Dr Kelvin Kemm, chair of Stratek Global stated that South Africa can be a nuclear reactor exporting country in a Disruptive Discussion: Nuclear energy – Enjoying a renaissance on Wednesday, 7 February at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town.

Reactor cutaway.

Reactor cutaway. Supplied by Stratek Global

He said that South Africa was the first country in the world to start developing a commercial Small Modular Reactor (SMR). The country is now a world leader in SMR development and is in a position to build the prototype immediately. This is an entirely private venture.

The South African reactor, the HTMR-100, has been designed to be ideal for deployment in remote areas. The reactor does not need a large body of water for cooling purposes since it is cooled using helium gas. This was an intentional South African design decision to enable extreme versatility, particularly with African countries in mind.

These reactors are affordable and can be owned by governments, provinces, municipalities and private companies, such as mining companies.

Kemm said that over the past year, much interest has been shown in the local reactor internationally. He revealed that Stratek Global is in advanced talks with more than one foreign funder with a view to raising R10-billion privately. Foundation agreements have already been signed with more than one company.

Now is the time for both private enterprise and government to exhibit the courage of real leadership and to support the venture, enthused Kemm. He pointed out that far too many business and government leaders make public statements about advancing the electricity supply of the country, but then just sit and wait for somebody else to actually make a meaningful move.

Kemm revealed that a dozen African countries have already formally notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of their intention to follow a nuclear future, noting that any African country can afford an SMR and can operate one. It is a myth that nuclear is only destined for large wealthy countries.

Kemm also pointed out that foreign countries were poaching South African nuclear professionals at an alarming rate. For example, in the UAE, 160 South Africans are currently working on the new Barakah nuclear plant there, and in the US, whole teams of nuclear engineers are South African.

In his opinion, good leadership is required now, otherwise we risk losing more South African experts and a fantastic opportunity to become exporters of nuclear reactors.

He emphasised that South Africa exporting the locally developed HTMR-100 does not mean that we would also not build large nuclear reactors in collaboration with foreign suppliers. An SMR produces 35MW of electricity in comparison to about 1400MW as produced by a large reactor, such as those at Koeberg.

Source: Supplied by Stratek Global, edited by Sharyn Macnamara