On 12 November 2005, Angela Jameson published a story in The Times titled South Africa banks on new family of nuclear reactors.
An interesting aspect of the story is that it begins with a description of the electrical power situation that exists for 40% of the population of that country – they have none. When people in townships near Johannesburg do manage to pay to connect their home to the national grid, they are faced with an unreliable system that has frequent blackouts.
There is a wide gulf between this experience that that faced by other sections of the same city where the power system is well established and the rates are some of the lowest in the world. As the distribution of wealth in South Africa improves, the people that have never had electricity before are coming onto the grid and causing the overall demand to increase by 2.5-3% per year. Eskom, the electrical utility that supplies essentially all of the power in the country, has calculated that it will exhaust its spare capacity by 2007.
There will be additonal fossil fuel plants built, but the country is putting serious effort into its nuclear program as part of its plan to supply the western cape area, which is located more than 1000 KM from the country’s abundant coal fields. Nuclear power is also viewed in the country as a response to the growing problem of greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change.
The first units of the PBMR are scheduled to be operational by 2010, with commercial operations starting in 2013.