Tag Archives: nuclear energy South Africa

Nuclear Power in Africa: financing and security

Somair mine in Niger. Image from wikipedia

In Democratic Republic of Congo’s nuclear plant is in limbo, after it shut down its reactor in 2004 due to overheating, lack of spares and unwillingness by the US to send parts.  Egypt, Niger, Ghana, Tanzania, Morocco, Algeria and Nigeria have also begun the rollout of projects in this sector.

In May 2015, South Africa announced that it will procure a nuclear fleet to generate 9,600MW of power at a cost of $100 billion. The country’s installed nuclear generating capacity of 1,830 MW from its two reactors at Koeberg. These plants were commissioned in 1984 and will be closed in 2025….”We are still on course with our plans to construct an additional eight new nuclear plants by 2023 to produce 9,600MW,” Ms Joemat-Petterson said.[South African Energy Minister ]

Kenya is also planning to construct nuclear power plants that it hopes will generate a minimum of 4,000MW from 2023.  “We have no option but to embrace nuclear early enough to avoid starting the process long after we have exhausted geothermal sources,” Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge said.

The key question, however, is if the countries on the continent can afford the costs of setting up nuclear plants. Nuclear reactor costs run into billions of dollars but the main cost is in the initial investment and the plant itself. It is a long-term form of energy, with reactors operating for close to 60 years producing electricity with minimal maintenance.

For instance, Nigeria is looking for $32 billion to construct four nuclear plants. However, the project is shrouded in controversy as the country is currently facing a financial deficit, with other key infrastructure projects pending.  Ochilo Ayacko, the chief executive of the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, said that the country will need at least $20 million to put up its 4,000MW plants. Uganda is also facing financial hurdle as it seeks to join the nuclear club. According to an AF-Consult Switzerland report, Uganda will require $26 billion to have an installed capacity of 4,300MW from nuclear energy by 2040.  James Isingoma Baanabe, Uganda’s acting Commissioner for Energy Efficiency and Conservation, said it will take the country at least 20 years to build its first nuclear plant, mostly because of financing.

In 2000, Tanzania invited bids to construct its nuclear plant, with South Africa’s South Areva, being touted as a front runner. However, little came of this as the country slowed down in its nuclear bid because of financing challenges.

For most nuclear projects, security is key… In 2014, Niger saw militants from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack the Somair uranium mine owned by Areva, killing 26 people.  In April 2015, the Nigerian government announced that it was downscaling its uranium stockpiles and beefing up security around the proposed sites of its nuclear reactors.

Kenya is also facing insecurity from Somali Al Shabaab militants who have in several occasions tried to blow up power plants in Garissa and northern Kenya. Securing these facilities is a key concern in the preliminary report handed to the Kenyan government by Josi Bastos, the International Atomic Energy Agency team leader.

Excerpts  from Allan Olingo,  Africa Now Turns to Nuclear for Power Generation Amid Fears of Insecurity, allafrica.com, Sept. 15, 2015

The Nuclear Plants of South Africa

WWER Russian  nuclear reactors located close to the Finnish city of Loviisa

South Africa signed a partnership agreement (Sept 2014) with Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom Corp. to build reactors in Africa’s second-biggest economy.  “The agreement lays the foundation for the large-scale nuclear power plants procurement and development program” using Russian VVER reactors with installed capacity of about 9,600 megawatts, or as many as eight nuclear units, Rosatom and the South African government said in an e-mailed statement. The country also has a draft nuclear cooperation pact with China.

South Africa’s integrated resources plan envisions 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy being added to the national grid to help reduce reliance on coal, which utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. uses to generate 80 percent of the country’s electricity. The state-owned company is struggling to meet power demand,The National Treasury said in February 2013 that a 300 billion-rand ($27 billion) nuclear program was in the final stages of study…

The collaboration will result in orders worth at least $10 billion to local industrial companies, Rosatom Director General Sergei Kirienko said in the statement.In addition to building the nuclear units, the agreement provides for partnerships including the construction of a Russian technology-based research reactor, assistance in the development of South African nuclear infrastructure and education of specialists at Russian universities, the parties said in the statement.  Rosatom currently holds projects for the construction of 29 nuclear power plants, including 19 foreign commissions in countries including India, China, Turkey, Vietnam, Finland and Hungary.

Excerpts from Paul Burkhardt , South Africa Signs Agreement With Russia for Nuclear Pow, Bloomberg,  Sep 22, 2014

Nuclear Renaissance in Africa

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, South Africa, Image from wikipedia

At least three African nations are looking to add nuclear power to their grid. Kenya and Nigeria want to establish nuclear energy, and South Africa, the only sub-Saharan nation with nuclear facilities, is looking to expand its capabilities. Until now, African nations have relied on age-old forms of energy generation: Hydropower and coal among them. But those sources have taken a social and environmental toll, displacing communities. But does Africa have the means to turn on nuclear power?…This dire need for power has pushed many African nations to consider nuclear energy – increasingly popular in developing and developed nations such as the U.S., India and China.

Kelvin Kemm, a South African nuclear physicist, said Africa needs to look beyond traditional sources, such as water and hydrocarbons.  “Africa is very largely fueled with hydropower. And in Africa it’s possible to have droughts that last a couple of years,” he said. “Therefore it’s very risky to build an economy on hydropower. Many are not fortunate enough to have coal and gas, and therefore nuclear is an ideal solution for Africa.”

South Africa is the only African nation to have successfully developed nuclear technology, and gave up its weapons program in the 1990s. Today, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station produces about 5 percent of the nation’s electricity.  President Jacob Zuma said he wants more nuclear power to decrease the nation’s reliance on coal.  “We expect to conclude the procurement of 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy,” he said.  Kenya and Nigeria say they too are building their nuclear programs to meet rising electricity needs from their burgeoning populations.

According to Kemm, the power needs in Africa are so dire that ordinary power sources can’t meet demand the way nuclear power can.  “They need to double electricity consumption immediately, and then double it again, and again and again for their people,” he said…

France-based Vincent Industrie sells complicated components that are necessary to make a nuclear plant run. But sales manager Frederic Marrone, noted that you don’t need to be a nuclear physicist to see why many impoverished African nations are slow to implement nuclear technology.  The problem, he said, is cost.  “We speak about Billions,” he explained. “How much, I don’t know, depending on the size, but just for us, equipment, we provide only equipment. For this, we speak about five million euros of equipment to manufacture only one part.”

Africa Looks to Nuclear Power to Light Up Continent,  AllAfrica.com, Mar. 27, 2014