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EIA process
The construction phase of the PBMR project was subject to obtaining a positive Record of Decision (RoD) on the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study. To this end, Eskom (as the client for the demonstration reactor project at Koeberg) and Necsa (as the client for the pilot fuel plant at Pelindaba), conducted comprehensive EIAs which started as far back as 1999 with the appointment of a consortium of independent consultants.
The subsequent EIA processes included extensive public participation, numerous interactions and public meetings and extended periods for comment. This culminated in the submission of the Final Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) in October 2002. The evaluation of the final EIRs by the DEAT and an International Review Panel appointed by DEAT was undertaken, leading to the issuing of positive RoDs on the PBMR demonstration module and pilot fuel plant by the Director General (DG) of DEAT in June 2003.
The DG found both the power plant and fuel projects were, with some conditions, acceptable from an environmental impact perspective. He said the process of getting departmental approval for the proposed manufacture of the reactor and the associated fuel plant at Pelindaba had involved an elaborate investigation over three years. "Thorough environmental impact assessments were undertaken and the outcome of these studies indicated that the environmental impact of the development was acceptable," he said.
He also expressed his satisfaction about the public participation process. "As part of this process, adequate provision has been made for the public to participate and to raise issues of concern. These have been thoroughly documented and addressed."
During 2004, the anti-nuclear activist group Earthlife Africa filed an application to have the RoD for the demonstration reactor project overturned. In January 2005, the Cape High Court ruled in favour of Earthlife Africa and set aside the demonstration reactor RoD. The Judge ruled the DG had to allow Earthlife Africa and other stakeholders to make written submissions which he has to consider before making a new decision. The Judge said it was clear from the evidence on record that the DG's decision was preceded by a protracted process involving public participation on a wide scale and that, by and large, the "process was conducted in a manner that was thorough and fair".
The court ruling and design changes to the PBMR reactor which allowed for an increase in the nominal thermal output of the demonstration reactor from 302 to 400 MW prompted Eskom to enter into a new EIA process for the demonstration reactor project. To this end, a revised final scoping report was made available to the public in January 2007.
Although the content of the scoping document is relevant to PBMR technology, it represented an activity taking place outside of PBMR.
In January 2007, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism upheld the positive RoD for the pilot fuel plant EIA. This would have enabled PBMR and Necsa to go full steam ahead with the establishment of the pilot fuel plant. This would, subject to certain conditions, permit the construction of a pilot fuel plant on receipt of a nuclear authorization from the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). The Minister's decision covered the establishment of a fuel manufacturing plant at Pelindaba, the storage, handling and process facilities for the raw materials and fuels, the transport of raw material from Durban to Pelindaba and the transport of manufactured fuel from Pelindaba to Koeberg in the Western Cape.
Last Updated: 6 February 2017
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