The applicants, however, need money for what is expected to be a long and costly fight against government. They currently have less than R1 million available for legal costs and are raising more funds.
Environmental group Earthlife Africa and the SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) are calling out Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and President Jacob Zuma. Other respondents are the National Energy Regulator (Nersa), Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the Speaker of the National Assembly. No relief is sought against these three.
The government is preparing for a nuclear power procurement programme based on the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that suggests the country will need 9 600MW nuclear generation capacity by 2030. Details about which state entity will implement the project and the structure of the procurement process are still not known and much concern remains about the affordability of nuclear power.
The applicants argue Joemat-Pettersson has failed to ensure nuclear procurement is conducted lawfully and meets the requirements of the constitution for a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective process.
“Notwithstanding the vast sums of money to be committed, and the potentially long-term effect on the economy and for consumers of electricity and present and future generations of South Africans, the decision to proceed with procuring these nuclear power plants (the so-called nuclear fleet), and to have concluded such procurement in the next few months, has occurred without any of the necessary statutory and constitutional decisions having been lawfully taken,” the applicants argue.
They are challenging the legality of the inter-governmental agreements between South Africa and Russia, the US and Korea in preparation for procurement. They are asking the court to set these agreements aside and challenge decisions by Joemat-Pettersson, in consultation with Nersa, about the amount of nuclear capacity the country needs.
They maintain a fair and proper procurement process cannot take place in the circumstances and are seeking a declaratory order in this regard. Joemat-Pettersson and Zuma have 10 days to file opposing papers.
Safcei spokesperson Liziwe McDaid said the organisation does not believe coal and nuclear are the only options.
She said a mix of renewable energy technologies, as well as gas, excluding fracking, was more appropriate. It would be a mistake to lock the country into unaffordable nuclear projects that are outdated, she said.