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Sep 26, 2007

Eskom says Areva, Westinghouse could build new nuclear power station

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Eskom nuclear stakeholder management senior manager Tony Stott discusses the firm's nuclear rollout
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© Reuse this State power utility Eskom has identified the world’s biggest nuclear power firm, Areva, and US-based Westinghouse as the vendors to build South Africa’s first new nuclear power station in more than 20 years, and construction could start as early as 2010, a top official said on Wednesday.

The plant, to be built at one of five possible sites along South Africa’s coastline, would “definitely” cost more than the R80-billion Eskom was paying for the coal-fired Medupi plant that it is building at Lephalale, nuclear stakeholder management senior manager Tony Stott said.

The State-owned power utility was hoping to have a letter of intent signed with the preferred bidder sometime in 2008, he told Engineering News Online, on the sidelines of the Institute for International Research South Africa Nuclear Energy conference in Sandton.

Eskom would then submit an environmental-impact assessment (EIA) for the plant’s construction in 2009, and was hoping for a decision from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the same year.

“At the moment, we are hoping to have construction start at the end of 2010,” Stott said. “It’s optimistic, and it’s an ambitious programme, but certainly that is what we would like.”

Construction for the first unit would then take “at least six years” to complete.

The nuclear plant would have a capacity of between 3 200 MW and 3 300 MW.

“We are going to have to start getting the EIA process and the commercial negotiations running parellel,” stated Stott. “We are hoping to get the design done some time in 2008.”

French firm Areva built Africa’s only nuclear power plant, situated at Koeberg, near Cape Town, in 1984, while Westinghouse is involved with South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor project.

Rapid roll-out

Asked at what intervals Eskom hoped to introduce new nuclear reactor units after 2016, Stott said that the firm would be looking to bring on a new unit every one to two years.

“They are all going to happen fairly swiftly after each other”, if the parastatal was to meet its target of generating 20 000 MW of nuclear power by 2025.

Eskom was hoping to generate 30% of its power from nuclear sources by this time.
"If Eskom hypothetically counted as a country, it would rank as the 25th worst carbon emitting State in the world"

Currently, it depends on coal for about 86% of its power generation capacity.

Carbon taxes

Stott reiterated statements made earlier this month by Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga that Eskom had to assume that it would, at some point in the future, have to pay carbon ‘taxes’ for its emissions.

“Beyond the Kyoto agreement in 2012, South Africa is almost certainly going to have to pay carbon taxes,” Stott said, referring to the Kyoto Protocol that most developed countries signed about a decade ago.

“From Eskom’s side, we have to work as though that is going to happen,” he stressed.

This made nuclear energy a more viable option than coal, which was pollution intensive, and it was expensive to capture the carbon emissions.

Stott showed that nuclear power generation was, in fact, cheaper than coal-fired power generation, when carbon capture costs were included.

He also highlighted that, if Eskom hypothetically counted as a country, it would rank as the twenty-fifth worst carbon emitting State in the world.

This was “outstanding” and could not continue, he emphasised.

Currently, some 16% of the world’s power came from nuclear, and 31 new nuclear power plants were being built globally.


Edited by: Liezel Hill
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