South Africa to consider new nuclear in affordable way
* South Africa faces power capacity constraints
* Experts say new nuclear a costly option
* Mantashe says nuclear included in draft IRP
* IRP to be taken to cabinet in 2-3 weeks
(Adds analyst, detail, context)
By Alexander Winning and Helen Reid
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 20 (Reuters) - South Africa will consider
adding nuclear power capacity in an affordable way as part of
its long-term plans, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said on
President Cyril Ramaphosa put on hold plans by his
predecessor Jacob Zuma for a massive nuclear project last year
because of fears it could collapse the economy, but senior
officials have since indicated that plans for new nuclear
haven't been shelved entirely.
Mantashe, a former trade unionist, took over a merged energy
and mineral resources ministry in May and told parliament last
month that South Africa should start planning for new nuclear to
come online after 2045.
South Africa operates Africa's only one nuclear power plant
near Cape Town and is working to extend its life by 20 years to
Investors have tended to worry when South African officials
express support for nuclear because of the country's severe
fiscal constraints, which endanger its last investment-grade
credit rating. Energy experts say adding new nuclear is more
expensive than other power options.
"It comes back to a resolution we took as a government: not
going big bang into nuclear, but going at a pace and price that
the country can afford," Mantashe told reporters. "The fact that
we suspected corruption (in the Russia deal) doesn't mean that
nuclear is irrelevant for the country in 2019."
Mantashe would not give a timeframe for any nuclear new
build, saying the government's energy plan needed to be approved
That plan, called the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), has
been held up by negotiations with business and labour, but the
minister said he hoped the IRP would be taken to cabinet in the
next two to three weeks.
Mantashe added that the IRP contained provisions for
"modular nuclear technology", implying government would
contemplate adding nuclear reactors on a smaller scale than in
Johannesburg-based independent energy analyst Chris Yelland
said South Africa was still a long way from procuring new
"Just because it's in the IRP doesn't mean it's going to
happen," Yelland said.
After the IRP is published, which could take months, the
energy regulator will be consulted before the National Treasury
does an assessment of what's affordable, he added.
South Africa wants to supplement its power capacity because
of faults at state utility Eskom's fleet of creaking coal-fired
power plants, some of which will be decommissioned over the next
Eskom, which is reliant on state bailouts to survive,
implemented some of the worst power cuts in several years in the
first quarter, denting economic output.
Mantashe said his ministry wasn't a lobbyist for any power
source and that nuclear would have to compete for a place in the
He said coal, which South Africa burns to generate most of
its power, was still a "huge asset" and that officials needed to
carefully manage a transition to using cleaner power sources
such as solar and wind.
"You can't just jump from one extreme to the next one,"
Mantashe said. "If you switch off all coal-fired power stations
in the hope that you will have renewables you will plunge the
country into darkness."
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Helen Reid; editing by Jon
Boyle and Jason Neely)
First Published: 2019-08-20 10:37:28
Updated 2019-08-20 14:00:59
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