ROSATOM In Sub-Saharan Africa
We at ROSATOM view Africa as the final frontier, it is the last booming economy, and it is currently the fastest growing economy in the world, with a regional growth of 5.7% per annum. But like any growing economy, Africa is not without its problems and is currently facing a number of challenges.
Arguably, the largest of these challenges is electricity. The latest World Bank statistics have revealed that 25 of the 54 nations on the continent are currently in the midst of an energy crisis. Only about a quarter of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population have access to electricity. This means that 600 million people are living with limited or no access to a reliable supply of electricity. In order for Africa to continue and even increase its current growth potential, it needs a reliable and affordable source of base load power to stimulate industrial activities and bolster economic growth.
So why nuclear? Well it’s actually rather simple, nuclear is an environmentally-friendly, safe, reliable and cheap method of producing base load power. So what are Africa’s other options for base load power? There is hydro power, but unfortunately, it is not available in many countries on the continent. It is also very dependent on weather conditions and can be severely affected by droughts or floods.
Then there are hydrocarbons, which are far more detrimental to the environment and to human health. Recent studies have shown that up to 600 000 people lose their lives per year through carbon pollution and related accidents in Africa alone.
A quick example, to produce 1GW of power from a nuclear power plant only 24 tons of uranium is needed. To produce the same 1GW you would need to burn 2.7-million tons of coal, of which the waste is also radioactive and is not stored safely or recycled as it would be with nuclear.
What is essential to note, is the fact that nuclear is much more predictable when considering long-term running costs, and this has everything to do with the share of fuel component. The share of fuel component for an NPP accounts for only 10% of the operating cost, whereas the share of fuel component for a gas or coal power station is anywhere between 60 to70%.
That is, even if the uranium price doubles, it will only result in a 5 to 7% increase in the electricity price. But if fuel prices double, it will result in a 70% increase. One should also note that the lifespan of an NPP is far longer than any other source of power generation – up to 80 years. Once paid off in approximately 15 to 20 years, it becomes a cash cow for future generations, much like Koeberg.
It is also important to bear in mind the substantial benefits that a large-scale national nuclear energy development programme can bring to the development of other industries. Nuclear technology has a critical role in numerous functions of medicine, including; diagnostics, imaging, scanning and analysis.
Another new advancement in nuclear technology is the incorporation of desalination facilities – one can produce up to 170 000 m3 of fresh water per day from one nuclear power unit, something that may prove critical in Africa.
ROSATOM has been in communication with a number of interested African nations and we are willing to do everything in our power to assist them in achieving their nuclear ambitions.
In March 2009, Russia signed a co-operation agreement with Nigeria, including provision for uranium exploration and mining in the country. A further broad agreement in June 2009 envisaged the construction of a Russian power reactor and a new research reactor. In July 2011, ROSATOM and the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) finalised a draft intergovernmental agreement to co-operate on the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of an initial nuclear power plant. This needs approval by the two governments. A further three nuclear plants are planned, bringing the total cost to about US$20-billion. In June 2012, ROSATOM signed a memorandum of understanding with NAEC to ‘prepare a comprehensive programme of building nuclear power plants in Nigeria’. This includes the development of infrastructure and a framework and system of regulation for nuclear and radiation safety. ROSATOM has confirmed that Russian financing options will be available to Nigeria. Early in 2015, the intention was to have a first unit on line by 2025, and 4800 MWe operating by 2035.
In 2012, the Ministry of Energy & Petroleum signed a co-operation agreement with ROSATOM, and in mid-2013 further discussion took place on the specifics of joint projects facilitating the implementation of plans by Ghana to develop a nuclear industry with Russian help. In June 2015, a nuclear co-operation agreement with Russia was signed, to enable the development of contractual and legal frameworks for co-operation between the two countries in the nuclear sector. It also enables the promotion of Russian technology in West African markets and the practical start of joint nuclear projects.