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Govt says making nuclear progress, but coy on funding

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Govt says making nuclear progress, but coy on funding

Photo by Duane Daws
Department of Energy's Deputy Director General in charge of nuclear, Zizamele Mbambo
Photo by Duane Daws
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson

2nd June 2015

By: Kim Cloete
Creamer Media Correspondent

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The Department of Energy (DoE) told Parliament on Tuesday that technical preparations for the nuclear programme were at an advanced stage and that government was ready to move full steam ahead; but it kept details of how the programme would be financed firmly under wraps.

“We are still investigating these matters – who will pay – but we are looking at different sources of funding in the market, and different financing options. While this primary work has been done it would not be in the interests of the government to release this while it is still in government processes,” DoE deputy director-general in charge of nuclear Zizamele Mbambo said. 

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Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and a departmental team outlined plans to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Energy, in a briefing punctuated by concerns from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the process was being carried out under a veil of secrecy.

DA spokesperson for energy Gordon Mackay accused the department of not being transparent.

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“How can the government go ahead with nuclear before knowing how much it will cost and who will finance it. I sense the whiff of an arms deal. I do not accept this. It is rubbish. They should provide information and it should be publicly available. The report about nuclear came out in 2013 and the department says they still can’t share it with us.”

But the Minister rejected this, saying they would use the Independent Power Producers (IPP) agreement as a benchmark for transparency. 

“If we use the IPP as a benchmark, the first step in procurement was the request for information. We are following the process through the vendor parades, interactions with different governments, requests for proposals and funding.”

Mbambo said intergovernmental agreements had been signed with the Russian Federation, France, Korea and the US, while the South African government was in advanced negotiations with Japan and Canada.

“We want to make sure the procurement process when it starts is open, transparent, cost effective and aligned with the national laws for procurement. These are international agreements. They are not deals. Only when you sign a contract, do you have a deal. There is no contract with any of these countries yet.”

Last year there was speculation that the government had signed a deal with Russia. Mbambo said there was an extensive vendor parade by all the major bid countries, who had come to South Africa with their vendors.

“We have completed the preprocurement phase by completing the vendor parades with all the vendor countries who have expressed interest. They have presented their proposals. We will take decisions in a phased approach.

Mbambo was at pains to assure committee members that the nuclear plan was in line with the National Development Plan, which called for nuclear to be considered only as a last resort.

“It is important to emphasise that there is no misalignment between the nuclear build and the National Development Plan. What the department is doing is aligned with the National Development Plan to make sure we develop the required baseload and to ensure the country is self sufficient in terms of energy security.”

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