The Department of Energy will make a definite announcement on South Africa’s nuclear build future within the next two months, Energy Minister Ben Martins told a business briefing in Pretoria on Monday.


South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030, a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand, currently envisages 9 600 MW of additional nuclear capacity by 2030. The department is busy reviewing the plan. Koeberg remains South Africa’s only nuclear station.


Martins said that, towards the end of last year, an inter-departmental team tasked with preparing for South Africa’s nuclear build programme had conducted study visits to a number of countries with expertise in the nuclear field, including the United States, Japan and Russia.


The team comprises representatives from the Departments of Energy, Public Enterprises, National Treasury and other departments.


The team had prepared a report which would be given to an inter-departmental committee chaired by President Jacob Zuma.


“A definite announcement in regard to progress should be made in about two months’ time, maximum,” Martins said.


The deputy director-general responsible for policy in the Department of Energy, Ompie Aphane, said that nuclear was at the core of the department’s planning process.


“If one looks at the period between 2020 and 2030, one of the biggest challenges that we face is that we have to decommission some of the coal-fired power stations because … they are all coming to the end of [their life cycle] at the same time.


“That’s where the 9600 MW of nuclear is predicated to be,” Aphane said. “We need to replace the coal in line with our objectives, in response to issues such as climate change.”


On how a nuclear build would be funded, Aphane said the department had commissioned an independent study to look at various funding options and sources.


Martins said the countries visited by the task team had all expressed their readiness to partner with South Africa on the skills needed for the nuclear build. “The study visits that we conducted we were in touch with a number of countries and tertiary institutions. They are all willing and ready to partner with South Africa.


“In terms of skills training, there’s commitment,” Martins said. “What we’ve emphasised to all role players is that we are interested in localisation to ensure that a programme of that nature will result in the requisite industrialisation in South Africa.


“What can be produced in South Africa should be produced in South Africa, and we’ve made emphasis on the aspect of skills training. There will be new disciplines and job opportunities.”