The case for nuclear electricity in South Africa – a political alignment framework

11 April 2016

Energy is essential for economic development of South Africa. All areas for development and economic growth i.e. reducing poverty and improving quality of life require affordable access to reliable energy services. When the challenges of energy provision to the population of a state remain unresolved, the resulting misery often leads to conflicts and violence, which in turn affect development efforts and impact on regional and global stability. The Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (DoE 2010) allocates 9.6 GW electrical generation capacity to nuclear technology. At the date of writing this paper –almost 5 years later- this allocation has not yet been committed to a build program. This situation is perhaps not surprising, since the National Development Plan, generally viewed as a vision and master plan for South Africa's economic development, is not supportive of the nuclear option (NPC 2011). The plan calls for further investigation into the need for nuclear electricity, citing gas and shale gas as possible alternatives for base load power generation. Against this background, the paper presents a framework for moving towards political consensus on the generation of electricity using nuclear technology. The framework builds on the notion that a “political system” can be characterized as a Complex Adaptive System (CAS). It defines political consensus by applying seven criteria which should be met for successful consensus building. These criteria, originally developed by Innes, (Innes and Booher 2009) have been thoroughly tested, and are increasingly used as a strategy to achieve consensus amongst stakeholders on complex and controversial planning and policy tasks. (Innes and Booher 2009). This paper presents a set of principles on which a political alignment framework should be founded, for example: that South Africa's economic development vision and long term economic development plan should be elevated above party political considerations; that people power is the lifeblood of a democratic society. Give the people the power of knowledge, and allow them to make their own informed decisions - in this case regarding nuclear. A description is presented as to how the criteria for consensus building could be met in the South African political system. This description is informed by the development of nuclear lectricity in other political systems in both the eastern and western worlds. It further draws on the views of key political parties in respect of nuclear electricity, and proposes that political parties should implement within their own ranks, their own consensus building initiatives in respect of these national priorities. The paper concludes that if the consensus seeking framework is executed in an honest and transparent way, it could lead to consensus in respect of nuclear electricity, not only on a political but also at a national level