Letters to the editor: September 5 to 11 2014

Nuclear talk just puff

Much like an undertaker painting a rosy hue on the cheeks of a favoured relative before the final viewing, Xolisa Mabhongo makes a good job of attempting to paint a rosy hue on the dying nuclear industry (Nuclear energy enjoying a renaissance).

Examining the facts, however, paints quite a different picture.

For example, as part of his good story, Mabhongo writes that “more than 70 new nuclear reactors are currently under construction”.

The International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), a United Nations body formed to promote the use of nuclear power, maintains a global database of commercial nuclear reactors that lists 70 reactors “under construction”.

One of these is Watts Bar-2, on which construction began in 1972. Forty-two years later, instead of classifying this as the economic failure it so clearly is, the IAEA continues to list it as being “under construction”.


Another two “under construction” are Khmelnitski-3 and Khmelnitski-4 in the Ukraine, home of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. These have been “under construction” since 1986 and 1987 respectively. It is not difficult to imagine why these projects were abandoned. But, 28 years later, Mabhongo considers them evidence for the nuclear renaissance story.

Only nine are in the West (eight if Watts Bar-2 is excluded). Only two are in Europe, and one of those is Olkiluoto-3, first planned to be completed in 2009 and the subject of a bitter, long-running €2.6-billion legal battle. Hardly a success story.

More than half of the 70 are in Russia and China, countries not famed for their transparency or for their safety or environmental standards.

The truth is that nuclear power is dying in the West. It is only surviving in countries where public opinion does not carry much weight.

A detailed analysis of the other “facts” presented, such as the claim that the nuclear energy industry is experiencing growth, or that pebble-bed modular reactor technology is catching on, will show that Mabhongo is being, to put it kindly, wildly optimistic.

He works for the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa), a public company that aims to extract profit from nuclear power. Perhaps it would be appropriate to include the word “advertorial” above any future Necsa article in your paper. – Peter Becker, Koeberg Alert Alliance

• Necsa’s right of reply does not correspond to the facts. Its spokesperson claims there is a “true renaissance of nuclear power” but evades informing Mail & Guardian readers that the calculations of even a supporter of nuclear power, Professor Philip Lloyd of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, indicate that the cost of electricity from new nuclear power stations would be quadruple – 400% – that of electricity from imported hydropower and imported gas.

Atomic power and wind are technologies from cold countries that lack the options South Africa enjoys. The current cost of electricity from solar photovoltaics has now dropped below the retail price of electricity charged by our municipalities. Electricity from concentrated solar power, with storage for the sunset peak usage, now costs less than energy from the diesel-fired peaking plants at Ankerlig and Gourikwa.

Mabhongo himself emphasises the need to reduce poverty to ensure that electricity is affordable. His own reasoning rules out nuclear power, which is ruinously expensive compared with imported hydropower and gas. – Keith Gottschalk, Cape Town


Less talk, more work will give DA Youth more clout

The article on the Democratic Alliance Youth (Ntuli: DA youth issues can be fixed) ignores the following questions: Why is the DA Youth being restructured to be more effective if the party does not care about its youth? Why did the DA Youth itself make the restructuring proposals (unanimously supported by the DA leadership) if there are such tensions?

The truth is that the current youth structure lends itself to one-off glamour events rather than hard work on the ground. It is precisely because we want the youth from all communities to come to the fore that the DA has embarked on restructuring.

Strongly supported by party leader Helen Zille, it will entrench youth representation at DA branch level (where it can have the most relevant impact). It will develop a pipeline of diverse young leaders at all levels, create a stand-alone organisation for tertiary students and give the youth direct access to decisions on the party’s budgets.

Frankly, less talk and more work will be expected from the DA Youth in future and the people to do this are already emerging.

No party takes its up-and-coming young leaders as seriously as the DA does, which is why they are emerging as leaders in the top ranks of the party itself, not only in an ancillary youth organisation.

With apologies to Virgil, some advice to political journalists: “Beware of desktop politicians (anonymously) bearing grudges.” – Thomas Walters, MP, deputy chairperson of the DA Federal Council


Zuma refuses to be a friend of the truth

In all the finals of his court battles, Jacob Zuma loses (Spy tapes release may not end with Zuma in the dock). In the most recent finals, Zuma was defeated 3-0 by the Economic Freedom Fighters and 5-0 by the Democratic Alliance.

Kemp J Kemp has failed to win any case in court for Zuma, except the rape charge. Today, our president is advised by Kemp and Michael Hulley, once the legal representative of the taxi industry that blocked the taxi recapitalisation programme.

What is Zuma hiding in these spy tapes? Our president has refused to be a friend of truth; he chooses lies. He is an enemy of moral behaviour.

Jeff Radebe is one of Zuma’s enforcers. His latest task was to remove Mxolisi Nxasana as National Prosecuting Authority head because he was not “co-operating” on the matters of the spy tapes and crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, charged with murder and fraud.

A victory in the spy tapes saga is a victory of and for our Constitution. – Bhekani Skhosana, Bloemfontein

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