Nuclear Energy in South Africa

Peter Kalambayi
March 13, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


South Africa is the only country in Africa with a commercial Nuclear Power Plant. [1] Located in Koeberg, a town about 18 miles north of Cape Town, lies 2 uranium pressurized water reactors. The plant is the primary electricity source for the Western Cape of the country and is run by Eskom, the country's sole electricity provider. While much of the nation's energy is coal-based, most coal is produced in the northeast sector of the country making it costly and inefficient to transport coal to the far west for use. In the mid 1970's it was agreed upon by officials and Eksom that nuclear power was a good solution to this problem. The plant, constructed by French company Framatome, became fully operational in 1985. The reactors are designed to withstand a 7.0 magnitude earthquake and have an annual production of 13,668 Gigawatt-hours (GWh).


Due to the plants effectiveness there has been much talk of expanding the plant and potentially even building another. [2] In November 2011 the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee (NNEECC) was established as the authority for decision-making, monitoring, and general oversight of the nuclear energy expansion program. There are already 3 cities, all in the western half of the country, which have been decided upon for the new reactor or reactors. Various countries and companies have expressed interest in investing in South Africa's Nuclear Energy Program. [3] The president's annual state-of-the-nation address in February 2015 affirmed that bids would be sought from USA, China, France, Russia and South Korea. The target is to have a new 9.6 GWe unit on line by 2023.

Public Opinion

The expansion process faces a lot of scrutiny regarding issues of safety. Specifically, the Fukushima Daiisha Nuclear disaster of 2011 has hampered public relations within the nuclear industry in recent years. Prompted by an Earthquake and tsunami the Fukushima plant suffered 3 reactor failures, dispersion of coolant into the ocean, and a plethora of radioactive material being released into the pacific. [4] Japan's drinking water was contaminated and there is still radioactive material in the Pacific today. The industry is vying to show the public that new technologies are in place to prevent such disasters, but there will inevitably be pushback from environmental groups when dealing with such a volatile energy source. There have been protests and campaigns in defiance of the country utilizing nuclear energy but it appears to be a question of when rather than if South Africa will build a new reactor. [2]

© Peter Kalambayi. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] P. Govender, "Risk-Informed Emergency Planning Requirements for Koeberg Nuclear Power Station," International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management 8, 80 (2008).

[2] J. Machaaria, Russia, China Front Runners in South Africa's Nuclear Project-Source," Reuters, 12 Feb 16.

[3] J. Zuma, Jacob Zuma's Full State of the Nation Address," Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), 11 Feb 16.

[4] D. Demetriou, "Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: 2011 Review," The Telegraph, 19 Dec 11.