South Africa to seek bids for new nuclear power station

South African Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa briefs the media on implementation of the Energy Action Plan, at Tshedimosetso House in Hatfield, Tshwane, South Africa September 26, 2023. Jairus Mmutle/GCIS/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
South African Minister of Electricity, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

By March, South Africa will start bidding for an additional 2,500 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power. This is being done to address the worst power outages the country has ever seen.

On certain days this year, businesses and people have been left without electricity for up to ten hours, which has hurt South Africa’s economic production and prompted measures to increase generation.

On the other hand, authorities stated on Tuesday that the new nuclear power acquisition is not a short-term solution, considering that it is anticipated that the first units will not begin functioning for another ten years.

According to statements made by Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa during a press conference, “We are excited about the prospects, and we are confident about our ability to ensure that within a reasonable period we can announce preferred bidders.”

Ramokgopa reaffirmed that South Africa, home to the sole nuclear power station on the African continent that is now functioning, Koeberg, located near Cape Town, will construct new nuclear power plants at a scale and speed that it can finance.

As a result of a court challenge in 2017, South Africans are skeptical of the government’s nuclear program. This is because a nuclear contract with Russia that was worth 9,600 megawatts (MW) and was launched during the scandal-plagued administration of Jacob Zuma was unsuccessful.

However, environmentalists continue to express worries over the availability of financing and long-term storage solutions for radioactive waste.

This topic should not be on the agenda at any time. “There is no way that civil society can accept this,” said Liziwe McDaid, a local environmental activist. “It is a myth that it is a solution to climate change, and it is a myth that it is the most cost-effective form of electricity.”

Koeberg, which has a capacity of around 1,900 megawatts (MW), supplies approximately five percent of the nation’s energy requirements out of a nominal installed capacity of approximately 46,000 megawatts (MW).

The government is currently seeking regulatory clearance after applying for a twenty-year extension to Koeberg’s operational license, which is set to expire in July 2024.

South Africa anticipates that the first unit of the new 2,500 MW nuclear plant will be operational by 2032 or 2033, according to Zizamele Mbambo, a senior official in the energy ministry.

“We must issue an open and transparent tender that makes sure there is cost competitiveness,” Mbambo further stated.

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