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‘Renewable energy can resolve urgent problems’

Activists put up an anti-nuclear banner at the 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress in Africa 2015 on Thursday.

Activists put up an anti-nuclear banner at the 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress in Africa 2015 on Thursday.

Published Feb 13, 2015


Cape Town - Greenpeace anti-nuclear activists unfurled a banner at the 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress Africa 2015 in Sea Point on Thursday which read “nuclear investments cost the Earth”.

The banner hung for a short while in the hotel foyer where delegates were registering for the congress, until hotel security asked activists, perched on a ledge above it, to come down.

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Melita Steele, of Greenpeace, said their intention had been to “communicate directly with the congress delegates, which we did, so we came down”.

Greenpeace is demanding a halt to the country’s proposed R1 trillion nuclear expansion programme and said the proposed nuclear investments were no solution to South Africa’s electricity crisis.

“In fact nuclear projects are a distraction from the real solution to the crisis: investments in renewable energy. It would take at least 15 years for new nuclear projects to deliver electricity to the grid, which is far too little, far too late and comes at far too high a price. South Africans cannot afford to wait another 15 to 20 years for nuclear projects to come online when renewable energy investments can immediately resolve the country’s urgent energy problems,” Steele said.

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The government had announced its proposed 9 800MW nuclear programme in March 2011, barely a week after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. This was when other countries had been seriously reconsidering nuclear investments, she said.

“The full human and environmental costs of the Fukushima nuclear disaster are yet to be tallied, but over 140 000 people had to be evacuated and nearly four years later are still seeking compensation. Meanwhile, South Africa’s nuclear build plans have so far been plagued by secrecy, controversy and serious irregularities.”

Steele said the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 20-year road map of South Africa’s future electricity generation was updated in 2013, but had never been submitted to cabinet.

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“The updated IRP questioned nuclear investment, but it has never gone to cabinet for approval because it was not politically convenient. It went through a public participation process only for it to disappear… It was saying we don’t need the big-scale investments, they don’t work.

“The National Development Plan has also questioned the nuclear plan, but we have a minister and a president signing deals with the Russians which are not transparent and the public is not allowed to see.”

Steel said the current electricity crisis had created “paranoia”, which was giving rise to a sense of “we need everything and we need it now”.

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“Not only is nuclear power controversial, but it would never be ready to alleviate this crisis,” Steel said.

Cape Times

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