How Another Emerging Nation Is Going Nuclear

Rosatom, Russia's state-owned nuclear power company, just signed a memorandum of understanding with South Africa to provide end-to-end nuclear plant delivery and operation. South Africa's Integrated Resource Plan calls for 9.6 Gigawatts of nuclear power by 2035. It plans to deliver that capacity through three nuclear plants. 

Russian President Putin and South African President Zuma had agreed in March to partner on a portfolio of power investments, especially nuclear. They met at the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa last March. South Africa is the smallest of the BRICS partners, led by Russia, China, India, and Brazil.

South Africa supplies just 5% of its 18 GW capacity through two nuclear power plants operated by state-owned electricity utility Eskom. South Africa plans to add 9.6 GW of capacity by 2030-2035, with power to start-up by 2023. Eskom coal plants generate most of the power in the northeastern section of the country. Many of these plants are retiring through 2020.


Eskom's Koeberg nuclear plants were built and are being maintained by France's Areva

After Fukushima, many developing nations are turning to renewable and nuclear energy to grow their energy portfolios.

Post-Fukusihma nuclear power
The March 2011 tsunami and earthquake weakened TEPCO's Fukushima nuclear power plant, located 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. The Fukushima reactors delivered 2.7 GW of capacity to the heavily industrialized Tokyo area.

Radioactivity leaked from the plant. The lack of a culture of safety, as well as deteriorating controls, were cited as contributing factors. Mass evacuations resulted. Further radioactive hot spots have been detected in recent months. 

The world initially went anti-nuclear with the Greens of Germany leading the way. Germany declared it would eliminate its nuclear fleet by 2022. Pre-Fukushima, nuclear power accounts for 25% of the 163 GW generated in Germany. By 2013 nuclear power accounted for just 18%.

New coal and natural gas fired plants, along with renewable energy sources, are taking up the slack amid greenhouse gas emission targets in a policy called the Energiewende, or "energy transition." Much of this policy will require even greater reliance on Russian crude oil and natural gas.

Siemens built all of Germany's nuclear fleet of 17 units. The last unit was commissioned in 1989. The fleet has since been reduced to nine reactors producing 12 GW of capacity. E.ON and RWE run most of the remaining nuclear plants. 

With Germany out of the picture, in the E.U. only Italy has voted nuclear out. All other E.U. countries are stepping up their plans for nuclear power plant development, albeit under even stricter safety guidelines.

Japan is reducing its dependency on nuclear power by over 50%. In 2011 Japan's electricity capacity of was split evenly among nuclear, hydro, coal/oil, and combustible gas. After Fukushima, with mounting dependence on foreign fossil fuels, and the win by the Liberal Democratic Party, nuclear is back in the electricity portfolio. 

The German reduction in its nuclear fleet accounts for about 5% of global uranium oxide supply. Startups and new plants in France alone over the next three years will be enough to soak up the excess supply. 

Back to South Africa
Vying for contracts to build nuclear power plants in South Africa are Areva and Rosatom. Early in 2011 Areva stepped up its involvement with the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, NECSA. Rosatom just registered a marketing office in Johannesburg.

Areva built the two pressurized water reactors at Eskom's Koeberg site. They produce 5%-6% of South Africa's total power requirements. LESEDI Nuclear Services, in which Areva has a 51% share, provides construction, operation and maintenance support and services to Eskom and AREVA. 

Requests for bids are expected in early 2014. The contractor will be expected on-site building in 2016. Over 9.6 GW of new capacity will be on-line by 2023. Up to 40% local fuel and construction content is expected as well.

The company that can deliver $5,800 per kilowatt installed capacity on time will probably win. Influencing Eskom's assessment of that probability will be French and Russian government guarantees and other material support.

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The article How Another Emerging Nation Is Going Nuclear originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Bill Foote has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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