France and South Africa sign nuclear skills agreements

03 March 2008

France's Areva and Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) have signed agreements that will see Areva's support for engineering and nuclear skills development extended and increased.

The agreements were signed by Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and Necsa CEO Rob Adam during a ceremony in Cape Town attended by South African president Thabo Mbeki and French president Nicholas Sarkozy.

Areva said in a statement that Arecsa Human Capital, a joint venture between Areva and Necsa, will increase training in technology and energy of disadvantaged South Africans, underling the company's commitment to government's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).

Future cooperation between the two parties would also extend to the training of skilled workers through the Necsa Artisan Training Centre and a technical training centre, which reopened this year to address the needs for workers in the broader nuclear industry.

These agreements support Areva's initiatives aimed at bridging the gap in nuclear skills necessary to build and maintain South Africa's nuclear energy programme. The skills development initiatives include the project leaders programme, which has already trained South African engineers at the Sorbonne and Areva University. This programme will be extended for a further five years.

In addition, in partnership with North Western University (NWU), Areva will start nuclear project management training at the university this year. This training will be targeted at South African nuclear industry executives and NWU postgraduate students registered for nuclear engineering.

Lauvergeon commented: "Skills are crucial if South Africa's nuclear industry is to succeed. Today we have extended the support to JIPSA, and made another strong commitment to this vital area of the South African government's economic policy".

Areva also signed a contract worth some €80 million ($120 million) with Rio Tinto Alcan to construct a power supply system for its new aluminium smelter in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Under the deal, Areva will deliver a conversion substation that will supply the smelter with direct current for the aluminium production process.

Currently South Africa has two pressurized water reactors at Koeberg, operated by state utility Eskom to provide about 6% of its electricity. Almost all of the rest of the country's electricity comes from coal-fired stations. Plans are already afoot in the country to deploy around 12 more power reactors of around 1000 MWe, and to build 20-30 of the 165 MWe PBMR units following the successful operation of a demonstration unit. That level of deployment would provide 30% of South Africa's electricity.

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