Expose any nuclear corruption now, says minister

Cape Town – If any person present knows of any lawful impediment to this marriage (between South Africa and its future nuclear energy partner), he or she should declare it now.

As if out of a wedding ceremony, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson laid down a challenge to Members of Parliament and the public on Tuesday during a Portfolio Committee on Energy in Cape Town.

“If members are aware of any corruption now or in future, please can you ask institutions to investigate those,” she said. “We will bring reports of those investigations to this committee.”

South Africa is aiming to develop eight nuclear reactors to produce 9 600 megawatts of power, which have been predicted to cost R1trn, although Joemat-Pettersson said on Tuesday that she doesn’t know where that figure comes from.

The Department of Energy was briefing the committee on the five international nuclear agreements that had been signed with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the US as South Africa moves ahead with the procurement for its Nuclear Energy Programme.

"We would want these agreements to be scrutinised and exposed to public scrutiny," said Joemat-Pettersson.

Russia's state energy corporation Rosatom has signed the most in-depth framework agreement, which allegedly gives it the right to veto South Africa doing business with any other nuclear vendor.

"The agreements are public documents ... We haven't handed over dossiers to the Russians. There is really this perspective that I am married to the Russians, I am married to Rosatom. Please, we are making it (inter-government agreements) public," Reuters reported her as saying during the committee meeting.

Allegations that Rosatom had won the deal secretly were denied by Rosatom regional vice-president Victor Polikarpov in July.

He told AFP that “this is not true, these are insinuations and rumours”.

"I don't know they come from - maybe we were the first to sign an inter-government agreement and it was rather comprehensive compared to similar agreements signed by other countries," he said on July 15 in Cape Town.

"They are doing their best - to comply with the constitution, to make it cost effective, to make it transparent. There will be an international auditing company hired to monitor the assessment of the deal," he said.

Joemat-Pettersson told the committee on Tuesday that South Africa is “committed" to transparency.

“We are not going to compromise our country in any way,” she said. “Nuclear energy can only be procured with legal prescripts of the country and only after a thorough assessment.

"We are committed to a thorough cost-benefit analysis and the cost-benefit analysis is part of the procurement process."

Gordon Mackay, the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister of energy, said in a statement after the meeting that the government’s approach to this nuclear deal “is going ahead, in secret, regardless of the crippling effect its cost will have our economy”.

“While the minister continued to claim ‘transparency’ – this could not be further from the truth,” he said. “The DA is opposed to this costly secretive nuclear deal, which has the real potential to destroy any prospects of future economic growth and job creation.”

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