SA’s nuclear programme remains a nebulous hope

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When is South Africa’s nuclear programme going to get out of the starting blocks? Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson had a lot to say in her budget vote speech yesterday, but the presentation lacked specifics and time frames.

She said on the nuclear front, R850 million had been allocated to the department and its relevant agencies in order to undertake further research and development, especially with regard to safety matters.

Regulations for the handling of hazardous materials, in terms of international obligations, and the development of nuclear policies and legislation to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy will also be pursued.

“The nuclear expansion option is a central feature in our future energy mix, given the emissions reduction target we have set ourselves, and the possibility of catapulting South Africa into the top echelons of the knowledge economy,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

She continued: “Our plan is to introduce some 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear energy in the next decade, in addition to running Koeberg power station.”

Joemat-Pettersson said our country’s track record in running a nuclear programme spoke for itself. Apart from Koeberg for power generation, our current programme included Pelindaba, currently one of the biggest producers of medical radio isotopes from low-enriched uranium.

“I intend to focus on and accelerate all the outstanding matters that will lead to the commencement of the nuclear build programme as envisaged in the integrated resource plan. These include the localisation, financing, funding, skills development, fuel cycle and uranium beneficiation strategies to support the nuclear new build programme,” she said.

Apart from giving a lot of theory, Joemat-Pettersson had a bit of good news, saying the electrification target for the 2013/14 financial year was to bring 260 000 households onto the grid while a total of 292 714 was achieved.

In addition, 14 059 non-grid connections were also achieved.

Citrus

The citrus black spot is back, giving Citrus Growers Association an unnecessary headache. A consignment of fruit heading to the Netherlands was found to have the citrus black spot disease.

This sounds like a never-ending nightmare for the industry, which has worked hard to prevent such incidents. If the spotty fruit is found, the consignment is impounded. It remains under dispute whether commercial fruit from areas where citrus black spot is found could put citrus-producing countries at risk.

The citrus growers have been pushing for some sort of the closure in relation to some scientific proof to resolve this once and for all. The matter reared its head right in the middle of important trade negotiations between the Southern African Development Community and the EU.

Both regions concluded the Economic Partnership Agreement, which will ease trading agreements and improve access to the EU markets.

However, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said yesterday that as much as this matter remained important, sanitary issues were not covered by the agreement.

The citrus growers hope help will come from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana. They have asked his department to prioritise a swift and amicable resolution of the citrus black spot with the EU.

About 120 000 jobs and 1.2 million dependents are counting on a solution.

In his budget vote speech last week, Zokwana said he was aware of the situation regarding citrus exports.

He said he had engaged the Department of Trade and Industry, and would soon be meeting with citrus growers.

But for now, Zokwana pleaded with the farmers to comply with the measures put in place by the European Food Safety Authority.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Wiseman Khuzwayo and Nompumelelo Magwaza.


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