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Nuclear reactor now delayed until 2025

Cape Town - The nuclear industry says “political delays” have pushed the completion date for the country’s first new nuclear reactor from 2023 to 2025.

Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) managing director Knox Msebenzi told delegates at the 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress in Africa 2015 in Sea Point on Thursday that the association had met some nuclear vendors wanting to sell their technology to South Africa, and would meet others. The vendors the industry was talking to were Areva, Westinghouse, Rosatom, Kepco (Korea Electric Power Corporation) and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC).

The Koeberg nuclear power station, outside Cape Town. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

“The first plant was due in 2023, but it’s been very delayed. Part of the delay has to do with politics. The latest date is 2025, but there may be other delays. Maybe we’re perceived by government as not ready. We’ve got many vendors wanting to participate,” Msebenzi said.

While he had heard that South Korea had embarked on its nuclear programme by presidential decree, Msebenzi said South Africa, as an emerging democracy, had to work through a process and get public buy-in.

He said South Africa had the chance to look at a range of different technologies and examine what had worked elsewhere in the world, and where the successes and failures were.

“We won’t be likely to be looking at a ‘first of a kind’ technology. We have the opportunity to choose the best technology,” Msebenzi said.

He said local content required by government for the new nuclear fleet was likely to be around 40 percent. Studies done by the industry suggested local content of up to 60 percent could be achieved. Much of this would be in the construction materials, such as concrete.

South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear reactor was more than 30 years old, built at a time “before China knew the word - but now they are ahead of us… now they’re exporting nuclear technology. We want to learn from them”.

Niasa visited the US in 2013 to look at nuclear technology. “Next month we go to China, assisted by the DTi (Department of Trade and Industry),” he said.

Msebenzi quoted International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Yukiya Am-ano, who said the two biggest challenges facing any country that embarked on a nuclear energy programme were funding and human resource capability. He dismissed the funding issue: “Funding is not up to the industry, it is really for government to look after,” Msebenzi said.

The industry had embarked on human resource development in partnership with the government.

The industry saw the low level of knowledge about nuclear power in this country as a problem as it made the public “gullible to the anti-nuclear lobby”.

National Treasury said this month no money had been budgeted for the nuclear build programme in the next three years.

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