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Mixed reactions over South Africa's nuclear energy plan

South Africa power plants   -  
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South Africa

Nuclear power plants take years to develop and run the risk of cost and time overruns. South Africa will however  install new nuclear capacity to solve its power problems.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said on Friday last week that it planned to put out the tender by March next year following the National Energy Regulator's approval for the procurement of 2,500 MW of nuclear power.

Energy experts in the country are expressing shock over the decision. 

Energy adviser for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, Liz McDaid, said it was “suspicious … to keep pushing nuclear instead of doing the obvious thing which is renewable energy” while Prof Anton Eberhard of the Power Futures Lab at University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business was quoted in the local media as saying that a new nuclear procurement would be “a wasteful and costly diversion".

He added that the country should instead focus on implementing its electricity supply plan, which prioritises generating 33 GW of power mostly from solar and wind by 2030.

Renewable energy projects such as wind and solar can be implemented relatively quickly and at increasingly competitive prices. 

South Africa's first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1984 but its nuclear industry dates back to the mid-1940s, when the predecessor organisation to the Atomic Energy Corporation (AEC) was formed.

The years passed and the commitment to nuclear energy slowed, as the world championed renewable energy.

Of recent, the government's commitment to the future of nuclear energy has been strong. In October 2019, the country outlined plans to build 1 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2030, and to extend the operating lifetime of its existing plant by 20 years.

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