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South Africa’s nuclear plan to commence in earnest

South Africa’s nuclear plan now look promising following a procurement programme that is set to officially commence on September 30, 2016. The move will pave way for official start of a  nuclear plan that has been hit by political, legal hurdles and controversy.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson, South Africa’s Energy Minister revealed the latest milestone in Parliament on the 7th of September, 2016 when asked for an update on the controversial 9.6GW nuclear new build programme. The Minister told the Parliament that the Department of Energy will release its request for proposals on September 30, which will “test the market”.

Currently, South Africa has one nuclear power station – Koeberg in Cape Town – and this programme is expected to effectively see another three or four power stations built either near Koeberg or near Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) are actively engaged in the legal proceedings against the Department of Energy over agreements signed with Russia’s nuclear firm Rosatom ahead of the official procurement process.

However, legal documents indicate that South Africa did sign a nuclear deal with Russia. Apparently, it is claimed that the Russian agreement was entered into unlawfully, but makes (an) internationally binding commitment to buy a fleet of nuclear reactors from Russia.

According to Safcei’s Bishop Geoff Davies, Safcei and in civil society have been trying to communicate with the South African government for years regarding the best way ahead for the nation’s energy future. Bishop Davies, stated that, clear evidence are available that, nuclear is now the most expensive and unwise form of energy, particularly in South Africa with the best of renewable energy resources in the world.

He further lamented that, for over five years, letters addressed to President Jacob Zuma have been unanswered and unacknowledged. The unanswered letters have created a deep suspicions of motives behind the government’s commitment to nuclear energy.

Gordon Mackay, the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on energy, cited the above case of “procedural irregularity”, which is currently before the high court in the Western Cape. He added that, it is a worrying situation for South Africa as the nation enters the so-called ratings season, which will determine SA’s credit rating by end of 2016.

These issues will be made clearer if the Department of Energy updated its Integrated Resource Plan – which has not been published since 2010. It should be published every two years.

Professor Anton Eberhard, advises the government on energy policy regarding the programme that it will be an unnecessary financial burden in the country. Thus Prof. Eberhard has called for the power sector to be restructured, with a focus on independent power producers that includes renewable energy.

“We need to follow best international practice by separating state-owned power generation from transmission and system operations, so that the latter can procure and dispatch both state and private power in a fair and transparent manner,” said Prof. Eberhard.

South Africa’s nuclear plan were mulled several years ago but practical implementation has been delayed from time to time.



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