South Africa and nuclear energy - an overview

South Africa has potentially set itself on a collision course with the West by announcing that it had signed a nuclear partnership agreement with Russia.

The deal with Russia’s state-owned nuclear company may see Rosatom build reactors in Africa’s second-biggest economy, a development that critics of the government’s nuclear energy plan fear would put a massive financial strain on the country and hike power prices.

Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who signed on behalf of the South African government believes that South Africa is interested in the massive development of nuclear power, which is an important driver for the national economy growth.

But the awarding of the contract to Russia, a fellow member of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc of emerging powers, is poised to raise eyebrows as Russia is currently the target of sanctions over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Analysts say it is unclear how South Africa will navigate the sanctions minefield.

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