The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) on May 8 welcomed the presentation by Minerals Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, and officials of his department, to Parliament on May 7. This included a commitment to develop a roadmap for a programme to build new nuclear power plants (NPPs) with a total capacity of 2 500 MW.
“This gives the requisite policy certainty which enables industry to respond accordingly,” affirmed the association. “Niasa is particularly happy to see the commitment to the Nuclear New Build (NNB) programme…. The commitment by government suggests that it is willing to entertain innovative funding models.”
(Mantashe had indicated that such new NPPs would likely be small modular reactors and could be built by the private sector, requiring no State funding. Or they could be built in partnership with the State, on a build, operate, transfer basis, not requiring any upfront or early State funding. In South Africa, renewable energy projects had been funded and built by the private sector.)
South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which outlined the country’s future energy needs, argued that the country should draw its energy from a range of sources. It also referred to the need for South Africa to monitor international developments regarding modular NPPs. “Niasa has forged solid relationship[s] with sister organisations around the world to capitalise on information sharing and benchmarking.”
“The extension of the life of Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant beyond 2024 is another exciting opportunity for the industry as it will provide opportunities to embark on real tangible projects, which will in turn lay the foundation for skills development, ensuring readiness for the NNB programme,” pointed out Niasa. “Somewhat related to Koeberg extension is the implementation of the Centralised Interim Storage Facility for the high level nuclear waste which is currently stored on site at Koeberg.”
Niasa also referred to government’s plan to replace the country’s SAFARI-1 research reactor (mainly used to produce medical radioisotopes) with a new multi-purpose (including research) reactor. It affirmed that such a step would allow the country to increase its production of medical radioisotopes and strengthen its position in world markets. At one time South Africa had been the world’s second largest exporter of medical radioisotopes, and Niasa held that it should seek to regain this position.
“These projects will no doubt rejuvenate the industry and contribute immensely to economic development in the country,” stated Niasa. “Many jobs will be created in the various phases of these projects from engineering through procurement to construction. This will be followed by many years of productive life for these plants.” The association was ready to support the achievement of these strategic aims.