Open letter to the anti-nukes

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer and civil nuclear engineer

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer and civil nuclear engineer

Published Nov 29, 2023


Dear Gerard Boyce

I hope this message finds you well. I recently read your article titled, "Industry shows contempt for democratic processes and civil society groups,“ that was written for the website Beyond Nuclear International in response to my article “How SA should select a nuclear power plant” that was published in Business Report on August 23.

I appreciate the thought and effort you put into expressing your concerns about the “pro-nuclear” sentiment in South Africa.

While I respect your perspective, I would like to offer a few points for consideration and perhaps engage in a constructive dialogue on this matter.

Firstly, it's essential to acknowledge the diverse range of opinions on nuclear energy.

The pro-nuclear articles you refer to may stem from genuine beliefs in its potential benefits, that is backed by the best scientific evidence and engineering judgement, rather, than as you allege, a concerted campaign to influence specific events. It's crucial to recognise the plurality of voices and ensure that all viewpoints are considered in the ongoing discourse.

Regarding my checklist, it's possible that the phrase "NGO industrial complex" may have been a point of contention. However, it’s also worth noting that concerns about potential delays and intentional disruptions by NGOs in large-scale projects in the energy sector, are not uncommon.

Striking a balance between public engagement, national security infrastructure and project efficiency is a complex challenge, and differing viewpoints on how to achieve this balance in a democratic fashion are to be expected.

I made it clear in my address to the South African Free Market Foundation that I find National Intelligence on the line of personal surveillance excessive and undemocratic.

However, I would like for South Africans to stand up to the phenomenon where the legitimate public participation process is weaponised by the NGO Industrial Complex, especially in the energy sector that is known for rival factions. I encourage you to watch my presentation.

Your proposal for a public referendum is an interesting one as it emphasises the importance of public opinion in shaping energy policy. However, it's worth considering the complexities of nuclear energy, which may require nuanced understanding beyond what a general referendum can offer.

Ensuring that the public is well-informed is a shared responsibility that involves open and transparent communication from all sides.

That is why I wrote my article so to assist the public in understanding the engineer’s decision-making matrix.

I do, however, take issue with your view that the South African public must first be “educated” and, in particular, in light of the Social Research Foundation’s polling data that reveal that black South Africans are the racial group that is the most in favour of nuclear energy. Given our history, I would encourage you not to speak down to people in this paternalistic manner if you believe in winning hearts and minds. Is my understanding correct that you specialise in Racial Hierarchy?

I would like to offer a word of caution regarding referenda. Historical examples such as Brexit and the rise of populist leaders in the 1930s serve as reminders of the potential risks associated with relying solely on referenda for decision making.

Nuclear Power, given its nature, is always susceptible to fear mongering by demagogues, as was the case when Japan and Germany foolishly walked away from Nuclear Power. The former mentioned country has now reversed course, but the latter’s leadership (despite popular opinion being in favour of nuclear power) stubbornly refuses to change course even though its heavy industry might be at risk of dying due to a lack of affordable baseload capacity.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this matter and if you are aware of these historical contexts?

Regarding the survey results, your mention of the eight-fold preference for solar and wind energy is indeed noteworthy. In fact, I have publicly advocated for a mixed energy system and for more renewables on the grid (in fact, more than nuclear power). Where I differ with you is that I believe that South Africa would benefit more from a mixed energy system that includes both coal life extensions (for the next two decades at least) and more nuclear power.

I also want to highlight additional works on the NGO Industrial Complex. The term was first coined by the journalist Cory Morningstar when she investigated the public relations and corporate funding that promoted the green child god Greta Thunberg.

Other excellent scholars include the Canadian author Elaine Dewar's book titled, Cloak of Green, that provides valuable insights into this complex phenomenon.

Furthermore, I would like to bring your attention to my article on human rights abuses in Egypt, which was unfortunately ignored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when they decided to host the 27th Cop Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt has more journalists in jail than Iran and Russia combined, and the practice of torture is routine.

Why were these human rights abuses ignored by those who wanted to “save the planet”?

Additionally, I would like to make you aware of ongoing research on the influence of German Foundations on French Nuclear Policy through NGOs, as questioned by Christian Harbulot at France's Ecole de Guerre Militaire.

In the US the excellent work of Ken Braun at the Capital Research Foundation is also worth reading. Braun convincingly shows that anti-nuclear groups are handsomely financed up to the tune of $1.2 billion (R22bn) annually.

Does Mr Boyce acknowledge that it is less than the cost estimate to complete South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor?

As Braun shows Beyond Nuclear International where Mr Boyce published his article is a recipient of up to $400 000 annually and one of its parent donors the Deer Creek Foundation has an annual revenue of up to $12 million. Is Mr Boyce aware of the asymmetry in money that is involved in lobbying against nuclear power?

My article had nothing to do with the BRICS conference, and in fact, I wasn’t even in South Africa at the time. My article clearly spoke to the following point that I will quote from the opening paragraph: “In his address to the University of Witwatersrand’s Business School on August 17, 2023, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, reaffirmed that nuclear energy will be part of South Africa’s mixed energy strategy. His remarks are in line with the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that specifies an additional 2.5 GW of nuclear power ”at a pace and scale that the country can afford because it is a no-regret option.“

Mr Boyce asserts that I am a “paid lobbyist” for the Nuclear Industry, yet he seems unaware that I haven’t even been employed in the industry in the past four years.

I am, however, part of Truth in Energy (TiE), a group of concerned South Africans that criticised the Presidential Climate Commission’s findings, in particular because it was so obviously biased and lacking in expertise.

TiE consists of many engineers and economists who volunteer our free time. One of our report’s signatories is Dr Pali Lehohla, the former Statistician General of South Africa and an advisor to the United Nations on Sustainable Development and another is Leon Louw, the former head of the South African Free Market Foundation. Both on the economic left and right.

TiE couldn’t find a qualified engineer on the Presidential Climate Commission and one of its members included the Director of Earth life Africa, a known South African “anti-nuclear activist organisation”. Does Boyce consider this to be a conflict of interest?

Is Boyce aware that the data cited in the Presidential Climate Commission, that he seems to hold as an authority, is severely skewed to the more expensive nuclear power plants in France and the US, while it deliberately obfuscates the more affordable plants in China, India, South Korea, and Russia?

Is Boyce aware that I publicly encouraged South Africa to remain committed to non-proliferation, and that I have even advocated that we can use this stance to assist the Palestinians?

As a background note, it's important to mention that my expertise lies in building civilian nuclear power plants and I try to bring this specific perspective to the public discussions on energy policy. Why shouldn’t qualified engineers advocate for the changes that they want to see in our society?

I look forward to your response to this open letter.

Hügo Krüger is a YouTube podcaster, writer and civil nuclear engineer who has worked on a variety of energy-related infrastructure projects, ranging from Nuclear Power, LNG and Renewable Technologies.