Thursday, September 16, 2010

South Africa Ends Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Program

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project has been cancelled and the program has been reduced to a few people with the focus now being on the retention of its intellectual property, certain skills and the preservation of its assets. The PBMR project has not been able to secure an anchor customer or another investment partner and it is estimated that further investment in the project could exceed an additional R30-billion. The Westinghouse consortium was lost in May when Westinghouse withdrew from the programme.

The government also announced that should the country embark on a nuclear build programme in the future it will not be using the PBMR technology, which was still in the research and design phase. The project has been missing deadlines constantly, with the construction of the first demonstration model delayed further and further into the future. Over the last years a total R9,244-billion has been invested in the PBMR project, government having contributed an amount R7,419-billion or 80,3% of that amount. Eskom also contributed 8,8% with Westinghouse and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) accounting for 4,9% each.

Originally, it was envisaged that Eskom would be the PBMR's anchor customer, with a possible purchase of up to 24 reactors as part of the country's expansion of its electricity generation capacity to meet increasing demand with a first demonstration PBMR to be constructed on the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station site in the Western Cape. "However, between 2005 and 2009, it became increasingly clear that, based on the direct-cycle electricity design, PBMR's potential investor and customer market was severely restricted and it was unable to acquire either; hence government has been constrained to make decisions about the future of the project. (Engineering News, 9/16/2010)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

President Zuma on Trade Visit To China

South African President Jacob Zuma, right, is seeking to boost trade on a trip to China this week. South Africa aims to tap trade and investment in "BRIC" economies Brazil, Russia, India and China.

For Beijing, the visit by Zuma will be an opportunity to consolidate ties with African countries, where China is increasingly turning for resources, markets and diplomatic support. Late last year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered Africa $10-billion in concessional loans over three years.

Many ANC officials are starting to see the fast growth of China and other BRIC economies as proof that the state should be doing more to nurture growth -- a departure from the free-market orthodoxy that has prevailed since the end of apartheid in 1994. While Zuma is in Beijing, China and South Africa are expected to sign agreements that will include cooperation on mineral resources and transport, and to address lopsided bilateral trade flows.

China is South Africa's largest trading partner, but last year South Africa ran a $2.7-billion trade deficit with China. A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement that Zuma will sign is expected to address that. This agreement is expected to deal with the trade imbalance between the two countries and with the fact that South Africa still exports raw materials to China while importing finished products into our market. (Engineering News, 8/23/2010)

Sasol's China CTL Deal: Application Review Almost Complete

Sasol expects China’s National Development and Reform Commission to conclude a review of its application to build a 90 000-bl/d coal-to-liquids (CTL) facility in that country. Sasol entered into a 50:50 venture with Shenhua Ningxia to develop the $10-billion project, which is said to be the largest foreign single project direct investment in China and also the country's largest-ever CTL fuels project. China's National Energy Administration has appointed Chinese International Engineering Consultative Company (CIECC) to arrange a panel of experts to facilitate a review of the ‘project application report.'

The CTL plant would be Sasol's first CTL investment outside South Africa, where the technology is used to produce about 40% of the country's fuel. President Jacob Zuma traveled to China on Monday for the State visit. Zuma will visit Shanghai to view the South African Pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. The expo was opened on May 1, and will continue until October 31. (Engineering News, 8/23/2010)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Treasury Considering Carbon Tax on Coal

According to industry sources, the Treasury is considering a proposal to introduce a carbon tax at source, probably of about R100 per ton. Coal companies would be taxed on the coal they deliver to Eskom, which emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases, although Eskom itself would not pay the tax. But a carbon tax of R100-R200 a ton could cause a 1 percent decline in gross domestic product in the first six years. SA has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 34 percent by 2020 and 42 percent by 2025.

Eskom would face higher prices for coal, forcing it to look for more carbon-efficient ways to generate electricity or it would pass the cost on to the consumer. It would also result in less incentive for Eskom to invest in technology such as carbon capture and storage. Ultimately, demand for fossil fuel would drop.

A tax of R100 a ton could generate about R45-billion in tax revenue as the country generates about 450-million tons of greenhouse gases a year. But around R650-billion in tax revenue was collected last year, so the proposed carbon tax represents a substantial additional burden and would be inflationary. (IAAfrica, 8/3/2010)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Israel & South Africa Nuclear Weapons Alliance History


Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at Foreign Affairs, and author of "The Unspoken Alliance," looks at the secret military partnership between Israel and apartheid South Africa following the 1967 Six-Day War (including the transfer of nuclear technology). The relationship lasted 27 years.

Commentary was provided by Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb and the forthcoming The Worst Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb.

This event, "Nuclear Pariahs," was hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thomas Carothers moderated.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wanted: Nominees for Scientific Advisory Committee

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is soliciting nominees to serve on an NCEH/ATSDR Board of Scientific Counselors Advisory Committee. The deadline to submit nominations is November 30, 2010. Federal Register /Vol. 75, No. 130 /Thursday, July 8, 2010 /Notices/ 39265

For questions, contact Sandra Malcom. Please feel free to share this announcement to your colleagues.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

'Wind Atlas' Announced at Clean Energy Ministerial

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, left, used the first-ever ‘Clean Energy Ministerial' meeting, which took place in Washington DC this week, to announce that South Africa would in August release a comprehensive ‘wind atlas', as well as a ‘carbon dioxide (CO2) geological storage atlas.'

The meeting was hosted by US Energy Secretary Steven Chu and attended by delegations from 24 countries, representing 80% of global energy consumption. The atlas would identify potential sites and provide "accurate information" on the wind resources within the country - information that could be used by potential renewable-energy investors. South Africa is in the final stages of drafting an integrated resource plan for electricity, dubbed ‘IRP2010', which will provide an energy-mix road map for the next two decades.

Potential investors are still awaiting: the IRP2010; finality on the rules governing power purchase agreements; as well as the assurances that the playing fields will be levelled through the creation of a single buyer that is ring-fenced from South Africa's power utility, Eskom. Eskom is currently designated as the single buyer of power arising from independent power producers (IPPs), whether conventional, or renewable.

However, 92,8% of South Africa's power is still derived from coal, a higher percentage than most countries. Further, much of South Africa's transport fuel is also derived from coal, making the domestic economy one of the world's most carbon heavy globally. In 2009/10, Eskom alone burned some 122.7-million tons of coal and produced 224.7-million tons of CO2, while generating 232 812 GWh of electricity. (Engineering News, 7/21/2010)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DTI Promoting Investment Opportunities in China

Department of Trade and Industry Promoting SA Investment Opportunities at China Trade Expo

The Department of Trade and Industry has launched South Africa's two-month trade and investment promotion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 in China. The intitial focus on is on minerals, metals and capital equipment. China has a need for mineral products coming from the African continent, which creates a number of synergies and possibilities of productive relationships between the two countries.

The DTI delegation included around 30 different South African executives and companies from the country's mining, metals and capital equipment sectors. The delegation is promoting investment opportunities in South Africa, identifying opportunities in China, and enhancing existing trading activities. The focus is on energy, engineering and information and communication technology. China's investment in South Africa is now expanding to new industries, such as energy, minerals, mechanics and construction. The two countries should still work together in sectors such as natural resources, capital, human resources and technology, since both countries have different advantages. The Shanghai World Expo 2010 has seen more than one-million visitors since it started in May. (Engineering News, 6/6/2010)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Department of Defense - Environmental Services

The military, like most organisations, must reduce its impact on the environment. The impact of military activities on the natural environment is inherently destructive, therefore making the role of the environment in defence complex. The South African Department of Defence (SA DOD) is increasingly bound by international and national legislation and regulations to protect and conserve the natural resources on defence-controlled properties, and to act in an environmentally responsible manner.

The DOD is not exempted from environmental legislative provisions and the emphasis for compliance has shifted from the organisation to those individuals in control of installations, operations and activities, which may detrimentally affect the environment. The responsibility for compliance and performance is therefore largely placed on those personnel in control of military installations, operations and activities. Non-compliance to legislative provisions may therefore result in fines and the possibility of prison sentences on such military personnel.

Sustainable environmental management of training areas will ensure that the quality of land resources is maintained for realistic training in future. Incorporating environmental practices into military procedures and operations enhances public relations and has financial benefits such as reducing energy costs and clean-up, disposal or litigation costs.

Due to the increasing pressure on land within the Republic of South Africa (RSA) as well as the restitution of land rights, the DOD must retain its current footprint on the existing land portfolio. Environmental Services in the SA military is a non-core Logistics function integrated into the Facilities Management function in support of the military mission and is primarily concerned with managing the environmental impacts of military activities on the environment (whether a natural or urban environment).

DOD aims to ensure the environmental sustainable management of military activities and facilities by following an advanced and comprehensive approach of Military Integrated Environmental Management (MIEM) encapsulated by the phrase GREEN SOLDIERING. This function is responsible for ensuring the sustainability of military installations and supports the department’s core functions that relate to ‘providing military forces’ and ‘employing military forces’ through the implementation and execution of Military Integrated Environmental Management (MIEM).

South Africa National Defense Force (SANDF),

Center USA Trip To South Africa

Center President Norris McDonald traveled to South Africa on April 4 and returned on April 13 to examine the feasibility of establishing partnerships between American and South African entrepreneurs and businesses to address cooperative energy and environmental projects. The week of programs and meetings is part of an ongoing "United States-South Africa Power Partnership Program." His hosts included Africa Venture Partners (AVP) and Africa Business Group (ABG). Michael Sudarkasa of AVP and ABG facilitated all meetings, tours and events.

Eric Wright, Michael Sudarkasa, Norris McDonald, Paula Jackson, Gregory Boyd, Seth Keshwar-Hill
Tuesday April 6th: After an "Introduction to South Africa" at the offices of Africa Venture Partners with Eric Wright, Michael Sudarkasa, Paula Jackson, Gregory Boyd & Seth Keshwar-Hill, they met with representatives from the U.S. Consulate for a "Briefing on the South Africa Power and Energy Sector. Attendees included Craig Allen-Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs and Senior Commercial Officer, David K. Young-Minerals/Energy Officer-USA Embassy, R. Bruce Neuling-Economic Officer-USA Embassy, Heidy Servin-Baez-Transportation/ICT Officer-USA Embassy, Bheki Ndimande-Comercial Specialist-USA Embassy, Harry Mohloare-Director-KYD Consulting Engineers Ltd, and Jason Nagy-U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

McDonald attended and gave brief remarks at the "Official Opening Reception" for the USA Week at the L'Entrecote Restaurant in Sandton. USA Week is an annual event that brings together American and South Africa businesses.

Wednesday April 7th: McDonald gave a presentation at the forum held at the Africa Heritage Society Auditorium entitled, "Ensuring An Inclusive South African Energy Sector." After participant introductions, the forum discussed "Affirmative Action in the U.S. Energy Sector: Issues, Reflections and Achievements," "BBBEE in the South African Energy Sector," and "Forging U.S.-South Africa Energy Sector Linkages: Opportunites and Considerations. Kennedy Khabo and Michael Sudarkasa, pictured at right, moderated the forum.

Thursday April 8th: Met with Aurecon Group, a global engineering firm based in Hatfield, Tshwane. Dr. Baholo Baholo - Energy Sector Leader for Aurecon described the company and its projects. A discussion about energy and environment followed.

The first meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) included a discussion about environmental issues with Marba Visagie-Deputy Director: Environment-Industry Development Division. The meeting was held at DTI's Pretoria headquarters. The second meeting included a discussion with Donald Mabusela-DTI Director of The Enterprise Organisation and Thulani Mpetsheni-Director-Electrotechnical Unit. They discussed a broad range of energy and environmental issues related to cooperative development.

McDonald met with two representatives of the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA): Mary Urujeni Kamari-Resource Mobilization & International Relations and Jean Madzongwe-Energy Specialist. The meeting included a very good description of the energy situation in Africa. It also included a thorough description of DBSA and the potential for cooperation between the United States and South Africa.

McDonald met with representatives of SASOL for a discussion about carbon dioxide allowance trading and other energy issues.The meetings included John Sichinga-General Manager-Development & Production and Christopher Kobosha-Portfolio Manager-Government Relations and Public Affairs.
Michael Sudarkasa
Friday April 9th: Attended an all day forum at the University of Johannesburg themed, "The American Experience In Democratic South Africa, 1994-2010." The South Africa - America Partnership Forum (SAAPF) Colloquium was held at the School of Tourism and Hospitality in the Pretoria Auditorium. Michael Sudarkasa-Africa Business Group, was the conference coordinator, who delivered opening and closing remarks.

Opening remarks were given by: Dr. Derrick van der Merwe-Pro Vice Chancellor-Univ of Johannesburg, Kennedy Khabo-Coordinator-USA Week-Khabo-Mabe On Time, Inc, Moeletsi Mbeki, Deputy Chair-South African Institute of International Affairs.

Panels: EDUCATION: Chair: Dr. Nomfundo Ngwenya-South African Institute of Int'l Affairs, Dr. Ken Simmons, Retired Professor-Univ of CA-Berkeley & Witswatersrand Univ, Dr. Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, Univ of Pretoria, Ms. Clara Priester-Education USA, ARTS & CULTURE: Chair: Myesha Jenkins-poet, Lebo M-composer, Hotep Idris-Galata-jazz historian & pianist, Antonio David Lyons- actor/writer/performer, Julialynne Walker-Diaspora Activist, BUSINESS: Chair: Gayla Cook-Mohajane-Exegesis Consulting, Courtney Priester, entrepreneur-Past Chair-Democrates Abroad SA, Gaby Magamola-Thamanga Investments, Eugene Jackson-Renaissance Cities of Africa, MEDIA: Chair: Kenneth Walker-Lion House Strategic Comms, Phil Molefe-South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, Brooks Spector-Daily Maverick, POLITICS: Chair: Dr. Garth Le Pere-DAJO Associates, Francis Kornegay-Institute of Global Dialogue, Dumisani Kumalo-Former Ambassador to UN South Africa, Lou Hureston-Democrats Abroad South Africa.

Saturday April 10th: Meeting with Eskom General Manager Louis Maleka and Sol Masolo-General Manager: PR & Communications-City Power. The meeting included a description of the electricity capacity challenges facing Eskom and how the government owned utility planned to meet the country's electricity needs.

Martin Nel, Norris McDonald, Paula Jackson, Janelle Gravett, Time Raaff
Met with the Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association. The meeting included Janelle Gravett, Martin Nel and Tim Raaff. They discussed steel production and opportunities in South Africa. A broad range of possible cooperative projects were discussed.

Sunday April 11: Tour of Soweto. Visited Mandela House. Visited Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. The museum is a national heritage site intrinsically linked to the origins of the Soweto Uprising and its aftermath.

Monday, April 12th: McDonald, Jackson and Sudarkasa met with Kantha Rattay, Legal Consultant to discuss South African energy and environmental issues. The meeting was held at the AVP offices in Sandton.

Met with Vunani, a financial services company that operates through two divisions: Financial Services and Investment Services. Financial Services is composed of the Asset management, investments banking and property business units. Investment Services houses Vunani's strategic empowerment equity investments. the meeting included Reginal Shaver-Head-Debt Advisory and Debt Capital Raising and via teleconference: Anton Nuno-COO and Mark Anderson-Investments Executive Director. The meeting included a broad discussion about carbon offset allowances and other issues.

Reginald Shaver, Norris McDonald, Paula Jackson, Michael Sudarkasa

Final activity: Tour of Alexandra.

South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program - The Early Years

The Republic of South Africa is the first and only nation to have successfully developed nuclear weapons, and then voluntarily relinquished that capability. The decision to completely destroy weapons related technology and information was to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the black-led government.

In a 24 March 1993 speech, President de Klerk not only revealed that South Africa had produced nuclear weapons, but that the arsenal had been destroyed before 10 July 1991, when South Africa joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Not only have the weapons themselves been destroyed, and the fissile material recast into non-weapon ingots, but all design and production information has been destroyed as well. Of course, it is very easy to get this information today.

A secret project was begun by the Atomic Energy Board (AEB) in the early 1960s to develop a unique uranium enrichment technology. Initially the project was housed in a small warehouse in Pretoria, but was later moved to Pelindaba. The technology was nozzle or vortex enrichment, achieves separation by generating a near-sonic speed vortex of a mixture of uranium hexafluoride and hydrogen gases in a narrow stationary tube. The centrifugal forces caused by the high speed rotation concentrate heavier U-238 at the periphery and lighter U-235 at the axis, so that axial and peripheral out take tubes can extract isotopically enriched and depleted materials respectively, a process analogous to that produced by the spinning rotor of a gas centrifuge.

The strategic implications of Soviet involvement in Africa - either direct or by proxy - weighed heavily on South Africa's leaders and was a chief motivation for the later actual manufacture of nuclear weapons to provide a hedge against Soviet-sponsored aggression. The strategy then was to use these weapons as leverage with Western powers - demonstrating their existence, and then threatening to resort to nuclear attack if assistance was not provided, should outside assistance prove necessary.

(Original Article)

South African Nuclear Energy Corporation

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) was established as a public company by the Republic of South Africa Nuclear Energy Act in 1999 and is wholly owned by the State. The name is correctly indicated above, although the sequence of letters in the acronym may be taken as suggesting that the name should be the "Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa". NECSA replaced the country's Atomic Energy Corporation.

The main functions of NECSA are to undertake and promote research and development in the field of nuclear energy and related technologies; to process and store nuclear material and other restricted material; and to co-ordinate with other organisations in matters falling within these spheres. Apart from its main operations at Pelindaba, NECSA also operates the Vaalputs radioactive waste-disposal facility. The chief executive officer of NECSA is Dr. Rob Adam (since 2006).

NECSA is organisationally divided into a commercial group, Pelindaba Technology (PT), which conducts business in a variety of products and markets and another group, Pelindaba Nuclear Institute (PNI), which is concerned with statutory functions, R&D, support and facility operations. Pelindaba Technology (PT) is a portfolio of businesses of which Nuclear Technology Products (NTP) is a division and serves the international markets for radiation-based technology and products. Also The Uranium Enrichment Corporation of South Africa, Ltd. (UCOR) which operated a facility at Valindaba (known as the 'Y'plant) to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The SAFARI-1 reactor as the cornerstone of the commercial isotope production programme. In the 1970s and 1980s the focus of activities at Pelindaba was on the exploitation of South Africa’s uranium resources through the successful design, construction and commissioning of commercial uranium hexafluoride, uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel assembly production facilities. (Wiki)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Update

Second Take: PBMR Update

Creamer Media's Mariaan Webb speaks to Engineering News senior contributing editor Keith Campbell about the PBMR.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mining and Minerals

The country's mineral industry can be broken down into five broad categories:

1) Gold,

2) PGM,

3) Diamonds,

4) Coal and

5) Vanadium.

The mining industry in South Africa has seen significant restructuring and changes since the early 90’s with the traditional “big six” mining houses:

1) Anglo American / De Beers,

2) Gencor / Billiton,

3) Goldfields,

4) JCI,

5) Anglovaal and

6) Rand Mines

The phasing out of the concept of mining houses has opened the door for consulting engineers serving the mining industry to be involved in projects which were previously the preserve of the mine owners themselves. The clear trend now is to outsource much of the engineering function. (Mbendi)

Monday, April 19, 2010


What You Need To Know When Evaluating Pesticides

EcoSMART founder and Eco-Dad, Steve Bessette, shares his expert insight to help you shop for non-toxic pest control products to keep your family and pets safe!

7 Tips to Finding a Safer Pest Control Product

1) Before buying a pesticide, always read the entire label…front and back!: Often times consumers are swayed to purchase products based on brand names, marketing claims, or images. That can be problematic when choosing a pesticide given the potential health risks involved. It is important to read the entire label before buying a pesticide, not just the front label. And make sure you read the ingredients list and all the precautionary statements. If there are major precautionary statements or warnings, there are most likely toxic ingredients in the product. Also, pay close attention to the product’s “duration of control” listing, as this is an indicator how long harmful pesticide residues will remain after spraying. Think about it…if the product claims to kill insects for up to 4 weeks, what about people and pets?

2) What is in that pesticide product? You need to know!: While reviewing a product’s contents is important on most anything you buy, it is especially important when it comes to pesticides given where these types of products are applied (i.e. inside a home, around the home, in the yard, etc). Carefully read the product’s ingredient list, paying particular attention to the active vs. inactive ingredients. The non-toxic products will not only have well-known active ingredients, but also no hesitation in listing all their inert ingredients as well. Synthetic products will have man-made active ingredients unfamiliar to you, and these products do not list any of their inert ingredients, an indication that they may be trying to hide something. Also, familiarize yourself with the Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database ( and become accustomed to cross referencing ingredients to learn about their safety profiles and true toxicity.

3) Make sure you have the right product for your specific insect pest problem!: Pesticides are specifically formulated to fight a specific pest, so picking the correct product will ensure that you are not wasting time, resources and money on an ineffective product. And follow the label use directions carefully. Incorrect usage of the product can increase your exposure (and your family’s) to potentially harmful ingredients.

4) An EPA registration number on a label does not mean the product is “approved” or is regarded as “safe” by the EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that a pesticide when used according to label directions, can be used with a reasonable certainty of no unreasonable adverse effects on human health and no unreasonable risks to the environment. The EPA does not “approve” pesticides, nor does it classify them as “safe” during registration. It only registers them for use in the U.S. per label directions. The EPA has identified a class of “minimum risk” ingredients that are safe enough to be classified as exempt from EPA registration due to their safety profile. EcoSMART products are comprised of such ingredients and qualify for the EPA exemption.

5) Look for specific “safety” claims on the product label to know the product meets the government’s highest safety standard. EPA has designated “Minimum Risk” pesticides and afforded them special regulatory status. Only Minimum Risk pesticides that qualify for the Government’s highest safety standard can be labeled as SAFE. If there are no safety claims on the label, read all those precautionary statements closely!

6) Don’t be Fooled by “Imposters”!: Even though a product boasts “natural” or “eco” on its label, it could still contain harmful ingredients. Here are some tell-tale signs of imposters:
Claims of persistence in the environment (harmful residue concerns)
WARNING or CAUTION statements on the front of the label
Precautionary language, often hidden on the back of the label, like ENVIRONMENATAL HAZARDS TO DOMESTIC ANIMALS or PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL HAZARDS.
FIRST AID language if product is swallowed inhaled or gets in eyes or on clothing with directions to call a poison control center or a doctor. Remember: If the label does not specifically say SAFE (i.e. Safe Around Children & Pets), the product does not qualify for the Government’s highest safety standard.

7) Never stop asking questions: New studies and new products are being introduced each and every day and it is your responsibility as a consumer to stay educated. Ask questions, research products and ingredients on-line and stay up-to-date with the industry to ensure that you are using the safest, most effective products on the market…for the benefit of you, your family, your pets and the environment.

More information

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Center South Africa

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy has opened the South Africa Office in order to accelerate its work on the continent.

The Center South Africa will serve as a complement to our outreach arms.

South Africa is the business capital of Africa. As such, we intend to leverage bueiness in the service of environmental protection.