The Koeberg nuclear power station on the West Coast, outside Cape Town. Photo: Nic Bothma

Cape Town - South Africa will start the process to procure a nuclear fleet to generate 9 600 MW of power this year, the energy minister said on Tuesday, as Africa's most advanced economy battles an energy crunch.

To meet its targeted nuclear generation capacity, South Africa plans to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at a cost estimated between R400 billion and R1 trillion.

“We expect to present the outcome of this procurement process to cabinet by year-end,” Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told Parliament, adding that the exercise would be carried out in a “fair and transparent” manner.

South Africa has signed nuclear power deals with various countries, including France, China, South Korea and the United States after surprising energy watchers in September when it announced a deal with Russia to build plants worth $10 billion.

Government officials were compelled then to clarify it was in fact just the early stages of a long procurement process, after opposition parties suggested official procurement rules were being flouted.

Joemat-Pettersson also said South Africa, which runs the continent's only nuclear power station near Cape Town, would also re-establish its nuclear fuel cycle industry.

This would include developing domestic uranium enrichment and conversion plants as well as nuclear fuel production sites in a country with vast uranium reserves.