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ENERGY: NIASA Alarmed By the Suggested Delay in the Nuclear New Build Programme


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The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) has noted the updated IRP and IEP scenarios presented by the Department of Energy and the imminent gazetting of the full document on 25 November 2016. NIASA will utilise the public comments period in order to fully represent the views of the nuclear industry which is highly concerned and alarmed by suggestions that the first nuclear power station would be expected to come online in 2037, adding a total capacity of 20 385 MW of nuclear energy to the national grid by 2050.

It has also noted that the new electricity-focused IRP plans to add an additional 37 400 MW from wind power, 17 600 MW from solar plants, 35 292 MW from gas and 15 000 MW from coal by 2050, as opposed to previous scenarios which initially planned to generate 9 600 MW of energy from as many as eight nuclear reactors. This timeline aimed for the first plant to be operating in 2023, and the remainder to be completed by 2029.

According to Knox Msebenzi, Managing Director of NIASA, ‘This delay could be devastating to the viability of the nuclear industry as a whole and curtail the founding principles of the new nuclear build programme to bring about economic development, localization and curb the negative environmental impact which coal power poses to our environment as confirmed by the World Energy Outlook 2016 report published by the International Energy Agency.’

‘In addition, many of the coal power stations will be decommissioned in the future and therefore the country is in need of a clean and reliable source of base load power to replace them, in line with the COP21 climate change commitments made by the South African government.’

Moreover, from the perspective of considering the myriad of factors which form the objectives of the Integrated Energy Planning process, namely to (1) Ensure security of supply; (2) Minimise the cost of energy; (3) Promote the creation of jobs and localisation; (4) Minimise negative environmental impacts from the energy sector; (5) Promote the conservation of water; and (6) Diversify supply. it is the industry’s view that the delayed scenario would also curtail these founding principles and particularly contribute to a decline in the industrialization process which is reliant on the need for a robust plan for a reliable and affordable energy source.

There is also a desperate need to assess the real impacts of localisation emanating from the current renewable projects in South Africa, as from NIASA’s perspective the broad based contribution to the South African economy and sustainable and empowering job creation shall prove to be unmatched with a nuclear programme and address the counties key objectives in the National Development Plan.

Msebenzi adds that, ‘The reliance on gas power in the future could also be an error, as research on this power source currently is highly speculative and could cost more money than initially projected, as a majority of gas would have to be imported and South Africa would be subject to a volatile exchange rate. NIASA would urge government to viewing this scenario carefully.’

In conclusion, NIASA suggests that there should be a balance in the views expressed by the minister’s advisory panel. Moreover, the panel should consist of individuals from a broad spectrum of energy sources, with no obvious bias towards only one form of energy.

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