Image credit: GovernmentZA

South Africa’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, said the government is considering implementing new nuclear power build in the country’s long-term energy strategy.

The Minister made this comment during a round table engagement in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Africa Oil & Power reported.

“It comes back to a resolution we took as a government: not going big bang into nuclear, but going at a pace and price that the country can afford,” said Mantashe.

Under the Jacob Zuma administration, the South African government in partnership with a number of Russian nuclear energy groups attempted to push through a $65 million nuclear energy plan.

Never to see the light of day, this controversial plan was quickly halted by President Cyril Ramaphosa upon his election.

Addressing this and his plans, Mantashe said: “The fact that we suspected corruption doesn’t mean that nuclear is irrelevant for the country in 2019.”

Not providing any information or timeframe on potential nuclear new builds, Mantashe said the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) needed to be finalised first. He added that he hopes to “take the IRP to cabinet in the next two weeks".

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On the future power plans, Mantashe stressed the importance of undoing the tensions between renewables and coal in securing energy solutions that are required to meet demands. He added that there is no full commitment by the government to move towards nuclear, but rather a commitment to explore all energy options.

“You can’t just jump from one extreme to the next one,” he explained. “If you switch off all coal-fired power stations in the hope that you will have renewables, you will plunge the country into darkness.”

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Still, the only country on the continent with a commercial nuclear power plant, South Africa generates 5% of its electricity production from the Koeberg nuclear power station’s two reactors.