March 24, 2010 / 4:26 PM / in 8 years

S.Africa's PBMR expects $10 mln in US funding

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African nuclear technology firm PBMR, which failed to secure government funding to develop a small nuclear reactor, will likely get $10 million in U.S. state funding, it said on Wednesday.

South Africa is one of the pioneers in developing a power and heat processing plant based on pebble-fuel technology, a fourth-generation nuclear technology that can be used to generate electricity.

The South African government said last month it would stop financial support for the project after the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) company failed to secure outside investment, despite a revised product model.

PBMR said in a statement it would receive the money through stakeholder Westinghouse Electric, which is majority owned by Japan’s Toshiba Corp., and which was chosen by the U.S. Energy Department to design and plan a next-generation nuclear plant.

“(We) anticipate receiving an estimated $10 million,” PBMR spokeswoman Lorna Skhosana told Reuters.

She said the company’s current funding, excluding the U.S. grant, would allow it to operate until the end of this year.

PBMR signed a bilateral nuclear agreement with the United States to cooperate on the pebble bed programme back in September last year.

Westinghouse, utility Eskom and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation have so far invested some 8 billion rand to prove the technology since 1999.

However, the development of the technology was hit by the global financial crisis and funding problems at Eskom, its major shareholder.

PBMR said in February it would cut up to 600 jobs to lower costs, and its near and medium term future would depend on talks with investors.

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