Eskom’s chief nuclear officer, Dave Nicholls, told delegates at the Nuclear Power Africa conference that there are no secrets, and corruption in the nuclear deal is unlikely. He reaffirmed the utility’s position that nuclear is not just the most viable option on the table for South Africa’s future energy needs, but it is also affordable.
Nicholls participated in a panel discussion on the country’s nuclear positioning where he said that there has been no procurement process on nuclear.
In 2014 South Africa signed intergovernmental agreements with among others Russia and China as part of the multi-billion rand nuclear-built plans. Yet recently the Western Cape High Court found these agreements lacked transparency prompting the government to go back to the drawing board for a new and more transparent process. The government’s nuclear plans earlier also hit hurdles over costs and corruption claims.
Responding to questions on corruption claims with the nuclear deal, he said corruption on the nuclear deal could be quite challenging in the sense that it is a state-to-state deal, whereas if you have multiple deals with small contracts you tend to get lots of opportunities for corruption. Nicholls said that the deal will likely be Eskom contracting with overseas state organisations with a government to government loan system – which will minimise opportunities for corruption.
Nicholls also referred to the claims that the uranium market is the ideal place for corruption in the nuclear deal, and noted that uranium is not the big money spender in this deal. He referred to the coal contracts and said it can be argued in the Eskom coal fire power stations that the big money driver is the cost of coal. He said with the nuclear deal, the cost of uranium is the lesser cost driver.
Reaffirming nuclear as the most viable option, Nicholls dismissed other energy alternatives among which gas, hydro and solar as insufficient. Other energy and economic experts also differed on nuclear being the best option for South Africa. Energy expert Andrew Kenny reminded delegates renewable energy can be more expensive and it is not always reliable. Another panelist Sean Muller from the University of Johannesburg, raised concerns over South Africa possibly locking itself into a very non-competitive market in terms of fuel and technical support as opposed to renewable where there are a lot of players in that market.
Contact Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom, Tel 011 800-3304, firstname.lastname@example.org
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