The public enterprises minister Lynne Brown made the announcement on Tuesday. She stated that the nuclear engineering centre will form part of the Eskom Power Plant Engineering Institute (EPPEI) phase two programme.
“I would like to announce today that as part of EPPEI Phase 2 programme, Eskom will establish a specialisation centre focusing on nuclear engineering and technology. The specialisation centre will have a dedicated director and partnership with reputable international universities,” Brown said.
While speaking at a conference hosted in Johannesburg the minster underscored that South Africa only has two options for base load and mid-merit operations to manage electricity system requirements, that being coal and nuclear.
“The decision on which technology to deploy then requires an assessment of lifecycle cost, current and future predicted costs, and COP21 [carbon emission reduction] commitments,” Brown noted.
Nuclear engineering centre – timeframe
It is reported that phase 2 of the EPPEI programme, is due to run from 2017 to 2021 and is aimed at funding masters and PhD graduates among others.
Brown conceded that there has been debate on the current and future costs of coal and nuclear.
It is however projected that future cost comparisons will shift in favour of nuclear given increasing coal-fired plant costs associated with more stringent emission limits and the introduction of carbon taxes.
In her address, the minister further highlighted that nuclear offers one of the cheapest sources of electricity, which comes with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“This requires more research work to quantify and firm up our position that nuclear is [more] favourable than any fossil power generation,” she said.
Investment in energy
According to the gazette, Brown said South Africa has experienced how no investment in energy and electricity infrastructure contributed to influence low growth levels in the economy.
“Taking electricity power to greater number of citizens, across South Africa and our African continent, is indeed critical for economic development…,” she said.