Moscow willing to finance SA nuclear plants if Russian bid prevails

26th April 2013

By: Keith Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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During bilateral talks held at the same time as the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (better known as Brics) summit held in Durban on March 26/27, Russian President Vladimir Putin told South African President Jacob Zuma that Moscow was willing to fully finance South Africa’s planned new nuclear power plant (NPP) programme, should Pretoria select the Russian bid, Engineering News has been told. Putin is reported to have offered different funding options for the programme, stating that Russia would provide the one that South Africa found the best.

Russian State-owned nuclear group Rosatom is one of the companies known to be interested in bidding for South Africa’s planned new NPPs. Under the Integrated Resource Plan 2010–2030, Pretoria intends to increase the country’s amount of nuclear-gene- rated electricity to 9.6 GW by 2030. Currently, South Africa operates a single, two-reactor NPP from France. This is located at Koeberg, near Cape Town, which has been in operation since 1984 and has a capacity of 1.8 GWe.

The construction of further NPPs will be, in part, to help meet South Africa’s growing electricity needs and, in part, to reduce the country’s high greenhouse-gas emissions. A Rosatom delegation, headed by company president Sergei Kirienko, attended the Brics summit. While in South Africa, Kirienko held talks with South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters.

The Rosatom delegation also had talks with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) about the possible construction of a new multipurpose reactor (MPR). The proposed MPR would replace Necsa’s existing 20 MW research reactor, Safari-1, which was originally commissioned in 1965. Like Safari-1, the possible new MPR would be used both for research and for the production of radio- isotopes. (Safari-1, for example, is one of the most important producers of the Molybdenum-99 radioisotope in the world, which is widely used in nuclear medicine.)

There is a possibility that Russia could partly finance Necsa’s acquisition of a new MPR, should the South African institution decide to go ahead with the project. However, Necsa has not yet made any decision on whether or not to go ahead with the MPR and financial issues would only be discussed once that decision-in-principle has been taken.

Rosatom and Necsa already have a memorandum of understanding, signed in June last year, which covers coope- ration in the manufacture and marketing of radioisotopes, amongst other things.

Regarding the planned new NPPs, Rosatom will most probably be offering Generation III+ models of its VVER-1200 reactor design. VVER stands for Water-Water Power Reactor and is a Russian version of the pressurised water reactor (PWR) concept – Koeberg uses Generation II PWRs. VVER-1200 reactors have an output of about 1.17 GWe.

The different models of the VVER-1200 are distinguished by their own numbers. Currently, there are the V-392M and V-491 versions of the VVER-1200. The Russians also have a separate numerical designation system for the NPP as a whole. Thus, two or more VVER-1200 reactors form the nuclear core of the AES-2006 NPP design. An AES-2006 NPP with V-392M or V-491 VVER-1200 reactors is designed to operate at a capacity of 92% for 60 years.

Reported construction time for such an NPP is 54 months. VVER-1200/AES-2006 plants are under construction in Russia, and construction of a four-VVER-1200-reactor AES-2006 NPP will start in Turkey later this year. A further improved version of the VVER-1200, the VVER-TOI, is currently undergoing licensing and certification in Russia. (TOI stands for Typical Optimised, with enhanced Information.) The VVER-TOI will form the nuclear core of the AES-2010 NPP design.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor




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