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Why discuss the nuclear deal in secret?

Nov 16 2016 07:08

Cape Town - A closed meeting on the nuclear build plan reinforces the perception that government has something to hide, said the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei).

This followed the sudden announcement on Tuesday that the media and public have been barred from attending the Department of Energy’s briefing on the nuclear build programme to Parliament’s energy portfolio committee.

Safcei said that, according to the constitution, the National Assembly may not exclude the public, including the media, from a sitting of a committee unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society.

“This matter is in the public interest, and must be debated and aired transparently,” argued Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid.

“What is it that we are not allowed to know? Why is it secret now, four weeks before we go to court?”

Safcei and Earthlife Africa JHB is challenging government over an intergovernmental agreement it signed with Russia that it believes was intended as a done deal, which would have been illegal. They will appear in the Cape Town High Court next month.

The government's nuclear plan has been shrouded in controversy. Recently the government put Eskom in charge of nuclear procurement.

Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson has assured the public that the nuclear procurement process will be fair and transparent. This was echoed by President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.   

Safcei said that the chairperson of the energy portfolio committee, Fikile Majola, repeatedly stated that there should be public hearings over the nuclear deal but nothing has transpired.
 
"Instead, ominously, Mr Majola is now closing down any space for the public to find out what is happening with this nuclear deal. Instead of listening to the public, Parliament has decided to exclude citizens from any information about the nuclear deal," said the group.

Outa is concerned about IRP's nuclear mix

This comes as the the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) wrote to Joemat-Pettersson, the Presidency, Treasury, Nersa and other authorities on 14 November 2016, demanding that government’s plans for the new build nuclear project is placed on hold, until the legally required Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is credibly updated and subjected to public input.

In reviewing the latest IRP, the Ministerial Advisory Council on Energy recommended that government increase its renewable energy mix over nuclear. 

Energy experts from the CSIR, D. Tobias Bischof-Niemz, Jarrad Wright, Joanne Calitz and Crescent Mushwana, published their findings of what an updated IRP might suggest as the best outcomes for South Africa’s energy mix going forward.

The findings of the CSIR Study was a strong argument to negate the introduction of new nuclear or coal energy plants for South Africa’s future energy needs.

FULL STORY: Cost of new power generation in South Africa

Outa said it is concerned the IRP is not taking this on board and is still adding the massive nuclear energy mix to the IRP.

“We are concerned that the South African government appears to be hell-bent on forcing a new nuclear energy build programme down the nation’s throat in the absence of an updated and credible IRP,” says Outa chair Wayne Duvenage.

“Until a credible base case and transparent IRP is in place, Outa believe the governing authorities are acting unconstitutionally and not in the best interests of the nation, if they continue to pursue the development of new nuclear and coal projects.”

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