(updated on Apr. 2009)


1.1.  General Overview

The Republic of South Africa occupies the southernmost part of the African continent (see Figure 1), stretching latitudinally from 22 to 35 S and longitudinally from 17 to 33 E. Its surface area is 1 219 090 km. It has common boundaries with the republics of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, while the Republic of Mozambique and the Kingdom of Swaziland lie to the northeast (Figure 2). Completely enclosed by South African territory in the southeast is the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.


figure 1

FIG. 1. African Continent

To the west, south and east, South Africa borders on the Atlantic and southern Indian oceans. Isolated, 1 920 km southeast of Cape Town in the Atlantic, lie Prince Edward and Marion islands, which became part of South Africa in 1947.

South Africa has a lengthy coastline of about 3 000 km. This coastline is swept by two major ocean currents - the warm south-flowing Mozambique-Agulhas current and the cold Benguela. The former skirts the east and south coasts as far as Cape Agulhas while the Benguela current flows northwards along the west coast as far as southern Angola. The contrast in temperature between these two currents partly accounts for important differences in climate and vegetation between the east and west coasts of South Africa. It also causes big differences in marine life, the cold waters of the west coast being much richer in oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and plankton than those of the east coast.

figure 2

FIG. 2. Map of South Africa

The coastline itself is an even, closed one with few bays or indentations naturally suitable for harbors. Most river mouths are unsuitable for use as harbours because large sand banks block the entry for most of the year. Only the largest rivers, such as the Orange and Limpopo, maintain narrow permanent channels through the banks. For much the same reasons, the country has no navigable rivers.

The surface area of South Africa falls into two major physiographic features: the interior plateau, and the land between the plateau and the coast. Forming the boundary between these two areas is the Great Escarpment, the most prominent and continuous relief feature of the country. Its height above sea level varies from approximately 1 500 m in the southwest to a height of 3 482 m in the KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg in the east.

Inland from the Escarpment lies the interior plateau, which is the southern continuation of the great African plateau stretching north to the Sahara Desert. The plateau itself is characterized by wide plains with an average height of 1 200 m above sea level. Surmounting the plateau in places are a number of well-defined upland blocks. The dissected Lesotho plateau, which is more than 3 000 m above sea level, is the most prominent. In general, the Escarpment forms the highest parts of the plateau. Between the Great Escarpment and the coast lies an area which varies in width from 80 to 240 km in the east and south to a mere 60 to 80 km in the west. At least three major subdivisions can be recognized: the eastern plateau slopes, the Cape folded belt and adjacent regions, and the western plateau slopes.

The subtropical location, on either side of 30 S, accounts for the warm temperate conditions so typical of South Africa. The country also falls squarely within the subtropical belt of high pressure, making it dry, with an abundance of sunshine. The wide expanses of ocean on three sides of South Africa have a moderating influence on its climate. More apparent, however, are the effects of the warm Agulhas and cold Benguela currents along the east and west coasts respectively. While Durban (east coast) and Port Nolloth (west coast) lie more or less on the same latitude, there is a difference of at least 6C in their mean annual temperatures. Gale-force winds are frequent on the coasts, especially in the south-western and southern coastal areas.

South Africa has an average annual rainfall of 464 mm, compared with a world average of 860 mm. About 20% of the country has a total annual rainfall of less than 200 mm, 48% between 200 and 600 mm, while only about 30% records more than 600 mm. In total, 65% of the country has an annual rainfall of less than 500 mm - usually regarded as the absolute minimum for successful dry-land farming. In Cape Town, the capital city of the Western Cape province, the average rainfall is highest in the winter months, while in the capital cities of the other eight provinces, the average rainfall is highest during summer. South Africa's rainfall is unreliable and unpredictable. Large fluctuations in the average annual figure are the rule rather than the exception in most areas of the country. Years where a below-average figure is recorded are more common than years with an above-average total. South Africa is periodically afflicted by drastic and prolonged droughts, which often end in severe floods.

Temperature conditions in South Africa are characterized by three main features. Firstly, temperatures tend to be lower than in other regions at similar latitudes, for example North Africa and Australia. This is due primarily to the greater elevation above sea level of the subcontinent. Secondly, despite a latitudinal span of 13 degrees, average annual temperatures are remarkably uniform throughout the country. Owing to the increase in the height of the plateau towards the north-east, there is hardly any increase in temperature from south to north as might be expected. The third feature is the striking contrast between temperatures on the east and west coasts. Temperatures above 32C are fairly common in summer, and frequently exceed 38C in the lower Orange River valley and the Mpumalanga Lowveld.

Frost often occurs on the interior plateau during cold, clear winter nights, with ice forming on still pools and in water pipes. The frost season is longest (from April to October) over the eastern and southern plateau areas bordering on the Escarpment. Frost decreases to the north, while the coast is virtually frost-free. Average annual relative humidity readings show that, in general, the air is driest over the western interior and over the plateau. Along the coast, the humidity is much higher and at times may rise to 85%. Low stratus clouds and fog frequently occur over the cool west coast, particularly during summer. The only other area that commonly experiences fog is the 'mist belt' along the eastern foothills of the Escarpment.

The capital of South Africa is Pretoria, however, Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center. South Africa has 9 provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Northern Province and Western Cape (Figure 3).

figure 3

FIG. 3. South African Provinces

According to Census '96 figures, there were 40.58 million people in South Africa. Estimates by Statistics South Africa are that the country's mid-1999 population stood at 43.054 million, of which women constituted some 22 million. It thus has a low average population density in the order of 330 to 350 persons per thousand hectares. However the population density varies extensively between rural and urban areas. The population is increasing at a rate of 2.3% per annum though with a decreasing rate (Table 1). South Africa is a nation of over 47-million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and beliefs. According to the mid-2007 estimates from Statistics South Africa, the country's population stands at some 47.9-million.























Population (millions)








Population density (inhabitants/km2)








Urban population (% of total)








Area(1000 km2)








 Source: World Bank World Development Indicators


South Africa is a country with a dual socio-economic composition - a large industrial base with a good infra structure (the best in Africa), but with a large third world component. For instance, South Africa is a large electricity producer but one-third of its population still does not have access to electricity.

The country has gone through a major political change since 1994, during which the policy of apartheid was replaced by a democratic form of government. After a long, bumpy negotiation process, marked by much opportunistic violence from the right wing and its surrogates and in some instances sanctioned by elements of the State, South Africa held its first democratic election in April 1994 under an Interim Constitution.

The African National Congress (ANC) led Government embarked on a programme to promote the reconstruction and development of the country and its institutions. This called for the simultaneous pursuit of democratisation and socio-economic change, as well as reconciliation and the building of a consensus founded on commitment to improving the lives of all South Africans, in particular the poor.

Converting democratic ideals into practice required, amongst other things, initiating a radical overhaul of the machinery of the government at every level, towards service delivery, openness and a culture of human rights.

1.1.1.  Economic Indicators

South Africa's is classed as a developing country. Its economy with a GNP per capita of 18,203 Rand (US$ 3,034 at 6 Rand/US$) in 1999, is placed in the upper middle-income bracket for developing countries (Table 2). For a developing country in Africa, it is highly industrialized with industry contributing 39.3% to total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The economy includes a modern financial and industrial sector, supported by a well-developed infrastructure, operating alongside a subsistence informal sector.























GDP (millions of current US$)

17 854.2

80 710.2

112 013.9

132 877.6

242 058.9

254 991.6


GDP (millions of constant 2000 US$)

68 558.5

95 502.5

110 944.7

132 877.6

160 792.9

168 809.3


GDP per capita (current US$)


2 926.8

3 182.2

3 019.9

5 162.5

5 380.6


Source: World Bank World Development Indicators

The agricultural sector contributes only 4% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The mining sector played an important role in the development of the South African economy, but its importance has declined in the last decade and currently accounts for about 6% of GDP. The manufacturing sector accounts for approximately one-fifth of South Africa's GDP. The contribution of financial services and business increased from about 12% to nearly 18% during the nineties and given the high level of banking and commercial activities in South Africa, this share is expected to expand even further. Tourism activity is also expanding its relative size and further increases in the contribution of the tertiary sector to GDP are expected.

The economic growth rate during the worst years of the apartheid era was running at 3.3% per annum (GNP) and 1.3% per annum (Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) (1980 to 1991). By the second half of 1999, real gross domestic production was growing from quarter to quarter at annualized rates of more than 3%. Real GDP is expected to grow by about 3.5% on average in the next three years.

1.1.2.  Energy Situation

The country has very 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 has large uranium deposits associated with its gold-bearing ores (Table 3). Hence South Africa's indigenous energy resource base is dominated by coal.


  Estimated energy reserves in (*) (Solid and Liquid in million tons, Uranium in metric tons, Gas in billion cubic metres, Hydro in TWhr per year)
  Solid (1) Liquid (2) Gas (3) Uranium (4) Hydro (5)
Amount 48,750 5,000 37 315,330 14,000

(*) Sources: 20th WEC Survey of Energy Resources, 2004 and Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand ("Red Book")
(1) Coal including Lignite: proved recoverable reserves, the tonnage within the proved amount in place that can be recovered in the future under present and expected local economic conditions with existing available technology
(2) Crude oil and natural gas liquids (Oil Shale, Natural Bitumen and Extra-Heavy Oil are not included): proved recoverable reserves, the quantity within the proved amount in place that can be recovered in the future under present and expected local economic conditions with existing available technology
(3) Natural gas: proved recoverable reserves, the volume within the proved amount in place that can be recovered in the future under present and expected local economic conditions with existing available technology
(4) Reasonably Assured Resources (RAR) under < USD 130/kgU
(5) Hydropower: technically exploitable capability, the amount of the gross theoretical capability that can be exploited within the limits of current technology
Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Database.


Many of the coal deposits can be exploited at extremely favorable costs and results in 90% of primary energy being based on coal. The country ranks as the world's sixth largest coal producer and fifth as the world exporter of coal. In addition to the extensive use of coal in the domestic economy, large amounts are exported, South Africa being the second-largest exporter of steam coal. South African coal for local electricity production is among the cheapest in the world.

In 2007 South Africa has run – of – mine production of 312.3 Mt of coal of which 247.6 Mt was of saleable quality. About 27% of saleable coal, 67.7 Mt, was exported and the remaining 73 %, 183 Mt, was sold locally. South Africa exports coal to 34 countries, of which 84.5 % went to European Community and the remainder went to Africa, South America, Far East and Middle East. South Africa exports mainly high grade coal with calorific value of 27 MJ/kg. Over 80 % of saleable coal production was supplied by mines controlled by the five largest mining groups, namely, Anglo Coal, BHP Billiton, Exxaro, Sasol and Xtrata.

Much of coal is used locally for electricity generation by Eskom. About 90 % of electricity is produced from low grade coal. Electricity sector consumes 61 % of locally sold while the synthetic sector (coal to liquid Sasol plant) consumes 25%. The industrial sector, including mining, consumes 4.2 %, the metallurgical industry used 3 % and merchants bought 6 % of domestic coal.

Gas and oil

Apart from limited gas and oil reserves in the Mossel Bay area (southern coastal area), South Africa does not have significant commercially exploitable gas or crude oil reserves. Most petroleum must therefore be imported. During the period, when world sanctions were applied because of the country's' apartheid policies, the Government undertook the construction of a vast oil-from-coal facility (Sasol) and a smaller oil-from-gas facility (Mossgas). At peak production these two facilities produced 30% and 10% respectively of local oil.

Since the arrival of natural gas from Mozambique in 2004, the contribution of natural gas to the primary energy supply has increased to 3,3 % (2005). This figure is expected to rise when Mozambique – South Africa gas transmission pipeline reaches maximum capacity.


Fuel wood, which comes mainly from natural woodlands, is the primary source of energy used by households in most rural areas for the purposes of cooking and heating. In some areas this is already almost completely depleted and in others it is under heavy pressure. The total annual sustainable supply of wood from natural woodlands in communal rural areas is estimated at about 12 Mt. However, probably no more than half of it is usable as fuel wood. In addition to these sources, residues from commercial forestry total about 4.2 Mt per year. Much of this, as well as wood from bush clearing on commercial farmland, is being used increasingly as fuel. To be effective, planning for a sustainable fuel wood supply thus requires decentralization, understanding of local conditions and flexibility. Supply-side interventions focus on satisfying a range of local needs and the realization that community forestry does not involve only the planting of trees and that community participation is central to all activities. Planning must ensure their integration into broader rural development, land use, natural resources management, and agricultural and energy planning. Interventions should build on the best indigenous practices identified.


Renewable energy sources, other than biomass, have not yet been exploited to the full in South Africa, but there are a number of initiatives to expand their use.


Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, and average daily solar radiation levels range between 4,5 and 6,5 kWh/m. The country's solar equipment industry is developing. Annual photovoltaic (PV) panel assembly capacity totals 4 MW, and a number of companies in South Africa manufacture solar water-heaters. In February 1999, former President Nelson Mandela launched the world's largest solar-powered rural electrification project in Bipha in the Eastern Cape. The Eskom-Shell Solar Rural Electrification Project will eventually provide 50 000 solar home systems, while 16 000 schools and 2 000 clinics will benefit. The project will cost some R150 million. The use of solar power for water pumping is increasing rapidly through the rural water provision and sanitation programme of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry. Solar water heating is already being used to a certain extent. Current capacity installed: domestic 330 000 m and swimming pools 327 000 m (middle to high income); commerce and industry 45 000 m; agriculture 4 000 m. Improved thermal efficiency of housing stock through solar passive design techniques has been introduced in the national housing programme and is aimed at ameliorating the high levels of indoor air pollution resulting from the extensive use of coal for heating in winter. Eskom has concluded a feasibility study for a large 100 MW solar thermal plant in the Northern Cape and has since been trying to raise the necessary capital to build the plant.


Wind power potential is generally good along the entire coast, with mean annual speeds greater than 4 m/s, and there are localized areas where speeds exceed 6 m/s. These latter areas are potentially attractive as wind power sites. In 2002 Eskom commissioned a 4.2 MWe in the Western Cape, which is used as a research plant for optimum implementation of wind energy. As a result of this research, the South African utility has subsequently started a process of investigating a 100MWe wind plant in the Eastern Cape (EC). There is huge interest shown by the private sector. The Government through the Department of Minerals and Energy is facilitating the process by implementing a UNDP/GEF wind program that aims to facilitate the development of commercial wind farms in South Africa. To this end, the Darlipp company and its partners are operating a 5 MW national demonstration plant also in the Western Cape.


South Africa can be classified as generally a dry country, and thus has very little perennial hydropower potential. As of 2006 the current total installed large-scale hydropower generation capacity (larger than 10 MW), including pumped storage schemes, is 3 822 GWh. There is possible production potential for small scale hydropower of around 453 GWh per annum.

Energy Efficiency

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 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, recognised energy efficiency as a key tool to enhance clean energy development and to mitigate the negative effects of energy use upon the environment. A further development is Long Term Mitigation Scenario study by Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) which indicated that the required reduction in emissions needs significant effort and fast tracking of policies.

In short, energy efficiency is fast gaining ground as a cost-effective means to approach all aspects of sustainability. It is generally accepted that South Africa holds numerous opportunities for energy savings, together with pollution mitigation measures of international significance. The recently reviewed (2008) National Energy Efficiency Strategy offers a consolidated approach in order to capture these opportunities in the best interests of South Africa.

The historical energy data are given in Table 4.


Basic Energy Situation
(Energy values are in Exajoule exept where indicated)
Annual Average
Growth Rate (%)
Total Energy Requirements 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Total 1.79 2.74 4.11 4.93 5.55 1.84 1.99
Solids 1.37 2.14 2.93 3.62 3.92 2.15 1.33
Liquids 0.31 0.45 0.84 0.48 0.68 -5.52 6.00
Gases .. .. 0.07 0.07 0.18 -0.73 18.23
Hydro < 0.01 < 0.01 < 0.01 0.01 0.02 20.29 6.00
Nuclear .. 0.00 0.09 0.14 0.13 4.47 -1.64
Combustible Renewables &amp; Waste .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Other Renewables and Waste 0.10 0.15 0.17 0.61 0.62 13.46 0.37
Final Energy Consumption 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Total 0.39 1.59 1.59 2.02 2.46 2.42 3.36
Solids 0.24 0.66 0.58 0.71 0.86 2.14 3.06
Liquids .. 0.44 0.46 0.63 0.76 3.32 3.06
Gases 0.06 0.13 < 0.01 0.09 0.13 30.48 7.50
Electricity 0.09 0.35 0.55 0.59 0.71 0.63 3.36
Other .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Combustible Renewables &amp; Waste .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Other .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Net Energy Balance (Export-Import) 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Total 0.426 0.015 -0.517 -0.985 -0.637 6.65 -7.00
Solids -0.049 -0.683 -1.170 -1.575 -1.482 3.02 -1.01
Liquids 0.475 0.665 0.657 0.589 0.758 -1.09 4.29
Gases .. .. .. 0.000 0.102 .. ..
Combustible Renewables &amp; Waste .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Other Renewables and Waste > -0.001 0.033 -0.005 0.001 -0.015 ? ?

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank, 2009.



1.2.1 Energy Policy

The White Paper on Energy Policy 1998 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 5 key policy objectives, which form the foundation for South Africa's energy policy:

Increasing access to affordable energy services

Improving energy governance

Stimulating economic development

Managing energy-related environmental and health impacts

Securing supply through diversity

1.2.2 Energy Regulation

There are various promulgated pieces of legislation with the intention of implementing the principles of Energy White Paper of 1998. With regard to electricity, the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006 outlines a new electricity regulatory framework. The Energy Act of 2008 was promulgated to provide a broader framework for integrated regulation of the electricity (and other energy carriers) and its related primary energy sources.

The new electricity regulatory framework intends to improve the quality of supply while ensuring that municipalities are in control over the delivery of reticulation services in their areas of supply. The Constitution of South Africa gives municipalities’ executive authority over the provision of the reticulation service. The Service Delivery Agreement (SDA) ensures that the reticulation services are provided in line with municipal policies. A number of regulations provided for under the Electricity Regulation Act allow for effective implementation of the new regulatory framework including planning for the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and Demand Side Management (DSM).

1.3. The Electricity System

1.3.1. Structure of the Electricity System

The National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) is the regulatory authority established as a juristic person in terms of section 3 of the National Regulator Act, 2004. NERSA’s mandate is to regulate the generation, transmission, distribution and trading in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, 2006.

NERSA’s mandate is further derived from published government policies as well as regulations issued by the Minister of Minerals and Energy. NERSA is expected to pro-actively take the necessary regulatory actions in anticipation of and/or in response to changing circumstances in the energy industry. NERSA was established on 1 October 2005. The regulation of the electricity industry was taken over from the erstwhile National Electricity Regulator (NER) on 17 July 2006.

The South African energy utility, Eskom, generates, transmits and distributes electricity to industrial, mining, commercial, agricultural and residential customers and redistributors. Eskom is one of the top 13 utilities in the world by generating capacity and is amongst the top 9 by sales. Some of the attributes related to Eskom are following:-

Eskom’s climate change strategy contains a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Eskom has developed has developed the following plan:-

One of the Eskom’s 2008 highlights was 168 538 electrification connections made, exceeding the target by 8 217. The lowlights is that the net reserve margin has decreased to about 8% compared to an internationally accepted margin of 15 %.

Eskom’s buys or sells electricity to the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) for regional energy trade, particularly electric power, was formally started in 1996, when 12 member states of the SADC signed an enabling memorandum for the formation of the pool. The Southern African region has good hydroelectric generation potential, all of which is outside South Africa.  The SAPP’s original primary objective was to provide reliable and economically viable electricity supply to the consumer of each member.

1.3.2. Decision Making Process

The Minister of Minerals and Energy appoints Members of the Energy Regulator. The Energy Regulator consists of nine (9) Members, five are part – time and four are full – time including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The full – time members were appointed for a period of five years which ends on 30 September 2010 and part – time members were appointed for four years which ends on the 30 September 2009.The Minister also appoints the CEO, who is responsible for day to day business/affairs of NERSA.

NERSA is funded from levies collected from regulated energy industries. The procedure for calculation and collection of levies from generators of electricity is prescribed in Section 5B of the electricity Act, 1987 and is based on Kilowatt Hours generated. In terms of the Act, the Minister of Minerals and Energy is required to gazette the proposed levy and consider representation prior to imposition of the levy.

There are about 187 municipal electricity distributors in the country. The municipalities collectively service about 60% of total customers by sales volume. Municipal electric departments generally supply consumers density, size, type of customer base and effectiveness, therefore the national government has decided to restructure the electricity distribution industry.

The Government regards an accelerated and sustainable electrification programme as being of the utmost importance. The Government's original electrification initiative was expressed in the targets set for the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in terms of which 2.5 million new connections were to be made during the period 1994 to 1999. Eskom committed itself to 70% of the target and the balance was to be achieved by Local Governments. 2.74 million connections were completed within the prescribed time limit, thus exceeding the RDP target. The result was that approximately 66% of households in South Africa enjoyed the benefits of electricity in their homes at the end of 1999 as opposed to little more than 40% at the beginning of the RDP period.

NERSA has co-ordinated the funding earmarked for the electrification projects of Local Governments and in addition, the NERSA has audited these electrification projects. In compliance with the Electricity Act of 1987, the NER monitors the overall electrification programme, keeps statistics on salient data and reports annually on the performance of the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) in respect of electrification.

The majority of connections were made in the urban areas that are the easiest and the cheapest to electrify due to their proximity to the network, the high density of houses and relatively high consumption. The result is that 80% of households in urban areas, and 46% in rural areas were electrified at the end of 1999. The principal reasons for this state of affairs in the rural areas are inter alia: rural areas are considerably more expensive to electrify with grid electricity; consumption levels in rural areas are lower due to lower income levels; and there are generally no major anchor electricity customers in the rural areas. The new challenge for the electrification programme is to address this backlog in a sustainable manner.

With a view to give effect to the issues raised in the White Paper on Energy Policy, the Minister of Minerals and Energy established the National Electrification Co-ordinating Committee (NECC) in April 1999. The role of the NECC is to advise the Minister on transitional matters concerning the current electrification programme based on the RDP as well as on the integrated, post-RDP National Electrification Programme (NEP). Key issues under consideration by the NECC relate to the development of strategies for the integration of electrification into the planning processes of local government, electrification planning, technologies, funding, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The price of electricity is an important factor in economic growth. Eskom undertook to reduce the real price of electricity by 15% between 1995 and 2000, following a reduction of 20% between 1992 and 1998. Eskom is currently one of the lowest cost producers of electricity in the world.

1.3.3 Main indicators

Table 5 shows the historical electricity production and the installed capacity and Table 6 the main energy and electricity related ratios.


Electricity Situation Annual Average
Growth Rate (%)
Electricity Generation 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Total 50.79 89.64 165.39 210.67 253.80 2.45 3.15
Nuclear .. 0.00 8.40 13.01 11.78 4.47 -1.64
Hydro 0.02 1.01 0.62 3.93 5.58 20.29 6.00
Geothermal .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Wind .. .. .. .. 0.03 .. ..
Other renewables .. .. .. .. 0.02 .. ..
Thermal 50.77 88.62 156.36 193.73 236.38 2.17 3.37
Installed Capacity 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Total 10.51 18.38 26.39 39.19 40.04 4.03 0.36
Nuclear .. 0.00 1.84 1.84 1.84 0.00 0.00
Hydro 0.01 0.55 0.55 1.00 1.34 6.16 4.93
Geothermal .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Wind .. .. .. .. 0.01 .. ..
Other renewables .. .. .. .. < 0.01 .. ..
Thermal 10.50 17.84 24.00 36.34 36.84 4.24 0.23

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank, 2009.



Derived Indicators Annual Average
Growth Rate (%)
  1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 1990 to 2000 2000 to 2006
Energy consumption per capita (GJ/capita) 80.9 99.5 113.0 111.9 117.1 -0.10 0.76
Electricity per capita (KW.h/capita) 2,299.6 3,250.5 4,546.5 4,780.8 5,355.4 0.50 1.91
Nuclear/Total electricity (%) .. 0.0 5.1 6.2 4.6 1.97 -4.65
Annual capacity factor - Total (%) 55.2 55.7 71.5 61.4 72.4 -1.52 2.78
Annual capacity factor - Thermal (%) 55.2 56.7 74.4 60.8 73.2 -1.99 3.14
Annual capacity factor - Hydro (%) 20.4 21.1 12.9 44.9 47.7 13.31 1.02
Annual capacity factor - Nuclear (%) .. .. 52.1 80.6 73.0 4.47 -1.64
Annual capacity factor - Wind (%) .. .. .. .. 36.5 .. ..
Annual capacity factor - Geothermal (%) .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Annual capacity factor - Other renewables (%) .. .. .. .. 40.0 .. ..

Source: IAEA Energy and Economic Databank, 2009.



2.1. Historical Development and current nuclear power organizational structure

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 generation capacity for such areas in the early 1970's, it was determined that nuclear capacity of around 2000 MW would be cheaper than building a coal-fired plant in the Cape and railing coal from the Highveld area, or to transmit the power to the Cape via 400 kV transmission lines.

It was decided in the mid-1980's to build the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant on the coast at Duinefontein, 35 kilometres north of Cape Town. The plant was commissioned in 1984. The plant consists of two Pressurized Water Reactors and was built by Framatome. Fissile fuel was obtained from overseas but at the height of the sanctions period there were fears that nuclear fuel could be embargoed and the then Atomic Energy Board (now the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation - NECSA) was asked by the Government to design, build and operate an enrichment plant to provide power plant enriched fuel. Later this was expanded to manufacture the fuel locally. However, since sanctions are no longer applied against South Africa, it is now possible for Eskom to obtain nuclear fuel on the international market. Hence the conversion and enrichment facilities were closed excluding for research reactors such as Safari – 1.

2.1.2 Nuclear Energy Policy

Nuclear Energy Policy (June 2008) is guided by the White Paper on Energy Policy as approved by Government at the end of 1998, where it was retained as one of the policy options for electricity generation. As part of national policy government also encouraged a diversity of both supply sources and primary energy carriers. In terms of the White Paper Government will investigate the long-term contribution nuclear power can make to the country’s energy economy and, secondly, how the existing nuclear industrial infrastructure can be optimised. 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 Government aims to achieve the following objectives:

2.1.3. Current Organizational Chart

The Nuclear Energy Act of 1999 assigns responsibility to the Minister of Minerals & Energy for the production of nuclear energy, the management of radioactive waste, as well as South Africa's international commitments. Both the National Energy Regulator and the National Nuclear Regulator report to the Minister of Minerals & Energy.

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 ionising 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 comprises of the Board of Directors appointed by the Minister of Minerals and Energy. The Board is responsible for management of the affairs of the Regulator.

The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station is owned and operated by Eskom Holdings Limited, a company established in terms of the South African Companies Act. Eskom was previously established in terms of the Eskom Act of 1987 and amended by the Eskom Amendment Act of 1998, but was converted to Eskom Holdings Limited by the Eskom Conversion Act of 2001 which came into effect on 1 July 2002. The sole shareholder of Eskom Holdings Limited is the South African Government, represented by the Minister of Public Enterprises.

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 main functions of NECSA are to undertake and promote research and development in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences and technology; to process source material, special nuclear material and restricted material and to co-operate with persons in matters falling within these functions. Apart from its main operations at Pelindaba, including the SAFARI research reactor, NECSA also operates the Vaalputs National Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility presently licensed to receive low & intermediate radioactive waste. South Africa has technical expertise on nuclear technology at NECSA, including expertise on uranium conversion and enrichment remaining from South Africa’s previous nuclear weapons programme.


2.2. Nuclear Power Plants: Status and Operations

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 South-West tip of the country (see Figure 4 and Table 7). Koeberg operating parameters are shown in Table 8.

figure 4

FIG. 4 Koeberg NPP


Station Type Net Operator Status Reactor Construction Criticality Grid Commercial Shutdown
    Cpacity (Mwe)     Supplier Date Date Date Date Date
KOEBERG-1 PWR   900 ESKOM Operational FRAM 01-Jul-76 14-Mar-84 04-Apr-84 21-Jul-84  
KOEBERG-2 PWR   900 ESKOM Operational FRAM 01-Jul-76 07-Jul-85 25-Jul-85 09-Nov-85  

Source: IAEA Power Reactor Information System as of 31-Dec-2006.




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 and also research is underway on the small modular high temperature gas cooled reactor technology (the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor - PBMR) to determine whether this type of nuclear technology could be included in the energy supply system for the future.


2.3.  Supply of NPP

South Africa has one nuclear power station - Koeberg - situated near Cape Town.




     Nuclear Island:


     Conventional Island:

Alsthom Atlantique

     Civil Works:

Spie Batignolles



2.4. Operation of NPP

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.

2.5. Fuel Cycle and Waste Management

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, whose board of directors comprised representatives from all gold mining groups that were members of the South African Chamber of Mines. The uranium contracts existing at that time, being managed by the South African Chamber of Mines Uranium Sales Organisation, were transferred to NUFCOR.

In 1998, NUFCOR's share holding was re-structured and the company is now 100% owned by AngloGold Limited. NUFCOR's year 2000 production of approximately 2.2 million pounds is anticipated to increase and stabilize between 2.5 and 3 million pounds U3O8 per annum. In 1999, Nufcor International Limited was established as a joint-venture company between AngloGold and First Rand International, each holding 50% of the company's share holding. NIL assumed marketing responsibility on behalf of NUFCOR.

From 1967 to the present day, NUFCOR's Head Office main activities have included the marketing of uranium under long-term contracts with international and local utilities (ore recently, London-based Nufcor International Limited 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.

In 1995, NUFCOR formed a subsidiary company RaDPRO (Pty) Ltd providing services in radiological protection, decontamination and waste management. RADPRO was formed initially as a joint venture company established at the end of 1995 by NUFCOR and BNFL Engineering Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL). In 1999 RADPRO became a wholly owned subsidiary of NUFCOR.

RADPRO provides a comprehensive range of radiation protection, waste management and relates services, including: Radiation protection consulting; plant decontamination and recycling; radiometric instrumentation and measurement services; analytical services. RADPRO has an operational base at NUFCOR's processing facility in Westonaria for decontamination services and research and development.

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

Low and intermediate level waste from Koeberg is disposed of in metal drums steel and concrete containers respectively at the National low and intermediate level waste Repository Vaalputs, some 600 km north of Cape Town, in trenches (see Figure 5). Vaalputs is operated by NECSA, on behalf of the State. Regulation of the site is done by the National Nuclear Regulator.

figure 5a

FIG. 5a. National Radioactive Waste Repository Vaalputs 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 have recently been replaced 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 pipestore facility at Pelindaba

The Radioactive Waste Management Policy and Strategy for the Republic of South Africa was approved in 2005. Its purpose is to ensure the establishment of comprehensive radioactive waste governance framework by formulating, additional to nuclear and other applicable legislation, a policy implementation strategy in consultation with all stakeholders. The Policy established the National Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (NCRWM) which consists of DME, NNR, DEAT, DOH and DWAF. The NCRWM will oversee the implementation of this policy and strategy and is independent from the generators of radioactive waste.

The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act was enacted on 9 January 2009. The Act provides for the establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute in order to manage radioactive waste disposal on a national basis.

figure 5b

FIG. 5b. National Radioactive Waste Repository Vaalputs Intermediate-level Radioactive Waste Disposal


2.6. Research and Development

Research and Development in the nuclear energy field is performed mainly by NECSA, in terms of the Nuclear Energy Act (1999) who carries out a variety of research projects, for example into the application of radioactive techniques in industry and the development of medical radio-isotopes.

Research using accelerators is also carried out 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.

Pebble Bed Modular Reactor

Eskom initiated investigations into high temperature gas cooled reactor technology, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). Design work, economic feasibility studies, the required nuclear licensing and environmental  impact assessment process for a demonstration plant are underway.



3.1. Safety Authority and the Licensing Process

In terms of the National Nuclear Regulator 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, namely on the documented safety case (including supporting documentation and operational programmes), implementation of compliance assurance related processes, and reporting requirements.

3.2 Main National Laws and Regulations in Nuclear Power

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, was created by the Atomic Energy Act. This Act was amended over the years to keep pace with developments in nuclear energy. A major addition in this field came about in 1963 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. A major change took place in 1982 when 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 created the autonomous Council for Nuclear Safety (CNS), responsible for nuclear licensing and separate from the AEC, in 1988 (Nuclear Energy Amendment Act, Act 56 of 1988). The old Nuclear Energy Act was replaced by a new Act in 1993 (Nuclear Energy Act 131 of 1993). This maintained the autonomous character of the CNS but made provision for the implementation of the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA pursuant to the requirements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 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.

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


In general, the financing for decommissioning and waste disposal follows the rule "polluter pays”. Decommissioning and waste disposal is currently taking place in the following areas:

  1. ongoing radioactive waste from hospitals, general industry and from the NECSA's own activities is disposed of at Thabana, a low and medium active waste disposal site on its Pelindaba site. The financing for this operation is dealt with through NECSA's annual State allocation for operating activities;
  2. low and medium active waste from Koeberg is disposed of in shallow land-fill trenches at Vaalputs, the National Radio-active Waste Repository operated by the NECSA and situated about 600 km north of Cape Town. Although the State financed the initial development costs of the site, Eskom pays fees based on the amount of Koeberg radioactive material disposed of at Vaalputs, the interest on the initial capital and the operational costs;
  3. the decontamination and decommissioning of past historic and active facilities is underway and carried out in phase of priority. All these activities are carried out by Nuclear Liability Management (NLM) division at Necsa



4.1. Privatisation and deregulation

"Although South Africa does not yet have an open electricity market, the restructuring of the Electricity Supply Industry is being investigated. The impact of an open electricity market on the nuclear business in Eskom is being studied to determine optimum future positioning."



IAEA Energy and Economic database (EEDB).


IAEA Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).


Data and Statistics, the World Bank,


Statistics South Africa,


South African Year book 2000/2001,




National Nuclear Regulator,


Pebble Bed Modular Reactor,


Appendix 1



bullet NPT related agreement

Entry into force:

16 September 1991

bullet Additional Protocol

Entry into force:

13 September 2002

bullet Improved procedures for designation of safeguards inspectors


19 July 1995

bullet Supplementary agreement on provision of technical assistance by the IAEA

Entry into force:


bullet AFRA

Entry into force:

18 May 1992

bullet 2nd extension

Entry into force:

4 April 2000

bullet Agreement on privileges and immunities

Entry into force:



bullet NPT

Entry into force:

10 July 1991

bullet Convention on physical protection of nuclear material


18 May 1981

bullet Convention on early notification of a nuclear accident

Entry into force:

10 September 1987

bullet Convention on assistance in the case of a nuclear accident or radiological emergency

Entry into force:

10 September 1987

bullet Convention on civil liability fornuclear damage and joint protocol



bullet Joint protocol



bullet Protocol to amend the Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage

Not signed


bullet Convention on supplementary compensation for nuclear damage

Not signed


bulletConvention on nuclear safety

Entry into force:

24 March 1997

bullet Joint convention on the safety of spent fuel management and on the safety of radio waste management

Not signed


bullet ZANGGER Committee



bullet Nuclear Export Guidelines

Not adopted

(observer status)

bullet Acceptance of NUSS Codes

No reply


bullet Partial Test-Ban Treaty

Entry into force:

10 October 1963

bullet Nuclear Suppliers Group



bullet African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty.




bulletAgreements between the Government of South Africa and the Government of the USA, Argentina, Russian Federation and China on Nuclear Co-operation have been signed.

bullet Agreement between the Government of South Africa and the Government of the France on Co-operation on Molecular Laser Isotope Enrichment.


Appendix 2



South African Nuclear Energy Corporation Ltd. (NECSA)
PO Box 582
Telex: 322948 SA; 322448 SA
Pretoria 0001
South Africa

Tel:+27-12 66-7100
Fax:+27-12 663-5513


National Nuclear Regulator (NNR)
PO Box 7106
Hennopsmeer 0046, South Africa

Tel: +27-12 663-5500
Fax: +27-12 663-5513

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
Private bag X10
Kernkrag 7440, South Africa

Tel:+27-21-550 4921
Fax:+27-21-550 5900

Eskom Enterprises
Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd.
PO Box 9396
Centurion 0046, South Africa

Tel: +27(0)12 6411000                    Fax: +27(0)12 205 8036


Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa Pty.Ltd.
PO Box 2655
Rivonia 2128, South Africa

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, South Africa


Tel: +27-21-843 1000
Fax: +27-21-843 3525


Eskom Holdings Limited
Generation Division - Head Office
Maxwell Drive
Sunninghill, Sandton
PO Box 1091 Johannesburg, South Africa

Tel: +27-11-800 8111
Fax: +27-11-800 2826


1. The statistical tables in this profile have been updated with data as of the end of 2007 from IAEA databases, namely the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) and Energy and Economic Data Bank (EEDB), and the World Bank's World Development Indicators (WDI).