By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
ABUJA – The Federal Government has said Nigerians would have to wait until the year 2020 before they can enjoy power from nuclear energy, even as it disclosed that it has begun deployment of the Nuclear Power Plants following approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Mohammed Kaoje Abubakar, noted this on Monday at the opening ceremony of a 5_day 21st Technical Working Group Meeting (TWGM) of the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), in Abuja.
He said, â€œIn the area of deploying atomic energy for electricity generation, I wish to inform you that Nigeria has made a firm commitment and has started the implementation of a nuclear power programme, which will lead to the injection of nuclear electricity into the national grid by the year 2020.â€
He observed that the increasing demand for electricity required for greater economic growth for competitiveness among the comity of nations and other environmental considerations has led Nigeria to consider nuclear power as an option within the nationâ€™s energy mix.
â€œReliable energy supply is the cornerstone of sustained economic growth and prosperity. People are looking for available, affordable and acceptable energy,â€ he stated.
In this regard, the minister noted, the nationâ€™s agencies had been â€œpartnering with the Internal Atomic Energy Agency and other friendly countries, and our National Strategy for the Deployment of Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) for electricity generation has been finalized and publicly presented in December, 2009.â€
The IAEA had in December last year endorsed the countryâ€™s Strategic Plan for the Implementation of the National Nuclear Power Programme.
Meanwhile, Prof. Abubakar has stressed the need for effective safety and regulatory measures to be enhanced if the continent hopes to reap the benefits of nuclear energy.
According to him, â€œThe success of any programme which deploys nuclear technology must be underpinned by a clearly defined commitment to nuclear safety, security and safeguards. It is our hope that in Nigeria, appropriate ways and means must be put in place to ensure that a culture of nuclear safety is enthroned.â€
Abubakar noted that the country has made â€œmodest bust significant progressâ€ in developing both facilities and human capacity for the effective deployment of nuclear technology for national development.
These include the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) tagged NIRR_1 at the Centre for Energy Research and Training, Ahmadu Bello University,Â Zaria, the Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) at the Nuclear Technology Centre, Sheda, and the 1.7MeV Tandem Accelerator at the Centre for Energy Research and Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile_Ife. The minister observed that the AFRA emerged as a regional vehicle for cooperation between member African states of the IAEA within the general framework of the Technical Cooperation (TC) programme of the Agency.
â€œAFRA has created a window of opportunity for all member states to align their developmental objectives with various technological applications of nuclear energy, under the auspices of the IAEA,â€ he added.
The minister further noted that Nigeria, through the Ministry of Science and Technology, would continue to strengthen its partnership with all African states to build capacity and national institutions for the optimal peaceful utilization of atomic energy.
Also speaking at the workshop, the Chairman of AFRA, Dr. Augustin Simo, noted that the group aims to facilitate technical cooperation among member states, greater sharing of resources including facilities, equipment and manpower, and the pooling of knowledge and closer communication and collaboration between scientists in Africa.
He explained that the agenda of the workshop include many important issues such as the new regional projects to be submitted to the IAEAâ€™s Technical Cooperation and Assistance Programme of 2012_2013.
â€œThese projects should address critical regional problems such as food and energy security, water supply, radiation protection and nuclear safety, and environmental protection,â€ he stated.
Dr. Simo further noted that the workshop was an opportunity to extend the role of AFRA as the main framework to integrate the applications of proved nuclear technologies into the regional development strategies.
He noted that Nigeria has been a member of AFRA since its inception and has participated in many of its projects including hosting the TWGM in April 1996, and dozens of various regional conferences