Peters said that due to a lack of access to electricity for most African people, who often fall ill due to energy supply solutions that harm their health, countries had to find ways to work together on the matter.
“One way of stopping this vicious cycle is through collaboration and sharing of solutions and experiences, which naturally leads to the next level of joint solutions in the form of regional projects. This can only result in a more developed and competitive Africa,” she said at the second Regional Conference on Energy and Nuclear Power in Africa in Cape Town.
The minister hoped that through deliberations at the conference, collaboration on nuclear energy on the continent can be formulated. There are several electricity generation projects for both coal fired power stations and hydro that are planned or are under construction on the continent.
Peters said where possible, these should be pursued through collaborative channels, which could ease the ability to raise funds and reduce the levels of financial assistance required from development finance organisations.
For South Africa, nuclear energy is not a quick fix solution but rather a long term method in addressing the energy crisis as well as climate change. Countries that are interested in embarking on a nuclear programme considering that it’s a long term commitment will require at least 100 years maintaining a sustainable and safe operation of nuclear power, decommissioning and waste disposal.
The country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – which addresses the electricity generation mix for the next 20 years – has 23 percent of the mix given to nuclear energy.
The minister noted that public confidence in the safety of nuclear power plants has been shaken by the Fakushima tragedy following the March 11 tsunami that rocked Japan.
She said it was important to ensure that communication with the public was not alarmist and that it was simple, accurate and accessible information.
“The public is the main shareholder of the nuclear programme in any country as they can make or break the program,” explained the minister.
She thanked Eskom for its operation in the safety of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant since it was commissioned.
“Koeberg is an important baseload station in terms of stabilising the grid. Without it, the electricity supply in the Western Cape would be erratic and suffer big losses due to the long transmission distances.”
Human capability in the nuclear industry has been lost due to people reaching retirement age, she said.
“Extensive collaborative efforts are required to bridge these gaps from education, training and knowledge management systems to maintenance and operation of current nuclear power reactors.”
She also encouraged the youth’s participation in nuclear programmes, and for skills to be transferred in order to sustain the industry.
“Skills development and training of the young nuclear artisans, operators, technicians, engineers, and scientists is key in this regard,” said Peters.