South Africans should truly be concerned about the government’s pending nuclear deal with Russia’s state-owned nuclear enterprise, Rosatom.
The deal renders the notorious arms deal but a drop in the ocean in terms of the potential for corruption, and the Nkandla scandal a meagre trailer of the real movie yet to come.
So far, the deal has been discussed behind closed doors. It falls within the domain of Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and is linked to President Jacob Zuma.
If it weren’t for two small, underfunded, environmental justice organisations, the South African public would be facing up to a century of financial liability to a dodgy foreign power.
All this while money continues to flow out of state coffers.
On September 23 2014, Rosatom announced on its official website that Russia had secured a nuclear procurement contract with the South African government, through signing an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) on nuclear cooperation.
The same notice appeared on the South African department of energy’s website.
After a public outcry, it was quickly removed and the department of energy subsequently announced it was entering into a fair procurement process with all nuclear-vendor countries in the coming months.
Two environmental justice organisations, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei), have been on the case since then, and immediately started requesting access to the IGAs apparently being signed.
The organisations were refused access to the IGAs from the department of energy on the grounds that it would damage the commercially sensitive nature of the procurement process.
However, in February last year, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg managed to obtain a Russian copy of the IGA that was signed with that country, and had it translated and leaked to the Mail & Guardian.
The details of the agreement were scary, to say the least.
South Africa is locked into a binding deal with Russia to purchase up to eight nuclear reactors, to be placed either at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape or at the existing nuclear power facility at Koeberg in the Western Cape.
The deal is estimated to be worth R1.8 trillion and will cost the average citizen a small fortune in terms of the service delivery that that amount of money could otherwise afford.
Similarly, the deal will undoubtedly cause dramatically negative socioeconomic impacts through wide-scale job losses and accelerated poverty levels, as nuclear power will cause the already booming price of electricity to drastically increase.
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