DA calls for transparency on R1 trillion nuclear deal

The Democratic Alliance on Thursday repeated its call on government to make public details of the deal struck with Russia to build new nuclear power plants in South Africa.

Some details of the co-operation agreement — to supply as many as eight nuclear plants generating up to 9.6GW of power — were announced on Monday in joint statements issued by South Africa’s energy department and Russia’s atomic energy corporation, Rosatom.

DA leader Helen Zille on Thursday called on South Africans to “stand up against what appears to be potential for corruption on a grand scale, unfolding before our eyes”.

Briefing the media at Parliament on what she called a “potentially very, very serious situation”, she said the issuing of identical statements made it clear a deal had already been struck with Russia to develop nuclear programmes in South Africa.

There had been speculation for many months of a “secret deal” between President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin around the nuclear build programme, “costing an estimated R1 trillion, which will have to be paid for by future generations”.

This had now been given substance by the statements on Monday.

“Given the continued cover-up in the arms deal crisis… it is quite extraordinary they are going ahead with what appears to be another opening for large-scale corruption.”

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said it did not make sense to commit South Africa to such great expense.

According to reports, Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko has estimated the value of the deal at between US40 to US50 billion, on the basis that a single reactor costs about US5bn.

Maimane told reporters a nuclear build programme “will not in any way resolve South Africa’s current energy crisis”, given it would take 10 to 12 years to build the plants.

He also warned of the impact such a programme would have on local electricity consumers.

“The Russia nuclear deal will not be able to be funded off either Eskom’s balance sheet or South Africa’s budget.

“Given that commercial banks are unlikely to take on the risk of funding nuclear energy, Rosatom’s costs will have to be covered by South African electricity users,” he said.

DA MP Lance Greyling said the DA had called on Parliament’s energy portfolio committee to subpoena Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson to appear before it “and produce a full copy of the agreement, as well as provide clarification on Rosatom’s public statements”.

The party would also submit a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) application to the presidency “for all the documents relating to the decision to do business with Russia”.

The deal, he said, was one of politics, not economics, and the DA was prepared to take the matter to court “to challenge the lack of due process” around the deal.

Earlier, Zille said Zuma had “by-passed normal due process for procurement”.

Greyling said his party was not ideologically opposed to nuclear energy in South Africa, but the deal with Russia did not make financial sense for the country.

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