Joemat-Pettersson signed the nuke deal ‘in private’

2014-10-08 00:00

ENERGY Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was alone when she signed a secretive multi-billion nuclear power agreement with Russia.

Sister paper Beeld can now reveal that the other members on the South African delegation at the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, where the agreement was signed, was allegedly told to wait outside because the Russian meeting was “private”.

The South African government has for the past two weeks refused to make public the details of agreement signed by Joemat-Pettersson.

Director-general of the Russian nuclear corporation, Sergei Kirienko, said in a statement Joemat-Pettersson had signed an agreement on South Africa’s behalf for Rosatom to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa at a cost of R559 billion.

South Africa’s government has since said similar agreements had been signed with France, China and Japan, that the agreement with Russia is not binding, and that a transparent tender process will be followed to build nuclear reactors.

Joemat-Pettersson referred all queries from Beeld to the acting director- general of energy, Dr Wolsey Barnard.

Barnard said while he was not at the Vienna meeting, it is not unusual for ministers to have one-on-one meetings.

He said a delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had also met behind closed doors in “protocol discussions” with Joemat-Pettersson last month on hydro-electric power generation.

But Beeld has reliably learnt the South African delegates to Vienna were surprised when they heard what had really happened behind that closed door.

Joemat-Pettersson leaves for France next week, where she is expected to sign similar technology co-operation agreements.

Russia’s technical team had met their counterparts several times in South Africa to finalise the details of the agreement, but Beeld has learnt the final signing in Vienna was a surprise.

The joint statement issued on September 22 by Joemat-Pettersson and Kirienko states the agreement lays the foundation for the acquisition and development of large nuclear reactors in South Africa, which will be based on the new Russian VVER reactors that can generate 9 600 megawatts.

The statement added these nuclear reactors would be the first in Africa to be based on Russian technology.

At a press conference last week Barnard and his colleagues refused to say the statement was wrong.

Deputy director-general for nuclear energy, Zizamele Mbambo, strongly denied that any future tender process would be void because of the bias towards Rosatom.

Barnard said the details of the agreement will be made public when both countries have signed it.

• Beeld obtained a copy of the agreement with Russia from the Energy Department using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia).

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