MORE than 10 000 direct jobs could be created during the construction phase alone, should South Africa steam ahead with its nuclear energy programme.
South Africa’s nuclear build programme gained momentum on Tuesday, with the national nuclear regulator announcing that power utility Eskom has applied for a licences to build nuclear reactors, on the west coast near Cape Town and near Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape.
Eskom wants to build an additional 9 600MW of nuclear energy by 2030. Observers now say the nuclear build programme is likely to boost the economy and create more jobs for Africa’s most industrialised economy.
Rosatom’s Irina Manina told the Nuclear Africa conference in Centurion yesterday that preliminary estimates showed that about 10 200 engineeringrelated jobs could be created during the construction phase alone.
She said post the construction phase, the 9 600MW nuclear power plants could absorb as much as 5 760 direct jobs. Nuclear requires 500 skilled workers per 1 000MW, whereas coal requires 220, wind 90 and natural gas only 60 per 1 000MW of installed capacity.
Manina says Russia is confident of winning a planned bid to build a fleet of nuclear power plants in South Africa given its technology and cost advantage due to the weak rouble and oil price.
Manina said initial estimates also revealed that nuclear energy could see South Africa add R3.6 trillion to its gross domestic product, R61bn in taxes during construction and R787bn in tax revenue during power plant operations.
Independent energy expert Andrew Kenny said nuclear was a safer, cleaner and more environmentally friendly source of electricity for generating grid electricity than both wind and solar energy.
“It takes a very small amount of nuclear material to produce a very large amount of electricity,” he said. “So if you wish to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear remains the best alternative.” Eskom’s managing director for nuclear engineering, Dave Nicholls, said nuclear could provide opportunities for socio-economic growth and development, and was an environmentally friendly option.
He said studies showed that nuclear could offer the lowest cost of electricity to the country, with significant industrial growth potential. Nikolay Drozdov, head of international business at Rosatom, said the cost of building nuclear plants in South Africa would be much lower than the estimated cost of R1 trillion. -Vusumuzi Shabangu