Eskom was expected to issue the request for information last Thursday, signalling the early stages of the nuclear procurement process. Companies issue request for information to collect information about the capabilities of various suppliers.
The request for information follows last week’s determination by the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, which confirmed Eskom as the procurer of nuclear reactors built in South Africa. The determination was published in the Government Gazette last Wednesday.
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“Our officials from procurement felt that there was not enough time to issue the request for information [last Thursday]. They also had to consult with a sub-committee of the board as well,” said Phasiwe.
Cabinet earlier this year designated Eskom as the procurer, owner and operator of nuclear power plants with the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation as an owner and operator of front-end fuel facilities, including the multi-purpose reactor. In an end-of-year statement, issued last Thursday, President Jacob Zuma said the Department of Energy, the Energy Security Cabinet Sub-Committee and the cabinet would remain responsible for overall co-ordination and oversight of the programme.
“Before any nuclear new build procurement takes place, the request for proposals has to be issued. Once proposals have been received and evaluated, the Department of Energy is required to report back to cabinet on the proposed funding model. As I have previously indicated, any procurement process must be on a scale and at a pace that our country can afford. It is from this basis that we would then proceed,” said the president.
The request for proposals is the next milestone in the nuclear procurement programme after the request for information. Phasiwe said the power utility intended to issue the request for proposals in the first half of next year. It is about 18 months since the cabinet decided, “in principle”, that South Africa should proceed with the procurement of 9600 megawatts of nuclear capacity as envisaged in the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
Just more than a year ago, the cabinet also gave the Department of Energy the go-ahead to issue the request for proposals for the nuclear programme. At the time, the cabinet said the final funding model of the programme would depend on the response to the request for proposals.
Since then, the process has stalled with the procurement authority eventually transferred to Eskom.
But the government and Eskom’s decision to kick-start the nuclear procurement process while the IRP document is currently under review has come under fire from the renewable energy industry.
The SA Renewable Energy Council, which represents renewable energy associations, expressed disappointment with Joemat-Pettersson’s determination for the procurement of nuclear capacity “on the basis of the very outdated (IRP) published in 2010”.