South Africa Poised to Make Decision on Nuclear Energy Providers

  • Atomic power company chief sees nuclear, coal as only options
  • Necsa finalizing audit report, in talks with auditor-general

South Africa’s plan to build nuclear power plants will go ahead, with the nation’s cabinet “poised to make a decision” on the way forward soon, the head of the country’s atomic energy company said.

“It will go ahead -- we do not have an option,” Nuclear Energy Corp. of South Africa Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Phumzile Tshelane said on Johannesburg-based Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday. The country’s two choices to increase continuous power are coal and nuclear as other methods are not viable given the deteriorating climate, he said.

The country has signed nuclear cooperation accords with Russia, China, France the U.S., Japan and South Korea. It’s awaiting signature of a similar agreement with Canada, Tshelane said. Necsa’s role is to advise the government and to process uranium, he said.

South Africa’s government plans to add 9,600 megawatts of atomic energy to the national grid by 2029 as the country grapples with shortages that have curbed mine and factory output and limited investment. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state-owned utility, operates the continent’s only nuclear power plant -- the Koeberg facility near Cape Town that supplies about 4 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Interested Companies

Areva SA, EDF SA, Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric Corp. unit, ChinaGuangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp. and Rosatom Corp. have expressed interest in building the new plants. Price-tag estimates for as many as eight reactors range from $37 billion to $100 billion.

In October, parliament’s portfolio committee on energy ordered Necsa executives to leave a briefing for being unable to present its annual report, Business Day newspaper reported on Oct. 16. Necsa had informed lawmakers it wouldn’t be able to present on time because it was still in discussions with the auditor-general about the document, Tshelane said.

“We are not in the red,” he said. Necsa is finalizing its audit report, and is working out reporting issues relating to the decontamination and decommissioning of old facilities, Tshelane said.

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