No need for Treasury to finance nuclear - Molefe

Eskom continues to cut the use of diesel for OCGTs, which is one of the most expensive ways to generate power.
Eskom continues to cut the use of diesel for OCGTs, which is one of the most expensive ways to generate power.

Cape Town – A nuclear build programme for South Africa doesn’t need to be funded by the fiscus. There are enough potential financiers who would be willing to take the risk, said Brian Molefe, Eskom CEO on Wednesday. 

Speaking to Fin24 on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting, Molefe said he doesn’t believe a nuclear build programme would put a significant burden on the fiscus. Molefe said he had not asked National Treasury to consider making provision for any nuclear costs for the medium term. 

“It’s possible for nuclear to finance itself. Asking the fiscus for money is going overboard. We should be able to arrange some kind of funding for nuclear energy.” 

According to Molefe, a nuclear plant has a life of 80 years – “even if it costs R1 trillion it will have the capability to repay the cost in 15 to 20 years. So you can take the revenues generated from nuclear, ring-fence it and use it for future nuclear activities.” 

READ: Molefe: No nuclear by 2035 could mean another power crunch

Molefe was part of an Eskom delegation that briefed Parliament’s Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises on the power utility’s tariff increases for 2016 and 2017, as well as the amended pricing structure for municipalities with effect from July this year. 

He was asked to elaborate why he thought that nuclear energy is the best route for South Africa’s power generation capacity. Molefe responded that nuclear energy in the first instance cleaner than coal-fired power stations and secondly it’s ideal for base load electricity generation. 

“The current renewable energy programme has a 30% availability factor. You have to wait for the sun to shine or the wind to blow if you want to make use of wind or solar power.” 

READ: Molefe's hard sell on nuclear

Molefe cited Koeberg’s reliability as a base load power station as one of the reasons why nuclear is the route to follow. “The best performing power station this winter was Koeberg. It had the least breakdowns and had the best power reliability. It broke the record in South Africa – it operated non-stop for 470 days.” 

He reiterated calls for urgency about making decisions about nuclear energy. “At the moment we have a surplus in electricity generation and we won’t need extra electricity until 2022. But we need it for 2028 and 2030. 

“Remember, five to six years of a nuclear build programme is required solely for planning purposes. Another five years are required for implementation.”

RELATED: Molefe moots compulsory prepaid electricity for all

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