* Russia, a poltical favorite, ability to fund plants, a bonus
* South Africa to build pressurised water reactors
* Other countries could be included in building plants
By Peroshni Govender
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 12 (Reuters) - South Africa will finalise requirements for its 9,600 megawatt nuclear power plant by April, with Russia and China the front-runners to win the bid, a government official involved in the negotiations told Reuters.
Pretoria has earmarked billions of rand for much needed power generation but its nuclear build of 9,600 megawatts by 2030 at a price tag of up to 1 trillion rand ($63.46 billion) has raised concerns over whether it would be affordable.
Fears that what could be the most expensive procurement in the country’s history will be made behind closed doors, without the necessary public scrutiny have been raised by the opposition, claims the government has rejected.
“From what I have seen, the Russians do have a case and so do the Chinese. If we go with two countries, it could include the Chinese,” said the official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media. “If we go for one country, it would be the Russians.”
Political alliances, Pretoria and Moscow’s membership of the BRICS association of five emerging economies and Russia’s ability to fund the project have put them as the favourites, the official said.
Russia’s willingness to build the plant at its own expense, operate it for 20 years and charge South Africa for the power and running costs had given that country an even better chance to clinch the deal, the official said.
Officials at the nuclear unit in the energy department were not available to comment, Thandiwe Maimane, the department’s spokeswoman, said.
In his annual speech to the nation on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma said the nuclear procurement would proceed on a scale and pace that the country can afford.
Africa’s most industrialised economy faces weak growth due to a power crunch and slowing global demand for its gold, coal and platinum. The central bank has projected growth at 0.9 percent in 2016 from a previous forecast of 1.5 percent.
In December, Zuma’s cabinet approved the nuclear project which will generate power through pressurised water reactors (PWR), the same method used at Koeberg near Cape Town, the continent’s sole nuclear plant commissioned in 1974.
“We have experience in operating a PWR, there is more global experience with PWR, than any other reactor. We can already eliminate countries that don’t do PWR,” the official said.
While Russia could drive the project, the official said companies from other countries will most likely be included in the building of the plants.
$1 = 15.7582 rand Editing by James Macharia