Energy Minister Ben Martins and the vice administrator of China’s National Energy Commission, Tan Rongyao, met in Cape Town on Tuesday to discuss China’s interest in participating in South Africa’s nuclear energy projects.


According to a joint statement released by Martins and Tan, China has proposed an agreement, still under consideration by both parties, which covers the supply of nuclear energy products, infrastructure funding, supplier development and localisation, skills development, and research and development.


In 2006, South Africa and China signed an inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy, covering design, construction and operation of nuclear reactors. The two countries followed this up in 2010 with the signing of a general cooperation agreement in energy, covering oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency and skills development.


“Since the signing of these agreements, the two countries have continued to exchange information and knowledge,” the joint statement read. “China has started training South Africans in the renewable energy sector, and there are plans to expand this to include capacity building in the nuclear energy sector.”


Last week, Tan, accompanied by a high-level delegation, participated in the South Africa-China Nuclear Energy Cooperation Seminar in Johannesburg.


On the second day of the seminar, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) signed a skills development and training agreement with two Chinese state nuclear energy corporations, the China General Nuclear Power Corporation and the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation.


The agreement will create opportunities for young South Africans to further their studies in nuclear energy and other specialised areas of energy at Chinese universities, with funding of up to 95% from Chinese institutions.


Martins said Tan’s visit, and the hosting of the seminar in South Africa, demonstrated China’s confidence in the potential of South Africa’s energy sector.


“Policy certainty and predictability in the energy sector has contributed significantly to attracting foreign investors to the successful renewable programme and other energy components of the energy mix,” Martins added.


South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030, a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand, currently envisages 9 600 megawatts (MW) of additional nuclear capacity by 2030.


While the department is busy reviewing the plan, President Jacob Zuma confirmed its nuclear component in his State of the Nation address in February, saying: “We expect to conclude the procurement of 9 600 MW of nuclear energy.”


South Africa’s 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear plant, built more than 25 years ago, is the only nuclear power-generating facility on the African continent.