IN a move considered ambitious for a country fraught with a myriad of developmental challenges the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) has commenced a public sensitization programme advocating the establishment of a nuclear power plant to generate electricity to meet the country’s power supply requirements.
The Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) regulates nuclear power and related activities in Nigeria, which is also an advocate of usage of nuclear power.
Professor Shamsideen Elegba, the Director General of the NNRA made the case for use of nuclear energy while speaking at a one day workshop organised by his agency for journalists in Abuja recently.
He noted that Nigerians get scared when they hear anything about nuclear energy, adding that even though nuclear projects are fraught with risk, similar risks exists in other sectors such as aviation and energy.
However, he said that it is for this reason that safety measures are put in place to guard against mishaps. â€œNNRA ensures that operators are competent and comply with requirements because they are critical to safety.â€
Professor Elegba explained that the NNRA does not compromise processes, procedures and safety citing how some ministries had tried to coerce the authority to approve projects that were related to nuclear energy to enable the former president commission such projects before leaving office: ‘but because they didn’t follow the required processes and supervision by experts, the Authority maintained its stand and refused to approve them.â€
When reminded that the Nigerian government has not been capable of rising up to minimal challenges, not to mention one such as nuclear power, Elegba and some of his directors defended the integrity and professionalism of the NNRA.
Elegba said the NNRA has in the last few years successfully supervised the operation of a nuclear research reactor at the Centre for Energy Research and Training in Zaria , Kaduna State, adding that the nuclear reactor is wholly manned by Nigerians.
Nigerian scientists off to Korea:
As part of its efforts to grow capacity, the NNRA representatives at the workshop disclosed that12 Nigerian scientists are being sent to Korea this year for training while many more are currently undergoing specialized training in various institutions around the country.
Professor Elegba disclosed that in October 32 personnel drawn from across Africa will be in Nigeria for nuclear regulation training by the authority, noting that this development underscores the NNRA’s professional competence.
He explained that nuclear energy projects are not built in isolation by any one country without the active participation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a global body that supervises nuclear energy projects.
He said the IAEA ensures that rules are followed and countries that embark on such projects sign treaties of compliance, for safety of citizens, while also obtaining approval from adjoining countries to construct such plants.
â€œNigeria assented to Convention on Nuclear Safety, Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management, and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, Instrument of Acceptance of the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, among others,â€ he disclosed.
The NNRA listed a number of benefits of building a nuclear power plant in-country but noted that in the interim, the plant when put into operation, will focus on improving power generation, healthcare services especially treatment of cancer and for preservation of agricultural products and not for manufacture of weapons of mass destruction despite having a sizeable Uranium deposit. Uranium is a key element in nuclear energy and bombs.
â€œIn terms of employment, a large number of plant workers, corporate support staff, outage and supplemental staff. Besides, workers in the nuclear industry normally earn more pay,â€ Professor Timothy Akpa, the NNRA Director, Radiological Safety disclosed.
Other benefits of developing a nuclear power plant (NPP) include increase in local tax and other revenue; increase in local expenditure, production of goods and services and the socio-economic impact of a nuclear power plant spreads over nearly every sector.
â€œAlthough the direct effects are concentrated in a few sectors, NPP induces secondary effects on the economy like a chain reaction. New cities usually develop along with a nuclear power plant due to increase in high earning population with the building of new schools, markets and service institutions, churches and mosques. Besides, nuclear energy is a clean-air source and NPP’s commitment to the environment doesn’t end at the plant’s fence,â€ he submitted.
On job creation, he said a nuclear power plant can create jobs for between 150 and 200 engineers; 150 to 200 jobs for reactor and power operators, radiation protection between 50 and 70 excluding resident regulatory health physicists; quality assurance and quality control (QA QC) between 30 and 40 jobs; maintenanceÂ above 200 jobs for various skills.â€
However, to generate a megawatt of electricity from a nuclear power plant, government has to spend at least $2.5 million, therefore to build a micro frame nuclear power plant, which will be able to generate between 30 and 50 megawatts, government has to cough out between $75 million and $125 million.
Russia and Nigeria signed an agreement on March 18 to cooperate in building nuclear reactors in the country and jointly explore for uranium following the state visit of the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev.
The protocol “foresees the possibility of bilateral cooperation for the development of Nigeria’s nuclear infrastructure” and the “joint exploration and exploitation of uranium deposits,” Russia’s nuclear energy agency Rosatom said at the time.