South Africa’s nuclear regulator said it has received two nuclear installation site licence applications from power utility Eskom to build new installations along the east coast and the west coast.

Africa’s most industrialised economy, which operates the continent’s only nuclear power station, wants to install an additional 9 600 megawatts of nuclear power by 2030 to overcome chronic electricity shortages that have dented economic growth. 

Eskom operates the Koeberg nuclear plant on the west coast near Cape Town, and has been designated as an owner and operator by the government, which plans to issue a request for proposals for the new nuclear fleet by the end of March. 

The sites applied for by Eskom are Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape and Duynefontein in the Western Cape, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) said in a statement. 

“Both applications mentioned the applicant’s intention to construct and operate multiple nuclear installations (power reactors),” the regulator said. 

The licence-application process includes a thorough review and safety assessment, the regulator said, adding that compliance with regulations would also be determined. 

The intention to build a fleet of six nuclear power stations has raised concerns of how South Africa, struggling with low growth and facing a ratings downgrade to “junk” status, will be able pay the costs estimated between R400 billion and R1 trillion. 

Besides the cost implications, environmentalists and activists are also arguing that South Africa, blessed with an abundance of sunshine and wind, should ramp up adoption of its green energy projects instead of building nuclear power plants.