The South African Presidency has announced that Africa’s second largest economy has reached a “critical milestone” in its plans to build new nuclear power stations providing as much as 9600MW of electrical power. This means the stage is now set to start the preparations for the procurement process that would be undertaken in line with the country’s legislation and policies.

“This marks significant progress for the government in its engagements with various prospective nuclear vendor countries as part of the process towards the implementation of the expansion in the nuclear new build programme. Intergovernmental framework agreements have been signed with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the US, marking the initiation of the preparatory stage for the procurement process,” the Presidency said in a statement.

Guidelines for the expansion of nuclear power to ensure energy security based on a sustainable energy mix have been set out in the National Development Plan, the Nuclear Energy Policy, the Nuclear Energy Act and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) adopted in 2011.

“These agreements set out potential frameworks of co-operation that each country foresees where or how they can participate in South Africa’s new nuclear build programme. The nuclear vendor parade workshops entail vendor countries presenting their nuclear technology offerings. The conclusion of this vendor parade marks a significant milestone in the government pre-procurement phase for the roll-out of the nuclear new build programme,” the presidency added.

The vendor parade was created as a platform to enable government officials and academics assess the capabilities of the vendor countries especially with respect to how they could meet the 9.6GW target. The parade workshop was a part of the technical investigations and due diligence carried out by the government before making a procurement decision.

The nuclear build programme is an integral part of the energy mix geared at ensuring energy security for the country. The programme is expected to kindle massive infrastructure development, and stimulate the local economy.

“The nuclear new build programme will create a massive infrastructure development, thus stimulating the economy and enabling the country to create thousands of high-quality jobs for engineers, scientists, artisans, technicians and various other professions, develop skills and create sustainable industries, and catapult the country into a knowledge economy,” the statement concluded.

Critics of the project believe it is too expensive for the state to undertake at this time, saying the entire project will cost the country upward of R1 trillion ($86.1 billion). Concerns also exist about the safety of such plants citing the legendary Fukushima incident of 2011.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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