Reaction to TV programme on nuclear at Thyspunt
By Bev Mortimer
All sections of the St Francis community that is divided on the issue of a nuclear power staion being built at Thyspunt lauded the airing of a Thyspunt documentary on the TV programme 50-50 on Monday 5 September .
The show was widely watched and praised by St Francis residents . Two Cape St Francis members of the Thyspunt Alliance went to the filming of the programme.
Richard Cowling, a PE university botanist professor and one of the leaders of the ‘Origins of Man theory on the Western Cape coast’ theory, was invited to the filming. Trudi Malan of the Thyspunt Alliance also particpated in the programme’s creation and was given a leading part. The other people interviewed or who made comments on the programme were mainly from Eskom.
The Thyspunt Alliance is not anti nuclear. It believes the St Francis area is unsuitable for a nuclear plant for a variety of reasons. It wants the nuclear plant built elsewhere in South Africa – “not in our backyard”.
I asked several people to give me their comments. These people are mostly role players or previous role players relative to St Francis Bay.
Once a month there is a Men’s Breakfast in St Francis Bay where speakers are invited to speak on a variety of topics. The one held on 6 September drew a mostly positive response on the programme, according to two people who were there and who gave me their comments. The attendees at the breakfast were highly positive about the way Trudi Malan from the Thyspunt Alliance handled the interview. She was given a standing ovation by all present.
Then I asked community leaders what they thought:
Sandra Hardie: “We thought Trudi did a sterling job and hats off to her. We were gratified that the emphasis was directed at not having a nuclear power plant at Thyspunt. We noted the change of attitude of the Eskom personnel, so different to that of Tony Stott -from being one of total arrogance to being one of trying to be the “nice guy” and being concerned with the views of this community. We hope this is genuine but we have some concerns.”
ShirleyCowling: “The filming in 50/50 captured the beauty and wildness of Thuyspunt – a big thanks to the two Booth-Jones brothers of Cape St Francis for assisting with flights on a perfect morning.
“The debate and opinions on both sides was well orchestrated. Our own Green Hollywood star, Trudi Malan was cool, calm, collected and well informed. In response to Eskom’s claim that the whole coast had been investigated for the location of a nuclear power station, she was most matter-of-fact in pointing out that this was a fallacy as, the original plan under the apartheid regime , totally discounted any of the former homeland coasts of Ciskei and Transkei, including a 100km buffer zone outside of their boundaries. Critics of the filming should be aware that a huge amount of information has to be constrained into a tiny time slot. Under these time constraints, the coverage performed miracles.”
Hilton Thorpe , SF Kromme Trust: “My reaction to the programme, which I have only seen once, was that the 50/50 crew had done a very good job in portraying the St Francis area, and the implications of a NPS here; and that Trudi was brilliant, representing the community extremely well, pointing out the unsuitability of the site and the abuse of the EIA process. It was interesting to see the change in tone on Eskom’s part over the past month or so.
“The Eskom spokesman was all sweet reasonableness, indicating how grateful Eskom was for the input from the local community, and making no attempt to answer points raised by Trudi. This despite the fact that everything we have said over the past two years has been ignored!
“This was in marked contrast to the dogmatic arrogance of the Eskom representatives at recent public meetings held here. However, we should not be complacent. Eskom is still presenting Thyspunt as a done deal in professional quarters, and the Alliance is assuming nothing at this stage.
“Two flagrant untruths were told during the programme. One was that Eskom commissioned a survey of the entire South African coastline during its site investigation programme. This is quite wrong.
“So far as theEastern Capeis concerned, the investigation stopped atAlexandria, because anywhere within 100 km of a ‘homeland’ was considered too great a security risk. This ruled out the whole of theCiskei&Transkei, including one site which was identified as having potential, and which was never followed up.
“The other was a brief statement by Tony Stott that all issues raised by I & APs can be mitigated. There are numerous unmitigable consequences of placing a NPS at Thyspunt, and many of the ‘mitigation’ proposals are little short of puerile.
“My only reservation regarding the programme was that there was no mention of the exclusion of the National Nuclear Regulator from the EIA, and the non-viability of the Thyspunt site in terms of emergency planning. This is a crucial issue which should have been resolved before the EIA was even started. The devious way in which Eskom is seeking to get round this needs to be exposed.”
Mike Kantey of the anti nuclear organisation, CANE:
“Well, I thought that it was very favourable to the Thyspunt Alliance – right up to the point where they gave the Facebook site for everyone with money to go on the Internet and sign up, or at least get theAlliance’s point-of-view.
“No real strategy for mobilisation and resistance was offered, except through the EIA and its concomitant legal process, scheduled to cost R5-million, which ought to make the lawyers happy and content.
“What I didn’t appreciate was the Alliance saying nuclear was “cleaner” than coal!
“The many other players were given minor, supporting roles.”
“Also there was no prominence or voice given to working-class opinion, although they appear to be very much in favour of the plant in the townships, in my experience. So it ends up sounding and looking like a white, middle-class, pressure group,which it isn’t.
“Of course, if the overall plan is to confuse Eskom and their allies, it was great.”
Alan Tonkin, resident: “ The program was well balanced both from a pro and con perspective.
“I thought Trudi Malan came over as being objective, factual and credible. The Richard Cowling section was objective but could have been more forceful.
“Not enough time was spent on detailing the deficiencies in the EIA report by Arcus Gibb. Overall a good impression was created by the Thyspunt Alliance via Trudi.
“Given all of the above I still believe that the decision to go ahead will be approved by Government in terms of providing base load power. What the Alliance need to do is present a strong case for possibly relocating the plant. However, at this late stage with most of the land secured including ‘The Dunes’ this may be too late.
“I thought Eskom were objective within their terms of reference which is to build the power station at Thyspunt”
Helmie Tilders, a member of the Thypsunt Alliance: “Excellent program. Would have liked to see more debate in the studio “talk show”. The Eskom person got away with murder by simply stating that they (Eskom) valued all feedback etc. We have been giving Arcus Gibb (Eskom’s EIA specialists) feedback for nearly 2 years, most/almost all having been ignored to date.”
Some analysts believe that Eskom was unable to answer questions adequately because they were perhaps taken by surprise when asked to comment. “But Eskom did a brilliant PR job in covering up, if that is the case.”
Also some critics felt the TV presenters were rather flippant in the handling of the programme. “This was after all a serious topic – that of nuclear and not a social chat show,” at least one viewer remarked.
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