Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THREE reports by top international consultancies which explore the cost of building 9,600MW of nuclear power in SA have been classified as secret and will not be made available to the public, the Department of Energy has said.

The reports were commissioned in the past year by the department from KPMG, Ingerop and Deloitte to provide information on nuclear-procurement models, the cost of nuclear plants and financing models.

The Open Democracy Advice Centre requested the documents on behalf of Business Day under the Promotion of Access to Information Act last month.

In a reply received this week, deputy director-general of the department Zizamele Mbambo said "the records contain information to be used in the procurement process. The disclosure of such information will compromise the negotiations or prejudice the commercial competition as far as third parties are concerned".

These were the same grounds used to maintain the secrecy of the intergovernmental agreements on nuclear co-operation. But when the agreements were tabled in Parliament in June, they contained no proprietary or commercial information. The letter also states that the documents are classified. Mr Mbambo has said the department’s studies show that the nuclear build "is affordable" without giving details.

Business Day editor Songezo Zibi said the application was made as "we have reason to believe that the cost studies the department does not want the public to see until it is too late in the process, show that 9,600MW of nuclear will be unaffordable".

The Open Democracy Advice Centre is to appeal against the refusal.

Spokesman for the Right 2 Know Campaign Murray Hunter said the affordability study for SA’s strategic arms procurement in 1999 was classified until last year. "When this was unclassified, it was clear that there had been enormous financial risks. Governments often overclassify documents to shield themselves from accountability and end up making the wrong decisions. The fact that these documents are being withheld makes it impossible for SA to have the conversation about nuclear energy."

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson recently claimed that she had never advocated nuclear build of 9,600MW.

Mr Zibi said it "was also curious how a cost study can be conducted if, as the minister claimed, the size of the procurement was yet to be determined. What, then, would be the benchmark number if not the 9,600MW already mentioned by the president and ministers of energy including Ms Joemat-Pettersson?"