Africa can harness nuclear science in climate change war

Camels walk into Chalbi desert in North Horr, Marsabit county at Horr Gutha watering point. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

As world leaders convened in Nairobi for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit this week, one topic of immense interest has been the utilisation of nuclear science and technologies to combat climate change.

The summit's primary objective was to establish a sustainable and environmentally friendly path for both the African continent and the global community.

The gathering witnessed a collective effort from experts, policymakers, and environmental advocates, all united in their endorsement of innovative tools and strategies for climate management as part of the ongoing battle against climate change.

Climate change has been wreaking havoc across the globe, causing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and disruptions to ecosystems and economies. Africa, home to some of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, has experienced the devastating effects of this phenomenon firsthand.

A lot is at stake. The Horn of Africa was recently hit by its worst drought in 40 years, leaving about four million people food insecure in Kenya and 50 million across IGAD countries at risk of food insecurity.

To combat the existential threat posed by climate change, leaders at the Africa Climate Summit explored a wide range of solutions, and nuclear science and technology could emerge as a strong contender.

Nuclear energy offers several advantages in the context of addressing climate change. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear power plants generate electricity through a process that produces virtually no direct carbon emissions. This characteristic alone makes nuclear energy an attractive option for countries striving to reduce their carbon footprint and meet ambitious emissions reduction targets.

Moreover, nuclear power plants have a remarkable track record of reliability and stability. They provide a consistent and steady source of electricity, which can be critical for developing nations looking to build resilient energy infrastructures capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change.

While nuclear energy offers significant benefits in the fight against climate change, it is not without its challenges and concerns; nuclear safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards and nuclear waste management.

In addition, the high initial costs of building nuclear power plants are all valid issues that need to be addressed. Transparency, international cooperation, and the sharing of best practices will be essential to ensuring the safe and responsible development of nuclear energy on the African continent. While challenges exist, the benefits of a clean, reliable, and sustainable energy source cannot be ignored. African nations, alongside the global community, must carefully consider the role of nuclear energy in their climate action plans and work together to harness its potential for a greener and more prosperous future.

The journey towards a climate-resilient Africa may be long and challenging, but with the right mix of solutions, including nuclear energy, the continent can pave the way for a brighter, low-carbon future for generations to come.

Mr Mayaka is a nuclear scientist and Director for Partnerships and Public Awareness at Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority