The NPP-2 nuclear power station in Novovoronezh, Russia. Picture: BLOOMBERG
The NPP-2 nuclear power station in Novovoronezh, Russia. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Moscow — Russian state-controlled energy group Rosatom is a contender for SA’s nuclear expansion project and the country will award the contract by the end of the year, the chairman of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) said on Monday.

SA is planning to build 9,600MW of nuclear capacity to wean itself off coal, a project that could be one of the world’s biggest nuclear contracts in decades.

Besides Russia’s Rosatom, major nuclear firms from South Korea, France, the US and China are interested in bidding for all or part of the contract.

"We are aiming for this to be done before the end of the year, and we very imminently want to start," Kelvin Kemm, Necsa chairman, said on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in Moscow, when asked when SA would make a decision on which company would build the new nuclear reactors.

"Rosatom is definitely in there, but a decision has not been finally made. That will be a decision made by the senior politicians in collaboration with the technological and the company people," Kemm said.

Earlier on Monday, a Rosatom official said the Russian company was in contact with South African authorities over their plans to increase the country’s nuclear capacity.

Those plans were disrupted after SA’s High Court earlier this year deemed a nuclear cooperation pact with Russia unlawful. Earthlife Africa-Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute had taken the Department of Energy to court. The judges in the case found Rosatom had been favoured over other potential vendors as a "a firm legal commitment existed between SA’s government and Rosatom in terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement signed with Russia in 2014". The deal was found to have been in breach of section 10 of the National Energy Regular Act, which calls for participatory decision-making processes.

In May, Rosatom said it was still committed to taking part in a competitive bidding process to build nuclear plants in SA.

Rosatom was created in 2007 from the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry with a view to turning nuclear power into a major export industry for Russia.

Necsa’s Kemm said on Monday the court ruling had delayed the country’s plans by a couple of months.

In response to a question as to whether Rosatom was a leading contender for the planned nuclear expansion, Kemm said: "Absolutely, Rosatom is a very important player".


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