Pebble-bed study 'fatally flawed'

A key assessment document for the proposed pebble bed modular reactor was fatally flawed, the Public Service Accountability Monitor said on Tuesday.

A decision on whether to go ahead with a PBMR demonstration project involved choices on the use of substantial public resources, the Grahamstown-based NGO said.

It said the socioeconomic impact assessment (SEIA) carried out on the project did not give the public the information it needed to participate meaningfully in these decisions.

It said the SEIA was based on a proposal for a 400 megawatt demonstration unit.

However the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor website now said the reactor was “designated DPP200”.

This suggested that the project had become a 200 megawatt design.

While the SEIA was based on a single-stage direct cycle design, it was clear that PBMR was currently redesigning the demonstration model.

PBMR chief executive Jaco Kriek had been quoted as saying that “we want to complete it [the design] by about two years from now”.

“It is not possible or plausible to assess the socioeconomic impact of a [reactor] whose size and design is uncertain or unknown,” the PSAM said.

“Since both the size and design of the proposed [reator] now differ from those on which the SEIA was based, it follows that the assessment of the socioeconomic impact contained in the current SEIA must be revised.”

Nor were there any credible timelines in the planning of the project or the SEIA, making any meaningful assessment of the socioeconomic impact impossible.

“Accountable governance requires justifications for the use of public resources, and this in turn requires consideration of opportunity costs,” PSAM said.

“The PSAM believes that the SEIA is fundamentally flawed in this regard, since it provides no valid opportunity cost to the proposed project.” - Sapa


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