May 19, 2011 / 11:09 AM / in 6 years

S.Africa needs to start nuclear bidding next year

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa needs to start the international procurement for its planned nuclear plants early next year so it can build the first 1,600 MW plant by 2023 and avoid blackouts, the energy minister said on Thursday.

South Africa operates the continent’s sole nuclear plant, located near Cape Town, and plans to build a total of 9,600 MW of new nuclear power production between 2023 and 2030 to ease a power shortage in the world’s top producer of platinum and a major supplier of gold.

“To meet the 2023 target, we need to make decisions to be able to start the procurement early next year,” Energy Minister Dipuo Peters told journalists on the sidelines of a nuclear forum in Johannesburg.

“(The) first megawatts must kick in by 2023 so that the lights stay on.”

South Africa committed to nuclear expansion as other countries are rethinking their atomic-power plans, following the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Peters said her department has to revisit its safety protocols after the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

She said South Africa is not targeting any specific bidders but would favour a country or a technology developer that would use local skills and create jobs in construction.

The ruling African National Congress, which devoted billions of dollars in the budget to create jobs, for years has been trying to cut into an unemployment rate that has lingered at about 25 percent.

South Africa’s cabinet recently approved the country’s 20-year energy master plan, meant to promote investment in the power sector and help build reserve capacity to avoid a repeat of a 2008 power crisis that shut industry down for days and cost the economy billions of dollars in lost output.

South Africa currently relies on coal for nearly all of its electricity, but the new plan calls for 42 percent of all new plants coming on stream between now and 2030 and to be based on green power, with 23 percent on nuclear and 15 percent on coal.

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