear plans will be scaled back. An updated version of a government document − the Integrated Resource Plan − mentions a 4.86 GW nuclear program.

Whether a more modest program can be achieved is no sure bet. There is widespread opposition to the nuclear plan. And previous plans to build reactors came to nothing. In 2007, state energy utility Eskom approved a plan for 20 GW of new nuclear capacity. Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000 were short-listed and bids were submitted. But in 2008 Eskom announced that it would not proceed with either of the bids due to a lack of finance.

Bribery allegations

Anti-corruption NGO Sherpa has filed a case against Areva, alleging corruption related to a mining deal involving uranium assets in South Africa, Namibia and the Central African Republic.10

Uramin's mining interests in the three countries were bought by Areva for a vastly inflated sum in 2007, according to Sherpa. The €1.8 billion paid had to be written off when the mines proved unfeasible.

Areva's involvement in the tender process for the construction of nuclear power plants in South Africa has also been called into question by Sherpa. "Three or four months after the purchase [of Uramin], South Africa made a call for tenders for a nuclear power plant," Sherpa's executive director Laetitia Liebert said. "This conjunction of facts can lead us to suspect that Areva intended to influence high ranking officials."

Areva's offices and the homes of former executives were searched by France's financial prosecutor last year.

Meanwhile, on the same day as Nhlanhla Nene's sacking, South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal upheld an appeal from Westinghouse against Eskom's 2014 award of a contract for replacement steam generators for the Koeberg nuclear plant to Areva.11 The Court ruled that Eskom had acted unlawfully in the way it reached its decision to award the tender to Areva, by taking into account considerations that lay outside the criteria for the tender. This, the court said, made the award of the tender unlawful and procedurally unfair. The two companies were told before that award of the contract that "strategic considerations" would be taken into account, but not what those considerations would be.


1. Dan Yurman, 6 Dec 2014, 'China jumps into the action in South Africa',

2. Ranjeni Munusamy, 10 Dec 2015, 'Nene out because he angered Zuma over SAA and nuclear deal',

3. Mzukisi Qobo, 11 Dec 2015, 'Why Zuma's actions point to shambolic management of South Africa's economy'

4. Mike Cohen, 27 Aug 2015, 'Opposition mounts to government's nuclear plans', Sunday Times,

5. Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Mfuneko Toyana / Reuters, 13 Dec 2015, 'In U-turn, South Africa's Zuma restores Gordhan to finance ministry',

6. David Maynier, 27 Sept 2015, 'Treasury's work on nuclear energy being kept secret',

7. Carol Paton, 18 Sept 2015, 'Business Day denied nuclear cost reports',

8. Mike Cohen, 6 July 2015, 'Will Putin Pay for $100 Billion South Africa Nuclear Plan?',

9. Carol Paton, 15 Sept 2015, 'Joemat-Pettersson fires point man on nuclear',

10. Daniel Finnan, 9 Dec 2015, 'French nuclear giant Areva accused of bribery in South Africa, Namibia, Central African Republic',

11. WNN, 10 Dec 2015, 'South African court upholds Westinghouse appeal',

Nuclearisation of Africa conference

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Gordon Edwards − Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

The bustling City of Johannesburg ("Joburg") did not exist 130 years ago. Then gold was discovered on a farm in the area, leading to a gold rush, a tent city, and intensive gold mining in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa.

As it happens, the gold ore is also rich in uranium. At many mine sites, uranium is separated out as a byproduct after gold is extracted from the ore. In this way South Africa has become a small but significant uranium producer (about one percent of world production). Meanwhile, mountains of gold-mine tailings continue to pile up everywhere. These sand-like mining wastes are quite radioactive and will remain so for hundreds of millennia.

The tailings contain some of the deadliest naturally-occurring radionuclides known to science. Radium and polonium, uranium and thorium, along with radioactive isotopes of lead and bismuth abound. Radon gas is given off in great quantities, created by the spontaneous disintegration of radium atoms. When the sandy material is used in construction, as it often is, the resulting buildings experience a build-up of radon gas inside. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 20 to 30 thousand Americans die every year from lung cancer caused by breathing radon gas at home.

At the recent "Nuclearisation of Africa" conference in Joburg (November 16−19) I was informed that the radioactive tailings in South Africa are four times greater in volume than the uranium tailings in all other countries combined. Traveling around the region it is easy to appreciate this fact. Countless colossal mounds of uncovered tailings are everywhere to be seen, even within Joburg itself. They are enormous in size, and are often located right beside built-up areas. In some case villages of tin-roofed shacks are perched right on top of the radioactive sand-like materials. Wind carries the yellow dust everywhere, slowed only by irregular patches of vegetation that serve as anchors. Once pristine rivers have become polluted and dewatered with little or no remediation in sight.

Geologists who have worked at mines in the area are often unaware of the radioactive legacy their companies are leaving behind for future generations. A great deal of ignorance prevails.

The four-day "Nuclearisation of Africa" conference was organized by the IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War), AUA (African Uranium Alliance), and FSE (Federation for Sustainable Development). The main objective was to assist participants from South Africa, Niger, Congo, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia, to understand and avoid the radioactive legacy of uranium mining, and to prevent the even greater radioactive legacy left behind by nuclear power plants in the form of high-level radioactive waste (irradiated nuclear fuel).

Africa has an abundance of renewable resources and is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the current world-wide trend away from nuclear technology towards genuinely sustainable alternatives. Those alternatives were also highlighted during the four-day conference.

South Africa's Russian nuclear dream boat

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dominique Doyle - Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg

The South African government is forging ahead with its plan to procure 9600 MW of nuclear power, even though the idea is extremely unpopular in most sectors of South African society. So far, several vendors have paraded their technology and Intergovernmental Framework Agreements have been signed with Russia, China, France, the United States and South Korea. The contents of which were kept secret from the South African public up until very recently − except for the Russian one which was leaked by Vladimir Slivyak of Ecodefense to the South African based environmental justice organization, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.

The agreements with the United States, France and China were finally tabled at Parliament last week where the Minister of Energy announced that the nuclear procurement will proceed as soon as next month. The contents of the agreements show that Russia's Rosatom is clearly leading the pack.

The government's relentless nuclear vision has left many South Africans scratching their heads in confusion. While the country is in the midst of a power crisis, and power cuts are becoming a daily occurrence; most stakeholders, including the Energy Intensive Users Group, feel that 9600 MW of nuclear power will not be the solution. In short, it simply will be too expensive. One plausible reason for the aggressive push for an expanded nuclear fleet is a political union between Russian President Vladimir Putin and South African President Jacob Zuma, who is whispered to be at the core of the nuclear drive. The evidence that the odds are focused at Russia's favor in the bidding process is overwhelming; with the Intergovernmental Framework Agreement with Russia being concluded first and in far more detail than the other agreements.

South Africa's fanatical desire to procure nuclear energy, which will be the most expensive procurement in the history of the new dispensation valued at 1 trillion South African Rand (US$77b; €69b), peaks at a time when the South African electricity system and state owned single utility are at a crisis point.

The state owned electricity utility, Eskom, claims that it took the political decision to "keep the lights on" and neglected to do the maintenance on its aging and insufficient fleet of coal-fired power stations. As a result, the South African public is facing daily blackouts, or "load shedding," at an estimated cost to the economy of nearly 80 billion South African Rand per month. Eskom is also failing to complete its answer to the power crisis, the Medupi power station − the fourth largest coal-fired power station in the world − currently running over budget by at least 180 million South African Rand (US$14m; €12m), and most likely delayed until 2025.

Despite wasting billions over the years, Eskom is pointing the blame at the South African public, and requesting yet another rate increase of 25% to cover the cost of burning diesel in its Open Gas Turbine Cycles for peaking power during times of high electricity demand.

Despite being the thorn in the side of the South African public, Eskom is the entity entrusted as the applicant for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the first two nuclear reactors dubbed Nuclear 1. The final EIA for Nuclear 1 has yet to be completed and is technology unspecific, showing once again how devious the nuclear plans are.

The suggested site is even as bizarre as the nuclear ambition itself. Nuclear 1 would be constructed in the idyllic and unique landscape of Thyspunt, off the coast of the Eastern Cape of South Africa and situated near the world-famous surfing hotspot, Jefferies Bay. The location is only accessible by one road built through sand dunes and so frequently gets blown away by the violent storms prone to the region. The area is also vulnerable to water shortages compounded by the failure of the local authorities to maintain water treatment plants and execute effective service delivery. Another one of the many reasons why a nuclear build is entirely unsuitable for the region is that about 4,000 people employed in the local calamari fishing industry would lose their jobs.

Besides the fact that nuclear procurement is commencing in the absence of an approved EIA, which is technology unspecific, the procurement is even forging ahead in the absence of an Integrated Energy Plan (IRP). By South African law, the IRP must be updated every two years. The most recent update was circulated for public comment towards the end of 2013, however that update, which did not support nuclear procurement because of the sheer expense, has mysteriously disappeared. The Department of Energy is now preferring to refer to the IRP 2010 which features nuclear as an integral part of the energy mix; rendering this procurement process quite obviously unlawful.

Sadly, what the South African government's nuclear ambitions reveal about current South Africa is a gradual melt-down of the principles of democracy and transparent governance enshrined in the new South African Constitution. This nuclear procurement process shows how forces are lining up within the government to support the political wish-list of an elite few. Even if many within government fundamentally disagree with Russian nuclear reactors to solve the energy crisis, it is doubtful that they will risk their positions by speaking out. But perhaps the most disheartening feature of the proposed nuclear deal is how it is being sold to the public. Through the nuclear deal the government is promising jobs, industry development and foreign investment. The government is using the pinch of poverty to the largely unemployed and energy impoverished mass to open up the flood gates to enrich its own cronies.


South Africa's nuclear soap opera

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

South Africa's nuclear power program has become a soap opera over the past month. President Jacob Zuma said in his annual State of the Nation address on February 12 that the US, South Korea, Russia, France and China "will be engaged in a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme."

But the National Treasury said on February 1 that it has no idea where the money will come from, and a treasury spokesperson issued a statement saying "the government will not make a financial commitment it cannot afford." Zuma said details on financing would be released in the March budget, but in response the treasury insisted that the "nuclear build is so far not part of those decisions."1

Zuma is promoting the construction of 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in addition to the two existing Koeberg reactors (1.8 GW). He said on February 12 that the first new reactor would begin operation in 2023. The following day, Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa managing director Knox Msebenzi said the start date had been pushed back by two years: "The first plant was due in 2023, but it's been very delayed. Part of the delay has to do with politics. The latest date is 2025, but there may be other delays. Maybe we're perceived by government as not read."2

Russia's BOO boys

The September 2014 South Africa−Russia nuclear cooperation agreement has been published by the Mail & Guardian newspaper despite the South African government's refusal to release it. It appears that the agreement was leaked but was later found to be publicly available on the website of the legal department of the Russian foreign ministry.3

The agreement − which is not binding until and unless it is ratified by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces − goes well beyond comparable agreements concluded between South Africa and Korea in 2011 and the US in 2009. It creates an expectation that Russian nuclear technology will be used in favour of alternative vendors − and may breach a constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering. The agreement would indemnify Russian vendors from any liability arising from nuclear accidents. It would provide Russian vendors with regulatory concessions and "special favourable treatment" in tax and other financial matters.3

Officials in the department of energy, international relations, trade and industry, as well as in the treasury and the chief state law adviser, raised concerns about clauses in the draft agreement − but those concerns were largely ignored.3,4

The Mail & Guardian editorialised: "The way the Russian nuclear deal was handled can only be to ensure a politically driven process, unhampered by technical or financial considerations. ... [I]t is a lopsided, murky and legally fraught arrangement that hands most of the aces to Russia's state-owned nuclear company and carries significant risks for South Africa."5

On February 20, the Mail & Guardian reported on a "top secret" presentation by South Africa's energy department, proposing a closed government-to-government procurement of new nuclear power stations instead of a transparent and competitive tender.4

'National security' is put forward by a state law adviser as a possible justification to sidestep the constitutional requirement for open and competitive tendering.4 Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and 'national security' is the last refuge of the nuclear industry.

There is one obvious reason why South Africa might favour Russian reactors − an expectation that Russia will provide capital funding under Rosatom's Build-Own-Operate (BOO) model. A draft of the agreement suggested that reactors would be vendor financed, but the final version defers any decision on funding.5

It is doubtful whether Russia can afford to employ the BOO model in South Africa given its heavy BOO commitments elsewhere and Russia's broader economic problems.6

Spy stories

On February 24 The Guardian newspaper reported on the contents of a cache of secret intelligence documents and cables. A December 2009 file says that foreign agencies had been "working frantically to influence" South Africa's nuclear power program, identifying US and French intelligence as the main players.7

The documents also discuss the 2007 break-in at the Pelindaba nuclear research centre. Previously believed to be a failed attempt to steal highly enriched uranium, the documents raise the possibility that the would-be thieves were acting on behalf of China and were seeking to steal design information about South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor R&D program.7 That claim has been met with scepticism.8 In any case South Africa abandoned its pebble bed program and it is a low priority project in China.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace Africa announced on February 27 that it had filed papers in the Pretoria High Court to compel the energy minister to update the country’s inadequate nuclear liability regulations. Greenpeace Africa executive director Michael O’Brien Onyeka said: "Shockingly, the levels of financial security for nuclear license holders have not been amended, updated or revised in more than 10 years. This means there is no lawfully applicable determination for the levels of financial security as required by the Act, and what is currently contained in the regulations is both out of date, and completely inadequate, which is in contravention of South Africa’s constitution.”9


1. 9 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear News Roundup for February 9, 2015',
2. 13 Feb 2015, 'Nuclear reactor now delayed until 2025',
3. Lionel Faull, 13 Feb 2015, 'Exposed: Scary details of SA's secret Russian nuke deal',
4. 20 Feb 2015, 'Top secret' nuclear plan ducks scrutiny,
5. 13 Feb 2015, 'Editorial: 'Atomic Tina' blows SA away',
6. Lisa Steyn, 20 Feb 2015, 'SA's nuclear deal with Russia is far from done',
7. Seumas Milne and Ewen MacAskill, 24 Feb 2015, 'Africa is new 'El Dorado of espionage’, leaked intelligence files reveal',
8. 1 March 2015, 'Ghosts of Pelindaba nuclear site break-in return to haunt South Africa',
9. 27 Feb 2015, 'We’re taking the Energy Minister to court: Greenpeace',

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UK: Report outlines unreliability of aging nuclear reactors

The UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) published a report on December 9 which details the unreliability of the UK's aging nuclear power stations.
The report, written by NFLA Policy Advisor Pete Roche, found that in the three years from 2012−2014, 62 outages were reported, over three-quarters of which were unplanned. These reported outages do not include routine refuelling closures. The list of outages is not comprehensive as EDF Energy does not provide comprehensive data on reactor performance.

At its lowest point, on 20 November 2014, less than half (43%) of UK nuclear power capacity was available due to shutdowns. Seven out of 15 reactors were offline.

Unplanned shutdowns cause serious problems for electricity supply regulation and planning. A major likely reason for poor performance is that most reactors are over 30 years old and past their use-by dates, some by considerable margins. The increasingly decrepit state of UK nuclear power stations also presents a serious safety issue. UK nuclear regulatory agencies are aware of the continual reduction in safety margins resulting from graphite loss and crumbling in the moderators of AGR reactors.

Nuclear Free Local Authorities, 9 Dec 2014, 'NFLA concerns over the reliability of aging nuclear reactors in the UK',


International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons

On December 8−9, over 1000 people flocked into the grand ballroom of Holfsburg Palace, Vienna, to consider the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons. Delegations representing 158 nations were present, as well as nuclear survivors, civil society, media, and researchers.

This was the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Human Weapons − the first was in Norway in 2013, the second in Mexico in February 2014. The latest conference is intended to 'jump-start' the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) deliberations at the UN in May 2015 with a call to proceed with complete disarmament in a global, legally binding form.

The meeting resulted in a vehicle for nations to "sign on" to the Austrian Pledge. This document calls on parties to the NPT to renew their commitments under that treaty and to close any gaps that undermines prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Austrian Pledge contains this remarkable provision: "Austria calls on all nuclear weapons possessor states to take concrete interim measures to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon detonations, including reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons and moving nuclear weapons away from deployment into storage, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in military doctrines and rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons ..."

This provision was all the more remarkable since, for the first time, nuclear weapons states were present: the US and Britain, both of which made statements to the assembly confirming that they were not listening.

Invited to speak during the session on the Medical Consequences of Using Nuclear Weapons, I originally declined since my work has focused on energy and the environment, not the military side of nuclear. The invite was made more precise by Ambassador Alexander Kmentt: please speak on the disproportionate impact of radiation on girls and women. Such a direct invitation offered an opportunity to share information that is under-reported.

The fact that atomic bombs were dropped on two cities in Japan almost 80 years ago is no longer being widely taught. Most people don't know that a long-term study was initiated by the US to count the cancers in the survivors. Among those who were under five years old in 1945, for every boy who got cancer at some point in their lives, two girls got cancer.

The room was full of people, including Hibakusha from Japan, survivors from the US tests in the Marshall Islands, from the British tests in Australia, and from Utah (downwind of the Nevada Test Site). It was a great place to share this information.

Information on Atomic Radiation and Harm to Women is posted at:

− Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (US)


Sweden: Regulator calls for hike in nuclear waste fees

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended yet another increase in the per kWh-fee on nuclear power to cover predicted costs of decommissioning reactors and the processing and storage of nuclear waste. The proposal raises the fee from an average SEK 0.022/kWh to around 0.040/kWh (US 0.5 c/kWh).

Swedish law requires the industry-owned nuclear waste management company SKB to submit an estimate of projected costs to SSM at three-year intervals. After examining the estimate and consulting other sources, SSM submits its recommendation to the government, which then sets the fee for the next period, in this case 2015−2017.

Over the past couple of terms, SSM's estimates have differed substantially from those of the industry's nuclear waste company. This time, SSM finds that SKB's estimate is short by at least SEK 11 billion (US$1.44, €1.16b). SSM bases its conclusion on a study commissioned from the National Institute of Economic Research (a state body). The conclusion is also seconded by the National Council for Nuclear Waste, an academic reference group, and the National Debt Office, whose comments call for greater transparency as to how SKB arrived at its estimates.

Principal differences concern the estimated future cost of goods and services relating to decommissioning and waste storage, and the cost of necessary reinvestments in existing waste management facilities. SSM states that SKB underestimates cost rises by as much as 12%. Sagging financial returns accruing to the Nuclear Waste Fund – a consequence of the broader economic downturn – also contribute to the gap.

Another discrepancy is that SKB bases its calculations on reactor lifetimes of 50-60 years, yet the Financing Ordinance stipulates that a lifetime of 40 years be used. The advantage from the industry's point of view is obvious: positing a 20−50% longer period of production raises the total sum deposited into the Waste Fund, thereby permitting a lower fee.

The law provides that SSM may, "should circumstances so demand," reject the industry's prognosis and fix an interim fee until satisfactory estimates are on the table. SSM is doing just that. The current recommendation will be for 2015 only, and SKB has been instructed to produce a revised estimate within the next few months.

Shortly after the general election in September 2014, the new government stated as an overall principle that nuclear energy should cover a greater share of its costs to society – which suggests that SSM's proposals would be favourably received.

But there is a catch. The government – a minority coalition – failed to gain parliamentary approval of its budget in December and has announced new elections for March 2015. A change of government before the proposal can be considered is likely, and no one can say what the political constellation after the elections will be.

− Charly Hultén / WISE Sweden


Greenland: Pro-uranium coalition forms government

The Inuit Ataqatigiit party was expected to win Greenland's November 28 election, after which it would call a referendum on the controversial issue of uranium mining.

However the pro-uranium Siumut party narrowly won the most votes and has formed a coalition with two other pro-uranium parties − Atassut and Demokraatic. The three parties hold a combined 17 seats in the new parliament while two anti-uranium parties − Inuit Ataqatigiit and Partii Naleraq − hold 14 seats.

Just before the election, a poll showed that 71% of Greenlanders want a national referendum on whether to reinstate the uranium ban. Inuit Ataqatigiit and Partii Naleraq had called for a referendum.

Before the election, former Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond announced in Parliament that if a mining permit was issued to the Australian mining company Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. for the Kvanefjeld uranium / rare earths project, a referendum on the project would be held in southern Greenland. That promise might still be kept ... or it might not.

The only uranium project that might be developed in the foreseeable future is the Kvanefjeld project. A feasibility study is due for completion in 2015. It could take 2−3 years before environmental assessment processes are complete.


US blocks international nuclear safety initiatives

The US was exposed at an international meeting of parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety on December 4.1 A European proposal would have led to greater efforts to prevent accidents and, should they occur, mitigate the effects of radioactive contamination. The proposal would likely have forced upgrades at existing plants.

Russia scaled back its opposition to European proposals, leaving the US as the main dissenter. Russia was prepared to endorse some of the European proposals though it balked at accepting proposals that would require retrofits of old reactors.

Defending their indefensible position, US diplomats said their opposition to the European initiative was driven by concern that an attempt to amend the convention could weaken it, because some governments would be slow to ratify changes.

Former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Victor Gilinsky told Bloomberg: "People in the U.S. don't realize that in many ways our nuclear safety standards lag behind those in Europe. The German and French containment structures are generally more formidable than ours and those reactors generally have more protection systems."1

Created in response to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the Convention on Nuclear Safety has struggled to improve safety standards. The group's secrecy has often undermined its objectives. A former French envoy, Jean-Pierre Clausner, said that the opacity of the organisation was "shocking" according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request.2



South Africa and Russia: 'Pay More for Nuclear' reports

Earthlife Africa has commissioned and released four significant reports in the second half of 2014 in a series titled 'Pay More for Nuclear'. The first report is titled 'Nuclear Technology Options for South Africa'. Prof. Steve Thomas writes: "South Africa's call for tenders for nuclear power plants [in 2008] failed because the costs were high and because the requirements to obtain funding were not politically acceptable. The response to this failure seemed to be that pursuing a wider range of technical options and partners would produce a cheaper and more readily financed offer. The new options mooted include reactors from Korea, China and Russia. The perception that these options will be cheaper is likely to be an illusion. In addition, the designs are unproven and raise serious issues of verifying that they meet the required safety standards."

The second report is titled 'Funding Nuclear Decommissioning – Lessons for South Africa'. Thomas writes: "Current policy and practice on funding nuclear power plant decommissioning in South Africa lags far behind international best practice. It risks bequeathing future generations with a hazardous and expensive task that will have to be paid for by future taxpayers."

The third report is titled 'What Does It Take To Finance New Nuclear Power Plants?'. Thomas writes: "Unless the South African government is prepared to require electricity consumers to sign what will effectively be a blank cheque to the developers of a nuclear power the current attempt to order nuclear power plants for South Africa will fail again and several more years will have been wasted pursuing an option, nuclear power, that is not financeable."

The fourth report is titled 'Russian Nuclear Industry Overview'. Report author Vladimir Slivyak covers problems with ageing reactors, planned new reactors, Russia's fast breeder program, its reactor export program, and inadequate nuclear waste and decommissioning programs. Of particular interest is the section on corruption in the Russian nuclear industry, and the role of NGOs Ecodefense and Transparency International in exposing that corruption.

The four 'Pay More for Nuclear' reports are posted at:

South Africa signs nuclear cooperation agreement with France

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Weeks after signing a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia, South Africa has signed a similar agreement with France on October 14. The agreement covers areas including skills development, localisation of nuclear technology as well as research and development in South Africa.1,2

French nuclear company Areva said it "is ready to support this development, notably through its Generation III+ EPR reactor technology."1

South Africa's two operating nuclear power plants at Koeberg, operating since the mid-1980s, were built by French company Framatome (now Areva).

The NeutronBytes blog notes: "However, it is unlikely Areva, which has worked hard to land business in South Africa, will see any contracts for new reactors there. The reason is the Russians have offered to finance their deal, and Areva, which just dodged a "junk" rating of its stock, has committed to significantly cut back on new capital expenditures, by over 600 million euros over the next four years, to retain "investment grade" status. For its part, South Africa does not have the money to finance eight new reactors on its own."3

After earlier reports that Russia and South Africa had struck a US$50 billion (€39b) deal for eight reactors, fanned by inaccurate and overblown comments by Rosatom and contradicted by South African officials, Rosatom has acknowledged that the bilateral agreement contains "nothing concrete" in terms of actually financing and building reactors.3

It is doubtful whether Rosatom can finance a large reactor program in South Africa given its other commitments. According to the World Nuclear Association, Russia has 14 reactors planned or under construction in export markets for which it is providing at least 80% of the finance: in Belarus, Hungary, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Turkey.

South African government officials said nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries − France, China, South Korea, the US and Japan − were likely to follow.2


See also

The impact of nuclear in South Africa

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Judith Taylor − Branch Co-ordinator, EarthLife Africa Joburg

There can be no more significant time to be writing this than today, 18 August 2013. Yesterday, our National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) announced its approval for two smelters to be constructed at Pelindaba by the Nuclear Energy Company of South Africa (NECSA). These smelters are to be used to smelt the 14,000 tonnes of radioactive metal held on the site. They have also given the approval for cold commissioning. This is despite the very strong case put forward at the public hearing last year for not allowing the facility to be built. NECSA did not put forward a strong case, as they were unable to even put forward the cost of building the facility.

Our legacy of Acid Mine Water has moved beyond dangerous to critical with the water to be treated to remove the heavy metals but not the sulphates before release into our major waterways – the Vaal-Orange system and the Crocodile-Limpopo. This additional pollution burden will add to that of sewage, industrial and agricultural pollutants already compromising the rivers in South Africa. The cost to the Water Boards in cleaning this water to potable will consequently be severely increased. Impacts on the ecosystems and human and animal health are being ignored. The Department of Health refuses to act and the Departments of Water and the Environment refuse to regulate.

South Africa's Chernobyl situation, around Krugersdorp, Randfontein, Soweto and right out to KwaThema near Brakpan, continues to endanger the lives of all the inhabitants of the area. Radioactivity levels in many areas reflect those at Chernobyl. The only difference is that there are people living in those areas with infants as well. The legacy of over 125 years of mining, polluted rivers and streams plus tonnes of tailings containing arsenic, uranium, cadmium amongst other heavy metals, continues to stand unrectified and abandoned.

Many of the original mining companies have closed down or left the country (Anglo American being a case in point). As result, the Chamber of Mines refuses to entertain any liability for rectification, leaving the tax-payers to foot the bill. The affected communities pay the penalty of increasingly bad health as the polluted air is breathed in and the polluted water is drunk and used to water vegetables, which absorb the heavy metals. The vegetables are then eaten, further compromising the health of the consumers.

On top of this, we have the proposed rollout of another six nuclear power plants along the southern coast of the country. The European Union has promised funding for this (see and Russia has also put a strong proposal on the table (see The focus is on job creation and is highly favoured by the government. The fact that Flamenville and Olkiluoto are yet to be completed, are heavily over budget and the latter has employed mainly Polish workers, seems to have been overlooked completely.

The first site favoured for the new nuclear power station is Thyspunt near Port Elizabeth. This is an area where commercial calamari farming has been developed very successfully. Twenty thousand people are employed in this export income generating industry. However, calamari are temperamental and changes in water temperature could prevent them from continuing to breed, resulting in the loss of jobs. The building of the reactor is expected to create a mere 1186 jobs over 11 years. This does not seem like a viable project if even 5,000 jobs are lost in the calamari farming, which is predicted.

In addition, evacuation is compromised by there being only one road in and out of the area. This resembles the already existing situations at both Koeberg and Pelindaba, where evacuation in the case of an emergency would be extremely difficult. It is acknowledged that, at Koeberg, Eskom has no idea of how many people are in the area. An emergency evacuation plan is not on Koeberg's website and most of the people in the area are not aware of emergency planning, as emergency exercises are not communicated to them.

In the case of Pelindaba, some of the affected community would have to go past the reactor in order to evacuate in the case of an emergency. This raises concerns about whether the NNR is truly regulating the nuclear industry and ensuring that the public is properly protected.

Whilst emergency exercises are held at both installations and the Public Safety Information Forums meet four times a year to report back to the affected parties, we are concerned that these exercises do not score well and errors are given too much time to be remediated. In addition, neither site has ever been subjected to a full Environmental Impact Assessment, as they went into production prior to this being a requirement. This gives environmentalists considerable problems, as we cannot obtain a comprehensive report on the state of the areas and the impacts.

In January this year, all the environmental NGOs and affected parties met in Cape Town to form an alliance to campaign against Nuclear 1, as the project is called. This Alliance is known as Tsunami and has had a further meeting, although most communication is via email. A third meeting is pending. Furthermore, we are alert to the fact that nuclear power is now the most expensive way to generate electricity with coal power second. In a country with the amount of sunlight and wind available to power sustainable solutions, we feel very strongly that this should be the direction in which South Africa should be moving. The lower costs of the latter solutions should also be a valid reason to let go of nuclear and coal enabling South Africa to move into the future and improve the health of our communities.


‘Stop nuclear power in Africa’

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On May 29, Greenpeace Africa activists dressed in nuclear emergency suits dumped marked nuclear waste bags and placed look-a-like nuclear barrels at the entrance of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) building. Greenpeace demanded a halt to discussions aimed at expanding nuclear power generation not only in South Africa but also the rest of the African continent.

In the early morning protest, Greenpeace Africa activists blockaded the premises of the IDC where the conference on ‘Nuclear power's future for Africa’ was taking place. The conference was to be opened by South Africa's Energy Minister Dipuo Peters and attracted high-ranking delegates from across Africa. Shortly after chaining themselves to the gates, aggressive security guards beat the locks to break them and forcefully dragged activists off into their security office. Meanwhile as different activists offloaded nuclear bags to further block the entrance, security guards began flinging bags around, and started using them for a pillow fight with journalists and photographers. Shortly after it was announced inside the conference venue that the Minister of Energy would no longer be attending the conference, and her speech was read by a representative.

"Minister Peters' support to expand nuclear power in Africa is extremely irresponsible given the socio-economic challenges prevalent on the continent" said Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Ferrial Adam. "As a continent we should be learning from what history has shown about nuclear power: It is a dirty and dangerous source of energy, and one that will always be vulnerable to the deadly combination of human errors, design failures, and natural disasters," added Adam. “In South Africa, the nuclear process has been marked by secrecy and non-transparency. Key questions around the design, cost and safety are unanswered. The government's dream of becoming a nuclear power will end up as a nuclear nightmare and should stop now before it is too late."

At the conference, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe stressed the necessity of replacing coal with other energy sources, particularly nuclear energy. With that in mind, the country would build a large nuclear plant, Motlanthe said in a video message to the conference. He highlighted the need to produce electricity in other parts of the country to spread the electricity production points around the national grid. "This is a strategically sensible approach, which requires us to use other energy sources in addition to coal. Nuclear power is ideal in this sense, because we can build large nuclear power plants at points around our southern coastline, and potentially elsewhere in the future," he noted, ignoring the fact that it is obvious large nuclear power plants are not the best way to decentralize electricity production. (Developing the smaller high temperature reactors –PBMR- in South Africa failed miserably.)

In its integrated resource plan, the South African government aims to increase the nuclear output to 9.6 GW by 2029. South Africa has the African continent's only nuclear power station at Koeberg, with two reactors (total 1.8 GW).

Sources:  iafrica, 29 May 2012 / Xinhua, 29 May 2012 / IAEA, PRIS Country details South Africa
Contact: Greenpeace Africa, PostNet Suite 125, Private Bag X09, Melville,  ohannesburg, 2109, South Africa.
Tel: +27 11 482 4696


South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#746, 747, 748
Waste special

South Africa

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The 2008 National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act provides for the establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute which will manage radioactive waste disposal in South Africa. The responsibility for nuclear waste disposal has been discharged by the Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) until now.  Necsa has been operating the national repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape province. This was commissioned in 1986 for wastes from Koeberg and is financed by fees paid by Eskom. Some low- and intermediate-level waste from hospitals, industry and Necsa itself is disposed of at Necsa's Pelindaba site.(*01)

Koeberg spent fuel is currently stored in pools as well as in casks. The site has enough storage capacity for the spent fuel that will be generated during the current operational lifetime of Koeberg.

Pending the outcome of current investigations into possible reprocessing of spent fuel, it is not classified as radioactive waste. Rather than been in its final form for disposal used fuel is. Interim storage takes place on site, awaiting investigations into the best long term option for the management of spent fuel.(*02) If chosen as a preferred option in South Africa, geological disposal of radioactive waste shall take place with an option for retrieving the waste.(*03)

Plans by Eskom to seek contracts for reprocessing surfaced in August 2009. The stae owned utility and operator of Koeberg said the resulting MOX-fuel could be sold to other countries rather than used at home. It turned out to be a plan to try to finance new build.(*04) Not surprisingly it was never heard of again.

According to Nesca CEO Rob Adams South Africa would need a fully operational high-level waste management site by 2070 to deal with spent fuel. The negotiations with the National Nuclear Regulator to identify a high-level waste disposal site would likely start before 2015. Three possible disposal sites would have to be identified, and three individual environmental impact assessment studies would have to be conducted. Necsa would then argue the case of the most suitable site. Vaalputs will most likely be one of them.(*05)


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Low- and intermediate level wastes is stored at ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba. Spent fuel is stored at the reactor sites awaiting a centralized interim storage and geological disposal A final geological disposal facility is not expected before 2050, at the earliest. No reprocessing of spent fuel takes place, but in the past spent fuel of Vandellos-1 reactor has been reprocessed.

Low-level Waste
In the 1950s, the El Cabril uranium mine was shut down and started to be used for storing low and intermediate level waste. In 1986 ENRESA took responsibility for El Cabril and moved the waste from the mines to new built buildings on the same site.(*01) It is planned to receive waste until 2015.(02) The state-owned radioactive Waste management organization ENRESA, created in 1984, is responsible for managing radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear plants.(*03)

High-level waste and spent fuel
ENRESA is since 1987 developing a disposal program aimed at providing a final solution for the spent fuel and high level waste. The program comprised of three areas: identification of suitable sites, conceptual design and performance assessment of a geological repository and research and development.(*04) At that time a repository was expected to be realized by 2020. By end-1990, some 25,000 km2 of possible regions were found. Finally, some 30 areas were identified for further research.(*05)

Although ENRESA had identified favorable areas for further underground research, work was halted in 1996 due to public opposition; or in the words of ENRESA: "the reaction of the public advised to discontinue any field work in 1996."(*06) In 1995, it had become known among environmental groups that ENRESA had plans for the construction of underground disposal laboraties and a list of possible locations was released. The groups accused ENRESA of not having informed the public and of having inspected possible sites. Large demonstrations were organized which culminated in a demonstration of 20,000 people in 1998 at Torrecampo.(*07)  At the end of 1996, the Senate Commission for Industry established an inquiry commission to develop a new waste policy. It had to study the difficulties in finding a site for waste disposal and should include socio-political and public acceptance aspects. The  commission’s work was expected to result in guidelines for the government to develop a legal framework for siting. The commission received contributions from groups and institutions and visited other countries for comparison.(*08)

In 1999 the 5th Radioactive Waste Plan was adopted with a new policy: construction of a centralized interim HLW storage by 2010 for reprocessing waste as well as spent fuel; and no decisions about final disposal before the year 2010.(*09)

In mid 2006 Parliament approved ENRESA's plans to develop an interim centralized high-level  waste and spent fuel storage facility by 2010, and the Nuclear Safety Council CSN approved its design, which was similar to the Habog facility near the Borssele power plant in the Netherlands. In December 2009 the government called for municipalities to volunteer to host this €700 million Almacen Temporal Centralizado (ATC) facility. The government offered to pay up to €7.8 million annually once the facility is operational. It is designed to hold for 100 years 6700 metric tons of used fuel and 2600 m3 of medium-level wastes, plus 12 m3 of high-level waste from reprocessing the Vandellos-1 fuel. The facility is to be built in three stages, each taking five years.  Fourteen towns volunteered, attracted by the prospect of a €700 million investment over 20 years and the annual direct payments, plus many jobs, but only eight were formally accepted.(*10)

In September 2011 the Ministry for Industry announced its selection and rankings: Zarra (Valencia) 736 points; Asco (Tarragona) 732 points; Yebra (Guadalajara) 714 points; Villar de Canas (Cuenca) 692 points. In December 2011 the Ministry announced that Villar de Canas had been selected, though only a 60-year storage period was mentioned. Pending construction, low- and medium-level wastes continues to be sent to ENRESA's storage facility at El Cabril, Cordoba, which has operated since 1961. Used fuel remains at individual power plants.(*11)

For Jose Maria Saiz, the mayor of Villar de Canas, the financial compensation and the promise of 300 jobs were compelling arguments to get the storage to his place. That doesn’t alter the fact that environmental groups and trade unions are against the storage.(*12)  And in March 2012 it turned out that promised regional jobs were not materializing and little is left of the initial optimism.(*13)

The General Plan on Radioactive Waste suggests that the operation of a deep repository in Spain would probably start in 2050. Therefore, the period between 2025 and 2040 would be focused on decision-making process and site characterisations, whereas from 2040 to 2050 construction would take place. A programme of activities between 2006 and 2025 to meet the objective of having a repository by 2050 is lacking (Fundación para Estudios sobre la Energía, 2007).

The high level of priority given to the interim storage facility has delayed the interest and the research efforts in deep geological disposal. Furthermore, the construction of the centralised storage facility allows decisions on final management to be postponed.(*14)


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Since the mid-1970s spent nuclear fuel is to be disposed of in a geologic repository. Early plans for reprocessing the spent fuel were abandoned already in the early 1980’s. In the 1970's Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company), SKB, was established to manage the waste (*01 Sweden once dumped low-level waste in the Atlantic Ocean (in 1969) and twice (1959 and 1961) in the Baltic Sea.(*02)

The country wants to dispose its nuclear waste, packed in copper to ensure long-term safety, in granite from 2023/25 on. But problems with copper and geological stability have been published widely. Awaiting final disposal spent fuel is stored in an interim facility in Oskarshamn, called Clab. Low and intermediate-level waste is currently stored in a final repository 50 meters deep in the crystalline basement near the nuclear power plant in Forsmark.(*03)

Long-lasting search
In Sweden, the Parliament decided to a Nuclear Power Act in 1977, which asked for an “absolutely safe solution” for final disposal of nuclear waste and makes the nuclear industry responsible for the management of the waste. The Swedish government started a procedure, called scientific mediation, to clarify the scientific differences. This was followed by discussions with the public, aimed at participation in the decision-making.(*04)

Research to find a final disposal site has taken place for since 1977. Eleven sites were examined, with extensive work undertaken at 7. Test-drillings was planned in 5, but only two of these allowed SKB to carry out even an initial feasibility study: Storuman and Malaa. Several possible locations for the final disposal have been dropped out after referendums, such as Storuman, Malaa(*05) and Gaellivare.(*06) It was obvious by then that the best chance for a repository would be in a municipality that has a nuclear power plant: Forsmark and Oskarshamn, or at the Studsvik research reactor.(*07) The idea is that in these locations such an initiative will most likely gain sufficient support, and SKB limited themselves to the choice of  a site with nuclear power activities. (*Sw08) Municipalities can present themselves voluntarily as a host location, but can also withdraw in a later stage. Although there is a law enabling the government under very specific conditions to overrule such a veto, but this provisions seems very hard to use for any government: this will not happen in practice.(*09)

In 1998, SKB director Peter Nygaards stated that the Swedish government should be prepared to offer financial incentives to a community willing to host the repository. He compared this with the money the government pays to local communities to take in refugees. Similarly, any disposal of nuclear waste must also be reimbursed. Nygaards also said he don’t want to fix the moment of permanently sealing a repository. If the repository is full one should consider if closing is not a better option so that "future generations can open it if they need to?" Nygaards said: "It is not wise to make a decision today for 100,000 years from now".(*10)
 Besides the locations with nuclear power plants, only Tierp volunteered to be a host community for the repository. (*11)

 In November 2001 the government approved research in Tierp, Forsmark and Oskarshamn,(*12) but in April 2002, the city council of Tierp decided to withdraw.(*13)  In June 2009 SKB selected Forsmark.(*14) The repository is proposed to be sited adjacent to the Forsmark nuclear power plant on the Baltic Sea coast. On 16 March 2011, SKB applied for a permit.(*15) It plans to begin site works in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015, and operation after 2020.(*16)

Criticism on safety
The KBS method was developed in the 1970s. The basis is a geologic repository at about 500 meter depth in granite bed-rock and the long-term safety is to be guaranteed by artificial barriers – copper canisters surrounded by a bentonite clay buffer.(*17)

There is severe criticism on the disposal method. The nuclear waste is disposed of at 500 meters depth in granite. According to SKB, this is a stable geological formation. But paleo-geophysicist Nils-Axel Mörner states that the stability is not true. Since the end of the last Ice Age the ground went upwards with a rate of one millimeter per day, there were 58 serious earthquakes and 16 tsunamis. As a consequence of these and other factors Mörner finds the repository unstable and not safe.(*18)
In November 2009 another problem arose: the use of copper. The nuclear waste is encased in a copper layer of five centimeters, which has to remain intact for 100,000 years.

Copper corrodes in environments where oxygen is present. The process is easy to observe on copper roof materials that turn green from oxidation. When the industry’s KBS-method was developed in the 1970’s the understanding was that copper does not corrode at all in an anoxic (oxygen-free) environment in the bedrock. During the 1980's a researcher from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Gunnar Hultquist, presented new findings that showed that copper could corrode in environments without oxygen, as long as there is water present. The new findings were denied by SKB and ignored by the authorities. During the autumn of 2007 Gunnar Hultquist and a colleague Peter Szakálos presented the findings again, this time with more experimental results.(*19) This is noticed by investigation of copper artifacts from the Swedish warship Vasa, which sunk in 1628: the copper had become much thinner than expected.(*20) Copper corrosion has caused a discussion about the KBS method in Sweden as the findings threaten basic assumptions underlying the long-term safety of the KBS method.

A geologic repository in Swedish bedrock at a depth of 500 m has groundwater flowing through the repository, says Dr. Johan Swahn, Director of the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review (MKG) at a hearing on the management of nuclear waste at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.(*21) A repository using the KBS method therefore has to rely on manmade barriers (clay and copper) to isolate the nuclear waste from the environment. The chemical and biological environment will in the long term threaten the artificial barriers of copper and clay in ways that are difficult to foresee. The relatively dry rock (for the KBS method) chosen by SKB in Forsmark puts stress on the clay barrier and opens up for new questions on copper corrosion processes. In Sweden there will be one or more Ice Ages during the next 100,000 years and glaciation will lead to variations in the chemical and biological environment that will affect the man-made barriers.

The safety case for Swedish KBS method is severely questioned and licensing is uncertain. The problems for the KBS method has opened up for questioning whether disposal methods relying on artificial engineered barriers should be implemented at all. The Swedish and Finnish repository programs for spent nuclear are entirely interdependent. If the Swedish program fails, so does automatically the Finnish.(*22)

In short, also in Sweden, nuclear waste disposal is not a fait accompli.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has recommended a tripling of the fee paid by the country's nuclear power industry towards paying for management of the country's nuclear waste. Basing its assessment on information gathered from the relevant organizations - including cost estimates from SKB - SSM has recommended to the government that the fee should be set at 3 öre per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 1 öre per kWh. (1 öre is worth approximately US$0.002)  According to SSM, much of the increase is down to new estimates from SKB indicating that the remaining costs of the country's planned final repository for used nuclear fuel have grown by about SEK 18 billion (US$2.7 billion) from previous estimates made in 2008. SSM also says it believes that SKB has underestimated future costs, and it has adjusted the proposed fee increase to reflect this.(*23)


Nr. of reactors

first grid connection

% of total electricity 




In 1969, the first Swiss nuclear power plant, Beznau 1, entered service. As of 1 March 2012 this plant is the oldest nuclear plant in the world.(*01) A geological final repository for high level waste will not be available before 2040, at the earliest: 70 years after the first reactor began operation. Switzerland dumped low- and intermediate level radioactive waste in sea 12 times from 1969-1982.(*i02) It transported the waste by train to the Netherlands, from where it was dumped in the Atlantic Ocean together with the Dutch radioactive waste.(*i03) Spent fuel is temporary stored at the Zwilag central storage facility.

In December 1972, the Nationale Genossenschaft fuer die Lagerung radioaktiver Abfaelle (Swiss organization responsible for the storage of nuclear waste) was created: Nagra:(*04) The operators of the nuclear power plants are 95% owned by Nagra, the government has a share of 5%.(*05) Nagra immediately began investigating the storage of low, intermediate and high-level radioactive waste. This resulted in the project "Gewähr" of 1985. In June 1988 the government decided to take the first steps for low and intermediate radioactive waste, but for high-level waste further research was needed. This was because siting feasibility, i.e. the demonstration that a suitable rock body of sufficient extent could be found at an actual site in Switzerland, had not been demonstrated.(*06)

Low and medium radioactive waste: Wellenberg drops out
In 1993, from a 1978 list of originally 100 sites, Nagra chose Wellenberg (in the canton of Nidwalden). Nagra found Wellenberg suitable for safety reasons, but also because there would be
sufficient storage available.(*07) In the Wellenberg-debate critics of the repository project articulated new concepts: the disposal should be retrievable and verifiable. The Nagra, however, did not agree with that and the debate culminated in a June 1995 referendum. A majority of the Nidwalden population voted against the storage. Given the distribution of powers in Switzerland, storage at Wellenberg was off.(*08) The Nagra then examined how the people of Nidwalden would have voted if the requirement of retrievability and monitoring would have been granted. It turned out that 60.8 percent would have voted 'yes'.(*09)

But Nagra wanted to hold on to Wellenberg and the government agreed to this. In 1998 the Department of Energy repeated that Wellenberg is suitable for retrievable and verifiable disposal of low and intermediate level waste.(*10) So another referendum was organized and on 22 September 2002, a majority (57.5%, turnout was 71%) of the population voted again against the disposal at WellenbergThe government reacted by saying that with this result disposal plans were canceled. This was a hard blow to the nuclear industry, which has spent 80 million francs (€55 million) for research and to propitiate the population.(*11)  But it turned out that Wellenberg was not off the table for ever.

Spent fuel policy
From July 2006 on , there is a 10-year moratorium on the export of spent fuel for reprocessing. Before the moratorium, utilities were free to choose between reprocessing and direct disposal of the spent fuel. The reprocessing took place abroad (France and UK). Dry storage buildings at the Beznau nuclear power plant and at the Zwilag central storage facility have been built for the interim storage of spent fuel and of radioactive waste returned from reprocessing abroad. In addition, a building for the wet storage of spent fuel at the Gösgen nuclear power plant was commissioned in 2008.(*12)

2008: new plan for high-level radioactive waste
On 6 November 2008, the Nagra came with a new waste disposal roadmap: 'Zeit zum handeln'.(*13) Surprisingly, Wellenberg was candidate again for storage of low and intermediate level. In February 2011, for the third time, the population Nidwalden voted against (74.5%) the storage.(*14) But unlike earlier, the district no longer has a right to veto: the government has abolished that in 2002.(*15) Therefore, Wellenberg remains on the list.

In the new roadmap, as a first step, there three regions were chosen: Zürcher Weinland, Nörlich Lägeren and Bözberg. These are three regions in northern Switzerland, where a certain kind of clay (opalinus clay) is found. From 2011 on, regional conferences (attended by 100-200 people) should be held several times per year.(*16) The costs, for each region 1.5 million francs (€1 million) is made available, of which 80% is paid by the Nagra.(*17) Somewhere between 2014 - 2016 two locations in each region should be selected and before 2020 a referendum can take place. After that one site will be chosen for the geological repository. After the repository is constructed and the procedures are completed, the storage can start in 2030 for low- and intermediate-level waste and for high-level waste in 2040 at the earliest. (*18)

The plans raised much protest, as extensively described in the May 2010 issue of Energie und Umwelt (Energy and Environment) of the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES).(*19) In all regions, groups work together to prevent that the nuclear waste goes to the site with the least resistance. Although the government announced it wants to give action groups financial support to make their own studies, this was not settled in May 2010. And while the Nagra asserts that a repository has regional benefits, a study of the canton of Schaffhausen shows the contrary: great regional economic damage is expected. Therefore, SES calls the participation a form of sham democracy.

The government, however, continued the plans and on 1 December, 2011, decided that those sites may remain appropriate on 1 December 2011.(*20) The next four years, further investigation will take place at all sites, and interested parties can participate in regional conferences. After those four years, so in 2016, one site is selected and an application process for a license will start. In 2040, Nagra expects, the actual disposal can start. The Swiss Energy Foundation (SES) together with local groups are protesting the continuation of the process. According to these groups there are 12 unresolved questions about safe disposal of nuclear waste.(*21) These 12 questions should first be resolved before the people can be involved in the disposal. Therefore, these groups are in favor of the suspension of the government's plans.(*22) On March 6, the government, however, sees no reason to stop the procedure and announced that a repository has positive outcomes on the regional economy.(*23)


South Africa
*01- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in South Africa, December 2011
*02- Nesca: South African National Report for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, First National Report, October 2008, p.14
*03- Nesca, p.90
*04- Idaho Samizdat: SouthAfrica to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, 28 August 2008
*05- Engineering News: High-level nuclear waste may be disposed of at Vaalputs, 25 March 2009

*01- COWAM: Nuclear Waste Management in Spain : El Cabril and on site storage, COWAM European Concerted Action,  February 2005
*02- Damveld/Van den Berg: Discussion on nuclear waste: A Survey on Public Participation, Decision-making and Discussions in Eight Countries; Spain, January 2000, p.65
*03: ENRESA: Who we are, company website, April 2012
*04- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al: Geological disposal strategy for high level waste in Spain, in: Distec Proceedings, Conference on Disposal Technology, Hamburg, September 1998, p. 206-211
*05- P. Richardson: The Virtual Repository of Radwaste Information: Spain, July 1997 (currently pay site).
*06- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*07: WISE News Communique: Spain: protests against possible radwaste storage site, Nr. 489, 3 April 1998
*08- J.L. Santiago, J. Alonso, et al.
*09- OECD/NEA: Radioactive waste management programmes in OECD/NEA Member countries: Spain, 2005, p.4-5
*10- World Nuclear News: Spain selects site for waste storage, 3 January 2012
*11- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Spain, Update April 2012
*12- Deutschlandradio: Ein spanisches Dorf jubelt, weil es Atommüll lagern darf (A spanish town rejoices, because it can store nuclear waste),  16 February 2012
*13- Ee-news: Spanien: Atommüll-Lager bringt den Fortschritt nicht (Spain: nuclear waste storage does not bring progress), 21 March 2012 
*14- Meritxell Martell Lamolla: Identifying remaining socio-technical challenges at the national level: Spain, InSOTEC Working Paper (Draft), 1 March 2012

*01- See for an extensive historical overview of the waste problem in Sweden: Miles Goldstick Nuclear waste in Sweden –The problem is not solved!, FMKK, August 1988
*02- IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999
*03- SKB: Our current facilities, company website, visited April 2012
*04- Matthijs Hissemöller and Cees J.H. Midden, Technological Risk, Policy Theories and Public Perception in Connection with the Siting of Hazardous Facilities, Charles Vlek and George Cvetko­vitch (eds), Social Decision Methodology for Technological Projects, Kluwer Academic Publis­hers, 1989, p. 173-194
*05- PJ Richardson, Public Involvement in the Siting of Contenti­ous Facilities; Lessons from the radioactive waste repository siting programs in Canada and the United States, with special reference to the Swedish Repository Siting Process, Swedish Radiation Protection Institute, August 1997, p 26-27
*06- Nuclear Fuel: Another Swedish community rejects repository, 16 June 1997, p.17
*07- Nucleonics Week: Malaa voter rejection turns SKB back to plant sites for repository, 25 September 1997, p.15
*08- Marianne Löwgren: Nuclear Waste Management in Sweden: Balancing Risk Perceptions and Developing Community Consensus, in: Eric B. Herzik and Alvin H. Mushkatel, Problems and Prospects for Nuclear Waste Disposal Policy, Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut / London, 1993, p. 105-121
*09- Olof Söderberg: Who Makes Which Decisions When?, in Proceedings DisTec'98, Disposal Technologies and Concepts 1998, International Conference on Radioactive Waste Disposal, 9-11 September, Hamburg, pp. 633-639
*10- Nuclear Fuel: New SKB head endorses cash incentives for repository host, 9 March 1998, p. 8-9
*11- Mark Elam and Göran Sundqvist, The Swedish KBS project: a last word in nuclear fuel safety prepares to conquer the world?, In: Journal of Risk Research, Volume 12 Issue 7 & 8 2009, December 2009, p. 969–988
*12- Nuclear Fuel: Swedisch government gives SKB approval to study 3 sites for possible repository, 12 November 2001, p. 8
*13- Nuclear Fuel: Tierp town council votes against site testing for Swedish repository, 15 April 2002, p.10-11
*14: SKB: SKB selects Forsmark for the final repository for spent nuclear fuel, press release 3 June 2009
*15: SKB: SKB turns in application for permit to build a final repository in Forsmark, press release 17 March 2011
*16- World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Power in Sweden, February 2012
*17- SKB: Our method of final disposal, company website,
*18- Nils-Axel Mörner: The Shameful Nuclear Power, presentation 16 April 2008. See also: The uplift of Fennoscandia at:
*19- MKG: Copper corrosion, website MKG (Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review)
*20- Technisch Weekblad, 21 November 2009
*21- Dr. Johan Swahn: Considerations on nuclear waste management in Sweden, presentation at the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy public hearing on management of nuclear waste, 1 December 2010
*22- Johan Swahn: The Scandinavian Nuclear Waste Strategies, MKG, Expert Hearing Greens in het European Parliament, 8 juni 2010, p.10
*23- World Nuclear News: Swedish waste fees rise to reflect repository cost, 10 October 2011

*01- ee News: Beznau: Aeltestes AKW der Welt wird sichergerechnet, 29 February 2012
*02– IAEA: Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea, IAEA-Tecdoc-1105, August 1999, p.50
*03- Dutch Minister of Health and Environmental sanitation: Zwitsers radioactief afval in IJmuiden (Swiss radioactive waste in IJmuiden), Tweede Kamer 15 676 nr 2, 20 July 1979
*04- Nagra: Entwicklung der Nagra 1972 bis 1980 (Development of Nagra 1972-1980), company website, visited April 2012-04-09
*05- Damveld/Van den berg: Discussions on nuclear waste, Laka Foundation, 2000, p.103
*06- Nagra: Opalinus Clay Project. Demonstration of feasibility of disposal (“Entsorgungsnachweis”) for spent fuel, vitrified high-level waste and long-lived intermediate-level waste, December 2002, p.7
*07- M. Fritschi: Standortwahl, (Site selection) in: Nagra Informiert, Nr. 24, June 1994, p.6-12
*08-Luzerner Neuste Nachrichten: Nagra scheitert am Wellenberg, (Nagra fails at Wellenberg) 26 June 1995
*09- Nagra Report: Was halten die Nidwaldner von Wellenberg? (What does population of Nidwalden think of Wellenberg?), Nr. 1/1996, p. 2-3
*10- Nucleonics Week: New Wellenberg studies confirm its safety and feasibility, 24 September 1998, p. 9-10
*11- Nagra News: Sondierstollen in Wellenberg abgelehnt –Wie geht es weiter? (Exploratory tunnels in Wellenberg rejected –How to continue?), December 2002, p.1
*12- NEA/OECD: The control of safety of radioactive waste management and decommissioning in Switzerland, 2011
*13- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, (Time to act), November 2008
*14- Allianz Nein zu neuen AKW: Nidwalden will keinen Atommüll – Atomstrom schon (Nidwalden does not want nuclear waste, but nuclear electricity), 14 February 2011
*15: Das Schweizer Parlament: Curia Vista, Zusammenfassung: 01.022; "MoratoriumPlus" und "Strom ohne Atom". Volksinitiativen und Kernenergiegesetz
*16- Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “Das nationale Endlager wird zur lokalen Frage; Neuartiges Partizipationsverfahren zur Atommüll-Tiefenlagerung”;   10 december 2009
*17- Tagesanzeiger, “Nagra zahlt für Endlager-Regionen”, 5 december 2010
*18- Nagra: Zeit zum Handeln, November 2008
*19- Energie & Umwelt: Das Atommuellproblem ist nicht geloest (The nuclear waste problem has not been solved), Schweizerische Energie Stiftung, 3/20, May 2010
*20- Bundesrat: Standortsuche für geologische Tiefenlager: Bundesrat legt sechs Gebiete fest und startet Etappe 2 (Search for geological disposal sites: Federal Council sets six sites and starts Stage 2), 1 December 2011
*21- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Die 12 ungelösten Fragen der Schweizer Atommüllentsorgung, (The 12 unanswered questions about the Swiss radioactive waste disposal), December 2011
*22- Schweizerische Energie Stiftung: Atommüll-Fragen müssen jetzt geklärt werden (Radioactive waste questions must be answered now), 9 January 2012
*23- Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Endlager-Standorte haben keine Garantie auf Entschädigung (Final disposal sites have no right for compensation),  6 March 2012