Peters questioned about nuclear stations

Dipuo Peters
Dipuo Peters

IT'S OFFICIAL - any decisions on possible new nuclear power stations will be made by a government-appointed committee and not by Parliament.

Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said yesterday in response to a Parliamentary question from the DA that the government's new National Nuclear Energy Executive Coordination Committee would "look into the decision making" about the procurement of the nuclear power stations.

DA MP Pieter van Dalen had asked Peters if, considering the high cost of the procurement of nuclear power stations, she would "ensure that the full details of the proposed contract with the preferred bidder is tabled in Parliament for public scrutiny".

But making it clear that the new committee would be in charge, Peters said "the NNEECC will take decisions in a phased manner in order to reduce the risks associated with large-scale implementation of nuclear projects".

The new committee, to be made up of people yet to be announced by the government, has unnerved opposition parties and environmental group Earthlife Africa.

The DA, Congress of the People, ID and African Christian Democratic Party called in Parliament last week for an "open and transparent bid adjudication process", on the grounds that several powerful global corporations were competing to get the nuclear tender from the government and that there was a likelihood that arms deal style corruption could happen.

Earthlife Africa's coordinator Tristen Taylor said yesterday "all the information about the bidding process should be in the public domain".

With the cost of between four and six new nuclear power stations put at between R400-billion and R1-trillion, Taylor said there was a "legitimate fear" that the biggest tender in the country's history could become "a pot of money that becomes a source of corruption".

Peters also admitted yesterday that South Africa does not have any nuclear waste disposal plants suitable to deal with "high level" nuclear waste.

There is only a government facility in Vaalputs that deals with low and intermediate waste.

The government was still setting up a National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute, which would then construct new waste facilities to deal with high level nuclear power stations.

"It is reckless to create high-level nuclear waste when we don't have a plan on how to deal with it," Taylor said.

The government has yet to say publicly whether it will build nuclear power stations or not, but its 20-year energy plan for South Africa, launched eight months ago, says 23% of the country's future energy must come from nuclear power.