The Roman Catholic Church in South Africa has urged the government to suspend its nuclear power procurement plans until a referendum on the issue is held, referring to implicated economic and safety risks, according to South Africa’s Fin24. The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said in a statement that the risks of adding nuclear energy to the national grid outweighed any economic benefits, the report read.

At the end of December, the Department of Energy (DoE) formally announced cabinet’s decision to go ahead with the procurement of nuclear energy aiming at issuing bids for the new 9,600MW power plant. The nuclear power project has become a controversial issue as analysts estimated its total costs to amount to $66b, which has sparked criticism from the opposition parties also in relation to construction agreements being made behind closed doors.

SACBC said the DoE and Treasury have yet to produce evidence to show that nuclear procurement is affordable to the country and its consumers. They also pointed to the safety risks and the threat to human life. “Although the probability of a nuclear accident is relatively low, the consequences of such an accident cause health hazards for thousands of people and render hundreds of kilometer of land uninhabitable and unsuitable for any use for decades,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza, Commission’s Chairperson, AllAfrica reported.