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More countries interested in bid to build SA nuclear power program

Five countries have already offered to build the programme while more bids keep coming in.

Nuclear power plant. Picture: Free Images.

JOHANNESBURG - The Energy Department says at least two additional countries have shown interest in launching bids to build nuclear power stations in South Africa and the additional benefits proposed by contractors will play an important role when a preferred bidder is chosen.

Russia's Nuclear Atomic Agency, Rosatom, on Monday attended the Africa Energy Indaba in Johannesburg with the department which says it's still in the pre-procurement phase of selecting a bidder.

Russia is one of five countries that are offering to build South Africa's nuclear energy capacity but the project has come under intense criticism from opposition parties and civil society groups opposed to the energy path.

Director-General at the department of energy Wolsey Barnard says bidders are still being thoroughly evaluated before any decisions can be taken.

France, United States, China and South Korea are all interested.

"It is only now that we have request for interest from the countries and they have signed five such agreements with various countries and there is possibly more in couple of weeks. One country's offer is different from others, in that respect the Russian one is special but also the South Korean one is special."

Meanwhile Rosatom's vice president in sub-Saharan Africa Victor Polikarpov says Russia can build the power stations from start to finish within seven years and offer a 60-percent local build.

"We are offering not just to build, we are offering modernisation of South African nuclear industry and building a whole new industry, offering a lot of localisation, up to 60 percent of localisation."

RUSSIAN TERMS

Shocking details have emerged about the South African/Russian nuclear deal, which seems to bind South Africa financially and holds the country liable for accidents at power plants.

The Mail & Guardian reported last week that although the nuclear deal has not been sent to Parliament, a sub clause allows the agreement to be implemented without going through the regular channels of law making.

Last week, President Jacob Zuma reaffirmed the nation's commitment to nuclear power during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) but he said an open process would be followed.

It's being reported that a nuclear deal with Russia will release the suppliers from any liability arising from accidents.

This means South Africa will be responsible for any and all damage.

Russia will also apparently have special treatment when it comes to tax while South Africa will not.

The agreement is due to run for a minimum of 20 years but will in effect give Russia the right to block its partner from appointing anyone else to work on the same project.

Another concern is that South Africa will have to ask for permission to export any nuclear technology it harnesses once its power plants are up and running.