Nuclear energy: The future of a sustainable world.
Nuclear energy is positioned as the future of a sustainable world. Image credit: 123rf.

Women in Nuclear South Africa (WiNSA) welcomes the move by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to issue the Request for Information (RFI) for the South African nuclear new build programme.

On 14 June 2020, the DMRE released the RFI, a stand-alone information-gathering exercise which does not commit to any competitive tender. This follows the approval of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in October 2019.

The IRP provides a blueprint for South Africa’s envisaged energy mix.

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South Africa begins preparatory work for nuclear build programme

Decision 8 of the IRP 2019 suggests that government should immediately commence with small-scale nuclear build programme to the extent of 2,500MW by 2030, at a pace, scale and cost affordable to the country “because it is a no-regret option in the long term”.

The plan also provides for the extension of the design life of the existing Koeberg Nuclear Power Station beyond 2024, when it reaches the end of its 40-year life, which will be subject to regulatory approvals

Commenting on the release of RFI, Nomathemba Radebe, WINSA President said: “Gender equality is one of South Africa’s Sustainable Development Goals. WiNSA sees the expansion of the nuclear industry as a great opportunity for women in nuclear research, industry entrepreneurs, and collaboration between the private sector, academia as well as the public sector. South Africa needs to invest in infrastructure for security of energy supply and for economic growth.”

Nuclear new build programme to stimulate the economy

According to WiNSA, nuclear energy is still the most viable option in order to stimulate the economy, despite public sentiment often being negative.

“Therefore, it remains crucial that a factual public awareness campaign gains greater momentum. Moreover, South Africa is amongst the top three largest producers of Nuclear Radioisotopes globally from the SAFARI-1 research reactor operated by Necsa, WiNSA noted.

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station

Currently, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station hosts the only operational Nuclear Power Reactors on the African continent, with a capacity of 1,800MW baseload power to stabilise the Western Cape grid at one of the lowest costs of production.

For over 30 years, Koeberg has contributed towards both the Western Cape and South African economy through job creation, infrastructure development, community development and transformation.

“As WiNSA, it is important that we become the nuclear ambassadors of this country and the African continent in general. There is a great need, as a collective, to educate our people so that they can understand and appreciate the technology. The future of women in this sector is promising,” says Radebe.