South Africa: Energy stakeholders debate nuclear energy

nuclear_power_plant23 September 2013, Johannesburg – South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on Energy has held a stakeholders meeting, where nuclear energy as a national option for sustainable supply of energy came under debate.

Participants were from both nuclear and renewable energy sectors including academics, non-government organisations, labour unions, state-owned companies and government departments as well as members of parliament, MP’s.

The stakeholder meeting was subsequent to the previous five stakeholders meetings that have been held since November 2011. Previous topics centred on renewable energy as well as the oil and gas industry. In his opening remarks, Committee Chairperson, Mr Sisa Njikelana, said nuclear energy was one of the main components in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for 2010 by government.

“The government has taken a very clear position to steadfastly move ahead with the nuclear build programme and as one of the components of the state Parliament, through the Energy Committee, also has to play its role in facilitating public participation,” said Mr Njikelana. He further acknowledged that the nuclear energy build programme was unavoidably a sensitive issue as well as controversial at times.

Presentations received from the Department of Energy looked at South Africa’s 20 year electricity generation policy and programme. Dr Lloyd from the Cape Peninsula University Technology Energy Institute briefed the meeting on the state of readiness for new nuclear build programme among various stakeholders.

Dr Nothnagel from the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) focused on the question of whether or not nuclear energy technology advancing for the better, stagnating or retrogressing. The presentation by Ms Nokwedi from the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) focused on the prospects of nuclear energy, giving a global and continental perspective.

The Department of Energy, in its presentations, emphasised that nuclear energy provided surety of the base load which was critical for a developing country like South Africa. One of the responses clarified that a lot of research and legacy in nuclear energy had been done and built over the past 100 years.

A wide range of issues were raised and there were commitments from the participants to make further written submissions to the committee. Furthermore, Mr Njikelana indicated that the committee may have to explore a follow-up session given a number of issues raised.

In his closing remarks, Mr Njikelana said what he found it odd that in all of the presentations and questions raised nobody spoke of challenges of project management. He further lamented the noticeable pattern of some of the government projects whose costs balloon significantly from initial figures. A report on the meeting will be tabled to the National Assembly (NA) with recommendations.

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