Eskom's Koko firm about SA's need for nuclear

Cape Town – Eskom interim CEO Matshela Koko on Thursday reiterated the need for nuclear power as a source of base load energy in South Africa, saying it’s not possible to “wish away the need for for it". 

Koko was part of a delegation, consisting of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Zethemba Khoza, Eskom board member and KPMG director and chief economist Lullu Krugel, who presented the results of a study on the economic impact of the Koeberg power station on the economy. 

READ: Koeberg power station contributes billions to SA economy - Brown

The KPMG study found that Koeberg, which was first commissioned in 1976 and completed by 1984, was a direct contributor to economic growth – both in the Western Cape and South Africa.

Over the period 2012/13 to 2015/16, the nuclear power station supported and stimulated economic activity in the country of an estimated R53.3bn.

At the outset, Koko made it clear that the presentation of the KPMG study was not about whether South Africa needs nuclear, or not. “What we’re discussing today is Koeberg’s value to the economy.”

During question time, Koko was asked if he was privy to the numbers presented by KPMG since he’s been pushing the “nuclear agenda” for some time. 

READ: ANALYSIS: Nuclear faces bumpy road as Koko dreams of 2025

“I’m in this business (of energy) for 20 years,” Koko said in response. “The debate I’ve been pushing is about the concept of base load as we see it today. It’s not possible to wish away base load. But what you hear today (about Koeberg’s contribution to the economy) is not our numbers. This is a reputable, independent company (KPMG) that speaks to these numbers.”

In government’s updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2016, which is still under discussion, it intends to add 20 385MW of nuclear power to the national grid. This will make up approximately one-third of South Africa’s total generation mix.

On December 20 last year, Eskom, which has taken over from the Department of Energy as owner and operator of the proposed nuclear build programme, issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the procurement of nuclear energy. Comment is currently open for the Request for Proposal (RFP) until April 28. 

READ: Eskom's nuclear RFP launch surprises markets

The RFP is expected to be issued to the market place by the middle of the year and in 2018 Eskom and the Nuclear Energy Corporation SA (Necsa) will choose their preferred bidders and negotiate and finalise contracts. 

Brown also responded to the question about the “nuclear agenda”, saying that nuclear power is part of the energy mix government has decided upon.

“It’s a complex matter. South Africa is a coal-heavy country and we need to move over to an energy mix," she said, pointing out that South Africa cannot rely on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, as these sources of energy “don’t perform” between 17:00 and 07:00. 

READ: Room for renewables and nuclear in energy mix - researcher 

Koeberg nuclear power station is one of South Africa’s 27 power stations and has installed capacity of 1 860MW, which provides half of the Western Cape’s and over 5% of South Africa’s energy needs, Eskom said. 

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