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Could nuclear power save South Africa from loadshedding?

South Africa has a history of nuclear power generation dating back to the 1980s when the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station near Cape Town became operational. Koeberg is currently the only nuclear power station in the country.

South Africa had plans to expand its nuclear power capacity. In 2010, the government announced plans to build additional nuclear reactors, which could have increased the country's nuclear capacity significantly. However, these plans faced various challenges, including financing, political controversies, and public concerns about the cost and safety of nuclear power.

Eskom is indebted to the tune of R440-billion. This is equivalent to slightly less than half of the country’s annual budget. The debt-servicing costs, in addition to the now-perennial electricity supply gap, remains perhaps the single largest threat to the economy. In the 2022 budget, R21.9-billion was allocated to bailing Eskom out AGAIN!!!

Despite South Africa’s commitments under the Paris Agreement to lower its carbon emissions, the government continues to prioritise investment in coal-powered energy stations while failing to capitalise on recent advancements made in wind, solar and nuclear energy technologies.

Data from the CSIR has demonstrated that South Africa has perfect conditions to introduce a very large amount of variable renewables into the electricity system in a cost-effective way. The remainder could be supplemented by open cycle gas turbines, essentially removing coal requirements in the medium to long term.

A deal was struck for South Africa to receive $8.5-billion funding from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union member states to assist in the shift away from coal to a low-carbon economy. But Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has continuously cautioned against the transition, citing energy supply issues and the country’s high unemployment rate.

The nuclear industry supports nearly half a million jobs in the United States and contributes an estimated $60 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product each year yet our Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy caused against the transition.

Here are some of the advantages of nuclear power:

  • One of the most low-carbon energy sources

  • It also has one of the smallest carbon footprints

  • It's one of the answers to the energy gap

  • It's essential to our response to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Reliable and cost-effective

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