Cabinet decision cuts reliance on coal-fired electric plants because of global warming
Reuters reports that South Africa's cabinet has approved the country's nuclear energy policy. It will play a greater role in resolving a critical power shortage. The Pebble Bed reactor will have a significant role contributing to the shift of South Africa's energy supply from coal to nuclear.
The cabinet approved the nuclear energy policy 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 electricity generation that made it a major source of greenhouse gases.
Creamers Engineering reports the policy would allow South Africa to diversify its primary energy sources, and move away from an over-reliance on coal for electricity generation, which accounts for over 90% of the country's power generation. This has contributed to South Africa being among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, government said in a statement.
Policy will address a major shortage of electricity
Eskom, the major South African utility, has rationed power to the key mining sector following collapse of the electricity grid in January. The power shortage has spooked investors and is contributing to slower growth this year.
Eskom, which operates South Africa's only nuclear plant, Koeberg, plans to spend an enormous sum, 350 billion rand ($43.6 billion), on generating capacity over the next five years and has invited bids for new nuclear power stations perhaps as many as twelve. Toshiba/Westinghouse and Areva are the expected major bidders for construction of the plants which will require significant local participation from South African firms. Eskom has plans to build the first five full-scale nuclear power stations by 2025. At that time these units should be able to generate about one-quarter of the country's power from nuclear energy.
Pebble Beds on deck
South Africa plans to build 24-30 Pebble Bed Modular Reactors. Construction of a PBMR demonstration model at Koeberg, 35 miles west of Cape Town city, is scheduled to start 2010. The first plant would be commissioned in 2014, followed by additional commercial reactors three years later, the PBMR company said. The design is expected to be offered for export.
The policy also covers radioactive waste management and the mining of uranium to ensure a security of supply. South Africa is a major supplier of uranium on the world market.