Discourse Coalitions in Support and Opposition of the Nuclear Build Programme

The government’s plans to expand nuclear energy triggered a polarizing public debate between two coalitions in support and opposition of the programme. Fifty-five organizations are publicly involved in the debate on the nuclear programme—Figure 14.1 shows these actors as circles. The organizations range from business (including industry, consulting firms, trade unions, and business associations) to governmental departments, state agencies, state-owned enterprises, and civil society organizations, which include non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions.

Actors share a connection if they put forth the same argument to support or oppose the nuclear programme. These arguments appear as squares. The coalition in support of nuclear power shares connections in light lines. The actors in the opposing coalition connect through dark lines. Arguments

Discourse coalitions in South Africa’s nuclear power programme

Figure 14.1. Discourse coalitions in South Africa’s nuclear power programme.

Source: Authors’ compilation.

that share both lines are the most contested arguments. Actors and arguments that share many connections are more relevant to the discourse. The discourse network emerges from a dataset of 350 articles, which made 64 statements in favour or against the nuclear programme. Arguments and actors were coded and their discursive relationships appear in the network.

The actors put 24 arguments forth in support or opposition of the nuclear energy programme. Cost and safety emerge as the main contested issues in the current nuclear debate. Impacts on emissions reductions, economic growth, job creation, and skills development are also contested in the public debate. The four most frequent arguments, calculated in Eigenvector centrality, are cost, safety, renewable energy prospects, and job creation.

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