Fin24 reports that visiting French Minister of Economy and Finance, Michel Sapin, met his South African counterpart, Pravin Gordhan, recently. He apparently explained to Gordhan that France has the capacity to finance and bring guarantees to the financing of the nuclear project.
It is understood that Sapin was asked at a press conference if Gordhan had told him that the fleet of reactors, which could be as many as six and could cost at least R1-trillion, was affordable. Gordhan is believed to have strong reservations about the affordability of the project and this is thought to be a major bone of contention between him and President Jacob Zuma.
Sapin said that while it was legitimate that the South African government was asking questions about the affordability of the project, if one assessed electricity consumption in the country it was clear there would be a need for more electricity in coming years.
Government officials apparently told him several companies have the capacity to answer the government’s “request for information” (RFI) and its “request for proposals” (RFPs) to build nuclear power plants.
He said he reminded these officials of the quality and expertise French companies have in nuclear energy sector, adding that he had asked Gordhan to maintain full transparency on the process with France. Sapin says France is not afraid of competition or transparency, adding that it has trump cards up its sleeve which will enable it to meet South Africa’s challenges.
Sapin’s request to Gordhan seemed to refer to the persistent rumours in South Africa that Zuma had already given the nuclear contract to Russia and that his government is just going through the motions of requesting bids from other countries. But Sapin said he believed the competition for the contract was still open and still at the very beginning and that it would be fair.
He also explained that the two French companies involved in the bid, EDF (Electricité de France) and Areva, who were working on the project together, had not yet responded to the South African government’s request for information because the deadline for doing so had not yet expired. But they will, he said, and they have the will to win the contest.
This article was first published by Fin24 and is republished with permission.
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