News / Africa

Africa Faces Its Own Nuclear Power Challenges

Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, about 30 kilometers north of Cape Town, is owned and operated by South Africa's power utility Eksom, January 18, 2007 (file photo)
Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, about 30 kilometers north of Cape Town, is owned and operated by South Africa's power utility Eksom, January 18, 2007 (file photo)
TEXT SIZE - +

While the tsunami-caused nuclear plant emergency in Japan is leading to reassessments of nuclear energy policy around the world, in Africa, experts say challenges remain the same as before. They say limits to expanding nuclear power on the continent are of a financial nature, as well as related to fears of political instability.

Africa has just two working nuclear reactors, both of them in South Africa, from that country's Koeberg power station.

A week after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, South Africa's Cabinet ratified a new plan calling for nuclear power to fuel nearly a quarter of the country's future electricity production.

Pebble bed reactors

But last year a so-called pebble bed reactor project by the government's utility company Eskom was abandoned because of a lack of funds and also concerns over its potential performance.  

Arizona State University professor G. Pascal Zachary is closely tracking Africa's energy sector, including South Africa's ambitions.

"The idea of investing heavily in a still experimental nuclear energy technology called the pebble bed, that seems like a poor bet," said Zachary. "So Eskom is actually cutting back on the pebble bed because they just do not have the resources to make the investments in it that are required."

New nuclear plants with older technology usually also cost in the tens of billions of dollars, with most of the money needed upfront.

Costly energy

Dan Yurman, who writes a widely read blog on nuclear energy called Idaho Samizdat, said cost is a main reason African countries are not building more nuclear plants.
Even though the continent's nuclear exception, South Africa, wants to move away from coal into more nuclear, Yurman predicts an opposite trend.

"My view is they may have to go back to coal because they do have those resources and they can build those plants relatively quickly. That is not good for global warming, but it will keep the lights on," he said.

Another African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has had a nuclear research reactor for decades. After the nuclear leak in Japan, concerns were raised that its own reactor was sitting on sliding terrain in the capital Kinshasa.

But the commissioner of the Kinshasa Regional Center for Nuclear Studies, Vincent Lukanda Muamba, says the reactor is idle, but safe.

Muamba said the reactor is not working because of the need to change its control bay from an analog to a digital system. The new parts are estimated to cost several million dollars.
The Congo has a long nuclear history. Its uranium was used for the so-called Manhattan project to make the world's first nuclear bomb, which the U.S. military dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Igor Khripunov, from the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia, said that for one of the few sub-Saharan countries that could maybe afford a new nuclear plant, Nigeria, the main concern is political instability.

Political instability concerns

"Unfortunately, Nigeria is not the best candidate, given violence and lack of government ability to control the situation inside the country," said Khripunov. "It has resources. It has money, but most countries are very reluctant to see a nuclear power infrastructure emerging in Nigeria given the very unstable situation inside the country. There was even a statement by the European Union expressing concern about it."

In the short term, energy experts say Nigeria should focus more on developing its natural gas potential, while other African countries with access to rivers should keep on developing dam projects for distributing hydroelectric power. They say wind and solar power also should be further pursued. But they say, in the future, nuclear power could become an option.

More and more countries, including Russia, China and South Korea, are trying to develop cheaper and smaller nuclear plants, which energy experts, such as Khripunov, say could eventually become an energy solution for richer and more stable African countries.

"Instead of building huge 1,000 Megawatt nuclear power plants, as we were used to in the past, there may be a series, a cluster, of smaller reactors adjusted to grids that are now in existence in Africa," said Khripunov.

For most sub-Saharan African countries, Khripunov said, talk of developing nuclear power now is more about enhancing status and prestige than based in actual possibilities.

One example is resource-poor Senegal, which has experienced more and more blackouts in recent years. Last week, Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade said that in the wake of Japan's nuclear emergency, he was abandoning plans to build a nuclear power plant, and that he had canceled an order for nuclear equipment from a Russian company he did not identify.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid