‘We are proceeding with it’: Government will defend nuclear power plan – Ramokgopa

Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa. Picture: GCIS

Energy and Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa says the Democratic Alliance (DA) has the right to challenge government’s plan to procure 2,500 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power.

Ramokgopa recently confirmed that efforts to secure funding for a new nuclear power plant, aimed at boosting South Africa’s electricity generation capacity, were “at an advanced stage”.

He noted that the plan still requires approval from the National Treasury and expressed hope that the department would approve it by August.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has already approved the nuclear build initiative.

Nuclear power framework

Addressing the media on Monday, Ramakgopa reiterated that plans for nuclear power were “nothing new”.

The minister had previously mentioned that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy was developing a framework for nuclear procurement.

He explained that this framework would include details on financing the nuclear project, acknowledging that “Eskom’s balance sheet is weak.”

Although the framework was initially expected to be completed by March or April this year, it has not yet been finalised.

“When we put a date out, we are going to keep to that date,” Ramokgopa told journalists.

Ramokgopa said the DA was welcome to challenge the matter.

“Well, they can go… it’s a matter before the courts. We will explain ourselves,” he said.

He stressed that existing policies cannot be changed regardless of the different parties in the government of national unity (GNU).

“The government of national unity is not a federation of parties. It’s a single executive led by President [Cyril] Ramaphosa. There are policy issues that the sixth administration has passed, those are going to be protected going into the future.”

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The minister also highlighted that the nuclear plan was consistence with the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) adopted in 2019.

“We are proceeding with it and the executive will defend, through the minister of energy and electricity, our position. Any player has got the right to go to court, we will clarify ourselves and the court will make that determination.”

The DA is challenging Nersa’s August 2023 decision to approve the nuclear plan before the Gauteng High Court, seeking to have the matter set aside.

The case has been set down for two days on 15 and 16 October, according to the party.

The respondents, which include Ramokgopa, have until 26 July to file their papers in opposition to the DA’s application.

The party lodged their challenge in March this year on grounds of “procedural irregularity and irrationality” pertaining to Nersa’s decision.

“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,” DA Member of Parliament Kevin Mileham said in a statement on Monday.

Mileham said the DA demands that 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”.


The Citizen / Molefe Seeletsa