The South African government is working on preparations for rolling out a nuclear energy programme, with a decision to call for bidders to build a new nuclear plant or plants set to be made within the current financial year.
"We are busy working towards preparing to roll out that nuclear programme," Zizamele Mbambo, the Department of Energy's deputy director-general for nuclear power, said on Thursday. "One of key issues we indicated [is that] a decision needs to be taken this financial year on the procurement of a nuclear power plant."
Mbambo was speaking in Pretoria on Thursday at a briefing on the department's projects and programmes.
He told reporters that the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee, an inter-departmental committee tasked with overseeing and monitoring the implementation of the country's policy and plans for nuclear power, was "looking at various aspects of rolling out the nuclear programme".
South Africa's Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) for 2010 to 2030, a 20-year projection on electricity supply and demand, currently envisages 9 600 MW of additional nuclear capacity by 2030. The department is busy reviewing the plan.
South Africa's 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear plant, built more than 25 years ago, is the only nuclear power-generating facility on the African continent.
Energy Minister Ben Martins told Thursday's briefing that the government would be reaching out to the public "to demystify the issues around nuclear and to tell the communities and stakeholders about the benefits of the nuclear station".
Speaking at the Africa Energy Indaba in Johannesburg in February, then Energy Minister (now Transport Minister) Dipuo Peters said South Africa planned 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.
"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.