South Africa plans to expand its use of nuclear power in a safe and secure way as a key part of the country's move towards a diversified, low-carbon energy mix, says Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.
"If we are serious about diversification towards a low carbon economy, we cannot belittle the role that natural gas and nuclear power can play in the realisation of that 2030 low carbon energy vision," Peters said at the Africa Energy Indaba in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
South Africa's Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030, a 20-year projection on the country's electricity supply and demand, envisages 9 600 MW of additional nuclear capacity by 2030. The plan is due to be reviewed soon.
Fukushima nuclear accident
The government was in the process of finalising the IRP when the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred in 2011.
Following the accident, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) conducted safety re-assessments of the country's existing installations, the Safari-1 research reactor in Pelindaba west of Pretoria, and the Koeberg nuclear power station in Cape Town.
In June, the NNR announced that the country's nuclear installations could withstand natural events.
South Africa is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and had signed up for stress tests to ascertain whether its reactors were vulnerable to natural causes like tsunamis.
Last week, the agency ended their peer review mission to South Africa - their first visit to a country with an existing nuclear programme.
"We need to ensure that energy security is pursued as a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity throughout the continent," Peters told the Energy Indaba on Tuesday.
Renewable energy programme
South Africa's IRP also envisages about 42% of electricity generated in the country coming from renewable resources.
The Department of Energy, under its renewable energy programme for independent power producers, last year selected bidders for a total of 2 614 MW of solar and wind energy to be added to the country's power grid by 2016.
Peters said the department was about to enter the next phase of the programme, which seeks to procure 3 625 MW of renewable energy in total.
The minister added that her department had installed 335 000 solar water systems as it moved towards its target of 1-million by the end of 2014.
Peters also spoke about the need to equip young people on the continent with knowledge and skills in science and engineering, and in the energy sector in particular.
"Partners in the private sector should collaborate with government in finding solutions to address the brain drain," she said.