ENERGY Minister Dipuo Peters on Tuesday sang the praises of nuclear energy‚ saying it offered tremendous benefits for South Africa as it would "leapfrog” the country into the knowledge economy and lead to massive industrial development.
In her budget speech delivered in Parliament‚ Ms Peters said the government’s nuclear power programme would be a cost-effective way of lowering South Africa’s carbon emissions as part of a broader energy mix.
The minister also said South Africa had set a global example by allowing a team of international experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess its nuclear infrastructure.
"So far‚ we are the first country with an operational nuclear power plant and reactors to voluntarily conduct such a readiness assessment‚” she said.
The government’s nuclear build programme aims to construct three power stations with two generators each to produce a total of 9‚600MW of electricity between 2023 and 2030.
The programme is overseen by the National Nuclear Energy Executive Co-ordination Committee‚ headed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Ms Peters said her department would continue preparing for the roll-out of the nuclear programme‚ including reaching a final investment decision on procurement for the power plants. She did not‚ however‚ give a time line.
Other government-owned nuclear entities that report to Ms Peters — including the National Nuclear Regulator and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation — would also be involved in the nuclear programme‚ she said.
The minister also said the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute would start operating during the 2013-14 financial year.
Turning to state-owned oil company PetroSA‚ Ms Peters said she took recent allegations of corruption seriously and had instructed Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele‚ chairwoman of the Central Energy Fund (CEF)‚ PetroSA’s shareholder‚ to investigate.
PetroSA chairman Benny Mokaba resigned in April after a report listed alleged corporate governance failures relating to the proposed takeover of Engen petrol stations in a deal valued between R11bn and R18bn.
The deal aimed to return Engen petrol stations to local hands after their sale to Malaysian oil major Petronas‚ which had bought 30% of Engen in 1996 and the remaining 70% two years later for a total of $946m.
There was concern that deal advisory group Harith General Partners had been due to receive an excessive "success fee” amounting to R187m on closing the deal.
Ms Peters told a media briefing on Tuesday ahead of delivering her budget speech that the issues raised had been separated. The police’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation would probe alleged criminal behaviour while her department and the CEF would look into improving corporate governance at PetroSA.
"We are looking at closing up all corporate governance loops (gaps)‚” she said‚
However‚ Ms Peters indicated that the scandal would not alter the government’s overall ambitions for PetroSA. "A national oil company is in the national interest and this government has big plans for it‚” she said.
Ms Peters also said the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) — the government’s blueprint for rebuilding South Africa’s electricity supply over the next 20 years — would be completed once the overall Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) had been compiled.
"We are having robust and public discussions on the IEP that will inform any revision of the IRP‚” she said.
Department of Energy director-general Nelisiwe Magubane said South Africa’s electricity supply had to be increased to enable the country to achieve a minimum economic growth rate that would make significant inroads into addressing unemployment.
"To achieve that growth rate‚ we need annual electricity (supply) growth of between 3% and 4%‚” she said. © BDlive 2013