Nuclear power is essential to meet the needs of Africa’s huge energy deficit. However, it will do more for Africa. Nuclear energy not only has a higher energy flux density than hydro, coal, gas, inefficient solar, and silly wind mills, but it embodies a higher level of technology. This will enable African nations to raise the skill level of their workforce, as they learn to build an operate a more technologically advanced energy platform. More engineering schools and training centers will be required as African nations enter the age of civilian nuclear power. Thus, the nuclear energy industry will serve as a science driver for society, while creating higher levels of economic growth.
The Rwandan Cabinet has approved an agreement with Russia to advance the use of nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes,” a move that is expected to bolster relations between the two countries and advance the latter’s interests in the region.
This comes ahead of the first Russia-African Forum next week in the city of Sochi, which President Paul Kagame has confirmed attendance, accompanied by a delegation of senior government officials.
The nuclear power deal was first signed in Moscow last December and will see Russian scientists set up a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Kigali.
The deal was boosted in May when a Russian government nuclear parastatal, Rosatom Global, reached an agreement to set up the nuclear plant by 2024—that the government says will help in the advancement of technology in agriculture, energy production and environment protection.
Nuclear Power at Russia-Africa Forum
The Russia-Africa Economic Forum in Sochi will host a special panel discussion, “Contribution of Nuclear Technologies in the Development of Africa,” on October 23, with the participation of Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom-the State Nuclear Energy Corporation.
“Rosatom has been active in Africa for a long time. The creation and development of the nuclear industry in Africa will not only solve the problem of the energy crisis, but also change the standard of living, providing full access to public health services, increasing the level of education and food security. We see a great interest on the part of African countries in creating new ties for further technological development. Moreover, we are ready to discuss all possible options for cooperation on the continent. I am sure that Russian-African nuclear projects will have a great future,” said Likhachev on Oct. 15, in a preview of the Sochi event.
The forum in Sochi was also prepared by a conference in Nairobi last week that featured officials of Rosatom and over 150 energy and nuclear professionals from across the globe. Representatives from key African countries that are planning or already implementing their respective programs for developing peaceful nuclear technologies included Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.
Speaking in Nairobi, Dmitry Shornikov, CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, emphasized the advantages of joining the atomic club through creating nuclear industries in newcomer countries, and gave an overview of projects with the maximum positive effect on industrial development, enhancing the quality of life and developing ‘knowledge economy’.
Russia’s Growing Involvement in African Nuclear Development
One of the questions of the Oct. 23-24 Russia-Africa Summit is the need for Africa to develop civilian nuclear power. Russia is at the front end of the strategy to equip Africa with nuclear power, reports Sébastien Périmony in his blog “Africa with the Eyes of the Future” in France. No fewer than eight African countries have already signed agreements with Russia’s nuclear power company, Rosatom: Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Ghana.
“The stark reality is that Africa is in dire need of energy: 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa produce as much energy as the single country of Spain produces in Europe. That means that every other African has no access to electricity. According to the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017, only five African countries have 100% electrification, all of them in North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco. South Africa follows immediately after, with a rate of 85.40%. Then come Ghana, 64.06%; Senegal, 56.50%; Ivory Coast, 55.80; and Nigeria, 55.60%. Some francophone countries: World Bank Reports gives access to electricity as 16% for Niger, 9% for Chad, 14% for the Central African Republic, and 20% for Burkina Fasso.”
“The future of energy and base-load generation is in nuclear, and probably coal and liquefied natural gas. Kenya needs to push ahead with the nuclear agenda to meet the country’s energy needs,” said the managing director of Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board Collins Juma.
Mr Juma said that Kenya requires at least 18,000MW to become a middle-income and an industrialized nation. With the total installed capacity at 2,370MW, it will need to diversify its energy sources to reach that target.
Countries in East Africa are among those on the continent seeking to build nuclear power plants driven by the need to end power challenges, and accelerate industrial and economic growth.
Russia, China and South Korea have emerged as the key vendors of nuclear energy, offering to help in financing the deals.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been at the forefront of the campaign to sell nuclear to Africa. Its deputy director-general Mikhail Chudakov told The EastAfrican that nuclear energy holds the key to industrial development.
“Africa needs to understand that solar and wind are good for home lighting [but not manufacturing],” he said.
But nuclear energy needs massive resources to build and operate, so state-owned companies like Russia’s Rosatom, China General Nuclear, China National Nuclear Corporation and Korea Electric Power Corporation are pushing various financing and construction models for the continent’s customers.
The companies have signed agreements and memoranda with African countries, ranging from research and development and human resources development to full reactor projects. Russia and China, in particular, have crafted packages providing state-backed loans, in the process altering the dynamics of nuclear markets.
In Egypt, for instance, Russia is providing 85 per cent of the funding for the 4,800MW plant currently under construction at a cost of $21 billion.