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Nuclear key to SAs future

Barbara Hogan,
South African
Minister of Public
31 July 2009 – South African Minister of Public Enterprise, Barbara Hogan said this week that nuclear would play a key role in meeting growing power demand.

"There is a lot of controversy about nuclear in the world… (but) there can be little doubt now that nuclear is going to play one of the most important components in our energy provisions going forward," she said.

South Africa is one of the pioneers in developing pebble-fuel and, says Jaco Kriek, CE of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Company, the first pilot plant, with an 80MW capacity, could come online by 2018 at an estimated cost of $3.45 billion. Kriek said further that his company planned on reducing the cost of the plants to make them economically viable in relation to other energy sources such as gas and coal.

Best for decentralised areas, the PBMR technology is modular in nature and units can be added to increase supply as needed by customers.

Westinghouse Electric, Eskom and the Industrial Development Corporation have invested close to US$1 billion testing and developing the technology since 1999.

"The funding for the reactor will be by a consortium… it will be a mix of government, private investors, customers interested in this technology and PBMR investors," Kriek said.

Several countries have expressed interest in the project, Kriek says and although China is likely to be the first to have a working plant up and running (planned for 2013), there was still vast opportunities to market and sell PBMR technology within Africa and beyond.  He said that China was unlikely to export the technology.

According to Kriek, PBMR was also in talks with both Westinghouse and Areva to become local partners in the development of South Africa’s next nuclear reactor.

Hogan said that South Africa needs to foster a local nuclear industry to boost exports and skills, commenting that "government is gung-ho about localisation… we cannot as a country afford importing product and skills that we could be producing in the country."