French ready to support South African nuclear programme

3rd February 2012 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

France is supportive of South Africa’s nuclear energy plans, assured French Foreign Ministry secretary-general Pierre Sellal in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon. The European power is a leader in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (Secretary-general is equivalent to a director-general in South Africa.)

“Our industry is ready to contribute to the nuclear programme to be launched by the South African government,” he said.

This would not just be a matter of selling reactors but would also involve “comprehensive cooperation” which would encompass training and the involvement of South African industry.

“We strongly believe that nuclear energy has to remain and will remain an important element of the world energy mix,” affirmed Sellal. “This is a decision we have made in France.”

He pointed out that governments had to meet three objectives when they formulated their energy policies. These were – competitiveness (ensuring that their business sectors could compete internationally), security of supply, and sustainability. “We strongly believe that nuclear energy meets these three objectives.”

He acknowledged that the Fukushima crisis in Japan last year had eroded public trust in nuclear energy. “We think it is important to discuss these questions, in order to define, in front of the population, these issues as logically as possible. It is important that our two governments demonstrate that they are committed to address the issues raised by nuclear energy, such as safety.” A key contribution to convincing the people would be transparency.

Regarding science and technology cooperation in general, Sellal observed that it “is a very important chapter of our strategic partnership”. This cooperation between the two countries is governed by a bilateral agreement concluded a few years ago.

“We believe it will be important to have a science and technology component in the cultural seasons which will take place in South Africa and France,” he stated.

There will be a season of France in South Africa this year, followed by a season of South Africa in France next year.

“It is important to show our cooperation in this domain and to show the capacities of the partners in these areas, [show] what illustrates the best capacities of the two partners.”