Friday, December 4, 2009

In order to expand its sources of energy supply, Nigeria is seeking to generate electricity via nuclear power. There are already 2 nuclear research centers at Ahmadu Bello University, in Zaria and another in the capital, Abuja. In June 2008, the G8 expressed concerns over Nigeria's quest for nuclear energy, citing concerns over safety and security. Some G8 members specifically questioned the nation's level of responsibility. Despite these and other issues, on December 3rd, 2009, the IAEA approved Nigeria's application to build a reactor in Abuja.

Construction is expected to begin in 2011 with power production to begin in 2017. The plant is expected to provide up to 4000MW of energy by 2025. Nigeria's former Minister of Science & Technology insisted in November 2008 that Nigeria's nuclear program will not use foreigners, but would depend primarily on local labor, skills and expertise. In March 2009, Russia signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with Nigeria, that provided for domestic uranium exploration and mining. An additional agreement in June 2009 gave Russia access to Nigeria's gas reserves in exchange for the construction of a Russian power reactor and a new research reactor.

Considering the nation's problematic electricity supply, nuclear power will definitely help improve Nigeria's energy issues. Even more importantly, nuclear projects have benefits that go far beyond electricity supply to impact research and development in agriculture, health, science, technology and other key areas that every nation depends upon. Although the cost will be enormous, if done right, the advantages of a nuclear power program will be exponential and and pay off for many years to come.

However, Nigeria's nuclear ambitions raise certain concerns such as security. The entire West African region has historically been known to be fraught with security issues. Nigeria, in particular, has experienced outbreaks of religious/political/ethnic violence, and that combined with threats from militants (MEND, Boko Haram). One cannot help but wonder how these issues and other possible sources of violence could impact the security of a nuclear reactor. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the government would definitely assign the necessary armed forces to protect such an installation from any attacks.

There is also the question of maintenance. The maintenance of a nuclear reactor cannot be contracted out to private firms as is the case with airports and other installations. Hence, the government would have to commit to adequately caring for a nuclear installation so as to limit a Chernobyl-like incident that puts lives at risk. A first step would be to ensure that the online website of Nigeria's nuclear agency, the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, is accessible and not a blank page because the domain name expired (as of December 4th, 2009).

The agreement with Russia cannot be ignored. Russia has aggressively tried to control Europe's access to gas and all energy sources that will heat and power the continent and its agreement with Nigeria is a victory that undoubtedly causes some panic in Europe's capitals. Regardless of the power struggle between Russia and its neighbors, one can only hope that this agreement with Russia will not result in a repeat of the space ambition agreement with China. That led to the embarrassing revelation that Nigeria's first space satellite lost power and hurtled back to earth before schedule. Essentially, Nigeria must not enter into an agreement that will put the nation and its people at a disadvantage.

Finally, "wazobia politics" is nothing new to Nigeria. "Wazobia politics", affected intrinsically by tribal issues, was allegedly the reason why it took Nigeria this long to get this close to the construction of an IAEA-approved nuclear power plant. Nigeria's nuclear ambitions began shortly after it gained independence in 1960, and many steps were taken to put Nigeria on the road to nuclear development. However, concerns over what parts of the country would get nuclear research facilities and reactors delayed progress. Currently, the only IAEA-approved nuclear facility is in the northern part of the country and the head of the nation's nuclear agency is also a northerner. These facts coupled with the realities of ethnic tensions in the country, will undoubtedly raise certain concerns from non-northerners. Nigeria would do well to ensure that nuclear power control, development and its benefits will not be limited or seen to be limited to any specific region of the country.

Ultimately, Nigeria's nuclear ambition can be a boost not just to the nation's quest for consistent electricity, but a boost to the economy as well. As long as the commitment is there to follow through with this ambition and do it well, keeping in mind the various political pressures, nuclear power could transform Nigeria and its people.

From The Archives (detailed news and analysis of Nigeria's electricity problems):
- Electricity Problems At Nigerian Airport
- A Smart Grid for Nigeria's Energy Woes
- Banning Generators in Nigeria
- The Mission To Light Up Nigeria (#lightupnigeria)
- More Solar Energy Plans
- Solar Energy Plans
- Could Coal Be A Power Solution For Nigeria
- Nigeria Is Full Of Gas
- Power Blackouts Loom Across Nigeria
- Nigerian Power Scandal: Authority Stealing

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Spesh said...

this doesnt sound good to me too.....I mean we are barely managing solar and now this???

NaijaBabe said...

Hmmm this is a little scary, though it poses quite a bit of pros to Nigerians.
The real problem is Maintenance and Security.
We need to be careful

Anonymous said...

This is a great news, Nigeria on a path of Nuclear powered nation.
There are loads of benefits in using nuclear energy due to enormous capacity of energy it can produce.
In addition to this, this will aid Nigeria if not be the back bone of its industrialization without polluting the environment.

I am very pleased with advancement, my hope is that it won't fall into the politics of Ajaokuta steels that was never completed even after 25 years.

Jennifer A. said...

Just as the latter part of the post implies, my first thoughts when I saw this caption was "SECURITY." I wasn't even thinking about the benefits, I admit that the Country has been linked to all sorts of violence in the past, even as far as terrorism. But yet, I still have faith in the work of the upcoming generation of Young Nigerians, and I also like the labor for the nuclear plant is postulated NOT to be foreign...more JOBS AT LAST!

Anonymous said...

its a good idea,the problem i fill we will encounter is the part where the minister said that he doesnt want to give the contract out to foreigners but rather give it the locals.the issue is are they going to do it well?i am speaking from experience because i worked with the NNPC/KRPC.i just hope it works out well.........

Anonymous said...

Last comment mentioned solar. Do we have any big solar plant that add to the national grid? Anyway the proposed wind power plant is commendable. It will cost about 10billion dollars and was awarded to german firm. Already nigerian engineers have been to that country for training. It will be in katsina state

Asabe said...

I just wish the Government wouldn't put its hands into so many projects, esp. when we all know they won't deliver. I am not looking forward to reading any headlines going: "Nuclear Accident in Kaduna/Abuja Claims Thousands of Lives; Maims Several for Generations..." I'm sorry, its not as if I dont have faith in Nigerians. I dont just think the Government is deicated enough. What is wrong with considering biomass gas, wind, etc first?

E.O.Akinpelu said...

Nigeria is a very dubious country where greed and selfish interests prevail.Nigeria is very rich in natural resources but lack foresight to develop human resources,she lacks maintenance culture.Over $20b has been spent in the power sector since Obasanjo administration with no results.Now the next sercvice that our leaders want to render to us is to dessimate us.

I have parents ,brothers,sisters,wife and children in Nigeria.I do not want to bury them.
Even if we can not feed well,once there is life there is hope.

If Nigerian leaders do not have anything good for us other than to loot us and then decide to destroy us, why can't they relinquish power and go to Europe and America where they keep our money looted and leave us alone in peace?.

These blue eyed men, after looting africa for centuries, the next thing for them to grant us is our death warrant.This is ridiculous!

Exposure to nuclear radiation is catastrophic.Don't you remember Chernobyl?

Anonymous said...

there is nothing wrong for a country to look into developing nuclear facility, but a country like nigeria where everything is about tribe?.....i dont know what will happen but i think nigeria should solve basic things like urban planning, health care, good roads, before thinking about nuclear facilities..........the russians dont care if the thing should blow up.... for once, nigeria is far from russia and number two...they are already paid.
The government can use that money they want to put in nuclear facilities to develop lagos, port harcourt and kano or kaduna to a 2009 level and then, the whole world will know we are improving than building nuclear facility when they know it is the back bone of trouble all over the world now

Anonymous said...

they are doing everything in the north..... first it is wind whatever in kastina, now this too in the north...if this fools want to break away, they should do it honourably rather than playing like a little child... i cant wait till every region will control its own resources and goverment

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