SA still investigating nuclear options


South Africa is still looking at different options to facilitate nuclear power in the country, energy department acting director general Wolsey Barnard said on Monday.

"[There have been reports] recently in the news around the signing of nuclear agreements, where South Africa is currently busy with the investigation phase to look at different nuclear technologies on offer from different countries and different entities," he said at an Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities conference in Midrand.

"I just have to mention that nuclear is not per se just to insure the supply of electricity but it's a programme to also supply other economic development."

He said there were various options to ensure security of electricity supply in the country, including nuclear, gas, co-generation, and coal.

On September 22, the department and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom issued separate but identical statements that South Africa had struck a "deal" for the construction of up to eight nuclear power plants.

Last week Barnard denied this statement had been a mistake. There had, however, been a "misunderstanding" of the statement.

"No, it wasn't a mistake," he told reporters in Pretoria on Wednesday.

"Just in terms of where this misunderstanding comes from, each country has its own technology. And to procure... for 9600MW, you're going to need to utilise the different technologies that are being offered by the various vendors."

This technology would differ from country to country.

"So, with respect to the Russians, their technology that they're using... basically is for that 9600MW capacity.

That will require eight generators... That's the clarification around why it was stated in such a way," he said.

The agreement that was signed was only for future development.

"There is nothing procured from Russia; that's what they can offer South Africa. It's a process of investigation... we can't make a decision if we don't have the full picture. That's what we're doing now," he said at the time.

In a statement on Wednesday, the department said with regards to the nuclear build programme, "no information of relevance to the public will be withheld".

On September 26, the Mail & Guardian reported that Zuma took control of a R1 trillion nuclear deal with Russia for that country to supply as many as eight nuclear plants to South Africa.

Zuma reportedly negotiated directly with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and instructed Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to sign the deal.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Friday that Zuma would not act alone when negotiating nuclear power agreements.

"Media reports that President Jacob Zuma has negotiated or will negotiate and conclude nuclear power agreements alone are incorrect," Maharaj said.

"The president works with Cabinet on the matter."


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