* Foreign firms under pressure to find local partners
* Nuclear power needed for teetering electric grid
By Sherilee Lakmidas
JOHANNESBURG, April 23 South Africa wants to see
its firms eventually being awarded the bulk of the contracts in
its $50 billion plan to build six nuclear plants to power
Africa's biggest economy, the head of its electric utility said
Firms from France, the United States, Japan, South Korea,
China and Russia have been lining up for years for a chance to
win the contract, one of the biggest in the world for nuclear
Eskom chief executive Brian Dames said while the first of
the nuclear power units might only secure 35 percent localised
content, the country wants to see that rise to about 70 percent
by the time the final plants are built.
"This is a key objective for us," Dames said at a National
Union of Mineworkers nuclear energy seminar.
South Africa, which has the only nuclear plant on the
continent, wants to build up the capability of its construction
and manufacturing firms through the nuclear contract, putting
pressure on foreign builders to procure more from local
"Our view is we should do this in partnership with national
players. We don't have to do this alone but majority ownership
should remain in South Africa."
The energy-hungry country plans to build six new nuclear
power plants, providing 9,600 megawatts (MW) of power, or about
a quarter of current capacity. The first electricity is expected
to come online in 2024.
The country is operating on razor-thin electricity margins
and needs the power to grow its energy-intensive mining industry
Potential bidders are likely to include Areva,
EDF, Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric Corp,
China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, South Korea's Korea
Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and Russia's Rosatom.
Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters told the same seminar no
date had been set for when the bidding process will start.
The international contract will be one of the largest South
Africa has offered since a multi-billion arms deal about a
decade ago. That deal was mired in criminality with several
political heavyweights convicted of receiving bribes.
South Africa is seen as coming to the aid of an ailing
nuclear industry battling for new customers after new nuclear
reactor builds were all but halted in the wake of Japan's
Fukushima disaster last year.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by James Jukwey)