Plans are underway to ensure that South Africa gains the capacity to desalinate its own seawater.
Speaking at the 38th Expert Group meeting of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) on Monday, acting Director General of the Department of Energy, Tseliso Maqubela, said the City of Cape Town at which the meeting was held is facing drought and the highest level of water restrictions.
GIF is a co-operative international endeavour which was set up to carry out the research and development needed to establish the feasibility and performance capabilities of the next generation nuclear energy systems.
"The irony is that it is alongside an infinite body of water, which we do not have the technology to harness economically. For us, this is where Generation IV hybrid reactor systems can play a pivotal role, through desalination of seawater," he told those attending the meeting.
He further added that South Africa could not wait until the full development of these systems.
"We cannot wait until then, and have already implemented solutions to use the Koeberg nuclear reactor to desalinate seawater for its own use, and further plans are underway for increasing this capacity for more general use," said Maqubela.
For South Africa, the provision of affordable electricity is paramount, he said.
Maqubela said the good work being done by the Experts Group, which is the most critical hub of technical knowledge of the Generation IV International Forum, is an important indicator of whether a particular technology or design will be suitable for a country.
"Although some of the other factors such as reduction of waste and improving the utilisation of fuel are important to us as well, the determining factor for adoption will be the price of energy produced. I use the term 'price of energy', as opposed to 'price of electricity' because, as you know, some Generation IV reactor technologies are suitable for more than just the production of electricity."
The acting Director General said he looks forward to more positive developments from the Education and Training Task Force, while also congratulating the success of the group's webinar programme developed to educate the public on advanced nuclear system.
The Expert Group works at identifying, updating research needs for the Forum and ensuring alignment of those needs with the vision of the Forum, as well as reviewing progress of collaborative projects, among others.
In the early 2000s the group evaluated over 130 reactor design concepts, to arrive at six rector technologies being the most feasible to achieve the eight technology goals to improve sustainability, economics, safety and reliability, and proliferation resistance and physical protection over the current generation of nuclear reactors.
South Africa first hosted the Expert Group Meeting of the Generation IV International Forum in 2010.