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France eyes nuclear contract in South Africa


Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-15

France is among several countries vying to build six new nuclear power plants in South Africa, as the country seeks to expand its nuclear programme as an alternative to coal.

Located just 30 kilometres outside South Africa’s bustling city of Cape Town, the Koeberg nuclear power station has long been the only such commercial nuclear plant on the African continent. But this could all soon change, as the country’s government seeks to build six new reactors over the next 20 years to meet a growing demand for energy.

South Africa’s plans to expand its nuclear power programme have attracted the attention of countries across the world, including France.

French President François Hollande was in Pretoria on Monday for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries, during which he announced that South African President Jacob Zuma had reached a deal with French energy company GDF Suez to construct both a thermal and solar power plant.

“[The] government has said that by the end of the year they will probably put up the tenders,” Philip Lloyd, a nuclear consultant in South Africa, told FRANCE 24. “There is an awful lot of politics going on. The Russians have been here, the Chinese have been here. The French are always here. The Americans have been here, the British have been here. You name it. Everybody is saying, ‘You want six nuclear reactors, we are here to sell them to you.’”

Faced with strict carbon emission restrictions, South Africa’s government has turned to nuclear power as an alternative to coal, which much of the country relies on for energy.

Environmental activists, however, have argued that the nuclear industry is not clean enough. They have also said that the projected rise in demand for energy has been inflated.

“Yes, it is a big battle,” Muna Lakhani, branch co-ordinator of Earthlife Africa Cape Town, told FRANCE 24. “We have a situation of all white men in the nuclear industry telling my government that they need to play with the big boys because they have to go nuclear to look good.”

As the country continues to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power, cost will probably be the determining factor. It is expected that the six new plants will cost more than a hundred billion euros.

Date created : 2013-10-15


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