The Problem with the Russian Nuclear Deal

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Power Stations don’t pollute the environment by definition, but shady political deals do! (Photo Credit: marya from San Luis Obispo, USA)

The Russians may have advanced their technology beyond that of the rest of the world, be able to enrich the fuel and burn the nuclear waste, and may even be offering South Africa a good deal, but there are serious problems with “Atomic Tina’s” agreement with them.

Here is the agreement: Russian nuclear cooperation agreement

Some of my notes on the problems with this document:

Article 2: “Cooperation under this Agreement shall be conducted in strict accordance with the laws of each Party state” Even before the agreement comes into force, this has already been ignored.  The process for procurement of such services must be competitive and transparent.  This could mean the agreement is null and void already.

Article 9: “For the purpose of implementation of this Agreement the South African Party, in accordance with its national laws, will facilitate the provision of special favorable treatment in determining the amount of tax and non-tax payments, fees and compensation, which will be applied to the projects implemented in the Republic of South Africa within the areas of cooperation as outlined in Article 3 of this Agreement“.  Business is business. The law in South Africa requires that the state may not discriminate.  This is blatantly the case here.

Article 13.2 (iv) (what Russia provides) “shall be re-exported or transferred from the jurisdiction of the Republic of South Africa to any other state only on advance written permission from the Russian Federation according to the specified conditions”.  A blanket statement that prevents South Africa from optimally using the technology, having to ask Russia for permission first?

Article 13.4. “Nuclear material transferred to the Republic of South Africa under this Agreement shall not be enriched and reprocessed without prior written consent of the Government of the Russian Federation.”  So we buy Uranium from Russia, but we may not do with it as we please after paying for it?  This flies in the face of property rights as afforded by our constitution.  What this comes down do is that Russia will “rent” us fuel and they will dictate what we can do with it.  No competition or self-help unless they say so. Period.

Article 15: A massive problem in it’s entirety.  Although the details of the cooperation have not yet been determined, this indemnified the Russians of any liability whatsoever in the case of a nuclear incident.  Surely this is premature?  The first thing that must be determined is who does what.  Once the areas of responsibility have been demarcated, then the responsibilities can be determined.

Article 17:2. “This Agreement is valid for 20 years and then automatically extended for successive 10-year periods until one of the parties, no later than 1 year in advance, notifies in writing through diplomatic channels the other Party of its intention to terminate the Agreement.”  20 years, with automatic 10 year renewal??  A very bad idea indeed.  Should the lessons learned from Eskom’s agreement with Billiton’s Mozal, Hillside and Bayside smelters not be heeded? They have cost Eskom (and South Africa for that matter) R11.5bn simply because the contracts are so long, that it might as well have been forever.

In essence, the biggest problem with this is not that it’s an agreement to acquire nuclear power stations for South Africa. After all, France has 58 and the USA 100 nuclear reactors and in all nuclear reactor incidents worldwide, only 10 fatalities have been recorded, excluding Chernobyl in which 50 people died.  Compared to the huge health and environmental impact that coal-fired plants have, this is minute.  The problem lies in the secrecy and illegal ways in which Jacob Zuma and his accomplices have gone about manoeuvring in secret to get to this point.

It is understood that parliament has to ratify the deal, so here’s to a massive grass-roots uprising against it!  Let’s say no for the right reasons.  If this can be stopped, so can other corruption and underhanded deals in South Africa!


One thought on “The Problem with the Russian Nuclear Deal

  1. Schalk vd Merwe says:

    Spot on, Roland. Reassuring, though, that the Russians are unable to pay for this lot, so it’s not going to work out this way in any event.

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