Power utility Eskom says it wants to use lessons learnt from the construction of its two mega power stations, Medupi and Kusile, to drive the country’s nuclear build programme.

Speaking at the African Utility Week Conference in Cape Town on Thursday Eskom’s senior manager for nuclear build Loyiso Tyabashe said that while there is no presumption that the country’s nuclear build programme is going ahead the utility would like to put its best foot forward in the eventuality that it does.

In Parliament on Wednesday Minister of energy Jeff Radebe said nuclear energy remained a part of South Africa’s energy mix but the extent to which government invests in energy will be determined through policy, Business Day reported.

Adhering to policy

Tyabashe echoed this sentiment in his presentation reminding delegates that the utility was currently operating under the Integrated Resource Plan of 2010.

“When the [new] IRP comes out in August and if it says no nuclear until 2050, then we have no business and have to close shop and move on to the next technology,” he explained. He added that Eskom always follows policy and the department of energy drives policy.

“As I stand here, I am driven by the existing policy. The IRP – the version of 2010 has nuclear in it,” he said. “Until it is not there anymore, it will be dereliction of our jobs as South Africans and owner operators to not do front end planning.”

Lessons learned

Turning to the lessons learnt from Medupi and Kusile Tyabashe said the utility did well with the socio-economic development aspect of it. “Look at Lephalale (near the Medupi power station) where the average household income has improved.”

He also referred to lessons about contractors. “South Africans are skilled, and we need to make sure we manage the skills that we have in the country and make sure we include them in the build programme and train them accordingly. We cannot have any over reliance on overseas skills.”

Other issues the utility need to focus on according to Tyabashe include avoiding and managing labour instability at the sites and addressing technical issues regarding permits and authorisations needed for building a nuclear plant.