26/04/2017 11:34 BST | Updated 26/04/2017 13:51 BST

What Now For South Africa's Nuclear Energy Plans?

Any deals with Russia, the U.S. and South Korea are off and government must go back to the drawing board.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
Greenpeace activists protest on a roof at the Koeberg Nuclear Power station near Cape Town, August 24, 2002.

The official request for information (RFI) issued by Eskom for its nuclear build programme is off the table. What does this mean? That the government must completely start again when it comes to its nuclear energy plans for South Africa.

Liz McDaid, of Earthlife Africa, one of the two applicants who asked the Western Cape High Court to set aside government's nuclear plans, says the only option left to Eskom and government is to "go back to the drawing board".

"The entire nuclear procurement programme has been found to be unlawful. The whole thing has been stopped, which includes the RFI issued in December and which closes on Friday," McDaid told HuffPost.

The nuclear procurement programme was moved from the department of energy in December and Eskom issued the RFI -- a process whereby parties indicate their interest in tendering for the deal -- just before Christmas.

Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) asked the court to set the programme aside. The court found the entire programme to be "unlawful and unconstitutional" and that there was insufficient consultation.

All deals are off

"We're dancing with delight and It's been a long struggle for everyone involved. This judgment effectively means that no contracts entered into either by the government and Eskom are valid.

"There's now no Russian deal, including the agreements signed in 2013 and 2016, and no deal with the United States or South Korea. If government still wants to continue they will have to go back to the drawing board," McDaid says.

She says it was clear from the beginning -- and the court concurred -- "that all corners in the process were cut and all prescripts ignored".

"This judgment forces government to act in the interests of all South Africans. This means if it wants to have nuclear, it needs to use the energy white paper of 1998 as basis, which says nuclear can be part of the energy mix, but only after proper consideration and consultation. That was never done," McDaid says.

Makoma Lekalakala, spokesperson of Safcei, says the court underscored the primacy of the Constitution in consultation and transparency.

"No deal can move forward unless it complies with the values of the Constitution. Such a deal must also be underwritten by a full energy policy drawn up after proper consultation. The government needs to act in the interests of the country and do the right thing," she says.

Eskom's response

Eskom's spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said in an email: "Eskom notes the Western Cape High Court judgment on nuclear. We'll study the ruling and if need be, Eskom will make comments thereafter."

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) welcomed the judgment.

It said in a statement: "Outa is aware of Government's plans to try and force the nuclear decision into place, without taking into account constitutional requirements and necessary administrative decision making processes. Outa will continue to drive its broader strategy to ensure that government ceases to make irrational and uninformed energy generation decisions, in the absence of an informed, transparent and meaningful energy framework that encompasses a credible Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and other necessary processes."