South Africa is about to issue a 1tn rand ($125bn) tender for building six nuclear reactors by 2030, for which five nations will compete, according to the country’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.

The paper also claims a “politically unassailable” joint French-Chinese bid is being prepared, citing sources “including those close to French manufacturer Areva”.

The country’s cabinet will finalise the proposal by the year-end, according to Energy Minister Dipuo Peters. Bidding is expected to start next year.

Five companies are in contention for the nuclear tender, said the paper. They represent France, China, South Korea and Russia as well as, in a joint tender, the United States and Japan.

But the Mail & Guardian suggests that South Africa’s “geopolitical sympathies” would hand pole position to a bid combining French nuclear knowhow with Chinese finance.

Aggressive French lobbying in South Africa is also highlighted in the newspaper’s coverage, although Areva denies using inappropriate or unethical tactics.

China is now South Africa’s largest trading partner.

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