South African government launches consultations for controversial nuclear program

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The South African government on Sunday launched consultations for its controversial nuclear program amid a worsening energy shortage.

The consultations, in the form of the Request for Information (RFI), will enable the government to gain insight into the cost of the program, possible ownership structures, cost recovery, the end user cost and sustainability of the program, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) said.

“Given the long lead-time of building additional new nuclear capacity, upfront planning is necessary for security of energy supply to society into the future,” the department said.

The RFI is intended to commence the departmental preparatory work to develop plans for a future nuclear energy program to the extent of 2,500 MW.

This is in line with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 which states that the DMRE will commence preparations for a nuclear program at a pace and scale that the country can afford “because it is a no-regret option in the long term,” the DMRE said.

The DMRE sets September 15, 2020 as the deadline for responses to the RFI.

Nuclear power is part of an energy mix approved by the cabinet in 2015 to meet the growing energy demand amid constant power blackouts in recent years due to the inability of the country’s major power utility Eskom, powered by coal, to provide sufficient electricity.

But the nuclear plan has met with strong opposition from environmental groups. Three years ago, the High Court in the Western Cape ruled that the nuclear deal is “unconstitutional and unlawful” as the government had flouted due process by not first debating in Parliament its decision.

The ruling blocked the government under then-president Jacob Zuma from carrying out a much-talked-about nuclear power agreement reached with Russia. Enditem

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