AfriForum & Andrew Kenny — should the nuclear industry be pizza-boxed?

NUCLEAR pundits had a ball this weekend. While Andrew Kenny was trolling female environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg, behaving much the same way as his namesake Andrew Tate, who is currently incarcerated in Romania for running a ‘lover-boy’ sex scam, AfriForum announced they were starting an energy company to resurrect the failed PBMR programme.

PBMR was cancelled due to problems with ‘pebble-to-pebble’ scratching resulting in graphite dust. The dust is considered radioactive ‘due to absorption of radioactive fission products released, namely cesium, iodine, and silver’ but more likely also laced with radionuclides which arise much in the same way as similar problems at Koeberg, where Tritium or Elemental Tritium is thought to be the agent responsible for turning the plants nickel parts into radioactive Cobalt-58. You can read my previous report here.

Instability of the graphite-coated uranium pebbles is thus the main reason for the project’s cancellation, and it would cost billions more than the original R10 billion sunk development, to solve the problem, which was referred to by an independent report, submitted during the nuclear hearings sponsored by the Dept of Environmental Affairs. There is also no containment structure in the actual design, “perhaps to make the design economically feasible,” according to Anthony Frogget, a researcher at Heinrich Boll Stiftung. 

Crumbling White Privilege

Crumbling uranium pebbles were the least of Kenny’s worries this weekend. In his predatory opinion piece published by Daily Friend, the ageing promoter of nuclear power, who calls himself “a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal”, refers to the Swede, as “dreadful Greta Thunberg” and “the green mascot of wealth and privilege”.

The obviously privileged, creepy white guy openly salivates over his subject matter, claiming “she is being used by the rich green establishment in the same way that photogenic young girls were used by Hollywood talent scouts to become child movie stars.” Railing laboriously against “her privilege, arrogance, and ignorance” which he finds “quite repellent”, Kenny nevertheless states: “a friend tells me I should regard her as a victim.”

Kenny could well discover his true identity as a celebrity cheese-head, just like Andrew Tate, the recipient of a pizza box raid by the child porn and human trafficking brigade?

I can’t help but wonder what other salubrious material Kenny has stashed on his hard-drive, since a nuclear-porn pundit and an organisation geared towards the rights of ‘Afrikaners’, would make for strange bed-mates indeed? Need I mention the fate of Jeremy Clarkson, another curmudgeon censured for hate?

Kenny then proceeds to trot out absolute lies, claiming  “nobody was harmed by the radiation” caused by Fukishima. This is even one less person than that other fatuous fart of an anti-environmentalist Ivo Vegter would admit, you can read my earlier response to Vegter pointing out a recapitulation of a 2013 report ‘stating a radiation-induced increase in thyroid cancer incidence’ amongst the public where the authors reported ‘a 50-fold (95% CI: 25, 90) excess in Fukushima Prefecture.’

Twitter debate

This weekend also saw an online twitter debate with podcaster Hügo Krüger, who supports AfriForum’s PBMR project, but nevertheless accepts the Linear No-Threshold (LT) model of radiation exposure is the prevailing medical model. He appears to claim LNT should be replaced by the Linear Threshold model (LT). Is he aware the nuclear industry has a habit of altering radiation exposure limits to suit themselves?

Krüger, offered up some trenchant criticism of LNT, but was unable to respond to my questions regarding the ‘bioaccumulation of radionuclides up the food chain’. In particular the problem that most fission products released into the environment tend to accumulate via meat, dairy, shellfish and wheat, arriving in human tissue, organs & bones. Radioiodine collects in the thyroid gland, whereas radium & strontium accumulate chiefly in bones.

All are beta emitters and consequently hazardous to human health.

Afterword: I would be in remiss if I failed to mention Peter Becker axing from the National Nuclear Regulator by Gwede Mantashe, was ruled unconstitutional by the High Court. Readers may know Becker as the coordinator for the Koeberg Alert Alliance, an organisation concerned with nuclear safety.

No Mr President, your narrative isn’t true.

Dear Ed,

President Zuma’ recent comments on the “nuclear programme” refers.

The narrative provided by President Zuma isn’t true. In a recent address the president suggests it was pressure from the West which lead “the apartheid government to dismantle its nuclear weapons and programmes before the Communist Bloc-backed ANC could take over power at the end of the Cold War.”

Not only does he forget that the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and thus the movement which rose to power in 1994  had no backing from the ‘Communist Block’ as such, but he is being a little disingenuous when he attributes our nation’s constitutional imperatives to tinkering by the West.

The campaign against nuclear energy was part and parcel of the campus revolts and anti-apartheid movement during the 1980s. Environmental groups such as Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, campaigned alongside anti-apartheid activists, linking apartheid and the environment, during successive periods and under the banner “forward to a non-racist, non-sexist, nuclear-free continent”.

Although South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme was ostensibly abandoned in 1989. It was the Treaty of Pelindaba, requiring that parties “will not engage in the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by treaty parties”, which came into effect on 15 July 2009, ratified by 28 countries, which achieved the end-result. The African Commission on Nuclear Energy, was thus set up in order to verify compliance with the treaty,

None of this would have been possible, if the first conference on Environment and Development, held at UWC and attended by representatives from recently unbanned political parties had not accepted environmental justice and sustainable development as policies for our country. It was thus pressure from the broad campaign for environmental justice on the African continent which resulted in the eventual capitulation by the apartheid government and in turn the dismantling of the nuclear programme, alongside subsequent initiatives.

It is no surprise then that South Africa is the first country in the world to enshrine ‘ecological sustainable development’ in its constitution and to willingly give up its nuclear weapons programme. As such our Constitution adopted the peace principles and environmental priorities that defined us as a nation, and this without any intervention required by the Western Powers.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis
Cape Times 8 Nov 2017 Letter DR Lewis

Energy commons a way out of Eskom’s debt trap?

OPPOSITION leaders, including Musi Maimane and Mosiuoa Lekota have called for an end to the anti-privatisation fiasco, but the solutions on the table need not entail the wholesale privatisation of state assets.

Moving South Africa forward to a better economic future could include the creation of an energy commons. In this scenario Eskom would become merely the operator of the national grid. Allowing the generation of electricity to form the basis for new enterprises, each of which could compete for access to the consumer, by providing a host of services, including the provisioning of technology.

Think of mobile phone companies and the convergence which has occurred on the Internet. New virtual electricity companies could provide consumers with choices including access to dishwashers, microwave ovens and other household technology — choices in renewable energy, women-friendly companies and other solutions that are just not available under the current system.

An energy commons that served as a repository of energy for the good of the nation, would allow greater competition at the same time as maintaining government control over the fiscus. Thus un-economical energy systems and bankrupt energy companies would be allowed to whither away and die. Only the most efficient energy providers would be allowed to survive, removing the need for annual bail-outs.

Essentially what South Africans (and especially small business) require the most, is cost-effective wattage hours. But doing this would require the removal of the inefficient, apartheid-era, extractive and exploitative sale of bulk electricity, the system which has been the backbone of municipalities since the days of race segregation. Under the current regime, Eskom sells electricity to local municipalities who in turn sell energy to the consumer, resulting in a profit pyramid scheme.

Creating a more  horizontal energy system that is localised and avoids wastage associated with highly centralised projects and transmission over distance, (some 6-15% of electricity is lost this way) presents a number of gains for the consumer. Instead of draining our economy, we would see new enterprises, greater employment and a bigger tax-base.

Allowing municipalities to invest in new energy start-ups, in the same way as the government owns shares in Vodacom, could provide a way out of this cash cow problem. Instead, Minister Nene is now selling these “non-core stakes” to cover his administration’s bail-out of moribund and inefficient state-enterprises.

Think of the national grid as the backbone, and the energy commons as a pool of energy into which energy providers contribute, thus providing access to basic services, and then where value-added services are bolted to this mix, is one way of looking at the solution.

A 1998 White Paper, recommended that Eskom  be split into separate generation and transmission companies to “assist the introduction of competition into electricity generation”. Reform of a bloated “vertically integrated” monopoly that controls electricity supply from start to finish has been stymied by labour demands that boil down to maintaining a dirigiste economy in the form of state capitalism.

South Africa inherited the apartheid state apparatus, which included Eskom and Telkom. These two monopolies are government-run corporate entities known as parastatels. Both are dependent on annual bail-outs from the treasury.

The cost of the latest Eskom bail-out has been included in the 2015 budget announced by Minister Nene at a whopping R23bn, and this comes upon rate hikes and increases in the cost of Eskom services to the consumer.

Nene’s rationale for maintaining the monopoly is exactly the same rationale as previous ANC administrations: “30% of South African’s do not enjoy access to electricity, Eskom is the only way we can provide them with services”. The policy of maintaining an energy monopoly which is responsible for most energy generation, while gradually opening up the market to a minority of new Independent Power Producers, has meant this figure has remained unchanged. In other words, like our unemployment figures, the percentage of South African’s without electricity remains the same, since enterprise development is not able to keep up with the countries increase in population.*

Another factor is the peculiar ideological focus of the ruling alliance. The ruling party is in reality a centre-left alliance of union and business factions. The ANC thus balances its business interests with the interests of unions and the SACP resulting in a beast not unlike Dr Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu. The downgrading of Eskom’s debt and the inquiry into its operations (there is only one electrical engineer on Eskom’s board) all point to a crisis in South Africa’s energy sector.

At the end of the day it is the consumer who stands to benefit from greater choice in energy providers that would be provided by a more efficient energy commons.

* South Africa’s population grew by 15/5% since the ANC came to power in 1994. A one-child-per-family policy as implemented in China and the basis for the country’s current economic success, could prevent the increase of the population from 52 million to 100 million over the next two decades.


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