NMB residents excluded from Thyspunt EIA public consultations

BY SUPPLIED - OCTOBER 28, 2015

As South Africa contemplates building nuclear power stations along the coast, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultants, GIBB, are holding public meetings to discuss their recently released draft report. The proposed nuclear builds are in Thyspunt (80 km outside Port Elizabeth) and Duynefontein (next to Koeberg, 30 km outside Cape Town).

“Thyspunt is the preferred site for Nuclear 1,” says Gary Koekemoer from NoPEnuke, “and no public meetings were scheduled for the Nelson Mandela Bay area thereby excluding 1.1-million citizens from this process. Further, it is our view that the current EIA process is fundamentally flawed with key information excluded.”

This EIA is the third draft published over eight years and was made available for scrutiny by GIBB consultants at the end of September.

“The draft is a 40,000 page document and a quick count of words in the appendices making up the specialists’ reports alone showed that one would have to read around 90,000 words a day just to skim read it all before the public meetings were held,” says Peter Becker from the Koeberg Alert Alliance.

Widespread dissatisfaction has been expressed from many stakeholders around the limited time period allowed for public participation.

At the meetings, GIBB condensed their findings into a simplified scoring system for risks with ratings of Low, Moderate, High, or Fatally Flawed.

“The scoring system is inadequate,” says Dr. Piet Human, project leader at the Bantamsklip Organisation. “The scores do not have a scientific or quantitative basis; what is ‘high’ for one may be ‘medium’ for another scientist. This subjectivity is then further compounded by the scores given by GIBBS.”

Becker describes a hypothetical scenario: “If the consultants found that there was a 51% chance that the new nuclear plant would explode catastrophically in the first year of operation, this would not result in a scoring of Fatally Flawed. Their recommendation in this case would be ‘Project can be authorised but with strict conditions and high levels of compliance and enforcement’.”

Bantamsklip was one of the three proposed nuclear sites alongside Thyspunt and Duynefontein but has now been excluded from this Nuclear 1 EIA. However, it remains a viable site for subsequent nuclear builds. A petition of over 10,000 signatures opposing the nuclear build was handed to the GIBB consultants at the Gansbaai meeting.

“We have only had time to look at one specialist report thus far,” continues Dr. Human, “and we reviewed the Social Impact Assessment which is problematic. The technical, scientific and professional credibility of the report is questionable as it uses outdated data, excludes HIV and Gender Related Issues (a new requirement for all large-scale EIA’s in South Africa), and does no comparative analysis of the three sites nor uses recent experiences with large projects such as Medupi.”

The biggest concerns of those in attendance at the meetings included the risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident and the evacuation plan, the environmental impact of radiation leaks into the sea, land or groundwater, the economic impact to the regions concerned owing to the negative perceptions of a nuclear facility in proximity to large-scale business concerns, costs (and the accompanying corruption), political instability and the risk of terrorism, and the massive problem of accumulating high level nuclear waste.

“The decision to build a nuclear plant must be taken with extreme care,” says Koekemoer. “We are concerned that in the gold rush of unsubstantiated promises of development and jobs we have been blinded to Thyspunt’s true value and potential as a significant local and global heritage area.

“Nuclear is not necessary,” he continues. “Renewables are making a significant contribution to our region. In our haste we are only servicing vested interests and it is a decision our grandchildren would shake their heads at.”

Becker concludes, “The GIBB consultants have a legal responsibility to put all the pertinent facts before the decision makers in a complete, unbiased and quantified way in the EIA report. Failing to do so can lead to criminal prosecution in their personal capacities.” There is concern from stakeholders that GIBB is trying to push through this flawed EIA with only token public participation.

The Sea Vista meeting for public participation in St Francis Bay will take place in early November, dates are not yet finalised. The Humansdorp meeting has been rescheduled due to public demand for more time needed and meetings in Nelson Mandela Bay have also been requested but are unconfirmed at this stage.

Submissions may be emailed to [email protected]. The full draft EIA report can be found at http://projects.gibb.co.za/en-us/projects/eskomnuclear1reviseddrafteirversion2 and more information can be found at koebergalert.org, bantamsklip.org and noPEnuke.co.za.