No nuclear bail outs

Press release 11th May 2016

Minister Joemat-Pettersson’s energy budget debate was characterised by some anomalies.  The Minister and various MPs spoke at length about electrification, quoting the numbers of households electrified since 1994.  This figure is commendable, but few MPs alluded to the fact that rising electricity prices mean that access to a pole, a wire and an electric meter does not equate to being able to afford to buy electricity to cook your food or heat your home in winter.

The Minister and ANC MPs continued to be full of steam regarding the nuclear build programme, motivating the nuclear build on the basis that it would be part of fighting poverty.  However, research from the University of Cape Town has shown that commitment to a nuclear build under conditions of low economic growth and high nuclear energy prices could lead to the shedding of 75,000 jobs. Given the high level of unemployment amongst unskilled workers, they are most likely to face the worst impacts of growing unemployment.  This does not sound like a recipe for fighting poverty.

SAFCEI commends the minister for her support of the renewable programme. However, given its success, it is surprising there was no mention of sending young South Africans to study renewable energy, like the training of nuclear experts promised.

South Africa will need a very particular type of nuclear experts – the very expensive nuclear waste clean-up force who will have to deal with an historical legacy of toxic radiation-contaminated sites, and with the decommissioning of Koeberg.

Treasury allocated R100 mill for 2016/17 and R100 million in 2017/18 for the nuclear build preparation. Taking that R200 million that DoE would spend on nuclear energy and giving it to students to study renewable energy would mean that 4,000 students would be given a head start in getting jobs in the renewable industry sector that is the future. Resources allocated rather to renewable energy would benefit the economy, provide jobs, and improve living conditions for the poor.

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