Thyspunt is a prime candidate for a nuclear site. “It is one of the best in the world,” nuclear physicist, Dr Kelvin Kemm, CEO of Nuclear Africa told a mini nuclear summit held in St Francis Bay last week. Nucelar Africa is a nuclear project management company based in Pretoria.
If a nuclear power plant is built at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape it will be essentially invisible from the land unless one were to drive down the access road to the site, Dr Kemm told the 40-odd invited guests to the summit held at St Francis Links Golf Estate.
Kouga Municipality invited Nuclear Africa, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and Eskom to present the summit to discuss the proposed nuclear power plant at Thyspunt and the implications for the area.
The summit was by invitation only and present were Kouga councillors, the media and various stake holders, including representatives of various resident associations in Kouga. The three main speakers were Dr Kemm, Gert Greef environmental manager for Eskom and Xolisa Mabhonga, group executive corporate for Necsa.
Dr Kemm said from the sea the reactors would appear no larger than existing hotels at Port Elizabeth. “A nuclear plant is totally silent and produces no emissions.”
On nuclear waste, Dr Kemm said the high level nuclear waste produced is in the form of spent fuel elements, “which by the way, in their spent state are more valuable than gold.” He added that the volume of spent fuel is so small that the annual total will fit in one small truck.
“The total high level waste produced in half a century can be stored on site quite safely, if need be. In any event South Africa possesses one of the best nuclear waste repositories in the world in the Northern Cape at a place called Vaalputs,” Dr Kemm added.
Those present at the meeting were either pro nuclear, anti-nuclear, or were not anti-nuclear but against the development of a power plant at Thyspunt. The latter group belonging to the Thsypunt Alliance want a nuclear plant to be built elsewhere as they believe the Thyspunt site is completely unsuitable.
In response to concerns and criticisms raised, Dr Kemm said he totally disagreed with them that Thyspunt is not a good site. “The distinct possibility of a nuclear power plant coming to Thyspunt within months is an opportunity to be grasped with enthusiasm.
“The region will grow and evolve,” Dr Kemm said indicating that that an entire town will be built for workers to live in and an entire infrastructure will happen in seven years or eight years. And he added that property prices will be going up when nuclear comes.
A concern was also raised from the Thyspunt Alliance and the St Francis Bay Residents Association that there was a serious problem of people settling in St Francis looking for jobs with the nuclear power station, but they were unskilled and needed training. Dr Kemm agreed there are potential social problems in St Francis through the influx of people looking for jobs.
He also agreed they needed training but maintained many jobs would not need high level university diplomas to do, for example welding type jobs – the persons hired needed diligence and accuracy.