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)

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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs