S. Africa can’t afford major nuclear program: finance minister
Jacob Zuma. President of South Africa
London, Oct. 26, 2017 (AltAfrika)– South Africa can not afford a major nuclear program for lack of money, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday, as concerns mounted over the country’s pursuit of nuclear energy.
A major nuclear program would be out of the question for at least the next five years, the minister told a gathering of business people and journalists in Cape Town.
He was speaking amid speculations that South Africa would soon reach a nuclear deal with Russia, under which the latter would help the African country build nuclear reactors at a cost of 1 trillion rand (about 71.4 billion U.S. dollars).
Gigaba contradicted with the newly appointed Minister of Energy David Mahlobo, who said last week that South Africa will enhance the sustainable use of nuclear power.
There have been speculations that Mahlobo was appointed the energy minister to push for the much-criticized nuclear deal with Russia.
The South African government has approved its Integrated Resource Plan of 2010-30, which provides for coal, gas, renewables and 9,600-megawatt nuclear as part of the energy landscape by 2030.
But environmental groups, which question the safety of nuclear energy, have launched a series of campaigns against the plan.
In an apparent bid to alleviate concerns, Gigaba said that with a slowdown in demand for power due to low economic growth, there’s less pressure on the government to deliver more energy into the grid.
He said electricity utility Eskom has 5,700 megawatts of surplus electricity.
“We’ve got access to electricity, there are no intensive users that are taking up the generation capacity that we have,” Gigaba said.
Delivering his Medium Term Budget Statement in Parliament on Wednesday, Gigaba said the government is facing a massive revenue shortfall of 50. 8 billion rand, which is the largest revenue shortfall since the global financial crisis in 2008.
He also revealed a “blow out” in the budget deficit by 54 billion rand to 203 billion rand, or 4.3 percent of GDP in 2017/18.
This coupled with the downward revision of South Africa’s economic growth projections for 2017, from 1.3 percent previously predicted to 0.7 percent (Xinhua)