New nuclear deal on the horizon

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Mmamoloko Kubayi
Mmamoloko Kubayi

A new nuclear deal is on the cards following the scrapping of the previous procurement process by the Western Cape High Court.

Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told reporters in Pretoria on Saturday that her department would embark on a new process.

Kubayi said she would not appeal the Western Cape High Court judgment that set aside the previous nuclear deal.

She said she had consulted with the department’s legal team and officials before deciding to start the process from scratch.

“We don’t agree with that judgment 100%. We don’t agree with the view that we failed the nation. We believe that it was the correct process and we were on the right side.

“We will review all processes and determinations in place to show compliance with the judgment.

“Whether we do nuclear today or tomorrow, there’s a need for nuclear [power stations] in the country. We will make sure that we diversify [and] have renewables and nuclear.

"Currently, we are running on fossil fuels [only]. That’s why we say our policy is that of [an] energy mix,” Kubayi said.

The need for nuclear would assist in meeting the country’s goal to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, she said.

Kubayi also announced – as part of rectifying nuclear procurement processes – that intergovernmental agreements signed in 1995 with the US, China, South Korea, Russia and France would be reviewed.

“Our international counterparts are of course agitated by this, but we don’t want to take longer to sign these agreements,” Kubayi said to reporters.

She said there was no rational to submit agreements made in 1995 to Parliament.

The content of the agreements will be discussed with those involved, but a standard framework will be developed.

New agreements with these countries will be signed next month and a new process that will ultimately lead to a new nuclear deal will be undertaken.

Kubayi said public engagements and stakeholder engagements, including with the National Energy Regulator SA, would also form part of the new nuclear procurement process.

Costs and timeframes of the new nuclear deal will be established after consultations.

“There has been time lost. That work is lost. In terms of this process, we will have to start afresh. The process is important in determining funding models and costs.”

Kubayi said the court had no jurisdiction to pronounce on government policy in terms of separation of powers.

Last month, Western Cape High Court Judge Lee Bozalek set aside with costs government’s nuclear agreements signed with vendor countries, and declared them unlawful and unconstitutional.

City Press reported at the time that the court case was first launched in October 2015, with Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute challenging government’s decision to procure nuclear power stations without debating it first in Parliament, thus flouting democratic processes.

Fin24 also reported at the time that the applicants argued in court papers that government could not afford the mooted R1 trillion nuclear price tag, and that it acted in secret when it signed an agreement with Russia as part of the procurement plans for a nuclear build programme.

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