IAEA to review SA’s nuclear-readiness report

8th June 2012 By: Terence Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

The South African government is under- taking an ‘Integrated Nuclear Infra- structure Review’ as part of a self- assessment exercise to establish the readiness of the country to proceed with a plan to invest in 9 600 MW of new nuclear capacity as outlined in a national energy plan.

Chief director Ditebogo Kgomo reported last week that the review, which covers 19 areas, should be completed this month.

In presenting an address on behalf of Energy Minister Dipuo Peters to delegates at a nuclear conference in Johannesburg, Kgomo said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would then be asked to conduct an external assessment of the review, as well as South Africa’s state-of- readiness to move ahead with a nuclear build programme.

The current version of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) envisages the first new nuclear capacity being introduced from 2023 and for all 9 600 MW to be added by 2030. However, Peters said that the safety assessment instituted following the nuclear accident in Japan, in March 2011, meant that the programme had been delayed by a year.

The review was being led by the Department of Energy, with support from the National Nuclear Regulator, the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, Eskom and other government departments.

It covers South Africa’s policy and political position, nuclear safety, management, legis- lation, funding and financing, safeguards, regulatory frameworks, radiation protection, electrical grid capacity, human resource development, siting and support facilities, environmental protection, emergency planning, security and physical protection, the nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste, industrial involvement and procurement.

The reports, whose drafting had received Cabinet sanction, were still being drafted and would be handed to the IAEA for its assessment of possible risks and gaps.

The National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee (NNEECC), which was led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and comprised various government departments, would oversee and monitor the implementation of the policy and plans. It would receive support from the Nuclear Energy Technical Committee, which comprised directors-general from various affected departments.

The NNEECC, Kgomo said, had not yet met, but it was anticipated that it would meet soon.

Last week, Eskom CE Brian Dames called for urgent progress on the implementation of the baseload aspects of the IRP, indicating that, unless decisions were made, South Africa risked repeating the mistake of starting to build new capacity too late.

In her prepared address, Peters indicated that government was “extremely busy with implementation plans for the projects identified in the IRP”.