WHAT ARE OUR MAIN CONCERNS AND ISSUES WITH THE NUCLEAR DEAL?
This deal was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning. It was signed after several secret visits to Russia by president Zuma. South Africans only became aware of the contract when Rosatom announced it on their website in 2014. They later retracted the announcement, saying it was a public relations mistake.
Government then assured South Africans that no contracts were signed and that they will only procure the amount of nuclear the country can afford. Both statements turned out to be not true, as we have discovered since. Reactors were ordered from Rosatom, sites for the plants identified and advertisements calling for construction tenders placed – yet, we the public who will have to pay for this, still have not been consulted. Nor was it determined if this deal was even lawfully entered into.
The proposed deal will bind us into a long term relationship with Russia, as we will have to borrow between R600bn and R1,2 trillion to finance it. And, if Eskom’s track record on large scale capital expenditure projects is anything to go by, who knows where the final cost of the Nuclear projects could end.
Although financial and energy experts warn that nuclear is not the way forward, government announced in early September 2016 that they are forging ahead with the proposed deal. This despite the fact that Treasury has clearly indicated that South Africa can’t afford this debt. Government’s haste in pushing through this deal against all advice certainly generates concern about the ulterior motives related to this decision.
Our country can also not afford to be tied into a financially dependent relationship with Russia for decades to come. Even more so if part of the nuclear agreement is that Russia will supply 40% of the uranium needed for the nuclear plants. Who will really benefit from this deal? Certainly Russia – who will supply the money, the expertise and a hefty portion of the uranium.
Government also conveniently overlooks the reality of the energy situation in South Africa. We need more energy now, not a decade from now. It should be a priority to finish construction on Medupi, Kusile and Ingula (all running way over budget and over deadline) and connect them to the grid. Then we will have more than enough energy for the needs of our population. In fact, we will have more than what we need. (See graph)
We also find it very alarming that the Zuma administration chooses to ignore the National Development Plan, the most extensive assessment of South African needs and priorities and definitely not favouring nuclear.
Of equal concern is the fact that the tender process is in the hands of Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, a minister whom the public protector found guilty of maladministration and improper and unethical conduct in the irregular awarding of an R800-million tender during her tenure as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The report further recommended that President Jacob Zuma take disciplinary action against Joemat-Petterson for her “reckless dealing with state money and services, resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.” But instead of doing that, our president chooses to put her in charge of arguably the most important deal in South Africa’s current economy.