13 February 2007
South Africa is to build a second nuclear power station as part of a multi-billion rand plan to meet the surging demand for electricity fuelled by the country’s economic growth.
Briefing journalists in Parliament in Cape Town on Monday, Public Enterprises Alec Erwin said state power utility Eskom, with government backing, had taken a decision to build a new conventional nuclear power plant in the southern part of the country to produce upwards of 1 000MW of baseload power.
South Africa currently has one conventional nuclear station: Koeberg in the Western Cape, which contributes baseload power of about 1 800MW to the national grid.
According to Business Day, Eskom is committed to spending R97-billion over the next five years on building new coal-fired power stations and reopening mothballed ones in order to address South Africa’s looming electricity shortage.
At the same time, Business Day reports, the government is committed to increasing South Africa’s use of cleaner fuels – including conventional nuclear energy and natural gas – to meet its energy requirements.
Erwin said on Monday that South Africa would develop the local nuclear industry as an affordable, environmentally sound alternative to gas and coal-fired sources of energy.
In the light of this, Erwin said, South Africa had identified uranium – a mineral which, when enriched, is used as nuclear fuel – as a strategic mineral, and would be developing a uranium mining and beneficiation strategy.
Such a strategy would enable South Africa to add value to its uranium – a raw material that the country has in abundance – rather than rely on imports of the enriched fuel.
Erwin said South Africa’s demonstration pebble bed modular reactor at Koeberg – which will provide for top-up power of about 165MW – was also going ahead as planned.
At the same time, he said, the country would continue to explore other clean energy sources such as biofuels and liquid fuels.