SAfrica to rethink nuke deal after junk status

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JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s ruling party on Sunday said the government will have to re-think its costly and highly contentious nuclear expansion programme following last week’s relegation of the country’s creditworthiness to junk.

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Within days of each other the world’s two major rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded South African sovereign debt to junk status after President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic ministerial shake-up that saw respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan axed.

In 2010 South Africa formulated plans to expand its nuclear power fleet, plans estimated to cost around one trillion rand ($73 billion).

Two Sunday newspapers cited a confidential document that stated that the country’s power utility Eskom would in June invite bids for the construction of four plants with a combined capacity of 9,600 megawatts.

The successful bidder would then be named in March next year, according to the City Press and the Sunday Times.

But ANC’s head of economics Enoch Godongwana told reporters that “conditions have changed. It was before we were declared junk status.”

“Surely in the light of the junk status we will have to … revise our expenditure patterns as government.”

“If we do nuclear we must do it …at a scope and pace which is affordable.”

Godongwana did not rule out Africa’s most advanced economy sliding into recession.

“Are we anticipating a recession? That’s a possibility,” he said.

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