He revealed this in a written response to a parliamentary question by DA MP Kevin Mileham, who asked about the status of the nuclear new-build programme.
Mileham also asked about the status of the public-participation process around the Thyspunt site in Cape St Francis in the Eastern Cape.
“The IRP considered a diversified energy-mix that includes cleaner coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, renewables, and battery storage. The outcomes of the revised IRP would determine how the nuclear new-build programme is to be phased in the future,” Mantashe said.
“The government’s policy position is that South Africa will acquire nuclear at the price, pace and scale that the country can afford,” he pointed out.
The nuclear new-build programme was still part of the energy-mix in terms of the Nuclear Energy Policy.
“The nuclear-energy policy provides the government with a vision for developing an extensive nuclear-energy programme and to become self-sufficient in all aspects of the nuclear value chain for the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” he said.
The nuclear-build programme is informed by the IRP that was being finalised at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), the minister said.
Thyspunt remained one of Eskom’s suitable sites to host a nuclear power plant. “It has undergone extensive environmental studies in the form of environmental-impact assessment and a nuclear site-safety review by independent consultants.”
Eskom has submitted a nuclear-site installation licence application for Thyspunt for any future nuclear power plants. Mantashe’s response comes in the wake by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) recently notifying the public about the public hearings to consider Eskom’s application for a nuclear-installation site in St Francis.
It said it received an application from the power utility in March, and had issued letters to interested and affected parties to make submissions.
“The NNR considered the comments received and responded accordingly. The NNR is at an advanced phase of its review process for the Thyspunt application, due to the high level of public and stakeholder interest,” Mantashe said, adding that “the NNR board is of the view that further public participation on health, safety and environmental issues is necessary to strengthen the assessment of the application by the regulator”.
Mantashe said the site approvals for nuclear power plants, environmental impact assessments by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and nuclear-installation site licence were long-term items.
Since the receipt and acceptance of Eskom’s application, the NNR has been seized with an internal technical-review process of the Thyspunt site application, which was a lengthy and thorough process in the technical, scientific and on-site assessment, among others.
“The reason for holding the NNR public hearings around Thyspunt during this time is that NRR has completed its internal-review process of the Thyspunt site application, and is now embarking on an external consultation process,” Mantashe said.