Nuclear Power in South Africa
• South Africa has two nuclear reactors generating 5% of its electricity.
• South Africa’s first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1984.
• Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy is strong, with firm plans for further 9600 MWe in the next decade.
• Construction of a demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor has been cancelled.
Electricity consumption in South Africa has been growing rapidly since 1980 and the country is part of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), with extensive interconnections. Total installed generating capacity in the SAPP countries is 54.7 GWe, of which around 80% is South African, mostly coal-fired, and largely under the control of the state utility Eskom.
In 2008, Eskom power stations produced 230 billion kWh (TWh) of electricity (out of total South African electricity production of 239.5 TWh), of which the Koeberg nuclear plant generated 12.7 TWh – about 5.3% of total South African generation.
To address rapidly-increasing base-load electricity demand, Nigeria has sought the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for up to 4000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2025. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its power demand was expected to reach 10 000 MWe by 2007 – though grid-supplied capacity in 2006 was only 2 600 MWe. The Federal Ministry of Power is in charge of electricity generation, grids and pricing.
The federal government in 2007 approved a technical framework or ‘roadmap’ for its nuclear energy programme, along with a strategic implementation plan. This is to proceed through manpower and infrastructure development, power reactor design certification, regulatory and licensing approvals, construction and start-up. A strategic plan to streamline this was adopted in 2009, with a target of 1000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2020, and another 4000 MWe by 2030. In 2013, preparations were made for an IAEA INIR mission in 2014 and a national self-evaluation report was to be sent to IAEA by April in preparation for this.
A Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) has been set up for regulatory oversight on all uses of ionising radiation, nuclear materials and radioactive sources under the Federal Ministry of Science & Technology.
Nigeria’s first research reactor was commissioned at Ahmadu Bello University in 2004. It is a 30 kW Chinese Miniature Neutron Source Reactor similar to other Chinese units operating in Ghana, Iran, Syria and China. It uses high-enriched uranium fuel but is converting to LEU. The IAEA assisted the Nigerian government with the project, to ‘reinforce and widen the human resource base to sustain nuclear technology’ in relation to medical technology, geochemistry, mineral and petrochemical analysis and exploration. A larger research reactor is envisaged.
In April 2007, the government announced that it planned to introduce nuclear power on energy security grounds and in 2008 quantified this as 400 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2018. In 2012, it was ‘in the long-term’ and not before 2030, but envisaging 1000 MWe unit(s). In late 2014, the target was to start building 700 MWe before 2020 for 2025 commissioning and expanding to 1000 MWe.
The Ministry of Energy established the Nuclear Energy Programme Implementation Organisation (NEPIO) called the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO) in September 2012, as part of the first IAEA milestone. It will deal with all the issues associated with the planning and implementation of a nuclear power programme, develop legal and regulatory frameworks, and co-ordinate the activities of all stakeholder institutions involved in the planning of it. Eight technical groups have been set up to undertake planning and implementation. Three potential sites have been identified by the Energy Ministry.
In 2012, the Ministry of Energy & Petroleum signed a co-operation agreement with ROSATOM, and in mid-2013 further discussion took place on the specifics of joint projects facilitating the implementation of plans by Ghana to develop a nuclear industry with Russian help. In June 2015, a nuclear co-operation agreement with Russia was signed, to enable the development of contractual and legal frameworks for co-operation between the two countries in the nuclear sector. It also enables the promotion of Russian technology in West African markets and the practical start of joint nuclear projects.
The Nuclear Regulatory Power Bill to establish an independent nuclear regulatory body, another prerequisite for the operating a nuclear power plant, was being considered by parliament in 2014. The Radiation Protection Board is the current authority.
Ghana joined the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), now the International Framework of Nuclear Energy Co-operation (IFNEC), in September 2007. In mid-2012, it signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with Russia, which envisages assistance in building up the infrastructure for nuclear power in Ghana. A further agreement was expected in June 2013. The country is open to the possibility of a foreign Build-Own-Operate (BOO) project for nuclear power, in line with Russian policy.
The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) was set up in 1963 to introduce nuclear science and technology into the country and to exploit the peaceful applications of nuclear energy for national development. Its main facility is a small (30 kW) Chinese research reactor, operated since 1994 by GAEC’s National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI).
GAEC and the University of Ghana established the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS) in 2006 to provide human resources to run the eventual power plant, and ensure the continuous training of competent nuclear scientists.
Uganda’s Atomic Energy Bill came into effect in 2008, to regulate the use of ionizing radiation and provide a framework to develop nuclear power generation. The government has signed an agreement with IAEA to initiate moves in that direction. Peak demand in 2007 was 428 MWe met mainly from hydro, and projected demand for 2015 is 2000 MWe. Some US$500 million is being spent on doubling transmission lines to 3400 km, including links to Kenya and Rwanda.
In 2010, Kenya’s National Economic & Social Council recommended that the country start using nuclear power by 2020 to meet its growing electricity demand. A former Energy Minister was appointed to head a Nuclear Electricity Project Committee which aims to replace some oil and gas-fired capacity with nuclear power, and start construction of a plant by 2017.
In May 2014, the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB), set up in 2012 under the Ministry of Energy, sought expressions of interest in evaluation of the grid system for fast-track establishment of nuclear power.
Namibia’s electricity supply of 3.8 billion kWh in 2011 was two-thirds supplied by South Africa, which faces supply constraints itself. The 1.4 billion kWh generated domestically was mostly from hydro. A coal-fired plant is planned for Walvis Bay.
Namibia holds about 7% of the world’s uranium reserves, which are mined to fuel nuclear power stations around the world. Now the government has committed to a policy position of supplying its own electricity from nuclear power.