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Why Nuclear energy is bad for South Africa, 29 February

Why nuclear energy is bad for South Africa, bad for the world
and how it can be opposed, or: ‘From Commanding Baseload Heights to Community Energy Control’

Speaker: Andrew Lawrence
Date: Monday 29 February 2016
Time: 12:30-14:00
Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal

For many years now, nuclear power has been among the most expensive, if not indeed the most expensive, energy source compared to its major competitors, whether carbon-based (coal, oil, and natural gas) or renewable (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, or biogas). Additional disadvantages – most obviously, its connection to nuclear weapons, frequency of accidents, vulnerability to terrorist attack, and costs of plant decommissioning and waste storage – have been known for an even longer period of time. What then explains not only nuclear’s persistence in regions such as North America and Europe, but its prospective growth in China, India, and Russia, among many other countries? This paper provides some answers to this question with reference to comparative evidence from overseas cases, and discusses others specific to South Africa: what are the connections between South Africa’s energy system and political system? Does the former pose a threat to the latter, and what role does nuclear play in this regard? What are the implications of a nuclear plant in densely-populated South Durban, as provincial authorities reportedly favour? Finally, if nuclear does pose a severe threat, what modes of civil society organising and what narratives are emerging in opposition, and what works best?

Andrew Lawrence is a research fellow at the Vienna School of International Studies. He previously taught at the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science from 2007-2011, where he served as Director of the PhD in African Studies.

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