WATCH: SA is not at the back of a queue, says Rosatom

Cape Town – Russia’s atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, has disputed claims that South Africa will be at the back of a queue of reactor orders if it wins the nuclear build contract.

Viktor Polikarpov, Rosatom's vice-president of sub-Saharan Africa, told Fin24 on Monday that while the company had 17 firm orders for nuclear reactors in eight countries and are in advanced negotiations with six other countries, those would not delay its project in South Africa, should they win the contract.

South Africa has signed five international nuclear agreements with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the US as it moves ahead with the procurement for its Nuclear Energy Programme.

“Rosatom is committed to fulfilling its construction obligation (should it win the bid),” he said. “We have global expertise and experience in handling the demand.

“We are always fulfilling our commitments and our obligations on time and even under the conditions of very economically unstable situations,” he said.

Rosatom had acquired a company that can manufacture seven reactors a year and another that can build nine steam reactors a year, said Polikarpov.

“Not all the eight nuclear units will be constructed simultaneously (in South Africa), therefore Rosatom is capable of doing it technically,” he said.

Polikarpov was responding to claims by energy policy expert Professor Steve Thomas of the University of Greenwich’s Business School, who questioned Rosatom’s ability to deliver on its agreements.

He told Fin24 that in the past 30 years Russia has started building just 14 commercial reactors.

“After a period of about 10 years when it averaged one order per year, it is hard to see how Rosatom could manufacture the equipment for five or more reactors per year,” said Thomas.

Thomas said governments see nuclear energy as a foreign policy and a “major export opportunity”. He said that Russia’s inter-governmental agreement with South Africa did not mean it would win the bid.

“Intergovernmental agreements in nuclear power are ten-a-penny”, he told Fin24. "They may be a necessary condition, but the number that actually lead to firm orders is actually very small. They really don't mean very much."

WATCH: Viktor Polikarpov says Rosatom has the world's most advanced nuclear technology

WATCH: Viktor Polikarpov explains why Rosatom can meet SA's nuclear requirements

WATCH: Viktor Polikarpov allays nuclear waste fears

WATCH: SA's nuclear agreements 'don't mean very much', says Professor Steve Thomas

Thomas told Fin24 that Rosatom claims firm orders for at least 17 further reactors in eight countries (see table 1) while deals are said to be close in another half a dozen countries (see table 2). "All of these are ahead of South Africa in the queue," he said.

TABLE 1: Russia’s firm nuclear orders

TABLE 2: Markets with advance negotiations

Source: Prof Steve Thomas

* Do you have any informed views on the nuclear build programme in South Africa? Write to us now.

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