Ramaphosa calls for open mind on nuclear


"We are not being reckless when it comes to this."


South Africa should keep an open mind about nuclear energy as it seeks to diversify and secure its energy supply, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.


"We should think out of the box, because thinking is one of those things we should do on a continuous basis, and when we embark on programmes, it does not mean that a great deal of thought has not gone into them," he said while answering questions in the National Council of Provinces.


"We are not being reckless when it comes to this. We are going to have an energy mix and the energy mix is going to be such that we will rely on a variety of energy sources."


He said coal had been the cheapest for South Africa so far, but it had to respond to climate change and the country had safely generated and used nuclear energy for many years, albeit on a limited scale, at its Koeberg plant.


"We cannot now say: 'No, we must not think about nuclear, we must not think about hydro," he added, lapsing into Afrikaans in response to a question from the Democratic Alliance about the potential debt burden of building another nuclear plant.


Ramaphosa said government was not planning to saddle future generations with soaring debt servicing costs but to secure energy supply because a lack thereof would constrain economic growth.


"If we can resolve the energy problem or challenge in our country, we should be able to fuel our economic growth going up on an exponential basis. So yes, it is going to cost money, infrastructure projects don't come free.


"The key challenge is for us to find a balanced way of financing all these projects."


Ramaphosa chairs the National Planning Commission, which in its blueprint for development cautioned against resorting to nuclear energy because of the cost, but in June President Jacob Zuma signalled that government planned to pursue nuclear to expand the country's energy mix.