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Widespread public mistrust f South African government’s nuclear power plans

corruptionFears mount over true motivations for SA’s planned nuclear deal, Mail and Guardian, Hartmut Winkler 27 Sep 2016  Nuclear energy in South Africa is a very contentious issue. The decision on whether to proceed with the construction of a fleet of nuclear power plants is destined to become the financially most far-reaching and consequential defining moment of the Jacob Zuma presidency.

There is widespread public mistrust of the nuclear expansion process. Its roots lie in the extraordinary announcement in 2014 that the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom had secured therights to build the new South African nuclear plants. The South African government played down the announcement, claiming that it was inaccurate.

But this precipitated a series of media investigations. These uncovered evidence that individuals close to the president and groups linked to the ruling ANC have significant financial interests in the matter.

Civil society organisations are taking government to court in an attempt to have the deal declared illegal. Their attempts to have details of the Russian agreement released are being resisted. This is likely to strengthen their case, and sway public opinion further.

It appears that those with a stake in the nuclear build are hoping to fast-track the process in the face of growing public opposition. This is evident from revelations that, bizarrely, contracts are being awarded, even though a formal process has not been set in motion by government.

 The most recent revelation was that a member of a business family with close links to President Jacob Zuma has been awarded a massive R171 million tender for a nuclear build programme management system.

The meaning of this is unclear. It has largely confirmed the fears that the nuclear build is being driven for the benefit of the politically connected rather than the national good.

Burning questions
The debate surrounding the nuclear project centres on three highly contested questions:

  • Is the country’s future energy generating potential and demand such that an expensive nuclear power station build is effectively unavoidable?
  • Can South Africa afford the associated costs and debt, especially in view of massive funding demands in other sectors such as education?
  • If approved, would the nuclear build lead to massive overspends, corruption and beneficiation ofpolitically connected individuals?…….

it is difficult to understand why the renewable fraction is not being increased further, and why the national power utility Eskom, under the leadership of Brian Molefe, a nuclear disciple, now opposes new renewable energy developments.

The promotion of nuclear energy at the expense of renewables bucks global trends………

The ANC’s internal nuclear war
The often obscure processes and overhasty developments require an insight into the present machinations within the governing party.

Tensions within the ruling party have escalated to the point where calls for the president’s resignation are now made openly. And even party leaders acknowledge that factions in their ranks are thriving on corruption.

The organisational fracture is equally evident in attitudes towards the nuclear build. Tensions over the issue have been cited as the major reason for Zuma’s dismissal of the financially prudent former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.

The official position…….

the legitimacy of the procurement process has already been undermined.

Looking ahead, actual construction would need to be preceded by the closure of funding agreements, the settling of legal disputes and further public engagement. This takes time.

In the unlikely event that the nuclear build actually does come to fruition, it will not commence any time soon.

Hartmut Winkler, Professor of Physics, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original articlehttp://mg.co.za/article/2016-09-27-questions-mount-over-south-africas-planned-nuclear-power-deal

September 28, 2016 - Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa

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