Energy Deputy Minister Thembi Majola has called on young people to acquire skills that will enable them to take up opportunities in the nuclear energy sector.
The Deputy Minister was addressing the annual South African Young Nuclear Professionals Society (SAYNPS) nuclear youth summit on Wednesday.
She said with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, there is a need for the youth to acquire the requisite skills, expertise and experience so as to be able to contribute effectively to the development and growth of the economy of the country.
"This Summit takes place at an opportune time in our country when unemployment especially amongst the young people is at its highest. Many of the unemployed young people lack the skills required by the knowledge economy," the Deputy Minister said.
She said South Africa needs to take urgent action in order to ensure security of supply for the country for the next 20 years.
The integrated Resource Plan (IRP) sets out a path for South Africa's long term energy future introducing new players and diversifying sources of energy.
"Importantly, the IRP envisages a balanced energy mix with nuclear as an integral part of our baseload, as is the case currently," she told the summit taking place in Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape.
She said government has created a conducive and enabling environment that has attracted massive investments in the renewable energy sector, with the Eastern Cape Province leading in the field of wind energy.
Deputy Minister Majola also paid tribute to the SAYNPS, saying that since its formation in 2006, it has actively championed the interests of all young professionals in the nuclear sector.
"[It has not only] influenced debates on the benefits of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but also practically providing a pool of dedicated practitioners in the entire nuclear value chain in our country. SAYNPS has been an ardent advocate for youth skills development, preservation and propagation of nuclear knowledge, expertise and its application," said the Deputy Minister.
Eskom's nuclear build
Also speaking at the summit, Eskom's acting General Manager for the nuclear new build, Loyiso Tyabashe, said South Africa is at the centre of the energy revolution.
"As young people, we have to push ourselves to a point of readiness," he said, adding that the power utility is taking steps to empower young people with the relevant skills, knowledge and opportunities to participate meaningfully in the energy industry.
"We anticipate the commencement of South Africa's nuclear new build programme. We look at their participation across the spectrum from enabling them to follow careers to being entrepreneurs offering services and building a thriving business in the energy space," he said.
Eskom has spent R3.7 billion towards black youth-owned businesses in the past three years. The power utility also provides support for small enterprise development through sponsorship for the New Generation Movement (NGM).
Last week, the power utility held a successful launch of a Schools Nuclear Debate programme in Port Elizabeth. The aim of the programme held in the Eastern Cape was to promote an open discussion around nuclear energy and encourage young people to engage critically as the country considers future energy needs and sources to support socio-economic growth.
"Furthermore, in June 2016, we launched the Eskom Nuclear Operator Pipeline project at the Koeberg Power Station in Cape Town as part of Eskom's plans to beef up local nuclear resources to support the country's needs."
The project provides a platform for developing a robust nuclear operator pipeline for South Africa.
The programme, spanning five years, aims to build a path to ensure that there are sufficient local nuclear resources to service the country's present and future nuclear needs. After the five-year period, trainees will qualify as nuclear plant operators or will enter related career equivalents," said Tyabashe.
The summit will conclude on Friday.