Zim could benefit from new plans to boost nuclear power industry in SA

Zimbabwe could in the future benefit from plans underway by the South African government and a consortium which is investing $3 billion in a new type of nuclear power plant that will improve its electricity supply inside the country and to its regional neighbours, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

South Africa, which accounts for 60 percent of Africa’s total electricity generation and supplies Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, plans to spend around US$20 billion on upgrading its power sector, including spending on at least five new large-scale nuclear reactors.

South Africa has seven percent of the world’s uranium reserves and plans to enrich and export uranium fuel.

In an interview with the WSJ, Alec Erwin, South Africa’s minister of Public Enterprises said: “It would be very strange for any country of South Africa’s uranium capacity – and we’ve done enrichment before – not to beneficiate its uranium deposits.”

Africa’s electricity deman is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 3.7 percent, more than doubling between now and 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Sub-saharan Africa, according to an anaylst with Frost & Sullivan consulting and research company, requires US$560 billion in investment in its electricity sector in the next 20 years.

Africa accounts for about five percent of the global energy consumption. Under-investment has contributed to the lack of real economic growth in many countries, in some, according to the WSJ, by as much as 4 percent annually.

At least four African countries, according to the WSJ, have expressed interest in developing nuclear power programmes either to meet power deficits or to diversity their countries energy sources. Africa was the second larges recipient of funds from the IAEA for nuclear energy capacity building last year after Europe.

French President, Nicholas Sarkozy has offered to sell a nuclear reactor to Libya to desalinate sea water and build up Morocco’s civilian nuclear energy industry. In addition, french nuclear reactor maker, Areva SA, signed a uranium extraction deal with a Moroccon conglomerate and is helping Libya to explore uranium. Russia, too, it is reported is also seeking new uranium-rich markets and is reported to have proposed helping Nambia, a major producer itself of uranium, to develop its domestic nuclear industry.

The WSJ reports that the US government, in principle, is in favour of South Africa’s efforts to become a nuclear-fuel provider and expects it to increase its electricity capacity over the next 25 years.

At present South Africa relies on two aging nculear generators, the only two such commercial facilities in Africa. South Africa is now focused on a small, low-cost reactor being developed on the coastline north of Cape Town. The design, according to the WSJ, drew the attention of the US Department of Energy, which has awarded a US$3.7 million grant to study its potential in other areas. 

Post published in: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *