The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) marked an important milestone on Wednesday when it formally handed over the first locally-designed and manufactured safety-critical nuclear component, fully certified, to national power utility Eskom for use in the Koeberg nuclear power plant, near Cape Town. Necsa has a Nuclear Manufacturing unit within its Pelindaba Enterprises division.
The component is an air receiver vessel. The specifications and overall design were drawn up by a team at Koeberg, while the detailed design and computer modelling was carried out at Pelindaba Enterprises. Design and manufacture were monitored by global quality assurance organisation TUV and by the South African National Nuclear Regulator.
"This is our first delivery of a fully-qualified product," affirmed Pelindaba Enterprises group executive (Mr) Ruby Ramatsui. "This has confirmed we are ready to supply the rest of the world."
"This is the first ASME III certified vessel certified and manufactured in South Africa," highlighted Necsa Pelindaba Enterprises chief engineer Jaco van der Merwe. ASME (originally the acronym for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Chapter III contains the globally accepted quality standards for pressure vessels manufactured for nuclear applications.
South Africa had previously had some nuclear manufacturing capabilities, but, with the end of the apartheid era and of the concomitant sanctions, these were not economically viable and were shut down. "This is a process of restarting what we had before," explained Ramatsui. But this time, the aim was to be commercially competitive. He pointed out that other countries had successfully localized nuclear technology and created competitive nuclear industries. South Korea was a particularly good example. "We can do it!" he assured.
The fabrication of the air receiver vessel was the result of a Necsa vision to become a manufacturer of nuclear products for the nuclear industry in South Africa and internationally, pointed out Van der Merwe. The first step was to build a team of skilled engineers and artisans (such as boilermakers and welders). Once that team had been built, the next step was to check quality assurance and management standards and procedures, and identify gaps and shortfalls. These gaps were then filled and the shortfalls rectified and the team members trained up to the very high required standards.
ASME was then invited to send an audit team to Pelindaba Enterprises. They did so, and the result was the granting of ASME III certification, with the requisite certificates for nuclear design and manufacturing. "Nuclear Manufacturing [within Pelindaba Enterprises] has been appointed as an approved [nuclear] supplier. ... [A]ccording to ASME standards," stated Van der Merwe.
"We are pioneering a sustainable path for the African nuclear industry," stressed Ramatsui. "We will continue to build capacity in cooperation with Eskom and local industry."