Cape Town, South Africa — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 18 March 2010 – The government of South Africa “’ the African continent’s largest electricity producer “’ has approved a 20-year plan that will see an increased reliance on nuclear energy, even as Japan battles to prevent a meltdown at one of its nuclear plants and China halts all atomic-power expansion plans.

“South Africa needs to diversify the energy mix away from coal,” minister in the presidency Collins Chabane told reporters here. “Under the so-called Integrated Resource Plan, 23% of newly generated power should come from nuclear sources by 2031.” That compares with 2.1% in 2009, according to BP plc statistics.

The decision comes amid fears of radiation leaks from a stricken atomic facility north of Tokyo, after a magnitude-9 earthquake and 7m tsunami hit Japan last Friday. China, building more nuclear reactors than any other nation, will stop approving new atomic plants “until safety and improved long-term development plans are cleared,” it said.

“We haven’t chosen a technology for the nuclear plants,” director-general of energy Nelisiwe Magubane told reporters. “We’re not in a position to say how many plants are going to be built,” who will build them or what the cost will be, she said.

Under South Africa’s latest energy plan, 15% of newly generated power will come from coal, 42% from renewable sources and 6% from gas. In 2009, South Africa got 78.3% of its energy from coal, 19.2% from oil and 2.1% from nuclear power, according to BP.

 The cabinet has also approved a draft law to establish an agency that will buy power from independent electricity producers. Eskom, based in Johannesburg, currently provides about 95% of South Africa’s electricity.
 
“The agency will facilitate participation by the independent power producers,” energy minister Dipuo Peters told reporters. “We have a policy in the country that says 30% of power in the country must be generated by independent companies.”