JOHANNESBURG, July 8 (Reuters) - South Africa and Russia signed two memoranda of understanding on nuclear power cooperation on Wednesday, part of efforts by Africa’s most advanced economy to lessen its reliance on coal and overcome power shortages that threaten economic growth.
The agreements, signed at the summit of emerging BRICS nations in Ufa, Russia, are between Russia’s state-run nuclear energy company Rosatom and South Africa’s department of energy. They call for joint projects to educate and encourage “public acceptance of nuclear power” in South Africa, the South African department of energy said in a statement.
They will also include programmes for training specialists in South Africa’s nuclear industry.
South Africa is considering using reactors from Russia’s Rosatom and Westinghouse for its planned 9,600 megawatt nuclear fleet expansion, an energy advisor to the government said in June.
The country plans to build six new nuclear power plants by 2030 at an estimated cost of between 400 billion rand and 1 trillion rand ($32 bln and $80 bln).
Critics contend South Africa cannot afford the price tag against the backdrop of rising debt and sluggish economic growth, which is constrained by power shortages that trigger periodic rolling blackouts.
The government has said South Africa needs to not only expand its capacity but also diversify its power mix from coal, which provides over 85 percent of the country’s energy needs. ($1 = 12.5506 rand) (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Susan Fenton)