South Africa has pledged €234,642, about R4.5 million, to the Technical Cooperation Fund for 2021, Mineral and Energy Resources minister Gwede Mantashe said on Monday.
On his video message marking the annual International Atomic Energy’s (IAEA) five-day general conference which kicked off in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on Monday, the minister said South Africa supports and was committed to the Technical Cooperation Programme.
“We will continue to implement the country’s programme framework. The programme has enabled us to launch four new national Technical Cooperation projects in the areas of agriculture, health, safety, with the assistance of the IAEA,” Mantashe said.
He said nuclear power would continue to play a vital role in SA’s energy mix, saying in addition to energy security, there was a bigger role for nuclear in clean energy initiatives, for transition from high to low carbon emissions while expanding power sources.
More than 70% of SA’s energy needs are met by crumbling coal-fired power plants that have been neglected for years, which has let to rolling blackouts and a massive impact on the country’s struggling economy.
As part of implementing the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Mantashe said consultations with suppliers of nuclear power reactors to provide costing, schedule information and possible ownership models, through a Request for Information for the 2,500MW programme issued in June 2020.
Mantashe said Koeberg nuclear power station, about 30km north of Cape Town, was one of SA’s most reliable, efficient, safe and affordable power stations on the country’s electricity grid.
He said this was why they have extended the operational life of the nuclear plant by another 20 years and that technical and regulatory work with this regard had begun.
“Another key project we have embarked on is the replacement and upgrade of our ageing nuclear research reactor, SAFARI-1. Since the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team in 2019, to develop a replacement by 2030, we have approved the Project Initiation Report that recommends that SAFARI-1 be replaced with a multi-purpose reactor. The project has advanced to the pre-feasibility stage,” said Mantashe.
He said despite logistical challenges brought on by Covid-19 pandemic, government was beginning to see increased access to offshore markets for the supply of medical isotopes, which were critical to the rest of the world.
The minister hailed the IAEA for the theme “Atoms for Peace and Development”, which he said directed member states to intellectually take up the role of nuclear technology.
He said in a continent like Africa, confronted with diseases like cancer, ebola, malaria and others, the medicinal role of nuclear was beyond question.
“South Africa is committed to contributing towards enhancing African development, including through the peaceful use of nuclear energy, science, and technology. Covid-19 has re-emphasised the importance of global solidarity to deal with these challenges in a collaborative manner,” Mantashe said.