South Africa's proposed nuclear power plant unsafe - study

Members of the media, wearing protective suits and masks, undergo a briefing at Japan's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb 10,2016. South Africa's Thyspunt plant could be at risk of similar devastation to Fukushima, say exp
Members of the media, wearing protective suits and masks, undergo a briefing at Japan's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb 10,2016. South Africa's Thyspunt plant could be at risk of similar devastation to Fukushima, say experts.PHOTO: REUTERS

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) - South African power provider Eskom has proposed building a nuclear power station on a site that may be at risk of surge storms and tsunamis, a geological report suggests, but the state-owned utility disputes the findings.

South Africa has the continent's only nuclear power station and plans to expand nuclear power generation to meet growing electricity demand in Africa's most industrisalised country.

The report by Maarten de Wit, a professor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and director of the Africa Earth Observatory Network, a research institute, says canyons in the bedrock would need to be secured.

"If you are going to build anything on that, it's pretty prone to storms, sea level rises and tsunamis," De Wit told Reuters on Friday (Nov 25).

The site at Thyspunt, near Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, is on the Indian Ocean coastline.

The report also showed seismic activity along dormant fault lines near the site that could trigger submarine landslides.

Any such activity "is likely to generate a large submarine slump, and a possible significant local tsunami that would affect the coastal region, including Thyspunt," the report said, warning that a plant at Thyspunt could be at risk of devastation similar to that in Fukushima in Japan in 2011.

The utility has applied to the nuclear regulator for licences to build nuclear plants at Thyspunt and Duynefontein in the Western Cape province.

The regulator has pledged thorough safety assessments.

"We have defined the height at which we have to build the plant to ensure that we... avoid those tsunamis," Eskom's chief nuclear officer David Nicholls told Reuters.

"That does include an allowance for global warming and average sea temperature rising," he added.