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Cablegate: Nuclear Jscnec Meeting Postponed Again - Hope For

VZCZCXYZ7637
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSA #0455/01 0651608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051608Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3688
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0760
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1450
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0760
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0476
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1302
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0238
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0517
RUCPDC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0273
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS PRETORIA 000455

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/S, EEB/ESC, ISN
DOE FOR T.SPERL, G.PERSON, A.BIENAWSKI, L.PARKER, M.SCOTT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG TRGY KNNP PREL BEXP SF
SUBJECT: NUCLEAR JSCNEC MEETING POSTPONED AGAIN - HOPE FOR
BILATERAL AGREEMENT

REF: A. STATE 7183

B. PRETORIA 440
C. PRETORIA 315
D. 07 PRETORIA 4172
E. 07 PRETORIA 3674
F. 07 PRETORIA 3589

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Department of Minerals and Energy
(DME) Chief Director: Nuclear informed Embassy that the
bilateral Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy
Cooperation (JSCNEC) planned for June in South Africa would
unfortunately have to be postponed because of the
overwhelming distractions of the power crisis and the tender
for new nuclear build. The Chief Director was optimistic
that the long-awaited bilateral agreement on cooperation in
nuclear R&D could soon be signed. This could be helpful in
supporting the Westinghouse bid for new nuclear power plants
and counter the splash of announcements associated with the
state visit of French President Sarkozy (Ref B). End Summary.

------------------------
JSCNEC Postponed - Again
------------------------

2. (SBU) Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) Chief
Director: Nuclear Tseliso Maqubela informed Energy Officer on
March 5 that regrettably the Joint Standing Committee on
Nuclear Energy Cooperation (JSCNEC) would have to be
postponed from June to a date yet to be determined (Refs A
and D). Maqubela attributed the need to postpone the
long-planned meeting to the power crisis (Ref C) and the
tender for new nuclear power plant build (Ref B). He said
that efforts to mitigate and resolve the electricity supply
shortfall were consuming the attention of his office. For
example, Maqubela noted that DME was also postponing a
planned Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy originally
planned for April. He stated that this was a challenging
year with the vexing black-outs, the need to adjudicate
nuclear power plant bids by June, and a short parliamentary
calendar this year in advance of elections next year.
Maqubela said he was being pulled every which way and he was
back spending time consulting at state electricity supplier
Eskom, in addition to working on the Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM) clean energy portfolio. (Comment: Maqubela's
predicament is emblematic of South Africa's skills shortages.
Most of our SAG interlocutors' responsibilities are broadly
stretched, forcing them to prioritize their time and
hindering their ability to complete projects. End Comment.)


3. (SBU) Maqubela underscored that the coming March-June
period -- from final new nuclear build submissions from
Westinghouse and Areva due on March 31 to the intended SAG
decision in June -- would be an extremely sensitive period
for himself and his staff. He expected that he would no
longer be able to meet with the competing governments,
suppliers, and utilities, and at this time he could meet only
with Westinghouse Country Manager Rita Bowser (and presumably
her Areva counterpart). For example, Maqubela noted that he
had to turn down a meeting requested by the recent visit of
the trade delegation from Pennsylvania. He said he expected
the SAG to soon promulgate formal guidelines on contacts with
governments and interested parties during the tender period.
Qgovernments and interested parties during the tender period.


----------------------------------------
Hope for Bilateral Nuclear R&D Agreement
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Maqubela was optimistic that the SAG could soon
deliver approval to sign the long-awaited "Agreement Between
the Government of the United States and the Government of the
Republic of South Africa for Cooperation in Research and
Development in Nuclear Technology" (Refs D-F). He said that
the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was close to
finalizing the approval so that the two governments could
then plan for the who-where-when for the signing of the
agreement.


5. (SBU) COMMENT: Maqubela has asserted that the bilateral
nuclear R&D agreement remains doable because it has been in
the pipeline, rather than a new initiative during this
sensitive tender period. Embassy will continue to push for
this agreement, which could tangibly counter the recent
orchestrated splash of commercial announcements associated
with the February 28-29 state visit of French President
Nicholas Sarkozy and senior executives from energy and other
key sectors (Ref B). Longer-term, Embassy will wait for the
dust to settle before seeking rescheduling of the
long-anticipated JSCNEC meeting. Our DFA contacts assert
that the nuclear cooperation agreement should be finalized
before preparing for the JSCNEC.
BOST

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