​No wiggle room so nuclear build goes ahead, drawing fire

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that the government will support the controversial nuclear build and confirmed it will be led by embattled power utility Eskom. 

In delivering his medium-term budget speech on Wednesday, Gordhan said that, within the framework of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), it had been confirmed that Eskom would take the lead in the nuclear power initiative. He said the treasury would work with the department of public enterprises and Eskom to “ensure that the scale and phasing of the programme are in South Africa’s best interests and that the procurement arrangements are transparent and compliant with the law”.

But the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute decried the news and said such reassurances carried little weight “when action on the ground says the opposite”.

“The proposed nuclear build is based on an outdated IRP, and it is crucial that this outdated IRP is not used to justify an unethical nuke deal that will drag the country down economically and fill the pockets of a small, connected coterie of favoured elite,” said Venerable Ani Tsondru, the institute’s executive director.

The institute is part of a legal challenge over alleged irregular procedures followed in the signing of an intergovernmental agreement on nuclear build between South Africa and Russia.

Speaking to press on the matter, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas said the treasury was guided by the IRP and could only follow an updated policy once it was in place.

In his speech, Gordhan also affirmed his commitment to the renewable energy programme, which has come under question since Eskom indicated it was hesitant to commit to buying any more green power. “[Energy] Minister [Tina] Joemat-Pettersson and the National Energy Regulator have approved another 37 independent power projects. Once Eskom has signed the offtake agreements, a further R58-billion in investment and some 4 800 construction jobs will commence, bringing 2 354MW of capacity to the electricity grid,” Gordhan said. 

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