R1-trillion nuclear plans are simply “disastrous” for SA

Government’s R1-trillion nuclear build plans are going to turn South Africa’s energy crisis into a jobs crisis, according to the Democratic Alliance.

Earlier in July, the Department of Energy signed two memoranda of understanding with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom to implement several joint projects for education in the nuclear power industry.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that South Africa will start a nuclear build programme in 2015, in a bid to generate an additional 9,600MW of electricity.

The country will have as many as nine new nuclear power plants by 2030, with government pegging the total cost to build these at R500 billion – though energy experts have stated R1 trillion was more realistic, and would likely increase.

In a statement issued on 31 July, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the nuclear deal will drag the country’s economy back, and will cost thousands of South Africans their jobs.

According to the party, the details behind government’s nuclear plans show that the undertaking is unaffordable.

“Whichever funding model is chosen, you can rest assured that it will be paid for by the South African taxpayer, and that we can expect substantial tariff increases over many years.”

These higher prices would price the poor out of electricity usage, and would result in energy-heavy industries – like mining and manufacturing – shedding more jobs, said the DA.

“For a government that claims to be pro-poor – and for a country where 5.2 million people cannot find work and a further 2.4 million have given up looking – this is unfathomable.”

Maimane pointed to a number of flaws in the scheme:

  • Even if government’s estimate of R500 billion was correct, South Africa cannot afford to build the nuclear reactors. This would result in private-public partnerships being formed, which would be reflected in current and future electricity prices increasing, as citizens would have to pay.
  • South Africa lacks the capacity and skills to operate eight nuclear power stations. We lack the capacity and skills to run the one we already have, said Maimane.
  • The project goes against the government’s own National Development Plan, which urges caution on nuclear, pointing rather towards gas, wind, and solar energy as a primary source of power.

To date, government has not provided solid details on the nuclear build plans.

“Until the government tells us how much the nuclear deal will cost, how we plan to pay for it, and how they intend to choose the preferred bidder, we cannot begin to entertain the notion of going down this path.”

The DA leader said that, while the party does not oppose nuclear power, the current plan is “not right” for the country, and it will do anything in its power to block the deal.

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R1-trillion nuclear plans are simply “disastrous” for SA