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Arguments in favour of putting the South African government's nuclear plans to a popular referendum

Title: Arguments in favour of putting the South African government's nuclear plans to a popular referendum
Date: Friday 28 October 2016
Time: 12:30-14:00
Venue: CCS Seminar Room, 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College
Speaker: Gerard Boyce

Recently, debate has been stirred about the relatively low levels of public participation in policymaking surrounding South Africa’s nuclear reactor building plans with even the government and prominent supporters of nuclear power acknowledging that rates of public participation need to be improved substantially. Subsequently, questions have been raised about ways to increase public participation and thereby ensure popular support for any decisions made regarding this increasingly controversial programme. Putting these plans to a referendum is one way; arguably, the maximal way; to ensure that decisions that are ultimately made in this regard enjoy a certain level of popular support. There are a number of reasons why the government’s nuclear plans ought to be put to a referendum. Firstly, the stakes involved are such that building these additional reactors will likely affect political, economic and social relations. The size of the financial outlay required, the unfathomable operational timelines involved, the cataclysmic uses to which nuclear technology can be put, not to mention the regulatory and legislative protections which are necessary for this industry to thrive, ensure that this decision will have far-reaching implications that will affect societal relations for generations to come. Moreover, as moves by other countries which seek to establish nuclear energy programs demonstrate, nuclear energy holds the power to change our national self-perception and by extension, the nature of our relations with the rest of the world community. Due to nature of these factors, this decision is far from business-as-usual and not merely a question of tallying up financial costs and benefits.

Speaker Bio:
Gerard Boyce is a micro-economist who holds a PhD in the area of Behavioral Economics. He read for his degree through the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He harbours a wide variety of professional interests, ranging from the effect of psychosocial variables such as hope and perceptions of racial hierarchy on economic attitudes to the inter-relationship between environmental factors and outlook/future orientation.
Before joining UKZN Development Studies, he worked as a social science researcher and health economist at the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). During this time he gained extensive experience in undertaking primary and secondary research through his involvement in a range of projects that were commissioned by provincial and national government departments and several multilateral organisations. In particular, he was engaged in projects which sought to estimate the costs and evaluate the cost effectiveness of a range of social interventions.

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