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Nuclear South Africa?

The draft Nuclear Energy Policy for South Africa, released on Monday 14th August, sets out South Africa’s aims of building it’s nuclear industry.

The policy aims at doubling the contribution of nuclear energy to the country’s energy mix between 2025 and 2030.

Upward of 15% of the country’s generation capacity would be served by nuclear power by 2030 according to Chief Director of the Department of Minerals and Energy, Tseliso Maqnbela.

"The vision ultimately is to create an industry around nuclear energy, which will lead to economic growth," says Sandile Nogxina, director-general, department of minerals and energy.

The first step toward this goal would be for South Africa to start beneficiation of uranium and possibly develop uranium enriching and fuel fabrication potential. Additionally, recycling facilities would have to be built to reprocess and recycle the spent nuclear fuel. The treatment of the waste product would be managed as per the 2005 government approved radioactive waste management policy and strategy.

The viability of building a local recycling facility would be assessed, but for the short term, facilities in other countries would be used.

Mining and beneficiation of uranium is expected to create approximately 10 000 new jobs within the next 10 years and as such uranium is considered a ‘strategic mineral’. The policy document states “Government shall actively promote investment in uranium exploration and mining, and in very specific instances shall make investments in these industries, as a way of ensuring security of nuclear fuel supply for South Africa."

Exports of uranium may be restricted, with mining houses having to sell a portion of their product to the state, although any changes to the Mineral and Petroleum Resource Development Act would only occur after extensive consultation with the "change sensitive" mining industry.