South Africa, grappling with a severe electricity crisis and frequent power outages, has unveiled plans to bolster its nuclear power production, currently at a minimal level, as announced by the government on Tuesday.
As of now, the leading industrial power in Africa operates just one nuclear power plant on the continent, Koeberg, situated near Cape Town, but it’s only functioning at half its capacity.
The government’s announcement revealed ongoing talks with “several potential suppliers” to acquire new production units. These could range from traditional reactors to small modular reactors, offering lower power but also reduced costs.
Zizamele Mbambo, overseeing nuclear power at the Ministry of Energy, expressed hope for the initial reactors to be operational by 2032-2033.
Labeling it as a crucial milestone, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa highlighted the plan’s aim to add an extra 2,500 MW of electricity generation capacity.
In the last 15 years, prolonged power cuts lasting up to 12 hours daily have significantly impacted the economy, stirring discontent against the long-standing ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), especially with upcoming elections.
According to polls, the ANC might slip below the 50% mark, potentially losing its outright majority in parliament for the first time.
Following years of mismanagement and corruption during President Jacob Zuma’s tenure (2009-2018), state-owned power utility Eskom struggles to produce sufficient electricity due to its aging and poorly maintained power plants.
One unit at the Koeberg nuclear power plant underwent almost a year of closure for a 20-year extension of its lifespan. This week, the second unit was shut down for maintenance purposes.