South Africa Dept. of Energy discusses nuclear power expansion

At the National Union of Mineworkers Nuclear Energy Workshop on April 23, South African Department of Energy Minister Dipuo Peters outlined the country's plans for the use of nuclear power generation, while utilizing lessons learned from countries such as Japan, South Korea and Russia.

In 2011, the South African government approved the Integrated Resource Plan which calls for 9.6 GWe of nuclear power and 17.8 GWe of renewables by 2030, according to Peters.

“These two energy sources are not meant to compete against each other, but rather to complement each other,” Peters said in her speech.  “Every energy source has its pros and cons, its risks and benefits. We cannot predict what the future holds in terms of the most favored energy source, if there is such a thing.”

South Africa will adopt the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Milestones approach for its nuclear program. Peters said this approach addresses 19 elements necessary for the successful implementation of a nuclear build program, ranging from legislative and regulatory framework to environmental protection, among others.

Peters did say there is a lot of concern about the large capital cost for a nuclear program in South Africa, which could approach 300 billion rand (more than $40 billion). She added that the focus should not be on the capital costs, but the levelized costs per unit of energy generated.

“This is what nuclear power is – large capital cost, low overall cost,” Peters said. “You can look at almost any fact-based survey; nuclear is one of the cheapest overall cost electricity options.”

The Energy Minister did say the nuclear power industry could create additional jobs in both the uranium mining and fuel manufacturing sectors.

“We are not only planning to operate nuclear power stations, but we plan to build, maintain and manufacture the components that run them – creating over four times more jobs than just operations,” she said.

Currently, South Africa has two reactors at the 1,800 MW Koeberg plant that generate about 5 percent of the country’s electricity.

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