Nuclear power option gains ground

2011-03-05 10:17

The use of nuclear technology to generate power for electricity-scarce South Africa gained ground when the country’s energy companies signed several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with French companies this week.

This comes against the backdrop of the country having faced extensive power outages and blackouts over the past few years, resulting in load-shedding.

During President Jacob Zuma’s state visit to France this week, the government-owned Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) signed a deal with France’s low-carbon energy sector player, Areva.

The letter of intent will deal with beneficiation of uranium as a resource, nuclear fuel fabrication, radio isotope production, developing a dedicated radio isotope production reactor, human resources and skills development, training and support and research related to back-end solutions such as radioactive waste management.

Areva said the deal would strengthen the cooperation forged in 2008 – during French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s state visit to South Africa – to develop a nuclear industry in South Africa.

At the time, Sarkozy made an undertaking to provide capacity support by sending experts and capital resources to power parastatal Eskom.

Areva will also train nuclear experts from South Africa.

This week local and French energy companies signed no fewer than four agreements regarding cooperation in the use of nuclear energy.

The signings follow a visit to France by energy minister Dipuo Peters during which the road map on energy cooperation was discussed.

Necsa signed another deal with the Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives to implement cooperation in the field of nuclear science and technology for peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Eskom has also signed an MOU with France’s EdF on the establishment of the Eskom Power Plant Engineering Institute, which will see to training and developing engineers and scientists.

At the SA-France business forum on Thursday, Business Unity SA president Futhi Mtoba said Sarkozy’s 2008 gesture to send experts to resolve the power crisis was appreciated.

“This gesture is highly appreciated as we continue to strengthen the competitiveness of the South African economy as a strong emerging economy,” Mtoba said.

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