Like asking the barber if you need a haircut

Business Day Live 24 August 2012.

SOUTH Africa’s six-plant nuclear reactor procurement programme was first announced in August 2006. Since then the country’s own pebble bed programme has collapsed. The Fukushima disaster has transformed nuclear risk appraisal. The fiscus can no longer easily absorb the likely R400bn to R1-trillion bill. And the capital cost of alternative renewables is falling fast. This oil tanker, however, shows no signs of turning around. Ministers are instead promoting an illusion of necessity by ignoring alternative generating technologies. Spurious carbon control commitments and invented deadlines are being used to demand investment now.

It remains unclear how much the programme might cost; the energy director-general estimates “not more than” R750bn. Environmental impacts, safety concerns, implications for the grid, human resource constraints, disaster planning, radioactive waste management, local content guarantees, and other regulatory issues all need to be addressed. The Cabinet has delegated responsibility to a National Nuclear Energy Executive Co-ordination Committee (NNEECC) chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Key ministerial representation on this committee comes from the departments of energy, public enterprises (DPE), science and technology, finance, and trade and industry. Less competent departments — energy and DPE — are vying to control the project…