Energy Minister jumping the gun on new nuclear power plan

Issued by Kevin Mileham MP – DA Spokesperson on Energy and Electricity
08 Jul 2024 in News

The Democratic Alliance notes with concern statements by Minister of Energy and Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, that the procurement of 2500MW of new nuclear power was “at an advanced stage” and that his department was “finalizing the procurement structure” of the new build project.

The DA is currently challenging the NERSA decision to concur with the procurement of 2500MW of new nuclear power on the grounds of procedural irregularity and irrationality. Founding and supplementary affidavits have been tabled before the Gauteng Division of the High Court, citing the erstwhile Minister of Electricity (Ramokgopa), the erstwhile Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (Gwede Mantashe), the erstwhile Minister of Public Enterprises (Pravin Gordhan), the President of South Africa, ESKOM and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) as respondents. We await their responses, which are due by 26 July. The matter is set down for 15 and 16 October 2024.

The documentation received from the various parties thus far indicates that little new information was provided to NERSA to enable it to make a considered decision in August 2023, with regard to the suspensive conditions it issued in August 2021 for concurrence with the determination to procure the 2500MW of new nuclear power made by Gwede Mantashe. These conditions included a detailed cost and demand analysis. Instead, NERSA appears to have relied on the original information provided in 2021.

It is worth noting that the intervening period of two years between the original NERSA ruling (with suspensive conditions) and the final concurrence in August 2023 would have necessitated further public consultations on the need and desirability of nuclear power. These did not occur. Furthermore, NERSA directed (in August 2021) that the determination include the requirement that procurement occur under an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) model. This was ignored in the final determination gazetted in 2023.

Nuclear power remains a key component of South Africa’s electricity generation mix for the foreseeable future. It demands, however, compliance with all regulatory and safety requirements, and needs to demonstrate affordability. The government has failed to show either the cost or electricity demand analysis required of it to make this determination.

The Democratic Alliance demands that Minister Ramokgopa immediately review the ministerial determination to procure new nuclear power and take the appropriate steps to rectify the non-compliance, failing which our legal challenge on procedural and rationality grounds will proceed.