Eskom Influence Growing In Proposed South African Nuclear Tender

Eskom Influence Growing In Proposed South African Nuclear Tender

From City Press. Story by Yolandi Groenewald and Justin Brown.


The “fear of nuclear” and criticism of South Africa’s new nuclear build program are largely about the cost rather than the technology, said Brian Molefe, CEO of Eskom, South Africa’s public electricity utility.

Eskom has not only thrown its weight behind the country’s proposed new nuclear project, but is increasingly taking charge of what South Africa’s nuclear future will look like.

While South Africa’s energy department will choose the successful vendor, Eskom, as the owner-operator of the new nuclear plants, will have a large input.

David Nicholls, chief nuclear officer at Eskom, gave delegates a glimpse this week of Eskom’s vision for nuclear by defining a leading role for the state utility at the Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa conference in Johannesburg.

A chosen vendor will lead the early process with Eskom’s input. This is how South Africa’s only operating nuclear plant, Koeberg, north of Cape Town, was built in the 1980s, he said.

Once the design base has been established with the first plant, South Africa will increasingly take charge.

Nicholls’ remarks show that Eskom is in favor of a proven standardized fleet of reactors, with sibling international plants to learn from. This indicates South Africa is likely to choose one vendor and stick with them.

“The trick is then to move from the initial vendor-led process to one where – after a certain time and number (of plants) built – South Africa takes over,” he said.

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Nicholls said Russia, through its state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, is supplying the majority of new nuclear capacity being built internationally.

Vendors from Russia, France, South Korea, the U.S. and China are all hoping to win the lucrative South African nuclear contract.

South Africa has opted for a pressurized water reactor technology, which is a proven technology. “If you want to be in line with the world, choose what most build. Do not be experimental,” Nicholls said.


The average cost for a nuclear plant these days is about $4,500 per kilowatt.

South Africa plans to add 9,600 megawatts of nuclear power with its new nuclear build program, putting the price tag for the program at about $42.85 billion.

“The price comes down as we order more,” Nicholls said.

Prices for new reactors fall by 40 percent of the initial price after a fourth reactor is commissioned.

Vendors say they’ll be able to quote more accurately after receiving the much-anticipated request for proposal from the South African government, expected before the end of the year. In the long run, nuclear is the best option for Eskom, which is desperate to cut its emissions, Nicholls said.

He emphasized that after the initial huge investment, nuclear will become cheap to operate and maintain.

The first nuclear plant will be Thyspunt, near Jeffreys Bay, because the Eastern Cape is in dire need of reliable base load power, Nicholls said. The second site will be in Duynefontein, next to Koeberg.

“After that Eskom plans to build a plant somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal,” Nicholls said.

Read more at City Press.