Nuclear power station

Johannesburg - South Africa’s plan to build nuclear power plants will go ahead, with the nation’s cabinet “poised to make a decision” on the way forward soon, the head of the country’s atomic energy company said.

“It will go ahead - we do not have an option,” Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa CEO Phumzile Tshelane said on Johannesburg-based Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday.

The country’s two choices to increase continuous power are coal and nuclear as other methods are not viable given the deteriorating climate, he said.

The country has signed nuclear cooperation accords with Russia, China, France the US, Japan and South Korea. It’s awaiting signature of a similar agreement with Canada, Tshelane said. Necsa’s role is to advise the government and to process uranium, he said.

South Africa’s government plans to add 9 600 megawatts of atomic energy to the national grid by 2029 as the country grapples with shortages that have curbed mine and factory output and limited investment. Eskom Holdings, the state-owned utility, operates the continent’s only nuclear power plant - the Koeberg facility near Cape Town that supplies about 4 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Interested Companies

Areva, EDF, Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Corporation unit, ChinaGuangdong Nuclear Power Holding, Korea Electric Power and Rosatom have expressed interest in building the new plants. Price-tag estimates for as many as eight reactors range from $37 billion to $100 billion.

In October, parliament’s portfolio committee on energy ordered Necsa executives to leave a briefing for being unable to present its annual report, Business Day newspaper reported on October 16. Necsa had informed lawmakers it wouldn’t be able to present on time because it was still in discussions with the auditor-general about the document, Tshelane said.

“We are not in the red,” he said. Necsa is finalising its audit report, and is working out reporting issues relating to the decontamination and decommissioning of old facilities, Tshelane said.