DA to oppose reviving nuclear energy plans - Kevin Mileham

Fiscus cannot afford a new nuclear procurement programme in the short to medium term, says MP

DA to oppose reviving nuclear energy plans

Reports that Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni suggested that nuclear power was back on the table as an energy source for South Africa fly in the face of the realities the country faces.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will, therefore, write to Minister Mboweni as well as the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, to urge them to reconsider and to inform them that the DA will vehemently oppose putting nuclear back on the table.

The first reality is that ESKOM is completely dysfunctional and overburdened by hundreds of billions in debt. In addition, the entity has demonstrated that it lacks the capacity to deal with large scale projects.

The second reality is that the fiscus cannot afford a new nuclear procurement programme in the short to medium term.

Thirdly, South Africa has lost much of its nuclear technical skills to other countries, particularly after the termination of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor programme. Even the heart of South Africa's nuclear industry, NECSA, is no longer in a position to drive such a programme, being technically insolvent and operationally challenged.

The final consideration is that any nuclear build will take time to procure and operationalize. South Africa needs electricity now, not in 15 years. Our economy is in the doldrums and needs urgent resuscitation. Nuclear is a long term prospect that will not address the immediate problem.

While the DA supports a diverse energy mix, any proposal to revive the nuclear new build, must, at this time, be opposed. A far better solution for the short term is to deregulate small scale embedded generation, allow municipalities to purchase power directly from independent power producers, and immediately open bid window 5 for renewable energy producers. All this can be done quickly and easily by the Minister of Energy.

Ministers Mboweni and Mantashe, together with the ANC government, must put South Africa and the economy first and reject any proposals to invest in nuclear in the short term.

Statement issued by Kevin Mileham MP - DA Shadow Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, 26 January 2020