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Surprise energy gazette could delay nuclear trial

Dec 13 2016 10:48
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – A new nuclear determination that is about to be gazetted could delay the court challenge being brought by environmentalists against the Department of Energy (DoE).

This was revealed by the DoE’s legal team in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

The new determination would replace the 2013 determination, the gazette that was only published in December last year.

The determination officially changes the procuring agency of the 9.6 GW nuclear new build programme from the DoE to Eskom, a decision that Cabinet approved recently.

The determination, which the DoE legal team said was on its way to the government printers, was signed by Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson on December 5 and energy regulator Nersa on December 8.

READ: Energy minister’s advisers reveal why nuclear should be dumped

The legal team only received the determination this week and surprised both the judge and the legal team representation of environmentalist groups Safcei and Earthlife SA.

The groups are legally challenging government’s nuclear procurement process, focusing on an intergovernmental agreement signed with Russia in 2014.

They believe legal documents indicate that South Africa did sign a binding nuclear deal with Russia.

READ: Department of Energy not credible – Outa

They said “the Russian agreement was entered into unlawfully, but makes (an) internationally binding commitment to buy a fleet of nuclear reactors from Russia”.

From the state law adviser’s explanatory memorandum that was prepared in November 2013 but only revealed recently to Safcei/ELA, “it is evident that the Russian agreement is to build reactors and an enrichment plant", the group said.

READ: Nuclear will cause major debt, renewables will create jobs - Bishop

They said other subsequent agreements would “cover the details of how it is to be financed, not if it would go ahead”.

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