South African Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies has confirmed that the government will "most likely" have a "fleet approach" to its planned new nuclear build and localization programme.
This programme should see the conduction of a number of nuclear power plants (NPPs) in the country over the next 20 or so years.
He was addressing the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa Nuclear Empowerment Conference in Sandton, north of Johannesburg, on Friday. Davies' focus was on localisation as part of the nuclear new build programme.
The fleet approach would see the country ordering a number of NPPs at once, and not one at a time. As the programme proceeded, the share of South African companies in the construction of the NPPs and the manufacture of components and systems for them would increase.
An NPP can be divided into a "nuclear island" and a "balance of plant", the latter containing no nuclear systems or radioactive materials. With the balance of plant, "the quality requirements are not so onerous," pointed out Davies.
"We may envisage that South African companies may start in the balance of plant. But I don't think South African companies will stay forever in balance of plant. We're looking at South African companies being involved in significant construction of the heart of the nuclear plant."
For local companies to be involved with the nuclear island will require skills and technology transfer from the foreign NPP vendors.
South Africa did develop domestic expertise with the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project, which the government effectively terminated a couple of years ago. "Some of that expertise may be dissipating," admitted Davies. "Some of that expertise could be brought back through the [new] nuclear programme."
He stressed the importance to companies seeking involvement in the nuclear localisation programme of meeting black economic-empowerment (BEE) Level 4, or above, requirements. "We a building empowerment into the equation. We're trying to ensure broad-based BEE."
Davies highlighted that the BEE scorecards had been changed and a new category added – supplier development. The intent is to encourage, develop and support models of relationships between big and small companies in South Africa that are "symbiotic" and which are already well established in other countries, especially in Asia. "These can become a very effective approach to development. These activities are particularly important".
Another key factor in achieving the required BEE rating is skills development. "The biggest medium-term challenge to the development of industry in South Africa is skills development," stressed Davies.
"We're trying to build localisation, localisation that will be progressively greater. And develop symbiotic relationships," he said.
"We're looking to this industry for significant industrial development, [and] skills development."