JZ’s other nuke deal

2014-11-14 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has already brokered a separate deal with the same company now bidding for South Africa’s trillion rand nuclear expansion.

And Russia’s Rosatom atomic agency has also scooped four deals on the pebble bed nuclear programme, others with a state spin-off company, and also pitched to build a second research reactor in Pretoria.

Rosatom’s aggressive courtship of every aspect of SA’s nuclear industry is revealed in a company slide presentation entitled “Rosatom Global Development: South African perspective”.

Meanwhile, the Russian supplier of some 42% of the enriched uranium fuel now used at Koeberg, Tenex, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom.

Zuma brokered the 10-year deal — estimated to be worth over R500 million — with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. The value of the deal was never disclosed, but South Africa paid Koeberg’s other major supplier, Westinghouse, R330 million for four years’ worth of fuel.

The Department of Energy has denied allegations by the DA and others that Zuma has secretly agreed a much larger deal with Vladimir Putin to give Rosatom the contract to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa.

However, Rosatom’s “sweeteners” — including R100 billion in local investments, Russian state loans, and an offer to remove nuclear waste back to Russia — already make it the lead contender for the nuclear build contract, over rivals from France, China and the U.S. Experts said the revelations of Rosatom’s high level relationships in South Africa enhanced its front-runner status.

Last month, The Witness revealed that 20 Rosatom officials were offering their VVER reactors — together with a 60% “localisation” industry incentive — at a secret workshop at a Drakensberg hotel.

However, Dr Kelvin Kemm, a nuclear energy consultant from Durban, said Rosatom’s history in South Africa would make their bid more suitable to local conditions.

“Rosatom has had a long and healthy relationship with South Africa. They have developed a good understanding of our particular needs,” he said.

One Rosatom subsidiary, Izotop, has produced work for Pretoria company NTP Radioisotopes, while another, Nukem, won four contracts in the construction of a fuel plant for the pebble bed modular reactor.

The company also tendered for the Safari 2 multi purpose

reactor, which is to export nuclear medical products.

Ivan Dybov, vice president of Rosatom International Network, told The Witness: “Rosatom already has a successful story of mutually beneficial co-operation with South Africa and is currently supplying enriched uranium and co-operating with North-West University.

“We offer strategic partnership in developing in South Africa a full-scale nuclear cluster which is world class — from the nuclear power solution to nuclear medicine and others.”

European watchdog agencies agreed with Kemm’s assessment that Rosatom’s reactor designs were among the world’s best.

But Greenpeace energy research author Kendra Ulrich said the company had a “serious problem of corruption”, and that this could also impact the components used on the reactors.

She conceded that “the Russian state will effectively be subsidising South African electricity” if Rosatom wins the procurement, but said this would come “at a terrible geo-political cost” adding developing countries who do these deals fall into decades of dependency on Russia.

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