South Africa cozies up to nuclear power, dismaying critics
(GIN) — South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in three reciprocal working visits this year with nuclear cooperation high on the agenda at the meetings.
Russia is reportedly seeking to provide South Africa with uranium enrichment, supply, reactor technology and localization of nuclear skills. French and Chinese investors will have supporting roles.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Energy praised nuclear power stations for holding “tremendous benefits” for South Africa.
“Most importantly, it will leapfrog South Africa into the knowledge economy, as well as massive industrial development,” said Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.
But Democratic Alliance MP Jacques Smalle said South Africa did not need new nuclear power plants to complement its energy mix.
“In fact, the program could cost the taxpayer up to one trillion rand,” he told the House. A project of such magnitude was “completely unaffordable.”
“We are certain that the corruption (involved with) such a nuclear build would dwarf the arms deal,” Smalle said. “Instead of building new nuclear power plants, South Africa should increase its natural gas footprint.”
Zuma’s embrace of nuclear power, including taking over the chair of the National Nuclear Energy Coordinating committee, dismayed South Africa’s Greenpeace environmentalists.
“The confirmation of the takeover and the underhanded manner in which Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe was replaced both highlight the continued lack of transparency and ongoing secrecy by government when it comes to the country’s nuclear energy plans,” said Greenpeace activist Ferrial Adam.
He warned, “Even putting aside the issues of safety, security and waste management, South Africa cannot afford new nuclear power plants, and the stubbornness of the government on its delusions of grandeur would drive the country to bankruptcy.”