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French prepared to wait for nuclear tender

Jun 01 2016 14:16
Carien du Plessis, News24 Correspondent

Pretoria - French government representatives lobbying for South Africa’s nuclear build programme bid said on Wednesday that they are prepared to wait, but “of course we cannot wait forever”.

The French are expecting South Africa’s Department of Energy (DoE) to issue a request for proposals for the 9 600 MW power stations “any time from now”, French special envoy for the bid, Pascal Colombani, told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday. 

France is one of the potential bidders for the nuclear build programme, alongside Russia, China, the United States, and South Korea.

In March, DoE director-general Thabane Zulu said the request for proposals would be issued before the end of that month. Two months later, there is still no sign of the document.

The department has to date not disclosed reasons for the delay.

The response to the request for proposals will determine the costs of the project and help government decide whether it will go ahead with the process.

President Jacob Zuma first announced plans for a nuclear build programme at the beginning of 2014.

Government has not said what the expected cost would be. Colombani declined to reveal the budgets the French are looking at, but estimates range from $37m (R580m) to $100m (R1.56bn).

In response to a question on how long he could wait, Colombani said: “Of course we cannot wait forever, but of course we can wait. The prospects are very interesting, but we are willing to commit for some time. I can tell you that the motivation and the commitment of the troops is still there.”

The cost of the delay to France was “nothing compared to the fruitful partnership we can expect to last for many years”.

Despite the Russians apparently being the preferred bidders, the French have appointed Colombani to lobby the South African government for the bid.

He hoped the ultimate decision on bidders would not be purely political. 

“In fact, I’m pretty convinced, I cannot believe otherwise, that the decision would not be made on economic and technical grounds. Of course, politics will always play a role, but I would expect it to play a minor role.”

Colombani was in South Africa in February to meet the DoE and politicians. In the past week he has met those who will be responsible for implementation, such as public utility Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation.

In March, Fin24 interviewed Colombani in Paris about financing the deal.

“There will be a phased implementation of nuclear,” he told Fin24. “You are not going to right away implement 9 600 MW. Maybe you will start with one or two nuclear plants and then the rest will come over a period of years.

“The financial burden will be spread over a long time also,” he said. “We are familiar with those problems because … France has been exporting the technology to other countries. Each country is a special case.

“All of the time, we have found the right solution, which is usually a mixture of debt and equity.” 

WATCH: Exclusive interview with Envoy of the French President for the nuclear partnership, Dr Pascal Colombani

areva  |  france  |  nuclear deal  |  nuclear energy


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