South Africa announces roadmap for new build

11 May 2020

South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is to begin work on a roadmap for the procurement of 2500 MWe of new nuclear capacity. It will consider "all options" including small modular reactor (SMR) projects led by private companies and consortia, Minister Gwede Mantashe told the country's Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy on 7 May.

(Image: Pixabay)

Portfolio committees are appointed from members of South Africa's National Assembly to provide parliamentary oversight for the work of government departments. Mantashe and his management team briefed an online meeting of the committee on the department's annual performance plan and medium-term strategic framework, as well as presented an estimated departmental budget of ZAR9.3 billion (USD506 million) for the current financial year.

South Africa's 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP 2019) - the document that outlines the country’s official energy policy - released last October states that preparations must commence for the nuclear new-build programme "as a no-regret option in the long term", the department's presentation stated. An oversight plan for a programme to enable the existing Koeberg nuclear power plan to operate for a further 20 years after 2024 is also being developed, it said.

"The DMRE will commence immediately with procurement processes to ensure the security of energy supply, and is considering SMRs to take into account the pace and scale that the country can afford. Furthermore, the market will be tested for robust costing and funding options towards nuclear generation," it said.

IRP 2019 stated that the nuclear power programme must be implemented at an "affordable" pace and modular scale, as opposed to a fleet approach. Responding to questions from the committee, Mantashe said the government would explore "all options" including partnering with private sector companies or consortia. Many renewable energy projects are developed by the private sector because there is an appetite in the market for them, he said, and the same principle applies to nuclear.

"If a company or a consortium wants to develop nuclear modular reactors it must come and make representation, we can partner with that company as the state, we may even give that company a right to develop a modular nuclear station on a build-operate-transfer basis. Which means, there may be no immediate call for funding from the state but the build programme can continue," he said.

The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa said the ministerial presentation provided "policy certainty" to enable industry to respond accordingly. "The IRP, which advocates for the diversity of energy sources, while at the same time ensuring security of supply, is welcome and will set South Africa on a path of economic growth and prosperity," Managing Director Knox Msebenzi said.

Koeberg's two pressurised water reactors, operated by state-owned utility Eskom, began commercial operations in the mid-1980s and together generate some 5% of South Africa's electricity.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News