The French government is building its case for supporting South Africa’s nuclear build programme, with a visit to South Africa by the Special Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani.
He met with South African government officials and industrial leaders this week to advocate the benefits of French expertise, with the French government hoping South Africa will consider it as a partner in its proposed nuclear build programme.
“The French government has a relationship with the South African government that is dense and diverse. We’ve been a reliable partner in the Koeberg plant and we want to continue that collaboration,” he told a media briefing in Cape Town during his visit.
The French nuclear industry and Eskom have been partners for the past 40 years in the Koeberg power station, with Colombani saying he was very impressed by the quality of the plant and the way it has been so well-maintained.
The construction of Koeberg was started shortly after a contract had been signed with a French consortium in 1976, with the first of two units coming into operation in April 1984.
“Koeberg has been, and remains, a reliable source of energy for the nation. It would be in the interests of South Africa to build on that technology, with which it is already familiar. France is ready to share its expertise and experience.”
Colombani said France’s EPT reactor had already been certified by authorities in France, China, Finland and the UK according to the highest standards of safety and performance. He added that the French offer would also cover nuclear fuel management, as well as research cooperation with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and other organisations in the country.
Competition is tight for South Africa’s nuclear build contract, with Russia topping the list as a contender.
“We have heard about Russia being a done deal, but the people I have spoken to have got the opposite view.
“We respect our competition, but we know we are much better. We think we can be better and more comprehensive than countries like China and Russia. We are extremely strict on compliance and transparency,” Colombani said.
He added that transparency, ethics and compliance were key to France’s successful involvement in nuclear energy. France has a very active nuclear industry, with 58 nuclear energy plants across the country.
Colombani further pointed out that France would be able to contribute to boosting skills development, manufacturing capabilities and employment opportunities for South Africans.
He used the example of France’s work in building two EPR reactors in Taishan, China. “This provided a substantial footprint in terms of training and local jobs. The same could be expected in South Africa.”
Colombani would not be drawn on the costs of building a nuclear power plant, but said it would be put in the “context of the economy of South Africa, as well as the global economy”.
South African President Jacob Zuma said in his recent State of the Nation Address that the government remained committed to nuclear energy but would only proceed on a scale and at a pace that South Africa could afford.
This was Colombani’s second official visit to South Africa. He also met with government officials, as well as members of the Eskom board and Necsa officials last November.