On Friday, the Department of Energy (DoE) announced that 50 South African trainees from the nuclear industry will be going to Shanghai Jiao Tong and Tsinghua Universities in China to participate in a four-month nuclear power plant operations training programme.
The training, which forms part of the first phase of the nuclear new build programme, follows the signing of a skills development cooperation agreement between the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa and Chinese State Nuclear Power Technology Company.
The partnership follows parade workshops from nuclear vendors from China, Russia, Japan, France, USA, South Korea and Canada.
Nuclear power plant operational training
The training programme will run from April to August 2015 and will include a mix of theoretical learning and site visits to some of China’s nuclear facilities.
Lectures will cover nuclear power plant related subjects such as physical characteristics, nuclear island system equipment, codes and safety oversight, steam power conversion system, material science, conventional island system equipment, thermodynamics and basis of reactor thermal hydraulics.
Trainees will also study radiation protection, electrical systems and equipment, generic mechanical equipment, instrumentation and control theories, water chemistry, operation theories, some basic knowledge of project management, and nuclear safety culture.
“This training opportunity marks the first phase of a scope that aims to cover capability and technology in areas of nuclear power plant engineering, procurement, manufacturing, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance and project management," said the DoE in a statement.
"The second phase of training will see South Africa sending 250 trainees to China to be trained at various levels.”
The DoE concluded: “This first phase is a trial phase, which will be followed by a much more intensive training programme that will cover on the job training at nuclear power plant construction sites, bachelor's degrees in all engineering, natural and social sciences, financial and project management programmes as well as post graduate courses and research collaboration between South Africa and the major developed countries that will include: France, Russia, China, USA, South Korea, Japan, Canada, UK and Germany.”
South Africa's nuclear build programme
The nuclear new build programme was established under the Nuclear Energy Policy of 2008, the Nuclear Energy Act 46 of 1999, and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010-30 adopted in 2011.
In February, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) said that this would be delayed until 2025.
NIASA managing director Knox Msebenzi said: “The first plant was due in 2023, but it’s been very delayed. Part of the delay has to do with politics. The latest date is 2025, but there may be other delays. Maybe we’re [South Africa] perceived by government as not ready. We’ve got many vendors wanting to participate."
However, the DoE claims that nuclear energy policies are expected to contribute an additional 9,600MW to the national electricity grid by 2030 with the first reactor to come online in 2023.
“The National Development Plan enjoins us to do thorough investigations on various aspects of the nuclear power generation programme before a procurement decision is taken,” the DoE said.
“As such, part of our recent pre-procurement work includes the conclusion of engagements with various vendor countries such as the United States of America, South Korea, Russia, Canada, France, Japan and China. These are the countries that have expressed interest in the rollout of South Africa’s nuclear programme,” the DoE explained.
Inter-Governmental Framework Agreements were concluded with all vendor countries, except Canada and Japan, whose agreements are at an advanced stage of completion.
The nuclear new build programme aims to promote job creation, capacity building, develop industries both existing and new, and drive the nation into a “knowledge economy”.