Zuma must dismantle nuke plans in South Africa
SCRAPPING the nuclear energy plan is the single most important announcement that President Jacob Zuma can make in his State of the Nation address, and anything less than its complete dismantling will be a monumental failure of the president’s duty and responsibility to South Africans.
This is the view of former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and elder statesman Njongonkulu Ndungane, ahead of the delivery of the address in Parliament this week.
“We are very quickly and surely sliding towards a future of nuclear energy. I call on all citizens to become fully informed about the insidious process that is unfolding under our noses, and raise their voices in protest against the government’s nuclear energy plan,” the archbishop said.
One of the most fundamental problems with the nuclear energy plan, says Ndungane, is its unaffordability.
“The price tag is estimated at R1 trillion for setting up of the plants. Our current debt stands at R1.89 trillion. When we borrow money to pay for the nuclear deal, our country will owe R3 trillion – an increase of more than 50%! Anyone with the most basic ability to balance a budget can see that increasing one’s debt by more than half is financial suicide,” the archbishop said.
Ndungane said the nuclear procurement process had been mired in obfuscation for at least the past three years since the then-minister of energy signed the determination to procure nuclear energy in November 2013.
However, the country was only informed of this in December 2015 – more than two years after the minister gave the go-ahead with his signature.
Archbishop Ndungane quoted South African energy expert Chris Yelland on the costs of the various types of energy: “Yelland has calculated that new wind, solar PV and gas will cost R1.00/kW. New coal energy will cost between R1.05 and R1.19/kW. New nuclear energy will cost between R1.30 and R1.52/kW. It’s a no-brainer!”
Ndungane was also critical of Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s apparent disregard of her own advisers, whose report was made public in December at the IRP public hearings.
The minister’s advisers said: “A least-cost IRP model, free of any artificial constraints and before any policy adjustments, does not include any nuclear power generators. The optimal least cost mix is one of solar PV, wind and flexible power generators.”
He added: “What is the point of appointing a panel of experts if you are going to ignore them?”
The archbishop said the decision late last year to give the procurement of the nuclear new build to Eskom was further evidence of the cynicism of the current government.
“As a company with its own board, Eskom requires no mandate and no consultation from the state or the public to carry out its business and the spending of public funds – this for the largest procurement deal that South Africa has seen since the advent of democracy! This cannot be good governance,” he said.
According to the South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the Department of Energy’s base case for nuclear makes a number of nuclear-friendly assumptions and has an almost linear focus on nuclear.
SAFCEI adds that there is “absolutely no evidence” that government investigated renewables and no comparable costs were provided for other energy choices.
Ndungane adds that the country is already seeing the impact of Eskom’s decision last year to sign no further agreements to purchase renewal energy from independent power producers.
“I am appalled at this glitch in our efforts to promote renewable energy, which has frequently been touted as a shining example of government’s industrialisation programme,” he said.
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