By Ragheema Mclean
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa confirmed that all regulatory requirements have been met with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) to start procuring 2,500MW of additional nuclear power.
Ramokgopa said that this procurement of nuclear power will be a long-term project to address future energy demands and to prevent history from repeating itself by not planning for the current rolling power cuts.
Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy in the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Zizamele Mbambo, said the first unit will be commissioned between 2032 and 2033.
The announcement follows escalating concerns on the country’s ongoing battle with loadshedding which first began over a decade ago and the need to transition to less carbon-intensive methods of electricity generation.
However, energy experts have raised concerns saying it was not the cheapest option despite Ramokgopa saying otherwise. Experts also questioned the timing of the announcement and pointed out discrepancies and unrealistic expectations tabled by Ramokgopa.
Speaking on the VOC Drive Time show on Tuesday, Independent Energy Analyst Clyde Mallinson, stressed that it was disingenuous to say that they were going ahead with procurement plans when it had not yet been gazetted by government.
He added, “To say that they are going ahead with procurement is baffling as this is prior to public comment as well. I would think that public comment usually shapes the plan.”
“It was about a year ago when NERSA had hearings about whether or not it should contemplate the idea of accruing additional nuclear power and the decision by the regulator at that time was that whole lot of conditions had to still be met.”
“Now suddenly NERSA has said yes and confirmed that the DMRE has met the conditions.”
He further mentioned that there’s been a lack of documentation, and no one has had access to what the DMRE provided to NERSA to fulfill the initially specified conditions.
Meanwhile, Mallinson also raised concerns regarding the costs of the 2,500watts nuclear power.
“The reality is that nuclear is going cost three times the price as renewables.”
“This procurement appears to be totally incongruent with what would be considered appropriate or aligned with the changes that are happening within electricity generation right now.”