S.Africa gives nuclear a nod to help power crisis

The power shortage has spooked investors and is seen contributing to slower growth this year.

S.Africa gives nuclear a nod to help power crisis
South Africa's cabinet has approved the country's nuclear policy, enabling the controversial technology to play a greater role in alleviating a critical power shortage, a senior government spokesman said on Thursday.

Utility Eskom has rationed power to the key mining sector since a near total collapse of the electricity grid in January. The power shortage has spooked investors and is seen contributing to slower growth this year.

Eskom, which operates South Africa's only nuclear plant, Koeberg, plans to spend 350 billion rand ($43.56 billion) on generating capacity over the next five years and has invited bids for a new nuclear power station.

"Cabinet approved the nuclear energy policy for the Republic of South Africa," Themba Maseko, chief government spokesman, told reporters at a post-cabinet briefing.

"The objective of this policy is to increase the role of nuclear energy as part of the process of diversifying our primary energy sources to ensure energy security," Maseko said.

He said the nuclear policy would reduce South Africa's over-reliance on coal-powered fire stations that made it a major emitter of harmful greenhouse gases.

Eskom relies primarily on coal power stations to provide about 95 percent of the country's electricity.

The policy also covers radioactive waste management and the mining of uranium to ensure a security of supply. South Africa plans to build 24-30 Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, a new generation nuclear technology. Construction of a PBMR demonstration model at Koeberg, about 50 kilometres west of Cape Town city, is scheduled to start 2010.

The plant would be commissioned in 2014, followed by the commercial reactors three years later, the PBMR company said.

U.S-based Westinghouse Electric, majority owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp., Eskom and South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation are investing billions of rands to prove the PBMR techology.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Haziran 2008, 17:04
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