Nuclear power plan 'not solution' to energy crisis

Earthlife Africa has criticised govt, saying the nuclear procurement programme is not transparent.

FILE: Government has announced plans to build 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power plants. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Environmental justice organisation Earthlife Africa says government's plan to build new nuclear power stations is not the solution to the country's energy crisis.

On Wednesday, government announced it would design and launch a procurement process to build 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power plants.

Government is planning to add the megawatts of nuclear power capacity to the national grid, equal to nearly a quarter of the current capacity.

While it says this will help boost the economy, Earthlife Africa has criticised government, saying the nuclear procurement programme is not transparent.

Earthlife's Tristen Taylor says the corruption and delay we saw in the Medupi and Kusile power plants prove that large mega-projects are not the solution.

"When we decide to do a big nuclear programme we're effectively replicating the same kinds of big bills. What we have discovered is that small scale renewables prove to be quite successful. The coming on time is quicker than expected, under budget and they have lower tariffs than anyone had anticipated."

Eskom has been scrambling to keep the lights on, with demand for electricity threatening to outstrip supply.

The utility has been battling with limited generating capacity, problems at its power stations and a shortage of diesel supplies.

Eskom yesterday said all four generators which stopped working on Tuesday were fixed.

The parastatal however said the risk for load shedding remained high.

While Eskom remains confident the lights will stay on over Christmas, the latest threat of load shedding increases the risk of blackouts on 25 December.

Eskom's inability to meet demand in December, when electricity usage usually dips, underscores the precarious state of South Africa's power supply due to years of underfunding.

The utility, which supplies virtually all of South Africa's power, said last month the government's promised R20 billion cash injection wouldn't be enough to ease funding constraints and help it avoid a credit downgrade.