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SA reaffirms support for nuclear power programme

Kgalema Motlanthe,
SA Deputy President
7 June 2012 – South Africa’s deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has reaffirmed the country’s support for a plan to add 9,600 MW of nuclear generation capacity. This was in a message to a national nuclear energy conference held in Johannesburg at the end of May.

Motlanthe says South Africa has developed the complex overall systems required to competently operate and maintain a large nuclear power plant. “However, South Africa’s nuclear history goes back much further than that. It goes back to the mid-1940s, which makes South Africa one of the oldest nuclear countries in the world. We have a long, proud history in the field of nuclear science.”

He says that South Africa possesses a sound base of nuclear competence, though coal will remain the mainstay of the country’s electricity supply. Most of the country’s coal and electricity generation is clustered in the eastern parts of South Africa, which results in the requirement for very long, high voltage electricity supply lines to transport electricity across vast stretches of the country.

"This scenario is strategically unwise over the longer term, and there is a need to disperse generation capacity and produce electricity in other parts of the country to spread the electricity production points around the national grid. This is a strategically sensible approach, which requires us to use other energy sources in addition to coal. Nuclear power is ideal in this sense, because we can build large nuclear power plants at points around our southern coastline, and potentially elsewhere in the future."

The construction of a nuclear power plant is a major task that will bring economic benefits to local industry, which had shown itself to be competent in the construction of major coal fired power stations. There was every reason to have confidence in the belief that South African industry could play a major role in the construction and fabrication of nuclear power plants, Motlanthe says. "In fact, it is desirable that South African industry place itself in the position to be able to export nuclear power components internationally."

South Africa possesses a well-established system of nuclear facility operations. This includes construction and process licensing, nuclear construction and fabrication regulation, health and safety monitoring, and the training of the required skilled personnel. All of this is directly linked to general safety considerations.

“Nuclear safety assurance is most important for public acceptance of the nuclear power industry. South Africa’s good record in this respect should be maintained and enhanced as a primary foundation of the industry,” Motlanthe says.