South Africa announces procurement of nuclear power station

One of the great challenges African supply chains and economies face is the severe power outages plaguing the country. To address this in South Africa, the government has just announced procurement plans for an additional 2,500 megawatts of nuclear power.

The move comes as the country faces one of the worst power outages on record, with serious impacts on its economy. Businesses and households experienced up to 10 hours of power cuts on some days.

What to expect with South Africa’s Nuclear power procurement

The procurement process for the new nuclear capacity will launch by March 2024. However, the government expects the first units to begin operations within a decade. Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa expressed confidence in the prospects of the initiative during a recent news conference.

He also made sure to emphasize that the goal is to announce preferred bidders within a reasonable period.

South Africa is home to the continent’s only operational nuclear power plant, Koeberg, near Cape Town. However, it is approaching this nuclear procurement with caution. The government aims to build new nuclear units at a scale and pace that the country can afford. She will be learning from past challenges, including the 9,600 MW nuclear deal with Russia that faced legal obstacles in 2017.

Koeberg, currently providing around 5% of the country’s energy needs, operates at a capacity of approximately 1,900 MW. The government is awaiting regulatory approval for a 20-year extension to Koeberg’s operating license, set to expire in July 2024.

The new nuclear project aligns with South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan of 2019 and is expected to commission its first unit by 2032/33. To emphasize preparations for new nuclear capacity alongside the continued operation of Koeberg, the procurement process seeks to ensure cost competitiveness through an open and transparent tender.

Why is the nuclear power procurement happening now?

As South Africa faces ongoing electricity constraints and load shedding, nuclear power is seen as a viable solution. Mostly because it has proven a reliable source to enhance energy security and sovereignty.

The decision to proceed with nuclear procurement aligns with the government’s efforts to address long-term energy challenges. Although it is a solution that may take three to four years to materialize.

This move comes amid the extended maintenance outage of the second unit at the Koeberg nuclear power plant. A pointer to the urgency of securing additional power sources. Eskom, the state-owned utility, recently appointed Dan Marokane as its new group chief executive, which in many ways emphasizes a renewed focus on addressing the country’s energy needs.