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South African Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor Reemerges into Public View

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EIRNS—The fabled South African “Pebble Bed” small modular nuclear reactor (PBMR) project reemerged into public view June 18 with the launching of the website, https://stratekglobal.com/. Dr. Kelvin Kemm is very much involved.

The reactor is advertised as “set to drastically accelerate the time to grid connection. It is ready to build.”

The HTMR-100 is a high-temperature, helium-cooled reactor moderated by graphite, which produces 35 MW of electricity using a steam turbine. (For comparison, the two reactors on Rosatom’s Akademik Lomonosov floating power plant each put out 35 MWe.) No body of water is necessary for cooling, since it is gas cooled (a Gen IV reactor). This is good for Africa, where bodies of water are sometimes scarce. The reactor uses ultra-safe “pebble” fuel (although the pebble fuel is no longer featured in the name of the reactor).

The reactor’s major components (modules) are fabricated in a production plant, and are assembled at the construction site. All systems downstream of the reactor itself are not new designs, but are purchasable off the shelf from existing suppliers. Cool! A customer may wish to prepare a power plant site to accommodate five or six reactors, but buy just one reactor initially, then add more. One reactor will fit in an area the size of a football field.

The original Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, developed in South Africa under government auspices, depended on funding from international banks, which pulled out during the 2008 financial crisis. Then newly elected President Jacob Zuma was not at that time oriented toward the nuclear project. So the project was shut down. But a small group of scientists and engineers formed a company to take it forward in private hands, namely, Stratek Global, Kelvin Kemm, chairman and CEO. [dc_]