South Africa: Gwede Mantashe's Nuclear Fantasies Are a Dangerous Distraction

Minister Gwede Mantashe (file photo).

South Africa's nuclear energy programme is starting to take on the proportions of a zombie - it refuses to die, no matter how many times you try to kill it. And now, like Dr Frankenstein, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is once again attempting to breathe new life into this monster.

On Sunday 14 June, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe took to Twitter to issue his department's call for a nuclear energy build programme. This followed earlier statements that he wished to test the market's ability to deliver on small nuclear reactors.

Mantashe is trying for a type of nuclear reactor different to the one proposed in former president Jacob Zuma's disastrous nuclear programme, which failed to pass a basic cost-benefit analysis. And, just as Zuma's programme failed to make economic sense, so Mantashe's dreams of a nuclear future seem destined to be dashed against the rocks of economic reality.

To understand why, it is worth highlighting that the sort of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) that Mantashe is trying to bring onto the market are simply not commercially viable. Even the world's second-richest man, Bill Gates, has been throwing tons of money at the problem and coming...

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