Court finds SA's nuclear deal is illegal

Johannesburg – Business Leadership SA has welcomed Wednesday’s court ruling that effectively ends cooperation agreements between Eskom and countries that are home to nuclear providers.

In a statement issued on Friday, the association says: “Once again the rule of law has triumphed in South Africa.”

Its board and members of BLSA congratulate Earth Life South Africa and Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute for their courage and fortitude in successfully challenging the government’s proposed nuclear deal.

Safcei and Earthlife Africa filed their application in the Western Cape High Court in October 2015 to challenge a 2013 determination by former Energy Minister Dipuo Peters that South Africa should procure 9 600 MW of nuclear power.

The two organisations also challenged the constitutionality of government agreements for procuring nuclear reactors and asked the court to declare invalid agreements South Africa entered into with the US, the Republic of Korea and Russia.

At the time, the NGOs claimed that South Africa was secretly preparing a nuclear power procurement deal.

Earthlife and Safcei argued that the decision to procure nuclear energy could bankrupt South Africa “especially since much lower-cost options are available such as renewable energy.

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Judge Lee Bozalek in the Western Cape High Court, by setting aside the unconstitutional and unlawful cooperation agreements with the US, Russia and Korea, has assured South Africans of future public participation and more transparency, BLSA says.

“BLSA applauds this ruling, particularly given the nuclear new build programme was a red-flag for ratings agencies. Fitch had cited it as central to the decision to remove former Finance Minister [Nhlanhla] Nene and recently stated it contributed to the dismissal of Minister [Pravin] Gordhan.”

It adds it also noted and supported the clear findings of the Integrated Resource Plan, which suggests South Africa does not need a R1 trillion nuclear plan. “In our current low-growth environment the costs and affordability of a nuclear program will strain public finances already under pressure.”

It says: “The judge’s findings have forestalled government from flouting constitutional requirements, sidestepping parliament and the public and defying the standards of transparency required in a democracy.

“Given that Eskom, assigned responsibility for procurement, as recently as last week was seeking exemptions from certain National Treasury regulations, BLSA welcomes the ruling that the Minister of Energy and NERSA will make a new, more accountable determination.”