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Nuclear strategy unclear
Fri, 05 Dec 2008 12:12 AM
Although the government and its electricity utility Eskom have decided to pull out of the plans to build Nuclear-1, the country's second nuclear power station, Portia Molefe, the director general of the Department of Public Enterprises, insists nuclear
power has not been abandoned in its entirety.
She told a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday that nuclear plans would
still go ahead, but at a much later date and with a different system of
financing the build.
A task team of officials from her department, from the Department of
Minerals and Energy and from Eskom are to spend the next year working out
the modus operandi, which will involve creating a partnership with the
private sector to undertake the build instead of relying on competitive
The two companies tendering to build Nuclear-1, she said, have already
indicated that the initial building costs are so high that a partnership
would clearly be the best way to go. "Even if you factor in the cost of the
carbon footprint from coal-fired stations, the price of nuclear energy is
way higher," she said.
An advantage of putting off the building of a new nuclear power station
is that it gives time to develop a new regulatory framework, and will enable
plans to be made for more than one station.
Molefe also made it clear that the government is not abandoning its
ambitions for developing the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR). However she
pointed out that the PBMR has two possible uses, one for generating
electricity and one for generating "process heat". The latter can be used
directly, she said, in processes such as winning oil from oil sands, and it
may be that the process heat application will be the way to go.
A decision on the future of the PBMR was to be made, she said. "In terms
of its time scale, there has been a time shift," she said. "We shall make an
But she indicated that the department was looking at ways of speeding up
the PMBR process, not slowing it down "We are certainly not sounding the
death knell for PMBR," she said.
The director general explained that the world was today a very different
place from when the tenders for the pressurised water reactor were first put
out. "Then it was a seller's market, now it is going to be much more a
buyer's market," she said, adding that the two tenderers ? Areva and
Westingthouse - would no doubt be angry about the cancellation of the