South Africa Nuclear

Bradley Knox
March 8, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Koeberg Nuclear Power Station. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

South Africa's first commercial nuclear power reactor opened in 1984, and is the only country in Africa that has a commercial nuclear power plant. Currently 5% of the country's electricity is produced by its two reactors in Johannesburg and Koeburg (Fig 1). In 2010, the entire country of South Africa produced 252 TWh, 14 TWh of which came from the nuclear power plants, and 232 TWh from coal, which still serves as their most common form of energy production.

Potential For Future Plans

South Africa has laid out plans for energy production through the year 2030, which involves decreasing reliance on coal all the way down from about 90% to 48%, and increasing nuclear generation from 5% to about 13% of the country's total production by constructing 6 more nuclear power plants. [1] The movement for the construction of more nuclear power plants has not been met without resistance, as the cost of construction is projected in some estimates to be as much as $100 billion. With current projects going over budget and behind schedule, critics are beginning to question what the plan might cost the country, with only a minor increase in energy production. [2] Besides nuclear and coal-powered energy, the remaining energy demands are expected to be produced by hydro and other renewable energy options such as wind turbines.

Different Types of Nuclear

Besides nuclear energy, South Africa has explored nuclear power in multiple different fields, including nuclear medicine, and formerly nuclear weaponry. After World War II, South Africa pursued the creation of weapons of mass destruction, and under the Apartheid regime they were able to construct 6 different nuclear weapons. [3] However, prior to the transfer of power from the Apartheid regime to the democratically elected government headed by Nelson Mandela, Apartheid leaders had all of the nuclear weapons dismantled, making South Africa the first country to voluntarily give up nuclear capabilities.


Regardless of whether or not South Africa's plan for energy sustainability is economically viable, it has proven itself as a country committed to self-sustainability and new-age technology. It remains the only country in Africa that has a functional nuclear power plant, and one of only 30 countries in the entire world that has this technology. Ultimately, South Africa is on the right track towards developing a stable system of renewable and clean energy production..

© Bradley Knox. 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] H. Winkler, "Why South Africa Should Not Build Eight New Nuclear Power Stations," Johannesburg Mail and Guardian, 5 Nov 15

[2] N. Onishi, "Windmills or Reactor Cores? Inside South Africa's Energy Clash," New York Times, 13 Nov 16.

[3] F. W. de Klerk, "South Africa, the Nation That Gave up Its Nukes," Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec 13.