Action plan in motion for govt's costly nuclear programme

Cape Town – Government will by Friday indicate how it will move forward, following a Western Cape High Court judgment that set aside its nuclear build programme efforts thus far.

Mmamaloko Kubayi, who was recently appointed Energy Minister in President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle on 31 March, was responding to a question in Parliament asked by the DA’s Gordon Mackay, who wanted to know from her whether she thought Eskom had acted prematurely with pursuing a nuclear build programme.

“I want to indicate that Eskom has not done anything outside of the law,” Kubayi responded. “They acted upon a mandate given to them by a Cabinet resolution.”

READ: Court sets aside nuclear deals with Russia, other countries

On April 26 Judge Lee Bozalek ruled in favour of the case brought by Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei).

In his ruling, he declared government’s attempts to secure 9.6 GW of nuclear energy unlawful, including the initial determination to procure nuclear energy in 2013, the cooperation agreements signed with Russia, the US and South Korea, as well as former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s decision late last year to hand over the procurement of nuclear energy to Eskom.

The judgment also means that all current nuclear-related dealings – Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) - pertaining to new generation capacity are set aside.

So, if the government wants to pursue its nuclear ambitions, in terms of the court ruling it would need a new Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) and Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), based on accurate, relevant and well-informed information, combined with meaningful public participation among other things.

READ: Nuclear stall could buy SA ratings reprieve - economist

Mackay in a follow-up question said the IRP, which is the blueprint for South Africa’s energy needs, stated that nuclear energy would only be needed in 2030.

“The draft document (IRP) said we don’t need nuclear,” Mackay said and asked Kubayi why Eskom went ahead with a RFI for a nuclear build programme.

The energy minister said the fact that Eskom issued a RFI does not mean Eskom started with a procurement process for nuclear energy. “The Request for Information was only to look at the funding model and the cost – to reach a conclusion on that.”

Kubayi said government will by the end of the week decide on the process forward following the court judgment.

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