South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters affirmed on Monday that the government has the will to implement a nuclear energy programme. "There is political will in this country to use nuclear for peaceful purposes," she said, addressing the Nuclear Africa 2013 conference in Midrand. The country's Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030 included 9.6 GW of nuclear power.
She pointed out that nuclear power provided baseload energy and that, although the country would make use of solar and wind power, it could not rely on them. "The reason we have to include nuclear in our [energy] plan," she explained, "is because we want to reduce coal and our economy is energy intensive."
Other options to reduce the country's carbon dioxide emissions were biomass and gas, she cited. But "[w]e must include nuclear".
"Nuclear creates an opportunity for us to create jobs that would be decent and sustainable," she affirmed. "We want careers. Nuclear provides an opportunity for careers, not just jobs."
Peters acknowledged that the cost of the planned nuclear power programme had increased but reported that the government had already incorporated a price increase in its planning. Moreover, she stated, the cost of renewable energy had also increased, noting, drily, that environmental groups never pointed this out.
The Minister also averred that the delay in launching the new nuclear power plant construction programme had been the result of the government's determination to ensure that the country obtained the maximum possible industrial participation from the programme, thereby fulfilling the objectives of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
She strongly urged the nuclear industry to focus on the Eastern Cape province. "The Eastern Cape has positioned itself as an energy hub. Wind, solar, but also the potential of shale gas," she highlighted. "If you add the cherry on the top, nuclear, this makes the province an industrial hub. We also want you to organize more events in the area. Conduct surveys into the industrial capacity [in the Eastern Cape], not just in Gauteng. I would like to see a nuclear training centre set up [there]. This is an opportunity for sustainable jobs for people right on their doorsteps, the people of the Eastern Cape."
Peters said that the government had taken the issue of nuclear power out into the communities, to let them make up their own minds. "We went out to our communities, to our schools." One of the aims is to let people know that nuclear technology is not only about power stations and bombs, but also about medicine and agriculture, for example. A nuclear education centre has been set up by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (better known as Necsa). "The more you engage people, the more you enlighten them, the more they are informed."