October 7, 2011 / 3:45 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-S.Africa mulls $125.1 bln nuclear plant tender-report

* Nuclear power to help solve a power supply crunch

* Fleet of 6 plants planned, supplying a total 9,600 MW

* Several countries wooing S.Africa to win bid (Adds cabinet comment, background)

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 7 (Reuters) - South Africa may solicit bids worth 1 trillion rand ($125.1 billion) for the construction of six nuclear power plants by 2030, the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported, citing unnamed government and industry sources.

Over 90 percent of South Africa’s power is produced by coal-fired power plants and supplies are tight as state-run utility Eskom battles to meet fast-rising demand in the world’s top producer of platinum and a major gold miner.

Africa’s biggest economy has said it would invest in nuclear power to boost supplies and reduce its heavy carbon footprint.

Energy minister Dipuo Peters said last month she had signed off on a proposal for the new power plants, meant to fill a dire power shortage in Africa’s biggest economy, adding that the bid process would start in early 2012.

Peters also said last month the proposal would be presented to cabinet soon and Jimmy Manyi, a cabinet spokesman, said the proposal has yet to reach the cabinet.

“Cabinet has not received a nuclear proposal from the department yet and the cost is not known,” he said.

Officials at the energy ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Companies from the United States, France, Japan and South Korea have long been wooing South Africa to win the bid.

French and Chinese companies are among those preparing a joint bid, the newspaper said.

Potential bidders could include Areva CEPFi.PA, EDF , Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric Corp , China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp and Russia’s Rosatom.

South Africa operates the continent’s only nuclear power plant, near Cape Town. A previous tender for a new nuclear plant was scrapped in 2008 due to financial woes at Eskom.

The minister said last month she expected first power from those plants, which are slated to provide a total of 9,600 megawatts or about a quarter of the current supply, to start flowing through the national grid in 2024 or 2025.

A power supply crisis in 2008 shut mines for days and cost South Africa billions of dollars in lost output. New coal-fired plants are also being built and power tariffs are rising steeply to fund such projects, hurting consumers and squeezing the profits of power-intensive mines and other industries.

South Africa has said it would like to build a fleet of six nuclear plants to keep costs lower due to economies of scale. ($1 = 7.994 South African Rand) (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Wendell Roelf)

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