Reactions To South Africa’s Nuclear Energy Plan

South Africa’s nuclear energy industry dates back to the mid-1940s when the predecessor organisation to the Atomic Energy Corporation (AEC) was formed. Years passed and the commitment to nuclear energy slowed, as the world championed renewable energy.

Now 31 years later, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has announced its plans to revive its nuclear energy plants to solve its power problems. The department plans to put out the tender by March next year after approval from the National Energy Regulator to procure 2,500 MW of nuclear power.

This decision has been met with mixed feelings all pointing towards the gigantic cost of nuclear power plants compared to affordable options.

Energy adviser for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, Liz McDaid, said it was “suspicious … to keep pushing nuclear instead of doing the obvious thing which is renewable energy” while Prof Anton Eberhard of the Power Futures Lab at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business was quoted in the local media as saying that a new nuclear procurement would be “a wasteful and costly diversion”.

He added that the country should instead focus on implementing its electricity supply plan, which prioritises generating 33 GW of power mostly from solar and wind by 2030.

Renewable energy projects such as wind and solar can be implemented relatively quickly and at increasingly competitive prices.

The South African government has expressed an interest in reviving nuclear energy in the country for a while now. In October 2019, the country outlined plans to build 1 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2030 and to extend the operating lifetime of its existing plant by 20 years. But facts remain that nuclear power plants take years to develop and run the risk of cost and time overruns.

Patsy Nwogu

Reporting on data-driven featured stories and investigations.

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