DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay said he had written to Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson following Thursday’s announcement of the agreement on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in the southern Russian city of Ufa to demand that she release further details of it.
“That these MOUs reportedly speak of cooperation in order to provide training for five categories of specialists for the South African nuclear industry is the clearest indication yet that Rosatom is the preferred bidder,” Mackay said
“Signing MOUs of this nature, while a competitive bid process is underway, smacks of gross impropriety on behalf of Minister Joemat-Pettersson and can be seen as nothing more than a crude attempt by the Zuma administration to bolster Rosatom’s bid over potential rivals.”
Government on Thursday denied that Russia was the preferred bidder for a deal that would increase South Africa’s nuclear power capacity.
Speaking in Ufa, deputy director-general of energy Zizamele Mbambo told ANA: “No bidder has been chosen as the process has not begun.”
Mbambo said government envisioned the end of 2015 as its deadline to conclude a bid process to find a strategic partner for a nuclear power pact and Russia was but one of a clutch of nations that had been invited to apply, among them China, South Korea, the United States, Canada, and France.
Three of the potential partners – Russia, China, and France – had undertaken agreements with South Africa which would see the African country send students abroad to study subjects related to nuclear energy.
But Mackay said it was worth noting that Russia currently produced water-water energetic reactors (VVER) reactors – while South Africa used pressurised water reactors (PWR).
“An expedited training programme on the use of Russian technology, which does not exist in South Africa, can only mean that government anticipates that Russian technology will at some future date be used in South Africa,” he added.
“The MOUs signed by the minister therefore presuppose the eventuality of the use of Russian technology in South Africa and raise serious doubts about government’s commitment to a competitive and transparent bid process.”
According to the department of energy, the documents it signed with Rosatom provide for co-operation in training staff for the South African nuclear power industry and expanding public awareness of the energy source in South Africa.
It envisioned programmes to enroll 200 South African students at Russian universities for studies in the field, as well as exchange programmes and training internships and mentioned efforts aimed at “increasing the awareness of local
residents of modern nuclear technologies used in the power industry and in other industries, and ensuring public acceptance of nuclear power”.
Mackay said the memoranda were more detailed than those South Africa signed with other contenders.
“By signing these MOUs the Minister is once again placing the horse before the cart.”
The memoranda were welcomed on Friday as a boost for the energy sector by the Coega Development Corporation, who called it “an important catalyst for South Africa’s economic growth”.
Coega said it had already identified personnel for the country’s nuclear skills development programme.
“Further, through its skills training centre – Human Capital Solutions, the CDC has managed to train over 71, 445 people since inception with the long term view of providing skilled labour for complex and mega projects with a focus on nuclear readiness.”