Tuesday, February 18, 2014

South Africa Seeks Nuclear Power Expansion

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
Days after President Jacob Zuma confirmed in his State of the Nation address that government would move ahead with the procurement of new nuclear capacity, the Department of Energy (DoE) indicated that it planned to appoint an adviser to assess the economic impact of “localisation for the nuclear expansion programme”.

In addition, State-owned power utility Eskom released a separate expression of interest for a pilot localisation programme for valves used at the existing Koeberg nuclear power station, in the Western Cape.

The current version of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) calls for the introduction of 9 600 MW of new nuclear capacity by 2030 and Zuma indicated that government expected to “conclude the procurement” of that capacity.

The IRP also suggested that alternative generation solutions should be pursued if the new nuclear capacity could not be built within a capital-costs price threshold of $6 500/kW installed.

Zuma also used his address to stress that, in the “next five years, the State will procure at least 75% of its goods and services from South African producers” and would “work intensively to develop emerging or black industrialists.”

The DoE planned to host a compulsory briefing session with potential service providers on February 20 and had indicated that the successful bidder would be appointed for a period of four months. It also set March 7 as the closing date for submission.

Eskom, on the other hand, wanted local valve manufacturers to outline their current capacity to participate in a pilot localisation initiative for the design, manufacture and supply of nuclear-grade valves for Koeberg. A closing date of March 4 had been set for responses. (Polity, 2/18/2014)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Illegal Miners Rescued & Arrested

More than 20 illegal mine workers emerged from an abandoned mine by Monday afternoon but scores remained underground after a rescue operation stalled.
About 200 illegal miners are believed to be in the abandoned mine, many of them apparently fearing arrest if they come out. The situation has created a tense standoff between the miners below ground and the emergency workers and police trying to rescue them.

Emergency rescue service company ER24 said Sunday that police discovered the men stuck underground in an old ventilation tunnel after the police heard shouts during a patrol of the mine site, located east of Johannesburg near the area of Benoni. The emergency rescuers were able to open a hole to free 11 men on Sunday and another 13 on Monday, using large equipment to move boulders blocking a route underground.

Rescue workers said they were unwilling to go underground themselves because of questions about the stability of the shaft and the risk that miners might try to take them hostage.  Police arrested the men who did come out for illegal mining

The abandoned ventilation shaft is owned by Gold One International Ltd.  The company has the right to prospect for gold in the area, but had sealed off the ventilation shaft with a cement slab. Gold One said illegal miners dug a hole around the cement slab, which had collapsed behind them.

South Africa, once the world's largest gold producer, has shut many old mines around Johannesburg. Illegal mining has increased at abandoned gold mines near Johannesburg, the Department of Mineral Resources said in September. In 2010, South Africa's minister of mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, estimated the country loses around 5.6 billion rand ($516 million) a year due to illegal mining and she has launched a committee to look into how to reduce the activity.  (WSJ, 2/17/2014)