The National Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) welcomed the state’s new nuclear power plan despite significant protests on Tuesday.
Necsa chairman David Nicholls said Sunday’s request for information from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is the “best way” to continue the debate on nuclear power in the country.
Nicholls says it is only a request for information, with “no financial or contractual obligations”. So there is no reason to be mad about the request.
The department published a request for information on Sunday for a nuclear program of 2,500 MW. The request is part of the department’s “preparatory work to develop plans for a future nuclear program”.
According to the department, this is in line with the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which stipulates that preparation must be done to build nuclear power stations “at a pace and scale that the country can afford”.
According to Necsa, the plan to build additional nuclear power for the country is nevertheless part of the very well-received IRP and the blueprint for power delivery for the next ten years.
The IRP suggests nuclear power is being added to the power grid in the form of small, modular reactors, especially from the 2030s when more and more coal-fired power stations will have to be shut down due to their age. However, one of the major requirements of the IRP is that the country must be able to afford the construction of nuclear power.
“The request for information enables the government to gain a better understanding of how much it will cost to deploy 2 500 MW of nuclear power technology,” says Nicholls.
“The various financing and ownership options will indicate how the plan meets the requirement that it should be done at a pace and scale that the country can afford.”
However, DA energy spokeswoman Kevin Mileham said on Monday that his party would make a comprehensive presentation to the department about why South Africa could not afford a nuclear program.
The reality is, given the current economic situation exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the state treasury cannot afford new nuclear power, he says.
Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, is also facing a court case should he continue with the department’s nuclear plans.
Just Friday, a lawyer from the environmental groups Earthlife and the Southern African Religious Communities’ Environmental Institute (Safcei), warned the state would be in violation of a 2017 court ruling if he starts a nuclear program before following proper legal procedures.
According to Mileham and the lawyers for Earthlife and Safcei, Mantashe’s steps do not differ much from former pres. Jacob Zuma’s at the time to enforce a nuclear program. The court order that the environmental groups obtained stopped the previous program of 9 600 MW. The court found that the nuclear program was unconstitutional because the proper procedure was not followed.
However, Necsa believes that the Nuclear Energy Act of 2008 commits the country to the need to implement the new nuclear program and contribute to the development of the country’s economy, infrastructure and skills.
Necsa acting chief Ayanda Myoli says they have been persuaded to make their significant expertise available to the plan. According to him, there is plenty of talent in the country regarding the building of nuclear power to ensure that the plan works and contributes to the economy.
Necsa says the more than 35-year-old Koeberg nuclear power plant is proof that South Africa is a world leader in nuclear power and should therefore utilize the technology.