The entrance to the Pelindaba Nuclear facility. Picture: Etienne Creux

Johannesburg – Top energy researchers and lobby groups have come out in support of the Department of Energy’s plans to build eight nuclear power stations to supplement electricity supplies in the country.

Economists estimated that South Africa’s economy could lose more than R1.4 trillion and over five million jobs by 2030 if nuclear energy was not implemented.

At a round-table discussion hosted by the Nuclear Industry Association of Southern Africa (NIASA) in Johannesburg on Thursday nearly all panel members agreed that South Africa needs nuclear power in its energy mix. The discussions included the economics of nuclear.

Other participants said they weren’t taking a stance on the issue, except to say that they have an interest in stable and reliable energy supplies.

The Department of Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP2010) calls for the government to build nuclear power stations that will supply 9.6MW of energy to the grid, a decision that has been met by criticism in some quarters and deemed controversial.

Rob Adam, chair of NIASA, says though South Africa has minerals like coal, wind and solar to generate power, the fact was that those resources were limited to certain provinces and not others.

“We have to think logistically about power and how to manage it,” said Adam.

“South Africa is water-poor. We can’t only depend on coal, solar, gas, wind, or diesel.”

The panel was made up of economists and experts from NIASA, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Business Unity South Africa, Free Market Foundation, and the Coega Development Corporation.

Asked how much nuclear power would be needed, Adam said the South Africa should stick to the recommendations of the IRP2010, at least for now.

The only concern for the panelists was the cost associated with procuring nuclear energy, which they said government needs to be transparent about.