Article appeared in The Mercury, Pretoria News & Cape Times on 3rd May 2013
By Melanie Gosling
RELIGIOUS leaders have hit out at the Department of Energy’s statement to Parliament that nuclear energy was “non-negotiable”.
The Department of Energy’s director-general Nelisiwe Magubane told the energy portfolio committee that “South Africa’s nuclear plan is non-negotiable” and that the programme was supported by the National Development Plan (NDP).
The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute said its board had “expressed horror” at the statement.
Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgobo said the government could not be serious about overcoming inequality, poverty and unemployment if it followed the nuclear route.
Eskom has budgeted R300 billion for the nuclear project, but others have said R1 trillion is more realistic .
“Nuclear energy is not going to touch the two million rural households who are without electricity. It is for the benefit of the extractive industries, the energy intensive industries and the already rich,” he said.
The Anglican Church and Catholic Church in Japan, where the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in March 2011, had called on their government to end nuclear power, he said.
Bishop Geoff Davies said the government ought to have learned from the E-tolling issue, that it must consult the public.
“We cannot understand why the government would knowingly go into another conflict situation, which will be the case if South Africa continues on the nuclear path. We, in the faith communities, clearly see that nuclear energy is not right on economic, social and environmental grounds.
In March last year The Economist magazine published a report showing nuclear energy had priced itself out of contention,” Davies said.
The Quaker community said in a democracy everything was negotiable.
“What is needed is a cabinet decision to rescind the 2008 support of nuclear power. Nuclear power is extremely expensive when all costs, including subsidies and dismantling costs are included. We believe the funds would be far more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions if used for energy efficiency, conservation and renewable power,” it said.
The National Development Plan, published last year, said it was vital South Africa investigated whether nuclear energy was financially viable, and if it was too expensive, the country must develop a “plan B” for electricity generation.
The NDP said the government plan to build several new nuclear power stations was the most expensive project South Africa had considered, and would require a “level of investment unprecedented in South Africa”.
It said although nuclear power would give South Africa a low-carbon alternative to coal, the implications of the plan needed “thorough investigation”, including the cost, financing options, institutional arrangements, safety, employment opportunities and environmental costs and benefits.
The possibilities of uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication must also be investigated.
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