Visit by Delegation of Parliament of the Czech Republic: discussion

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Mineral Resources and Energy

12 May 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

12 May 2006

Chairperson: Mr EN Mthethwa (ANC)

Documents handed out:

A delegation of the House of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic met with the Committee to discuss minerals and energy issues that are common between the two countries. In this regard, nuclear power, the use of coal as feedstock for electricity generation and the use of alternative and renewable sources of energy were discussed.


Introduction by Czech Delegation

The meeting was conducted in two languages, English and Czech. The interpreter for the proceeding was Ms Jana Frankova, who was with the Czech delegate.

Speaking through the interpreter, Mr O Vojir, an MP of the Czech Republic, explained that their interest in their mission to South Africa was, in particular, two sectors, namely, transport and energy. He explained that the day before the Czech delegate had met with the Portfolio Committee on Transport. He pointed out that at that meeting they discussed the challenges South Africa were faced with in improving its transport infrastucture. He added that today they would like to know more about the energy sectors.

Mr Vojir explained that it is common knowledge that energy belongs amongst the key factors for the development of the economy of any country. He elaborated that, however, it was necessary to look for new energy resources, as the fossil fuels are running out and are a major cause of pollution. He added that the Czech Republic is aware of the South African success in completing a new nuclear programme. He asked if South Africa is planning to deploy the new programme practically in the production of nuclear energy. He added that the price of energy tends to go up and that the existing modes of energy production will have to be replaced, in the future, by the more economic methods, such as nuclear energy and thermo-nuclear energy and to a certain extent by energy from renewable resources.

Mr Vojir wondered what kind of mix of different kinds of production South Africa envisages for the future when it comes to the classical production of nuclear energy in thermo-nuclear power plants and energy from renewable resources.

The Chairperson pointed out that it would be important to get the Czech Republic’s approach to the matter of energy mix of different kinds of production that the Czech Republic envisages for its own country.

He explained that the South African government would want to use anything possible to make sure that South Africans have enough energy. He added that it is, perhaps, because of that the government talks of fossil fuels and renewable resources.

The Chairperson pointed out that in South Africa more than 80 percent of electricity is drawn from coal. He added that, given that South Africa signed the Kyoto Protocol, this immediately raises questions about global warming. He explained that the country signed the Kyoto Protocol knowing fully well the dilemma it is faced with.

The Chairperson explained that South Africa had vast reserves of coal that could last for another 100 years. However, Mr Mthethwa pointed out that the South African government would want to secure anything possible to make sure that the country does not run out of energy. He explained that the Western Cape province, by and large, contributes more or less five percent of energy to the South African reserves.

The Chairperson further explained that nuclear energy in South Africa has been associated with the negative, destructive old apartheid regime. He added, however, that the new government planned to use nuclear energy for social progress.

As far as renewable resources were concerned, Mr Mthethwa explained that the country was facing great challenges. He pointed out that the country does not have enough hydro-energy or water for consumption purposes. He added that to consider hydro-energy as an alternative source of energy would not be sustainable in the South African context. As for solar energy, he explained that the country has experimented with a number of projects, and so, consequently, he pointed out that in South Africa, there were regions which were considered extraordinarily hot in temperature and so because of that the solar energy project was making a remarkable impact. He added that there is also research work that is being conducted to advance the idea of solar energy as an alternative source of energy.

The Chairperson explained that wind as an alternative source of energy is not experimented with on a large scale in South Africa as it is in Western Europe, mainly because of the weather. He added that Western Europe has much bigger volumes of wind than South Africa. However, he pointed out that there were small projects that were being conducted to experiment with wind, especially in the Western Cape.


Prof IJ Mohamed (ANC) pointed out that although South Africa has plenty of coal, it is, however, situated in the north. As a result electricity in South Africa is mainly produced in the northern part of the country. To bring it down to the southern parts of the country is a costly business. Prof Mohamed explained this was one of the reasons to look for alternative sources of energy.

Prof Mohamed commented that South Africa has decided to continue building nuclear generators in order to produce electricity. He pointed out that there is one such generator in the Western Cape. He added that comparatively speaking the generator at Koeberg, in the Western Cape, is fairly small. However, he explained that there is a problem around the nuclear waste, which at present is stored in ponds at Koeberg. He added that low level waste is transported to the northern parts of the country.

Mr Vojir, still speaking through the interpreter, remarked that it was somehow surprising that South Africa and the Czech Republic had similar restrictions and problems with the production of nuclear energy.

Mr Vojir pointed out that the Czech Republic produces most of its own energy by burning coal. He added that the Czech Republic also has nuclear energy. The Czech Republic produces a fraction of its energy by burning natural gas. A small amount of energy is produced in power plants using renewable resources, and that is mainly hydro-plants.

Mr Vojir explained that the Czech Republic’s energy mix was as follows: 50 percent from burning coal, 40 percent from nuclear power plants, 10 percent from other resources (natural gas, water, and other renewable resources). He added that in the Czech Republic there were two nuclear power plants that were equipped with Russian technology. In one of these power plants, the Russian technology is combined with the U.S. made control system.

Mr Vojir pointed out that the Czech Republic is concerned about the security of energy production in nuclear power plants and waste management and waste disposal. He added that the Czech Republic has been operating nuclear power plants for more than 30 years, and that was why the Czech government was insisting on finding a disposal site for the burnt fuel for a period longer than 50 years. He added that as far as the Kyoto Protocol was concerned, the Czech Republic was fulfilling the obligation the government had set out to to fullfill by signing the protocol.

Mr Pavel Mojda, MP of the Czech Republic, speaking through the interpreter, asked if South Africa, which is surrounded by two oceans, unlike the Czech Republic which is a landlocked country, was not considering utilising power plants that use tidal energy.

Adv H Schmidt (DA) explained that South Africa did not place heavy reliance on tidal power. This might be due to a lack of technology and skills. However, he pointed out that at present there were only investigations and research work being done around the issue.

The Chairperson presented Mr Vojir with a portrait of Parliament as a symbol of appreciation for the Czech visit.

The meeting was adjourned.


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