Energy minister denies R1-trillion nuke deal

IMAGE_PETERSON_18042013

Tina Joemat-Peterson's management of her department is under fire from the parliament committee. Parliament, 18 April 2013

PARLIAMENT – South Africa’s planned nuclear build programme will not cost R1-trillion, Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told Parliament on Tuesday.

Reaffirming the government’s commitment to an open and transparent process, Joemat-Pettersson denied that the government favoured any of the international bidders. But the opposition is not convinced. 

The government plans to build six nuclear plants, with the first likely to be commissioned by 2023.

“Nuclear will contribute to government’s programme for economic growth and development. Then the next one is the improvement of the quality of life, and to support the advancement of science and technology,” said Zizamele Mbombo, the nuclear energy deputy director-general in the Energy Department.

The nuclear build programme has been controversial from the start. In 2011, the government itself estimated the costs at around R1-trillion, but the minister now disputes this.

“I cannot be responding to perceptions that we’re going to do this and it’s going to cost us one trillion. I don&39;t know where that figure came from – certainly not from us,” Joemat-Pettersson told Parliament, insisting the costs haven&39;t been finalised yet as the government is still working on the costing model.

But the opposition is concerned that deals are taking place behind closed doors. Gordon Mackay, the DA&39;s shadow minister of energy, said: “We wanted the minister to provide us with some reassurance this was actually an open and transparent process, and I think what we got today was completely the opposite ... The minister has promised to make this public for six months."

Something else the minister disputes.

“We would want these documents to be scrutinised and exposed to public scrutiny, and have as much comments and participation from the public as possible,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

Despite the lack of detail on the costs, and the process, the government is hoping the first contracts will be signed as early as next year.