27/11/2017 05:52 GMT | Updated 27/11/2017 05:52 GMT

Government Taken Back To Court Over Nuclear Programme

Two civil society organisations argue that energy minister David Mahlobo cannot rush the nuclear deal without public participation.

Esa Alexander/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images
President Jacob Zuma shares a word with Energy Minister David Mahlobo in the National Assembly on November 2, 2017.

Government is once again facing a court challenge over its nuclear procurement programme. Business Day reported on Monday that Earth Life Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (Safcei) will go to court on Wednesday in a bid to stop government's rush to proceed with the deal.

The civil society organisations are reportedly concerned about public statements by Energy Minister David Mahlobo, that the nuclear programme was being fast-tracked without a public-participation process.

In April, the Western Cape High Court set aside two determinations by former energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, which laid the groundwork for the deal. The court also declared the nuclear cooperation agreement between South Africa (SA) and Russia to be unconstitutional and invalid.

Now, Earth Life Africa and Safcei reportedly want the court to rule that no steps can be taken until there is a lawful determination in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, which means that the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) will have to approve it. A public participation process will also have to take place.

City Press reported that Mahlobo was pushing for the finalisation of the integrated energy resource plan four months ahead of schedule. This would reportedly allow Mahlobo to make a decision on the country's energy needs based on "empirical evidence". It is widely expected that Mahlobo was appointed to the portfolio to push through the deal.

Writing for Daily Maverick on Monday, energy expert Chris Yelland wrote that, according to the draft integrated resource plan for electricity, nuclear is both too expensive and unnecessary for SA.

"Based on local and international studies, and real-world experience, and again contrary to what is often heard from nuclear evangelists (including those within Eskom itself), the latest Eskom study shows that the overnight capital cost of new nuclear in SA is the highest by far of all the generation technologies, significantly higher even than that of concentrating solar power (CSP) with nine hours of energy storage," Yelland wrote.