Well, this is awkward, considering nuclear main man Vladimir Putin is in town.
Paul Mashatile, the African National Congress (ANC) treasurer-general, has revealed that South Africa’s nuclear power expansion program has been halted due to its unaffordability.
Mashatile’s comments on nuclear power come at an interesting time; South Africa’s proposed power partner, Russia, is currently in town for the 10th annual BRICS summit.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, touched down in South Africa earlier on Thursday. Almost five years ago, a multi-billion dollar nuclear deal, spearheaded by former president Jacob Zuma, was seemingly set in stone.
Not without controversy, however. South Africa’s dealings with Russia have been vehemently criticised by some political parties and civil society members amid concerns about possible corruption.
Since then, the ANC has backtracked on the nuclear deal in various ways – saying that the procurement process hasn’t been finalised and that Russia was just one of many countries signing inter-governmental agreements.
But the biggest stumbling block in the path of South Africa’s nuclear expansion project has been cash, or rather the lack thereof. While some ANC executives have rubbished claims regarding the unaffordability of the scheme, the reality is, there simply isn’t enough spare change to make the deal happen.
This was confirmed by Mashatile, who was speaking on the side-lines of the BRICS summit. As reported by EWN, the treasurer general said:
“Once we are clear that this is affordable for us to do, we are open for business, including with Russia. I think the approach we will take is to avoid the Big Bang approach. The initial intervention was that we would do close to 10,000 megawatts… It’s unaffordable.”
In 2016, the ANC’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, labelled claims of unaffordability as ‘mischevious’. At the time, Mantashe was a firm supporter of the nuclear power project destined for South Africa, saying:
“Nuclear, as part of the energy mix, is quite important for South Africa for its technology, for its research and for future generations of this country.”
The initial agreement signed was to secure a further 9.6 gigawatts (9,600 MW) for the South African energy grid, through to construction of new nuclear power plants. The agreement was due to run for a minimum of 20 years.