South Africa government contemplates legal battle to revive Rosatom nuclear deal

South Africa’s energy ministry and Russian nuclear power giant Rosatom have indicated that they hope to press on with plans to build nuclear power stations in the country, despite the decision of the South African High Court that their 2014 cooperation pact was unlawful.

Rosatom said on Wednesday, 3 May, that it was still committed to taking part in a transparent and competitive bidding process to build plants. Meanwhile, the ministry indicated that it was considering an appeal against the judgment.

Rosatom said in a statement: "We are confident in our world class technology, unmatched safety standards and highly competitive solutions."

The two sides had concluded an intergovernmental agreement to build 9.6GW of nuclear capacity and reduce South Africa’s dependence on coal. The scope of the deal covered the construction of nuclear plants, research reactors and a programme to train South African engineers at Russian universities.

The document was held to violate competition rules as it obliged the government to work exclusively with Rosatom without holding open tenders.

Speaking on Twitter, David Nicholls, Eskom’s chief nuclear officer said after the court’s decision: "To put the issue to rest I want to confirm that @Eskom_SA has terminated the Nuclear RFI."

Other companies in the race to build up to 10 reactors besides Rosatom are State Nuclear Power Technology of China, EDF of France and KEPCO from South Korea.

Image: South Africa’s Koeberg plant, the only nuclear power station on the African continent (Philipp Egli)

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