Yesterday in Cape Town, South African Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin announced that the nation would soon build a second nuclear power plant, and that the decision on a "preferred bidder" would take place before the end of the first quarter of this year. The new plant will be rated at 1,000 MWe.
Fans of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor shouldn't get excited, as the new plant will be of the current Generation III+ variety currently being built around the world. Though the exact site of the new reactor has yet to be determined, Erwin indicated it would be in one of the Cape provinces that have been hit hard by rolling blackouts.
In conjunction with Erwin's announcement, both he and the nation's energy minister declared uranium to be a "strategic mineral," meaning...
"In this regard," said Mr Erwin today, "we are developing a uranium mining and beneficiation strategy."You'll recall that we first reported this possibility last August. Separately, Eskom announced a number of renewable energy projects for the Cape totalling about 350MWe in capacity.
Such a strategy would enable South Africa to "beneficiate" - add value to - the raw material of uranium rather than to import the enriched fuel, the raw material for which it has in abundance.
This would be more cost-effective for South Africa, Minerals and Energy Minister Bulelwa Sonjica told BuaNews today, "so we would beneficiate our own mineral".
Declaring uranium a strategic mineral, she added, would lead to more controls over its production and exportation to ensure that South Africa has adequate reserves of the mineral in years to come.
"We can't export uranium when we want to embark on a nuclear programme," she said.
"We want to ensure that all the time, when we need it, we have reserves in store."
That would be strategic way of dealing with it, she said, adding that there would be limitations on the export of uranium.
"We'll be managing it very carefully," Ms Sonjica said.