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More nuclear meetings to be held

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Meetings with nuclear experts from various countries will be held soon, following one with Russia this week, the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation said on Friday.

“The meeting with Russia was held this week. This follows an announcement from government last week that vendor parade workshops would be held –the first of these was with Russia,” executive Xolisa Mabhongo said.

“The purpose of the meeting was for Russian experts to talk to South African experts and explain what Russia has to offer.

“Going forward, in November, there could be meetings with other countries like France, China and Japan.”

Mabhongo denied reports that the meeting was a “secret”.

“It was not a secret meeting, it was just a normal meeting,” he said.

“But, the meeting did deal with confidential information. These countries are competitors, therefore we cannot disclose what was discussed.”

Beeld reported on Friday that the meeting was held at the Champagne Sports Report and included officials from Russia’s atomic energy agency Rosatom.

Department of energy deputy director general Zizamele Mbambo said in a statement on Sunday that the government was making progress in its meetings with prospective nuclear vendors.

He said parallel to the meetings and signing of agreements the department planned to hold vendor parade workshops with all the vendor countries that were ready and had accepted the invitation to participate.

“The vendor parade workshops entail vendor countries presenting their nuclear technology offerings. The platform is created for vendor countries to showcase and demonstrate their capabilities on how, if chosen, they plan to meet South Africa’s needs,” he said.

Mbambo said at the time that the first workshop was expected to be held before the end of October, starting with the Russian Federation.

The energy department said on October 14 that Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed off on a nuclear agreement with France.

Last month, controversy arose when it was revealed that a R1 trillion nuclear agreement between South Africa and Russia had been signed.

On September 22, the department and Rosatom issued separate but identical statements that South Africa and Russia had struck a “deal” for the construction of up to eight nuclear power plants.

On September 26, the Mail & Guardian reported that President Jacob Zuma took control of a deal with Russia for that country to supply nuclear plants to South Africa.

The newspaper claimed Zuma negotiated directly with Russian president Vladimir Putin and instructed Joemat-Pettersson to sign the deal.

Earlier this month, the government said there had been no agreement entered into with Russia for the construction of nuclear power plants.

Energy department acting director general Wolsey Barnard denied the department’s statement on the power plants had been a mistake. There had, however, been a “misunderstanding” of the statement.

He said South Africa was still looking at different options to facilitate nuclear power in the country.

The presidency later refuted claims that Zuma had acted alone in securing the deal and instructed Joemat-Pettersson to sign off on it.

“The president works with Cabinet on the matter,” Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj said at the time. SAPA

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