Energy Minister David Mahlobo on Wednesday signalled that South Africa remained committed to expanding its nuclear energy programme after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said the country could not afford it at the moment.
Mahlobo told reporters: “There is a nuclear build programme. Currently there is Koeberg. We are looking at enhancing the capacity. There is even an EIA (environmental impact assessment) that has been approved by the department of energy.”
The new energy minister, who was appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle two weeks ago, was referring to a study that gave the green light for a nuclear plant to be built at Duynefontein in the Western Cape, next to the country’s existing nuclear power plant at Koeberg.
Shortly before he delivered his first medium-term budget policy statement, Gigaba told a media briefing that though he expected nuclear to remain part of government’s Integrated Resource Plan, it was neither affordable nor necessary at this point, given the rising budget deficit and the country’s electricity surplus.
“The country at the present moment can’t afford nuclear and the budget also can’t.
“We have 5,700 megawatts of electricity surplus, bigger than our largest power station which is Medupi…
“In addition to the total capacity of Medupi, we have another 900 megawatts. That means that for the foreseeable future and given the current performance of our economy … the demand is lower than is required.
“When the economy is performing well and there are uptakers for electricity, and we have assessed our energy needs in terms of the IRP and come to the conclusion that we can afford and actually need baseload renewable electricity, we will take the decision at that time.
“I think at this present point the budget won’t afford nuclear.”
Gigaba said on Wednesday that the budget deficit would widen to 4.3 percent of GDP in the current financial year, against a target of 3.1 percent, while National Treasury had been forced to scale back its growth forecast for the year to 0.7 percent.