/ 21 April 2015

SA sends 50 trainees to China for nuclear skills development

Valindaba could be one of SA's biggest cash cows yet. But it's difficult to discuss nuclear energy in a country that knows little about it.
Valindaba could be one of SA's biggest cash cows yet. But it's difficult to discuss nuclear energy in a country that knows little about it.

South Africa has sent 50 trainees to China for training in nuclear power plant operations in preparation for the imminent procurement of the nuclear-build programme.

The department of energy said that following the conclusion of the nuclear vendor parade workshops and in parallel with work being done in preparation for the commencement of the procurement phase, the first 50 trainees are taking part in training between April and August.

The department said government is responding to the country’s needs for the development of specialised nuclear skills in preparation for the implementation of the expansion of the nuclear programme. The programme aims to add 9 600MW of capacity to the national grid and have the first reactor unit connected in 2023 – “well in time for the retirement of the ageing coal fleet, [and] in an effort to keep the lights on in a sustainable manner”.

Nuclear collaboration
The training will take place at the Shanghai Jiao Tong and Tsinghua universities following a skills development co-operation agreement signed in support of the country’s nuclear programme between the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company.

The trainees come from the “major role players” in the industry and training will be in the form of lectures as well as tours to some of China’s nuclear facilities.

“This training opportunity marks the first phase of a scope that aims to cover capability and technology in areas of nuclear power plant engineering, procurement, manufacturing, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance and project management,” the ­department said, noting that, in the second phase of the training, South Africa will be sending 250 trainees to China to be trained at various levels.

Foundations for the future
A winning vendor nation is yet to be announced, although Russia has been widely considered as a frontrunner for the build which, it is estimated, could cost as much as R1-trillion.

The department said: “The National Development Plan enjoins us to do thorough investigations on various aspects of the nuclear power generation programme before a procurement decision is taken. As such, part of our recent pre-procurement work includes the conclusion of engagements with various vendor countries such as the United States of America, South Korea, Russia, Canada, France, Japan and China. These are the countries that have expressed interest in the roll-out of South Africa’s nuclear programme.”

The department added that intergovernmental framework agreements had been concluded with all vendor countries, except Canada and Japan, “whose agreements are at an advanced stage of completion”.