SA politics make full nuclear programme unlikely: Nomura report

A Nomura Research report on South Africa’s nuclear programme says the political dynamic in the country is not solidly behind such a programme‚ even within the African National Congress (ANC) itself‚ and could even mean “that the government cannot guarantee a majority on the energy portfolio committee within Parliament on this issue”.

Thyspunt is the preferred site for a proposed Nuclear Power Station

Thyspunt is the preferred site for a proposed Nuclear Power Station

“Adding in civil society protestations and likely legal objections‚ we see major obstacles to the start of actual construction occurring through the court system and parliamentary censure‚” writes researcher Peter Attard Montalto.

“We therefore think it may be possible (but far from certain) that a few GW (gigawatt) of nuclear energy are eventually built but it seems highly unlikely to us that a full 9.6GW programme will ever materialise seen through this lens of political‚ succession‚ legal‚ regulatory‚ comparative cost and technological change risk that all bear against this programme.

“The split that we think exists between the ANC and government on nuclear power is primarily a manifestation of a much deeper KZN/Gauteng ANC divide‚ in our view‚ that is playing out into the 2017 elective conference. The KZN faction is backing the government while the Gauteng faction is showing more scepticism and desire for cost accountability.

“The recent ANC National General Council discussion documents outlined the need that ‘Government must commit to a full‚ transparent and thorough cost benefit analysis of nuclear power as part of the procurement process‚ and clarify the status of the update to the Integrated Resource Plan.

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Government must also announce publicly that nuclear energy can only be procured in line with the legal prescripts and after a thoroughgoing affordability assessment.”

“This is a surprisingly stark view versus that of the Department for Energy and the Presidency. The very fact such a phrase was allowed in the NGC documents reflects lobbying by the National Treasury but also the powerful influence that ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe still has on policy.

“We think it is still far from certain that the ANC will be able to back nuclear power. The question is how this interacts with the jockeying into 2017 and how some objections may disappear within the politics of that race.”

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