Following the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) on a demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) module at Koeberg near Cape Town and an associated fuel plant at Pelindaba near Pretoria, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) has issued positive records of decision for both projects.

In addition to approval by investors, proceeding to the construction phase is subject to the issuing of a construction licence by the South African nuclear regulatory body and approval by the South African cabinet.

Crispian Olver, director general of the DEAT, said the process of getting departmental approval for the proposed manufacture of the reactor and the associated fuel plant had involved an elaborate investigation over three years. “Thorough EIAs were undertaken and the outcome of these studies indicated that the environmental impact of the development was acceptable,” he said.

The state-owned utility Eskom has confirmed its commitment to purchase the 125MWe demonstration PBMR unit as well as subsequent PBMR units, subject to certain conditions, including cost and performance criteria, being met. The commercial units would produce about 165MWe each.

Eskom’s partners in the project are BNFL and the South African Industrial Development Corporation. PBMR (Pty) ­ the company behind the project ­ is currently involved in talks with other potential stakeholders. BNFL has not yet decided whether it would continue to participate in the project beyond the detailed feasibility phase, which has now been completed.