Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan indicated on Thursday that it could be a “year, or two, or more” before South Africa had certainty on how it would be proceeding with its contentious plan to introduce new nuclear capacity to the electricity mix.
In an interview with ENCA the day after Budget 2016, which made only scant reference to the plan to build 9 600 MW of additional nuclear capacity besides the existing Koeberg plant, Gordhan stressed that the initiative was in the “very early stages”.
He also reiterated President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address assertion that South Africa would “only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford”.
The country was yet to release a formal request for proposals for the nuclear programme, but the way was opened for its release in December when Cabinet approved the publication of a nuclear determination signed in 2013 that was seen as a precursor to the release of a tender document.
Gordhan promised a transparent procurement process, and lent his support to Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson's proposal that the process be overseen by the highly regarded Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office, which had overseen a successful renewable-energy programme and was currently also mandated to facilitate the Department of Energy’s baseload coal and gas-to-power IPP programmes.
Only once nuclear vendors had entered their bids would South Africa have “an understanding of what are the different cost levels [and] what type of technology is available”.
“So it’s going to be a year, or two, or more before we can definitely say how long, how much and over what period of time we are going to be managing this programme.”