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Despite the fact that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said that South Africa would be evaluating the new nuclear build as a result of the fact that the country can’t afford a new nuclear plant at this stage, the National Nuclear Regulator has announced that an installation site licence would likely be granted in June for a nuclear power plant.

Duynefontein nuclear site licence set for June 2018“We have progressed in earnest the work of licensing the site and we will be issuing hopefully the siting licence by June 2018,” Bismark Tyobeka, CEO of the National Nuclear Regulator, told a panel at a nuclear conference in Abu Dhabi.

The same conference saw French energy company EDF Group expressing its readiness to participate in designing South Africa's new nuclear power plant. “We know that South Africa is thinking about a new nuclear program, so we are at their disposal to help design the program and, of course, [to] respond to their demands,” Xavier Ursat, EDF's Senior Executive Vice President responsible for new nuclear projects and engineering, said.

Less than a month ago, the Department of Environmental Affairs granted authorisation to Eskom to build a new 4,000 megawatt nuclear power plant in the Western Cape. However, Gigaba has stated that the build should only go ahead when the economy is in a better state, as South Africa faces further costly credit downgrades.

In South Africa, we have a dual regulatory process when it comes to licensing. An approval from the Department of Environmental Affairs in terms of environmental assessment report must be concluded, and then the nuclear regulatory body must grant an installation site license.

Construction of the plant at Duynefontein, close to Koeberg, will only go ahead once the regulator has granted the license. Following the authorisation, companies that would be partners in the project will be chosen.

The EDF Group is not the only entity that has expressed readiness to participate in the construction of the new nuclear plant. Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom, US Westinghouse Electric Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) have all shown interest.

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