South African court: Nuclear deal with Russia illegal

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Jacob Zuma, SA President

South Africa’s plan to expand its nuclear programme in cooperation with Russia suffered a setback on Wednesday when a court ruled that it was illegal.

The Western Cape High Court in a ruling held that the government’s way of handling the preliminary agreement was “unconstitutional and unlawful and it is reviewed and set aside,”

The court also set aside cooperation agreements in the field of nuclear energy concluded with South Korea and the United States.

Two environmental organisations launched the case in October 2015, arguing that the agreements had not been debated by parliament.

The court said the necessary procurement processes and procedures were not completely followed.

The deal foresaw a strategic partnership with Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, through which Russia would help construct a nuclear power plant and a research reactor, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

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Calls to Rosatom’s press service in Moscow went unanswered on Wednesday.

The deal would have allowed South Africa to acquire 9.6 gigawatts of additional nuclear power by 2030 in an attempt to diversify its energy sources from ageing coal-fired plants.

The regional superpower currently has the continent’s only nuclear power plant, but it gets more than 90 percent of its energy from coal.

The nuclear expansion is opposed by groups advocating renewable energies, while others say South Africa cannot afford its cost, estimated at 1 trillion rand (76 billion dollars).

President Jacob Zuma recently fired finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who had warned about the cost of new nuclear plants.

The sacking of the respected minister, which prompted two rating agencies to downgrade South Africa, fuelled concern over possible corruption in the Russian deal.

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