By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor, in Moscow, Russia
The sorry state of Nigeria’s electricity generation may soon become history if moves by the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission yield the expected fruits. Nigeria, a country of over 170 million people has hardly at anytime generated up to 5000 megawatts of electricity, making it one of the most poorly served countries of the world in terms of power supply.
In the same vein, individual power generation through generator sets, has also made individuals within the country susceptible to the risks posed by gaseous emissions as well as being on the wrong side of the effects of ozone depletion. However, the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission has made moves aiming to arrest that drift when it recently signed a pact with the Russian country to build Nuclear technology centre in Nigeria.
The move seeks to revive the research reactor which the country established in 2004 making her the second in Africa to attempt nuclear energy investment . Chairman and Managing Director of the Commission, Dr Erepano Osaisai said that though the nuclear plant would come at a huge cost, it would never be as expensive as living without clean energy and adequate electricity supply. Meanwhile, Nigeria was part of the three African countries jostling to draw Russia’s nuclear expertise to their countries.
Others included Kenya and Zambia who also signed the MOU alongside Nigeria. Russia admitted that over the past few years, it has seen an increase in cooperation and partnerships with developing countries on nuclear energy programs- with some using their technology to build nuclear plants. It described as most interesting, the effort of few African countries which have recently shown keen interest in developing and building nuclear reactors.
According to the Deputy Director General of IAE-a company that helps to create the necessary infrastructure for nuclear waste, Mr Mikhail Chudakov, “Russia is steadily seeing an interest in nuclear partnership from various African countries and countries in South East Asia. More important is that developing nations are planning to include energy in their energy mix but you should remember that it should be developed based on the safety culture.”
How Africa jostles for Russia’s nuclear expertise NIGERIA
Immediately after signing the MOU, Dr Osaisai said that Nigeria’s efforts in the nuclear field followed the realization that nuclear energy contributes quite a chunk of global electricity and Nigeria, with its huge population, cannot afford to miss out. He also admitted that the project will come with a huge cost but added that the cost of not having clean energy and adequate electricity will be higher for those who failed to join in the trend.
According to him, “nuclear acquisition has come to stay. It is well known that it contributes quite a chunk of global electricity. Although Nigeria does have other sources of energy, but this is about a balanced and diversified energy basket. Nuclear happens to be the one we considered. “The preference is because it is environmentally friendly and leads to a better conservation of other resources”.
Recall that Nigeria was first in Africa to establish a research reactor when in 2004 she enabled a Chinese-origin research reactor at Ahmadu Bello University. The country was also reportedly seeking collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for up to 4,000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2027. The plans include beginning construction in 2011 and starting nuclear power production in 2017-2020. Although the plans have not been cancelled, the programmes are yet to take off.
However, in April 2015, Nigeria began talks with Russia’s state-owned Rosatom to collaborate on the design, construction and operation of four nuclear power plants by 2035, the first of which will be in operation by 2025.
Zambia has just signed a pact also with the Russian Rosatom on cooperation in the sphere of uses of Atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The agreement which also happened between Kirienko and Margaret Kiyoba, Permanent Secretary, Cabinet of Ministers of Zambia is also searching for ways Zambia can serve its people with clean energy and adequate electricity. Zambia admitted that it should actually have invested in nuclear energy before now but lateness was as a result of a lack of vision of the past leaders regarding nuclear energy’s future potential.
Kenya is also another African country that has considered the use of nuclear energy. It plans to build its first nuclear reactor by 2024. According to Joseph Muthari, a Kenyan member of parliament, the country already has an established Nuclear Energy Body.
“Yes we want to establish a working relationship with the team here in Moscow because in Kenya we have a target of at least 2017 to have started producing Nuclear energy. Kenya is a growing nation and we want to be a country that is able to satisfy the energy needs. And it is important that we diversify our energy source. We are already involved in the training of our personnel so we have students here in Moscow and also students being trained in Korea. African countries are also coming up with the demand for electricity and as the demand keeps growing its imperative that one finds himself in it.”
Although Ghana had signed an MOU with the state atomic energy corporation of Russia (ROSATOM) last year, Benjamin Nyarko of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, told Hi-Tech that “Africa has a problem with energy and the best way for Africa to be able to resolve that issue is to go for nuclear power. Waste management in the nuclear power programme has been the main issue that we have had to address so when we are dealing with waste structures we should be able to deal with the waste and when your signing an agreement you should open your eyes well. Financing is also a big problem for Africa.”