More confusion around SA, Russia nuclear deal

It's now being reported that the agreement has not yet been finalised.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) talks with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on 18 August 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Amid confusion and debate around South Africa's nuclear energy deal with Russia, it's now being reported that the agreement has not yet been finalised.

News agency Reuters says government officials in Vienna have clarified that the deal is still in its early stages.

It says the agreement with Russia's nuclear company is part of a tender process that will involve other competing countries.

Yesterday, Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that South Africa had signed a deal with Russia's Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation to procure 9.6 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, leading to confusion among South African role players.

But South African government officials involved said the agreement was still in early stages.

"There will be a South African procurement process of course. There will be other inter-government agreements signed," said Xolisa Mabhongo, an executive at South African state agency Nuclear Energy Corporation.

There would be a bidding process before any final contracts were signed, Mabhongo said from Vienna, where the agreement was signed.

"They jumped the gun," a senior South African government source, who is part of the country's delegation to an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna, told Reuters.

"These kinds of inter-governmental agreements are standard with nuclear vendor countries. We foresee that similar agreements will be signed with other nuclear vendor countries, France, China, Korea, the US and Japan."

EXPERTS WEIGHT IN ON PROS AND CONS OF AGREEMENT

Mail & Guardian science editor Sarah Wild said, "People may be pro-nuclear because of energy security and those against it worry about nuclear radiation."

Energy expert Chris Yelland said all energy sources come with pros and cons.

"They have low operating costs but high capital costs which is a disadvantage."

South Africa is struggling to meet rising electricity demand due to ageing infrastructure and its failure to build new power plants in over two decades.

It is home to one nuclear power station that provides around 5 percent of the country's 42,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity. Nearly all the rest comes from coal.