“The goal of this exercise was to understand what lessons may be learned and assess from multiple dimensions what the outcomes of a nuclear build programme might look like,” noted the CEO of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) Phumzile Tshelane. The idea was to compile a perspective that would allow South Africa’s government to more fully understand state-of-the art atomic power generation.
While the outlay and build costs of a nuclear plant is massively expensive, some industry and university researchers have determined that nuclear power is cheaper than coal over the lifetime of the plant, normally 60-70 years.
“We have been running Koeberg very well for 30 years and that plant produces the cheapest electricity in Eskom’s whole fleet of power stations,” says Dr Kelvin Kemm, CEO of Nuclear Africa, a nuclear project management company in Pretoria.
South Africa has blown hot and cold on the issue of significant nuclear supplement to the limited flow it produces now at its Koeberg power station near Cape Town. On balance, however, the temperature has favoured the upside. The strongest indication that a nuclear build is in the offing at some undetermined date lies in the inclusion of 9,600MW of atomic power in the 2030 Integrated Resources Plan. This is a programme of energy build across all generational means to add an additional 40,000MW to the national mix between 2010 and 2030.
As developments unfolded, it became clear that Russia considers itself more than simply a vendor of nuclear power generation. This left little doubt that bigger things were in the air and Russia and South Africa were getting serious in the ways it would like to move forward with President Putin’s administration on its nuclear requirements – a return by South Africa to uranium enrichment would be a priority. Russia has undertaken to make its technology, ‘from uranium mining to decommissioning’ available to develop a local nuclear industry, the Rosatom representative told Moneyweb.
Rosatom director-general Sergey Kirienko said: “Rosatom seeks to create in South Africa a full-scale nuclear cluster of a world leader’s level – from the front end of nuclear fuel cycle up to engineering and power equipment manufacturing.”
With a nuclear alliance in the making, Russia and South Africa would want to be Africa’s one-stop nuclear shop. Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Uganda have all voiced their ambitions of become nuclear nations sooner rather than later.
Notes BizNews: “It is envisaged that Russia and South Africa will, once the local industry is established, ‘implement joint nuclear power projects in Africa and third countries’”.
In fact, the agreement provides for the two countries to work together to develop a local nuclear industry. However, the Department of Energy (DoE) was at pains to point out that South Africans should not look forward to a surfeit of information on the government’s plans for its nuclear build.
“The procurement of a nuclear build programme is unique,” says Zizamele Mbambo, deputy director for nuclear at the DoE. “I need to also highlight that in terms of what type of procurement process government will use to procure the nuclear build, that has not been decided.”
To this caution, the Mail and Guardian newspaper adds: “According to the process that the department sketched in only the broadest possible terms, South Africa will first select the nuclear technology it wants to buy, and then figure out what purchasing process will get the deal done. As each country in the running has different technology to offer, that implies that the country will be selected first, then the process will be built to suit that country, and considerations of costs will follow.”