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SA cannot afford major nuclear expansion - top ANC official

Paul Mashatile said the government would not take the 'Big Bang approach' to nuclear expansion.

ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile (right) takes part in a Russia-South Africa Investment Opportunities Panel Discussion in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Picture: @MYANC/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa cannot afford large-scale expansion of its nuclear power fleet but would still be open to future nuclear deals with Russia, the ruling party’s treasurer-general said on Thursday shortly before President Vladimir Putin arrived for the BRICS summit.

The nuclear project was prioritised by former President Jacob Zuma but new President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised to revive the economy and crack down on corruption since becoming president in February, canned the plan saying the country could not afford a large-scale nuclear expansion.

The African National Congress’s treasurer-general Paul Mashatile, one of the top six most powerful members in the ruling party which oversees the government’s economic policies, said Pretoria would not take the “Big Bang approach” to nuclear expansion.

He was speaking at a business breakfast on the sidelines of the three-day BRICS summit that kicked off on Wednesday in Johannesburg, attended by the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“Once we are clear that this is affordable for us to do, we are open for business, including with Russia,” said Mashatile, said referring to a potential nuclear deal.

“I think the approach we will take is to avoid the Big Bang approach. The initial intervention was that we would do close to 10,000 megawatts... It’s unaffordable,” he said.

Mashatile also said the ANC wanted greater private investment in struggling state-owned power utility Eskom, which swung to a loss for the year to end-March.

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