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Nuclear transparency means SA could lose bargaining power - DoE

Nov 30 2016 06:24
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – By being transparent and sharing all its information with Parliament and the public, government is losing its bargaining position regarding the 9.6 GW nuclear new build programme, the Department of Energy (DoE) cautioned on Tuesday.

This came as the DoE tabled before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Energy the details of 16 pre-nuclear service contracts it entered into from 2013 to 2016 in the run-up to the nuclear new build programme.

The contracts were mostly for studies and expert advice that the DoE commissioned as part of the creation of a framework for the procurement and rollout of the nuclear new build programme, said Zizamele Mbambo, the DoE’s deputy director general and head of nuclear energy.

He cautioned that should the DoE make the full reports public, the sensitive information would be to government’s detriment when it bargains for a competitive price during 9.6 GW nuclear build process.

“The implication of releasing this information impacts on government’s bargaining position on the procurement process,” he said.

“We have released the recommendations of studies and the information is now out there in the public.”

He said it provides the bidders Russia, France, China, South Korea, US, and Japan with what is in government’s mind.

“The bargaining competitive advantage of government has been laid out in public domain,” he said.

“We had wished it was discussed in a more confidential manner to protect the bargaining at a later stage,” he said.

“Now, there is an understanding of policy formulation.

“We have been called by parliament to be transparent,” he conceded.

“We see the implications of confidential information. It constitutes the business case of nuclear new build programme.”

The wish to keep information secret contrasts statements made by Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who has often reiterated that the nuclear deal would be transparent.

"We remain firmly committed to an above board, fair and transparent procurement process with due regard to the scale, pace and price of the programme,” she said in August.

“We are committed to transparency,” she said in 2015.

Two environmental groups, who are taking the DoE to court in December, have cited the secret nature of the deal in its bid to stop the procurement from going ahead.

The Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute and Earthlife SA want the DoE to concede they did sign a secret nuclear deal with Russia, an allegation that could derail the procurement programme.

The court bid comes as the nuclear new build programme hit a possible delay after the DoE tabled the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) last week.

It recommended delaying the first reactor going live in 2037. The current plan is to have about eight new reactors (9.6 GW) going live by 2030.

Eskom, which was recently made the owner, procurer and builder of the 9.6 GW nuclear procurement programme was adamant the original plan should go ahead and has vowed to release the request for proposals by the end of 2016.

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