South Africa first built nuclear reactors in the 1980s with help from France. The power plants created ostensible justification for the building of enrichment plants, but the main output of the latter was highly enriched uranium dedicated to supplying a nuclear weapons programme. This was cancelled on the eve of the democratic transition, and no one has been held to account for developing weapons of mass destruction. The current government tried in vain to develop a pebble bed reactor but had to give up after costs proved excessive and because the project was going nowhere. In the wake of an electricity shortage, it has once again turned to nuclear to provide part of the energy mix. By the end of 2012, it intended to order around 8 new reactors at a value of ZAR300 billion (although commentators predicted cost escalations to over three times that amount), the largest contract ever put to tender by the government. This project aimed at securing 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear power. It is opposed by many EJOs, local, national and global, who argue that in the wake of Fukushima this is a risky path to energy security, cannot address climate change, will lead to greater national debt, and cannot resolve questions of high level waste, which will burden many future generations.
One of the 8 new reactors was proposed to be sited at Bantams-klip,10 kilometers away from coastal village and natural reserve Pearly Beach. Other proposed sites included Brazil, in the Kleinsee area of the Northern Cape, Duynefontein near the existing Koeberg Power Station, Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape, and Thyspunt, near Cape St. Francis in the Eastern Cape . The plans to build the proposed 4,000 megawatt Bantams-klip nuclear station were created without local consent, much to the outrage of the public and organizations such as Earthlife Africa [1, 2]. Eskom bought 1,838 hectares of land for the site. Earthlife Africa coordinator Maya Aberman criticized the siting choice, as Pearly Beach was a pristine area without any infrastructure needed to build a new plant planned to be the size of Koeberg. Consequently, infrastructure such as overhead power lines would additionally have to be built, causing additional environmental risk. Moreover, an environmental impact analysis (EIA) found that the project would threaten two endangered wild plant species as well as one of South Africa’s rarest endemic coastal breeding bird species, the African black oyster-catcher . Aberman, a prominent antinuclear activist, added that environmental and socio-economic assessments especially on the poor were ignored, as the push for nuclear energy would exacerbate racial, class, and gender inequalities. She and her colleagues at Earthlife would continue to campaign, protest, and pursue litigation against the nuclear plans [1, 3]. Ultimately, the proposed sites, including those in Brazil and Schulpfontein, were ruled out owing to their EIAs. In 2017, Duynefontein, next to the already existing Koeberg nuclear power station, was then chosen and greenlit by the government to be the site for the reactor, though building will not start until ten or fifteen years from now [4, 2]. (See less)