This story has been updated to include comments from NIASA managing director Knox Msebenzi.
South Africa will begin the procurement process for a new nuclear power plant in the second quarter of this financial year and expects to have selected its strategic partners by year-end.
Energy minister Tina Joemat-Petterson made the comments in her 2015/16 policy and budget speech, delivered to the South African National Assembly earlier today.
Eskom and CEO to part
South African state energy utility Eskom has announced that the company and its CEO, Tshediso Matona, have "mutually agreed to part on an amicable basis". In a statement, the company expressly noted that no misconduct or wrongdoing had been alleged against Matona. Earlier this year, the CEO had been temporarily suspended as a matter of procedure when the Eskom's board commissioned an enquiry into the company's performance and challenges.
Energy security is a pre-requisite for South Africa's national development plan, which envisages economic growth of 5.5%, Joemat-Petterson noted. In 2010, the South African cabinet approved a plan for 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity, with the first new unit to be commissioned by 2023.
To that end, South Africa has over recent years signed intergovernmental agreements with various countries in preparation for nuclear cooperation, trade and technology exchange as well as procurement. So-called vendor parades have been held with all nuclear vendor countries interested in taking part in the nuclear new build program China, France, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the USA.
Joemat-Pettersson confirmed that the actual nuclear procurement process will begin in the second quarter of the current financial year, promising to that the process to select a strategic partner or would be competitive, fair, transparent and cost effective. "We expect to present the outcome of this procurement process to cabinet by year end," she noted. The South African fiscal year runs from 1 April to 31 March.
The minister also reiterated South Africa's intentions to re-establish its nuclear fuel cycle, saying that a business model will be finalised "to take advantage of our mineral resources and the beneficiation strategy of our government".
South Africa is the only African nation currently to generate electricity from nuclear power. The two Koeberg reactors have been in operation since the mid-1980s and today provide around 5% of the country's electricity. South Africa produced 540 tU in 2013. Although the country currently procures conversion, enrichment and fabrication services on the world markets, it has in the past operated its own fuel cycle facilities, and has carried out initial feasibility studies on the re-establishment of nuclear fuel cycle programs. Conversion, enrichment and fabrication facilities are all envisaged, either domestically or with overseas partners.
The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) welcomed the minister's budget speech, and particularly applauded the government’s commencement of a nuclear skills development and training program in preparation for new build plans.
Knox Msebenzi, NIASA managing director, highlighted South Africa's nuclear track record with over 30 years of operation of the Koeberg plant and over 50 years of research reactor operations at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa's Safari-1 reactor. South Africa is now one of the world's biggest producers of medical radioisotopes from low enriched uranium.
"As the South African Nuclear Industry Association, we are committed to collaborate with the government in pursuit of the country’s objectives in achieving energy security," he said.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News