'Koeberg is no Chernobyl' – Mantashe punts importance of nuclear power in Parliament

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Gwede Mantashe.
Gwede Mantashe.
  • Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said the Department of Mineral Resources did not receive any budget complaints regarding the extension of Koeberg power station's life.
  • He was replying to questions from members of Parliament in the National Council of Provinces.
  • Mantashe said Eskom will provide the budget for the extension of Koeberg's life, which he said was well under way.

Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe told Parliament that the Koeberg nuclear power plant would remain a critical part of South Africa's economic future in terms of power provision and energy capacity, adding that this should not alarm people.

Mantashe was replying orally to questions from members of Parliament in the National Council of Provinces on the role of Koeberg, which is situated in the Western Cape, as well as plans to extend the power station's life by 20 years.

There are concerns from opposition MPs and communities surrounding communities that Koeberg might be a security concern, given the age of existing infrastructure at the power station. Koeberg was commissioned in 1984, but government has planned to extend its life to 2024.

The question came from DA MP Christiaan Smit, who asked Mantashe what the remaining life span of Koeberg was and whether this life-extension programme had been given any financial assistance from the department or government.

"This talks to the extension of life at Koeberg by 20 years to 2024. Remember that Koeberg is an asset of Eskom. People forget that and think it is a nuclear asset that is just out there. Eskom has planned the extension of life for Koeberg because it is an important part of energy. Only Koeberg gives South Africa [electricity at] 40 cents a unit," replied Mantashe.

Mantashe said Eskom will provide the budget for the extension of Koeberg's life, which he said was well under way. "We have not received any complaints of a budget shortage. This power station will help SA in the energy crisis," Mantashe said.

Mantashe said Koeberg was critical to the supply of energy in SA. "It is not one of the plants that give us problems in terms of capacity and power availability. If we extend its life, we will improve chances of power availability," he said.

Smit challenged Mantashe to reassure Parliament that Koeberg will not become a safety concern for surrounding communities in Cape Town and asked him if he would take personal responsibility if any challenges arose.

"We know that nuclear energy, although you say it is cheap, it is dangerous, if not managed properly. There is word that all is not well at Koeberg and it poses a threat to surrounding communities if not managed well and temperature is not handled," Smit asked.

"Koeberg is an asset of Eskom. Eskom falls under the Department of Public Enterprises. It doesn't make sense for a minister to take personal responsibility for an asset under a completely different portfolio. That said, there is no record of Keoberg being a danger. This is not Chernobyl. This is Koeberg we are talking about," Mantashe replied.

EFF MP Tirani Mathevula asked Mantashe if he believed that the state should take strategic control of mines to meet SA's economic and industrial needs instead of relying on the private mining sector.

"One of the things I have discovered with mining as a minister is that everyone wants it to die. People say it is too dangerous, too diseased, dirty and must not exist. I don't subscribe to that approach. I think mining is good for the economy," Mantashe said.

DA MP Stephanus du Toit asked Mantashe what the current status was of Koeberg's containment buildings meant to withstand pressure if the reactors became compromised. Mantashe said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was best placed to answer the question.
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