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SEN416S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

TEST 1: SEPTEMBER 2004 SOLUTION

Environmental Impact Assessment

Proposed Construction of Nuclear Reactor at Umbogintwini, KZN.

Commissioned by: Malindi Power and Lighting Company (MPLC)

Prepared by: Nippy Environmental Consultants


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction
2. A description of the proposed project
2.1.Who is Malindi Power and Lighting Company
2.2.Introduction to Nuclear Technology
2.3.Project Description
2.4.Costs and Time Frames
2.5.Rationale for the Proposed Project
2.6.Consideration of Alternatives
2.7.Impacts
2.8.Mitigation
3. A Description of the Baseline Environment
4. The Public Participation Process
5. Recommendations for Further Work

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1. INTRODUCTION

Malindi Power and Lighting Company (MPLC) wishes to construct a nuclear reactor at
Umbogintwini.

A feasibility study has revealed that the initial capital required would be high but this
amount will be accrued in seven years, which the utility can handle. Given that the
lifespan of a third-generation nuclear reactor is in the region of 60 years, such facilities
are expected to be profitable.

The Environmental Impact Assessment is a means of assessing environmental feasibility.


The findings of the EIA need to inform the technical and financial considerations.
Authorities must approve the EIA before the project can proceed.

2. A DESCRIPTION OF THE PROPOSED PROJECT

2.1 Who is Malindi Power and Lighting Company

MPLC is a privately owned electricity utility company. It is based in Durban and


provides electricity largely to industrial firms. The company’s website is
www.mplc.co.za

2.2 Introduction to Nuclear Technology

A nuclear reactor is an apparatus in which nuclear fission chain reactions are initiated,
controlled and sustained at a steady rate. Nuclear reactors provide heat for electricity
generation, domestic and industrial heating, desalination and naval propulsion. They also
have many research applications including providing a source of neutrons and creating
various radioactive isotopes.

Reactors can be classified as:

 Light-water and Heavy-water


 Propulsion
 Research
 Breeder

Light water reactors are a category of nuclear power reactor in which water is used as
both a coolant and a moderator.

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There are two types of light water reactors: the pressurized water reactor and the boiling
water reactor. In a pressurized water reactor, steam is produced in a secondary system.
The main components of a pressurized water reactor are the core, control rods, reactor
vessel, steam generators, and pressurizer.

In a boiling water reactor, steam is allowed to form directly in the core. The main
components of a boiling water reactor are the core control rods, the core shroud and
reactor vessel, the recirculation system, the steam separators, and the steam dryers

Basically, a nuclear power reactor operates by having a central unit, called the core, in
which nuclear fission reactions take place and produce heat. A liquid, called the coolant,
flows through the system and absorbs the heat produced in the core. The liquid is then
converted into steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity.

2.3 Project Description

Given that a light-water reactor is the reactor of choice, a further description of one such
reactor is provided below.

In a pressurized water reactor (see Fig. 1), the reactor cooling water entering the core is
highly pressurized so that it remains below the boiling point. The water leaves the reactor
to pass through steam generators where a secondary coolant is allowed to boil and
produce steam to drive the turbine.

The key components in this process are the core, the control rods, the reactor vessel, the
steam generators, and the pressurizer.

Core. The core is the active portion of the reactor providing heat to the system. The core
contains fuel assemblies that contain fuel rods filled with fuel pellets.

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Fuel. The fuel in the pressurized water reactor consists of cylindrical pellets of slightly
enriched uranium dioxide with a diameter of 0.325 in by 0.39 in. The pellets are dished at
the ends to allow for thermal expansion (12:2004).

Fuel Rod. A fuel rod consists of a cylindrical tube made of Zircalloy, a steel-gray alloy
that highly resistant to corrosion. This tube is 13 ft long with an outer diameter of 0.39 in
and a 0.025-in thick wall. The tube is filled with fuel pellets and is sealed

Fuel Assembly. A fuel assembly is formed when about 230 of the fuel rods are grouped
in a bundle. The fuel assembly is about 8 in on a side and 177 in long. The reactor core
is formed when about 240 of these assemblies are arranged in a cylindrical array. These
assemblies are supported between upper and lower grid plates and are surrounded by a
stainless steel shroud. The grid plates consist of an assembly of spring clips interlocked
to form an egg-crate arrangement providing rigid support and spacing of the fuel rods.

Control Rods. Control rods provide a means of changing the amount of heat produced
in the core.

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Fig. 1: Schematic of a Pressurized Water Reactor
[http://www.io.com/~hcexres/tcm1603/acchtml/nukes.html]

Fig. 2 is provided to offer an alternative view of a pressurised-water reactor.

Fig. 2: The Pressurized Water Reactor [http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-


ref/students/animated-pwr.html]

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2.4 Costs and Time Frames

Construction is expected to begin once all the necessary permits have been obtained and
is expected to last two years. Local and international contractors and service providers
will be used during construction.

The construction costs include the hardware, labour, original capital borrowed, interest
generated on that capital, and inflation of capital costs. The construction cost for a
nuclear power plant is in the region of 18.7 mills per kilowatt-hour. 1 mill is 1/10 of a US
cent (1 mill = $ 0.001). [http://www.io.com/~hcexres/tcm1603/acchtml/nukes.html]

The operation and maintenance costs for a nuclear power plant are 2.8 mills per kilowatt-
hour. [http://www.io.com/~hcexres/tcm1603/acchtml/nukes.html]

2.5 Rationale for the Proposed Project

Nuclear power offers some advantages over sources such as coal, oil, natural gas,
hydroelectric power, wind, solar, biomass, tides, waves etc.

Advantages that nuclear power provides include:

(i) Economical - Nuclear power plants are one of the most economical forms of
energy production. Fuel costs for an equivalent amount of power run from
1/3rd to 1/6th the cost for fossil production, and capital and non-fuel operating
costs are roughly equivalent, resulting in the overall cost of nuclear generation
of electricity running 50% to 80% that of other sources. This is in spite of the
fact that capital costs have been hugely inflated due to lawsuits, court
injunctions, and other delaying tactics used by individuals and organizations
opposed to nuclear power.
(ii) Reliability – Nuclear power plant capacity factors average about 75 %. This is
about equivalent to those of fossil fired plants. Wind and solar power cannot
come close to the capacity factors of nuclear power. (Capacity factor refers to
the percentage of nominal power that an electrical engineering source actually
produces in a given period of time. For example, a wind energy site that has

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an installed capacity of 100 MW, but actually only produces 30 MW – due to
maintenance and/or weather conditions – has a capacity factor of 30 %.
(iii) Pollution – Nuclear plants emit virtually no airborne pollutants, and overall
far less waste material than fossil-fuel based power plants. Worldwide,
reliance on nuclear energy has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost
500 million metric tons annually.
[http://pw1.netcom.com/~res95/energy/nuclear.html]
(iv) The Production of Radioisotopes – Radioisotopes are used in medicine
(radiotherapy) and food preservation. (Radioisotopes consist of unstable
atoms with an unusual number of neutrons).
(v) Excellent Cost Estimates – Nuclear energy is the only power source which
explicitly factors the estimated cost of waste containment and plant
decommissioning into its overall cost. The quoted cost of fossil fuel plants is
deceptively low for this reason.

2.6 Consideration of alternatives

Several alternatives for the production of nuclear power have been considered.
Alternative methods for the generation of electricity include: coal, oil, natural gas,
hydroelectric power, wind, solar, biomass, tides, waves etc. Coal reserves are abundant in
South Africa making this a viable alternative. Hydroelectric power would be considered
after coal. The other options are not viable on a large scale.

The site at Umbogintwini was chosen because of the large available market in KwaZulu-
Natal. Demand for electricity is expected to rise over the years.

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2.7 Impacts

The impacts relating to this facility will relate to the following phases:

(i) Pre-construction
(ii) Construction
(iii) Operation

(i) Pre-construction Phase

The activities that would take place during this phase are:

 Mapping out the ground (aerial photography may help)


 Surveying the area

(ii) Construction Phase

 Site clearance – removal of natural vegetation. This will result in some


amount of noise; the natural habitat will be disturbed and degraded. Special
attention should be given to rare or endangered plant and animal species.
 The clearing of the site also affects the aesthetic appeal of the landscape
 The transportation of cement, stone aggregates, pipes, and the necessary
construction equipment result in the spread of dust and noise pollution. Noise
levels of 80 dB or less are acceptable.
 The blasting of rocks will result in noise pollution and the resulting dust will
result in air pollution.
 Vibrations during blasting are likely to affect the neighbouring areas. If there
are houses in the vicinity, then these will be devalued as a result of the
construction work.

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 Water and electricity supply in the neighbourhood may be interrupted as a
result of this construction work.

(iii) Post-construction Phase

 More electricity will be supplied to the region as a result of the completion of


the nuclear power plant. The price of electricity is likely to come down. More
industries and homes can then be built in this region.
 Jobs will be created for both the construction and post-construction phases.
 Considerations as to how nuclear waste will be disposed off have to be put in
place. There are several good technical solutions, but the question is whether
the political will to allow for such solutions is going to be provided. In other
countries, where the political will was provided, lawsuits were filed which
held up the solution for a while.
 There is a major concern that civilian nuclear technology could be used to
create fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. This is a concern about
nuclear proliferation and is a major reactor design criterion. While the
enriched uranium used in most nuclear reactors is not concentrated enough to
build a bomb , the technology used to enrich uranium could be used to make
the highly enriched uranium needed to build a bomb.
 A large disadvantage for the use of nuclear reactors is the perceived threat of
an accident or terrorist attack and resulting exposure to radiation.

2.8 Mitigation

The advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power have been outlined in the sections
above. It has been shown that technical solutions exist to handle nuclear waste. The safe
storage and disposal of nuclear waste is a difficult problem. Because of potential harm
from radiation, the spent nuclear fuel must be stored in shielded basins of water, or in dry

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storage vaults or containers until its radioactivity decreases naturally ("decays") to safe
levels. This can take days or thousands of years, depending on the type of fuel. Most
waste is currently stored in temporary storage sites, requiring constant maintenance,
while suitable permanent disposal methods are discussed.

In Japan and France, construction costs and delays are significantly less because of
streamlined government licensing and certification procedures. In France, one model of
reactor was type-certified, using a safety engineering process similar to the process used
to certify aircraft models for safety. That is, rather than licensing individual reactors, the
regulatory agency certified a particular design and its construction process to produce
safe reactors. U.S. law permits type-licensing of reactors, but no type license has ever
been issued by a U.S. nuclear regulatory agency. [Wikipedia]. This is a consideration
worth noting.

Critics of nuclear energy point out that the use of nuclear technology could lead to the
proliferation of nuclear weapons, although the International Atomic Energy Agency’s
safeguards system under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been an international
success and has prevented weapons proliferation thus far. It has involved cooperation in
developing nuclear energy for electricity generation, while ensuring that civil uranium,
plutonium and associated plants did not allow weapons proliferation to occur as a result
of this. International nuclear safeguards are administered by the IAEA and were formally
established under the NPT which requires nations to:
 Report to the IAEA what nuclear materials they hold and their location.
 Accept visits by IAEA auditors and inspectors to verify independently their
material reports and physically inspect the nuclear materials concerned to confirm
physical inventories of them.

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3. A DESCRIPTION OF THE BASELINE ENVIRONMENT

3.1 Location and Geography

The broad area being considered in this study is the industrialized city of Durban, located
in KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. MPLC wishes to construct this particular
plant at Umbogintwini, located south of Durban.

3.2 Climate

The Durban climate is described as humid sub-tropical with warm summers and mild
winters. Daytime temperatures are typically 18 – 26 oC with an annual average of 20.4
o
C.

3.3 Geology and Soils

{Sands of the Berea formation and alluvium largely underlie Umbogintwini. This area is
essentially an old sand dune.}

3.4 Fauna and Flora

The long history of development has transformed the original habitats that characterized
the Durban South Industrial Basin. Apart from some birds, insects and possibly reptiles,
natural fauna and flora are largely absent.

3.5 Land Use

The area is characterized by a mix of residential and highly industrialized zones which
are in close proximity to each other.

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3.6 Population

The estimated population within the Durban Metropolitan Area is 2.5 million people. The
estimated population within Umbogintwini is {50 000}.

3.7 The Socio-Economic Situation

Less than 60 % of the economically active population is formally employed in the


Durban Metropolitan Area, according to 1991 census data. Of these, nearly three-quarters
earn less than R 15 000 per year.

3.8 Crime

Crime is increasingly regarded as an important consideration.

3.9 Pollution

Air pollution is a major concern. Sources of this pollution are emissions from industrial
sources and motor vehicles. The main pollutant of concern in the Durban South Industrial
Basin is sulphur dioxide.

3.10 Transport

Inappropriate urban planning, fragmented and uncoordinated public transport systems


and inadequate funding has resulted in deteriorating road infrastructure and congestion in
the eThekwini Municipality.

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4. THE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS

4.1 Introduction

Consultation was made with the necessary authorities; newspaper adverts and posters
were put up to advertise the process.

A preliminary meeting was held with community representatives. The proposed project
was outlined to them and consensus as to the way forward as to how to engage the
communities meaningfully in a public participation process was reached. It was decided
that a capacity building workshop should be held.

4.2 Capacity Building Workshop

This was attended by 22 people. The capacity building workshop was held to enable
communities to make informed decisions regarding the project. The workshop entailed:

 A technical description of nuclear power.


 An explanation of the EIA process and legal requirements
 An explanation of possible environmental impacts resulting from the
construction and operation of the nuclear facility.

General concerns from the community

 Is a nuclear explosion likely to occur


 How will nuclear waste be handled
 How many people will the facility employ

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4.3 Public meeting

60 people attended this meeting. It entailed:

 A presentation by MPLC.
 A presentation on the technical / engineering aspects by the contractor
 A presentation on the EIA process by Nippy Environmental Consultants

The concerns were similar to those voiced at the capacity-building workshop.

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5. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER WORK

The terms of reference will be compiled for the various specialist studies that will be
conducted. These terms of reference will be compiled based on the issues raised by:

 Community members
 Government
 The technical specialists themselves
 MPLC personnel

Specialist studies are envisaged for the following areas:

 Handling of nuclear waste


 Safety of the facility
 Noise impacts
 Contingency plans

The work of the specialists will be submitted for independent peer review to verify that
the work has satisfied the terms of reference, and is technically correct and accurate. In
particular, the reviewer will verify that the issues raised have been addressed in the
studies.

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