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Government must make key decisions on nuclear power

Koeberg “’ South
Africa’s only nuclear
power station
Cape Town, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 11 November 2010 – The South African government will have to make key decisions soon` if it is to meet its target for new nuclear power capacity by 2023.

Revealing this to journalists here, Eskom CEO Brian Dames said that South Africa’s integrated resource plan (IRP) for electricity envisaged 9 000 megawatts of nuclear in the power mix “It’s a long lead time,” he said. “If you want new capacity in 2023, we would need a decision soon in order to make that,” he emphasised.

Dames pointed out that a nuclear plant needed a site, which required a significant amount of geotechnical studies. “South Africa is fortunate in that Eskom has done a lot of that work in identifying sites in the last twenty-odd years,” he said.

It also required extensive environmental impact assessments, with public participation. After that would come the selection of the technology, followed by detailed siting in the area. “So it’s quite an extensive planning process, even before you start pouring concrete,” Dames continued.

He said that at the same time, the nuclear regulator would have to license the design and construction of the plant, but despite all these requirements, South Africa was at this stage still "okay" in terms of what the IRP was asking for.

“Eskom has made it quite clear that the decision for the next power station beyond coal-fired Kusile needs to be made as soon as possible," Dames insisted. “And when you say as soon as possible, literally you’re really talking about not later than next year.”

The decision would be that of the Department of Energy, which bore the responsibility of making sure the IRP was executed.

Dames said Eskom had not had discussions with any other country on how to take the nuclear programme forward since it started and then stopped a procurement process.“But we have certainly kept up to date with what’s happening globally around nuclear and the developments thereof,” he added.

South Africa’s nuclear programme was put on hold in 2008 after Eskom invited Westinghouse and Areva to submit bids for their flagship products. Eskom and the government were said to be taken aback by the cost of the bids, reportedly in the region of US$9 billion (R62 billion).