Koeberg refurbishment crisis: Gwede Mantashe rejected IAEA offer of assistance

Issued by Kevin Mileham MP and Ghaleb Cachalia MP –
17 Jul 2023 in News
  • Gwede Mantashe sabotaged the Koeberg nuclear power plant’s life extension project by refusing assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The DA had requested IAEA experts to assist with the project, but Mantashe rejected the offer, claiming that the IAEA’s recommendations had already been integrated into the project.
  • This refusal is a hindrance to South Africa’s energy security, and Mantashe’s actions are liability to the country’s progress.

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, must carry the full blame for sabotaging the Koeberg nuclear power plant’s life extension project after he flatly refused assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This follows comments made this afternoon by the Minister of Electricity, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, in which he admitted that he was “very, very worried” that the Koeberg refurbishment was behind schedule and could lead to higher stages of load shedding continuing into 2024.

In September 2022, the DA wrote to the IAEA asking that they provide a contingent of nuclear power plant experts to assist with the Koeberg life extension project. We specifically asked that the contingent of IAEA experts be brought on to work alongside Koeberg engineers on bringing the life extension project back on track and ensuring its successful implementation.

Our request for technical assistance was in response to a report by the IAEA’s review mission to Koeberg which revealed that the life extension project was in crisis.

On 8 November 2022, the IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, wrote to to the DA stating that: “I can inform you that the IAEA is ready to carry out this assistance mission to Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant, with the purpose of assisting with the successful implementation of the Life Extension Project”.

Mr Grossi pointed out that this assistance will only be activated after a formal request from host nuclear power plant (Eskom), regulatory authority (NNR) and concerned parties (Minister of Energy). Should these three parties have made the request, the IAEA was ready to activate its technical assistance support through the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

When the DA presented this offer of assistance to Mantashe, he wrote back to us displeased that we had not “adhered to diplomatic protocols in engaging with the IAEA”. He was not at all interested in the offer of assistance rather that there was no adherence to diplomatic protocol. Mantashe went as far as to say there was nothing wrong with the Koeberg life extension process because the recommendations of the IAEA review mission had been “…fully integrated into the Eskom work on the Koeberg Long Term Operation (life extension project)”.

Not to be outdone, Eskom itself informed the DA that ‘The Koeberg life extension project is on track…” after we informed them of the offer of assistance from the IAEA.

The ANC government should not feign surprise about the Koeberg life extension project going off track because they flatly refused an olive branch of assistance from the world body regulating nuclear energy.

Mantashe has essentially become a liability to South Africa’s energy security and should have been fired a long time ago, were it not for a President who is held hostage by indecision and political convenience.

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