/ 16 June 2008

DA says Erwin must justify cost of Pebble Bed reactor

Public Enterprises Minster Alec Erwin must justify why he has committed billions of taxpayers’ money to an extremely experimental technology, the Democratic Alliance said on Monday.

”During a recent meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises in Parliament, the DA raised concerns about the cost of government’s proposed Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) — which has been subject to protracted delays and mounting costs,” said DA spokesperson on Public Enterprises Manie Van Dyk.

”South African taxpayers are bearing the cost of this experimental technology. According to recent estimates, the PBMR will cost R20-billion, R8-billion of which has already been paid.”

The unit is designed to produce 165 megawatts of electricity.

Van Dyk said this should be compared to a coal power station, which costs about R80-billion to construct but delivers 4 000 megawatts of electricity.

The PBMR 2007 annual report acknowledged the support of Erwin — whose department became custodian of the PBMR during the 2007 financial year, Van Dyk added

”As stated in the report: ‘Honourable Minister Alec Erwin’ reiterated government’s intention to eventually produce between 4 000MW and 5 000MW of power from the pebble bed reactors in South Africa.”’

It is estimated that to build additional units will take approximately two years per unit and cost $4 000 per kilowatt. At the current exchange rate this amounts to R32 000 per kilowatt or R32-million per megawatt. Using these estimates, the cost of producing 4 000 megawatts using this electricity will amount to R128-billion.”

Van Dyk said that in 1998, the public was told that the PBMR demonstration plant would be completed in five years at a cost of R2-billion.

”Currently, it is estimated that the plant will be complete by 2015 at a cost of R20-billion.”

Van Dyk said that in a recent interview, Professor Steve Thomas, of the University of Greenwich’s Public Services International Research Unit, referred to the PBMR as a ”radical new design that hasn’t been built successfully anywhere before”. – Sapa