South African energy minister Dipuo Peters says she has signed off on a proposal for new nuclear power plants which will go to cabinet soon.
Peters also told reporters on the sidelines of an African energy ministers’ conference that she expected the cabinet to decide on the plan by the end of this year, and the bidding process to start early in 2012.
The minister said she expected the first power from those plants, which were slated to provide 9,600 megawatts (MW) of power, or about a quarter of the current supply, to start flowing through the national grid in 2024 or 2025.
Previous plans had called for additional nuclear generation by 2023, but Peters said that had been put off for a year or two because of revisions in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima power plant disaster earlier this year.
The minister said there was no risk of blackouts to Africa’s largest economy because of an accelerated renewable energy programme.
Over 90% of South Africa’s power comes from coal and supplies are tight as state-run utility Eskom battles to meet fast-rising demand. The country currently has just one nuclear power plant on the west coast near Cape Town.
A power supply crisis in 2008 shut mines for days in the world’s top platinum producer and cost the country billions of dollars in lost output.
New coal-fired plants are also being built and power tariffs are rising steeply to fund such projects, hurting consumers and squeezing the profits of power-intensive mines and other industries.
Koeberg – currently South Africa’s only nuclear plant