Cape Town - The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) has welcomed a decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs to grant environmental planning permission for a new nuclear plant.
State power utility Eskom announced last week that the department had granted it permission to “proceed with the nuclear installation at Duynefontein in the Western Cape, which is next to the existing Koeberg power station”.
NECSA chairperson Dr Kevin Kemm said on Monday in a statement that the authorisation would “indicate to local industry and the world we are going ahead with the Nuclear Build Programme”.
The corporation is a state-owned enterprise that undertakes and promotes research and development in the fields of nuclear energy and radiation science in South Africa.
It is also responsible for "processing source material, including uranium enrichment, and co-operating with other institutions, locally and abroad, on nuclear and related matters” according to its website, and runs the Pelindaba nuclear research centre west of Pretoria.
NECSA CEO Phumzile Tshelane said it is important that the new nuclear installation be built in the south of SA.
“Most of South Africa’s electricity flows into the country from north east where our coal fields are. We need to balance this by generating electricity from the south upwards. This is over and above the water cooling requirements,” he said.
He said NECSA would supply the government with technical recommendations of the reactors to be built.
Five sites were originally investigated for the new nuclear plant: Brazil and Schulpfontein in the Northern Cape, Bantamsklip and Duynefontein in the Western Cape, and Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.
Eskom said on Friday that, following the scoping phase, Brazil and Schulpfontein were excluded from further environmental studies. It said the other sites are still usable in the future as no “fatal flaws” have been identified.
Eskom’s chief nuclear officer Dave Nicholls said that Eskom was only granted permission to proceed with the development of a new power station at Duynefontein after an extensive assessment that included 35 studies.
“The granted authorisation is confirmation of the adequacy of the extensive work undertaken,” he said.
While NERSA and Eskom lauded the department’s decision, anti-corruption advocacy group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) told Fin24 on Friday it has “plenty of ammo” left to dispute claims that progress towards actually breaking ground on a new nuclear power station is being made.
“Any claims of progress are totally premature,” said the group’s energy spokesperson Ted Blom.
Some in the ANC, meanwhile, appeared to rethink the viability of continuing with the proposed nuclear build programme earlier this year, after ratings agencies downgraded SA's creditworthiness to junk.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.