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South African Government moves ahead with nuclear energy programme

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has asked for public comment on government’s new nuclear power proposal for the country.

The proposal will see government procure 2,500 megawatts (MW) of additional nuclear capacity by 2030 and beyond.

“The capacity is to provide clean baseload capacity in response to the approximately 24,100 MW of coal capacity being decommissioned as well as to maintain supply/demand balance and improve energy security,” the regulator said.

Commenting on the need for new options, Nersa said that load shedding has not only resulted in a loss of security of electricity supply to the country, but it also costs sectors of the economy billions of rands and leads to job losses as electricity is an economic enabler.

“The procurement of 2,500 MW from nuclear power will increase the nuclear contribution to the country energy mix from 2.4% to 5.6%,” it said.

The average annual electricity demand is expected to grow by 1.8% in 2030 and 1.4% in 2050. Compounding the issue is the planned decommissioning of several Eskom coal power stations, with 5,732 MW set to be decommissioned by 2023.

This will increase to 11,017 MW by 2030, Nersa said. “Post-2030, the expected further decommissioning of 24,100MW of coal power stations supports the need for additional capacity from cleaner energy technologies, including nuclear.”

The country currently has a single nuclear plant. A drive for additional facilities largely faded after the ruling party forced Jacob Zuma to step down as president in 2018.

Additional plants were widely considered unaffordable, and the nation’s economic slump has further dented the government’s ability to pay for them.

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