Nuclear Power Is Misunderstood In Africa, Says IAEA Head

By Dana Sanchez Published: October 7, 2015, 1:00 pm

Slow adoption of nuclear technology in Africa is the result of misunderstanding its benefits and how they can be applied, says Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, ESIAfrica reports.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants to change that, and is encouraging African utilities to improve their electricity grids through the adoption of nuclear power.

At least nine African countries are considering adding nuclear power to their energy mix, according to an earlier AFKInsider report. These include South Africa, Kenya,  Nigeria, Namibia, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, and Morocco.

South Africa operates the only commercial nuclear power plant in Africa and says it needs six more. It’s in the early stages of a long procurement process to add 9,600 megawatts of power by 2030, IndependentOnline reported.

South Africa’s massive — but struggling — state-run power utility, Eskom, generates almost all the electricity in South Africa, and nearly half that produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa. It operates the nuclear power plant and is the largest electricity producer in Africa, AFKInsider reported. Koeberg nuclear power station is 30 kilometers north of Cape Town.

The IAEA recently hosted its 59th general conference and scientific forum in Vienna, which aimed to encourage African utilities to improve their electricity grids through the adoption of nuclear science, SciDev.Net reported.

“Lack of social acceptance and understanding remains one of the most difficult things in getting Africa to take up nuclear technology, yet it is not as complicated as people see it,” said IAEA head Amano.

The technology won’t just improve the electricity sector, he said. It has the potential to help make advances in health and agriculture too.

IAEA has offered to support African countries in the procurement process of “safe and secure nuclear energy to meet development needs,” ESIAfrica reports.

Safety has been one of the main concerns about nuclear power. With global sales of nuclear power plants flat following the Fukushima accident, Africa’s interest in nuclear power is generating excitement. Governments have said little to address safety concerns raised by industry watchdogs and citizens’ groups, OilPrice reported.

IAEA presents itself as a reliable partner with expertise to help in all aspects of nuclear technology. “Access to nuclear technology should not be limited to rich countries only,” Amano said.

Kenya appears to be the most active African country in planning its nuclear power future, according to OilPrice. It hopes to bring 1 gigawatt of nuclear power on line by 2025.

Nuclear energy is clean and affordable, according to Ochilo Ayacko, chairman of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board. A nuclear power plant has similar development costs to a hydropower dam, he said, and is cheaper to maintain than a coal-fired power plant, SciDev.Net reported.

“Africa has missed out on many technologies in the past and should make use of IAEA’s repository of expertise to help solve some of its problems such as inadequate energy,” Ayacko said.

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