No secret nuclear deal, court ruling must be appealed - expert

Necsa chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm. (Photo: Netwerk24)
Necsa chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm. (Photo: Netwerk24)

Cape Town - It is a false perception to say that the high court ruling which set aside government's nuclear cooperation agreements with various countries is anti-nuclear, according to an industry expert.

Judge Lee Bozalek ruled in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday that former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's tabling of the nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, Russia and South Korea in Parliament was unconstitutional and unlawful.

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

The ruling has been widely hailed by civil rights organisations and opposition political parties, with Earthlife calling it a "victory for justice and the rule of law and the people of South Africa".

READ: 'Justice is served', say applicants in nuclear court bid

The Democratic Alliance said the court's decision was a “wide-ranging judgment”, which will have a significant impact on government’s formulation of energy policy.

The South African Communist Party welcomed the court's decision, saying in a statement although it supports an energy mix in principle, it is strongly opposed to the subverting of the rule of democratic law and applicable processes. "Such unlawful conduct, the short-circuiting of our democratic procedures, is very dangerous," it said.

The Congress of the People cheered the high court ruling, and called on the government to not appeal it and “waste more taxpayers’ money”.

Newly-formed trade union federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions also welcomed the court ruling in a statement. 

“Saftu sees this nuclear deal as another example of the government subverting democratic processes by not referring to Parliament for endorsement or holding any public debate on an agreement which they had already referred to as a done deal with Russian companies,” it said in a statement.

However, Dr Kelvin Kemm, chairperson of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), pointed out that the court ruled on an administrative process. "The court has not ruled on the wisdom, or otherwise of nuclear power. A false impression has been created that this judgment is anti-nuclear. It is not,” Kemm said in a statement.

"The judgment of the Western Cape High Court... in favour of an anti-nuclear blocking manoeuvre has caused undue concern. It is also damaging to South Africa’s international reputation and commercial standing. It implies confusion and lack of vision on the part of the nation’s care of nuclear professionals, which is an inaccurate label."

Kemm said he finds it offensive that the anti-nuclear lobby implies South African nuclear professionals are incompetent and unaware of technical details of nuclear and the costs associated with the project. "For example, note the foolish accusations that we would advocate spending money faster than the country can afford, or that we would just buy some second-rate foreign system blindly. Such accusations are an insult to our professional people."

Kemm lashed out at what he called "fake references to a monetary figure of R1trn", which, he said, is a "fictitious creation of the anti-nuclear lobby". He added: "Serious financial studies carried out by nuclear professionals which have been made public, are ignored."

'No secret nuclear deal'

He also rubbished claims of a secret nuclear deal, saying "there is none that I know of". He added: "It is also logically immoral to say 'that there is bound to be corruption in the future, so let us cancel the nuclear programme now to stop that possibility'."

Turning to the construction of Koeberg nuclear power station half a century ago, Kemm explained: "That decision was correct. Nuclear power is currently the cheapest electricity in the Eskom stable. This time around a nuclear power decision is even more correct and sensible than it was half a century ago."

Kemm believes it is necessary to appeal the court ruling, " since there are constant references in public which are wrong and which flavour the debate".

READ: Nuclear battle not over yet, warns OUTA

He added: "As far as I am aware, nuclear did all due diligence required correctly. But if the wind and solar acquisition processes carried out functions that we did not, then I am all in favour of doing what the wind and solar procurement did."

Kemm said South Africa is considered a model of international nuclear compliance. "Nuclear professionals are patriotic South Africans who know what they are doing, and they have the national interest at heart....We strive with diligence to comply with all international nuclear procedural requirements.

"We have attempted to do the same with South African requirements. We will study the court judgments."

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