South Africa to Proceed With Nuclear Energy Program, Zuma Says

South Africa’s government will push ahead with plans to develop new nuclear power plants as it seeks to reduce its reliance on coal, President Jacob Zuma said.

“We expect to conclude the procurement of 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy,” Zuma said yesterday in his state-of-the-nation address to Parliament in Cape Town. He didn’t give any further details.

Areva SA (AREVA), EDF SA (EDF), Toshiba Corp. (6502)’s Westinghouse Electric Corp., China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp., Rosatom Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. (015760) are interested in building nuclear power stations in South Africa. The nation relies on coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity.

The National Treasury said in February last year that the 300 billion-rand ($37 billion) nuclear program was in the final stages of study. The National Planning Commission, a state advisory body headed by former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, has urged the government to consider using gas as an alternative to nuclear power, which the commission warned may prove too expensive.

In December, the Energy Ministry published a revised 20-year energy plan, which projected that new nuclear power will not be required until at least 2025. State-run Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. currently operates Africa’s only nuclear plant at Koeberg, near Cape Town. The 1,800-megawatt plant began operating in 1984.

Zuma said the government also wanted to exploit its shale gas reserves, which could prove a “game changer” for the economy.

“Having evaluated the risks and opportunities, the final regulations will be released soon and will be followed by the processing and granting of licenses,” he said.

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