'Lack of transparency' surrounds SA nuclear programme

Energy Dept says investing in nuclear tech can provide cheap and sustainable electricity for nearly 80 years.

FILE: The Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for energy said many questions still need to be answered. Picture: Free Images.

JOHANNESBURG - Concerns have been raised about a lack of transparency around South Africa's nuclear programme.

The Energy Department held a briefing on Tuesday saying investing in nuclear technology can provide cheap and sustainable electricity for nearly 80 years.

So far the state has signed inter-governmental agreements with China, South Korea, the United States and Russia.

But it's still negotiating a price tag in the procurement process.

The Democratic Alliance's shadow minister for energy Gordon MacKay said many questions still need to be answered.

"Every single time Members of Parliament such as myself have asked direct questions about the nuclear programme, the minister said she can't provide information because it's all vender-sensitive."

LISTEN: _702'S John Robbie speaks to the Department of Energy about the proposed programme for procurement of nuclear energy. _

Meanwhile there have been reports that Russia is the frontrunner to win the rights to build South African nuclear plants worth R1,2 trillion.

Editor of Energise Magazine, Roger Lily said this doesn't address the country's short term challenges.

"It takes a very long time and it's very expensive to build a nuclear power station. South Africa needs electricity now and can't wait for something like 12 to 15 years if Medupi Power Station is anything to go by."

He however said the technology that Russia uses is safe.

"The technology is cheap to run and it is clean compared to coal."

Last week, Russia's presidential spokesperson confirmed that President Jacob Zuma and Vladimir Putin have outlined their launch of a nuclear power development programme in South Africa as a priority.

Dmitry Peskov said, naturally, Russia has a high potential for cooperation.

But with a six-month deadline to award contracts, who exactly is going to pay for the country's biggest project yet remains a mystery.