Nuclear reactor Core. Millstone
South Africa has responded to the INIR peer review mission report and expects the first unit of 1,000MW of nuclear power to be online in eight years’ time. Pic credits: Millstone

At a briefing on Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation announced that South Africa will finalise its bid requirements for six nuclear power stations by the end of July.

Zizamele Mbambo, deputy director generation of Nuclear Energy at the DoE explained that the expectation is to have the first unit of 1,000MW of nuclear power online in eight years’ time, reported Reuters.

In terms of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010-2030 ) South Africa plans to introduce 9,600MW of nuclear power by 2030 into its strained power grid to reduce its dependence on coal-fired power and curb the need for planned load shedding.

“There is sufficient time to construct these nuclear power plants and we have a schedule in place but at this stage we cannot put a price to it”, stated Mbambo at the briefing.

Preferred bid announcement date

Mbambo said the government was exploring different funding models for the nuclear power build and would only release “specifics” when the bids are awarded. Preferred bidders will be announced by end March 2016, when the financial year ends.

According to the DoE, South Africa’s nuclear build could cost in the region of ZAR400 billion to 1 trillion ($32 billion to $81 billion), however figures in the statement issued by Mmambo indicate it would cost ZAR51,80k ($4,200) per kilowatt per reactor for “newcomer States” to develop nuclear power.

The chief executive of South Africa’s state owned nuclear energy company Phumzile Tshelane said the price would not be that high for South Africa as building the second reactor “will be cheaper as it will be paid for by the existing one”.

Nuclear power peer review

Earlier this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission, to assess South Africa’s infrastructure relating to its readiness to start purchasing, constructing, and operating nuclear power plants.

The INIR peer review’s final mission report, which is not an audit, received on 30 May 2013 provided 10 guidelines to which South Africa has now responded:

  1. South Africa should finalise its contracting strategy for new nuclear build.

Progress: contracting strategy has been completed.

  1. In terms of nuclear legislation, South Africa should address the Fundamental Safety Principles, including assigning prime responsibility for safety to the operator.

Progress: amendment of the NNR Act and NE Act is under review.

  1. The Bid Invitation Specification (BIS) and related evaluation criteria should be completed as a prerequisite for the tendering and procurement process.

Progress: to be finalised by end July 2015.

  1. The designation of the Procuring Agency should be made so that it can initiate the necessary organisational provisions, including HR development.

Progress: this is completed with the DoE designated as the “Procuring Agency”.

  1. Once the Contracting Strategy has been finalised, South Africa should complete its financing arrangements for the new build programme.

Progress: studies completed and recommendations are undergoing approval process.

  1. South Africa should join the relevant international legal instrument(s) on civil liability for nuclear damage.

Progress: consultation with necessary stakeholders is currently in progress and on-going.

  1. South Africa should complete regulations on nuclear security and safeguards.

Progress: nuclear security regulations completed, however government is considering options on the transfer of the nuclear safeguards function.

  1. South Africa should complete the process of revising its legislative framework to address the independence of the regulatory body, nuclear security and civil liability for nuclear damage.

Progress: benchmark studies on regulatory independence and institutional arrangements are completed and being processed with relevant authorities.

  1. South Africa should develop and implement a national human resources strategy and plan to address required improvements in: technical subjects at secondary school level; graduation rates for university engineering programmes; and training of artisans in areas relevant to nuclear industry.

Progress: the strategy has been developed and is now being implemented.

  1. South Africa should develop an integrated national Nuclear Fuel Cycle strategy, including Spent Fuel/High Level Waste disposal.

Progress: the development of strategies is completed.

Possible nuclear procurement

koeberg-nuclear-cropped
South Africa is set to add 9,600MW of nuclear power to its existing nuclear generation capacity

The DoE has signed nuclear agreements with France, Russia, China, South Korea and energy officials told Reuters that they were “speaking to” Japan, Canada and the United States about possible cooperation for its build process but had not made a decision.

“We have said repeatedly that the bidding process has not been finalised and the process will be a fair and transparent one”, Mbambo said, responding to questions that Moscow is seen a top contender for the nuclear procurement.

Last week ESI reported that Russia has committed to two projects, to educate and encourage “public acceptance of nuclear power” and will train specialists in South Africa’s nuclear industry.