* S.Africa operates the continent’s sole nuclear plant
* Plans to build six new 1,600 MW plants by 2030
* Nuclear plans currently debated by cabinet
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, March 15 (Reuters) - South Africa’s decisions on future nuclear plants may be affected by concerns about radioactivity from Japan’s earthquake-stricken reactor, the country’s energy minister said on Tuesday.
South Africa currently operates Africa’s sole nuclear plant near Cape Town and has said it would like to build six new 1,600 megawatt plants to make nuclear supply 14 percent of its energy mix by 2030 as it seeks to halve its reliance on dirtier coal.
Africa’s biggest economy, the world’s top producer of platinum and a major supplier of gold, seeks to meet fast-rising demand for power and to avert a repeat of a 2008 crisis that shut industry down for days and cost billions of dollars in lost output.
But the nuclear power industry has taken a beating as governments address safety fears and investors bail out of stocks because of the Japan crisis. [ID:nL3E7EE1D3]
“It has a bearing in the way in which we make decisions, in the way in which we make policies but also in the way we construct nuclear power plants,” Dipuo Peters told an African power conference.
South Africa has yet to make a final decision on the proposed nuclear plants. Its new energy resource plan, which will determine the country’s electricity mix over the next 20 years, is being debated by the cabinet and is expected to be approved by parliament by the end of this month.[ID:nLDE7200S8] (Writing by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Jane Baird)