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14. February 2013

Statement by H.E. Mr Xolisa Mabhongo, Ambassador/Resident Representative/Governor to the IAEA on the occasion of the Infrastructure Workshop, Vienna


I am very pleased to share my country’s views on nuclear power, in particular South Africa’s nuclear build programme.

On 17 March 2011, a few days after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, the South African Cabinet approved the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010-30 as the basis for South Africa’s power generation programme for the next 20 years. After an extensive review of many factors including safety, South Africa considers nuclear energy as a viable option for power generation.

At a meeting of energy stakeholders in South Africa, “The Energy Indaba”, held last year, South Africa’s Minister of Energy, Ms Dipuo Peters outlined the first steps of implementation of the IRP and addressed South Africa’s decision to include nuclear power in its energy mix and I quote:

“After COP 17, it is useful to reflect on the questions we identified as being critical for South Africa’s energy future: improved energy efficiency, the diversification of our  energy mix towards a low carbon economy, finalization of the nuclear power option, carbon capture and storage, and universal access”...“For us as South Africa, we cannot overemphasise the need to accelerate the amelioration of the suffering of rural women and youth from the clutches of unemployment and energy poverty.” …(Unquote)

Introducing additional nuclear power generation capacity to South Africa’s base-load is driven by the need to diversify the electricity generation away from its almost exclusive reliance on coal, reduce the country’s carbon footprint, stabilize the grid and minimize the risks associated with limited water availability.

The IRP 2010-30 will provide nuclear energy to the extent of 9600MW by 2030, taking our total nuclear energy output to 11.4Gwe. The plan anticipates that by 2030 the country’s nuclear power will contribute 23% of the energy mix.

It is well known in this forum that the Agency developed the “Milestones in the development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power” designed to support and provide guidance to newcomer countries and countries planning to expand their nuclear programmes. In advancing South Africa’s nuclear build programme my Government is implementing the Milestones approach to ensure best practices in all aspects related to the construction of new power plants, including all requirements to ensure the safe, responsible and sustainable use of nuclear technology is developed and implemented.

As part of our preparations for the nuclear build programme, South Africa conducted an IAEA based Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) from 30 January to 8 February 2013. The IAEA team of experts visited South Africa to assess our readiness for the nuclear programme. I am pleased to report that Director General Amano visited South Africa last week and it was opportune that he could attend the wrap-up and closing ceremonies of the INIR.  The Director General has shared publically his appreciation for South Africa’s decision “to ensure a robust framework for expansion of its nuclear power programme."

South Africa is the first country with an operating nuclear reactor to conduct an INIR Mission. My Government’s decision to conduct an INIR Mission was based on the fact that since our last construction, 30 years ago, there have been considerable advances in the construction of nuclear power plants.  Furthermore taking into account the lessons learned on how to optimise safety throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, we hope to learn from the challenges experienced recently by other nuclear players, in line with the IAEA’s Milestone approach. From our experience thus far, we would like to encourage all other Member States to consider carrying out such a review.

Following a thorough review of all areas of South Africa's nuclear infrastructure, the IAEA Team made recommendations and suggestions which go a long way to improving our nuclear infrastructure.  The final report is expected to be released in a month’s time. The Director General’s visit and the INIR Mission heightened public expectation for the outcomes of the report.


On the organisational level, the South African Government established the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee, comprising of all nuclear programme stakeholder Ministers and headed by the Deputy President. This Committee in its deliberations will look into matters such as:

  • The procurement agency;
  • Funding mechanisms;
  • Owner/operator;
  • Skills development;
  • Localisation and industrialisation.

This Committee is supported by the Nuclear Energy Technical Committee (NETC), at a Director General level. All the studies and groundwork to ensure a strategic and implementable programme is carried out by the Nuclear Energy Working Group (NEWG), which is an official based platform, and directly interfaces at an operational level.

Given the global financial crisis the financing of economic infrastructure has become challenging and South Africa is looking at creative ways to ensure that sufficient financial resources will be available throughout the construction process.  In this regard the South African Electricity Supply Commission (ESKOM), a state power utility, has been named as the owner and operator of the six proposed nuclear power stations. 

From a skills development perspective it will be important to address skills shortages, acquisition and retention of the relevant skills in appropriate numbers and also to determine the type and quantity required to support the entire nuclear programme. 

South Africa has extensive experience in large-scale construction projects, some of which are currently in progress, such as the Kusile and Medupi projects – the largest dry-cooled coal fired power stations in the world once completed. Any localisation drive will be rooted in this existing capacity and experience in large scale projects. Although South Africa has the basic construction capabilities and many of the manufacturing capabilities, it does not hold international nuclear quality certification on a widespread basis yet. South Africa  does not currently have the technology or expertise to manufacture heavy components such as turbines and pressure vessels. The impetus will be to enter into international partnerships to acquire the expertise essential for  the nuclear build.


My Government conducted environmental impact assessments (EIA) in three potential sites for nuclear power plants. It is anticipated that a Final Environmental Impact report will be completed during the course of this year and submitted to the Government for evaluation and a decision on an environmental authorization.

South Africa continues to review and improve its regulatory framework to include the safety standards relevant to the siting of nuclear installations, severe accident management, including multiple hazards and emergency preparedness and response.  These critical safety elements will be incorporated and/or strengthened in the process of amending the primary legislation governing the nuclear sector.

The active participation of our independent National Nuclear Regulator  (NNR) in the Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) has ensured that the comprehensive support required to strengthen the regulatory requirements and capacity as well as the associated regulatory infrastructure developments is achieved through the provision of the advisory services and the essential IAEA Peer Review expert missions.  South Africa has continued to play a critical role in the activities of the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA) and participates actively in the various technical working groups established.


South Africa is a Contracting Party to a number of Nuclear related Conventions deposited with the IAEA, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) and the Joint Convention. South Africa regards these nuclear related conventions as important mechanisms for State Parties to benefit from lessons learnt and to share information both of which are critical in assisting Member States decision-making process.   In this regard South Africa encourages newcomer countries to become states parties to these conventions as they stand to benefit from the peer review process.



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