3rd of September 2010
On the First of September 2010, Cabinet held a “secret” session on the closure of the PMBR company. Earthlife Africa Jhb has learnt that all may not be as it seems, and that issues such as conflicts of interests, accounting for taxpayer money spent, and rehabilitation of PBMR staff are being swept under the carpet.
The PBMR company has bled the taxpayers of this country of a staggering R10bn. This money has come from the wages of workers, and represents R10bn not spent on social services. Furthermore, there has been nothing of substance to show for this expenditure, and the question must be asked what were the citizens of South Africa paying for? Is it for retrenchment packages for PBMR board members in excess of R2 million each?
While Earthlife Africa Jhb regards the closure of the PBMR company and the ending of the nuclear project to be the correct course of action—and has advocated for such for over ten years—it is extremely concerned that no proper accounting of this expenditure will take place. If R10bn of taxpayer funds has been spent on a project that failed, then an open, transparent audit should be undertaken. Citizens of South Africa have a right to know on what their money has been spent, and the appropriate vehicle for this is an open investigation in Parliament and an audit by the Auditor General.
The rumours of conflict of interests, poor governance and management, and improper use of funds within the PBMR Company can only be dispelled through an open and transparent investigation. The Department of Public Enterprise, Eskom and the PBMR Company must put their books out in the public domain for examination.
Further, the issue of PBMR staff has been largely ignored. South Africa needs to retain many of those staff members and use their skills to right South Africa’s social ills; rather than have nuclear scientists, engineers, clerks, etc. selling their skills to the highest bidder on the global market. While Earthlife Africa Jhb does not believe that nuclear power is an appropriate choice for South Africa, there are other, more socially friendly areas in which these skills can be applied. For example, the National Nuclear Regulator is currently struggling to deal, due to lack of capacity, with uranium being leached into South Africa’s waterways from gold mines. We also have to deal with the legacy of nuclear power in South Africa; Koeberg will need to be decommissioned (an expensive process that will likely take a 135 years to complete) and the high-level waste will need to be stored. At the moment, there are no concrete plans to deal with this waste anywhere in the world, let alone South Africa.
Secrecy within the nuclear sector is contrary to the public interest, and the closure of the PBMR is no exception. If this process is being kept away from the public gaze, what will the situation be if the government’s information and media bills (which Earthlife Africa Jhb is opposed to) are passed? Already, the energy sector is littered with secret agreements and confidential pricing arrangements, those misguided, regressive and reactionary pieces of legislation will only make an already bad situation even worse.
As Tristen Taylor, Project Coordinator for Earthlife Africa Jhb states, “There is only one honourable and democratic path open to the government; a full, complete, honest and transparent examination of what happened at the PBMR Company, who benefited from it, and how ten billion rand of our money was spent. Anything less will only raise suspicion for years to come and be festering sore within the energy sector.”
For more information, please contact:
Earthlife Africa Jhb
Tel: +27 11 339 3662
Cell: +27 84 250 2434
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