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« Nuclear expansion to create mining, construction jobs | Main | Financial Instability For (Keynesian) Dummies »

Any new French bid will push local content above Nuclear 1 levels, Areva chief says


The levels of local content in the French-led bid to build proposed new nuclear energy capacity in South Africa will be superior to those outlined in an earlier Nuclear 1 bid submitted to Eskom in 2008, Areva CE Luc Oursel has confirmed.

Speaking to Engineering News Online during a recent visit to South Africa, Oursel, who took over as head the French State-owned energy vendor in June last year, said work was under way to further strengthen its associations with potential South African suppliers to a programme that currently envisages the deployment of 9 600 MW of nuclear capacity by 2030.

He also confirmed earlier reports that the consortium, which would include Électricité de France (EDF), could well embrace Chinese participation.

Areva and EDF may draw on partnerships developed during the construction of the Taishan nuclear plant, being built in China's Guangdong province. The project, which is planned to go on line in 2013, incorporates Areva's 1 600 MW European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) units and is owned by Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company, comprising the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (70%) and EDF (30%). This project is on budget and on schedule, Areva notes.

The EPR technology would form the basis of any South African bid, as had been the case during Eskom's Nuclear 1 process, which was abandoned, owing to funding difficulties at the utility. The technology had been verified as safe in different international audits that followed on from the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan last year.

Areva was also confident that any new South African procurement process would be followed to conclusion this time. Oursel believes the formation of the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee, which is chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to oversee the possible restart of a nuclear build programme, has also added credibility. It is also why he believes the South African nuclear programme is attracting wide interest from companies in Korea, Russia and the US.

He refuses to be drawn on the cost of the programme, with reports indicating a wide price tag range (including an official price estimate of around R300-billion), saying only that the price will be guided by the tender documentation. Oursel also stresses that the schedule will be dictated by the client.

But the increasing competitive pressures are likely to mean that the localisation offerings will emerge as critical bid differentiators.

Oursel, thus, also used his visit to meet with a number of existing partners, such as Aveng, and other potential partners. "Besides raising the local content of the South African build programme to meet the government's jobs and industrial aspirations, we will also integrate South African suppliers into our global supply chains," Oursel explains.

Areva also has a record of procuring from South African suppliers, having procured more than $600-million in goods and services from such suppliers during the recent development of the $1-billion Trekkopje uranium project, in Namibia.

He acknowledges ongoing societal questions over nuclear, but argues that the solution remains beneficial by offering safe, reliable, carbon-free power at a predictable cost.

He also says the best way to deal with ongoing scepticism is to conduct the process in a transparent environment and to address safety and waste concerns openly.

"For South Africa, which is both growing and requiring addition generation capacity, I have no doubt there is room in the mix for a nuclear fleet to meet the countries need for affordable and reliable power," he concludes.

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