News / Africa

Africa Looks to Nuclear Power to Light Up Continent

Africa Looks to Nuclear Power to Light Up Continenti
Anita Powell
March 27, 2014 1:29 PM
At least three African nations are looking to add nuclear power to their grid. Kenya and Nigeria want to establish nuclear energy. South Africa, the only sub-Saharan nation with nuclear facilities, is looking to expand its capabilities. Until now, African nations have relied mostly on hydropower and coal. But those sources have taken a social and environmental tolls. But does Africa have the means to turn on nuclear power? VOA's Anita Powell brings us this report from Johannesburg.
Anita Powell
At least three African nations are looking to add nuclear power to their grid. Kenya and Nigeria want to establish nuclear energy, and South Africa, the only sub-Saharan nation with nuclear facilities, is looking to expand its capabilities. Until now, African nations have relied on age-old forms of energy generation: Hydropower and coal among them. But those sources have taken a social and environmental toll, displacing communities. But does Africa have the means to turn on nuclear power?
A NASA space flight over a darkened continent illuminated a fact that many Africans already know. The World Bank says fewer than 10 percent of African households have access to electricity. That, in turn, hampers industry and development on the world's poorest continent.
This dire need for power has pushed many African nations to consider nuclear energy - increasingly popular in developing and developed nations such as  the U.S., India and China.
Kelvin Kemm, a South African nuclear physicist, said Africa needs to look beyond traditional sources, such as water and hydrocarbons.

"Africa is very largely fueled with hydropower. And in Africa it's possible to have droughts that last a couple of years," he said. "Therefore it's very risky to build an economy on hydropower. Many are not fortunate enough to have coal and gas, and therefore nuclear is an ideal solution for Africa."
South Africa is the only African nation to have successfully developed nuclear technology, and gave up its weapons program in the 1990s. Today, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station produces about 5 percent of the nation's electricity.

President Jacob Zuma said he wants more nuclear power to decrease the nation's reliance on coal.
"We expect to conclude the procurement of 9,600 megawatts of nuclear energy," he said.

Kenya and Nigeria say they too are building their nuclear programs to meet rising electricity needs from their burgeoning populations.  
According to Kemm, the power needs in Africa are so dire that ordinary power sources can't meet demand the way nuclear power can.
"They need to double  electricity consumption immediately, and then double it again, and again and again for their people," he said.

Critics of nuclear energy say it is not entirely safe, citing nuclear disasters like Fukushima in Japan and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.

But those critics' fears about Africa getting nuclear power may be drowned out by the almighty market.
France-based Vincent Industrie sells complicated components that are necessary to make a nuclear plant run. But sales manager Frederic Marrone, noted that you don't need to be a nuclear physicist to see why many impoverished African nations are slow to implement nuclear technology.
The problem, he said, is cost.
"We speak about Billions," he explained. "How much, I don't know, depending on the size, but just for us, equipment, we provide only equipment. For this, we speak about five million euros of equipment to manufacture only one part."

Experts say it will be years, even decades, before Africa finds a way to address its energy needs, with nuclear energy or otherwise.
But everyone agrees that more power is needed to bring Africa into the light.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Aminu Wouba from: Cameroon
March 31, 2014 9:18 PM
This should not be a program for individual states to follow. The African Union has to implement an energy program for the continent,financed and supported by the African governments through partnerships with each other.A good example is the DRC/SA collaboration on the Grand Inga in the DRC.But this should be an AU led and harmonised process .The Inga dams are capable of electrifying Africa even by hydropower.

by: Radio Kakata USA from: Washington DC
March 28, 2014 9:02 PM
Africa should invest in clean energy from the SUN solar and WIND. We have enough problem as it is then to start worrying about nuclear waste and the rest that comes with it. Lets put the money for Nuclear energy into Health care and education.

by: Kai from: US
March 27, 2014 9:30 PM
Any one involved in energy policy should be required to scroll through the headlines at ENENEWS to learn what happens when nuclear energy goes wrong.

Very eye-opening!

by: Ian from: Ritchie
March 27, 2014 12:51 PM
This article seems to have been written by a reporter who knows nothing whatsoever about electricity and power in Africa. Everyone who has been observing the African scene in regards to electricity production has known that photovoltaic solar is the cheapest and quickest way to electrify the vast regions of Africa without regular electricity supply. Those who crunch numbers have known this for a long time. In fact, even back in the 1960s when photovoltaic solar was still very new and very expensive, it was cheaper even then to electrify an African village hundreds of miles from the nearest grid with photovoltaic solar because of the immense cost of high tension lines over hundreds of miles.

Today solar panels produce at $0.40 per watt, as opposed to $4.00 per watt just ten years ago. It is the only source of energy that has consistently come down in price every singly year from 1970 up to the present. Nuclear, by contrast, has gone up in price every year since that date, and nuclear projects have never come in on time or on budget. It is absolute foully to propose nuclear as a solution in Africa. Since the article says nothing about the new solar initiatives actually funded by the Kenyan government, who now recognize the solar advantage, I can only conclude the above article was written by someone handpicked by the nuclear industry solely because they had no knowledge of their topic whatsoever.
In Response

by: Chibikom, Inc. from: Bamenda, Cameroon
March 27, 2014 3:09 PM
Definitely, safety concerns mean we should look at alternatives. I would like those countries to learn from the mistakes of others & develop sound nuclear plants that can stand the test of security, safety, and quality.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs