ISSN 2330-717X

Rosatom Planning Small Nuclear Power Plants For Africa – OpEd

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At least 600 million people in Africa are without access electricity and with inadequate funding for power generation, Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear energy corporation now proposes to provide, over the next several years, mini nuclear plants for  generating reliable and affordable power in a number of African countries.  

According to the latest information obtained at the Atomexpo-2022, Rosatom is discussing, as part of the energy-mix, the use of small nuclear power plants (SNPP) and floating nuclear plants for African countries. The African Energy Chamber reports say Africa expects to achieve universal access to affordable electricity by 2030. Many countries are finding ways to expand access to electricity.

President of Rusatom Overseas (part of Rosatom state corporation) Yevgeny Pakermanov said at the Atomexpo-2022 forum that his company is holding a series of dialogues with African colleagues. “We continue to work with Rwanda, Nigeria and other countries of the region. A floating NPP may be very promising in this region, and we are also discussing the use of floating nuclear heat and power plants for the African region,” he said.

According to figures provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are around 50 projects and concepts for small nuclear power plants, or small modular reactors (SMRs) as the IAEA defines them, throughout the world. The majority of them are at various stages of development.

In April 2021 interview from South Africa, Ryan Collyer, the Regional Vice-President of Rosatom for Sub-Saharan Africa, underlined the importance for developing nuclear power plants and the training of nuclear specialists in universities and institutes in the Russian Federation. 

He highlighted another critical question relating to the cost. Most of the funds are needed to during the construction period. Building a large-scale nuclear reactor takes thousands of workers, massive amounts of steel and concrete, thousands of components, and several systems to provide electricity, cooling, ventilation, information, control and communication. 

Beyond the inclusion of nuclear energy into the energy mix, it gives a powerful qualitative impetus for the economy, the establishment of high-technology-based industries and, as a result, will lead to the growth of export potentials and ultimately better quality of life in Africa. 

Our research shows that since 2010, hundreds of students from Algeria, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa have been receiving nuclear and related education at leading Russian educational institutions.

Leaders of African governments are keenly interested in adopting nuclear energy to end chronic power deficit but some maybe forced either to keep on postponing or completely abandon the project primarily due to lack of finance or credit guarantees. Usually Russia does not grant concessionary loans and has not publicly allocated a budget for Africa. 

But in this exceptional case, Russia and Egypt signed an agreement, and the total cost of construction is fixed at $30 billion. Russia provides Egypt with a loan of $25 billion, which will cover 85% of the work. The Egyptian side will cover the remaining expenses by attracting private investors. Under the agreement, Egypt is to start payments on the loan, which was provided at 3% per annum, in October 2029.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reiterated that Rosatom is considering a number of projects that are of high interest to Africans, for instance the creation of a nuclear research and technology centre in Zambia. Nigeria has a similar project. There are good prospects for cooperation with Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia. 

Foreign and local Russian media reported that Russia wanted to turn nuclear energy into a major export industry. It has signed several agreements with as many as 14 African countries with no nuclear tradition, including Rwanda and Zambia, and is set to build a large nuclear plant in Egypt.

Nuclear is too high an economic risk for countries that cannot afford to make big mistakes. However, they must be guided by Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan, millions of people are still suffering from radiation and radiation related diseases till today.

Currently, many African countries are facing energy crisis, for both domestic and industrial use. Energy poverty affects millions of their citizens. Over 600 million in Sub-Saharan Africa out of more than one billion people still do not have electricity. Industrial sector needs power for its operations and production for the newly established single continental market.

The international forum Atomexpo-2022, held November 21-22, is one of the most important events in the global nuclear sector. Leading experts and specialists from over 50 countries participated in the forum, under theme: Nuclear Spring: Creating a Sustainable Future.  According to the description made available on its website, Rosatom is a global leader in nuclear technologies and nuclear energy. Products and services of the nuclear industry enterprises are supplied to over 50 countries around the world.

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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