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Vigil commemorates civil society’s court victory against R1 trillion nuclear deal

The South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) held a nuclear vigil outside Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday. Picture: Safcei

The South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) held a nuclear vigil outside Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday. Picture: Safcei

Published Apr 28, 2022

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Cape Town - The South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) held an anti-nuclear vigil outside Parliament to highlight concerns about the government’s aspiration to build nuclear plants and the lack of transparency regarding nuclear-related issues.

The vigil marked the fifth anniversary of Safcei and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg’s court case victory that halted the R1 trillion nuclear deal between South Africa and Russia that would have resulted in a fleet of nuclear power stations. It also marked the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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Safcei executive director Francesca de Gasparis said vigils were a regular occurrence prior to the court victory, and played a critical role in creating widespread awareness of the issues of secrecy and lack of due process in the illegal nuclear deal.

“Five years ago, on April 26 in 2017, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and Safcei took the government to court over the nuclear expansion deal with Russia and others. On that day, the courts ruled that the nuclear deal was unconstitutional and illegal, and all prior nuclear deals were made null and void,” De Gasparis said.

Safcei and other civil society organisations believed that should the deal have gone through, the country would have been left bankrupt and that the court case was pivotal to exposing widespread political corruption at the time.

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“Now, as we look back, we see once again that we are being sold the lie that nuclear energy should be part of the just energy transition, along with gas and other resources.

“We know that to really address the issue of climate change, there is no way nuclear energy can be part of the equation.

“It does not make sense in terms of affordability, risks, safety, the accessibility of energy, and when we have more affordable renewable energy systems,” De Gasparis said.

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Glen Tyler-Davies, South African team leader of environmental organisation 350 Africa, said: “The victory shows the power of people holding their government to account. We are extremely grateful to Safcei and Earthlife Africa for their dogged work to prevent locking our energy future into an expensive and dirty technology.”

Koeberg Alert Alliance activist Peter Becker said the victory was a reminder to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy that it would be held to account, and when it acted unlawfully, civil society would not allow it.

Becker said the biggest issue now was whether the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station could run safely 20 years beyond its design lifetime, as Eskom planned to extend the operation of the two units until 2045 for an operational lifetime of 60 years each.

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De Gasparis said: “We want to encourage the present government and decision-makers to put their energy and resources into securing renewable energy that can take us out of the energy crunch we are currently seeing, and to be much more visionary in their approach to energy planning.”

The South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) held a nuclear vigil outside parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday to highlight concerns around the South African government’s continued aspirations to build new nuclear capacity and the lack of transparency around current nuclear-related issues. | Safcei

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