Johannesburg - South Africa this year expects the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out an external assessment of its nuclear infrastructure and capacity to build new plants.
The country’s Department of Energy will this year lay the legislative foundations for the planned construction of nuclear power stations that are expected to cost more than R300 billion.
Department officials told Parliament’s energy portfolio committee this week that approval would also be sought from the IAEA for the specifications of nuclear procurement once these had been decided upon by the nuclear energy executive co-ordination committee and by the cabinet.
Deputy director-general in the department, Ompi Aphane, said the government planned to follow the standards set down by the IAEA for the construction of nuclear plants, the cost of which is as yet unknown.
In terms of the 20-year energy plan adopted by the government, 23 percent of the country’s future energy will come from nuclear power.
Aphane said feasibility studies for the infrastructure for the beneficiation of uranium for the nuclear fuel cycle would be conducted with the aim to localise as much of such activities as possible.
Pre-feasibility studies have already been completed.
An international review of this infrastructure for uranium beneficiation is also planned.
Aphane said in terms of the government’s proposals, the operators in the nuclear industry would ultimately have to pay a levy to the proposed National Radio-Active Waste Disposal Institute.
To facilitate this, a Money Bill will be drafted by the Treasury and a transitional structure for the institute implemented.
The institute will construct new facilities to deal with high-grade nuclear waste, as the current facility at Vaalputs is not equipped for this.
In terms of the department’s legislative plans, the Nuclear Regulator Act will be amended to incorporate the nuclear plant-building programme.
Another key initiative, Aphane told MPs, was to “elevate community awareness” about the benefits of nuclear energy.
Most of the debate in the past has concentrated on the risks without much mention of the pros of nuclear energy. The department, through its community awareness campaign, plans to emphasise other beneficial applications such as in health.