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SA's nuclear power gets R4m makeover - 4 September 2008

The department of public enterprises is spending R4-million on its bid to give the image of nuclear power in South Africa a makeover.

The price tag was revealed in a reply by Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin to a parliamentary question by Independent Democrats energy spokesperson Lance Greyling.

Greyling asked the question after it emerged that the department had engaged the services of brand consultants Freedthinkers for the exercise.

Among other things, Freedthinkers is seeking to identify so-called "nuclear ambassadors" to endorse nuclear power in communities and the business world.

Erwin said in his reply that the consultants were hired not to build support for nuclear energy, but to undertake research into levels of awareness, perceptions and attitudes towards nuclear and related issues, such as climate change, among "key stakeholder groups" and the population at large.

"The purpose of this research is to promote an open and honest discussion around nuclear, to ensure that the public are well informed about the pros and cons of nuclear and why the South African government has chosen to use nuclear as part of the energy system," he said.

Parallel to the research in public perceptions was the development of a nuclear vocabulary in all eleven official languages. This would "ensure that public discourse on nuclear related issues is accessible to all South Africans".

The department had set aside a budget of R4-million for the research and development of the vocabulary and communications strategy, he said.

This was an eight-month-long project, covering six provinces.

"This research is not intended to be a public consultation process on nuclear policy," he said.

Co-ordinator of the anti-nuclear Pelindaba Working Group Dominique Gilbert said the Freedthinkers contract should be cancelled immediately, and the R4-million spent instead on a public consultation process on future energy policy.

"Civil society organisations and NGOs have repeatedly called for an alternative energy solution to the country's energy crisis in which uranium-fuelled nuclear energy is not involved," she said.

She said Erwin consistently appeared to be bypassing democratic processes "to push through what is increasingly looking like his private agenda".

[ Source: IOL ]