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South Africa Plans More Nuclear Power to Ease Supply Crisis

South Africa plans to get 2,500 megawatts of new generation capacity from nuclear sources in a bid to tackle blackouts that have crippled the nation.

The first of the new units will likely be operational in 2032 or 2033, Department of Energy Deputy Director-General for Nuclear Zizamele Mbambo told reporters Tuesday in the capital, Pretoria.

Rotating blackouts have dogged Africa’s most industrialized economy since 2008 because Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. — which has held a near-monopoly over electricity provision since it started a century ago — is unable to meet demand from its old and poorly maintained plants.

With elections looming next year and public outrage mounting about the energy deficit, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to his post in March to oversee the government’s response to the crisis.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ramokgopa said the cost of power generation from nuclear is among the cheapest options available at about 0.60 rand per kilowatt-hour. That compares with about 1.25 rand for concentrated solar power, 0.87 rand for wind, and 5 rand for open-cycle gas turbines, he said.

One of two units at the country’s sole nuclear-power facility — the 1,860-megawatt Koeberg plant outside Cape Town — was down for maintenance for almost a year through November, with Eskom gradually returning it to full service. The second unit is now offline for similar upgrades.

Eskom in 2021 applied to the National Nuclear Regulator to extend the operations of Koeberg Unit 1 to July 2044 and Unit 2 to November of the following year. The regulator will make a recommendation on the license in March, with a final decision in July.

Source: Bloomberg