From Russia with love: Rosatom ‘optimistic’ it will build SA nuclear plants – exclusive interview

A public outcry in South Africa over plans to enlist Russia’s state energy corporation Rosatom to build nuclear plants has failed to dampen the spirits of Rosatom’s negotiators. The utility giant’s regional vice president shared in an interview with Fin24’s Lameez Omarjee that Rosatom remains “upbeat” about its bid to secure the business. The South African government has delayed the release of the Request for Proposals for the nuclear build programme, following reports that senior politicians – including President Jacob Zuma  – had met in secret with Russian stakeholders to arrange the deal. Environmental groups have warned that the nuclear build programme could bankrupt the country. There are also concerns that the project will benefit individuals linked to President Jacob Zuma. South Africa’s nuclear state agency Necsa has denied that Rosatom is a front-runner in what is an “open race”. Rosatom, meanwhile, stands ready to submit a bid. – Jackie Cameron

By Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg  – Despite government’s decision to delay the release of the Request for Proposals (RFPs) for the nuclear build programme, Russian state energy corporation Rosatom is still “upbeat” about submitting its bid.

Rosatom’s Viktor Polikarpov, regional vice president for sub-Saharan Africa, met with Fin24 at the National Nuclear Regulator conference held in Pretoria on Thursday. He shared Rosatom’s views given recent developments of the nuclear build programme.


“It is the decision of the government – we respect it. We are still upbeat about bidding for the tender,” he said.

Previously Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced that RFPs would be released on September 30. However, the Department of Energy (DoE) delayed the release.

Fin24 had reported that the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) on South Africa’s energy status had not been updated. According to Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, the IRP had to be updated with the country’s latest energy needs before it could proceed with issuing an RFP.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe reiterated this by stating that more consultations needed to take place before an RFP could be issued.

Read also: Eskom unveils plans to pay for nuclear power plants

Polikarpov said that the company could not “jump the gun” and change or dictate how fast the process is completed.

“[Government] has to weigh the pros and cons with regard to the RFP. If the RFP is launched, we think it will be well prepared and the government won’t have to change anything ad hoc.”

Recent reports indicate that Eskom may take over ownership of the nuclear build programme. But at the signing of a R7bn credit facility with China Development Bank (CDB) earlier this week, Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said the procurement of the nuclear build programme was up to government and not Eskom.

Polikarpov told Fin24 that Rosatom would not have objections if the ownership of the programme was shifted.

“We respect any decision the government takes. If the government decides to give it to whomever, including Eskom, we are prepared to work with Eskom.”

He added that Eskom was credible in that the power utility has knowledge of managing a nuclear power plant – this being the Koeberg nuclear power station in the Western Cape.

Must Watch: Brilliant – How Zuptas nuclear deal will sink SA.

Polikarpov said Rosatom was only concerned that the RFP process was handled professionally and that the process of selecting a vendor was transparent, open and just and in line with what the Constitution requires.

“Any vendor does not want to find themselves in court with the programme stalled… The issue is to start implementing the programme and not just spending time in court.”

Waiting for the RFP

Despite dwindling business and investor confidence, low growth and a threat of a credit downgrade, Polikarpov said the company was still optimistic about partnering with South Africa in business. “We are in business, we are not in politics,” he said.

“We are very much reliant on the RFP to be taken in future so we can participate in the bid and show our capacity and our comprehensive approach and our technology,” he added.

Rosatom’s ability to finance the nuclear build programme relies heavily on the RFP, he explained. “That will indicate the financial solution preferable for the government of South Africa.” – Fin24


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