Build Programme Needs 27 000 Skilled Workers

SA nuclear build programme needs over 27 000 skilled workers

By: Natasha Odendaal

30th May 2012

South Africa’s nuclear energy aspirations would require in excess of 27 000 skilled workers at its peak in 2022 and would position the country to export surplus skills by 2030, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) CEO Ayanda Myoli said on Wednesday.

Discussing a proposed strategy to move South Africa forward with its 9 600 GW of nuclear-generated energy plans, Myoli said that, during the “nuclear build” over the next 20 years, about 2 500 artisans a year would be required, in addition to a number of engineers and other skilled workers.

Further, between 2026 and 2030, the nuclear industry could create 50 000 jobs.

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan called for a power generation mix of 42 600 MW of new capacity by 2030 to meet anticipated demand, of which nuclear energy would contribute at least 9.6 GW between 2023 and 2030.

The 51-member nuclear association indicated that it was in discussions with a number of further education and training colleges, as well as skills education training authorities, with a view to develop a nuclear-based skills programme for the new nuclear build.

Myoli said that all environmental-impact assessments and research quality frameworks would have to be completed and approved by 2014, while contracts would have to be awarded for early site work to start in 2013.

Speaking at a nuclear conference hosted by Omega Investment Research, in Sandton, Myoli also noted that the development of the necessary infrastructure surrounding the chosen nuclear plant sites, either in the Eastern or the Western Cape, would have to start between now and 2014.

From 2015 to 2020, he suggested that licensing of uranium-enrichment and conversion plants should be undertaken and construction of the first plant should start. By 2025, the first plant would be completed and 4.8 GW of nuclear power would be operational.

Further, between 2026 and 2030, South Africa should be a mature and internationally competing nuclear construction industry, contributing to the global nuclear supply chain and operating nuclear plants in the top quartile. The country should also have gained nuclear competency and have several more plants under construction.

Earlier this week, the Department of Energy said it was undertaking an ‘Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review’ to, besides others, establish the readiness of the country to undertake a nuclear build programme.

Aveng head of construction for the nuclear division Danny Quan said on Wednesday that South Africa, from a construction perspective, was ready for a project of this magnitude.

Based on the country’s extensive experience in building large-scale projects, such as the Medupi coal plant, the construction sector was equipped for complex projects.

Group Five engineering and construction manager Marthinus Greyling agreed, stating that the construction industry was aggressively readying itself for the nuclear build.

However, Quan noted that while construction principles remained the same in most complex projects, partnering with an experienced and certified mentoring contractor, particularly during the construction of the nuclear island, would be advantageous to the country and better position it for a successful new build.

He said that, while South Africa had the construction capabilities, it might not necessarily hold the international standards of safety and quality competence.

Meanwhile, despite a slowdown in projects following the Fukushima nuclear plant incident in Japan last year, global nuclear growth projections still indicated an upward trend.

Myoli said that total world energy demand was expected to increase between 25% and 50% over the next 20 years. While 66% of future energy generation was expected to be a mix of renewable energies by 2035, 14% would be nuclear-generated.

Between 2006 and 2010, there was an average yearly addition of 1.7 GW of nuclear energy worldwide. This was expected to jump to between 13.8 GW and 27.2 GW by 2035, based on a number of scenarios, said Myoli. Further, 29 countries were already operating nuclear plants, while 43 were considering it. Another 25 countries had shown interest.

China embarked on 63% of all nuclear-reactor construction in 2010, followed by Russia with 13%.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb


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