Russia could score big in SA, Hungary's nuclear expansion plans

Lobbyists are challenging the legality of SA's proposed 9,600 megawatt nuclear build programme.

FILE. Work continues on a nuclear reactor vessel inside a factory in Volgodonsk, south of Moscow. Picture: Alex Eliseev/EWN

BUDAPEST - Russia could benefit in both South Africa and Hungary's nuclear expansion plans, but there are procurement and legal hurdles.

Environmental lobbyists are challenging the legality of South Africa's proposed 9,600 megawatt nuclear build programme before government opens the tender process.

At the same time, the European Commission is probing whether Hungary's decision to award a contract to Russia to build two new nuclear reactors was in line with its procurement regulations.

Eighty percent of the financing for the Hungarian project would be covered by a loan from Russia, to be paid off over 21 years at a stepped interest rate.

Attila Aszodi, the Hungarian commissioner responsible for nuclear expansion, has reaffirmed his government's decision to sign the deal with Russia.

"Awarding the contract without a tender doesn't mean that you don't investigate the market possibilities."

He says not all European countries invite bids for nuclear projects.

"And we have seen that there are other projects where the tender was not used to select the technology."

Hungary is hoping construction of the two 1,200 megawatt reactors will begin in 2018.

In South Africa, opposition politicians are concerned government's nuclear build programme is not affordable and will plunge the country deeper into debt.

Russian atomic energy company, Rosatom has said it's open to help finance the project, if it's selected as the preferred bidder.

However, it's unclear when Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson will call for quotes for the tender.

Rosatom has sponsored a press trip to Hungary to showcase its capacity to build power plants across the globe.


Rosatom has billed nuclear as a cheap source of energy and a job-creating solution for the country.

The company, which is building 34 reactors across the globe, is hoping to influence South African perceptions about nuclear.

To do this, the nuclear producer is showcasing what it's done in other countries.

In the Hungarian city of Paks, where Rosatom has built a 2,000 MW nuclear power plant, the state-owned facility is credited for being the single biggest employer in the region.

Construction began in 1973 and the reactors began operating a decade later.

Last year, the power plant's four generators produced more than 50 percent of the country's electricity supply.

The facility's Csaba Dohoczki said, "In this region the unemployment level is lower than in the country because of the nuclear power plant."

Rosatom has sponsored a press trip to Hungary.