South Africa possesses sound knowledge gained from over 25 years’ experience that makes it more than competent to operate large scale nuclear power plants,the country’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told the National Nuclear Energy Conference on Tuesday.
In a video message to conference, Motlanthe said South Africa had developed the complex overall systems required to competently operate and maintain a large nuclear power plant.
“However, South Africa’s nuclear history goes back much further than that – it actually goes back to the mid-1940s, a period of over 60 years,” Motlanthe said. “This makes South Africa one of the oldest nuclear countries in the world. We have a long, proud history in the field of nuclear science.”
Currently, state company Eskom runs the only nuclear power station in the country, Koeberg, located 30km north of Cape Town.
The government has committed itself to producing an additional 9,600 Megawatts of nuclear power for the country’s electricity grid.
Power plants ‘need to be spread geographically’
Most of South Africa’s coal and electricity generation is clustered in the eastern parts of the country, requiring very long high-voltage supply lines to distribute electricity across the country.
Describing this scenario as “strategically unwise” in the longer term, Motlanthe said electricity needed to be produced in other parts of the country, which in turn required the use of energy sources other than coal.
“Nuclear power is ideal in this sense, because we can build large nuclear power plants at points around our southern coastline, and potentially elsewhere in the future.”
South Africa ‘could become nuclear exporter’
The construction of a nuclear power plant was a major task that would bring economic benefits to the local industry, which could play a major role in the construction and fabrication of nuclear power plants, Motlanthe said.
“In fact, it is desirable that South African industry place itself in the position to be able to export nuclear power components internationally.”
South Africa is already a world leader in the export of nuclear pharmaceuticals for medical use, exporting to some 60 countries. Nuclear analytical processes are also used constantly in industry, agriculture and elsewhere in the country.
He urged the industry to forge international partnerships with companies in the nuclear sector, while calling on companies wishing to gain entry into nuclear power construction to ensure that they acquired the necessary quality assurance culture and practise at an early stage.
“South Africa possesses a well-established system of nuclear facility operations. This includes construction and process licensing, nuclear construction and fabrication regulation, health and safety monitoring, and the training of the required skilled personnel. All of this is directly linked to general safety considerations.”
Nuclear safety assurance was most important for public acceptance of the nuclear power industry, and South Africa’s strong record in this regard should be maintained as a primary foundation of the industry, Motlanthe said.