Full localisation of nuclear plant would be impossible

Full localisation of a South African nuclear plant build programme would be impossible, nuclear reactor and design company Areva South Africa MD Dr Yves Guenon told delegates at the Nuclear Forum on Thursday.

“Following a full audit of local engineering companies, only 10% of the companies qualified for a nuclear build,” he said.

While the South African government had indicated its intent to develop additional local nuclear power plants through its Nuclear Energy Policy, which was gazetted in 2008, it had indicated that it wanted upwards of 50% of the build programme localised.

“Even on nuclear build projects in France, only about 65% of the programme is fully localised. A huge fleet of plants is required to reach the figures outlined by [the South African] government,” said Guenon.

He added that every country in which Areva was contracted to build nuclear energy facilities had certain localisation demands which were not sustainable.

Areva was currently building nuclear power plants in France, China and Finland and was rumoured to be in discussions with South Africa’s Department of Energy (DoE) on the possibility of building one, or several, nuclear power facilities.

Guenon noted that any local nuclear construction project by Areva would, however, focus on job creation and local supply chain exploitation, which would require skills transfer from abroad.

Consulting firm Letsema Consulting and Advisory partner Markus Gschwari contested Guenon’s position on the challenges around localisation, citing that any energy development programme in South Africa should prioritise local value-creation.

“As such, I don’t believe localisation is debatable and I don’t feel that government’s targets are ridiculous,” he commented.

He added that any local nuclear development should be done with a “fleet approach” to ensure economies of scale.

Further, Guenon cautioned that, for any local nuclear plant development programme to be successful, it was critical for the local nuclear safety body to be independent from government.

In addition, enhanced nuclear quality accreditation and regulatory standards were also required to allow for increased capacity of the local industry.

“We are, however, confident of what we can do in South Africa,” he commented.

Earlier this month, Engineering News reported that DoE director-general Nelisiwe Magubane said the country was progressing through the various milestones endorsed by Cabinet ahead of any nuclear decision and had indicated that government still considered the solution as central to meeting the policy objectives of supply security and reducing the country’s carbon footprint.

By: Natalie Greve
21st February 2013


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