Nuclear News: France, South Africa sign nuclear development pact

France and South Africa have signed an intergovernmental agreement for cooperation in the development of civil nuclear energy

Officials from France and South Africa have agreed to work together on nuclear energy development, which could eventually result in a major energy contract for French firm AREVA, Agence France‑Presse (AFP) reported.  The framework agreement was signed Tuesday by South Africa’s Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson and French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius on the opening day of the World Nuclear Exhibition in Le Bourget.

"Our common objective is to permit South Africa to meet its energy needs by sharing the know-how of this outstanding French sector," said Romain Nadal, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, according to AFP. 

AREVA was quick to praise the agreement in a statement that highlighted the firm’s existing nuclear ties with South Africa and its generation III + EPR reactor technology.

“AREVA has been an important supplier to the South African nuclear industry since the construction of the Koeberg nuclear power plant,” AREVA said in the statement issued on its website. “AREVA is ready to support this development, notably through its generation III + EPR reactor technology that is currently under construction in Finland, France and China and which has been selected for the next reactor project in the United Kingdom.”

In late September, Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom announced a similar intergovernmental agreement with South Africa that it said included the development of up to eight Russian VVER nuclear reactors. However, earlier this month Rosatom retracted the announcement, which had initially been confirmed by South Africa’s Department of Energy, saying the terms of the agreement were not worded correctly and had been “lost in translation”

Coal dominated South Africa has set a goal of increasing its total nuclear power generation to 9.6 GW by 2030 through international partnerships like the one it has established with France. According to media reports, a civil nuclear framework agreement with China is likely to soon follow.

Currently, South Africa’s only nuclear power station is the dual-unit Koeberg plant near Cape Town, which represents 5 percent of the nation’s overall energy mix. The 1,800 MW Koeberg plant is owned and operated by African utility major Eskom and is currently embroiled in a legal battle involving Toshiba owned Westinghouse Electric and AREVA surrounding a $381 million contract for the upgrade of the aging plant’s steam generators.

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