Mitsubishi mulls Pebble Bed investment

Japanese engineering and heavy machinery maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is reportedly considering a ¥10-billion (R746,5-million) investment in South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR).

The investment would buy the Japanese company a stake of about 10% in PBMR, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported on Tuesday.

South Africa’s government, which is the majority owner in the PBMR, the company set up to develop and market the reactors locally and internationally, is believed to have asked Mitsubishi to consider taking a stake last year.

Japan’s biggest machinery company is designing and building the core barrel assembly and a helium turbine generator for the reactor.

If the investment goes ahead, the Japanese company, which has been involved with the project since 2003, would be PBMR’s fourth shareholder.

United States-based Westinghouse, a unit of Mitsubishi rival Toshiba, already holds a stake along with the Industrial Development Corporation and Eskom.

According to PBMR’s 2007 annual report, contributions from foreign and local investors in the project totalled R4,2-billion since PBMR was established eight years ago.

“An updated business case has been developed and potential future investors are expected to start their due diligence process within the next financial year,” PBMR said in the annual report.

Last year the South African government set aside R6-billion for the project over the next three years.

The government is planning to build 24 PBMRs by 2020 and Eskom is reportedly considering PBMR technology as an option for future nuclear power generation.

A demonstration reactor is being built at Koeberg, near Cape Town, and a pilot fuel plant is being established at Pelindaba, near Pretoria.

Latest reports suggest that the pilot PBMR plant could be ready by 2011 and commercial production of the technology could begin in 2012. – I-Net Bridge

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Sherilee Bridge
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