Nuclear powers think local is lekker

2012-04-14 16:04

The international companies ­bidding to build new nuclear reactors for South Africa are on a charm offensive.

Russia’s Rosatom, France’s Areva and South Korea’s Kepco are all promising the same thing: choose us, and we’ll make sure South Africa is rewarded with big investments and huge skills boosts.

In the past month, all three companies have visited South Africa to punt their technology at a series of seminars.

Although the tender specifications for the project have not yet been released, South Africa’s plans involve building six new nuclear reactors over the next 18 years.

The project is lucrative: hundreds of billions of rands will be spent on infrastructure and development.

And the potential bidders know they will have to offer South Africa huge returns, which is why representatives from the Russian, French and South Korean companies all promised officials at the workshops they would invest heavily if chosen.

“If the state is going to be procuring at hundreds of billions, it must get a dividend other than electrons,” Nelisiwe Magubane, energy director general, told the Financial Mail last week.

Areva has a headstart, along with rivals Westinghouse, and the rest of the field has some catching up to do.

Areva has repeatedly said over the past year that it will invest in plants in South Africa, and in education and training, “to make localisation a reality”.

“We will support localisation to the utmost we can. We will do this because it will be good for us, as Areva, as well as for South Africa, to have South Africa as part of the global nuclear supply chain.

“South Africa has the competencies. It will give us increased options in our supply chain,” the company said.

A group of 30 French companies visited South Africa three weeks ago to look at ways they could localise nuclear production.

A key member of the nuclear industry in France told City Press the industry expects the tender specifications to be released within the next few weeks.

It’s expected the winning bid will be chosen by the end of 2012.

“The government hopes to build an industry that will have benefits for others as well as through localisation. So there will be skills investment in civil work, manufacturing, mechanical and SMMEs which will help other industries as well. It will mean more local production and less imports.”

At the Russian Rosatom seminar held in Sandton this week, director of Rosatom’s international business department, Alexei Kalinin, said localisation in South Africa was central to its bid.

His colleague from the Russian power engineering company Atomenergomash, Bulat Nareev, promised that up to 80% of the power equipment needed for new nuclear plants in South Africa could be manufactured locally.

Ivo Kouklik, vice president of Rosatom Overseas, sketched a rosy picture of 15 000 new jobs if the Russians were allowed to build eight nuclear units for South Africa.

He said local companies could generate $15 billion (about R118 billion) and Treasury could get $3,4 billion worth of taxes from the programme.

Two weeks ago it was Kepco’s turn to woo the South Africans at the Korean Nuclear Industry Technical Seminar in Sandton.

Kepco said a localisation study had found South Africa could supply up to 40% of components now and promised more investment.
A Sino-French nuclear proposal for South Africa is also being mooted.

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