South Africa needs to plan for nuclear, says NIASA

The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has today called on the country’s energy industry and the government to take a long-term view of energy planning and not be distracted by current oversupply. NIASA’s comments were in reaction to yesterday’s budget speech by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Gigaba’s speech, delivered to a plenary sitting of South Africa’s National Assembly, set out details of spending for specific plans following on from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 16 February State of the Nation address. Although neither speech specifically mentioned the country’s plans for nuclear energy, both Ramaphosa and Gigaba have said that procurement of new nuclear power is not currently a priority for the country.

According to comments Tweeted by the National Treasury yesterday, Gigaba said: “We cannot afford nuclear. Due to slow economic growth, South Africa currently has excess electricity; therefore, we do not need additional capacity now.”

Ramaphosa, then deputy president, made similar comments in January at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. According to the IOL news agency, Ramaphosa said South Africa’s proposed nuclear power plant programme would only be considered in the broad context of affordability.

NIASA Managing Director Knox Msebenzi today congratulated Gigaba on a “progressive” budget, although there was no immediate focus on nuclear.

“As South Africans we need to align the nation towards a common goal of creating jobs and ensure we do not expend our limited resources on unnecessary distractions. Economic development is key to achieve this and the foundation is a robust energy policy, which is forward looking and not laced in emotional sentiments,” he said.

“Electricity demand is expected to increase in the next 20 years, due to urbanisation and increased industrial production. Thus, a balanced energy mix, which includes stable and advanced energy technologies such as nuclear are critical to secure the future which we all desire,” Msebenzi said. He also noted the potential of nuclear technology to drive job creation and socio-economic development through major opportunities in supply chain localisation.

Msebenzi said the South African nuclear industry acknowledged and supported the decision to allow state utility Eskom to purchase additional power from independent power producers of renewable energy, despite the assertion of oversupply.

“We support this move, as we do not see nuclear as being in competition with other energy technologies, but advocate for a balanced energy mix, which speaks to the economic development ambitions of the country. That being said, we equally caution against rushed decisions, which only fix short-term challenges,” he said.

South Africa’s current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), drawn up in 2010 and now in the process of being updated, called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity over the period to 2030. Eskom in December 2016 released a request for information to support the future procurement of the new nuclear capacity under the existing IRP. However, The South African High Court subsequently found ministerial determinations underpinning the nuclear procurement plans to be unlawful and unconstitutional, ruling that the request for information, as well as various intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreements, must be set aside.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News