* Court rules in favour of Eskom tender process
* Eskom wants to start nuclear procurement soon
* Critics say nuclear programme too costly
(Updates with court ruling, background)
By Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN, Dec 13 South African power utility
Eskom will this week invite bids to build nuclear
reactors in the government's push to increase nuclear capacity,
its acting CEO said on Tuesday, despite the concerns of campaign
groups and economists.
South Africa, which has the continent's only nuclear power
station, has earmarked nuclear expansion as the centrepiece of a
plan to increase power generation to ease the country's reliance
on an ageing fleet of coal-fired plants and has asked Eskom to
procure an additional 9,600 megawatts (MW) of capacity.
Russia's Rosatom is expected to be among the bidders, along
with companies from South Korea, France, the United States and
However, the programme is being opposed by environmental and
clean-energy groups, while economists have said that South
Africa cannot afford to build new nuclear plants.
Eskom's Matshela Koko, speaking to reporters in Cape Town on
the sidelines of a court case in which environmental and
clean-energy campaigners are challenging the government's
decision, said the energy regulator's approval of the plan on
Dec. 8 meant the company could proceed with the tender.
In reaction to Koko's comments, lawyers for
environmentalists later on Tuesday requested the judge in the
hearing to halt the tender process. High Court judge Lee
Bozalek, however, ruled it could go ahead, adding that a final
decision on the plan was a long way off as the tender process
would be lengthy.
"The die is not cast, there is still a long road ahead,"
Environmental groups say parliament was not consulted on the
programme and that it has been shrouded in secrecy.
"This is a self-evident case when the legalities must be
determined first ... It is hard to exaggerate the risks to the
country," David Unterhalter, a lawyer representing environmental
groups, said during Tuesday's court proceedings.
The main court hearing on the challenge to the government's
nuclear plan will not take place until early next year.
Koko took the helm at Eskom at the start of December
following the resignation of Brian Molefe, who resigned after
being implicated in allegations of influence peddling in a
report by an anti-graft watchdog. Molefe has denied any
A draft blueprint of the government's Integrated Resource
Plan, published last month, said it now aimed to increase
nuclear power output by just 1,359 megawatts (MW) by 2037,
compared with a previous target of adding 9,600 MW of new
nuclear power by 2030.
Economists say South Africa cannot afford the nuclear
plants, estimated to cost more than 1 trillion rand.
"Risks to Eskom's balance sheet and indirectly to the
sovereign are significant - the total cost may be around $50
billion depending on technology choice," Nomura analyst Peter
Attard Montalto said in a note on Tuesday.
Opposition parties are also worried the government could
make decisions on nuclear procurement without the necessary
(Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa and Susan Fenton)