Zuma steers clear of nuclear in SONA

President Jacob Zuma during SONA 2017.
President Jacob Zuma during SONA 2017.

Cape Town – As Eskom pushes to finalise the 9.6 GW nuclear energy procurement programme in 2017, President Jacob Zuma simply said that nuclear is a part of the electricity mix in South Africa during his State of the Nation address on Thursday in Cape Town.

“Renewable energy forms an important part of our energy mix, which also includes electricity generation from gas, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro and coal,” said Zuma.

That was the only time he mentioned the term nuclear in a country that already has 1 800 MW of nuclear electricity coming from Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in Cape Town.

It is a lot less than he said in his 2016 SONA, when he said: "Our plan is to introduce nine thousand six hundred megawatts of nuclear energy in the next decade, in addition to running Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant. We will test the market to ascertain the true cost of building modern nuclear plants. Let me emphasise that we will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford.”

Since then, a total of 38 companies have committed to respond to Eskom’s request for information (RFI) by 28 April 2017.

Eskom started the nuclear procurement process in December when it launched the RFI process, and two requests for proposals (RFPs) are due to be released this year. However, Eskom requires Treasury sign-off before this can be released, as it relates to the financial aspects of the bid.

It is the first step leading to the appointment of one or more foreign specialist suppliers who will work will the South Africa team in the construction of the new fleet of nuclear power stations.

The programme could be delayed as government continues its court battle with environmental groups, the hearing of which was postponed to 22 February after its December hearing.

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