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Ben Martins, South African Minister of Energy

The South African Department of Energy will in the next two months make an announcement on the country’s build future, Minister Ben Martins announced today, 14 April 2014.

Government, the minister said, is looking at the various aspects involved in the rolling out of nuclear energy.
South Africa’s nuclear energy policy was approved in 2008 and was further enhanced by the approval of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 – 2030, which stipulates that nuclear power will form part of the country’s energy mix to a level of 9 600 MW.

Speaking at the New Age business briefing, Minister Martins said that towards the end of last year, an inter-departmental team, tasked with preparing for the nuclear build programme, conducted study visits to a number of countries that have expertise in the nuclear field.

The team comprises the Departments of Energy, Public Enterprises, National Treasury and other departments.
Countries that have expertise in the nuclear field such as the United States, Japan and Russia were visited, while technologies available in this sector were also looked at, as South Africa proceeds with its own nuclear build, says Minister Martins.

What would also suit the country’s environment was also looked at, he adds.

To date, a report has been prepared and will be given to the inter-departmental committee, which is chaired by President Jacob Zuma.

“A definite announcement in regard to progress should be made in about two months’ time, maximum,” said Minister Martins.

Koeberg remains South Africa’s only nuclear station.

The Deputy Director-General (DDG) responsible for policy at the department, Ompie Aphane, says that nuclear was at the core of the department’s planning process.

“If one looks at the period between 2020 and 2030, one of the biggest challenges that we face is that we have to decommission some of the coal fired power stations because they were built together, they are all coming to the end of (their lifecycle) at the same time.

“That’s where the 9600 MW of nuclear is predicated to be. We need to replace the coal in line with our objectives, in response to issues such as climate change,” says Aphane.

Funding

On how the nuclear build will be funded, the department is looking at various funding models.

“We also [have] commissioned an independent study to look at various funding options and sources,” Aphane said, adding that the rollout of the nuclear build will be done by the book.

Skills training

The countries visited have expressed their willingness and readiness to partner with South Africa on the skills needed for the nuclear build.

“The study visits that we conducted we were in touch with a number of countries and tertiary institutions. They are all willing and ready to partner with South Africa.

“In terms of skills training, there’s commitment. What we’ve emphasised to all role players is that we are interested in localisation to ensure that a programme of that nature will result in the requisite industrialisation in South Africa.

“What can be produced in South Africa should be produced in South Africa, and we’ve made emphasis on the aspect of skills training. There will be new disciplines and job opportunities,” says Martins.

Shale gas exploration

In the State of the Nation Address in February, President Zuma said that shale gas exploration in the Karoo will be a game changer for the region, as well as for the South African economy.

“The development of petroleum, especially shale gas, will be a game changer for the Karoo region and the South African economy. Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licences,” says President Zuma at the time.

Martins says that shale gas was a “potential that the country has and the country has the responsibility to investigate that potential”.

“We have the responsibility to ensure that as we explore and possibly extract shale gas, we do so in a manner that’s responsible in terms of the environment and in a manner that will benefit local communities where shale gas exploration takes place.”

“It would be irresponsible for us not to utilise all the energy vehicles that are possible for South Africa to have,” concludes Martin.

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