Before South Africa sees the construction of another nuclear power station, there are many milestones that must be achieved, State-owned power utility Eskom tells Engineering News.
“The decision on whether South Africa will build more nuclear power stations will be informed by the Integrated Resource Plan 2010 (IRP2010), which is currently under development by government. In January, government published an interim IRP, which only included planning up to 2013. The IRP2010 is expected to cover 20 to 25 years of strategic planning,” Eskom explains.
The utility says that the IRP2010 will provide the roadmap for the construction of new power stations. The plan will include operation dates, the type of electricity generation technology that should be used, such as coal, nuclear, hydro, wind or solar, and the entity (Eskom, independent power producers or other government agencies) which will be expected to build/operate the new power stations.
The Department of Energy (DoE) stake- holder information pack from the DoE IRP2010 website states that the department is responsible for the development of the IRP as described in the Electricity Regulation Act No 4 of 2006, Regulations: New Generation Capacity, which was published on August 5, 2009.
The plan is a mechanism to determine the electrical energy requirements for South Africa and enables key electricity systems, sustainability and government policy requirements to be met. It will also indicate the deadline for the provision of the country’s capacity needs to meet the electrical requirements and ascertain the appropriate combination of technology required to satisfy these needs in line with the policy aims.
“The electricity regulations for new- generation capacity state that the process for developing the IRP will include adopting the planning assumptions, determining the electricity load forecast, modelling and scenario planning based on the planning assumptions, determining the base plan derived from a least-cost generation investment requirement, and determining the risk adjustment of the base plan, which will be based on the most probable scenarios and government policy aims for a diverse electricity generation mix, including renewable and alternative energies, demand-side management and energy efficiency. The integrated resource plan will also require approval and gazetting,” says the information pack.
A draft of the IRP2010 was expected to be published in September for comment, with a final version being promulgated before the end of 2010. However, on September 7, the DoE issued a media statement explaining that the publication of the IRP2010 had been delayed by a few weeks.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said: “We made a presentation with regard to the IRP2010 to the inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Energy on August 31. In this regard, the IMC requested the department to undertake further work on the IRP before the IMC finalises it.”
This meant that the department was unable to go ahead with the public participation process that was scheduled to start on September 1.
“The Department is committed to stakeholder engagement and public participation with regard to the IRP2010. This is a seminal electricity plan that is expected to outline the country’s electricity landscape for the next two decades. Public participation is crucial if we are to develop a plan that will stand up to scrutiny. It also has to be understood that we have to thoroughly engage with this plan so that whatever emerges from it will represent the widest range of views across both government and civil society,” Peters concluded.
Eskom says: “Although the IRP2010 will determine whether further nuclear power stations should be built, it is only one of numerous decision-making instruments regarding nuclear power and other forms of electricity generation. Another decision- making instrument is the environmental- impact assessment (EIA) process. The EIA process has long lead times and is usually initiated in the planning phases for any activity that is listed in the EIA regulations.”
The utility appointed environmental- assessment practitioner Arcus Gibb at the end of 2006 to undertake EIAs in the areas where new nuclear power stations might be built.
The scoping phase of the EIA process was completed and accepted by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in November 2008. The DEA approved the plan of study for the detailed impact assessment phase of the EIA process, which confirmed the selection of three sites at Thyspunt, in the Eastern Cape, and Bantamsklip and Duynefontein, in the Western Cape, for the detailed assessment.
A draft environmental impact report (EIR) was published for comment in March 2010. The draft integrates the results and recommends mitigation actions of all the respective specialist studies and makes an overall recommendation regarding the proposed activity. Specifically, the draft EIR recommends Thyspunt as the preferred site.
The draft EIR is currently being updated, taking into account comments received from interested and affected parties. A revised draft EIR will be made available for public review and comment in late October. These comments will be taken into account in finalising the document and a final EIR will be submitted to the DEA for evaluation and a decision on environmental authorisation.
The steps that are required to be implemented prior to the construction of a new nuclear power station in South Africa include obtaining environmental authorisation, negotiations with the suppliers of pressurised water reactors, and the submission of a safety report to the National Nuclear Regulator for evaluation, approval and issuing of a nuclear installation licence once the supplier and the specific design have been negotiated. A generating licence also has to be obtained from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, which takes into account the cost of electricity from the station and the projected impact on the price of electricity.