State-owned electricity utility Eskom on Friday issued a clarification to an Expression of Interest (EOI) it issued on Thursday, regarding the “commercialisation of Pebble Bed Modular Reactor SOC [State-Owned Company] Ltd (PBMR), design, development, manufacturing, and construction of [a] Small Modular Reactor and supply of TRISO [Tristructural Isotropic] coated particle fuel for various reactor designs”.
The EOI, stated the utility, “is intended to publicly solicit and to determine an interest from the market in the future takeover of the [PBMR] technology. While various options were explored to commercialise PBMR in the past, Eskom now intends to dispose of the company, providing the market with unrestricted options to pursue.”
South Africa originally established PBMR in 1999 but it was put into care and maintenance, and all its staff retrenched, in 2010. It was reincorporated, into Eskom, in 2012.
Eskom wants to move PBMR out of care and maintenance and commercialise it. Interested companies can propose taking an equity stake in PBMR itself, or investing in the PBMR reactor technology or the pebble fuel technology, or buying PBMR technology, or products developed by PBMR. They can also propose other possible transactions or relationships.
Whatever their proposals are, they must detail them in their EOI submissions. The closing date for these submissions is February 28 this year. A briefing session will be held at the Necsa Visitors Centre at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria, on February 12.
An Eskom document that Engineering News has had sight of highlights that, while the PBMR could be used, like conventional nuclear reactors, to generate electricity, it could also be used in other applications. These would be the provision of process heat for industry, to provide high pressure steam for specialist applications, to generate hydrogen, or for water desalination.
PBMR remains in a state of care and maintenance, and has preserved all its intellectual property, including all its designs, specifications, and reactor engineering calculations. It retains ownership of nearly 300 patents.
It has also preserved its strategic assets. The large Helium Test Facility is still operational, while the Fuel Development Laboratory (where PBMR made the TRISO-coated fuel pebbles) is still fully equipped. PBMR’s management system, which is ISO 9001 and ASME NQA-1 compliant, has been preserved.