Gigaba: No money for nuclear programme for at least 5 years

He spoke at an event in Cape Town on Thursday morning following his inaugural MTBPS speech on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba at a briefing. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba says that South Africa won’t have the money for a major nuclear programme for at least the next five years.

He spoke at an event in Cape Town on Thursday morning following his inaugural MTBPS speech on Wednesday.

In it, he painted a bleak picture of the nation’s finances with little light at the end of the tunnel.

Gigaba spoke to journalists and business people in Cape Town this morning.

He was asked to explain his stance on the nuclear build programme amid seemingly mixed signals from his Cabinet colleague in the Energy portfolio, David Mahlobo.

Mahlobo has suggested that South Africa remains committed to expanding the country’s existing nuclear capacity.

In response, Gigaba insisted that ministers in government are on the same page.

“The economy can’t afford the nuclear at the present moment. We’ve got access to electricity, there are no intensive users that are taking up the generation capacity that we have.”

Gigaba says there’s less pressure on government to deliver more energy into the grid as Eskom has 5,700 megawatts of surplus electricity because our low growth environment has made for a slowdown in demand for power.

NUCLEAR NOT OFF THE AGENDA

In his speech on Wednesday, Gigaba quoted President Jacob Zuma, who told Parliament in May that the nuclear build programme would proceed at a pace and scale the country can afford.

In his pre-speech briefing, Gigaba gave more details: “It is not off the agenda, the country at the present moment can’t afford nuclear and the budget also can’t. We have 5,700MW of electricity surplus. That’s bigger than our biggest power station, Medupi, which is the fourth-largest power station in the world and which when fully commissioned will produce 4,800MW.”

Gigaba says the Department of Energy is reviewing the integrated resource plan and nuclear is expected to be part of the proposed energy mix.

But he says a decision will only be taken once the economy has recovered and the country’s energy needs dictate a need for nuclear.

Additional reporting by Gaye Davis.