R1tn nuclear tender raises graft fears

24 November 2011 - 02:56 By ANNA MAJAVU
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, file photo. Picture: CHINA DAILY/REUTERS
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, file photo. Picture: CHINA DAILY/REUTERS

Concern is mounting about the government's planned R1-trillion nuclear power station tender, with opposition parties demanding reassurances from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe that the tender will not be "mired in corruption" like the R70-billion arms deal.

It will be the biggest tender ever issued in South Africa .

"The multibillion-rand arms deal, which was just a fraction of this cost, was mired in corruption," said DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko. "There are reports that the government is being strongly lobbied about this tender by companies such as Areva and Westinghouse who are desperate to get in on the action."

Motlanthe said the cabinet's newly established national nuclear energy executive coordination committee would be made up of "men and women of integrity" and that it would keep "issues of accountability and transparency" in mind.

"I can assure this house that the processes would be managed in a way that would leave no grey areas or dark corners."

African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley asked if the government had budgeted money for handling nuclear waste, which remains hazardous for more than 200000 years.

"We have had nuclear energy in this country for years. We even had nuclear warheads and the international atomic energy agency inspects our nuke facilities each year," Motlanthe said. "We set an example by voluntarily getting rid of our nuclear weapons so the management of nuclear waste is an easier problem."

The cabinet approved a 20-year energy plan for South Africa in March. It stipulates that 23% of the energy supply be derived from nuclear power.

Parliament's portfolio committee on energy visited France last year and met representatives of nuclear energy corporation Areva. They told the MPs that their company was ready to build six nuclear power plants in South Africa.