South Africa builds and exports Mercedes-Benz vehicles from East London. BMW cars are built in Pretoria, as are Ford cars. Other vehicle brands are also built in this country.
I have toured the BMW and Ford plants several times, and I can assure you that what you see is South African workers building the cars. Both the Mercedes-Benz and BMW plants have won awards from their respective companies for quality excellence.
Some years ago, the Ford plant won an award for its sophistication in robotics. South Africa did not design any of these cars, but we build them, and they are exported all over the world.
Forty years ago, South Africans built the Koeberg nuclear power plant near Cape Town. Koeberg is a French design and, certainly, there were French specialists there working with the South African specialists, but there were not that many French people on the construction site.
When Koeberg was built, there was not one single Koeberg-type reactor operating in the world yet. At that time, South Africans felt confident enough to place an order for a French reactor of that type, although a demonstration plant was not yet in operation.
So, why should it be different now? Why do the public and some media react with panic at the thought of building a nuclear reactor? Why yell like frightened children that a reactor of the type that we plan to buy is not yet in operation to give us the peace of mind that we can see one working?
Our scientists and engineers are good. They know what they are doing. They are perfectly capable of making sound technical decisions. Have faith.
So, we are going to build new, very advanced reactors in South Africa. They will be built along the coastline in the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape.
The prime site identified as the first site is some 70 km south of Port Elizabeth. As with Koeberg, this nuclear plant will be built by South Africans. Yes, there will be foreign engineers and specialists involved too but, predominantly, any ‘tourist’ walking around the site at any time will see only South Africans. That means money flowing to South African companies.
The antinuclear activist propaganda that all the money will be flowing to some foreign country is baseless. What is more, the nuclear plant will take half a dozen years to build, so the money will flow for half a dozen years. It will not all be spent at once.
Why do people believe that all the money will go to a foreign country, all in one shot?
So, there is huge scope for South African companies to get a share of the action. We are talking of all sorts of companies. We are talking of earthmoving, civil construction, electrical cabling, the building of concrete structures, control rooms, lighting, pumps, piping . . . I can go on. Get the picture?
There is also scope for many highly skilled crafts, such as precision welding, machining of components, electrical installation, and so on.
All this will be part of the Nuclear Africa 2017 conference to be held near Pretoria on March 29, 30 and 31.
All the major foreign nuclear vendors will be present in force. This conference is designed to allow potential participants of all sorts to meet one another and to find out what the state of play is.
One speaker will discuss the planned developments around the prime nuclear site at Thyspunt, near Jeffreys Bay. The budget for site preparation alone is tens of billions of rands. This action would mean a major cash injection into the Eastern Cape province. This includes road building, housing construction, water provision, sewerage, electrical supply, and so on.
There will be a number of displays to view. The only way to build the nuclear plants will be by forming multiskilled teams.