MPs grill energy officials on nuclear plans

File: The Department of Energy plans to bring nuclear energy on stream in 2037.

JOHANNESBURG - The energy department has come under fire for its procurement processes in the nuclear new build programme.

Officials from the department briefed Parliament's portfolio committee on energy on Tuesday, after announcing last week that that nuclear energy is to come on stream in 2037.

MPs fired questions about the the way the nuclear plants were being acquired.

"The department awarded several contracts amounting to almost R2-million to an individual who was previously the legal counsel for the national nuclear regulator. This raises red flags," said DA MP Gordon Mackay.

IFP MP Jan Adriaan Esterhuizen said: "The presenter [of the department's case] said the investigation was done. This is over R200-million worth of investigations. I  ... wonder what happened to them [those paid to investigate]? Bought their Bentleys and moved on?"

READ: South Africa's power utility wants to finance nuclear. This is a bad idea.

Zizamele Mbambo, deputy director-general for nuclear energy, insisted all protocols had been followed.

"As the department we are doing the work that seeks to create a framework for procurement, a framework for policy setting for the rolling out of the programme … Such work is by its nature confidential .... This information is out in public and it gives  a competitive advantage to the prospective bidders," he said.

The planned nuclear facilities would not only add to the energy mix but create jobs, Mbambo said.

"The government is going to use nuclear to create a full value chain for peaceful use. So there will be a stimulation of jobs created in the mining industry. There will be a stimulation of jobs in the manufacturing industry, there will be a stimulation of jobs in the research and development industry, in the power generation industry, that means electricity, in the management of radioactive waste industry, in the education sector and in the small business sector."

The parliamentary committee wants further debate on the matter.

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