South Africa, grappling with a severe electricity crisis and persistent power outages, unveiled plans to ramp up its nuclear power production, a measure aimed at addressing the ongoing energy challenges in the country.
Presently, Africa’s primary industrial power boasts just one nuclear power facility, situated near Cape Town, known as the Koeberg plant. However, this plant is currently operating at only half its capacity.
The government revealed on Tuesday its initiation of discussions with “several potential suppliers” to secure new production units. These could potentially be conventional reactors or smaller modular reactors, offering less power but at reduced costs.
Zizamele Mbambo, overseeing nuclear power at the Ministry of Energy, highlighted during a press conference the anticipated deployment of the initial reactors by 2032-2033 as a pivotal milestone. Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa emphasized that this step would add approximately 2,500 MW of additional electricity generation capacity.
In the last 15 years, persistent power shortages lasting up to 12 hours daily have critically impacted the economy, stoking discontent toward the country’s longstanding ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), ahead of next year’s scheduled elections.
Projections from polls indicate the ANC might fall below the 50% threshold, potentially forfeiting its absolute majority in parliament for the first time.
Following a period marked by mismanagement and corruption under President Jacob Zuma (2009-2018), the state-owned power utility Eskom has struggled to generate adequate electricity due to the aging and poorly maintained condition of its power plants.
At the Koeberg nuclear power plant, one unit underwent nearly a year-long shutdown to extend the facility’s operational lifespan by 20 years. Concurrently, the second unit was recently shut down for scheduled maintenance this week.