WATCH: How SA can save nuclear skills from becoming obsolete

Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani.
Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani.

Cape Town – The construction of 9 600 MW of nuclear plants in South Africa will ensure the future safety of nuclear skills, which requires a continuous expansion of the sector around the world, the head of France's bid said.

Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani, told Fin24 on the fifth anniversary of Fukushima last Friday that nuclear skills require partnerships with countries like South Africa.

“We are looking at developing that partnership, of which we benefit also, because … if you don’t build nuclear plants all over the world, then those skills … have the risk of becoming obsolete,” he said. “(By) building nuclear plants in a close partnership with South Africa, that will not happen.

“We will be looking at building a partnership on developing skills and competencies that will last over many decades,” he said in Paris. “When you build a nuclear plant, you build it for 40 to 60 years. You have to develop the kind of skills for that period of time and even longer.

“There has long been a partnership between the two utilities, France’s EDF and South  Africa’s Eskom. Your plant in Koeberg is one of the best 900 MW of the worldwide fleet.”

In its bid to win the 9 600 MW nuclear build programme, the French will propose a funding model that seeks assistance from international and domestic financial partners.

France, through bid leader EDF and its sister company Areva, will likely seek funding assistance from other countries like China, as well as Eskom and South Africa’s intensive energy users to fund the upfront costs of the programme.

However, Colombani explained that the full 9 600 MW would unlikely be rolled out at once, so the upfront cost should not be as high as previously quoted in the press.

“There will be a phased implementation of nuclear,” he told Fin24. “You are not going to right away implement 9 600 MW. Maybe you will start with one or two nuclear plants and then the rest will come over a period of years.

“The financial burden will be spread over a long time also,” he said. “We are familiar with those problems because … France has been exporting the technology to other countries. Each country is a special case.

“All of the time, we have found the right solution, which is usually a mixture of debt and equity.”  

The French told media that its loan rates will be close to OECD standards, adding that it won’t propose giving dangerous loans such as below sub-prime as this will be too risky to delivery. “You must look carefully at what you're buying,” an official said. “You must examine how much safety, technology, and control you have over your product.”

WATCH: Exclusive interview with Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani

* Fin24 was a guest of the French government. France (through EDF and Areva) is one of the bidders for SA's proposed nuclear build programme.

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