Nuclear remains static under South African plan

28 August 2018

A draft updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) approved by South Africa's cabinet on 22 August sees the country's nuclear capacity remaining at its current 1830 MWe over the period to 2030. Energy Minister Jeff Radebe yesterday released the plan for public comment.

Koeberg (Image: The Breakthrough Institute)

Under IRP 2018, coal would represent 46% of South Africa's installed capacity mix, followed by gas with 16% and wind with 15% and solar photovoltaic with 10%. Nuclear's 1860 MWe - the capacity of the country's currently operating Koeberg nuclear power plant - would represent 2.5% of installed capacity, less than hydro (6%) and pumped storage (4%).

South Africa's first IRP - IRP 2010 - came into effect in 2011, and was intended to be a "living plan" which would frequently be revised. IRP 2010 called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity over the period to 2030. State-owned utility Eskom in December 2016 released a request for information to support the future procurement of the new nuclear capacity under the existing IRP. However, The South African High Court subsequently found ministerial determinations underpinning the nuclear procurement plans to be unlawful and unconstitutional, ruling that the request for information, as well as various intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreements, must be set aside.

A number of assumptions used in the IRP 2010 have since changed or not materialised, Radebe said. Electricity demand on the grid continues to decline, with total consumption for the fiscal year ending in March 2018 30% lower than that forecast in the previous IRP. Plant availability has been higher than the 80% assumed in IRP 2010, and most of a total of 18,000 MWe of new coal, pumped storage and renewable energy has now been connected to the grid, with the rest to be connected by 2022. The costs of new generation technologies, particularly wind and solar, has come down significantly, he said.

The IRP review process began in 2015 - a draft of the updated IRP issued in November 2016 called for 1359 MWe of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2037 - and Radebe said the latest draft had taken public input into account.

The review of the IRP had shown that the pace and scale of new capacity developments to 2030 must be curtailed compared to that projected in the IRP 2010, he said. "Without a policy intervention, some of the technologies in the IRP 2010 together with new technologies will not be deployed," Radebe noted.

South Africa's energy mix post-2030 will see a significant change as old coal power plants reach their end of life, Radebe said. The draft IRP calls for further studies to better inform its energy path further into the future, including detailed technical, cost and economic benefit analysis of "other clean energy technologies such clean coal technology, nuclear and others".

The new draft IRP will be open to public comment for 60 days.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News