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Jun 28, 2013

Rosatom awaits SA govt decision on nuclear power

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Russian State-owned nuclear company Rosatom was awaiting the South African government’s decision regarding the nuclear aspect of its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2010), as well as Russia’s role in this regard, deputy director-general Kirill Komarov said on Thursday.

In April, the South African government indicted that it was set on pursuing its plan, contained in the IRP2010, to construct new nuclear power plants (NPPs) and increase the country’s amount of nuclear-generated electricity to 9.6 GW by 2030. This is in part to help meet South Africa’s growing electricity needs and to reduce the country’s high greenhouse-gas emissions.

South Africa is, however, taking a phased approach to making a decision on new nuclear power capacity and is not ready yet to advertise the tender, officials have indicated last month.

During discussions with President Jacob Zuma and Energy Minister Dipuo Peters last month, Rosatom director-general Sergey Kirienko proposed a strategic partnership with South Africa to develop the nuclear industry and to help it in meeting its future energy needs.

“We are not just interested in constructing nuclear power plant units, we are interested in strategic partnership with South Africa, as well as other countries in the continent, because of the big interest in nuclear in the developing economies,” he told Engineering News Online at the International Atomic Energy Agency International Ministerial Conference, in St Petersburg.

Komarov stated that Rosatom was prepared to provide different financing models to South Africa for NPP construction, including intergovernmental loans and potential investments in ownership of power stations.

The ownership finance option would see Rosatom construct the NPP, which it would wholly own and finance, while the South African government would provide the property, grid access and fixed electricity prices for a certain period of time.

The two financing models could also be combined, if required.

“We have already done all the preparing to be a strategic nuclear power partner to South Africa, we are a member of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, which positions us to meet and interact with all participants,” he said.

Komarov said that South Africa could, in addition to partnering with Rosatom to develop its nuclear power industry and, thereby, boost its economy, also implement a proper level of localisation in its nuclear power development plans to positively impact its economy.

“If South Africa has a level of localisation of 50% to 60%, it means that every rand invested in the nuclear plant can have a multiplier effect in the economy of R3 to R5. This is because the construction of a nuclear plant not only entails the construction process, but civil works as well,” he noted.

Komarov highlighted that the construction of two nuclear plant units with the capacity of 1 000 MW each, would create 10 000 jobs on site and a minimum of between 50 000 to 70 000 jobs in the rest of the economy.

“South Africa is ready for nuclear power development, it already has the technology and skill, it is trending with the rest of the world and is ahead of many countries in this regard,” he pointed out.

Komarov noted that nuclear power could offer a more affordable means of electricity generation in South Africa, where the current lacking volume of electricity contributed to higher power prices.

“It is expensive to construct nuclear power plants, producing the nuclear energy is cheap. This is because the volatility and unpredictability of coal, oil and gas prices have a great impact on the costs of the power plants that use these energy sources. This is attributable to the fact that these energy fuels make up between 60% and 70% of plant costs.

“Although uranium prices can also be volatile and unpredictable, it only makes up about 4% of the power plant’s costs and, therefore, does not impact it severely. This is why countries with a lot of oil and gas such as Saudi Arabia invest in nuclear,” he explained.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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