PBMR to cut 600 jobs as costs weigh

South African nuclear technology company PBMR said on Thursday it will cut up to 600 jobs in an effort to lower costs, and its near- and medium-term future would depend on talks with investors.

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company said in a statement it was “contemplating a large-scale restructuring” in an effort to reduce high costs that were making it difficult for the firm to sustain its operations.

“The decision is informed primarily by the recognition that the resources available to the company will not sustain the current cost structure,” the company said, adding it was in discussions with existing and potential investors that would affect its near- and medium-term future.

The latest move may dent the company’s development of pebble-fuel nuclear technology for power plants.

PBMR technology could be used to produce enough heat and pressure to extract bitumen from oil sands or enough steam or hydrogen to refine coal products.

South Africa is one of the pioneers in developing a power and heat processing plant based on the pebble-fuel technology.

However, the development of the technology, scheduled for commercial use by 2014, was hit by the global financial crisis and funding problems at state-owned power utility Eskom, its major shareholder.

The Industrial Development Corporation, a South African state-owned finance institution, and United States-based Westinghouse, which is majority owned by Japan’s Toshiba, also have stakes. - Reuters

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