Greenpeace slams government over nuclear

Cape Town - Environmental organisation Greenpeace has demanded that the government halts all discussions aimed at expanding nuclear power production in South Africa.

"Greenpeace Africa activists blockaded the premises of the IDC where the conference on 'Nuclear power's future for Africa' was taking place," the organisation told News24.

Police forcibly removed the activists from the premises of the Industrial Development Corporation in Sandton.

The government is exploring nuclear power expansion to meet South Africa's expanding demand for electricity and despite policy aimed at boosting renewable energy, officials from Eskom have said that nuclear and coal power plants provided base load critical to energy demand in the country.

That argument has come under from environmentalists.

"If you have a combination and a proper mix of energy with solar and wind, you don't have to get stuck on having a large base load," Ferrial Adam anti nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa told News24.

Fabrication

"There's a push by the nuclear industry to enter the South. There aren't even that many new entrants in the market, so when they talk about this nuclear renaissance, it's bullshit," Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa said recently.

He also rejected the base load argument, saying that South Africa's energy crisis was a fabrication as domestic users only accounted for less than a fifth of the country's consumption.

In SA, domestic users account for around 17% of consumption, while industry takes up 37.7% and mining 15%, according to the government gazette on electricity pricing policy of 2008.

Greenpeace has been on the offensive against the expansion of nuclear power production as well as the continued build programme of the Kusile coal-fired power plant.

"Minister [Dipuo] Peters' support to expand nuclear power in Africa is extremely irresponsible given the socio-economic challenges prevalent on the continent," said Adam.

Germany recently reached a renewable energy milestone when it was announced that solar power plants in that country produced a world record 22 gigawatts (GW) of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity.

Germany has been mothballing nuclear power stations following the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster in Japan.

Target

"Nuclear energy is expensive and prone to construction delays. In a developed country like Finland, the delays have resulted in costs increasing by almost 100%, from €3.2bn to €6bn. France, a country that is one of the strongest proponents of nuclear energy, has had to delay the construction of its reactor being built in Flamanville," Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace argues that SA should accelerate the push toward renewable energy and delegates at the Wind Power Africa Conference & Renewable Energy Exhibition in Cape Town have made calls for wind energy investment.

"We don't really have a choice because we need, desperately, in this country new generation and we need it quickly. Wind is the only one you can put a lot of megawatts down in a very short time," said Hermann Oelsner, president of Africa Wind Energy Association.

Greenpeace asked the government to aim for a more ambitious target than the current one of 42% renewable energy by 2030.

"By 2030, 50% of South Africa's electricity should come from renewables - not only would this help in averting catastrophic climate change, but it could also create 150 000 direct jobs over the next 20 years," said Adam.


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