South Africa to consider restarting uranium enrichment program

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South Africa’s nuclear weapons program was voluntarily dismantled in the early 1990s, remaining the only country ever to have dismantled a nuclear program.   Post-Fukushima, South Africa is still being pushed to develop a new fleet of nuclear power stations, however they as of yet have a stable method of securing fuel for the proposed reactors.  This has lead Africa’s largest economy to consider re-establishing and opening uranium enrichment and conversion facilities.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters told an energy summit in Johannesburg that the government was focusing on obtaining sources of uranium, the development of a uranium converter plant, a uranium enrichment plant and a plant for manufacturing nuclear fuel.

The process was scheduled to have started in 2011, but was delayed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Necsa , the country’s nuclear energy corporation, will investigate developing its own enrichment technology or partner with an international company.

Committee chairman Sisa Njikelana said he was concerned about Necsa’s vague and unclear plans on its role in the nuclear build program.

“We are talking about a massive investment,” he said.  Neither the National Nuclear Regulator nor the National Energy Corporation of SA has been involved in planning the government’s big nuclear build program.

Necsa supplied nuclear fuel to the 1,800 MW Koeberg power station operated by power utility Eskom between 1988 and 1994, but discontinued the service because its operations were globally uncompetitive.

Areva and Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Corp at present supply Koeberg with 30 metric tonnes of enriched uranium a year for its two units.

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