Eskom has been given the go-ahead to develop a new nuclear plant. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has authorised the final Environmental Impact Report for a power station at Duynefontein, next to the existing Koeberg power station in the Western Cape.

Eskom gets go ahead for new nuclear plantThe DEA investigated five sites for the nuclear plant, including Brazil and Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape, Bantamsklip and Duynefontein in the Western Cape, and Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape. Following the scoping phase, Brazil and Schulpfontein have been excluded from further environmental studies. The other sites are still usable in the future as no “fatal flaws” have been identified, Eskom said in a statement.

Construction at Duynefontein will only begin once the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) has granted an installation site license. The project will comprise the construction and operation of a Generation III pressurised water reactor type nuclear power station of up to 4 000 MWe, including two or three nuclear reactor units and associated infrastructure.

Reuters reports that Eskom has welcomed the authorization, with Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Dave Nicholls saying that this is considered an “important milestone” in developing the country’s nuclear programme. “The granted authorisation is confirmation of the adequacy of the extensive work undertaken,” he said.

The new plant will be almost double Koeberg’s 1 800 MW capacity, helping Eskom achieve its goal of adding 9 600 MW of nuclear capacity to the country’s power supply. However, reports indicate that environmental activists who successfully challenged the government’s nuclear programme in court would probably appeal the decision, pending their evaluation of the environmental permit.

“This is creating regulatory confusion and chaos because you might end up with one authority who has authorised and the other one, the NNR, may potentially come to a different decision and say it is too risky and shouldn’t go ahead,” said Liz McDaid, of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute.

An April 2017 high court ruling in favour of Earthlife Africa (ELA) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) set aside the contentious nuclear deal between Russia’s Rosatom and South Africa, as well as a number of other deals, after it found that the procurement processes were illegal and not in line with constitutionally sound administrative decision-making.

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