SA-Russia mum on nuclear project after Pretoria meeting

06:36 (GMT+2) Wed, 15 Nov 2017

Russia’s involvement in South Africa’s nuclear-build programme did not surface during the high-level roundtable discussion between government ministers and other senior officials of the two countries, South African Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Tuesday. 

“Well, it has not surfaced [in the discussions]. If it had, we would have dealt with it openly. We don’t regard it as an elephant in the room,” Zwane told African News Agency (ANA) in Pretoria. 

“We regard it [the nuclear-build project] as part of the programme of government and if we have to do something, we will just do that.”

Zwane said in the meetings with the Russian delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yuri Trutnev. 

Speaking on behalf of the Russian delegation Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka said he could not say much about the controversial project. 

“I want to say that I am not  the minister for nuclear power and I am the minister responsible for the development of the far east and the cooperation with many countries in the far east territory. Together with our Vice Prime Minister Trudnev we noted that there are various structures [on the nuclear programme] like the intergovernmental commission … and there are negotiations conducted regarding the nuclear energy,” Galushka said through an interpreter.

“We want to note that the negotiations are constructive and they are underway.” 

South African Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told the gathering that to date, Pretoria and Moscow have signed over 40 bilateral agreements in various areas of cooperation, including in science and technology, defence, mining and mineral resources, energy, agriculture and justice.

“Again, some of the tough questions we must ask is that we honestly and frankly reflect on progress with deepening and accelerating our bilateral trade relations. For this must translate into greater trade opportunities, higher investment and faster economic growth. And this will require the development of meaningful public-private partnerships. We must serve to energise practical co-operation to boost our development,” said Radebe.

“We simply have to find better vistas of opportunities in the pursuit of the task of growing and strengthening the relations between both our countries as well as our industries, businesses and citizens.”

On May 19, the energy department said that the South African government would start renegotiating its inter-governmental agreements on nuclear co-operation with five vendor nations from June.

This comes after the government decided last week not to appeal a high court ruling that effectively halted procurement of new nuclear plants, which the government said was needed to add 9,600 megawatt of power to the electricity grid.

The department said it was restarting the process and were signing new agreements. China, Russia, France, US, South Korea, and South Africa would renegotiate, sign new agreements and then submit it to Parliament. 

– African News Agency (ANA)