South Africa revives idea of new civilian nuclear programme

The push for a new nuclear programme is expected to ease pressure on Eskom’s againing coal-fired power plants.

South Africa is drawing up plans for a 2 500-megawatt nuclear programme to try to solve the country’s power supply problem, the energy ministry announced Sunday.

“Given the long lead-time of building additional new nuclear capacity, upfront planning is necessary for security of energy supply to society into the future,” said the ministry said in a statement. 

The government had decided to seek information on a nuclear-build programme “at a pace and sale that the country can afford”, said the ministry.


South Africa is the only country in Africa to have a civil nuclear programme, with two reactors at the Koeberg power plant, in service for more than 30 years. They produce 1 860 megawatts, or about 4% of the country’s total energy. 

Currently, 90% of the country’s electricity is generated from coal-fired stations. But its plants are ageing and poorly maintained, causing repeated power outages that have severely handicapped the country’s economy.

The government last year dropped controversial plans to build eight nuclear power stations, deals that had been initiated by former president Jacob Zuma.


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