Executive Intelligence Review


South Africa Takes the First Step To Join the Global Nuclear Industry

Jan. 25, 2018 (EIRNS)—A major milestone has been reached in South Africa's nuclear program: It is now the first African nation to obtain certification for a nuclear plant component it has manufactured, from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). ASME develops and oversees the global qualification standards for the manufacture of nuclear components. The certification is for a locally designed and manufactured safety-critical component for the Koeberg plant, the only nuclear reactor in Africa, reports South Africa's Engineering News.

The air receiver vessel was designed at the government's Pelindaba Enterprises division, under the South African Nuclear Energy Corp. (NECSA). It was delivered to the Koeberg plant on Jan. 24.

Before independence, South Africa had some nuclear manufacturing capabilities, but when apartheid ended, these were shut down. Pelindaba Enterprises senior executive manager Ruby Ramatsui explained: "This is a process of restarting what we had before," but this time, he said, the aim is to be commercially competitive, to become a manufacturer in the global nuclear supply chain. He pointed to South Korea (which is currently building four reactors in the United Arab Emirates) as a good example. "We can do it!" he asserted.

NECSA has a vision to become a manufacturer of nuclear products for an expanding nuclear industry in South Africa, which plans to build a handful of new reactors, and to branch out internationally, pointed out NECSA Pelindaba Chief Engineer Jaco van der Merwe. In order to do that, they have built a team of engineers and artisans, such as boilermakers and welders. They next identified any gaps and shortfalls in quality and management and rectified the shortfalls.

The importance and potential future impact of this development had no effect on South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who, in direct opposition to President Jacob Zuma's vision for the country's future, told media at Davos, "We have excess power right now and we have no money to go for major nuclear plant building."

It should be pointed out that until the financial crisis, South Africa was also a leader in developing the next-generation fission technology—the pebble bed gas-cooled high-temperature reactor. There is discussion of restarting that program, which would have a global impact on both energy production and on desalination of seawater.