The French nuclear industry, led by electricity utility EDF, formally declared its intention on Wednesday to submit a response to the Nuclear New Build Programme request for information (RFI), which was released by South Africa’s Eskom on December 20.
The announcement by EDF followed reports that Russian nuclear vendor Rosatom also intended responding to the RFI, along with denials by Rosatom that it had already submitted a bid to build new reactors in South Africa.
EDF said its response would also deal with the nuclear fuel cycle and the commercial production reactor, which could be procured by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, or Necsa.
“EDF and the French nuclear industry welcome the RFI as an opportunity to engage in a new phase of cooperation with Eskom and Necsa on developing the South African Nuclear New Build Programme,” the group said in a statement.
Eskom issued the RFI in line with an amended Section 34(1) determination, published in the Government Gazette of December 14, designating Eskom as the procurer of the nuclear generation plant.
The RFI was issued instead of the request for proposals, previously mooted, and Eskom stressed that the process did not amount to a competitive tender and would, thus, not create any financial commitments or obligations on it or government.
The closing date for responses to the RFI is April 28, but vendors needed to inform Eskom by January 31 as to whether or not they intended to respond. Therefore, it is likely that other vendors could also make their intention known prior to the end of the month, given that intergovernmental agreements on nuclear have also been signed with, South Korea, Canada, Japan, China and the US.
South Africa and France signed an intergovernmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation in October 2014 and EDF and Areva have long signalled that the French nuclear industry has an appetite for the South African programme, despite the controversy that surrounds it.
“The French government has always been supportive of close cooperation, including know-how transfer and skills development, between the French nuclear industry and its South African counterparts,” EDF said.
EDF would lead and coordinate the French effort drawing on capabilities built over its 40 years of domestic and international nuclear experience, “most recently in China and in the UK”.
The group operates the world’s largest nuclear fleet, comprising a total of 73 units, 58 of which are located in France. It has been confirmed previously that the French intend offering the 1 650 MW EPR reactor design, which is being constructed at Flamanville 3 in France.
EDF also highlighted its long-standing relationship with Eskom at the Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape, which remains Africa’s only operating nuclear plant. “EDF is already involved in South Africa and is determined to go forward and be a key player of the South African energy transition in the future.”