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South Africa’s Catholic Church Rejects Nuclear Procurement Plans, Calls For Referendum via International Business Times

The Roman Catholic Church in South Africa urged the government Tuesday to suspend its nuclear power procurement plans until a referendum on the issue is held. The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement the risks of adding nuclear energy to the national grid outweigh any economic benefits, according to South Africa’s Fin24.

“Although the probability of a nuclear accident is relatively low, the consequences of such an accident cause health hazards for thousands of people and render hundreds of kilometers of land uninhabitable and unsuitable for any use for decades,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza, chairperson of the commission. “The commission has therefore appealed to the government to urgently call for a nuclear referendum.”

Gabuza said the South African government, which is struggling with power shortages and an economic crisis, has yet to show evidence that nuclear procurement is affordable to the country and consumers. The Christian-majority nation should instead focus its efforts and financial resources on renewable energy, he added.

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A major power deficit in South Africa is hampering economic growth. The state-owned power utility Eskom is struggling to stem energy shortages, which is costing private enterprises billions each month in lost production, revenue and waste. President Jacob Zuma’s administration plans to add 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy to the strained national grid by 2030 to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power. But the price tag for the controversial build of the new plants is up to a whopping $100 billion, according to Bloomberg, which makes nuclear power a controversial option.

The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the government should look to Italy as a leading example. In June 2011, the Italian government held a similar referendum to poll its citizens on its plans to generate 25 percent of the country’s electricity from nuclear power by 2030. Well over 90 percent of voters rejected the plans for a return to nuclear power generation, the Guardian reported at the time.

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