Nigeria, 16 others may turn to nuclear power plants
From Emeka Anuforo, Abuja
NIGERIA and 16 other African countries may soon start power generation from nuclear plants, under a power base diversification programme being backed by the Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Already, IAEA has organised a regional training programme for personnel from countries participating in the project.
Some of the other countries involved in the project are Tunisia, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The countries decided on the project with the conviction that nuclear plants are more economical to run, while their availability and productivity have risen with less down-time for maintenance.
As a major step towards actualising this, the countries gathered in Abuja yesterday for a regional training course on self-assessment of national regulatory infrastructure for safety.
With the training course, African member-states will be able to peer-review radiation and nuclear safety in the region and by so doing, contribute to the overall global nuclear security
"The long-term stability of the cost of electricity generated by nuclear power is also an important attraction," the Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, said at the meeting of the countries yesterday.
The training provides the opportunity to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to any organisation or system, under the project.
Speaking on the commitment of African countries to nuclear energy, Usman re-affirmed that energy is a fundamental input to economic activities, along with land, labour and capital.
"So, we need energy in all its forms, including nuclear. Nuclear power, of course, should not be viewed as the only answer. We need to invest right across the board so that we can obtain more energy from other low-carbon sources. But we have to be realistic about what these can offer.
"No renewable source yet has the capacity to generate the amount of power needed to run factories, steel mills, among others. As the world enters a global recession, cost is also an important factor. The new generation of nuclear reactors is cheaper than its predecessors and produces energy at a considerably lower cost than other low-carbon energy sources," he said.
He added: "Nuclear power, for example, can be as much as three times cheaper than wind and five times cheaper than solar power. It is also a known fact that nuclear power emits virtually no greenhouse gases. The complete nuclear power chain, including the mining of uranium, shipping fuel, constructing plants and managing waste, produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide as the full life-cycle emissions of wind and solar power.
"The attraction of nuclear energy is supported by the improved performance of the nuclear energy industry since the 1980s. The world has now accumulated more than 13,000 reactor-years of experience. Improvements in safety have been matched by improvements in efficiency."
In his remarks, IAEA representative, Mr. Daruisz Marchin, stressed that this regional training course therefore provides opportunity for assessing the level of radiation safety infrastructure not only in Nigeria, but also in the region as a whole.
Also speaking, the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Prof. Shamsudeen Elegba, was hopeful that knowledge gained from the course would be used to self-assess regulatory infrastructure in all the participating member-states and lead to the upgrading of regulatory infrastructure for radiation and nuclear safety in the region as a whole.
Elegba, who was recently elected the pioneer Chairman of the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa (FNRBA), stressed that "the continuation of the project by organising this training workshop is indeed a welcome development for the objectives of the project to be fully met."