Court deals setback to South Africa’s nuclear ambitions

By: | Updated: April 26, 2017 6:39 PM

A South African court has ruled that the government plans to increase the country's reliance on nuclear power with help from Russia and other countries are unlawful.

Environmental activists protest against the use of nuclear power in Durban, South Africa. (Reuters)

A South African court today halted the government’s accords with several countries to develop new nuclear power stations, a victory for NGOs and other critics of the plan. The High Court in Cape Town ruled that the administration had failed to allow adequate public consultation for preliminary agreements with Russia, South Korea and the United States to build eight reactors.

Environmental groups led by Earthlife Africa had challenged the plan in court, saying the government had not properly evaluated the true financial costs and environmental impact. Agreements with two other countries, China and France, were not affected by the ruling. South Africa has been struggling for years to meet growing electricity demand, leading to rolling blackouts that have held back economic growth.


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The country relies mainly on coal-fired power plants, with one nuclear plant. The government says the new reactors would supply an additional 9,600 MW of electricity, more than five times current nuclear output. The plan, expected to cost about one trillion rand (USD 73 billion), was announced in 2010.

But credit agencies cited doubts about the affordability of the plan when downgrading South Africa’s credit ratings to “junk” status in recent months. “We are highly vindicated by the today’s judgement. The rule of law has prevailed in this long and complex battle,” said Earthlife Africa spokeswoman Makoma Lekalakala.

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