South Africa's new nuclear power stations got underway with a tweet.
Just before close of business on Tuesday, national power supplier Eskom formally issued the much-delayed Request for Information (RFI) on the controversial nuclear build programme, which aims to build a total of 9,600 MW (9,6 GW) of generating power. The programme has been a source of public dispute because of the prioritising of nuclear over other methods of generation, concerns over affordability and allegations that secret deals have already been signed.
Eskom CEO Matshela Koko announced the release of the documents on Twitter.
Request for information for the South African Nuclear New Build Programmme is now on the Eskom bulletin pic.twitter.com/sIsMVclb7v— Matshela Koko (@koko_matshela) December 20, 2016
Two days earlier, Koko tweeted an extract from President Jacob Zuma's message noting that Eskom was recently - on December 14 - legally put in charge of the nuclear build procurement.
Here is an extract from the President Year End message. pic.twitter.com/ZrXSINfh7h— Matshela Koko (@koko_matshela) December 19, 2016
The RFI for the nuclear new build programme (NNBP), signed by Eskom's chief nuclear officer David Nicholls, is not the procurement itself and those who respond are not promised any contract, but it is a key step along the way in a massively complex build project which will take years and cost billions of rand.
The RFI reiterates that the 9,600 MW build will include an unspecified number of pressurised water reactors.
The information the RFI asks for includes the respondents' experience in building nuclear power stations and costs and schedules of those projects, the possible cost savings for building a fleet of standardised reactors, financing solutions and sources, possible ownership structures, possible local content programmes and suggestions for staging the building of an unspecified number of reactors.
"This RFI is a stand-alone information-gathering and market-testing exercise only, and is NOT a competitive tender," said Nicholls in the RFI.
"Therefore, the information provided will not be used as a basis for awarding a contract or order, or in any manner preclude a supplier's participation in future competitive tender/enquiry. Eskom encourages responses to this RFI to ensure information is sourced which may assist with the preparation of future competitive tender/enquiry relating to the NNBP."
Companies have until January 31 to tell Eskom they plan to respond and the deadline for their full submissions is April 28, 2017. They carry the costs of their submissions.