South Africa delays nuclear new build plans

23 November 2016

South Africa's government has amended its nuclear power expansion plans, according to the draft blueprint of the government's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) a draft energy paper. The latest IRP aims to increase nuclear power output by just 1,359MWe by 2037, compared with a previous target of adding 9,600MWe of new capacity by 2030. However, nuclear power output would rise more rapidly by 20,385MWe between 2037 and 2050.

The government cited additional generation capacity, lower demand forecasts and changes in technology costs among the reasons for delaying the plans. The new IRP includes plans to add a further 37,400MWe of wind and 17,600MWe of solar power by 2050. The IRP will be refined in March 2017r and then submitted to the cabinet for final approval.

State energy utility Eskom, which will procure, own and operate the new NPPs, said it will still request proposals this year from potential suppliers in view of the  long lead times needed to build reactors. Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, France’s Areva and EDF, Toshiba Corporation’s Westinghouse Electric, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corporation, and Korea Electric Power Corporation have all expressed interest in building new reactors in South Africa. Eskom said South Africa should stick to its original plan of bringing a new plant online by 2025.

Energy analysts had criticised the 9,600MWe plan as ambitious on timescale and unnecessary, while opponents of President Jacob Zuma raised concerns about a lack of transparency in deals which could cost from $37bn to $100bn. Several meetings between Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the last two years had led to speculation that Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom had secured the deal before the launch of the public tender. However, both South Africa's government and Rosatom denied this.

The previous head of Eskom, Brian Molefe, resigned after being implicated in a report by the anti-graft watchdog on allegations of influence peddling by both state-owned companies and Zuma.  While Zuma has championed the nuclear programme, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warned that South Africa could not afford new reactors in face of a stagnant economy and   budget deficit. The nuclear programme also faces public opposition from the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg which have launched legal action to stop nuclear expansion.



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