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South Africa Will Manufacture Fuel for Pebble Bed High-Temperature Nuclear Reactors

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EIRNS— The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) is reactivating the facility it had built to manufacture fuel elements for pebble-bed high-temperature nuclear reactors (PBMR), Creamer Media’s Engineering News reports today. South Africa had built the fuel manufacturing laboratory for use in its own PBMR program, but the entire project was cancelled in 2010. NECSA has not announced a plan to restart that reactor project, but is planning to produce fuel to export to China, which is currently building a commercial demonstration pebble bed HTGR, said NECSA CEO Phumzile Tshelane, at a media briefing Sept. 8. Other nations, including the U.S., are also developing HTGR projects, which would also be a market for South Africa’s nuclear fuel pebbles, which, one would hope, would lead to restart of their own reactor program.

It was a tragedy that the program was cancelled, and that the talent of 900 scientists and engineers was lost, under pressure from the same forces that have tried relentlessly to get President Zuma to cancel the country’s plan to build a cluster of new nuclear plants. NECSA says that reactivating the laboratories should be finished by the second half of next year, and current staff are being reassigned for the work. This advanced nuclear technology project would be an excellent investment for the BRICS New Development Bank. [MGF]