Concern over increasing support for nuclear power in South Africa
1 November 2019
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) yesterday and energy was high on the agenda. Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (SAFCEI) is concerned by the increasing support for nuclear power as a possible solution to Eskom’s woes and our power crisis. We are glad that the Draft Public Procurement Bill is currently sitting with cabinet as this may hopefully go some way in helping government to have a more transparent procurement process, even in the energy space where there has been a serious lack of transparency and accountability. We are disappointed that Minister Mboweni didn’t announce a reduction in nuclear spend and a higher spend on renewable energy as we had hoped.
We again call on the Zondo Commission, who we have already made a submission to, to investigate the nuclear deal and energy procurement in general before more money is committed to ill-conceived, wasteful energy infrastructure projects, especially those related to nuclear power, as we are seeing in other parts of Africa where governments are signing up for nuclear power. We are concerned that there is a nuclear arms race currently taking place globally and that South Africa may be drawn into this.
Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa mentioned that the nuclear deal had come up in a meeting with Russian President Putin. The president commented that he told President Putin that “we are not about to embark on a nuclear power project we cannot afford.” While this rhetoric is an improvement on the previous leadership, it is concerning that the president is not rejecting nuclear power for the many other reasons that make this energy source not viable for South Africa. What happens if the Russians give us a credit plan that allows us to pay the debt over a longer period- we hope that the president will look at the true costs of nuclear procurement beyond immediate financing.
The Integrated Resource Plan announced this month had nuclear power included which was surprising considering government’s previous commitments to renewable energy. We are concerned that the modular reactors announced recently could be a consolation prize given to the Russian government for not embarking on the big nuclear deal that was negotiated under president Jacob Zuma’s regime. The recurrence of the nuclear deal conversation between the SA and Russian president also show that in Russia’s thinking, South Africa is not off the hook on the nuclear deal. As people of faith, we believe that morally the government has a responsibility to create a prosperous future for South Africa that does not subject her citizens to unnecessary risk or additional costs. If the government is serious about addressing climate change and increasing employment and household incomes, then nuclear should never have been on the table.
The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute (SAFCEI) is a multi-faith organisation
committed to supporting faith leaders and their communities in Southern Africa to increase awareness,
understanding and action on eco-justice, sustainable living and climate change.
For further information, contact:
Tamzyn Pamplin, Communications Coordinator, SAFCEI
Tel: 021 701 8145