Nuclear energy would help Africa realise its energy security goals, the energy minister said in Johannesburg on Thursday.
"We cannot, because we are black, end up having a dark continent," Dipuo Peters said at a business breakfast hosted by The New Age.
South Africa was rich in uranium reserves that could be used to create an abundance of energy.
"God gave us these resources and we must use them," she said.
Africa needed to take a proactive role and would not be bystanders in the energy revolution.
Earlier in the week, Greenpeace activists protested against the expansion of the nuclear energy on the continent and claimed Peters had not adequately responded to their concerns. Peters said she believed further engagement was needed, but felt the environmental group was not prepared to compromise.
"(Greenpeace) don't want nuclear, you don't want hydro, coal. It's important they understand we are an energy intense economy."
Peters said President Jacob Zuma had given her the mandate to "demystify" nuclear power to overcome public concerns. Aspects of nuclear technology were already used in hospitals, desalination plants, and in agriculture. The government was also in the final stages of establishing a nuclear waste management institute, which would keep the public informed of measures to deal with nuclear by-products.
Concerns about fracking, or hydrolic fracturing, to extract shale gas reserves needed to be overcome through research and technology.
"We cannot allow a blessing to lie fallow... If shale gas is one of the blessings, we are going to go for it," Peters said.
It was essential, however, that the process was not rushed. The technology involved in fracking was established in other countries, such as Australia and the United States, and similar to that used in processing gold. Means of extracting the shale gas safely would benefit the people of the Karoo, she said.
Asked about the tender processes associated with the expansion of the nuclear industry, Peters appeared amused at South Africa's preoccupation with tenders.
"Why should we always be tenderising everything?"