Cape Town -
Financing of South Africa’s proposed fleet of nuclear power stations - reported to cost about R1 trillion - has not been considered by the National Treasury, nor does it form part of the fiscal framework for the next three years, the Treasury said yesterday.
Spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane said in response to questions about the funding of the nuclear programme: “The question of how nuclear would be paid for has not yet arisen because the process had not yet reached that stage.
“And when it does reach the stage… government will not make a financial commitment that it cannot afford, nor one that undermines the long-term sustainability of the fiscus, or the financial soundness of a state-owned entity.”
This comes after President Jacob Zuma was reported to have said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last week that details of the state’s backing for its nuclear-power programme would be in Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s budget speech next month.
However, the Treasury said the fiscal framework, published in October and approved by the cabinet, reflected all government decisions that had financial implications over the next three years.
“The nuclear build is so far not part of those decisions,” Sikhakhane said.
There were processes that needed to be completed regarding energy plans before the issue of financing arose.
These included a “thorough analysis of South Africa’s energy needs now and in the long term, juxtaposed against several other factors”, which included policy objectives such as reducing the country’s carbon footprint and affordability.
This process was under way with the government review of the 2010 integrated resource plan, the country’s 20-year electricity road map. The government may revise the energy mix laid out in the 2010 plan.
The Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) earlier this month applied to the Treasury and the Department of Energy, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, for documents relating to decisions about the proposed nuclear programme and its funding.
The Treasury told Safcei it had no documents on the matter, while the Energy Department said it would not release the documents requested.
The government has signed “framework agreements” with several nuclear vendor countries, including Russia. There have been reports that Russia may lend South Africa money for the nuclear programme.
However, Nuclear Intelligence Weekly reported last week that Russia’s Audit Chamber had revealed cost overruns and delays at seven out of nine nuclear reactors being built by the state-owned atomic corporation Rosatom.