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South Africa’s new nuclear power plan causes outcry

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Energy experts in South Africa have expressed shock at the government’s announcement that it wants to install new nuclear capacity to solve its power problems.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said on Friday last week that it planned to put out the tender by March next year.

This came after the National Energy Regulator approved the procurement of 2,500 MW of nuclear power.

Prof Anton Eberhard of the Power Futures Lab at University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business was quoted in local media as saying that a new nuclear procurement would be “a wasteful and costly diversion”.

He added that the country should instead focus on implementing its electricity supply plan, which prioritises generating 33 GW of power mostly from solar and wind by 2030.

Nuclear power plants take years to develop and run the risk of cost and time overruns.

Renewable energy projects such as wind and solar can be implemented relatively quickly and at increasingly competitive prices.

In 2017 a South African court declared a controversial nuclear procurement, widely expected to be awarded to Russia, unlawful because there had been no public consultation. Activists maintained the deal would bankrupt South Africa.

Liz McDaid, energy adviser for the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, said it was “suspicious … to keep pushing nuclear instead of doing the obvious thing which is renewable energy”.

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