Having completed the preprocurement phase of South Africa’s nuclear build programme, government has now entered into the procurement phase, says Department of Energy (DoE) Nuclear Energy deputy director-general Zizamele Mbambo.
Mbambo explains that the first part of the phase requires government to design a cost- effective, transparent, competitive and fair procurement process. Once has been process has been designed, it will pass through various levels of government for approval, including the Energy Security Cabinet Subcommittee, Cabinet as a whole and Parliament.
Once the procurement process is approved by Cabinet and Parliament, it will be launched and the tender process will start, with nuclear vendor companies submitting competing tenders.
An exact timeline of the procurement process will be decided during the procurement design phase. However it is expected that the procurement process should be finalised by the end of this year.
Mbambo tells Engineering News that government is currently on track to achieve the goals stipulated in the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan, which set the target of 9 600 MW of new nuclear capacity by 2030. The first reactor is scheduled to provide its first energy to the grid in 2023.
Mbambo emphasises that the nuclear build programme is not only motivated by the prospect of nuclear energy but also the prospect of localisation, industrialisation and job creation throughout the entire nuclear value chain. The goal is to create a nuclear industry in South Africa that will include uranium beneficiation, enrichment and fuel fabrication, and manufacturing of nuclear components, as well as the creation nuclear expertise, which are transferable to other industries.
On March 31, government announced its conclusion of the preprocurement phase of the nuclear build programme. This preprocurement phase involved three stages, namely a nuclear vendor parade, a study tour and intergovernmental agreements.
The first round of vendor parade workshops took place in October 2014. Government held consultations with Russia, where 50 nuclear experts, including senior officials from the South African government, State-owned entities and academia, received and posed questions on Russia’s proposal.
South Korea, China, France and the US presented their vendor proposals during the second round in November 2014, where 80 South African nuclear experts interrogated the technological offering from the nuclear vendors and, in March this year, government hosted the final vendor parade, which included Japan and Canada.
Of the potential nations, all but Canada have pressurised water reactor nuclear technology similar to the Koeberg nuclear power plant, in the Western Cape.
The study tour, which took place in November and December 2013, involved a South African government and State-owned entities delegation travelling overseas to various nuclear power plants in China, Russia, France, the US, Japan and South Korea to gain a broad understanding of the nuclear industry.
After that, intergovernmental framework agreements (IGFAs) were signed with Russia, France and China in 2014. At the time, the IGFAs with the US and South Korea had previously been signed and the agreements with Canada and Japan are expected to be concluded soon.
France’s Hat in the Ring
Having built 100 nuclear reactors worldwide and servicing 340 of the 440 operating nuclear power plants, French nuclear energy company Areva claims to have unrivalled experience and capability in the field of nuclear energy, which they say has culminated in the development of the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), a third- generation pressurised water reactor.
The significant improvement from second- to third-generation Areva technology lies primarily in its safety features, which include a double- wall catchment and a core catcher in case the reactor’s core starts melting.
Only four EPRs are in construction worldwide, with two in China expected to come on line in 2016 and 2017 and those in Finland and France expected to come on line by 2017, at the earliest.
Meanwhile, while no definitive timeline has been announced for the development of South Africa’s nuclear build programme, Areva, as part of the French nuclear team, is biding its time in the hope of being chosen as a strategic partner for the programme.
Areva strongly affirms the vendor parade, explaining to Engineering News that vendor parades are a useful exercise in engaging all relevant government stakeholders involved in the nuclear build programme.
Areva is aware that, for the nuclear build programme to be successful, it will be crucial for the company that is eventually awarded the tender to have a solid understanding of the local industry. “Providing enough time for the local industry to adapt to the quality requirements of a nuclear plant is one of the key factors when it comes to ensuring the success of a nuclear build project,” says the company.