“There is no such thing as safe nuclear power!” Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar of the Claremont Main Road Mosque cautioned the congregation who had come to listen to his World Environment Day khutbah (sermon). The current electricity crisis may motivate the government and some of us to favour risky energy options such as nuclear. Quoting from the Qur’an,Imam Omar reminds us of God’s warning: In this verse, “God not only reminds us of one of the great gifts He has bestowed upon human beings, namely our ability to convert natural resources such as iron into useful technology, but He also warns us that this wonderful talent and skill can be utilized for destructive purposes.”
Our God-given ability to convert natural resources into useful technologies has allowed us to enjoy life changing advances in health, food production, material well being, transport and energy. However, humans have become so enchanted with the awesome power of our technical innovations that we have neglected the balance implicit in the Qur’an’s message. The decision to use a particular technology should be measured against values that do not set aside the negative consequences to humanity or to nature in favour of anticipated benefits to a society.
The South African government’s push for nuclear energy, supposedly to resolve the current electricity crisis by switching from climate damaging coal, is an extremely disturbing energy choice. Nuclear energy has the ability to generate awesome power but also a lethal legacy for generations to come. The consequences of mining radio-active uranium, of another nuclear accident and of unresolved management of nuclear waste are ecologically immoral and cannot be justified by people of faith. The significant economic and financial risks are likely to lead to unaffordable electricity for most citizens and a crippling burden of debt for the country.
We cannot afford to reduce God’s warning about the risks of `awesome power’ to irrelevant small print. Our wonderful talent can result in dangerous technologies and a destructive use of energy and of political power. It does not have to be this way!
In his World Environmental Day khutbah, Imam Omar reminded us about the advancements made in renewable energy technologies that harness the power of the sun, wind, water, geothermal heat and energy from biomass. Not only do these technologies provide sustainable energy in tune with the earth’s renewable systems, they also reconnect human needs with the natural rhythms of life. With the understanding that what we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves and to future generations, Imam Omar made a passionate plea for the congregation to provide greater support for environmental justice. “
Our goal should be to promote renewable energy and energy conservation as part of responsible stewardship of the earth and as a faith response to climate change.”He encouraged thecongregation to join SAFCEI’s weekly Wednesday morning “No to Nukes vigil” outside the South African Parliament. If you are unable to join the protest, then make your voice count with letters of protest and petitions calling on our government to reconsider its unwise nuclear path.
Current status of the proposed nuclear programme. This five point summary of the presentations to the Parliamentary Energy Portfolio Committee meeting of 2 June 2015 provides 5 reasons why we need to stop the government’s enchantment with nuclear power.
1 President Zuma and Minister of Energy, Ms. Tina Joemat-Pettersson approved the principle of nuclear power for South Africa by 2030 without a mandate from cabinet or from the current energy policies. The government promised that if the bid prices were higher than $6,500/kW, the tender would be abandoned. Prevailing prices in the world are currently about $8,000/kW. Will the government keep its promise? (Energy expert, Steven Thomas in the Business Day, 3 June 2015.)
2 A vendor parade of potential nuclear partners is scheduled for the second half of 2015 with the view to selecting a preferred bid and international partners. Given the secrecy to date, what are the chances that this process will be open, transparent and equitable as required by the constitution?
3 The sources of funding and the costs of the nuclear programme are still a mystery – yet the process is proceeding. The DDG Energy Mr. Zizamele Mbambo said that funding options will become clearer during the negotiations with vendors in the bid process. What are the chances that this information will be public, transparent and in the best interests of all South Africans? Mr. Mbambo also said that electricity tariffs need to be increased ahead of the build programme to assist with the capital costs. Considering huge sums of money involved and the potential for corruption this process is extremely disturbing and undemocratic.
4 An Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review report was completed in 2013 by the National Nuclear Regulator on the current readiness status of RSA for new nuclear. This report has still not been released to parliament nor for public review. An assessment of the report by the International Atomic Energy Association found shortcomings in 14 of 19 areas of competency for a new nuclear programme. Surely our government should not proceed while this report is secret and areas of competency are a problem?
5 In spite of all these critical shortcomings, the lack of transparency and an undemocratic process, the government plans to start drafting the contracts for the approved bid partners in 2016. We need to refuse to be the blanks on an open cheque that is to be handed to a foreign investor for nuclear power that will burden, not serve, our citizens and our natural world. Kim Kruyshaar for SAFCEI June 2015 This article borrowed extensively from the World Environment Day Khutbah by Imam Omar Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar is the Imam of the Claremont Main Road Mosque and research scholar of Islamic studies and peace building at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Read his full khutbah here. Khutbah – World Environment Day 2015 Layout