Nuclear energy is not a quick-fix solution for South Africa’s energy shortages, said Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters on Monday.
“We in South Africa have to understand that nuclear is not a quick-fix solution but a long-term method to address the energy crisis and climate-change challenge,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery at the second regional conference on energy and nuclear power in Africa, held in Cape Town.
“Considering long-term commitment to nuclear, countries interested in embarking on this programme will require at least 100 years to maintain sustainable and safety operation of the nuclear power, decommissioning and waste disposal,” she said.
Nuclear energy forms part of the integrated resources plan (IRP) that sets out the country’s energy mix up to 2030. Nuclear would contribute 23% of the energy supply.
Peters said South Africa should work with its regional neighbours on projects to secure energy supply.
“We have seen this in regional blocs, such as the European Union countries joining forces to share strengths and mitigate weaknesses. As you are all aware, the African Union is just that platform.
“I hope that though your deliberations today and beyond, a way forward on collaboration on nuclear energy on the African continued can be formulated.”
Peters said there were several electricity-generation projects planned or under construction in Africa for coal-fired power stations and hydroelectric power.
“Where possible we must pursue these in a collaborative manner, maximise knowledge and resources for these projects.
“This approach may even ease our ability to raise funds for these projects and reduce the levels of financial assistance required from the international development finance organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.”
Peters said African countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Niger and Gabon were rich in uranium needed to produce nuclear energy.
“This gives the African states the confidence that they can rely on Africa for their uranium supplies,” she said. “This mineral must also benefit Africans through job creation. Partnership with all stakeholders in this value chain, including trade unions involved in mining of energy minerals, is essential.”
The minister said the public’s confidence in nuclear power had been shaken by the tragedy in Japan where a large earthquake and tsunami in March crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing releases of radioactivity.
“All of us working in the nuclear field have an enormous task ahead of us to assure the public that nuclear power plants can be operated safely and to earn their trust,” she said.
“It is our duty to work hard and communicate transparently about the risk of radiation and address the concerns raised by the Fukushima accident.”
She warned, however, that this communication should not be “alarmist”. — Sapa