France: SA is ready for nuclear power expansion

South Africa is ready for nuclear power, the world’s largest nuclear operator, Electricite de France (EDF), said at an energy workshop in Johannesburg on Monday.

It was ready because of its political willingness, Eskom’s good track record, the public’s awareness of climate change challenges and industries’ eagerness to enter the market, said EDF South Africa’s managing director Frederic Diore.

He was speaking at a two-day workshop organised by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and attended by, among others, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan, and representatives from Eskom.

Diore said more than 80% of France’s electricity was generated from nuclear power. France is second to the United States in its use of nuclear power.

Diore said EDF believed that nuclear power was a good way to go forward, but acknowledged there were challenges including the growth of world energy consumption, the environment, security supplies and scarce oil and gas resources.

EDF has been in South Africa since Eskom established the Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape in 1976 and has helped electrify rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Public Enterprises Deputy Minister Enoch Godongwana said energy was going to be a critical issue in the future.

He said the country was facing the challenges of securing continued energy supply amid increasing demand and an ageing infrastructure which would be at capacity within 10 years.

‘Both a referee and a player’
Godongwana said this would require the government to build more capacity, conserve energy, use solar water heaters and establish solar and wind power plants.

He said it was a problem that Eskom was both “a referee and a player” in the energy industry and that this prompted a need for an independent purchaser.

“We cannot bring independent power producers who must also sign contracts with Eskom who happens to also be their competitor,” he said.

He said nuclear power was going to be a big thing in South Africa. Any fears about safety issues should be addressed by the ruling party’s task team.

“Technology is so advanced that we have not had problems with it anywhere,” Godongwana said.

The energy workshop continues on Tuesday. — Sapa

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