South Africa launches nuclear power development process

South Africa launches nuclear power development process

The South African department of energy launched a process to add up to 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power to the country's national grid.

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The South African department of energy launched a process to increase the country’s nuclear capacity. If implemented, the project would add up to 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power to South Africa‘s national grid. In December, the government gave the green light to issue a request for proposals from the nuclear industry. After the RFP gets approval from the cabinet, it will be open for official bidders.

Power shortages are the main obstacle for South African economic growth. To address the lack of the generating capacity, the government has developed the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 (IRP). According to the plan, 22% of new generating capacity by 2030 would be nuclear and 14% coal-fired.

Opposition parties criticized the nuclear project, saying that it was unaffordable and the risks would outweigh potential economic benefits. The South African Catholic Justice and Peace Commission even called for a halt to nuclear procurement plans. The commission also raised concern about the project’s vulnerability to corruption and called upon the government to initiate nation-wide referendum on the matter.

The South African Department of Energy responded that it was committed to cost effectiveness and transparency.

Combination of nuclear power and renewable energy

For the moment, South Africa is the only African nation to generate electricity from nuclear power. In the mid-1980s, the country set up two Koeberg reactors near Cape Town, which provide about 5 percent of country’s electricity today. In December 2011, the energy minister said that the government agreed to spend around $50 billion on increasing nuclear capacity by 2030.

By comparison, spending for renewable energy development by 2030 is estimated at $11 billion, according to the government’s Renewable Energy Plan. By 2030, South Africa is to produce 17,800 MWe of “green” energy. The government already issued tenders for 1450 MWe of solar PV, 200 MWe of CSP, 1850 MWe of wind power, and various smaller contributions.

The South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS) criticized the government‘s energy development plan for the lack of focus on smart electricity grid development in its recent report. According to ISS researcher Steve Hedden, South Africa would get a much higher return on its energy investments if it planned a smarter and more flexible electricity grid, rather than on boosting controversial nuclear generating capacity.

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