The South African Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) remains on track to begin construction in September of 2007. According to Tom Ferreira, the project communications manager, the first plant should be operational by 2010.
A large portion of the construction and component development is being contracted to local South African firms in an effort to ensure that the project, which has received support from the South African government for more than a decade, contributes to job creation and overall economic development.
The current plans call for the construction of approximately 30 PBMR plants in South Africa for a total capacity of just under 5,000 MWe with the possibility of exporting as many as 10 plants per year to other similar markets.
As has been the case since the project started, one of the prime motivators for the PBMR project is the fact that South Africa’s coal resources are not uniformly distributed. There are substantial population centers that are located thousands of miles from the “mine-mouth” coal fired electrical power stations that currently supply 90% of the country’s electrical power.
Modular nuclear reactors that can be placed near populated areas provides a capability that eliminates the need to either move coal over long distances or to send electricity over long transmission lines that are costly to construct and that waste as much as 20% of the generated electricity.
During the dozen or more years since the project’s conception, the value of low cost, reliable fuel sources, lack of atmospheric pollution and independence from fossil fuels has increased, making the PBMR project seem even more logical and well conceived.
For more information – I recommend reading Building of new-generation nuclear plant to get under way in September 2007