South Africa


Another Bell Pottinger-style nuclear charm offensive planned for South Africa

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Michail Klimentyev / Sputnik / Kremlin)

Brace yourselves for a full-frontal, paid-for nuclear PR charm offensive as 'a big Russian state-run energy corporation' turns to private spin companies seeking African and South African partners to sweeten the deal.

By now it is no secret that the government plans to add 2,500MW of nuclear power to the country’s energy mix in 2030. Just the other day, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) invited comment on the plan.

Writing in Daily Maverick in July 2020, Dirk Knoesen, Emeritus Professor in Physics, and Director of the Nanoscience Platform at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Senior Professor Leslie Petrik, of the Department of Chemistry, warned that “the feasibility of new generation nuclear reactions providing energy safely in the near future is slim”.

The month before, in June, Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, justified the issuing of a renewed request for information (RFI) on the nuclear build and that it would follow “robust funding options”.

Now a Russia-based communications outfit, Creative Project Agency, has put out a call to South African partners to mount a media roadshow including print, online and TV and crafted around a mysterious “independent speaker” who will be punting nuclear energy, and Rosatom of course.

Project manager Natalia Ghittori, in a mailer to potential South African partners, wrote coyly that “one of our clients – a big Russian state-run energy corporation (the name of the company we can’t reveal for the moment under NDA) – is interested in running a PR campaign in South Africa and we are looking for a local partner to assist us in this task”.

Following a Department of Mineral Resources briefing in May 2020, environmental justice NGO Earthlife Africa — Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities — which forced Vladimir Putin and Zuma’s R1-trillion “secret” nuclear deal out into the open and into the courts — warned that proceeding with any nuclear deal would be in breach of a judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court in 2017.

Future deals will be limited by the judgment, but Mantashe and nuclear advocates are forging ahead.

Knoesen and Petrick, in their overview of the nuclear landscape, concluded “one has to ask why the nuclear RFI was issued now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and despite our huge debt burden. Has someone been incentivised to bring nuclear on to the table again, hoping that we are all too distracted to notice?”

As far as the incoming campaign is concerned, the plan is not to distract, but to rather schmooze South African media – including a paid-for trip to Russia – to massage and render us less resistant to ye ole nuclear financial aftershock.

As far as the Creative Project Agency is concerned, the campaign would look like this:

1) 13+ publications mentioning the company name in 3 months based on press materials provided by us;

2) 2+ publications in 3 months on behalf of a local independent expert favorable to nuclear technologies development in SA mentioning the Client;

3) organization of 2 press trips to Russia or another country with the following KPIs:

5 participants representing 5 South-African media,

5+ publications in local media by the result of the press trip.

Scope of works we expect on your end:

Making media list for an invitation, negotiations with media, assistance in collecting docs for the visa, follow up, and providing us with a copy of the material published.

4) organization of 4 local press events with KPIs:

10 participants representing 10 South-African media

8+ publications in local media as the result of the press trip.

Scope of works we expect on your end:

Media relations: making media list for an invitation, sending out the invitation, accreditation, working with the media on the spot, follow up, and providing us with a copy of the material published.

Event logistics: venue rent, video and audio equipment rent, catering, technical assistance to the speaker if needed.

Ghittori told Daily Maverick that “as a responsible PR agency we have NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) with all of our clients and therefore by rule we do not disclose the names of our clients”.

The mailer trawling for South African partners, she said, was just a “small portion” of the company’s communications contract “across Africa and is not specific to South Africa”.

The company also worked with “local independent experts that are willing to share their own personal views on relevant topics from a non-biased position”.

You have been warned. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 44

  • Unlike Professors Knoesen and Petrik’s somewhat jaundiced view, I believe that there is a meaningful role for nuclear power in a diversified energy mix. However, such a role would be for non-Uranium based processes, such as Molten Salt Reactors.
    Nevertheless, under no circumstances would I support yet another disastrous “mega-project” under this government, nor anything in which the Russians are involved. This story smells of corruption when the process has barely started.

      • Dear Glyn. Please do some basic research. I suggest that you start here:
        It is worth noting two facts:
        Fact 1: While a fair bit of work on MSRs happened in middle of the last century, they were not favoured by the establishment because they didn’t provide the opportunity to produce fissile materials for the military.
        Fact 2: More recently, quite a lot of work has happened. However, this is mostly theoretical with only a few operating systems. However, at least 11 countries are currently working on MSRs. This would not be happening if it wasn’t a promising technology.
        Opinion 1: I believe that MSR technology lends itself well to the concept of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) which offer far fewer opportunities for corruption and can be built in a factory as sealed units and delivered to the required point of use and need minimal maintenance over a 20 year lifetime.
        Opinion 2: Unlike Dr Mingay, I simply don’t trust anything produced by either Russia or China 😉
        Fact 3: RSA has the biggest electricity grid in Africa, by a large margin. Every grid needs something that will enable it to maintain stability in the event of transient effects. Traditionally, this has been facilitated by very large rotating machines that have a lot of inertia. If the load increases suddenly, they slow down fractionally while their control systems get them back up to speed. Similarly, a sudden decrease in load will mean that they spin slightly faster. In South Australia, which has a very small grid, this role is increasingly being met by large scale batteries which have this specific function. However, compared to the size of the Eskom grid, these are toys. Building these to the scale required here will be a very expensive exercise indeed. Actual rotating machines (turbines and generators) may be a better idea.
        Fact 4. While I do believe that Solar PV and Wind power have a very important role to play in power generation, simplistic comparisons of cents / kWh produced are meaningless without taking into account their very low Capacity Factors. For a full comparison one must include the cost of providing storage to compensate for the up to 75% of the time that renewable are not available.

        • Dear William. I agree on with you on promising, but unproven molten salt reactors. Grid-scale batteries are not yet generally cost-competitve with rotating turbo-generators (so-called “spinning reserve”). But the EU and Britain have committed to rapidly phasing out fossil-fuelled transport during the current decade — a major policy decision which can only be achieved by a heavy further investment in battery technology.

          The UK has announced that it will ban new fossil-fuelled cars from 2030, and has committed to 40 GW of offshore wind. The EU I believe is aiming at 100 GW of offshore wind power.

          Large Danish offshore wind farms (Anholt & Horns Rev 2) have actual lifetime capacity factors above 48%. The Loeriesfontein and Kangnas wind farms in the Northern Cape have expected CFs well above 40%. And on average there is more wind power at night than in daytime.

          The battery company CATL already supplies Tesla China and others with batteries claimed capable of sufficient cycles to power a car for two million kilometers — rather more than the distance travelled by most cars! Those extra cycles will likely be used to stabilize the grid at remuneration in parked cars and especially in parked school buses which until now have been idly parked for most of the 24 hour day-night cycle. And for the summer holidays

        • See . Large offshore wind farms (400 MW Anholt 1 and 209 MW Horns Rev 2) have capacity factors of 48+%. The Loeriesfontein & Kangnas wind farms also above 40%.

          Of course as renewables grow, storage must be provided. Eskom is already doing this for its Sere windfarm

      • Uranium is nuclear. Thorium is Nuclear. Plutonium is nuclear …

        Please don’t confuse the heat storage role of molten salts in CSP (Concentrating Solar Power) with the heat transfer role of molten salts in MSRs 😉

        • Thorium-231 in the form of its molten fluoride salt is the primary energy source of most molten salt nuclear reactor concepts. In the reactor it absorbs neutrons from fission and is therby transmuted after a few steps into U233, which (like U235 and Pu239) is fissile.

  • With so much sun and wind that we have in this country, why do we need nuclear?? We need to go green and unlock the monopoly and strange-hold that Eskom and the government have on SA. A nuclear deal will make the arms deal look like a picnic!

    • Absolutely. According to the Solarex World Map of design insolation (that is solar irradiance during the LEAST sunny month on an optimally tilted stationary surface), Southern Africa (mainly SA but with some adjoining areas of Namibia & Botswana) has by far the largest area in the uppermost category. The LEAST sunny month is when demand peaks due to long nights and cold weather.

      According to the IEA “For projects with low cost financing that tap high quality resources, solar PV is now the cheapest source of electricity in history”

      There is no way coal or nuclear can even remotely compete with current solar or wind cost on a per kilowatt hour basis. As reflected in the fact that globally since at least 2017 the nett new solar energy capacity (98 GW in 2017) was more than the SUM TOTAL of the nett new fossil fuelled (coal+oil+natural gas) PLUS nett new nuclear capacity. Nett new nuclear capacity for 2017 was 10 GW, nearly all in China.

    • There is no way coal or nuclear can even remotely compete with current solar or wind cost on a per kilowatt hour basis. As reflected in the fact that globally since at least 2017 the nett new solar energy capacity (98 GW in 2017) was more than the SUM TOTAL of the nett new fossil fuelled (coal+oil+natural gas) PLUS nett new nuclear capacity. Nett new nuclear capacity for 2017 was 10 GW, nearly all in China.

  • At outset, I will welcome some “facts” about nuclear being distributed, albeit somewhat “commercially based”, to counter the intensive ever present renewables lobby and in this agree with William Stucke regarding jaundiced, rather naïve, views about nuclear. This, inter alia, is demonstrated in order to correct statements such as have been made in these responses here. Molten salt reactors are nuclear based where the molten salt is used either as a higher temperature coolant or is mixed with the nuclear fuel itself. These have their own advantages as well as disadvantages. In terms of commercial reactors we could be wise to follow the global trend to buy the reliable Russian VVER1200 PWR well proven reactor (many in operation around the world for good reason) which is capturing the market (together with the Chinese CAP1200) as a well designed, safe and secure system. This will be demanded provide the 90% available disposable energy to handle our baseload critical needs (to replace the dominant fossil fuels if they are to be removed from operation!) over the long term in a cost effective manner. (Koeberg is the current “cash-cow” of ESKOM) This in contrast with the 30% available energy from renewables wind and solar as controlled, not by commercial demand, but by the whims of nature. I would further hope that gross corruption, presumably capable of taking place also in wind and solar, will be a thing of the past as witness the current attempts by the Zondo State Capture Commission activities.

    • Dr Mingay welcomed FACTS, and states that there are many “reliable” VVER1200 reactors in operation. According to the rather complete IAEA PRIS database there are four such reactors (Leningrad 2-1 & 2-2, and Novovoronesh 2-1 & 2-2) in operation — and none before 2017. The first two at a plant which has seen many “incidents” (some with fatal results) not reported in the mainstream Soviet/Russian press .

      Dr Mingay is also rather scathing about “jaundiced, rather naïve, views about nuclear”. But neither he nor W Stucke mentions that only two molten salt reactors (ARE & MSRE, considered promising by some) have ever been operated, and only on an experimental basis.

      To call new nuclear power “cost effective” ignores the FACT that in the bastion of the free market (the USA) and also in France nuclear is being downscaled in favour of natural gas turbines, which in turn are being replaced in the south by solar PV plus batteries

      • It is noteworthy that the LA 400 MW solar plus 300 MW / 1200 MWh battery CONTRACT (called Eland nogal) is for power at $3.3 cent (about 50 Rand cents) per kilowatt hour. In sharp contrast to recent nuclear power contracts like Hinkley Point C at about six times that cost when including inflation from signing the contract to first power delivered to the grid. Florida and New Mexico have projects similar to Eland.

        And the highly successful 100 MW Hornsby project by Elon Musk (originally from Pretoria) has now been upgraded to 150 MW. Batteries react faster than any coal, nuclear or gas turbine plant to stabilize the grid output and frequency.

    • Don is suggesting there could be wide scale corruption in wind/solar the REIPPPP program? The fact that it happened during peak Gupta and the Saxonwold shebeen did not have it on the menu tells you all you want to know. Probably the best public/private program we’ve ever had, only to be stillborn by political meddling.

      I have very few issues with cheap nuclear power, but until we find that unicorn the other alternatives will have to do.

  • It is surprising that many people, as outlined in this article, still rely on ‘old’ methods of ‘influencing’ opinion. I thought by now the in thing would be for using advanced methods like those of Cambridge Analytica. Trump is still trying to use it in his own ham-handed Apprentice way ! As for all the expert opinions on nuclear energy… it is surprising that no one is considering harnessing the ‘nuclear (or is it new killer ?) energy’ of groups like the EFF … or now it seems irrelevant (or is it irreverant) ATM !?

  • Mantashe and the Russians recommending Nuclear energy is sufficient in itself to reject the proposition.
    Add in logic and science in sunny and windy South Africa and the decision on our principal future energy source seems very obvious, to me at least.
    The grubby crooks in the ANC have a different view.

  • Whatever one thinks of nuclear power, the ANC’s motives, or the Russians, we can be certain that the Canadians, Americans, French and Chinese are doing the same influencing. It’s business. That’s also what embassies, high commissions, and trade offices are for. A nuclear deal is like an arms deal (sometimes it’s the same thing) – everybody wants a piece of the ill-defined pie.

  • Your comments are appreciated, having known you and your thinking for 50 years now Dr Bernhard Scheffler. But I reminisce and you have seemingly not changed . I applaud you for the recommendation of moving to natural gas turbines for their obvious advantages, apart from rather high cost, but serving deliverable energy on call. I would recommend that one should start thinking of comparison costs more broadly than the simplistic cost per kilowatt hour basis. In this are you possibly not referring to the many “true operational costs” and real experience as registered in major wind energy countries? (There are many good detailed economic studies available.) You seem to ignore the tremendous pace of both coal and nuclear installations taking place in China which will continue until 2030, as granted by the Paris Accord, without penalty? This includes India of course. You demonstrate a rather theoretical easy conclusion with respect to the advent of inexpensive storage “batteries” (Tesla problems) while neglecting the concept of an SMR (small medium reactor) design such as a ” nuclear battery” of 50 to 100 MW needing to be replaced only every 20 years. We need theorists in the world but they should also be practically also advised by those with on the ground experiential reference. Bernhard, your comments are always welcome. Don.

    • Thank you Dr Don Mingay. But my interest in renewables does not go back nearly that far — I have an M Sc in nuclear physics because at that time and for decades thereafter I believed that nuclear was the future.

      The country with the highest percentage of power from wind is Denmark, which generates 80% of its total power from renewables, including 57% from wind. It appears to disprove the “many good detailed economic studies” you refer to about “true operational costs” & “real experience as registered in major wind energy countries”:

      It has one of the most reliable electricity supplies globally — its mean unserved time is below 15 minutes per year — a fraction of that of nuclear powered USA and Canada. And also the LOWEST UNTAXED electricity cost for non-household consumers in the EU Its highly taxed RESIDENTIAL electric tariffs (about 75% of these tariffs are energy taxes) are to encourage and reward energy efficiency are due to its vulnerability to climate change — much of Denmark is at near sea level. To keep its industry & commerce competitive, non-household consumers pay much lower energy taxes, as you easily verify in te reference I cited.

  • Perhaps there is a meaningful role for nuclear power among renewables. But how much and at what cost? I have a sickening sense of deja vu. Imagine the tenders, kickbacks and the proliferation of shelf companies and government ‘advisers’ calling the tune. And what of the (apologies) fallout once we are financially hobbled. What will government sell off then? Our children? We saw when China moved into Africa; they bring their own intellectual property, manpower, materials and agendas. So much for developing Africa. We have just invested in solar at home: African company, African technicians and support staff. And African sun. Thank you Marianne.

  • To satisfy base load requirements, which are absolutely essential (and no, renewables won’t suffice!), nuclear is by far the cheapest, cleanest and safest…. go figure!

    • The example I cited above is for the 25 year Eland solar + battery CONTRACT at $3.3 cent per kWh. There is NO new nuclear power CONTRACT within a factor four to six of this. The only nuclear POWER CONTRACT I am aware of is for Hinkley Point C — at about six times the solar plus batteries POWER CONTRACT price. And nuclear costs trend UPWARDS, against solar, wind and batteries which all trend downwards.

    • You can have nuclear power in a country where the safety culture of the community, the operator and the government can support the strict safety requirements to construct, operate and decomission nuclear power plants. The IAEA conducted a safety culture audit of the now defunct PBMR company in 2008/9 and found there were areas to be improved in the company, Eskom and the government. Unfortunately since then the safety culture in South Africa has gone down the drain. Its citizens cannot even abide to basic road safety rules! So lets forget about Nuclear and give wind, solar and molten salt reactors a chance! Be safe out there!

  • I am pro solar and wind and also pro nuclear IF the nuclear is provided in a way that isolates consumers from the ECONIMIC DISTASTER that having Eskom build this will certainly be.

    So if Putin puts up an IPP project at fixed energy cost that makes sense, all fine with me.

    But, for some reason (??!) the nuclear proponents run for the hills when you suggest they do fixed price contracts with massive penalties for late commissioning…

    • Hi Bernhard. You really can pick them as it has not escaped you obviously that Hinkley Point is the worst case ever being the new recognised unwise EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) launching in the U.K. This as a past disaster, which it was! Agreed. However, you do not say that the EPR has been built in China and operative within ten years successfully and that the U.K. now have recognised their problem and have contracted the Chinese to provide 40% of the future management of the project. One major problem with the EPR design is its complexity and that is has far too many “bells and whistles alarms” that reach into the safety of the cafeteria menu! Perhaps it would assist to review the current price and cost structures for new nuclear (Generation 3 which is operative) , which unlike wind and solar, include D and D costs after 60 years operation. This for better current comparison?

      As to renewable energy costs, you unfortunately quote Denmark as an example which, next to Germany, has the highest electricity costs in Europe resulting from their extensive installation of renewables. They are dependent for continuity on the financial costs suffered through having to exploit hydro-storage inefficiently in Norway to provide that sustainability that you claim. If interested, I have many references to true experiential and operative costs. (NOT CONTRACT costs posted 25 years ago by Eland.) Please let me know Eland’s real costs as experienced recently in their operational life?) to compare with those being experienced in U.K. and others. In particular those attempting high percentage energy sources (e.g. South Australian catastrophic experience of black-outs well referenced) from renewables. The ultimate naivety is ultimately reaching for the impossible of 100% National energy grid provision by renewables alone!

      As an aside for Marthinus, a molten salt reactor is indeed a NUCLEAR reactor having greater efficiency but lower safety levels than the traditional PWR’s at present. Think about small inherently safe SMR’s rather.

  • I appreciate the fantastic discussion here, pro and anti nuclear. None seems to address the storage and cost of storage of nuclear waste materials that have a half life of 10 000 years. Recorded human history is around 5000 years. In the lat 200 years we have created climate change that will affect the planet for hundreds of years. Surely we need to address this problem before we take in more nuclear?

    I would love to see nuclear as the answer to energy generation as an antidote to climate change but not at the expense of leaving a problem, like climate change, for future generations

  • Thanks very much Selwyn for expressing your interest in the discussion. A couple of comments concerning radiation. The long lived isotopes from nuclear fuel last for much longer being some at over millions of years. However, the longer the lifetime, the less the specific activity while one really has to be careful of the shorter lived isotopes of 50 to 100 years such as Cs (or shorter) as they have high activity levels but die sooner. That is why used fuel elements are usually stored under cooling water on the reactor site for about 50 years and then moved to cooled storage casks on the surface before being transferred to long term storage. This burned fuel however holds a large amount of unburned nuclear potential and as such is recognised as being a storage system of energy for future generations to re-process and tap when need be. Compare this interestingly with lethal elements, like Nd and Cd used in wind turbines and solar systems, which even after being expensively D and D’d (Decommissioned and Decontaminated) are deadly chemical poisons which never decay, but remain forever.

    Your comment about anthropogenic CO2 driven global warming (AGW) for being active over 200 years is sadly not supported by the global temperature evidence where only the past 50 years have demonstrated this typical change. This regularly seen in solar driven repetitive weather patterns over the past Holocene period (8 000 years) after coming pout of glaciation. For interest, see also the pre industrial period from 1910 to 1940 when the rate of warming was as fast as the very recent 40 year period with fractional CO2 emissions at 220 p.p.m. This is a level which is getting down low and close to biological life survival values of ~ 160 p.p.m. . Then there was also cooling by a degree between 1940 and 1975 from the original, non “harmonised UNHCN, records. Every scientific indication is showing, with the current extremely quiet sun (“known as the “Great Solar Minimum”) that we are entering a cooling phase (as well as cooling input from the Milankovic Cycle precession state of the earth-sun cycles) and which was experienced as predicted to occur every 400 years. This, in fact, heralded the coming of the Little Ice Age, known as the “Maunder Minimum” in the 1700’s when many deaths were recorded in Europe and the temperature was lower than the present by some 3 degrees. The greenest period of the globe was during the Jurassic period some 3 million years ago when the CO2 level; was well over 1000 p.p.m.
    So much more Selwyn, but I must end with thanks for your positive comments about letting people hear about these scientific findings, and more, through the rarely found un-censored media, such as the Maverick, which is to be congratulated and followed earnestly for its integrity and justified claim of honest reporting of real “hands-on” experience.

    • Hi Don. You claim “lethal elements, like Nd and Cd used in wind turbines and solar systems, which . . . . are deadly chemical poisons which never decay, but remain forever”. What utter nonsense! Pure anti-renewable propaganda! Neodymium (Nd) is hardly any more toxic than sea sand! And is common in everyday household goods. Cadmium vapors ARE toxic when inhaled. Cadmium is chemically similar to but more volatile than zinc, with which it co-occurs in nature. Mankind’s main exposure to cadmium (Cd) arises from smelting zinc from its ores, and from the hot dip galvanizing process. Check any good inorganic chemistry book — I can lend you one!

      According to “Ingested neodymium salts are regarded as only slightly toxic if they are soluble and non toxic if they are insoluble.”

      And “Neodymium is one of the rare chemicals, that can be found in houses in equipment such as colour televisions, fluorescent lamps, energy-saving lamps and glasses. All rare chemicals have comparable properties. Nedymium is one of the several metals in alloys commonly used in lighter flints. The most important alloys is neodymium, iron and boron (NIB), found to make excellent permanent magnets. These magnets are part of modern vehicles components, used in computer data storing and in loudspeakers. Neodymium is used in coloring glasses (didymium glass) able to adsorb the yellow sodium glare of the flame. This kind of glass is used to protect the eyes of welders. It is also used to tint glass attractive shades of purple.” And “Neodymium is the second most abundant of the rare-earth elements (after cerium) an is almost as abundant as copper.”

      Don, it seems you are also unaware that cadmium is used only in a tiny minority of thin-film solar cells. And that if panels made up of these cadmium telluride cells are mounted on a galvanised roof, then per square meter the roofsheet galvanising contains more cadmium than the solar panel.

  • Well said Bernard as to the listing of the many uses of rare earths in so many aspects of everyday life, especially so in high remanance magnets for which reason they are used in wind turbines extensively. However it is confirmed that Neodymium glasses are very hazardous as they can cause severe health issues like lung infections, liver disorders, etc when inhaled. It is also said to prevent blood clotting in humans. Rare earth metals mining generate a lot of radioactive waste which is dangerous for both humans and the environment. According to scientists, the pollution already caused will be emitting low level carcinogenic radioactivity for hundreds of years. You can find strong evidence of this concern, especially so in China, where child labour is used to mine rare elements, in which they command most of the global rare earths, with rather tragic results for both the “minor miners” and surrounding animal stock. Unlike arsenic, a poison in excess but which is required in the human body as a functioning trace element and required at low concentrations, rare earths are not found naturally in the human body and carry the dangers mentioned. They are not radioactive and therefore do not ever decay as said before. It is further not true that renewables do not contribute anything to unwelcome and detrimental environmental impacts. My comments are not “Pure anti-renewable propaganda! ” as you state but relate to genuine environmental concern.

    • Hi Don. I remember you for your magnificently witty piece decades ago on TACHYONS (purely hypothetical particles moving faster than the speed of light) and research in the Kalahari on Bushmen who run down their prey barefoot — and what the effect on their running would be if they had a TACKY ON.

      But your absurd statement about neodymium’s hazard to human life does you no credit. As shown above “Ingested neodymium salts are regarded as only slightly toxic if they are soluble and non toxic if they are insoluble.” In glass form they are insoluble, and no more dangerous than any other glass. Or than the (sea or other) sand from which glass is made.

      And as also already cited in the quote above, neodymium is NOT a rare element — no more so than copper. Without the latter — how are power from whatever souurce to reach the consumer?

      And China most certainly does NOT have a monopoly on rare earth elements.

  • Excellent article — as is the norm with this prime journalist!

    Our Energy Minister — previously only Minister of Mineral Resources — was alleged by witness Agrizzi to have received benefits from Bossassa. It seems possible that during his tenure as Minerals Minister he might also have received benefits from coal and uranium mining interests. Should his statement that the nuclear build would receive “robust funding options” be seen in this light?

    • Apologies but I do not understand the relevance of your most recent posting Bernard, but have to reply to your previous response relating to my “absurd statements”. (I was going to ignore this barb, but have been requested to not let this lie by several colleagues.)

      Oh dear Bernhard, it seems to me that you prefer to refer to purist chemical handbooks while I am more deeply concerned about realistic impacts on the ground regarding the environment and people, …… as I have said before. So obviously our overlap is both incomplete and complex. However your several rather dogmatic statements including deprecating remarks also deserve to be reviewed for accuracy in the light of the following which are contrary to your allegations:-

      China produces over 95 per cent of the world’s rare earth minerals and two thirds of this comes from Baotou. The region has more than 90 per cent of the world’s legal reserves of rare earth metals and specifically neodymium, Wind turbines are one of the largest consumers of neodymium magnets where a direct-drive permanent-magnet generator, for a top capacity wind turbine, would typically use 5,000lb of neodymium-based permanent magnet material. Rare earth mining is a commercial project that impacts not just on the environment but on the health of its workers too, including lethally on the child labour extensively deployed. This fact that has been well reported and is widely known, but somewhat suppressed for reasons that I certainly believe that I understand.

      I quote specifically”- “Baotou is the world’s biggest supplier of rare earth minerals and fundamental ingredients and it’s hell on Earth. It lies hidden in a little-known corner of China and is a town that horrifies the visitor. Yet it’s responsible for many of the luxuries we take for granted today, being some of the fundamental ingredients used to make today’s technologies. This pastureland, turned wasteland, on the edge of the Gobi desert is reputably a toxic nightmare, showing evidence of the horrific effect that the pursuit of consumerism has on Earth.”

      I rest my case and wish you well.

      • Don, you give no source for your quote. From which pro-nuke-prop source? The reliable source which I already quoted states “Neodymium is . . . . found in minerals that include all lanthanide minerals, such as monazite and bastnasite. The main areas are Brazil, China, USA, India, Sri Lanka and Australia. Reserves of neodymium are estimated to be 8 million tonnes, world production of neodymium oxide is about 7.000 tonnes a year.” China appears to be only the SECOND most important source, which at current rates of utilization should last another 11 centuries — unless new reserves are found.

      • Don, it appears you are using seriously dated sources. The most recent article that I could find on searching for “Baotou China rare earth mines child labour” was from 2014 Its data differs substantially from what you cite. So your info source appears to be much older and by now irrelevant.

        Your statement “The region has more than 90 per cent of the world’s legal reserves of . . . specifically neodymium” has absolutely no basis in fact, and like your false claims about neodymium toxicity can only be realistically interpreted as anti-renewable propaganda.