The South African nuclear power procurement programme is now rolling. The long-awaited formal start, as far as the international community is concerned, occurred on December 14, when a request for information (RfI) was issued.
What this document did was that it asked any company worldwide to react to it if it intended to bid for a part of the 9 600 MW South African nuclear build programme. Interested parties had to indicate by the end of January that they would be in the running. A total of 38 applications were received.
Cabinet determined that the nuclear procurement programme would be a joint undertaking by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and electricity utility Eskom. The latter has been designated the entity that will conduct the construction of the nuclear power plants. Necsa will be the nuclear specialist related to the actual nuclear part of the nuclear power plant. Bear in mind that a large part – in fact, the major portion – of a nuclear plant is not nuclear. This comprises the steam generators, the turbines and the electricity generators, as well as all the electrical cabling, water piping and a multitude of other things that go into making up such a giant operation.
Meanwhile, the yearly Nuclear Africa conference will be held at the Nt’Shonalanga Conference Centre, near Centurion. A very large crowd always attends. The primary objective is to ensure a gathering point for the entire spectrum of people involved in the nuclear build and to provide an opportunity for people who would like to become involved, or would like to know more, to listen to and meet others.
In the past, people from civil construction companies, pump makers and electrical control specialists, as well as various others, were afraid to attend because they said that they were not nuclear science specialists. But you do not have to know anything about nuclear science to attend the Nuclear Africa conference.
The 38 companies that responded to the nuclear build RfI are a variety of companies that represent a spread of all the systems that I have mentioned.
In South Africa, we have a target of 50% localisation in the nuclear build. Already we have identified small companies which employ fewer than 50 people that want to be part of the nuclear build and that qualify or nearly qualify.
So, the Nuclear Africa conference is designed to address the building of the nuclear power stations and the export of nuclear assemblies, as well as other related topics, such as the building and export of the South African-designed pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR). Already there have been a number of enquiries from other countries interested in buying PBMRs from us. Many countries are now considering going nuclear. They are realising that going nuclear does not have to mean large nuclear power stations of, say, 3 000 MW. PBMRs are about 10% of that size.
Necsa and Eskom people will be part of Nuclear Africa 2017. Presentations will include issues like what is planned for the site development around the proposed nuclear site.
The amount of building and preparation on and around the site itself is dramatic and runs into billions of rands. Yes, billions. We are talking of earthmoving, road building, water supplies, and so on. This work can start very soon. I mean within months, not years.
The main foreign speaker at Nuclear Africa 2017 will be the director-general of the World Nuclear Association. There will also be a leading nuclear power economist from Paris, as well as speakers from Russia, China, France and more. This is where contacts are made, where the plan comes together.
The new power stations will be built using large networks of collaboration. We are not buying any nuclear plant off some foreign shelf.