Zuma: Nuclear plan will roll out at pace we can afford

Cape Town – South Africa’s nuclear build programme will roll out at a pace the country can afford, said President Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation Address on Thursday.

Zuma said nuclear energy will form part of South Africa’s energy mix.

“Our plan is to introduce 9600MW of nuclear energy in the next decade in addition to Koeberg nuclear station,” he said.

“We will test the market to ascertain the true cost of building a modern nuclear power plant,” he said. “Let me emphasise, we will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford.”

On December 26, Cabinet approved the process for the Department of Energy (DoE) to officially call for the request for proposals, which DoE director general Thabane Zulu said at the time would assist in developing a funding model.

This followed a year of inter-governmental agreements between South Africa and various countries with nuclear capabilities, a process that is legally binding before any contract can be awarded.

Controversy around the programme started in 2014, when Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, prematurely announced it had won the contract, after President Jacob Zuma secretly visited Russia. It later retracted its statement and told Fin24 in 2015 that it was a public relations mistake.

“Controversy over Rosatom's announcement intensified after a local newspaper reported Zuma personally negotiated the deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” AFP reported in 2014.

There is mounting pressure from opposition politicians, economists and environmentalists to make the process more transparent, as there are various issues, such as financing the programme, with estimates ranging from R250bn to a whopping R1.5trn.

Proponents of the programme believe this nuclear plan will unlock South Africa’s industrialisation potential and secure its energy security.

Critics believe it will bankrupt the state and hand over its sovereignty to another country.

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