South Africa Rejects Claims of ‘Undue Influence’ on Nuclear Deal

South Africa’s Department of Energy rejected what it said were claims President Jacob Zuma had exerted “undue influence” to push through a nuclear deal between his government and Russian state-owned Rosatom Corp.

“The department wishes to refute all allegations of ’undue influence’ by the president towards concluding this agreement,” the ministry’s acting Director-General Wolsey Barnard said in an e-mailed statement today. “The allegations are baseless and at worst ludicrous, and they are purely concocted in order to tarnish the image and integrity of the president and the government of South Africa.”

South Africa and Rosatom on Sept. 22 said the agreement laid the foundation for as many as eight Russian VVER reactors that use pressurized water. Zuma personally negotiated the deal with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the Mail and Guardian newspaper reported yesterday, citing senior officials from the government and the ruling African National Congress, whom it didn’t identify.

The energy ministry said it “wishes to assure all South Africans and interested parties that nothing will be withheld from them with respect to this agreement, as in the case with all other agreements previously entered between our government and other governments.”

The National Treasury said in February 2013 that a 300 billion-rand ($27 billion) nuclear program was in the final stages of study. The agreement doesn’t mean Rosatom is favored above other bidders to build nuclear plants in South Africa, according to Xolisa Mabhongo, the South Africa Nuclear Energy Corp.’s group executive for corporate services.

Areva SA, EDF SA, Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric Corp., China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. have expressed interest in building the plants. South Africa also has a draft nuclear cooperation pact with China.

The cooperation agreement with Russia, like others in the future, will be informed by South Africa’s “Integrated Resource Plan 2010, which emphasizes an energy mix which comprises of coal, nuclear, renewable energy, gas, hydro and other energy sources,” Barnard said.

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