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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.