THE National Energy Regulator of South Africa has handed the country a golden opportunity to manufacture and export 100 megawatts (MW) HTMR-100 nuclear reactors which do not require water and could be installed in landlocked areas anywhere.
“A lot of African countries are looking to get these small nuclear reactors, South Africa has the resources and personnel to build up this industry. South Africa is a world leader. more than 140 South Africans are working in the United Arab Emirates which just switched on 4 500MW of nuclear reactors – four heads of reactors are South Africans. In the US, South African engineers are working in nuclear projects because the local industry has been closed off,” said nuclear analyst Dr Kelvin Kemm.
Kemm said fulfilling the 2 500MW capacity that Nersa had given the green light to would require two nuclear reactors to each produce about 1 200MW, which would cost about R250 billion, and then an HTMR-100 reactor, which would cost about R6 billion.
“This is the same amount of money the country has already spent on wind and solar energy projects, plus this would open up the industry. We should not think of ourselves as nuclear importers, as we have so much capacity to export,” Kemm said.
This comes as Nersa on Friday allowed a Minister for Minerals and Energy Gwede Mantashe initiative to have the country produce its own nuclear power as part of the energy mix.
Originally the nuclear proposal was for a total of 9 600MW to be generated from three nuclear power stations, but Mantashe had asked Nersa to allow for 2500MW, which they have agreed to.
South Africa envisaged building up nuclear capacity at a plant in Thyspunt, in the Eastern Cape. The target for nuclear power coming on stream was in 2030.
“This is very feasible, we should have built nuclear capacity years ago. We can start as early as in the next few months not two years. We have developed the cheaper HTMR-100 technology and we can export that all over Africa,” he said.
South Africa has the continent's only operating nuclear plant - the Koeberg plan outside Cape Town generates 1 900MW.
The current energy mix is presided over by coal which produces more than 80 percent of South Africa's power, making it the continent's biggest greenhouse gas emitter. Coal-fired capacity was 37 000MW last year, whereas utility-scale solar and wind, which like nuclear doesn't pump CO2 into the air, stood at more than 4 000MW.
Nersa’s electricity subcommittee said last week it had had considered whether the proposed nuclear procurement was in line with the Electricity Regulation Act and published government policy.
Among conditions for the concurrence was that the procurement should be at a pace and scale that the country could afford and the tender process should be transparent and competitive.
Government’s plan is still at infancy for now, and no scope of work has been issued.
“It will be South African concrete being poured in the projects, South African walls going up. The pipe work and cabling will all be done by South Africans, there is very little foreigners will have to do in building the industry here,” Kemm said.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE