Nigeria alongside other African nations are considering a shift to an unexpected power source especially nuclear energy as many face power shortfalls while demands for greener energy and drought threaten hydropower.
South Africa has the continent’s only commercial nuclear power plant, but according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a third of the almost 30 countries around the world considering adopting nuclear power are in Africa.
Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Niger and Sudan have engaged with the IAEA to assess their readiness to embark on a nuclear programme, and Algeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are mulling the possibility, according to the agency.
Altogether, at least seven sub-Saharan African states have signed agreements to deploy nuclear power with backing from Russia, according to public announcements and the World Nuclear Association (WNA), an industry body.
“Africa is embracing nuclear science in general,” said Colin Namalambo, a commissioner of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy, in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a recent meeting in Accra on nuclear power opportunities.
Countries like Egypt and Ghana are pushing ahead with nuclear plans, arguing such power is low-carbon and can provide a reliable baseline of energy to complement renewables such as solar and wind.
Nuclear is “clean and sustainable”, Prince Akor Larbi, a technician with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the Accra meeting in March.
In southern Africa, the push to consider nuclear power is being driven in part by drying of hydroelectric dams as a result of climate change.
Those dams, particularly Lake Kariba, provide majority of the electricity to other Southern Africa nations, from Zimbabwe to Zambia.
Akachukwu Okafor, principal partner for Change Partners International, an energy and sustainability consultancy in Nigeria, said he believes nuclear energy is not the solution to Africa’s problems but could be part of it, alongside renewables.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said the operator of a research reactor in Nigeria has demonstrated a high commitment to enhancing safety following the conversion of the reactor core to use low enriched uranium (LEU) as fuel instead of high enriched uranium (HEU). The team also made recommendations for further strengthening safety.
The Integrated Safety Assessment for Research Reactors (INSARR) team concluded a five-day mission today to assess the safety of the Nigeria Research Reactor-1 (NIRR-1).
Originally commissioned in 2004, the NIRR-1 is a Miniature Neutron Source Reactor operated by the Centre for Energy Research and Training (CERT) at Ahmadu Bello University in the northern city of Zaria. It is used for scientific research, neutron activation analysis, and education and training.
In 2018, the reactor core was converted in a project initiated by the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) and supported by China, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and the IAEA.
In 2017, the Nigerian government signed a multi-billion dollar contract with Rosatom, a Russian nuclear company, to establish four nuclear plants in the country.
If completed, the power plants are expected to contribute a combined 4,800 megawatts to Nigeria’s electricity generation by the year 2035.
Nigeria hopes to add nuclear energy into its energy mix having realised that nuclear energy is safe, reliable and cheap in the long run. However evidence of over six-decade shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity.
The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack are minimal compared with other commonly accepted risks.