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Eskom on nuclear charm offensive

Energy
Johannesburg - Eskom, the designated procurer for South Africa's new nuclear build programme, has gone on a charm offensive and recently commissioned a study that has shown the multibillion-rand benefits of its Koeberg nuclear power station.

Eskom yesterday released the results of a KPMG study that looked at Koeberg’s socio-economic impact in the Western Cape and South Africa in the period between 2012 and 2025.

Although Koeberg, which is Africa’s only nuclear plant, has been producing power into the national electricity grid since the mid-1980s, nuclear still battles with social acceptability in certain quarters in South Africa and internationally.

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Koeberg Nuclear power station. Eskom has commissioned a study that has shown the multibillion-rand benefits of Koeberg, Africa's only nuclear plant, not only to the Western Cape but to the entire country. Photo: Henk Kruger

The government's plans to go ahead with the nuclear build programme has consistently run into opposition on environmental and affordability grounds.

“Economic impact assessment of Koeberg does not provide answers to all the questions. But it adds context to the journey we are on and helps us to alter their philosophical views on nuclear power. It is meant to inform. For me what is important is not proving whether nuclear is preferable to coal or renewables to gas,” said Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown at the release of the report in Cape Town yesterday.

Koeberg has an installed capacity of 1860MW, which provides 50 percent of the Western Cape’s and approximately 5.6percent of South Africa’s energy needs. It is one of Eskom’s most reliable and cheapest plants to run.

KPMG’s director and economist, Lullu Krugel, said on Thursday that, between 2012/13 to 2015/16, Koeberg supported and stimulated economic activity in South Africa of an estimated R53.3 billion.

Read also: Strong response on Nuclear - Eskom

“The methodology KPMG employed to conduct this review, is based on internationally accepted standards, detailed information supplied by Eskom and official statistics,” said Krugel.

Eskom interim chief executive Matshela Koko said the utility needed a “substantiated independent” view on the benefit of Koeberg’s investment spending and daily operations.

Brown said Eskom's power stations generated jobs and created work for the construction industry and producers of a multitude of goods and services. “They stimulate - and sometimes carry almost single-handedly - entire local economies and communities,” said Brown.

Ironically, Eskom has recently been in the spotlight for its decision to decommission five of its power stations from 2020 because of, among others, lethargic economic growth and the addition of renewable energy from independent power producers (IPPs). This has raised the ire of trade unions National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the National Union of Mineworkers.

The unions have argued that the closure of the power stations would lead to job losses at the stations and nearby coal mines. Numsa said closing Hendrina, Kriel, Komati, Grootvlei and Camden power stations would put at least 6 000 jobs on the line.

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