South Africa

Map of South Africa

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Electricity generation in South Africa


Nuclear power

South Africa has two nuclear reactors generating 5% of its electricity.

  • Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1984.
  • Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy is strong, but financial constraints apply.
  • Budget funding for the construction of a demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor has been available since 2004.


South Africa´s nuclear fuel industry dates back to 1945, when Britain asked South Africa to investigate uranium deposits with a view to supplying uranium to British and American atomic bomb projects. By 1965, the first atomic energy research reactor on the African continent had been commissioned at Pelindaba.

Electriciy generation/Electricity demand

South Africa has only small deposits of oil and natural gas and relies on coal production for most of its energy needs. The country has a highly developed synthetic fuels industry, mainly derived from coal.
Due to its large coal deposits, South Africa is one of the cheapest electricity suppliers in the world. Although the cost of electricity in South Africa is among the worlds lowest, strong economic growth, rapid industrialization and a mass electrification program led to demand for power outstripping supply in early 2008.

Developments in the nuclear sector

2010, July: Reator pressure vessel for PBMR on its way to South Africa

Although the PBMR in South Africa won't be completed and no money is left its reactor pressure vessel will be delivered.

Information from Horst Blume, Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Hamm in German is available under:

2009, Aug: Africa declared nuclear weaponsfree zone

"The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said on Wednesday that 13 years after it opened for signature, the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty had finally come into force.

This follows ratification of the treaty by Burundi last month, the ISS said.

"The treaty, which covers the entire African continent as well as its surrounding islands, ensures that nuclear weapons are not developed, produced, tested, or otherwise acquired or stationed in any of the countries on the continent."

For the treaty to come into effect, a total of 28 or more countries - of the 53 who have signed the document - had to ratify it. Burundi was the 28th, the ISS said.

Among other things, the treaty supports the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes.

It will also prevent any foreign naval ship or vessel carrying nuclear weapons entering an African port."


2009, April: No THTR in South Africa

The plans to construct the Thorium High Temperature Reactor (THTR) - also called Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) - which was planned to be built in Koeberg (near Capetown) have been cancelled although the factory for the fuel elements in Pelindaba has already produced the fuel for the new reactor. The PBMR-association in South Africa wants to realize a similar project including the use of process heat in the USA (Idaho) instead.
After 2010 no more money will be invested in the PBMR-project, at this point of time 980 million US-dollar will have been invested into the project.

2009: Cancellation of nuclear expansion programme

Eskom has decided not to proceed with the first stage of its ambitious nuclear programme due to "the magnitude of the investment." The South African utility approved a plan to boost output to 80 GWe by 2025, including construction of 20 GWe of new nuclear capacity, early in 2007. Dubbed "Nuclear One, " the first part of the plan called for the construction of a 3000 - 3500 MWe PWR plant to be sited in the Western Cape region, most likely at Koeberg, the site of the country's existing nuclear power plant. Work was lated to begin on the new plant around 2010, aiming for a start up around 2016, and two designs, Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP 1000 - were shortlisted.
(source: nuclear engineering international January 2009)

2008: Nationwide power outages, new policy as a consequence

In mid-January 2008, nationwide power outages occurred and lasted approximately four weeks. The economic costs of the outages are estimated to range from $253 million to $282 million with approximately half representing mining losses.
In January 2008, the Department of Minerals and Energy and Eskom released a new policy document, “National response to South Africa’s electricity shortage”. The plan includes work on the country’s electricity distribution structure and the fast-tracking of electricity projects by independent power producers. It also involves electricity co-generation projects between Eskom and private industry, where the heat generated as a by-product of industrial processes in sectors such as chemicals is captured to produce power that can be used by the industries themselves, or bought by Eskom for the national grid. At the same time, the new plan outlines the importance of reducing demand by pricing electricity correctly as well as promoting energy efficiency and deterring energy inefficiency. Eskom aims to reduce demand by about 3,000 MW by 2012 and a further 5,000 MW by 2025 through an aggressive campaign which will includes promoting the use of solar-powered geysers as well as liquid petroleum gas for cooking.

2007: Plan to boost nuclear: 5% to 25%

Early in 2007 the Eskom board approved a plan to boost output to 80 GWe by 2025, including construction of 20 GWe of new nuclear capacity so that nuclear contribution to power would rise from 5% to more than 25% and coal's contribution would fall from 87% now to below 70%.  The new program would start with up to 4 GWe of PWR capacity to be built from about 2010, with the first unit commissioned in 2016. The environmental assessment process is under way, considering five sites, and selection of technology was to follow in 2008.  Areva's EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 were short-listed.

Construction of high-temperature NPPs underway

The building of the first of a new generation of high-temperature helium gas-cooled nuclear reactors is also underway. The project could go a long way in helping to solve South Africa’s current power problem by 2013. The project entails the building of a demonstration reactor at Koeberg and a pilot fuel plant at Pelindaba near Pretoria.
The demonstration reactor design is complete, and construction is due to start in 2009, with the first fuel to be loaded four years later. If successful, another 10 plants could be built.
The South African project will become the first commercial-scale high-temperature reactor in the world. It is supported by the government, Eskom, the Industrial Development Corporation, and U.S. companies Westinghouse and Exelon.
The public participation process starts right now in January 2001 with meetings to support the public.

2002: Feasibility study for demonstration plant

The economic feasibility study for the nuclear Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) demonstration plant to be built at Koeberg on the west coast was released, with less than nine days to go before the time expires for public comment on the environmental impact assessment of the project. There has been great confusion about the release of the feasibility study, which was completed in December. Environmental lobbyists were complaining that it was impossible to comment on the impact assessment when the government had not released details of the study on the feasibility of the project.

Sites With Nuclear Facilities

siteplantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
KoebergKoeberg-1PWR 90019761984
Koeberg-2PWR 90019761985