DA to fight nuclear deal

Russia's Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation signed a deal to provide SA with eight nuclear reactors.

Democratic Alliance leader Hellen Zille: Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance (DA) will fight the Russian nuclear deal to prevent future generations of South Africans paying the estimated R1 trillion bill, opposition leader Helen Zille said on Thursday.

She says serious questions surround the deal, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

Russia's Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation announced on Monday it had signed a deal to provide South Africa with eight nuclear reactors.

An identical statement was issued by the Department of Energy.

But officials now say the deal was just a framework agreement to be signed with all prospective vendors.

Zille says the department's rationalisation doesn't explain Rosatom's assertion that its nuclear power plants will be the first Russian-made reactors to be built on African soil.

"This is a fight that must be taken on if we are to prevent future generations footing the estimated R1 trillion bill for a deal, which is 10 times the size of the arms deal."

The DA leader says one of the many questions is why President Jacob Zuma pushed for nuclear reactors when the National Development Plan viewed renewable energy as more cost-effective.

The party is asking the Presidency, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia), for all documents relating to the decision.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has already been asked to appear before Parliament's portfolio committee with a copy of the agreement.

Earlier this week, it was reported the agreement for the deal had not yet been finalised.

South Africa apparently signed a deal to procure 9,6 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, leading to confusion among South African role players.

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

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

South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) executive Xolisa Mabhongo says, "There will be a South African procurement process of course. There will be other inter-government agreements signed."

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."

Additional reporting by Reuters