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The soon-to-be-launched special economic zone near the Beitbridge border plans on supplementing solar with small modular nuclear reactors. From Moneyweb.

A model of the SA-designed HTMR-100 power plant that could see the economic zone providing its tenants with nuclear power before 2030. Image: Stratek Global

The Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) near the Beitbridge border in Limpopo wants to be among the first in SA to install its own nuclear reactors to feed some of the energy-hungry customers that are lining up to build plants in the area.

It is investigating acquiring eight small modular reactors (SMRs) grouped in two sets of four.

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The SEZ is in the final stages of planning and should commence the roll-out of bulk infrastructure, roads and water within the next few months, says Lehlogonolo Masoga, CEO of the SEZ.

One of the key anchor tenants will be Chinese investors, who plan to erect a R10-R20 billion ferrochrome plant on the site. Subsequent phases will likely be added thereafter, though this depends on power availability.

Ferrochrome production is massively energy-hungry and will need more electricity than Eskom or solar power can supply.

“We have already earmarked 500MW of solar power for the SEZ, but this is intermittent power.

“We really need the kind of base load power that a modular nuclear reactor can provide,” says Masoga.

The SEZ is in the process of completing its project-based environmental impact assessment and expects to be open for business within the next 12 months.

Nuclear has re-entered the chat

This comes just as nuclear has re-entered the energy debate.

ReadPebble bed nuclear reactor gets a reboot

Last week, it was announced that Joburg-based Koya Capital will assist Stratek Global in the financing and construction of a R9 billion ‘first-of-a-kind’ reactor in SA that will produce 100MW of heat and 35MW of electricity.

One of the advantages of the SA-designed reactor is that it is helium gas-cooled and not water-cooled, as is the case with most reactors.

This means it can be located anywhere and does not need to be near a large body of water.

Washington DC-based C5 Capital is also putting together a similar financing package to address the R9 billion needed for the first reactor to be located in Cape Town or Pretoria.

The construction lead time is five years, though this will reduce significantly for subsequent production models, says Kelvin Kemm, chair of Stratek Global. 

This means the Musina Makhado SEZ may have nuclear power before 2030.

The SA-designed High Temperature Modular Reactor 100, or HTMR-100, can operate completely independent of the Eskom grid, feeding power to a small community of users in a radius of anything from a few kilometres to several hundred kilometres.

SEZ could sell surplus power

SA’s economic growth has been unable to get out of the starting blocks, in large part due to Eskom’s failures.

Masoga says 24/7 baseload power is essential to revitalising the economy in Limpopo, which handles most of the trade to and from countries to the north. The Musina Makhado SEZ plans to attract mining companies and suppliers, logistics operators, agro-processing, and general manufacturing.

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Businesses in these SEZs are eligible for tax relief, such as 15% corporate tax, building allowances, employment tax incentives, and relief on value-added tax and customs duties.

Surplus power from the Musina Makhado SEZ could be sold to nearby towns such as Musina as well as farmers and businesses in the area.

“There is a growing realisation that nuclear energy is the best way to address the substantial demand for clean base load power in Africa and around the world,” says Stephen Edkins of Koya Capital.

“A small modular reactor system can be integrated into the national grid, deployed in a stand-alone mini grid, or used to power a mine or industrial park to fulfil bespoke energy requirements.

“Internationally, South African technology developers are highly respected and so we have a high degree of confidence in their ability to deliver a successful product.”