Citizens and taxpayers in South Africa continue to labour under the misguided belief that Eskom and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) make real funding provisions monthly, over the operating life of their nuclear reactors, to cover the costs of decommissioning and disposal of high-level nuclear waste from their nuclear plants, in terms of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Financial provision for decommissioning (as well as spent fuel management) continues to be accumulated on a monthly basis since commercial operation of the installation began in 1984. The financial provision is reflected in the annual financial statements of Eskom. These financial statements are audited in accordance with South African national legislation.
“In terms of decommissioning financial plans, the amount of decommissioning and spent fuel provision made each month is determined by the present value of future estimated cash flows. These financial plans are reviewed regularly and adjusted annually, and informed by the South African inflation rate.”
However, the problem with these fine words to the IAEA is that they are misleading, perhaps deliberately so, and that the so-called provision is actually something of a “Potemkin village” to placate and impress the IAEA and the public that all is well and under control.
In fact, no real money, securities or investments of any kind have actually been set aside monthly, annually or at stage and in any fund during operation of South Africa’s nuclear facilities as provision for decommissioning, long-term storage and final disposal of high-level nuclear waste, and/or the construction and operation of a high-level nuclear waste repository.
The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI) has confirmed that since Necsa’s SAFARI-I research reactor was inaugurated in 1966, since Koeberg commenced operation in 1984, and since the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act No 53, 2008 was promulgated in early 2009, no money has been put into the proposed Radioactive Waste Disposal Fund that has long been envisaged for this purpose.
The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute is a South African state-owned entity reporting to the Department of Energy, responsible for nuclear waste management and disposal services in terms of its enabling legislation.
“The Radioactive Waste Management Fund falls within the ambit of the DMRE. The Fund has not yet been set up, and therefore no payments can be made to the Fund at this stage”, commented Alan Carolissen, the institute’s acting CEO.
Carolissen further advised that the minerals department is currently finalising the draft Radioactive Waste Disposal Fund Bill, which will be gazetted for public comments in due course. However, no timelines were given in this regard, and the matter has been dragging on for years.
In reality, Eskom explains, the so-called provision made for decommissioning and disposal of high-level nuclear waste from the Koeberg nuclear power station is simply an accounting book entry for future obligations estimated at R16.2-billion, expressed in 2020 rands, and reflected as a liability on Eskom’s heavily overindebted FY 2020/21 balance sheet, as opposed to any realisable assets held in a ring-fenced fund for this purpose.
Riedewaan Bakardien, the chief nuclear officer at Eskom, says that of the R16.2-billion liability shown on Eskom’s 2020/21 balance sheet, some R8-billion is Eskom’s estimated liability for Koeberg’s decommissioning, and disposal of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste at the existing Vaalputs repository.
The balance of R8.2-billion is Eskom’s estimated liability for long-term storage of spent fuel on-site, for a centralised interim storage facility, and for developing, constructing and operating a deep geological final repository for high-level spent fuel waste from Koeberg, and associated transport costs.
However, based on international benchmarks, it would appear that Eskom, as the operator, not surprisingly significantly underestimates its liabilities for decommissioning and disposal of high-level nuclear waste from its Koeberg nuclear power station.
In Germany, provisions made for nuclear decommissioning and waste disposal by the big four utilities ranged from €1,300 (R23,083) per kW of installed capacity at RWE, to €1,700 per kW at EnBW, €1,800per kW at E.ON, and €2,000 per kW at Vattenfall.
Based on the above, one may have expected that Eskom would have set aside funds for high-level nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning of the 1,800 MW Koeberg nuclear power station of somewhere between €2.34-billion and €3.6-billion i.e. between R42-billion and R64-billion (using an exchange rate of €1 = R17,80), instead of only R8-billion.
In other news – Isibaya actress Zinhle Mabena pushed hubby Robert down the stairs & stabbed him, their child reveals all
Isibaya actress Zinhle Ngwenya allegedly attacked her husband Robert Mugabe Ngwenya with a bottle of perfume, a broomstick, a pair of scissors, a photo frame, and fists in separate domestic violence incidents at their home in Blue Valley Estate in Midrand, Gauteng.
In one of the incidents Zinhle, who plays Sihle in the popular local drama series, allegedly violently pushed her husband that he fell so hard on the staircase of their double-storey house after calling him names. Learn more