(Adds details, quotes, background)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 22 (Reuters) - South Africa signed a $10 billion nuclear power cooperation deal with Russia on Monday that paves the way for the building of up to 9.6 GW of nuclear power based on Russian technology by 2030, both sides said.
The surprise announcement from the sidelines of a International Atomic Energy conference in Vienna suggests Pretoria is moving ahead with its plans for nuclear power, despite concerns over funding.
“This agreement opens up the door for South Africa to access Russian technologies, funding, infrastructure, and provides proper and solid platform for future extensive collaboration,” South African energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said in the statement.
Rosatom director-general Sergey Kirienko said the deal for up to 8 nuclear power units could create thousands of jobs and create orders worth $10 billion to “local industrial enterprises”, although it was not clear if he was referring to Russia or South Africa.
In a national energy assessment in December, South Africa said it might delay the construction of nuclear power plants and focus instead on coal, hydro and gas as alternative energy sources.
Africa’s most advanced economy is struggling to keep the lights on due to its failure to invest in new power plants nearly two decades ago.
It is home to one nuclear power station that provides around 5 percent of the country’s 42,000 MW of installed generating capacity. Nearly all the rest comes from coal.
State-owned power utility Eskom is scrambling to finish new power plants, including Medupi and Kusile, massive coal-fired outfits with a combined capacity of about 9,500 megawatts (MW) that are far from complete.
China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp IPO-CGNP.SS, Toshiba Corp and Korea Electric Power Corp are among the companies that have been reported as showing interest in securing the nuclear deal. (Reporting by Svetlana Burmistrova and Peroshni Govender; Editing by Ed Cropley)