Activists seek court ruling to bar govt's plan to expand nuclear power

Activist groups are challenging a plan to expand South Africa’s nuclear power generation capacity.

FILE: Nuclear power plant. Picture:

CAPE TOWN - Activist groups are challenging a plan by South Africa's government to expand the country's nuclear power generation capacity on the grounds that the process was unconstitutional, they said on Thursday.

Africa's most industrialised country has earmarked nuclear expansion as a key part of increasing its power generation but the price tag of up to R1 trillion for 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear power expected to be operational by 2030 has raised concerns over whether the plan is affordable.

Fears the nuclear project could be the most expensive procurement in South Africa's history, and that decisions could be made behind closed doors without the necessary public scrutiny, have been raised by opposition parties and environmentalists.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute said in a statement that the High Court in Cape Town would hear their case on 13 and 14 December this year to block the nuclear power expansion.

"We are very pleased that the court understands the urgency of this matter at a critical stage in South Africa's energy decision-making process," said Liz McDaid, a spokeswoman for the activists.

Communications officials at the energy department were not available to comment.

The energy minister has said the government will issue requests for proposals on the new nuclear fleet on 13 September, amid concerns the costs will be prohibitive as the country tries to cut its heavy dependence on coal-fired plants.