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Court bid to stop nuclear procurement

‘Agreements with Russia, US, Korea unconstitutional’.
A nuclear reactor vessel being constructed at the Atomenergomash plant in Volgandonsk, Russia.

Papers were lodged with the Cape High Court this week in an application against Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and President Jacob Zuma, aimed at stopping the country’s nuclear procurement programme.

Environmental group Earthlife Africa and the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) on Thursday announced that it had lodged an application in this regard. Other respondents are the National Energy Regulator (Nersa), Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the Speaker of the National Assembly. No relief is sought against these three.

The applicants, however, need money for what is expected to be a long and costly fight against government. They currently have less than R1 million available for legal costs and are busy raising more funds.

The South African government is preparing for a nuclear power procurement programme based on the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that suggests the country will need 9 600MW nuclear generation capacity by 2030. Details about which State entity will implement the project and the structure of the procurement process are however still unknown and there is much concern about the affordability of nuclear power.

The applicants argue in their papers that Joemat-Pettersson has failed to put the necessary processes in place to ensure that the nuclear procurement is conducted lawfully and meets the requirements of the Constitution for a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective process.

“Notwithstanding the vast sums of money to be committed, and the potentially long-term effect on the economy and for consumers of electricity and present and future generations of South Africans, the decision to proceed with procuring these nuclear power plants (the so-called nuclear fleet), and to have concluded such procurement in the next few months, has occurred without any of the necessary statutory and constitutional decisions having been lawfully taken,” the applicants argue.

They are challenging the legality of the inter-governmental agreements between South Africa and Russia, the US and Korea, respectively. These agreements were held by the Department of Energy to be done in preparation of the actual procurement.

They are asking the court to set these agreements aside and, among other things, challenge certain decisions by Joemat-Pettersson, in consultation with Nersa, prior to making the formal determination about the amount of nuclear capacity the country needs.

They maintain a fair, equitable, transparent, cost-effective and competitive procurement process cannot take place in the current circumstances and are seeking a declaratory order in this regard.

In terms of the court rules Joemat-Pettersson and President Zuma have ten days to file opposing papers.

SAFCEI spokesperson Liziwe McDaid said the organisation does not support the notion that the country needs base load energy with coal and nuclear being the only viable options. She said a mix of renewable energy technologies as well as gas, but excluding fracking, is more appropriate.

It will be a mistake to lock the country into unaffordable nuclear projects that are in actual fact outdated technology, she said. Decommissioning of the country’s older coal-fired power stations will begin in about ten years’ time. During this period huge strides may be made with regard to technological solutions for the storage of renewable energy and that will be a better replacement for the coal-fired fleet than nuclear, she said.

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And where does all the money for these expensive legal proceedings come from? From the long suffering taxpayer of course.

Let me tell you this now: negative, no deal, no dice. Actually I can respect an opposing point of view but vile hypocrites; well not so much.

If these organizations have a beef with the ANC and the way they go about business- then that is okay. They are in good company. No rational person likes the cabal of thieving scoundrels that pillage the SA treasury as if it were their personal fiefdom. Despite how much contempt one may have for the ANC they are, nonetheless, the democratically elected regime in SA.

However …

The issue is that these guys don’t really have a beef with the ANC and the way they go about procuring energy solutions for the country: Let’s be brutally honest it’s really about their pathological hatred for the concept of nuclear power and burning coal. They want to hedge the country’s energy security bets with Peter Pan promises. Don’t you love how huge technological solutions for energy storage MAY be made in 10 years. The fact is we are not there and there is no indication we will be there shortly.

If the ANC had gone off half cocked and started negotiations with the USA, Russia and Korea about the supply of solar panels, deep cycle lithium ion batteries and wind turbines i.e. “democratic energy” in exactly the same manner, this bunch of Green Numbats would ooze back under the flat rocks whence they crawled.

Suffice to say this level of cheap politics is only deleterious to transparency, honesty and integrity concerning state procurements and does nothing for the energy debate. There is already enough cloak and dagger concerning renewable power particularly quoting nameplate capacity, state subsidies for sub economic concepts and the use of power comparisons, when the product is energy.

Let me tell you this: the danger from nuclear power is not the waste but the potential of a level 7 nuclear accident such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. In normal operation nuclear power stations emit less radiation into the environment than coal fired power stations. If we can invent a commercially viable reactor that cannot melt down then the debate effectively dies. Renewables cannot be relied on to supply base load power: the choices are stark for South Africa: Fracking, Nuclear, Coal or go back to the dark ages. While the green faction may welcome the latter, they should not expect us to follow them.

End of comments.





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