Russia to launch a spy satellite for South Africa

Sen—In a midst of the year-end flurry of activity at the Russian space center in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the most unusual and least visible launch campaign takes place at a desolate Site 2A.

At the height of the Cold War, the low-profile facility housed nuclear warheads for the first Soviet ballistic missile, the R-7. Even though nukes had been gone from Baikonur for decades, Site 2A’s latest role was veiled in secrecy until just a few days ago.

The former nuclear storage is now home for the pre-launch processing of the Kondor-E (Condor) Earth-watching satellite. Known primarily to the seasoned followers of the Russian space program, Kondor does not have a page on Roskosmos’ web site and not until this week did its launch date appear in the official manifest. In the meantime, Kondor’s anticipated liftoff had been causing a storm of controversy half a world away—in South Africa!

russia-to-launch-a-spy-satellite-for-south-africa1418683345It transpires that, in 2006, the South African Ministry of Defense commissioned the Russian company NPO Mashinostroenia (or NPO Mash for short) to build a spy satellite, which could provide all-weather, day-and-night photos of the Earth’s surface with the help of a sophisticated radar.

NPO Mash, currently known primarily for its cruise missiles, has been working on just such a project since the beginning of the 1990s, but neither Russian military nor civilian space agencies were providing enough cash to complete the job. After years of making a global sales pitch, NPO Mash apparently struck a deal with General “Mojo” Motau, the head of the South-African defense intelligence.

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No good tidings in Christmas nuclear announcement

Earthlife Africa Jhb

Johannesburg, 17th of December 2014- As South Africa prepares for Christmas festivities, the government announced today, on Wednesday the 17th of December, that it is ready to launch a nuclear procurement programme. The announcement comes after the majority of South African households and businesses have experienced emergency load shedding as a result of the poor maintenance of Eskom power stations and transmission lines. The load shedding has left communities and civil society at large wondering if the government is capable of safely operating the planned 9600 MW of nuclear power, given the poor state of current energy infrastructure.

earthlife-africaEnergy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Dominique Doyle, states that: “Timing such a huge announcement just many academics and NGOs close for the year is but further evidence that the nuclear procurement programme is not transparent. Section 217 of the South African Constitution requires transparent processes; and slipping nuclear plans out at the end of the year while citizens are still sensitive about the power cuts of the past weeks is not indicative of an open society”.

Today’s nuclear announcement follows the secretive procurement agreements signed by Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and various nuclear vendor countries over the past few months. By November, the National Department of Energy announced that it has successfully concluded a second nuclear vendor parade workshop with delegations from China, France, South Korea and the United States of America. The first nuclear vendor parade workshop was held with the Russian state owned Rosatom in late October. The workshops resulted in Intergovernmental Framework Agreements with all of the potential nuclear vendor countries, but the contents of these agreements remain a public mystery and have not yet even been presented at parliament. Read More

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SA France sign nuke agreement

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NECSA’s Tshelane outlines SA’s nuclear plans to World Nuclear Association

Plans for nuclear power figure heavily in South African energy policy – and the country aims to ensure long-term security of supply by developing its own fuel cycle capabilities.

Speaking at the World Nuclear Association’s 2014 Annual Symposium on 11 September, Phumzile Tshelane, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), outlined the country’s nuclear economy and the nuclear policies supporting it.

South Africa has a long and proud nuclear energy history, with two operating units at Koeberg not to mention involvement in nuclear research activities dating back to the 1940s, and nearly 50 years’ experience of operating research reactors. Today the country is faced with a need to broaden its energy mix both to meet its electricity needs as it strives for economic growth, and to enable it to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

necsa-pelindaba-nuclear-1024x511The country’s 2010 Integrated Resource Plan, which received governmental approval in early 2011, sets out a blueprint for a sustainable energy mix including a potential 10 GWe of nuclear capacity as well a procurement process for renewable energy. South Africa, Tshelane explained, sees renewables and nuclear working alongside each other, but nuclear is of particular importance – a fact recognised earlier this year in statements by both South African president Jacob Zuma and energy minister Tina Joematt-Patterson, who has described the nuclear option as a “certainty” as a means to alleviate energy shortages in a country that has abundant coal but no indigenous natural gas. “We don’t have much of a choice,” Tshelane said. “We have coal – or nuclear.” Read More

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Sasol Spends Profits on Undermining the State

Press Release: Sasol Spends Profits on Undermining the State
Earthlife Africa Jhb

Johannesburg, 8th of September 2014- The world’s biggest coal-to-liquid fuel producer and the world’s largest on point source of climate change causing greenhouse gas emissions, announced star performance full-year profits in Johannesburg this morning. The global polluter attributed its reported 7% profit increase from last year, to R41.7 billion, mainly to record synthetic fuel production which increased by fifteen percent. Sasol announces the profit, at the same time as it is taking the South African government to court in an attempt to undermine the states impending air pollution control legislation.

SasolSasol’s profits are better explained in terms of ‘profits from pollution’ than increased production. In 2013, the company reported emissions estimated at 158.4 kilotons (kt) of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 214.6 kt of sulphur oxides (SOx) and total particulate emissions of 11.7 kt. All emissions showed an increase from 2012 levels. Despite the reported increase in emissions, the polluter announced on May 21st of this year that it would be taking the National Department of Environmental Affairs to court in an attempt to not only avoid compliance with stricter air pollution controls, known as the Minimum Emission Standards, but to have them removed altogether. The Minimum Emission Standards for existing plants should come into effect by the 1st of April 2015 and will control the amounts of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and particulate matter which industry pumps into South African air. Read More

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