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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.