Johannesburg - Eskom will issue a request for information “to test the market” in relation to the nuclear build programme before the end of this week, spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said on Tuesday.

The move is another indication of Eskom’s eagerness to proceed with the nuclear programme, even though the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which determines South Africa’s future electricity capacity, is still a subject of a public consultation process.

Eskom, the designated procurer, owner and operator of the new nuclear energy build programme, wants the first nuclear reactor to be commissioned by 2026, which is contrary to the IRP’s base case - which has envisaged that 1 359MW of new nuclear capacity would be built by 2037, and a total of 20 385MW by 2050. In a statement issued shortly after the release of the draft IRP document last month, Eskom said its current plans were aligned to an IRP scenario that required the first nuclear unit by 2026.

Phasiwe said yesterday that the request for information to be issued this week would be for approximately 2 000MW.

Eskom has previously said that it would adopt a so-called phased approach to the nuclear build programme.

Information

Companies normally issue a request for information to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers.

Eskom made the announcement as Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute yesterday took their fight against the mooted nuclear programme to the Cape Town High Court.

The organisations have alleged that the nuclear procurement process was shrouded in secrecy and misinformation.

“The court case sets out to protect the future wellbeing not only of the country, but of each citizen’s legacy. The government’s energy/electricity plans, which are so strongly geared toward nuclear, are not only a threat to our environment.

“South Africa simply cannot afford the potential financial and human costs that could occur as a result of this decision, and we therefore need a more transparent and fair process,” said Earthlife Project Co-ordinator, Dominique Doyle, on Tuesday.

Read also: Eskom to invite bids to expand SA's nuclear capacity

The South African Renewable Energy Council (Sarec) chairwoman, Brenda Martin, said on Tuesday that the organisation was “disheartened” by Eskom’s intentions to proceed with the nuclear programme.

“This is compounded by Eskom’s ongoing refusal to sign power purchase agreements with 37 renewable independent power producers, some of whom have had preferred bidder status for as long as 20 months,” said Martin.

Sarec represents industry associations across a range of renewable energy technologies. Its members are the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association, the South African Wind Energy Association, the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa and the Southern African Solar Thermal and Electricity Association.

Eskom said yesterday that the Council for Geoscience - the custodian of South Africa’s geoscience data - had approved the geology and the bed rock topography of the proposed Thyspunt, Eastern Cape, nuclear site.

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