Sunday, February 18, 2007

South Africa plans big expansion of nuclear capacity

The Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) foresees a huge growth in the country's nuclear capacity to about 27,000 MWe - some 30% of electricity supply - by 2030.Rob Adam, chief executive of Necsa has said his company expects government to authorise the construction of 24 indigenously-designed Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMRs) of 165 MWe each, as well as 12 full-size reactors of 1000 MWe or more. His comments, made at a conference in Johannesburg, appeared in Business Report.Necsa is a public company set up in 1999 to promote research and development in nuclear energy, radiation science and technology. The comments follow the recent announcement of the utility Eskom's decision to build a new nuclear plant in South Africa. Eskom already has a two-unit nuclear plant at Koeberg near Cape Town that outputs 1842 MWe. South Africa faces electricity supply problems because the coal resources that fire 90% of its power are located in the north east of the country, far away from the population centres. Either the heavy coal must be transported, or the electricity transmitted many hundreds of kilometers. When maintenance problems affected the Koeberg nuclear plant last year, rolling blackouts had to be imposed on the Cape Town region in the face of overall shortfalls of up to 4500 MWe.Adam also called for South Africa to enter the uranium enrichment business: "This is rocket science, but South Africa has done it before," he said, referring to the atomic weapons programme the country abolished in 1995. "We have the people, but if we wait another ten years they will have all retired."A new nuclear strategy will be presented to the South African cabinet in coming weeks according to presentations cited by Business Report.

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