NEWS & ANALYSIS

More transparency needed on SA's nuclear plans - Lance Greyling

DA MP says programme seems to be going ahead on the sly, without public scrutiny

DA demands more transparency on Nuclear Fleet Build Programme

Foreign nuclear companies seem to know more about South Africa's Nuclear Fleet Build Programme (NFBP) than the South African public. The NFBP will be South Africa's largest ever public tender.

All that the South African public knows about the NFBP is that Thyspunt is the preferred location and that bidding is meant to start this year. Treasury has stated that a pre-feasibility study has been conducted. Our requests to see this document have been ignored, along with our requests to debate the matter urgently in Parliament. 

I will today be submitting an application under the Protection of Information Act (PAIA) to request a copy of the pre-feasibility study. 

Meanwhile, President Zuma recently visited South Korea to attend a Nuclear Conference, and reports suggest that Korean firms will be bidding for our lucrative tender. French nuclear company Areva, which was involved in the notorious South African arms deal, has told Reuters that it plans to bid to build nuclear reactors in South Africa, possibly in partnership with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC). Interest has also been expressed by US nuclear technology group Westinghouse. Last week, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation hosted a seminar in Johannesburg to showcase its nuclear prowess and possibly position itself as a contender for the bid.

In the 2012 budget review, a thumb-suck price tag of R300 billion surreptitiously appeared for Eskom's NFBP. Energy Minister Dipuo Peters then famously proclaimed that this is ‘just the beginning', and speculation still abounds as to whether the build may cost the taxpayer up to R1 trillion - the current value of the entire national budget. 

The President did not mention the Programme in his State of the Nation Address, and the Minister of Finance failed to mention it explicitly in his Budget Speech. There has been no debate in Parliament and no opportunity for the public to scrutinise plans for a nuclear programme that could have a very real impact on all of our lives. 

This is all rather curious, as the Department of Energy has suddenly described the programme as being in the ‘final stages of consideration'. If so, we would expect the Environmental Impact Assessment and the Feasibility Study to be in the public domain. They aren't.

Given that the shadow of arms deal corruption continues to darken our democracy, government should be extra careful about the NFBP. It is preferable to err on the side of more transparency, not less. 

A large number of questions remain unanswered. Until answers are forthcoming, South Africans have legitimate grounds to be extremely concerned.

Statement issued by Lance Greyling MP, DA Shadow Minister of Energy, May 3 2012

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter