These are desperate times for the nuclear industry. Rising costs, the ongoing nightmare of the Fukushima clean up, the phasing out of nuclear power by some countries, fewer new orders every year, and dramatic cost and time overruns for the few projects under way makes new nuclear a very hard sell indeed.
And in South Africa, the star of the nuclear lobby, President Zuma, has become a falling star. Other senior ANC members have begun loudly denouncing his ties to corporate interests, in the form of the Guptas, including uranium mining.
Like the thrashing of a dying beast, the industry has been churning out press releases and placed articles at a frantic pace. In South Africa, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has in the past paid people such as Andrew Kenny and Dawid Serfontein to pen articles for the local press promoting nuclear power.
Kenny is not known for being right. Back in 2011 he wrote an article comparing a belief in climate change to a belief in witchcraft. As the evidence has mounted, he has moved on from this ludicrous view, and now trumpets about how nuclear power is the best thing since sliced bread. His latest offering is here.
Serfontein hides behind his academic position, and does not disclose his status as a paid writer for NIASA. In this article, for example, his byline was “Dawid Serfontein has a PhD in nuclear engineering from the school of mechanical and nuclear engineering, North-West University.” The reader is left with the impression that this is a balanced academic piece, and unaware of the conflict of interest.
A recent article, from Matthew le Cordeur and published by News24, sets a new low standard. The article quotes Tim Yeo extensively, and exclusively, on the subject of the option of nuclear power for South Africa. For example, he says that South Africa “cannot afford not to go nuclear”.
Tim Yeo is a disgraced ex-politician from the UK. He was accused in the UK Sunday Times of breaching the parliamentary code of conduct by acting as a paid advocate who would promote a client’s private agenda for a daily fee of £7,000. Reminiscent of the Oscar Wilde story, Yeo sued the paper for libel. He lost.
Le Cordeur either failed to do any background research, or chose for some reason not to disclose Yeo’s shady history. One could speculate that le Cordeur might be influenced by the prospect of another all expenses paid trip to Rosatom in Russia.
The judge, Mr Justice Warby, said in court of Yeo’s testimony that it was “utterly implausible” and “In my judgment this evidence was untrue.” According to the Sunday Times, Yeo agreed to pay the legal costs for the newspaper of £411,000. A perjury charge was then made against Yeo.
So a disgraced ex-politician who stands accused of perjury and has been found to accept money from corporations to advance their agendas says that South Africa must go nuclear. That should be enough to give pause for thought.
Shame on News24 for publishing this article as if it were journalism.