Energy minister to be quizzed on missing nuclear documents

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the Gas Options meeting in Cape Town.
Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson at the Gas Options meeting in Cape Town.

Cape Town – Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson will be asked in Parliament next week to account for missing documents in a court case regarding the nuclear energy programme.

That is according to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow energy minister Gordon Mackay on Thursday, who sits on the energy portfolio committee in Parliament.

He was responding to a claim on Thursday that government failed to disclose about 10 documents in justifying its decision to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Russia.

The claim was made by Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), who are challenging government in court to prove this nuclear agreement was not in fact a done deal.

Government wants to build about eight nuclear reactors to add 9.6GW of baseload energy in its drive to boost industrialisation in South Africa. However, many economists and pro-renewable energy advocates believe it is too expensive and unnecessary for South Africa, with some suggesting it would result in rating agencies downgrading the country to junk status.
 
“Parliamentary committees recommence next week and the DA will be asking the minister to account for the missing documents,” Mackay told Fin24.

“The DA remains deeply perturbed by the state’s lack of compliance in this case,” he said.

ELA’s Dominque Doyle said government continues to promise a fair and accountable process of nuclear procurement, but its deeds do not live up to its promises.  

“We need answers,” said Doyle. “Parliament should hold government accountable in a transparent manner.”

“Getting information out of government has been like pulling teeth,” said Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid. “The case has been drawn out since October 2015, with government reluctant to provide the information necessary for a fair hearing.”

No nuclear deal, says minister

However, on Wednesday Joemat-Pettersson emphasised that there is no "nuclear deal".

“We remain firmly committed to an above board, fair and transparent procurement process with due regard to the scale, pace and price of the programme,” she said in a statement.

“The RFP (request for proposals), in terms of the decision of cabinet on December 9 2015, for the Nuclear New Build Programme will also be released in compliance with the approved cabinet directive,” she said.

“The Ministry of Energy will not be distracted from its mandate and responsibilities to ensure and maintain security of energy supply,” she said.

Safcei and ELA said it was picked up that documents were missing while their legal team was reviewing a 700-page responding affidavit from government.

“Detailed analysis reveals the government has failed to disclose at least 10 documents to which it refers when justifying its decisions to enter into a nuclear deal with Russia,”  it claimed on Thursday.

On August 4, they sent the department a letter requesting the missing documents, “as they are clearly relevant to the case … and we are still awaiting a response”.

The missing documents include:

1. The proposal to cabinet that the minister signed off for the roll-out of the new nuclear power plants;

2. The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review by the  International Atomic Energy Agency;

3. The terms of reference for the National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordinating Committee;

4. The communication and stakeholder engagement strategy;

5. The phased decision making approach for implementing the nuclear programme ;

6. The designation of Eskom as the owner and operator of nuclear power plants in South Africa;

7. The 2004 Bilateral International Agreement with the Russian Federation;

8. The May 2013 agreement between Russia and South Africa signed during the Brics summit meeting in Durban;

9. The invitation to attend vendor parade workshops sent to the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the French Republic, the People’s Republic of China, Canada and the Kingdom of Japan; and

10. The list of topics each vendor country was requested to address relating to the invitation referred to in the previous point.  

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