South African regulator not planning to decide on nuclear procurement on Wednesday

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s energy regulator said it would not take a decision on Wednesday on whether to support a government proposal to procure 2,500 megawatts (MW) of additional nuclear capacity, after confusion over the agenda for a meeting of one of its sub-committees.

The agenda, posted on Nersa’s Twitter account on Monday, appeared to show such a decision could be taken at a meeting of the electricity sub-committee on Wednesday.

But Nersa said the sub-committee would only be asked to approve a public consultation process for the proposed nuclear procurement, not whether the procurement itself should go ahead.

“Nersa must follow due regulatory processes which include public participation before making a decision to concur,” Nersa said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.

The regulator said it had received a draft proposal on the new nuclear procurement from the energy minister in August.

Africa’s most industrialised economy regularly experiences electricity outages because of faults at state utility Eskom’s coal-fired power station fleet.

But civil society groups and economists are opposed to the procurement of more nuclear, seeing it as a costly option at a time public finances are hugely stretched.

Three years ago, activists blocked a massive 9,600 MW nuclear expansion project under former President Jacob Zuma that some believed was a conduit for corruption. Zuma denied the project was corrupt.

But this year, the energy ministry said it wanted to develop a plan for a smaller-scale procurement.

It then solicited information from nuclear vendors including how much such a procurement could cost.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; editing by David Evans