Members of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance picket outside City Hall where they gathered to hand over a memorandum to city officials expressing their grave concerns about the government’s R1 trillion nuclear deal with Russia. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Daily News
Durban – Civil society organisations and other critics of government’s proposed multibillion-rand nuclear plan called on President Jacob Zuma to scrap it during his State of the Nation address tonight.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) picketed outside City Hall on Wednesday and handed over a memorandum to the eThekwini Municipality, detailing their opposition to the nuclear plan.

Today in Cape Town the Right2Know Campaign is expected to add its voice to growing criticism of plans to build nuclear power stations in South Africa.

Desmond D’Sa, SDCEA chairperson, said the deal had been shrouded in secrecy and accused the government of not consulting with communities.

“Ultimately it’s the poor and working class of this country who will have added pressure to pay for these nuclear power stations that cost so much money.

“This money should instead be used for better access to healthcare facilities, education and other basic necessities,” D’Sa said.

He pointed out that a single nuclear powered plant would take close to a decade to build. With government planning on building six to eight, it would take about 30 to 40 years before all were completed.

“If you take half the money of the nuclear deal, R500billion, and invest it in setting up companies in renewable energy projects , you could create over a million jobs ,” said D’Sa.

He said setting up these companies in townships such as uMlazi, KwaMashu, Soweto, Alexandra, Gugulethu and Langa would go a long way in addressing the high rate of unemployment, which stands at 26.6%.

He said this was the route countries like India, the US and China had followed.

“Nuclear energy is harmful. Last week, the nuclear plant in Fukishima (Japan) nearly collapsed into the sea.

“It’s falling apart and the Japanese have taken a decision to dismantle their nuclear plants because the radiation has spread for so many miles,” said D’Sa.

He said government had plans to build the nuclear plants along the country’s coastline because they required a lot of water to operate, but by so doing they risked destroying marine life.

Carina Conradie, of the Right2Know Campaign, said they were concerned about the affordability of the nuclear deal because nuclear energy was one of the most expensive forms of energy.

“Wind and solar energy are much better and cost-effective alternatives to nuclear energy,” she said.

Questioning the legitimacy of the deal, Conradie said: “There have been reports of secret deals with Russia and even the procurement process was not above board; it was shrouded in secrecy.”

She said they had strategically planned their demonstrations around Sona 2017 because it was important the issue remained at the forefront of the public’s thoughts and on the tip of their tongues.

This would ensure there was growing opposition to the deal by educating people on its perils.

Chris Yelland, an energy expert, said South Africa was faced with three energy options: coal which currently produced 85% of South Africa’s electricity; a blend of solar power, wind power and gas; and nuclear power.

“The combination of solar, wind and gas is the best option because it is effective in delivering base power, which is continuous power and of the three options it is the most flexible and least costly option,” he said.

Yelland said the combination of solar, wind and gas would cost 90 cents a kilowatt hour, and coal costs between R1.05 and R1.20, and nuclear energy would cost between R1.30 and R1.50 a kilowatt hour.

Daily News