Civil society organisations – Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and The Green Connection – continue to oppose the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE)’s ongoing push for new nuclear energy.
Following recent reports that the department “plans to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for 2,500MW worth of new nuclear energy projects,” the organisations agree that nuclear energy will not solve the electricity crisis nor can it be part of the just transition because it is not renewable but rather unsafe, unaffordable and will take years to come online.
Makoma Lekalakala, Director of Earthlife Africa JHB says, “How many times will the Minister continue with RFPs on nukes? This is not the first time he says this, even though there is no Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and the current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which has been “in the works” for some time now, is outdated. And, even in the outdated version of the IRP, there is no new nuclear.
Furthermore, because it is neither safe nor renewable or affordable, there is no place for nuclear energy in the just transition. As an environmental justice organisation working with communities on the ground, we urge the minister to listen to the people as they call for the acceleration of the just energy transition to decentralised, socially owned renewable energy sources. This will be a much better solution for the electricity loadshedding crisis. Renewables will do less harm, are more affordable and will come online far quicker than any new nuclear project.”
Francesca de Gasparis, Executive Director of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) says, “The news that Minister Gwede Mantashe will be calling for an RFP for 3 gigawatts of gas in the third quarter of this financial year and then 2.5GW of nuclear energy in the fourth quarter makes a mockery of the energy crisis we are facing.
The energy minister does not seem aware of the realities that ordinary South Africans are facing. This is clearly demonstrated as he keeps pushing new energy systems that are unaffordable, unnecessary and will take years to come online. In the case of nuclear, this could take more than a decade.”
The organisations’ main concerns stem from the fact that government is addressing the country’s energy crisis without having a proper energy plan in place. A proper energy plan would integrate economic, environmental (including climate change), political, and social interests and set the context in which energy-related decisions should be made. Such a plan would be reviewed regularly and would include (and even, depend on) meaningful public consultation.
Strategic Lead for The Green Connection Liziwe McDaid says, “The minister is pushing 2500MW of nuclear but, in fact, that is not in the IRP. My understanding of the IRP is that it only has the Koeberg extension. Is the minister now saying that we are dropping the extension of Koeberg and building new power plants? Why is it that the minister can wake up from one day to the next and make decisions on energy, without any planning that involves evidence-based facts and figures and public discussion and comment?”
“And when we say unaffordable, we are talking about billions upon billions of Rands. In our view, Minister Mantashe’s energy budget announcement, last month (May 2023) is tone deaf and morally reprehensible, especially taking in account people’s suffering – caused by ongoing loadshedding and by unaffordable electricity prices.
The impact of his decisions is affecting people and businesses from all walks of life. We feel very strongly that the ongoing energy crisis will continue with no signs of abatement if current leaders do not take serious action or make decisions that will effectively address the root causes of the crisis.
The government seems critically unaware of how many people and jobs are now extremely vulnerable due to poor energy planning and governance and how this is impacting on people. Enough is enough! We need to see government take the energy situation seriously and make plans that are in the interest of all South Africans, and which will effectively alleviate the crisis as quickly as possible,” adds de Gasparis.