Gentlemen, start your reactors

Posted On Friday, 25 January 2008 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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US nuclear technology giant Westinghouse hopes its partnership with SA construction giant Murray & Roberts will give it an edge over French rival Areva in its bid to build Eskom's nuclear power stations

Brian BruceUS nuclear technology giant Westinghouse hopes its partnership with SA construction giant Murray & Roberts (M&R) will give it an edge over French rival Areva in its bid to build Eskom's nuclear power stations.

Westinghouse and M&R are teaming up to bid for the contract to build up to five nuclear power stations over the next 20 years.

The stakes are high for Westinghouse and Areva, which were short-listed by Eskom last week. The cost of a new nuclear power station can be as high as R120bn and Eskom has indicated that it will give the contract for all five nuclear plants to one bidder.

It is not just in SA that the two are competing. They have both recently concluded deals in China to build eight power plants between them. China plans to build as many as 32 nuclear power stations by 2020.

Building a power station might be lucrative but no-one is in it for the quick money. Murray & Roberts CEO Brian Bruce says it takes years because of the technical challenges. The first plant is only likely to be completed by 2016 if the Eskom board and cabinet give the go-ahead towards the middle of this year. "Nuclear is not a short-term solution," Bruce says.

Areva may have the inside track, as it built Koeberg, SA's first nuclear power station. However, Westinghouse is no stranger to SA and last year bought a 15% share in IST, the company building the pilot plant for the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) at Koeberg. Westinghouse is also a direct shareholder in PBMR.

But there is more than money at stake when it comes to the rivalry between the two as they are backing competing forms of third-generation pressure water reactors. Areva is peddling its ERP system and Westinghouse is promoting its AP1000 design.

Areva, in anticipation of building nuclear plants around the world, has been buying into uranium mines, including in Africa. These could provide the nuclear fuel for SA power stations.

Areva's French sister company EDF has also offered to cofund the construction of SA's nuclear generation programme.



Last modified on Saturday, 02 November 2013 09:07

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