23 November 2009
South Africa could have the first of its new nuclear power plants by 2020 if the Cabinet approves a proposal expected to be put forward by the Department of Energy.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters announced in Pretoria last week that her ministry was to submit a proposal on the construction of a nuclear power plant to the Cabinet early next year. The department is currently engaging role-players such as the Department of Science and Technology on the plan.
“In February next year or early next year we will be submitting to Cabinet our plan,” said Peters.
Energy security, job creation
Peters said that a nuclear power plant would enhance the country’s energy mix, as traditionally South Africa has relied on coal-generated electricity.
The introduction of nuclear technology would also see the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, she said
“If, for instance, we build the next generation nuclear fleet of 20 000 megawatts, we estimate that we will create around 70 000 direct jobs in the South African economy,” she said. “This figure will be much higher if we include approximately 300 000 indirect jobs that will be created throughout the entire nuclear value chain.”
The challenge was to make sure the country was able to develop the necessary technology, Peters said, adding, however, that the local industry would be given ample time to develop such technology before construction started on the nuclear power station.
For South Africa to be able to produce nuclear power, specialised skills would be needed, and the minister said these skills would first be sourced in the country before looking abroad.