Renewable or Nuclear

South Africa’s energy requirements going forward are mired in political controversy. On the one hand, nuclear and coal offer those in power the greatest opportunity for corruption and financial benefit, on the other, large scale renewables offer the cheapest power, and few opportunities to skim off the top.

In South Africa, a combination of both high solar radiation (sunshine) and better than projected wind opportunities through higher towers are proving that large scale renewable electricity generation will provide the cheapest base load energy.

Of course additional power generation needs to be on tap to provide for morning and evening peak spikes, or to compensate for those rare times when wind across the country is much lighter than expected, or solar radiation is lower through cloud. In these times gas powered turbines (OCGT) provide the ability to ramp up additional power quickly. Add in pumped storage such as at Ingula, and peak demands can be accommodated.


Forget energy, this is just a story about how much money can be stolen. Any fictional novelist would have had problems concocting a plot of such complexity.

The Russian Bear is in the business of totalitarianism and Number 1 in South Africa has said he could sort out South Africa if he was a dictator. Bring in the Russians to build nuclear, and huge rewards could be won. It is rumored that payments have already happened.

It looked like a done deal, until the Russians arrived in the Ministry of Finance in November 2015 and to their surprise Finance Minister Nene did not sign off on the deal. Result - fire him, appoint a puppet, Mr David Van Rooyen, and try again. He only lasted 4 days and with the Rand in free fall, bring in Pravin Gordhan as the Minister of Finance to tow the line (he didn’t).

The next Ministry that needed to be controlled was Energy. However Mrs Joemat-Pettersson who appeared initially to be pro nuclear, actually became an objector and she was removed.

Taking a different tack (in order to achieve the goal) nuclear procurement was moved from Department of Energy to Department of Public Enterprise and in turn to Eskom.

Mrs Brown the Minister of Public Enterprises, who is only qualified as a primary school teacher was put in charge of huge complex businesses and also had to be brought into the fold of being pro nuclear.

In the background the Gupta’s had been busy. They had acquired Shiva Uranium, and the game was for them to provide all the required uranium for the nuclear fleet.

So with the Gupta’s being thorough and taking a belt and braces approach, she also had to be captured.

Leaving little to chance, what better way to capture the minister other than through her romantic partner (Ingrid Tufvesson) and or by her Director General (Richard Seleke), or through her PA (Kim Davies – now dismissed), and time will probably prove the minister herself.

But as Eskom was now going to be the party that would procure nuclear, their support was also needed. Put in a puppet in the form of Molefe (CEO) and Chairman (Ngubane), and nuclear could forge ahead. Unfortunately, the other deals that the Gupta’s had been up to within Eskom started to be exposed, with Optimum, Tegata, etc, and all of the key players were exposed in the corruption game. Consequently Koko and Singh were removed, along with Molefe and Ngubane.

National Treasury also had to be captured. Deputy Minister Jonas was the target and offered a bribe of R600m to become the Minister, but rather than accepting and replacing Gordhan, he spilt the beans.

The inevitable result, fire them both and put in another puppet in the form of Malusi Gigaba as Minister of Finance, who had already shown loyalty to the President, not only firing the boards of Eskom, but also of Transnet and Denel, and appointing Gupta cronies on all the boards.

In late April 2017 an unexpected development occurred with the nuclear procurement program thrown out in the courts for not following legal processes.

The new Minister of Energy, Ms Kubayi (a 29 year old) decided not to contest the court’s ruling, but instead to start the process all over again, using much of the nuclear work that had already been undertaken.

Most recently (this week) within her department the Deputy Director General (Mr Aphane DDG for policy, planning and clean energy) has been suspended in relation to allegedly failing to provide information in a timely manner. This is also linked to an awarded nuclear consultancy for R80m to Mahlaka-A-Phalala, where the information available is a convoluted story of miscommunication, and probable misappropriation of funds. As more news leaks out, could this prove to be a key ingredient in the fight over nuclear and renewables?

Where to from here?


With South Africa in recession, and Eskom having a surplus of electricity today and increasing as new units at Medupi and Kusile come on line, the questions that arise is will the country need new power generation at all before the 2020’s? With government still working off the 2010 IRP, and the 2016 version still under review (go back to Aphane above), but DOE also recognizing that nuclear is not needed before 2037, and the independent analysis (CSIR and others) stating not before 2050, the question is why is nuclear being pursued at all?

The good news for the anti nuclear campaigners is that Eskom almost certainly can never afford it. Their 2017 results are the tip of the iceberg, (less that R1b profit on R177b of turnover), and with dramatically increasing costs from depreciation and huge additional interest being added into the profit and loss as the units at Medupi and Kusile come on line, their balance sheet will not be able to support international financing for nuclear.

Can the DOE or other government departments afford it? The answer is almost certainly not for the foreseeable future. With the country in recession and partially marked down to junk, it will probably take more than a few years to recover.


From any common sense perspective nuclear is beyond foolhardy, as we don’t need it. From an economic perspective it could put the country in debt for decades and several generations.

In contrast large scale renewables, wind and solar PV are not only cheaper, they can be built in a short time frame, they come in on budget, and they employ more people both in the construction phase and ongoing.

Add in the risk factors of nuclear, and the disposal of nuclear waste, and it is clearly a no brainer to go the green route.

The disruptive renewables of solar water heaters and rooftop solar PV complete the picture. It is already cheaper to heat water with solar than electricity. In a few years time it will also be cheaper to generate and store one’s own electricity at home.

Although the continuing rape of the country by the President is still firmly on the cards, and he has survived the 8th vote of no confidence, and nuclear remains the big prize, despite having put tame ministers in both finance and energy, the probability of it being pulled off is diminishing by the day.


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