South African President Jacob Zuma’s affirmation that the country is sourcing 9 600 MW of new-generation nuclear capacity by 2030 did not involve any input from the National Treasury.
At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January, and during his State of the Nation address in February, Zuma indicated that South Africa would pursue a nuclear build programme.
However, a month before the forum, after asking the National Treasury for a nuclear feasibility study, multifaith and ecojustice organisation the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) energy and climate change programme coordinator Liziwe McDaid received a letter from the National Treasury stating that no study had been done.
“The National Treasury has not laid out a procurement process to be followed for nuclear energy and no decisions related to the financial obligations and economic impact have been taken by the National Treasury. As such, the National Treasury does not have the records that you are requesting,” the letter stated.
Safcei declared in a statement released on January 28 that, prior to entering into any international nuclear agreements, it was imperative to investigate any financial obligations that a country might incur under such agreements. The statement further indicated that such obligations would presumably be drawn from experts responsible for the national Budget and should require National Treasury approval or at least a decision that would indicate whether the National Treasury recommended such spending.
McDaid claims that, had the National Treasury conducted a feasibility study, the time that elapsed between sending the letter and Zuma confirming the nuclear build programme would have been far too short to take into account all the possible costs of such a programme.
“The many possible externalities from nuclear power plants or from nuclear waste must be included in government’s calculations when deciding whether to pursue nuclear power. This is why we asked Treasury for an economic feasibility study.”
She concludes that, with regard to costs, transparency is crucial to creating discussions during which all risks and potential costs can surface and be considered.