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Eskom nuclear site not safe‚ say studies

By Carol Paton | 2016-11-25 11:21:50.0

It would be near impossible to construct a nuclear power station safely at Thyspunt‚ near Jeffrey’s Bay‚ because of deep‚ hidden canyons in the bedrock covered by sand and soft rock‚ a geological study has found.

The study was corroborated by another from a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University that detects evidence of a large paleo-seismic event along an Eastern Cape fault line 10000 years ago. It looks set to blow a hole in Eskom’s environmental impact assessment study for the area that found the area technically safe and environmentally friendly for the construction of a nuclear power station.

Thyspunt‚ 90km from Port Elizabeth‚ is one of Eskom’s top two preferred sites for a nuclear power station. It comprises a relatively flat area of hard rock close to sea level‚ covered by wetland and fynbos.

Eskom applied for a licence for the site with the National Nuclear Regulator in March.

The study was the work of a geology master’s student at the university. Professor Maarten de Wit‚ director of the Africa Earth Observatory Network‚ has written a report summarising the findings of the two in which he warns that the risks at Thyspunt have not been properly examined and that the evidence is overwhelming that the site is unsuitable.

The first study reveals what he describes as “a simple but to date unexpected message from the subsurface: cut into the hard bedrock on which the nuclear station must be built‚ are paleo-valleys and canyons hidden below the … dune sands and soft sedimentary rock“.

The study discovered four such previously unknown paleo-canyons that extend inland well below the present sea level‚ he says. At Thyspunt‚ the canyon cuts into more than 1000m² of bedrock to a depth of 16m below sea level.

“When I saw her [the master’s student’s] work I was shocked. Eskom looked at all this data and they missed the most important thing‚” he said.

It implied the plant would need to be built on‚ or adjacent to‚ an area that is well below sea level‚ De Wit said.

“The hard rock is almost 20m below sea level. Just one big sweep of sea could dislodge that sand and rock‚” he says.

 

Full story in Business Day . – TMG Digital/BusinessLIVE

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