Research & Development

South Africa / Eskom Clarifies Plans On Mothballed PBMR Technology

By David Dalton
3 February 2020

Eskom Clarifies Plans On Mothballed PBMR Technology
The chief executive officer of South African utility Eskom moved to address confusion over a tender released to the market which suggests that the company wants to revive plans of building small modular nuclear reactors.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, André De Ruyter, said Eskom is “not about to build new modular nuclear reactors”, calling the wording of the document released on Thursday “unfortunate”.

He said the intent is instead to solicit “interest in the potential acquisition of the modular reactor fuel plant” and have this “burden” taken off Eskom’s hands.

The request for information led to headlines suggesting that Eskom wanted to commercialise its mothballed Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) technology. The PBMR is a South Africa-developed version of a small, high-temperature nuclear reactor, and the accompanying fuel.

The PBMR never reached commercial viability and was folded into Eskom after the state cut funding to the project in 2009.

In the RFI, Eskom said it is seeking to take the PBMR out of care and maintenance. It also asks companies interested in “investing in PBMR reactor technology or fuel technology, securing an equity stake, buying PBMR technology or products or embarking on other potential relationships or transaction” to come forward.

“We have spent, over the years, a lot of money developing the PBMR technology,” Mr De Ruyter said. “We have approached the market with a view to understanding who would be interested in relieving us of this burden.”

In a statement later on Friday afternoon, Eskom said the tender is “intended to publicly solicit and to determine an interest from the market in the future takeover of the technology”.

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