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Friday, December 08, 2006

South African Reactors to Use Uranium From Former Russian Nuclear Warheads

South Africa plans to use fuel created from former Russian nuclear warheads to fuel a new line of small nuclear power plants, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported today (see GSN, Oct. 13).

The nation has been developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, relatively low-power units, and plans to build 24 of them by 2028, said public enterprises minister Alec Erwin (see GSN, Nov. 14, 2001).

“On the PMBR, that uranium we will bring in from Russia, which is downblended weapon graded uranium,” he said.

South Africa ended its own uranium enrichment activities in 1997, Erwin said, after ending its nuclear weapons program and deciding that enriching its own fuel was too expensive.

However, the decision to use foreign fuel could change as the demand for fuel increases with the number of completed power plants.

“We are re-evaluating our nuclear program,” Erwin said. “We have the uranium, and we have the technology” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Dec. 7).
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