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Rosatom denies nuke bid, Eskom says reports are nonsensical

Jan 25 2017 06:01
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Rosatom said it has not yet submitted its bid for South Africa’s 9.6 GW nuclear procurement project.

This followed a report by news agency Reuters on Tuesday, which stated: "Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom has submitted a bid for a nuclear power project in South Africa, TASS news agency cited the company's general director Alexei Likhachev as saying on Tuesday."

While Fin24 could not find the original story on the TASS website, Rosatom told Fin24 on Tuesday night that Likhachev was only referring to Rosatom’s decision to respond, which will come in due course.

This makes sense in terms of the timelines set by Eskom. It gave bidders until next week Tuesday (31 January) to confirm whether they will submit a RFI response. After that, the closing date for responses to the RFI is 28 April 2017.

Eskom started the procurement process in December when it launched the RFI process, and two request for proposals (RFP) are due to be released this year. However, Eskom requires Treasury sign-off before this can be released, as it relates to the financial aspects of the bid.

A Rosatom spokesperson told Fin24 on Tuesday that it “remains an interested bidder for South Africa’s nuclear new build programme and has confirmed that it intends to respond to the Request for Information (RFI)”.

"We have acknowledged the RFI from South Africa and we intend to reply,” a senior executive clarified. “This is what was being referred to.

“The competitive bidding phase of the process is still to be launched, which we look forward to.”

Eskom's acting CEO Matshela Koko said "reports of Rosatom submitting a bid are nonsensical because the RFP hasn't been issued yet", Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe tweeted on Tuesday.

While Rosatom is seen as the front runner to win the nuclear bid, its intergovernmental agreement with South Africa in 2015 is the subject of a Western Cape High Court hearing, that was recently postponed to February.

The case, brought by Safcei and Earthlife SA against the Department of Energy (DoE) and Eskom, focuses on the agreement signed between the South African and Russian governments.

The applicants believe the DoE’s agreement might be binding and that Russia could sue for billions of rands should they not get the 9.6 GW deal.

The DoE and Rosatom have both dismissed the legal view and say the agreement is not binding.

Rosatom has blamed poor Russian public relations (PR) as the reason why many people believe the nuclear programme is a done deal as a result of the agreement.

It has engaged at length with South African media to showcase that its technology should be the focus going forward - and not speculation that some corrupt and secret deal has been struck with politicians in South Africa. 

The latest media misunderstanding could therefore add to the PR dilemma of Rosatom and might further hamper its efforts at presenting itself as a transparent nuclear bidder.

Russia is not the only country in the running, as France, South Korea, China and the US also signed similar nongovernmental agreements with South Africa.

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