5 March 2013 – Nuclear energy is at the forefront of plans to bridge the gap between supply and demand to deal with South Africa’s electricity woes. Recent reports indicate that South Africa’s electricity shortfall is expected to endure for the next five years.

Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa representative Andrew Kenny says, “South Africa desperately needs electricity generation for our economy to grow, we must beneficiate our raw materials and to do this we need a lot of electricity. South Africa needs new coal stations and new coal stations are being built, however, these will not be nearly enough. We need more power not only where the coal fields are but at the coast and west and south of the country and it has to be safe, clean, reliable and economically sustainable.”  

It is estimated that government has set-aside an investment of R111 billion to build a new coal-fired power station that will be the third in the series of mega coal-fired power stations that Eskom is in the process of constructing; namely Medupi, Kusile and ‘Coal 3’.

Nuclear energy is the world’s largest source of emission-free energy. Nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollutants, such as sulphur and particulates, or greenhouse gases. The use of nuclear energy in place of other energy sources helps to keep the air clean, preserve the Earth’s climate, avoid ground-level ozone formation and prevent acid rain. Of all energy sources, nuclear energy has perhaps the lowest impact on the environment, including water, land, habitat, species, and air resources. Nuclear energy is the most eco-efficient of all energy sources because it produces the most electricity relative to its environmental impact.

Chief director for of electricity, Department of Energy in South Africa’s Ministry of Energy, Andrias Thabang Audat, says, “Demand for electricity has surpassed supply, we need to create new techniques of ensuring that we can provide electricity for South Africans at large. We are gearing up for a 20 year strategy that will see us partnering with international players in the industry to make renewable energy a reality in the minds of South Africans. There are seven technologies to this regard namely; solar photovoltaics, solar power, wind, biomass, bio gas, landfill gas as well as small hydro projects.”

A total of 47 international bidders have been shortlisted to supply solar and wind energy and the process is on-going. In tandem, the department is working closely with the international suppliers to deal with a skills-shortage in the sector by enforcing collaboration with local business. They are also ensuring that local communities within which they work also benefit directly from the projects.