SA Nuclear Deal: France Joins Russia In The Bid


While South Africans largely oppose Eskom’s decision to single-handedly take care of the SA nuclear deal, report has it that France’s power utility, EDF will be part of the deal.

France confirmed this when it announced on Wednesday, that it intends to submit a response to Eskom’s request for information (RFI) for the 9.6 GW new nuclear build procurement programme.

The statement by France follows a statement by Russian nuclear firm Rosatom on Tuesday, which also said it intended to submit a response.

“EDF, supported by the French authorities, has formally declared its intention to submit a response to that RFI,” the power utility said in a statement.

“EDF and the French nuclear industry welcome the RFI as an opportunity to engage in a new phase of cooperation with Eskom and Necsa on developing the South African Nuclear New Build Programme.”

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SA’s power utility, Eskom, which started the SA nuclear deal procurement process in December, gave bidders until next week January 31, to confirm whether they will submit an RFI response. After that, the closing date for responses to RFIs is April 28 2017.

Eskom launched the RFI process, and two requests for proposals (RFPs) which are expected to be released. The power utility however, requires Treasury to sign-off before this can be released, as it relates to the financial aspects of the bid.

France interest in the nuclear deal is quite suspicious because its nuclear manufacturer Areva, has been battling financially due to nuclear projects in Flamanville in France and Hinkley Point in the UK being over budget and failing to meet initial timelines, which were blamed on technical difficulties.

France, last year, pledged to inject €4bn into both Areva and EDF. The EDF, on the other hand, pledged to cut millions more in costs and sell off assets in a bid to reduce its huge pile of debt.

But in 2017, Financial Times reported investigators saying they were widening probes into potentially faulty nuclear reactor components made at a factory operated by Areva.

“Separately, the (French nuclear regulator) ASN is expected to issue a report this year about issues with components made by Areva for a new nuclear power plant at Flamanville in France. The report’s findings could have an impact on the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the UK, which is due to use the same technology as Flamanville,” the UK paper reported.

Meanwhile, SA’s Eskom and France’s EDF have long had a good business relationship with Koeberg. The two countries signed an inter-governmental agreement on civil nuclear cooperation in 2014. This, in effect, established the framework of a long-term partnership on the SA nuclear deal.

“The French government has always been supportive of close cooperation, including know-how transfer and skills development, between the French nuclear industry and its South African counterparts,” EDF said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Eskom and EDF have continuously strengthened a long-standing fruitful and respectful partnership in nuclear operation,” it said.

“As a result, the Koeberg nuclear power plant is not only based on the French technology, but it has also been empowered to directly leverage the standardising effect from the unmatched volume of accumulated experience by its partner EDF out of operations in France and all over the world. Reciprocally, EDF is also happy to consolidate the operating experience in Koeberg shared by Eskom to its own.”

Nevertheless, South Africans are still not comfortable with the idea of procuring a nuclear programme. They argue that the deal is not only detrimental to the country’s economy, but that it will form another public parastatal that will be hijacked by corrupt politicians.

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A civil society group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), who were at the forefront of the argument against the deal, claimed that the deal was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, in that it was signed after several secret visits to Russia by President Zuma.

It is estimated that South Africa will have to borrow R1.2trn for the SA Nuclear Deal. “R1trn will be enough to build 100 million RDP houses. Two houses for every man, woman and child in the country,” stated the organisation.