(Updated 2018)


This report provides information on the status and development of nuclear power programmes in South Africa, including factors related to the effective planning, decision making and implementation of the nuclear power programme that together lead to safe and economical operations of nuclear power plants.

The CNPP summarizes organizational and industrial aspects of nuclear power programmes and provides information about the relevant legislative, regulatory and international framework in South Africa.

South Africa maintains two pressurized water reactors (PWRs) commissioned in 1984 and 1985, respectively, which produced 6.75% of South Africa’s electricity in 2017. It is the only commercial nuclear power station in Africa.



1.1.1 Energy policy

The republic of South Africa has large coal deposits, small hydro potential and very small deposits of gas (exploration for natural gas off the South African west coast is underway — indications of the presence of natural gas have not yet been quantified). South Africa also has large uranium deposits associated with its gold bearing ores. In addition, the country is endowed with renewable energy resources from solar and wind in coastal and mountainous areas, as well as huge opportunities for energy efficiency. Hence, South Africa’s indigenous energy resource base to date is still dominated by coal.

The energy sector is mainly guided by the following policies:

The White Paper on Energy Policy: Promulgated in 1998, this white paper gives an overview of the South African energy sector’s contribution to GDP, employment, taxes and the balance of payments. It concludes that the sector can greatly contribute to a successful and sustainable national growth and development strategy. The Energy Policy contains five (5) key policy objectives, which form the foundation for South Africa’s energy policy: (i) increasing access to affordable energy services, (ii) improving energy governance, (iii) stimulating economic development, (iv) managing energy related environmental and health impacts and (v) securing supply through diversity.

The White Paper on the Renewable Energy Policy: Promulgated in 2003, this white paper outlines a long term vision of a sustainable, completely nonsubsidized alternative to fossil fuels. The initial aim of 10 000 GWh of renewable energy contribution was to be achieved over ten years, mainly from biomass, wind, solar and small scale hydro.

The Nuclear Energy Policy: Promulgated in 2008, this policy outlines the South African government’s vision for the development of an extensive nuclear energy programme by ensuring that the Government’s objective on the prospecting and mining of uranium ore and the use of uranium (or other relevant nuclear materials) as a primary resource of energy must be regulated and managed in a manner that will be for peaceful purposes.

The National Development Plan: Published in November 2012, this plan outlines the 2030 vision for South Africa’s energy sector. In this plan, the energy sector will promote: i) economic growth and development through adequate investment in energy infrastructure and the provision of quality energy services that are competitively priced, reliable and efficient; local production of energy technologies will support job creation; ii) social equity through expanded access to energy services, with affordable tariffs and well targeted and sustainable subsidies for needy households; and iii) environmental sustainability through efforts to reduce pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Integrated Resource Plan 2010–2030: Published in 2011, this plan provides a long term plan for electricity generation, covering a time span running from 2010 to 2030. It calls for doubling of electricity capacity, using a diverse mixture of energy sources, mainly coal, gas, nuclear and renewables, including large scale hydro, to be imported from the southern African region. Implementation of the IRP 2010–2030 is carried out through ministerial determinations, which are regulated by electricity regulations on new generation capacity. These are released periodically. Once released, the ministerial determinations signify the start of a procurement process and, most importantly, provide a greater level of certainty to investors.

Energy Efficiency

In 2005, the Government published a National Energy Efficiency Strategy, whose aim was to provide for coordinated implementation of an energy efficiency programme. The strategy also had set economy wide energy reduction of 12% by 2015, using 2000 as a base year. Inspired by the achievement of 21.4% economic wide energy consumption reduction by 2015, new sets of measures are being developed under new post-2015 strategy spanning 2015–2030. The new strategy will also look at new approaches to increase and encourage participation of other sectors that may have fallen behind during the implementation of the first phase of the structure.

In response to the publishing of the strategy, the Government initiated sector specific energy efficiency initiatives pursuant to the achievement of the set targets. Among the initiatives implemented were:

  • The industrial sector energy efficiency programme: The programme was aimed at creating the necessary enabling instruments to increase the uptake of energy efficiency investment in the industrial sector. Among these enabling instruments was the establishment of a training programme focusing on industrial systems optimization, the development and implementation of the energy management standard (SANS50001) and the development and implementation of the measurement and verification standard (SANS50010). Training in the application of these standards was conducted across the country where operational managers and engineers were trained.

  • In the residential sector: The South African Government initiated energy efficiency standards and a labelling programme for appliances. The project aims to set measures necessary to overcome barriers impeding the widespread uptake and adoption of energy efficient appliances country wide. The project’s key focus and deliverables included:

    1. Defining energy efficiency classes and minimum energy performance standards (MEPs);

    2. Reviewing and implementing the policy and regulatory framework needed for a sustainable programme;

    3. Strengthening the capacity of institutions involved in the implementation of the programme;

    4. Developing and implementing market surveillance and compliance procedures;

    5. Developing an appropriate awareness and communication campaign.

To this end, introducing mandatory energy efficiency requirements will be achieved through the introduction of compulsory MEPS as well as energy efficiency labels and standards. These specifications and standards are being enforced through regulations determined by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) in concurrence with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Successful implementation of this project will see the end of sales of inefficient appliances in the South African market. This project is also expected to influence consumer buying patterns towards more energy efficient appliances and equipment by raising awareness of their economic and environmental benefits.

Municipal energy efficiency and demand side management programme

Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management (EEDSM) is an initiative funded by the Government through the Division of Revenue Act (DoRA) and is aimed at assisting selected municipalities to implement energy efficiency technologies within the municipalities’ own energy consuming infrastructure in order to reduce electricity usage linked to that infrastructure. The measures considered for funding are currently limited to the retrofitting of energy efficient technologies for street, traffic and building lighting and the implementation of efficient technologies in both the wastewater treatment plants and fresh water pump stations. The measures are focused towards improving the efficiency of electricity usage within the local government sector thereby minimizing supply interruptions. The municipal programme forms part of the broader energy efficiency and demand side management programme led by the Government, the South African electricity utility Eskom and business community, among others. The initiative would contribute significantly towards the national energy efficiency targets stipulated in the National Energy Efficiency Strategy (NEES). It is important for the Government going forward in terms of policy perspective to continue in leading the implementation of a clean energy programme country wide but also to understand the inherent challenges, including technology limitations, technology costing, skills availability, limitations and requirements and to continue with energy savings data collection in order to assess the impact against the business as usual scenario.

Municipalities are spending large amounts of revenue on purchasing energy for providing local public services such as street lighting, traffic signals, office building lighting, water pumping and wastewater treatment facilities. Through cost effective actions, and the introduction of energy efficient measures and technologies, energy and monetary savings can be achieved in municipal operations. Improving the energy efficiency of the municipal infrastructure has far-reaching benefits in that it provides the municipalities with the opportunity to reconfigure their operations, while reducing costs and improving service at the same time. For those bearing the energy costs linked to the provision of local public services, energy efficiency in the provision of such services frees financial resources in the long run and such resources could be used for further provision of vital services. The budgets for these services often lack funds to invest in improvements. It is envisaged that through the clean energy programme municipalities will reduce their electricity bills by optimizing energy use, improving delivery of services and reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Public building sector energy efficiency programme: various local and international studies and commitments have drawn attention to the need to increase energy efficiency in buildings. Specifically, the report “Development of Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy, Targets, Measures and Implementation Plan”, prepared for the DOE, describes barriers to improving energy efficiency and proposes measures that would address those barriers.

  • The report makes reference to energy performance certificates (EPCs) that the DOE and the Department of Public Works (DPW) collaborate on, including the development of the South African National Standard SANS 1544 energy performance certificates for buildings. EPCs are used extensively throughout the world to focus on energy performance in buildings — to drive behaviours of occupancies of buildings, to identify buildings to be purchased or leased, to prioritize buildings for retrofitting.

  • The DOE’s Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy highlights that the department intends to introduce requirements to make it mandatory to display an EPC in each government occupied premises. The Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy also envisages that the mandatory requirement to display an EPC will in time be extended to include private sector buildings.

  • The importance of EPCs is also recognized in the Public Works Green Building Policy, approved by Technical MinMec meeting on 1 December 2015. The Green Building Policy notes that:

    • DPW will develop guidelines and minimum standards for display of SANS 1544 EPCs for buildings which are owned, operated or occupied by DPW. These EPCs will be displayed in prominent places that are clearly visible to the public.

    • DPW will develop guidelines and minimum standards for leasing of buildings by DPW in line with the measured energy performance as recorded in EPCs.

    • DPW will develop guidelines and minimum standards for prioritizing and retrofitting buildings owned by DPW in line with the measured energy performance as recorded in EPCs

  • The Green Building Policy is, however, not mandatory outside of public works or departments at a national and provincial level. In support of energy efficiency measures, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) will develop and maintain a national Building Energy Performance Register, which will include particulars of all valid building EPCs. Such EPCs will be submitted by the accredited institution to SANEDI, and proof of submission to the Building Energy Performance Register must be lodged with the accounting officer. The Building Energy Performance Register will form the basis of the monitoring of energy use in buildings in South Africa, and will also be used to inform ongoing revisions of SANS 10400XA Energy Use in Buildings.

The new strategy will now have a 15 year (2016–2030) range with different sectoral targets. In addition to this, the DOE has released draft regulations which will provide the data requirements for legal entities that use more than 400 terajoules (TJ) to develop energy management plans (EMPs).

1.1.2 Estimated available energy

Additional information available in section 1.1.3.

1.1.3 Energy statistics

In recent years, the issue of energy efficiency has attracted more interest in South Africa, and a number of initiatives and projects have proven the merits of enhanced energy performance.

The historical energy data are given in Table 1.


(Energy values are in exajoules except where indicated) Annual average
growth rate (%)
Total energy requirements 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980–2000 2000–2009
Total 2.75 4.12 4.94 5.27 6.63 2.97 3.32
Solids 2.14 2.93 3.62 3.88 4.36 2.66 2.10
Liquids 0.45 0.85 0.49 0.45 1.27 0.37 11.27
Gases 0.07 0.07 0.17 0.17 11.46
Hydro < 0.01 < 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 7.02 0.71
Nuclear 0.00 0.09 0.14 0.12 0.14 –0.18
Combustible renewables and waste 0.12 0.18 0.61 0.64 0.66 8.66 1.04
Other renewables 0.03 > -0.01 < 0.01 > –0.01 > –0.01 –12.16
Final energy consumption 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980 to 2000 2000 to 2009
Total 2.84 4.63 6.03 6.28 6.37 3.83 0.62
Solids 2.72 4.10 5.16 5.41 5.51 3.25 0.73
Liquids 0.19 0.04 < 0.01 < 0.01 –18.39
Gases 0.07 0.07 0.08 0.04 –5.36
Hydro < 0.01 < 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 7.02 0.71
Nuclear 0.00 0.09 0.14 0.12 0.14 –0.18
Combustible renewables and waste 0.12 0.18 0.61 0.64 0.67 8.62 1.03
Other renewables < 0.01 < 0.01
Net import (Export–Import) 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980 to 2000 2000 to 2009
Total 0.02 –0.51 –0.98 –0.89 0.26
Solids –0.68 –1.17 –1.58 –1.52 –1.14 4.26 –3.51
Liquids 0.67 0.66 0.60 0.56 1.28 –0.59 8.81
Gases 0.00 0.09 0.13
Combustible renewables and waste > –0.01 > –0.01 > –0.01 > –0.01 > –0.01 0.89 –4.69

—: Data not available.

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank.


1.2.1 Electricity system and decision making process

Energy policy decision making is the responsibility of the Government. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) is a regulatory authority established by the National Energy Regulator Act of 2004 to regulate the electricity, piped gas and petroleum pipeline industries in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006); Gas Act, 2001 (Act No. 48 of 2001) and Petroleum Pipelines Act, 2003 (Act No. 60 of 2003).

The Electricity Regulation Act of 2006 and its regulations enable the Minister of Energy (in consultation with the energy regulator, Nersa) to determine what new capacity is required. Through ministerial determinations, electricity capacity is procured (Eskom and independent power producers — IPPs) and added to the national grid (operated by Eskom) with electricity pricing regulated by NERSA. NERSA’s mandate to regulate the electricity, piped gas and petroleum pipeline industries is further derived from published government policies as well as regulations issued by the Minister of Energy.

The South African electricity utility, Eskom, is mandated to provide electricity generation, transmission, and distribution and sales services in the country. Its customer base includes industrial, mining, commercial, agricultural, international, municipal and residential customers and redistributors.

1.2.2. Structure of the electric power sector

Since 2011, IPPs have played a more prominent role in electricity generation, alongside Eskom. Eskom has a nominal capacity of 42 090 MW (FY 2014/2015), mainly made up of coal fired stations. The IPPs have to date added 6 300 MW capacity to the electricity grid from various renewable energy technologies, which have also been connected to the national electricity grid.

1.2.3 Main indicators

Table 2 shows the historical electricity production and the installed capacity and Table 3 the main energy and electricity related ratios.


Annual average
growth rate (%)
Electricity generation 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980–2000 2000–2009
Total 89.64 165.39 210.67 244.92 249.56 4.37 1.90
Nuclear 0.00 8.40 13.01 11.29 12.81 –0.18
Hydro 1.01 0.62 3.93 4.20 4.19 7.02 0.71
Geothermal 0.05 0.05
156.37 193.73 229.38 232.50 3.99 2.05
Installed capacity 1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980–2000 2000–2009
Total 18.38 26.39 39.19 42.01 43.06 3.86 1.05
Nuclear 0.00 1.84 1.84 1.84 1.84 0.00
Hydro 0.55 0.55 1.00 0.70 0.70 3.06 –3.95
Thermal 17.84 24.00 36.34 39.45 40.50 3.62 1.21

—: Data not available.

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank, 2009.


Annual average
growth rate (%)
1980 1990 2000 2005 2009 1980–2000 2000–2009
Energy consumption per capita (GJ/capita) 99.7 113.2 112.1 112.5 134.3 0.59 2.03
Electricity per capita (kWh/capita) 3 250.5 4 546.5 4 780.8 5 223.5 5 060.0 1.95 0.63
Nuclear/Total electricity (%) 0.0 5.1 6.2 4.6 5.1 –2.04
Annual capacity factor — Total (%) 55.7 71.5 61.4 66.6 66.2 0.49 0.84
Annual capacity factor — Thermal (%) 56.7 74.4 60.8 66.4 65.5 0.35 0.83
Annual capacity factor — Hydro (%) 21.1 12.9 44.9 68.9 68.8 3.84 4.85
Annual capacity factor — Nuclear (%) 52.1 80.6 70.0 79.4 –0.1

—: Data not available.

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank, 2009.



2.1.1 Overview

South Africa has large reserves of coal and most of its electricity has been traditionally generated from coal. However, the coal fields are situated on the Highveld some 1500 kilometres from some of the further load centres such as Cape Town. Investigating the potential for alternative generating capacity for such areas in the early 1970s, it was determined that nuclear capacity of around 2000 MW would be cheaper than building a coal fired plant in the Cape and transporting coal by rail from the Highveld area, or transmitting the power to the Cape via 400 kV transmission lines.

Construction of the Koeberg nuclear power plant began in 1976 and was undertaken by Framatome. The plant is owned and operated by Eskom, and consists of two Framatome designed pressurized water reactors (PWRs) commissioned in 1984 and 1985, respectively. Koeberg produces 6.7% of South Africa’s electricity. It is the only commercial nuclear power station in Africa.

2.1.2 Current organizational structure

A simplified organizational chart of main operations in the nuclear power programme within South Africa is shown in Fig. 1.

FIG. 1. South Africa current organizational chart.

Below is some detail on the mandate given to the above identified organizations within the South African nuclear expansion programme.

The Nuclear Energy Act of 1999 assigns responsibility to the Minister of Energy for the production of nuclear energy, the management of radioactive waste, as well as South Africa’s international commitments.

The National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) (previously the Council for Nuclear Safety — CNS) is the national authority responsible for exercising regulatory control over the safety of nuclear installations, radioactive waste, irradiated nuclear fuel, and the mining and processing of radioactive ores and minerals. The primary function of the NNR is to protect persons, property and the environment from the harmful effects (i.e. nuclear damage) arising from exposure to ionizing radiation. The NNR is an independent statutory organization whose powers are defined in the National Nuclear Regulator Act (Act No. 47 of 1999). The NNR is comprised of the board of directors appointed by the Minister of Energy. The board is responsible for management of the affairs of the regulator.

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) was established as a public company in terms of the Nuclear Energy Act, 1999 (Act No. 46 of 1999) and is wholly owned by the State.

The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI) was established for the management of radioactive waste disposal on a national basis. The institute is an independent entity established by statute under the provision of section 55(2) of the Nuclear Energy Act (No. 46 of 1999) to discharge this institutional obligation of the Minister of Energy. The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act (NRWDIA) (Act No. 53 of 2008) endorsed the establishment of the NRWDI. The NRWDI has been listed as an independent national public entity, wholly owned by the State.

The functions of the institute as per section 5 of the NRWDI Act (Act No. 53 of 2008) are summarized as follows:

  • Manage radioactive waste disposal on a national basis;

  • Operate the national low level waste disposal facility at Vaalputs;

  • Design and implement disposal solutions for all categories of radioactive waste;

  • Develop criteria for accepting and disposing of radioactive waste in compliance with applicable regulatory safety requirements and any other technical and operational requirements;

  • Assess and inspect the acceptability of radioactive waste for disposal and issue radioactive waste disposal certificates;

  • Manage, operate and monitor operational radioactive waste disposal facilities, including related predisposal management of radioactive waste on disposal sites.


2.2.1 Status and performance of nuclear power plants

Eskom, the South African energy utility, owns and operates South Africa’s only nuclear plant, the twin reactor Koeberg power station near Cape Town, at the southwestern tip of the country (see Fig. 2 and Table 5). Koeberg’s operating parameters are shown in Table 5.

FIG. 2. Koeberg nuclear power plant.

Reactor Unit Type Net
Status Operator Reactor
First Grid
KOEBERG-1 PWR 930 Operational ESKOM FRAM 1976-07-01 1984-03-14 1984-04-04 1984-07-21 99.5
KOEBERG-2 PWR 930 Operational ESKOM FRAM 1976-07-01 1985-07-07 1985-07-25 1985-11-09 89.2
Data source: IAEA - Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).
Note: Table is completely generated from PRIS data to reflect the latest available information and may be more up to date than the text of the report.


Pressurized water reactors
Number of reactors
Rated station output
1840 MW
Nuclear island contractor

Source: Country Information.

South Africa is anticipating building new large nuclear power plants of the Koeberg type in the future. Research is also under way on the small modular high temperature gas cooled reactor technology based on the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) technology to determine whether this type of nuclear technology could be included in the energy supply system for the future.


2.3.1 Nuclear power development strategy

The Nuclear Energy Policy (June 2008) is guided by the white paper on energy policy as approved by the Government at the end of 1998, where it was retained as one of the policy options for electricity generation. As part of its national policy, the Government also encouraged a diversity of both supply sources and primary energy carriers. In terms of the white paper, the Government will investigate the long term contribution nuclear power can make to the country’s energy economy and how the existing nuclear industrial infrastructure can be optimized. The Nuclear Energy Policy outlines the vision envisaged in the white paper. Some of the main policy objectives relate to decisions regarding possible new nuclear power stations, the management of radioactive waste, safety monitoring of the nuclear industry, effectiveness and adequacy of regulatory oversight, and a review of bodies associated with the nuclear industry.

Through the policy, the Government aims to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Promoting nuclear energy as an important electricity supply option through the establishment of a national industrial capability for the design, manufacture and construction of nuclear energy systems;

  2. Establishing the necessary governance structures for an extended nuclear energy programme;

  3. Creating a framework for the safe and secure utilization of nuclear energy with minimal environmental impact;

  4. Contributing to the country’s national programme of social and economic transformation, growth and development;

  5. Guiding the actions to develop, promote, support, enhance, sustain and monitor the nuclear energy sector in South Africa;

  6. Attaining global leadership and self-sufficiency in the nuclear energy sector in the long term;

  7. Exercising control over unprocessed uranium ore for export purposes for the benefit of the South African economy;

  8. Establishing mechanisms to ensure the availability of land (nuclear sites) for future nuclear power generation;

  9. Allowing for the participation of public entities in the uranium value chain;

  10. Promoting energy security for South Africa;

  11. Improving the quality of life and supporting the advancement of science and technology;

  12. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions;

  13. Developing the skills related to nuclear energy.

2.3.2 Project management

Eskom was previously established by the Eskom Act of 1987 and amended by the Eskom Amendment Act of 1998, but was converted to Eskom Holdings Ltd by the Eskom Conversion Act of 2001 which came into effect on 1 July 2002. The sole shareholder of Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd is the South African Government, represented by the Minister of Public Enterprises.

2.3.3 Project funding

South Africa currently does not have a liberalized electricity market. Through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme, the Government has provided a platform for the introduction of private electricity generators.

2.3.4 Electric grid development

No additional information available.

2.3.4 Sites

In the mid-1970s a nuclear power plant with 1800 MW(e) capacity was built at Koeberg, 30 km north of Cape Town near Melkbosstrand on the west coast of South Africa.

2.3.6 Public awareness

No additional information available.


Koeberg nuclear power station is owned, operated and maintained by Eskom. Engineering and maintenance support contracts have been signed with a number of original equipment manufacturers.


The Koeberg nuclear power station is owned and operated by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, a company established by the South African Companies Act.

The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) was established as a public company by the Nuclear Energy Act, 1999 (Act No. 46 of 1999) and is wholly owned by the State. The main functions of Necsa are to undertake and promote research and development in the fields of nuclear energy, radiation sciences and technology; to process source material, special nuclear material and restricted material; and to cooperate with persons in matters falling within these functions. Apart from its main operations at Pelindaba, including the SAFARI research reactor, Necsa also operates on behalf of NRWDI the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility presently licensed to receive low and intermediate radioactive waste. Necsa provides technical expertise on nuclear technology, including expertise on uranium conversion and enrichment remaining from South Africa’s previous nuclear weapons programme.


In general, the financing for decommissioning and waste management follows the rule of ‘polluter pays’. In accordance with this principle all holders of nuclear authorization are responsible for ensuring that sufficient resources are in place to meet their responsibilities with respect to decommissioning and radioactive waste management. Further, it is a requirement of the safety standards and regulatory practices, Regulation R.388, that it must be demonstrated to the regulator that sufficient resources will be available from the time operation ceases to the termination of the period of responsibility.

Decommissioning and waste disposal are currently taking place in the following areas:

  1. Low and intermediate level waste from Koeberg and Necsa’s Pelindaba site is disposed of in shallow landfill trenches at Vaalputs, the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility currently operated by the Necsa on behalf of NRWDI and situated about 600 km north of Cape Town. Although the State financed the initial development costs of the site, Eskom and Necsa pay fees based on the amount of radioactive material sent to Vaalputs.

  2. Decommissioning and associated waste management of Necsa’s two former enrichment plants as well as the former conversion plant and associated facilities are undertaken by Necsa itself and the financing is carried by the State through the annual State allocation for operational funds;

  3. Decommissioning of disused mine equipment (primarily in the gold, copper, phosphate and mineral sands operations) is currently being undertaken. The mining companies finance the decommissioning costs themselves and subcontract the operations out to specialized agencies.

  4. Financial provision for the decommissioning and spent fuel management has continued to be accumulated on a monthly basis since commercial operation of the installation began in 1984.

Management at Eskom and Necsa is responsible for determining the financial resources necessary to fulfil its legal responsibilities through the budgeting programme, including adequate funding for the management of spent fuel and the disposal of intermediate and low level waste. Similar arrangements are in place for the mines.

The Radioactive Waste Management Policy and Strategy for the Republic of South Africa, makes provision for a national Radioactive Waste Management Fund that will be managed by the South African Government. Waste generators will contribute to the fund based on the radioactive waste classes and volumes produced. The fund is aimed at ensuring sufficient provision for the long term management of radioactive waste and includes the following:

  1. Funding for disposal activities;

  2. Funding for research and development activities, including investigations into waste management/disposal options;

  3. Funding of capacity building initiatives for radioactive waste management;

  4. Funding for other activities related to radioactive waste management.

Legislation for the establishment of a national radioactive waste management fund has been developed and is currently undergoing legal review by the State law advisor. In keeping with the polluter pays principle, the contributions to the fund will be from the generators of radioactive waste. The contributions shall be managed in an equitable manner, without cross-subsidization and be based on classification of the waste as well as the volume.


Fuel Cycle

In late 1951, a South African company, Calcined Products (Pty) Ltd (Calprods), was formed with the objective of processing uranium rich slurries produced as a by-product of gold mining operations. In 1967 Calprods was replaced by the Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa (Pty) Ltd (Nufcor), a private company. From 1967 to the present day, Nufcor’s head office’s main activities have included the marketing of uranium under long term contracts with international and local utilities (more recently, London based Nufcor International Ltd has assumed this marketing function) and the transporting of uranium products in accordance with international hazardous materials regulations.

Nufcor’s processing facility is located in Westonaria and its main activity is the processing of uranium rich slurries into uranium oxide powder. These slurries are collected from current producing mines owned by AngloGold and Palabora Mining Company.

Eskom is responsible for its own fuel procurement. Eskom procures conversion, enrichment and fuel element manufacturing services on the international market.

Waste Management

The Radioactive Waste Management Policy and Strategy for the Republic of South Africa, published in November 2005, serves as the national commitment to address radioactive waste management in a coordinated and cooperative manner and represents a comprehensive radioactive waste governance framework by formulating, additional to nuclear and other applicable legislation, a policy and implementation strategy in consultation with all stakeholders.

The Policy and Strategy outlines the main policy principles that South Africa will endeavor to implement through its institutions in order to achieve the overall policy objectives and is founded on the belief that all nuclear resources in South Africa are a national asset and the heritage of its entire people, and should be managed and developed for the benefit of present and future generations in the country as a whole.

The scope of the Policy and Strategy relates to all radioactive waste and potential radioactive waste (including used fuel), except operational radioactive liquid and gaseous effluent discharges, which is permitted to be released to the environment routinely under the authority of the relevant regulators (National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) and the Directorate for Radiation Control (RADCON) under the Department of Health).

The Policy and Strategy makes provision for the establishment of two management structures for radioactive waste management: the National Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (NCRWM) and NRWDI.

The role of the NCRWM is to advise the minister and to oversee the effective implementation of the policy while the NRWDI is the implementing body with direct responsibility for siting, constructing and operating radioactive waste disposal and related facilities. The policy also calls for a National Radioactive Waste Management Fund to be established through the statutes in order to manage the radioactive waste disposal institute funds at a national level.

In accordance with the Policy and Strategy, final disposal is regarded as the ultimate step in the radioactive waste management process, although a stepwise waste management process is acceptable. Long term storage of certain types of waste (e.g. high level waste, long lived waste and spent sources) may be regarded as one of the steps in the management process.

The Policy and Strategy prescribes the domain within which spent fuel shall be managed in South Africa. Spent nuclear fuel is currently stored in authorized facilities within the generator’s sites. Two mechanisms (i.e. dry and wet storage) are currently in use in South Africa.

The Policy and Strategy dictates that investigations shall be conducted to consider the various options for safe management of spent fuel and high level waste and states that the following options shall be investigated:

Low and intermediate level waste from Koeberg and Necsa is disposed of in metal drums and concrete containers, respectively, at the Vaalputs national low and intermediate level waste repository, some 600 km north of Cape Town, in near surface disposal trenches (see Fig. 3a). Vaalputs is currently operated by Necsa, on behalf of the NRWDI, until the Vaalputs nuclear installation licence is issued to NRWDI after it demonstrates to the NNR that it has the capacity and the resources to maintain the licence to the satisfaction of the NNR. The NNR regulates the site.

FIG. 3a. Vaalputs national radioactive waste disposal facility for low level radioactive waste disposal.

Spent fuel is stored on-site at Koeberg, most of it in wet storage in spent fuel pools, although some is stored on site in dry casks. The storage racks in the spent fuel pools were previously replaced with high density storage racks to allow for the storage of all spent fuel for the design life (40 years) of the station. Spent fuel from the Safari reactor is presently stored in a pipe store facility on the Pelindaba site.

FIG. 3b. Dry and wet storage of spent nuclear fuel.


In general, research and development (R&D) in the nuclear energy field is performed mainly by Necsa, following the terms of the Nuclear Energy Act (1999), which carries out a variety of R&D projects.

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project started as a research project by Eskom in 1993, and was formally established as a wholly owned Eskom subsidiary in 1999, known as Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Pty Ltd. The Nuclear Energy Policy of 2008 highlights the Government’s intention of pursuing a nationally developed PBMR programme.

In September 2010, the Cabinet approved that the PBMR be scaled down and put into a “care and maintenance” mode to preserve and protect its intellectual property and assets. In October 2010, South Africa announced that it would not be in a position to commit to the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) very high temperature reactor (VHTR) systems agreement and hence withdrew its application. PBMR also withdrew from the GIF VHTR materials project arrangement in November 2013. The country is still a GIF founding member as well as a signatory to the GIF charter.

The South African Fundamental Atomic Research Installation (SAFARI-1) has played a pivotal role in Necsa’s attainment of global leadership in the production of radioisotopes, which are used in medical diagnoses and treatment, among other industrial applications. For more than 50 years multiple R&D publications have been generated within the Pelindaba complex, mainly as a result of the excellent utilization of the SAFARI-1 research reactor.

R&D publications on accelerator based science have been produced by a number of universities and associated institutes, for example the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences in the Western Cape.

R&D for the long term management of South Africa’s radioactive waste is mandated to the NRWDI by the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act (Act No. 53 of 2008) and relates to disposal processes and projects, for example, the siting, design, construction and operation of a deep geological repository for spent fuel and high level waste.

2.8.1 R&D organizations

No additional information available.

2.8.2 Development of advanced nuclear power technologies

No additional information available.

2.8.3 International cooperation and initiatives

No additional information available.


No additional information available.


No additional information available.


No additional information available.



3.1.1 Regulatory authority(ies)

Legislation on nuclear energy dates back to 1948 when the predecessor of the present South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), namely the Atomic Energy Corporation (AEC), was created by the Atomic Energy Act. This act was amended over the years to keep pace with developments in nuclear energy. In 1963, a major addition in this field came about when the Nuclear Installations Act came into force. This made provision for the licensing of Nuclear Installations by the Atomic Energy Board. The Uranium Enrichment Corporation was created in 1970 by the Uranium Enrichment Act. This allowed the enrichment of uranium by a State corporation separate from the Atomic Energy Board and subject to licensing by the latter. In 1982, the AEC was created and made responsible for all nuclear matters, including uranium enrichment. This came about through the Nuclear Energy Act of 1982. This act was amended several times in subsequent years. A major amendment in 1988 created the autonomous Council for Nuclear Safety (CNS), responsible for nuclear licensing and separate from the AEC (Nuclear Energy Amendment Act, Act No. 56 of 1988). The old Nuclear Energy Act was replaced by a new act in 1993 (Nuclear Energy Act No. 131 of 1993). This maintained the autonomous character of the CNS but made provision for the implementation of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA pursuant to the requirements of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to which South Africa acceded in June 1991. This act has been superseded by two acts, the Nuclear Energy Act of 1999 and the National Nuclear Regulator Act of 1999.

The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act (NRWDIA) (Act No. 53 of 2008) was proclaimed by the president of South Africa in Government Gazette No. 32764 and NRWDIA became effective on 1 December 2009. The NRWDIA endorsed the establishment of the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute (NRWDI).

Nuclear activities are also subject to numerous other pieces of legislation, for example, the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations promulgated in 1997 by the terms of the Environment Conservation Act of 1989, and the disclosure of information by the terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000.

3.1.2 Licensing process

In terms of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) Act of 1999, the licence holder is required to provide the NNR with whatever information the NNR considers necessary to demonstrate that the licensed site is acceptably safe.

The nuclear licence is a set of requirements drawn up by the NNR expanding on the conditions of the act with requirements specific to the site in question, relating to the plant, the site and environs, licensee organization and processes, and safety related documentation. These requirements essentially amount to three types: the documented safety case (including supporting documentation and operational programmes), implementation of compliance assurance related processes, and reporting requirements.


The main national laws and regulations on nuclear power in the country are available in Appendix 1.


IAEA Energy and Economic Databank (EEDB).
IAEA Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).
20th WEC Survey of Energy Resources, 2016,
National Nuclear Regulator,
South African Nuclear Energy Corporation,
National Radioactive Waste Disposal,
Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, 
Integrated Energy Plan Report (2016),
Department of Energy, State of Renewable Energy in South Africa, Pretoria, 2015.


NPT related agreement
Entry into force:
16 September 1991
Additional Protocol
Entry into force:
13 September 2002
Improved procedures for designation of safeguards inspectors
19 July 1995
Supplementary Agreement on Provision of Technical Assistance by the IAEA
Entry into force:

African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA)
Entry into force:
18 May 1992
AFAR 2nd extension
Entry into force:
4 April 2000
Agreement on Privileges and Immunities
Entry into force:
Entry into force:
10 July 1991
Convention on the Physical Protection of NUCLEAR Material
18 May 1981
Convention on Early Notification of a NUCLEAR Accident
Entry into force:
10 September 1987
Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
Entry into force:
10 September 1987
Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and Joint Protocol

Joint Protocol

Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
Not signed

Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage
Not signed

Convention on Nuclear Safety
Entry into force:
24 March 1997
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management
Entry into force:
13 February 2007
ZANGGER Committee

Nuclear Export Guidelines
Not adopted
(Observer status)
Acceptance of NUSS Codes 
No reply

Partial Test-Ban Treaty
Entry into force:
10 October 1963
Nuclear Suppliers Group

African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty

BILATERAL AGREEMENTS (up to the end of 2016)
Agreements on nuclear cooperation between the Government of South Africa and the governments of Algeria, Argentina, China, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and the United States of America
Agreement between the Government of South Africa and the Government of the Republic of France on Cooperation on Molecular Laser Isotope Enrichment


South African Nuclear Energy Corporation Ltd. (Necsa)
P.O. Box 582
Pretoria 0001

tel.: (+27) 12 305 4911
fax: (+27) 12 663 5513
Telex: 322948 SA; 322448 SA
National Nuclear Regulator (NNR)
P.O. Box 7106 
Hennopsmeer 0046
tel.: (+27) 12 674 7100
fax: (+27) 12 663 5513
Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
Private Bag X10
Kernkrag 7440
tel.: (+27) 21 550 4921
fax: (+27) 21 550 5900
Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd
P.O. Box 9396
Centurion 0046
tel.: (+27) (0)11 800 6868
fax: (+27) (0)86 685 9145 
Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa Pty Ltd
P.O. Box 2655
Rivonia 2128
tel.: (+27) 11 807 5675
fax: (+27) 11 807 5658
Schonland Research Centre for Nuclear Sciences
University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag 3
tel.: (+27) 11 717 6923
fax: (+27) 11 339 2144
iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences 
P. O. Box 72
Faure 7131
tel.: (+27) 21 843 1000
fax: (+27) 21 843 3525
Eskom Holdings Ltd
Generation Division — Head Office
Maxwell Drive
Sunninghill, Sandton
P.O. Box 1091 Johannesburg
tel.: (+27) 11 800 8111
fax: (+27) 11 800 2826