South Africa is ready to join the increasingly competitive commercial uranium enrichment industry. Like several other countries that are already in the uranium mining business, leaders in South Africa are considering expanding into more lucrative phases of the nuclear fuel supply chain including enrichment and fuel element fabrication.
Note: If you want to learn more about the steps that make up the process of turning rocks into nuclear power plant fuel, you can visit the Uranium Information Center’s briefing paper titled (conveniently enough) The Nuclear Fuel Cycle.
Here are some good links to articles that discuss South Africa’s expanding interest in nuclear fuel processing and fabrication.
- SA uranium enrichment for civilian purposes: Cabinet
- Enrichment but one of the uranium-beneficiation options to be studied by SA
- South Africa eyes uranium enrichment (This article, though not particularly long or informative, provides an interesting point of view since it appears in a publication that originates from Qatar and concludes with the following statement:)
South Africa has consistently defended Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, even though the regime in Tehran is suspected by the United States of seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Similar discussions taking place in Australia and Khazakstan. Brazil, China, India, the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands, Pakistan and the UK already compete in the uranium enrichment portion of the nuclear fuel cycle.
However, South Africa’s domestic enrichment capability, first developed during the apartheid era, may be able to serve a different niche in the market since its Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is designed to use fuel with a higher enrichment than the light water reactors that make up the vast majority of the world’s installed base of nuclear power plants.