Going nuclear

facing power shortages, South Africa plans to build up to eight new nuclear reactors

Burned out on its aging coal-fueled power plants, South Africa is rethinking its energy portfolio. The country is planning up to eight new nuclear power plants by 2029 to stabilize its power grid. The program, which could cost up to US$100 billion, would generate 9,600 megawatts of power.

South Africa currently relies heavily on coal and has only one nuclear plant. But frequent electricity blackouts caused by power supply shortages have disrupted life for residents and business alike, leading to calls for changes. The country's finance ministry says the lack of reliable power is the top constraint on the economy, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year. South Africa hopes to have the first new plant running by 2023.

But some see funding problems on the horizon—along with continued power supply instability. An editorial in South Africa's The Times newspaper complained, “The government is unable—or unwilling—to specify exactly how it will be funded.… Neither is there a coherent explanation of how this country will make do with its stuttering electricity supply for the next decade or so until the first of the nuclear power stations comes on stream.”

Others fear that the awarding of large contracts could breed corruption.

“[T]he potential for corruption is there for all to see. The administration must ensure a competitive [bid] process,” Anne Frühauf, a southern Africa analyst at Teneo Intelligence, told Bloomberg in December. —Ben Schaefer


South Africa's only nuclear power station, in Koeberg

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