The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has called for “caution and common sense” in its press release on Friday, responding to the Western Cape High Court judgment on Wednesday, which set aside as unconstitutional and unlawful certain policy decisions and intergovernmental agreements announced and entered into by the South African Government regarding the country’s planned construction of new nuclear power plants (NPPs). It highlighted that the judgement has not derailed the country’s new NPP programme.
“The court has ruled on an administrative process,” stressed Necsa chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm. “The court has not ruled on the wisdom, or otherwise, of nuclear power. A false impression has been created that this judgement is anti-nuclear. It is not and comment to that effect is premature and regrettable.”
“There are many misunderstandings and false perceptions around nuclear and the public is often fed misinformation about the costs, benefits, safety and South Africa’s long-term energy requirements,” he affirmed. “One positive aspect of this ruling is that it presents the opportunity for the facts and truth to be fully aired and debated so that rational people can think and decide on realities not hearsay. The anti-nuke lobby has had the platform to themselves not least because the nuclear industry has been quiet. This will change. Necsa and the nuclear industry intend to step up efforts to put the facts before the court of public opinion and to present a balanced and evidenced based case for nuclear energy as the right energy option for South Africa.”
In its reaction, also issued in a press release on Friday, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) hailed the judgement. “Once again the rule of law has triumphed in South Africa.” It congratulated the groups (Earthlife South Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute) which brought the case to the court.
“Judge Lee Bozalek … has assured South Africans of future public participation and more transparency,” it avered in its press release. “BLSA applauds this ruling, particularly given the nuclear new build programme was a red-flag for ratings agencies.” It pointed to ratings agency Fitch as having cited the new NPP programme as a key reason for the dismissal of former Finance Ministers Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene.
“BLSA has also noted and supported the clear findings of the Integrated Resource Plan, which suggest South Africa does not need a R1-trillion nuclear plan. In our current low-growth environment the costs and affordability of a nuclear program will strain public finances already under pressure. The judge’s findings have forestalled government from flouting constitutional requirements, sidestepping parliament and the public and defying the standards of transparency required in a democracy. … BLSA welcomes the ruling that the Minister of Energy and NERSA [National Energy Regulator of South Africa] will make a new, more accountable determination.”
The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) issued its reaction on Thursday. “As an industry we respect the court’s judgement,” stated Niasa MD Knox Msebenzi. “We look to the Department of Energy for guidance on the matter and will take their lead on the next course of action.” The association emphasised that the High Court had passed no judgement on nuclear energy but had been concerned with the procedures that had been adopted by the Government in carrying out its nuclear policy.
Niasa reaffirmed its commitment to proper procedures, transparency and fair trade in the implementation of the new NPP programme. It pointed out that all its members, which include all the companies seeking to sell NPPs to South Africa, had signed a declaration committing themselves to a fair and transparent acquisition process that respected South African law.
Nuclear technology is not new to South Africa and would play its part in an energy mix for the country which would, Niasa stated, meet both the country’s baseload electricity requirements and climate change commitments. “[T]he argument for nuclear technology is undisputed and supported by scientific research,” said Msebenzi, “equally so we respect our democracy and the need for correct process and procedure.”