In his State of the Nation address this year, President Jacob Zuma said the energy department had committed to building more nuclear power stations, generating around 9 600 megawatts of nuclear energy a year. He also said a new coal power station would be built, in addition to the two mega-stations underway at Medupi and Kusile. Unfortunately, renewable technology only got a perfunctory nod.
This decision goes against South Africa’s international climate change commitments, its own energy plans and ignores the global shift towards renewable energy. Professor William Gumede, of Democracy Works, said the move was being pursued due to a political agenda. “Projects are being implemented, essentially from a purely patronage point of view,” he argued.
Focusing on nuclear energy also comes with the perceived bonus of tying South Africa closer to Brics nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – all of whom are nuclear-inclined states wanting to sell technology to the country, he said.
Gumede added that South Africa did not have the institutional capacity for a nuclear build and no clear national plan for energy. As a result, each level of government had begun “doing its own thing”. For the most part, this meant going with tried and tested technologies – mainly coal – due to the lack of support.
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