New Energy Minister puts foot on nuclear accelerator

Koeberg Nuclear Plant

New energy minister David Mahlobo is unlikely to have upset his Russian chums when he gave a glowing endorsement to the building of more nuclear power stations in SA. He was speaking at a policy forum in Cape Town (Thursday) on the sustainable use of nuclear as an energy resource.

He said: “Cape Town is home to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, the only one on the Continent. The Department of Environmental Affairs has recently issued a positive record of decision for Eskom to proceed with an Environmental Impact Assessment into the suitability of the same site to host 4000 MW of nuclear generated electricity.

“We welcome this decision, as it allows for a public participation process which we believe will propel the country towards the fulfilment of the government policy position on an all-inclusive energy mix.”

Mahlobo said: “South Africa recognises the role of nuclear power in ensuring security of energy supply and meeting the challenge of climate change. We promote an energy mix of coal, gas, renewables and nuclear. Each of these options has their role; some of the energy sources are intermittent supply and while others, such as nuclear and coal, are base-load supply.”

The minister’s remarks appeared to be a slap-down for former Eskom CEO Brian Dames, who just the day before had said new nuclear plants should NOT be part of the country’s future energy mix.
Pinning his colours firmly to the nuclear mast, the minister, who got his new job in this week’s cabinet reshuffle, added that: “South Africa has made a policy decision to pursue nuclear energy as part of the energy mix and recognise the role of nuclear as a base-load source of energy in ensuring security of supply and climate change mitigation.

“Currently, nuclear constitutes about 6% of the South African energy mix – with 1 800 Megawatt electric of electricity supplied to the national grid by the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in the Western Cape. The approved Integrated Resource Plan of 2010-30 provides for coal, gas, renewables and 9600 Megawatt nuclear as part of the energy landscape by 2030.

“Being a developing country, our key driver to our policy decision for nuclear power is the economics of the energy source. Currently Koeberg is one of our lowest-cost electricity sources, and generation III nuclear power plants remain a good economic choice for South Africa. Generation IV nuclear power plants promise improved economics and South Africa looks forward to deploying such advanced energy systems for its development.

“As you know, South Africa previously embarked on a Generation IV type reactor project known as the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor. This project was put into care and maintenance in 2010, however, we remain interested to still deploy such technology into the future. At this stage, we are focusing on readily-deployable technologies to address our electricity demand needs going into the future as our coal fired power plants become decommissioned.”

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