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A “critical milestone” has been reached in South Africa’s plans to build new nuclear power stations, the government has said.

In a statement, the government on Wednesday said the stage was now set for the preparatory stage of the procurement process that would be undertaken in line with the country’s legislation and policies.

The announcement came at a time when the majority of South African households and businesses were experiencing emergency load shedding as a result of the poor maintenance of power utility Eskom’s stations and transmission lines.

By Crystal Oderson in Cape Town

The load shedding has left communities and civil society at large wondering if the government is capable of safely operating the planned 9600 megawatts of nuclear power, given the poor state of current energy infrastructure.

And not everyone received the announcement of the nuclear power venture with cheer.

Earthlife Africa in Johannesburg said the “timing such a huge announcement is but further evidence that the nuclear procurement programme is not transparent”.

Energy policy officer at Dominique Doyle, said the announcement followed the “secretive procurement agreements signed by Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and various nuclear vendor countries over the past few months”

Critics of the project said the nuclear expansion would be unaffordable and will cost the country upward of R1 trillion.
The South Africa presidency said there has been several “signing of intergovernmental framework agreements with the United States, South Korea, Russia, France, and China”.
“These agreements set out potential frameworks of co-operation that each country foresees where or how they can participate in South Africa’s new nuclear build programme,” the presidency said in the statement.

The government said a nuclear procurement programme would “entail a much needed injection into the South African economy, would provide thousands of well paid jobs and would solve the current electricity crisis”.

But Earthlife Africa’s Makoma Lekalakala, said one need only look at the Medupi Power Station in Limpopo Province to realise that large scale energy infrastructure projects will not be the solution to South Africa’s energy woes.

“Medupi has been plagued by problems since the start of construction,” claimed Lekalakala.

“Unit 6 was due to be synchronised by the 24th of December 2014, as the solution to energy problems, yet this will most likely be delayed.

“A nuclear build will cost much more for tax payers and will take much longer than constructing another coal-fired power station. Relying on nuclear to solve the energy crisis is a pipe dream”.

The presidency said government wanted to ensure energy security for the country through the nuclear new build programme as an integral part of the energy mix.

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