Nuclear energy important to fight climate change

Globally, nuclear energy is seen as critical in mitigating climate change, and South Africa has to start sharing these sentiments, according to Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Nobuhle Nkabane.

The deputy minister on Wednesday delivered an address at the Nuclear Technology Imbizo, held in Cape Town.

Nkabane raised concern over the “silence” on the role of nuclear energy in the country’s national climate debate, this as globally, nuclear energy is expected to play a key role in global decarbonisation.

Citing the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nkabane said several countries were relying on nuclear power to respond to climate change reach the emissions reduction targets of their Nationally Determined Contributions.

“… There are demonstrated cases where some countries of the world are already in compliance with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change because of increasing the capacity of nuclear in their energy mix,” said Nkabane.

“South Africa is well endowed with nuclear capability and should align with the global consensus to recognise that nuclear power will play a critical role in mitigating climate change,” she added.

The deputy minister also pointed out that nuclear power and infrastructure should also be part of the country’s Green Taxonomy - or be included among the activities classified as green.

Nkabane highlighted that South Africa’s Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) embraces an energy mix that includes nuclear, coal, gas, battery storage and renewable energy and hydropower. All these energy sources must be relied on to achieve energy security while also responding to climate change.

Nuclear energy can produce large amounts of clean electricity and would help address energy poverty - or the lack of access to energy, she explained.

The lifespan of Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant is being expanded by another 20 years. The plant provides 5% of clean, reliable electricity to the grid, said Nkabane. Additionally, South Africa plans to procure 2 500 MW of nuclear power by 2024.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe previously said that the IRP needs to be updated to accelerate the nuclear build programme, as well as increase generation from gas and renewables.

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