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Advances in PBMR designs demonstrate possible cost, efficiency benefits – Eskom

19th May 2017 BY: Kim Cloete
Creamer Media Correspondent

Advances have been made in the new Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) design, which show promise for being both cheaper and less complicated than previous designs, says Eskom.

The design for PBMRs were initially developed in South Africa. Research into PBMRs was mothballed in 2010, but has since been reopened.

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Since reopening discussion on the prospect of PBMRs, work has been done on their design, with the prospects so far looking good, said Eskom chief nuclear officer David Nicholls.

He presented a concept design at African Utility Week, in Cape Town, and told Engineering News Online that the design was still in its early stages, but that it looked like it would be both simpler and much cheaper than the earlier design.

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“This design looks like it is 50% more efficient and probably half the cost. On that basis it should be a winner, but it’s still a paper exercise. At this stage, we’re moving towards something,”

The design would be published in a leading journal within the next few months, but showed a great deal of promise, said Nicholls.

The first phase could be a proof-of-concept machine.

“We might have a test reactor to prove what we are going to build over the next years, but it isn’t meant to be a commercial machine until the 2030s.”

The plan is for the PBMRs to follow on from the proposed major nuclear build in South Africa.

“We think it could be the machine that follows on after the first wave of nuclear reactors,” said Nicholls.

The PBMRs could provide back-up for baseload capacity on an expanded grid. The design is modular, they don’t need water for cooling and can be dispersed over a large area. 

EDITED BY: Creamer Media Reporter
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