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Study pours cold water on SA’s nuclear build plan via Business Day

NEW National Planning Commission (NPC) modelling of South Africa’s energy demands says nuclear power should be delayed by years, and an immediate commissioning of new gas-generation capacity should take place to avoid rolling blackouts in the near future.

The remodelling commissioned by the NPC signals the start in earnest of what will be a highly contested policy debate: whether South Africa needs and can afford nuclear power or not, and by when.

The implication of the modelling is that no new nuclear power would be required before at least 2029, but more likely as far away as 2040 if demand grows as expected. It had been envisaged that new nuclear power would come on line in 2023.

It also means the Department of Energy should act promptly to procure imported liquefied gas and gas power stations to avoid blackouts in the highly likely event of delays to the completion of Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations.

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Lower growth in demand means that no extra capacity will be needed other than investments already in the pipeline and the need for immediate power to cover shortfalls due to delays in Eskom’s build programme.

The second assumption the report said is out of date is about costs for energy inputs, which have changed significantly since the IRP2010 was finalised. In particular, it said, nuclear costs are a lot higher now — at $7,000/kW — compared to $5,000/kW when the IRP2010 was modelled. New data are also available on renewable energy and gas sources.

The updated assumptions change the recommended energy mix significantly.

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