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NUCLEAR South Africa getting ready for nuclear build There have been no announcements for South Africa’s nuclear build programme beyond the integrated resource plan (IRP). However, the country is better prepared to undertake such a programme than it was previously. O n 13 February 2014 president Jacob Zuma said in his state of the nation speech that the South African government would undertake the procurement of 9.6 GW of nuclear power as part of the country’s energy mix. At the Nuclear Africa conference held in March 2014, minister of energy Ben Martins said the department of energy, other government agencies and departments are working to finalise the procurement framework of South Africa’s planned nuclear build programme. “Government will in due course announce specific details of the nuclear build programme when consultations and negotiations are finalised,” he said. In many ways the delay in the announcement has been justified and desirable, as it has enabled the country to become better prepared, to learn the lessons from Medupi and Kusile, to solidify regulatory mechanisms, to implement skills development programmes, to plan for local content, and to engage with all the potential vendors of nuclear generation III South Africa’s minister of energy, Ben Martins. 64 technology. It has also allowed the Fukushima disaster in Japan to be understood, for no matter how they might try to spin it, disaster it was for the anti-nuclear lobby. As Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation points out, it demonstrated under unplanned, unexpected, extreme conditions that even poorly managed nuclear technology from the 1950s can be safe. In spite of all the noise in social media circles, this understanding appears to be seeping into humanity’s subconscious, and it appears that most people will be willing to trust nuclear power in the same way they are willing to trust commercial airlines. The delay has been good, as it has served to expose the risks associated with the short termism of politicians in what is a long term game, a very long term game. These nuclear plants to be built will have a lifespan of some 60 years and then there are decommissioning issues to consider, which means South Africa will need to choose a vendor it can expect to be dealing with, and will be comfortable dealing with, in half a century and longer into the future. This is certainly not a deal to be based on handshakes and the self-interest of some notoriously corrupt politicians. It is important to assess the offerings from different vendors carefully, the pros and cons of different levels of localisation, and the different financial requirements associated with the different options. However, only so much delay is good. The approach by some who are suspected of having an anti-nuclear bias, and have inserted themselves into South Africa’s national planning process, such as Anton Eberhard, director of the management programme in infrastructure reform and regulation at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT), could make murky what is a long term base load capacity plan that should be seen to be necessary President of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) Rob Adam. for the well-being of the country irrespective of short-term imperatives. President of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) Rob Adam says that since the early 2000s and particularly since 2007 several hundreds of millions of rand have been spent in South Africa preparing for the new nuclear build. “It is a little like training for the Olympics when the date is unknown. There is the danger of peaking too soon, and losing key people as the process is delayed. There is a danger on the other hand of being unprepared. This preparation is not just technical but financial.” CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) Phumzile Tshelane says South Africa had hoped it would have its pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) grid connected in 2003. “The country also went through a nuclear procurement process in 2008 and was going to announce bidders by the end of that year. It did not happen,” he says. The IRP has rekindled that hope, but as the past indicates there are no guarantees. Tshelane sums it up as follows: “Leaders don’t make decisions because they would like to make them. Instead they make decisions because they are convinced there is a set of ESI AFRICA ISSUE 1 2014