Despite its advancements over the years particularly in the oil, gas and power industries, it is no secret that Africa is still plagued with the very real issue of inefficient energy supply. The question of what it will take to eliminate poverty in Africa is prevalent now more than ever.
While the continent has enjoyed great achievements in oil and gas developments and seen the launch of numerous successful renewable energy programmes, bringing online large scale world-class projects, it still has not managed to close the power gap as it hedges forward with its goal of sustainable energy mixes. So, what’s next for Africa?
Nuclear energy and Africa
With rising populations and high electricity costs, African countries are investing in various sources for electricity generation. Nuclear power is a more inviting power choice when it comes to cleanness, reliability and cost-effectiveness.
Egypt is home to one of the oldest nuclear power programmes. Launched in 1954, the programme is responsible for the 4.8 GW El Dabaa nuclear power plant, currently in the construction phase. The project will be developed by Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), the biggest Russian nuclear power player that has concluded memoranda of understanding with Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, and Uganda.
Kenya’s first nuclear reactor is set for completion in 2027 while Uganda’s 2019 Inter-Governmental Agreement with ROSATOM to help develop nuclear infrastructure remains in place.
Though it has not made any announcements in regards to implementing nuclear in its energy mix, earlier this year, Senegal shared its readiness for nuclear energy, through its Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan (INSSP) developed alongside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“Before the INSSP, we did not consider nuclear security to be a problem that affected our country, as we do not have a nuclear power programme. In cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, we are working to assess our threats,” said Ndèye Arame Boye Faye, Director General of Senegal’s regulatory body, the Authority for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety. “Since working with the IAEA, we have also reassessed our priorities and capabilities and enhanced our competencies in the field of nuclear security,” he told the agency.
The challenges of nuclear energy
It could take years for a country anywhere in the world to initiate a nuclear power programme and, infrastructure development could not come any sooner than 10-15 years. Simply put, the nuclear route requires a lot of patience and dedication – especially in Africa where a number of countries are working towards development.
According to Miliko Kovachev, Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section: “A successful nuclear power programme requires broad political and popular support and a national commitment of at least 100 years.”
Defined by the World Nuclear Association as reactors that are generally 300 MWe equivalent or less, small scale nuclear reactors are designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times, making them one of the more practical solutions for African countries.
Another major hurdle of nuclear energy is financing. Due to its high cost of implementation, African countries looking at nuclear energy could be deterred. “But, there are financing mechanisms like, for instance, from export agencies of vendor countries. Tapping into a reliable, carbon-free supply of energy when vendors are offering to fund it can make sense for several countries in Africa,” said Kovachev.
“Platforms such as the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation and IP3 International are essential in opening the dialogue on the right approaches for Africa,” said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber. “Because nuclear energy is still a foreign concept to many African economies, we need to take our lessons from the rest of the world and, participate in the conversations on nuclear efficiency, safety and security, ensuring that when the time comes for us to move forward with nuclear, we have laid the foundation.”
Nuclear power is clean, rich, reliable and affordable energy. This is a feasible solution to Africa’s economic growth. African countries need to push forward with the programmes, put in place policies and regulations and, take lessons from the rest of China and Russia. In advancing nuclear power programmes, the African Energy Chamber encourages governments to show strong political will and create enabling environments for nuclear to take its place in energy mixes.
South Africa DOE to restart a nuclear development plan
The Department of Energy (DOE) of South Africa said on May 7 that the country will soon start developing a plan for a new 2,500 MWe nuclear power plant. It plans to complete the procurement of the new nuclear plant by 2024 but gave no indication as to when it wanted construction of the plant to start or for when the plant would come online.
Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said that the government would first “test the market” and hear what potential investors or consortia had to say about building the new nuclear facility. “We may even give that company a right to develop a modular nuclear station on a build, operate and transfer basis, which means there may be no immediate call for funding from the state but the build programme can continue,” he said.
South Africa’s Koeberg nuclear power plant is currently the only commercial nuclear power plant on the continent. The 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) planned to build 9,600 MWe of new nuclear power capacity, but this part was completely removed in the revised draft released in August 2018. In October 2019, South Africa released the final version, IRP 2019, calling for the construction of two 500 MWe nuclear power units.
Source: China-Africa Trade Research Center, GLOBRIA