Greenpeace Africa slammed former president Jacob Zuma’s claims that the country would not be facing a load-shedding crisis had it gone ahead with his R1 trillion nuclear deal. File picture: Leon Lestrade/ African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Greenpeace Africa slammed former president Jacob Zuma’s claims that the country would not be facing a load-shedding crisis had it gone ahead with his R1 trillion nuclear deal.

In an interview with Business Day this week, Zuma insisted he was correct in backing a nuclear deal with the Russians, adding that had South Africa signed up for it, there would be no energy crisis.

“The former president’s remarks are based on ignorance or denial of the facts, and vested interests to promote nuclear at all cost.

“Nuclear power is clearly too expensive - especially in the face of Eskom’s debt of more than R400billion - but more than that, nuclear power stations take over a decade to build. There is no chance whatsoever that going ahead with the nuclear deal would have helped South Africa avoid load shedding in 2019.

“Instead, the real solution would have been to fast-track the renewable energy projects that had been put on hold for years and remove the barriers to rooftop solar.

“Renewable energy can be installed much more quickly and cheaply than either coal or nuclear.

“And if we’re serious about putting an end to load shedding, speeding up the implementation of renewable energy is the best approach,” Greenpeace Africa said on Friday.

Eskom has implemented Stage 4 load shedding for the past eight days, plunging the country into its darkest energy crisis yet.

On Friday, it was reduced to Stage 2.

“We are going to pay trillions of rand because of energy problems, but if we went for nuclear we would be out of spending trillions for a shorter time and we’d make more trillions,” Zuma said in the interview earlier in the week.

It was the first time Zuma spoke out publicly about his views on nuclear energy.

But his views have not been popular.

In 2015, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired after he refused to back the nuclear deal.

Opposition parties and some within the ANC, along with energy experts, disagreed with the nuclear deal, saying it was too expensive.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has maintained that it was not an apt time for nuclear plans because of the country’s ailing economy.

While it is unclear how long load shedding will be implemented across the country, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Eskom board chairman Jabu Mabuza and the power utility’s chief executive, Phakamani Radebe, announced the appointment of an 11-member Eskom technical review team.

The team is required to, among other things, conduct a rapid review of Eskom’s operations and maintenance, and assess the technical environment at power stations.

It has been given a few weeks to achieve this.

On Friday, Ramaphosa said the government was working on plans to address the current challenges at Eskom.

He said his administration was investigating claims of deliberate sabotage amid the rolling blackouts.

Some political parties have called for urgent intervention. DA leader Mmusi Maimane said millions of jobs and livelihoods were at stake.

“This was inevitable given the extent of mismanagement, corruption and bad policy Eskom has been subjected to over the past two decades. A total collapse now seems possible, but it is not inevitable,” he said, adding there were five things South Africa could do to avert the catastrophe, including privatising.

Eskom’s generation entities and freezing the building of the last two outstanding units at Kusile.

Provincial governments and municipalities have urged the public to use power sparingly and stick to regulations.

Disaster management centres countrywide have called on communities to save water, warning that load shedding could affect water supplies in some areas.

Political Bureau