South Africa to pursue safe n-power: Minister

Indo Asian News Service

Pretoria, Feb 20 (IANS) The South African government will pursue safe nuclear power and build more nuclear power plants, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said.

"The safety of nuclear facilities is of paramount importance to the safety of workers, the environment and residents," the minister said Tuesday, adding the government is serious about developing nuclear energy in a bid to diversify energy resources, reported Xinhua.

South Africa currently relies heavily on coal, which constitutes about 90 percent of the country's energy sources. The government plans to build a large nuclear plant to reduce dependence on coal.

South Africa possesses sound knowledge that makes it competent to run a large nuclear power plant, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has said.

To build a low carbon economy, "we cannot belittle the role that natural gas and nuclear power can play in the realization of that 2030 low carbon energy vision", Peters said at the Africa Energy Indaba (conference) in Johannesburg titled: "2013 World Energy Issues Monitor".

"We need to ensure that energy security is pursued as a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity throughout the continent," said Peters.

She said all South African nuclear installations safety assessment will be closely monitored by regulators following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011.

South Africa has worked out the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) 2010 to 2030 which envisages 9,600 MW additional nuclear capacity by 2030.

South Africa has the African continent's only nuclear power station -- the Koeberg, which is near Cape Town.

The station was shut down twice in September and October in 2011 for repairs, raising concern about nuclear security.

The government said Koeberg's reactors were designed to withstand a Richter scale 7 earthquake. The largest recorded earthquake in South Africa measured 6.1 on the Richter scale which struck the Western Cape towns of Tulbagh and Ceres in 1969.

The country's plan to expand nuclear energy has met with strong opposition from Greenpeace which says nuclear plants pose potential dangers of radioactivity in the event of a nuclear crisis, similar to what was experienced by Japan in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster after the earthquake and tsunami that occurred March 11, 2011.