JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – In tandem with growing ambitions to increase access to electricity for many African citizens who currently have limited or no access to electricity comes the call for new large-scale power stations to be built. This has prompted a keen interest in nuclear power stations and, consequently, a burgeoning demand for uranium as a fuel source.
Many commentators worldwide expect significant growth in the demand for uranium or any other atomic fuel that can be used to fuel a nuclear power station. This projected growth will, in turn, lead to the need for increased beneficiation and enrichment of such commodities.
South Africa has a long history of mining uranium, which, in the early days, was widely deemed a waste product. In fact, uranium mining in the country is synonymous with gold mining, as the minerals often occur in the same deposits.
The bulk of the first uranium South Africa exported to overseas markets was for use in nuclear power stations, and the first nuclear bombs made by the US originated from South Africa, says nuclear project management company Nuclear Africa CEO Kelvin Kemm.
He is also the chairperson of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and has a vested interest in seeing the peaceful proliferation of nuclear technology throughout Africa.
When it has been beneficiated and enriched, uranium is used to produce heat and boil water to power large electricity- generating infrastructure (similar to how coal is used to boil water in coal-fired power stations), with the pressurised steam fed into large turbines and subsequently used to power stators and generate electricity.