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Media Release

19 October 2019

Corrupt, state capture nuclear deals lives on in new IRP

“We are dismayed that the government has included nuclear in its new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) released yesterday,” said Francesca de Gasparis, Executive Director of SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute.

The state has failed yet again to keep its commitments to choose least cost energy sources, as announced by the President in September, and in the draft version released in March 2019. The IRP is meant to provide a clear roadmap, a “determination” of the energy sources that will be used to supply the country with electricity. Following the last draft, there was some hope of an increased emphasis on renewables and decommissioning of nuclear and coal as sources of power. The latest version shows that least cost modelling and climate science have been ignored. The decisions in this version of the IRP presented by the Minerals and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, will hit South African citizens in their pockets when they can least afford it. 

SAFCEI is shocked that nuclear still features in the plan at all, not only because of the cost burden it will place on citizens, but because of the health and environmental risks nuclear poses. The inclusion of nuclear points to undue influence on decision making that was present during the Zuma presidency, and that state capture forces remain influential in government. It is immoral to allow the nuclear lobby to wreck the country’s energy system and burden the country with escalating costs.

“We are likely to see electricity tariff hikes as a result of continued reliance on nuclear. The extension of Koeberg power plant and modular nuclear energy plants are problematic on many levels. None of the government’s previous plans for nuclear have produced affordable or safe energy for our country, and billions of rands have already been wasted on failed attempts. The previous nuclear deal was ruled unconstitutional and illegal in 2017. Our submission to the Zondo Commission shows how nuclear procurement was directly implicated in state capture. Why are we once again having to say ‘No More Nukes for South Africa’?  There are cleaner, cheaper and safer energy options,” commented de Gasparis.

Hopes for expanding the existing renewables industry in order to create jobs have also been dashed by the today’s IRP. Renewables are now the cheapest and easiest way to provide energy access to households that are not connected to the grid.  They are decentralized and could help South Africa tackle its energy needs in the most cost effective, efficient and socially just way.  

Nuclear energy will not help us to adapt or build resilience to the climate crisis.  Extending the lifespan of Koeberg Power Station to beyond 2024 and acquiring a safety license for an additional 20 years is an indicator that government is ignoring financial, environmental and health costs to South Africans. 

Beyond escalating electricity costs, nuclear is a bad option for South Africa because it leaves a toxic legacy of radioactive waste for which there is no safe disposal. Invisible radioactive vapour and particles are also emitted from time to time during operations.  Nuclear power is fueled with uranium, the mining of which creates health and environmental hazards. Uranium mining communities are already being affected.  

An “energy mix” with nuclear, coal, and gas from fracking and ocean drilling will have dire consequences for the environment and poor communities who are forced to struggle and defend themselves against predatory mining companies as experienced, among others, by the Mfuleni community, so threatened by coal mining on the border of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve in KZN.

Now more than ever, we need to prioritise energy options that will give us sustainable economic development prospects, clean energy as well as addressing the climate change commitments according to the Paris Agreement. We call on government to fulfill its promises and re-consider presenting an IRP with no nuclear and a clear investment in renewables in the energy mix so that communities do not have to continue to pay a costly price with their lives and the environment.

For interviews please contact Tamzyn Pamplin, SAFCEI on 021 701 8145 or 079 599 7694. Email media@safcei.org.za for interview requests. 

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