Conference takes SA a step closer to nuclear reality

Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – With South Africa’s nuclear energy programme edging closer to reality, leading businesses in its supply chain will meet next week to explore ways of benefiting from the R1trn industry.

While Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom is seen as the frontrunner to lead the 9 600 megawatt nuclear energy build programme from 2023 to 2030, there will be countless opportunities for other businesses.

Speaking at the Nuclear Supply Chain Conference in Cape Town next week, Rosatom vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa Viktor Polikarpov will highlight the company’s strategic offer to SA and what this means for local industries and the economy.

Polikarpov will disclose how his company will develop localisation, resulting in job creation as well as skills and knowledge transfer to local communities.

He will also reveal the role industries can play if Rosatom wins the bid, including opportunities to springboard into Africa.

Even though South Africa has signed nuclear accords with nuclear energy companies from Russia, the US, Japan, South Korea, China, France and soon Canada, many industry insiders see Rosatom as the winning bidder.

With a major nuclear deal being signed in Egypt this month and ongoing negotiations with Nigeria, Rosatom hopes to build manufacturing plants in South Africa to benefit from its nuclear push into Africa.

The conference has called on all companies working in construction, “not just from the nuclear industry”, but engineering, steel, waste management, financing, concrete, IT services and more.

The conference will identify key features and timelines of the procurement process to secure business development opportunities in South Africa’s nuclear industry.

The Department of Energy aims to have almost 80% of construction work done within the South African supply chain, which “offers a huge business opportunity for South African companies”, explain the conference organisers.

With hefty criticism of nuclear energy coming from trade unions, political parties and environmentalists, the conference also hopes to “develop a local network of suppliers to help increase public acceptance and pass on benefits to local South African communities”.

The Department of Energy, Eskom, Rosatom, French nuclear company Areva, GE Hitachi, IBM and US nuclear company Westinghouse will attend the conference.