Civil group Earthlife Africa hails Ramaphosa's nuclear pause

One of the civil groups that lobbied against the country's nuclear build programme has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision not to pursue the project under the current economic climate.

Earthlife Africa Director, Makoma Lekalakala, said the organisation was pleased with Ramaphosa’s position, as it showed that he had noted the last year’s court ruling against the construction of new nuclear reactors as part the country’s energy mix.

"We are pleased with Ramaphosa’s decision to do what is best for the country," said Lekalakala.

The proposed construction of nuclear reactors is estimated to cost the economy over R600bn, although some experts suggest that the price tag could escalate to up to R1trn. 

Lekalakala stated that further discussions on the subject since the April ruling were an indication of power dynamics in Brics, as more powerful countries within the five-nation grouping held the power balance.

"It is important that our leaders put the interest of the country first when meeting in these platforms. Right now there is an increasing pressure to grow the economy, and leaders must ensure that our national interest are safeguarded," she added,  maintaining that a firm 'no nuclear' deal was what they were looking for.

Russia has been one of the countries vying to build new nuclear power reactors in South Africa that would produce around 9.6 GW of power.

In April 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled that certain state decisions around the procurement of nuclear power were unlawful, following an application launched by Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei).

The ruling put brakes on the controversial project, which gained momentum during former president Jacob Zuma’s term in office.

The civil groups argued that the process flouted democratic processes and was too costly for the struggling economy.

Timing

On Thursday, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Ramaphosa informed Putin during bilateral talks that the country would only be able to afford the proposed nuclear build programme at an 'appropriate' time.

South Africa’s economy has registered poor growth in the last five years and entered a technical recession in the first quarter of 2017, rebounding in the second quarter.

Koeberg is currently South Africa's only nuclear plant, supplying some 1 800 MW to the country's national grid. 

The new Integrated Resource Plan, however, makes provision for a mix of energy sources including gas, renewables, coal and 9 600 MW of nuclear power by 2030.

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