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Archbishop of Cape Town calls on South African government to scrap plans for nuclear energy

Posted on: February 22, 2017 2:24 PM
Abp Thabo Makgoba
Photo Credit: WCC

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, has appealed to the South African government to end moves to develop nuclear energy and instead to spend the money on education, training and other development initiatives.

Anti-nuclear activists on Wednesday marched through the streets of Cape Town where they called on the government to scrap plans to go ahead with its nuclear build programme. Protesters said the proposed nuclear plans were unnecessary and a waste of money.

Archbishop Makgoba raised the issue at the Synod of Bishops, which is sitting in Benoni, east of Johnnesburg - saying that the church opposes the expansion of nuclear energy and he called on the government to pursue alternative renewable energy initiatives.

The Archbishop said in a statement from the Synod:

“The Synod of Bishops has revisited the resolution adopted by the church's Provincial Synod last September, in which the church expressed its opposition to the expansion of nuclear energy and urged the government to pursue the path of renewable energy initiatives. The Synod acknowledges that President Jacob Zuma committed the government in last year's State of the Nation address to procure new nuclear energy only on a scale and at a pace that the country can afford. We also welcome the president's acknowledgement in this year's State of the Nation address that renewable energy will be an important part of the mix of energy sources in the future.

However, nuclear energy still remains part of the mix, despite the conclusion in the Department of Energy's updated Integrated Resource Plan that additional nuclear power, originally expected in 2023, will not come on stream until 2037.

In a letter to President Zuma last year conveying the Provincial Synod's appeal, I noted that the country already has progressive renewable energy initiatives that could lead to greater sustainability and flexibility.

Solar and wind generation of power is becoming cheaper and cheaper to develop. By 2037, the energy generation scenario is likely to have changed completely.

The priority for our country is the education, training and well-being of its citizens. We should not impoverish the country through incurring unaffordable debt through attempting to obtain loans or providing guarantees for Eskom to raise loans for nuclear power stations.

We are deeply concerned that an expanded nuclear energy programme will become an albatross around the necks of our children. And we cannot leave to the generations to come the task of disposing of our nuclear waste.

We believe that South Africa has the potential of becoming a renewable energy hub for Africa, with huge potential for investment in manufacturing and associated employment. We note that overseas investors are queuing up to invest in our renewable energy programme and since the design of the programme is such that they provide the finance, this does not burden our people.”