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Energy dept must be transparent over nuclear plans: DA

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The energy department’s commitment to complete transparency over the nuclear agreement with Russia is an empty promise, the Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday. The department had said earlier “no information of relevance to the public will be withheld” with regards to the nuclear build programme. DA MP Lance Greyling said in a statement, this was not enough.

“It is simply not enough for the public to be made aware of government’s decisions — with no opportunity for Parliament and the public to scrutinise the matter.

“The South African people need to be made aware of the implications of decisions before they are in fact taken.”

The DA had already submitted a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) application to obtain all the documents and discussions that took place in the inter-ministerial committee on energy security, he said.

“I will also continue to press the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on energy, Fikile Zacharia Majola, to summon the Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to appear before the committee and produce the full text of the agreement that has been signed with Russia.”

Greyling said a draft agreement was drawn up with Russia last year that included a veto clause over any other country which wanted to do nuclear business with South Africa.

The latest agreement needed to be thoroughly scrutinised to ensure that it did not make a mockery of the country’s public procurement process, he said.

Earlier, deputy director general: nuclear, Zizamele Mbambo told reporters in Pretoria that no agreement had been entered into with Russia for the construction of nuclear power plants.

The document recently signed between South Africa and Russia was an inter-governmental agreement — one of six sought from Russia and five other countries to determine which technologies suited South Africa’s nuclear build programme best.

“We are at a stage where we are preparing for the procurement process. I need to highlight that the procurement process has not started,” he said.

The department was looking at a new nuclear build programme to generate a total of 9600MW of baseload electricity. Mbambo said South Africa had agreements with Russia and the United States of America. It was planning to sign inter-governmental agreements with France in October, then China and Japan in the future, to see what each country had to offer.

The agreements would create a foundation for the actual procurement process. Energy department acting director general Wolsey Barnard noted that South Africa also had such an agreement with a sixth country, South Korea.

On Monday last week, 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.
Responding to a question on Wednesday, Barnard denied this statement had been a mistake. There had, however, been a “misunderstanding” of the statement.

The agreement that was signed was only for future development.
His department was investigating a number of nuclear build technology options.SAPA

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