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More secrets, more money, less accountability

Zuma Takes Over Nuclear Coordination in South Africa

Feature story - July 29, 2013
In a recent article in the Mail and Guardian it was revealed that President Zuma has taken over as the chairperson of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee.

In a recent article in the Mail and Guardian it was revealed that President Zuma has taken over as the chairperson of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee.

The confirmation of the take-over and the underhanded manner in which Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe was replaced both highlight the continued lack of transparency and ongoing secrecy by government when it comes to the country’s nuclear energy plans.

But there is more evidence of a complete disregard for transparency.

According to a recent article in Engineering News, the Director General of the Department of Energy stated that the revised Integrated Resources Plan will continue to include nuclear power, even if the public opposes it. 

“The plethora of confusion and the lack of accountability by government goes against the fundamentals of democracy and shows government’s disregard for its citizens,” said Greenpeace energy campaigner, Ferrial Adam.

“Such behavior was witnessed during the arms deal and Greenpeace hopes that South Africa is not heading for another arms deal fiasco with the nuclear plan.”

Last year the National Development Plan called for an analysis on the cost of nuclear before any further steps are taken.

But it seems that government is merely paying lip-service to this request: a study will be done, but its outcome is irrelevant; government will still push ahead with its plans for new nuclear power – at a time when global demand for nuclear energy has dropped off to new lows.

In a recent World Nuclear Industry Status Report that looked at the role of nuclear energy on a global scale, nuclear’s share of global commercial primary energy production plunged to 4.5%.  

Furthermore, over the past five years, of 15 nuclear utilities assessed in the report, 10 were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard & Poor's, four utilities remained stable, and only one was upgraded. Rating agencies clearly consider nuclear investments as risky options -- and the abandoning of nuclear projects are obviously "credit positive".

"The reality is that, even putting aside the issues of safety, security, and waste management, South Africa cannot afford new nuclear power plants and the stubbornness of the government on its delusions of grandeur would drive the country to bankruptcy," cautioned Adam.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that of nuclear by 2016.

“It is time for government to make smart choices and invest in a sustainable state-owned RE plan. The time of irresponsibility, trial and error is over – all of us need to act.” concluded Adam.