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Thursday, February 4, 2010

SAfrica's PBMR signs nuclear deal with Mitsubishi


Thu Feb 4, 2010 11:32am GMT
* PBMR nuclear tech firm signs Japanese agreement * Mitsubishi to help with research, development

CAPE TOWN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - South African nuclear technology firm PBMR has signed an agreement with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd to advance the construction of the country's first pebble bed nuclear reactor.

Considered by scientists to be at the forefront of pebble-based nuclear technology, South Africa plans to build its first plant by 2018 as Africa's biggest economy cuts its reliance on coal and tries to end a chronic power shortage.

"The main objective of the memorandum of understanding is to explore cooperation to enable the construction of the first PBMR reactor for a customer in either South Africa or abroad," the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) company said in a statement.

Mitsubishi Heavy (7011.T: Quote) did the basic design and research and development of a helium-driven turbo generator system and core barrel assembly, the major components of PBMR's original 400 MW thermal, direct-cycle design.

This concept was changed last year to a 200 MW design that delivers super-heated steam through a generator, said PBMR, which hopes to attract business from firms active in Canada's oil sands and petrochemicals group Sasol (SOLJ.J: Quote).

"We firmly believe that high temperature reactors will be one of the viable future reactors," Akira Sawa, executive vice-president and general manager of nuclear energy systems at Mitsubishi Heavy, said in the statement.

Sawa said his firm would undertake research and development work to help ensure the success of the project, which deals with the next generation of nuclear reactors. For a factbox on PBMR technology, click on [ID:nLN504919]

"There are... important additional technological development opportunities that can be exploited (and) the possibility that PBMR may in future still want to pursue the direct cycle, gas-turbine design, should also not be ruled out," he said.

U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric, majority owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote), South African power utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] and South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation have invested 7 billion rand since 1999 proving the PBMR technology. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by James Jukwey)


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