9,600 megawatts to be added to national grid

The nuclear power capacity will help Eskom keep the lights on.

FILE: Electricity pylons in Johannesburg. Picture: EPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Government is planning to add 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power capacity to the national grid, equal to nearly a quarter of the current capacity.

The Presidency says government will now launch a procurement process to build the new plants.

It says presentations of what other countries can offer South Africa in terms of nuclear technology have been concluded.

Eskom has been scrambling to keep the lights on, with demand for electricity threatening to outstrip supply.

The utility has been battling with limited generating capacity, problems at its power stations and a shortage of diesel supplies.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj says, "The nuclear new build programme will create massive infrastructure development, thus stimulating the economy and enabling the country to create thousands of high quality jobs."

Maharaj says government will now design and launch a procurement process.

"Government remains committed to ensuring energy security for the country through the roll-out of new nuclear-built programmes as an integral part of the energy mix."

Eskom yesterday said all four generators which stopped working on Tuesday were fixed.

The parastatal however said the risk for load shedding remained high.

While Eskom remains confident the lights will stay on over Christmas, the latest threat of load shedding increases the risk of blackouts on 25 December.

Eskom Chief Executive Officer Tshediso Matona previously warned that rolling blackouts will be a reality for the next few months as the parastatal tries to stabilise the power system.

But on Monday, Eskom said South Africans can expect "a load shedding free" festive season.

At the same time, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed to help turnaround Eskom, South African Airways and the South African Post Office.

Eskom's inability to meet demand in December, when electricity usage usually dips, underscores the precarious state of South Africa's power supply due to years of underfunding.

The utility, which supplies virtually all of South Africa's power, said last month the government's promised R20 billion cash injection wouldn't be enough to ease funding constraints and help it avoid a credit downgrade.