Eskom Holdings Limited (Eskom) said that South Africa has set 2018 as an indicative date for its next nuclear plant to be operational. Construction of the first unit could start in July 2012, with the first 4,000 megawatt (MW) plant to be operational by July 2018. Two other facilities with the similar capacity are planned to be operational by 2020 and 2022, respectively. Earlier, Eskom has cancelled its plans to construct a new facility at the end of 2008, citing financial constraints.

South Africa government and Eskom have set the new timelines as part of a revised plan for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) which the Eskom submitted for public comment.

The South African government said that it wants to develop a local nuclear industry in partnership with a technology firm rather than adopt a commercial bidding process used by Eskom.

All this is part of the government-led process: we have set indicative timelines, in line with the projected growth in electricity consumption … but they are not cast in stone, said Fani Zulu, Eskom spokesman.

South Africa depends on coal for around 90% of its energy supply and the government has identified nuclear as a way to diversify power supply to decrease its carbon footprint.

We will have a firm timeline once we have signed contracts with those who will be constructing the plant … and once the funding is in place, Zulu said.

Zulu did not say whether the government and Eskom would be able to source the funding needed to construc the plants in the indicated timeframes.

The EIA proposal suggests three potential sites for the next plants, the western coast, the south- eastern coast near St Francis Bay and on the south-western coast near Pearly Beach.