Press Release: No good tidings in Christmas nuclear announcement

Earthlife Africa Jhb

Johannesburg – As South Africa prepares for Christmas festivities, the government announced on Wednesday the 17th of December 2014, 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.

Energy 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.

The Presidency urged today that a nuclear procurement programme would entail a much needed injection into the South African economy, would provide thousands of well paid jobs and would solve the current electricity crisis. Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s’ Makoma Lekalakala, however, argues that one need only look at the Medupi Power Station in Limpopo Province to realize that large scale energy infrastructure projects will not be the solution to supplying South Africans with a sustainable energy supply. “Medupi has been plagued by problems since the start of construction,” claims Lekalakala, “Unit 6 was due to be synchronised by the 24th of December 2014, as the solution to South Energy problems, yet this will most likely be delayed. A nuclear build will cost much more for tax payers and will take much longer than constructing another coal-fired power station. Relying on nuclear to solve the energy crisis is a pipe dream”.

Rendering today’s announcement even more illogical is the fact that the government is ignoring its own energy policy recommendations. In an effort to validate procuring 9600 MW, the Department of Energy is relying on an old version of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which was published in 2010 and which included nuclear power in the future energy mix. However, an updated version of the IRP was published in 2013. The updated version advised that nuclear power should be delayed until 2025-35 due to a stagnating energy demand. The updated IRP further advised that new large energy infrastructure development projects should be avoided.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:

Makoma Lekalakala
Senior Programme Manager
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 82 682 9177

Dominique Doyle
Energy Policy Officer
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 79 331 2028

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