The SA government will pursue nuclear power, if there is an “appetite” in the market for it, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has said.

The minister on Thursday was speaking at a briefing to Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy, where the department indicated that it would procure 2 500 MW of nuclear power by 2024.

Responding to a question from DA MP Kevin Mileham on government’s intention to procure the nuclear power with apparent “urgency”, given that in the IRP 2019 government stated that nuclear power would only be considered at a pace and scale the country could afford, Mantashe said that government was not ruling out nuclear power and would welcome proposals from private players.

‘We will explore all options’

“Many renewables are developed by the private sector because there is an appetite for them. That principle applies to nuclear as well.

“If a company or consortium wants to develop nuclear modular reactors it must come and make presentations, we can partner with company as the state,” said Mantashe. “We can give the company the right to develop a modular nuclear power station on a build, operate and transfer basis,” he added. Mantashe said this means that there may be no immediate call for funding from the state, while the build of the nuclear programme continues.

“We will explore all options. When there is appetite for nuclear in the market, we will go for it,” he added.

According to the IRP 2019, the country’s sole nuclear power plant, Koeberg, which is owned by Eskom, was meant to stop operating by 2024. Government, howeve,r has decided to extend its operating life by 20 years, Fin24 previously reported.

More than 77% of South Africa’s energy needs are being met by ageing coal-fired power plants that have been struggling after years of not being properly maintained. While the state has built two additional coal stations over the past decade, Medupi and Kusile, global environmental concerns have made increasingly difficult to get funding for any additional coal stations. 

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