Samuel Mungadze and Yolande Stander
ENERGY Minister Dipuo Peters threw her support behind the controversial Thyspunt proposed nuclear plant yesterday – but her stance was immediately countered by a St Francis Bay group saying the plant would be disastrous for the area.
At the Nuclear Africa conference in Johannesburg‚ Peters said the Eastern Cape was on track to become South Africa's energy hub and that government was willing to implement a nuclear energy programme with the urgency it deserved.
Eskom is planning its first nuclear plant in the region at Thyspunt, near Cape St Francis, and a final environmental impact assessment (EIA) report is expected no later than August.
According to the minister‚ the delay in the nuclear plant's construction was due to the government's desire to ensure the country obtained maximum industrial participation.
But Thyspunt Alliance, St Francis Bay Residents' Association and Kromme Trust member Hilton Thorpe said Peters's backing of the project was horrifying.
"They will turn a beautiful rural region into an industrial area – just look at what happened in Mossel Bay. It destroyed the town's character," Thorpe said.
One of the biggest problems anti-nuclear groups foresee with the project is its impact on chokka fishing. The industry employs more than 4000 people and contributes about R500million to the economy.
In her speech in Johannesburg, Peters said: "The Eastern Cape has positioned itself as an energy hub – wind‚ solar‚ but also the potential of shale gas. If you add the cherry on the top‚ nuclear‚ this makes the province an industrial hub."
The government recently said it wanted private-sector participation in large infrastructure programmes‚ and cited an example of the renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme‚ which attracted R46.6-billion worth of investments.