Stephan Wolfard



Save Bantamsklip






BANTAMSKLIP IS ON THE OVERBERG COAST IN THE WESTERN CAPE - SOUTH AFRICA
The site is earmarked for a Nuclear Power Station by
Eskom and the South African Government. It is 3km from
the village of Buffelsjagsbaai and 7km from the Pearly Beach resort


OUR CONCERN

. The national electricity supplier Eskom, aided and abetted by the National Government, has earmarked Bantamsklip on the southwestern overberg coast as one of the preferred sites for its nuclear power station ‘roll out’. The process gives neither regard to public opinion nor takes cogniscence of the countless fatal flaws in the choice of the site which are becoming increasingly evident with environmental impact assessments and feasiblity studies. Initially a single 4000 mega watt nuclear plant – a European Pressurised Reactor (EPN) was proposed, now two such plants are envisaged for Bantamsklip. The problem is, the site lies within the hottest internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot, presently registered as a S A Natural Heritage Site and a Historic Monument, and adjacent to the most valuable marine ecosystem in Africa, the Dyer Island Nature Reserve and Great White Shark Marine Sanctuary. The nuclear power plant and the resulting power lines would destroy the livelihoods of virtually everybody dependent on the natural environment of the area and seriously impact on the eco-tourism industry of the Cape Whale Route and the Fynbos route.

OUR PROTECTED AREAS

Bantamsklip and Groot Hagelkraal are found on the ancient landscape of the Chainoukwa Khoi-san people and are both a registered SA Nature Foundation Natural Heritage Site (No: 72) and a registered Historical Monument. Present research indicates that Groot Hagelkraal farm harbours over 800 plant species, including 22 Red Data species of Agulhas Plain endemics, of which six are entirely restricted to the farm. Most of the endemics are associated with limestone soils. Rare and endemic species are often clustered in so-called hot-spots. Such a concentration of endemic plants is without parallel, not only elsewhere in the Cape Floristic Region, but in the world. This property ranks as the most extreme concentration of "point endemism" recorded anywhere in the world! The property represents the foremost conservation priority in the Cape Floristic Region and is regarded as the world’s "hottest" of biodiversity hot spots

OUR COAST

The Agulhas bioregion hosts the greatest number of South African marine endemics, including sparid reef fish, octocorals and algae and is a nursing ground for many fish species. The coastline constitutes an overlap zone with the mixing area of two currents and is widely recognized as an independent province and bioregion. The Agulhas Biozone (coastal and marine areas containing Bantamsklip and Dyer Island) scores high on the threatened coastal lists and is gaining recognition as a priority area, and in the case of Dyer Island, is a known, irreplaceable category, within the Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning strategy and recommendations.

The cool Benguela upwelling occurs here, causing very high levels of primary nutrient productivity, enhanced by the seasonal south easterly and south westerly prevailing winds and the topography of the Agulhas coast lying adjacent to these climatic and oceanic systems. This lays the foundation for the endemic kelp ecology of the Dyer Island Marine Sanctuary. The Dyer Island Nature Reserve is situated seven kilometers due south of Bantamsklip and is a Great White Shark and seabird sanctuary of global importance. It is a registered IBA recognized as an important breeding ground for a number of endemic Cape seabirds. There are six Red Data bird species breeding on the island, including a large colony of African Penguins. It has the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world and is said, that after the Kruger National Park, the Great White Shark attract some of the highest numbers of tourists to South Africa, for any singular activity.

Our Understanding

We would like to quote from the current EIR Draft document: Volume 1. Main Report, concerning the present status of Bantamsklip and the other preferred nuclear sites.

"After due consideration, Eskom decided not to pursue an application for the construction of more than one nuclear power station in this EIA. However, in line with Eskom’s intention to pursue up to 20 000 MW of nuclear power generating capacity, an application for the second nuclear power station may be submitted by Eskom soon after the submission of the Final Environmental Impact Report for Nuclear-1. This application is therefore progressing as per the original application for authorization of a single site."

It should be understood then, that Eskom tried unsuccessfully to apply for approval to build on all three sites, Duynefontein, Bantamsklip and Thyspunt, within one EIA. Now, far from celebrating Bantamsklip’s new ‘least preferred option’ we find the situation far worse than previously expected, and I quote further from the same document;

"Eskom proposes to construct a Nuclear Power Station, referred to as Nuclear-1, consisting of a combination of units with a total capacity 4 000 MW and associated infrastructure for location at one of three potential sites. Similar power stations to Nuclear-1 are proposed for the remaining two sites in the future. The area of the footprint assessed in this EIA makes provision for the potential future expansion of the power station, to allow for a total capacity of approximately 10 000 MW."

So Eskom seeks approval, for a 10.000 MW site (previously 4.000 MW) Now our dilemma, in accessing the impacts, is that the actual plants have not been specified yet, but the output generation has, and given that the latest Areva (the preferred manufacturer's) European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) currently under construction in Finland at OLKILUOTO, has an output of 1.600 MWe

Four EPR's will produce in order of approx. 6.400 MWe of output power, of the 10.000 MW asked for - per site, if they used the latest Avera EPR's. Heaven forbid, trying to generate the full 10.000 MW presently applied for, again, per site.

What will the impacts of these proposed nuclear plants (together) be, on the terrestrial and marine environment adjacent to Bantamsklip, from the emmissions and thermal discharges of near boiling water, biocides scouring (chlorine), sediment and spoil transfer, Strontium 90 emissions and sub aquatic noise.

OUR LANDSCAPE

The proposed nuclear power plant will spread out its power lines and cut the Agulhas National Park and the Nuwejaars Wetland Special Management Area (SMA) in two, destroying the vision of rehabilitating and conserving this wetland system through co-operative integrated land management. The power lines are set to traverse major scenic corridors on the R326/R43 and areas of great scenic value such as the historic Stanford Village and Stanford Valley, 35 kilometers from the heart of Hermanus. Both scenic categories are surveyed heritage, scenic and landscape resources, underwritten and legislated upon in the Overstrand Heritage Survey. According to the draft scoping report, Eskom's preferred route for the Bantamsklip Transmission Line, known as Alternative Route 2, will fatally dissect the unique Flower Valley and Baardskeerdersbos rural hamlet surroundings, with an army of giant pylons and magnetic pollution of unimaginable proportions.

OUR FUTURE

The Overstrand ward contains within its boundaries both the heart of Mountain Fynbos – the Kogelberg, and the heart of Lowland Fynbos – the Agulhas Coastal Plains. In bioregional tourism terms, enhancing this eastern ‘heartland’ by integrating and underpinning the Agulhas coast and plains along the Fynbos Road and the coastal road to the evolving Agulhas National Park and surrounding Cape Nature Reserves makes sound economic sense. Imposing a giant industrial complex of devastating consequence to the natural environment, the Cape's last "Natural Frontier", a recognised Core Area where biodiversity drives the sustainable tourism initiatives on which this regions economy is based, is foolhardy.

The Save Bantamsklip Association committee has decided to motivate a submission to the South African World Heritage Advisory Committee for the recommendation of the Bantamsklip coastal plains and limestone hills of Groot Hagelkraal, together with the Dyer Island marine complex, to be considered worthy of a UNESCO World Heritage Site application. Its chairman, John Williams, says the association has been gathering information, which indicates that the Agulhas bioregion is founded, not only on the ancient human landscape of Middle Stone Age (Strandloper) Later Stone Age (San) and of the Chainoukwa Khoikhoi pastoral people, but on major centers of biodiversity and endemism.

On closer examination, the Agulhas bioregion hosts the greatest number of South African marine endemics found on the South African coast, including sparid reef fish, octocorals and algae and is a nursing ground for many endemic and pelagic fish species. The coastline is seen to constitute an overlap zone with the mixing area of two currents, the Agulhas and Benguela and in conservation planning terms, is widely recognized as an independent province and bioregion. The Agulhas Biozone (coastal and marine areas containing Bantamsklip and Dyer Island) scores high on the threatened coastal lists and is gaining recognition as a priority area, and in the case of Dyer Island, is a known, ‘irreplaceable category, within the Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning strategy and recommendation studies. Bantamsklip and Groot Hagelkraal are both a registered SA Nature Foundation Natural Heritage Site (No: 72) and a registered Historical Monument.

Mr Williams went on further to say that present research indicates that Groot Hagelkraal farm harbours over 800 plant species, including 22 Red Data species of Agulhas Plain endemics, of which six are entirely restricted to the farm itself. Most of the endemics are associated with limestone soils. Rare and endemic species are often clustered in so-called hot-spots. Such a concentration of endemic plants is without parallel, not only elsewhere in the Cape Floristic Region, but also in the world. According to Professor Cowling of Nelson Mandela University, the property ranks as the most extreme concentration of "point endemism" recorded anywhere in the world, and represents the foremost conservation priority in the Cape Floristic Region and is regarded as the world’s "hottest" of biodiversity hot spots.

Most of these discoveries have been due to the seminal work of Prof Richard Cowling.

Contact will shortly be made with the South African World Heritage Advisory Committee. For further information of this initiative and of the nuclear power station threat to Bantamsklip go to: www.savebantamsklip.org

OUR LAST WORD

We do not believe that spending over R1-trillion? on a nuclear strategy, despite no financial case for nuclear power having yet been conducted, will be compatible with dealing with rampant crime and HIV/AIDS. Nor will it deliver basic services to the poorest of the poor (including refugees!), nor develop a sound and affordable education, health and public transport systems. The 1998 Energy White Paper stated that: “Government will ensure that decisions to construct new nuclear power stations are taken within the context of an integrated energy policy planning process with due consideration given to all relevant legislation, and the process subject to structured participation and consultation with all stakeholders.” This has never materialised. The White Paper also states clearly that expansion will depend on, amongst other things, "public attitudes and the approaches by decision-makers in assessing the macro-economic, health and environmental aspects of the different options available for electricity generation". None of this has been adhered to.

We believe an all-inclusive energy policy summit needs to be called which prioritises civil society representation, conducting an open debate, investigating energy efficiency and the development of renewable sources of energy generation options. The summit should also address health studies, nuclear waste disposal and questions of national security.