(We note with grave concern that no meetings [nor deposits of the documents at local libraries] are intended for the Nelson Mandela Bay area. We think this to be a serious and fundamental flaw in the EIA process since there are 1,1 million residents within the NMB area. We have written  to ask that the public participation process be rectified to ensure adequate meetings and availability of the report throughout NMB.)

Do you want a Nuclear Power Plant less than 100 km from Port Elizabeth?

noPEnuke is a people's campaign to oppose the planned Nuclear 1 Power Plant at Thyspunt, 85 km west of Port Elizabeth.

Please take the time to become informed: your silence will be taken as consent.

We hope you will ‘like’ our Facebook page so you can keep abreast of activities. Please contact us if you’d like to be more involved.

How we arrived at a nuclear power plant at Thyspunt

Back in the 1980s, the Apartheid regime was under siege and needed to free itself from reliance on imported power. Not only had it contributed uranium to the NATO powers, but it had its own secret nuclear bomb programme. (Read about South Africa’s nuclear history in Uranium Road by David Fig).

Having already commissioned one Nuclear Power Station (NPP) in 1983-84, the Electricity Supply Commission (Eskom) was asked to identify further coastal sites and Thyspunt was identified as one of five possible sites to build a reactor on South Africa’s coast. For security reasons, the KZN and Transkei sites were excluded.

By the 1990s South Africa had overcommitted to electricity production and was forced to sell its electricity at a deep discount to local and overseas mining interests, such as Anglo-American and what is now BHP Billiton. Nevertheless, former South African nuclear bomb scientists managed to persuade the new Government of National Unity to embark upon a costly and disastrous Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) programme.

By 2008, however, it was clear that the PBMR was not viable. Negotiations had already begun to secure a European Pressurised Reactor (or EPR, designed by AREVA in France) for South Africa, but which was abandoned by Eskom itself for being too expensive. The Government nevertheless persisted in their wish for a “nuclear fleet” in their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010), which called for a total of 9600 MW in electricity produced from nuclear energy.

The Revised Draft Environment Impact Report of 2011 therefore singled out Thyspunt for the first of three sites to be used for a new 3200-MW nuclear power plant.

Why we do not support a Nuclear Power Plant at Thyspunt

  1. Over the last decade, many industrialised countries have started moving away from nuclear power generation. A shift to Renewable Energy (RE) has escalated sharply since the Fukushima disaster with Japan aiming to abandon nuclear by the 2030s.
  2. “Spent nuclear fuel is a ‘ticking time bomb’”. Even if nuclear energy generation stops tomorrow, the world will sit with the highly dangerous remnants for millennia to come (see later in this article).
  3. If South Africa does build a NPP, Thyspunt is a highly unsuitable location. The earmarking of Thyspunt has been a very touchy issue. Many feel that the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) have not taken all the factors into account. The Thyspunt Alliance (TPA) has forced the Environmental Impact Assessment process to a third draft, now due in June/July 2013. (See EIA & comments on 2nd draft ). The public should be aware of the many problems relating to the selection of Thyspunt as a site to build a Nuclear Power Plant:

Unlike in modern, industrialised countries, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) has not been involved in the site selection process. Eskom has already bought the land, but only after it actually applies for its licence will the NNR step in and evaluate the site. The fear is that, because there is no pressure for public engagement before application, the public will not have time to respond adequately. Hence, of course, the need for organisations like the Thyspunt Alliance and noPEnuke to raise awareness.

If the NNR had been involved in site selection, it would long ago have become blatantly clear that the site is not suitable:

a)    Prevailing winds: According to the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for Air Quality, p69, Eskom (1987), believed “that the dominant wind direction in this region is from the west northwest to northwest.” Further down the page, the report states more correctly, that “according to the 21-month observations at Thyspunt, westerly winds dominate.” According to SA Weather, it’s West-South-West – onshore towards Port Elizabeth.

This is important. In event of a major accident on scales of Chernobyl and Fukushima (INES-7 in IAEA language) it would be impossible to evacuate St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis, Jeffries Bay including informal settlements within the required 8 minutes and, if necessary, Port Elizabeth & surrounding communities, within the required 4 hours (based on average wind speed of 12 knots/22km p/hr).This is where Port Elizabeth is situated with respect to prevailing winds:

Prevailing winds for Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth may become a ‘no-go’ zone if rain from contaminated clouds passes over it. A meltdown scenario is not considered in the aforementioned EIA. Any survivors will suffer health problems and/or children with birth defects for the rest of their lives. Find more on the long term worldwide impact of radiation accidents in Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War edited by Michel Chossudovsky.

What’s more, the selected site is within the 1 in 100 year flood line from the sea. There’s a 1 in 1.8 probability of a flood occurring in the lifetime of the plant. Worse odds than a coin toss. 

Find out if your insurance company will pay you out if you have to abandon your house or business. You won’t be surprised by the answer.

In the event of meltdown, the government (i.e. you, the taxpayer) will somehow have to resettle and compensate the entire region for loss of health, income & property.

b)    Regarding evacuation: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) oversees  Emergency Planning Zones (EPZs). People are evacuated to EPZs according to how serious an incident is. Here are the normal EPZ sizes used across the world:

i)    Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ): 3 - 5km away from the NPP
ii)    Urgent Protective action Zone: 10 - 15km away from the NPP
iii)    LPZ: Long term Protective Zone: 80 - 300km away from the NPP

Although they claim to use international guidelines, Eskom plans to reduce these zones to:

i)    Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ): 800m away from the NPP
ii)    Urgent Protective action Zone: 5km away from the NPP
iii)    LPZ: Long term Protective Zone: 20km away from the NPP

What’s more, Eskom plans to build the NPP without any short-term emergency evacuation plans.

Are they serious? But that’s also OK because the nuclear industry puts meltdown risk 1 in 16 667 (They won’t say that; they’ll say 1 in a million, but when pressed they admit that they really mean 1 in 16 667). The world has seen 3 meltdowns since 1977 (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl & Fukushima). That’s 3 in 43 years. That’s nowhere near 1 in 16 667 and definitely a long way from 1 in a million. The nuclear industry’s statistical data and its interpretation is bogus. Even if safety had tripled, given that safety does improve over time, their hypothesis is flawed.

c)    Technology installed at Thyspunt will be (old) Generation 2, since Generation 3 is too expensive. See also here. This alone should ring the alarm bells. Already the clear message is: safety comes second (if that) to cost. (We only have to look to Fukushima, where the disaster exposed long time neglect of vital safety steps). NOTE: When we recently tackled the NNR about this they were evasive, claiming that it wasn’t actually decided yet which technology Eskom would use. There should not even be a debate since the NNR claims that “no cost can be attached to a human life” (and let’s not forget the vast animal, plant and sea life with whom we share the planet).

d)    The nuclear industry states that many jobs will be created. The construction phase (7-9 years) will create a maximum of 2000 low level jobs, an influx of job seekers and thereafter about 1000 mostly low level permanent jobs. High level jobs will be filled mostly by overseas technicians/engineers. Top nuclear experts are not so easy to come by and we would be competing with countries with deeper pockets.

However, at the same time, the chokka industry will be destroyed, and 4000 similar jobs will be lost. Yes you heard right. See here for the Thyspunt Alliance’s many responses to the flaws in the various EIA’s conducted for marine & dune ecology etc.

e)    Thyspunt will cost taxpayers around R 250 billion which will be recovered FROM YOU through taxes & increased electricity tariffs. This money is better spent actively promoting ENERGY EFFICIENCY and developing renewable energy sources like solar, wind (more here) and tide which will potentially create more sustainable, local jobs than coal and/or nuclear. While Renewable Energy (RE) cannot sustain baseload at the moment, the industry is in its infancy. Already there is a firm strategy to have South Africa accessing 20% of its baseload from renewable energy by the 2020s.

f)      It’s often argued that nuclear power is emission-free, but that's only if you conveniently ignore the rest of the nuclear cycle which emits about double what renewable technologies emit currently. Nuclear energy is touted as the only way the world can avoid climate chaos resulting from a 2% temperature rise. The world must reduce emissions by 90% before 2050 or else. However, to meet this deadline, emissions must peak in 2015, then fall by 6-8% between 2020 and 2040. Even if nuclear power was as safe, clean & cheap as the industry tries to convince us, the world cannot physically build enough NPPs in time. It will be 2023-30 before Thyspunt comes online. To beat the climate change deadline, we MUST stop pouring money into nuclear energy, and fast track energy efficiency and centralized AND decentralized renewable technology.

A gateway to Africa:

Thyspunt is only one of three new sites planned, at a cost of at least a trillion rands. Simply by implementing energy efficiency policies & technology, we could HALVE our consumption, not even taking the fledgling renewables technology into account. And an all but FULLY renewable economy is possible by 2050. Thuyspunt is not about supplying our energy needs, it's about expanding into Africa for profit.


The writing is on the wall. The nuclear energy experiment has proved too dangerous and too costly, especially since we have alternatives. In short, “Nuclear energy and Humankind cannot co-exist”.


For more information or to get involved please email us here.