In her budget speech last night, the Minster of Energy, Dipuo Peters, repeated the words of Thomas Sankara: "have the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future!”

These are very powerful words indeed, and I was so excited when I heard her say them: I was hoping there was going to be a big announcement and some good news. Sadly it was just more of the same.

Although Peters did acknowledge the Fukushima nuclear disaster as a factor to be considered, she seems to see it more as a learning opportunity, and not a reason to reconsider nuclear power in the first place.

Greenpeace Africa would like to urge the minister to re-think the old formula of nuclear power and have the courage to be bolder with a renewable energy future.

Globally, countries are finding that nuclear energy is just not a commercially feasible option. The cost is prohibitive, and the time frames and safety issues are major concerns. 

I think that before we start down this path, there needs to be a thorough investigation on all the impacts of nuclear energy - including the costs, safety, and nuclear waste. Last month the National Nuclear Regulator suspended the receipt of waste at Vaalputs and NECSA is planning to retrench workers. These are not the markers of a country ready to increase its nuclear energy commitment.

Instead of investing in power generation that will only start supplying the grid in 2023 (at the very earliest), we should be focusing on reliable renewable energy options. Doing so would create many thousands more jobs than nuclear power will, deliver electricity far sooner, and we’d avoid the pitfall of rocketing nuclear costs.

In this regard it was encouraging to hear the minister speaking of solar power:

“It is our intention to place South Africa in the top quartile of solar power generation, so that we can simultaneously create green jobs by localizing the manufacturing, installation, operations and maintenance.”

If the minister is serious about having the courage to turn away from old formulas, then renewable energy is the direction we need to facing in – with nuclear and coal power at our backs.

Take Action: If you haven’t yet, tell our government to ditch nuclear and coal power, and rather start using the sun and wind more.