Mantashe confirms consultations with nuclear power vendors and replacement of SAFARI

22nd September 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has informed the sixty-fourth session of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), via a video recording, that South Africa had started consultations with nuclear power reactor vendors, to obtain information about costs, schedules and possible ownership models. This was in line with the country’s Integrated Resource Plan 2019-2030 and the result of a request for information (RfI) issued in June. This RfI was based on an assumption of a programme for 2 500 MW of nuclear power.

He reaffirmed that nuclear would retain a “vital role” in the country’s energy mix. He pointed out that there was a “bigger role” for nuclear in transitioning South Africa from high carbon-emission energy sources to low carbon-emission ones, while simultaneously expanding the country’s energy supply. “We need to contest the space in the energy debate, for nuclear as a clean energy technology,” he said. “Scientific evidence is available to support our position.”

“[The] Koeberg [nuclear power plant (NPP)] is one of our most reliable, efficient, safe and affordable power stations on our electricity grid,” he highlighted. “We, therefore, decided to extend the operational life of Koeberg nuclear power station by another 20 years. The technical and regulatory work has begun. We thank the IAEA for its support through the Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation missions on the Koeberg nuclear power plant, with the most recent pre-mission taking place in September 2019.”

South Africa’s other nuclear installation is the SAFARI-1 research reactor. While Koeberg is located near Cape Town, SAFARI-1 is situated at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria. Mantashe reported that a Ministerial Task Team had been set up last year to consider the development of a replacement for SAFARI-1 by 2030. A Project Initiation Report, which recommended the replacement of SAFARI-1 by a multipurpose reactor, had been approved and the project was now at the prefeasibility stage.

“Further, despite the logistical challenges brought on by [the] Covid-19 pandemic, we are beginning to see increased access to offshore markets for the supply of medical isotopes, that are critical to the rest of the world,” he observed. The medicinal role of nuclear technology in Africa, where diseases such as cancer, ebola and malaria, among others, could be encountered, was unquestionable. 

He also stated that South Africa would donate €234 642 to the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Fund for 2021. He pointed out that, with the assistance of the IAEA, South Africa had been able to initiate four new national Technical Cooperation projects in the fields of agriculture, health and safety.