South Africa minister for energy, Jeff Radebe, has urged the country to consider nuclear as a clean energy source that can be part of its electricity generation mix.
Addressing the BBQ Awards held at Emperor’s Palace, Radebe said the country cannot ignore the fact that South Africa is endowed with abundant coal reserves that come at a cheap price.
His statement comes at a time when South Africa is faced with energy problems that has led to a series of load shedding across the country.
According to Eskom, Load shedding is a highly controlled process, implemented to protect the system and to prevent a total collapse of the system or a national blackout.
“As a developing economy, plagued by high poverty and unemployment levels, the issue of reliable and affordable energy is critical,” Radebe said.
He argued that the impact of unreliable or unaffordable energy on value-creating industries which contribute significantly to economic development could be very devastating if unmanaged, adding that sustainable energy planning requires a “holistic approach” to planning for future energy needs, ensuring environmental and climate change issues, together with social development and economic growth, are all considered in a balanced manner.
“The country cannot ignore its abundant coal reserves, and the “relatively low” price of coal, but this is “counter-balanced” by coal’s high carbon content and internalised through policy options including emissions reduction targets and the introduction of carbon taxes,” he said.
“We have to consider nuclear, and despite its high capital costs, we have not lost sight of the fact that this is a clean energy source that can contribute optimally for electricity generation,” the minister said.
South Africa’s long-term energy plans are outlined under the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which first came into effect in 2011. At that time, the plan called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity over the period to 2030.
However, a draft update to the IRP, released by Radebe for public comment in 2018, proposes nuclear capacity remaining at 1860 MWe – the capacity of the country’s currently operating Koeberg nuclear power plant.
The Portfolio Committee on Energy, which provides parliamentary oversight for the work of South Africa’s energy department, in November said the IRP should make it explicit that both coal and nuclear will remain important elements of the country’s energy mix.