The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

A year of losses for Namibia’ Rossing uranium mine

Namibia’s Rossing Uranium revenue tumbled in 2014 – official, Star Africa May 19, 2015  The impact of lower prices and the lower production figures in 2014 has strained Rossing Uranium’s revenue, which declined by 19 per cent compared to the previous year, leading to a net loss after tax of N$91 million (about US$8 million), compared to N$32 million (about US$2.7 million) profit in 2013.

The company’s turnover in 2014 was N$2.4 billion (about US$201 million), down from N$2.9 billion (about US$243 million) in 2013.

Managing director Werner Duvenhage revealed in a statement issued to APA on Tuesday that 2014 was a tough year due to continued decline of uranium globally, putting substantial pressure on the business.

“The challenging times currently experienced in our industry are mainly because of global influences. It was a tough year because the uranium price continued to decline globally, putting substantial pressure on our business, with the average uranium spot market price at US$33 (N$333) per lbs, much lower than the US$38 (N$418)) per lbs average in 2013,â€� he explained……….

Unfortunately, the uranium price declined further during the first half of the year, leading to a management and board decision to curtail production and meet only contractual commitments, with the resulting curtailment production plan effective from August 2014,� he said.

“The 2011 tsunami in Japan and its impact on the Fukushima nuclear plant still continued to plague the uranium market in 2014, with excess supply causing a decline in market prices.

“Nuclear plants in Japan remained off-line for most of the year. Supply has increased over the three years since the Fukushima incident.

“This is a recipe for continued weak prices in the near term. Utilities are holding large stocks in all forms, which defer their need to buy for one to three years on averageâ€�……

May 20, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Namibia, Uranium | Leave a comment

Revolutionary solar rotating system tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert.

Could this be the world’s most efficient solar electricity system?, Guardian, Jeffrey Barbee, 14 May 15 
Using military technology and a zero-emission engine invented by a 19th-century Scot, Swedish firm seeks to revolutionise solar energy production. A new solar electricity generation system that developers claim is the most efficient in the world, is being tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert.

The Swedish company behind the project – which combines military technology with an idea developed by a 19th-century Scottish engineer and clergyman – says it is on the verge of building its first commercial installation.

In the remote Northern Cape province, huge mirrors reflect the sun across the brown Kalahari sand. This is the test site for Swedish company Ripasso, which is using the intense South African sun and local manufacturing know-how to develop their cutting-edge kit.

“Our whole team in South Africa has been hired locally, and our new systems have all been built with local South African labour. It works great,” says CEO Gunnar Larsson.

This is the only working small-scale concentrated solar energy system of its kind in the world. 34% of the sun’s energy hitting the mirrors is converted directly to grid-available electric power, compared to roughly half that for standard solar panels. Traditional photovoltaic panels are able to turn about 23% of the solar energy that strikes them into electricity, but this is cut to around 15% before it is usable by the grid.

Jean-Pierre Fourie is Ripasso’s South African site manager. His crew has been testing the system in the Kalahari under harsh desert conditions for four years. “What we hope is to become one of the biggest competitors for renewable energy in the world.”

The massive 100 square metre dishes slowly rotate, following the sun. Light clicks and taps fill the still desert air as they constantly adjust to capture the maximum solar energy.

Independent tests by IT Power in the UK confirm that a single Ripasso dish can generate 75 to 85 megawatt hours of electricity a year – enough to power 24 typical UK homes. To make the same amount of electricity by burning coal would mean releasing roughly 81 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere………

The project has not been without its troubles. “Our major challenge over the last couple of years has been to get the technology accepted by the financing community, especially from the banks,” says Larsson.

Although banks have been unwilling to finance such novel technology, Ripasso has now secured private funding to begin their first large-scale installation. “We are very ready to head into the commercial phase,” says Larsson.

May 15, 2015 Posted by | renewable, South Africa | Leave a comment

Malawi warned by World Bank to not re-open Paladin Australia’s uranium mine

burial.uranium-industryMalawi warned against reopening uranium mine May 12, 2015 VENTURES AFRICA – The World Bank has warned Malawi against reopening its only uranium mine, saying the project should be put on hold until global prices improve.

Australia mining company, Paladin Energy, is developing Malawi’s only uranium mine, the Kayelekera uranium mine, in Karonga, northern Malawi. The project was initial suspended in 2014 because of the then unfavourable price climate, but there are indications that the company plans to resume operations in the coming months. “Whether or not the mine at Kayelekera eventually resumes operations will depend primarily on future prospects for global uranium prices, for which the immediate outlook is uncertain,” the World Bank told Malawi in its latest report.Uranium from mining is used almost entirely as fuel for nuclear power plants.

In 2013, Malawi was ranked as the third largest producer of uranium in Africa and tenth in the world. It is behind Namibia and Niger in Africa.

Last year, uranium global prices crashed to $36, from $51 per pound. This posed a major setback to Paladin Energy Africa, having invested heavily on the premise that prices will climb to $70. The Kayelekera uranium deposit was discovered by UK’s CEGB firm and a feasibility study was subsequently undertaken in the 1980s. Paladin acquired the deposit in 1997, accepted a Bankable Feasibility Study early in 2007, and, following environmental approval, undertook a $220 million development. The mine was opened in April 2009.

Paladin Energy (Africa) Ltd holds Paladin’s 85 percent interest following the Development Agreement with the Government of Malawi in control of the remaining 15 percent. Kayelekera production commenced in mid-2009, and in 2012 production reached 1103 tU, followed by 1134 tU in 2013.

May 13, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Malawi | Leave a comment

Uranium effluent discharged into Malawi river by Australian company Paladin

Malawi: Paladin Starts Discharging Uranium Wastes Into Public Rivers, AllAfrica,  By Bishop Witmos Karonga April 23: Few months after Paladin Africa Limited differed with civil society organizations (CSOs) and some chiefs in Karonga over the disposition of uranium wastes into public water, the company has started discharging the effluent into Sere River.

uranium sludge to river Malawi

Paladin Africa Limited, a member of the Paladin Energy group of companies, suspended its operations at Kayelekera Mine in the district in May, 2014, due to unstable uranium prices at an international market. The project is now on care and maintenance.

Malawi News Agency (Mana) has established Paladin invited Paramount Chief Kyungu and the District Commissioner (DC) for Karonga, Rosemary Moyo, to a meeting in Lilongwe early April this year (2015),to brief them about the company’s recent decision.

Paladin Africa Acting General Manager in Malawi, Greg Walker, confirmed in a telephone interview that the company, indeed, started releasing the uranium wastes into the public rivers………

Sere River flows into North Rukuru River, then into Lake Malawi.

When asked why the company decided to brief Paramount Chief Kyungu and the Karonga DC about their action in Lilongwe instead of explaining it to the general populace of Karonga, Walker said the company conducted enough meetings with relevant authorities in the district……..

Despite the decision by Paladin to start discharging its effluent into the public water, some people in the district feet it would have been safer if the company had constructed another dam where the wastes would be transferred into.

Chairperson for Karonga District Council, Patrick Kishombe, said in an interview the plan to release the waste water from the storage dam into Sere River is raising fears amongst communities who feel the water is not fully treated and could be a health hazard.

“This, I believe, will lead into many hazards, like killing of fish in Lake Malawi and may also cause skin cancer to some people,” said Kishombe.

Uranium contains gamma rays, particles that cause skin cancer to human kind, according to experts.

In developed nations, mining companies construct a stable tank that stores all the wastes, ready for transportation to recommended disposal sites. ……

April 25, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, environment, Malawi, Uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Russia’s Rosatom will fund, and control, Nigeria’s $20bn nuclear power project

Russian-BearNigeria in $20bn nuclear power talks with Russia – struggling S. Africa currently has eight times more capacity 14 APR 2015 BLOOMBERGJOSEPH BURITE   “………….South Africa, with a third of Nigeria’s population yet eight times more installed capacity, has also signed an agreement with Rosatom as the nation looks to add 9,600 megawatts of atomic power to its strained grid.

South Africa’s agreement with Rosatom gave the company the right to veto the nation doing business with any other nuclear vendor, Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian reported in February.

Majority stake
Rosatom and Nigerian officials met last month within the framework of a 2009 intergovernmental agreement to discuss cooperation, Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said by phone from Istanbul. To date, no memorandums have been signed about the development of a nuclear plant, he said.

Rosatom will hold a majority, controlling stake in Nigeria’s nuclear facility while the rest will be owned by the country, with roles to be specified in contracts, Osaisai said. “The government will enter a power-purchasing agreement for the nuclear plant.”

The plants will be financed by Rosatom, which will then build, own, operate and transfer them to the government, he said.

Rosatom is marketing its reactors with generous financing offers as Moscow seeks new markets for its technology amid a looming recession. Over the last year, its international portfolio of orders has grown to more than $100 billion, including deals to build new reactors in Iran, Hungary, India and Jordan.

Africa’s sole nuclear power station is Koeberg in South Africa, which is owned by state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. (Bloomberg)

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Nigeria, politics international | Leave a comment

USA alarmed at South Africa’s nuclear burglary – unsolved after 8 years

safety-symbol1flag-S.AfricaA break-in at a South African nuclear complex alarms Washington and strains relations years later  Two teams of raiders penetrated a site holding enough explosives to fuel six nuclear bombs, but no one was ever caught, Center for Public Integrity , 21 Mar 15  By Douglas BirchemailR. Jeffrey Smith 

Key findings:

Washington remains spooked by a break-in at Pelindaba, the South African storage site for nuclear explosives, eight years ago.

No one was ever prosecuted for the Pelindaba break-in, even though a nonpublic South African report concluded in 2009 it posed a serious security threat.

South Africa’s government claims the break-in was a petty burglary, but U.S. officials and independent experts worry that the attackers were after nuclear explosives.

The nonpublic South African report described how at every step, the attackers displayed a detailed knowledge of Pelindaba’s layout and security systems, as well as the expertise needed to overcome the site’s defenses.

The incident led to unpublicized collaboration between a U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory and the nuclear site on stronger security measures, but White House officials are convinced more needs to be done at Pelindaba……….

March 21, 2015 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa’s stockpile of nuclear fuel – a target for terrorists

Terrorists could steal SA nuclear fuel: US IOL, March 15 2015  By Douglas Birch and R Jeffrey Smith New York – Enough nuclear explosive to fuel half a dozen bombs, each powerful enough to obliterate central Washington or most of Lower Manhattan, is locked in a former silver vault at a nuclear research centre near Pretoria.

Technicians extracted the highly enriched uranium from the apartheid regime’s nuclear weapons in 1990, then melted the fuel down and cast it into ingots. Over the years, some of the cache has been used to make medical isotopes, but roughly 220kg remains, and South Africa is keeping a tight grip on it.

That gives this country – which has insisted that the US and other world powers destroy their nuclear arsenals – a theoretical ability to regain its former status as a nuclear-weapons state. But the US is worried that the nuclear explosives here could be stolen and used by militants to commit the worst terror attack in history.

Senior current and former US officials say they have reason to be concerned given that in November 2007, raiders breached the fences at the Pelindaba research centre and some fear they were after the bomb-grade uranium.

Washington has waged a discreet diplomatic campaign to persuade South Africa to get rid of its stock of nuclear-weapons fuel.

But President Jacob Zuma, like his predecessors, has resisted the White House……..

March 16, 2015 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

Make public the Terms of Reference fo investigation of Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa).

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaDA: Gordon Mackay calls for terms of reference of Necsa task team to be made public The DA has in its possession documents that present a prima facie case of widespread maladministration, a flagrant disregard for due process, and potential fraud being perpetrated at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa).

In terms of the Public Finance Management Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, Necsa is compelled to institute an independent forensic investigation with proper terms of reference.

On 20 February, Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, appointed a Department of Energy (DoE) Task Team to conduct a thorough investigation into the affairs of the Necsa Board.

While there is a genuine case for an investigation into NECSA, we are concerned that the Task Team’s terms of reference, its composition and the complete scope of its investigation are yet to be made public.

This follows allegations that the Task Team is being used as a smoke screen by the Minister to protect the politically connected CEO, Phumzile Tshelane.

It is reported that on 28 January Mr Tshelane, upon suspension pending a disciplinary inquiry into his actions, contacted the President’s Nuclear Advisor, Senti Thobejane, to intervene regarding his suspension. A board meeting – that was opened by the Minister but led by Thobejane – was hastily called on 2 February. At this board meeting, Thobejane asked the board to stay disciplinary proceedings against Tshelane. The Minister, after giving a directive that the CEO must return to his normal duties, announced the appointment of the Task Team.

This is tantamount to the Board being asked to ignore their fiduciary duty.

I will therefore be writing to the Minister requesting that all relevant details of the Task Team be made public without delay. Until this information is released publicly, the independence of such a Task Team remains questionable. The report must be made public and tabled in Parliament so the true intentions of the probe can be thoroughly interrogated.

If political interference has been used to protect close allies of President Zuma, appropriate remedial steps – which could include dismissal and possibly jail time – must be instituted.

March 11, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Financial meltdown looming for South Africa’s state-owned nu­clear com­pany, Necsa

Nuclear body faces financial meltdown Pelind­aba brass scram­ble to pay sci­en­tists   JAN-JAN JOU­BERT jou­bertj@sun­day­

SOUTH Africa’s be­lea­guered state-owned nu­clear com­pany, Necsa, has for the first time ad­mit­ted to fi­nan­cial strain, but vows to keep pay­ing staff salaries on time de­spite “the ac­tual cash in­flow not be­ing re­alised as per plan”.

Ac­cord­ing to leaked in­ter­nal doc­u­men­ta­tion, Necsa will not be able to pay its al­most 2 000 staff this month un­less Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene’s cash­strapped Na­tional Trea­sury can find an ex­tra R212-mil­lion by March 31……..

Ac­cord­ing to the leaked doc­u­ments, Necsa has failed to pay sup­pli­ers since Novem­ber, de­spite Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s pol­icy di­rec­tive that the state pay all its sup­pli­ers within 30 days of ser­vices ren­dered.

The doc­u­ments also claim Necsa is un­able to pay its au­tho­ri­sa­tion fees to the Na­tional Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tor, plac­ing the ac­cred­i­ta­tion of its nu­clear sci­en­tists at risk, and rais­ing the spec­tre of a skills ex­o­dus on the eve of the planned nu­clear build pro­gramme.

The cur­rent ex­pec­ta­tion is that Rus­sia will build new nu- clear re­ac­tors, and that Necsa staff’s skills could con­trib­ute to man­u­fac­tur­ing the fuel.

If not, fuel will have to be con­tin­u­ally im­ported at great cost from other ma­jor pro­duc­ers such as Rus­sia, rais­ing the con­sumer price of elec­tric­ity even fur­ther………

DA MP and en­ergy spokesman Gor­don Mackay lamented Necsa’s and the reg­u­la­tor’s anger, call­ing for trans­parency in­stead.

“While cor­rup­tion can be dealt with swiftly by re­mov­ing those con­cerned, the long-term cost of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion is worse as highly skilled scarce staff quit Necsa for greener in­ter­na­tional pas­tures,” he said…….

The DA will raise ur­gent ques­tions in par­lia­ment to clar­ify how Necsa came to find it­self in such a po­si­tion and what can be done to save the sit­u­a­tion…….. ttp://


March 11, 2015 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa: jobs-for-friends among a tightknit clique of government nuclear mandarins

Jobs for pals at state nuclear firm, Mail & Guardian,  06 MAR 2015  LIONEL FAULL A whistle-blower has claimed that the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation created a job for the chief executive’s wife, Ngeniswa Tyobeka. The embattled South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) has hired the wife of the chief executive of the National Nuclear Regulator, which polices Necsa’s compliance with stringent safety regulations.

Ngeniswa Tyobeka’s appointment is just one example of a position that “did not exist on the approved Necsa organisational structure”, a Necsa whistle-blower says. It was “unbudgeted and unfunded, which translates into [an] irregular appointment and unauthorised expenditure”.

Both Necsa and the regulator are earmarked to play key roles in the imminent R1-trillion nuclear build programme, the biggest known procurement in South Africa’s history.

The latest allegation of jobs-for-friends among a tightknit clique of government nuclear mandarins raises concerns about decision-makers’ ability to run a process that is in South Africa’s best interests.

Ngeniswa’s appointment as a human resources officer at Necsa places her husband, Bismark Tyobeka, the nuclear regulator’s chief executive, in a difficult position.

It could cloud his judgment when he makes decisions regarding Necsa, from which his wife reportedly draws a R490 000 annual salary.

Ngeniswa was appointed to Necsa last year; her husband has been the head of the regulator since 2013.

The whistle-blower said this week the company’s parlous financial situation, with an apparent shortfall of R82-million this month, is partly a consequence of a “growing salary bill” caused by “unbudgeted and unfunded created [job] vacancies”……..

March 11, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

South African government keeps public in the dark on costs of its nuclear energy plan

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaHow will South Africa’s new nuclear power stations be paid for?, My Broadband, 9 Mar 15 If the government is so determined to pursue nuclear power stations, why was no mention of the financing for this included in the minister of finance’s budget speech? By  – March 8, 2015 The South African government has committed itself, by means of its Nuclear Energy Policy and Integrated Resource Plan, to an energy mix consisting of coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind.

Yet, if the government is so determined to pursue nuclear power stations, why was no mention of the financing for this included in the minister of finance’s budget speech?

One would expect that since government wants to use nuclear power to address the shortage of electricity in South Africa, and in the light of high-level delegations which have signed inter-governmental agreements regarding nuclear power, that this expenditure would have been a focus in the energy portion of this year’s budget speech.

This was, however, not the case. Instead, the public was told that the electricity levy will be increased by a whopping 57% from 3,5 to 5,5 c/kWh, and that Eskom would receive additional equity to the tune of R23-billion in three tranches.

The public was also told that although the extra 2 c/kWh levy would be removed in time, a carbon tax can be expected soon. The fact that the R23-billion would be in the form of additional equity means that Eskom will not have repay the money.

This additional backing is meant to prop up the power utility’s balance sheet which should make it easier for the utility to borrow money on the open market.

Economists have pointed out however, that it will be impossible for Eskom to borrow money to build a fleet of nuclear power stations because of the vast amount of money needed. The capital cost of a nuclear power station is extremely high.

So who will fund these nuclear power plants? It has been suggested that the country which builds the stations will fund it, so-called vendor funding, and that South Africa would repay the debt over time as it sells the electricity generated by the plants over a lengthy period.

But surely that will make electricity very expensive because of the large debt and the interest incurred……..

In 2013; the South African government’s estimate was $6500/kW; and recent reports show that a Hungarian nuclear power station, built by the Russians, cost $7000/kW, while the French-built nuclear power station at Hinckley Point, UK, cost $7900/kW. The figures quoted are for the new-build costs alone and do not include operating costs or interest.

Despite the high cost of nuclear power stations, and the obvious fact that South Africa cannot afford such an enormous outlay, the departments of energy, public enterprises, and trade and industry all appear to be in favour of this form of generation.

How much electricity does South Africa the country actually need? Eskom’s website shows an existing total generation capacity of 42 000 MW excluding the additional power from IPPs.

The renewable energy independent power producers (REIPPs) have already added 1500 MW to the grid, and an additional 2500 MW is expected soon…….

South Africa may have more power capacity than it needs at exorbitant cost to the country’s economy. Expensive electricity will result in the country’s manufacturing sector losing its competitive advantage which will mitigate against growth and job creation.

At the same time the drive towards energy efficiency, which, according to the budget speech will be rewarded by an energy-efficiency savings incentive, set to increase by 111% to 95 c/kWh, will surely motivate people to use less electricity……..


March 9, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa – Russia nuclear agreement is by no means a done deal

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.Africaflag_RussiaSA’s nuclear deal with Russia is far from done, Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015  LISA STEYN Money is the big problem with the initial agreement Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson signed last year, given the financial positions of both countries.   Russia has emerged as an apparent frontrunner to participate in South Africa’s nuclear build, but selecting the technology is just the first of many challenges that could see a nuclear deal such as this come a cropper.

With the Russian economy in turmoil and the subsequent high cost of borrowing, its ability to raise the funding for its nuclear ambitions in many countries is being called into question – as is its ability to deliver on time.

For South Africa, it is even more of a mystery how the government will provide the loan guarantees that would be required, given that so many have been extended to ailing parastatals such as Eskom and SAA. The state may have hit its limit.

Regardless of which vendor is chosen, the guarantees and the government’s 50% localisation target for the project appear to be insurmountable obstacles, particularly given the challenges faced by the domestic construction industry.

The memorandum of understanding signed between Russia and South Africa last year is far more than a generic agreement, as the government had claimed it is. Rather, it lays the groundwork for government-to-government contracting, in terms that heavily favour Russia, the Mail & Guardian reported last week.

Not only will the agreement be binding for 20 years once in force, but the Russians will also be indemnified from any liability arising from nuclear accidents during the reactors’ life. Russia is also granted a host of regulatory concessions and favourable tax and other financial treatment. The designated competent authorities are South Africa’s department of energy and Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation.

But unresolved issues could make the deal unworkable. An industry expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “My own view is I don’t think the guys driving it from the South African side have joined the dots. I don’t have huge confidence in the people running it and that they understand the issues.”

Despite the apparent commitment to forge ahead with Russian technology, the agreement defers a decision about funding.

The Russians are known to have offered South Africa a “build, own, operate” construction deal, according to which Russia would build and run the nuclear station, and sell the power to South Africa at an agreed price. This kind of vendor-assisted financing may be the only way South Africa could afford to go nuclear. But the bigger question now is: Can Russia?

First, sanctions have been imposed on Russia for its military intervention in the Ukraine. Then the oil price tumbled, severely hitting government revenues, which are heavily reliant on oil and gas taxes. Subsequently, the rouble has lost almost 50% of its value since the start of 2014, inflation has soared to 15%, and its sovereign credit rating was cut to sub-investment grade by one agency in January. And, in 2014 alone, $151-billion was taken out of the country.

Some nuclear economists and industry insiders believe this dire state of affairs could affect Russia’s nuclear ambitions, as new builds involve high upfront costs and are extremely sensitive to the cost of financing, which is mainly the interest rates at which the funding is secured…….

The unnamed industry expert, however, expressed concern that Russia might commit itself to a further agreement but not honour it. He said other nations that had signed nuclear deals with Russia, such as Vietnam, India and Turkey, had all experienced delays…………..

February 21, 2015 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia, South Africa | Leave a comment

South Africa by-passes Constitution in top secret nuclear agreement with Russia

secret-dealsflag-S.Africa‘Top secret’ nuclear plan ducks scrutiny   Mail & Guardian 20 FEB 2015 00:00 LIONEL FAULL, SAM SOLE & STEFAANS BRÜMMER Bureaucrats driving the new build programme seem comfortable skirting transparency and fair value. In a “top secret” presentation, the energy department has proposed a closed government-to-government procurement of new nuclear power stations instead of a transparent and competitive ­tender.

If adopted, this would pave the way for the nuclear co-operation agreement it concluded with Russia in September – or “similar” agreements it concluded with France and China after an outcry that it was favouring the Russians – to be implemented without pitting potential suppliers openly against each other.

This flies in the face of public assurances from the government that it would follow a competitive process.

During his State of the Nation address last week, President Jacob Zuma said all countries that bid “will be engaged in a fair, transparent and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner, or partners, to undertake the nuclear build programme”.

If the mooted six to eight nuclear power stations are built, it will be South Africa’s most expensive procurement yet, at roughly R1-trillion.

The agreement with Russia, revealed by amaBhungane last week, states that the South African government is prepared to give Russia the exclusive rights to its nuclear build programme for a minimum of 20 years. During that time, Russia could block South Africa from procuring nuclear technology from any other country.

The agreement is not yet binding, as it requires the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to ratify it.

The French and Chinese agreements remain undisclosed.

The energy department’s recommendations on the procurement method are contained in a separate document obtained by amaBhungane. It is marked “top secret” and was prepared for presentation to the national nuclear energy executive co-ordination committee in October 2013.  This was a Cabinet committee comprising the ministers and government officials directly responsible for implementing the new nuclear programme and was chaired by President Jacob Zuma………..

Despite the apparent global tendency to conclude nuclear tenders one on one, and behind closed doors, the lack of transparency is likely to jar with what South Africa’s Constitution says about procurement.

According to section 217, “when an organ of state … contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective”……..

History doomed to repeat itself
The last time the government bypassed the Constitution on a major public procurement, the deal went badly wrong…….. The lessons of the Airbus debacle are there to be learned, so it remains to be seen whether section 217 will be bypassed again.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

MR SENTI THOBEJANE – the secret voice behind South Africa’s covert nuclear power plans

Whether or not he is appointed, Mr Thobejane already wields enviable power. He was instrumental in negotiating the nuclear co-operation agreements with Russia, France and China, which have been kept secret not just from the public but also from top government officials in the Department of Energy and the Treasury. The Cabinet is also yet to see the agreements……

With rational planning processes set aside, Mr Thobejane’s advice could turn out to be more influential than all the well-laid plans on paper.


Mr Thobejane is one of SA’s most influential people. As adviser to Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and a frequent adviser to President Jacob Zuma, he is in the uniquely powerful position of having direct channels to the two most important people in the Cabinet at the precise moment that SA contemplates radical decisions in its energy future.

So who is Senti Thobejane and what are his views on the big questions of the day?

Mr Thobejane is a US-schooled physicist and an ardent supporter of nuclear energy, a sector in which he has been involved for a good part of his life. His passion for nuclear energy and knowledge of energy matters has put him at the side of Mr Zuma in recent trips to China and Russia.

It has also made him a key figure in the Cabinet’s subcommittee on energy security that is overseeing SA’s nuclear procurement, as well as in the negotiations on international agreements for nuclear co-operation Continue reading

February 21, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

Renewable energy for South Africa – not the cost, secrecy, corruption that goes with nuclear and coal

Next comes nuclear. The cost of $100 billion for 9 600 new MW of power – a guestimate at this stage – does not include ongoing expenses for uranium, transport and permanent safe storage. Illustrating the financial risk, the main French company bidding for SA’s attention is Areva, the world’s largest nuke builder – a company facing potential bankruptcy after its credit rating was cut to junk status in November.

Another huge risk is obvious: corruption

Instead of endorsing nuclear-powered corruption, the moment is surely nearing for the state’s phase-out of subsidised energy to foreign corporations? The capital-intensive, high-energy guzzling firms need to be replaced by civil society’s low-energy, high-employment ‘Million Climate Jobs’ campaign alternatives
 South Africa: Keep South Africa’s Lights On With Renewable Energy – or Irradiate a Darkened Nation All Africa, By Patrick Bond, 20 Feb 15 

After an explosive start to his State of the Nation Address last week, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma turned to nuclear, coal, fracking and offshore drilling projects – but what about the country’s free sunshine, wind and tides?

Last Thursday night in Cape Town’s Parliament hall, South Africa’s newest and cheekiest political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), fought gamely but lost their two-dozen seats for the evening. They were expelled during the State of the Nation speech when making what they termed a ‘point of order': asking whether President Jacob Zuma would ‘pay back the money’ (about $20 million) that the state illegitimately spent on upgrading his rural mansion. As police ushered them out with extreme force, seven were hospitalised, one with a broken jaw.

The society only saw the fracas on journalists’ cellphones later, because the SABC public broadcaster refused to screen the floor, panning only a small area where the Parliamentary leadership were gesticulating for police action. Showing surprising technical prowess but extremely weak political judgment, Zuma’s security officials had jammed cellphone and Wifi signals in the hall just before the event began, creating outrage by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists alike. The centre-right Democratic Alliance then walked out in protest against armed police having cleared out the EFF MPs.

The dust settled 45 minutes later, with Zuma chortling and African National Congress (ANC) MPs cheering, and most observers sickened by the spectacle. Still, much more important news would follow, though in the dull tone that Zuma reserves for formal speeches. Given the country’s fury at electricity load-shedding – near daily outages of 2-4 hours – many were relieved that a substantial 14 percent of Zuma’s talk was dedicated to this theme: ‘We are doing everything we can to resolve the energy challenge.’

Listen more closely, though. Aside from building three huge coal-fired power plants, two of which are mired in construction crises, the other long-term supply strategy, accounting for one in six of his words on energy, is nuclear. By 2030 a fleet of reactors is meant to provide 9600 MW. Today we have 42 000 MW installed, of which 39 000 comes from coal. But the economy uses just 30 000 at peak. What with so much capacity unavailable, load-shedding is set to continue for at least the next three years.

To truly ‘resolve’, not defer, the challenge will require a huge roll-out of public investment. ………….

Next comes nuclear. The cost of $100 billion for 9 600 new MW of power – a guestimate at this stage – does not include ongoing expenses for uranium, transport and permanent safe storage. Illustrating the financial risk, the main French company bidding for SA’s attention is Areva, the world’s largest nuke builder – a company facing potential bankruptcy after its credit rating was cut to junk status in November.

Another huge risk is obvious: corruption. Last Thursday, Zuma proclaimed ‘a fair, transparent, and competitive procurement process to select a strategic partner or partners to undertake the nuclear build programme.’ Hmmmm. Replies Moulana Riaz Simjee of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, ‘This nuclear deal poses an enormous corruption risk. It is happening in secret and will make the arms deal look like a walk in the park.’

With prescient timing, the Mail&Guardian last week exposed a Moscow foreign ministry website which provides details about the extent of the nuclear deal that Zuma had already cut with Vladimir Putin six months ago. The contract indemnifies Russian suppliers from any nuclear accident liabilities and gives ‘special favourable treatment’ for taxes.

A durable concern with nuclear energy is safety because three of the world’s most technically advanced countries – Japan, Russia and the US – conclusively demonstrated its catastrophic danger at Fukushima (2011), Chernobyl (1996) and Three Mile Island (1979)……..

Greenpeace continues vibrant anti-nuke protests, this month bringing the ship Rainbow Warrior to local ports and last week, once again unveiling its opponents’ security lapses by disrupting the opening session of Cape Town’s 2nd Nuclear Industry Congress Africa with a banner hang declaring, ‘Nuclear investments cost the earth.’

 Other civil society activists work hard against nuclear: to name a few, the National Union of Mineworkers’ Sibusiso Mimi, Mike Kantey from the Coalition against Nuclear Energy and, in Jeffreys Bay where one of the world’s greatest surf waves is threatened by a proposed power plant, Trudy Malan from the Thyspunt Alliance.

Such citizen advocacy helped halt South Africa’s zany Pebble Bed nuclear experiments, in which a generator was meant to be collapsed on top of pebble storage units after its life span, saving storage costs. But regrettably $1.5 billion of taxpayer funding was wasted, mostly under Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s nose (his successor Pravin Gordhan pulled the plug)……….

We really don’t need this risky behaviour. In three years from 2013-15, at least 2500 MW of renewable energy capacity will have been constructed in South Africa. According to Simjee, ‘Eskom itself has completed the construction of the Sere Wind Farm, which is already delivering 100 megawatts to the grid, well ahead of its intended launch in March this year.’ Sere’s cost is just $2.3 million/MW, far below all competitors, with no operating expenses aside from occasional maintenance.

These are supply-side enhancements, and will take time. For more rapid relief, on the demand side it appears Eskom is overdue in addressing wastage by the minerals and smelting corporations. The Energy Intensive Users Group’s 31 members use 44% of our electricity, and their Resource Curse has diminished the integrity of South African politics, economics, society, public health and environment.

Instead of endorsing nuclear-powered corruption, the moment is surely nearing for the state’s phase-out of subsidised energy to foreign corporations? The capital-intensive, high-energy guzzling firms need to be replaced by civil society’s low-energy, high-employment ‘Million Climate Jobs’ campaign alternatives…………..

for those aiming to breed a herd of nuclear White Elephants in coming years, maybe the opening theatrics before Zuma’s speech can resonate; maybe the EFF’s insistent call to, ‘pay back the money’, will prove a deterrent to those with nuclear fantasies.

Prof Patrick Bond directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | media, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment


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