South African nuclear company Stratek Global and technology consultancy Koya Capital have entered into a partnership to secure the financing and construction of a R9bn ($480m) first-of-a-kind reactor in South Africa.

The new HTMR-100 reactor, being developed in Pretoria, produces 100MW of heat and 35MW of electricity. It is derived from the South African Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) programme, which aimed to build a small-scale, high-temperature reactor using graphite-coated spherical uranium oxycarbide tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, using helium as a coolant. The reactor would supply process heat and generate electricity.

However, after working on the PBMR project since 1993, the South African Government stopped investing, placing the project under care and maintenance to protect its asset and intellectual property.

Speaking to Biznews, Stephen Edkins, head of cleantech at Koya Capital, said that his company will recommend Stratek Global’s project to investors as it had undergone an extended period of due diligence and the potential of the technology was convincing. The project should “break ground before the end of the year”.

“This collaboration transcends mere reactor construction,” Edkins added. “It is about establishing a benchmark in clean, dependable energy for Africa and the wider world, and we are thus excited to work alongside Stratek Global in this innovative endeavour. There is a growing realisation that nuclear energy is the best way to address the substantial demand for clean baseload power in Africa and around the world.”

The addition of further nuclear power to South Africa’s energy grid will be especially beneficial, with memories of the devastating energy crisis in the nation still fresh. State energy company Eskom has been plagued by years of mismanagement, leading to heavy debts and unprecedented energy shortages throughout 2023.

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Coal still dominates South Africa’s electricity mix, making up 86%. The ruling African National Congress is wary of disrupting the industry, in part because mineworkers are a key voting constituency.