It’s time to slam the door on SA’s nuclear ambitions

Nuclear health warnings

By John Fraser

You might trust your kid with a pack of cards or a tub of Lego. Maybe it is not as wise to give a toddler a chemistry set or an air rifle.

Any power plant is dangerous. A nuclear one is capable of causing a catastrophe.

The recent explosion of a generator at Eskom Medupi power station’s unit 4 – just days after the plant’s construction had been completed – shows how our national power utility is plagued by incompetence and risk.

An initial estimate for putting things right was up to R2bn – over two years – but when it comes to Eskom estimates it is often wise to add a zero to any cost prediction.

If the idiots at Eskom cannot safely work with a conventional power generator, heaven help us if they get their hands on more nuclear plants – as our unenergetic energy minister Gwede Mantashe seems to want.

The existing SA nuclear plant at Koeberg, which is frighteningly close to Cape Town, has been running reasonably safely for many years. But do we really want to play Russian roulette by following Gwede’s ambitions to preserve a nuclear build programme with his chums in Moscow.

It was widely thought that our discredited former President Jacob Zuma was courting the Russians in the hope of a new nuclear deal which might have lined the pockets of a few elite ANC comrades.

Indeed, the Energy portfolio has been a can of worms for some time now and it is worrying, astonishing and bizarre that Comrade Gwede was not shuffled into obscurity when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his recent underwhelming Cabinet reshuffle.

Surely every South African who has experienced the unreliability, soaring costs and dodgy performance of Eskom must share my view that it is time for us to pull the plug on nuclear.  If your kids at Medupi blow themselves up with a conventional generator, you don’t give them a bag of dynamite and set them loose in a nuclear plant  

We know what can go wrong from the catastrophes at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, yet Gwede the unsteady wants more nuclear toys for Eskom to play with. What the Fuk-ushima! 

The current CEO of Eskom André de Ruyter is an impressive chap, and clearly an improvement on what came before. But the Medupi blast happened on his watch. Are we 100% confident that he will be able to ensure that his team of clowns will be able to save a future nuclear power plant from meltdown.

The generator blast was a wake-up call to us all.

Let us ban all future thoughts of nuclear expansion in SA, for as long as Eskom remains such a national disgrace. And a danger to us all.

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