Zuma assures nuclear programme will continue at affordable pace and scale
President Jacob Zuma moved to allay fears regarding the controversial nuclear build programme by promising to build the project at an affordable pace and scale.
His announcement was immediately welcomed as a victory for sanity by DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay.
Delivering his state of the nation address on Thursday night‚ Zuma said government would go ahead with the construction of nuclear power plants despite growing opposition to the project even within his own government.
Experts estimate that the project could cost the country an estimated R1 trillion.
The project is said to be one of the issues that soured relations between Zuma and axed finance minister Nhlanha Nene.
Government was supposed to invite bids as early as last year June‚ but the project was stalled as National Treasury insisted that it was not affordable.
However‚ Zuma said on Thursday government would be prudent in spending money on the project.
“We will test the market to ascertain the true cost of building modern nuclear plants. Let me emphasise that we will only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford‚” he said.
Government plans to build between six and eight nuclear power stations in the next 10 years. Government has opened the bidding process and the preferred bidder is expected to be announced later this year.
The nuclear energy expansion programme remains part of the future energy mix.
The plan is to introduce nine thousand six hundred megawatts of nuclear energy in the next decade‚ in addition to running Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant.
Nuclear company Rosatom are said to be favourite to win the bid. Other countries that are bidding include China‚ Japan‚ the United State and France.
DA energy spokesman Gordon Mackay welcomed the announcement.
"President's Zuma's comments in the SONA on nuclear tonight mark a spectacular back peddle for what has been one of the presidents pet projects‚" Mackay said.
"Sanity has prevailed and the President Has finally been forced to recognise the hard economic realities facing SA - simply put that the cookie jar is empty and vanity projects like nuclear are now out of reach.
"This is good news for all South Africans who will now be saved from higher electricity prices and will be a fillip to the economy that will avoid increased input costs‚" Mackay concluded.
TMG Digital/TMG Parliamentary Bureau