File image: Energy Minister Mmaloko Kubayi
Cape Town - The South African government will start renegotiating its inter-governmental agreements on nuclear co-operation with five vendor nations from next month, Energy Minister Mmaloko Kubayi said on Friday.
This comes after the government decided last week not to appeal a high court ruling that effectively halted procurement of new nuclear plants, which the government says is needed to add 9,600 megawatt of power to the electricity grid.
"In terms of the timeframes for the nuclear new build programme, we are starting with the work in June," Kubayi told a media briefing after her budget vote speech to the National Assembly.
"We are restarting the process. We are signing new agreements. For me it does not make sense to take a 1995 agreement. because what the court has said is those agreements need to come to Parliament. The five of them - China, Russia, France, US, South Korea - we will renegotiate, sign new agreements and submit Parliament. The process would start in June."
She noted that some of the accords were broader than just nuclear cooperation, adding: "So we see it as an opportunity for us to renegotiate the broader issues of energy in those agreements."
Kubayi said she could not say how long it would take before Eskom could return to the market with a request for information after that issued in December was invalidated by the Cape Town High Court.
"To commit to a timeframe now, I would be shooting myself in the foot."
The minister stressed that before the power utility could issue a request for information, she needed to issue a new determination and to inform the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), which then needed to do public consultation.
In April, the high court set aside the determination on nuclear procurement signed by Kubayi's predecessor, Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Judge Lee Bozalek has also found that the request for information issued by Eskom in December last year was unlawful and unconstitutional, as well as the cooperation agreements with the five countries in question.
The court was ruling on an application by Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute, in which they argued that under the Constitution, Parliament must approve any agreement of this nature.
- African News Agency (ANA)