S. Africa to enhance sustainable use of nuclear energy: energy minister
South Africa President Jacob Zuma
London, Oct. 19, 2017 (AltAfrika) — South Africa will enhance the sustainable use of nuclear power to drive a developmental agenda, despite mounting criticism against the project, newly appointed Minister of Energy David Mahlobo said on Thursday.
“Being a developing country, our key driver to our policy decision for nuclear power is the economics of the energy source,” Mahlobo told delegates attending the 44th Policy Group meeting of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), taking place in Cape Town.
The GIF is a cooperative international endeavor to carry out the research and development needed to establish the feasibility and performance capabilities of the next generation nuclear energy systems.
Mahlobo was appointed Minister of Energy on Tuesday amid speculations that he would push for the much-criticized 1-trillion-rand (740-billion-U.S.-dollar) nuclear deal with Russia, under which Russia will help South Africa build nuclear reactors.
South Africa recognizes the role of nuclear power in ensuring security of energy supply and meeting the challenge of climate change, Mahlobo said.
“We promote an energy mix of coal, gas, renewables and nuclear. Each of these options has their role; some of the energy sources are intermittent supply and while others, such as nuclear and coal, are base-load supply,” he said.
South Africa has made a policy decision to pursue nuclear energy as part of the energy mix and recognize the role of nuclear as a base-load source of energy in ensuring security of supply and climate change mitigation.
The country is home to Africa’s only nuclear power plant, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, situated near Cape Town.
Currently, nuclear constitutes about 6 percent of the South African energy mix, with 1,800 megawatt electric of electricity supplied to the national grid by the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station.
The South African government has approved its Integrated Resource Plan of 2010-30, which provides for coal, gas, renewables and 9,600 Megawatt nuclear as part of the energy landscape by 2030.
But environmental groups, which question the safety of nuclear plants, have launched a series of campaigns against the plan.
Mahlobo said Generation III nuclear power plants remain a good economic choice for South Africa.
He said his country looks forward to deploying more advanced Generation IV nuclear power plants which promise improved economics.
“Sustainability of our environment is key, and being a committed party to the Paris Convention, South Africa has set ambitious carbon reduction targets, which Generation IV reactors will continue the tradition of nuclear power being the lowest carbon emitter from all energy sources,” the minister said.
With the advent of reduced waste from these systems, there is no doubt that nuclear power itself will be more sustainable than ever, he explained.
Although the Fukushima disaster in Japan had catastrophic consequences, nuclear power continues to be the safest source of electricity, according to Mahlobo.
The further improved safety of Generation IV systems will surpass this benchmark, and hopefully cure the myth that nuclear is an unsafe source of energy, he said.
“It is our responsibility as this current generation to produce knowledge systems that enhances the sustainable use of nuclear power to drive a developmental agenda and bequeath to the next generation a world they are proud to call home,” Mahlobo concluded