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SA cuts PBMR funding. Are they finally investing in Renewable Energy instead?

SA government cuts the PBMR budget by 75%


Environmental groups around South Africa are welcoming a decision made by the SA government recently to cut 75% of its funding towards the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Company. Environmentalists are hoping that this is an indication that more money will be put towards renewable energy which is a much more effective way of attacking the energy crisis in South Africa.

Despite the “good news” for most renewable energy supporters and companies such as, the sudden cut in budget to the PBMR Company has resulted in possible major loss of jobs which could culminate in becoming the end of the PBMR Company.  In a statement released last week, PBMR spokesman said that they were seriously considering retrenching up to 75% of their staff. This would result in a total loss of 600 jobs if another source of funding can not be found within the immediate future.

Over the last three years, the PBMR Company received over R7.2-billion from the government whereas renewable energy companies have received little to no funding. This is a massive amount as the government was looking towards nuclear energy becoming the saving grace of the South African energy crisis. Unfortunately, the PBMR has bore little fruit for the money which has been invested in them which is why the government has now only allocated R11 million to the PBMR over the next three years.

Liz McDaid, of the South African Faith Communities Environmental Institute was extremely supportive of the government’s decision:

"This PBMR programme has been going on from the early 90s and what is there to show for it? Now it appears that it is no longer something on South Africa's development agenda. It would be fantastic if we could now hear the energy minister (Dipuo Peters) say in her budget speech that the money that has been going to the PBMR will go into renewable energy sources."

Richard Worthington, of WWF South Africa also had positive opinion on the decision:

"For a long time the nuclear industry has received more state support than the renewable energy industry. We hope this cut in funding signals a policy commitment to investing in renewable energy, and the implementation of the 1998 white paper on energy policy,"

Ultimately, it would be great if the PBMR could get the backing of an external investor and continue research without the assistance of the government. This looks a slight possibility as there is allegedly a group of high-level Algerian delegates who are interested in investing in the company.

South Africa should look to increase it’s funding of renewable energy research as this is the way of the future. However, if we can continue research in both nuclear and renewable energy with the support of government and investors, this would be an ideal situation. Let’s hold thumbs for the people whose jobs are at risk at the PBMR, and let’s hope the government allocates the newly freed up budget towards renewable energy jobs and research.

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