New nuclear power site planned for South Africa

 ·6 Jul 2021

Eskom is moving forward on its plans to establish a new nuclear power site in Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape.

The country’s National Nuclear Regulator said that it received a Nuclear Installation Site Licence (NISL) application from Eskom for the site, with public hearings scheduled in the surrounding towns of Jeffrey’s Bay and St Francis Bay at the end of August.

The hearings are the first step in the application process and are aimed at gaining insights from members of the public on issues relating to health, safety and the environment.

Thyspunt was identified as a possible site for a nuclear plant as far back as 2008, with Eskom also looking at Duynefontein and Bantamsklip in the Western Cape as possible sites.

South Africa currently has a single nuclear plant at Koeberg in the Western Cape. A drive for additional facilities largely faded after the ruling party forced Jacob Zuma to step down as president in 2018.

The site at Thyspunt will likely form part of the government’s new nuclear power proposal for the country, which will see it procure 2,500 megawatts (MW) of additional nuclear capacity by 2030 and beyond.

The build is to provide clean baseload capacity in response to the approximately 24,100 MW of coal capacity being decommissioned – as well as to maintain supply/demand balance and improve energy security, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said in November.

Commenting on the need for new options, Nersa said that load shedding has not only resulted in a loss of security of electricity supply to the country, but it also costs sectors of the economy billions of rands and leads to job losses as electricity is an economic enabler.

“The procurement of 2,500 MW from nuclear power will increase the nuclear contribution to the country energy mix from 2.4% to 5.6%,” it said.

The average annual electricity demand is expected to grow by 1.8% in 2030 and 1.4% in 2050.

Compounding the issue is the planned decommissioning of several Eskom coal power stations, with 5,732 MW set to be decommissioned by 2023.

This will increase to 11,017 MW by 2030, Nersa said.

“Post-2030, the expected further decommissioning of 24,100MW of coal power stations supports the need for additional capacity from cleaner energy technologies, including nuclear.”

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