Bloomberg News

South Africa Says ‘No Decision Made’ on New Nuclear Plants

October 08, 2011

(Updates with details of government plans from fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s Department of Energy said reports of a tender process being under way for six new nuclear power plants “are factually incorrect.”

“At no point has the government committed to build six new nuclear reactors,” the department said in an e-mailed statement today. The government "hasn’t selected any design, vendor nor suppliers of the nuclear power plants. No decision has been made on the actual number.’’

South Africa plans to diversify energy sources away from coal, which makes up more than 90 percent of its generation capacity of about 40,000 megawatts. It also aims to prevent a repeat of power outages in 2008 that temporarily shut most of the nation’s mines and smelters, its biggest source of foreign exchange.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has proposed a strategy for the roll-out of new nuclear power plants to the Cabinet, the ministry said. The government approved plans to boost its nuclear energy capacity by 9.6 electrical gigawatt, it said.

Safety concerns following the meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, prompted Peters to postpone the opening of the bids until next year, she said on Sept. 15.

‘Factually Incorrect’

The energy department’s statement said it “noted” an article published by the Mail & Guardian on Oct. 6. The newspaper listed potential bidders for a 1 trillion rand ($126 billion) tender to build six nuclear plants by 2030 as Areva SA, EDF SA, Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric Corp. unit, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp., Korea Electric Power Corp. and Rosatom Corp.

The report, which cited unidentified people in government and industry, is “full of statements that are not true and factually incorrect,” the Department of Energy said in its statement.

The country has one nuclear power plant, the 1,800 megawatt Koeberg plant near Cape Town, built by Areva and operated by the South African power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. The nation also has an atomic research station, Pelindaba near Pretoria, and is a former nuclear power that destroyed its weapons toward the end of the apartheid era in 1994.

Given the “complexity and magnitude” of the project, the government will be careful to follow proper procedures during the tendering and building process to “instill confidence in and protect the credibility of the process”, the energy ministry said. “Attempts by interested parties to compromise these processes will not be taken lightly,” it said.

“Areva is hoping to be part of the nuclear bid program in South Africa,” an external company spokesman said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions.

--Editors: Claudia Maedler, David Risser

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Harrison at mharrison5@bloomberg.net


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