Nuclear deal with Russians ‘not in bag’
The government has dismissed claims it has chosen the Russians to build nuclear power plants, worth between R400 billion and R1-trillion, to increase the generating capacity in the country.
The Department of Energy’s top nuclear official told Independent Media this week the intergovernmental agreements released in public recently did not suggest a decision has already been made on the preferred partner.
It has been suggested that while the co-operation agreements with other countries, including France, South Korea, China and the US lacked detail, the one with Russia was very detailed.
The department said suggestions have been made that this meant a deal with the Russians was already in the bag.
Zizamele Mbambo, the department’s deputy director-general for nuclear energy, said this was not true, as the bidding process has not even started.
The government will from next month start the tender process and preferred bidder or bidders would be announced by the end of the year.
“From our side as South Africa we negotiate the best agreement to get the best deal to meet our own requirements as a country,” said Mbambo.
“Each country negotiates the agreement dependent on their own interest to co-operate with South Africa,” he said.
“We want to be self-sufficient, we want to participate in the entire nuclear value chain. Through the government programme we are not looking at building a nuclear power station, we are looking at creating an industry.
“Everything that will be used to build nuclear power plants must be created here,” he added.
Mbambo said the nuclear programme will be a game changer and will stimulate the economy.
South Africa was not, however, new in the game of nuclear. It has run Koeberg, the only nuclear power plant in the country and Africa, for 30 years, reminded Mbambo.
The country has also safely run the Safari Research Reactor at Pelindaba, outside Pretoria, for 50 years, he said.
“We are number two in the world to supply medical isotopes and that shows the credibility of South Africa in nuclear,” said Mbambo.
He was confident the first nuclear reactor would go live in 2023 and the last in 2030 as outlined in the government’s Integrated Resource Plan for 2010-13.
The intention was to build six to eight reactors.
The nuclear power plants were good value for money and they would generate billions of rand into the economy, and would create thousands of direct and indirect jobs, according to Mbambo.