Why nuclear energy should be part of Africa’s energy mix

By Albert Mbaka | Friday, Oct 25th 2019 at 15:34
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Africa has the least nuclear power of any continent in the world. All the largest economies in the world have nuclear power as part of their energy mix. Energy supply in the continent is also very low. There are also challenges of lack of access, poor reliability and high cost. Nuclear energy has the potential to mitigate these burdens by contributing to the continent’s energy mix.

The Nuclear Business Platform convened the African Nuclear Business Platform in Nairobi, Kenya, with the Nuclear Power Energy Agency being the host to provide insights on the nuclear market. Among other range of Participants were Kenya’s Nuclear Power Stakeholders, vendors and representatives from African countries with the vision of embarking in the establishment of their first Nuclear Plant.

The event took place at the Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi from the 15th-16th of October, with a resolve to emphasize the importance of international collaboration in the region in Nuclear Energy. There is a growing overall political will in the globe to transition to low carbon economy that is less reliant on coal, oil and gas.

The desire for decarbonization of the energy sector and of the electric power sector, in particular seem to be getting support internationally. During the Conference, The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Joseph Njoroge, underscored that Kenya was focused on pursuing reliable and sustainable, competitively priced clean energy.

Kenya views Nuclear Energy as the most viable option. The Energy Act 2019 now enhances the participation of Nuclear Power Development. Currently Hydroelectricity does not sustain industrialization alone, and a lot of effort has been put to fast track geothermal energy, which make half of Kenya’s energy mix. Other energy sources that are also being exploited are Solar and Wind.

Collins Juma, the Chief Executive Officer for the Kenya’s Nuclear and Power Energy Agency, during his presentation at the conference, indicated that a Regulatory body will be in place with the establishment of the Nuclear Power Program. The Nuclear Regulatory bill is at the floor of parliament, and is currently at the second reading stage. Once the bill becomes law, a regulatory body shall be formed to exercise regulatory control over nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities and other activities the body may seek to exercise regulatory control over.

Nuclear Technologies now safer

In the exhibition, at the sidelines of the conference, nuclear energy vendors demonstrated a lot was being done take the fear out of nuclear. There is a crop of new generation of nuclear reactors that are much safer than what was there before. When a nuclear accident happens, public fears are usually exacerbated by the media, resulting in huge backlash. Hence a lot has been done in terms of the designs of the technologies to ensure the highest level of safety.

There are also strict processes and regulations in place for some of the technology designs to guarantee safety. The new generation of nuclear technology, notably small to medium sized, modular reactors (SMR) is ‘affordable’ and smaller in size, thus reducing demands on land use. NuScale, a US Company, currently has mature designs for SMR.

At the Conference Prof. Abdulrazak, the Director for the Africa’s Division for IAEA at the Department for Technical Cooperation indicated that Nuclear Energy is able to mitigate Climate Change and has begun to gain popularity among developing countries, which also see it as possible route to meet their industrialization plans. At present, nuclear energy produces 10 percent of the world’s electricity and 5.7 percent of the total primary energy used worldwide. Meanwhile, the global energy supply and energy use per capita are increasing. The contribution of nuclear for electricity generation varies from region to region. African countries Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda are interested in setting up nuclear power infrastructure.

Speaking at the conference, Prof. Abdularazak stated that more needs to be done among African countries in terms of Nuclear Science. Currently IAEA is working with countries to help them embark on establishing their first nuclear Power Programme.

A number of African countries including Kenya have made commendable steps in their regulatory process, advancing along the three phases laid out in the IAEA framework milestones in the development of a national infrastructure for Nuclear Power. The Chief Executive officer for Nuclear Power and Energy Agency-Kenya, who also doubles as the Vice president of the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) urged Africa new comer countries to create partnerships and learn from one another.

“There is need for synergy, the continent need to come together and learn from other countries that are pursuing Nuclear Energy. We need to have more African countries join IFNEC and push the Africa Nuclear Agenda”. IFNEC is the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation that provides a forum for cooperation among participating states to explore mutually beneficial approaches to ensure the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Taking decarbonizing of the energy sector and the power sector in particular, as a long-term imperative, nuclear energy qualifies rationally as the most viable option. This was amplified by most African Countries participating in the conference.

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By

Albert Mbaka

Head of the Energy Security Program

Center for International & Security Affairs (CISA)

 

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