The Department of Energy (DoE) will be undertaking study tours to a number of key nuclear-energy jurisdictions in the coming months ahead of a final nuclear decision, which government still insists will be made before the end of the current financial year, which runs until March 31, 2014.
South Africa has opted for a phased decision-making approach under the direction of the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee (NNEECC), which is now chaired by President Jacob Zuma, having previously been overseen by his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Energy Minister Dikobe Ben Martins indicates that visits will be made to China, France, Korea and the US to assist in determining South Africa’s approach to the introduction of new nuclear energy capacity, over and above that which already exists at Koeberg, in the Western Cape.
Martins insists, however, that public consultation will be a central feature of any future programme.
“Government has decided on an energy mix, and part of that energy mix does involve nuclear power. It is the responsibility of government to reach out to all sectors of society, even those who are against nuclear, to explain the need we have to utilise nuclear,” he said during his first formal media engagement since assuming the position following Zuma’s July Cabinet reshuffle.
The International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission to South African earlier this year and delivered a report on the country’s state of readiness to build additional nuclear capacity in May.
DoE deputy director-general for nuclear Zizamele Mbambo says the contents of the INIR will be made public, but indicates that the report will only be released once Cabinet has considered its contents.
There are concerns that South Africa has insufficient skills to safely upscale its nuclear industry and Mbambo acknowledges that additional skills will be required to build and operate the envisaged 9 600 MW fleet.
But besides the skills issue, the NNEECC is also applying its mind to possible financing arrangements and the cost of the build programme. It is also assessing the need to create and strengthen supportive institutions, including the operationalisation of the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute, as well as ways to ensure high levels of local content.
“So there are a number of aspects that we are addressing as part of the phased decision-making approach. Those will culminate in a decision that will have to be made within this financial year,” Mbambo reveals.