Durban - South Africa’s nuclear energy procurement plan was an “absolute disaster, too dangerous and unnecessary” and the country stood to lose trillions of rand, says environmental activist Kumi Naidoo.

He fingered senior government officials, saying this was a deliberate move to plunder public funds.

Naidoo, who stepped down as the head of Greenpeace on Friday, warned the government against the plan, saying it would fail and ordinary South Africans would bear the brunt of that failure.

“This deal will benefit those who are senior government officials and the lives of destitute South Africans will remain the same. Everybody must fight with us so that we win this battle.

“We say ‘no’ to the nuclear plan and we need more voices in our campaign to stop government from going ahead with the plan,”

He said a robust debate was needed to address the nuclear issue: “Such decisions must not be taken without debates because they have undesired impacts for all of us,” he said.

The future of young people was sent “down the drain”, he said. “We should drop this nuclear plan and focus on renewable energy.”

Naidoo said renewable energy was the way to go.

He said the government must invest in training young people in technology for renewable energy projects.

His comments come days after the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference voiced its disapproval of the deal.

The commission called on the government to suspend its nuclear procurement plans, arguing that it was “risky and unaffordable”.

According to the commission, the economic and safety risks of the nuclear option outweigh its economic benefits, and the government should therefore concentrate its efforts and fiscal resources on renewable energy.

The commission called for a referendum as ordinary South Africans had not been involved in deciding whether nuclear power was the way to go for the future of the country.

Naidoo agreed, saying: “This is a wasteful expenditure which is not needed especially by a developing country like ours. I believe the end will never come in this,” he said.

After months of speculation, the Department of Energy last week announced the cabinet’s decision to proceed with a call for proposals from nuclear energy suppliers.

Naidoo said contrary to government’s assertions, the plan would not create jobs for South Africans.

The department argued the procurement process was guided by the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 which was first gazetted in May 2011.

It said there was nothing amiss in the decision to proceed with developing the Nuclear New Build Programme because it had been agreed to in principle by the cabinet.

The decision had been taken because South Africa should proceed with developing a programme for the procurement of the 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear power plants, the department said.

Naidoo said he hoped to advance the aspirations of ordinary South Africans through his activist work.

- Sunday Tribune