There was no deliberate move to exclude nuclear energy from the government’s new draft electricity roadmap, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe told MPs on Tuesday.
The reason nuclear was not included in the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) was because other electricity generation was cheaper – and also because there was a lower demand for electricity than forecast in the earlier IRP of 2010.
Radebe, who presented the draft IRP 2018 to the Portfolio Committee on Energy, made the comment in order to address what he called "some misunderstandings" that had been in the media since the IRP’s release last week.
"We have not deliberately left out nuclear from the plan, but it is not in the plan for the period to 2030 due to lower demand and lower cost of other technologies," Radebe said.
The public has 60 days to comment on the draft, which lays out a roadmap of the country’s proposed energy mix for electricity generation up to 2030.
The Nuclear Industry Association of SA has said it will make the case for putting nuclear energy back into the country’s energy mix. Last week the association’s head, Knox Msebenzi, said the nuclear industry would lobby the energy department and would "make a case for the inclusion of nuclear power".
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The country’s controversial nuclear expansion plan in the earlier IRP planned for between eight and 10 new nuclear power stations to be built at an estimated cost of R1trn.
The nuclear plan was mired in political controversy during former President Jacob Zuma’s presidency, and the Western Cape High Court scrapped contracts his government had signed with the Russians to build the nukes. The court found the deal was unconstitutional and had not followed due process.
Liz McDaid of the SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) – one of the NGOs, with Earthlife Africa, that took Zuma to court over the nuclear deal – said on Tuesday that it was no surprise the nuclear industry would try to get nuclear energy re-instated in the country’s future electricity plan.
However, it was clear that the IRP was moving in a direction away from nuclear towards renewable energy, she said.
"It is very clear that there has been this directional shift, moving towards renewables and leaving nukes behind. It’s very clear on a cost basis alone that this should have been done long ago, but the process got stalled because of the greed of some individuals who subverted the country’s entire energy plan," McDaid said.
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