DoE Nuclear

An open letter to our new energy minister, Ben Martins

DEAR Minister Martins,

As a young man who actively works on issues of energy justice each day, I could not help feeling that with your first public statement on Friday, you risk turning a multitude of young people, who are the backbone of the country, into sceptics.

Business Day reported: “In his first public statement since moving from the transport to the energy portfolio following the cabinet reshuffle in July, Mr Martins said: ‘In the interests of the energy security of all South Africans, the government must be allowed the opportunity to carry out the necessary work needed towards finalising procurement for the new (nuclear) build programme.’”

Do you really want to be known as the “nuclear minister”? We have had a few memorable titles such as “Dr Beetroot”, and if you are seriously considering implementing this nuclear build programme, you may well find yourself the recipient of such an infamous title.

Minister Martins, you cannot possibly be relying on Integrated Resources Plan IRP 2010 demand projections for planning any more. These projections are by now outdated and need to be reviewed. There is no justification for the nuclear build, if demand is given as the reason, as we already know that demand is declining and is far below IRP projections.

If energy security is the reason, renewable energy with natural gas will solve load factor uncertainties and with a renewable energy mix, electricity prices will drop significantly. This would mean the Treasury will have more budget available to pay for basic social needs. If job creation is the reason you’re thinking nuclear energy makes sense, then that argument is inherently flawed. We have the opportunity to create an energy sector that can address these issues from manufacturing to the highest technical level without creating problems for people like me to deal with some day.

What is most disheartening is that the youth of South Africa will need to live with the long-term implications of a pronuclear energy supply decision taken in 2013. It is plain and simple: this is the worst possible thing you could do. You will effectively be losing the trust of millions who have placed their hopes for a secure future on political leaders, and hopes for an energy-secure future in you.

As the youth, we are thankful to many political heroes who have ensured we now live in a country that has a people-oriented government. That means the people can say what energy choices we should take. Are we not a democratic nation based on democratic and people-oriented values? Unilateral decisions about our future are contrary to these principles, the very principles you yourself have fought to establish and uphold as the norm.

In all honesty, we all know there is no rationale to invest in a nuclear build expansion. We can cater for the country’s energy needs with the use of a renewable energy and energy-efficiency mix. Such a mix can create jobs, especially for the many young people who are unemployed.

It is not possible to fulfil the goal of the currently elected government to create five million new jobs through something as unsustainable as nuclear programmes.

The majority of the youth are unemployed and many have fallen to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. If the wellbeing of the country is the priority, then we should be looking at the energy sector as being a key contributor to employment.

We need an energy sector that sees the opportunity to address social ills in their multiplicity, and not a sector that looks at key industrial users and mechanised demand solely. Beyond the completion of nuclear power stations, there is no further job creation. Where will the waste be stored? In the Northern Cape?

We cannot store such waste in the lands of the Khoisan. The people in those areas have had their constitutional rights infringed upon enough by previous governments.

I wish, in fact I pray, that you open up public participation and let us, the youth and the people who live in South Africa, tell you what energy future we want.

I cannot stress this enough: WE DO NOT WANT NUCLEAR ENERGY.

The ball is in your court. Please open up a process to get South African citizen opinion on whether to invest in nuclear energy. We’re counting on you.

Yours faithfully,
Happy Khambule, Policy Intern: Project 90 by 2030

Project 90 by 2030 was established as a national project of the Goedgedacht Trust in July 2007 to challenge South Africans to change the way we live and the way that we relate to the environment. The project focuses particularly on lifestyle change that can be measured through carbon footprint reduction. The project name reflects the objective of a significant (90 percent by the year 2030) change by South Africans in how we engage with earth systems.

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