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Greenpeace urges S. Africa to abandon nuclear plans

Published on 04/08/2011

Greenpeace urged South Africa Thursday to abandon its plans to expand nuclear power as part of its $127-billion scheme to overhaul the national energy supply.

“Nuclear energy is a dangerous distraction from the clean energy development needed to prevent catastrophic climate change,” Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s global chief, said in a statement.

“Nuclear power simply delivers too little, too late, and at too high a price for the environment,” he said.

South Africa should play a leading role “both in terms of its domestic energy choices, and by debunking false energy solutions to catastrophic climate change, such as nuclear,” he added.

The country is expanding its overloaded power grid to meet growing demand and after crippling blackouts in 2008.

It plans to build 9,600 megawatts of new nuclear capacity in the next two decades, part of an 860-billion-rand ($127-billion, 89-billion-euro) scheme to more than double the national energy supply by adding a total of 50,000 megawatts.

It is also investing heavily in renewable energy, such as solar or wind-generated power, while also building the 4,800-megawatt Medupi coal-fired power plant, which will be the biggest coal plant in the world.

Naidoo called on energy minister Dipuo Peters to reconsider the role of nuclear energy in South Africa and put a moratorium on any new reactors at least until the safety implications of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have been fully evaluated.

The minister said in May however that the country would not abandon plans to scale up nuclear power despite the Fukushima plant meltdown.

The global spotlight is increasingly falling on South Africa’s environmental policies as the country gears up to host the next major round of UN climate talks on November 28 to December 9 in the eastern port city of Durban.