According to the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), the South African government should rather shift its renewed interest in building new nuclear power generation capacity to ethical, equitable and sustainable energy plans.
“South Africa faces another push for nuclear energy” when the country is in crisis from the Covid-19 pandemic, and SAFCEI is calling for “no more nuclear energy”.
“As we focus on the Covid-19 crisis, another costly drama is unfolding . . . the South African government’s renewed expression of interest in investing in nuclear energy,” it notes in a statement.
The organisation says the ethical, equitable and sustainable energy plan it proposes promotes wellbeing for current and future generations and will safeguard all life.
"Millions face the reality of hunger, poverty, unemployment and energy blackouts as our sub-continent staggers under the Covid-19 pandemic. The risks and uncertainties of climate change loom, posing even greater long-term threats to human and planetary wellbeing," the organisation states.
It says lessons need to be learnt from South Africa’s past experience with nuclear energy, including what it claims were 14 years of research and billions of rands “wasted on small nuclear energy systems known as the pebble bed modular reactor [PBMR]”.
SAFCEI claims that South Africa’s “grandiose and expensive” PBMR project involved unproven and unsafe technology, which was abandoned in 2010.
In addition, SAFCEI states that South Africa needs to bear in mind the secretive trillion-rand nuclear deal between Russia and South Africa being stopped in its tracks at the eleventh hour by a court order in 2017, and that while facing a crippling burden of debt, power outages and human suffering, nuclear power has “stealthily” been slipped back into the South African energy mix.
The alternative – renewable energy – is cheaper, cleaner, safer, climate smarter, quicker to construct and has greater job creation opportunities than any new fossil fuel or nuclear project, says the SAFCEI.
“As members of faith communities and, with support from civil society partners, it is our moral obligation to advocate for an urgent transition to renewable energy generation,” says the organisation.
It calls on the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, government and business, to abandon the ambition of rolling out high-tech nuclear power to South Africa and the African continent.
“This is a window of opportunity to be courageous and innovative as we move into a new renewable era that will benefit the health and wellbeing of current and future generations and safeguard our beautiful land,” the SAFCEI concludes.