The controversy around Eskom’s proposed nuclear build programme, which some believe could cripple the country’s finances, has generated huge publicity – so much so that dozens of companies have joined Russia’s Rosatom in indicating their interest in working on the project. The deal has been characterised as being set up to favour President Jacob Zuma’s friends, who include Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Competitive bids from credible players might create an additional hurdle, though Zuma is evidently in a rush to get the deal signed and sealed before he leaves office. Companies from a range of countries have been in touch with Eskom, including major nuclear vendors from China, France and South Korea. Meanwhile, there is some confusion over whether Rosatom has actually submitted a bid or a response to the Request for Information. Regardless of whether the process has the veneer of regularity, a dark cloud hangs over the deal. This is because earlier discussions between Zuma and Russia, in which South Africa’s president is believed to have signed off on the transaction, were kept secret. And, with billions of rands at stake, the massive project is believed to be a significant prize in the grand strategy of state capture. – Jackie Cameron
Cape Town – Eskom said 27 companies have stated that they intend to provide a response to the Request for Information (RFI) for the proposed 9.6 GW Nuclear New Build Programme.
This includes four major nuclear vendors from China (SNPTC), France (EDF), Russia (Rosatom) and South Korea (Kepco), Eskom revealed in a statement on Wednesday.
Rosatom and EDF issued statements this month indicating that they had met the first deadline (31 January) in the nuclear process, which was simply to state whether they would respond to the RFI.
The actual deadline for the response to the RFI is 28 April 2017.
Eskom started the procurement process on 20 December 2016 when it launched the RFI process. Two requests for proposals (RFPs) are still due to be released this year. However, Eskom requires Treasury sign-off before this can be released, as it relates to the financial aspects of the bid.
“While the intention to submit a response to Eskom’s RFI does not commit a company to submit a response to a potential future RFP, the quantum of the response to Eskom’s RFI shows the level of competitive interest in the South African Nuclear New Build Programme,” Eskom explained.
“Eskom is looking forward to the information supplied to confirm our understanding of the key issues that impact the timing and affordability of a nuclear program,” said Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko.
EDF said in a statement on 25 January that the French utility – with support from French authorities – has formally declared its intention to submit a response to that RFI.
Eskom says strong interest in SA New Nuclear Build Program. Hopes to get an idea of timing and affordability. Let's hope not at any cost!
— Stephen Gunnion (@stephengunnion) February 1, 2017
“EDF and the French nuclear industry welcome the RFI as an opportunity to engage in a new phase of cooperation with Eskom and Necsa on developing the South African Nuclear New Build Programme,” EDF said.
South African media were quick to report that Rosatom had submitted its actual bid in January, after news agency Reuters stated: “Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom has submitted a bid for a nuclear power project in South Africa, TASS news agency cited the company’s general director Alexei Likhachev as saying on Tuesday.”
However, Rosatom told Fin24 on 25 January that Likhachev was only referring to Rosatom’s decision to respond.
A Rosatom spokesperson told Fin24 that it “acknowledged the RFI from South Africa and we intend to reply. This is what was being referred to”. – Fin24