Assessing the role of nuclear in South Africa’s energy strategy

Over the last three decades, nuclear power has faced various challenges toward worldwide implementation. The Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters in the 1970s, 80s and 2010s, respectively, have setback the rollout of further plants around the world, from China to the US. At present, South Africa is the only African country to make use of nuclear power as part of its energy mix. The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in the Western Cape province provides close to 1,900 MW of power to the central grid, accounting for 5% of total power generation in the country, and 95% of energy generation in the Western Cape.

The South African government has, however, made strides toward increasing the share that nuclear power plays in the country’s electricity generation and has set bold targets of adding an additional 9,6 GW of nuclear energy in the next 15 years. The costs of this additional power have been a big challenge, indicates IOA consultant and professor of political science at UNISA, Jo-Ansie van Wyk. “Typically, a nuclear energy expansion plan such as this requires a long-term relationship and not just a once-off delivery once the power station is operational. A third factor is the preferences of the South African population. Civil society has opposed the nuclear expansion plans and government has seen that civil society will question every decision,” she says.


Jo-Ansie van Wyk is a Professor at UNISA’s Department of Political Science and has been a member of the In On Africa (IOA) team since 2008. Her publications and research experience focus on political leadership in Africa, nuclear diplomacy and energy, environmental politics, and international security.


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