South Africa
Koeberg nuclear power plant - photo by Bjorn Rudner

Public comment on South Africa’s revised draft integrated resource plan 2018 (IRP 2018) is well underway and the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) is voicing its concerns.

Nuclear industry stakeholders are particularly concerned about the government’s ‘now on / now off’ stance on nuclear. Ahead of the closing date for public comment on 26 October, the association will host a workshop to deliberate its response to the new IRP 2018 on Wednesday, 03 October at the Wits Club, University of Witwatersrand, Braamfontein.

Knox Msebenzi, managing director of NIASA, says: “The current draft IRP 2018 attempts to provide a number of least-cost planning scenarios based on various growth paths for South Africa. Generally, the plan fails to meet the least-cost planning objectives as it ignores all costs associated with socioeconomics of various options as well as the transition costs. It does not judge all energy sources on the same merit.”

“Rather than being technology neutral, it appears that the plan has been developed with certain policy outcomes in mind with the least-cost planning method used as a tool to achieve this. It seems that the developers of the least-cost approach utilised a ‘cheapest’ plan rather than a least-net-cost plan to the economy as is defined by industry.”

According to NIASA, the government’s push to develop alternatives in renewables is praiseworthy; however, not considering all energy sources and resource constraints objectively is a serious cause for concern.

The government should not plan and engineer a fundamental transformation of the energy sector with only a handful of technologies that are popular to certain interest groups but don’t necessarily serve the best interest of the country. The transformation will require technologies that are proven and succeed not just in the conceptual and technical phases but also commercially.

"The IRP 2018 goes so far as recommending detailed studies on well-established energy technologies such as coal and nuclear before implementing these technologies whilst planning to implement new technologies without similar information being available. This is a serious policy oversight,” adds Msebenzi.

IRP 2018 nuclear capacity

As Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg with an installed capacity of 1,860MW, plays a vital role in ensuring that Cape Town has a reliable electricity supply. The power station provides 50% of electricity consumed in the Western Cape and approximately 5% of the power used in the country.

While the new IRP 2018 makes provision for consideration of nuclear after 2030 under scenarios where the country strictly enforces carbon emission targets, in its assessment of sustainability, the government seems solely focused on weighing the pros and cons of individual technologies. It should rather assess all aspects such as abundance, affordability, reliability and quality of energy supply, explains a NIASA statement.

According to the association, the focus should not only be on electricity generation and consumption but also on how these CAPEX projects contribute to meeting the NDP goals.

The discourse around energy in South Africa remains very confusing and especially around nuclear mired in such controversy that it has polarised the country to an extent that even the government prefers to turn a blind eye in fear of being accused of malfeasance, a harbinger from the previous administration.

“The IRP2018 as it stands is demonstrably uncertain and, in most cases, will prove to be ineffective in achieving its goals – primarily that of energy security and NDP targets,” says Msebenzi.

“The government must try and stop picking winners. We all agree that we need to complement renewable energy with baseload energy. The country has limited access to hydropower and no gas, whereas Uranium is a key resource strength which makes nuclear an important baseload technology option,” he concludes.

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