Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

SOUTH Africa’s nuclear programme is non-negotiable and the National Development Plan (NDP) supports it, Department of Energy director-general Nelisiwe Magubane told Parliament’s energy committee on Tuesday.

"The only thing(s) that we are waiting for are the procurement processes and how (they are) going to be funded," she said.

Ms Magubane was responding to a question from Independent Democrat MP Lance Greyling who was pressing her on when the national electricity strategy, the Integrated Resource Plan, would be reviewed.

Ms Magubane said the Cabinet had also said the use of renewable energy and nuclear energy were non-negotiable issues.

The government plans to build three nuclear stations to generate a total of 9,600MW, with the first units to come on line in 2025.

"It is clear the NDP raises several question marks over the nuclear programme and cannot in anyone’s reading of it said to be supportive of it," Mr Greyling said.

Nuclear power plants are expensive to build, but have no emissions and are generally cheaper to run than other types of power plants.

Safety concerns aside, there are reservations about the desirability of nuclear power in the NDP. The plan raises concerns about the costs of the programme.

National Planning Commission member and academic Anton Eberhard recently argued against the need for nuclear power, saying South Africa could meet its energy security needs without investing in nuclear energy.

He said energy demand had grown more slowly than forecast and less generation capacity would be needed over the next 20 years than initially anticipated. Added to this was a change in the cost of renewable energy technologies, which had fallen because of large subsidies pumped into the industry, largely by Germany and China.

Last month, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe pitched for the establishment of a nuclear industry in South Africa, saying the country needed nuclear energy to meet future demand and that the industry could generate R60bn once the nuclear build programme was implemented.

With Nicky Smith