The nuclear energy expansion programme remains central to South Africa’s future energy mix, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said on Wednesday.
“The nuclear energy expansion programme is a central feature of our future energy mix, given the need to provide base load electricity and also to meet the significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction target we have set for our country.
“We must reiterate that our vision around this programme is centred on processes that will create a nuclear industry, with the objective of catapulting South Africa into the top echelons of the knowledge economy,” said the Minister when tabling the Department of Energy’s R7.5 billion Budget Vote in Parliament.
The department, said Minister Joemat-Pettersson, is confident that the nuclear programme will respond to the country’s job creation needs by creating employment and fighting poverty.
“It will also provide assurance to the investors for security of supply for industrial purposes. Our country once again stands at a crossroads of a nuclear new build programme procurement process, having done significant preparatory work for the deployment of at least 9 600 MW of nuclear power fleet by 2030,” said the Minister.
The National Development Plan (NDP) calls on government to undertake detailed investigations prior to making a final decision on whether to deploy the nuclear new build programme.
These detailed technical investigations culminated in various studies and strategies, which were considered by Cabinet. Thereafter, Cabinet decided to allow the department to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to confirm the market appetite for the nuclear programme.
The RFP phase would ensure that the country secures binding commercial and financial information to fully appraise Cabinet to be able to take a final decision on the best arrangement to implement the build programme.
“This would inform the price, affordability, pace and scale of this programme. We will only implement what our country can afford,” said Minister Joemat-Pettersson.
The department will ensure that the process is above board and free of any potential for corruption.
“We will not rush the process and will meet all the necessary national and international requirements for the new build process, led by the guidance in the main of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” she said.
Applications to license sites where these nuclear power reactor plants might be constructed are on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape. They were submitted to the National Nuclear Regulator in March 2016.
The department is currently in the process of ratifying the amendments on the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
The Cabinet approval process has been initiated in this regard, as this is an important step that will have major effects on strengthening measures for nuclear security in South Africa.
Solar Water Heater (SWH) Programme
The Minister said the solar water heater programme has finally taken off, with contracts placed for the supply of baseline systems under the social programme.
Approximately 9 000 systems have been secured through this programme, in terms of which the local content of these products exceeds 75%.
“The next step is to commence with the training of local communities in the installation of the solar water systems, with clear objectives set for skills and enterprise development, job creation and the targeting of the youth, women and other designated groups.”
Another priority for the department is to address defective installations from the initial SWH rollout programme to ensure continued operation of the installed systems and service delivery to the recipients.
“This corrective SWH programme has been identified to serve as incubator for suitably skilled and experienced SWH installers and installation businesses.”
The challenge of technical skills required in the energy sector has continued to be of concern to the department, said the Minister.
In response to this, the department has developed a Workplace Skills Development Plan (WSP), based on the training needs of individual employees and their managers.
As part of the implementation of the WSP, a number of training and development interventions have been identified for implementation. The department also has offered 32 new bursaries to serving employees of the department.
“We will also contribute with the implementation of youth development intervention programmes such as the provision of bursaries to external applicants. Eleven external applicants within the youth programme were offered bursaries sponsored by the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA),” said Minister Joemat-Pettersson.
In preparation for the rollout the nuclear build programme, the Nuclear Skills Development and Training programme is underway with various countries including China, the Russian Federation and South Korea.